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South East Oxford and Beyond

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
I thought I better create a more general thread. Lots to do when you move to a new country no matter how briefly. Lots to learn. So much is different. It's really not the same as a vacation rental. Ok so settling in..
Oxford is busier and more confusing than I would have thought. We are located in a neighborhood not far from the centre but far enough to notice a huge difference. I have yet to go to any of the traditional sights tourists visit. So.....got a library card yesterday. What fun and so easy. But couldn't check out a book as no toilets at central library. When you see the hordes of people in front, you understand. Oh lord, beten the 1000s of new students, hordes of tour groups, bikes, cars...I think it's busier than London. I guess a lot in a small space.

I finally gave in and wrote to the owners about figuring out the stations. Sheesh who was to know? I have to press digi epg( or some such) on the menu and all the stations and their numbers pop up. Who was to know? I couldn't find any info online or in The Guardian. I think the stations differ depending on your provider. So now I can hopefully move on from Reality TV to some more intellectually stimulating shows.

I've just ordered a delivery box from Rivercote. Thanks, Pauline. We'll see how that works out. I'm particular about good food and didn't fancy the supermarkets or checking out a Farmers Market on a particular day.

Now I'm checking out yoga classes.
We've rebooked our cottage in Minchinhampton (Oct 8-12). Despite the hairy roads, getting confused on the walks, cow dung:), we really like this area and hope to see a little more of it.

Mmm does anyone read these posts except Pauline who is so good at responding. Just wondering.


100+ Posts
I'm reading and enjoying, too! It's fascinating to see an outsider's perspective on a town where I've lived for the past quarter-century (Stroud), as well as on Oxford (which I used to visit back in the 70s when friends were studying there, and which I now visit weekly during term times for Gamelan rehearsals).


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I am reading too but don't understand what checking out a book has to do with toilets.

I like to hear your thoughts about life in England. As you know we went through this all just four years ago. The UK seemed overwhelmingly different at times. I was lucky because I had Jonathan to ask all my stupid questions. I could not even figure out where to find things for cars (Halfords is the UKs Canadian Tire).

It is all confusing. But I am amazed at how comfortable I am now with most things in the UK.

When we moved from Canada to the US 25+ years ago it was not such a big change. Plus we just dropped our Canada life and became Americans. Now we live in parallel with US things still in case we move back.

This is a fun adventure for you!

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Toilets and the library no that didn't make sense. More of an explanation. By the time I had battled through the crowd, found a place to lock up my bike( next to all the other 999 bikes), filled out the appropriate info and received my brand new card, I desperately needed the loo. But the library doesn't have one. "Go to M&S up the street", I was told. Better than going to McDonalds to use their wc. Gave me the opportunity to look at a few items. This M& S doesn't sell food just regular department store items. Done with the loo and M&S, I decided not to return to the central library. There is a branch just north of me in trendy Summerton.
So that's the story of the toilet and the library.

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Yesterday I discovered the wonderful Thames Riverand Oxford Canal towpaths. I can pick these paths up practically from my front door. The canal is a small tributary and quite wonderful but when I connected to the Thames, it wa bliss. I can ride it straight downdown crossing only 1 trecherous road. I ended up practically at Christ Church Cathedral. What an extraordinarily beautiful place. And right downtown. A peaceful enclave. And a commons with cows grzing right in front of the cathedral.

To return to my apartment, I took the Thames path rather than the Oxford Canal. It was so beautiful. I saw people working in their allottments on the other side of the river. The path was quite narrow with all manner of grasses hugging the edges. Before I knew it I was at Port Meadows heading to the village of Bisby. I wasn't quite sure how to exit.

But let me tell you about Oxford folk. They are so helpful. I love France. I love Italy. I love Spain. But what I truly love is being able to ask for directions in English and understand the answer. Anytime I pull out my map, look confused or as is my way just stop someone for directions, I've been assisted by the most pleasant and courteous people. Young and old.
So having been pointed in the right direction, I was over a little bridge, through the meadows and home again in a jiffy.

