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Trip Report Trip Report: Oxford, England (January 2011)

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I spent four days in Oxford in January. While I was there on business, I did have extra time to sightsee and explore. Since it’s been so long since I’ve shared a proper trip report on Fodors, I thought I’d post the details for anyone else who might be headed to Oxford.

I arrived at Heathrow and went directly to Oxford. From Terminal 5, this couldn’t be easier. Simply hop on the #11 bus (which comes by every half hour). It’s 26 pounds for a return ticket, and you can pay the driver in cash when you board the bus. I’d heard reports that drivers can be grumpy about receiving anything but exact change, but my driver could not have been more friendly and accommodating. The bus ride is fairly uninteresting, but quite comfortable. There are a bunch of stops once you arrive in Oxford, so the total time to Gloucester Green (the main bus station, right in the heart of the city) is about 90 minutes.

I stayed at Malmaison, a charming little boutique hotel a short walk from the bus terminal. It’s a former prison and rumored to be haunted. How chic! Seriously, though, it is a really unusual and intriguing place to stay. It’s all done up in the most modern way, but my room was in the main building (the cells) and there’s no question that it was a prison in the not-too-distant past. You’ll find lots of complaints online about this place being too dark, and I can’t tell you that it’s not. I think it sort of adds to the mystique, but let’s just say I double-checked my makeup outside in the daylight. Oh, and I brought a book light for reading. On the upside, I loved the rain showerheads, heated floor tiles and the indulgent room service breakfasts. This place is hip, cheeky, and definitely unique. It’s also in a prime location in Oxford, easily walkable to everything in town. They run some good specials, so it’s worth considering. Malmaison has a very happening bar and a popular restaurant. You won’t be short of entertainment options if you stay here.

My first two days were really consumed with work activity, but I did escape for pub nights with some co-workers. We went to The Eagle & Child, The Lamb & Flag and Oxford Retreat. Had a wonderful time. (All restaurant recommendations & details below). I’ll focus on my final day and a half in Oxford, since that’s when I was able to get in some good, touristy exploring.

My one quick note here is that as part of my work activity I was able to spend some time roaming around Merton College. It’s open to the public only a few hours a day (I want to say 2pm-dusk during the week), but it is absolutely gorgeous. If you can fit this college into your schedule, do it. The 13th-century dining hall is quite impressive, the quads surrounded by ivy-clad walls are so wonderfully British and the chapel features some really beautiful stained glass. I absolutely loved this campus.

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