A topnotch site

Month: March, 2014

Day 413 – Walking through Oxford

On my first day in Oxford (Saturday) I went to do a tour of the Oxford Castle, or at least the remains of the castle. An English friend of mine called me, but my signal got disrupted when I went down into the dungeons. After that I wandered through the streets of Oxford, past old stone walls and ancient buildings and then I found a park. After living in Dubai I noticed all the green and the fact that it was real so vividly. There was grass and a river and reeds and bushiness, against the river it was kind of forest-like and then the rest seemed to be just grass used for picnic or sport and there are walking trails and people jogging, just a really relaxed vibe. I walked up to a man “excuse me, sir, but could you tell me where I am?” “This is the University Park”.

I sat down for lunch with a Costa toastie (bacon, chicken & cheese) with my back against an old stone wall under some very big trees next to a really old college. Oh, yeah, btw this could be anywhere in Oxford, that’s what it looks like there. Went back to the guesthouse and found mum there, we went to Magdeline College where CS Lewis worked and wrote Narnia. At the College we did another walk, Anderson’s Walk.

(Sunday) Some of the Harry Potter movies have scenes that where shot in Oxford and I downloaded a Harry Potter walk, since I know the movies so well… The stairs that lead of the great hall where at Christ Church, I walked there and arrived just before 10am. Seeing as it was Sunday, church was starting at 10h and I could come back at 2pm, but the Evensong (Roman Catholic evening service) starts at 6pm. Now visitors who just want to look around have to pay, but you do not have to pay to pray…

Found my mum along the way and walked with her to do this 2hour walk next to the river. Very pretty and peaceful, with joggers and bicycles and people rowing on the river, a lot of dogs. We stopped for a snack and some breathe at a pub near the end of the walk. After that we walked up a hill to find St. Mary’s Church. Really pretty. From there we took a bus back to the City Centre.

We had lunch at the Eagle and Child. This is where Lewis and Tolkien also chilled and talked about the books they were writing. We just shared some nachos.

There was this walk I wanted to do about 5hours in total from start to finish including busses and like 10km. You take a bus from Oxford to a small town and from there you walk through the country side to another small town and then take the bus back to Oxford. I googled, I asked, I went to tourist information that afternoon, they just tried to sell me a map. I ended up not doing this tour in the end.

I went to the guest house got into bed for about 30min and then resumed walking. The next location on the Potter walk is New College. Walked all the way there (the walking parts where really nice and oh, so pretty). The where closed to visitors, because of construction, I asked for some direction to the Library (also used in the films). The guy gave me directions and then (luckily) mentioned that the library is also closed. The next location was a castle, which was outside of oxford. There goes my try to see where the movies where made.

I went to Evensong at Christ Church, it was just after 5pm when I got there and I sat down on a wall and happily waited for the time to pass. Just looking at the building, the gardens, everything. The church service was quite interesting, I wasn’t sure when to do what, when I should sit or stand or kneel. It was a male choir singing and a female priest with a soprano voice answering. The combo of the one almost shrill voice and the answering of the male choir wasn’t exactly what I would have picked out, but it was nice being there.

After church I was walking to the bus station and I started chatting with a really interesting man, D. We chatted for quite some time and then I excused myself and went to have dinner at a pub alone, didn’t want to get to familiar with a stranger. After dinner I found him again and since there was 15min before my bus would come we started talking again and I leaned against a wall. We carried on talking and then suddenly I realised that the wall I was standing against was white and I was wearing my black leather jacket, only it wasn’t entirely black anymore! My arm was white, my denim bag, my glove, the seam of my top and a part of my jean. I spun around to find a sign saying “Caution wet paint” and D goes “Oh, your fucked, love” (British accent, please). I ran to the bus to get home and get water. Water ended up being exactly what I needed and my black jacket is again black, I got all of it off. Thank God!

Monday I went to do a CS Lewis walk, the pubs he chilled at, the hotel he stayed at on his first night, his church, lecture halls, etc. I also went to Merton College where JRR Tolkien studied. It was so interesting seeing all of it!

