Boswells Blog

22nd July 2016

Oxford Activities and Events This Summer

Oxford Activities and Events This Summer

Image Credit: Elena Woolley

Whether you’re new to Oxford, or just looking for exciting ways to keep yourself or any guests entertained over the Summer, thinking up new and interesting things to do can get a bit trickier once you’ve ticked off the more obvious sights such as the Radcliffe Camera and the Bridge of Sighs (impressive though they both are). We’ve put together a few suggestions to help you get your Summer started.

Museums

The Ashmolean Museum

Amongst its other impressive claims, Oxford is the birthplace of the public museum, the Ashmolean Museum being the first of its kind when it opened its doors in 1677. Now located on Beaumont Street, the Ashmolean is still going strong and is stuffed full of amazing antiquities and other interesting artefacts. Theres lots to see, and keep an eye out for their great Summer exhibitions too.

Read more here.

Museum of History of Science

The site of the original Ashmolean on Broad Street now houses the Museum of History of Science and, although it's relatively small, it's definitely worth the visit to look around this amazing building and its collections.

Read more here.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History  

Oxford is of course home to other noteworthy museums, and no Oxford Summer would be complete without a trip to the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum (which are adjoining).

We suggest taking a peek at the Museum of Natural History’s impressive collection of dinosaurs and other fossils (many of which were found right here in Oxfordshire). They're also hosting a range of family friendly events and activities over the coming weeks, as well as their regular tour of the building's fascinating neo-gothic architcture.

Photo credit https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pitt_Rivers_Museum_Interior,_Oxford,_UK_-_Diliff.jpg

Read more here.

Pitt Rivers Museum

Possibly Oxford's quirkiest museum, with its extensive anthopological collections there's something different to spot with every visit. Pop in this Summer to check out their exhibitions on amulets and on adventuring in Siberia! And be sure to seek out the famous shrunken heads while you're there!

Read more here.

Oxford Castle Unlocked

Oxford Castle UnlockedOxford Castle is a great location for a day out in the city centre. As well as their usual tours and sights, if you have a large group of guests (8-15 people), and you fancy unleashing your inner puzzler, you might want to give their Jailbreak Escape locked room puzzle a go. 

Read more here.

 

Outdoor Cinema

If you know the museums well and are looking for something a bit different, then why not go to one of the many fantastic film screenings taking place at some of Oxford's museums this Summer?

Picturehouse Pop-Up Cinema

The Ashmolean has teamed up with the Picturehouse Cinema for a three-day Pop-Up cinema event on the 5th-7th August.

Read more here.

Cult Screens

Meanwhile, The Pitt Rivers has joined forces with Cult Screens for a showing of Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet on August 24th.

Cult Screens also has an array of amazing films showing at Oxford Castle over the Summer, and if watching The Shawshank Redemption in a genuine prison exercise yard sounds like fun, then get busy booking…tickets are likely to sell fast!

Read more here.

 

Shakespeare OxfordWilliam Shakespeare

Fans of Shakespeare will be delighted to find that there’s no shortage of plays over the Summer, and since this year marks 400 years since Shakespeare’s death there’s some extra special treats too, including lots of great open air performances at various Oxford colleges, Oxford Castle and Oxford University Press.

Read more on all Shakespeare related events here.

Creation Theatre

Creation Theatre are up to their usual inventive tricks, and are combining their performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a treasure hunt/quest held in secret locations around the city centre…we have to confess, we’re suitably intrigued.

Read more here.

Weston Library

We suggest checking out the Shakespeare’s Dead exhibition at the Weston Library, which is running until September 18th. It includes first editions of 2 of his plays that are rarer than the famous first folio. Which ones? Visit and find out.

Read more here.

Blackwell's

Our friends down the road at Blackwell’s are also running a fantastic Shakespeare themed walking tour, which includes the location of the first ever performance of Hamlet!

Read more information on Blackwell's walking tours here.

 

Walking Tours

Bill Spectre's Ghost TrailNew College Passage Oxford

If its walking tours you’re after, you’ll be pleased to hear that you have one of Trip Advisor’s top 10 ghost tours in the world right on your door step. Hurrah! Bill Spectre’s Ghost Trail takes you through the city's ghostly history and down its spooky hidden lanes. A proven hit with visitors and Oxford residents alike, and is really not to be missed!

Read more here.

Treasure Trails

Treasure Trails can also be a fun way to spend some time together, following clues and seeing the sights in one go. The Treasure Trails company provides murder mystery, treasure hunt and spy themed trails of varying lengths. You pay for the trails, but once you have them they can be used multiple times and they also double as a map. Simply download the trail you like the sound of and you’re away…

Read more here.

 

Boating Experiences

Oxford River Cruises

A trip along the river can also be a fun new way to see the city, especially if you already know it well, and is really very relaxing. A spectacular 2.5 hour picnic boat tour leaves from Folly Bridge twice a day and passes through Port Meadow, Osney Lock and shows off great views of some of the Oxford Colleges. Be sure to book in advance.

Read more here.

Punting

Punting in Oxford

If you fancy trying your hand at boating, though, you could always have a go at a spot of punting. Perfect for a lazy summer’s day, we suggest you bring a picnic and someone with good balance to steer as you gradually wind your way along the river. It’s also a fantastic excuse to pay a visit to The Victoria Arms in Old Marston, which sits just on the banks of the Cherwell. Start your punting adventure at Cherwell Boathouse, Folly Bridge or Magdalen Bridge.

Information on how to punt can be found here.

Image Credit: Elena Woolley

Outdoors Oxford

University of Oxford Botanic Gardens

For those looking for a touch of nature in their sightseeing, the Botanic Gardens are at their most beautiful at this time of year, and offer a nice peaceful break from the bustling city centre. Picnic fans will be pleased to hear that the Botanic Gardens are hosting a couple of picnics over the Summer, complete with crafts and face painting!

Read more here.

