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Archive for the ‘United Kingdom’ Category

Exeter

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Exeter. Exeter is located south west of England. It was a 3 hours drive from where we live.

The hotel that we stayed in was excellent! It was very reasonably priced, walking distance to the the University of Exeter, and also the city.

It’s basically a huge house with many rooms, converted into a hotel.

The room we were given was like a secret room, lovely.

The cute stairway to our room.

Quite a spacious bathroom provided with many towels.

Breakfast is provided, and served by the owners I presume. Freshly made to order. If you’ve never tried fried bread (a british thing maybe), order the vegetarian breakfast. Somehow I didn’t take any picture of my breakfast, too hungry I suppose.

The dining room where breakfast is served, looks out to a lovely garden.

So, if you’re visiting Exeter, and need to stay for a night or 2, I highly recommend Raffles Hotel 😉

On the first day we arrived, Mat and I had a little day light time left to just quickly walk around the city. And you know what, it’s tiny. You can finish walking the whole city in half a day, or even less. The next day, I had the whole day to myself, (because Mat had a meeting at the uni), so I had a more detailed exploration of the city.

First stop, St Catherine’s Almshouses, what’s left of it. It was bombed in 1942. It used to be a Roman Fortress, an Inn and then Almshouses intended to accommodate 13 poor men of good character and preferably with connections to the Cathedral.

Next to the Almshouses is the remaining of the roman wall.

Tea time of scones and chocolate mousse cake with tea.

If I have to name an attraction that is a must visit in Exeter, it would be the Underground Passages.

Before you go there, look for discount coupons in the “Tour Exeter” booklets. You will get a 10% discount. There were many tour booklets in my hotel drawer, so I just teared one out. It costs £6 per person.

As you walk down the stairs, you’ll be greeted with a rather spooky character.

Then walk through this strange corridor.

And then, when it’s time, sit through a 10 minute introductory video. After the video, you must put on a hard hat, and off you go underground.

Very narrow!

And some parts, very low. So if you’re tall, bend over. I’m short, and I still have to bend down a little.

The underground passages are medieval subterranean passageways that used to transport water under Exeter city centre. You’ll hear the full story if you visit it.

Compared to the the catacombs in France, this was not spooky at all! It’s claustrophobic, but I’m ok with it.

There are “emergency” exits, and one of them leads you to Boots.

Walking around the city. Modern architecture. Lots of shopping.

Next stop, St Martin’s Cathedral.

It’s a medieval church, built maybe around year 1065. It’s one of the oldest churches in Exeter, established even before the Great Cathedral opposite this church building.

What’s unique about it is that if you notice the wall at the front, it’s at an angle.

St Martin’s Cathedral is right at the corner before these row of shops.

And opposite St Martin’s, is the Great Cathedral of Exeter!

Very grand interior, as grand as Westminster I would say, but not as many dead bodies… lols

Front:

Back:

Side:

While I was enjoying a free concert by some choir, I noticed a particular cushion which had the word “GARLIC” embroidered on it. No idea why.

Huge pipes of the church organ producing very bass sounds.

Picture taken behind the church organ.

This is Exeter Astronomical Clock, dates from 1484. I could tell the time, but I couldn’t figure out the dates.

If you notice, the door below the clock, has a hole in the bottom of the door. It was cut to provide access for the Bishop’s cat to deter rats and mice.

The stone Pulpitum screen:

The Martyrs’ Pulpit:

Another photo of the front, with clearer skies.

Streets around exeter.

This is what is left of the Exeter Castle.

At this point, I am making my way to the Quay. These pictures are some sites that I walked past.

The Quay.



Walking back to the city again.


Overall, a lovely little city. Unfortunately I didn’t really have the opportunity to try Exeter’s food. Maybe next time? If there’s a next time 🙂

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This post is long overdue. We went on a road trip after Christmas, just before New Year’s. Before you try and guess what the town with the long name is, we’ll get there.

Our first stop is Holy Island, Holyhead, in Anglesey. Not sure what’s so holy about it. There’s a lighthouse there, which was closed to the public, because of winter. With good reasons.

IT WAS DARN WINDY!
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I kid you not. It was so windy that I couldn’t even open my eyes. I was so tempted to do a jump shot because of the scenery and all, but I dare not, in fear of getting blown off the cliff.

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No wonder it’s closed throughout winter.

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Our next stop, is the town with the long name. When you enter the town, it even welcomes you with a board saying “Welcome to the town with the long name”.

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Are you ready? The town name is:

Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch.

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This is the “famous” train station that you MUST take a photo with when you get there. It even teaches you how to pronounce it. Try pronouncing it.

