One of the great things about living in London is its proximity to all sorts of legendary places. If you have the time, the inclination and a vehicle, you can literally wake up and think to yourself, “Hmm, what about Oxford?” and be there in less than two hours. (It only takes an hour of driving, but there’s always coffee to be made and snacks to pack).
This brings us to a sunny Saturday a while back when we decided to head for Oxford with absolutely no plan or agenda. I’d been researching Cambridge all week, but at the last minute a shorter trip seemed like a good idea** so we turned the car around and headed west.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that Oxford is home to a bunch of beautiful colleges and churches, weathered spires, dramatic stone figures, secret gated gardens, antiquities (the Ashmoleum is free, amazing, and the world’s first university museum), art collections, and that kind of thing.
When you are in Oxford, you don’t even have to do anything to feel special. Just walk about! You might stop to put on your raincoat at the very same place that Stephen Hawking came up with the Theory of Everything. I know! You can spend the whole day going: Lawrence of Arabia probably walked here! Gertrude Bell probably started her badassery here! (a seriously remarkable woman, read her Wikipedia page) Aldous Huxley probably wee’d here! C. S. Lewis probably ate here! Hugh Grant probably … well ….yes. Hugh Grant!
Oxford is also home to amazing statues of old white (mostly) men who did a large number of interesting things. Or oppressed a lot of people. You can look it up. This fellow stood rather sassily in front of the Bodeleian Library courtyard. He was my favorite. I will always appreciate a jaunty hip and a bold mustache on someone not my husband. Ha.
There are two things, though, that your guide books may not tell you about Oxford that I feel warrant a mention before I move on to our trip to Cambridge. It will surprise no one that both involve food, and more specifically, foods made with fat.
First, Pieminister. Pies are ubiquitous here in the UK, and these pies – so far – are my favourite. Although we discovered them in Oxford, their pies seem to be popping up everywhere – including one of our local pubs – so keep your eyes peeled. Although my love for the Pieminister pies may have something to do with the fact that we ate ours hot and steaming from little paper bags in the gorgeous square outside the Museum of the History of Science….it doesn’t hurt that the name is a pun, the pastry is perfect or that the fillings are divine. Wild mushrooms, asparagus and white wine! Wild venison, smoked bacon and red wine! The classic steak and kidney and….wine! They are all so so good.
The second thing I have to mention is Aston’s Bakehouse. Their pop-up shop in the covered market was the find of the day. The staff were friendly, their tasting board extensive (so many things to try) and the lardy cake was exceptional. You guys, it was so good. Like, SO SO GOOD. Obviously lardy cake has lots of things going for it, what with the lard and the light dusting of spice, and the currants. But this lardy cake was beyond. The edges behaved like the edges of a perfect apple fritter, all crisp chewiness. The lard flavor was there, but because it was fried expertly, it was all “oh hiya, just popping in” not “HI HI HI IT’S ME HOW ARE YOU I’M DOING WELL.” Plus, I’ve always been in favour of a slightly caramelized currant. Aston’s Bakehouse was also selling slices of a poppyseed coffeecake the day we were there and I have regretted not purchasing a slice ever since. You know a place is good when you think about a food you didn’t even try absentmindedly weeks and weeks after seeing it. The point is, you should go there. You will not be disappointed.
Leo is awake from his nap so I won’t have a chance to talk about the Oxford comma like I was dying to do in this – probably my first and last – post about Oxford. You’ve been spared. Thank Leo later. Or discuss your thoughts in the comments section. Grammar can be fun! Anyways.
** One word: Teething.