Posted in bloggers, Lifestyle, Travel, United Kingdom

A Non-Hiker’s Guide to Climbing Arthur’s Seat

 

IMG_8779

“I’m on my way from misery to happiness today…”

– The Proclaimers

Finally, the last part of my Scotland blogs. Finding the time to write this blog was even more difficult than hiking up to Arthur’s Seat itself and I needed time because I really wanted to be able to do justice to one of the best experiences of my life (despite the unflattering photos and continuous whinging that you’ll all soon find in this blog).

The very first time I heard of Arthur’s Seat, my imagination was immediately captured. Despite the fact that I knew Camelot was just a legend, there was a small and unreasonable part of me that believed I’d find Excalibur on top of those hills.

I was all fired up to make this hike. I was so excited that it was all I could talk about during the long weekend. It was to be the grand finale of our Edinburgh weekend, not by design but because the weather was truly rubbish up until our last day, when the sun decided to come out and play.

TIP NUMBER ONE: Do not do this hike in questionable weather conditions. Seriously. 

This hike is quite a popular one and we asked several of our acquaintances about their own experience just to give us an idea of what to expect and what to prepare for. It’s easy, they said. Kids can do it, they said. Literally a walk in the park.

TIP NUMBER TWO: Do not listen to your acquaintances. Do your own research. 

It was not a bloody walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. Climbing up Arthur’s seat is a proper hike. Had we known this, we would have been more prepared. I was wearing Hunter boots, for crying out loud. Those things were made for the rain, not for a rocky terrain. I was pretty much petrified the whole time that the rocks would somehow tear through the rubber and I’d have to make the long trek home on bare feet.

Which leads me to….

TIP NUMBER THREE: Dress for the occasion. 

I’m not much of a hiker but I’m pretty sure shoes with traction are a requirement if you’re climbing up hills and crags. There were also areas in which the ascent was slippery as hell. Do not even get me started on the descent.

Because we were rendered complacent by the seemingly expert advise of our numerous acquaintances, we chose to walk from our flat in the city centre to Arthur’s seat. As a direct result of this monumentally stupid idea, we ended up walking for FOUR HOURS.

It took us nearly an hour to get to the base of Holyrood Park (where the peak was), two hours to climb up and down the peak and, because we got lost, another hour to get back to the city centre.

We had no food, and even more appalling, we had no water. We were incredibly unprepared for this hike, its a wonder we didn’t pass out.

TIP NUMBER FOUR: Take a bloody bus or tram to Holyrood Park for god’s sake. And bring sustenance. 

Anyway, if you ignore the fact that you’re huffing and puffing and that you’ve been walking for the better part of two hours and you still can’t see the bloody peak, the views were pretty incredible. It was hard to believe we were still within the city of Edinburgh.

Being there truly felt like being transported back to a time and place when things were much simpler. Maybe that’s why city dwellers like me need to get out every now and then: take in a  little bit of nature, remind ourselves of how we are just a tiny speck in a very big world and this is why we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

IMG_6198

TIP NUMBER FIVE: Take time to breathe, ruminate and get a little perspective. There’s no better place for it than when you’re out in nature. 

And then of course you get closer to the peak itself and you are reminded by how much of a millennial you are because despite the fact that some of those paths really were treacherously difficult, you still find the time to whip out your phone so that you can have a photo to post on Instagram. Oh well.

I don’t know whether it was because of the bad weather on the previous days but going up the peak was a little bit too slippery for my peace of mind. I had to use my hands and my feet to make sure I don’t get an injury. My mind was already conjuring up visions of me asking my favourite surgeon to fix my broken ankle. Shudder.

TIP NUMBER SIX: Do not think of broken ankles while making a difficult climb. FOCUS, YOU IDIOT. 

The last few levels (for lack of a better word) before the peak itself were among the hardest bit you have to get through. I very nearly convinced myself that I was content with having made it that far, I didn’t really need to climb that last hurdle.

