Having done a day trip to Cambridge a couple months back, we were anxious to get to Oxford to see how it compared. Not surprising, there were a lot of similarities between the two. Besides the fact that both towns have distinguished universities founded about the same time, both have plenty of historic pubs and the opportunity for punting on the river. The universities themselves were also very similar – both comprised of individual colleges sprinkled throughout the town.
We enjoyed a very informative (and cold) walking tour. Later we were quite pleased with a couple of stops at some of Oxford’s historic pubs. It is such a great time of year to enjoy England’s pubs. They are so atmospheric in the winter with their cozy interiors, warming fires and heavy ales. Our first stop was The Bear, Oxford’s oldest pub. Ducking into this rickety looking pub from the 1200s with it’s low and sloping ceiling was like going back in time. The pub is famous in Oxford because the walls are covered with over 4,000 old ties, which were given by customers in the past in exchange for a pint. After seeing what some of the other historic pubs in Oxford had to offer, we had a lovely dinner at the Old Parsonage Hotel (seated next to another roaring fire).
The next day was our favorite – we headed out to Blenheim Palace, about a 30-minute bus ride away. Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Winston Churchill and has been used in several movies – most recently Gulliver’s Travels. It was so grand and beautifully decorated for Christmas. We really enjoyed walking around the pristine grounds, as it was one of those crisp and sunny fall days. Our nature walk was followed by the perfect warm up – coffees and warm sugared donuts fried to order from a dapper fellow at the palace gates.
Blood sugar running high, we left the palace for a walk to the nearby town of Woodstock. This tiny village was such a joy to stumble upon with all it’s Cotswold charm and none of the tourists (except us). There was not a single souvenir shop. After perusing the options for an afternoon pint, we settled into the very welcoming Star Inn, where we sat by our third fireplace for the weekend and enjoyed the local banana bread beer. Brilliant.