A series of black and white pictures taken in some historical towns in England; Warwick, Stratford, Cotswold and Oxford.
Warwick: Warwick Castle
Stratford & Cotswold
This was probably the first time I bought a single outgoing train ticket to London, not knowing when I will be back. All of us travel down to London to surprise Jake for his 23rd birthday. I reached London on April 2nd and stayed at SF place (again)
April 3 – After staying in for the whole day, I went out for dinner at Gordon Ramsay restaurant.
April 4 – This is probably the most eventful day; Stonehenge trip, tea at Mad Hatter and dinner at Pak Awie!
In the morning, I went for the long overdue Stonehenge trip. The great and ancient stone circle of Stonehenge is unique; an exceptional survival from a prehistoric culture now lost to us. The monument is aligned with the rising and setting of thesun at the solstices, but its exact purpose remains a mystery. It was so windy that it was hard to take a decent picture – the one that your hair wasn’t all over your face!
Here’s the interesting part of the trip. After getting souvenirs from the shop, I held the paper bag of postcard and keychain on my hand, when a bird flew past and pooped right inside the bag, on the receipt! I heard a loud thud, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I realized it. It was really luck that the bird poop missed my hair and coat!
Mad Hatter Tea
I was late for Jake’s surprise tea party at Mad Hatter because I took a longer route on the tube! Note to self, double-check the tube maps! The tea is delicious!
Guess who’s in the background?
The waitress was really spotty. She stood on the pillar base and snapped the following two pictures!
As in London, who could have missed a day shopping at Oxford Circus, so I went! I only went into my two favourite shops that are not present Manchester Arndale; ESpirit and UNIQLO! After that, we went for an official birthday celebration at Pak Awie. Although we could finally satisfy our Malaysian food craving, much to our disappointment, the food portion was a little smaller than expected.
That night, we stopped by King Cross St Pancras to take picture of the 9 3/4 platform. I don’t think we ever stopped to admire the architecture of the station.
April 5 – Early in the morning, I travelled all the way to Greenwich to stand between the Prime Meridian line. We walked around the Greenwich market and went by the riverbank to enjoy the view. The day passed quickly as I went for networking sessions and shop at Oxford Circus (again!).
we had to walk along a long stretch of road before climbing a steep inclination to reach the Royal Observatory! It cost 5 pounds to enter, just to take picture of the line, but it was worth it :))
Yes there are pimples and eyebags *tears* but I like my hair in this picture haha!
This little girl was playing catch with her brother, so adorable!
April 6 – At noon, I missed my tube stop by four stations because I was too engrossed in playing Candy Crush. I was supposed to stop at Bank station, but I only heard the station “Mile End”, a station I have never heard of, and by the time I checked the map, the next stop was at Stratford! That afternoon, I became CL’s personal shopper (haha!) as she hunt for her formal wear around Oxford Circus! We had dinner at a Thai restaurant. I had the pad kuehtio which taste very similar to normal kuey teow! 😀
We then walked around to enjoy the night view of London
April 7 – We spend our whole day in UKEC Graduate fair, and finally had tea at Mandarin Kitchen.
I ended my shopping spree after getting the final item on my list; hair conditioner. After that, we went to get the most moist pandan cake in Chinatown. The trip ended in a pretty unfortunate manner, where one of my friend’s phone was stolen in Chinatown. Before I could get into the mindset of how mean and unpredictable people can be, a kind Samaritan helped me carry my (very heavy) luggage up the (very long) staircase in Oxford Circus. Then when I was in the train, a man offered his table seat so that a couple could sit together.
So maybe, instead of focusing on the bad things in life, we should always remember that there are still kind people around, and that there is a silver lining in a midst of grey clouds.
This was my first experience at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. We were slightly late for our 7.45 pm reservation as I had to painfully walk in heels for fifteen minutes or more from Sloane Square tube station to the restaurant. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by a few smartly dressed waiter and waitress, who politely asked us for our coats before ushering us us to our reserved table.
