Saturday, January 30, 2010

London Day 10

It was as full day for us today. We signed up a one day tour with golden tours. Supposed to visit Warwick Castle, Shakespeare's birthplace and Oxford university, where Harry Potter was filmed.

After spending so much time in London, it was a breath of fresh air to go out to the country side. It's about 2 hours drive away from the city.
Lots of sheep and open green spaces. Beautiful landscape.
Finally arrived at Warwick castle. A real English castle that is restored and is supposedly to be haunted.
Wooden catapult replica.
Castle bridge entrance over a moat.

The castle was filled with real armor and weapons used in olden times. Old furniture and pictures fill the castle.
Here is the defense mechanism of the castle. Enemy soldiers are trapped between the first gate and the second gate. The defending soldiers will then pour hot oil or shoot arrows from above.

Next off we made our way to stratford, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. But before that, we encountered a short shower of snow! Joyce was thrilled.
Asked me to take photo of it. We are ssnoooow desperate.
 Anyway Stratford is this peaceful little town with many old buildings, some as old as the 500 years old. The black and white are marks of restoration during the Victorian era. Originally, the wooden beams are not painted black.

Finally we made our way on foot to Shakespeare's house. The floor of which is the actual floor which Shakespeare walked on as both boy and man.

As you can see, the houses of 1500's are not very big. The ceilings are about my height and the doors are even shorter. It's not because people are short in those days, rather, its to keep the heat in cause the winter, would you believe it, is 10 degrees colder than today's.

After which, we drove off to Oxford University. It's really a town that has nothing special in particular, except it's university. The rivalry with Cambridge was so strong that in Oxford, you cannot mention the word Cambridge, so everybody refers to Cambridge as "the other university".

Oxford University is actually an umbrella of many colleges. So if someone says he is studying in Oxford, what he really means is, he is studying in one of the colleges under the umbrella. Anyway all pics are in this college called Christchurch college.

Everything about Oxford is very elaborate and intricate and ancient with rich history for almost everything.
Oh this is our tour guide. Quite knowledgable indeed.
The place where Harry Potter was filmed. It's actually the dinner banquet hall full of portraits of great people.
It's a beautiful place to get educated. People like C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair.

Signing off now, we got train tickets to Edinburgh, 4 hours train ride to the northern part of Britain. Watch out for tomorrow's blog!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

London Day 8

Nothing much happened today. Except that we didn't eat macdonalds at all today. (miracle)

Yup we decided to eat something different. Some traditional English fare. Went to this nice cosy warm pub in the afternoon for lunch. Meal costs about 8-9 pounds for a hearty meal. (their servings are enormous)
Obviously it's cold. Around 2 degrees and raining cold bullets again. Nothing like a warm cup of hot chocolate to warm the fingers.

Joyce had beer battered fish and chips. The star of this dish is the tartar sauce. Extremely light with a touch of lemon or vinegar in it. Wonderful really. The fish was crispy and fluffy on the inside. Delightful flakes of fish crumbling on your fork as you cut the fish open. Very good indeed.

But man, the best lunch I had so far in London. Suffolk pork sausages with mash topped with gravy on a traditional yorkshire pudding. The portion here is huge. (even i can't finish this. I met my match). The mash (mash potato) here is about the size of 3 large KFC mash potatoes lumped into one.

The sausages are lightly salty, pudding was nice and chewy, the mash and gravy was a perfect blend of sweet and salty and the peas add some nice texture. Delicious.

It was so cold, we ended up shopping most of the time(to hide from the cold). Got some souvenirs from the gift shop. Nice mini! (one of Joyce's favorite cars)
The statue Eros. (one of my favorite statues)

After some shopping, we went to buy some groceries. Ran out of mineral water. They have lots of instant meals at their supermarkets. They eat a lot of processed food them Brits. Check out their range of sandwiches. It's like a library. You need to categorize them. beef sandwiches, roast beef sandwiches, etc.

