Thursday, October 21, 2010

What The Bloody Hell Am I Going To Do With That? – Angry Old British Man

As it turns out, I couldn’t sleep. Our bus for Oxford was scheduled to leave at 8 am, and I was supposed to wake up at 5 to shower, finish packing, recheck maps, get money out of the bank, go pick up the tickets, and meet Katie, the girl I was traveling with, by 7:30. Only problem was that Marylebone’s printer was out of order (I tried to print the tickets the night before) so that meant I’d have to pick up the tickets from the ticket office. Which I wasn’t exactly sure where it was or what time it opened. What if it didn’t open till 8 or 9 and we missed the bus? There goes all the money that we spent on this trip! So I tried to watch something to put me to sleep but it’s not working. All I keep thinking about is how awful this trip is going to be and how we’re going to miss the bus. I woke up at 5 (I think I got like 3 hrs of sleep) feeling completely nauseous and tried to take a shower, but the hot water was all out. Now this is not a rare event to occur in Marylebone. There’s no hot water when you want it at least once a week. But what I can’t figure out is why there is no hot water at FIVE AM IN THE MORNING?! Who else is taking a shower? How can ALL of the hot water be gone? I mean it wasn’t even lukewarm. So I decided to go back to bed and try again at 5:45. A quick nap later, and still no luck. And I’ve heard bad things about hostel showers so there was no way I was going to take my chances there. So I took the quickest shower of my life in cold water and I never wish to repeat that experience.

So after making sure I had everything, I set out for the bank. It wasn’t nearly as cold as I thought it would be at 6 in the morning, but it was certainly wet outside. Money for trip, check. Now on to find the ticket place. And my nausea started getting worse. I got there by 7 and yup, just as I figured, it didn’t open till 8. Greeeat. So I went to the bus place to try and get the tickets. They sent me to the National Express Office where I met the meanest little man to work behind a counter. Not only did he say he couldn’t print my tickets for me because his system was down, but he blamed and chastised me for not printing them out myself. I didn’t think it was worth trying to explain to him that the printer was out of commission and I COULDN’T print the tickets and he should understand that. So there was nothing else to do besides wait for the ticket place to open and try and exchange the tickets for the bus we were clearly going to miss for a later bus. Might as well get some coffee.

By 7:40 Katie had joined me outside the ticket office. Now let me explain a thing or two about Katie. We met in our film class the day the professor neglected to explain to us the time change and her, Chloe, Vicky and I started talking. Turns out she’s also in my internship class. All I knew about her was from those short periods of class time. Originally, we were going to go to Edinburgh, but by the time she told me she had the day off and we were going to plan it, a weekend trip to Scotland would be twice as expensive as it should have been, and I’m sorry, but I didn’t want to overspend by like £80, call me cheap. So we decided to do something cheaper but was still out of the city. She really wanted to go to Oxford, I wanted to go to Bath and Stonehenge, so we lumped them together and decided to make it happen. I was in charge of booking transportation, and she was in charge of accommodation. Only problem was that I didn’t really know how we were going to be traveling together. Turns out not so well.

When the ticket place opened we were first inside and as it turns out, you can just get on a later bus no questions asked. Huh, what’s the point of even picking a time then? Well whatever, I felt better that I wasn’t going to have to shell out money for replacement tickets and the next bus left at 8:30. I don’t remember much of the ride to Oxford as I was going in and out of sleep, but I didn’t have to sit next to anyone and could spread my stuff out among 2 seats so that was nice. When we get to Oxford around 10:30, I decide that it’s probably the smartest thing to pick up our tickets for Bath right now so I don’t run into this problem again. When I go into the little ticket office and ask if I can pick up some tickets that I’ve already paid for, the little man looks at me like I’m an idiot and just says, “Well that’s why people generally come in here.” Oh shut up old man and just give me my freakin tickets! So after I gave him the conformation number (which I wrote down for this reason) he surrendered our tickets. I turned to Katie, who was in charge of booking the Hostels, for insight as to where to go next. Turns out she didn’t write anything down. We don’t have an address, we don’t have a conformation number, we don’t even have a name for this place! WHAT?!? I do not like this. I do not like this at all! How do you not write this information down and look at a map as to how to get there before you leave? All she can remember is that the name had ‘backpackers’ in it. So I suggest we go to the information center. Maybe they can help us? We follow the signs and I let Katie do the talking while I grab a copy of the bus map. She comes back with good news. We have a name and directions. Good!

