UK Trip Report - 8th Stop: Oxford/Windsor
My son and I are driving around the UK and I am filing reports as we go. For those joining us for the first time, you might like to catch up by reading our previous reports on:
After our morning in the Cotswolds, it was time to turn towards Oxford so that we could have a few hours (too little, I know) to see some of this illustrious city.
We arrived at our accommodation, Parklands, located on Banbury Road. Like all of our accommodation, we had chosen it for its parking facilities and placement on a quick bus route or short walk to the main sights. As we checked in, we came upon another beautiful bride, having photos taken in the sitting room. It must be a peak time for weddings!
This time, we were again at the top of the house, but with only 35 stairs this time - a poor second to the 53 in Edinburgh ;-). We are now pretty savvy: we leave our suitcases in the car until we see the room we have been allocated. If, like this time, it's up a number of narrow stairs, we leave the luggage in the car and just take the few items we will need for overnight and the next morning. It saves a lot of huffing and puffing, and frees up space in the small rooms.
We then hopped on the bus at the nearby bus stop for the short trip into the centre of Oxford. We particularly wanted to see the colleges, and went to Balliol first, and then walked along High Street to Magdalen College. Both were interesting, but Magdalen was much larger and with more areas open to explore. The dining halls of both colleges were impressive, and dripping with atmosphere and history. I really enjoyed the beauty of Magdalen College. The buildings and gardens - with even a stream and a field of grazing deer! - were just glorious. It was also peaceful and uncrowded, with opportunities to sit and just drink in the surroundings.
I found Oxford quite a grand city. I know on TA there has been a recent thread as to which is better to visit: Oxford or Cambridge. I found them very different beasts, although they are both university towns. Cambridge I found more intimate; narrower streets; easier to get around on foot; quieter, somehow. Oxford was more serious; grander; more solid, with wider streets, more of a city feel and many more colleges to visit. Both have their charms, and offer different things. But I probably would give my vote to Cambridge, without casting any slight on Oxford!
We had dinner at All Bar One in High Street, a really delicious meal, for a good price, in a nice place with friendly and efficient service. We then caught the bus back to Parklands. The room, though small, was very comfortable and recently refurbished. The only problem, for me, was poor wifi connectivity which cost me a long TA trip report :-(
After breakfast the next morning, it was off to Windsor Castle. We had pre-purchased our tickets, and those for Buckingham Palace, before we left Sydney. We were aiming to be there in time for the 11:00am Changing of the Guard and had to hurry. Again, it was a very warm, sunny day. We parked in the Romney Lock car park for £3.50 for four hours and then dashed up hill to the castle, as it was already 11:00 am. It was 11:10 when we got to the castle, and I feared we'd missed the ceremony, but a friendly police lady explained that if we stayed where we were on the street just outside the gate, we would have a good view as the guards came marching out of the gates and down the street. And she was right :-)
We then entered into the castle, no waiting thanks to our pre-purchased tickets: the queues were quite long for those buying their tickets, so that was a bit of a win. We then spent three hours with our audio tour, exploring this wonderful place. Windsor Castle was far more impressive than I expected it to be, and I was so glad that we had included the visit on our itinerary. The audio tour commentary was excellent.
It was now time for the last leg of our driving holiday. After 16 days, 1300 miles, £206 of fuel, roads of every size and description, roundabouts, bridges and diversions (grrr!), we finally arrived back where we started, at the Europcar base at Heathrow.
It has been the most wonderful driving holiday. We have seen so much and covered a large part of England, and just a little bit of Scotland and Wales. I have found British drivers to be courteous and patient and the road systems to work surprisingly well.
I think we chose our itinerary well, although I know there are whole areas we haven't touched.
As we say goodbye to our Astra, we have the next stage to look forward to: five nights in London!
We can hardly wait :-).