Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Summer Tales ~ Oxford-Bourton on the Water-Manchester


It was a long drive as we will be travelling to Manchester, which is about 4 hours drive from London. We planned to leave at 8 a.m. but Faiq and Aira woke up later than their usual 6.30 a.m. alarm drill. We finally left Brunswick Quay at about 10 a.m. with many thanks to Amran and Alina who actually packed a few stuffs including food for us.

Even though it was Sunday morning, there was still a slight traffic going out of London. Our first pit stop was Oxford city. Our destination in particular was Oxford University. The University of Oxford, a university located in the English city of Oxford, is the third oldest surviving university and the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Although the exact date of foundation remains unclear, there is evidence of teaching there as far back as the 11th century. The University grew rapidly from 1167 when King Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. It was like a dream come true to be there.

We parked near the Oxford University Park and decided to walk around there. Faiq was sleeping and it started drizzling when we were walking. Actually the university was so huge that we didn't know where the park will lead us. Luckily, we met up with two nannies who was on the way to Carfax. I read that a tour of Oxford is essentially a tour of the of the colleges, and a good starting point is Carfax. This is an old centre of the city, around the pedestrianised area, where the four main streets meet. When we arrived, we saw a group university tour which was starting in a few minutes so we went for it. Our tour guide was a chirpy lady called Debbie. I think there were about 20 of us who joined the tour.

Our tour started at Exeter College, one of the 38 independent colleges in Oxford University and the fourth oldest college of the University. The main entrance is on the east side of Turl Street. One of the famous undergraduate from Exeter College is JRR Tolkein. Every college in Oxford has its own emblem, quad, a chapel, a dining hall and dormitories.

I can't remember where else we went but we definitely saw the Radcliffe Camera, Wren's Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford's Bridge of Sighs and Bodleian Library. The highlight of the tour was of course when I get to visit the building which potrayed Hogwarts in Harry Potter.

The tour ended at about 1 p.m. Debbie told us to bring the kids to River Pitts Museum as they feature dinosaur fossils and all things that fascinate kids but we were running out of time so we only get to see the oldest tree bark outside the museum. When we got back to our car, we were slapped with a traffic summon for illegal parking. Darn, 35 pounds melayang begitu sajer! But it was nothing compared to the experience we had visiting Oxford.

We then made our way to Bourton-on-the-Water. At first we were torn between visiting Stratford-upon-Avon and Bourton-on-the-Water but we decided on the latter as suggested by my former boss and Amran. On the way there, we passed by a cricket club and saw that there were people playing. Rafiq, being  a sport enthusiast just had to stop and enjoy the moment. It was surreal..hihi. We arrived at Bourton-on-the-Water at about 3.00 p.m. Regularly voted one of the prettiest villages in England, Bourton-on-the-Water has more than its share of Cotswold houses and cottages, many of them three hundred years old, some dating back to Elizabethan times four hundred years ago. Set on the River Windrush, it has all the ingredients of fairyland: miniature footbridges over streams and under willow trees, sweet smells in the perfumery, a motor museum in a barley mill, a model railway and a model village. It was indeed very lovely and there were loads of people enjoying their picnics, Faiq happily played in the stream and chased the ducklings, while the rest of us sat on the grass. We walked around the village, went to the souvenir shops and had Fish and Chips. We were so mesmerised, we didn't want to leave. But unfortunately we had to and we left at 5 p.m.

The scenery along the highway was lovely - acres of field with horses, cows and sheeps. I could sense that Rafiq was tired so we stopped at the R&R for coffee. Finally we arrived in Manchester City at about 8 p.m. Manchester city is the central business district of both Manchester and Greater Manchester. As we entered the city centre, we were greeted by the sight of the Wheel of Manchester (similar to London Eye/Eye on Malaysia). Our only destination was Hard Rock Cafe for memorabilias. We then headed off to our hotel, Travelodge which is situated at Trafford Park. We arrived at the hotel at about 9.30 p.m. For a budget hotel, we were very satisfied with the service and amenities. I think we only paid 35 pounds for a family room and it was very comfy. We had mushroom soup and maggie mee for dinner. I must've dozed off at 11.30 p.m.

~To Be Continued~

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Each time phone ID tunjuk Home A.D., mesti berdebar-debar.

Sebabnya, maid takkan simply call tanpa sebab.

Tadi Cicin called at 2.30 p.m. informing me that Faiq is not back from school yet.

My heart skipped a beat.

Call school to ask about him. The sound of the 10 seconds ringing tone was deafening.

