Oxford is undeniably beautiful. However, the beauty and the history was not the reason I decided to visit. Instead, I did it because of my dad. Before he met my mum, he’d spend his summers in Oxford and recently told me some of his stories from these years. From living on a house boat for a summer to throwing the cushions of the river boats into the river – this wasn’t hooliganism! There was a deposit for using the boats and this was lost if the cushions got wet. My dad swears there were only a few droplets on one of the cushions but they still tried to keep the deposit, despite the fact it would be dry before anyone else came to using them. So, my dad threw them into the river and lost his deposit before flouncing off to the pub.
It was this rare glimpse into my dad’s life that encouraged me to go. My dad has suffered from mental health issues due to the traumatic childhood and there were times when I didn’t even know if he’d make it to the end of the year. Due to the issues with his family he rarely shares memories from before meeting my mother, we have a handful of photos from his youth and almost no physical belongings from that time. I wanted to feel what my dad had felt, and be able to show him photos of the city that he spoke so fondly of.
I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful – W.B. Yates
But even if you don’t have a desire to make your dad happy Oxford is still worthy of putting on your ‘to see’ list.
So, I booked the hotel and train tickets before messaging my boyfriend to let him know that he’d be spending the weekend in Oxford. Thankfully he puts up with my spontaneous adventures! I picked The Randolph for our weekend bolt hole, and whilst it wasn’t cheap I decided that being in the centre with the Ashmolean Museum across the street ideal. Although there are plenty of places to stay in Oxford – why not take a leaf out of my dad’s book and hire a houseboat!
The first thing we did was eat, and although we were adventurous and decided to go to Five Guys this was the first time my boyfriend had gone. He’s still dreaming about the many flavour drinks machine!
After checking in we rushed to the castle and prison to make the final tour of the day. The tour guide way amazingly informative and passionate, making the short tour incredibly enjoyable. Even if you don’t fancy going on the tour itself you’re able to pay a small fee to access the grass mound and get some wonderful views of Oxford. Or you can always stay at the Malmaison and experience a night in the cells – although this are significantly fancier than the cells of the old prison!
After taking a stroll down by the river (even seeing some houseboats!) we went to dinner at Bills, noting that we weren’t being very adventurous by picking chains and decided we’d find somewhere more ‘classic Oxford’ for Sunday lunch. We spent the rest of the evening in the hotel with a bottle of wine we snuck in past the doormen who looked at us pair of twenty year olds with some confusion as we confidently walked past them in our Vans and hoodies.
Sunday was time for ‘real’ Oxford. We wandered around finding the Bridge of Sighs of Hertford College, The Bodleian Library and generally wishing that we had tried harder at our A levels. There was something about Oxford that made me feel somewhat inferior, and crave the status of a degree from Oxford University.
The Three Goats Head was our pick for a pub lunch. As regulars at ’Spoons we weren’t quite sure what to drink without the typical choices. We asked the bartender what for two pints of whatever he wanted to pour and had a fabulous Sunday roast.
We spent our remaining time exploring the Ashmolean, the collection of fine china is both bizarre and amazing! Then it was back home, leaving behind a wonderful weekend that had not only made me fall in love with the city, but also feel much closer to my dad – even if I didn’t get up to any shenanigans!
Until next time Oxford!