To be honest until very recently Oxford was a place that I always drove past on the way to somewhere else rather than a destination I had targeted for a visit. Not that I wasn’t aware of the beauty of the city or its many attractions. I had always been put off by the publicity over parking issues and as I have a near pathological hatred of park and ride services I thought that this was a place I could cheerfully avoid.

A Big Surprise

As I worked just down the road it was inevitable that I would end up making a visit eventually and when I did I was shocked to discover what I had been missing. For the record you can park in Oxford although it will cost you and even if you are forced to defer to the park and ride system Oxford is certainly worth it.

Special Place

As soon as you arrive you realise that Oxford is somewhere special. The bustling high street is surrounded by the gorgeous architecture of the college buildings and there is at once a bohemian feel and a reverence for times past. Just walking the streets is a pleasure and the shopping is divine. If you are sick of the interchangeable shopping malls and homogenised high streets of other towns then give Oxford a try. True you will find the usual big name retailers but also enough independents and curiosities to fire the imagination.

The Shops

I rarely buy anything on a shopping trip these days. I have become immune to the power of the brand and the alleged discounts on offer in factory outlets. What I want is different, quirky and imaginative. The things that fuel ideas and inspire creativity and I found them in Oxford. Along the streets the usual suspects sit happily next to independents and specialist shops and you can find everything from shabby chic to Scandinavian chic and if there is one thing you will most certainly stumble across it is great food.

A Real Gem

There are numerous cafes and delis selling home-made fare, yummy fudge and naughty pastries and if you can drag yourself away from the café culture then behind the high street lies the jewel in the crown. The covered market is a cornucopia of delights with fine fish, meat, pies, cheese and other produce on display. Being sick of supermarket fare my heart sang when I first walked in there and despite having had no intention of doing food shopping I emerged £80 poorer and the proud owner of some awesome steaks, swordfish, lamb pies and award winning sausages.

I now have to restrict my visits to Oxford on the grounds that my finances won’t stand regular trips. It is impossible not to spend your cash in this city because there is just too much temptation and you need a mortgage to cover the parking fees. The occasional pilgrimage must be accommodated however, because this is a city where it is just great to be and in a world where so many places are the same, this is one city that stands out from the crowd.

Sally Stacey is a keen writer with a newly discovered respect for the city of Oxford.