Southern Fun; London, Halloween and Italian Food

I said I would do, so I did it. Here it is; my trip down south (*everyone applauds, fans screams, people faint etc…*)
The day after I got back from Cardiff, I was back on a train and marked my third trip to Birmingham New Street in 5 days. This time, however, instead of hopping on a train to the land of the Welsh, I hopped onto a Virgin train (ooh fancy) which headed towards London, as I was off to visit my ‘lavely’ friends and their ‘lavely’ dog. How ‘lavely’. Mel, Dave, Max, Leah and Willow. Can you guess who the dog is? (no, it isn’t Dave).

Here we go again.

Here we go again.

On the way to b'ham. Upper Crust and I are good mates.

On the way to b’ham. Upper Crust and I are good mates.

Isn't she gorgeous?

Isn’t she gorgeous?

The first full day was very chilled. Max, Leah and I went into the town centre for a bit and met up with Mel, but the miserable weather scared us off a little, and we headed back and made plans to see a film. So off to the cinema Max, Leah and I went, and we saw ‘The Maze Runner’. I haven’t read the book, and the only thing I knew about the film was from a book YouTuber who recommended the book – so basically I knew very little than the fact people are stuck in a maze. Needless to say, it was pretty good. Definitely was following that dystopian feel that we have seen through other franchises like ‘The Hunger Games’, but it was pretty different, and I quite liked it (I don’t like reviewing films too much, feel silly, let’s pretend that didn’t happen).

The evening we headed to Prezzo, and I was treated (thanks, guys!!) to a wonderful meal. I was very impressed with myself as I ate a whole calzone, then hazelnut covered ice-cream. Be proud, guys. Be proud. (Thank goodness I joined a gym, is all I can say). We went back, and Dave introduced me to Spaced. (I like it a lot. We watched a fair amount of Spaced whilst I was there.) I also wore my new heels that I got for a bargain and didn’t break my ankle, so it was just a night of successes really.

Sharing platter of yummy breads

Sharing platter of yummy breads

Phewf

Phewf

I don't like olives...

I don’t like olives…

The next day, we went to London. Ever since I went to London with some of my friends over the Summer, I have been dying to get back. I always liked London, but that trip just made me fall in love with the city. With it only being a twenty minute train journey from where my friends live, I had to go. So Max, Leah and myself got on that train and headed straight to Camden Market to have a wander. I really like the feel of Camden So many different people there, but all pretty chill. It is wacky and wonderful, and as someone who loves Affleck’s palace (which is just afflecks now apparently, who knew?) in Manchester, Camden feels like the ultimate extension of that, with it’s Gothic stalls and vintage corners. It is hipster central, but that’s probably why I like it so much. You can judge me, it’s okay, I just like kooky places (it is a well known fact that I am this ‘hipster’ of my friend group, I mean, I’m going to study French and Russian, I had no chance).

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Iconic, right?

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What size would they be?

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Pretty cool

Once we’d spent a little time in Camden, and I’d bought a scarf for me and my best friend, we decided to head for lunch. This meant catching a few tubes to Baker Street, and heading to Ask Italian. If you have never been on the tubes before, they can be summed up quite easily; hot, stuffy, sometimes very claustrophobic but incredibly fun and the best game of dot-to-dot ever. I really love working out which stations to hop on and off and what lines to get – I could ride around the tubes for hours if I’m honest. Plus I’m a nesh, so it is one of the only places that I am warm (the tubes and the staffroom at work).

Baker Street is such a wonderful station. It is ridiculously Art Deco and feels very grand, and you just want to take pictures of it and pretend all tube stations in London look like this (spoiler; they don’t). So here are some photos of Baker Street which is TOTALLY like all other tube stations. Definitely.

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Indi33

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There is also a really fat pigeon in this picture.

I thought I had more pictures than that. Awkward. You get the idea though, right?

Ask was, not surprisingly, fab. But that isn’t a shock, because I just love food a lot. I’m sure you’ve realised that by now, considering I talk about it so much. I’ll just show you pictures this time though, because I still have a lot to talk about, and FOR ONCE food isn’t my priority (is this still Rhiannon writing? Who is this imposter?).

GRAB THE DOUGHBALLS

GRAB THE DOUGH BALLS

Lasagne for Leah, yum.

Lasagne for Leah, yum.

Lasagne for Max, yum yum.

Lasagne for Max, yum yum.