We had pre-ordered the taster menu, apparently the only one that could accommodate all of us in one sitting. The taster menu composed of an amuse bouche, 3 starters, 1 fish dish and 1 meat dish, cheese or pre-dessert, dessert and petit fours. The food was cooked to perfection with extraordinary technique and pretty decorations. Although the setting was really pretty, it was difficult to get a good picture with the dim lighting.
We started of with amuse bouche, which means an appetiser or per-tidbits in French. I can’t be exactly sure what these are called, so I’ll leave you with these three closeup pictures.
The first Starters was probably the least delicious meal of the whole experience; the Ricotta infused with mint, pea foam, sliced radish, tomato, rocket oil and violets. I love vegetables, but at the very bottom of my list – peas, right above baked beans. I finished it regardless, and to no surprise, not as icky as I anticipated.
I ate this dish layer by layer, although I realised at the end that it should be cut horizontally so that all the layers could be eaten at once. Unfortunately, I could not find the name of this dish. 😦
Main fish dish
Yet again, I couldn’t find the name of this dish anywhere, but I really really love the sauce!
Main meat dish
There were four different parts of the lamb; rack, minced, belly and (i can’t be sure of the last one)… I love lamb! 🙂 MEK MEK MEK.
The mango, jasmine and passion fruit juice is topped with lychee and coconut foam. I’m starting to enjoy the taste of mango… and the unique part of this cooler is that the straw is made up of glass; we were advised not to bite it as it may break!
The second pre-dessert is the crème brûlée and freshly squeezed Granny Smith apple juice. The crème brûlé was sweet and smooth, complimented by the slightly sour apple juice.
To end the night, WL asked if we could see the kitchen – which we could! We even took pictures with the Head Chef Clare Smyth! How impressive is it to be first female British chef to hold three Michelin stars award!
My exams ended on the fourth day of the two-week exam period, after the winter break. On the better second half of January, my friends and I relaxed with simple things like potlucks, karaoke sessions and hanging out at friends’ place, and eating out. It was a nice change from cramming for exams and surviving on takeaways in the Mill. As part of my “try new things” resolution, for January, I have taken a special interest in trying different cuisines around Manchester, which include: Mexican (Barburittos), Chinese, Vietnamese (I am Pho), Greek (Rozafa), English (Retro Bar), and New Zealand (GBK) cuisines. I also had my first try in cooking pork chops and roasting sliced pork ribs, and made Japanese cotton cheese cake!
After the hectic exam period, my friend SF came to Manchester for her first time. The best motivation to explore Manchester is when a friend comes to visit. With the ever-changing weather, we experienced snow, rain, strong wind and (fortunately) a few hours of sun all in a span of three days.
Day 1: Chinatown & Old Trafford Stadium
12 pm: We had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant “I am Pho”. I tried the delicious minced crab soup with rice vermicelli while SF had a beef-based soup. We walked about in Piccadilly Gardens to look for souvenirs and snacks before taking the 250 bus to Old Trafford stadium.
2.30 pm: After we purchased the stadium and museum tour for £14.50, we quickly rushed to the stadium tour meeting point that began every half hour. The guide was less friendly from my last visit in September 2009, nevertheless, still very informative. The stadium tour took slightly more than one hour as we were brought around the stadium, and behind the scenes such as meeting rooms, changing rooms and players tunnels, etc.
Old Trafford is the second largest football stadium in England after Wembley in London, holding a maximum capacity of 76,000 spectators. Nicknamed known as the Theatre of dreams, the stadium is the home of Manchester United Football Club. The spectator seats painted white with black as shadow spelt out “Manchester United”, “Stretford End” and Nike “swoosh” on each end. My personal best experience of the tour was the opportunity to sit on the Home Team seats.