Alhamdulillah, his teacher informed that he was in school. Apparently the school van didn't come to pick him (and his van mates) up. The teacher yang selalu hantar dia balik pulak went out for an errand.

Of course, tidak le terus jump to conclusion. I knew he was probably in school. It's just that he's never been that late.

And I got really scared.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Summer Tales ~ London Part II


The plan for today was to go to Argos at Tottenham Court Road to purchase a car seat for our road trip the following day. We were informed by Amran that there was an interruption to the Jubilee Line service so we had to take an alternative route. It was a good experience as we get to go on the overground train. It was a windy day as we walked to the overground station. Meanwhile, the interruption turned out to be a blessing in disguise as well as we get to go to King’s Cross St. Pancras station. Why there? Because that’s where Platform 9 ¾ together with a trolley going half through the wall is. Being a Harry Potter fan, I simply have to be there. And we weren’t the only ones. There were a number of Potter fans there too. King’s Cross and St Pancras International Stations stand adjacent to one another and share the same Underground Station. Kings Cross stations main use is for services up the East Coast Line to Scotland via York and Newcastle. There are also some suburban commuter trains to just north of London from King’s Cross. St. Pancras International is most famous for being the Eurostar train terminal in London. Frequent services run to Paris and beyond. There are services to the East Midlands of England via Luton, towns like Nottingham and Sheffield.

Anyways, after taking photos, we took another tube to Holborn and proceeded to Tottenham Court Road. I don’t know what went wrong but we couldn’t find Argos, even after asking for directions twice. So we lost some time there. We stopped by a café for tea and scones before finally finding Argos. After that walked along Charring Cross Road, passing Licester Square (where we saw a Malaysia Kopitiam) and headed to Covent Garden Market. There has been some type of market on Covent Garden for more than 300 years but the name actually derives from the covent garden that occupied the area until Henry VIII’s Dissolution. At the centre of Covent Garden lies a cobblestone piazza and superb steel-and-glass market pavilions to house flower, fruit and vegetable stalls. The markets were moved to new quarters and in the early 1980s Covent Garden was refurbished into an area of restaurants, shops and cafes. After strolling through the markets at Covent Garden, we went to Hard Rock Café at Old Park Lane to purchase some memorabilias. Our next destination was Harrods at Knightsbridge but we first stopped by at CIMB to visit Alina at her office and perform our prayers. Our shopping list at Harrods are the lunch bags, fridge magnets and Lola Red Velvet Cupcakes, as recommended by Alina. Then we headed to Hyde Park for an evening stroll along Diana’s Princess of Wales Memorial Walk. Whilst Rafiq and Amran went to Argos to pick up our car seat, Faiq played at the Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. The playground consist of all things kids love ~ a huge ship with slides and rope, sand and water. Faiq played like there’s no tomorrow while Aira sat in her stroller and ate her biscuits. We had to leave as the playground closes at 7 p.m. but since near the playground there were a few carousel, I let Faiq go for a few rides.

After feasting on the cupcakes and taking some photos at Hyde Park, we headed to Khan’s Restaurant at Bayswater for dinner. Khan's has just entered its Thirty First year in the business, and is still one of Europe's largest and most popular Indian restaurants. Khan's was founded in 1977 by Mr. M Y Khan and is still to this day run by the same family. A few house specialities include Fish Curry, Methi Gosht, Chicken Tikka, Butter Chicken, Bombay Aloo and Mutter Paneer. Everything was yummy! Alina joined us halfway through our dinner. After dinner, we went into a souvenir shop and took the last train from Bayswater to Canada Waters at 11.30 p.m. People on the train must be thinking how we are such irresponsible parents, taking our children out late at night but hey, it’s not everyday that we get to go to London so we better make full use of the time. We probably arrived at home at almost midnight and all of us went directly to bed.


By this time the kids have already adjusted to UK time so they didn’t get up as early as 5 a.m. I woke up and made breakfast. At about 9 a.m., Rafiq and Amran went to Barking to pick up our rented car. While waiting for them to get back, Alina walked me to Tesco before going to the gym. I bought some food for our journey to Bicester Village. It’s not easy managing two kids alone, that’s for sure. Rafiq and Amran arrived back with our rented car at 12 and by 12.30 noon, we made our way to Bicester Village. Aira refused to sit in the car seat so I had to hold her. We prayed that we will not bumped into any police, if not we will surely be fined. We arrived at Bicester at about 2 p.m.

