I thought that this would be a great opportunity to explore some of Oxford, while most kids were at school and before the big flood of summer visitors really got going later in the month. We invited J's friend, G. to come along too.
We left the car at Water Eaton, where there's a Park & Ride facility. Oxford's P&R is really excellent - other towns could learn from it! There are buses every 20 mins during the majority of the day (and every 15 mins in the peak parts of the evening). The fare is very reasonable and under-16s travel free when accompanied by someone using the car park. It makes the journey far less stressful, as you can leave the car on the edge of the city and use the bus lanes to travel into the centre, avoiding the worst of any traffic. The bus journey took about 15 mins and I was able to look out of the window and admire the lovely old houses and buildings (especially when we got close to the centre and went through the gorgeous St. Giles).
We got off at Magdalen Street and spent a few minutes exploring the Martyrs Memorial:
This was build in 1842 and commemorates the three "Oxford Martyrs", tried for heresy by Mary Tudor and burned at the stake. They were Anglican bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley and the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer.
It has the martyrs depicted in little niches near the top, and painted shields and inscriptions round the sides.
See the lovely buildings behind J's back? The lighter coloured one is Balliol College. The memorial stands at the top of Magdalen Street, at the edge of St. Giles.
We then made haste to this cafe - my favourite in Oxford:
The News Cafe in Ship Street does a mean breakfast! I was in Oxford quite early in the day on two occasions in the last couple of years, having dropped J. at a local Primary School for a one-day course. This place is a life-saver - scrambled eggs and fried mushrooms on toast - just what you need after a very early breakfast and a 2 1/2 hour journey, started at 7am!
Hot chocolate with whipped cream and mini-marshmallows... J. can confirm that the chocolate muffins are very good and I can testify for the newly baked croissants with honey!
How about this beautiful, ancient house, at the corner of Ship Street? So old and still going strong! It houses various shops and a cafe, but I wonder if it was once an inn.
We then went for a bit of an adventure in the Covered Market in Cornmarket Street (though it has entrances also on Market Street and High Street).
We found interesting puzzles...
...and a leather elephant
Then it was off to a nice pizza restaurant, to meet a friend for lunch and a lovely chat about her expected baby!
After lunch we explored the castle area. This is the old castle mound, which you can climb (for a £1 fee).
and here's the castle itself - with a couple of familiar people...
The old part is a "Castle Experience" type of museum and the newer part is now a hotel. Visitors can sleep in rooms that were once cells in the Oxford Prison!
We then went to the Ashmolean Museum...
(Picture from Freefoto.com)
...passing some lovely little side-streets on our way... honestly, who couldn't love this City? See why they refer to "Dreaming Spires"? There seems to be one in every view!
Saw this great little painting..
I love the style and innocence of Medieval and Early Rennaissance Art:
All the lovely gold-leaf or golden paint, to make the painting glorious and valuable, to the Glory of God.
The depictions of mermaids (see the evil mermaid here?), dragons and other mythical creatures, alongside "normal" animals.
The rather sweet faces of the women, children, madonnas and babies. Their flat, but well-proportioned bodies. Later on, art got a bit silly with its cherubs and fussy madonnas. The drapery is so overdone and if a modern baby was as seriously fat as some late-Renaissance cherubim, the Health Visitor would be nagging the mothers to put them on a diet!
The glimpses into everyday life and Court life that are given in even the religious-themed paintings. Saints are depicted in every-day settings, with ordinary people, doing normal stuff, like cooking or shopping. People are shown hunting with their horses and dogs. You see the trees and flowers of the forest, the deer, all long-legged, with smooth noses, dogs with their tails up and noses down a rabbit-hole. Ladies sit spinning or stitching, while a knight rides by the window...
HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams
W.B. Yeats (1865–1939). The Wind Among the Reeds. 1899
This is one of my favourite poems. To me, the wonderful sky in this small painting perfectly depicts those "heavens' embroidered cloths" - read on to hear that they are "The blue and the dim and the dark cloths...