A very posh (belated) birthday present – Day 2

Today was the day to actually see Oxford properly, and wow, it is stunningly British. Sandstone buildings everywhere, and I love a pretty building. To start our day off we went to the Westgate Shopping Area, which was literally 2 minutes from our hotel (everything seems very close in Oxford, but somehow it doesn’t have that slightly cramped feeling that I feel Cambridge has), and got sausage/bacon barms and hash browns, and did a bit of people watching whilst we sat outside eating them.

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“Pose with your sausage butty”

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Westgate

 

Then we went off to the main part of the trip, the Oxford River Cruise. Yes, it was as fancy as it sounds. A sweet little boat was slowly filled with people celebrating various wedding anniversaries of anything from 20+ years, and then us two awkward 18-year-olds come along,  trying hard to seem as classy as the rest of the people on the river cruise. But we were the only ones to know who Philip Pullman is, as our very posh boat driver (who insisted he “didn’t really do school” then quoted a Hopkins poem by heart) quizzed us on various famous authors who had lived in the area, so we were basically the genius couple of the boat. Obviously.

The cruise was very lovely; 2 and a half hours of beautiful Oxford meadows along the Thames, including a stop off at one of the quaintest pubs I’ve ever been to. It was very chill (in fact it got quite cold, oh the hilarity!) and our tour guide/boat driver had the best beard in the world, and seemed to know an awful lot about… Well, everything (but he definitely didn’t do school).

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The boat, aw

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I am actually quite scared of horses, but from this distance they are great. But only from this distance.

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Crazy. The freezing cold Thames does not equal a great swimming opportunity.

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I wonder if the first goose has any idea where it is going.

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Gorgeous pub!

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#creepy

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People used be a lot smaller it seems…

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Hey there, cutie.

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Oooh, pretty

After the very relaxing afternoon on the Thames we went to be even more British. Scones and a pot of tea seem to fit the bill, right? After stuffing our face as we usually do when we have the chance, we decided to work it off a bit and climb the gorgeous Carfax Tower. Now, my boyfriend had been up the tower before and insisted it was an amazing view of Oxford, but from the ground, the tower didn’t actually seem that tall. However, I think Oxford must be on a slight slant because blimey was he right. What a view. The best thing about the view, in my eyes, was that I could pinpoint exactly where I wanted to head next; the area where the gorgeous sandstone buildings seemed to accumulate, because like I said before, I love a pretty building.

Yum, yum, yum.

Yum, yum, yum.

The most typical Oxford picture you could take.

The most typical Oxford picture you could take.

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Blimey

 

Up Carfax Tower!

Up Carfax Tower!

It was even better in real life.

It was even better in real life.

Smile!

Smile!

The area I wanted to go to :)

The area I wanted to go to 🙂

My boyfriend is scared of heights, so he didn't like taking this photo.

My boyfriend is scared of heights, so he didn’t like taking this photo!

Now what do we all think of when we say Oxford? The university, of course (I mean, maybe, I’m not trying to make radical assumptions or anything…)!! I was a tad insistent that we had to visit at least one college whilst we were there as I feel if you go to Oxford, it is shame not to. So, we stumbled upon Trinity College, and went in free of charge to have a wander around the grounds and pretend we were super smart Oxford students for a while. I have to say, Oxford Colleges are very impressive. Trinity, in particular, has absolutely gorgeous grounds and YOU CAN WALK ON THE GRASS!! (When I visited Cambridge, you couldn’t walk on a lot of the grass areas, so I was highly impressed by this because I’m a bit strange). We also got to go into the dining room, which was of course like a mini Great Hall from Harry Potter, with amazing portraits hanging on the walls that made it seem so medieval. But nothing beat the chapel. A small, but somehow very grand chapel, this beautiful room had the most stunning wood carvings and a fresco that reminded you of how traditional the collegiate system is. Oh my, the resonance in that room was breathtaking too – what I would give to hear a choir sing there!

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Stunning!

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The dining hall.

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That’s something out of a Jane Austen novel

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Look at that fresco!

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I am a little bit in awe of this room

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More stunning grounds

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#livingthestudentdream

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Triwizard cup?

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She gets it.

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🙂

Our final trip of the day was to one of my favourite restaurants ‘Las Iguanas’, which specialises in Mexican, Spanish and Brazilian food. So basically the best food ever. We decided to get the tapas option and buy five dishes to share, and it was definitely a fantastic decision.

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You seen those nachos?

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Chuffed

So the final menu of the night was as follows (get ready to be hungry):

  • Totopos (Spice-dusted corn chips) with tomato salsa to nibble on, yum
  • Nachos with Mexican smoked chipotle chicken (Decidedly THE BEST NACHOS EVER, and we eat a lot of nachos between us)
  • Gambas (Prawns, om nom nom)
  • Pato Taquito (“Rich shreds of roast duck & caramelised onion rolled in a flour tortilla & char-grilled, with a spicy cranberry salsa”)
  • Spicy Chicken Quesadilla
  • Chorizo in a spicy tomato sauce

Las Iguanas was a hit, and a perfect way to end our lovely time in Oxford.

What is the most ‘British’ thing you have done? And quite on the opposite end of the spectrum, any other Mexican food fans?

Thanks for reading! 🙂 x

A very posh (belated) birthday present – Day 1

On Friday night I got back home from a lovely trip to Oxford with my boyfriend. It was a birthday present, and although I knew we were off to Oxford and would be doing a River Cruise, I knew nothing about where we actually staying in Oxford. I’ve got to say, I love a good surprise, so this one was pretty great.