3.40 pm: After that, we were left to tour around the museum with no guide. There were a lot of information about history of MU, legends, trophies, managers, and sadly the Munich air disaster. As both of us were not particularly football fans, we spent about less than an hour in the museum.
5pm: The next stop was Trafford Centre, a shopping mall close to the stadium. We met up with some other friends, with plans for a mini golf session. After a full meal at GBK, it was late and both of us decided to cancel on the mini golf and head back home early more intensive research on Peak District the following day.
Day 2: North Campus of UoM, Peak District, Manchester Arndale
2 am: There are so many places of interest around Peak District and we finally narrowed down our choices and mapped out our itinerary to Hope, then Castleton, then Bakewell, then Buxton. We researched on transportation – thankfully – as we realized that the bus does not run frequently, and train does not run from every town.
8 am: We toured around the North Campus on the way to the train station and walked ‘the road most taken’ to the Mill in the past four years. As the 50-minute 8.45 am train took us closer to Peak District, the scene changed from city view to picturesque white snowy landscape. The pine trees are crusted with snows and there are herd of goats grazing on the mountainside.
9.40 am: When we reached Hope station, it was surprising to see how thick the snow can be. Although it had snowed the previous day, we did not expect that unstepped fresh snow can be as thick as 6 inches.
As there are no bus that runs from Hope to Castleton until 10.30 am, we set off on foot. The walkway was so thick with snow, that even with high platform boots, they got very wet eventually. So we walked on the road, and had to give way for the occasional cars that rushed by. Later that afternoon, a bus driver told us that he almost hit us, but I was not aware of it at all.
On the way, we saw two horses (at least I think they were). The owner was there to throw stacks of dry hay for Phoebe and Jimmy to graze on. It was quite difficult to take a proper picture of the two animals as they constantly stuck their muzzle between the cracks of the gate.
10.45 am: Castleton! Castleton is known for a precious mineral, Blue John, which is found at Blue John Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern. We did not visit the caverns, but we went into several shops that sell the precious mineral. At one of the shops, the shop keepers was very friendly and after must hestitation and thoughts, both of us got Blue John jewelries. I wanted a necklace but I do not want to take my 21st birthday gift off, so I opted for a bangle instead.
1 pm: We took Bus 173 from Castleton to Bakewell. I dozed off in that one hour ride, occasionally waking up in between to see if we reached our destination. As soon as we reached Bakewell, we went to eat the famous Bakewell pudding. What better way to eat an English dessert than to eat it at the origin? The pudding was served with hot custard, and was more delicious than I expected it to be. 🙂
3.30 pm: The bus from Bakewell to Buxton was a whopping £4.60 single way. We went to Buxton because it was the nearest town that had a direct train back to Manchester. Upon reaching Buxton, we had an hour to kill, so we strolled around the town. I built a miniature snowman, less than 6 inches tall, but was mistakenly thought to be more than 2 feet tall. 😀
4.30 pm: Our return ticket stated Hope Derbyshire – Manchester stations, so we were unaware if we could take a train from Buxton. We gave it a try, and luckily we did not need to purchase new tickets! Upon reaching Manchester, we took the free Metroshuttle 1 bus to Manchester Arndale, the city centre shopping complex and walked around for souvenirs. I bought myself clip on earrings. That night, I cooked dinner for both of us and chatted up a bit before heading to bed.
Day 3: UoM Campus, Town Hall, Hard Rock Café
A bright and sunny day greeted us as we head down to Oxford Road where the main campus lies. The main University of Manchester buildings are the University Place and the Whitworth Hall. We entered the Manchester Museum, and was disappointed to discovered that one of the level was closed for maintenance. We had dimsum at Pearl City and later snow ice at Dessert Room.
Two hours later, we head of to Town Hall, which was beautifully decorated with lanterns. It really sets the mood for the coming Chinese New Year. After some shopping, we visited Hard Rock Café which was the city largest music experience destination.