Last night we went for a short walk and found an entrance to the canal within 5 minutes of our apartment. Off Aristotle Lane. Don't you just love it.

And I found a British mystery show to watch afterwards. A rather silly one. But now I undrstand how to work the TV and find the stations.

It should be wild Thursday night with the Scottish elections. All the talk on BBC is about Scotland and the fate of the UK.

We've gone through this in Canada with Quebec. I remember how tense it was in 1995 when they chose to stay. Something like 51-49%. That was a close call.


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We walked a bit of the Thames Path from the center of Oxford and it is beautiful. Instant peacefulness. Great that you can get to a path easily from your apartment.

I find Brits to be very friendly and helpful too.

I will be watching the news too for the Scotland results.

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
I joined the Botanic Garden and have the pass to prove it:):) Having 2 cards now makes me feel like an Oxford resident. But to really feel local, I must learn to brave the traffic on High Street on my bike.

The gardens are amazing especially the conservatory. I saw the most incredible flower but didn't have my camera so have to borrow a pic from the internet but it is an accurate one.

victoria cruziana Nymphaceae( Santa Cruz Lily).JPG
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500+ Posts
It's a water lily. I'm not sure what the official variety name is, but they grow to be huge. If you do a google search on "giant water lilies" and then choose images, you can see many photos of them.

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Oops I thought I'd added the name with the photo. Chris is correct. It is a water lily. Victoria cruziana Nymphaceae ( Santa Cruz Lily). I can't imagine what it must be to see them in their natural habitat.

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Definitely settling in and feeling less of a traveller and more like I live here if only for awhile. I admife people like Kathy and Pauline and others who move to new countries. A big learning curve and all the more so if you don't know the language or customs.
Yesterday I cycled to Woodstock. It wasn't the most picturesque of rides as most of it was along busy motorways. But at least there was a separate bike track most of the way. I thought of going to Blenheim Castle but in the end didn't. It's fairly pricey and not sure I want to spend my $$ looking at someone's fancy home. The gardens were tempting but as it is autumn, decided against. Opinions?

My first order of veggies from Riverford Farm came yeaterday. Wonderful salad greens. Thanks Pauline for the rec.

Afterwards I joined Ron and a colleague for a glass of wine at The Oxford Wine Bar. So many lovely places to sit and have a drink alcoholic or not. Just around the corner from us is The Anchor another one of the upscale pubs that abound in this area. Not too upscale. Very comfortable. We had a lovely dinner. Pauline wouldn't have enjoyed it tho. I had lamb. And for dessert lemon posset. I think it's something between a sorbet and a mousse. Delicious.

We returned home at about 9pm and were going to take the elevator up the 4 flights to our apt. R noticed the light was out and then we heard a tiny voice cominf from inside. Our neighbor from across the hall was stuck. Now this elevator had just been fixed last week. She was very calm but nevertheless. We managed to find the info on what to do in an emerg and R unlocked the door with a special key. It opened and there she was stuck between floors. Another neighbor ran and got a step ladder and she managed to climb down. Keep in mind she's about 85. However, this reminded us of being stuck in the elevator in our apartment building in Nice. We too had to climb down a ladder. Honestly are we the independent variable here? I do not like elevators but also don't want to have to climb 4 flights of stairs every day.

Saw 1st part of Downton Abbey Sunday. And hopefully tonight I can stay up and watch Scott and Bailey a show about 2 women detectives in Manchester I believe. I've seen some of the series on Youtube.


100+ Posts
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Lisa, I'm enjoying your updates as you adjust to living in Oxford. What a great opportunity this is for you! (Though the elevator story was a little scary... but a way to get to know your neighbors, I guess. And fortunately there was a happy ending.)

About Blenheim Palace... we first visited on our first-ever visit to the Cotswolds around 1998. We've been back many times, and it is a place we take our groups. We spend much of a day there. There is a lot going on at Blenheim and I think it's a good opportunity to see the challenges of maintaining a large stately home and estate... they have to develop commercial ventures to keep it going. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site.

