Tuesday, 16 December 2008

English breakfast, anyone? :)

We went to the UK - 21 May to 1 June. Yup, long overdue but the fun bits need time to be compiled :)

It was a really, really good holiday. Our journey began in Oxford and then Nottingham. We went to practically every place that we used to go to last time, including mundane places like supermarkets!

After that, we became tourists as we negotiated places less familiar to us - Edinburgh, the Scottish highlands, Blackpool - before going back to London..

Summary over, time for the details! *there I go again - longwinded*

Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Poetic day

Since graduation, I went to the UK twice but for work and there was no time for me to take a trip to Oxford. Was hence very excited to be back! And of course, a little apprehensive cos I wasn't sure if I would still have that same feeling..

We arrived at T4, took a little train ride to central bus station and hopped onto X70 to good old Oxford! Dumped our bags with Mrs Williams at Holywell St and headed off to the open market - good thing for that cos at that hour, nothing much was open..



I felt..poor(!) roaming the open market.. It was pretty much the same - pound shop, fresh produce, yummy burger van, fishy van.. Used to grab cheap cookies and even a fleece coat there.. And the surrounding flats at Gloucester Green held many fond memories, mostly of turkey, ham and cakes.. Oh, and winning eleven *.*



Lung Wah Chong! Which smelled like..LWC? :p We examined the vegetables and the laksa sauce etc. But there was no more any HK video for rent..

We didn't go further but turned back. Was telling Sito that we only had a castle mound but no, they actually restored the castle in 2006! There was some ghost tour or something.. It felt too touristy and we left..



Liasion, where we had our Sunday dim sum :) Think I celebrated my birthday there once.. It was also where I dipped my chopsticks into seafood mayonnaise, yum yum..



Que pasa¿ Had a good time there with Dol et al :) Think it was after our two papers and before we started on our dreaded dissertation..



This is very memorable - Bonn Square was where LS, SX, Jon and I took our first photo in Oxford! We were looking for Argos, and after taking that picture, we turned around and found ARGOS staring at us! Under renovation now..

Went to Sainsbury's for water and bumped into YS in Westgate! Um, small town? :p



Took this from the gate of the Oxford Union - I stayed in this room in my second year :) I remember waking up one late December morning to find the red bricks of the Union white with snow - I was very happy :) And there were squirrel footprints on my lawn :))



My favourite cookies! I like the triple choc, orange choc, white choc, peanut butter, oats and raisin :p My record was five (or seven) at one go.. Eh, I was quite a fatso..


And behind Sito is Brown's Cafe - not the atas one up north - where we had a celebratory brunch while waiting for shop to bind our dissertation or after handing it in - can't remember..

And Sito was having a sausage from the shop opposite - that, was only the beginning of our food intake that day..

I always liked the covered market. Went there for lunch, tea and cookies, carnations and gerberas, or just to stare at the game - hare and some terrible looking beast - hanging outside the butcher's during Christmas season..



This shows my favourite foods! Clockwise from top left:
1) My favourite sandwich shop - Herpes Heroes - where I had many lunches
2) Edamame! Used to go there with Dr Chin and Kohei Sensei. I was, ahem, Prof mf :p
3) Had Carfax fish and chips and battered sausage for lunch the next day - still as greasy as ever!
4) And dessert to wash down the grease! But couldn't find my favourite lemon cheesecake favour now..



The Radcliffe Camera is right outside my college, Brasenose. I liked it but only went in once to look see - it doesn't carry my books.. This time, we could not go in already, sighs..



And so, here is my college - stayed there in my first year. My room faced St Mary's - the gargoyles, actually.. My attic room, right above the road sign which wasn't there at first (or maybe it was before I was there) and appeared one day and disappeared before reappearing, was a shoe box of a room. The orientation of my bed showed me stained glass, gargoyles and a rooster wind vane every morning and night. The gargoyles were scary in my first weeks, cos I went to Oxford right after watching The Ring *.*

There was a memorable incident where I was woken up from a early night by a phonecall. I looked out of my window to find Jon et al down there. When they saw me, they executed their plan to have Jon serenade me! I had to reject..going out with them for icecream cos I was too sleepy ;p But it was quite funny, and they realised they had been throwing stones at the wrong window too!



