Monday, December 12, 2011

Locally brewed beer

I realise I've almost come full circle by suggesting another 'Oxford brew' for my 9th 'Oxford' inspired gift idea, but I've just discovered that Oxford is home to three local-ish breweries. The Old Bog Brewery, The Compass Brewery and The Shotover Brewing Company. 

Particularly fitting with my Christmas theme is The Compass Brewery's 'Winter 6 Pack,' which contains two bottles of each of the following beers: Tannenbaum (Christmas beer), Baltic Night Stout and The King's Shipment IPA. However, The Compass Brewery's 'Isis Pale Ale' is about as 'Oxford' as it gets. 

The 'Isis,' (a shortening of it's Latin name Tamesis) is used to refer to the River 'Thames' and is synonymous with university rowing and the annual clash between Oxford and Cambridge.
The Compass Brewery Winter 6 Pack £16.00

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Oxford Fresher's 'Arrival Survival Guide'

Arrival Survival -  £2.99  

If you thought packing and saying goodbye to your loved ones was the hard part, I'm sorry to tell you that arrival can be the most challenging part of your adventure. 

Your first weeks and months in Oxford are bound to be crazy no matter how well you've prepared. Jet lag alone is enough to challenge the best of us, so if your first thought is, "What am I doing here?" Don't panic, I've got some great tips to help you settle in.

The 'Arrival Survival' chapter contains everything you need to hit 
the ground running, from where to buy your first day essentials, to registering with the NHS (National Health Service). Check out the contents pages of our FREE sample chapter for a full list of what's included.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Cath Kidston Messenger Bag

On Friday night, Oxford celebrated the start of Christmas with its annual Christmas Light Night event and with only 17 more sleeps before the big day, I thought it was high time we had an 'Oxford' inspired gift idea for the ladies. 

Bag £65.00 ‘City of Oxford’ Iron-on patch £1.95

This Cath Kidston messenger bag can be worn across the body and makes a perfect companion for Oxford cyclists. It comes complete with leather trims, tartan lining and quirky travel inspired patches. There’s even room on the back to add a few of your own. You’ll be spoilt for choice in Oxford, but I found these iron-on patches at the Oxford Tourist Information Office.

Cath Kidston 6 Broad Street, Oxford.
Oxford Tourist Information Centre 15-16 Broad Street, Oxford.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Emma Watson returns to Oxford

If you've been out and about in town lately and seen someone who looked just like Emma Watson, chances are it was probably her. Despite a net worth of nearly £24 million, she is having no trouble blending in with her fellow students and looks very happy to be back in Oxford. 

Emma Watson is currently studying at Oxford University Photo:

Not only were many of the scenes from the Harry Potter films which made her so famous filmed in Oxford, she also attended school here as a child. Although born in Paris, Emma moved to Oxford at the age of 6 and attended Dragon School, which believe it or not, is an actual co-ed boarding/ day school in Oxford - Cool name isn't it? She also spent time at the Headington School before being cast as Hermione at just nine years of age.

Emma recently returned to Oxford to study English at Worcester College, on an exchange year from Brown University in the States. It seems a Hogwarts education just wasn't enough!

Want a feathered quill just like Harry Potter's?

My 7th 'Oxford' inspired gift idea is for all the Harry Potter fans out there and you'll certainly enjoy the visit to Turl Street to find it. Turl Street is a cobbled shopping strip in the heart of Oxford, which dates back to 1363 and funnily enough, is not unlike Diagon Alley. Here you'll find the Lincoln, Exeter and Jesus Colleges and a myriad of specialty stores lining the street, but your first port of call is the Scriptum Fine Stationary Store. 

Scriptum Fine Stationary 3 Turl Street, Oxford.

I'm sure many of you remember the scene from Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone where Snape misunderstands Harry's furious note taking during Potions class..."It seems some of you have come to class with powers so formidable that you feel confident enough to not pay attention." I did feel sorry for poor little Harry, but what better way to inspire such wizardly diligence than with one of Scriptum's fine feathered quill's?

Christ Church College St. Aldates, Oxford.
(See link for opening times - The dining hall is closed to visitors at lunchtime during term time) 

Potter fans eager to follow in Harry's footsteps will also enjoy a visit to Christ Church College. Did you know that its Great Tudor Hall was the inspiration for Hogwarts’ dining hall?  I say 'inspiration' because the dining hall used in the Harry Potter films was actually an exact replica, created in a North London studio especially for filming - That said, apart from the floating candles it's very hard to tell the difference. To reach the hall, one must climb the College's grand staircase which featured in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone. This is where the first years meet Professor McGonagall for the first time, who explains the sorting ceremony they are about to undergo.  