I do enjoy seeing the public rooms of Blenheim and learning the history of the family and the palace. Also inside the palace is a special exhibit on Winston Churchill, who was born there... and his grave is nearby in the village of Bladon. Many people in our groups really enjoy this part of the visit. And there are a couple of other exhibits in different parts of the palace that are quite interesting. But the best part of the palace is the park, designed by Capability Brown... there are miles of footpaths and a variety of gardens. I love the rose garden. There are some amazing trees. It's relaxing and beautiful. Most tourists (especially those on buses) don't explore the park. See some photos below.

If you buy a one-time admission, you can convert this to an annual pass, which I've done the last two years for my return visits. Then you can go any time you like to enjoy the grounds, take a stroll, even take your picnic lunch. I see people doing this, and if I lived nearby, I would definitely take advantage of the lovely grounds. If you have any visitors, Blenheim Palace may be a place you'd like to take them... and you wouldn't have to pay a second time.

Occasionally, they open up the Duke's private apartments for tour. I've done that twice and found it fascinating. (But maybe that wouldn't appeal to you...) There's an area called the Pleasure Gardens that's more family/children oriented... we enjoyed that when our daughter was young.

And I know they do special decorating and events over the Christmas season, if you are still there then. In 2014 that began in early November.

Anyway, my perspective on Blenheim for you to consider. If you don't care to see the house, you can buy a ticket just for the park and gardens. I'd love to see this in the autumn as the season changes.






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Your elevator story will give me nightmares! Maybe you should never both go in the same elevator, just in case - so there is someone to go get help.

My Riverford box came today.

It seems like the autumn weather is really coming in. Today was very blah - overcast and rain tonight I think. Hoping for more sun.

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
I hope you have beautiful weather for your visit... like it seems we always have.

And be sure to do the conversion to the annual pass. It doesn't cost anything and just takes a few minutes of your time. They give you a card with your photo on it, good for 12 months.
You were right to advise me to go to Bleinham Palace. And it's true, the weather is always beautiful there!!

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Thanks to Kathy's advice we purchased an annual pass to Bleinham Palace. The palace tour was interesting. I don't think I was fully aware of the strong Churchill connection but the grounds made the day. A wondrous treat in full autumn splendour. Many of the roses were still in bloom and of course all the late flowering plants. The setting would have fit quite nicely into one of Constable's paintings of the buccolic English countyside. I imagine little has changed since his time. The trees grown a little larger and of course some of the flower beds were planted more recently. This property keeps many gardeners busy. In fact, we saw several on our visit busily clipping the grass by hand.

We travelled to Woodstock in style catching the S3 bus just around the corner from our apartment. It was a double decker and we had grand seats on the top floor. Fabulous views of the motor way. Oh well, it took all of 15 minutes.

In general, I am amazed by the parks, landscaped gardens and abundance of pastoral countryside easily accessed from Oxford. Not only do the colleges have beautiful gardens often hidden in little courtyard or cloisters but there are parks, meadows, farmlands etc. just off the busting main arteries leading through the city. One minute one is josling the crowds, trying to find a place to secure a bike and the next..peace, tranquility, cows.

Yesterday we discovered the University Parks about 70 acres of parklands on the west banks of the River Cherwell. The Parks include cricket fields, landscaped gardens, walking paths and meadows. We saw people punting slowly down the river. It would be lovely to be a jogger as there are so many trails to run.

Afterwards we visited Madgdalen College with it's beautiful cloisters. There is a deer park/ sanctuary on the grounds. The deer are beautiful creatures and seem much smaller and more delicate than at home. The stag seemed like a creature out of a fantasy tale. They are fenced in and thus protected. I think Madgdalen, Balliol and Christ Church are my faves so far.

lake at Bleinham Palace


lake at Bleinham Palace


free ranging cows taken with cell phone on Thames tow path

free ranging cows.jpg
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