They are the best.

They are the best.

Carbonara for me, yum yum yum.

Carbonara for me, yum yum yum.

After we had stuffed our faces, we decided to go see the poppies at the Tower of London, as we were lucky enough to be there for the run up to Remembrance Day. For some reason, I had it in my head that it wouldn’t be that busy. Half term. London. Once in a lifetime event. Really, Rhiannon? Needless to say, it was absolutely buzzing, which was lovely to see. The only downside is we didn’t get very close to the poppies, nor did we stay for very long. But it was truly stunning and such a wonderful tribute to those who died in WWI.

Poppies

Poppies

Busy at Tower Hill

Busy at Tower Hill

:)

🙂

After a lot of tube journeys (the circle line is the only line that confuses me majorily. IT ISN’T EVEN UNDERGROUND HALF THE TIME?!?!), our final stop of the day was Leicester Square, where we ate a lot of Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Phewf. Leicester Square was, as usual, busy and full of life, and was the perfect end for little day trip to London Town 🙂

Circle line has the modern tubes. It also doesn't stay underground. Circle line is so weird.

Circle line has the modern tubes. It also doesn’t stay underground. Circle line is so weird.

ice creammmmm

ice creammmmm

(I didn't finish it)

(I didn’t finish it)

And that concludes our little trip to London. Ah, I love London.

Later that evening Max and Leah went out to explorers and I spent my evening with Mel and Dave, where we went to the very swish hotel that Dave works to get a pumpkin (don’t ask). We actually ended up getting Cosmos. Pumpkins. Cosmos. It was a crazy night.

<3

Best selfie ever!

Best selfie ever!

My final full day was Halloweeeeeen. That apparently entailed Max and Leah sleeping in until the mid-afternoon, but I got a lot of my book read (you lazy fools). But as soon as they were up and ready, we headed to Tesco to buy lots of baking goods as we decided to spend our day baking some Halloween themed cupcakes. This had to be my favourite afternoon of all. Music on, us three in the kitchen making a bit of a mess (we cleared it up, don’t worry), singing loudly and making some slightly naff cupcakes (bar Leah’s)It was just a good laugh, and reminded me why we are all still friends after all these years. We all just get along so well.

Voilà

Voilà

Ooooh

Ooooh

Ahhhhh

Ahhhhh

The rest of the day consisted of preparation for Halloween parties. Which, for me and Max, mainly involved sitting around wearing moustaches, and then a lot of weird white paint (I am so, so sorry, Max). Then I went to a party with Max and his friends, who were all very lovely. They were all a bit younger than me, so I felt like that “cool, older person”, but I’m not that cool, and I’m not that old. It was good fun though, and nice to just have a laugh at a party for a change 🙂

Serious business

Serious business

"I look like Keith Lemon"

“I look like Keith Lemon”

Getting there

Getting there

DAT POUT. How cringey.

DAT POUT. How cringey.

hehehehehe

hehehehehe

bloomin' terrifying

bloomin’ terrifying

And that is it! That is my few days away… I FINALLY WROTE IT!

I really had the best time seeing them all, and I can’t thank them enough for having me there. Miss them already, and I hope I see them much sooner than another year (love you guys! x).

Aw, soppy.

The cliché blogging round up of the things I’ve learnt, or at least feel are notable enough to bullet point (because who doesn’t love a good list?):

  • Spaced is weird as heck, but a very good TV series.
  • You can NEVER have too much Italian food.
  • Naively thinking that just ‘a few’ people will go to see the poppies at the tower will lead you to be very surprised by the very full tubes and heavy security at Tower Hill.
  • Willow the dog is smaller than I remember, but just as lovely and cute.
  • Playing Ring of Fire with southerners is highly unfair when someone pulls a 9 and chooses the word ‘grass’ for me to rhyme with.
  • I really like travelling alone on trains.

Cardiff Adventure: #BlogioYngNghymru

Disclaimer: I’m deeply apologetic to any Welsh speakers – I used Google translate and considering I have experienced its terrible grasp of the Russian case system, I don’t have much confidence in its accuracy, especially when it comes to Welsh.