Parks and Meadows

If its green spaces you particularly crave, Oxford is certainly well equipped with scenery to better than whet your appetite. And whether you’re entertaining guests or just looking for a pleasant spot on a sunny day, why not explore University Parks or take a walk along the river in Christchurch meadow?

Christchurch Meadow Oxford
 Image Credit: Elena Woolley

To truly lose the busy crowds of Oxford, Port Meadow is the perfect peaceful place to go for a wander, and there’s all sorts of treasures to discover including nature walks, atmospheric pub, The Perch (where Lewis Carroll gave his first reading of Alice in Wonderland), and cattle…lots and lots of cattle.

The Oxford Visitor Information Centre

Not just for tourists! The Oxford Visitor Information Centre is where many of the various walking tours start and finish and is a great way to get up to date information on Oxford's attactions. Located on Broad Street it's easy to find and just down or up the road from Boswells depending which direction you are coming from.

Read more here.

Afternoon TeaCome Visit Us!

If all of that sounds incredibly hectic and exhausting, why not come and take a break in our 1738 Tea Room and treat yourself to a well-earned cup of tea and a piece of cake!

Permalink
15th July 2016

Take Some Time for a Summer Picnic

Take Some Time for a Summer Picnic

Picnic Drink ImageSummer is here! And with it comes the perfect excuse for getting outdoors, swatting away those pesky wasps, and having a good-old picnic! As a time-honoured tradition, and a favourite warm-weather pastime for generations, what better way to enjoy the Summer sun? It’s a tradition that actually stems back centuries, to mediaeval hunting parties, which would lay on a spectacular al fresco feast during the day’s festivities. Even Robin Hood and his Merry Men are reported to have enjoyed a good picnic from time to time.

Picnic ImageBut the continued appeal of the picnic is really rather simple: it’s about time spent with great people and the freedom to take your party anywhere you like. The humble picnic offers an escape from the mundane demands of daily life, replacing them instead with relaxation and good company. And the beauty of it is that every single aspect of a picnic can be tailor made to suit you and your own individual tastes, whether it’s the food, the fun or the people you surround yourself with. But let’s start with the where

South Park ImageHere in Oxford we’re really rather spoilt for choice when it comes to magnificent locations in which to settle down to eat, with so many fantastic parks and meadows to choose from. What this means is that a day of lounging in the park becomes much more a matter of, for example, choosing between South Park’s view of the dreaming spires or heading off to dip a toe in the river out in the open expanse of Port Meadow, than a struggle to altogether think up ideas for where to go. But, picnics are portable, so they’re also perfect for a day out—perhaps a long drive in the country to nowhere in particular, or to nearby points of interest, such as Blenheim Palace or White Horse Hill.

Supersoaker ImageWherever you set down your blanket, though, be sure to plan some fun activities to take with you. These are a great way of having fun, but also to keep you active, and it’s a fantastic way of keeping the kids entertained if you’re out with the family. A Frisbee to throw around is an old favourite, and a football or a game of cricket are also popular choices. If its scorching hot it could be the perfect opportunity for a Super Soaker duel, or if it’s a little breezy, why not take a kite out for a whirl?

But the weather may present other issues altogether. Rain (yes, I said it). No one wants to acknowledge the possibility of the “r” word on the day of a picnic, but the British weather does like to keep a few dastardly tricks up its sleeve, regardless of what season it technically is. 

Leaf in Rain Image

So, perhaps your chosen day will be wet, or the sun may not make an appearance as hoped, and these are important factors to consider. A large and sturdy umbrella may be just the thing to save the day, or you may want to take full advantage of the portability of your feast and find a nice indoor spot to settle down—it is, after all, the company and the food that’s shared that makes or breaks a picnic, so why let a little precipitation ruin the day?

Boswells Picnic Basket ImageThe good news is that you can now a have your picnic at Boswells, regardless of what the weather is doing outside. Our 1738 Tea Room is offering a picnic basket chock full ‘o great picnic favourites as part of our new Summer menu, and it can be eaten in the Tea Room or taken away to be enjoyed in the sunshine too (find out more here). But if you prefer to plan your picnic from scratch you’ll be needing a few supplies, starting with must have items such as a blanket, a basket and a cooler to keep your food and drinks chilled and fresh, and then of course there’s the plates and cups…and some napkins never go amiss. 

Picnic Display Image

To make the planning a bit easier, our Cookshop is well stocked with lots of goodies to get you started, and a trusty picnic blanket can be found in our Linen department, freeing you up to concentrate on the most important parts of any picnic: what to eat, and who to invite?! (Read our blog on what picnic essentials to pack).

A picnic is really just a great, relaxing excuse to get everyone together, though. It’s an opportunity to catch up, to bond, and to talk over things, big and small. It has the cathartic benefits of sharing food, making memories and putting your cares to one side for an hour or two. So pack your basket, rally the guests and find a nice spot to really make a day of it!

Permalink
22nd June 2016

A Review of the New Summer LEGO® Sets

A Review of the New Summer LEGO® Sets

With Summer finally here we're gifted with not only a much needed heat wave but also with a new wave of Summer LEGO® sets. From City to Star Wars there’s a whole new batch of LEGO now available at Boswells! Here are some of the highlights from James our in store Lego expert :

Mixels

Mixels series 8 has arrived, with nine new creations for you to snatch up. With the toothbrush wielding, bow tie wearing Tuth and the grey banana-horned Surgeo (with a menacing neon green needle), the Medix trio are my favourites because of the interesting selection of parts.

       Mixels Medix Trio Image

Collectible Minifigures

LEGO Minifigures Disney ImageAlice ImageA special new release is in store this season as Disney’s most famous characters are brought to life with LEGO Minifigures. Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy are all brilliantly captured in Minifigure form.

Other notable standouts are Buzz from Toy Story, Stitch from Lilo and Stitch and Alice from Alice in Wonderland—she even comes with a drink me bottle and an eat me biscuit!

