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Oxford, Bath & Bristol – Day 3

It was a very bright and sunny morning so after we’d filled our stomachs with a lovely breakfast, we explored the college grounds a bit more. I still find it mad that every college has its own grounds and cathedral! It’s like a whole new university in itself!

The speediest checkout ever then occurred and a casual hand waved over to the wall to show us where we could leave our suitcases.

We headed up to South Park which was on a bit of a hill so we had nice views over Oxford that were filled with many cathedrals!

South Park

The wind was picking up so we came back down and had a peek at a few more colleges. I really liked the Queen’s College front quad! Everything was just so symmetrical and perfect – definitely satisfying my weird OCD!

Queen's college

Queen’s college

A trip to the Ashmolean museum was next and we had a brief look inside at all the artefacts and old archaeology before exploring the Oxford University Parks which were very well kept.

Our last stop in Oxford was the Pitt Rivers museum which I vaguely remembered visiting when I was 11! It was full of interesting old fossils and some rather scary dinosaurs!

We then returned to Wadham college and were relieved to still find our suitcases there and not stolen :P We grabbed lunch on the go and caught the train to our next city, Bath!

Our hotel overlooked the river and they were very accommodating in giving us a water view room which was really lovely!

We were staying there for three nights and didn’t want to ruin the rest of the holiday by exploring the city too much in the first afternoon, so we had a bit of a meander west along the river before heading to dinner at Prezzo. I opted for two classic pastas and the honeycomb cheesecake which is my absolute favourite :D The restaurant was in an old railway arch and looked pretty cool!

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Oxford, Bath & Bristol – Day 2

Breakfast was included as part of our stay at Wadham college and was served at the rather bright and early time of 8:00-8:30! We woke up refreshed and were the first to arrive in the breakfast hall. We were both pretty impressed with the hall and it reminded me of the Great Hall in Harry Potter! The places were set along the long table in the middle and after choosing our food, we came to the rather hard decision as to where to sit – did we sit in the middle next to other people and increase our chance of awkward conversation? Or right at the end and seem really antisocial?! And would we sit opposite each other or next to each other?! Oh the dilemma! In the end we chose to sit opposite each other near the middle of the table so that other people could choose whether they wanted to be antisocial or not :P The breakfast itself was plentiful with a lovely cooked selection plus cereals, fruit, and croissants. The waiters and waitresses were so attentive, taking your tea and coffee order immediately, replenishing your toast as soon as you’d finished, and they were all so friendly and polite too! I had quite a funny mental image of my old University halls kitchen staff waiting on us hand and foot – no chance!

Wadham college hall

The great thing about having breakfast so early meant that even after filling our stomachs at a leisurely pace, it was still before 9am which left the whole day to explore the city! The plan for the day was to explore as many of the University colleges as possible as well as all the bits and bobs around the city. Many colleges weren’t open yet, but we wandered to Mansfield college and St Catherine’s college which were just behind Wadham college. Mansfield college was pretty small and we were only able to walk around the front area.

Mansfield college

St Catherine’s college came at a bit of a surprise since it looked so modern and totally not Oxford! Don’t get me wrong, the buildings were all very nice and shiny, and at any other University I would have been very impressed, but for Oxford I was more used to the old and grand buildings, not a big metal monstrosity!

We then headed back to the city centre and passed the Bridge of Sighs, Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre, and Radcliffe Camera which all looked rather striking!

Christ Church college was then next on the agenda as it’s probably the most famous Oxford college since the stairs were used in Harry Potter and its hall inspired the film’s Great Hall. It was very nice inside and we visited its cathedral too which was rather large and impressive.

When we left the college it was only midday so we were in a bit of a quandary as to what to do next as the majority of the other colleges weren’t open until 1 or 2pm! We decided to visit Trinity college as it was open now and looked quite inviting every time we passed it on the way to and from Wadham college. We both liked how their gardens had deckchairs which was a bit different!

After lunch, we explored many other colleges in the surrounding area – too many to name them all! They all looked amazing and by the end of it we had become quite the experts at identifying which doors were the college entrances as they were sometimes quite concealed.

Exeter college was one of my favourites and we were shown in by a random old man who was passing by who we theorised must have been a tour guide of some sort as he seemed very knowledgeable about the place. The college grounds overlooked the Radcliffe camera, and as I was taking photos, a tour group passed by and the tour guide asked us if we wanted a photo together. It took us both a few moments to realise what he had said, probably because we’re both so used to everyone in London keeping to themselves so much and being so antisocial!

