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A Spring Weekend with a Day Trip to Oxford

Early spring in England is a fantastic time to go and enjoy the sights. We took an amazing weekend there and enjoyed the city and museums of Oxford. 

It had been gray, dreary, and rainy for what seemed like months here in Germany. We hadn’t gotten out much during those weeks. We needed to get out of the house.

We were snapping at each other for every little thing. We’d just been stuck indoors for way too long and cabin fever took hold of us. We needed a trip.

I pulled up the RyanAir site. Please let there be cheap tickets! Please. Nuremberg to Stansted for a handful of Euros? Click. Done!

Okay, maybe I should have thought that early spring in England was going to be just as gray, dreary, and rainy as Germany had been, but to be honest, I just didn’t care.

It was gray somewhere other than home. It’s amazing how quickly buying a ticket makes us feel happy. We only had to make it through one more day of work and off we would fly.

We’re always up for some type of road trip, and we’d done plenty, like our Southwestern England trip, our trip to the Lake District, even a Scotland road trip. Now what were we in for? I was hoping for a Wales road trip or even a Jurassic coast road trip. Instead we headed to Oxford and its environs.

Oxford college rooftops.

A Quaint and Cozy Pub Bed and Breakfast

Deciding to forgo London on this trip, we chose a smaller town, a little further out. For this, we would need a rental car. Check.

The car was waiting for us in Stansted when we got off the plane and through border control. Before we knew it we were on our way to Henley-on-Thames.

Our romantic getaway was a charming little pub plus bed and breakfast right by the boat club, so in summer this little town may be overrun, but in early spring there were not too many non-locals about.

We settled into our quaint and comfortable room at the Baskerville and couldn’t wait to have a pint to get the weekend truly started.

What To Do On An Oxford Day Trip

The next morning, after a perfect English breakfast, one of our favorite English foods, we drove into Oxford and started taking a look around. There is so much to do.

Even though my mom had lived 12 miles north of the city for about five years, we never seemed to get there. We were anxious to find a couple of museums to wander, as well as just walk around all the Oxford Colleges buildings and grounds, then we went searching for a good lunch. We are pretty easy to please.

Exterior view of Oxford University building.
We had a few breaks in the clouds…
Entrance to Oxford University.
The Christ Church College has become famous thanks to Harry Potter

Downtown we walked and walked, listening to a few buskers, trying to decide if we wanted to sample the food trucks, and even wandering into a couple of shops before finding lunch.

We had a normal pub lunch at The Bear Inn. It hadn’t done more than a misty sprinkle on us, but getting into a warm pub, sitting in the window, and filling up with a pie…really what else is there to life?

Historic Oxford town center.
Oxford is easy to explore on foot, see the colleges, find a pub…
Exterior garden view of Oxford University.
Grounds keepers cottage at Oxford University.

It was a good thing we had a hearty lunch. We didn’t know just how long we’d be museum-ing, and that was after we spent way too much time finding a parking space.

To be honest, we were a little taken aback by the parking situation. It all started off okay while we were in the center of town, but then when we moved the car to find the Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museums…well, let’s just say we almost threw in the towel.

Finally, we were lucky and greedily grabbed up a space when the only person we’d seen in ten minutes drove off. Phew!

Exterior view of Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
Pitts River Museum is perhaps the best small museum in England

The Best Little Museums In England?

Both of these museums were an absolute blast, from the architecture of the buildings themselves to the overflowing exhibits. Of course, we started off in the well-lit Natural History museum impressed with all the specimens that Darwin and his contemporaries brought back from their voyages as well as the dinosaurs and extinct animals and birds.

Cluster of animal skeletons on display at Pitt Rivers Museum.
I love a good natural history museum and here we found a stunning collection

We were thrilled to see the remains of the Dodo which even gained more importance to us after our trip to Mauritius where these birds became extinct.

We were having so much fun, that we were running out of time on our parking meter and really I had been most interested in our last stop of the day, the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Display cases full of ethnographic and cultural items on display at Pitt Rivers Museum.
Every level of the Pitt Rivers Museum is jam-packed with unbelievable artifacts

I’d read about the Pitt Rivers in a travel blog and it had thoroughly intrigued me. I’d always wanted to be an anthropologist when I grew up, but the idea of impatient me brushing at millimeter after millimeter of dust, day after day, to maybe find a pottery shard–I just knew it really wasn’t for me. Instead, I just read and go to as many ancient sites and anthropological exhibits that I can find.