As you climb the staircase and enter the hall, it's not hard to get swept up in the magic of it all, but if the experience leaves you longing for more, you can join one of the official Harry Potter guided walking tours. Tickets and information available at:

The Oxford Information Centre 15-16 Broad Street, Oxford. Ph: 01865 252200.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Light up your wheels with Spoke Lit!

I found these Spoke Lites whilst doing a little research for the 'cycle safety' chapter in the 'Fresher's Guide' and thought they were just terrific. Ever since I've been itching to share them, but have held off until now so that I could include them as my 6th 'Oxford' inspired gift idea. What true Oxford cyclist wouldn't want to find a set of these Spoke Lites at the bottom of their Christmas stocking? 

Spoke Lites are not only super cool, their bright LED lights glow or flash whilst you're riding and ensure you are visible to other traffic. Whilst flashing, Spoke Lites trace dashed arcs of light behind you as you ride, or the glow mode keeps the wheels consistently illuminated -  Just like a light saber for your bike! Star Wars fan or not, you're sure to feel invincible when riding with Spoke Lites.

Available in orange, green, red, blue and disco! Here

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cream Tea at The Randolph Hotel

The Randolph Hotel is one of Oxford's finest and stands proud in the heart of town. Although it is most widely recognised as the watering hole of Colin Dexter's famous detective, Inspector Morse, this 5-star hotel has much to offer. Not only have its luxurious rooms played host to a long list of celebrities, it boasts an award winning restaurant, sensuous spa and an afternoon tea to remember. 

Tea is served daily in the Drawing Room and comes with elegance and charm a plenty. On Saturdays, you'll even find a pianist accompanying an orchestra of tinkling teaspoons. Whilst proper tea etiquette states that when stirring tea, "you must be careful not to clink your spoon against the cup."  I think there are far more pressing matters, like which to spread first - the jam or the cream? 

On the menu you'll find three options for afternoon tea, but if you are feeling extravagant, I highly recommend the Randolph's Celebration Tea - It is Christmas after all. 

Cream Tea £12.25 per person, Afternoon Tea £18.90 per person, Celebration Tea £29.00 per person.    

Propose a toast with a glass of chilled Moet and Chandon NV Champagne and kick off the festive season with a selection of sandwiches and delicately crafted cakes. It's then time to undo your top button and prepare for the pièce de résistance - Homemade scones with preserves and clotted cream along with a freshly brewed pot of the all-important tea! 

Treat someone you love to a tea to remember! 
Vouchers can be purchased on the hotel's website and may be used as full or part 
payment against anything from a luxurious feature room to a relaxing day at the spa.

The Randolph Hotel Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2LN

Friday, November 25, 2011

Oxford's own MINI Cooper

Did you know that the BMW factory near Cowley, (right here in Oxford) is the only car production plant that makes MINIs worldwide? What a nice 'Oxford' inspired gift a MINI would make. Hands up who wants one for Christmas? 

MiniCooper S 1:24 Scale Full Function Remote Control Car £11.94

Ok, so buying someone a MINI for Christmas is a bit out of the question, but you could always treat them to this fully functioning, remote control 'mini' MINI instead. It's just 24 times smaller than the real thing! I can't promise it will make them want a MINI any less, (in fact it will probably make things worse), but a 'mini' adventure at the Oxford MINI Plant is also sure to thrill.
Tours begin in the showroom and continue through to the production and assembly areas where a team of over 600 robots and 4000 humans work side by side to produce up to 800 cars each day. Tours last for approximately 2.5 hours and cost £15 /adult and £12 /child.

Oxford MINI Plant Tour Oxford, OX4 6NL. 
Getting hold of the booking team can require a little patience, but is well worth the wait.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Oxford University Whisky Tumblers

By definition, 'Scotch' whisky must be made in Scotland but there's no reason why any discerning gentleman wouldn't be thrilled to receive these 'Oxford' University Whisky tumblers. (Especially if they come wrapped with a bottle of 12 year old Dalmore!) 

Oxford Whisky Tumblers £12.00 each Dalmore 12 year old Whisky among others available at the Whisky Shop 

The man's man drink of choice, whisky evokes a sense of power, mystery, intelligence and class and is drunk by men as smooth as its amber liquid. Men such as Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig and George Clooney have become synonymous with its essence, but Johnny Depp has taken it a bit too far. I'm all for bottling sex appeal, but this is just bizarre...

In a recent interview, he revealed that he wants his ashes mixed with whisky when he dies. I'm not sure whether it has anything to do with his recently released movie "The Rum Diary" or the fact that he drank a little too much, but it certainly takes the expression 'die-hard fan' to a whole new level.

