London Day 2 – Royalty and Rock

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. 

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

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. 

Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace
Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace

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. 

The Spirit of Soho
The Spirit of Soho

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. 

Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace

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. 

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London Day 1 – South Kensington

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.

uniform buildings around the area
uniform buildings around the area

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. 

Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum

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. 

Prince Albert Memorial
Prince Albert Memorial

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. 

My first fish and chips in the UK!
My first fish and chips in the UK!

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! 

Last Days in Oxford

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).

First English style breakfast
First English style breakfast

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. 

Magdalen College Chapel
Magdalen College Chapel

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. 

Finally got to walk on the grass at Trinity College
Finally got to walk on the grass at Trinity College

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…

The spires at sunset
The spires at sunset

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!

Manoa and Makiki Hills

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!

Spalding House - Contemporary Art Museum
Spalding House – Contemporary Art Museum

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. 

Bridge at Manoa Falls
Bridge at Manoa Falls

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.

Near the top of Pu'u Pia
Near the top of Pu’u Pia

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. 

View from the top of Pu'u Pia
View from the top of Pu’u Pia

Cambridge Day Trip

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. 

Look at the beautiful grass!
Look at the beautiful grass!

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. 

King's College Chapel
King’s College Chapel

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. 

Punters on the Cam
Punters on the Cam

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!

San Francisco Embarcadero Area Walking Tour

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. 

Raclette from Cowgirl Creamery
Raclette from Cowgirl Creamery

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.  

Coit Tower
Coit Tower

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. 

Lombard Street
Lombard Street

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.  

Boudin at Fisherman's Wharf
Boudin at Fisherman’s Wharf

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. 

Happy travels!

Oxfordshire

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.

Front row seats on the double decker bus to Bicester Village
Front row seats on the double decker bus to Bicester Village

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. 

A view of the Cotswolds from Wytham Woods
A view of the Cotswolds from Wytham Woods

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. 

Secret entrance to the palace grounds
Secret entrance to the palace grounds

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”. 

Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace

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. 

TBT Japan a Year Later

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! 

Mt. Fuji and Kawaguchiko in November
Mt. Fuji and Kawaguchiko in November
After a long night climbing Mt. Fuji last August
After a long night climbing Mt. Fuji last August
Tokyo sunset from Odaiba
Tokyo sunset from Odaiba
Bonus food pic from Sapporo of one of the best meals I ate there
Bonus food pic from Sapporo of one of the best meals I ate there

Sunny Days in San Francisco

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!

Salted caramel sundae at Ghiradelli <3
Salted caramel sundae at Ghiradelli ❤
Fog bridge at the Exploratorium
Fog bridge at the Exploratorium
selfies galore!
selfies galore!
Toothpick marble track of SF landmarks!
Toothpick marble track of SF landmarks!