Local Focus: Oxford

Nobody needs to be told how to be a tourist in Oxford. Take a walk around the city centre, explore a few colleges, maybe take a moment to admire the ‘dreaming spires’, and you will come away with a very typical visitor’s experience of the city. But besides the history and aesthetic appeal there are a host of other less obvious things to discover and enjoy.

A great place to start is the Pitt Rivers museum. Hidden away behind the natural history museum, it is home to an eclectic array of artefacts, many of which having been brought back to the City by missionaries. There are over 500,000 items, all of which are arranged thematically which makes it a different experience to what we might be used to. Incidentally, if you are more of the traditional type, Oxford’s flagship museum ‘The Ashmolean’ has recently reopened, and is worth a visit, the Egyptian collection being particularly impressive.

The city is relatively small so it can be explored entirely on foot, and the centre is pedestrianised, which is very liberating. You will notice however that the most popular mode of transport is cycling, supported by the excellent routes throughout the town. Another reason why Oxford is such a pleasant place to be is because it is so green. So if it’s a sunny day bring a picnic and pick a tranquil spot in the university parks. Worth a visit is ‘George and Davis’ on Little Clarendon Street, a little independent outlet where you can enjoy locally-made ice cream. It was founded by George Stroup in 1992, and now has two sister cafes, ‘George and Danver’ and ‘George and Delila’ in the city. The identities of ‘Davis’, ‘Danver’, and ‘Delila’ is unknown, but there is much speculation amongst the community and one popular theory is that they are the names of George’s dogs.

If you are looking for a place to eat out, there are many options. Highly recommended is the relatively modern castle complex, built on the grounds which were home to King Charles I during the civil war, which has a range of restaurants to accommodate all tastes. For something different head to Jericho, a suburb that is a ten minute walk from the centre. Here you will find ‘The Big Bang’, serving up what is arguably the nation’s best sausage and mash, and on the same street ‘The Bombay’, who provide delicious Indian cuisine.

After dinner do as the locals do, and enjoy a pint in one of the many historic pubs. The Turf Tavern is particularly popular, with foundations dating back to the 13th century giving it a rustic feel. Once frequented by luminaries such as Bill Clinton and Inspector Morse, it is especially popular for its great variety of ales. The most obligatory place to drink however, is The Eagle and Child, where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis used to meet in their writers’ group. Explore Oxford for yourself, and you are guaranteed to be rewarded by what you find.

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