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!

Exploring Oxford University, Day 1

My son is currently on a study abroad at Oxford University for two quarters. Oxford seems like one of those dreamy universities that only exists in the movies and if you told me a few years ago that my son would be attending classes there (even if he was only an exchange student), I would have laughed and wouldn’t believe you.

I decided to leave a day earlier because Oxford is preparing for a spring break and things will be closed around the university on the day I was originally going to arrive. Everything worked out with my flight arrangements in spite of going on standby. But before the plane could take off, there were a few obstacles. First, there was a slight maintenance issue, and then the captain announced he can’t legally fly the plane because it would put him over 12 hours of working that day. We waited if they could find a replacement and fortunately someone was available. We finally took off around 7:30 pm (not too bad since we were only delayed for 1:40 hours). During the dinner service, a man was walking wobbly past me and slammed his body towards the wall and fell by the exit door. I saw him grabbed the lever and I immediately yelled not to touch it for the fear of blowing the slide from an altitude of 35,000 feet. Everyone was panicked around me and I almost shit my pants thinking he was drunk and might do something stupid. Turned out he had low blood sugar level and became dizzy hence the fall. The 8 1/2 hour flight time seemed like it went by fast but being in coach is never a pleasant experience regardless of the length of the flight.

The immigration line took forever! There must’ve been only two officers working in spite of the thousands of arriving passengers. After leaving the customs area, I followed the signs to the terminal bus station. It’s just the most confusing thing where I enter a glass building, then take the elevator down, walk in a long tunnel, then take the lift back up again. I also got ripped off exchanging money at the airport. I only got £52 for my $100, and £24 went to the cost of my bus ride to Oxford! In only a few minutes, half of my money was gone! 😂

My son met me close to where the bus drop off (at Queens Lane). Oxford surely doesn’t look anything like London. It’s very quaint and expectedly has a vibrant university feel. He showed me where he lives, the Stanford house (where Stanford students on study abroad at Oxford live).

He toured me around Brasenose College, one of the colleges in Oxford University, where he did his classes.

**Fun fact: do you know that there are 38 colleges within Oxford University?

I haven’t really seen the other bigger colleges yet but I was already falling in love with Brasenose. He showed me all the places inside—the pub, the dining room where all the formal dinners were held, etc. but some of them were already closed.

On the way to Brasenose College, we passed by what everyone refers to as the C.S. Lewis door

This is where all the formal dinners are held

**second fun fact: spring break in Oxford is one whole month!! Compare that to our one week spring break in the States!

Following a British tradition, it was time for us to have our afternoon tea. We went to The Grand Cafe, one of the oldest cafes in Oxford. I chose one that included salmon and tuna sandwiches and scones. But ever since I had my afternoon tea at Harrod’s, I really couldn’t enjoy this one as much. I remember the scones at Harrod’s were to die for. I’m almost tempted to go to London just for that lol! My son told me I can’t go all the way to London just to have an afternoon tea but I reminded him I flew all the way from Dallas to London a couple of years back just to do that!

I went back to my hotel, the Tower Guest House (that’s situated on a 17th century old building), to get a few hours of sleep. We planned on going to Turf Tavern later in the evening for dinner. Turf Tavern is a historical pub, known for their famous patrons in the past including former US president Bill Clinton. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, rumor has it that it was in this tavern where he smoked but did not inhale. 😜

One can’t visit the UK without having fish and chips. The only problem is I haven’t had great fish and chips yet with the few times I’ve been to England. And fish and chips at Turf Tavern was another disappointment. I’m not sure what it is but something was just lacking in taste.

Walking back towards the hotel, the night seemed silent. My son pointed to me the Bridge of Sighs, a skyway that connects two colleges, also a city landmark.

Quiet walk from the tavern to my hotel

Bridge of Sighs

I was very tired from all the walking and touring that day! But there’s so much more to see and do and I can’t wait for tomorrow. Retreating to my comfortable bed at my hotel, I thought that it is surreal to be with my son in one of the oldest universities in the world!

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?