Thursday, June 09, 2011

Hello World! England 2011: Day 8

Blue Badge guide, Colin, meets us for a walking tour of sites relating to Oscar Wilde. As you can see, he's quite an animated speaker. Like all good guides, he wanted full attention from his audience, so he was frowning quite a bit at the people in the back...

who happened to be some old friends who tracked down our group in London and we had a bit of a noisy reunion.

It rains a bit so the brollies come out

Staff break from kids as we seek lunch separately. We opt for Lebanese and I get this nice lamb shish wrap.

Next stop, Buckingham palace, with our iconic sites tour guide, Julie.

It's not the Changing of the Guard, but a relief of the sentries as one shift takes over the previous.

Julie gets us photo ops at Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.

Last stop: Kensington Gardens, opposite the Royal Albert Hall. The temperature has taken quite a dip and the kids are freezing now. But it won't stop them from grabbing a few more scenic shots before departure.

The dome of the Royal Albert...

and his commemorative statue in gold directly opposite.

And a couple of rather congenial ducks bid us farewell.

Day 8 concludes at Heathrow Airport. We're comin' home!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Hello World! England 2011: Day 7

We get a warm welcome at Kingsford Community School. Here, Martin makes his introductions.

Their students guide our students around campus.

Then we have a joint art lesson. Medium: ink wash. Subject: still life, seashells

Though they haven't handled art implements for years, some of our kids display quite some talent in the field. The quality of Mrs Stevens' instructions helped to make this task easy.

Kingsford's hospitality extends to feeding us a school lunch. Today's special: lasagne, finger sandwiches and juice. Despite what we might have heard about British school lunches, this one was delish. Lots of cheese and meat sauce to keep me happy.

We pass some nice, iconic sites on our coach ride back to the hotel.

Then it's on to the BBC Television Centre for a tour of the studios.

Here we are at the stage door reception area. Lots of famous feet have trod this floor, apparently. Unfortunately, we don't see any today.

Because of time constraints, we had to grab dinner on the hoof at Victoria Station, then rush off to watch the musical version of "Billy Elliot". Very entertaining, with energetic song-and-dance routines. The kids may have found the Geordie accents difficult to pick up, but they enjoyed the performance nevertheless.

Day 7 ends back at the Travelodge. Everyone's zonked and we deserve a late start to tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Hello World! England 2011: Day 6

Buffet brekkie at the Travelodge. Bacon!!!

The kids attend a lesson on English linguistics at the British Library, conducted by Holly Gilbert.

 Picnic lunch on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral.

Lessons continue: we have a fantastic lesson on poetry with BBC's resident poet, Jacob Sam-La Rose. Sone simple games got the kids writing poetry they never knew they could create.

 I say 'simple', but his ability to fill the space with his personality was the fuel that got the kids motivated and push themselves beyond themselves.

In the end, the kids got to recite their own poetic compositions.

Kids were smitten with Mr Rose. He definitely has some new fans now.

Fusion pizza for dinner at Fire & Stone. This is my Athena: a Greek-inspired feta cheese and spinach combination; above is a Peking duck with hoy sin sauce thingy which was nice but I doubt I could eat the whole thing myself.

In Covent Garden getting the creeps and willies watching 'The Woman in Black'. Before curtain, understudy, Jeremy, came out to chat with us, which was nice.

Day 6 ends back at the Travelodge, London Ealing. Everybody goes straight to bed.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Hello World! England 2011: Day 5

Day 5 begins with a surprise: We're having a cuppa in the office of the Lord Mayor of Oxford!

The Lord Mayor is totally funky, firmly committed to the Green agenda and very interested in meeting young student visitors to her city.

We get a briefing about Oxford's policies regarding urbanization, environment and tourism in the Council Chambers.

Briefing over, we're ready to break for lunch.

Lunch for me is a traditional steak and kidney pie from PieMinister in the Covered Market. Hmm... kidney. Hold that thought.

City Council member, Nualla, takes us on our walking tour through Oxford's colleges, beginning with Christ Church, home of Lewis Carroll.

Apart from the historical commentary that Oxford U is so rich in, Nualla also shows us locations where the Harry Potter movies were shot, including this ilex tree in New College.

A better view of the ilex tree. Does it look familiar?

Dinner for staff was in Jamie's Italian. This is my Humble Green Salad topped with parmesan cheese shavings. So light, so fresh!

The main course is this skewer of British lamb on a bed of minted potato salad. The lamb included not just the meat that was tender and flavourful, but also lamb heart, liver and kidney. My meals today contained more exotic innards than I've ever had on a plate but I really enjoyed it all. This trip, I've been indulging my inner carnivore. Best holiday, ever!

And a tip of the hat to our excellent coach driver, Kitch, who has been awesomely helpful, friendly, amusing, knowledgeable, and above all, gorgeous. The kids will miss him now that he's dropped us off in London and we'll be travelling by tube from now on.

Day 5 concludes in the Travelodge, London Ealing, where we will be staying put for the duration of this trip.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Hello World! England 2011: Day 4

We've arrived at Stratford-Upon-Avon, camped right outside the birthplace of  W Shakespeare.

Our guide, Geoff, takes us everywhere to look at all things Shakespeare and his family-tree. Here, we've come to visit Shakespeare's chapel and burial place.

Officially, it's called Holy Trinity Church. Because today was sunnier than yesterday, the churchyard graves looked a lot cheerier than those in Haworth.

We have a lot of free time to wander around, but I spend most of my time strolling along the banks of the Avon, after which Stratford happens to be Upon. The views are breathtakingly scenic, peaceful and the atmosphere is ideal for chillin' out.

Back at Shakespeare's birthplace, the kids request a few scenes from the Bard's plays. The resident actors oblige with snippets from Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. The actors made the scenes look like fun and really brought the text to life for the kids.

Here, Puck is planning some mischief in the Athenian forest.

Cornish pasties for lunch at Pasty Presto. Gigantic curry puffs they are, stuffed with generous quantities of different meat, cheese and vegetable combinations. Just one sufficed for a light lunch.

There were a few buskers about. The juggling acts always amuse me. They know how to work the crowd and offer good entertainment with their banter and the promise of a payoff at the end of their performance. This guy promised to put a burning torch down his trousers and pull it out -- still lit -- from the bottom of his pants leg. In case you're wondering, he did.

And here is 'Shakespeare's Ghost' attempting to startle the kids.

I love the way animals and human beings can coexist so easily together, unlike S'pore where any animal in an urban environment is treated with disdain at best, or rounded up and disposed of, never to be heard from again. But here we have ducks -- I was quite fascinated with this yellow duckling, so different from its fellows, yet still a member of the family.


Dinner at the Garrick Inn: Scottish scampi, chips and peas. More shovel food! Yay!

Day 4 concludes with a slightly grouchy briefing at the Travelodge, Oxford Peartree. Sadly, my companions tend to see the worst in our charges and upbraided them for their 'bad behaviour' in the morning. I guess it is an integral part of a student's life to be scolded every now and then.