Passing the Days in Oxford
Once upon a time, I spent a summer studying abroad in Oxford, England.
As the spring semester ends and the summer approaches, I’m hearing of all the students at my college that will be making the long journey to Oxford to spend their summers living that familiar house. I hear them talking, and I can remenisce about my time spent there. I love the place that is Oxford, England, and I would love to go back there. But since I can’t, I’ll share some things that y’all should do while in the City of Spires should you find yourself there.
Oxford isn’t London – and I actually really, really liked that about the city. I’ve been to London, and it’s massive. There’s the hustle and bustle that comes from being a big city, and while it was fun to be apart of for a few days, it’s too fast-paced for me. Sorry, London – I still enjoyed you. Oxford, while a big city, isn’t as crazy as the capital city, which is enjoyable if you prefer something calmer. All this isn’t to say that there isn’t anything to do in Oxford. Au contraire! Oxford is a city rich in history and attractions that you will want to visit before you leave.
City Centre isn’t huge, but offers a lot of shopping and eating options. From Jack Wills to H&M to Primark to Topshop, there is a plethora of options – and that’s just for clothes. Other stores are dotted around City Centre, too, including a stationary store and stores that sell University of Oxford souvenirs (these are literally everywhere). Then there’s the Covered Market which has all kinds of shops, including fresh meat and produce, shoes, and Moo-Moo’s. Moo-Moo’s – yes, that’s its actual name – is a milkshake joint, that so many options to choose from. It’s amazing and delicious and a must-do while you’re in Oxford. Ben’s Cookies also exists if you’re not in the mood for a milkshake. Other eateries are in City Centre, and some of them are chains you can find back in the States. But instead of eating a place you’re familiar with, try a restaraunt that you can’t find at home. Go a little out of your comfort zone!
Oxford Botanical Gardens
Another place to visit is the Oxford Botanical Gardens. For just a few pounds, you can visit this place. It’s an old botanical garden, and very beautiful. The garden is split up into different sections, including one of plants used for medicinal purposes. The Oxford Botanical Gardens may not be your first choice, but definitely spend an afternoon getting lost and admiring the gardens. And bring your camera for all the photo opportunities.
The Eagle and Child
One of the better known places, this was the pub that J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis would frequent. The picture below is just one of the tributes left to the authors that can be found around the establishment. The pub food is pretty good, and of course there are plenty of drinking options. The atmosphere of the Eagle and Child is relaxed, and you wouldn’t automatically assume its significance. Make the Eagle and Child a must-do on your Oxford Bucket List, especially if you’re a fan of Tolkien or Lewis.
Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museum
One thing that is wonderful about Oxford is the free museums. The Pitt Rivers Museum features a lot of interesting anthropological and archeological findings. In laymen’s terms, it means fossils and history. You can even find a replica of what the extinct Dodo would have looked like, and a section that ties it into Alice in Wonderland. The Ashmolean Museum is closer to the city centre, and features a lot of art and archeological findings. Like the Pitt Rivers, this museum is also free to visit. Anthropology, archeology, and art may not be what you find interesting, and may be inclined to pass up these museums. Don’t! They’re free, and who can beat free? Plus, the collections and exhibits in both are extensive and fascinating.
G&Ds & On the Hoof
G&Ds and On the Hoof! Two of the best places to stop by and grab a bite to eat while you’re in Oxford. On the Hoof was a quick walk away from the house our college uses in Oxford, and can be found on Parade Avenue. This place serves a lot of sandwiches, but you can also get yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea. The staff is wonderful and friendly – they’re used to all the students that stop from our college. The sandwiches are delicious. I’d recommend the bacon and brie. It’s tasty and definitely European. Don’t forget to get yourself a loyalty card – buy 11 sandwiches, get the next one free.
G&Ds are ice cream places. There are three locations in Oxford, and you should stop by at least one of them. Interesting fact: the G stands for George, but the D stands for something different at each of the three locations. You’ll just have to visit yourself to learn what the Ds stand for! What’s even better is that all their ice cream, they make themselves. As a big fan of Bluebell ice cream (I’m from Texas, okay?), it’s not easy for me to admit that I’ve got another favorite brand of ice cream. But I do. If you find yourself jet lagged, just know that they’re open from 8 AM till midnight.
Port Meadow is a big and open field. Being from Texas, it was definitely beautiful to see a full green field in the middle of the summer. I’d heard of Port Meadow before I studied abroad, but hearing about it and actually seeing it are two different experiences. It’s an open grazing field, perfect for horses, which is what my study abroad group encountered on our evening walk through it. The horses are just there, out in the open. It was nice to walk through Port Meadow and see part of the sun go down. But I’ve also heard that it’s definitely worthwhile to get up early and watch the sunrise from there.
London might be the city you think of when you think of studying abroad. But Oxford has its own charm and sights and wonder. There’s a lot that I just can’t include because of limitations – like punting! Don’t know what punting is? Google it, or better yet, go to Oxford and do it yourself.
If you’re ever given the opportunity, go and visit the City of Spires. You won’t regret it.