15 July 2010

A day on the beach in the Isle of Wight

Having heard only glowing reviews, we decided to check out the Isle of Wight. The journey south involved a train from London Waterloo down to Portsmouth, then a ferry across to Ryde. We arrived in Ryde about 9am, and caught a train down the east coast to Shanklin. The trains that run in this area are actually old ex-London Underground stock, complete with wooden interior and a steam-train style whistles - awesome!

Shanklin is a picturesque costal town, with a beautiful beach and authentic old village. Everyone must have been sleeping in, as when we got there at about 10am we had the place to ourselves. We sat down for a nice picnic on the seaside and soaked up the sun.

12 July 2010

The land of dictionaries - A weekend in Oxford

Another weekend, another English city. This time the city of Oxford, most famous for dictionaries, smart people, beautiful architecture and its world renowned university. I joined three friends for a (much too early) train from London Paddington - it didn't help that I somehow set my alarm, and therefore arrived, an hour early. Great. Paul K went one better though, with only 30 minutes sleep the previous night... good effort.

It's a short journey to Oxford - about an hour on the train through the very pleasant English country side - think rolling green hills and wandering sheep under a vast blue sky.

Once in Oxford we made a quick detour to our hostel to drop off our gear, then it was 'into the breach once more, my friends' - to explore! You expect most European cities to contain some kind of ruins, castle or fortress... Oxford was no different. Except for the fact that while most castles are awesome, this one is... well, shite. I think the castle itself was unimpressive to start with, but it has been transformed it into this mutant half breed - with glass sections, flash frontages and some parts converted into shops and resturants. There is even a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. I wasn't around 500 years ago, but I'm quite sure there was no American doughnut chains. Just my opinion - they should have left it the way it was - unimpressive is better than just plain ugly.
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