The Oxford University Shop 106 High St, Oxford.
The Whisky Shop 7 Turl St, Oxford OX1 3DQ

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oxford University Baby Grows

Studies by Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley show that babies have an astonishing capacity for statistical reasoning, experimental discovery and probabilistic logic, which enables them to learn about the myriad of objects and people surrounding them with greater depth and efficiency than previously assumed. 

Whether you buy into the hype or not, every proud parent likes to boast about the inherent intelligence of their gurgling baby so my second 'Oxford' inspired gift idea is sure to please. Perfect for expecting parents or studious young bubs, these 'Baby Oxford' grow suits come in pink, blue and white and a range of sizes to suit babies from 6-18months.

'Baby Oxford' grow suit. £7.99 from The Varsity Shop

Alison Gopnik's book, 'The Philosophical Baby - What Children's Minds Tell Us about Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life,' also makes a great gift for new parents and is available at Amazon for as little as £6.90.

The Varsity Shop, 13 Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3AS

Monday, November 21, 2011

Jeeves & Jericho's 'Oxford Brew'

In the lead up to Christmas I thought it would be fun to feature a number of 'Oxford' inspired gifts and I couldn't think of a better place to start. The Jolly Good Tea Company is not only based in Oxford, its house blend pays homage to it and for this reason, Jeeves & Jericho's 'Oxford Brew' goes straight to the top of the list. (It's just like an English Breakfast, but packed with a little more punch). 

Whilst Jeeves & Jericho take tea making very seriously, their approach is anything but. Included in their extensive range of loose-leaf teas are blends such as ‘First Flush, ‘The Earl of Grey’, ‘Smokey Russian Caravan’ and ‘Gunpowder.’  Each tea comes packed in its very own collectable tea tin with a personality to match. Jeeves & Jericho also stock a number of branded tea accessories including these adorable tea-cosies, handmade by their very own team of grannies. 

To order your Christmas gifts or perhaps a little something for yourself, 
visit Jeeves and Jericho - The Jolly Good Tea Company.

Oxford Brew £28.00, Turquoise Infuser Pot £22.00, Tea Cosy £28.00, 2 Cup Tea Ball Infuser £3.25

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Zappi's Bike Cafe

Good coffee is hard to find...especially when it's hidden in a bike store! Named after ex-pro cyclist, Flavio Zappi, and hidden above Bike Zone in St. Michael's Street, it's no wonder cyclists have been trying to keep it secret. Zappi's Bike Cafe serves the best coffee in Oxford!  

It certainly hasn't taken locals long to sniff out a good coffee. I visited Zappi’s twice on the weekend and both times it was packed to the rafters, quite literally. Located at the back of the upstairs showroom, the café is decorated with all sorts of cycling memorabilia hanging from the walls and rafters. If you can squeeze yourself in-between all the buzzing Lycra-clad bodies, you’ll be in for a treat. The two guys who run this place (both named Dan!) are serious about their caffeine.   

Not only is the coffee excellent, Zappi’s also serves a selection of loose-leaf teas supplied from local company, Jeeves & Jericho. There are also lots of great lunchtime eats and a couple of treats for breaky, but you'll find it hard to resist the large selection of homemade cakes. All I can say is I’m glad the Lycra uniform is not compulsory! 

Zappi’s Cycling Club, (run by Flavio himself) uses Zappi's cafe as its base. Organised rides depart from the here three times a week and all cyclists are welcome, from triathletes to sportive riders and road racers. For everything you need to know about buying a bike and cycling in Oxford check out The Oxford Fresher's guide to 'Buying a Bicycle.'

 Zappi's Bike Cafe 28 -32 St. Michael's St, Oxford, OX1 2EB

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Raincoat for bicycle seats

There’s nothing worse than sitting on a squishy-just-been-rained-on bicycle seat. So rather than tie 
a tatty grocery bag over your saddle, keep your bottom 'beary' dry with this adorable bike seat cover by German designer Tilo AhmelsOther 'saddle animals' in the collection include a dog, fox, goat, cow and horse and are all guaranteed to bring a smile to the faces of passers by.

I'm sure Cath Kidston generated a few smiles when her prints appeared on bike seats around Oxford in a clever promotion earlier this year.  However, they may have left a few shoppers feeling a little down hearted - Made especially to celebrate her Broad Street store's first birthday, these brightly coloured bike seat covers, so distinguishably 'Cath Kidston', were a promotional item only and not available for purchase.

Perhaps with a bit of luck and gentle persuasion Cath Kidston bike seat covers will make it into production but in the meantime, try a patterned shower cap! They're far more convenient than a plastic bag and perfect for the job. For more winter riding tips check out, The Oxford Fresher's guide to 'Buying a Bicyle'. 