By the end of the day I think we had grown quite tired of cathedrals! As beautiful as they all are, I think there’s a limit to how many you can see in a day :P We decided to check out the Oxford Castle and investigate its random mound a bit more!

We had a bit of a rest before heading to Slug and Lettuce for dinner. I had a massive burger with pulled pork, chicken, mozzarella cheese, and chips, plus an amazing cookie cup explosion for dessert which definitely left me rolling back to our room! I was stuffed :P

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Oxford, Bath & Bristol – Day 1

This summer has flown by way too quickly; it feels like just yesterday that I finished my last ever university exam! Over two months have already passed and I’m starting work next week! Scary stuff! This summer has been filled with many lovely things such as Rome, loads of fun days out, my 21st birthday, and my cousin’s wedding so I can’t really complain! Last week I went to Oxford, Bath, and Bristol with Luke for six days which I really enjoyed. It was nice doing a bit of a city break and exploring the area. I last went to Oxford 11 years ago and Bath 15 years ago and it was quite interesting suddenly remembering places that I’d been to when we passed them.

We got to Oxford in the early afternoon and we were staying at one of the Oxford University colleges, Wadham College. It was pretty central and about a 15 minute walk from the train station. It was a lovely college and our room overlooked the front quad which I was very happy with! Our room was hugeeee too with two dressing rooms as well as an ensuite. If only my first year halls room was as spacious as this! We even got a little Wadham college toiletry pack which was a nice little touch ;)


Wadham college front quad

After settling in, we had a quick wander around the college grounds which were very well kept!

Wadham college

Lunch was then on the cards as we were both rather hungry, so we picked up some food and had a mini riverside picnic :) It was a really sunny day so we headed along the river for a walk. We noticed a random mound of grass in between some houses with a man at the top which we thought rather strange! We later discovered that it was part of Oxford Castle!

Oxford Mound

We then came across all the Oxford University college boat houses and there was a regatta of some sort going on which was fun to watch.

We arrived at Iffley Lock and Luke told me all about how they worked – they’re pretty clever and impressive! Loud music then filled our ears a party boat with partying men suddenly passed by which was rather unexpected!

We then headed back along the river, back to the centre. I was 11 the last time I came to Bath with my parents and I remembered finding a shop called Bonnie. We found it again as it was near to where we were staying and I just had to get another photo in front of it ;)

2003 vs. 2014!

2003 vs. 2014!

Oxford has a lot of different restaurants and a lot of chains too. After having a bit of a rest, we had a bit of a wander along to the centre and opted for dinner at ASK which was lovely :D

Dinner at ASK

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21st Birthday!

So a million years after everyone else, I finally turned 21 last week! I was really rather excited for this birthday because I was going for afternoon tea and to the theatre to see Wicked with my mum, which I’ve wanted to do for so long! I was still living in London, so woke up to some lovely presents and felt very loved, lucky, and slightly sick from all the chocolate and fudge I’d eaten by 10am :P After a bit of a wander in Ruskin Park, we returned home and I was surprised with Wiggles the Caterpillar Cake! I don’t think I’ve eaten one for many years and it was definitely the best cake to celebrate my 21st with ;)

In the afternoon, I met up with my mum and we headed to the Sheraton Park Lane hotel for our afternoon tea at 3pm!

We were greeted immediately and shown to our table. From the pictures online I was expecting the Palm Court to be a lot bigger, not just a few tables on each side with a walkway down the middle! It was also a bit distracting since the hotel’s guests kept walking behind me to get to another part of the hotel. But there was a lovely harpist who played throughout our tea, which heightened the experience!

