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My favourite things in Oxford

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Mar 18th, 2014, 12:13 PM
  #1
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My favourite things in Oxford

When I write a trip report, I try to include answers to questions that I had before I went. Fodorites who have already worked out their own, better answers can:
a) improve mine
b) read more advanced stuff
c) read mine anyway

Let me first write about transport and lodging. As others have said here, the trip between Heathrow and Oxford is easy. After you have collected your luggage at Heathrow Terminal 5 you keep on following the signs for 'central bus station' ... maybe a 10 minute walk. You can buy tickets right there: £30 pp return. If you buy tickets for more than one person, and you want it printed seperetely, you have to tell the strict lady before the time.
I made the mistake of asking for a BUS. It is not a bus, it is called a COACH. A bus, I have learned from the nice driver, travels within cities, a coach has better seats and bigger windows and travel between cities. So there you have it.
More to follow, at least I have made a start.
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Mar 19th, 2014, 03:41 PM
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Hi Kovsie,

We also found the trip to Oxford direct from Heathrow to be easy. It was easy to find the central bus station, to find the right bus (coach). The ride itself was quite pleasant.

Looking forward to the rest of your trip report.
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Mar 19th, 2014, 03:51 PM
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FYI, If coming from T5, you don't need to go to the Central Bus Station. It's much easier and quicker to go straight out the door at arrivals, past the fountains and find the Oxford stop ( #11) next to the lifts. Takes about 2 minutes at the most. There is a coach about every 20 minutes.
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Mar 20th, 2014, 11:15 AM
  #4
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yes eurepeannovice, we also enjoyed the ride. There were spring flowers everywhere, and England is green, green and green. We arrived at Oxford bus terminal and easily found a taxi to our guest house. Whole trip from airport to guesthouse took less than 2 hours.

Transport in Oxford: we are in a guest house in Banbury Road +- 10-15 minutes from city centre. There is a bus stop 3 minutes from the guest house. Buses come regularly, every 5 minutes or less during peak times. One thing to note: a single ticket costs £2. You can buy a 7 day travel pass for £14. There are at least two bus companies in Oxford, and they do not accept the travel pass from the competition. I bought a pass from Stage Coach and are happy with them. Stage Coach buses are often green, sometimes golden. The competition's buses are mostly red. If you get to the bus stop and the red bus arrives, just ignore, the other bus will arrive in a minute or two.
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Mar 20th, 2014, 12:10 PM
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Continued (sorry, did not mean to submit the above just yet):
If you stay in or near city centre, you do not need a travel pass, you can easily walk everywhere.

Where to stay: I should have heeded Flanner's advice to stay in central Oxford. It would just be so much nicer to be able to drop in at your hotel in the middle of the day without spending at least 30 minutes to get back to the guest house (waiting for bus, 20 minutes on bus, walking to guest house ... and do the reverse again later).

Oxford general: Fodorites who said that Oxford is not a touristy place were wonderfully right. Yes, there are tour groups and there are people wandering / wondering around with guide books. But Oxford is as unspoilt as such a great destination can be. No little stands selling cheap nick-nacks, only a few places selling T-shirts and coffee mugs (KEEP CALM AND STUDY). It may be different in summer, but at the moment I never feel crowded, and there are no queues.

Oxford is a truely beautiful city. What I find so pleasing is that builders from the 12th century and builders from the 19th century have used the same lime stone, and used the general same style. Of course there are interesting differences, but you get the feeling of restful uniformity when you walk the streets.

This will be old hat for seasoned travellers and especially those of you from Europe, but let me say just once how I struggle to get my head around the weight of history here. Just consider for a moment that a university in South Africa recently celebrated its 100th year with great fan fare. Also consider that nothing in Dubai is older than 50 years. Then show me the 'New Building' in Magdalen College that is from 1733, while its other buildings were started in 1494. I find this incredible. Before I came, I told my regular Pakistani taxi driver in Dubai that there are buildings that already existed in the year 1500. He lifted an eyebrow and asked: "The building has not expired?" I just laughed.
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Mar 20th, 2014, 01:49 PM
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kovsie, glad you enjoyed the trip, on for the ride to read what you did.
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Mar 20th, 2014, 01:59 PM
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Yes, I agree. Oxford is a place of great beauty and history. I'm planning to return for a few days this summer. I am glad you found it as inviting as I do.
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Mar 20th, 2014, 07:02 PM
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We also thoroughly enjoyed Oxford. I agree with you about the ages of some of the structures--how amazing is that?
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Mar 22nd, 2014, 06:31 AM
  #9
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DAY 1 - SATURDAY
We go for a walk along the Thames /Isis. The weather is glorious, not too hot not too cold not windy no rain ... just mild blessed sunshine. The Brits are out in full force, jogging and cycling and rowing and walking dogs and children. We join this happy lot on the following route suggested by Historytraveller: go down St Aldates, past Christ Church (resist the temptation to enter here), cross the river at Folly Bridge (resist the temptation to sit down at Head of the River Pub), immediately after the bridge turn left and enter the tow path. Now just keep on walking.
What a joy. The colourful rowers and the sun on the river, the green fields, the willows, daffodils, wooden fences ... It is an easy, level walk. After about an hour we reach a pub ... cannot remember the name, but it is right on the river. Wooden benches, a tree for shade. People are reading weekend papers, children are playing, a dog is being served a bowl of water. We do not resist the temptation (!) to enter and sit a while, have coffee and share carrot cake. Nice! After this pub it is a mere 5 minute restful walk to the Iffley Lock, where you cross the river. Look at the pretty little bridge just before the Lock. After the Lock you turn right and just kind of follow the path up the hill, until you reach the church of St Mary the Virgin. It is a small and truely beautiful church from the 12th century. Have a look at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Mary_the_Virgin,_Iffley

My usual fascination with things very old takes over again. The sunken gravestones, daffodils everywhere, the lovely church smelling of white candles, birdsong in the trees.

