We took a last-minute anniversary trip to England last week, planned so hastily in fact that it was hard to believe we were really there when we alit last Sunday night at Heathrow. However, soon we were toodling off in our rented Vauxhall on the left side of the road, my valiant husband bravely behind the wheel, and then it felt real enough (and only a little scary).
We spent the entire week in Oxford, making a few afternoon trips to places like the Cotswolds and Henley-on-Thames, but mostly just enjoying the local pubs, riverside walks, and free access to such homely comforts as an electric kettle, strong tea, way too many scones, and a giant tub of clotted cream, so generous that even an unrepentant dairy-lover such as myself could not work through it over the course of a week, despite my most gallant efforts.
Rashers of bacon with sultana scones, clotted cream from the Bottomless Tub, and jam
We stayed on the east side of town, a terminally shabby bohemian, multi-cultural area that is very different from the stately scholarliness of the city center's fabled dreaming spires. I was a visiting student at the university in the early (very early) '90s, and this was the part of town where I lived, so it was fun to be back in the neighborhood, shopping for groceries once again at the Tesco Metro and picking up a late-night meal from Bodrum Kebab House on Cowley Road.
Cowley Road in front of Tesco's supermarket
We were able to luxuriate in the domestic pleasures of frying up our own breakfast bacon (both real and veggie) and keeping four kinds of locally brewed cider chilled in the fridge owing to the lovely apartment rental we found, a place off the Iffley Road at 7 Bannister Close.
Before we booked it I searched around in vain for reviews or comments from previous guests, and so as a service to others who may be considering a stay there, here is one contented customer who found the accommodations very comfortable. The apartment is clean, spacious, and notably well-stocked, with a pretty patio out back, and is only a 15 minute stroll into town. The proprietress, the charming Irene, lives upstairs, and struck the perfect balance of being friendly and available if we needed anything, while still giving us all the privacy and autonomy of a more independent arrangement. The apartment also has a wireless connection (not currently mentioned among its amenities on the web site), which allowed us to take care of some work while we were away.
Irene's patio at 7 Bannister Close
Also, compared to the prices of Oxford hotels (particularly with the dismal dollar-to-pound exchange rate for us hapless Americans), it was a really good deal, especially considering the space and the facilities.
Next up: a punk pub, a river ramble, and Parson's Pleasure, located at last. Also, what is an alternative tuck shop?