There were five tables taking afternoon tea and we were given our menus by a friendly waiter who returned shortly with a complimentary glass of champagne each to celebrate my graduation! No idea how they found out about me graduating, but that’s probably the power of the internet and it being plastered all over my Twitter! Nonetheless, it was a lovely and unexpected touch :)

As I don’t drink tea, I was able to order a hot chocolate instead, whilst my mum had English Breakfast Tea (how exciting I know… ;) ). Our sandwiches were all pre-made and waiting to be served as they came out very speedily. The food wasn’t served on a tier like other afternoon teas as everything came out separately. I didn’t really mind to be honest as it’s the same food however it comes out! Our sandwiches consisted of:

- Roast beef, wild rocket, and wasabi mayonnaise on white bread
– Roasted Scottish salmon, dill, and lemon on basil bread
– Free range egg, creme fraiche, and mixed sakura cress on carrot bread
– Salt and pepper corn-fed chicken, celery, and mustard mayonnaise on a mini
ciabbatta roll
– Cream cheese and chive, cucumber, baby watercress on granary bread

Sandwiches

They were all quite tasty but nothing really stood out that much. We had one of each and were offered another plate to share between us, which we quickly accepted! At this point, we noticed that we still hadn’t received our drinks and saw that a lot of other tables were still waiting on their tea too. It’s a bit silly calling it afternoon tea when there isn’t actually any tea being served with it ;)

Our plates were then cleared and we were presented with four scones (two plain and two raisin) which were wrapped in a cloth to keep them warm, although ours came cold which was a bit of a shame (but was probably because I’d been talking so much that they’d cooled down :P ). There was clotted cream and a selection of preserves which included rhubarb jam, gooseberry jam, and some lemony cream thing. The scones were smaller than I was expecting, but that was probably a good thing since at this point I was definitely feeling slightly sick from all the food I’d eaten so far! Our tea and hot chocolate also arrived whilst we were having our scones and the waiters poured them out for us which was a nice touch.

After we had finished our scones, we were shown a selection of five different pastries and could either choose two each or one of each to share between the two of us. My mum has never really had much of a sweet tooth and said that I could choose and eat most of them, so I went for one of each!


Afternoon tea!

I can’t remember what exactly each of them were but I started off with a pistachio tasting pastry which wasn’t that amazing and tasted a bit like jelly or set custard.

Pistachio cake

The chocolate cake was next, which was probably my least favourite since it was really dark chocolate and I’ve never been a fan. It was also very rich!

Chocolate cake

I then had something fruity in a small glass. Unfortunately, I haven’t got a clue what it was!

The mini fruit tart was next and it was decorated with lots of nice looking fruits :)

Fruit tart

I think I saved the best until last since the raspberry cake was light and very tasty!

Raspberry cake

The lights suddenly dimmed and I noticed that the harpist was playing Happy Birthday. I turned round and saw a waitress approaching with a tart topped with a candle :) It was all rather embarrassing but nice!

There was meant to be a second afternoon tea sitting at 4:30, but it was already nearing 5pm and there weren’t really any new guests, so we weren’t rushed in the slightest :) We had used Avios vouchers so didn’t have to pay a thing! All the waiters and waitresses were lovely and friendly and I even received a Tweet from the hotel hoping that I was enjoying myself :P The only bad things would be that the tea could have been served more promptly and that it was a bit strange having other hotel guests walking past me all the time, but I still enjoyed myself :D

After leaving the hotel completely stuffed, we were in need of a bit of a wander and rest! We headed to Green Park and chilled out for a while since Wicked didn’t start until 7:30.

I’d never been to the theatre before so I really wanted to go to see whether I would enjoy it. I also managed to tick off another thing on my Things To Do Before I’m 30! When we got to the Apollo Theatre it was very busy and we were sitting in seats M 16 and 17. I hadn’t realised that we would be so close to the stage! I was sat in the aisle so had a completely unrestricted view of the whole stage which was amazing! My mum didn’t fare quite so well since the man in front of me kept leaning over and talking to his wife the whole time! When Wicked started with a big song and dance, I was a bit unsure whether I’d actually like it, but literally within a minute, the whole stage was lit up and I was mesmerised by it all! Wicked was absolutely amazing and I was truly sucked into the story. Now I’ll have to decide which theatre production I want to see next!!

Palm Court Lounge on Urbanspoon

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Sanderson Hotel’s Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea

I was lucky enough to be invited to my cousin’s hen party yesterday and we headed for afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel! I was extra excited because I’d never been to a hen party before and because I’ve wanted to go for afternoon tea for ages! Another thing to tick off my list of Things To Do Before I’m 30! I’m seriously whizzing through them this month!!

Sanderson Hotel do a Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea which is pretty cool and one that I’ve always wanted to try. There was seating outside which looked quite nice, but we were all very thankful to be sat inside with the air-con as it was a very humid and sticky day! Our napkins had riddles written on the piece of paper holding them together, and all the plates and saucers were different with joining up designs.

