Did I ever blog about our trip to Venice last year? I don’t think I did. Let me give you the condensed version: Shopping in Milan was a disappointment, but in Venice we stumbled upon a designer outlet mall. (OK, we stumbled upon an advertisement for said mall, took a boat bus to the bus stop then took a bus to the mall.) Forget all the palaces, cathedrals and canals we saw on that trip — this mall was our favorite part. To this day we still talk about that mall and all the great things we bought there, often saying, “We have to go back!” in a Jack Shephard-esque manner.
And then I discovered Bicester Village, a designer outlet mall outside of Oxford. We could stop researching plane tickets to Venice, we only had to drive an hour and a half for amazing deals! So we decided to make a trip out of it — our first road trip in the UK. We would visit Bicester Village then head down to explore Oxford. Yesterday was the first day it didn’t rain so we jumped on the opportunity. We joked about not being able to fit all our purchases in the car — after all, this mall had everything, even a Tory Burch outlet!
And then… we bought absolutely nothing. What a colossal disappointment.
For starters, the place was packed. Driving in felt like arriving at an amusement park on the free Bring a Friend day. It was bumper to bumper traffic and we had to park in the auxiliary lot there were so many cars. And then in true amusement park fashion there were actual queues to enter some of the shops! We actually had to wait in line to enter Prada. They had a bouncer with a clicker like we were waiting for some exclusive nightclub at 2:30 pm on a Sunday. And none of the deals were that good! Tory Burch had flats on sale for £127, which is nearly $200, close to regular price in the US. I can get them cheaper there. Stephen was on a hunt for dress shirts like the ones he found at the Armani outlet in Venice. This Armani store didn’t have any, and every other store was out of his size or the fit wasn’t right. As we drove on to Oxford we both said it — “We have to go back to Venice!”
Speaking of Venice, Oxford reminded me of it, but now how you’d think. Both are beautiful cities which are hard to fully appreciate because there are so. many. freaking. tourists. I know I can’t really complain because I was a tourist, but it really took away from the charm of the place. How do the actual Oxford students handle it? Do they get used to it? Hide in the library all day? Are there even any students there in the summer? I swear I only saw tourists.
So in true tourist fashion, here are some photos I took that make the place look scenic and serene because I cropped out the people:
Before we left we decided to swing by Oxford Castle.
“Dude, that’s kind of a crappy castle,” we both said when we saw this:
Turns out this is the Oxfordshire County Council building. Not Oxford Castle. Whoops.
I think this is the only photo I took of Oxford Castle. It wasn’t very impressive either.
We climbed the castle mound and this was the view:
I was probably supposed to be more impressed with Oxford, but honestly my favorite part of the trip was the drive. On the way home there was traffic on the M40 so our GPS took us off the motorway through this middle-of-nowhere little town. Were we in the U.S. I’d call it real Americana, so I guess it was real Britannia? We had fun flying through the backroads at 60mph which seemed like a high speed limit for way out in bufu. I think Stephen was finally having fun with his new car and I was finally comfortable he wasn’t going to veer to the right. In Oxford I was thinking to myself how riding in the passenger seat on the left side doesn’t seem weird anymore, but then when we went to the car in the car park I instinctively walked to the right side of the car to get in. Classic American in England move!
For the most part, driving on the motorway looked and felt like driving in the Midwest, Switzerland or China, except you occasionally see this:
(Yes, those are sheep on a hill).
Also, there are roundabouts. Everywhere! And I still cannot figure them out. Stephen assures me that they’re easy, but I still think I’d pull a Clark Griswold if I ever attempted one (that, or I’d do the opposite and never actually enter the traffic circle because there were too many cars going around.)
This was supposed to be a photo of us in one of the many roundabouts:
I also have to say that the signs along the motorway are absolute rubbish and even with a GPS we had a hard time figuring out which lane we had to be in and where the exit was. American interstates are much more clearly marked. (USA! USA!)
On a final note, there were special “Olympics lanes” on the London roads and I don’t know what they are for. Can you only drive in them if you’re an athlete? Or if you’re going to the Games? Why would you be crazy enough to drive through London if you weren’t going to the Games? (Or even if you are going to the Games, why would you drive?!) And how long did it take them to repaint all the lines to include the marked Olympic lanes, and how long will it take them to paint over when the Games are through? These are the kinds of things I think about.