So, this weekend I went to visit one of my wonderful friends, who has ditched our northern seaside town for the city of dichotomies; Cardiff. I’ve been very excited about this visit for a number of reasons:

1. Travelling alone feels very grown up, therefore I can fake this ‘adulthood’ thing and buy coffee at Birmingham New Street like I own the place.
2. This would mark the first time I visit a friend at Uni, and that is so bizarre but really exciting.
3. I’ve never been to Cardiff, but as a massive Dr Who/Torchwood fan, I’ve seen it a lot of TV. I geeked out a lot.
4. And of course, I get to see one of my best friends for the first time in quite a few weeks. Aw.

Off I hopped, and after 4 trains, 5 hours and about 100 songs on my iPod later, I had reached my lovely destination.

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That single leaf makes it so atmospheric.

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Only went and got a table seat to myself on the second train, didn’t I?

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The xx whilst traveling alone on a train; how to feel like an indie movie.

The first evening
The first evening consisted of 3 things:
1. Continual talking
2. Nandos
3. Wine

The talking spanned from general gossip to neuroscience, and was welcomed by me with open arms. I love work, but talking about OFSTED and lesson plans isn’t quite the same as a good natter with my mates.
Nandos was perfection – I mean how could peri-peri chicken wings and refillable drinks be anything less? My friend and I got a sharing platter and stuffed our faces until we quite content.

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There it is… The place of dreams

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The menu of dreams…

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And the food of dreams….

One thing you should know about my friends and I; we try to be classy by drinking wine, but in general we just love getting a deal, and cheap white wine has become a staple at most parties and gatherings. Or in this case, evenings sat in my friend’s student kitchen. We were both pretty shattered; 6 hours of pharmacy lectures for my friend, 5 hours of travelling for me, so the bottle of wine got us pretty… Giggly. Cool fact: my general studies lesson plans are a fantastic way to spend your drunken evenings. However, when my friend tried to explain vector and scalar quantities to me, I had no chance. Don’t even understand them sober.

That evening was also my first introduction to Cardiff city centre, which is a place I recommend to anyone. I didn’t expect to like Cardiff as much as I did, purely because I knew very little about it if I am quite honest. But Cardiff is full of classically British buildings, both modern and old. Cardiff castle looms over the modern high streets giving a stark reminder that this is a city of heritage and importance – it is of course a capital city of a beautiful country. The mix of the old and the very new made it such a cool city to visit. You could go into the buzzing high streets, then walk another 10 minutes and end up in the massive Bute park, which my friend was also lucky enough to have practically on her doorstep. Plenty to do, plenty to see. Can you tell I was impressed?
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Saturday
My friend lives about a half an hour walk from the city centre, so we set off, and I was given a bit more of a tour of Cardiff. We even went into her pharmacy building as it was open day at the university. If Cardiff did my course, I think I would have applied there. We also went and got coffee and snacks from Nero, cause we are typical 18 year olds who love food and coffeeshops.
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Okay, so if you were paying attention before you’ll remember I said I love Dr Who. If you did remember, points to you. If you didn’t, that’s a shame, but I won’t hold it against you, just know I’m crying right now. Sob. Now, Cardiff Bay is the home of BBC Wales and the Dr Who Experience… So… Can you see where I am going with this?

My friend and I hopped on the cutest train you will ever see that literally runs from Queen Street to Cardiff Bay then back again. It was one carriage which made me very happy. I even took a picture, and the train driver waited to drive off until I took it. I like Welsh train drivers.
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When we got into the bay I was pleasantly surprised at how familiar it was to me. The Millennium building stood tall pulling in passers by to take photos of its impressive structure. Including me. The whole area was fairly chilled, and did remind me of beloved Bristol harbour in some ways. We stopped off to grab lunch (somehow I ended up with a fishfinger and cheese panini… It was alright…) in a sweet cafe, and did a bit of people/chaffinch watching. Then we headed towards the Millennium building again, to see what was going on in there (and also use the toilets, such freelancers).
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I’m a dork.

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I really am a dork.

Inside, it was buzzing. Massive celebrations of black history month filled the ground floor, with wonderful flags from around the world pinned around. I particularly enjoyed the Caribbean arrangement of ‘Valerie’.
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We then decided to slowly wander over to the Doctor Who Experience, and have a look at the sites. This included a Norwegian/Welsh church, some lovely ships, BBC Wales, weird contemporary art and a failure of a selfie with a sculpture. You have permission to laugh at it.
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NOW I’M GOING TO TALK ABOUT HOW FAB THE DR WHO EXPERIENCE IS AND I’M VERY EXCITED. Bloomin’ love Dr Who. (Feel free to skip this part if you aren’t into sci-fi BBC dramas about a Time Lord… But oh are you missing out).
Okay, so just go to it. It is so good. And I don’t want to spoil it for any Dr Who fans and those who don’t care about Dr Who won’t care about this part much but you fly the TARDIS so I mean it is cool. Well… “Cool”. Just go. Here are some photos.
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Phewf. I need to calm down, I’m all excited about Daleks and Cybermen. I’m sure you’re just as excited as me though, right? (I’m a geek, I know).