City

LEGO Fun in the Park ImageLEGO City has begun to delve into Volcano sets, but their most interesting recent release is actually the Fun in the Park City People Pack, which includes a mixture of Minifigures and some playground and park accessories. The highlights of this set have to be the adorable baby and the new wheelchair piece.


Nexo Knights

Minifigure Image

LEGO Nexo Image

Speaking of volcanoes, LEGO’s new Nexo Knights theme is now onto its second wave of sets, the largest and most prominent of which is Jestro’s Volcano LairThe playset is packed with details such as a flying throne, a trap hole and the great lava falls that are concealing a hidden chest.


Friends

LEGO Friends Image


LEGO Friends has taken an unexpected, but much welcomed, turn with its latest range, which are all based on theme park rides. The flagship setAmusement Park Roller Coasterlooks amazing with its rollercoaster, Ferris wheel and other theme park builds. All the rides have a space theme and the set includes many interesting transparent parts, making it not only great to play with but also visually stunning to display.

 

Superheroes

LEGO Batman ImageNananananananananananananananana BATMAN!
The Batcave is back, and in its biggest version yet. This huge build, and its nine Minifigures, are all based on the 60’s Batman TV show, featuring some great new figure varients such as Batman (with his eyebrows drawn on his cowl) and the Joker (whose moustache is visible through his white paint). The set includes a plethora of bat vehicles, such as the iconic Batmobile, a fleshed out Batcave and a section of Wayne manor—complete with hidden poles for batman and Robin to slide down!


Juniors

Lego Juniors Lex Luthor ImageFrom the huge to the slightly smaller sets, LEGO Juniors has been reinvigorated with a new bunch of sets for those toddlers who have outgrown Duplo® but aren’t quite ready for a full set with complex instructions and builds. Batman and Superman vs Lex Luthor is a great set with all the main characters, interesting vehicles and a little Batcave that’s complete with batarangs, batphone and a bat. Click here for the full review of this set.



LEGO Vader's TIE Image

Star Wars

LEGO Star Wars has a new line up of vehicles to construct, including the Turbo Tank from the films and the Star Scavenger and Eclipse Fighter based on the new The Freemaker Adventures TV series. The best value for money, though, has to be Vader’s TIE Advanced vs. A-Wing Starfighter set. Featuring two iconic vehicles from the films and the best villain of the franchise, this set is sure to be a hit. 


The sets above are all fantastic but they only represent a small portion of what has recently come out, not to mention the many other sets we have on our shelves. Remember to check out other themes with new offerings such as Creator, Technic, Disney Princess, Minecraft, Ninjago, Elves and Duplo®!

Permalink
9th June 2016

Father's Day and the History of Celebrating Dads

Father's Day and the History of Celebrating Dads

Father's Day is once again just around the corner, and after the warm reception to our history of Mother's Day we've been doing a little digging to find out where the great tradition of venerating fathers originally came from. 

Super Dad Father's Day Card ImageApparently the oldest known Father's Day card dates back 4000 years to ancient Babylon. It was made from clay and given to a father by his young son Elmesu, who wished him good health and a long life. Some also believe that there is a connection between Father’s Day and the solstice (which it sometimes co-insides with).

But Father’s Day as we know it is a relatively new event, and there is still some disagreement as to precisely when it began. There are, however, two notable stories about the creation of modern Father’s Day that are generally credited with kicking things off.

America and 20th Century Father's Day

Father Son ImageThe first of these is the story of American woman, Grace Golden Clayton, who in 1908 was grieving the loss of her own father when there was a mine explosion in a nearby town in West Virginia. The accident killed 360 men, 200 of which were fathers, and so, with the help of her local pastor, Clayton began to campaign for a day for honouring fathers.

The event was not well promoted, however, and Clayton’s choice of July 5th (her father’s birthday) as the date for the first Father’s Day celebration meant that the event was overshadowed by Independence Day in the USA, which was the day before

Sonora Smart Dodd Image

As a result the first Father's Day was, sadly, not a sucess. 

A year later another American woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, had the idea of honouring fathers when listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in Spokane, Washington. Her own father had dotingly raised her and her five siblings alone after her mother died in childbirth, and Sonora felt that there was great need for a day in recognition of fathers, as well as the existing one for mothers.

With much greater success than Grace Clayton before her, Sonora managed to build support for a day for fathers, the first one being held on the third Sunday in June 1910. 

Rose Image

At the first Father’s Day celebration people wore either a red rose in honour of a living father, or a white one in remembrance of one that had passed away, and Smart Dodd delivered presents to sick, housebound fathers in Spokane.

Although the day was initially met with scorn and derision by the media, who criticised it as merely an excuse for another holiday, Father’s Day was unofficially observed across America in its early years. 

Dad Image

It suceeded in gaining presidential support from Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and later Calvin Coolidge in 1924, but failed to garner support in Congress. Father’s Day was eventually given official recognition by Lyndon Johnson in 1966 and finally declared an American public holiday by Richard Nixon in 1972.


Father's Day Around the World

Father Son Image Since Clayton and Smart Dodd’s efforts to establish an American Father’s Day, traditions and celebrations for honouring fathers have cropped up all over the world. Many of these, including in the UK, are also celebrated on the third Sunday of June, but there are a number of notable and interesting exceptions and traditions.

In Germany, for example, Father’s Day (Vatertag) falls on Ascension Day every year (39 days after Easter) and co-insides with Man’s Day. This is often celebrated by men gathering together for a hike and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Official reports show that traffic accidents in Germany triple on Father’s Day! Which may influence your travel decisions.

Canna Flower Image

In Thailand, Father’s Day is celebrated on the 5th of December, which is the birthday of the current, reigning monarch, King Bhumipol Adulyadej. Traditionally children give their fathers' the yellow canna flower (dok Buddha ruksa), and candles are lit all over the country in honour of the King. Meanwhile, in several Catholic countries (Spain and Italy for example) Father’s Day is celebrated on March 19th to coincide with St Joseph’s Day, while in Mexico an annual Father’s Day 21k run is held on the third Sunday in June.

