UK 🇬🇧: 7-20 June 2017 (Days 1 & 2)

During the June vacation, or more specifically 7-20 June, the family and I went to the UK for a trip. 

How was it? It was filled with lots of ‘first experiences’. Can’t deny that it was fascinating, interesting, rewarding, and also frustrating sometimes.

Main characters: Myself, Mum, Aunty, Uncle.

Day 1: Arrived in Heathrow Airport at 8am. After some dilly-dallying, like complaining to Thai Airways about the horrible state of our luggage and getting a report from them at the luggage collection area, we finally got our rental car from Hertz. Our luggage was unfortunately damaged. Sigh… The sky over Heathrow didn’t look too cheery, but it got better as we drove eastwards.

First stop: Cambridge. Beautiful clear blue sky! 🎉 

Only irritation was that there were many young people touting for business from the tourists. Which we avoided.

Had the famous Chelsea Sticky Bun from Fitzbillies. It is really sticky, and sweet!, because of the sugar syrup.



It was a lovely university town, with much to see but our time there was short. We still had to drive to our accommodation.

We stayed in a little town called Stamford. There is a lovely B&B there, run by a lovely and capable couple; Borderville Farm B&B. And it was the first of our many “the family room is at the top of the stairs”. 😅

Our room was spacious and it had a lovely view out of the window. Only downside was that if we weren’t careful, we would bump our heads against the roof beams. Breakfast is at a supplementary of £6.50 per person. Do let the owners know the night before.


We went in to town for our dinner. There were a number of eateries available for the evening. We finally settled at a pub, The London Inn, as the pricing was really inexpensive: 2 mains for only £10! I forgot how big the portions were, and the amount of potatoes served. We couldn’t finish all of it! And we didn’t even order any beer. 



And that was Day 1.

Day 2: Burghley House & Leicester

After a good breakfast, we checked out and moved on. Good bye, Stamford!


First stop: Burghley House. We only stopped for photos of the stately mansion and its accompanying lands as we had quite a journey to go.


Next stop was more of a Literature and History trip instead. 😂 

We went to Leicester, the final resting place of Richard III. I got to thank Shakespeare for the play of the same name or else I wouldn’t have planned a stop there. 

I remember reading a few years ago in the news that researchers had found his body in a carpark. Now that we were going to that part of the UK, why not stop there? So, I dragged my poor old folks to the Richard III Centre with me, where I learnt a lot more than expected. The centre was put together really well. It was not only a museum, but also an exhibition and learning place about a certain part English history and also about archeology and forensics.

Oh yes. Richard III was finally laid to rest In Leicester Cathedral, which is just opposite the centre. No photos allowed at his grave in the Cathedral. 

The garden in front of the cathedral may present a spooky front but it’s not that bad. The graves had been exhumed and relocated by the church, leaving behind the really old gravestones. It’s sort of meditative and calming in this sort of replanning.




Richard III’s face reconstructed. His real image is not that far off from his portrait.

The grave he was found in was hurriedly dug, such that it was actually smaller than his actual height, such that he was laid with his head propped against a side of the grave’s wall.


After that, it was straight for Robin Hood’s Nottingham. By the time we got there, the castle was already closed for the day, so we had a short walk around, looking at the caves located below the castle, and having a closer look of the Robin Hood statue.


Sadly, we didn’t have enough time for Sherwood Forest. I hope to visit the Great Oak Tree one day.

We found dinner in, of all places, the supermarket near our lodgings at Harley’s Inn. My burger wasn’t too bad, compared to the veg and salmon. Oh well, we can’t be picky about it. 


End of Day 2.

Day 8 (17 June 2015): Leamington & London

The day I leave calm Leamington for the big and bustling city of London. 

So, it is good bye Leamington, and hello Big Ben!

During the week I was with J, I visited new places and revisited Shakespeare’s town. It was a really relaxing stay there. I hope to be back there in the near future as there are some more places I hope to visit. 

In London, I stayed with another friend, G, who is still studying there. She is rooming in a very convenient location, with the Underground stations so near by, the British Museum is just about 10 minutes walk away, and Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Road a walkable distance away. 

 People canoeing down the Leam  on my last day.

    I like the little garden plot on the platform.  Farewell, Leamington! Till next time!

And now in London. 

Found this corner pub interesting, especially the name. Little Jack Horner sat in a corner…  

Took a walk down to the theatres district.  

Had dinner at Burger and Lobster. At £20 per lobster, it was really affordable and very filling. G and I had to walk the calories off after that.      
Walked into Hemleys, a 5 stories building of toys, and guess who I met on the top floor. Haha!   