Let me just mention I’m really jetlagged and tired as I’m writing this! Oh, it was St. Patrick’s Day. Anyway, during my Lewis walk I walked down Queen’s Lane – wow! It’s this cobble stone little road, with these really high walls on either side which are stone build and it is really quiet back there and old and beautiful. I just went and sat down and just enjoyed it.

After that I climbed a really old tower at the (get this name, so long) The University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Spiral staircases are hard! I had heard that seeing Oxford from a height was really pretty and totally worth it, so I paid a few pounds and climbed all the stairs. It is pretty, yes, but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, although I am glad that I did it.

At the top of the tower my headache decided to kick-in and that made the stairs even worse to climb. Me and my headache went down the stairs and to the White Horse Pub (a Lewis pub). Since it was Patty’s day the barman poured my a pint of Guinness, since I had a headache he gave me a glass of water and since it was lunch time I ordered Fish & Chips. I hoped that one of the ingredients will make me all better, it didn’t. After I took a bus to the guesthouse went to bed for an hour and felt perfect when I re-entered the streets.

Mum was in Oxford for a conference at the university and so I went to find her. By the time I arrived at the college the teatime was over, but since I had said I was there to see my mum, I didn’t pay any enterance fee. So I just slipped out the back door and took a look around the college. Really old buildings surrounding a lawn with really big trees and pretty flowers. All the buildings seem to follow the same pattern or building style, but they’re also different. Don’t know how to explain it. Kind of like an Oak tree and a willow tree are similar and different at the same time. Anyway, it must be nice to study there between all that history. There where students laying on the grass and some playing Croquet. I’d only seen this in movies.

Since it was 3pm I went back to Merton College and walked through the grounds. I think living between all those old buildings had a definite influence on Tolkien’s writing. Oh, and the poet, TS Elliot, he also went to Merton.

 I saw D again (all our encounters where in the street). “Mareeeta, ’ow you doig, sweat’eart?” I’m loving all the accents. I went to another church for evening prayer this time, no singing, it was nice. I had a burger for dinner.

On Tuesday I went to a university, wanted to get some information from them, ended up walking in complete circles. Couldn’t find the info person, but I did find the bus stop, so I just went back to the City Centre.

I had heard that the Ashmolean was definitely worth seeing, but I hadn’t planned what I wanted to see, so I stumbled into quite a big art museum and didn’t know where to go. Still quite interesting. By the time I left there it was icy cold and raining, so I got on a bus and went to the guesthouse, added an extra layer of clothing and went to the store for lunch. Walked out all thickly dressed and the sun was shining, went into the store, bought a Yorkshire pasty (never had one before – quite yummy) and when I sat down to eat the cold was back. I was freezing, got into bed, defrosted and continued to walk.

I went to Exeton College that afternoon, this is where Tolkien worked after graduating from Merton college and I guess also after the war (not sure). I finally found Brasenose College, must have passed it 20 times and this time I notice the sign saying “Not open to the public”.

I went to the museum of Natural History, saw the last remains of the Dodo! Walked around and bumped into D again (I think he might be nice). I was on my way to church, I invited him to come with me, but he’s not exactly religious, so he declined. I liked that, instead of saying yes to something he let me know who he was and was honest about it… After church I got on a bus and met mum at a restaurant near our guesthouse. We had the burger special.

Now, for about a year I’ve had a penpal friend, R, we write each other from time to time, I’ve seen pictures of him, but I hadn’t met him. He lives near Oxford and so I met him on Wednesday evening. We went for a drink at the Eagle and Child. If it’s good enough for Lewis & Tolkien I guess it’s good enough for me. Was interesting.

Wednesday morning I went to do a walking tour along the river again, but a slightly different rout than the previous time. There’s a meadow which apparently contains cattle, but I didn’t see them. It’s like a little piece of country in the city.

