Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Port Meadow

Aside from its fabulous location and lively personality, Port Meadow is undoubtedly one of Jericho’s greatest draw cards. I felt a little like Lucy in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, slipping through the magical closet to discover Narnia the first time I visited. It really is like stepping into another world, and a very unexpected one so close to the city. 

I must admit that after moving to Oxford, it took me several months to discover Port Meadow, but why no one ever mentioned it has me baffled - This is one little treasure too good not to share!

Accessed from Walton Well Road, Aristotle Lane or via the tow path, Port Meadow is the largest area of common land in Oxford and consumes a staggering 440 acres. With its green grass and wild flowers stretching as far as the eye can see it has been home to grazing horses, cattle and geese for centuries.  

Port Meadow is a fantastic place for a picnic, to fly a kite, or to walk, talk and enjoy a romantic afternoon in the sun, but leave before sunset and you’ll have missed it at its best.

Spring is another particularly special time to visit when all the new foals and calves are born and 
vast areas of the meadow are carpeted with buttercups. Through autumn and winter much of the Meadow is flooded, bringing flocks of migratory birds and nature enthusiasts as well as the odd ice skater or two! 

There are lots of gravel paths with which to explore the meadow, but they are nowhere near as fun as sloshing about in your Wellies (gumboots), which I highly recommend. A fifty minute stroll along the banks of the River Thames, (which flows through the meadow) will even take you past the ruins of Godstow Abbey to Wolvercote, a small village in the north of Oxford.

Here you can reward your hard work with a pint on the terrace at one of Oxford’s most famous pubs, The Trout. The Perch Inn, is a worthy stopping point along the way, (famous for its association with Alice in Wonderland and its yummy French food.) But you’ll have to find it first - It’s a true hidden gem. Follow the signs down the winding garden path littered with fairy lights to find their enchanting beer garden.  

Aside from The Perch Inn, Binsey's most noted feature is the parish church of St Margaret. This Grade 1 Listed building dates back to the 12th century and is most famous for its Well, which was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's, "Treacle Well" from in Alice in Wonderland.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Introducing The Oxford Fresher's NEW aStore!

Hello boys and girls! This is just a quick note to let you know that I’ve recently created an Amazon Associates Store. Nothing much to fuss about, but every once in a while, I receive emails from readers asking me to recommend various travel and Oxford related products, so I thought it might be useful to have a list of all the things I love in one place for your perusal. 

For easy access, I’ve also added a snazzy new, circular 'a' button to the header which will take you directly to the store. So head on over, take a look, and maybe you’ll see something you like!

There are currently nine categories in my little shop which include: Travel Essentials, Travel Electronics, Travelling with Children (including everything from inflight entertainment to baby slings and Trunki the Trunkisaurous!), Out of the Blue (books by or about famous Oxonians), Movies & Dramas (filmed in and around Oxford), Wonderland (Oxford inspired books and DVDs for little ones), Cycling & Driving, The Best of British, and a Miscellaneous category containing everything I simply couldn't leave out! 

Here are a selection of products from my Travel Essentials page:

Disclaimer: I have not been paid or received any sort of compensation for placing any of these products on my store or blog page. I do however receive a small commission, (4-6%) on all products purchased from my Amazon aStore.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi visits Oxford

This morning, hundreds of people lined Catte Street to welcome Aung San Suu Kyi back to Oxford as she made her way to the Sheldonian Theatre to partake in Oxford's annual Encaenia Ceremony.  After years of isolation, her visit today was of particular significance as she was finally able to receive the honorary doctorate awarded to her in 1993, while under house arrest in Yangon. 
Today, Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded an advanced degree in civil law during Oxford's annual Encaenia ceremony.

Aung San Suu Kyi studied politics, philosophy and economics at St Hugh's and later lived in Park Town, north Oxford.

The Chancellor of Oxford Universty, the Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes.

Seven leading figures from the worlds of science, the arts, intelligence and business were also honored in this year's ceremony. For more information, check out the Univerity of Oxford website.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Encaenia Procession & Ceremony

Encaenia, (pronounced en-scene-ya), is the ceremony at which the University of Oxford awards honorary degrees to distinguished men and women and commemorates its benefactors. The ceremony takes place at The Sheldonian Theatre and is held annually on the Wednesday of ninth week during Trinity Term.

The Encaenia is depicted in the Morse episode, 'Twilight of the Gods', above. (Track forward to 2:25). 

This year's ceremony will take place on Wednesday the 20th of June. Whilst the ceremony itself is restricted to university dignitaries and special guests, the procession to and from the Sheldonian Theatre should not be missed!

Start:      10:30am - Exeter College, Brasenose Lane, Oxford
Finish:   11:30am -  Sheldonian Theatre, Broad Street, Oxford

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Let the trashing begin!

