Welcome to My Place . . . Oxford

Dublin-born Denise Power on what to do, see and eat in the ‘city of dreaming spires’

One of Denise Power’s favourite hobbies is rowing in the river Thames.

One of Denise Power’s favourite hobbies is rowing in the river Thames.

 

Denise Power, originally from Dublin, left Ireland at the height of the recession and now lives in Oxford in England. She works in publishing. When she is not project managing books and digital products, she can be found cycling in the Cotswolds, rowing on the Thames, or playing softball in the Oxford Softball League.

Where is the first place you always bring people to when they visit Oxford?

When you live somewhere beautiful and touristy, there is pressure to show people hidden gems, or “the real Oxford”. So I always avoid the whole Harry Potter thing and let Oxford just be itself.

I’ll generally snub the cobbled streets and atmospheric street lamps and bring people, on arrival, to Port Meadow. It’s a nature reserve that sits just behind Oxford that has sprawling meadows and there are nice woodland walks beside the river. In summer, Port Meadow is full of locals barbecuing and swimming.

The rooftop terrace at The Varsity Club boasts stunning views. Photograph: The Varsity Club
The rooftop terrace at The Varsity Club boasts stunning views. Photograph: The Varsity Club

The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are ...

If visitors can handle the early starts, I’d take them with me to watch Sunday morning “Heads” rowing races along the river. The mist makes it look amazing.

The rooftop bar in The Varsity Club, inside the covered market, is worth visiting for stunning views, even in the rain.

I only recently found out that locals can access Blenheim Palace, 20 minutes from the city, free of charge through a pedestrian gate. All this time I’ve been paying the entrance fee of £20 a pop. So, tag along with a local, if you can.

Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Oxford?

It’s not a meal as such, but G&Ds – Oxford’s ice-cream cafes – do fantastic, home-made ice-cream and also sell baked goods and bagels and salads. If ice-cream is not your thing, the Rusty Bicycle pub in east Oxford sells delicious pizzas and burgers, to complement the lively pub scene.

Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs is one of the best places to get a sense of Oxford’s place in history, says Denise Power. Photograph: Getty Images
Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs is one of the best places to get a sense of Oxford’s place in history, says Denise Power. Photograph: Getty Images

Where is the best place to get a sense of Oxford’s place in history?

You cannot escape it. All it takes is a wander around the town centre and you’re immersed in everything that Oxford represents. You’ll likely take in the main colleges and some of the landmarks such as the Bodleian Library, the Bridge of Sighs and the Turf Tavern, that pub where Bill Clinton “didn’t inhale”.

The University city of Oxford. Photograph: Getty Images
The University city of Oxford. Photograph: Getty Images

What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Oxford?

Most people who visit will inevitably buy the hoody – tourists can’t seem to resist buying merchandise that makes them look like they enrolled as students at the University of Oxford.

If you’d like to share your little black book of places to visit where you live, please email your answers to the five questions above to abroad@irishtimes.com, including a brief description of what you do there and a photograph of yourself. We’d love to hear from you.

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