Friday, September 02, 2016

Oxford Outing

We haven't been to Oxford for quite a while. There is more than enough there to keep us busy. A good shopping centre, several good theatres (The New Theatre and Oxford Playhouse, along with Creation Theatre which doesn't have a theatre building of its own.) The Ashmolean Museum is the oldest public museum in the world as well as the Pitt Rivers and the Natural History, all enough to give anybody who visits them hours of amusement. We left home early on a bright and not particularly sunny morning in order to make the most of our day. Carol has only two more days left of her summer break (going back to Milton Keynes Academy on Friday for a training day.) so we wanted to make the most of the day. We stopped off at Morrisons petrol station at Westcroft as they seem to have the cheapest petrol price at the moment and then drove out on Standing Way towards Buckingham. We eventually arrived at the Water Eaton park-and-ride and parked the car and then boarded the bus and rode into the centre of Oxford. This is all so much easier and stress-free when you know exactly where to park the car and arrive at the centre of a town or city knowing you don't have to hunt for a parking space or pay out something astronomical to park. Well, at least it's better for the environment to have people use a bus rather than have so many cars travelling into the centre of towns and cities. It was a very clean bus and the journey was no more than ten minutes at the most.  We got off opposite the New Theatre. Interesting to see what's on there at the moment. 'The Rocky Horror Show.' Not actually something I'd want to see. We had coffee in a Costas and then walked the short distance to the Ashmolean Museum. It opened at 10 o'clock and as we were early we had to wait outside. Pleasant enough, sitting on convenient benches. We then spent just over an hour browsing the museum. Saw an amazing Chinese screen, with lacquer-work all over it. Also went to the Victorian galleries and saw many well-known paintings by Pre-Raphaelite painters such as Burne-Jones and others. It's interesting to be able to see these works of art at such close quarters rather than in a book. A couple of quite spectacular painted pieces of furniture, one a bookcase and another a sort of wardrobe. I think you'd need a very large room to house both items. We also saw the lantern that Guy Fawkes was holding at the time he was arrested in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament as part of the Gunpowder Plot. Amazing to see such a simple item from a major  incident  from history. It just surprised me to see how basic it was and to think it was thought important enough to preserve in a museum collection.

We spent time looking in shops and at lunch time we went to Prezzo, an Italian restaurant near the Castle. We had been given a gift voucher by Kendra as a 'thank you' for when she had stayed with us earlier in the year. This was in a very pleasant spot and we sat outside under a beautiful wisteria and ordered spaghetti carbonara. It was virtually empty of customers when we arrived but as we left it was really filling up with people.

We walked back towards the main shopping streets. Carol had compiled a quite extensive list of things she needed before she returned to work on Friday. This required visiting Blackwell's book shop in Broad Street. We visited Waterstones as soon as we had arrived in Oxford. She wanted a copy of E.M. Forster's novel "A Room With A View" but the only edition they had was paperback. She wanted to get a hardback copy and Waterstones didn't have one. We walked towards Blackwells and saw hoards of people being taken on walking tours of the city. Similar sights in Cambridge the other week when we were there. Fortunately, none of those people attempting to sell punting on the river which we found somewhat aggressive in their tactics.

We spent quite some time in Blackwell's. We discovered that the shop contains what is supposed to be the largest room in a shop in the world, with several miles of shelving. Well, this is according to their website. I was also unaware that Heffer's bookshop in Cambridge is part of the same company. We visited a branch of Blackwell's when we went to Newcastle last year to help Daniel, my stepson, to move flats. A considerable amount of time was spent in this shop. We love books, so it's hardly surprising. There was a great offer on Oxford Classic paperbacks: buy one and get one free. We Bought "Emma" by Jane Austen and we got "The Secret Agent" by Joseph Conrad free. This novel has recently been adapted by BBC Television and so I was keen to read it. It was somewhat amusing when Carol asked an assistant 'Do you have "A Room With A View"?' Well, we thought it was quite amusing and I think the assistant got the joke. It turned out that they had the same paperback edition that Waterstone's had.

We walked back towards the centre of Oxford and decided that we were in need of a cup of tea and went into Debenham's, principally to use their toilets. A long queue for the 'ladies' but that's what you get when you don't provide adequate facilities. Sat and drank our tea in a rather cramped area near the escalators. It was a branch of 'Patisserie Valerie.' There is a branch in the Milton Keynes Central Shopping Centre. It's quite expensive but they have a great range of food on offer.

By the time we'd finished in Debenham's, after Carol bought some ear rings, we decided that, because we had walked so far and it was exceptionally warm, we would catch the bus back to the park-and-ride carpark and return home. 
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