After that I wanted to go the Blenheim palace, but after figuring out that the train ticket cost about half of the money I had for the day I decided not to go. I passed D on the street but he didn’t notice me. I took a bus back to the guesthouse and at one of the stops I impulsively decided to get off. Every morning on my way to the city centre I noticed a few little boards saying “Saint xxx Church”. Most of the old churches are works of art inside. I ended up walking to 3 locked churches.

After a lot of walking I went back to the guesthouse around 12pm, took a shower and a nap. Dressed all nice and went back to walking. R was arriving at 6pm, so I skipped church and went to the pub. After R left I walked through the streets and started talking to a rap singer, we talked really long. He was interesting, he walked me to the bus stop and then it was home and bed. All that walking made me tired.

Thursday morning we went to see CS Lewis’s home. Unfortunately none of the interior was original anymore, all the original furniture and stuff was sold at an auction. But they did restore it according to pictures to look like it did when Lewis was living there. After that we took a bus back to the city centre and went for some fish and chips at a nice restaurant with a good deal. I ate everything on my plate. Those chunky chips are yummy! After lunch I walked with mum to Merton College, but they were closed. The walk was still pretty though. And then to Exeton College. We accidentally went into Lincoln College and then I realised that the next wooden door in the old stone wall was the correct one. After that we split and I saw D again. He’s pretty interesting and quite good company. I took a pic of us together. He was part of my Oxford experience, so I don’t just want to forget him.

Mum decided to stay in for the rest of the afternoon. I went out and was lucky that it was Thursday when I arrived at Christ Church the sign said that they have an Evensong service on Thursdays as well. It was raining very softly when I went in and I took of my rain jacket tucked it in under my seat and enjoyed the service. The singing part is really beautiful. An hour later when I came out it was still raining softly, but now everything was wet and it was dark. The lights glistened and I made my way to the bus stop. Mum had texted me to get some dinner and I found a nice authentic Italian place near our guest house. My rain jacket’s hood was enough for me and I opened my umbrella to protect the pizza!

Friday I had no plans, I went back and did the short river walk again. Strolled down Queen’s Lane and sat down a last time. I walked back to Merton College just because it’s beautiful. I was hoping to see D again, but I didn’t. I went back to Christ Church to take some pictures. Met a really friendly artist, J, he was busy drawing people on the street, but lost interest in drawing me when I said I didn’t have any extra money. I went to the Eagle and Child a last time for some Fish and Chips. I walked down Logic lane.  I just redid a lot of little stuff that I had enjoyed during the week I was there. The rain came and went and just after 15pm I was back at the guesthouse waiting for the taxi to the bus. The bus took us to Heathrow and then Oxford turned into a memory.


Day 397 – Job & pub snipits

Day 397 I made a minor calculation mistake with the number of days in my last blog.

Day 2 at my new “job”. Right, so I walked in, put my bag down on a table and extracted an apron and a hairnet, I walked to put my bag down under the counter. I was introduced to so many different people the previous time that I thought the girl behind the counter was one of the people who knew me, when I tried to walk in she gave me a very puzzled look. I tried saying that I worked there which just increased her frown. Luckily at that moment the manager came out from the back and explained to her who I was.

I worked in the cake room again today. The dough seems to obey Chef Mohamed’s every bidding and become reluctant to my touch. I seem to mimic his movement, but the results are strangely different. The language is sometimes quite interesting. He asked me what I wanted to learn today and I said anything. He replied “I will give you ‘make cookies’”. I made some really good choc chip cookies, which I ate a few of and gave mum some of and the rest I’m handing out at the pub, weird I know but still it’s me…

My feet are quite tired after spending 5hours at the bakery. I’ll still build up a tolerance to it I guess it’s like fitness; you gain it by doing it. When I told the men in the cake room that they make it look so easy then said “Yes, is looking easy”. Glad I can still hear the language thing. It’s pretty cool sometimes.

Somehow I mentioned to some guy at the pub the other night that I’m Christian and he said “but you look so normal” and seemed quite puzzled by that. I also mentioned that I wasn’t in a catholic church and that my church does that whole praise and worship thing, this again added to the confused look, he said that I’m like the people in the movies, he was referring to the African American Christians… when I said yes, I guess so he looked me up and down and said, “but you’re the wrong color?”