Took a trip to Christ Church meadow and the boat house. It was quite warm with the sun on us, lovely :)

And then, we saw them:



We named them "Crispy Duck"

After a walk through Christ Church, we bought picnic food from Harvey's and went punting!



And saw another Crispy :p



We walked further down to Iffley Road, past Stockmore House where three girls once had al-fresco pasta lunch followed by singing Edelweiss :) Next was my dorm for the summer - Fulford House. And finally, we reached 177A Iffley Road! I love this little basement flat. Shared it with an Irish girl whose name slipped my mind =( and later with another international student whom I was afraid might burn down the flat with her absentmindedness *.*



We took my usual route to Tesco on Cowley Road, and carried on to find 5 Circus Street (door was still the same blue!), 40 Cowley Road (still the same pretty door next to a gaudy shop), and went by York Place along St Clement's. I think we had dinner at Nando's in between...

Then we turned back to find my way to the department through the entire science area. As we passed through the Chemistry area, I seemed to recall having been to Jon's lab. But I couldn't be sure. Memory's failing poor old mf..
My department!



Unfortunately, it was closed by then so I took a photo with the sign :p

On the way out, I saw that the Hooke Library was now closed. I used to go there =(

We went back, intending to rest before getting kebab for supper but we were so tired we slept and woke only at 10 pm, ready to shower and sleep more.. So we shelved kebab for a day..

Thursday, 22 May 2008
Nerdy day

We had our first English breakfast at our B&B and stepped out for walks. Couldn't resist a chocolate square from the Tuck Shop - or maybe it's the Old or New Tuck Shop, I forgot :p Anyway, prefer the squares from Harvey's..

This day, we went down High St to St Aldates past the post office to reach Rose Place where I used to do ballroom. Brought Kel and Josh to Alice's Shop nearby for tea :)

We headed up north after lunch in search of my Maths Institute - for some reason, I could not map out the route in my mind.. But we found it through a series of cookie crumbs, such as the Lamb and Flag Passage and the drawing of a dinosaur outside the Institute. And the best part was, we found this in the Institute:



A binary clock! (Top right corner) And of course I went bonkers trying to figure out how it worked! (And I did!)

Next was University Museum where I had many lectures, with fossils standing just outside the lecture hall.



Because I like them - Newton, Darwin and Galileo



Because it is one ugly fish!



And that's Sito staring into DNA, wishing that our kids would not be ugly..! (kidding :p)

We went on to take a walk in the University Parks.. And we found more of Crispy! Here's Sito lusting after one, swimming rapidly away..



That's us, taken at the pond where I use to jog by in the evenings before exams, which froze over at least once in my four years there - it was a fun sight as the ducks and swans were all out on the grass.



We left the Parks and came to Wok & Roll! Of course, it was known by another name while I was there. Rather, a few names - Friends, Wok 22, Wok 23, I don't know what else!



We went to meet YS at G&Ds. It still looked the same.. Everything was the same :) Well, except for Wok & Roll? :p

And finally we had kebabs for dinner!



Round 1 was jacket potato, and chicken with chips and cheese. Round 2 was mixed kebab! We were happy :)

Friday, 23 May 2008
Lost day

With one last look along Broad St in the early morning, we set off to Nottingham by coach. 懐かしいね..

I have been to Nottingham twice before. Both during Nottingham games. Bumped into Sito at the first one I went to :p Played netball in my first year and basketball in my third year. Might have done badminton with basketball too but I forgot :p And that was the year OUMSSA actually scored a point, like, A point! (i.e. usually zero :p) Heard that the following year we did very well with the freshmen.

Anyway.. Of course we must have food!



Heh, we love kebabs :) We had jacket potato at Amigo's for lunch and sheesh kabab at Antalya for dinner! We were soooooo full *.*

It being early and we being full, we decided to walk back to Holiday Inn. But we got lost! That was why Sito was amazed that I could still remember Oxford streets :p

Saturday, 24 May 2008
Back-to-college day

And today, Sito showed me more of his student life :)

We loved supermarkets! And Sito's was a huge one! They didn't provide carriers cos it was wholesale, and walk-ins like us would just bring our own bag. We bought instant noodles :p



We walked down to Sito's old place at 13 Ednaston Rd where he burnt a giant weed in his backyard, and later to Cripps Hall where he stayed in his first year.