Father’s Day in the UK falls on the 19th June this year, which, funnily enough, was also the date on the third Sunday in June for the original 1910 celebration too!

Something Special for Dad

Ben Sherman Watch Image

So the question remains, how are you going to spoil your dad this Father’s Day? If you’re stumped for ideas, don't worry, we’ve put together a selection of great gift ideas to get you started.

Gentlemen's Hardware BBQ ImageIf your dad is a fan of perennial gift classics such as cufflinks and watches then you may want to take a look at our range of Duncan Walton cufflinks, as well as the Ben Sherman and Police watches.

We also have some ideal items for the dapper-dad in our Gentlemen’s Hardware range, which includes everything from wallets to flasks, and even a BBQ that folds into a mini suitcase which is proving popular! A little humour always makes for a great gift too, and there's certainly no shortage of fun things to choose from with our selection of Ministry of Chaps products.

Emporium If you want a good mixture of class and humour, we suggest you check out the great selection of fun-but-suave gifts by Emporium

Gliders Image

And for all those dads who still haven’t quite grown up (yes, you know who you are) we have some great novelty items, and toys that are dad-suitable too.

Finally, of course, don’t forget to get him the perfect card to say thank you for just being really rather great. So here’s to all the amazing fathers out there, what a fab bunch you all are!

Permalink
26th May 2016

A Boswells Visit to Dartington Crystal

A Boswells Visit to Dartington Crystal

Choosing a gift for a very special birthday or occasion can be difficult. What do you get for someone who has everything? Boswells has a large selection of great quality gifts, so that’s where I started my search. 

Dartington Vase Image

Obviously there would be wine, so glasses and decanters might be nice, and of course bouquets of flowers would need vases. It soon became clear, crystal clear in fact, that I should be looking at Dartington Crystal!

Torrington Image

One of my favourite days out was to the Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Factory Experience in North-West Devon, where I enjoyed learning about the history of the only remaining crystal brand still producing in the United Kingdom. During my trip I was told about how the vision, nay “Euro-vision,” of Dorothy and Leonard Elmhurst resulted in a team of talented Swedish glass makers coming to rural Devon in 1967. At that time unemployment in the area was high and rural craft based skills were in decline, so the Dartington Hall Trust opened a new glass making factory in Torrington.

(Image Credit)

Dartington Decanter ImageIn the new factory, those 16 Swedish craftsmen passed on their love of glass blowing and trained the locals to create simple, clear glass for the UK market. Over the years Dartington Crystal has grown to also include Royal Brierley Crystal, Caithness Glass and John Beswick giftware.

Nearly 50 years on and Dartington continues to use high quality natural materials to create beautiful, handmade lead crystal and glassware. The Sharon collection, designed by the late Frank Thrower in 1971, comprises such high quality crystalware that it was included in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Power of Making, 100 greatest designs exhibition.

Visiting Dartington

Dartington Glass ImageOn occasion the staff at Boswells are fortunate enough to get to visit our suppliers and see the amazing work that goes into producing some of the things that we sell. Dartington has been a real highlight for any lucky members of staff who’ve had the chance to visit.

Dartington Factory Image

After being one of the visitors to Torrington, Jane in our Cookshop observed that Dartington is a bit like Boswells, as you can tell that the staff are not only happy in their work, but they also love to tell people about it. She commented that “It feels like a small family run business; everyone is important, with important roles.” Seeing the work that the people at Dartington are doing, it soon becomes clear why this friendly atmosphere is important, since working with glass is very tricky, and it takes twelve years to become a Master Blower!

Kerry's Glass ImageOn the tour I watched these skilled men and women working together as a team, transforming molten crystal into elegant shapes. They obviously love their jobs and enjoy sharing their skills. I didn’t have a go at blowing glass, but others who did were able to take home a unique souvenir.

Dartington Glass Blower Image

Kerry, from our China & Glass Department, was another lucky Dartington visitor and did have a go at glass blowing; we're very impressed by the result! 

The above photo is the glass kerry made.

After her visit, and seeing just what goes in to making the crystalware, she commented that she “Realised why they were so expensive—when you see the work and craftsmanship that goes into each piece.”

Handmade crystal is understandably expensive, as it takes years of practice to be able to produce almost identical pieces to such high standards. Meanwhile, Nick Davey, the Master Engraver, hand engraves the crystal and creates pictures so lifelike you can almost see them move. Any pieces that don’t make the grade are recycled as cullet (waste that can be re-melted) or can be sold as seconds in the factory outlet. Given the skill that goes into making each piece It’s no wonder that masterpieces can be commissioned for thousands.

Dartington Essentials Champagne FluteFortunately the Dartington ranges you’ll find in our China & Glass and Gifts Departments won’t set you back anywhere near that much. All of our Dartington Crystal is sure to catch the eye, but not to completely empty your pockets, and we currently have some great savings on the Dartington Wine & Bar Essentials range that are definitely worth a look.


Making the Most of Your Crystal

There is a lovely, satisfying feeling to gently cleaning and polishing heavy crystal glasses and holding them up to the light to admire the sparkle. But sometimes life gets suddenly busy, and on those days wouldn’t it be great to just stick them in the dishwasher? Well thanks to Dartington's new Shine On range, you can!

Shine On Red Wine ImageThese glasses are specifically designed with heat treated rims to resist chipping and with shorter stems and curved profiles to minimise contact between other items in the dishwasher. The material is designed to be strong and durable and with a long lasting shine. The Shine On range also comes with a lifetime guarantee so you can relax knowing that they will always come up with a brilliant sparkle.

Dartington Spangle Glasses

We stock many of Dartington’s crystal and glassware ranges, both in store and online, so you should be able to find something special to suit your price range and style, from everyday glasses to the popular Glitz range (with real Swarovski elements). Now the only thing left to do is to choose one…


All glass blowing images are courtesy and copyright of Dartington Crystalour sincere thanks to them for allowing us to include them in this blog. For more information on Dartington, and their amazing day trip activities, click herehttp://www.dartington.co.uk/visit-us.