SF left that evening, and hopefully will be coming down to Manchester for another Peak district trip! 😀
Thank you readers for scrolling all the way down! The cute bear above thanks you too
“Have something to look forward to.”
My brother’s word of wisdom.
While October is a month full of joyous birthday celebrations, November is a dull miserable month where I and three other friends shun ourselves from the world and hid in the computer clusters. There were three deadlines that month; 100%, 25% and 50% on each of the 15 credit modules. By the end of November, my sleeping and eating patterns were completely messed up; I slept at sunrise and wake up at sunset. My jetlag may come a little too late LOL. We survived on packed food and deliveries; unhealthy but unavoidable.
A highlight of November: Christmas Lighting. The police sealed off the town hall an hour before the fireworks, so we couldn’t get in. The Script played three songs while the sky lighted with the pretty fireworks. The christmas market started shortly after, and we went once for some timeout.
(Photo courtesy of Ying)
Six hours prior to the last deadline on noon of 30th November, I was fuelled with nothing but adrenaline. Never in my four year in university have I finished a coursework 1.5 hours before deadline, ran to the library for printing and ran back just in time to hand in the hard copy to the reception and 12 sharp.
December took a nice turn with an early planned trip to London. London is a combination of musical and a Harry Potter studio tour, both suggested by yours truly. A group of 10 of us travelled down for the studio tour on the first weekend. Unfortunately, London isn’t any warmer than Manchester (as I expected), so I was half shivering with my 40 tog leggings.
// 1 Dec 2012: Phantom of the Opera musical //
We had dinner at Gold mine before heading to the Her Majesty Theatre. Unfortunately, they do not allow any recording device so I couldn’t take any pictures of the musical. How I wish I could snap pictures with my eyes. This is my first musical and it was awesome. I especially like the song “Wishing You were Somehow Here again”. Everyone can relate to the song about loss.
After that, we meet up with some of the rest who did not watch the musical. Travelling in London can be a hassle, even with the underground tubes. And to top it off, tube service terminates at midnight, so we all rushed to go back to our respective friends place. Just like Cinderella.
// 2 Dec. Harry Potter Studio Tour //
Early in the morning, I put my overnight bag together at another friend’s place. We head of for a lunch at a Malaysian restaurant at Leicester square. At Rasa Sayang, I have curry prawn mee; which lead to a severe cramp/stomach ache the following day. Later, I and three friends walked around in Harrolds enjoying the sight of expensive branded goods on display, while the rest had tea in some posh teashop.The schedule was very tight on that day, and it didn’t help that I couldn’t estimate travel time. I felt really bad for pestering and rushing and all the confusions. Not a very good planner, but I’m trying.
(photo courtesy of TJ)
The tour is worth the price, although I haven’t seen all the Harry Potter movies to date. Note that the last movie I watched was nearly five years ago, so, for any errors in description, I apologise in advance. The entrance to the tour was decorated with a large Christmas tree. Pretty tree.
At the latter part of the tour, we saw (and even sat on) the life size model of the car.
As I kept taking my camera in and out of my pockets, I dropped the entry ticket along the queue, which was (very fortunately) picked up by a fellow Samaritan. Apparently they were asking around but I was too busy to notice – until I saw them waving the ticket around. Careless me!
There were a lot posters around. Did you know the author JK Rowling had the idea about the book when travelling on a delayed train from Manchester? The first book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997, and the film in 2001.
The Cupboard Under the Stairs
Tucked under the front stairs of number four Privet Drive was Harry’s first ‘bedroom’ – a forgotten, cramped and rather cluttered storage cupboard. “Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them, and that was where he slept”
– J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
There was a brief introduction before we were escorted into the Great Hall (the actual one is in Christ Church in Oxford). The Great Hall is decorated with authentic decorations and eight Christmas trees.
Beyond the Great Hall, the tour continues with a variety of detailed sets such as:
I saw the authentic Sword of Gryffindor and the Sorting Hat and the headmasters potraits here!
