Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A weekend in Oxfordshire

Simon's birthday called for one of our (belated) birthday trips: a weekend in Oxfordshire. We set off in the sunshine, in our ironically sporty hire car to the village of Long Wittenham in South Oxfordshire. I'd booked for us to stay in a total Air B&B gem, a studio barn conversion in the most lovely, peaceful countryside surroundings - where we enjoyed our little picnic right on the Thames. We sat, watching all the boats go past, and some ducks try and eat some apples, soaking up the sunshine and deciding what to do with our weekend. Since neither of us were familiar with the area, we decided to go and have a little explore of the village meeting some friendly cats, dogs and thirsty cows drinking from the river on the way! After having only been there a couple of hours, we felt very at home and so far away from London. Before dinner, we thought we'd have a drive round some of the neighbouring villages and stumbled across The Earth Trust at Wittenham Clumps - a nature reserve with awesome views. More lovely cows, hot air balloon spotting and wandering later, we headed off to dinner at a local pub, The Bear. We enjoyed some great pub food, watched the rugby match with some disappointed locals before venturing back to the barn to snuggle up in bed!  It was really sad to leave the following morning, particularly since we'd had such a nice day and I was worried the rest of the weekend wouldn't live up to it. But alas we had to, and we drove on towards Oxford. 

We arrived at, what was supposed to be, the highlight of the weekend: Nina the Narrowboat. Unfortunately it wasn't quite as special, cosy or memorable as I'd expected, but we were still right in the centre of Oxford and headed straight off to see what we could find! We bimbled through Christ Church Meadow, into the centre of Oxford, where we were surrounded by students moving into their colleges for the year. I was really glad we went a little bit out of season, because I think we saw the more idyllic Oxford, full of locals and students, rather than the summertime tourist-dominated city. There's so much to do in Oxford that we almost had option paralysis and, instead, just spent a few hours walking around the city, getting our bearings and seeing all the things we could do. There's something really exciting and removed about being surrounded by the beautiful, traditional architecture, navigating tiny cobbled streets and gargoyle spotting on the buildings! A couple of people had suggested we take a walk down the canals towards Jericho, an area of Oxford neither of us had ever visited, so we decided we'd do that spotting all the other narrow boats on the way. We ended up in what I'm pretty sure the resident alcoholic deemed 'the best pub in Oxford' just in time for the rugby, which was made all the more exciting being surrounded by some enthusiastic Irish and Italians! We finished our evening walking the entire stretch of Oxford (and back again!) in search of a restaurant, chowing down, before heading back to our slightly chilly boat. 

The next morning was a bit of a camping experience: woken by the heavy rain, we made our morning tea and coffee on the gas stove alongside our instant pots of porridge! Sitting out on the boat, we watched all the rowers go past on their early morning training sessions, and fed all the ducks the crusts of bread we had leftover! Sitting on a damp seat under a leaky cover in the pouring rain, it wasn't quite the narrow boat experience I'd imagined but it was a unique one nonetheless! Another day of more exploring and a token visit to Blackwell's was had before we headed up, back to the relative warmth, dryness and showers of London! 

It wasn't the weekend I'd imagined, and was a bit of a mixed bag, but it was mostly really fun. The beginning was a hundred times better than I anticipated, with lovely weather, lovely food and lovely countryside, and the end was slightly disappointing. But, it was nice to get away for the weekend, spend some time together and do some exploring. Happy Birthday Simon - here's to a less soggy birthday treat next year!


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