Permalink
4th May 2016

Charity News

Charity News

Boswells Charity Of The Year 2016-17

After a highly contested vote our staff have chosen Sobell House as our Charity for 2016-17. So look out for ways that Boswells' staff and customers can raise money for this great local charity. 

We will be reporting back on a visit to Sobell House but in the meantime here's a quick reminder of what Sobell House is all about. You can read more on their website.

"Founded in 1976, Sobell House was one of the earliest NHS hospices to be established, following in the footsteps of Dame Cicely Saunders, considered by many to be the founder of the modern hospice movement in UK. Since then, we have been providing specialist palliative care to patients and their families at home, in the Oxford hospitals, and in our purpose-built hospice on the Churchill Hospital site." 

Jonathan Pearson, our Managing Director said:  “I am so pleased that our store team has chosen Sobell House Hospice as our Corporate charity for the coming 12 months. I’m sure that together with our customers we can work our hardest to raise funds through in store activities and exciting colleague events to support this truly local charity at the heart of the Oxford community”.   


In other Charity News - Radio Cherwell Toys Donation

Although we normally restrict our donations to our chosen annual charity we just couldn't resist helping Radio Cherwell Oxford's awarding winning hospital radio station with their need for toys as prizes in their "Wicked Weekday Show". After a donation for one week of prizes in March we contacted our lovely suppliers and they came through with enough toys for a year's prizes. Well done them.


Radio Cherwell Toys Presentation May 3rd 2016Here are Naomi Simons the show's presenter and Nick Saunders the producer alongside Rosie and Anne from our Toys department handing over the prizes although not all of them could fit in shot!

Many thanks to the following suppliers, in no particular order; Hasbro, Interplay, Ty, The Green Board Game Company, James Galt, Orchard Toys, VTech, DKL, Gibsons, Ravensburger, Character Options, John Adams, Peterkin, Big Jigs Toys and Keel Toys.

Permalink
20th April 2016

Finding the Right Luggage for You

Finding the Right Luggage for You

When Francis Boswell began his small business in 1738 he probably didn’t envision that 278 years later not only would the store still be here, but that it would have grown to include so many departments. But the store began its long and fruitful life by selling travel goods to the people of Oxford. 

Naturally the travel industry has rather changed over the centuries, and if you’ve had a look at what’s on offer in the luggage world recently you may have noticed that there's enough variety out there to make your head spin. Worry not, Charlie from our Luggage Department has offered up his superb advice to help demystify finding the right luggage for your needs. Here's what he had to say...

Keep scrolling to read the whole blog, or to read a specific section, simply click the links below:

Size                                      Style                             Other Things to Consider

Weight                                  Warranties

Choosing the Right Size Case

Members Suitcases ImageCharlie: If you're trying to avoid having to check in luggage altogether, or simply want to make the most out of your carry on, allowance size can be everything. Whilst the vast majority of airlines adhere to very similar restrictions on hold luggage, cabin luggage allowances can (and do) vary wildly. What may be permissible for one airline may very well be considered to be oversized for another. 

Sky cabin Case


The maximum size allowed on an airline is restricted to 56cm tall by 45cm wide by 25cm deep by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and, at the time of posting, this size is used by British Airways and EasyJet. However as mentioned above many airlines will come in well below these restrictions, with some airlines allowing only cases shorter in height, narrower in width, shallower in depth or any combination thereof. Click here for a brief summary of some of the major airlines' carry on restrictions. 

S'Cure Interior Image


An important thing to note is that when an airline is measuring the size of any bag you're taking with them, it's the extreme of each dimension that is measured. This means that the bulge of the front pocket to the rear of the case, and the very top down to the base of the wheel is what will be taken into account. This can have a noted impact with 4 wheel cases, with the wheels located externally under the base of the case, raising the height up by as much as 4 or 5 cm.


Plane Image

Beyond the issue of size, weight limits are set by different airlines once again to varying levels of restriction. Whilst some airlines don’t mind what you take as carry on, as long as you can manage it yourself, others restrict you to weights little more than that of an average handbag.

We can’t stress enough the importance of checking the restrictions on your tickets prior to travelling. The knowledge that you are travelling safely within whatever limits are placed on you will make the journey not only easier and calmer, but also potentially a considerable amount cheaper.


Weight & Construction

Charlie: With the temptation to over pack for an upcoming trip and the looming prospect of potential overweight fees, making sure your luggage comes in under the weight limit has never been so important.

Travel Scales

Whilst the weight of a suitcase may only be a small portion of the overall value when the case is full, the benefits of selecting a lighter model to start with can be the difference between having to pay additional baggage costs and slipping in under the wire. Many ranges can be considered to be “lightweight,” and are labelled as such, but it’s important to compare what different ranges are offering in order to find one that suits your needs. A lighter case may very well have slightly smaller dimensions, for example, or have fewer internal pockets and dividers, which may be something you find useful when travelling. 


Samsonite ImageIt may also come as a surprise, but some of the very lightest cases are now hard sided options, which traditionally have been the heavier, more durable choice compared to their fabric counterparts. The decision between opting for a hard sided or soft sided case now sits as a choice between the specific features available within those ranges, rather than a material principle. For the vast majority of hard sided options an expander and external pockets aren't available as features, and if these are something that you live and die by using then the choice may well already be made for you. If you can live without these features then the choice opens up much more. The material a case is made from also has an image of defining its durability, but in reality each type has its own vulnerabilities and in the end it comes down, far more, to the quality and level of investment in a piece, which will better predict its life expectancy.


Selecting a Style

Marvel Suitcase Image

Charlie: If we can pass one piece of advice onto our customers when it comes to the style of luggage to look at purchasing its “try to say no to black.” Now we will be the first to admit that as a colour black has always been considered a classic and the only consistently stylish colour, season after season, but this has left the vast majority of cases on any trip to be almost identical. If you can avoid having a plain black suitcase and go for something a little more standout it will repay you many times over in saved minutes waiting at the luggage carousel after a long flight.

