For our first two-part series, Sophie and Janelle check out Oxford for some Christmas shopping.

With Halloween over, thoughts have immediately turned to Christmas, and with only eight weeks to go its time to start thinking about making preparations.

Due to last year’s festivities been cancelled last-minute, we are all hoping that we will be reunited this year and have an extra special Christmas with our extended family. If you’re anything like us, we love to combine Christmas shopping with some quality time away from husbands and kids, so we recently decided to take a break from our local shops and try somewhere a little bit different for the weekend.

Situated only an hour-and-a-half away from London, Oxford is a stunning historic town famous for its university and a treasure trove of great shops. Here you can find a unique blend of antique shops, indoor markets and the Westgate Mall with all of your high street must-haves. If you enjoy a designer label, then the famous Bicester outlet is only 20mins away with huge savings to be made across some big-name brands.

Transport links to Oxford are a plenty but if you are driving please note that parking is limited in the city centre, however there are Park & Ride locations available nearby. We decided to park in the Redbridge Park & Ride, where the price to park all day and to get a return journey on the bus into the town centre cost less than £7 for a family of two adults and up to three children.

It felt great to soak up Oxford’s distinctive architecture, whilst exploring the quaint cobbled streets. Every turn has something different to offer, and with the colder weather and darker afternoons, it feels like something magical is in the air, so it’s no surprise to learn that Oxford’s famous Christ Church College, the Bodleian Library and New College feature heavily in the early Harry Potter films and provide the iconic gothic backdrop for Hogwarts. There are several Harry Potter-themed shops where you can pick up something unique for the die-hard Potter fan in your family.

Without even realising it, you’ll be clocking up the steps and working up an appetite so make sure you take a break for something to eat. Oxford caters for all tastes and budgets, but we had heard wonderful things about the Ivy Brasserie so decided to stop by.

With the most welcoming autumnal floral display marking the Ivy entrance, the Oxford brand of the Brasserie chain appears to be an old church. With huge ceilings, elegant furnishings and the statement bar area, The Ivy is a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach. The staff were warm and cheerful, and we were very well taken care of by David, who made some wonderful suggestions on what to enjoy from the vast menu. If you haven’t been to an Ivy before, then an absolute must is the zucchini fritti. Shoestring fries of courgette in a light and moreish batter served with a lemon, chilli and mint dressing- they were the perfect accompaniment to our cocktails. For starters, we chose the duck and watermelon salad which is super light with an Asian twist and a classic prawn cocktail, which can be hard to beat when executed well. For mains, we stuck with the fish and tried the seasonal special of a whole turbot and on the recommendation from David also had the creamed spinach which was so good! We also tried the lobster linguine which is served with chilli oil and chilli flakes to add to your taste. We were impressed with the generous amount of lobster that was included. After a very satisfying lunch we freshened up in the gorgeous Ladies (perfect for some Instagram posts!) and carried on exploring the rest of Oxford’s delights.

Next week you can read all about part two of our trip to Oxford and our stay at Mollie’s Motel.