But then I thought about how I’ve come too far to chicken out at the last minute.

Plus, I think I have residual abandonment issues. I’ve always hated the thought of being left behind, of not being able to do something that everyone else was doing. Those things combined gave me enough of a push to get over my fears and just focus on climbing – excruciatingly slow, yes, but I was making it up to that peak if had to crawl on my hands and knees to do it.

And thank God I did. The views were awesome, yes, that was a given. But what I didn’t count on was the exhilaration that came with finishing a hike; I felt a huge sense of achievement even though I knew this was probably nothing compared to other trails elsewhere in the world. The important thing is that I did it, despite being genuinely scared at times. I am pretty sure there’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere.

TIP NUMBER SEVEN: Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear – George Addair

Okay so I didn’t find Excalibur on Arthur’s Seat. But I returned to London feeling recharged and ready to take on the world. I had memories of an incredible weekend and I felt even more motivated to do as many hikes as I can, see more of the world outside of the concrete jungles I usually visit when I travel.

There’s a reason why we spend so much money travelling. At the end of the day, what it all comes down to is that the world truly is such a beautiful place. There are so many places you can go, so many things to see, and you’re lucky if you get the chance to see as much of it as you can. If you do get that chance, grab it with both hands.

 

 

Posted in bloggers, Travel, United Kingdom

Escape To Edinburgh

Here’s a fact: one can go absolutely nowhere on short notice when one has a Philippine passport.

This is the reason why I had very limited options when I was feeling antsy over Easter weekend. I knew I had to get away from London for a while, but I didn’t know where to go that would a) be affordable and b) not require a visa.

Fortunately for me, all my searching eventually got me considering going to Scotland. Originally, I had wanted to visit the Highlands. Despite the fact that – as many of you know – I am NOT  a big fan of the Outlander series I kinda wanted to see the setting for it, maybe visit Loch Ness and just soak up some of Mother Nature’s goodness for a spell.

However, it was not a good idea to go the Highlands when the weather was so uncertain. Also, you will need AT LEAST 5 days to really be able to enjoy it and I did not have 5 days. At most, I had a long weekend. So, I researched Edinburgh instead and found that it was perfect for the kind of weekend I had in mind.

So I packed my bags, took a bloody uncomfortable ten-hour coach ride and hied myself off to the capital of Scotland.

I didn’t know much about Edinburgh beyond the fact that it had a castle right in the middle of the city centre. I was pleasantly surprised to find such a charming city that had all the modern comforts of London but with enough of a difference for me to know that I was definitely in Scotland.

IMG_9017

As I usually like to do when I first get to a new place, I walked around with my sister and my friend Romelyn to get a general lay of the land. The weather was NOT GREAT; I thought my boss was kidding when he said that it always rained in Edinburgh but I certainly did not feel like laughing when I looked up to overcast skies that day.

We didn’t really have an itinerary, just a list of places and points of interest to visit. Plus, it was Good Friday and the Catholic in me (plus thirty years of hearing my mother’s voice in my head telling me that one does not go gallivanting when the Lord has died) just could not bear the guilt of being out and about on Good Friday.

So we took a little tour around the city, passed The Scot Monument and crossed Waverley Bridge to make our way to The Royal Mile. We visited Victoria Street, which apparently served as the inspiration for Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series.

IMG_9016

In fact, one can argue that Edinburgh is the birthplace of The Boy Who Lived, as JK Rowling wrote most of the first book in one of the cafes just off Victoria Street, a place called The Elephant House.

Side note: the owners of the cafe certainly had no qualms capitalising on the series’ fame.  It very clearly advertised this fact on the restaurant window for any and all tourists to see.

It was a little morbid but we also visited Greyfriar’s Kirk, which is really nothing more than a graveyard. Being total Potterheads, my sister and I could not resist visiting this place where JK Rowling apparently got most of the inspiration for the names she would eventually use in the book. It certainly had a very Godric’s Hollow feel to it and OMIGOD I AM SUCH A NERD.