Gryffindor Boy’s Dormitory
These beds are the original beds made for Harry, Ron, Seamus, Neville and Dean in the first film.
Chamber of Secret Doors
Did you know that the movement was not a computer-generated effect but mechanised by actual electric motors?
Stairwell to Dumbledore’s office, located high in the Hogwarts tower. There were two versions of the sculpted stairs, one of which is shown below.
Imagine the effort the Special Effects Department took to mechanised each bolt, latch and handle.
imagine my surprise when the red wand swirls automatically in the pot once every couple of minutes. Magic!
Others: I didn’t take pictures of everything in the tour, but these are some pretty pictures.
And the best part of the tour: The Hogwart Castle.
The lighting was set that it gives the feeling of a day-night scenery. The evening view is the best as portrayed above. 😀
We reached a cold and rainy Manchester at one in the morning. What a nice weekend. P.S. Thanks to Shyu Fei for always giving me a place to stay in London 😀
A few weeks before London 2012 started, we received our shift. We knew which arena we were assigned to, but not what task we would be doing on that day. We had to wear our uniform, and the most important of all – the accreditation.
For Day 1 to Day 16 details .. Continue reading
Day 12 – Day 16
Day 12: 08 August 2012
My penultimate shift!
Once again, allocated in the seating bowl. This time, in the table tennis arena.
This is another medal match, which marked the seventh live medal match I’ve watched throughout the Olympic. I love being in the arena before the event started, especially to see the preparation first-hand so that everything was perfect when spectators crept in.
I always love the part where the medalists shared the gold medal platform. My favourite part of every medal match.
As this is the last day with friends from Day 1 *sobs * we took a couple of group photos.
Day 13: 09 August 2012
My last shift！
For the last time, I volunteered in the seating bowl. Taekwondo area.
During the briefing, we were asked to keep an eye out for large Taiwan flags. Due to its public conflict with China, the flag was banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and replaced with the Chinese Taipei flag.
I was glad that I didn’t encounter any significant problem on my section, but there was a scene at the accredited seatings, where Olympic Family members (link: http://focustaiwan.tw/ShowNews/WebNews_Detail.aspx?Type=aIPL&ID=201208100010). Apparently, from the first hand news from colleague, the news intentionally left out how many times the Games Makers on duty politely asked to remove the large national flag. The security was the last resort, and hence the seizure.
The only time I had to call the K&S security for aid was when the crowd crammed to the front, trying to get a picture of one of the taekwondo athlete (I can’t remember who he/she was). I tried to ask the spectators to sit down, but they said “I’ll sit down when the people on the front row sit down.” There were four rows of people standing, a lot crammed on the first row.
And the K&S security, with his loud and booming voice, settled the havoc in less than a minute. See. I said that the K&S isn’t thaaaaat bad.
On a brighter note, I talked to a taekwondo athlete on this day. She was looking for her way back to the taekwondo arena. It was surprising for me, to know that an athlete life is not that much different from ours, if you take out the practicing part.
Our last day, so we got some souvenirs!
That night, I ate with the family I’ve been staying with for the past couple of weeks. Lovely company. 🙂
Day 14: 10 August 2012
After a whole day of shopping, I got bored (when all the shops closed) so I went to meet a friend back at the venue, and watched the final of taekwondo. We were inches away from the Queen of Spain! 😀
Day 15: 11 August 2012
Back to Manchester. No pictures, but I met up with YY!
Day 16: 12 August 2012
I reached London from Manchester about 6ish. After putting my things at YC’s place, I head off to Blackheath Park with some friends. There was a big screen to watch the ceremony live, and a really large crowd. It was a lovely sight, when the crowds started singing along to the ceremony to see the crowds singing along. However, I went home early, because I could not really stand the stench of beer and smoke…
London 2012. I was there.
And I loved every second of it.