Did I tell you before that I love Oxford incredibly? Well if I did then you already know, and if I didn’t, then I’m going to tell you why in this post. It could be a very long post, as it is just an incredible place, and there is so much to inspire you. Having only been in the vicinity of it for a few months now, I find that I try to visit as often as possible.
Here immediately below for example is a picture taken in what is more or less the centre of the city, of All Souls College, designed by Christopher Wren I believe. Is that incredible, and beautiful, or what?
So here are a few of the things I like about Oxford:
1. It has the most incredible history. There are just so many facts and figures that I don’t know where to start. But it does just bristle with that incredible feeling of what it has seen through the ages. It apparently dates back to around 4000 BC, and whilst apparently largely overlooked by the Romans, there is so much to the place that it boggles the mind.
2. The colleges. There are 38 of them for those of you who don’t know that (I didn’t until I came to live close by). They themselves of course ooze history. The oldest, Balliol, or University, or Merton, depending on who you believe, was founded in 1249. They are fantastic, and I have been in four of them so far – New College, Merton, Christ Church and Brasenose – I want to go into them all in due course. If I had been to university here I would not have failed to have been inspired I hope. Here is a picture of Brasenose, isn’t it just great?:
3. Great restaurants. I have not had the chance to sample many of the culinary delights of the City yet, but there are places aplenty. Of course you don’t have to go a long way out of here to find Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, Raymond Blanc’s flagship, and one of the top restaurants anywhere. In town you are spoilt for choice, from Jamie Oliver’s latest offering (imaginatively called “Jamie’s” :)), to Shanghai 30’s, a top notch Asian offering in a 14th century building, to the likes of The Grand Cafe, the ubiquitous Loch Fyne, and a whole bunch of places like Gees, which just serves damn good food. I can recommend Fishers too, a fish place funnily enough.
4. Pubs! I have been to a pub or three in my time it is fair to say. In my experience, city centre pubs are always hit or miss at best. You will usually have a few scruffy offerings, a few touristy places, a few decent places for the locals, and maybe the odd hidden gem if you are lucky. I know from my many dips into the Good Pub Guide over the years, that there are very few really good pubs in any city, other than the odd one here or there. Oxford I can say is the exception to beat all exceptions. I think I have been in about 10 or so pubs so far, and am yet to find one that isn’t just great. Wow! My favourites so far, in no particular order, are The Turf (hidden down a back alley, very low ceilings, great selection of beer, good food etc etc), The Kings Arms (great real ales, good little snug rooms, very good food, great atmosphere), The Old Tom (combination of cosy ambience, well kept ales, and shit-hot Thai food), and The Eagle and Child (Tolkien, CS Lewis and various others used to drink here, what more can I say?):
5. Museums – I had forgotten that museums can be so great. It is so long since I went to one, and when I went on a Walking Tour of Oxford a couple of weeks ago, it was a recommendation of the guide that they should be seen. And so today I went to three. I did the Science museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Pitt Rivers, which is Anthroplogy and Archeology. The Science Museum is apparently the oldest museum in the world; the Natural History museum easily rivals London’s, and the Pitt Rivers museum is just brilliant. There are apparently over 500,000 exhibits. I could have spent forever there. Here’s a picture of the inside:
Oh and apart from what I saw today, let’s not forget that Oxford is most famous for it’s Ashmolean Museum, which is the oldest University Museum in the world, and contains da Vincis, Raphaels, Turners and Michaelangelos. That’ll be for next time then.
6. Oxford is literally full, at almost every twist and turn, of fantastic things, be they architectural (witness the Radcliffe Camera, Christchurch Cathedral, The Sheldonian Theatre to name but three, and it is known as the City of Dreaming Spires for good reason ); natural and beautiful (the rivers Thames (known as the Isis locally) and Cherwell flow right through it and are full of rowers and punters); to the surprising and amazing (the stunningly beautiful Magdalene College has a 200 acre deer park within its grounds, and Blackwells bookstore which looks tiny from the outside has a 10,000 sq ft room in the basement which is the largest floor in any book shop in the world).
So there, just to name a few, are the things that I so far seen and learned about Oxford. When I come into the centre (Broad Street, by the gates of Balliol College is my favourite spot I think), I sort of get goose bumps, and get consumed by it all. It gets me interested, inspired, excited, and quite driven and challenged even, to see and do more more. To that end, it makes feel a lot like a certain mountain in Africa does……………