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By the way, there is a short form for this name. It’s Llanfair-PG. That’s all… lol… I should have told you that earlier.
Why did we decide to visit this town with the long name?
Because of the long name of course! Why wouldn’t you?
LlanfairPG is a small little welsh town in Wales. And there is a meaning to the name. It means:
St Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of llantysillio of the red cave.

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They named the town with this record breaking name with the purpose of trying to attract more visitors. I’m very sure they succeeded. It definitely caught my attention.

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Next, we drove to another little town called Beaumaris.

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Interesting building with a short door.
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Beaumaris Castle.
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Menai Bridge.
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Rugby

The game, rugby, was invented here, hence the name of the town, Rugby. If you’re a rugby fan, this is the place of pilgrimage.

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The game was invented at Rugby School in 1823. A student, William Webb Ellis is said to have caught the ball during a football match and broke the rules by running with it. Mathias found out the tuition fee to study in this school, £11,000 a year! I’m guessing some of the students are under a rugby scholarship, world champion hopefuls.

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Opposite the school is the Webb Ellis Museum. FREE! It’s a really really small museum.

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Walking through the town is quite nice too. But the day we went was so windy. A storm called Desmond was passing through north of England.

The last attraction is the Rugby Art Gallery Museum & Library. Free too!

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I saw a very nice doll house.

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And a very old fridge.

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That’s all about Rugby. Maybe I should try watching a rugby match before I leave England. I think I would like to watch a match with the All Blacks in it 😉

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Bath

One day, Mat said, “Let’s go to Bath”. I replied, “Ok, let me get my towel”.

Jokes aside, Bath was really a city where people took their bath publicly, togetherly, unashamedly. There, I just created a new word. Home to some of the nation’s grandest Georgian architecture, and one of the world’s best-preserved Roman bathhouses. It’s found on top of natural hot springs.

Legend has it a king, found Bath some 2800 years ago when his pigs were cured of leprosy by a dip in the muddy swamps. The Romans established the town of Aquae Sulis in AD44 and built the extensive baths complex.

Bath became the only city in Britain to be declared a Unesco World Heritage Site.

First stop, the Bath Abbey. It’s the last great medieval church raised in England. It’s most striking feature is where the angels climb up and down stone ladders, and no, it’s not Jacob’s dream, but a dream of the founder, Bishop Oliver King. Maybe he was meditating on Jacob’s dream.

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Just in front of this abbey, is the main attraction of Bath. The Roman Baths. It’s a construction of bathhouses above three natural hot springs which is at a steady 46C.
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The heart of the complex is the Great Bath, so-called “sacred spring”. Though now open-air, the bath was originally covered by a 45m-high roof. So since the roof is gone, the warm water is exposed to sunlight, encouraging growth of algae, therefore, the green colour.
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Another view from another corner.
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This is how it used to look like originally.
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Hot springs still run through the entire building.
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Drains directing the water in and out of the building.
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Can you see the steam?
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Sick people will sit down and soak in the healing waters.
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What’s left of the bath now.
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You must wonder what are those columns. There used to be a tile floor on top of it. Bathers after a bath, will sit on these tile floors and sweat themselves out. Hot air is circulated between the columns under the tile floors. So it’s like a sauna.
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Next, a short stop at the Parade Gardens.
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Nice view of the Pulteney Bridge. The bridge is lined with shops like the bridge in Florence’s Ponte Vecchio. The one in Florence was full of shops selling gold. This one however, very normal looking shops.
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Walked pass the Theatre Royal, which is still in use today.
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The Queen Square, oldest of Bath’s Georgian Squares.
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The Circus is not a place to see acrobats and clowns, it’s a roundabout 🙂

This Circus however, is designed to echo the Colosseum in Rome.
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And lastly, the Royal Crescent. Similar in design,  but not a full circle, hence the name.
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Bath is definitely a must visit city in England too, unique, I would say. But if you can, try to avoid going into the city on weekends. It’s packed with tourists. And the road leading into Bath is annoyingly small. Just because it’s a Unesco Heritage, they can’t change anything, just restore.

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Leicester

Leicester (pronounced les-ter), recently found the remains of King Richard III. They found his remains under a car park. To find out more about this king, you can visit the King Richard III: Dynasty, Death & Discovery centre.

He was the last English King to be killed in battle.

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You can see where they found his remains, and a little story about him too. There’s a statue of him right outside the discovery centre.
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And the statue is at the corner of Leicester Cathedral.
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Next, we took a walk around the city. Not quite sure what building this is.
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Nice lanes around the shopping district.
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Then we walked around 10 minutes to this Jewry Wall Roman Baths. It’s free to enter, but, when we arrived, it was closed. But you can see it from the road side.
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I didn’t really have a plan on where to go in Leicester, so this was a nice accidental “encounter”. The Leicester Market.
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Finally, a quick drive through University of Leicester. One thing about travelling in winter, daylight is so short. This was taken around 4pm. And yes, it was raining. So, time to go home.
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I wouldn’t bring my guests to Leicester to visit, unless they are really interested in King Richard. But you’ll be interested to know there’s a National Space Centre, and also Leicester Castle.