Uplite Case Image


Soft sided fabric suitcases may not have the most adventurous colour pallet on the whole but you can still find some light options in teals, pinks, reds and greens, for example. When it comes to hard side cases you’ll find even more options, ranging from simple bold bright colours to graphic designs and repeated patterns, the sky is the limit.


Having said our piece against black suitcases, we must counter it by saying that all is not lost if you do already have a plain, dark case that you travel with. There are of course ways around the monotony of monochrome with brightly coloured luggage labels, straps and padlocks to add a little individuality, and to make recognition and collection that little bit easier.


Advice on Warranties

Beach ImageCharlie: Many luggage manufacturers have a well-deserved reputation for standing behind their products’ quality and durability through their manufacturer’s guarantees. These warranties are, by and large, limited to defects in either the materials used or the standard of workmanship. Whilst there are a couple of exceptions to this, the vast majority of brands will exclude damage caused by mishandling or natural wear and tear from their responsibility. This is not to say that these guarantees are token gestures, rather that they divide the responsibility for care between the maker and carrier fairly.


For peace of mind we would always advise our customers to inspect their luggage on receipt from a carrier, be it an airline, coach company or cruise liner, and note any signs of damage. If you are unfortunate enough to find signs of mishandling then be sure to document it and raise a query with a member of their staff at the point of collection. This will make the claim much easier to process and much more likely to go through with minimal difficulty.

Airport Image


For processing guarantee claims manufacturers may operate on either a repair or replacement service, with companies such as Samsonite carrying spare parts for cases for many years after they last sold them. This can be a valuable service where only a minor fault renders a case unusable but could be easily fixed, such as a sticking trolley handle or a broken wheel.

(Image Credit)

Other Things to Consider

Manoeuverability

Spinner WheelAs well as size and weight, it can be helpful to consider what other factors are important to you when choosing a case. Manoeuvreability can have a big impact on how smoothly your journey goes, and if you’ve ever had to make a quick dash between gates or terminals with luggage when changing flights you’ll agree some good wheels and a sturdy handle can make all the difference.

If you’re likely to be doing most of your travelling around airport terminals, you may find a 4 wheel spinner case glides alongside you most easily, but remember these will also add to the height of the case, and the wheels are more exposed to damage than on a 2-wheeler. A 2-wheeled standing case is well suited to rough terrain, such as pavements and curbs, and so may be just the thing for train journeys and UK excursions. Remember though that this type of recessed wheel, along with telescopic handles, will use some of the case’s internal space up too. Upright Wheel Image

It’s important, also, that you’re comfortable with the size of the case that you choose, and that the length of the handle suits your needs. Something that is either too big or too small for you to easily manoeuvre is probably not your ideal suitcase! If you're likely to be travelling home with more than you left with, having been on a serious souvenir binge, remember that you will need a case that can accommodate those extra items, and don’t forget to take this additional weight into consideration when you initially pack.


Security

If you’re travelling to the USA then its strongly advised that you invest in a TSA lock, which allows customs officials to open your case if necessary without having to damage your lock. These can be used if you're travelling to other destinations too, although customs may still need to cut the lock to check your case. An increasing number of cases are now available with the TSA lock built in, which is especially useful if you are a frequent visitor to the USA, or other TSA supported destinations.

Come Visit us In Store

Luggage Department Image

Getting the right luggage to suit your needs is an important part of any trip, and so picking a suitcase that's going to be a loyal and convenient travelling companion is key. To make the best possible choice of case we highly recommend popping in to store to speak to one of our fantastic in-house luggage experts, and to get a thorough look at what's on offer. Our Luggage Department can be found on the ground floor, by the Broad Street entrance of the store, and we have a growing range of luggage available on our website also. And finally, wherever you're going, whether its within the UK or abroad, for business or for pleasure, be sure to have a memorable, enjoyable and safe trip! Bon Voyage!

Back to Top of Page

Permalink
3rd April 2016

Discover Spring at Boswells

Discover Spring at Boswells

Easter is behind us, the clocks have had their annual shuffle forward, and wherever you look there are plants beginning to blossom and bloom. Spring is finally in the air! 

Getting Ready for Spring

Sunglasses ImageWith any luck the change in the season will bring with it a welcome change in the weather. But with the nice weather comes the need for a few warm weather essentials.

Jaso Sunscreen Image

That’s right, it’s time to stock up on sunscreen, dig out some cooler clothing and don your sunglasses in anticipation (and hope) of a little sunshine. If last year’s pair is looking a little worse for wear, or if you simply fancy a change, we have lots of great sunglasses to choose from, both in store and online. And when things finally start to heat up, we highly recommend the Jasön and Vichy sun protection ranges to keep you and your family safe and unburnt when you’re out enjoying yourselves.

To keep cool at home you may want to switch to a less bulky duvet. A Fogarty wool duvet actually adapts to your body temperature, making it ideal in any weather. Alternatively you could try a Fogarty Supatherm duvet, which includes a 4.5 tog and a 9.0 tog duvet, which can be used individually or put together for extra warmth in the Winter months.

We suggest some 100% cotton bedding to go with the duvet, as its nice and breathable, and cooler too as the nights get that bit warmer. We have some gorgeous Deygongs cotton duvet sets at the moment, with fantastic Spring designs. And if you really feel like spoiling yourself, we have a range of luxuriously soft Belledorm Egyptian cotton sheets, available with either a 200 or a 400 thread count! Ooh comfy!

Bobble Image

The very hottest weather is most likely a way off yet, but we recommend getting yourself set up with a fan before-hand, as they tend to fly off the shelves during a heatwave, and getting hold of a trusty ice cube tray to keep your drinks icy cool when the time comes isn't a bad idea either. We also recommend investing in a water bottle to keep yourself hydrated. The Bobble water bottle is especially ingenious, as it filters your water for you as you drink!

