There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie


Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.
~Rumi


May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett


Oxford

An Oxford Summer........

"In summer, the song sings itself."
~William Carlos Williams

The High, Oxford
Summer in Oxford has always been a magical time for me. From the moment I stepped off the bus on the High Street, arriving for the first time in the summer of 1994, I was enchanted.  I stood looking down toward Lincoln College, my eye following the gentle curve of the High Street, and somehow I knew my life would never be the same again.

Then it was four years later, during the summer of 1998, that I first met Stuart in Oxford. Well, technically we first met at Heathrow, but it was high summer in Oxford when we first fell in love.  In the following 17 years, the blush of magic has never worn off, and Stuart and I both get excited when June rolls around and we start thinking about another summer together in Oxford.

Here's a sampling of a few of things we like to spend our summer doing...........


Outdoor Shakespeare

Summer in Oxford means many things, but one of the first things that comes to mind for us is Shakespeare in the college gardens and quads, and at the Oxford Castle.  The college gardens open up an hour before the performance, and you're encouraged to bring a picnic or just enjoy the gardens before the performance.

This summer 'As You Like It' will be performed by the Creation Theatre Company in Lady Margaret Hall's gardens, 'Twelfth Night' will be staged in the gardens of Wadham College by the Oxford Shakespeare Company, and  'Romeo and Juliet' will be performed at the Oxford Castle by BHS Productions, as well as 'Titus Andronicus', and 'The Comedy of Errors'.

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate........"
~Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

Cricket in the Parks

"After years of patient study (and with cricket there 
can be no other kind),  I have decided that 
there is nothing wrong with the game that the 
introduction of golf carts wouldn't fix in a hurry."
~Bill Bryson


If you're a fan of cricket, Oxford is one of the only places in the world you can watch first class cricket for free. The Oxford University Cricket Club has played cricket in the University Parks since 1881.  The University teams play professional cricket teams (county sides), and the fixtures (games) can be watched by the general public in the Parks.

Stuart is the cricket lover in our household, I on the other hand, agree with Robin Williams........

"Cricket is basically baseball on valium."
~Robin Williams

It's Pimm's O'Clock!


When the weather gets warm in Britain the great, big pitchers of Pimm's come out; in fact every pub in Oxford has a sign out in front heralding their take on this very British drink.  Pimm's is light, gin based, and the color of tea.  It's slightly citrusy and is made into what's known as a 'fruit cup', a 'summer cup', or a Pimm's Cup.



A Pimm's Cup is a refreshing drink and made by mixing Pimm's with lemonade (the British version of 7-UP), and then fruit and herbs are added.  It usually starts appearing by the second May Bank Holiday (the last weekend of May), and is served throughout the summer and early autumn. There are endless recipes for Pimms Cup, but the one we use is the basic one--Pimms, lemonade, orange slices, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apple slices, all topped off with a big sprig of mint.  Once the weather warms up and June approaches, it won't be long before our pitcher of Pimm's appears around 6pm.

Punting
".....there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much 
worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
~Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows




"That it will give a particular relish to success.........if you never take a punt without stowing therein a sufficient basket of ham, tongue, veal pie, stilton cheese, bottled ale and porter, port, sherry,  moselle, claret, brandy and cigars."
~London Magazine, 1828



"When boating for pleasure, a punt possesses many advantages. The punter faces the direction
 in which the craft is travelling, and he or she 
can have a good view of the scenery; the position 
for punting is less cramped than that for 
rowing,and the stroke is more varied.  The punt 
is better adapted for luncheon and tea, which is 
a great convenience on a journey, and obviates 
the necessity of reaching a hotel at any given time."  
~P.W. Squire






Punting is a quintessential Oxford summer activity, with or without 'sufficient tongue, veal, port, or cigars' as suggested in the London Magazine from 1828.  A punt is a narrow, long, and flat boat, that's propelled by one person standing at the end of a boat, pushing a long pole against the river bottom.  In Oxford the person stands on the 'Oxford end', or the prow which is gently sloping, and both propels and steers the punt with the pole.

Stuart punting our family, June 2013.
Just about anyone can try their hand at punting and they can be rented either at Magdalen BridgeSalter's on the Folly Bridgeor our favorite spot for punting, The Cherwell Boathouse.  We usually start at the Cherwell Boathouse and punt down the river to the Victoria Arms Pubwhich sits right on the Cherwell.

At the 'Vicky Arms' we have fish and chips (much better than tongue), and then head back to the boathouse with a bottle of champagne (much better than port) from the pub. Stuart being Oxford born and bred, is an excellent puntsman which means I can elegantly, and in Jane Austen-esque style, sit back and sip my champagne as we glide along the river.

Inspector Lewis and Fox enjoying a pint at the 'Vicky Arms'
with punters in the background.