Just one hour from London, Bicester Village is a dream destination for designer outlet shopping and the super smart shopper seeking luxury at desirable prices. Supreme luxury, innovative style and beautiful craftsmanship are the hallmarks of Bicester Village’s 130 exclusive designer brands, available at reductions of up to 60% all year round. For a die-hard shopper, they probably need the whole day to shop there. I’ve more or less identified the places that I want to shop. Furthermore, if the place that I want to shop at is full of people, I will try to get out of there as fast as possible sebab rimas. I think we managed to go in most of the shops in 5 ½ hours. Asalkan dapat tengok barang and compare harga sket ok lar. Ikutkan hati memang la nak beli semua tapi kena ikut kata wallet juga..hehe. While Rafiq went and look for his stuffs, I let Faiq play at the playground.

On the way back, we stopped by at Ealing Common to visit Sujack. Met his wife and kids for the first time. We even get to meet Sakinah’s mom and grandmother who were also there. Faiq and Aira enjoyed themselves as there were so many toys around. We had a spaghetti and pizza dinner. That was when Faiq started jumping and Jemi’s camera rolled off the sofa. We knew that it was beyond repair when the lense wouldn’t shut and out came a funny sound. Bengang yang amat coz we were planning to take all the scenic pictures with Jemi’s camera. Nak buat cemana kan? Maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Mana ler tahu sekali bawak, then tertinggal ke hapa..lagi terkilan. We left Sujack’s house at about 10 p.m. On the way back, we gotta see a night version of tourists spots which were beautifully lit like Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral. We arrived at Brunswick Quay at 11.30 p.m. We finalized the packing for our road trip and slept soundly.

~To Be Continued~

Summer Tales ~ London Part I


My day started at 5 a.m. Woke up early so I’ll have ample time to wake the kids and for Cicin to get them ready. Faiq, was a little bit cranky. Our taxi driver arrived early, but we left Kajang at 6.30 a.m. Both kids slept on the way to KLIA. I couldn’t believe that the day for us to go to London had arrived. I think we’ve been planning since April and since I broke the news to Faiq, everytime I told him we were going out, he would ask, “Kita nak naik kapal terbang ke?”

We arrived at KLIA before 8 a.m. After checking in, we went to KFC for breakfast. After letting Faiq and Aira play at the play area for a while, we boarded on the train to the international flight terminal. We tried to make Faiq and Aira eat the motion sickness pill. Faiq was fine but Aira couldn’t take the bitter taste and almost vommitted. Her expressions were very funny that I think I laughed most of the time instead of soothing her. I blogged and update my FB just before going through the gates. Finally we boarded on the airplane.

Both Rafiq and I were kinda nervous as both our children are flying for the first time and it was a long distance flight. 13 hours!! We hoped everything will go smoothly. Faiq kept asking when the plane will take off. Aira made a fuss before take off as she was uncomfortable with the belts but miraculously, both children fell asleep when the plane took off. Rafiq said that we should get as much sleep as possible to avoid a bad jet lag but I wasn’t sleepy and was too excited. Alhamdulillah, nothing major happened during the 13 hour journey..except that Faiq locked himself out in the toilet and cried (I think he learnt his lesson for going by himself!) We took Aira for a walk upon sensing that she was uncomfortable and needed some stretching. Faiq amused himself with inflight games that most of the time he drove us up the wall when he kept wanting to change games. We took him to the back of the plane so that he could see the scenery outside. He seemed fascinated with the clear blue sky and the cloud but it only lasted for a while before he requested that we go back to our seats so he could continue playing games. At last we touched down at Terminal 4 Heathrow at 3.30 p.m. Faiq was upset with something and then he started crying followed by coughing and vomiting. Nasib baik tak banyak but berbau la. Tension je semua orang yang tengah tunggu nak disembark from the plane.

While waiting for Aira’s stroller, we could see that it was drizzling outside. At the customs checkpoint, Rafiq declared that we brought along meat floss, which was then confiscated. I think everything was done by 4.45 p.m. and we waited for our cab which was supposed to pick us up at 5.00 p.m. While waiting for the cab, Rafiq went around the airport looking for cheap handphones and satellite navigation. Unfortunately there was none. Our cab finally arrived at 5.30 p.m. As soon as the cab moved, I started taking pictures of the buildings in UK and even got the opportunity to take pictures of the Houses of Parliamen, London Eye and Big Ben from afar as we passed one of the many bridges in UK. Rafiq and Faiq fell asleep in the cab and finally we arrived at Brunswick Quay. We were greeted by Amran, who showed us his apartment on the second floor. Whilst Amran and Rafiq attended to our luggages, I put the kids to sleep. Amran then served us his home-cooked curry mee which was marvelous.