His librarian was kind to let us visit the library :) So must take pictures! Sito was reading a chemistry text book :)



Then we went rowing in the lake! It was fun at first.. Sunny though a bit chilly. We even saw nesting birds! And I rowed a little too - tough! We passed by Trent Building earlier but it looked better from the lake - I like :)

On the way back to the rental hut, the wind was against us and we could't move very much =( The amazing thing was an old lady on the other side went by quickly! Seemed that we were too near shore so resistance was increased. But we made it back eventually, thanks to Sito..
Exhausted, we headed for Beeston for a(nother) kebab lunch :p



See the man staring at the bee hive? That's why it was called Beeston.. We roamed a little and did the inevitable of getting water from the supermarket :p

That afternoon, we went back to city centre and met Sito's friend for kopi. She's got a happy chubby baby whom we met back in Singapore when they came over.

That night, the fire alarm went off in the hotel! False alarm - it was college all over again as we filed out into the chill of the night with all the guests. It must be the doing of one of those students!! While waiting, I saw their teacher smoking while directing them to move. I could not imagine a teacher in Singapore smoking in front of his students so blatantly. What kind of values!

After that, we were not happy of course. But Eurovision finals cheered us up. It was held in Belgrade; British telecast featured Sir Terry Wogan as the host, and he was hilariously honest!

Oh, Sito gave me a "present" today - a recording of poor mf's snoring *.*

Sunday, 25 May 2008
Sunny, windy day

We had a bit of an adventure leaving Nottingham... We had to transit at Manchester. First train was slightly delayed so we had little time for lunch. We had Burger King to go and rushed back to the station and boarded a train - turned out we boarded the train before ours! Got off at the next stop to wait for our train, which luckily stopped at all stations - phew!

I bade a dark wintry Scotland goodbye in January 2003, never expecting to return again, but here I was! And what a different place it looked in May!

It was sunny but cold as we strolled to the castle - it was closed so we walked down the Royal Mile. The alleys or closes were brighter and less gloomy. We went into one and found a nice view..



Found Holyrood Park on the other end of the Royal Mile:



Why didn't I see it the last time I was here?! Must be cos it was dark most of the time *.*

So we decided to walk up! Got a good view of Edinburgh in the warm sun and chilly wind. And of course mf must do her thing:



We got back to town for a ghost tour - the Mary King's Close tour, which was more of a walking tour than ghost tour but cos it was underground, it did feel a little eerie at parts..

The sun set pretty late. It was still bright at 9 pm - lovely :)

We stayed in this Royal British Hotel. The decor reminded me of my backpacking days :)



Monday, 26 May 2008
High day

And we set off on a Haggis tour!

I had been on this tour before but on a tiny coach rather than a tour coach. The itinerary was slightly different too. We stayed both nights at the same town whereas last time we stayed at two different hostels.

We started with the Wallace Monument. And, I found that the Mel Gibson statue was no longer - seemed that the residents didn't like the statue much..!



Hairy coooooo..! Guide told us a tale of one of their guides who would kiss hairy coos - yucks! But it was all in fun until he fell ill and doctor told him it was some coo herpes! o_O No more coo-kissing..

We were on the coach mostly, and passed by this bridge that resembled the bridge in Harry Potter movies - ahhh...

In Glencoe, I think, we were jumping about the hills and found 小溪 and 小溪 #2 :p Water looked cleaned but nop, not drinking it! Suddenly remember walking about in Geiranger with G and a couple with us drank from a stream...

We retired to Fort Augustus where "Sexy Ken" in his kilt showed us where and how highlanders used to live, and demonstrated the way to cloth a highlander, male and female. So two chaps went up as volunteered. The guy stripped to his underwear - quite funny :p



We had dinner at a nice little place with nice dessert - cloutie dumpling!



Breakfast was a yummy spread in a cute homely cottage. Instead of a hostel, we opted to stay in Sonas B&B, which was not that much more expensive and came with nice breakfast!

The other two pictures were of our dinner and supper the next day - food! :p

We went walk-walking to the edge of Loch Ness. It was bloody windy! And again, it was still bright in the evening.



Took this when we got back - nice B&B right? :)

That night, we found "Britain's Got Talent" on TV! It was SOOOO funny!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Cold-face day

Spent a lot of time in the coach.. But here, we were supposed to become prettier after dipping our face into the Sligachan River for seven seconds!



