Sunday, November 8, 2015

Day 87: Oxford

Yahoo! Chris saw the "kids" check out this morning. He said they were as loud in the lobby as they were last night. So, we're hoping this means we'll have a quieter night this evening.

We left Venice, still not feeling well, sleeping in bed, while the three of us went down the street for breakfast. Savory crepes and waffles.

Side note: since we've been in the UK, we have gotten water for free! Tap water is available at all restaurants. Whew. You can still buy still or bubbly water, but you can also ask for tap water. Asking for "tap water" sounds awful, something I have to get over, but I'm so happy to be able to get it again. No more drinking as little as possible to make the €3 bottle last the whole meal. So nice. On the other hand, some restaurants put a service charge on your bill. This is the tip. So you have to be vigilant to be sure don't tip twice. I still feel uncomfortable not leaving a tip, but everything I read says the service charge is the tip. The last thing I've noticed is how good the food has been. Everyone has warned us how bad the food is. But, I'm not sure I understand why. The food is definitely more expensive. So if you take a similarly priced meal here in London versus Berlin, Berlin will win. You can get pretty tasty food for a relatively good price. Here, so far, we've had to pay a lot more, but the food has been a lot tastier. THAT being said, we really haven't had any traditional English fare. Most of our food has been Asian, American inspired, Thai, or other. So, perhaps the warnings we've heard about is regarding traditional food. Hmm...

Ok, after breakfast, we picked Venice up and headed out for a day of sight seeing. We began by heading out to see Carfax Tower. Actually, it's St. Martin's Tower, but Carfax means "crossroads" and the tower is located in the city's centre at the junction of St Aldate's (south), Cornmarket Street (north), Queen Street(west) and the High Street (east) (all information I found out after our visit).

After other steps we've climbed, this is an easy 99 steps, albeit a bit cramped in some spots. And, as with the other towers, we are treated to a beautiful view of the city.

A tight section of the stairs (left), Weathervane at the top (right)

After a quick walk down the street, we find ourselves at Oxford Castle, which was an old Norman Medieval Castle, turned into a prison in the 18th century, and, as of 1996, redeveloped into a hotel. There is a part of the castle that you can still tour, but we decided to just look around the grounds and walk "The Castle Mound". All throughout the castle grounds there are restaurants, shops, and the hotel. 

On The Castle Mound is a dark staircase going to the old well (didn't go all the way)

Our plan was to have lunch next, but most were not hungry enough for a full meal. So, we stopped at a café for coffee and snacks at a cool coffee house that showcased artworks. After our break, we headed to the Bridge of Sighs.

Again, not having read anything about the Bridge of Sighs, I assumed it was like other Bridges of Sighs in usage. But, this one is actually just a bridge connecting to college buildings. And, according to my online research, appears more similar to the Rialto bridge than the Bridge of Signs in Venice, Italy.

Just beyond the Bridge of Sighs is The Turf Tavern. You must walk along a zig-zag alley way to get there. We only walked in, took a look, and then left. This is where President Clinton "did not inhale". So, you know, we were looky-loos.

We are ready for lunch now. We head back to the covered market area to eat at Pieminister. Some memories are coming back from Chris and my trip to Australia, back in 2001. We ate the meat pies from the street carts. They came with peas, mash, and, if you wanted it, "red sauce" (which is just an Australian term for ketchup). Funny how the memory works (or doesn't) as I can't remember what we thought of them (were they good?) I only really remember eating them once, maybe twice.

There are a lot of pies to choose from. We pick 4 and share in eating them all. We ordered a few sides of mash and mushy peas. I was so looking forward to the mushy peas (I had them in Prague and they were SO good!) Well... we weren't impressed. Some of the pies were ok, but mostly they were all mediocre. The mushy peas were.... well... mushy. Not my favourite flavour. The mash was... ok. Better with gravy. All in all, we were underwhelmed. Perhaps this is what others are saying when they claim British food is not good. Piminister is an award winning British pie establishment, if you choose to believe, but not something we'd go back to. So, there you go.

After lunch, we took ourselves a few stores over to Ben's Cookies (also popular). Stand in line, get our cookies. We at them a little later (after our stomachs had made some room), and I was not impressed by these cookies either. I was expecting Mrs. Fields cookies, but these were no Mrs. Fields cookies. Ben's cookies are thicker with less salt or butter. A bit of a tasteless confection, if you ask me. But, there are enough chocolate chips in there to help out, so don't get me wrong, they were eaten.

The one item left on our list is to see a bit of the University of Oxford campus. This actually proves to be trickier than we had imagined. There are a lot of walls around, which hide gardens beyond. Some have gates that are locked or we're too scared to try. Chris says, let's go one or two more blocks before turning around, and that's when we happened on the Museum of Natural History. It's open. It's free. It's ON!

Side note: Charles Darwin debated the origin of species in this museum in 1860... that's pretty cool!

Xander would have critter-napped these guys if he could.
He liked the otter (right) the best.

Ahhhhh! This is for the cousins (I guess Casey, in particular).

The Museum of Natural History was a great find. Again, it was free. That's awesome all by itself. But, in addition, there was so much the kids could touch and manipulate. It was fantastic for them to be able to go around and open drawers, discover bones, read digital displays, press buttons, pet animals, and touch billions-of-years-old rocks and minerals. Oh, and it had a free bathroom.

After visiting the museum, we took another walk through campus, aiming for the hotel using a different path. We came across a nature spot and went in for a stroll.

We found our hotel and took a nice long rest. The kids played on devices. I blogged. Chris started a new book. Venice is still not feeling well. Over a week ago she had a few headaches. Then she had a sore throat. Last night she had a bit of a rash on her body that flared with a bath but subsided today. She's thinking today's the "hump" and she'll feel better tomorrow.

Then we were off to find our dinner.  Good thing Chris looked online first, the ramen restaurant we wanted to go to is closed on Sundays. We have developed a small habit of looking at stores and places to be sure they are open on Sundays. It just paid off. Chris researched another restaurant and we headed towards it. Once again, we had fabulous food (but it's not English food and it was expensive). Their proportions were generous and the food was delicious.

The kids, having bellies filled with yummy food, turned goofy on us. Laughing and having a grand ol' time. Good thing we were on an upper floor with not too many sharing space with us. We were a bit rowdy. 

Venice using her fancy water glass (left), Generous proportions of eel on sushi (middle-left)
Venice and Xander trying to smile with the top half of their face while
crying with the bottom half of their face (right photos) Now YOU try it!

Side note: Our room has a placard on the door that reads: Room Privilege. What does this mean? I actually don't know. Xander connects it to our Nespresso machines in our room (the "pod" holder says for Room Privilege). But is that it? Or is it the privilege of being next to the elevator (and all the hallway noise that comes with that?) Side, side note: the England has, so far, had many doors for Fire Safety. So, the elevators are in a different section, on the other side of this fire door. This seems to be everywhere we've stayed and in other buildings we've been in. I guess it keeps fire and smoke from spreading, should there be a fire. It makes me wonder if it really works... why don't we do this in the U.S.?

Anyway, we've concluded our touring of Oxford. Time for bed because tomorrow we pack and go!

No comments:

Post a Comment