Oh, this is annoying; my internet status is bouncing between on and off every thirty seconds.

Everybody at the pub calls me “love” or “sweetheart” or “darling” or “my dear”. It’s pretty common; they call all the girls that… One of the elder guys who’s always behind the bar said bye to me the other night my planting a kiss firmly on my cheek (he does that will everybody) and saying “bye, sweetheart”. Some of the guys at the pub are risky, but others are kind of adopting me into their family which is nice. I have left and gone home when feeling uncomfy sometimes, but other times I like sticking around. It’s a good place to meet interesting people.

I met to guys the other night, I said something to the one; he looks over at his friend and goes “she’s nice, ain’t she?” They reminded me of the possums in Ice age 3. I love all the British accents around me. It’s interesting talking to the Scottish people, the way they say “aye” instead of “yes”, for example. The phrases they use. It’s like when you walk into the pub you walk into the UK. Do keep in mind that I’ve only been in London for 7days, so I might be very wrong.

Today I made at least one almost perfect cake. I put on the cream, the glaze, I made a music pattern and then decorated the side of the cake with cream. I’m not good at putting sprinkles on the side yet. They don’t mind me making a mess; they’re fine with me learning. It’s a pretty great opportunity. But because of the eastern accents I sometimes really struggle to understand what they are saying to me or asking me.

Day 392 – First day at new job

“We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time, it’s miserable and magical, oh, yeah.” Taylor Swift, 22


My mouth is on fire as I’m writing. I had the Thai curry at the pub, so hot but oh so good. So I recently joined a gym and right across the gym there is a Lebanese bakery, so the other evening I walked in there and asked for an internship job and the manager said he’s cool with it, but I should talk to the owner. I went home that evening and the next morning I took a book and went back to the bakery ready to wait for the owner as long as I had to. The owner ended up being a very friendly man named Andrew, he showed me the whole operation they had going and said that I could come as many days a week as I want for as long as I want. Pretty cool, right? They don’t pay me anything, but they’re teaching me everything. I wonder if this falls under eastern hospitality…

I asked a waitress at the pub and she said it’s eastern culture to say yes and be hospitable when somebody asks for something and also that they will not easily reject a lady. Yay for me then.

So, after the boss said yes yesterday, I went to the mall and bought myself an apron. This morning I went to the bakery, the manager introduced me to everybody, there are only three other girls there, the rest is all men. The owner also said that he thinks it’s a hard job and that he doesn’t think it’s not for ladies, but that it might be hard for me to keep up or whatever…  This ofcourse makes me want to work even harder.

I went in this morning, the manager showed me around and I ended up spending my morning in the Cake Room with Chef Mohamed. It was pretty cool, they actually let met touch some of the cakes that customers would be buying and eating! The 3 men I worked with make it look so easy and when I picked up a spatula and it didn’t turn out as pretty as theirs I realized how hard it actually is. Much of my morning was spend watching Chef Mohamed’s hand, it doesn’t help me to watch what the spatula and other tools do, I have to see how to hold them…

I went there at like nine in the morning and around 11 we had “breakfast” – tea and Zatar manakesh. Manakesh is like a flat bread, kinda like pizza I guess and zatar is this green stuff it’s a plant that they grind up, so I had green stuff on a flat bread haha how’s that? And they served tea with it. Really sweet tea, it was exceptionally warm and almost too sweet for me, but I drank it anyway and I ate along with the others. It was really an interesting experience.

Chef Mohamed taught me how to make flowers with sugar paste. And then he made leaves and as a little joke he made me a bunny. It was so cute! Now all the guys at the bakery wanna be nice to me and the only way to do that is to give me baked goods. I actually thought that all the working on my feet would burn calories or something and now with everybody being nice I’m having a very yummy time.

I have so much to learn and I’m loving it. I always wanted to learn to bake and this is a fantastic opportunity.

Tonight is girls night at the pub hope to meet some new interesting people.