It was the only time I could take a selfie with the queen. :p 

Came across this sculpture in the Regent Street area.  

Piccadilly Circus  

Buckingham Palace    

Finally got a photo of the grey squirrel. G said that this one is “well trained”. It knows that humans have food. Haha!!!   

Day 7 (16 June 2015): Warwick

The trip to the old city of Warwick was quite a last minute one. It was the last day for me at J’s place in Leamington Spa, and the day was so good that it would be a waste not to spend outside! We were looking through Lonely Planet’s England guidebook when she read about the surrounding areas and she came upon Warwick. That was when she remembered that she had a Kellogg’s coupon to Warwick Castle. 

Tip: Do look out for special promotions on cereal boxes and such. You may just be in time for a good deal.  We managed to save on the price of one ticket, which was really great! However, this coupon was for general admission. There is an extra admission to the Dungeons (£9), which we paid for when we were already in the castle. We could not decide earlier whether we had the time to visit the Dungeons as it was already 2-odd in the afternoon when we got there. But we did go for it, which I really highly recommend. However, do note that it can be quite scary in there.

If you have gone to the Dungeons tour in London, you will have an idea about the Warwick one. 😉

There are lots to see and do at Warwick Castle and the surrounding city. Having afternoon tea there is a good idea, especially with the sun shining. Do check out the beautiful rose garden when exiting the castle grounds. I fell in love with English roses all over again…

   
  I could imagine the horses trotting through this ancient path.    Going down into the Dungeons.       

  

The museum was very realistic, with recreated scenes from the day before the English Civil War.      

 Had my first English pulled pork burger/sandwich, which I felt was rather bland. I recommend the BBQ sauce instead of the original.

  There are a number of peacocks on the premise. Look out for them.

We climbed the towers and ramparts. One of which has so many steps! It was a huff and puff effort but it was worth it; a great view awaited us at the top.    

  The exhibition in the palace was also worth a visit.

The trebuchet was explained how it was used as a war machine. Yes, it still works. Sadly, they could not launch it that day.  But it was still quite impressive.    

 The peacock garden. Do you know that the mating call of the peacock sounds like a cat meowing loudly? We were quite shocked when we first heard it.

The Rose Garden in Warwick Castle  
  

  

  

  

  

We had a lovely walk around the city before heading home. If you like old buildings and history, then you will like this place.             

      

Day 6 (15 June 2015): University of Warwick

I went with J to her university in the afternoon. She had a class on so I just tagged along to see the campus. 

Interestingly, University of Warwick, or Warwick University as it is locally known, is located nearer to Coventry than Warwick. Well, J told me that as they needed a larger land area, they had to move to the outskirts of Warwickshire, hence the present location. When I was there, they were still building. 

There is this lovely wooded area behind the sports building, called Tocil Woods. When I was there walking, there were a handful of people having their jogs. The whole place was very serene and natural, with mainly the local birds visible to the eye.

Have a look. 🙂

   
               

Days 4-5 (13-14 June 2015): Royal Leamington Spa

The weekend. 

A very quiet and domesticated one.

There was the Leamington Peace Festival happening over the weekend. J and I happened to see the first tent being set up on the grounds on Thursday evening while walking home from the train station. 

While J had to go to London on Saturday for something, I took my time to explore a littl bit more of Royal Leamington Spa. I went to the shops in the Upper Parade, then walked down the hill to the The Royal Leamington Spa Pump Rooms where there is a very cosy museum and art gallery. They did their best to recover and restore as much of the original pump rooms as possible. I like the Turkish bath, especially the tiles and domed-like ceilings. 

Walked a bit further down and took a photo or two of the All Saints Church across the bridge. Crossed the road to the Peace Festival, before ending the day with attending Mass at the St. Peter’s Catholic Church.

Since we could not go to the Peak District, which was actually about two to three hours drive (one way) on the motorway, we pacified ourselves with watching Pride and Prejudice, and looking at the natural beauty and Chatsworth House, aka Pemberly, through Elizabeth Bennet’s eyes. Sigh… One day, just one day, I’ll be there.

Sunday was much quieter. We went to have brunch at Caffe Corleonne. J recommended their panini and the garlic bread. It was really good and the price was reasonable. Even their coffe was good! We did a little bit of shopping after that and then went home as J had to stay in to do some marking, so I was left to my own devices for the rest of the day. I baked a banana cake-bread and prepared dinner. How domesticated.

   The Royal Leamington Spa Pump Rooms
                        

Feels like one of those hippie festival from bygone years.        

Went for mass here.    

