Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Day Out In Oxford

Today I met a friend in Oxford for lunch. It was a wonderful time out, a step away from the hustle bustle of ordinary life as for a couple of hours we wandered round the cobbled streets and the shops and chatted over coffee and later, lunch.

First occupied in Saxon times, Oxford is most famous for its iconic university. First mentioned in records from the 12th century, it is one of the first great established centres of learning. Its college chapel, Christ Church Cathedral, is also a cathedral for the Diocese of Oxford. Many of the buildings that comprise the university are stunningly beautiful. Some are off limits to anyone other than students and faculty, and ancient archways offer tantalising glimpses of the courtyards and buildings which lie beyond.

Due to the student population, tourists and industry, Oxford has a hugely cosmopolitan feel. As you walk through the town, you can hear several languages being spoken. There are tons of cafes, bars and restaurants and the centre positively bustles. Bicycles, the preferred mode of transport in Oxford, are everywhere. It is not just the students riding them, professors ride them too!

Oxford is a city of contrasts, and many old buildings have been restored and added to. An super example of this is one of the branches of Prêt à Manger, a sandwich shop, which is housed in a building that has a Norman arch and fifteenth century beams. However it has been sympathetically restored and the staircase is composed of all new wood. It’s quite beautiful and a bit ironic - fast food and history side by side!

Certainly, our visit today wet our appetite for further exploration. Come to think of it, most of my visits to Oxford have been quite rushed and it really is a city that invites you to spend a little more time. It’s only a half hour by train from where I live so I think one day soon I’ll play the tourist. Perhaps I’ll really get into the spirit of things and even take the open topped double decker bus tour!

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