Exploring Oxford University, Day 2

After a brief introduction to Oxford yesterday, I’m excited to explore more of it today. I began my day with an English breakfast at Turl Street Kitchen, the restaurant next to my hotel. English breakfast usually consists of a toast (topped with poached or scrambled eggs), bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, and beans. I had all of the above except for the beans. The server asked me if I wanted ketchup. I looked at my plate but didn’t see potatoes so I told him I didn’t need it. Then he asked again if I wanted brown sauce. I gave him a confused look and asked what it was for. He said it’s usually to dip the meats with. I shrugged and told him okay, sure, I’ll try it. I dipped the sausage in the sauce and almost gagged. I’m not sure if it was the sauce or the meat that didn’t taste good but something certainly tasted awful!

After breakfast, I walked around Conmarket Street and found shops that I normally do not see back home. I met up with my son and he thought I might be interested to see the nearby mall. It’s a nice indoor/outdoor mall but it’s nothing spectacular if compared to the malls in the US or Asia that I’ve been to.

This is the view from the mall’s terrace

My son showed me several of the colleges, particularly All Souls, reputedly as the college with the toughest admission. According to him, the entrance exam at All Souls College has been called the “hardest test in the world.” There are only two students who typically get admitted each year.

All Souls College

Our first touristy stop was to go up to the tower at University Church at St. Mary the Virgin. I had read that the tower is a must-do in Oxford. But climbing a very steep spiral staircase to get all the way to the top was,for me, the difficult part. (Actually I had more issue with going down). I’ve been having issue with my left ankle and while going down the stairs, I almost sprained it.

Big first, let’s look at the insanely breathtaking view from the top!

Going back to my almost-sprained ankle, it was starting to feel painful to walk so it was a good excuse to rest and have tea at Vaults and Garden, the cafe on the ground floor of the church. They had an outdoor seating that’s looking directly at the beautiful dome, the Radcliffe Campus or “Radcam” as it is commonly referred to by the students. One of the things that I really enjoy in England is their tea drinking culture. I love that tea here is an equally (perhaps more) popular drink as coffee unlike back in the United States. Seriously, the tea makes up for their food! 😁 But seriously though, it is what inspires me to come back to London every time!

Next stop was at Christ Church, arguably the most beautiful campus in Oxford. It is also one of the film locations for Harry Potter. If you want to go inside and see the hall, you’d have to pay £8. It wasn’t open when we got there (it would reopen in a couple of hours) but we decided not to wait and not go at all.

Instead we walked towards River Thames (known in Oxford as the Isis), a popular spot for kayaking, punting, and for sports events at Oxford.

With all that walking, we were ready for lunch. I had roast and Yorkshire pudding in mind, recalling a delicious lunch from a pub somewhere outside London that I went to many years ago. But every restaurant we looked at had it on their menu as the Sunday roast special. That’s right—only available on Sundays!!! So we googled for the “best restaurants in Oxford” and from the selection of a handful restaurants, we decided to go to Quod. Its proximity to my hotel was definitely a factor in choosing it as I was planning on going back for a siesta after lunch (don’t judge, this is my vacation too and I can do whatever I want lol!). The restaurant’s modern decor was inviting and the food was also quite nice.

I could still feel the jet lag and I was too tired to walk around. I headed back to my hotel and we decided to meet up later for dinner at Turl Street Kitchen (where I had breakfast this morning). Turns out, it’s also rated as one of the best restaurants in Oxford.

Similar to what I felt last night, it was surreal and hard to believe that I was there visiting my son at Oxford AND drinking beer or wine with him! I pondered on the moments when this boy was just that—a boy! He’s now a young man who’s learned to be more independent, preparing to make his way in the world. I can’t help but wonder where the time has gone!

From London to Avignon: a six hour journey via Eurostar 

After spending a night in London, I was ready to embark on my next adventure—a detour to Avignon before going to my final destination (Paris). Eurostar. the high speed train to Avignon is approximately six hours from London’s St. Pancras International. What an incredible train ride this was!

After spending a night in London, I was ready to embark on my next adventure—a detour to Avignon before going to my final destination (Paris). The high speed train to Avignon is approximately six hours from London’s St. Pancras International. Knowing I would be sitting for that long, I decided to get a premiere standard seat. I was, in fact, willing to splurge and tried to purchase the business premiere (I promised to spoil myself in this trip 😜) but too bad they were all sold out!

There are three direct routes to Avignon from London weekly (Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays), otherwise you’d have to stop in Paris and transfer from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon. Not exactly what I wanted to do.


My seat was facing another seat and fortunately no one showed up or we would be touching toes the entire trip. The train was half empty which made it a relaxing trip. As I settled comfortably in my seat, the stewards brought my petit dejeuner—a tray with croissants, jam, yogurt, bottled water, and tea. Trains are so much more enjoyable than airplanes, unless of course you fly first or business class and it’s unfortunate we don’t have the option of high speed trains in the United States!

I wanted to stay awake, hoping I wouldn’t miss the beautiful scenery outside. But jet lag took control of my body and ended up snoozing pretty much the entire time. I was awoken by the sound of the cart being pushed around.  “Madam, would you like cheese bake or chicken?” the steward asked me. I was getting lunch too??? I thought the meal service ended with the breakfast! The $185 (one-way) I paid for this ticket was definitely worth it. In fact, it’s much cheaper than most one way plane tickets within the United States! (It cost us over $800 round trip from Dallas to Hawaii and all we got were peanuts and drinks for eight hours!)

