For our second day in Oxford, we tried to squish in as much as possible. The McDonald Randolph has a very highly rated spa, so we started our day with facials. Dave had never had one before, and I am very picky so it was a mixed experience. He enjoyed his, and said it was very relaxing, and I think he is keen to do it again. I am used to having extractions, red light therapy etc. when I get a facial in NYC, so this was a different experience for me. I enjoyed it, it was very relaxing, and my skin was beautiful and glowing after. I actually even fell asleep in it. However, I have no idea what she used on my skin or what it did for it.
On a side note, a spa day in the UK is a very different experience in general. It’s much more affordable than in the US (especially NYC). I use the site treatwell to book various types of appointments. I think I’ve used it for waxes, blow outs, make up appointments, massages, facials etc. But a lot of times you also can book a spa day or at least a few hours, which will usually include access to the pool/sauna etc. and a glass of champagne or afternoon tea. I think it’s a really nice thing to do when you’re on holiday.
Back to Oxford, after facials we went to the Ashmolean Museum. It is the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology.
The museum was actually overwhelming, and I’m a BIG museum girl. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep, the pain I was in from my slipped disc, or the enormous collection the museum had, but I found it hard to pick one area and concentrate on it. I really loved seeing the Stradivarius violins, and all of the china and porcelain from East Asia, but it feels like we missed so much! I would definitely recommend going if you have a few hours in Oxford but it felt a little bit like organized chaos at points.
From the Ashmolean, we ventured towards some of the shopping areas, as we had a small list to cover. There were still really good sales on from post Christmas, so I dragged Dave into River Island. We also went to the Whiskey Shop, which is pretty much tradition no matter where we go in the UK. My dad is a huge whiskey fan, and we usually bring back a bottle for his birthday or Hannukah or Father’s Day. This time, he asked us to bring him a bottle of something he couldn’t get in the United States. I find the people in the shop are usually very helpful and the gentleman helping us found us a nice bottle to bring back.
We wandered around a little bit more, also stopping in Whittard of Chelsea. I’ve been calling it Whittards, and people seem to know what I’m talking about, but I guess that’s not the real name, whoops! Anyways, it’s a very famous tea shop founded in the late 1880s. They had a beautiful Alice in Wonderland tea set, which I really wanted to bring home. Dave looked at me like I had ten heads when I asked him if I could buy it. I think in the long run, it made sense not to carry a ceramic or porcelain tea set back from Oxford to London, and then to NYC! I settled on a tea caddy for used teabags.
We also sampled the hot chocolate, and settled on a nice birthday gift for my dad. They had very unique loose leaf tea flavours as well as espresso beans, so we thought that would be a fun gift. We also got him a book from the Whisky shop to go with his bottle (even though he technically bought himself the bottle).
After Dave was at his wit’s end with shopping and carrying bags (just kidding, he is literally the loveliest boyfriend in the world and will schlepp anything I ask him to, and most of the time when I don’t even ask) we went to do some actual Oxford touring. We wandered around Christ Church, which is one of the 38 colleges. We also climbed to the top of the site where the Oxford Castle used to be. The view was gorgeous. I would highly recommend this. It’s not that high up, and it was a really nice view. You also can do a proper tour of the remnants of the castle and the prison, but we just ran out of time.
We were starving at this point, and the only logical place to eat was Pizza Express. We’re obsessed. I used to drool thinking about going back to the UK and eating Nandos, but then the novelty wore off and now it’s all about Pizza Express. For my American/anywhere else readers, Nandos is a semi fast food chain (similar to like Panera? in terms of quality) focusing on peri peri chicken. You can get wings, sandwiches etc. and there are different levels of hot sauce they use. The biggest difference is that it’s grilled, not fried, and it’s really good. Actually thinking about it now, I do quite miss it. Pizza Express on the other hand is a pizza place that I can’t really compare to anywhere in the US! Not off the top of my head anyways. The best thing on the menu there is the dough balls doppio. Dough balls are little pizza dough balls, sometimes with garlic, and I could eat myself into a food coma off them. The doppio comes with three dipping sauces, pesto, tomato and garlic butter. It’s also not super expensive, so it’s a nice lunch place.
We split a pizza, and headed back to the hotel for a little bit before we went out for the night. Dave’s one request the whole trip was to see the Bridge of Sighs.
We also stopped near the Bodleian Library, just to take a picture-we didn’t go inside.
I booked us a reservation (using Opentable! Which I didn’t know was used in other countries) at the Quod. It was beautiful and really romantic. Dave had an Indian dish with lamb, which the waitress had recommended, and I had a burger. We ate on the earlier side, as we had evening plans.
On our walk to the pub the day before, we passed a different pub called Jude the Obscure. We noticed they had trivia on Monday nights, and Dave and I are both huge nerds, so we had to go. We were a little nervous about how hard it might be, but it was really really fun! The pub itself was cool, but Dave, who literally wouldn’t send back a steak cooked the wrong way, or pasta dish with the wrong sauce, sent back a beer. And he said he almost sent back the second one he had. I’m not a huge beer connoisseur, but basically they had been changing the taps too often and the beer tasted like whatever was on tap before. Or something. Basically, Dave doesn’t recommend it for drinking. And the food looked a bit sad. But the quiz night was really fun! Definitely worth stopping in if you need a Monday night activity!
Overall, I would recommend Oxford to anyone looking to explore more of the UK besides just London. It’s a short train ride away and has a plethora of things to experience. It’s nice being so close to the countryside, but still having all the things a small city has to offer.
Where should we go to next in the UK on a mini trip?? Some places I really want to get to are Cornwall/Newquay, Isle of Wight, Newcastle, Liverpool, Glasgow, Inverness, St. Andrews, the Cotswolds, and the Highlands! Let me know where you recommend below.