Spring Adventuring

Samsonite ImageIf you’re off on your travels in the next few months, whether it’s within the UK or further afield, you’ll need to be stocked up on travel essentials before you go. As well as a superb luggage department chock-full of suitcases and backpacks, we have lots of handy travel accessories to get you started, ranging from travel pillows and suitcase locks to travel irons and travel games. We also stock travel adaptors, so there’s no need to get to your destination only to realise that you can’t charge your phone and other important gadgets—just be sure to check that the voltage is compatible first! And, once again, we can’t recommend a generous supply of sunscreen highly enough, especially if you're going somewhere hot!

Enjoying the Great Outdoors

Gardening Image

With the nice weather comes every excuse to get outdoors and enjoy it. If you’re feeling particularly green fingered you might want to get stuck into some gardening, and there couldn’t be a better time to start getting your garden or allotment ready for the Summer ahead.

We have some fabulously designed V&A and Orla Kiely gardening tools and accessories, which make an excellent treat for the avid gardener. If you spend a lot of the time in the garden you may also want to take a look at the Heathcote and Ivory and the Bronnley RHS gardener’s hand care ranges, to keep your hands happy after a long planting session. If you don’t have a garden to poke around in though, you needn’t feel left out, we have some windowsill friendly gardening sets too!

Getting Out and About

Southpark Image

Oxford certainly has no shortage of gorgeous green spaces to venture out to on a sunny day, with a selection of parks and meadows to choose between whenever the sun does make an appearance. The hard decision really comes when you have to choose just how to make the most of this beautiful, leafy city. picnic is always good fun, and works well whether you’re headed to South Park or Port Meadow, but be sure to stock up on plastic and paper plates, cups and cutlery before-hand, as well as the all-important blanket!

(Image Credit)

Hunter Kite

You may also want to treat yourself to a Mobicool Thermoelectric cooler to keep your food nice and chilled. If you fancy making a trip of it, we have lots of fun outdoor toys and games to keep you entertained, including kites and Frisbees, as well as rackets, bats and balls for those that are into their sports! Click here for more information on picnic essentials to bring along! 

A warm day could also be a great opportunity to give punting a go, or to try out some of the city’s many scenic walking and cycling routes. However, if you have hayfever, don’t let it keep you from enjoying this stunning season while it lasts. Come and have a chat with our friendly pharmacist for suggestions to keep your allergies at bay. You may also want to stock up on tissues while you’re here!Punting Image

And, we also have you covered for when those inevitable Spring showers strike, with a huge variety of trusty Fulton umbrellas of all sizes and strengths to choose from, including our exclusive Boswells Oxford Skyline folding umbrella! 

So here’s to all of the Spring fun that lies ahead, and fingers crossed for a gloriously sunny season for us all!

(Image Credit)

Permalink
22nd March 2016

Chocolate, Eggs and Easter Treats Explained

Chocolate, Eggs and Easter Treats Explained

If the mere thought of Easter gets your mouth watering in anticipation of all of that chocolate, then this is probably the blog for you. We’ve done a little investigating into how chocolate eggs came about as an Easter mainstay, as well as why chocolate is so widely loved—it turns out there may be more to it than it just being scrummy…

So, Why Easter Eggs?

The egg holds significance at Easter in more than one sense. It was regarded as a symbol of new life and fertility in many ancient cultures, including the pagan customs that are thought to have been integrated into Christian traditions. And so of course Easter, with resurrection and rebirth at its core, has rather logically adopted the egg—this symbol of new lifeinto its festivities.

Egg Hunting

Another reason why the egg has long been associated with Easter is that in mediaeval Europe, eggs were not to be eaten during lent, and so were viewed as a treat. Because of this, eggs would form an important part of the Easter meal, and would also be given to children and servants as an Easter gift. 

In many European cultures the tradition of decorating eggs with paint or dye was, and still is, quite common. Other mediaeval Easter traditions that have survived the test of time include egg rolling, in which decorated eggs are raced down a slope, as well as the all-important egg hunt. 

But Why Chocolate?

Centuries passed, and the egg at Easter never quite fell out of favour. In the 17th century artificial eggs would be given as gifts in place of real ones; the most famous being those made, some time later, for the Russian Czar and Czarina by Peter Carl Fabergé. However, the chocolate Easter egg didn’t make an appearance until the 19th century, as eating chocolate (rather than just drinking chocolate) was only invented in 1830. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for it to occur to someone to combine the traditional egg with the delicious, newly available, eating chocolate.

Easter Eggs ImageThe first chocolate Easter eggs were made in France and Germany, and because the moulding for hollow eggs hadn’t been developed at that point they were solid. In 1875 John Cadbury began production of hollow dark chocolate eggs, which, unsurprisingly, caught the attention of a sweet-toothed public, and have been an Easter favourite ever since—especially since the introduction of milk chocolate, which dominates much of the Easter egg market today.

(Image credit)

Why We Love Chocolate

The British love affair with chocolate seems to go back as far as 1657, when it made its debut in London, and today we are ranked the third biggest consumer of chocolate in the world. That’s right, current statistics show that the average Briton consumes 11kg of chocolate each year! One survey even revealed that many Brits consider the humble chocolate bar preferable to a holiday abroad. But why do we love chocolate so much?

Theories and studies attempting to answer this question seem to be fairly conflicted. There is still a lot that we don’t know about chocolate’s impact on our brains and bodies, and whether its effects are ultimately good or bad for us is still under debate. Some think that chocolate’s hold over us is connected to a chemical that it contains called phenylethylamine, which is the same chemical that the body naturally releases when you fall in love. Phenylethylamine stimulates the brain to release dopamine, promoting blissful emotions. In fact just thinking about chocolate can release dopamine. Some pictures of chocolate, at this point, surely couldn't hurt then...