World Class Music Every Night

The Sheldonian Theatre, Broad Street, Oxford
As a cultural centre, Oxford offers world class concerts and performances throughout the year, but during the summer months you can find a musical performance to enjoy on any given night.  The Sheldonian Theatre has pride of place on Broad Street, and will be hosting a Baroque Series, a Piano Festival, Oxford Proms, and many master classes.  The Holywell Music Room  and the Jacqueline du Pre music building also host a wide variety of concerts, recitals, and master classes.  One of the most lovely and intimate settings is the Exeter College Chapel, which hosts weekly concerts, Baroque by Candlelight.  What's On In Oxford is an excellent source not only for music, but also for anything else happening in Oxford this summer, from Shakespeare, to Art Shows, to musicals.  When it comes to culture, like London, Oxford is spoiled for choice.

For tickets and information for plays and concerts visit:

The Long Summer Evenings

"Oh the summer night
Has a smile of light
And she sits on a sapphire throne."
~B. Cornwall

Long summer evenings are a part of summer everywhere in the British Isles, but summer evenings in Oxford are vibrant and golden--full of people out enjoying all that Oxford has to offer and the setting summer sun casting a glow over the golden limestone of the University and the colleges.  It's a magical time and it's no wonder it was the setting for Stuart and I to fall in love.

Central Oxford, where we're located, is very safe to walk at night and it's not unusual for Stuart, Max, and I to take our last walk of the day around 10pm.  The photo to the left was taken last June as we walked home at around 10:20pm.


This is just a small sampling of what you'll find in Oxford this summer--music, Shakespeare, romance, summer cups, evening walks, and boat rides.  For the rest, Stuart and I hope you'll come and discover it for yourselves.

"Then followed that beautiful season.......
Summer........
Filled was the air with a dreamy and
Magical light; and the landscape 
Lay as if new created in all 
the freshness of childhood."
~Longfellow


OUR OXFORD 'BESTS'......

Opinions always vary of course, but these
are our own, personal bests from Oxford.


The best reason to visit Oxford ~
"There's something rather wonderful about the
fact that Oxford is a very small city that contains
most of the cultural and metropolitan facilities you 
could want, in terms of bookshops, theatre, cinema, 
conversation.  But it's near enough to London to get 
there in an hour, and it's near enough to huge, 
open spaces, without which I would go insane."   
~ Mark Haddon


BEST BOOKSHOP  ~ Blackwell's on Broad Street.  
A rabbit warren of books, that seems to go on 
forever, and a book lover's dream.



BEST VIEW ~ The church tower of the 
looking out over the Radcliffe Square, 
All Souls College and the High Street.



BEST AFTERNOON TEA The Randolph Hotel, Beaumont Street.
A leisurely, and oh-so-English afternoon tea 
in the drawing room.  Not fussy, relaxed, with 
deep sofas and chairs that encourage lingering.
Be sure to book ahead.



BEST BURGER ~ Maxwell's on Queen Street,
for when only a burger will do.
A tradition in Oxford since the 1970's.



BEST SOUVENIR & SWEATSHIRT SHOP ~
Flagg's on Broad Street.
No self-respecting tourist in Oxford can
go home without a sweatshirt or a 
handful of postcards, or even
a Harry Potter magic wand for that matter.


BEST WALKING TOUR  Oxford Walking ToursBroad Street.
This one we admit to being completely biased about, but
Stuart's Oxford Walking Tours are the best in town.  Stuart
prides himself on the fact that the tours go INSIDE the colleges.
More importantly, you have to walk to experience Oxford,
since cars and buses aren't allowed down many of the streets.
Only take the open-top bus tours if you want to sit in traffic,
otherwise always opt for walking Oxford.


BEST PLACE TO BUY LUGGAGE ~ Boswells, Broad & Cornmarket
If you've spent too much time in Blackwell's Bookshop
buying books or in Flaggs buying sweatshirts for nieces
and nephews, and find you need an extra piece of luggage
to get home, Boswells is your place.  It's also the place to 
buy a fan if you're staying in the colleges' un-airconditioned 
rooms for the summer, picnic baskets, teapots, towels, 
rugs, candles, and so much more.  A true 'department' 
store, locally owned and run since 1738.



BEST CUP OF COFFEE ~ The Missing Bean, Turl Street.
Opened in 2009, it's already an institution in Oxford
and 12,000 students can't all be wrong.  They're 
independent, roast their own coffee, and offer the 
perfect vantage point for watching the world go 
by on Turl Street, across from Lincoln college.



BEST PUB ~ The Turf Tavern, 
between Holywell Street and New College Lane.
The 'best' pub is probably the most arguable 'best', 
but the Turf Tavern is our favourite, since it's our local pub.
Low ceilings, local cask ales, lots of outside seating with
warm fires in the winter, an Inspector Morse connection, 
and one of the oldest pubs in Oxford.




