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Ask the Editor

Left Luggage?

Q. We are travelling to the Cotswolds by train and want to stop in Oxford for a few hours. Is there somewhere we can safely leave our luggage? We are 4 ladies from Canada with a full size case each.

A. Your best bet is to contact the hostels, which are close to the bus and rail station, as they will likely hold your luggage for a short period for a small fee. Click here for information on Oxford's hostels.

Best Place to Park for the New Theatre

Q. Hello, I wonder if you can help, although I found your map and information on parking very useful I wonder if you can tell me what time the car parks close and which is the best parking for the New Theatre (previously the Apollo) in George Street, Oxford. We will be looking for somewhere to eat preferably before the performance and have to be at the Theatre for 19.30 therefore parking would be from 5.30 until perhaps 11pm. Any help is much appreciated.

A. Your best bet is to park in the Worcester Street car park. It’s open-air, is the closest to the theatre, and is open 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. If you’re looking for pre-theatre restaurant recommendations, I would suggest ASK for good pizza/pasta, Brasserie Chez Gerard for French, or Opium Den for Chinese. They are all located on George Street. I hope you enjoy the theatre and your trip to Oxford!

Can I Rent Scooters for Longer Than A Day?

Q. I note that scooters for the handicapped are available for city shopping in Oxford, however, I am bringing a handicapped person to Oxford in July who will be attending two weeks of classes at Christchurch.  We are in need of renting a scooter for him.  Can you direct me to a rental situation in oxford? 

A. Shopmobility in the Westgate provides motorized scooters on a daily basis (Monday - Friday 9.00 am - 4.30 pm, Saturday 9.30 am - 4.00 pm). To secure a scooter for a longer period of time, contact Shopmobility a week before your arrival and they will do their best to accommodate you. Unfortunately, they can not guarantee anything. Shopmobility can be reached at 01865 248737

Where To Find a Moderately Priced Sportcoat

Q. My son will be studying in Oxford in July.  He will need a sportcoat or two while he is there.  Do you have any suggestions as to where he might want to shop for one?  He wouldn't want the most expensive choice, but something well fitting that is moderately priced.

A. Oxford has a few mens stores that sell sportcoats. The first place I would try is Debenhams, right in the city center (corners of George, Cornmarket, and Magdalen Streets). If he doesn’t have any luck there, try Shepherd & Woodward on High Street, or Walters of Oxford on Turl Street. If all of these prove too expensive, there’s a great second hand shop on Little Clarendon called Uncle Sam’s that has a good selection of menswear

What's the Best Day of the Week to Visit Oxford?

Q. Hello: is there a day of the week (including weekends) which is preferable for visiting Oxford (fewer crowds, longer opening hours for shops, etc)? -- Jeffrey, Toronto, Canada

A. In my opinion, the best days to visit Oxford are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Oxford gets very crowded on the weekends, and unless you enjoy navigating through a sea of people on Cornmarket or waiting behind hoards of tourists walking through Christ Church, then I suggest a mid-week visit. The only reason I don't include Mondays in my recommendation is because the beautiful Ashmolean Museum is closed that day.

The Best Traditional Afternoon Tea

Q. We are looking for somewhere in Oxford or surrounding area where we can get a traditional afternoon tea. The posher hotels sometimes serve afternoon tea. Any ideas?

A. I answer this question with pleasure, since afternoon tea in England is one of my favourite topics! I have a few places in Oxford that I recommend:
Grand Cafe, 84 High Street, 01865 204463 - They do a lovely tea for around £7.50/pp
Queen's Lane Coffee House, 40 High Street, 01865 240082 - I had my first English afternoon tea here, and it was delicious. Approximately £3.50/pp
The Rose, 51 High Street, 01865 244429 - High tea with finger sandwiches is around £8/pp, or £4.85 for scones with clotted cream, jam, and coffee or tea.
The Old Parsonage, 1 Banbury Road, 01865 310210 - This is a tea to remember! They have Very High Tea (finger sandwiches, cakes) for £13.50/pp, Champagne Tea (Very High Tea with Champagne) for £21.50/pp, or Light Tea (home baked scones with jam and clotted cream with tea or coffee) for £6.95/pp. Tea is not served until after 3:30pm.

Should I Rent A Car?

Q. Do I need to rent a car when staying in Oxford?

A. Oxford is very much a walking town. The traffic in Oxford is awful for the most part, since the city was built long before cars were invented, and they didn't do much to the infrastructure of the city to accommodate cars. The main streets in the city center, including the High and Cornmarket are closed off to all vehicles except for buses and taxis. And if that's not indication enough that they don't want you driving here, they have also made parking difficult and ridiculously expensive! So unless you are planning to do some excursions outside of the city, forego the rental car and invest in a good pair of walking shoes instead.

Best Time of the Year To Visit Oxford

Q. I hear it’s always raining in England – is this true? When is the best time of year to visit?

The funny thing about the weather is that although England has a reputation for always being rainy, I feel like it barely rains in Oxford! Certainly not any more often than anywhere else in the world. You should always travel with an umbrella wherever you go just in case, but I wouldn't pack my entire wardrobe around a rain coat and a pair of Wellington boots. The best time of year to visit is really a matter of opinion. The summer days are very long, with the sun not setting until 10pm at the height of July, but the winters are charming and cozy, and it rarely snows in Oxford. Packing the touring in early and nipping off to the pub to sit by the fire and sip an ale is a nice way to enjoy Oxford as well.

How to Avoid Looking like an American Tourist

Q. Are people friendly towards Americans? How can I avoid looking like a tourist?

People in Oxford are very friendly towards tourists. If you want to avoid looking like a tourist (and this goes especially for Americans), try the following: don't wear big white clunky sneakers and baseball caps, don't ask what someone does for a living before you even know their name, don't ask where the campus is, and don't pronounce Magdalen College 'mag-da-len' (it's pronounced 'mawd-len'). When visiting any country or different culture, be observant of how others behave, and try not to draw too much attention to yourselves. The English are generally reserved.

Distance from the Cotswolds?

Q. How far is Oxford from the Cotswolds?

The nearest Cotswolds villages are only about 30 minutes from Oxford (Minster Lovell, Burford), but can be up to a couple of hours away (Bath), depending on which villages you are interested in. The Cotswolds are a large region comprised of many villages dotted along a hilly ridge. See our Nearby Excursions for more information on visiting the Cotswolds.

Best places to Work Out in Oxford

Q. Can you suggest any gyms to work out in while I'm on holiday in Oxford?

Many of the fitness centres around Oxford are membership-based and don't allow a pay-as-you-go visitor. Your best bet if you're staying in the city is the Ferry Sports Centre in Diamond Place, Summertown. 467060. They have an indoor swimming pool, squash courts, fitness classes, and weight training areas. Check their website or call them for more information and class schedules. To get there, take the #2 bus north on Banbury Road to Summertown (approx 10 minutes). Also in Summertown is the Yoga Garden at 4 South Parade. It's a pay as you go yoga and pilates studio, from £4.50/class. Check their website or call them for more information and class schedules.

When Does the Sun Set?

Q. How late does it get dark in the summer? In the winter?

At the peak of summer (July), the sun doesn't fully set until about 10pm and rises before 5am. At the peak of winter (January), the sun sets by about 4pm, and doesn't rise until 8am. As you can see, the days in winter are very short, and in summer are incredibly long. It's important to keep the short days in mind if visiting Oxford in the winter and you plan to do a lot of sight-seeing.

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