I chose the more familiar dish (chicken) since I don’t know what a cheese bake is. Bristish food perhaps? The chicken actually tasted good! The lunch also came with a choice of wine—red, white, or rosé—but I opted out from drinking anything that’ll put me back to sleep.

I checked my watch and we were two hours away from destination. I thought of the time I went to visit my friend Michel in Avignon twenty-something years ago. I met him on a New York flight I worked as a flight attendant and we kept in touch by exchanging letters. Since then he’s moved to a different house, broke up with Alain (the partner he was with at the time), met Jacques (but unfortunately cancer took his life), then met another man (whom he is currently married), and has traveled the world (he was in Nepal during the massive earthquake in 2010). I wondered if we would recognize each other when we see each other at the TGV station.


I decided to go to Avignon because I wanted to see Michel again. Also, I didn’t get to see much of the Provence region when I went. My cousin came with me and she insisted on going to Nice and Monaco as well. Big mistake. That’s what happens when you travel with other people—you get easily manipulated by their plans and you often give up what you wanted to do. That’s why I’m doing this solo travel, because it’s time for me to do what want to do.

When I arrived in Avignon, I immediately spotted Michel waiting on the platform. He told me I haven’t changed much (I’ll take that as a compliment 😊). He introduced me to his partner/husband whose name is also Michel. He didn’t speak much English but thank God for google translation! We arrived at their house and fell in love with its Provençal themed decor (it’s at least how I envisioned a home in the Provence region—warm, cozy, colorful, and charming). I felt right at home.

One Night in London

My travel bucket list has three categories:
1. Piece of cake…easily achievable!
2. Hmmm…it’s going to be difficult but it will happen someday!
3. Ummm…in another lifetime perhaps?

But before I start talking about my travel bucket list, let me tell you about a trip I did approximately ten years ago with my mom and my aunt in London.

My travel bucket list has three categories:

1. Piece of cake…easily achievable!

2. Hmmm…it’s going to be difficult but it will happen someday!

3. Ummm…in another lifetime perhaps?


But before I start talking about my travel bucket list, let me tell you about a trip I did approximately ten years ago with my mom and my aunt in London. I was (sort of) their tour guide and did all the planning for them. Since I have already seen most of the tourist attractions in London, all I really wanted to do in this trip was to experience an English tradition: an afternoon tea and possibly at Harrods (I fell in love with Harrods tea a long time ago). I invited my mom and my aunt but they weren’t too keen on the idea. A waste of time and money, they said. I could’ve made them wait for me while I did it alone but I didn’t. I was worried I’d inconvenience them with my trivial ideas (so I thought) and I dismissed the only one thing that was in my to-do list in London.


A decision I have regretted for ten long years! And hence I added, “doing an afternoon tea at Harrods” on my bucket list. Although this one falls easily in the first category, it was only a matter of when?

For those of you who follow my blog know that I have been through a lot lately and have had occasional bouts of depression. God knows I tried to snap out of it but nothing I did helped. My dear friend who works for American Airlines knew I’ve been dreaming about doing a solo trip someday so she suggested I use her flight pass and go somewhere I can be alone. I thought of going to different cities or countries I haven’t been to but all I could think of was going to Paris. I have been to Paris many times before but I’ve always had a romanticized idea of Paris, of having an alone time with the city of love (or lights, whatever you prefer). Yeah the thought of just Paris and me sounded really good. If New York is my soulmate, its European counterpart is Paris. A woman can have multiple soulmates can’t she?😊

My hotel in London

A non-revenue pass is on a standby basis, only occupying seats that have not been purchased by paying customers. My friend told me that Paris is going to be much harder due to its constantly full flights. If I didn’t mind rerouting to London, she said, I would have a much better chance of leaving Dallas. Are you kidding me! Why on earth would I mind London? Besides I have an unfinished business there! I soon packed my bags and I was ready to fulfill that bucket list.

Eight and a half hours later, I arrived in London Heathrow International Airport and took the tube to my hotel. I dropped off my bags and immediately headed towards Harrods. I’ve forgotten how wonderful London is and how easy it is to navigate this city. Gosh, I love London too!


Harrods is huge! How could I have forgotten about this? London is easier to navigate than the store! I asked the employees for directions and where The Tea Room was. They said they have a lot of tea rooms. No, there’s a restaurant here called The Tea Room, I said. Geez, not even the employees knew their way around the store! Well, you can go to The Georgian, someone suggested to me. I thought to myself, no, The Georgian is too fancy for me. I want somewhere that’s a little more down to earth but can still be prissy. Afternoon tea is prissy regardless of where it is anyway! The employee gave me a booklet, a guide for each floor in the store. And so there it was, I found The Tea Room, on the second floor.


I chose the “Wedgwood” that came in a three-tiered stand with a selection of finger sandwiches, scones, jams, cake, and a cup of tea. It costs £35, definitely a splurge, but I’ve waited for ten years to do this, so what the hell!


I sat there watching the people devour on the scones, absolutely the most delicious scones I’ve ever tasted (the British surely know their scones). I had no idea how I’d finish everything but I didn’t care. All it mattered was I was there, having an afternoon tea at Harrods.


I found a park nearby my hotel and decided to go for a walk. It was a beautiful evening and the weather was just perfect. I sat on one of the benches and I contemplated on the day’s event. I asked myself, am I really here or is this another one of those dreams I don’t want to wake up from? Should I pinch myself? Nah, I don’t really want to wake up if it is indeed a dream! Surely, an afternoon tea for a bucket list may sound lame and simple but whoever said a bucket list must be grand and complicated?