Living in London is great when you want to get away from the place, if you know what I mean. The city is so well connected with an abundance of train stations heading to all parts of mainland UK and for those further afield places there are an ample sufficiency of airports or and ferry terminals within easy reach.
But living in London is also expensive and it’s easy to open your purse to find nothing but coffee receipts. So I set myself a challenge to take a day trip away from the big smoke but I wasn’t allowed to spend more than £30 and that had to cover my transport there and back, food and any activities I got up to. Here’s how I got on.
First thing’s first: preparation is key. I knew Oxford was close enough to visit in a day but I didn’t want to buy a same-day-as-travel-ticket and waste most of my budget on getting there. So I hopped on to thetrainline.com and searched several weekends in advance to see if there were any cheap seats available and sure enough I got return tickets for £12.
I wanted to make the most of my trip and headed out on an early train. To allow my budget to stretch that wee bit farther I prepared some snacks and a sandwich to bring with me and took a coffee to go in my travel mug.
I did all the free things I came across. The Museum of the History of Science caught my eye as I dandered into the city centre. It’s split over 4 floors and houses what must be thousands of early scientific instruments. Everywhere you turn there are incredibly detailed instruments which would have been used to read the stars or navigate the high seas. What struck me most was the artistry that went into making each artefact – so much care and precision taken in the age preceding the Internet and AutoCAD.
Later in the day I also visited Modern Art Oxford. I just managed to sneak in before closing time and I left wishing I had made it there earlier. There wasn’t a huge amount on display but what was there was carefully curated and thought provoking. If you are a fan of art that inspires and prompts discourse I’d recommend setting an hour aside for a stroll through.
Once I’d exhausted the places that were free I turned my attention to the world famous colleges which were so cheap to visit they may as well have been free. I spent the grand sum of £3 visiting Balliol and the University Gardens.
Exploring the buildings of one of the UK’s top seats of learning was fun. Oxford is old-school academia, steeped in ritual and tradition. The gardens were spacious and I could imagine the post-exam bliss of chilling out on the perfectly manicured lawns in between Summer Pimms parties.
The rain came on right at the tail end of my tour of Balliol so I followed the advice of the locals and try one of the cream teas Oxford is famous for. I ducked into a canteen on the opposite side of the square and settled down to stuff my face. Despite rave reviews I hate to admit it was just all right. The tea was the saving grace but I think the scones had been sitting out all day and had gone a bit hard. So either shop around or get in early to avoid disappointment.
I found a souvenir I couldn’t resist in Blackwell’s book shop. I’m a sucker for a good story and I loved the way this branch set up this bookstall in the middle of the shop. Each book was wrapped in plain brown paper and bore the recommendation of a staff member where the cover would normally be. It was as if someone had picked a book out just for me and I couldn’t leave without it. I’m saving this read for Christmas – I’ll let you know how I get on!
Here’s the breakdown of what I spent:
Return train ticket – £12
Entrance to Museum of the History of Science and Modern Art Oxford: Free
Entrance to Balliol and University Gardens: £3
Cream tea: £5.95
Not bad for a wee day out!
Until next time,