A pleasant walk along the river on a summer evening, when it is still light long after 9 pm, can lead to frantic looking for a way out.
If you are new to Oxford and have entered the path along the Thames through the gate near the pub, you may not have noticed the sign saying: Christ Church Gates close at 9 pm.
That gate is quite distant from the college and you may not realize it still IS one of Christ Church gates. This is what happened to me - I very much enjoyed my riverside walk and was not ready to leave until about ten. It was only then that I realised what I had done. I ran frantically from gate to gate but all were locked. Climbing the high wrought-iron gates wasn't an option for me. For a moment I thought I would have to spend the night on the grass. Finally, after more than an hour of vain attempts to get myself noticed, I saw someone in the distance in the Cathedral garden - a man on a university conference - a visitor like me. I shouted to him and he brought a custodian, who opened the gate and I was released into the world outside. However, I don't regret it - the man was very nice to me and gave me an interesting tour of the cathedral garden, which he told me was specially cultivated to look like the gardens in the Middle Ages. And I could even hear the Boys' Choir practising - a great reward for my misadventure. In the picture: St. Aldate's - the street I wanted to get out into so badly and the wrought-iron railings I would have had to climb over.
Being Oxford, the locals get upset over the slighest silly thing. Being Oxfordians they will run polite campaigns, write letters to newspapers and sign petitions.
A good case in point is this bloke below called 'Heath'. There is a concerted campaign going on to get rid of this busker from Oxford's streets. In other, more aggressive cities the locals might just have lamped him one, but here he is fighting his own counter campaign.
On the one hand I want to support the underdog, but on the other the bagpipes are quite the most offensive noise known to humankind. A dilemma.
If you meet him, have a word with him - but remember you will need a voice that is stronger than a pneumatic drill before you do.
While the kebab vans littered through Oxford can be a great alternative to dried biscuits lying around your room, they can also cause horrible food poisoning. They aren't always the cleanest or healthiest of food venues (especially the van up Woodstock Road, across the street from St. Anne's) but they are a great place to meet people in queue. Got plenty of drunken hugs and kisses from some great, albeit random, people while waiting for my doner kebab...
All I'm saying is beware dirty vans and be aware of the risk you're taking in eating from kebab vans. Horrible results may follow in the morning. (I DO blame the vans and not the beer...)
Punting is a popular tourist sport on the arms of River Cherwell. It may look easy, but the punts can be quite shaky on the water - be careful not to fall into the water! Punters have to stand on the boat's rear side and push the boat forward with a long pole. The punt then moves slowly but steadily into the direction it is pushed to - and doesn't stop for instance when it approaches the shore. I have seen dozens of people that were stuck in the bushes on the shore with their punt and had to struggle to get away again. Some of them were not lucky: They grabbed the nearest branch and ended up in the river...
Apart from that, the waters of River Cherwell are all but clean, particularly in summer. They then smell disgusting and apparently contain some dangerous kind of bacteria that thrives in muddy duck-sh*tty waters. Again: Don't fall in!
Nevertheless, it is great fun and a must in Oxford. One punting station is found just next to Magdalen College under the bridge. Another one, which is not as crowded, is situated at the end of Bardwell Street at Cherwell Boathouse.
I normally think it a cheap shot to label someone as a 'Nazi', but in the case of the parking attendants (i.e failed busy body policeman) it is probably justified.
Oxford has a well know hostility towrds the car, hence the impossiblity to drive through it without getting lost...unless you are a 20 tonne heavily polluting bus.
The attendants in this town seem particularly keen on their duties, even on a sunday they can be found hunting in packs for the porr motorist who is two minutes late back to his parking spot, or doesn't park PRECISELY between the indicating lines.
In fact the only place I could find to park reasonably unmolested for free on a Sunday was in ne of the residential roads behind the station area. Anywhere else it is vitually impossible to find a place, or if you do you will need a financial advisor to take out a second mortgage for it's use.
