Considering we only live an hour away from Oxford, it’s surprising to me how infrequently we go there, which is a shame, because it’s a fascinating and inspiring place – well it is, if you’re in to architecture over the ages, expensive shops, quirky pubs, massive bookshops, rivers, bells towers, oh and probably lots of other stuff too.
So this weekend, we went over for a day out, sight-seeing (oh and a bit of bell-ringing for himself). For the first time in about sixteen years, we took the Park and Ride from Thornhill – fabulous – I may not bother taking the car any further again.
I was really happy to wonder around, catching up with the ringing husband from time to time, but I decided that this visit, I really would go to the Ashmolean and see for myself a painting that has long been a fascination, but which I’d never seen ‘in the flesh’ before – it’s Uccello’s The Hunt In The Forest. A big THANK YOU, to Stephanie Redfern for alerting me to the painting’s location – proof that blogging really does open horizons.
I wax lyrical about the painting on my ‘creative’ blog, so if that’s your cup of tea, pop over and have a look.
Well, of course the main thing about day trips is to get the balance between doing the sights and drinking tea/coffee and eating cake, just right. So you won’t be surprised that I started off in Oxford at Patisserie Valerie. The cakes in the window were simply gorgeous, and so it turned out was the coffee, the chocolate cake and the service!
After that great start, and fortified with plenty of chocolate, I went next to The Ashmolean. This was a total revelation. I felt like it was an enormous treat for the senses – probably helped by the rather muscular sculptures in the ground floor halls – but so much to see. I learned my lesson years ago with museums and galleries – don’t overdo it. So these days, I try and have just one or two things to see properly, and usually find a couple more that really excite me.
Of course it was the Uccello that I went to see – it’s up on the second floor. But there were several other gems to discover. I particularly like the display of rings. Amazing to think that we’ve been wearing them, giving them and using them for many centuries – there’s something about a ring that gives you an immediate connection to the person or people who have worn it before.
Not having had anything to eat for at least an hour and a half, I headed to The Red Lion in Gloucester Street. I don’t think this is a pub Inspector Morse would have approved of, far too modern, but it did us proud. Lovely food (and a wicked glass of Prosecco at lunch-time – what decadence). We sat outside as it was warm, and were amazed at how quiet it was, despite being really quite central.
The afternoon took us over to St Thomas the Martyr‘s church, a little way out of the centre, past the Castle. It’s an interesting spot. It looks as if it should be in the middle of the countryside, but in fact is one of the noisiest churchyards I’ve ever sat in, thanks to traffic noise from all around and car alarms in the car park behind the church.
Nevertheless, this is a hidden gem of a church. I was particularly moved by a commemorative stone, detailing the deaths of three daughters in the seventeenth century. Perhaps connection was the order of the day, but as a mother of daughters, it’s hard to see something like that and not to feel a strong empathy for the parents. Sometimes when you visit places like this, it’s those little touches, often quite hidden, that you remember most.
The height of the afternoon was very hot, and I had a lovely refreshing cup of tea in the Castle grounds. There was an exhibition of photographs taken from the air of famous British landmarks. Do go and have a look at their website, the pictures are wonderful.
I caught up again with the husband at Lincoln College. This building is one of the ones you walk past, when you ‘do’ the centre of Oxford – it’s very close to The Market – do go to the market, it’s one of the city’s unusual attractions. I’ve bought most of my Kipling handbags from there over the years.
From Lincoln College, we went to St Aldates. Well, in fact I only got as far as the ice-cream parlour opposite the entrance to Christchurch. I sat outside and watched the world go by – which mainly consisted of buses, ambulances and ladies on bikes.
I was getting pretty tired by then, so we wended our way back to the Park and Ride stop outside Blacks, and were swiftly returned to our car.
All in all a very enjoyable day. I’m plotting my next visit to the Ashmolean already…