My Favourite Places: Alexandra’s perfect storm

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Alexandra Sofroniew has the kind of academic CV that is about to make you feel really stupid (or maybe it’s just me). The curator of the current Storms, War and Shipwrecks exhibition at The Ashmolean, Alexandra holds a DPhil in Ancient History from Oxford, has been a lecturer at St John’s College, Oxford and is about to become an professor in Art History in California. So not only is she a total smartypants, she knows Oxfordshire really well. You can really go off some people.

Christchurch Meadows

Wallingford & Christchurch meadows 030
I was born in Oxford, and have lovely early memories as a child walking around the Botanic Gardens and down to Christchurch Meadows with my parents and feeding the ducks. Later when my husband and I came to Oxford to do our PhD’s, we spent many lazy evenings picnicking there. One night we got locked into the Meadows after dark and had to climb out over the gate!

The Turf Tavern

turf-tavern

Oxford has many so places that have been there forever – pubs like the Turf Tavern or The King’s Arms that never change, while other bits of the city have changed and modernized dramatically. My mum tells of going to a cute little cake shop on Holywell Street while she was pregnant with me that later turned into the tiny and delicious sushi restaurant Edamamé.

The Ashmolean Museum

ashmolean at night

The Ashmolean gave me my first job, packing up objects during their redevelopment project in 2005, and I came back to work there two years ago as a curator in the Antiquities department. It’s a very special museum, with treasures from across the world and through different time periods to discover. Although I’m a Classical Archaeologist by training, I’ve been an honorary underwater archaeologist recently, working on our special exhibition, Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Seas. That’s been a real thrill. All 200 objects in the exhibition were recovered from the seas around Sicily by fishermen, recreational divers, or from shipwrecks excavated by underwater archaeologists. Visitors can discover life on board, an ancient sea battle, and a Byzantine flat-pack church but it ends on Sunday so please don’t miss it!

The Vaults and Garden café

vaults-and-garden-sign

When friends come to visit, I always recommend this wonderful basement vaulted cafe based at the University Church. You can sit outside in nice weather, it serves yummy, hearty food and cakes and its right across from the Radcliffe Camera and my old college, Brasenose. Plus the views from the top of the church tower are incredible.

Sanders print shop

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To commemorate special moments over the years, we’ll go to Sanders print shop on High Street. You can find beautiful old etchings of Oxford’s streets and colleges, as well as antique maps or medical or botanical drawings. I could spend hours browsing in there, and as we moved back and forth between the UK and US, we’ve filled our home with memories of Oxford.

Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Seas at The Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont St, Oxford, ends on Sun 25 Sept. ashmolean.org

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Bucks & Oxon