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Oxford

Oxford, is one of the world’s most famous university cities. It’s a collection of a few colleges like Trinity College, Exeter College, Merton College, etc…

My first impression of the university town is that it is very messy. I was expecting car free roads and lovely lawns. The town is full of cars. Finding cheap parking in Oxford is almost impossible. They should make the whole city car free. Have multi-storey car parks on the outside ring of the university and make people walk in.

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This bridge is often referred to the Bridge of Sighs because of it’s similarity to the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. I just found out there’s a 3rd Bridge of Sighs in the University of Cambridge.

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The Bodleian Library, one of the oldest public libraries in the world. Even though it’s a public library, it can only be visited on guided tours. For now, I’ll just see the outside of the library.

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You’ll be interested to know people like Oscar Wilde, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien studied here.

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Radcliffe Camera is the city’s most photographed buildings. It is a circular library/reading room. The only way to see the interior is to join one of the extended tours of the Bodleian Library (£13).

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University Church of St Mary the Virgin. 3 Anglican Bishops were burnt at the stake for heresy during the reign of Mary I.

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Next to the Bodleian Library is the Museum of The History of Science, and it’s FREE!

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Next is the Ashmolean Museum, also FREE. Britain’s oldest public museum has collections of Egyptian mummies, rare porcelain, to name a few. Didn’t spend too long in here.

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This next museum is a must visit. Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Most importantly, FREE ADMISSION! There’s a collection of exotic insects and fossils.

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There’s even a live beehive.

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This is how the bees go out and in. We tried looking for the queen but gave up very quickly.

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Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is a collection of quaint beautiful villages with honey coloured stone walls. We went through 7 of them.

Our first stop is Bibury. Once described by someone as the most beautiful village in the whole of England, of course I have to go and see if for myself. Well…. I think it’s up for discussion. No doubt it is beautiful, but I don’t think it’s the MOST beautiful.

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We visited the trout farm.

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I’m not sure if you can see many trout in the picture below.

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Befriended a swan.

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You can of course catch your own trout here. They charge £4 for a pound, lb, of trout. They will also kill it for you.

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We saw a family catching trout, and it only took less than 10 seconds to fish one up.

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Next, the most photographed street of the whole of England, Arlington Row. There were a few films filmed here, eg. Bridget Jones Diary and Stardust. Beautiful eh?

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Next stop after Bibury is Bourton-On-The-Water. It is with good reason they named their village that way, because there is really water running through the village. Lovely place to have a stroll. I’m sure its even lovelier in summer with ice-cream in one hand, and a husband in the other 😉

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Next, we drove through 3 villages:

The Slaughters: The name is not as terrible as it sounds. It comes from the old english word “sloughtre”, meaning slough or muddy place.
Stow-On-The-Wold: The highest town in the Cotswolds (244m)
Snowshill

All very picturesque and beautiful.

And then, we reached Broadway. You would expect to see city lights and a really busy city when you hear of Broadway. This is nothing like it.

We went on a hunt for Broadway Tower. First, we parked our car. Saw this lovely house.

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Walked through the woods.

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And then we got lost. The signs to the tower was gone! 2 men were also trying to find the tower, they gave up and walked back down the hill. I wasn’t going to give up so easily. Lo and Behold, an old man was walking towards me through a field of sheep. So I asked him if he knows where the tower is. And he said yes. Praise God!

He said he can give me the directions in cantonese (found out he worked in HK for a long time). And I replied “I wouldn’t even understand if you told me in cantonese.” Finally getting the right directions in English, we walked through a field of sheep. SOOOOOOO beautiful!!!!!!!

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I think we walked a total of 2 miles, when finally… TADA!!!!!

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Broadway Tower. Was it worth the 2 miles hike? I think so. But you know what? Cars can reach there too… grrrrr…. Anyway, the consolation is we got to see sheep and the rolling hills, God’s wonderful creation! Amen!

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Lovely place to take adventurous pictures. So, I directed Mat to take a jump shot of me, and off I sent it to my family to see. And this is what my daddy dearest replied:

“I just noticed a huge bee flying around the tower”.

slap-on-the-forehead

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So I said, if that’s a huge bee, what do you make of this picture?

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And my mummy dearest replied:

“That’s a spider trying to catch the bee”.

I shall think of more fantastic jumps in the future.

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Finally, we drove through another little village called Chipping Campden.

The Cotswolds should definitely be on your list of places to visit in England.

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