After the fun that was THE COOLEST FEW HOURS OF MY LIFE EVER (again, “coolest”) we headed back to the city centre and I got a further tour of the city before heading back to her student flat for tea. My friend showed me the famous animal wall, and took me closer to the castle, which really is very impressive both afar and up close.
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The evening
The evening progressed from;
Fajitas –> Skyping our friend –> watching Dr Who (duh) –> Clubbing in the SU

I felt like I hadn’t been clubbing in ages (in reality, it’s been about a month) so I was really looking forward to dancing away. It started off slow, but by the end of the night they stuck on Nirvana and The White Stripes and I was very happy. Nothing beats jumping up and down, head banging to your favourite music with loads of other people doing the same. We went with my friend’s flatmates who are all absolutely lovely, so I had a really good time.

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Sunday morning
We decided to have a nice stroll to the area where Roald Dahl grew up, which has the feel of a village, but due to its stunning cathedral, is actually a city all to itself. Much alike to St David’s in Pembrokeshire, the cathedral seems to sneak up on you, as if it is hidden. But once you find it, you wonder how you could ever miss such a colossal and awe-striking building.
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We also saw the sweet shop that Dahl mentions in his autobiographical book, which is now, quite disappointingly, a takeaway. His old school still holds its ground though; old, stunning… Very posh I would imagine.

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We then walked back through the suddenly familiar Bute Park, where we saw a lot of dogs, a lot of footballers and a lot of leaves. It felt like such an autumn walk as we wandered through the leaves, and I could imagine feeling very home in Cardiff. As I hope my friend does.

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To end the lovely trip, we grabbed lunch at her student flat then went for coffee. Or in my case, hot chocolate and the very ‘indie’ hot spiced apple. It came with a cinnamon stick, I highly recommend it if you are heading to Costa anytime soon. I also recommend taking a hipster photo, adding filters then uploading it to tumblr with a highly ambiguous sentence underneath. I keep getting notes for it… Oh tumblr.
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Ha, what a photo.

It was an absolutely fantastic weekend, and I can’t thank my friend enough for showing me round her beautiful new home. The only downside to the whole trip was my delay at Birmingham New Street… But I had a burrito whilst I waited so I can’t really complain!

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See you soon, Cardiff.

A very posh (belated) birthday present – Day 1

On Friday night I got back home from a lovely trip to Oxford with my boyfriend. It was a birthday present, and although I knew we were off to Oxford and would be doing a River Cruise, I knew nothing about where we actually staying in Oxford. I’ve got to say, I love a good surprise, so this one was pretty great.

We had quite the adventure actually getting to Oxford. Our home town is in the North-West of England, so as you can imagine, it takes quite a while, and a fair few trains to get all the way down to Oxford. So we meet at our local station all excited at around 9.15 am, nothing too early, but early enough for two teenagers. The first train journey was nothing too arduous – less than hour to Liverpool South Parkway on the all too familiar grey and yellow Merseyrail train. No delays, we were chatting away, it was going great. We get to Liverpool, however, and this is when it all goes a little wrong… But we wouldn’t realise that for another hour and a half.

Our next stop would be Birmingham New Street, so we hop over to platform 2 and wait for our train. One train comes along, and I say to my boyfriend ‘Nope, not our train, next one’, and I was half right. So the next train comes along, and it is at the time we had expected our train to come. Has to be our train, right? So we get on, find seats with a table (Jackpot!!) and settle in to watch an episode of ‘Don’t Tell The Bride’ on his iPad (which I highly recommend). Enthralled with the tantrums from the bride-to-be and “I’m sure £30 is enough for 10 bridesmaid dresses” from the groom-to-be (seriously, it is fantastic television), we don’t notice that the stations we are passing are not what we should be passing at all. Even when we stopped at Manchester Oxford Road for 15 minutes, reality TV had us too gripped to even blink an eyelid.

