Saturday in Oxford; each corner lovelier than the last. The sandstone streaked with rain, spires all the more gothic in the gloom. Pumpkin and thyme burgers at the Turf Tavern, stealing into colleges under the glare of watchful guards, a glimpse of the Hogwarts dining room from the doorway, decadently inappropriate gelato in the late afternoon. Bookstores that wind across endless floors, the closed doors of the Bodleian, shuttered windows, balconies empty in the storm. Oxford strikes me, struck us, as a secretive city, as a town that keeps its mysteries close. Gloved hands, locked doors, skeleton keys hung from ancient doorways, garden gates looped with ivy and strung with foreboding Do Not Enter plaques – and still, every corner that little bit lovelier than the last, so long as you can find your way, somehow break beneath the city’s cloak-and-dagger shroud. Oxford reminds me of the very best love affairs: you’ll fall in love at first sight, sure, but only slowly does the city reveal its true secrets, all of its simmering shades.
++ Climb University Church tower for a panoramic view of the city’s caramel skyline.
++ Visit the University Botanic Gardens in rain (for the glasshouses, all towering cacti) and shine (for riverside picnics and the sprawling gardens).
++ Quarterhorse Coffee for fudgy brownies and artisan espresso on Cowley Road, slightly off the tourist track.
++ The never-ending floors of Blackwell’s for the stuff every bibliophile’s dreams are made of.
++ Oxford Covered Market for browsing and flowers and foodstuffs.
++ Scriptum for paper goods, buttery leather journals and that ye olde curiosity shoppe vibe. (Ignore the fusty staff!)
++ The charity shops of Cowley Road for vintage gems and secondhand treasure.
++ The Vaults for canteen-style healthy fare (and always a veggie option or three) in cloistered elegance, under the graceful eye of the Rad Cam. If you dare, slink into the back gardens of Exeter College. Take the iron stairs to a low viewing point for a charming view of the Radcliffe Camera.
++ Turl Street Kitchen for supper.
(photos) on Nikon D5100 | Oxford, February 2015