Oxford, England - Sausage & Sunlight
I'm finishing this post up from the airport, hours away from my flight to Venice by way of NYC. I wish I could be a more prompt blogger, but that's just not who I am. So here's more on England, and it's not even the last bit!
When we were considering day trips from London, it didn't take much debating to decide on Oxford. Katy was like 'I want to go to Oxford,' and I was like 'Cool.' We bought train tickets early, while we were still in the states. And lucked out with beautiful weather. But Oxford would be a lovely town under most circumstances. Between the gorgeous stone architecture of the many Oxford Colleges and the colorful businesses in town, it's a lovely place to explore.
First we wandered down the main drag towards Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera. The Bodleian entrance fee was just a few pounds, which we happily forked over to visit the Divinity School-- filming location for the infirmary in the Harry Potter movies. Then we wandered, ducking into random shops and making a lap through the covered market before deciding we were ready for lunch.
Before we left, we earmarked The Big Bang as a dining option. Little did we know, locating the restaurant would be darn near impossible. Apparently the restaurant moved locations, but Google Maps had not (and still hasn't) gotten the memo. But we persevered, eventually discovering the shiny, newly renovated spot in a little courtyard behind Oxford Castle and Castle Mound.
The Big Bang menu features a wide selection of artisanal sausage and multiple variations on mash. All sausages are served with colorful sides of red cabbage and the greenest of peas. Both veg added a much needed lightness to the rich bangers and mash. The cabbage was slightly tart and still with a bit of crunch. And the peas were probably the best peas I had ever eaten, no joke. And to top it all off, there was free and unlimited water! As spoiled Americans used to not worrying about hydration, Europe can be a bit of a shock when tap water isn't freely supplied.
But back to the excellent sausage, I chose the Traditional Oxford Sausage (when in Rome and all that...) while Katy ordered the Cumberland. I was very happy with my sausage, but I may have slightly preferred Katy's more coarsely ground, garlicky pork links. I abstained from the caramelized onions but said hell yeah to the glossy red wine gravy. And don't forget about the mix and match mash. My grain mustard mashed potatoes delightful texture and a light mustard flavor. Katy was pleased with her spring onion variation.
Here's a tip, before you decide on your meal, reach under your chair for the secret menu. Of course we didn't realize this existed until Katy caught another diner in the act! Never mind though, our food was excellent. And even if we'd wanted to order something extra, there was not a centimeter of space left in our stomachs. Then again, if I could have a do-over I would order the three sausage plate just so I could sample multiple different sausages. And maybe get some sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
After lunch we definitely needed a bit of walking time to bring us back to life. We peeked around Oxford Castle before decided it wasn't quite worth the few pound admission price. Anyway, it was time to visit Christ Church! Let's be real. The reason main reason we decided to pay the £8.00 entrance fee was to see the spots that inspired Harry Potter scenes. Like the stone staircase leading into the Great Hall, aka Oxford Dining Hall. Real Oxford students still eat in the hall so you can only visit between mealtimes. It's pretty magical.
And the rest of the college is no slouch. The cathedral is rather stunning, the courtyard wide and marvelous (and exclusive, no tourists may pass through the middle,) the meadow muddy and picturesque in a grandly pastoral kind of way. We were in Oxford for most of the day, but there was still more to see. It's certainly worthy of a return visit.