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Travel

Bicester Village: Retail therapy without the painful aftermath
Photos courtesy of ValueRetail

Bicester Village

Visiting Britain, its hard not to indulge in some retail therapy. If there are no sales on, you can still find big-name bargains, but you will have to avoid Knightsbridge and Oxford Street and head to Marylebone Station, where you catch a Chiltern Railways train (every 20 minutes) to Bicester North Station in Oxfordshire. From there a shuttle service will ferry you to Bicester Village, the original Chic Outlet Shopping village in Europe, run by Value Retail.

Here youll find over 100 boutiques, including Salvatore Ferragamo, Mulberry, Nicole Farhi, Gieves & Hawkes, Pringle of Scotland, Aquascutum, Penhaligons and Waterford Wedgwood. They sell a dazzling range of last seasons collections, with prices reduced up to 60% year round. So enjoy the therapy without the fear of exorbitant credit card bills arriving after you get home.

All the shops on the quaint streets of Bicester Village are run by the brand names themselves. The shopping experience, the gift-wrapping and total presentation, are as careful as in their most prestigious flagship stores. Even at discount prices, the outlets offer an unconditional exchange for goods returned with the original receipt. Cond Nast Traveller has called this the most fashionable street outside London.

FERRAGAMO

It is not just the prices that make this a fabulous shopping day out. Chic Outlet villages, of which there are now nine, all are within an hours drive from cities all over Europe. They span the continent and the British Isles from Kildare to Milan, and Madrid to Dusseldorf. The villages are scenic, airy and beautifully designed to blend in with the traditional architecture of the region. They are peppered with cafs and restaurants.

If you take the car instead of the train, then why not make a day of it after your shopping spree? Some of Englands grandest houses are on the Villages doorstep. Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill, has more grandeur than you can imagine. Waddesdon Manor, with its sensational gardens, is a French chteau transported to the English countryside, complete with a Svres collection on exhibit.

Want to stay the night? Clivedon, the Astor family historic residence, is now a hotel offering stately living. Homier digs, with good food and cozy rooms, are available at The Beetle and Wedge at Moulsford, overlooking the Thames. Gourmands can splurge with what they saved at Bicester Village by making a reservation for dinner at Raymond Blancs Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux QuatSaisons.

Blenheim Palace, stately grandeur on the doorstep

Raymond Blancs world famous restaurant serves exquisite meals

Oxford, the historic university town, is not far from Bicester Village, and Stratfordon- Avon, home to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company, is less than an hour further up the M40 towards Birmingham. In Oxford, the Old Bank is the flagship hotel for contemporary luxury, though if you feel some token penance is required for over-indulging yourself, then the chic Malmaison has moody rooms in a former prison.

For more information: www.chicoutletshopping.com







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