In moderation chocolate is said to make you feel good, although studies show that too much chocolate-induced dopamine may actually have the opposite effect on your mood. Dark chocolate, in particular, also releases small amounts of serotonin, which is said to have a calming, anti-depressant-like effect. And chocolate also releases endorphins, which have a somewhat stress-relieving, euphoric effect on the brain. This may explain why chocolate eggs became such a popular Easter tradition.

Other studies show, however, that the most satisfying part of the chocolate experience is all about the senses. The smell and the melt-in-your-mouth texture of chocolate provides a pleasurable experience in and of itself. And, well, it’s hard to argue that the taste of chocolate plays no part in our coming back to it time and time again—no one eats 11kg of something a year if it isn’t honestly delicious!

Enjoying Chocolate This Easter

Praline Egg Image

Chocolate Counter Image

Whatever the appeal though, chocolate seems to hold a firm place in our hearts, and surely never more so than at Easter. So, if you’re feeling the need for some serious chocolate appreciation this Easter we have some things both in store and online that are sure to make you smile. 


As you might imagine, we have a great selection of mini foiled eggs and chocolate bunnies 
to get your teeth into at the moment. We particularly recommend the Gut Springenheide egg—a real eggshell filled with yummy praline chocolate. They’re beautifully decorated too so you could even have a go at egg rolling before enjoying the treat inside the shell. But, of course, the chocolate fun needn’t be confined to Easter eggs, we have some fantastic luxury chocolate boxes from Guylian to choose from too.

Egg Hunt ImageOr, if you really feel like spoiling yourself (or someone else who you think deserves a treat) we highly recommend a visit to the chocolate counter in our Gifts department, where you can choose from a selection of mouth-watering confectionaryand its there all year round too! Yum!

If you’re popping in to store with the kids between now and April 3rd you may be pleased to hear that our Easter Egg Hunt hunt is back. Children aged 12 and under can enter to win the grand prize, which is a massive 45cm tall chocolate Easter egg! Simply pick up an entry form and let the clues lead you to the eggs to enter into the prize draw. Whether you’re hunting for eggs or just eating them though, we hope you all have a fantastic, chocolatey, Easter!
Permalink
27th February 2016

A Brief History of Celebrating Mums

A Brief History of Celebrating Mums

Mother’s Day is once again almost upon us, and this year quite early. Not to worry though, the daffodils are out and blooming, and there’s still plenty of time to make plans! To get in to the spirit of things we’ve put together a brief history of the day, and a few ideas to help you make this year’s Mother’s Day special.

The Origins of Mothering Sunday

Picking Flowers ImageMothering Sunday can be traced back to very old roots indeed, tied primarily to Christianity. Its origins stem from the pre-Reformation celebration of Laetare Sunday, which is the fourth Sunday of Lent. On this day, in 16th century England, churchgoers would return to their home towns and villages and attend their “mother church”—the church in which they had been Christened. Many were as young as 10! Having taken up domestic and other apprenticeships away from their home towns, opportunities to return home and to be with family were scarce, but employers would give young workers the day off to go home for Laetare. Historians note that children returning home would often pick flowers on their journey, which they'd give to their mothers. Some would also take home a simnel cake (a traditional fruit cake with marzipan, and a real treat mid-lent), which was often given to them by their employers for their families 

Mother and Child Image

So these scarce trips, in which people would visit their “mother church” became occasions to visit family, to spend precious time with their actual mothers.

This was often the last chance to do so until the following Christmas. Given this old tradition, it isn’t exactly hard to understand where the association between the fourth Sunday in Lent and celebrating our mothers came from.

Mothering Sunday in the 20th Century

Over the centuries the celebration of Mothering Sunday dwindled, and eventually became largely unobserved until, in 1921, a woman named Constance Smith published a booklet entitled The Revival of Mothering Sunday. Smith documented the old traditions surrounding the fourth Sunday in Lent, cementing the day as “the True and Ancient Day in Praise of Mothers,” as she called it. 

Gift Image

Smith was in part inspired by the efforts of an American woman, Anna Jarvis, who had (successfully) campaigned for a day to honour mothers in the U.S. Constance Smith’s campaign to revive Mothering Sunday were not in vein, and the idea caught on quickly—especially in the immediate wake of the First World War, in which so many mothers were suddenly bereft of their children. 

The American celebration is observed on the second Sunday of May (when Jarvis lost her own mother) and is called Mother’s Day, while the British, Lent based, event is technically Mothering Sunday (but often abbreviated to Mother’s Day). 

Celebrating This Mother's Day

Simnel Cake Image

 

Today we continue to honour our mums with gifts and cards on Mothering Sunday, but also with flowers, unknowingly echoing our 16th century ancestors. Aside from its more religious origins, the fourth Sunday of Lent has become an opportunity to show appreciation for our mothers. And what an amazing bunch they truly are!

 

(Image Credit)

If you’re looking for ways to make your mum feel special this Mothering Sunday, why not try your hand at baking her a traditional simnel cake? They’re also traditional for Easter, so if you’re a simnal fan you’ll have the perfect excuse to make another one a few weeks later too! Our Cookshop has plenty of fantastic baking equipment to help you get started. Or, if you’re not a natural chef, and attempting to bake will likely make your mother question who the cake wielding imposter before her is, you could treat her to lunch or Afternoon Tea in our 1738 tearoom instead.

My English Summer Image

Be sure to take a peek at our range of Mother’s Day cards in store if you're still looking for something special.

There’s quite a variety, so whether you’re looking for something warm and fuzzy in sentiment, or something with a more humorous edge, we have plenty to choose from. 

Best Mum Card

And, if you’re looking for the perfect gift, we have a selection of great ideas from jewellery and beauty gifts to pamper her with, to gifts for the homeOr why not have a browse for something you know your mum will love? Whatever you have in mind for this Mothering Sunday though, be sure to make some time for the woman herself (whether it’s in person or over the phone), and show her just how fantastically appreciated she is! Thanks Mum!

Permalink
« Previous | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | Next »