We were given the menu and a selection of four teas to smell (apple pie, strawberries and cream, rhubarb and custard, and chocolate and mint) and were also offered normal teas to chose from. I don’t normally like tea that much but the tea leaves smelt amazing and I could have sat there sniffing the pot all day long, so I tried the strawberries and cream tea. All of us felt that they were a bit watery, but a sugar cube definitely improved it :)

A while later, we were presented with our massive tier of food! It all looked incredible and definitely too good to eat! The waiter was trying to explain what everything was, but it literally went in one ear and out the other! So I’ve grabbed the menu off their website ;)

Savoury:
– Smoked Cumbrian ham with wholegrain mustard on sundried tomato bread
– Cucumber and chive cream cheese on spinach bread
– Cold smoked salmon and lemon butter on dark rye bread
– Egg mayo with watercress and smoked sea salt on lemon bread
– Daily quiche (ours was courgette)

Sweet:
– Carrot meringue served on a bed of pea shoots
– Strawberries and cream homemade marshmallow mushrooms
– Tick tock traditional Victoria sponge
– Melting mango cheesecake
– Matcha green tea and white chocolate mousse served in a chocolate tea cup
– ‘Drink me’ potion

Scones:
– Cheese scones
– Raisin scones
– Herb butter and fruit preserves with clotted cream

So delicious!

So delicious!

I started with the sandwiches and chose the cold smoked salmon and lemon butter on dark rye bread which looked suspiciously like a chocolate mini roll! I think out of the four sandwiches, my favourite was the smoked Cumbrian ham with wholegrain mustard on sundried tomato bread. I didn’t think I’d like the mustard part but I couldn’t taste it and the bread was definitely the highlight! The other sandwiches were all very nice too and were a nice combination :)

Sandwiches and quiche

Sandwiches and quiche

The scones were pretty mini, but it’s probably a good thing that they were since I was already quite full from just the savoury stuff!! Unfortunately they came cold, but they were still very tasty and not that crumbly when I cut into them :D I’m a sucker for clotted cream and jam so slathered mine in it hah!

Scones

Scones

I have a severe sweet tooth, so I definitely saved the best until last! I went for the ‘Drink me’ potion which everyone loved and seemed to taste a bit passionfruity. Shame it was so small as I could have probably drunk a whole litre! The Victoria Sponge was very soft and moist and definitely one of my favourites! I was a bit unsure about the matcha green tea and white chocolate mousse at first, but I could hardly taste the green tea and the mousse was so lovely and fluffy. The others said that the cheesecake was really tasty, but quite sickly, so I left that until last. It tasted amazing! I love cheesecake anyway, so when you combine it with mango (another one of my favourite things), then you’re definitely on to a winner! The cheesecake was encased in a white chocolate decoration and when you cut into the middle of the cheesecake, the mango part exploded and oozed temptingly all over the plate. I agreed that it was a bit sicky, but I loved it nonetheless!

Sweet treats!

Sweet treats!

The carrot meringue and strawberries and cream marshmallows were a nice touch and looked rather interesting at the top of the tier of food!

Carrot meringue and strawberries and cream marshmallows

Carrot meringue and strawberries and cream marshmallows

There was also a table with two jellies that we could help ourselves to. I think that they were apple and cherry flavoured and were quite grainy, and tasted almost like fruit puree or baby food! This was probably all our least favourite thing in the afternoon tea!

We were offered refills of the sandwiches and scones and were more than happy to accept even though we were all pretty stuffed! The scones came pretty swiftly, but the sandwiches took a while, so we had to remind them and then they ended up bringing out two sets! There were so many sandwiches! We weren’t able to eat them all, so we took a lot of food away with us.

At £38 per person plus 15% service charge, it is a bit pricey, but it is on par with a lot of other hotel afternoon teas. Since it was my first one and one that I’d always wanted to try, I didn’t mind and I had a lovely time with my cousin and meeting all her friends :D Shame the service was a bit casual and slightly slow though, but we all left very much stuffed and ready to head on and celebrate! I’m very much looking forward to my afternoon tea with my mum to celebrate my 21st birthday in just over a week!!