After an afternoon of walking, we were so tired that we eventually decided to go back to our flat on Rose Street. I rented a flat off AirBnB from a very nice host called Charles. The location is so close to everything: Rose Street is a small street running parallel to Princes Street, which is the main high street in Edinburgh.

The area where we lived boasted lots and lots of restaurants, pubs and shops. It was extremely roomy – two bedroom, with a large living room and an open plan kitchen. It was so homey that there were times when I didn’t want to leave the flat. Thank you, Charles for being such a good host. If any of you are ever in Edinburgh, I would really recommend his place. Follow this link to see his page on AirBnB.

On Day two the rain was still relentless, but we still made the most of it by finally making our way to the jewel of the city, the Edinburgh Castle. This historic fortress sits on top of Castle Rock, which was made from some volcanic eruption millions of years ago. The view is absolutely magnificent, and it just dominates over the most of the city’s skyline. You can hardly go anywhere without seeing either the Castle or The Rock.

IMG_8640

 

IMG_8612

 

IMG_8659

 

IMG_8675

We didn’t enter the Castle because, honestly, I’ve seen too many castles in my lifetime that I don’t think I can stomach forking over £30 to see another one. I usually go into castles if I know about its history and as I’m not as well-versed on Scots history as I am on say, The War of The Roses, I figured it wasn’t worth the cost or the time wasted on queueing. If any of you do decide to go, I would suggest pre-booking.

Below the castle is the Royal Mile and the surrounding Old Town, and its a good place to grab something to eat or drink. One of the things I regretted not doing is having whiskey in the place where its thought to originate but maybe I’ll do that some other time, maybe when I visit the Highlands. Its also full of the usual tourist traps but what do you expect; they have to get revenue from somewhere.

Because I was somehow obsessed with being one with nature for this trip (I don’t know maybe I’ve just seen to much of the concrete jungles of the world that my soul was yearning for a little greenery), we made the hike to Carlton Hill. Hey you Instagrammers, apparently this is THE place to be if you want to take some of the more iconic shots of the city’s skyline.

IMG_8701

 

It was quite a hike to get up to Carlton Hill, but what I would soon find out is that this nothing compared to the trek up to Arthur’s Seat, a journey that – for me anyway – was so fraught with risky paths that it deserves a blog post dedicated solely to it. More on that later though.

The view from Carlton Hill is also quite nice, if a bit ruined by the city’s evident industrial boom. Still, its easy to imagine Scotland the way it was when clans ruled the land and they had to fight over every bit of territory they could get their hands on. At least that’s what it seemed like to me anyway.

Being on top of that hill was a very welcome respite to the hustle and bustle that I’ve gotten so used to in London. It was nice to just walk around and breathe in some fresh air. Even though I am a self-confessed city girl, its nice to get away every once in a while.

IMG_8696

IMG_6099

IMG_8681

IMG_8683

Of course, I would soon be itching for a little bit of civilisation as I got a little bit too up close and personal, LITERALLY, with nature while hiking up to Arthur’s Seat but that’s a story for another day. I will post it on my blog soon, along with tips on how NOT to approach a hiking trip.

Until then, have a good week blabbaholics and bookworms! Stay tuned for more travel posts just as soon as my day job lets up on the pressure. Lol

 

 

 

 

Posted in bloggers, Travel, United Kingdom

Random Thoughts on A Ten Hour Coach Ride to Edinburgh

I have random moments where I suddenly get the urge to go somewhere I’ve never been before. These days, especially, because I’m saving up money for my “big” holidays later in the year, I feel like all I’ve been doing is work, work and more work. I feel like I never even get out of Central London.

So I spontaneously decided that I want to spend Easter in Scotland. There are two things wrong with that sentence: spontaneous and Easter. I looked up plane and train fares and they cost more than what I want to spend considering that I’d still be within the United Kingdom. I think return flights would have cost me around 160£. Come on. I can fly to Spain with that kind of money.

