Having lived in London for two and a half years, you get used to thinking that 'this is England' - then you venture outside London and notice the true feel of the 'English' - the architecture, the old feel of the pubs, the historic atmosphere and the grass that shines green, even when the skies are heavy with gray.
Choosing Oxford as our weekend destination was easy: two of our friends from when we just moved to London now live in Oxford - one of them works at the university, so we got a guided tour around some of the most noteworthy spots of this historic city.
When choosing our hotel, I was stuck between two places, but ended up going for the Conifers Guest House in Headington. An absolutely lovely little bed and breakfast, this place has a homely feel, clean rooms and great breakfast. The location isn't too convenient - there are buses that run into the city centre, but night buses aren't included in the 24-hour day pass (thus negating its 24-hour value!) and your best bet is a taxi, which is really cheap in Oxford. I'd still recommend it - just be aware that it's not super-centrally located.
The Oxford castle: a bit of a disappointment. Why so many modern constructions forced into a place with such a strong historical feel? Was there really a need for multiple pizzerias inside the castle area? Their rightful place would have been in Westgate shopping centre just a couple of seconds away.
Saturday started off cloudy, but as the day tapered off towards evening, the streets were taken over by a soft sunlight.
Note my very elegant bunched-up trousers in this last photo :D
I wore: a Zara coat, an Åhléns bag (from Sweden), my Beyond Skin chelsea boots, H&M gloves, Sisley trousers and a scarf that was a gift.
After a pub dinner at Nicholson's (David was in the mood for 'proper English', so he had sausages and mash - veggie option available! yay - while I tucked into a veggie burger), we headed back to Conifers to get ready for the evening.
We met up with our friends and headed to Freud Café - something as cool as a cocktail bar in a converted church. A glass of Prosecco and a friendly chat was just what we needed after a long day of exploring a new place.
Waking up in a hotel is special to me. The luxury of realising that you're on holiday, you're in a new place...and BREAKFAST is coming up. When choosing a hotel, if no breakfast is offered I never even consider it. Breakfast is the essence of staying in a hotel: it's like popcorn at the movies. The beauty of Conifers is that besides a full English - once again, veggie version available! - they also offer toast, fruit, yoghurt and croissants (unfortunately no vegan choices here) and if you ask for coffee, they bring you an entire carafe. Paradise has been found.
Ashmolean Museum - one of the best museums I'd ever seen. Presenting an incredible selection of art and archaeology from all over the world, this free-admission museum is beautiful and interesting. We spent all morning exploring it, before plonking down in Starbucks (nope, the carafe wasn't enough).
David particularly enjoyed the music room at the Ashmolean - might have been my first time seeing an actual Stradivari. It really is a stunning exhibition, don't miss it if you're in the area. Plus, they have luggage-storing facilities, perfect if, like us, you checked out of your not-too-centrally located hotel.
Every time I'm in a new city, it comes naturally to try and assess its vegan options. Since Oxford is tiny, my expectations were quite low. Well, any prejudice I had was smashed by the Greens Café, an organic eatery with options for vegans, vegetarians and the gluten-intolerant, as well as omnivore dishes. Above is a marinated tofu sandwich which was utter deliciousness. I also had a chocolate flapjack that provided just the right amount of sweetness.
Before you go to Oxford, your idea of 'Oxford University' is that it's one place - a building with a school in it. Not so, as explained by my friend who works there. Oxford is full of majestic buildings that are all different wings of the university - old colleges steeped in history, that are alive today as tourist attractions as well as education centres.
The Bodleian library is absolutely gorgeous. It's located in Broad Street and is the second biggest library in the UK and one of the oldest in Europe.
Things I wish I had caught on photo: the gentleman with the cutest three-month-old husky puppy I'd ever seen. After we bumped into them for the third time yesterday, I couldn't resist giving the pup a cuddle!
Oxford has a place in our hearts as well as our calendars - since our friends call this city home, we'll definitely be back. Want to experience this charming historic city for yourself? Next-day return buses are £18 via OxfordTube and coaches leave from London Victoria around every 15 minutes.