My DD is not as impressed with age and gravestones as I am, so rather too soon we make our way further up the hill. We ask for directions, and soon come to 'the oval' where we wait 5 minutes for a bus back to Oxford City Centre. To find the bus stop was easy: you just keep on walking with your back to the church, then when you reach a street you go to the right ... it was Saturday and there were enough people in the street to point us in the right direction (In Italy they always say: go straight until the end!).

The whole outing took approximately 3 hours, but we went slowly. I believe it can be done in an hour or 90 minutes without hurrying much. Highly recommended!
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Mar 22nd, 2014, 06:59 AM
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The Pub used to be called the Isis and is now called the Isis Farmhouse.
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Mar 22nd, 2014, 07:11 AM
  #11
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Thanks Bilbo! The place seems popular, and we heard no other languages ... only us and various versions of British English.


DAY 1 (continued):
For lunch we behave like the tourists we are: we go the the Eagle and Child. When I had read about this pub (established in 16something I assumed that it would be a hidden away little place (based on nothing but my own fanciful thinking). It is not hidden, you see it from the bus when you come down Banbury Road, it is right opposite the monument to the martyrs. One of my dreams for coming to Oxford is to follow in some or the footsteps of CS Lewis and Tolkien, and this seems like a good place to start. It is a narrow and darkish building, and we find a table towards the back. We are not hungry, so DD and I share a plate of nachos with several really nice dips. It is more than enough for a light meal and cheap at £7. I also have a chilled glass of white housewine. People around us have fish and chips and declare it to be very good. Yes, it is a place where tourists go. I also think that it still gives good pub food and value for money, but I was there only once.

Above the fireplace is a framed letter signed by the Inklings. I linger for a while; how nice it is that this lighthearted letter survived! How nice to see the penmanship and the signatures. I am planning to visit a few other pubs also frequented by Lewis and Tolkien and friends, but this one will stay in my memory.
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Mar 22nd, 2014, 09:02 AM
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Wonderful report, kovsie. Are you back home now?
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Mar 22nd, 2014, 09:30 AM
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Enjoying your report Kovsie.

So understand the history aspect. I spent 1988 in the UK, which was Australia's bicentenary year. On the day my country turned 200, English friends arranged lunch at a friends house. The house was 400 years old, and yes, I did hit my head on most door frames.
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Mar 22nd, 2014, 10:23 AM
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Oh - I do miss Oxford in the spring/summer. Great that you had nice weather for your walk. Been to the Isis many times and your description of the river/activity when the sun is shining is right on . . .
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Mar 22nd, 2014, 11:18 AM
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Enjoying this very much !

It's been 4 years since I've visited a particular aunt and uncle in England during the Spring, but whenever we're together, we do trips like this one in various parts of England and have done many in the past.
Glad you enjoyed it and happy to be reliving it again with you here.
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Mar 22nd, 2014, 11:36 AM
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I am glad you were able to do the walk in such fine weather and enjoyed St. Mary's. It is a gem isn't it?I've always done the walk round trip, and it usually takes me about 40/45 minutes each way. Nice to know about the bus back to Oxford Centre.
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Mar 22nd, 2014, 05:08 PM
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Really nice trip report. I take it you didn't do the climb to the top at St Mary's? It has a nice view of Radcliff Camera and the wonderful spires of Oxford.
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Mar 23rd, 2014, 05:16 AM
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Hi Kosvie,

“For lunch we behave like the tourists we are: we go the Eagle and Child.” Thanks for the description of the pub and the “lighthearted letter” signed by the Inklings.

Hey, we are all tourists on these jaunts, right? I am one who freely admits it.

Really enjoying your report. So glad the weather cooperated for you…
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Mar 23rd, 2014, 07:33 AM
  #19
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Hi europeannovice! churches called St Mary's abound in Oxford. This is not the one with the tower in the city centre, it is an older and smaller church near the Isis. DD did climb the tower you are referring to, and reported that she could see 'lots of pointy buildings'.
Sartoric: your comment made me laugh. Yes, these people have a totally different time frame.
Stokebaily: yes, I am back in Dubai and patiently plowing my way through all the e-mails waiting for my attention.
Mathieu: I do think it is high time that you treat yourself with a visit to your UK relations again!
Historytraveler: you took 45 minutes? Wow, this just shows you much we have dawdled!
Hi again Latedaytraveler: I always smile a bit when tourists look down on tourists!
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Mar 23rd, 2014, 07:34 AM
  #20
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DAY 1 (continued some more):
The combination of jet lag and sun and a long walk and the white wine can have only one result: I need a siesta!

Much later I venture into the streets again: this time to wander around, just to look and absorb the beautiful buildings of central Oxford. I go up Broad Street and down Turl Street, find Brasenose Lane and High Street and Cornmarket Steet. The purpose here is just to discover what and where ... just to get the feel of the place. I spend a very enjoyable two hours getting lost repeatedly, then I have had enough.

DD and I go for dinner at Joe's in Banbury Road near the guest house. We go here at the recommendation of people who work in Tesco's, and we are not disappointed. Joe's is not for people who want to dine, it is for eating. It is noisy, friendly, fairly affordable. The food is nothing out of the ordinary, but it is nice, the service is good. I hear no foreign accents except ours. Burger or fish costs between £9 and £12.
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