BEST CAR RENTAL ~ Budget Car Rental, Osney Lane.
For purely practical reasons, this is the best place
to pick up a rental car in Oxford, since it's a short 
walk from the city centre and just near the train station.



BEST SANDWICH SHOP ~ The Alternative Tuck Shop.
on the corner of Holywell Street and Mansfield Rd.
Three hard-working blokes serving up fresh sandwiches
and delicious treats from dawn to dusk.  We love the
Satay Chicken on a fresh granary bap.



BEST COLLEGE GARDEN ~ New College Garden
With New College Don and history professor Robin Lane-Fox
as it's master gardener, this garden is stunning perfection all
through the year.  There's an Elizabethan mound that was
 created purely for viewing the garden and the herbaceous border,
which runs along the old city walls, is one of the best of it's kind.




BEST COLLEGE TO VISIT ~ Magdalen College, the High Street.
If you can only visit one college in Oxford, Magdalen
College offers it all.  Beautiful grounds to wander through, 
Addison's Walk, one of C.S. Lewis' favourite walks, classic 
Oxford dining hall, chapel, and cloisters, a cafe on the river for 
afternoon tea, and it's open until 7pm during the summer months.





BEST WALK Christ Church Meadow
This is our favourite walk, a wide-open space in the middle
of a bustling city.  There are views of  Magdalen, Merton, and
Christ Church colleges, pathways along the Cherwell and the
Thames, daffodils during the spring, wildflowers during the
summer, ducks, geese, heron, and if you look closely, deer
and fox.  Watch rowers on the Thames and punters on the 
Cherwell, picnickers on the river banks, and schoolboys
playing rugby.  It encapsulates all that is Oxford.






These are the "bests" for Stuart and I,
but come and and find your own..............


"It is not down in any map;
true places never are."
~Herman Melville



A FEW GOOD REASONS TO VISIT OXFORD

ONE 




TWO

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and 
narrow-mindedness, and many of our 
people need it sorely on these accounts.  
Broad, wholesome, charitable views of 
men and things cannot be acquired by 
vegetating in one little corner of the 
earth all one's lifetime."   
~Mark Twain



THREE

THE OXFORD CANAL


FOUR

"Twenty years from now you will be 
more disappointed by the things you didn't 
do than by the ones you did do.  So throw 
off the bow lines, sail away from the safe 
harbor.  Catch the trade winds 
in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover."  
~Mark Twain

FIVE

Bridge of Sighs
Find a new way of 
looking at the world.

SIX

Walk where CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien,
 John Donne,  Percy Bysshe Shelley,
Graham Greene, Aldous Huxley,
Harper Lee, Dorothy Sayers,
and Evelyn Waugh walked.

SEVEN


"TO TRAVEL IS TO LIVE"

~Hans Christian Anderson

EIGHT




NINE


Be a kid again and stand where Malfoy 
was turned into a ferret by Harry Potter.


TEN



"The greatest reward and luxury
of travel is to be able to experience
everyday things as if for the first time."
~Bill Bryson


OUR FAVOURITE DAY IN OXFORD



The 18th century diarist Samuel Johnson (who went to Pembroke College, Oxford) wrote, "When one tires of London, one tires of life," and sometimes I think you could say the same of Oxford. For a city that in some ways changes very little over the centuries, Oxford is still always so vibrant with life and things to do.

Stuart, Max, and I each have our own idea of what the perfect day in Oxford is. Stuart's is in the summer, mine is a day in December, and Max's is any day that involves bacon, squirrels, long walks, and his bed tucked into a corner of our kitchen.


We begin with Stuarts favorite day:
*The day begins with coffee at the Vaults Cafe tucked into the University Church of St. Mary's.
*Climb up the church tower of St. Mary's to take in the dreaming spires.
*Walk east down the High St. and turn right onto Rose Lane, past the Botanical Gardens toward the Cherwell, and walk around Christ Church Meadow.
*Come out to Merton St. through Grove Lane .
*Stop into Merton College to see the
library and Mob Quad.


 (Merton opens to the public at 2pm.)
*From Merton College it's back up to the High Street, through the Radcliffe Square, cut through the Turf Tavern to Holywell and home to pick up the car for our next stop...........
*A quick drive to the Cherwell Boathouse to rent a punt for the rest of the afternoon.


Stuart's an expert punter.

*Punt the Cherwell River down to the Victoria Arms (Vicky Arms) pub, tie up and have a pint and grab a bottle of bubbly for the lazy ride back to the boathouse.



*The day finishes in one of the college gardens and a Shakespeare play, with a picnic dinner before the play and a glass of Pimm's during the intermission. The gardens provide a beautiful and natural backdrop for plays from As You Like It to Macbeth.