We get to the hostel which is this funky little place. I’m kind of digging it, it looks pretty cool. Check-in wasn’t till later but the guy let us store our stuff. He gives us a map of Oxford, marks on it where we’re located and where the main center of town is. See? This man knows how you’re supposed to do this! Cheers. So we set out around Oxford and decide to sit at this little park while we figure out our next move. I ask Katie what the plan is. Surprise, she doesn’t have one! She just kinda thought we’d wing it. WHAT? This makes me uncomfortable. I’ve been raised to travel a certain way. You have a plan of what you want to do, you make a budget, you WRITE THINGS DOWN, you look at maps, you have an idea of what you’re doing so you don’t look like an idiot. Nope, apparently that’s not how Katie rolls. Oxford was her thing, I thought she’d have some sort of plan. But instead, all she has is a piece of paper that some guy who used to live in Oxford hastily scribbled down some cool places for her to check out. Not only do I not like not having a plan, I guess what it all boils down to is I do not like not being in control. I need it. And not being able to have any control of a situation freaks me out. That being said, I did a quick internet search of things to do in Oxford before we had left and talked to people who had traveled there and had ideas of places (and their prices) written down. All Katie has is a bunch of tourist brochures scattered about and talk about tours and castles and £15 here and £20 there. Again, I don’t like this. So I suggest, we go back to the Information center and see what kinds of tour packages they have.

This turned out to be an excellent idea because they had hundreds of walking tours about any and everything for under £10 that left right from the center and took you all around the city. Yay! So we sign up for a city and college tour at one and leave. I (again) suggest that while we wait, we go check out Christ Church. This campus is where some of the corridors for Harry Potter were filmed. Katie agrees and we set out, stopped momentarily by a man selling fudge who looked at me like I was crazy for not wanting any of his free samples. No worries dude, it looks like Katie grabbed my sample for me along with her own. (“Dude, it’s free fudge!”)

By the time we find the Church it’s 11:30 and we spent a good 15 minutes touring the gardens. They had this huge path lined by trees that led to this river/pond/lake/body of water with ducks and away from this huge castle like building. Katie was very excited by a cow and insisted that I took her picture with it. As we’re walking away from the gardens I knew that I had to go in. Originally we weren’t going to because it cost to get in, but I knew if I didn’t go inside I’d regret it later. So I convince Katie and we follow a group of three girls inside to meet rude old man #3 of the morning! Apparently, the great hall (which is also the great hall in which the Harry Potter films are based after) closes at noon. I did not know this. So I step up to buy my ticket and the man asks,

MAN: You want to see the hall don’t you?

ME: Well, yes I-

MAN: Well then pay me already so you can go up and see it!

So I’m diggin in my purse for my altoid tin (which I use as a coin purse due to these silly Brits and their excess coinage) to pay him and he’s just impatient and rude

MAN: Well hurry up! Do you want to see the hall or don’t you? I told you to be ready girl!

So I start to pay him, and I had to give him like 5 pence worth in 1 pence coins and he got all pissy.

MAN: I don’t want that! What the bloody hell am I going to do with that? (Umm hello, that’s what I think when cashiers give them to me!) Here, just take your damn brochure and go! You’re going to miss it!

Well cool, I didn’t have to pay full price by like 10 pence. And then Katie steps up. With a card. Remember what I said about Brits and their love of cash as opposed to plastic?