So I had this bright idea that we can take the coach to head over to Edinburgh and then take a flight to come back to London. Megabus fares going to Edinburgh were only around 40£, which is pretty sweet for a last minute trip on Easter weekend. That’s the upshot. However, it takes TEN HOURS to get from London Victoria to Edinburgh.

Ten hours on a bus.

It sounds like a nightmare. Ordinarily, I would balk at spending more than 5 hours on a bus. I’ve done it before and I promised myself I never would again.

But I underestimated just how much I wanted to get out of London. So I booked it (and convinced two other people to book it with me). We chose to go on a sleeper one, leaving at 10:30 from London Thursday Evening and arriving in Edinburgh at 7am the next day. I rushed from work (the list overran, of course) to the station to catch my coach ride, got into my seat and settled in for the long haul.

It was a very loooonnnng bus ride.

Some of the thoughts that were running through my head:

10:30

Please God don’t make me want to do number two at any point during this bus ride.

10:31

Hey wait, is there even a toilet on this bus? Oh my God, I don’t think there is one.

10:40

Okay, how do I recline these seats? My colleague promised me these seats were better than National Express because they recline.

10:45

Oh hey, I did it! This seat reclines!

11:00

Damn you, woman whose seat is at the back of mine. I have every right to recline my seat if I want to! Its why that feature is there, so that people can get comfy. Have you never been on a plane? Its the same concept. Unless they’re serving us meals, I can bloody well do whatever I want with my seat!

11:05

Should I recline this seat just to spite her? I’m kind of in the mood for an argument.

11:10

Ugh, its not worth it. Its roomy enough and comfy enough that you’re able to sleep anyway.

11:20

Wow, my Spotify playlist really is very good.

12:00

I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier. Woohooo, Killers.

12:15

I am so bored. I wish I’d taken on more bank shifts or planned this trip earlier so that we could have gotten better fares for the plane or the train.

12:30

What time is it in Australia?

12:35

No, you will not randomly message someone because you’re bored. That is never a good idea.

12:40

Okay let’s start counting some sheep so you can zzzzzzz.

13:00 (I think)

15:00

Oh hey, stopover. Should I quickly run to the loo?

15:01

Nah, I’ll make it. I don’t need to go to the loo.

15:03

But what if I do need to go to the loo and we’re still hours away from Edinburgh. Better to go now than suffer later.

15:04

Alright, I’ll go to the loo.

15:10

Let’s get this bus back on the road. Hmm, maybe I should start writing a new post for the blog.

15:15

Bloody hell, there’s no charging station on this bus. THERE’S NO CHARGING STATION ON THIS BUS and I’m only on 40% with 4 more hours to go on this trip.

15:30

Okay, zzzzzzzz.

18:00

Oh man, the Scottish countryside is so beautiful. I can’t remember the last time I saw this much greenery.

18:15

Zzzzzzzz

19:00

Oh we’re here? YES! I survived a TEN HOUR COACH RIDE.

I am never doing this again.

Posted in Careers, london, Moving to London, United Kingdom

Approved! 

Just a quick update to say that life has been hectic lately and I’m too emotionally and mentally spent to even contemplate writing a full-length blog. But for those who don’t already know, my indefinite leave to remain has been approved!

It was definitely an excruciating experience and an exercise in patience. For a second there, I really thought there was a real chance that I wouldn’t get the decision that I wanted. Seeing the letter and the word approved (they should really use big bold letters for that one word!) felt like a thorn has been pulled from my side and I drew my first easy breath in 8 hours (that’s how long I was at the home office).

What does this mean for me? Well, it means I basically earn the same rights as a citizen, although I still have to apply for the actual passport next year (and shell out another 2000 gbp). I can own a property, start a business, work anywhere if I don’t want to be a nurse. There’s no restrictions on my working hours, unlike when I was on a work permit when I can only work 20 hours a week extra on top of my contracted hours. I still need a visa if I want to travel this year because my passport is still Filipino, which is a pain because I honestly never want to go through the process of applying for any kind of visas ever again.

