Saturday, 28 May 2016

London, Hampstead Heath & St Dunstans

Post-exam adventure: days 5 & 6 (the final chapter)

Like Bath, London is not an unfamiliar town to me. I've lost track of how many times I've ventured here, but there's always something new about the city so it is worth coming back to quite often. For the last couple of days, I've undergone an intense period of solo travelling. It was therefore why I decided to switch it up a bit and visit some friends during my first day in the country's capital.

Hampstead Heath
Delicious cakes from BB Bakery
Frisbee fun
Travelling alone is fun, but it's equally nice to have some company at times (in my opinion anyway).

I don't know if you've paid attention to the UK weather forecast recently but the weather was definitely a bit on and off on Friday. From sun to snow then to rain and back, it honestly felt like we were experiencing all four seasons in one day. Luckily for me, when I did need to head out, the sun was also out. It was therefore why I managed to enjoy a long and peaceful walk with company around the entire Hampstead Heath. I consequently rewarded myself with a filling dinner and a long-awaited chat with a different friend in the evening after all that exercise.

Main motivation behind the park stroll
Dinner with the friend
I forgot to mention that we had some cakes before we headed onto the heath. If you're ever in Covent Garden, you should definitely head to BB Bakery in Chandos place. It serves the most beautiful and scrumptious cakes, biscuits and other desserts I've ever had. I think that they also serve afternoon tea on a special double decker bus and Thames Riverside boat -- totally worth trying out if you're lucky enough to secure a spot!

The view from London Bridge
Pumpkin ravioli at Strada
London Bridge
After being accompanied for the entire day on Friday, Saturday was my day to roam around freely by myself. It began with a long stroll around Monument towards St Dunstans (a very nice little park that is worth a visit if you're ever in need of killing time on a sunny day), which then progressed across London Bridge towards Waterloo for a lovely lunch at Strada. Thereafter it was off to shopping around Kensington before 4pm suddenly crept up and I had to leave. It was back up to my uni accommodation shortly after that.

I've been welcomed 
Going around St Dunstans
Oh boo hoo, this completes the final leg of my grand 6 day getaway.

St Dunstans
The Shard from St Dunstans
St Dunstans
It's sad when things come to an end but, as the saying goes, with every ending comes a brand new beginning - let the travels for 2016 by The Amateur Anthropologist FINALLY begin.

The floral wheelbarrow

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Bath, Prior Park & Wells

Post-exam adventure: days 3 & 4

In this episode of my grand 6 day post-exam adventure, we'll be focusing on Somerset (a south western English county which is home to the famous UNESCO historical spa town Bath). If I could have my pick of living anywhere in the UK, Bath will win hands down. I've been here a fair few times already, to the extent that I know the majority of the main roads and how to get from A to B by heart. However, the feeling of awe towards the elegant Georgian architecture in the town centre has still yet to falter.

The Royal Crescent
The above photo clearly explains this feeling.

Sells the BEST biscuits ever

Totally worth applying for :)

Uber in Bath

Having been to Bath on several occasions, there wasn't much need for myself to go down the stereotypical touristy route of visiting the Roman Baths, Sally Lunn's and the Jane Austen centre (although they are highly recommended if it is your first ever trip). I did stop by several places that I had been to before this current visit, mainly my most favourite shops. Seriously, if you consider shopping to be a therapeutic cure to stress then Bath should be your number 1 stop. I guarantee that you'll definitely find the perfect independent retailer for any need that you may have.

Henrietta Park

Sydney Gardens

Sunny day in Sydney Gardens

However, the highlight of my vacation was clearly my exploration out into the wild unknowns (i.e. I went to a bunch of new attractions that I hadn't had the chance to go to during the previous couple of times I'd voyaged to Bath). Personally, I find fun out of simplicity. And that's precisely why my journey led me to three of the most beautiful parks/gardens in the city. Thanks to the consistently crystal clear blue sky, I managed to take quite a few decent photos in Henrietta Park and Sydney Gardens - don't you think? My favourite park would undeniably have to be Prior Park. It's a bit of a trek to get there (seeing as it's up on a huge and steep hill), but it's totally worth it seeing as you get to see and go through its magnificent Palladium-styled bridge (one of only four left in the entire world).