African tribal items on display at Pitt Rivers.
I’m not even sure what this is…

The fact that the Pitt Rivers exhibits were reputably less than perfectly organized (read “cluttered”) just made me more fascinated. As a self-proclaimed clutterer, I was thrilled as soon as I stepped into the main exhibition room and saw the many glass cases stuffed full of ethnographic treasures.

Shrunken head display at Pitt Rivers Museum.
And here we have some of the famous shrunken heads.

After finally feeling a little museum-ed out, we dashed through the now pouring rain and soggily wound our way out of town and back to our little Henley pub for a pint and a sit-down dinner.

A Scenic Drive In The English Countryside

We woke up to a drizzly day. The window was a little misted up with a few full raindrops dripping down to the ledge. Lazily, we took our time indulging in our breakfast of Eggs Benedict, but finally, we jumped in the car and headed to the Cotswolds, which should be on everyone’s UK Bucket List.

Even though we had a destination in mind, we were really just out for a ride so we tried to stay off of the big highways and took the small, winding roads instead.

Old stone cottage in the Cottswalds.
Get off the main motorways and onto the back roads to see the real England

Even without leaves on the trees and rain coming down, we enjoyed the views and stopped many times to take photos. When we arrived in Bibury, we snapped image after image.

Yes, the houses would look that much more quaint with green ivy, blooming roses, and a little more color, but really it was just a matter of degrees. The cottages were still quaint.  Surprisingly, we weren’t the only tourists wandering about, snapping away.

Row of old stone cottages in Bibury, England.
The view looking down Arlington Row is beautiful even in early spring

Damp but happy, we started looking for a small bake shop or café where we could take some lunch. Not wanting anything too big, we loved the sandwiches at The Catherine Wheel on the hill above Arlington Row. 

After lunch, we continued our drive, up and down hedge-rowed lanes until we finally found ourselves back at our quiet little pub in Henley-on-Thames.

A pink tree blossom is the first sign of spring in England.
The first signs of spring? Or just a late winter flower?

By now, we were used to the gray drizzle, but when a break opened up and the blue sky peeked through, our energy levels peaked. It was time for a walk along the river.

There were row boats on the river, folks out for a jog, bike riders, and dog walkers. A spontaneous cricket game was underway in the riverside field.

The birds were singing and there was a hint of buds beginning to show on the trees. OK, maybe that last bit was my imagination, but the whole world was somehow brighter and the idea of returning to our regular work week in Germany was much more bearable.

Practical Information: 

Getting there: We rented a car and drove. Our itinerary was basically Stansted – Henley-on-Thames – Oxford – Henley – The Cotswolds -Henley – Stansted.


Pitt Rivers Museum – South Parks Road. Open 10.00 – 16.30 Tuesday to Sunday and 12.00 – 16.30 Mondays. Cost: Free

Oxford University Museum of Natural History – same address – Open: 10.00 – 17.00 every day. Cost: Free

Additional Reading:
Food to Try in London – podcast
Best English Foods
The Stunning Lake District
Canterbury Cathedral
The Best Things to do in Bristol
How to Travel to the UK on a Budget
Camping in Cornwall

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

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A weekend getaway to England .....romantic getaway | English Countryside | Cotswolds | Oxford Day Trip | Pitt Rivers Museum


Monday 12th of June 2017

You really can't beat the English countryside... particularly where the architecture is concerned!

Corinne Vail

Monday 12th of June 2017

LC, You can say that again. It's stunning!

Jim Vail

Friday 9th of June 2017

It's always the same with us, Claire. The places in our own backyards are the ones we never get to!

Corinne Vail

Thursday 8th of June 2017

Vicki, So true. Yes, we enjoyed every minute of it!


Tuesday 6th of June 2017

You're so lucky to be living in Europe. Countless fantastic destinations are within easy reach. Oxford is a great option for a short visit. The countryside is so classic. Love it.

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 6th of June 2017

Punita, Classic is a great way to describe it. It as magical.

Elisa Subirats

Monday 5th of June 2017

I agree with you that just a couple of flight tickets can bring lots of happiness. And by what you saw and did I can guess that leaving grey Germany for a long WE was the right decision. I would also be curious to visit Pitt Rivers Museums and a walk along Arlington Row looks very lovely

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 6th of June 2017

Elisa, We had a wonderful time, and we truly needed it.