Wednesday, September 16, 2015

10 Things to do During Your First Year in Oxford

Moving to Oxford as a "young professional" and not as a student, the place feels a bit like a big party but you're walking past outside wondering where your invite could have ended up. Being part of the university feels like you are part of Oxford- you get the special treatment and the gaping mouths on impressed faces when you tell them what you do rather than the feeling of dying a little bit inside every time you say " Do you need a bag?" Luckily there are still plenty of ways to enjoy Oxford without actually going to the University.

This covers a lot of bases on your Oxford tour with 38 colleges that make up the majority of Oxford's fancy buildings so you've already got your work cut out at No.1. However, people stay here for years and never see them all. Each one will make you think you're in Harry Potter but if you want the creme de la creme then Magdalen(To my fellow scots, this is Maw-dlin rather than Mag-dalen) and Christchurch are probably the most grand and extravagant - Magdalen College even has a deer park with actual deer. Oxford's other university, Oxford Brookes' Headington Hill Campus is also gorgeous and worth a look. If you have proof of residency in Oxford you can get into a lot of colleges for free - just remember to bring it with you!

Christchurch College

Bodleian. Sheldonian and Radcliffe Camera
While you are wandering the streets dodging tourists and bikes you will probably stumble across a round looking building encircled by yet more bikes and tourists. This is rather ambiguously named the Radcliffe Camera and most people comment on how it looks nothing like a camera - this is because (as any latin scholar knows...) 'camera' means 'room'. "The Bod" is also nice to look at and is home to every publication from the United Kingdom as well as the filming sites for the infirmary and library in Harry Potter. Walk all the way to the top of the Sheldonian to get a panorama of Oxford.

The Sheldonian

Two of the biggest museums in Oxford are bundled into the same building at the Natural History Museum and Pitt Rivers. The later is a hoarders memorial as well as an anthropological nirvana and I am sure if Mr Rivers lived in this day and age his name would have popped up on the Interpol Watch List if the third floor is anything to go by. The Ashmoleon is also one of the most prominent museums in Oxford but there are also some nice little museums including the History of Science and Story Museum.

Oxford probably has more green spaces than housing (well that makes sense considering the rent prices) and the parks are the perfect place to sit and think. Infact they might be the secret behind why Oxford scholars have been so influential as there is so much space in this town to just sit and think. The university park is probably the biggest but South Park cannot be ignored for its wonderful views of the dreaming spires. Port Meadow is a bit different as it's full of horses, cows, untouched archeology, a swimmable lake in the summer and an ice rink in the Winter.
Port Meadow

Iffley Village
If Oxford isn't twee enough for you, head down Iffley Road or along the Thames until you hit Iffley Village where you will be surrounded by stone brick houses, flowering gardens and the sound of silence. Iffley Lock is where the village meets the canal and as well as being mega pretty, it is home to a pub and a gaggle of lively geese.
Iffley Lock

Cowley Road
Most peoples idea of Oxford is of a bit of a snooty fancy atmosphere with fancy old buildings and they are right for some parts. South of the Magdalen Bridge is a different story. Walking down Cowley Road you are bombarded with the smell of incense and coriander, the warm glow of coffee shops and shouts of drunk students and crack addicts. It's the road to the "real" Oxford and is home to some of the best cafés, restaurants and shops in Oxford and you could spend your life trying each one. Most importantly though it is home to the best atmosphere in Oxford (Probably a debatable point but I'm biased).
Cowley Road Carnival

Speaking of Cowley Road, one of it's treasures is an ice cream parlour known fondly as G&D's. It;s a home-grown Oxford gem and one of four dessert parlours on Cowley Road alone but has lasted through the competition. They have two other shops elsewhere in Oxford but they all serve their own ice cream which suit both safe and experimental palettes. Order a cookie monster and thank me later.

When it comes round to "warm winter" the ducks of the River Cherwell and Thames have to share their home with a fleet of tourists, hen parties and loved up couples. Don't let that put you off though, punting is a must while you're in Oxford and you can either show off your muscles (the poles are deceptively heavy) or enjoy being punted around while you sip on prosecco. Just remember to make sure your phone is stowed safely out of your pockets, ya know, just incase.

Punting with Prosecco!
Get Drunk
Oxford is a haven for niche little pubs. There is the famous Eagle and Child which was graced by Oxford's literary greats including Toilken and C.S. Lewis. The Isis Tavern is only accessible by foot, bike or boat and maintains the country pub image with infamous folk nights and obscure opening times. Then there is The Mad Hatter where you can only enter after answering a riddle and drinks are ordered via a phone on your table.

Leave Oxford
Ultimately Oxford can get a bit suffocating but it is close to cities to get lost in or the fresh air of the countryside is only minutes away. If Oxford gets too small then London is only an hour and a half away by bus and from there you can easily get to Edinburgh or Paris in around 5 hours. On the other side you could cycle to Boars Hill for some hill top view of Oxford or to Radley to see traditional English countryside. Or if Oxford isn't grand enough then Blenheim Palace should do the trick.

Blenheim Palace

Others/Highly Commended: Hinksey Outdoor Pool, Walton Street, Magdalen Street (Rusty Bicycle, Oli's Thai, Oxfork), Boswells Book Shop, Botanic Gardens, Thames Path, Magpie Lane, Shops and cafés on High Street, The Library (pub), Scriptum, The Varsity Club's roof top bar for a "free" (you should probably buy a drink at least to enjoy in the sunshine) panorama of the city, Kashbah/Cafe Tarifa/Cafe Coco.

You should also be aware of Daily Info where you can find everything Oxford related from things for sale, whats on and accomodation.