We had quite the adventure actually getting to Oxford. Our home town is in the North-West of England, so as you can imagine, it takes quite a while, and a fair few trains to get all the way down to Oxford. So we meet at our local station all excited at around 9.15 am, nothing too early, but early enough for two teenagers. The first train journey was nothing too arduous – less than hour to Liverpool South Parkway on the all too familiar grey and yellow Merseyrail train. No delays, we were chatting away, it was going great. We get to Liverpool, however, and this is when it all goes a little wrong… But we wouldn’t realise that for another hour and a half.

Our next stop would be Birmingham New Street, so we hop over to platform 2 and wait for our train. One train comes along, and I say to my boyfriend ‘Nope, not our train, next one’, and I was half right. So the next train comes along, and it is at the time we had expected our train to come. Has to be our train, right? So we get on, find seats with a table (Jackpot!!) and settle in to watch an episode of ‘Don’t Tell The Bride’ on his iPad (which I highly recommend). Enthralled with the tantrums from the bride-to-be and “I’m sure £30 is enough for 10 bridesmaid dresses” from the groom-to-be (seriously, it is fantastic television), we don’t notice that the stations we are passing are not what we should be passing at all. Even when we stopped at Manchester Oxford Road for 15 minutes, reality TV had us too gripped to even blink an eyelid.

When the train started heading back the direction we came I was a little surprised, however. “It is probably just changing lines”, we assured ourselves. But we knew. Trying to ignore the obvious mistake we had made at first, we carried on watching our programme, but when it finished and I suddenly noticed that this would be the second time we passed Warrington Central, our mistake was proven and mobile phones were out checking the trainline to see which train we could catch to actually get to our actual destination.

The line we actually took, terminating at Manchester Oxford Road, then going all the way back to Liverpool South Parkway. Clever.

The line we actually took, terminating at Manchester Oxford Road, then going all the way back to Liverpool South Parkway. Clever.

2 hours or so later, and we’re finally back on track, with 2 more train journeys to go. We finally got there two hours later than expected, but we had a really good ham, cheese and honey mustard baguette from the Upper Crust at Birmingham, so I feel it was all okay. We are easily pleased.

So what about that surprise location where we would be staying? A prison. We stayed in a prison. But a really fancy one. Well, not quite. My boyfriend somehow managed to get a room at the Oxford Malmaison, which is an old prison reinvented into a gorgeous hotel, and it was so bloomin’ posh that our room was decorated with various tartan items and the complimentary tea included at least 4 green teas and a selection of fruit teas. I’m just used to good ol’ English Breakfast when it comes to free tea.

The gorgeous Malmaison Oxford

The gorgeous Malmaison Oxford

I was expecting 'Cell Block Tango' to begin at any moment

I was expecting ‘Cell Block Tango’ to begin at any moment

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Too swish!

What a view!

What a view!

Once we got there we decided to go for a wander, and headed towards Christ Church Meadow. Before we got into the park area, we had to walk down a busy main road, but the sudden quietness as we walked into the park compared to the urban chatter only a minute away was amazing. You can see why so many people dream of studying there; the gorgeous setting is only further complimented by the complete silence you can find in so many places in the city. This beautiful meadow spanned for acres, and we only got a small glimpse of it, however within our little walk we saw people punting, fields of cows and the cutest ducks you could ever imagine.

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‘My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage’ – John Bunyan

How very English!

How very English!

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Spot the smurf!

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I love this beautiful walk

Mooooo!

Mooooo!

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I was really excited to run up this bridge for some reason

They were so cute...

They were so cute…

Like really cute...

Like really cute…

Cheese!

Cheese!

Thought I was done with the duck pictures... Nope!

Thought I was done with the duck pictures… Nope!

Punting/Falling

Punting/Falling

I did Geography, can you tell?

I did Geography, can you tell?

My boyfriend had also booked a special offer we our very fancy hotel, so we were actually having a meal at the hotel that night. Now the one thing I told my boyfriend was more important than anything is that we eat good food, because we both like trying new food and basically eating in general (hence our excitement over the baguettes). I was not disappointed. First we ordered some fancy cocktails. Mine was lovely, but I wasn’t a fan of my boyfriend’s… Jalapeños in a cocktail, not for me. The rest of the meal was as follows:

  • Crusty Bread, with Hummus, Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar and Butter to share
  • Tomatoes and Mozzarella for me, Thai Chicken Wings for my boyfriend to start
  • Chargrilled Chicken, with a Thai Salad and Roasted Peanuts for mains
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding for me, Chocolate Soufflé for my boyfriend for dessert

Hungry yet? I am again…

I don't like olives... But someone else does!

I don’t like olives… But someone else does!

Cocktails!!

Cocktails!!

I don't know how he could drink it.

I don’t know how he could drink it.

So good. So so good.

So good. So so good.

The blazer is off, it is time to eat some pudding.

The blazer is off, it is time to eat some pudding.

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Aw

All in all it was a pretty amazing meal, and the fact we were sat in this uber-swish cellar, with bars on the windows to remind you of this stunning building’s history made it even cooler. After the meal, we were pretty knackered from all the travelling so just went back to the room to watch some ‘Orange is the New Black’ (see, we have good taste in TV really).

Pretty detailed account of our first day, perhaps too detailed and boring, but documenting it all is partly for myself so I can read them back and remember the awesome trips I’ve had. I have been reading lots of other lovely blog posts these past few days and have seen that many people finish them with questions, so I think I might do the same.

Have any of you been to Oxford before? What travel mishaps have people had in the past? And what food have people been enjoying lately?

Rhiannon 🙂 x