I guess what it means is that I can start thinking about building a life in the UK. For better or worse, this is my home now. And that mental shift has had unexpected results and have led to surprising decisions on my part. But I think when you’re young, its easier to take risks. And you take that risk because you don’t want to look back in the future and ask yourself ‘what if?’. I think the only truly bad experience is the lack of experience itself. 

Thank you to everyone who helped me out with this process, to the people who kept me calm when I was nearly in hysterics and to the people who were the first to celebrate with me. More celebrations to come later! 

Posted in london, Moving to London, United Kingdom

I Know I’m Extremely Anxious When…

As I write this, I am in the waiting room of the UK Home Office, waiting to hear my number come up so that I can submit my settlement application (Indefinite Leave to Remain). 

Visa applications always make me extremely anxious. My paranoid brain just goes into overdrive and cooks up a whole number of things that could possibly go wrong. Its funny, I’m normally a glass half full kind of person but not when it comes to things like these.

As visas go, this is probably the most important one I’ll ever apply for; its the penultimate step before I can obtain that long-awaited British passport. I’ve also paid 3000 hard-earned pounds for it. So its understandable to be anxious under these circumstances, but I think I have just taken anxiety to the next level. I really need to calm myself down and I thought writing a blog about how anxious I am would help (try to see the logic in this dear readers!).

So I’m passing the time by making a list of how I know I am beyond anxious and bordering on panic right now:

  1. I have no appetite whatsoever – for a girl who loves to eat, this is a bloody big deal. I can’t even think about food without wanting to vomit.
  2. Music doesn’t soothe savage beast- I’ve tried listening to my Good Mood playlist on Spotify, which usually works. But not today, today I am beyond the reach of Shake It Off and Mr. Brightside. Maybe some Black Parade will help?
  3. I cannot concentrate on what I’m reading. Honestly, I bought a book and my kindle to while away the time but every time I start reading my mind goes into all the possible worst-case-scenarios that could befall me and I just lose interest in Clarissa Fray and the rest of the Shadow Hunters.
  4. I break out in sweat. The weather has turned in London and its now the season of coats once again but I have been sweating buckets since I got off East Croydon station. Seriously.
  5. Little things start to annoy me. Like the fact that the application centre has to be all the way in freakin’ Croydon, or the Mary Sue-ness of the book character whose story I’m attempting to read (the tv series version is infinitely better!). Or the buzz of the people waiting in this room with me.
  6. I feel teary. And emotional. Like I’m likely to break out in tears any minute now.

I am almost certain that things will be fine and I will laugh about this in about 5 hours. But at this moment in time I am nothing if not a bundle of nerves. Watch this space guys, I will update you on my journey later on in the day. Wish me luck! 

Posted in Careers, friendship, Moving to London, Travel, United Kingdom

The Payoff: Why I’m Proud to be a One-Time Clinical Instructor

Teaching is in my blood.

I come from a whole family of teachers, spanning maybe two generations. As a kid, I used to earn my allowance by tutoring my younger brother and sister. I very nearly went insane in the process but it has prepared me for my future as an educator. Believe me, teaching your own sibling is an experience you don’t want to have in perpetuity (haha, Game of Thrones reference).

My father didn’t want me to be a teacher because he thought I would have more of a future as a nurse. At the time, there were not a lot of job opportunities in the Philippines and everyone was desperate to get out of the country. Nursing was a one-way ticket to a better life. Ironically, when I started studying nursing the demand for nurses internationally started to decline; there was a recession in the US and the UK and not a lot of countries were hiring out. But that was okay, because I knew as soon as I graduated that I wanted to be a clinical instructor in my alma mater and train future nurses.

My two years as a clinical instructor were some of the best and worst years of my life. I started out as this wide-eyed, dreamy and idealistic teacher fresh from uni and with all cylinders firing. I wanted to not just teach students, but to inspire them as well. I wanted to make an impact. I wanted to be that one teacher they’ll remember for the rest of their life. 

