I have not been feeling myself lately (Oo err missus!) and came home early on Friday feeling nauseous, slightly dizzy and pouring with sweat. However, now that I have more or less recovered I thought I would say a few words about Oxford to finish off my tale of woe that was the trip to the Oxonmoot.
I liked Oxford, especially as I understand that it was outside of term time. Although the one major point of irritation was that it was full, with no accommodation at all for outside visitors. I have since been told that September was a very bad time to travel to Oxford and we should have booked two places just in case one fell though (which it did), as cancellation charges are only about £10, with thanks to hubblegubble for that useful tip for the future.
Wedny and I first saw Oxford via a 2:00am taxi whirl through the core area before being dumped on the streets to trudge back towards St. Giles (near to where the Oxonmoot was being held) and then being given an even more whirlwind tour of Oxford and its environs by super taxi, which is documented elsewhere in this Journal.
Once we had got over all that and experienced what we did of Oxonmoot we went on to enjoy the experience of Oxford a little before having to board the train and return home. Really the first time we got to look around was on Sunday afternoon when we went straight to the Ashmolean. I had always wanted to visit it and had unfortunately found out just before travelling that it was mostly closed for refurbishment and only had the original main building open. It is run by very helpful volunteers who take the time to tell you where things are and what was worthwhile seeing but as the museum seemed to have the heating on full blast neither Wedny nor I could think straight, so it wasn’t that brilliant an experience. Then again that may have been due to still recovering from the trip down. There was a particularly good exhibition of treasures of the Ashmolean in one of the rooms which was excellent and in which we saw Guy Fox’s Lamp he used while trying to explain his policies to the government of the day and the Alfred jewel (which is much smaller than you would think). The museum shop on the ground floor is good and there are lockers in the basement near to the toilets where you can store your bag or whatnot while you tour round the building. Refurbishments finish in 2009 and I might revisit after that.
We did a fair amount of sitting around in Broad street at the outdoor café called the Campus Buttery through a tiny bit of Saturday, big chunk of Sunday afternoon and a bit of Monday Morning. That was fun; watching the world go by and looking at the postcards we had just bought at the tourist information office. We walked along to Blackwell’s Bookshop or rather I did, as Wedny went straight to the separate Blackwell’s Music shop and disappeared for an hour or two. I found out that Blackwell’s has a second hand section on the top floor and a rare books section on the second floor. This was too good to miss and I increased my collection of James Hilton novels by two.
I was going to add to my LiveJournal while down in Oxford but two things put paid to that. One, was the fact that we were completely knackered and I didn’t really feel like saying anything worthwhile to the world. Secondly, they have an interesting turn on Internet cafes in Oxford. We were in several cafés around and about the centre of Oxford and none appeared to do any kind of Internet access, (we did finally see an Internet café at Gloucester Green but it was closed… permanently). It turns out that most cafes and coffee shops in Oxford provide wireless Internet access and all you have to provide is a laptop to connect up. I suppose for a University town this makes a lot of sense as then you don’t need to go to the capital expense of buying computers and using up valuable space to site them. But it does mean that you do have to have a laptop or portable computer to use and that was something I neglected to take with me. Ah well.
We also ate out on the Sunday night in Gino’s which was particularly good and I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who likes Italian food. There is a particularly good set of reviews of their restaurant here. They also are the source of the Greek quote I put into the Journal some days ago (Aren’t online translation services a wonderful thing!). Due to a lack of concentration or maybe tiredness I managed to order pasta in a Chilli sauce and as I am allergic to peppers this was not the smartest thing to eat. I apologised to the waiter and asked for a Calzone which is what Wedny had ordered, but to charge me for the pasta as it was my mistake. The owner (Gino himself, I think) was straight over apologising profusely and insisting that the change of dish was on the house. He would not accept that it was my mistake and refused point blank to change me for that meal. After some of our experiences this was a wonderful change to see such an attitude. Strangely, if you look at the second review that I pointed at for Gino’s almost exactly the same thing happened to the reviewer on 08/05/06! Again I would heartily recommend them as a place to eat to anyone passing through Oxford or even just getting off at the bus station in Gloucester Green.
All in all, I loved the buildings (which strangely, to me as a Glaswegian, don’t look like 16th-17th century buildings due to the light colour of the stone, not really dirty enough. I had thought that they were Victorian gothic revival buildings!). I loved the well kept gardens which you could see peeking though the gates and over walls as we went round Oxford on the open topped bus tour on Monday morning and I loved the ambience of the central Broad street's, hustle and bustle. Oh, and I loved Blackwell bookshop and I loved the Bodleian Library (What little you can actually see, as you can only go into the shop, you can’t get into the library for a peek) and the Bridge of sighs and St. Helen’s Passage and the Turf Tavern and Somerville college. Really the town itself was the best bit of the trip. Like I said I would like to go back to see the Ashmolean when it is refurbished, and one final word of caution. All the museums and galleries appear to be closed on Mondays so if your looking for a long weekend in Oxford and want to visit these kind of places start on a Thursday and go till Sunday.