MAN: I can’t take that! Go away.

Well this is awkward. I just paid to go in and I want to see the Great Hall! But I can’t leave Katie by herself obviously.

KATIE: Umm, well I guess…

ME: Here, you can just pay me-

MAN: Oh just go! Here *he thrusts the brochure at her. And then says over the walkie* ‘I’ve got a group of 5 more coming.’ Well what are you looking at? GO!

Thanks pissy old man! Why couldn’t you get me in for free first though? We ran up to see the Great Hall which was very cool and worth it, I think. I only wish we weren’t being rushed because I could have taken some pretty cool pictures of that ceiling. We walk in and I see a group of people getting up from the table so I hand my camera to Katie and exclaim that I need a picture sitting at the table in the Great Hall! As she’s taking it a little man comes up and starts yelling at me for sitting at the table. Apparently you’re not supposed to. And apparently there was a sign that says this, although since they were about to close the hall, they took it down, so ha! Oh well, off we go.

Next we went to the chapel where I was happy to meet an extremely nice old nun! So refreshing after all the old men this morning. Not only did she let me take pictures, but she was passing out information about just what exactly we were looking at in over 16 different languages. She kept asking if I wanted information in a different language just because I could have one. Haha, no thanks ma’am English is fine by me. It was the prettiest church I’ve been in right after St. George’s at Windsor and of course, St. Paul’s. I’m also starting to get better at this checking out old churches business and learning their parts like the Nave and the chancel. Also this place had some pretty rocking ceilings and I’m starting to really enjoy seeing the different styles and comparing all of those.

The courtyard was gorgeous, but a man had roped off half of the walk way and apparently you weren’t allowed past that point if you weren’t a student. Hmph. That still didn’t stop me from getting a cool panoramic shot! And I very badly wanted to see what would happen if you tried walking on the grass, but I didn’t dare. That’s really rude and I know how schools are about their grass (*cough A&M cough*) but it was just so green and inviting to my shoes! (calm down Stef, I didn’t step on their precious grass)

We left around 12:30 so we could get back in time for our tour, but this was met with some confusion. We come out of the school at a different point from where we came in, so I immediately look to the street sign and see something like this <- Information. So ok, we should go left, correct? But woah, Katie is walking in the opposite direction.

ME: Hey Katie, I think we’re going the wrong way.

KATIE: No, see we came this way so we need to go back this way. There’s a thing called sense of direction. I have it.

I thought it was best to not say anything and sure enough, a couple of blocks later I had to point out a sign to show that we were in fact going the WRONG way. So after picking up a croissant (shout out to Jules!) and a banana for me and a sandwich for Katie, we made it back to the information center right in time for this little old lady to come walking out of the building. My first through was oh great, this tour is going to be awful and she’s not going to do well with all this walking. Oh how very wrong I was! Hello Joan Murphy, the world’s best tour guide! Not only did this woman attend Oxford herself, but she worked as librarian at one of the colleges for many years, her husband used to teach at one of the schools, and her two children both graduated from Oxford. If that wasn’t enough, it takes 3 years to become a professional tour guide in England. (And they all have this little blue oval pin that says certified tour guide and I really want one!) This little old lady was like a little mother hen, she’d start out walking with all of us kind of puttering around after her unsure of where we were going to next. And I was scared she wouldn’t be able to walk the whole way, the woman never sat down! Even when she took us into the Chapel and told us to sit down so we could ask questions, she never sat down!

