How does your home town make you feel? Whenever people tell me they’re going to Oxford for the weekend, I can’t help but wonder why. I mean, sure, it’s famous for its university buildings, for punting on the Thames, but… it’s just Oxford. It’s the place I grew up, full of tourists and devoid of decent shops, expensive and dull.
As you probably know, I returned to Oxfordshire when we left London earlier this year, so when a friend from Newcastle came to visit and said she wanted to explore the city, I put together the best 24 hour guided tour that I could come up with. And you know what? It turns out Oxford is pretty special.
Oxford city is small and flat – which is a relief, because I’m less physical than most – so looking around it doesn’t take long. There are many museums to get lost in but the weather was absolutely glorious and neither of us fancied moseying around old buildings in the blazing heat, so instead we took to the university grounds.
Christ Church College meadows are absolutely beautiful. They’re green and spacious and manicured to perfection, with impressive buildings imposing on the landscape. We walked out of the grounds and over Magdalen Bridge, watching the punters enjoy the midday sun. (Note – students, get yourselves a job punting for people who want to lie in the boats without the hard work.)
Walking over the bridge and down the High Street made me realise how lucky I am to have grown up in Oxford, and also how embarrassing it is to have claimed Oxford as a dull city. Dull! I go to Prague and Amsterdam and Paris and Gdansk and wax lyrical about beautiful architecture and the joy of small cities to walk around and yet, here I am, overlooking all this on my doorstep.
We had lunch on Broad Street surrounded by many more beautiful buildings – and about 200 students in their gowns, enjoying graduation day with families and friends. This is what I hated about growing up here but now, seeing the road swarming with black gowns – like a bat invasion, I felt pretty lucky. Lucky to see this hub of excitement, and even luckier not to be a part of it; there’s nothing better than people watching. (Second note – I worked damn hard to take photos without the student invasion in them, but now I kind of wish I’d captured the buzz.)
This is one of my favourite buildings in Oxford; the Radcliffe Camera. A round library – what’s not to love.
Now you know I mentioned Oxford is small and I’m sore? Well, this little tour of the city’s most iconic buildings took us from morning until lunch, so we swanned off to the countryside and spent the afternoon in the grounds of Blenheim Palace.
Blenheim Palace is a country house situated about half an hour from Oxford. The Duke of Marlborough lives there which, let’s be honest, seems a little over the top. I mean – who needs this much space? I barely know what to do with two spare rooms.
I begrudge paying £24 per person to get in to grounds that I used to sneak in to for free when I was a kid. That is a lot of money to wander around a lake and look at a big house. But, come on, what a beautiful big house it is. Plus, there’s a mini train that takes you to a maze and a model village so well worth the £24 in my book.
(Check out my instagram for pictures of the model village and the Oxford snaps that my phone was responsible for.)