I went to Prison. I am planning on returning very soon!

oxfordmalmaisoni.jpg large

Last Weekend when I visited Oxford we went to Oxford Castle an ancient building in the heart of the city. What I didn’t know before arriving was that it was HMP Oxford prison until 1996. The black Panther was a well know inmate among many others. Whilst it was a fascinating glimpse into somewhere I would not ever like to visit for real, the same cannot be said of the main wing which is now transformed into Hotel Malmaison.

We decided to have a look around and I felt like I’d stumbled upon a scene from the popular TV series ‘Porridge’ only a luxury version. It had all the atmosphere of the original prison and one could easily imagine the uniformed inmates being let out of their cells by stern guards and descending the stairs to breakfast. You could almost hear the clanking of keys and the echo of shouts and lots of voices However it was now eerily quiet with plush carpets, chandeliers and comfy sofas in abundance. The lift gave you the feeling you were in a  padded cell and everywhere was low lighting to give a strange and slightly eerie feel. You couldn’t help but wonder what may have occurred in that building over the years.

The cells/rooms must have been at least 3 cells knocked into 1 room. Perhaps 1 cell per room may have been a little too authentic and I am sure the restaurant serves more than porridge and gruel. The doors to the rooms were not changed at all and had the cell numbers and peepholes in the door (blocked up I hasten to add)

Although we were not staying there this time I immediately put it on the list for a must stay at some time in the future. It seemed like a fun and quirky place to spend a weekend and I am sure there was more oddness to discover

I Never thought I would be saying that I would really like to spend a night or two in the cells so much! I hope they give you the key though!



The Dreaming Spires of Oxford


Oxford is a city of dichotomy. Is the city part of the university or the university part of the the city? We explored this unique place at the weekend. Beautiful ancient architecture, dreaming spires, student life and tourist activity.

Undeniably a beautiful place for ‘beautiful minds’ but what of  the reality of the place. Oxford is surely dominated by the colleges of the famous university, but where does the university and the city begin and end? As a visitor accompanied with a daughter attending Bath university it was an interesting insight. I had no expectations except for the knowledge of a very interesting, beautiful academic city.

On our day of exploration it was entirely tangible how the university is entwined with the city, its hard to separate the two. I fully understand how historically the  ‘town vs gown conflict’ came about. We as foot soldiers on a walking tour, one of many of the day, encountered a body of graduating students and the mayhem that entails. Including by night the various vikings/Pokemon/fantasy characters roaming around which adds to the charm of the place, including the  sight of a naked (I am guessing) student running the centre followed by a crowd of cheering onlookers  Most of the colleges we hoped to visit were closed for the ceremonies and according to a local ‘we have graduations all the time, it’s an everyday occurence’ Whilst it made a great spectacle of mortar boards and gowns in succession in front of beautiful buildings we were slightly frustrated that we could not enter the buildings and places we came to see.

In contrast my daughter,  who turned down the opportunity of applying here, when asked, ‘Would you have liked to have applied here? replied, ‘Its beautiful place but I would be really frustrated by all this tourist activity around ‘my’ campus when I am trying to get around to lectures, learn and do my studies. Hence the Gown vs Town perspective.

I loved my visit to Oxford and it was a truly magical place and a must see city. I was enchanted by the view from the towers of the central church and the general atmosphere of academic learning in the ancient buildings spanning back centuries but would I like to live here, probably not , too many students, would I like to be a student? probably not, too many tourists! All in all very beautiful place, most definitely worth a visit.


Moonlight at Castle Howard


Moonlight at Castle Howard

My second home!

Castle Howard is 10 minutes from where we live,  we visit regularly and have taken the children there since they were small. They are now adults and we visited at Christmas where I captured this shot at moonlight. It is beautiful  in every season.