We first went to Wadham college. Now the Wadham’s were a very rich couple who didn’t have any children but wanted their name to live on, so naturally they built a school. But Mr.Wadham died shortly after purchasing the land. Everyone said nothing would become of the land because, what could a woman do? HA! (If you can’t tell, I love this story)

She built the college alright. And not only that, the woman loved symmetry and wanted everything to be matching exactly. So the door that opens up from the chapel to the outside of the courtyard? Naturally there needs to be a matching door on the other side! So she had a false door built in that serves absolutely no other purpose but to look like a door. She even added fake little chimney pipes on one side since one side of the building had a dinning hall, but the other didn’t and we have to have matching sides, now don’t we? Some years later, Christopher Wren, the famous architect who designed St. Paul’s among many other buildings, gave a clock to the school as a gift. The joke is that if Lady Wadham were alive she would demand that another clock be put on exactly the other side of the square so that order would be maintained. Haha, this lady is crazy and I love it! You would think though that being a woman and doing something others said she couldn’t do, that she would certainly allow women to attend the college. Oh no. There was only one woman allowed to enter the premises and that was so she could do the washing. And it says in the charter that she has to be old and ugly. And you say I’m sassy? Psh, check out Lady Wadham.

See how awesome Joan is? She was full of fascinating stories like that. She knew all about the stained glass in the churches (apparently German’s make the prettiest) and random little tid bits from things like the type of stone the buildings are made out of to the portraits hanging inside to architects to stories behind buildings. She took us all around the city, to several schools, to the city wall and the oldest pub (which was located just outside of the city due to taxes and permits) and told us that in England, if not the rest of the world, the name of the road/street says a lot about what the city used it for or what used to be there. Example Brasenose road is so named because one particular building had a brass knocker that was a man’s face and the actual knocker part was his nose.She knew everything I wanted to know and more. And she even let me take a picture with her! The only problem I didn’t foresee about this tour was that it was a very over cast day and as it went on it kept getting progressively colder.

By the end, my feet were freezing and Katie and I decided a tea was in order. So after asking Joan where a good place to get tea was, we set out to find Queen’s Chapel located in the New College campus, where they serve tea down below and the proceeds go to the chapel. I had probably the best tea time in my stay at London thus far, complete with English breakfast tea, a freshly baked scone with fresh cream and homemade strawberry jam. Yum! The only thing I didn’t understand was why the British want me to put so much cream and jam on my scone. They think American’s like fat, hmm…

After walking around all day, we decided it was best to go back to the Hostel, check in and relax for a bit (we’ve literally been walking all day). Remember what I said about not being in control? I didn’t book this so I have no control over our room. Turns out we’re not bunking in a smaller room or even a room with just females, but in an 18 bed co-ed room. Uraghhh! This blows, but what can I do? NOTHING. At least breakfast is free. So we get showed our beds and I decide it’s nap time. But I can’t really nap so I decide to call Mitch instead. This cheered me up considerably. After a few card games, Katie and I decide to go to the front room and check out what weird British TV they’re watching now (earlier it was a really bad British Soap Opera). Turns out they’re watching American TV, and Friends no less! Yay for that. Next up was dinner, where we simply went to Tescos and bought some pasta and sauce and made dinner in the little kitchen next to the TV room.

As we’re sitting there eating dinner and watching the Simpson’s this bearded man on the next couch over is very keen on finding out where we’re from and why we’re here. When I say I’m from Texas, his next statement was “Say Something!” and was disappointed when I didn’t have a Texan accent. Sorry dude, the majority of us don’t. Turns out this guy is from Australia and younger than me! He’s traveling just to travel and has already been to Bath. Needless to say, I pecked his brain for some inside information on what to do in the city and his thoughts. Free walking tour everyday at 10:30? Yes please! Katie went to bed soon after that, but I stayed up till a whopping 9:30 to finish watching Rocknrolla. Bed was interesting. It reminded me of camping, but the most uncomfortable camping trip I’ve experienced yet…



1 comment:

  1. I absolutely ADORE hostels!!!! They are awesome! Not as awesome as tree bungalows or jungle huts, but great just the same! And cold showers? Try a cold shower using a bucket to dump water on yourself and looking over to big lizards you are afraid will eat you! Now that's a REAL shower. hehe. Just had to throw in my Thailand times.

    Miss you Dev. Hope things are well.