The honey-stone walls of Oxford city centre conjure all kinds of wishes and whimsy – and each time that I’ve stayed overnight in Oxford, it’s like slipping into an architectural Narnia. Disclaimer: On this visit I was an invited guest of Mercure Hotels and Experience Oxfordshire, but all thoughts and laboured literary metaphors are very much my own.
Oxford is one of those cities that seems unaffected by the passing of time.
The ‘city of dreaming spires’ simply glows. The beautiful stone that makes up the majority of buildings almost emanates the years of learning that has gone on behind them, or am I just being fanciful in the sunshine?
When we got married, our vicar paused mid-wedding ceremony and said ‘just take a moment to think about all the years upon years of emotion that has soaked into these church walls’ so maybe it isn’t just me being away with the fairies. (Maybe it’s just the two of us – though we still have family mentioning his sermon all these years later.)
Back to the current day, tumbling sleepily off the train into a lightning-quick cab ride, we checked into the Mercure Eastgate Hotel right next to the exploration epicentre of the city. (We could have walked from the station, but we were being treated like royalty.)
The Oxford Mercure is a converted 17th-century coaching inn – where famous novelists J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S Lewis used to linger in during their Oxford University years. The rooms have all been modernised and decorated in the Mercure style, with odes to the surrounding countryside.
My long bedroom view was beautiful, and perfect for my favourite hobby of people watching.
We were in town to celebrate the opening of Keepers, the third honey-bee inspired restaurant in Mercure Hotels. Over the course of our trip, we tried several dishes from the extensive menu featuring in-house honey: light lunch plates, silky carbonara and freshly made-to-order eggs Benedict for breakfast.
Of course, the biggest buzz (#sorrynotsorry) of the trip was a cocktail event where we sampled a fair few of their signature drinks made with Keeprs honey – made from honey collected from hotel beehives (though are currently being fostered off-site whilst a few works are being finished.)
“I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful.” – William Butler Yeats
Keener than bees who have found a freshly blossomed tree of Magnolias, we buzzed around the city, enjoying skyline cocktails, exploring the beautiful footprint of the Bodleian Library and learning all kinds of fascinating facts about the mischevious Oxford University students.
It was an eye-opener, that’s for sure, especially our walking tour taken by a local who knows all kinds of insider shenanigans!
…literary greats (J.R.R. Tolkien himself) commemorated in all sorts of beautiful corners…
…and so many gorgeous places to see, such as Christ Church.
The stories that Oxford and the surrounding Oxfordshire county could tell make exploring this corner of England an utter pleasure every single time. It is somewhere that I find myself drawn again and again – road tripping to Blenheim Palace, shopping in Bicester Village, exploring the many Chocolate Box villages – and I’ve got a few places that I’d love to experience like Broughton Castle and Kelmscott Manor. Soon, soon.
Every time we walked around another corner something would delight our eyes – from grotesques (the correct term for gargoyles with no spout – I learned that the only time I’ve been trolled on the internet in all these years…) along the parapets to the cobbled stones beneath our feet.
When I shared our adventures on my Instagram, I was quite shocked to learn how many English people haven’t been to Oxford – but that happens to everyone in their home country. Goodness knows I didn’t explored New Zealand properly until I moved 12,000 miles away.
Our last meal injected Sri Lankan sunshine into our lives at the Coconut Tree – a feast of hoppers, exotically flavoured curries and the CUTEST elephant cocktail vessels I’ve ever seen.
So, that was our latest trip overnight in Oxford. We definitely saw many of the many highlights of this ancient city – but it’s only whetted my appetite to visit again and again.
Do you like to revisit cities? If so, which were your favourites?
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