The Peak District.  

Chatsworth House, aka Pemberly, home of Mr. Darcy 

Seen through the eyes of Elizabeth Bennet. 
Sunday brunch at Caffe Corleonne. Something to do with the Godfather.  I really love the decor, and they also have seating for odd numbers, like for a person, or three.    

This is a single/corner seat.  
The panini.    

Baked potato with stuffing
The garlic bread, fresh from the oven.  
I baked Banana cake-bread. Simple enough that someone who hardly bakes could do. 😉   

🙂

Day 3 (12 June 2015): Stratford-upon-Avon

The last time I was in Stratford-upon-Avon was roughly nearly 20 years ago. I remembered entering Shakespeare’s house and posing for pictures in front of the Fool’s statue for my parents. We also visited his monument inside the church, and I have a picture-postcard of it. I hardly remember anything else of that trip. Then again, the memories may resurface if I look through our photo album. This time round, in the eyes of an adult, and with help of technology, I hope to remember more of what I have seen on this trip, especially when exploring new places that as a child your parents would not be interested in.

 There is this nice little park by the river which you would see when entering the town where statues of famous Shakespearean plays are erected. Hamlet, here, is one of them. The Bard sits on a chair in the centre.

  Beautiful swans gliding down the river.

The Royal Shakespeare Company by the river.

We tried on some of their costumes which were set upoutside  the shop just for visitors to try.    
Unique post boxes painted gold.  

    
We did not know what was a pop lunch, so we decided to try them.    Chili con carne.  Normandy chicken. 

So pop lunches are actually like bowls of stew but slightly bigger.

  The Fool. 

“It’s better to be a witty fool than have a foolish wit.”

    Trying out Butterbeer at this place (can’t recall the name!). J said that it tastes better than the one at the Harry Potter Studios.

The back of Shakespeare’s house. Note the pen in the shield.    A peek from the window of the gift shop. Apparently, after the Shakespeare house tour, the visitors can request the actors to act out various acts and scenes from his plays. Cool!

    Walked into this old bookshop. 

    

Went to have afternoon tea in Hobsons.       The scones are huge! Thank goodness J ordered only one tea set and an extra cup of tea.

 

Our day trip ends with it raining on us. But it was still a good trip. 

Day 2 (11 June 2015): Oxford

A beautiful day began and we got ourselves on the train to the university town of…

Oxford!

I did not really think of visiting the famous town until J mentioned to me that it is only about 30mins ride there by train.

So, we went to the town that helped shaped and/or inspired many notable writers whose works are so well-read and well-loved by many all over the world.

   

Brilliantly sunny weather!!! Sweet! May it last for as long as possible.

  

Taking the train there.

   

I must thank J for being my personal tour guide in this excursion, for bringing me (nearly) all over Oxford, seeing the sights, oohing at the marvels, ahhing at the rich heritage, feasting, running for the few precious minutes before closing time, and sharing a love for the literary world. (J herself is getting her PhD in English Literature. Sadly, not in Oxford.)

So, here are the photos and with snippets thrown in. Enjoy.

   
Street performers are usual. But this is interesting. He was playing the violin while walking on the rope.

There was a bloody clash between the students and town folks a long long time ago infront of this clock.

  

Lincoln College green. Looks like a chessboard .

    

Museum of History and Science where we see Einstein’s famous blackboard.

    

They, the museum, framed up this blackboard. It is pretty much their pride and joy.

A telegraph .

 
Globe, not of this world, but of the stars.

   

The interior of the Bodelian Library is where they filmed the setting for the hospital wing in the Harry Potter films.
  

The Oxford Bridge of Sighs. I wonder why.

  

The first Blackwell bookshop. And it is expansive. Check out the basement floor.

  

(The basement)

  

Very expensive books in this glass case.

    

  

A Blackwell staff recommended us to check out the exhibition next door. And so we did.

            Went to The Eagle and Child for lunch and we were surrounded by the memories of the Inklings of Oxford. 😉 

           Wonderful ale-battered fish and chips.    

     The Bodelian Library
  The Radcliffe Camera is said to be linked to the Bodelian Library by an underground passage.

  So many building and colleges that I do not know which is which and what is what, just that they are all so impressive.

  
  

St Mary’s Passage has a very exciting surprise for those who has read or at least watched The Chronicles of Narnia. I will leave this photo of me about to turn the door knob as a clue.   

 A single lantern in the middle of nowhere. 😉

Next stop, to follow a white rabbit.   
What is the time now, Mr. Rabbit?   Christ Church’s connection with Lewis Carroll and the young Alice.

