where to stay, eat & shop

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  • Looking for a staycation this winter? Why not try an Oxfordshire mini break? Whether you want to go for one night or several days, there is plenty to do and discover, from historical sites, great eateries and shopping destinations. Keep scrolling for more…

    Where to stay: The Old Parsonage

    To really make the most of what the region has to offer, I recommend you stay for at least one night. And to really be in the thick of it, I recommend The Old Parsonage, in the heart of Oxford. Known for its eclectic country house charm, chic modern interiors and striking 20th century portraits, it perfectly marries historical features with a modern touch. Each of the 35 bedrooms is completely unique, and you can expect such luxuries as fancy bedding, marble bathrooms and local art.

    The boutique hotel isn’t just known for its rooms though, the food at The Parsonage Grill is equally out of this world, whether you’re treating yourself to an afternoon tea, cocktails or dinner. Just make sure you don’t leave without trying the goat’s cheese soufflé or the pork belly with black pudding with mash and apple sauce.

    Where to eat: Café Wolseley and La Tua Pasta, Bicester Village

    Two of my favourite eateries happen to be within Bicester Village, though of course there are many culinary destinations in Oxfordshire, from Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons to Thyme’s The Swan pub.

    Head to Café Wolseley for relaxed upscale dining, inspired by the iconic London flagship – The Wolseley. Combining British heritage with European grandeur, the menu includes such classics as Lamb & Rosemary Pot Pie, Roast Cod with a Lemon & Parmesan Crumb as well as afternoon tea of course.

    If it’s Italian fare you’re after, try the newly opened La Tua Pasta, Bicester Village. Multi-award-winning artisan Pastificio makes their fresh pasta nightly in the outskirts of London, using only the best and freshest ingredients such as Durum Flour from Italy and Wild Boar from France.

    At Bicester Village you will be able to order rare dishes such as crispy Truffle Gnocchi Crochettes, rich Wild Boar Ragu on a bed of fresh Creste di Gallo pasta, or Devonshire Crab & Mascarpone black Tortelloni swirled in a zesty Lemon Butter sauce. And for dessert? La Tua’s wildly popular Pistachio & White Chocolate filled mini doughnuts (or Bomboloni) will be sure to delight the entire family.

    Where to shop: Bicester Village

    Just going to put it out there: you’ll need an extra day just to shop at Bicester Village, the collection of stores and discounts is just that good. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, BV is an open-air shopping destination with 160 fashion, beauty, home, food and lifestyle brands.

    Fashion-wise, it puts the spotlight on young British designers (including Patrick McDowell, Alighieri, Taetum Jones etc) as well as luxury giants (think Prada, Balenciaga, Chloé etc).

    While some stores are there all year round, new pop-ups and boutiques are opening all the time, with Elemis, Jil Sander, Off White, Isabel Marant, London Grade Coffee and the new La Tua Pasta restaurant opening in the last year alone.

    The latest launch is This Works, where you will find a range of award-winning sleep sprays, skincare and wellness products that are backed by science and proven to work. The products are cruelty free, vegan, free from phthalates, sulphates, GMOs, petrolatum and synthetic colours. They strive for all of the products to be at least 98% natural.

    If you want to push the boat out, then try the brand new personal shopping suites, which allow for a discreet, bespoke and personalised interaction during the Personal Shopping experience. The Suites are available as a service offered free of charge to all guests, including new and returning guests of the Personal Shopping team, as well as those referred via the boutiques, private client services and partners.

    Appointments are made through the Personal Shopping team, a 12-strong team that includes experts recruited from a variety of industries, including retail and even film and media.

    What to do

    Just a hop and a skip away from Bicester Village, you’ll find the stunning Blenheim Palace. You’ll no doubt know it as the backdrop of some of your favourite historical films. It’s a World Heritage Site with over 300 years of history and currently home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family. It features a splendid palace with state rooms galore as well as landscaped parked and gardens you can while away the hours in.

    I highly recommend you book yourself onto the Restoration Tour, which gives you a rare and insightful behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it takes to keep a historical building and its artefacts pristine. You’ll get to chat to the experts, and the tour is free with your Palace, Park and Gardens ticket or Annual Pass.

    But this is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many more places to visit in Oxfordshire if you’ve got the time, from the gorgeous village of Chipping Norton to the Ashmoleon museum and Savernake forest.

    To make things easier, artist Olympia Olympitis has created a downloadable map that can be used to plan the perfect break away. Enjoy!

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