On the second day we took an open top bus tour, saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, went on a walking tour of spots made famous by various rock musicians around London, and visited Kensington Palace.
The open top bus tour took us to pretty much every major site around the city. We saw everything from Trafalgar Square to Tower Bridge. The whole tour took about 2 hours but it can vary depending on traffic. This would be really good if you only have a few days to visit London.
We got to Buckingham Palace about 15 min before the changing of the guard started and the place was already super packed. The area to actually see the changing of the guard was completely full and the only available viewing spots were alongside the road leading up to the palace. Apparently it’s really popular in the summer because that’s the only time the full ceremony takes place with the band and the horses and everything. We could hear them playing “Thriller” inside the palace gates but it was way too crowded to go up and watch.
A lot of sites related to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are hidden away in London Alleyways. The studio used to record “Hey Jude” is actually not Abbey Road but one in Soho. This mural is called “The Spirit of Soho” and if you come on the hour you can see Karl Marx drinking a can of Coca Cola.
Our last stop was Kensington Palace which is now the home of Will and Kate. Unfortunately you can only see the older parts of the Palace though. I left pretty confused about who was related to who and what the royal lineage was. There were so many different parts of the palace attributed to so many different queens and kings.
After leaving Oxford I spent a week in London with my parents. We saw so many things in such a short amount of time! We stayed in South Kensington so we spent the first half day walking around there.
The weather was a mixture of rainy and sunny all day which was totally different than all the sunny days we got in Oxford. South Kensington is also full of these rows of apartments.
Next to the Natural History Museum is the Victoria and Albert Museum. It houses a lot of statues and Asian and European relics. It kind of reminded me of a watered down version of the British Museum. The fashion exhibits were pretty neat though. There was also an exhibit of protest art which was interesting and different from what I had seen at other museums.
Hyde Park is really close to the museums and the South Kensington area. We went to the Princess Diana Memorial near the Serpentine Lake but it was closed. The Prince Albert Memorial is located near the southern border of the park directly across from the Royal Albert Hall.
I also finally had my first fish and chips since coming to the UK. I don’t think I’ve ever had deep fried fish that tasted as good as this before!
Quickly my five weeks have come to an end and it’s time to move on to more adventures. I used the past few days to see and do all the things I’ve been putting off for the past few weeks (sadly we never got to go punting).
Started off the morning with a flat white at Quarter Horse and learned that espresso drinks in England are comparable to the size of a double shot glass. We paid a final trip to the East Oxford Farmer’s market behind Tesco and headed down to the Magic Cafe on Magdalen Road. I had my first English style breakfast and was absolutely stuffed after.
After saying goodbye to my friends, I attempted to gain free access to all the colleges I could after being inspired by our tour at Cambridge. I think the most impressive one was Magdalen with its beautiful chapel that housed not only these super cool statues but several monochrome/sepia stained glass windows, a statue of someone lying in a coffin, and a giant painting of the Last Supper hanging on the wall.
Insider’s tip to Oxford is that it’s best to visit on a weekday if you come in the summer. A lot of the colleges close their grounds to visitors because of weddings on the weekend. Not even university staff are allowed in.
After many weeks of staring from the outside in at this beautiful lawn of grass, I finally got to enjoy the one lawn that people are allowed to walk on in front of Trinity college. It was as glorious as an experience as I thought it would be. I had to really restrain myself from rolling around on the green carpet because I didn’t want to cause a scene…
This is the view down High Street in front of Magdalen College at sunset. I’ve really had a nice time in this beautiful city but it’s goodbye for now and on to more adventures!
The best part about living in Manoa is the beautiful greenness of the area and the nice easy hikes that run up and down the ridges that line the valley. The first picture really isn’t a hike but it’s a nice walk!
A little ways up Tantalus is Spalding House which is the former Contemporary Art Museum. Family Sunday is the first Sunday of the month and there’s free admission. The gardens behind the museum are beautiful and worth checking out, but remember to use the complementary bug spray located at the front desk. I didn’t and ended up looking like I had chicken pox on my ankles for the next week or so.
One of my favorite trail runs to do is Manoa Falls because it’s practically the only trail besides Diamond Head that is really well maintained. I’m always pleasantly surprised at the new gravel that seems to inch its way up the trail and cover more area every time I come home. The only drawback from this being a well maintained trail is that it’s constantly crowded with tourists who are carted up here with their walking sticks by the van-load. For best running and maximum hiking enjoyment, get here by 8 AM and park on Manoa Road (before it narrows, don’t be one of those people) to avoid the $5 parking fee.
This last hike is also in Manoa hidden within the residential area. It’s beautifully secluded and only a mile or so long. Pretty much the perfect hike for an afternoon. Look it up on Yelp because there’s probably better directions there than ones I can give.
On Tuesday we had the opportunity to go visit our intern counterparts at Cambridge and we got the chance to learn more about what they’re working on. We also had a lovely tour from one of the staff there who was very well informed about Cambridge.