*The day ends with a walk around Holywell Cemetery with Max in the last of the day's light, as it finally gets dark around 10pm.


The clock tower of Harris Manchester
Summer 2014, still light at 10pm.




EINSTEIN'S BLACKBOARD



There are so many places in Oxford that I go back to over and over again, because they are like old friends.  One of these is Einstein's blackboard.  Maybe the reason I love it so much is because I just stumbled on it one day about six years ago.

The blackboard was kept and preserved after a lecture Einstein gave at Oxford in 1931.  The last three lines of it give minor details--only the density, radius and age of the Universe.  I found it when I was wandering through Oxford's Museum of the History of Science one rainy afternoon.  The museum holds an impressive collection of early scientific instruments--astrolabes that are works of art, sundials, early microscopes, telescopes, cameras and so much more.


I made my way through the museum and down to the displays in the basement and there it was in the corner.  I walked up to the blackboard interested, but not understanding one letter or number written on it and certainly not realizing that it gave the age of the Universe.  As I gazed up at it, it hit me like a wave of light.  For one brief second I suddenly felt and understood the expanse and genius of Einstein's mind--and I mean expanse.  It lasted hardly longer than a breath but in that moment I could feel how far out into the Universe his mind had traveled.  It took my breath away and then it was gone.


So even though I still don't understand a single bit of what's written on it, every once in awhile I pop into the museum and pay my respects to the famous blackboard.  The museum itself is impressive, as it's the world's oldest surviving purpose built museum.  It sits on Broad Street, next to the Sheldonian Theatre and across from Blackwell's bookstore.  Admission is free and it's open: Tuesday to Friday-12 to 5pm, Saturday-10-5pm  and Sundays-2-5pm.  There is also an introductory tour of the museum every Thursday, 2:15-3pm.  When you visit the museum, be sure to find the simple, little blackboard that holds some of the very keys to our understanding of the Universe.





   
TOURS ARE DAILY -- NO MATTER THE WEATHER,
AT 12, 2, AND 4PM, IN FRONT OF THE BLUE GATES
OF TRINITY COLLEGE, BROAD STREET.  


Stuart may start his day as an attentive host at breakfast, but by 11am he hangs up his apron and is off down the street, giving his walking tours of Oxford.  For 30 years he's been guiding tourists through the rabbit warren of streets and colleges that make up Oxford's city centre.  Stuart grew up in Oxford, his father a bursar at Linacre College, and attended Christ Church and Magdalen College Schools, so there isn't much about Oxford that Stuart doesn't know or hasn't experienced.


There are other walking tours of Oxford of course, but none come close to Stuart's tours (if I do say so myself).  There are the "Official" tours from the Information Centre (prepare to be bored to tears), and there are "Free Tours" (prepare to definitely have to pay for your tour at the end).  Because none of these other tours come close to what Stuart offers, tourists on the official and free tours leave Oxford without experiencing the very best thing the city has to offer -- which is experiencing the colleges on the inside.

Stuart prides himself on the fact that every tour of his will visit at least two to three colleges, going inside to actually experience the college and it's atmosphere.  Joining one of Stuart's tours means walking through a college dining hall, much like the one Harry Potter ate in, sitting in college chapel, or walking through one of the stunning college gardens.  Throughout the tour Stuart mixes Oxford's long history with college anecdotes, a few jokes here and there, architecture, and a Who's Who of the famous and not so famous who attended Oxford University.

Stuart's tours depart from Broad St., in front of the big, blue gates of Trinity College, and you can join his tours every day at 12, 2, and 4pm.  For groups large or small, you can also book a private tour with him. Stuart has a great love for this city, it's colleges, and it's history, and he loves nothing better than to share this with everyone who joins his tours.  If you do join his tour, tell him I sent you and have a great time seeing where Malfoy was turned into a ferret, where Morse drank when he was on the case, and the colleges of David Cameron and Boris Johnson.  Most of all enjoy all that this beautiful city and it's colleges have to offer.         
The tour begins in front of the blue gates
of Trinity College, Broad Street.
Exeter College Garden with
the Radcliffe Camera in the background.


New College gardens.


New College Lane


All Souls Quad

2 comments:

  1. I am in love with this blog and now falling in love with Oxford. I am privy to wide open spaces but this looks so lovely and I can't wait to visit someday! Traveling to distant lands and experience all this will be so delicious! Hoping to be able to tell you how I liked each one of your "bests" one day! I will be visiting your blog regularly so I can visit with you vicariously in Oxford! :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Lisa ~ Thank you so much for stopping by and I'm especially happy that Oxford has captured your heart. It has a way of doing that to people. I know you'll get here one day and discover all of your own favourite "bests". Take care and xxxooo from Oxford. Carrie

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