  
Sitting under the tree, waiting for a rabbit to run past. 

The Botanical Gardens. We now know where Lewis Carroll got his inspiration for the Queen of Hearts garden scene. Look at all those roses! Some are as big as my hand! Or even bigger.

     

We managed to make it to the Natural History Museum 10 minutes before closing time. It was a lot of speed walking from the Botanical Gardens, but we made it. Phew! 

All for seeing a little bird. Or what is left of it.

  

  

  

The Oxford Dodo. Not surprised where Lewis Carroll got his idea for the Dodo in his book.

  I will leave you now as I follow this trail of dinosaur tracks to more adventures. 😉

Day 1 (10 June 2014): London & Leamington Spa [Arrived]

Hello! 

If you have guessed from my previous post, yes, I am in jolly good England! Yay!!!

The last time I was here, I was just a lass. So long ago…

Made the 14 hours flight on the lovely national carrier of my country i.e.  SIA/SQ, which I was pretty much cramped in and hardly slept more than a total of five hours. The best part is… Wait for it… I took the window seat and because of my choice, I was left in a situation where I had to hold my bladder when my seat mates were asleep. Imagine my relief when they woke up! Note to self: Never, ever, ever take the window seat. Always the aisle.

But I would never had seen the sun rise over in the east or see a sea of clouds.

  

So, anyway, other than that it was a smooth journey over the continent. 

Arrived in Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 at 7:30am. We were on time even though the flight captain announced that there would be a 10 minutes delay due to heavy air traffic around the airport. Guess that air traffic control managed to clear as quick as possible. 

I am a little bit thankful for the near 30 minutes walk from the arrival gate to the customs and immigrations desk. They probably thought we, the passengers, needed the exercise and got us all to walk off the 14 hours of numbness.

The queue at the immigrations desk was quite fast, probably because it was only 8:00am.

Got my luggage when I spied a Tip: vending machine in the luggage collection area. I went to check it out and to my surprise, it was selling…

Mobile phone SIM cards! Yay!!! So I got myself a £20 one with an all-you-can-use data, which is what I really need, more than the talk time or texts. There are so many options, just choose the one type you need most. Follow the directions on the packet and you are ready to surf away!

Tip: There is a free 4-hour wifi in the airport.

Upon my friends’ previous instructions, I bought the Tip: Oyster Pay-as-you-go transport card from the ticket office at the Underground station of the airport. I find it more convenient than getting those individual tickets. Just tap and go on the buses and metro. 

I managed to make my way from the airport to Marylebone Station, making a line change at Piccadilly Circus, and carrying my luggage up stairs. I wonder if the British really love walking or there is some conspiracy from their government to get them exercising. It is all good if you only have your usual day out bag, but not luggage weighing more than 15 kilos and you have to walk up stairs! My arms would ache the next day.

Met a friend at the station and we had an early lunch there. She came to meet up with me as I had some time to spare before heading to my next destination. 

We took a walk, luggage and all, around the neighbourhood of Marylebone. It was a really lovely day. Walked to Regent’s Park and saw a whole lot of feathered creatures squawking for their food from visitors. Walked down Baker Street and past the Sherlock Holmes Museum. There are quite a few ‘Sherlock Holmes’ places down that road, as the famed fictional detective lived in that street. 

My train to Leamington Spa was at 2:45pm. Another friend told me to Tip: Buy the tickets online (Chiltern Railways for the Midlands) and then collect them from the blue machines at the station using the credit card I bought them with. It saves the hassle and I could choose the timings and prices. 

The train ride was almost like taking the bullet train in Japan. It was very fast, smooth, and almost exactly timed. The journey out of London was only about an hour odd, so I got into Leamington Spa at 4:00pm, and waited for my friend, J, to come get me. 


After leaving my things at her flat, we took a walk around town and came upon a production of Jane Austen’s “Emma” to be played in the park that evening. Yay!! We bought the tickets, went to the supermarket to get some fruits and groceries, got back to pack up the picnic mat and wash the fruits, and made it in good time for the play.

Jephson Gardens. 

   
   
 The play, the whole story, was a bit long, 2 odd hours, but good. There were bits of audience interaction  between scenes, just to keep things going lively. They even had live music i.e. the electric keyboard hidden behind a box shaped to resemble a small upright piano. I like the creative use of the props, picture frames to introduce a character and portraits of other characters when the actors could not play them when they were in another (more important) character of that moment.

  

It is still cold here, especially at night, despite it being nearly summer. It is alright to wear a tee-shirt and a light cardigan during the day.

And that was Day 1 in England. Yawn.