The lone swing

Bath from Prior Park

The Palladium Bridge
Call me old fashioned but I go with whatever floats my boat (i.e. sightseeing in parks).

I'd planned to have a pause in between my park visit and my next destination, but fate had a contrasting idea in mind. So, after walking back down the hill towards Bath's town centre, I immediately boarded the bus to head to Wells. Famed as the smallest town in England, Wells offered me two spectacular attractions to explore. The first was its cathedral which, not only looked architecturally spectacular on the outside, was equally amazing on the inside. I was most intrigued by its unique scissor curve-shaped arches standing just behind the altar - well worth seeing if you're ever in town. 

Wells Cathedral

The scissor arch

The second was the Bishop's Palace and Chapel, which was located just next to the main cathedral (convenient right?). If the weather hadn't been so sporadic (i.e. sun then snow then rain then sun and again), I would have definitely stayed longer in its 14 acre garden in order to explore every nook and cranny. Apparently you can see Glastonbury Tor from a certain point within the garden - wasn't lucky on that particular occasion but I will make sure I head back so that I can see it next time!

The chocolate jug

Needless to say, all that walking made it a very tiring couple of days. It was therefore enough justification for me to devour an entire pizza plus snacks for dinner on the very last night.

And what about days 5 and 6? You'll just have to wait till tomorrow to see ;)

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Oxford & Blenheim Palace

Post-exam adventure: days 1 & 2

At the end of every period of stress, people often require a long duration of relaxation before beginning to work again. The majority will generally pursue this through an extended sleep. However for me, I prefer to de-stress through a slightly more active and fun way. 

The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford
Yes that's right. Traveling is my cure.

Window shopping in Oxford
For the first part of my grand 6 day adventure, I decided to travel down to the charming and lively town of Oxford. I'm sure that most of you will have heard about its splendour and spectacles, so I won't go into many details about what I did there (the photos should explain this thoroughly). I did think about going to Bicester Village to shop, but there was more than enough independent retailers for me to buy from in Oxford itself. 

Blenheim Palace (interiors)

The Temple of Diana
In comparison to day 1, the second day matched my passion for exploration much better. Fate led me to the magnificent Blenheim Palace in the historic market town of Woodstock (no relation to Snoopy I believe). Whether you're interested in history or architecture, this palace has it all. As a quick overview of its timeline, the building was originally the birthplace of Winston Churchill. Visiting enables you to learn more about his life and relation to the palace. For example, he proposed to his to-be-wife, Clementine, at the "Temple of Diana" in his garden (and yes I did manage to snap a photo of this fantastic piece of architecture). The interiors of the palace itself can also be explored. I particularly liked The Long Library which houses one of the largest organs in Europe. 

Absolutely aMAZE-ing
The organ in The Long Library
Duck on patrol
Of course no adventure is complete without a bit of outdoorsy fun. For any nature lover, Blenheim Palace's exteriors will completely spoil you. There are acres pure grassland to promenade on, interesting monuments like the Column of Victory, and also the one of the largest hedge mazes in the world to get lost in. You can literally spend a good couple of hours just walking around and breathing in the fresh air (given that the weather is sunny). And if visiting Blenheim Palace is not enough to satisfy your globetrotter spirit, pop down the road to Woodstock village once you're done. There's a variety of quirky shops and cafes to marvel at and photograph. It's a great activity for anyone, especially whilst you wait for the bus to get back to Oxford. 

Heading to the Column of Victory
In the Formal Gardens
Roaming around Woodstock
That's it for Oxfordshire. Come back tomorrow to find out where I headed next on my 6 day post-exam adventure (dun dun dun).

Blenheim Palace (the magnificent exterior)