The fine city of Norwich.

A city I never thought I would visit, and love.

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Some of the best things in life come when you least expect it. The same goes for travelling. Sometimes some of the best places may not be listed on a Lonely Planet guide – you just happen to chance upon it while being lost on your way to somewhere and voila! you couldn’t stop talking about it to anyone who would care to listen.

But if I keep relying on that philosophy in life, I would never have discovered Norwich, a city in Norfolk, of which one travel journalist has labeled to be “on the way to nowhere”.

It sounds harsh, but there is some truth to it. Norwich is located in East Anglia, that little bump in the east of England. It is not easily accessible from any major cities, and there is nothing but barren land between London and the place. Moreover, train prices in Norfolk are generally more expensive than the rest of the kingdom, which only further discouraged people from visiting the place.

So my decision to visit Norwich had to be completely deliberate (there is no other way I would have ended up there otherwise) although it did take me almost a year to board that Greater Anglia train from Liverpool Street.

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The Greater Anglia train, with a cheeky Telegraph advertisement.

I never doubted that Norwich was going to be lovely, but the comments by some people about the place kind of got to me…

“What is there in Norwich?“, “Why would you go there?”, “I mean Norwich is lovely, but why?” and a few more things along the line.

… that when I got off the train, I was wary and wanted to take the next train back. I was even hiding behind a pillar at the station, trying to hide from my host but he somehow still managed to find me.

And it was a good thing he did, since I proceeded to have one of the best weekends I have had in a long time.

I fell in love with the city right at the first stop, an area at the outskirt of the Mousehold Heath. It was a hill overlooking the whole of Norwich, and I took to calling it the “Prison Hill” since it was located right across the street from the HM Prison Norwich.

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The city of Norwich.
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The said prison.

It was wise of him to bring me here since I love hills with a view.

Apart from the stunning view, there is something else to be said about the prison: a lovely cafe called Cafe Britannia located at the former Britannia Barracks, which is now part of the prison. It served affordable brunch (and yummy-looking desserts) that I wished I got to eat more. But the most amazing thing about the cafe (apart from its cosy atmosphere and good food) was that they employ offenders. I couldn’t remember a much better feeling than eating a cheese scone and drinking tea with a great company while contributing to a good cause.

Continue reading “The fine city of Norwich.”

A rebellious day trip to Oxford.

In the name of getting inspiration for our thesis, or so we claimed.

“You are running short of time.”

“I’ve got a plan.”

“Serla, let me repeat this once again, you are running short of time.”

I was two-and-a-half weeks away from my thesis deadline, and I was slightly behind in my progress. Sitting in my supervisor’s office, I was surprisingly calm for someone who only had 2,000 out of the 12,000-word requirement that I was supposed to churn out to graduate with my Master’s degree.

As for my supervisor, he was freaking out.

The good man, bless him, was so convinced that I would become the first student he supervise to fail the Master’s thesis. Yet, no matter what he said to jolt me awake, he simply couldn’t invoke that sense of urgency that he so hoped to see in me.

“Why don’t you tell me what your plan is for the coming week then?” he said.

“Well, I’ll be working at my part-time job three full days next week and…” I stopped as I watched his eyes widen in horror. “And I assure you I’ll have 6,000 words ready the next time I see you,” I blurted out quickly.

What I had wanted to say was that apart from my three days of work, I had also planned a trip to Oxford on that coming Saturday. But I was pretty sure if I had told him that, he might have disowned me as his student right on the spot, so I decided that it was best if he was kept in the dark about it.

I don’t dispute that travelling while you have a MAJOR deadline looming is irresponsible, but it was necessary. Because you see, my dear readers, thesis writing can be such a chore. After several weeks of sitting in front of the computer, words simply couldn’t flow anymore, and wouldn’t it be even more irresponsible had I done nothing to get rid of the writer’s block?

That was why my friend C and I decided to spice things up a little. What started out as a mission to try out all the different libraries in London turned into something slightly more ambitious. We decided that sticking to one city was not enough and we needed to try out libraries outside London as well.

We picked Oxford for several reasons. First, because even we were realistic and we knew that going all the way to Edinburgh wasn’t an option. Second, my friend C had not been to Oxford previously and I couldn’t let her leave the country without seeing the place. And third, because Oxford is full of intelligent people, we were hoping some of their brain cells might rub off on us – we clearly needed all the help we could get.

Plus, come to think of it, it wasn’t as if we would be spending so much more time getting to a library in Oxford. The journey from Paddington took just over an hour. On a bad day in London, your commute could take as long.

Or so we thought.

When we got off the train, we realised immediately things wouldn’t be as simple as we had predicted.

oxford1First of all, we did not know what the University’s main library was called. Whenever I googled “Libraries in Oxford University” several options popped up, and I couldn’t possibly visit every single one to see which one was meant for us?

Luckily, we figured out pretty quickly that it was the Bodleian Library. However, a second problem immediately occurred to us – we did not actually know whether students from other universities were allowed to use the facility. We had just assumed it was open to all students from other universities.

Once again, we got lucky. After cajoling the librarian, we were allowed to make a one-day pass to use the facility.

These unexpected logistical problems had certainly set us back by an hour or so. By the time we were done getting ourselves admitted to Oxford University for a day, it was time for lunch.

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The first (and hopefully not last) English summer.

Some change in the weather, and a little more.

Summer was in its full force the past few weeks in London. The temperature went up to a whopping 31C, and the East Asian roots in me would soon take out my purple and flowery anti-UV umbrella out of fear of getting tanned (and wrinkles).

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Guess whose umbrella is that.

I took advantage of the rare glorious weather to do a lot of walks all over. I explored the streets of the City of London, from St Paul’s churchyard to little alleys filled with bars and cafes often overflowing with lawyers and bankers in their work dresses and suits, beer in hand. I also ventured further into my neighbourhood, up to my favourite Primrose Hill and then went as far as the Parliament Hill at Hampstead Heath (finally).

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Header of the Month: Nighttime London.

I had a hard time deciding what the header of the month should be for May.

So I decided on London, the city I know and love best after Copenhagen. And since my favourite London friend’s birthday is this month, I suppose it is apt to dedicate this feature post to the city where he grew up.

By the Thames, London, United Kingdom.

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We all just have to accept this fact: Samuel Johnson did not exaggerate. His famous quote, “No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford,” was true to the last word. Having visited London on three different occasions now, I still can’t get enough of it. It simply has everything, from old architecture to modern ones; musical plays and football stadiums; a place like Canary Wharf buzzing with serious looking people and hipsters’ den at Camden; expensive shops and shabby ones; dirty toilets and beautiful scenery. A place of contrast – some people may call it messy, but to me, they are all co-existing in a beautiful chaos.

The city is as beautiful during the day as it is during sunset, and at night. During Christmas period, it gets an added sparkle from the festive and twinkling lights. It may seem off-season to post Christmas pictures now, but just in case you plan to visit London in December, here are pictures that I took of some of the most beautiful sights in the city.

Continue reading “Header of the Month: Nighttime London.”