All of us

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A Sunny Riverside Walk

Last Monday was absolutely glorious as the sun was shining and it was very warm! We decided to do another Books About Town bench hunt and wander along the river east of London Bridge since I’ve never gone that way before (ticking off one of things on my Things To Do Before I’m 30 list :D ). We started off at Blackfriars again and wandered right towards Shakespeare’s Globe, where the first bench was. Since it was a weekday, it wasn’t as crowded as it would normally be which was great as we could walk at a leisurely pace without being jossled around!

We passed Southwark Cathedral and stopped for a few photos at the Golden Hinde before heading to Borough Market which I still can’t believe I’ve never been to! It was a shame that not all the stalls were open but it was still really cool to slowly wander through all the different butchers, bakers, etc! I don’t know what it is about markets, but I really do love them! I think it’s the buzz and variety of things on offer that really appeals and draws me in.

The next two benches were Paddington Bear and Great Expectations which were close by, and then we found the Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson bench whcih wasn’t too far.

SAM_5467

Luke showed me another part of London which I never knew existed. Hays Galleria was originally a warehouse and wharf and was redeveloped in the 1980s. It’s now home to many offices, restaurants, shops, and flats and is a pretty cool little place!

We were heading towards More London and since it was near midday, all the workers were flocking down for their lunch. Unfortunately a lot of people were sitting on the four benches that were dotted around this area, so we had to wait a bit before I could get a decent shot of them, but I didn’t really mind waiting around as it was such a lovely day :D

After strolling through a nice looking road, we got to Butler’s Wharf which was just really unexpected!! There were some amazing apartments right by the river (which I one day hope to own ;) ) and loads of cool looking boats. I just couldn’t believe I’d never ventured this side of the Thames! What a lot I’ve been missing out on!


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We had passed a lot of very posh looking restaurants along the riverside which had tablecloths and wine glasses set out. I don’t think they’d be that welcome to my slightly sweaty self in flip flops! Instead, we headed to ASK, which was equally as lovely, and were sat outside with stunning river views. It was great being able to just sit there all content and watch the world go by! Since I was by the sea (the Thames counts as being part of the sea right? ;) ), I went for their seafood pasta which was so good!

After fuelling up, we crossed over Tower Bridge which is another thing I don’t think I’ve ever done! After taking a million photos and getting in the way of the genuine tourists, we reached St Katharine’s Docks, which I never even knew existed until I read about it on Time Out! It’s central London’s only marina and is now home to many restaurants, shops, flats, and offices. The weekend before, there had been a Clipper Round the World sailing race, so we were able to catch a glimpse of a couple of lingering boats. It was rather peaceful and it was great being able to take a casual meander around the area.


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There were a million benches this side of the river, but we weren’t really in the mood to do a massive search again since it was rather hot! We headed towards the Tower of London and found the Katie in London bench and the Noughts and Crosses bench which was close by, before heading home after a wonderful day out :D

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Books About Town Bench Hunt

It’s been a busy couple of weeks filled with lovely wanders around London, results day, and graduation! I’ve ticked off another thing off my Things to Do Before I’m 30 since I’ve definitely explored many new places around London in the past couple of weeks!

Earlier this month, Books About Town started where 50 unique bench sculptures appeared around London which were designed by local artists and famous people to celebrate London’s literary heritage. In the past couple of years there have been loads of cool hunts around London like the Easter Egg hunts and Phone Box hunts, so I was rather excited to hear about this new one! Thankfully, they had maps of where all of them were on their website so last week I ventured out to find some.

We started off at Blackfriars and wandered along the Southbank. They always hold random festivals and this time it was the Festival of Love. There were many random installations and bits and pieces dotted around the area!

Our first stop was Waterloo to find our first bench. Unfortunately, there was a guy who seemed completely oblivious to the fact that he was sat on a piece of art and had set down all his bags and made himself very comfortable. Undeterred, we headed off to find Around the World in Eighty Days which was a bit of a challenge as we didn’t know that it was inside a shop.

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We wandered around the Bloomsbury area and found many other benches. Sadly, one bench which looked really cool had been taken away for repairs :( It was right outside Birkbeck University, so I’m going to blame them for damaging it ;)

The benches all looked amazing, some more intricate and detailed than others, but all great to look at nonetheless! I think from that day’s hunt, my favourites are probably Peter Pan and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe benches!

Peter Pan bench

Peter Pan bench