Went to Portree for lunch - fish and chips! There was a story of some whale exploding but I forgot where and couldn't find anything on it :p

This was the day we drove by the Old Man and Woman of Stor. I like that story a lot :)

Wednesday, 28 May 2008
"Tiao dang" day

"Tiao dang" means summoning spirits through a medium. Well, we tried to summon Nessie with the "Nessie dance"...

And finally, after days of sunshine, it started to rain..

I think we spent most of the day in the bus, slept a lot..

It was still bright when we returned to Edinburgh that evening. Went back to the same friendly hotel and found ourselves in a nice suite. A little bare and run down but sufficiently spacious.

The best part of the suite was that it looked out into town



This evening, we managed to have dinner at World's End Pub, thus named cos it marked the end of the wall surrounding Edinburgh. Or something like that? :p We had some creamy dessert there but it was too creamy, even for mf *.*

Thursday, 29 May 2008
Day in awe

Now we found ourselves in Blackpool!

Good weather called for icecream as we strolled along the beach :)

Had some time to tour the city - nothing much but for a coastal amusement park. We did not venture out cos we were there for an important thing - the Blackpool Dance Festival!



This is amateur day. We bought standing tickets cos bought them rather late, but got some seats during the heats as ticket holders tended to show up only later night for the finals. We had a quick dinner at KFC before returning to catch more dancing, which was amazing!!!

But it was tough when we had to stand *.*

Friday, 30 May 2008
Dancing day

First, we had Harry Ramsden Fish & Chips!



Roamed around town and found a nice shop with movie stuff, including a sign to scare little children =(



Also found a shopping mall with really cheap stuff! Peacocks or something, and it felt very much like M&S for some reason..

We were watching the professionals today. Chopped very good seats upstairs! Very tempted to dance during general dancing time but our bags... Then a middle-aged Chinese couple came along and the lady was friendly. She urged us to go down while she watched our bags. So we did!

And weren't we glad! Now we can say we danced in Blackpool :) But I guess that is still a far cry from dancing at Blackpool? :p

When we came back, the seat owners had arrived and so we left. But we were happy :)

It was inspiring to watch good dancing! One day, we hope to swirl around beautifully like the pros.. Sito, we must practise harder, ok?

Saturday, 31 May 2008
Wicked day

We left very early to get to London. And we had Wong Kei!!



Missed those plate-throwing days! :p

Roamed Chinatown a bit and went to Harrods - I love Harrods! And I don't know why... Nice to roam the Arcade and the food halls, especially during Christmas sales! :)



We met Yan and her friends for dinner at Mandarin Kitchen, which had really good food and really bad service attitude. 二度と行くまい!

Then we went to watch Wicked. We loved it!! I was especially taken to the way Glinda laughed and giggled, absolutely crazy!

That night home, the Tube was amazingly rowdy for some reason. Some people were visibly pissed. The police were quite pissed albeit in another way...

Glad we stayed at Millennium Gloucester that night. It was late by the time we left the musical and the hotel was just a turn from the tube station. Rested our legs in comfortable surroundings, ahhh..

Sunday, 1 Jun 2008
Last day..

We went for the London Eye! The view was good of course but somehow it didn't feel as good as our ride on the Flyer. Perhaps cos we had a capsule to ourselves on the Flyer :p

Then we walked about the area. Felt good to be in London again, and such nice weather!



Went to the Tower of London. It was fun with the super animated yeoman!
We went walking along Oxford St and the shopping area. Then out of the blue, we caught sight of this:



Familiar?! :p

All too soon, we had to leave London.. We were tired but sighs, if only we could stay there for a stretch, just take some time off work and relax..

The last interesting thing before we left - a sign at the platform for the train to Paddington



Now that explained the rowdiness of the previous night!

Conclusion

So, we're back. We have shown each other our lives there. We have tried to feed each other our favourite foods - we had more than the usual number of meals doing that :p

And for me, returning to Oxford was a dream come true. I have been wanting to go back for so long! I kept telling Meh how I would go back home one day and I did, finally! I just wished I had more time there, to walk under the strip of sky along Cornmarket Street and be grateful for all that was given to me all those years..

Now, final photo



It was with great sadness that I retired (and dumped) my trusty backpack of nine years. It went to many places with me, especially in my four years of college. It was only appropriate that it completed its last trip with me to where it all first started - Oxford.

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