Monday, January 3, 2011

Oxford - Jan 3, 2011

Oxford Day Trip from London

Keep in mind that the British never adopted the Euro, so all prices are in British Pounds

£22 Tube ride to the coach bus station
£32 Coach bus to and from Oxford
£32 Sight seeing bus in Oxford (its a hop on hop off bus)
£12 Lunch from grocery store to eat on bus ride to Oxford
£12 Admission to Christ Church
£7 Admission to Botanical Garden
£7.50 for 5 cookies at Ben's Cookies
£124.50 or at today's exchange rate of that is about $192.50 USD

The Geek:
Ben's Cookies rates 100 Chocolate Chips

Geek analysis on this situation: Darn I should've brought my ipod touch for my bus had wi-fi. Oh the cookies were delish.
Timing on food: at tea time cafes are packed.
What "The Geek" has to say: Great architecture for the cathedral. Still all I'm suppose to do is food....well at 3 o'clock the cafes get rich.

Took "The Tube" to where we could pick up a "coach" to the area surrounding Oxford University. There's a lot more history there than can be seen in a weekend. We researched and planned this trip figuring to see 3-4 sites this time and 3-4 next trip. We got to see 2 this time and they took all day.
We started at the Christ Church. An evangelical cathedral and theological university. For those, who like me, are interested in the history behind things, I learned something about the history behind a favorite childhood book. Lewis Carrol, author of Alice in Wonderland, was a Dean of the Christ Church we visited.

Hedged Rose GardenThe second place we visited was the botanical garden, a place Charles Dodgson (pen name Lewis Carrol) would frequent. The botanical garden's rose garden and hedge maze were the impetus for his ideas about Alice's wild story. His dining hall back at the church, was quite obviously where he came up with the mad tea party. One look at the long tables and many seats quickly drew the historical references directly into the imaginative ones.

The Christ Church was also the backdrop for some of the exterior Hogwarts hallways and stairway landings, especially where all the "first years" would wait outside the great hall prior to house sorting. It was really neat seeing these scenes "pop-out" into real life.

Both the historian and child in me truly enjoyed the Alice in Wonderland insider background and the glimpses of Harry Potter scenery.

Lexi's Fun with Fiction:
Hi Lexi here, I am going to tell you about our trip in a fun, fiction, fantastic way! So get ready to hear an awesome view!!!
We are strolling our way to the flying double decker bus.
From the second deck of the fictitious flying bus.
we rode on the 2 story. then before we got off we stumbled into the flying magic carpet. it took us to the christ church. the carpet was like a tour guide. it was so cool!!!! we flew thourgh the dinning hall of hogwarts. then we flew around the magic town. we saw a some places to eat for tea time. we wonered around the rose garden ( from alice and wonder land) painting the roses. we also saw the botanical garden. after we were done with all that it took us to a side ways tour bus that we climed into. we took a flying bus home.
i had sssssooooo much fun!!!!!!!

So we decided to take a coach bus to Oxford for the day. I was a little nervous about the creepy factor of the people who ride coach buses, but it ended up just being college kids (and not the 3 nose rings type either). I couldn't resist picking the coach bus because it was a quarter of the cost of the train to Oxford and it took the same amount of time. It ended up being a good choice. The bus had comfy reclining seats and lots of amenities like electrical outlets and wi-fi. I can't help but think the set up is designed for business commuters during the week and college kids for the weekends. Anyways, once we got to Oxford, we took a sight seeing tour bus. They provide headphones that gave details of everything as we drove by. I'm not sure this bus was a great value, but it certainly saved us the stress of finding our way around the city ourselves. Driving in Oxford probably wouldn't be ideal because there is no parking, unless you do a park and ride but there was little parking left in those car parks.

Anyways, we had a lot of ambition for the day, but only got to see two sites: Christ Church and the Oxford Botanical Gardens. We will have to go back to see everything else on another trip, so I would recommend making Oxford a weekend holiday. The Christ Church was pretty awesome as it had ties to Alice in Wonderland and was some of the film sites for the Harry Potter movies (esp. the first one) most notable though is the dining hall. There was a Christmas tree in the dining hall when we visited that had an Alice in Wonderland theme to it. Dining HallThe guide at the doorway really engaged the kids in finding specific ornaments on the tree and pointing out interesting points in the dining hall. Later in the Christ Church there was a children's brochure that had the kids match images in the church to the sheet. Through all its historic charm and significance, my kids paid little interest to the scavenger hunt.

The next site was the botanical gardens. We were on a hunt for things we thought might have inspired Alice in Wonderland. While the gardens were pretty and the greenhouses had many interesting plants, we just didn't see it. However,
as we left we saw a hedged rose garden. We definitely could see ourselves "painting the roses red." Of course it might have helped if it weren't winter and the garden was in bloom. So if you decide to go to the Oxford Botanical Gardens just know the hedged rose garden is free to go through (on the right just as you walk past the gate), but the kids will enjoy the whole garden for all its interesting plants. There were quite a few edible plants and spices. Some of the more unique gardens were in the green houses with the lily room, Arctic garden, and the insectivores room.
The family seemed to be tired right as it became time to go home. We wanted to hit one of the bakeries we saw earlier in the day, but they were so crowded it would have been miserable. Luckily we stumbled across a cookie vendor. Now I always thought I made some good cookies, but after eating that cookie I couldn't help but wonder how they made them so good. I peeked my head in their booth to see if I could catch their secret, but I was unsuccessful. I suppose I will have to start experimenting in making a cake like triple chocolate chip cookie.

In the end, I had a great time with the family in Oxford. We intend to come back again, but I worry that we won't get to it with all the other adventures we want to take.

Final tip: The sightseeing bus runs for 24 hours, so if you buy it in the afternoon, you can use it the next morning if you stay overnight. This would probably had made the tour bus more of a value for us, but it saved a lot of stress from trying to figure out the Oxford bus system.

We found that taking a large backpack for carrying little ones was not a good idea. It Misty enjoying herselfwas a struggle to get them on and off the buses, Ray couldn't go through some of the greenhouses in the botanical gardens, and in general it was cumbersome. I would recommend taking a small sling, front pack, or umbrella stroller. Overall Misty had a good time though, but she really enjoys getting out of the house.

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