We then freshened up and chatted with Amran about our flight and our plans for tomorrow. Alina came back from work at 9.00 a.m. and kami berborak until midnight before calling it a day.


Alas, the thing that I had been dreading for happened. The kids’ jet lag! Since both Faiq and Aira had slept since 6 p.m., the decided to wake up in the wee hours of 3.00 a.m. I tried putting them back to sleep but to no avail. He said that he was hungry so he ate his cereal at 4.30 a.m. Prior to that, I performed Subuh payers, which started at 3.15 a.m. and ends at 4.30 a.m. 5.00 a.m. in UK feels like 7.00 a.m. in Malaysia.

Faiq took his bath at 6.00 a.m. and he slipped in the tub, which probably woke both Amran and Alina up. Since it looked like they won’t be going back to sleep, I re-heated the curry mee and also toasted some waffles and crumpets for them to eat. Amran and Alina got up at about 7.45 a.m. and got ready for work. He explained to us our tube routes and even gave us an oyster card each. We left Amran’s apartment at 9.00 a.m. and headed to Surrey Quay Shopping Centre which was about 7 minutes walk from the apartment. We went to buy on-the-go food, like brioche rolls, fruits and juices. Rafiq went to a handphone shop to purchase a 29 pounds handphone, to Curry’s Digital for Garmin and I headed to Mothercare when I spotted one. We were in fact going to the Mothercare store at Bond’s Street later but I just wanted to check the items in case there was none at the other store. We left the mall at about 10.30 a.m. and headed to Canada Waters Tube Station.

Eventhough I’ve been to UK about 11 years ago, this was my first time on the tube. Our destinations were Bond Street and Oxford Street and the agenda was shopping. We shopped at Mothercare, Primark, Marks & Spencer and Crabtree & Evelyn. If I have all the money in the world, I’d purchase everything..hehe. Everything was on sale, except for Marks & Spencer so I didn’t buy much there. Turned out that the sale will only start the following week. We even bought a stroller for Faiq, knowing too well that if he is tired, he would refuse to walk and we don’t think we are able to carry him. He happily sat in his new stroller, which at times proved to be inconvenient especially at tube station with no elevators. By the way, since we wanted to save time, Rafiq and I went on separate ways at Marks & Spencer. He took Faiq and I took Aira. Rafiq almost lost his pouch at Marks & Spencer. He can be so careless sometimes. Luckily, he found it hanging by one of the pants racks. If not we would’ve lost our passports and all our money. Alhamdulillah, syukur sangat.

By the time we left Marks & Spencer, it was almost 5 p.m. There were so many people, tourists and locals who were coming home from work. We were warned to be extra careful as there were a lot of pick pockets. We witnessed two incidents, which happened so fast..the only thing we saw was people falling down. Anyway, when we left M&S, that was when we realized how hungry we were. Both Faiq and Aira ate brioche rolls and biscuits the whole time. They didn’t complain but we felt bad as we didn’t have a proper meal. We stopped by at a halal food stall opposite Debenhams and bought some hotdogs and Fish & Chips. After we ate, we walked along Bond Street and window-shopped at a few more stores.

Since the whole day had been about us adults (Faiq commented: Babah ni, asyik-asyik beli baju, beli seluar..hehe!) we made a stop at Hamleys Toy Store in Regent Street. Hamleys is the largest toy shop in the world. It consists of seven floors all devoted to playthings, with different categories of toy on each floor. Seriously, Faiq was about to doze off but I told him not to fall asleep and as soon as we stepped into Hamleys, he stood up and started exploring the store. If I were a kid, I’d go nuts in Hamleys. There were so much toys and the promoters did a good job in persuading people to purchase the toys. They never seemed run out of words to say. Some even sang to get people interested. Faiq wanted a yo-yo, played with one of the demo toys and wanted to purchase it but we told him that there were 4 more floors filled with toys. On the top floor, Hamleys had specialized toys like Harry Potter wands and brooms. Even I was tempted. Finally, Faiq settled with a remote control helicopter. By 8.00 p.m., most of the stores had closed so we walked to Piccadilly Circus, took some photos at the Statue of Eros and went on the tube at about 8.30 p.m. The ride on the tube was challenging as we had our shopping bags and there was no elevator to the tube station. Luckily, most of the people were helpful and they helped us carry the strollers down the stairs. Both Faiq and Aira slept in the tube. On our walk back from the Canada Waters tube station, we bumped into Alina, who just got back from work. We must’ve been on the same tube! Amran bought kebab for dinner and we retire early as our whole body ached from walking the whole day.

~To Be Continued~