But alas, just as I started walking through the park to get to college where I had to pay my dinner invoice, the heavens opened up and I was blasted with wind and rain – enough to break my umbrella and waterproof boots. So after sorting out things at college, I headed to the common room where I sat next to a heater for an hour planning my next move. I decided to stroll down to town and pick my spirits up with a bit of retail therapy. Claire’s was having a sale of 10 accessories for 10 pounds (including brush sets, light-up mirrors, socks, and Hello Kitty paraphernalia), and I wanted a Lush moisturizer (Lush is slightly cheaper in the UK than in Australia once you convert things). After this, I decided to just hang out in a coffee shop until my Sydney friend, AZ, finished his 11am tour.
AZ and his friend R had come up from London to have a look at Oxford, and since I had a whole day free, I could think of no better way to spend it than getting people into colleges free on my Bod card and such. And HS, one of the other elective students also leaving at the end of January, was keen to also catch up on tourist attractions. We started with lunch at Turl St Kitchen, which supposedly played host to such famous faces as Oscar Wilde! R was game enough to try the buffalo steaks, while I just stuck with a frittata.
And then we began college-hopping!
Since we were on Turl St, we worked our way downwards. Exeter – famous for the bust of Tolkien lurking in the chapel, Jesus, and Lincoln. Then we tried to get into the library, but it was closed to all those except members. So we headed down to Christ Church, after which point HS had to leave us to move out of her accommodation. The three of us remaining walked to the Christ Church meadow, where we spotted some deer! We then walked past Corpus Christi and down the street to Magdalen, which is my secret favourite. There I put my most charming face on as you’re technically only allowed to bring one guest in per Bod card and took many photos in the rapidly fading light. Finally, we stopped en route to the train station at the Grand Café (the oldest coffee house in England) to have “Cream Tea” which is scones/jam/clotted cream with a pot of tea. It was delicious! I then walked those guys to the station before getting a bus back to my flat to pick up my luggage and catch the bus to London. I was originally planning on attending the college salsa night for a bit, but figured leaving Oxford to arrive in London earlier (and avoiding being groped by seedy guys) was a better option.
I arrived in London at the Marble Arch at about 9pm, hopped in a cab and checked into my hostel, the YHA on Bolsover St. I found the staff really helpful, the rooms clean, and everything fairly secure. I would definitely recommend this hostel if you were looking for somewhere cheap to spend the night (though possibly next time I will be spending extra to get a private room, as living with 7 other people has difficult moments…like when you want to pack at 11pm or when you need to leave at 4:30am, but don’t want to wake everyone else up).
After a quiet Thursday night, I was definitely ready to get going on Friday morning. I got up a bit too early, so after grabbing some stuff from Pret I went for a wander around the west end while waiting for the box office of Her Majesty’s Theatre to open (to get Phantom tickets for 21 quid!). I stopped by the post office to get rid of two kilos of stuff, and then at 10:30 I got 21-pound seats for me and AK (a friend from Potter fandom)!
After this I headed straight up to the zoo to wink at a boa constrictor. It was a little anticlimactic because the snake in the movie wasn’t technically a boa constrictor, but it was a really great zoo nevertheless. Not as sprawling as Taronga, but definitely a lot of interesting animals (oh my god, the reindeer!) I came back at about 15:00 to just chill in my dorm and get changed for the night, before deciding to window-shop some more. I met up with AK at 17:00 and we went to Forbidden Planet, which is an awesome sci-fi/comic book store in Chinatown! I may have splurged on a little something…but it’s not for me, so it’s okay, right?
AK was kind enough to treat me to dinner in a surprisingly authentic Chinatown restaurant (and she gave me chocolate too! Holy crap I have a new best friend!) before watching Phantom. Glorious Phantom. Which I’ve loved since I was a kid and discovered my dad’s “Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber” CD. Phantom and Christine were excellent, but for me the standout was actually Raoul who had a surprising depth to his voice. The set was stunning – I was surprised that even though the stage was about half the size of the Capitol in Sydney, it was really compact and they made really good use of the space they had. Loved the multi-levels!
On my way back to the hostel I stopped at a Tesco’s to replenish my calcium supplies (69p milkshake FTW!) and vitamin water for my travels. I slept soundly until 8am the next morning, after which I started packing before I realized it was 9am, meaning I had only an hour to be dressed, breakfasted, and at the Cambridge Theatre to attempt to score Matilda rush tickets. But once I got to Kiko’s café, an Italian place across the road from the YHA, and had a giant veggie English breakfast placed in front of me, I decided that if I couldn’t get Matilda tickets, I was quite confident I could get Wicked ones anyway. So I didn’t wolf down my breakfast, but enjoyed it with my excellent Italian-style coffee, went back to the hostel to clean my teeth, and only then did I make my way down to Leicester Square. It was past 10:00 by this point, so I was expecting a queue, but I actually just walked straight up to the box office and asked if they had any student tickets left. There was just one…just for me! (Apparently a bunch of couples had rocked up just before me, but there had only been a single ticket left…)
The next thing on my itinerary for the day was a Harry Potter bus tour. It only started at 13:00 so I caught the tube to Embankment and just wandered around the shore. I had yet another Starbucks hot drink to kill time and use the bathroom, before making my way to the assigned meeting place at Temple station. There was a lovely Brazilian girl in a Slytherin scarf who I had a very animated fan conversation with as I put on my Ravenclaw robes and scarf. Nobody else was dressed up though, sadly. But the tour was fantastic! From the comfort of our heated bus, we were driven around to a number of filming locations. It finished at King’s Cross where I got a proper picture with my school uniform and the trolley at Platform 9 ¾.
It was kind of late by this point, so I was more than happy to just head back to the hostel for a bit. Then I had a big falafel salad for dinner before the show started at 19:30. I almost treated myself to a candy cupcake, but given that my breakfast had come with chips, I thought it wasn’t a particularly good idea.
Matilda was amazing. I had heard good things about it from a few of my Sydney friends who had dropped into London last year, and I was a fan of the book, and I’m a sort of fan of Tim Minchin, but it actually exceeded my expectations. It’s a high-energy show with a lot of catchy tunes, and I felt the characters were very true to Roald Dahl’s. The set was also surprisingly good! I would tell you more but shhhhhhhh spoilers!
And now I’ve plonked myself in the common room. I have to start making my way to the airport at 04:45, so I figured instead of waking everyone in my dorm up, I would just hang out in the common room and pull an all-nighter. The fringe benefit is that when I get onto the plane, and I get to sleep, I will be totally in sync with Sydney time!