We started off by going through a bunch of the colleges. I honestly don’t remember the names of them but they all had these beautiful lawns that I really wanted to run across. There were keep off the grass signs everywhere (I think more so than Oxford) to preserve the beautiful checkerboard of grass that was the centerpiece of every quad.
This was undoubtably the most beautiful building we visited on our tour. The King’s College Chapel was seriously impressive and beautiful! Luckily we got free entrance into all the colleges courtesy of the Cambridge sustainability staff. We visited a few other colleges as well but this was by far my favorite. It really inspired me to attempt to go college hopping at Oxford (I’ve only been to the ones that were Harry Potter sets) but alas they’re almost always closed or holding some sort of wedding when I’m not at work.
In the back of the colleges is the famous River Cam where everyone goes punting down. Apparently students try to climb over the bridges and jump back down on their punt while they go down the river. There were a bunch of students ferrying around tourists and a bunch of people punting their own boats and trying not to fall in. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to go punting at Cambridge but I still want to try it out before I leave Oxford!
I did this route when some friends came to visit in May and I thought I’d share it. Funny enough I hadn’t been to some of these famous landmarks in the three years I lived in the Bay. Be forewarned that this is about 2.5-3 miles of walking and contains lots of steep ups and downs.
Starting at the Embarcadero BART, walk down towards the water to the ferry building. If you go on a Saturday there’s one of the best farmers’ markets in the Bay. Inside the building are a bunch of shops and vendors. Go to Cowgirl Creamery and get one of these plates of melted, toasted cheese deliciousness from the cart outside the shop and you will not regret it.
After exiting the farmer’s market, take a right and walk down past the Exploratorium (see this post) and cross the street at Pier 23. Walk through the park and towards the hill up Greenwich St. and be prepared for a bit of a climb. This leads you to the majestic Coit Tower and yields awesome views of the Bay! You can’t really see the Golden Gate from here but it’s a nice workout. The tower was closed for maintenance when we went but you can go up it too.
While walking back down the hill on the Bay side from Coit Tower, you’ll come across Lombard Street. Walk straight down the street and you’ll come across the famous crooked road. This place is packed with tourists so I’d really recommend walking instead of driving this thing. There’s stairs on the side where you can observe rental cars slowly inching down the hill in zig zag fashion.
At the top of the street, take a right and that leads you back to Ghiradelli and Fisherman’s Wharf. This street is a pretty steep downhill and follows the cable car track as well. You can either stop for a sundae or do what we did and get a clam chowder in a bread bowl at the Boudin Factory. There’s also an In n’ Out but due to it always being super crowded with tourists the quality is pretty lacking compared to most other locations.
You can either walk the two or so miles back or take the F street car (looks like a tin can) from the stop on Beach St. and Jones St. near Walgreens. This will take you all the way back to the BART and Union Square. It tends to get really crowded so catching it from that first stop is your best bet for getting a seat.
For those of you who don’t know Oxford is actually part of a larger area called Oxfordshire. Since it’s our last full weekend here I decided to take a few day trips around the shire to some places that were suggested by our coworkers and other students. Unfortunately there were no Hobbits.
On Saturday some friends and I decided to check out the outlets at Bicester Village which is about 20min north by bus from Oxford. We got lucky and snagged the front seats on the S5 coach that we caught near the Ashmolean. It was pouring rain the entire time we were there and all the stores were designer brands. It was admittedly much classier than any outlet mall that I’ve ever been to in the states but the conversion rates made everything much more expensive. Nothing was within our budget range but we had some awesome gelato before we left.
Another thing I was told to do here in Oxford is to go visit the Cotswolds. I spent a long time trying to figure out exactly where this Cotswolds place was only to find out that it was the name for the entire region left of Oxford. We got the chance to visit the university research woods earlier in the week and this view is basically the start of the Cotswolds.
One of the closest towns that’s considered a Cotswolds Village is Woodstock, which is not the music festival venue but the home of Winston Churchill. A few weeks ago one of my coworkers mentioned a back entrance to Woodstock’s famous Blenheim Palace and I managed to find one of the public rights of access by searching online. The admission charges are steep but you can have full access to the gardens behind the palace through this gate for free! Some locals were there to help me open the gate (you need to twist the handle) and I got to explore the lovely grounds. This gate is located off of Oxford Road a little past the main shopping area and down the hill. Look for the Black Prince Pub and a green gate that says “95”.
This place was probably as extravagant as Versailles but I didn’t go in so I don’t really know… Walking around the grounds and looking in from the outside were well worth the 10 mile bike ride from the city though.
Exactly a year ago I started my study abroad adventure in Japan. I thought I’d post my top three favorite pictures from the 5 months I spent there. For all my posts visit Japanland the pictures aren’t as nice but the stories are!
Science museums are still fun as an adult and the piers in SF can still be enjoyed when they’re filled with tourists. My friend came and visited me in March and we took a lot of pictures and had a lot of fun!