We’ve been in London for 2 months and finally felt organized enough to venture out for a day trip to Oxford . We don’t have a car. So far, we’ve managed just fine with buses, tubes, taxis, and walking/running. Taking 2 tubes plus a train to get to Oxford (with 2 children, a double stroller, jackets, and enough snacks to keep hungry Ryan happy for a day) seemed a bit much. So we rented a car, mainly so we could pack all our kid stuff in the trunk, have a “home base,” and be on our own schedule. We signed up for a thing called City Car Club. A number of cars are parked in convenient locations within walking distance of our house. We reserve a car online, swipe a card on the windshield, and take the car for several hours. Of course, with a car comes car seats. A very generous and kind neighbor loaned us two seats for the trip. The same neighbor also gave us an excellent itinerary of things to see and do in Oxford. [A side benefit of the borrowed car seats – the boys sat in them, on our living room couch, for hours on end, pretending they were rocket ejection seats, etc.]
Dave did all the driving (with a California driving license that expires in 40 days) on the left side of the road. We made our way out of London (including dozens of tricky roundabouts) and quickly settled into highway driving, which was a snap. The drive took an hour and finding a parking spot took another hour. [Note to self: next time, we’ll research parking options before leaving the house.]
ViewHampstead to Oxford in a larger map
On foot (with the double jogger), we made our way to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. (Home of the famous Oxford Dodo). It was a super kid-friendly place – all kinds of real beasts stuffed and mounted so that children could “pet” them. The sign said, “Children may gently stroke the animals with one finger. Please be gentle!” Ryan can’t read, of course. So, he was grabbing fox tails and rabbit ears and squealing all the while. There were plenty of bone displays too –dinosaurs, human remains, etc. Kevin was very intrigued and looked at everything. Ryan just ran around trying not to get caught.
Turns out, we did the kid-friendly stuff at the right time. After the museum, the kids were already hungry and tired. We walked to the “Covered Market” and wandered through the hallways of dead furry animals hanging by their feet, pig heads, chicken feet, and miles and miles of vegetables, fruit, and PIES. At one point, Kevin pointed to a deal animal hanging at eye level (his eye level) and said, “Mommy, where’s his head?” Hard to explain.
We stopped in at “Pie Minister” for lunch. It was a small, crowded, pie-centric café with 12 different kinds of pies. I ordered while Dave got the kids settled into a booth. I picked a mushroom and asparagus pie, which sounded good until they smothered it in “mushy peas and gravy.” Dave had a lamb pie, and the boys shared a chicken pie.
Lunch went quickly and Dave ate everyone’s leftovers. We wandered through more of the market and, since I was freezing and miserable (I had a fever and didn’t feel well all day), Kevin and I stopped in a coffee shop and he had hot chocolate.
The kids hopped in the stroller and quickly fell asleep. [Note to self: Do the kid-friendly stuff at the beginning of the day. That makes them happy and tired, and allows Mom and Dad to enjoy what they want to do for the afternoon.] Dave and I enjoyed walking around Oxford, exploring narrow alleyways, churches on every corner, and even the local Subway and McDonalds restaurants looked like original beautiful architecture. The most amazing site was Christ Church College. Located right next to the Isis River, the grounds were beautiful and the church was massive. So was the line to get in the place. Thus, we enjoyed it from outside.
We happened to visit Oxford on the day of the Torpids (essentially rowing, as far as I could tell). College kids swarmed the river, cheering and booing their friends and competitors. The boys slept through the whole thing and Dave captured a bit of video.
We made our way back to the car. Kevin bolted out of the stroller when he woke up and peed in the bushes (I’m sure that’s illegal in England too, but I guess we really didn’t have a choice.) The drive home went perfectly. We got to our house and, as I was too tired to get out of the car, Dave took several trips up and down stairs unloading all our “gear.” The boys played in the car like nobody’s business. They were SO happy. Other than sunshine and family and friends, I think we miss having a car in which to play the MOST.