Location, location, location is the popular mantra. Well, our stay at the 17 century Bath place hotel could not have had a better position, located a 100 metres from the heart of the colleges of Oxford. It took less than 1minute to walk through a twisted cobblestone passage to reach the Sheldonian Theatre. The passage passed through the 13th century Turf Tavern frequented by some locals and hordes of tourists. I know this, as our bathroom window opened onto the Turfs’ courtyard. Still, little has changed around the colleges since we lived here some 30 years ago, so we bathed in its nostalgia, visiting many of the colleges, climbing both the Saint Marys church tower and the Sheldonian Theatre cupola (for the first time I must confess) to view the rooftops of Oxford. Now, I know from where the TV Morse program took its panoramic views of the old city.
We also took the once a year opportunity offered by the Oxford Preservation Trust to visit the original stacks of the 16century Bodleian Library and the Radcliffe Camera. No photographs and certainly no speaking or touching in these holy places. Fortunately the new Weston library an extension of the Bodleian across the road had a historic manuscript and book exhibition, displaying one of the few original copies of the Magna Carta and a first edition of Newtons Principia Mathematica
Another place I really wanted to visit, was the Ashmolean Museum to gaze upon the Messiah. The Messiah violin that is, one of Stradivarius’s original violins, and estimated to be worth $20m. By the way, lunch at the Ashmolean restaurant was very good.
Overall, time has not spared Oxford from the pressure of population increase. Its traffic was horrible. Where once we could drive along any road in Oxford and park at will, now parking was only possible at the hotel and it took 30 to 40 minutes just to drive out of Oxford and that was during the quiet time. Goodness knows what it would be during peak hour.
Of course, we had to have lunch at the Trout Inn, in Wolvercote, as we had done at our last visit three years ago and frequently during the 70’s.
We remembered it as a historic building full of atmosphere and great food, with an outside area next to a pretty stream spanned by an ancient wooden bridge. But now they put us into a nondescript modern indoor room, and the food was very average. If you can’t have ambiance, at least have good food. We asked to leave the room and have our plum crumble desert outside. Fortunately, the sun came out, and a couple of ducks waddled their way to our table and all was forgiven. The crumble was good too, just like I remembered.