When the train started heading back the direction we came I was a little surprised, however. “It is probably just changing lines”, we assured ourselves. But we knew. Trying to ignore the obvious mistake we had made at first, we carried on watching our programme, but when it finished and I suddenly noticed that this would be the second time we passed Warrington Central, our mistake was proven and mobile phones were out checking the trainline to see which train we could catch to actually get to our actual destination.

The line we actually took, terminating at Manchester Oxford Road, then going all the way back to Liverpool South Parkway. Clever.

The line we actually took, terminating at Manchester Oxford Road, then going all the way back to Liverpool South Parkway. Clever.

2 hours or so later, and we’re finally back on track, with 2 more train journeys to go. We finally got there two hours later than expected, but we had a really good ham, cheese and honey mustard baguette from the Upper Crust at Birmingham, so I feel it was all okay. We are easily pleased.

So what about that surprise location where we would be staying? A prison. We stayed in a prison. But a really fancy one. Well, not quite. My boyfriend somehow managed to get a room at the Oxford Malmaison, which is an old prison reinvented into a gorgeous hotel, and it was so bloomin’ posh that our room was decorated with various tartan items and the complimentary tea included at least 4 green teas and a selection of fruit teas. I’m just used to good ol’ English Breakfast when it comes to free tea.

The gorgeous Malmaison Oxford

The gorgeous Malmaison Oxford

I was expecting 'Cell Block Tango' to begin at any moment

I was expecting ‘Cell Block Tango’ to begin at any moment

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Too swish!

What a view!

What a view!

Once we got there we decided to go for a wander, and headed towards Christ Church Meadow. Before we got into the park area, we had to walk down a busy main road, but the sudden quietness as we walked into the park compared to the urban chatter only a minute away was amazing. You can see why so many people dream of studying there; the gorgeous setting is only further complimented by the complete silence you can find in so many places in the city. This beautiful meadow spanned for acres, and we only got a small glimpse of it, however within our little walk we saw people punting, fields of cows and the cutest ducks you could ever imagine.

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‘My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage’ – John Bunyan

How very English!

How very English!

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Spot the smurf!

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I love this beautiful walk

Mooooo!

Mooooo!

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I was really excited to run up this bridge for some reason

They were so cute...

They were so cute…

Like really cute...

Like really cute…

Cheese!

Cheese!

Thought I was done with the duck pictures... Nope!

Thought I was done with the duck pictures… Nope!

Punting/Falling

Punting/Falling

I did Geography, can you tell?

I did Geography, can you tell?

My boyfriend had also booked a special offer we our very fancy hotel, so we were actually having a meal at the hotel that night. Now the one thing I told my boyfriend was more important than anything is that we eat good food, because we both like trying new food and basically eating in general (hence our excitement over the baguettes). I was not disappointed. First we ordered some fancy cocktails. Mine was lovely, but I wasn’t a fan of my boyfriend’s… Jalapeños in a cocktail, not for me. The rest of the meal was as follows:

  • Crusty Bread, with Hummus, Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar and Butter to share
  • Tomatoes and Mozzarella for me, Thai Chicken Wings for my boyfriend to start
  • Chargrilled Chicken, with a Thai Salad and Roasted Peanuts for mains
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding for me, Chocolate Soufflé for my boyfriend for dessert

Hungry yet? I am again…

I don't like olives... But someone else does!

I don’t like olives… But someone else does!

Cocktails!!

Cocktails!!

I don't know how he could drink it.

I don’t know how he could drink it.

So good. So so good.

So good. So so good.

The blazer is off, it is time to eat some pudding.

The blazer is off, it is time to eat some pudding.

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Aw

All in all it was a pretty amazing meal, and the fact we were sat in this uber-swish cellar, with bars on the windows to remind you of this stunning building’s history made it even cooler. After the meal, we were pretty knackered from all the travelling so just went back to the room to watch some ‘Orange is the New Black’ (see, we have good taste in TV really).

Pretty detailed account of our first day, perhaps too detailed and boring, but documenting it all is partly for myself so I can read them back and remember the awesome trips I’ve had. I have been reading lots of other lovely blog posts these past few days and have seen that many people finish them with questions, so I think I might do the same.

Have any of you been to Oxford before? What travel mishaps have people had in the past? And what food have people been enjoying lately?

Rhiannon 🙂 x