You know what they say about good intentions and the roads they pave.

Not that being a clinical instructor was hell. But. Reality sort of got through after a while and I realised that the job was way more difficult than I thought it would be. I especially had a hard time balancing between going the extra mile and getting too close to the students. I may also have disagreed with some of my more senior colleagues about our role in our students’ lives. I believed (and still believe) that it was possible to stay impartial and objective without being detached. I think that extra touch of the personal is what makes a student-teacher relationship special. I have gotten into a lot of trouble for clinging to that belief. But I had hell of a good time because of it.

In my first year as a clinical instructor, I threw everything I had into teaching. I was organised, I gave every student individual feedback, I listened to their problems, both academic and when they wanted support about the more personal aspects. I got creative and looked for ways to make learning fun. I still remember organising an Amazing Race-like activity around the campus at the end of every rotation. I think I may have also built a reputation for being really strict, which I never intended but turned out to work really well for me. I think a little dose of fear is healthy. But I didn’t want the students to do the work because they feared me, I wanted them to do it because they see value in doing it.

I supported extra-curricular activities with gusto. I may not know much about playing basketball, but I love the sport and I was there for every game. I cheered every win and commiserated with the team for each loss. I also knew that the best way to get over a loss was to eat and drink so I used to buy food for the team, so much that some of the boys still message me to this day to ask for pochero because that’s what we used to have when we ate out. 

I think that first year was awesome. I look back on it now and I’m grateful. I wouldn’t do anything differently even though some people are of the opinion that I got too close. Maybe I did. Maybe I was too young to be a clinical instructor. I was mentoring students who were only 2 or 3 years younger than me, its kinda hard to be an authority figure with that narrow an age gap. I think the lines were a bit blurred because of that, and with others the lines were more blurred because of natural chemistry. I think that there are people in your life that you will just naturally get along with and gravitate more towards. Some of the students were my friends. However, because they were my friends, I worked even harder to stay impartial within the context of our professional relationship. 

I think its a huge leap from being friendly with students to assuming that I would compromise my integrity for them. 

In my last year as a clinical instructor, I was unfairly accused of leaking exam questions to a group of students. I have never spoken openly about how upset I was about this but I do so now just to get it off my chest completely. I WOULD NEVER DO SUCH A THING. It goes against every principle I have in life. Teaching is my passion, and I cannot teach without integrity. Why should I work so hard to teach students if I’m going to give them the easy way out anyway? If I did that, I would be cheating them and selling them short because it means I have no faith in their ability to pass an exam. I don’t think those who used my name so carelessly to cover their mistake or those who were so quick to judge me ever realised how close they came to snuffing out that spark, that love I had for teaching.

But I refused to let them defeat me. 

I still don’t know who leaked the exam. There were other clinical instructors accused with me but I got the full force because of the kind of relationship I had with the students. In hindsight, maybe I was guilty. Guilty of not setting more boundaries and protecting myself from accusations like that. I learned that lesson the hard way. 

Still its hard to regret the choices I made when I have so many students who tell me how much of an impact I’ve made in their lives. I can’t bring myself to be overly bitter about that experience because its made me stronger; and it was ultimately the catalyst that led me to London. 

And I’m happy that I never gave up. Because I would have missed out on the payoff. The payoff is seeing your babies graduate; the payoff is seeing them all become nurses in their own right. The payoff is seeing how successful they’ve become and reuniting with them halfway round the world from where we came from and having drinks by the river Thames. 

Batch 2011. My first students and first babies. You’re not supposed to have favourites, but what the hell. This batch is definitely mine. 🙂

Batch 2013. My other favourite and the ones that supported me the most when shit hit the fan because they were loyal to me and to my sister. 😘
Well done to us, Sir Jo! Hahahah

With Marj the New Yorker on her first visit to London. First of many! Haha
With Rayann, New Yorker number two! 😘

I am so incredibly proud of the work we’ve done with these students. They’ve turned out better than we could have expected and Joseph, I think we should give ourselves a pat in the back, partner. Job well done.

