Oh, you have got to love a Christmas Market, haven’t you? There’s something about wandering around in the dark (you can’t go in the daytime, it’s just not the same), sipping a mulled wine or hot chocolate, seeing the lights, listening to the carols playing, stocking up on small unusual gift ideas and food treats… it’s just all so darn Christmassy.
So we were pretty sure we’d have a fabulous day out in Oxford last Friday!
We wanted to make a whole day of it, so we headed off early to finally get to visit the Ashmolean too – I’d never been, and the husband hadn’t visited since he was a child. It was… fabulous. I’m a bit partial to a good living history museum, and the new way the Ashmolean is laid out is amazing. Rather than looking at one snapshot in time, they allow you to see the way writing (for example) has developed across cultures and times, keeping it in relation to other relevant artefacts and information.
We learned so much, and just loved our visit. As is always the case, there just wasn’t enough time to see it all (I really wanted to see the Fang Zhaoling centenary exhibition, but I was outvoted…), but we did get to see a pretty good overview, thanks to the unbelievably excellent Family Trails. The dog detective was a lot of fun, and the Big birthday top Ten helped us cover a lot of ground and get a good swooping overview. Just wish we lived closer – we all agreed we’d love to revisit frequently to spend some time with the items we really loved.
(you’re not limited to the Ashmolean, obviously – Oxford is crammed to bursting with museums and galleries for every taste and interest)
Once we were satiated by history, we grabbed some lunch and went for an explore of Oxford. Despite having an aunt who lives nearby, it’s not a city we’ve ever visited, so we weren’t going to turn down the chance of a saunter though the streets. A quick 69p spend on the Oxford University Official Guide app, and we had the Harry potter walking tour at our fingertips – perfect to keep the children involved whilst we got to enjoy the sights of the city.
As the afternoon drew on, we stopped for a fabulous pitstop at the Mercure Eastgate Hotel – a warming and very welcome coffee for us, hot chocolates for the smaller (almost-frozen) people, and a slice of deliciousness each. It was a great choice – the Eastgate is a 17th-century coaching inn, and we couldn’t resist the history: JR Tolkien ate there regularly when he had rooms next-door, and CS Lewis proposed to his wife in the restaurant!
It’s now owned by Mercure, and isn’t too in love with itself – we were comfortable taking the children in, and the mix of the contemporary blacks, whites and crimsons set against the traditional warm wood flooring, and leather, velvet and patterned sofas and armchairs made us a little sad to head back out into the grey coldness!
And so, as the light was fading, we finally made it to the Christmas market. Pretty Perfect Timing! By sheer coincidence we had picked the day that the City of Oxford Silver Band were playing, and the sounds of the carols wafting down the street was incredibly atmospheric.
And the stalls… oh, the stalls! A fabulous array of all manner of enticing goods. Personally I fell in love with a pair merino wool slippers from Pure Wool Slippers, and the husband had to drag me away from the Art Polish Pottery…
The husband loved Georg’s Winterzauber with its traditional German Christmas decorations, and the Exotic Coffee Roasters too.
Eventually we made a slow, happy retreat back to the car – absolutely exhausted, laden with bags (and rather full of churros), ready for the warmth and comfort of the drive home. What a properly fabulous day – we cannot wait to do it all again next year, have a feeling it may be the start of a new Christmas tradition in the House of LittleStuff!