Photo: 'Cath Kidston Bike Seat Covers' taken by Oxford Daily Photo 

Monday, November 07, 2011

2012 Olympic torch to light up Oxford

Although the smoke has only just settled in South Park after a spectacular bonfire night on Saturday, it was announced yesterday that it will soon be host to yet another light display. The 2012 Olympic torch is coming to Oxford and its arrival will be celebrated with a free concert in South Park on the 9th of July 2012!

Whilst the torch will take a total of 70 days to complete its 8,000-mile tour of Britain, day 52 and 53 will be the highlight for those in Oxfordshire. On Day 52, (the 9th of July), the Flame will be carried through Bicester, Kirtlington, Woodstock, and Kidlington before stopping in Oxford overnight and will then continue its journey through Abingdon, Wallingford, Crowmarsh, Nettlebed and Henley the following day.

Oxford is also set to host a number of Olympic athletes during the games. BBC Sport reports, 'New Zealand have chosen Oxford University's Iffley Road sports centre as an Olympic base for some of their athletes' and more are sure to follow. Who says London gets to have all the fun!

If you'd like to find out more about the Olympic Torch Relay or view the full 70 day itinerary visit the London 2012 official website.

The 2012 Olypmic Mascots, Wenlock & Mandeville, Photograph courtesy of Yahoo Sports

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Johnny Depp visits Oxford!

Who better to warm our hearts on a dreary Autumn day than Hollywood super star Johnny Depp?

Visiting Oxford for an informative question and answer session about his new movie, The Rum Diary, Depp graced our streets yesterday in true Hollywood style. It appears he had even done his nails especially for the occassion...Is that Oxford Blue varnish he's wearing?

Tickets to Depp's hour long session at Oxford Union proved so popular that a ballot had to be drawn. Is it any wonder? All I can say is I'm very envious of the 500 lucky students who got to attend.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Guy Fawkes Day

“Remember, remember the fifth of November 
Gunpowder, treason and plot. 
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason 
Should ever be forgot..."

'Guy Fawkes' night, or 'Bonfire Night' marks the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a conspiracy to blow up the English Parliament and King James I. Named after the most famous of its conspirators, bonfire night has become an annual tradition celebrated on the 5th of November and began in 1605 when Londoners were encouraged to light bonfires to celebrate the King's escape. 

Join in the celebrations tonight at Oxford’s Firework Spectacular and bonfire night held annually at South Park. (Bound by Headington Rd, Cheney Lane and Morrell Avenue). Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the gates and all proceeds go to local charities. Gates open at 5pm and fireworks commence at 6.45pm. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Buying a Car & Driving in the UK

Buying a Car & Driving in the UK - £2.99

If you're moving to Oxford and plan to live and work locally 
it is not essential to own a car, but it does have its advantages. 

Unfortunately, like most things in the UK buying a car requires a mountain of paperwork so if you're lost when it comes to Tax discs, 
MOT and Insurance bands, or simply don’t know where to begin,
this is the chapter for you.

For a full list of what's included, check out the contents pages of our FREE sample chapter. Or for more information, visit our  
Frequently Asked Questions page.

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Christmas Greetings

I know it's a little early, but unless your family like to celebrate Christmas in February, you’ll need to plan ahead this year to ensure your loved ones receive their Christmas cards and parcels on time! Heavy snowfall caused chaos for the Royal Mail last year. Road, rail and air services were all heavily disrupted and only a third of December’s first-class post was delivered on time.

You can check the Royal Mail’s last recommended posting date for countries all over world but as a general rule, you’ll need to have everything off by the first week of December.

Broad Street, Oxford. 18 Dec 2010.

Whilst there's no guarantee that it will actually snow again this year, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Veg Boxes

Seeing all these pumpkins about has got me thinking about Veg Boxes! 

I didn’t realise quite how spoilt I was in Australia, but shopping for fruit and veg at the local supermarket here can leave shivers running down your spine! Try if you dare, but don't be surprised to find yourself surrounded by bruised and battered corpses who've spent their better days in a freezer. Cling tight to the living, but eat them quickly -  they won't stay that way for long.

If like me, you are haunted by the 'ghosts of fresh fruit past,'  give a Veg Box a go!

Veg Boxes can be bought directly from a number of local independent growers in and around Oxford. Whilst ordering can be a bit like playing 'trick or treat,' most schemes offer a ‘basic box’ containing a selection of whatever fruit and veg is in season. Some even supply recipes, fresh eggs and flowers as well. Boxes come in several sizes starting from about £7 for a small box, which is enough for 1-2 people. 

For more information, or to order a Veg Box, contact one of the following independent growers: Coleshill Organics, North AstonOrganics, Vegin Clover, TolhurstOrganic, Close to theVeg 

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