Oxford meanderings

Oxford landscape

First off, let me preface this post by letting my more regular readers know that I am going to attempt to merge two blog themes, the first being travel, the second being drinking, into one mashed up post. Less regular readers, welcome. Where have you been?

I will start with the travel related information. If you wish to skip this and just find the part where we did our best to wreck a hotel, do feel free. So. We wandered into Oxford yesterday afternoon, which is one of my favourite UK cities. It just about qualifies as a city due to the cunning reuse of one of the Oxford college churches as the cities cathedral, and its compact nature makes it perfect for an afternoons meandering.

The main draw of Oxford is of course it’s University, which is one of the oldest Universities in the world. It is made up of thirty eight colleges, each one a separate architectural delight. Gargoyles peer down from cornices. Twirly decorative spires dreamily reach towards the sky. Cobbled roads lead down ancient passageways with tremendously exciting sounding names. And the whole place is liberally sprinkled with tourists, on this day, largely of an American and Japanese origin.

We were especially lucky to have our own personal guide, our host for our stay in Oxford, who attended one of the colleges, and was thus able to give us an excellent walking tour taking in the major sights, including the Bodleian Library, whose collection of books is so vast that a number of its tomes are stored in a nearby disused salt mine.

Our guided tour

Next to the actual Bodleian library main building we also peered at the wonderfully titled Radcliffe Camera, a magnificent circular three story construction from the 17th century. This used to home the science books, but presumably space was at a bit of a premium, so now it is used, rather grandly, as a reading room. I have a theory that had I attended University at Oxford, knowledge would somehow have forced it’s way into my brain, such is the way it seems to gently ooze out of the pores of the buildings here.

So we walked. As I said, Oxford is a wonderfully compact city to meander, or indeed, cycle around. Crossing the river you can see the folks punting on the river (for some reason the Thames is renamed to the Isis for its time in Oxford). We wandered around  the outside areas of a number of colleges, peered at the markings in the road where some martyrs had been burnt, presumably for believing in an unfashionable God, and then took a stroll up to the Pitt Rivers Musuem, which houses a wonderful display of all sorts of oddities.

Radley Camera

We were particularly taken by the shrunken heads and Samurai swords. I learnt that a decent example of such a sword should be able to cut through four men with a single stroke. Ouch.

Finally, after the most wonderful cookies in the Covered Market, we retired to The Turf tavern for a refreshing and reviving ale, before returning to our home for dinner.

Naturally, the evening does not end there. The local hotel has recently changed hands, out of the hands of a close friend, and into the hands of an unknown couple. It seemed, therefore, only right that we go and ensure that the high standards of the bar were still being maintained. It was open mic night, so there was a lively crowd. We didn’t start off by making a great impression I should say, a brand new and free pool table occupied one room, unfortunately one member of our party decided it would be best to make it look a little bit more pub worn, via the means of a spilled drink. This did not go down awfully well. We abandoned attempts at pool, leaving JD scented green baize in our wake.

Bottle of Grappa. It tasted as bad as it looks

For some reason however, the new owners decided to adopt us, and as the night wore on the and bar emptied out it was decided that some of the bottles of spirits behind the bar needed to be disposed of. First up was a bottle of Grappa, which  appeared to have a dissolving wooden statue of a man inside, as seen in the accompanying photo.

This was a fairly awful drink, with a distinct woody flavour, largely I expect, due to the many thousands of suspended particles of tree held within. After this, it all gets somewhat hazy, with a variety of fairly vile concoctions laid upon us, presumably in an attempt to kill us off after our desecration of the pool table.

Somehow we survived the experience, which was handily free, and staggered home, to collapse as inert heaps in bed. Today has largely been spent in recovery, in anticipation of the big party tomorrow. I can hardly wait.

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