Kudos, Velez College – College of Nursing UK Chapter. 😘

Posted in Lifestyle, Travel, United Kingdom

In An Alternate Life, I Would Have Been an Oxford Fellow…and other thoughts on an Oxford day trip. 

As my followers know, I’m not able to travel much this year because a) I needed to save at least 3 grand for my application to become a UK resident and b) I’ve used up most of my annual leave entitlements to go home to the Philippines in January. I usually have a birthday trip each year but this year I decided to spend my birthday at home. There’s plenty of interesting places to see in England anyway (I can’t go to Scotland because apparently there’s a massive festival that starts in August and flights to Edinburgh are horrendously expensive; ditto, Belfast). This last weekend my friend Jo, my sister and I decided to visit (re-visit in my case) two of the country’s premier universities. 


When you hear Oxford University anywhere in the world, you automatically associate it with prestige and excellence. The university has produced a lot of notable alumni and a record number of prime ministers. Among its list of fellows are CS Lewis (author of Narnia), JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), Theresa May (I don’t know how proud they are of this), David Cameron, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, and Lawrence of Arabia. 

Also, they filmed Harry Potter in Oxford. Ironically, for a university renowned the world over for a great many things (The Bodleian library, the Oxford University Press etc) most tourists want to see where the dining hall of Hogwarts is, or where they practiced dancing for the Yule Ball, or the grounds that Daniel Radcliffe walked in for the first Harry Potter movie or where Minerva McGonagall received the first years in that classic Philosopher’s Stone scene. 

Old Divinity School where they filmed scenes from Harry Potter, such as when they practised dancing for the Yule Ball 🙂
This is also where they filmed the Harry Potter infirmary scenes
 

The day-trippers at Christchurch College

We initially booked a free walking tour with Footprints and then upgraded to a University Tour because I fell for the blurb on the poster that said we could visit the colleges and the library. The reality fell short of my expectations and I think we would have been better off with our original plan and saving ourselves £15. We weren’t able to get into a college because they changed their rules about the size of the group that can be pre-booked. Travel tip: if you want to go into one of the colleges, don’t do a group tour. Do your research and pre-book your own tickets if they give you that option. The queue for some of the more famous ones, like Christchurch College (with the Hogwarts dining hall and where Lewis Caroll was inspired to write Alice’s adventures in Wonderland) were incredibly long. 

This is actually my 5th visit to Oxford but only the 2nd one that actually lasted more than 2 hours. The other three were part of the Evans Evans tour package that included Bath and Stonehenge so they were incredibly abbreviated. The first time I came to Oxford we stayed overnight. I think I had only been in the UK for four months at the time and I was still adjusting; I don’t think I was able to appreciate it as much as I do now. Plus there were 11 of us during that trip and we were all incredibly different: I was interested in the history and the university’s achievements; the others were concerned about where to eat. That’s why I loved this trip because first of all, Jo is easy to please. He may not be the world’s biggest fan of Harry Potter or of classic literature but he appreciates it – signs of a seasoned traveller. Second of all, I was with my sister who DOES share my interests; we’ve read the same books and can geek out over the same things so it just made going around Oxford more fun. I guess that’s another two travel tips I can give. Don’t come to Oxford for more than a day trip and make sure you know what to expect. Its a university town full of history, its not exactly the world’s most exciting city. 

I revisited some of my favourite Oxford spots for the nth time: the Bridge of Sighs, the Sheldonian theatre, the Radcliffe Camera and others. I don’t actually know why the Bridge of Sighs has been replicated so many times (there’s one in Cambridge as well), its pretty enough I suppose but the original one in Venice actually has a gruesome history: it leads from the Doge Palace to the prisons and would give prisoners their last view of Venice and the Adriatic before being incarcerated, and apparently they’d give a sigh at such a sight hence the name. In Oxford, all it does is lead students from one part of New College to the other. 🙄

Bridge of Sighs
Radcliffe Camera. Camera means room in latin.

