2018 Day 13 – Oxford

We visited Oxford last year – looking back at that post, I’m surprised at what we achieved in a day. Oops. Probably pushed Chris a wee bit hard there. I can get a little engerzier bunny focussed at times – the off switch can be hard to locate.

Still, it takes the pressure off today’s visit and means we can start with a leisurely lunch at Jamie’s Italian. Fresh truffles are on the menu, paired simply with home made pasta and a touch of butter. Chris opts for a buttermilk chicken burger. Both are excellent.

Even though it’s early in the week, Oxford is packed. It’s a young crowd in the main, being a university town, but new this year are the tourist coaches, largely from Asia, travelling en masse. There are quite a number of school tour groups too, most of whom seem somewhat disengaged, causing me to wonder about the value of these trips.

We potter around for a while, traipsing up and down the few streets we missed last year. The architecture here is magnificent, but in the interests of not duplicating posts, I’ll restrain myself.

Later in the day we take a river cruise down the Thames. It’s indeed a mercurial beast, deep green and still here, its edges graced by willows bent into its waters.

The university rowing sheds dot the banks, replacing over recent decades, the floating punts that served this purposes – there’s only one left now, the white one, below, a far more graceful structure than its dull successors.

The river runs at a peaceful pace in this neck of the woods, its still waters only broken by the patter water birds’ feet and the occasional Noddy boat. And one nude swimmer, hurriedly exiting the water. He might have mistimed that exit somewhat.

It’s a peaceful respite from the busyness of town.

There was one place that escaped last year’s pace – the Bodleian Library, a 15th century bit of loveliness. Luck’s not with us today either as tours to the upper section, the Duke Humphrey Library, are sold out, but we are able to buy tickets to the Divinity Room to marvel over its delicate ceiling, which is truly a piece of art.

I’m not surprised the tour is sold out – both the Divinity Room and the Duke Humphrey Library were set locations for the Harry Potter films – the former as the infirmary and dancing lesson room, the latter as the library and its restricted section. Harry Potter fan ardour has not dimmed with time, and it’s pleasing to see Nifflers added to the memorabilia.

We also pop into the covered market, dating back to the 1700s, which was closed last year.

Not a market in the classic sense in that it’s not full of fruit and vegetable stalls but independent shops, including an extensive bakery, offering an early dose of Christmas spirit.

There’s just time to pass the Bridge of Sighs for a last picture before boarding the bus from hell* home.

Later, I’m lucky to spot a family of bunnies frisking in a nearby field and an owl hoots gently into a star filled night. Country life is rather lovely.

*So named due to its lack of air-conditioning and consequently horrendous internal temperature on a 30+ degree day. Made all the more pleasurable by sticky vinyl seats.

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