I’m from a small town called Abingdon and have spent most of my time in the city of ‘dreaming spires’ Oxford.
A city with so much to see and do, with many hidden gems and history. So this is what I thought I’d introduce my readers to this week.
I will say this straight away, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a city, where within 12-20 minutes you can walk from the city centre or other parts such as Cowley or Summertown and find yourself immersed in scenic countryside and few to no people around you. The city centre is full of buildings of various ages, and some date to roughly 1000 A.D. With modern ones popping up all the time, including the new shopping centre, finally opened last year. Beautiful on the inside for a modern shopping mall, but the outside is horrendous. So much potential wasted and made to look generic and honestly unfinished or even uncaring. Considering the rest of the buildings created by the university colleges the Westgate shopping mall is crap in comparison. Not a great start to describing Oxford but an honest one. It’s saving grace is the views that you can see from its rooftops, the beautiful spires reaching over the top of the rooftops, and sandstone buildings everywhere. Plus shopping mall exterior is no longer in the view.
The older university buildings in the city centre are something to marvel at. Especially in spring to autumn on sunny days if you can gain access to the colleges and the sun. Christ, Magdalene and Brasenose colleges and many others in the centre look like something out of a Harry Potter novel, and some scenes from the movie were shot inside the colleges.
The gardens that the colleges own can be spectacular. Flowers from all over the world, which have been sculpted and set in place in such a way, that it is calming and inviting to the eye. The gardeners who have tended to these pieces of art are just magnificent. There is even a deer park in Magdalen college and across the road is Britain’s oldest botanical garden, again full of wonders, and interesting history. This is part of the reason for the gardens and countryside existing, it is owned by the colleges, and for various reasons, it has never been developed.
The botanical gardens are not the only first the city has to offer, the first coffee house and the first museum, first telling of King Arthur and one of the oldest libraries in Europe.
If this does not grab you, there is the castle complex, once a castle, then a prison and now a shopping and dining centre, with art galleries and hotels.
If there was a city to visit from London and you only had a weekend in the U.K. you could not go far wrong then aiming for Oxford. Especially, if you are Russian, seems like a better choice then heading to Salisbury for an hour to head to a residential area and a gas station.