The Covered Market in Oxford is something of an institution and a tourist attraction, but luckily for me it's also a great place to do one's shopping for the week. It is comprised of several "blocks" of small shops, covered, as the name implies, by a roof, and extending between Oxford'd High St. and Cornmarket St. (two of the main shopping streets in town).

The Market is the perfect substitute for the supermarket chains, which are all evil and deprived, as we know. It has 3 butchers' shops, one completely organic but all with excellent selections of British meat and game, a superb fishmongers, a huge organic vegetable stall, a metal and engraver's shop, a combination locksmith and cobbler (one of the oldest businesses in the city), a wonderful delicatessen, several craft and leather goods shops, a chocolate boutique (!), a specialized tea shop, a florist, a newsagent, a second hand bookshop and several coffee shops, plus more establishements which for the moment I can't remember.

Almost without exception, the businesses in the Market are small and privately owned rather than corporate franchises, and all stock local, fresh, organic and fair trade products. The people working in them tend to be very friendly and helpful - I am fast falling in love with the old bloke in the organic butcher's, and the lady in the newsagent told me to go and buy my fags in Sainsbury's in bulk rather than from her, because it's cheaper!

It's also a great place to have lunch - there's a Cornish Pasty shop which also sells scrumpy, a juice bar and a tiny outlet of Ben's Cookies, plus several excellent sandwich shops. All in all, the Market is one of the reasons I wanted to move to Oxford in the first place - don't miss it if you're ever in town.

Apparently the Market has been there for a very long time, although I'm ashamed to say I have no idea exactly how long. Also apparently, the meat and veg traders supply the colleges with most of their food. (thanks, h)

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