Locals will often disregard the red stop light and cross streets but for those visiting, unsure or extra cautious crossing, I recommend just waiting for a green signal. As an American used to looking left to right when crossing, getting used to look right to left through me off especially here in Oxford during many days of busy summer people traffic. No, I did not get hit by an automobile but had some "sort of" close calls". When crossing with someone with disabilities, definately do not chance it and go with haste.
Be warned that if you have booked into a City centre car Park, (we used Worcester Street), you CAN NOT renew your overnight ticket in the morning after 8am despite this information being given by our Hotel.
If you do so, you will incur a massive £80.00 fine.
Effectively, as our hotel started to serve breakfast at 8am, you need to get up early, and re-park your car elsewhere, or do without your breakfast.
My husband almost had a heart attack (seriously), after being unable to find another park. he was then faced with a 3 mile walk back from some out of town Industrial estate, in torrential rain, and hail. He arrived back at the hotel covered in mud, freezing cold, and very distressed.
I'm amazed that Oxford City Council can't allow an hour for hotel guests to their city to at least have enough time to eat breakfast (for which they will have paid), after spending time in their City spending money in shops and meals etc.
We will NOT be visiting Oxford again, and as here, we will be passing the word round.
Weekends on Cornmarket are best avoided - particularly if large crowds of shoppers stress you out. The town centre is chaotic on Saturday afternoons and Cornmarket is probably the busiest area. During my time here, I remember it was voted the UK's worst street in a Radio 4 poll. Interestingly, High Street, which meets Cornmarket at Carfax, was voted second best.
There are a lot of people asking for money in the street. This shouldn't alarm you - it is largely because there is a well-established community and so people feel safer living there on the street than elsewhere. Many, unfortunately, lead troubled lives. People will make up their own minds whether to give money - if you want, there is a collecting box for homeless charities in the town hall, if you feel more secure that your money is helping that way.
After midnight, the Kebab vans are one of the few places where you can get food in Oxford. In my two years living here, I didn't once succumb to trying one. Not many Oxford students can boast that record! Though some students love them I think they look incredibly unhealthy.
There are really some seedy areas in Oxford, but there aren't many. Out in the industrial area it gets a bit rough. If you break your glasses or need any optical help, a nice optometrist is Batemans Opticians - 30 Cornmarket Street. They fixed my screw for free.
Unsurprisingly, with the number of students and tourists around the city, there are plenty of beggars always asking for some 'spare change'.
Although some of them are genuine, there are a lot of fakes out there, most are just annoying, but it's a good idea to ignore them and donate the money to a reputable charity instead.
The worst thing that could ever happen in Oxford is you bump into OX-grads Dudley Moore or Michael Palin..wait a minute..that wouldnt be so bad! There is NOTHING to be concerned about safety-wise in OXFORD. It positively reeks with manners and decorum.
'Veddy veddy safe oyed sigh, duckie!,,CHEERS.'
Most of Oxfords residents travel around the city by bicycle. It is by far the cheapest, easiest and quickest way to get from place to place, especially as bikes can go where the cars and busses cannot.
Some of the cyclists, however, can be rather dangerous. Many ride on pavements, ignore red lights, don't have lights at night and generally disobey the rules of the road.
When crossing the road, it's always a good idea to check for approaching bicycles, even if you should have right of way. Motorists should also keep an extra careful watch for cyclists, and give them a wide berth if required.
There are some pavements which they are allowed to share with pedestrians, and some one way streets where they are allowed to ride in both directions, so extra care is required.
Watch out for those cyclists when crossing the road! Sometimes they ignore lights and zebra crossings, though they're generally very good.
Also, when driving and pulling out into the road, remember to look out for bicycles and not just cars and other vehicles! If you forget, you might not see them and hit them/let them hit you which, well, let's face it, would be very BAD!
Look at the pic and see for yourself!