The Bodleian Library is a place I’ve wanted to visit ever since I read the All Souls Trilogy a couple of years back. This library’s got publishing rights so they are entitled to receive a copy of every book that’s printed in the United Kingdom. That is A LOT of books. I wonder if there’s an opening for a librarian post there? Lol. Needless to say, they’ve had to build a place for all the excess books. They’re now kept in the New Bodleian or the Weston Library, which also houses some other treasures like a copy of Shakespeare’s folios, an early edition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s poems, a copy of Handel’s Messiah and others. The rest of the books are actually underground. There’s a tunnel that leads from the Old Bodleian to the Radcliffe Camera (which is actually a reading room). This underground passage is the reason why sometimes you’ll see a student go into the Radcliffe and seemingly never come out because they’ve already exited in another part of the city. 

The Old Bodleian Library

The weather was a bit uncooperative so we stopped by an apparently famous pub to have some lunch. Legend has it that an ex-prime minister of Australia once held the world record for the most number of ales drank in a period of time or something like that. Bill Clinton, who was a Rhodes scholar, apparently “smelled” but did not take marijuana while he was in the same pub. Let us all laugh together. I’m sure their ale is quite nice but I’ve never acquired a taste for it. I had my usual Reikorderlig cider instead. 


After lunch we went to another pub called The Bear, which is more of a “town” pub. Our guide said there was once a rivalry between the “town” people and the university folks. It turned brutal one night and a few students ended up dead, which is why for many years the mayor of the city had to pick four citizens in a ceremony where they apologise to the vice chancellor year after year after year until someone figured out how stupid that was. Anyway, so The Bear was a town pub from which vantage point people used to watch bear baiting, hence the name. How barbaric. Now its more known as being “the tie pub” because the old barkeep collected ties from people and framed them. 



Can I just take a moment to say how much I love the British pub culture?
Not that I condone an excess of alcohol, but I don’t see anything wrong with social drinking. I also like how families can go to a pub, and the tradition of fathers buying their sons their first drink. In the Philippines, we do most of our drinking either at a house party, a place by the streets, some hole-in-the-wall or a club where we have to dress up. Needless to say we would never dream of going there with our parents. There’s no place where people can just hang out after work to have a pint. Pubs are great; and god knows we need them in the winter when there’s nothing else to do in London. Lol.

We went to Christchurch college next, well, not inside because it was closed by the time we got there but we got a good view of Christchurch meadow which inspired Lewis Caroll. We ended the day at Blackwell, one of the biggest bookstores in the country. I predictably ended up spending a ton of money on books but its money well spent. I’ve always imagined myself reading at Blackwell’s like Diana in The All Souls Trilogy. 

Christchurch College, built by Henry VIII
Christchurch meadow. Spot the hole where the rabbit went into! 😂
Reading Narnia at Blackwell’s. Best way to end the day.

In fact, in an alternate universe I think I would have liked being an Oxford University Student. Taking the entrance exams, getting into one of the dorm rooms, having my first lecture and knowing the history of the hallowed halls I find myself in, sitting my exams while wearing my robes, becoming a fellow…I think I would have thrived in that kind of environment, I’ve always felt most at home in the academic environment. 

The forbidding gates of All Souls College, one of the most exclusive colleges in the university.
Apparently, the entrance exam to All Souls consisted of someone giving you one word and you have to write everything you know about that word. Can I have a choice? I think the word ‘love’ would do nicely for me. 😂

Either that or I would have become obese with stress (stress-eater here). Wouldn’t it be nice to be abl to provide my children someday with the opportunity should they wish it? Imagine the endless possibilities they would have when they graduate. Oh well. One can dream. Ultimately, as important as your education is, its what you do with that education that’s more important. I went to a humble school in the Philippines and I still somehow made most of my dreams come true. And that’s something to be proud of as well.