If you happen to be hit with a handful of glitter in the cobbled back alleys of Oxford this month, congratulations, you've just been trashed. In Oxford, 'trashing' refers to the tradition of throwing flour, eggs, confetti and other such substances over one's classmates when they finish their final exams. (But don't worry, only those wearing red carnations, need be concerned).

Photos by: (left) Malin Hu, Pembroke College 2010, (right) Becca Hayes.

Sadly, following a spate of complaints from locals (and some extraordinarily rowdy behaviour), the University fun police have issued a new code of conduct reminding students that "a minimum fine of £80 could be incurred if students use water-pistols, or throw anything including champagne, glitter and confetti." Nevertheless, tradition dies hard - so think twice before ducking down the alleyways this month, you're bound to uncover a trashing! 

Friday, June 01, 2012

Diamond Jubilee Celebrations

Looking for somewhere to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in Oxford this weekend?  
Here's a very brief list of what's going on where: 

Oxfringe Jubilee Weekend Oxford Castle, Sunday 3rd June, 12 - 5.30 pm  
The Jubilee East Oxford Street Party Magdalen Road, Sunday 3rd June, 12 – 6pm
Jericho Jubilee Street Fair Canal & Cardigan Street, Monday 4th June, 12 – 6pm

For further details and a full list of events, check out the Oxford City Guide

A joyful proclamation of queenly support - by Twisted Twee

In keeping with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations this weekend I thought I'd share a few 
of my favourite British treats... What do you love most about being an expat in Britain? I'm certainly feeling the love for the Queen this weekend; bring on the four-day weekend!

Jubilee sandwich cake - A twist on the classic Victoria Sponge.

The Victoria Sponge
If you're planning a Jubilee themed party this weekend, how could you resist this cheeky twist on 
the classic Victoria sponge? Whilst traditionally speaking, a Victoria Sponge would never be iced 
or decorated like the one pictured here, I'm sure Queen Victoria would let it slide just this once... Sponge cake was her favourite after all.  

A typical Victoria sponge consists of raspberry jam and whipped cream sandwiched 
between two sponge cakes, finished with a light sprinkling of icing sugar.

Pimm's - the quintessential summer tipple.

This classic British beverage is almost as much a tradition as the cup of tea, and during the summer months, the British down it by the gallon. Those of you who read my post entitled, 'It's Pimm's O'clock' way back in March, will also know that I am quite partial to Pimm's advertising campaign. It's oh so refreshing and fabulously fruity; take a look for yourself

Elderflower Pressé
Another of my new found favourites is elderflower cordial. Mix this with some soda water, fresh lime and lemon juice and a little bit of mint and you'll have an elderflower pressé. The Old Parsonage on Banbury Rd also make a delicious cocktail called an 'Elderflower Collins', which I highly recommend.
There's nothing quite like a homemade scone fresh from the oven, but mastering this simple tea-time treat is harder than seems. I'm told that the secret to a perfect scone is all in the butter, (which should always be at room temperature and rubbed quickly into the flour), but mine always pale in comparison to my Nan's. Topped with jam and cream, (which is always clotted in the UK), Ruby's scones were always crisp and golden on the outside and delicately light inside - Scrummy scone perfection. (A British blend of scrumptious and yummy).

Clotted Cream
Thick, rich and indulgent with the consistency of soft butter, this sweet yellow cream is an essential ingredient to all cream teas and is traditionally made in Devon and Cornwall. It has a very high fat content, (at least 55-65 %, which in the United States would be Classified as butter) and is often topped with a deep yellow crust. Truth be told, I prefer double whipped cream with my scones, but these sorts of opinions are best kept to oneself when taking tea in Britain.

Summer Pudding recipe from Peyton & Byrne - British Baking

Summer Pudding
I still can't quite get my head around why all desserts are called 'puddings' in the UK, but at least this one fits the bill. Summer pudding is deliciously moist and made of sliced white bread, (preferably stale), which is layered in a deep bowl and then packed with juicy summer berries. It's much easier than it looks! You just leave it to soak overnight and then turn it out onto a plate before serving.

Cuppa tea time
Nothing is considered as quintessentially English as a good old cup of tea and I fear the whole nation would come to a stand still without it. Each year the average person consumes 2.5kgs of the stuff, contributing to Britain's long running title as the largest per-capita tea consumer in the world. With all the 'tea breaks' going round I'm not in the least bit surprised!

Everyone has an opinion on how to make a ‘proper’ cup of tea, but I've never taken this as anything more than a bit of British banter. Boy was I wrong. Preparing tea in this country is a very serious matter! Did you know that scientists recently discovered 'that the key to the best tasting brew is to let it sit for six minutes?' I had to laugh. (Telegraph, Sat 02 June 2012).
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