They have these automatic checkout counters. Where you scan your own shopping and pay through a cash machine. Got into a little trouble at first.

There you go. Done. Happy shopping. 2.55 pounds for a pack of orange juice and a bag of apples (to feed my apple craving)
Didn't do anything much to be honest. But we booked a local one day tour to the birthplace of shakespear and also to Oxford and also to Hogwarts(Harry Potter) on Friday. So do stay tuned. Going to change hotels tomorrow. Tata.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

London Day 6

Its almost half way through our London honeymoon. Been enjoying so far! Today, actually we planned to go to Salisbury, and take bus no 3 to the famous Stonehenge. After having breakfast at the hotel, we were greeted by cold bullets of rain, and the sky didn't look too bright at all, so we decided to postponed Stonehenge.

Where to go? Well, Joyce wanted to watch a play in one of London's many theaters, so off we go to Picadilly Circus! It's already busy in the morning!

We were feeling cold. (i think i'll just say this in every blog). Even when i'm typing this, the BBC London Weather reporter echoes with me, "...It's going to be rainy and very cold..."

There are many many theaters in London. Each theater shows the same show every day for the whole year! One theater shows Avenue Q, one theater shows Thriller, one theater shows Oliver, one theater shows Jerusalem, etc. We went to Queen's theater to buy our tickets to Les Miserables, or affectionly known as "Les Mis".

The price ranges between 20 pounds to as much as 59 pounds. (1pound=2.3sing). We went for the semi-high range, 42.5 pounds each. So 85 pounds in total. Oh ya, if you don't know, I tabulate and log our spending every day which I think I might post it on the last day, as a reference for those who wish to come London one day. I feel like a tax  collector.

Decided to go to visit St Paul's Catherdral (the one which marry poppins sang to the children about). Easy to find. Whatever it is, just take the underground. Never walk unless you have time to get lost. (see first day blog)

Gigantic! Magnificent! Intricate design! Very old!
Yet internally, a perfect blend of ancient and modern. (Got cafe in the basement next to the crypt! lol)
We were absolutely awestruck. This place has services on sunday and on weekdays, communions. When you're in it, you feel so small and that God is so big. When you look up, paintings fill the ceilings, each painting tells a story, almost like a comic. (you feel like you want to take a closer look, but no way can you reach it) Quite a humbling experience really.

There were about 5-6  mothers who brought their disabled, wheel chair bound children just to linger around in the church, hoping that somehow their children will be healed. They also honor people who have contributed to England in past. Those who have fought in wars, those who have risked their lives to save this catherdral(St Paul's would have been destroyed in WW2 if not for these people), etc.
We walked through narrow spiral stair cases up to the stone gallery (376 steps up). We can't take pictures, but you see people looking at the paintings, trying to figure out which part of the bible it portrays, and praying.
Going up furtuer to the golden gallery (528 steps up).
The view up there is breath taking.

And finally, another another set of really spiral, really narrow, really steep staircases to ball and lantern gallery, which is the top (approx 100+ steps more). Joyce and I were tired! But the view is worth it.

Making our way down was a lot easier. Haha...

Didn't know what to do from now on, since our play is 730pm. What can we possibly do for 6 hours? Silly me, shopping of course! Joyce whacked it!

Selfridge and Harrods are 2 of London's premiere shopping departmental stores. (I feel so english now, departmental stores! haha... i mean, shopping center if i'm in singapore)

Couldn't take it anymore at 530pm. Still, there is 2 hours to go. So we went to eat something called......

Sick of it already. After which, we proceeded to watch the play. Quite exciting. Many people queuing outside waiting to get in, 1 hours before it starts. Man Londoners are really really punctual about such things.

Holding area to ticket holders, got a bar and all.

 Getting ready to start.

 Can you imagine?  It's a monday night and it's full theater. Londoners love this sort of stuff. We both loved it as well. You must catch this if you have not.

Sorry for this late post though. Knocked out last night. It's 744am here. Tata!