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Colchester charm

I used to work in Colchester and I do love the little town.  I think it was when I started working in Chelmsford that Alan and I stopped going to Colchester often enough for it to stop feeling familiar.  I don’t know why, really.  It’s got great shops, both independent and popular chains, really good, small independent restaurants (there’s a Caribbean restaurant that does an absolutely divine goat curry that you can get with peas and rice!  They even have an all-you-can-eat buffet for £8 on Saturdays; drinks are separate of course.  Look for the S&S Restaurant on St. John’s Street) and restaurant names, with more to come as Colchester High Street seems to be making quite the revival (with a Bill’s already established, a Byron’s coming soon and Wagamama opening in the near future as well).  Apart from that, it’s got history in shedloads as it’s got a gorgeous 11th century Norman keep, ruins of an Augustinian priory, and the remains of a Roman chariot race track!

Colchester was known as Camulodunum and was mentioned by Pliny the Elder who died in 79AD (and by this virtue it is called the oldest recorded town in Britain).  It was the Roman capital of Britain (yes, before London!) but was attacked and destroyed by Boadicea’s (Boudica) rebellion.  It was soon after the destruction of Colchester that London became Rome’s provincial capital.  Colchester held such a romantic link to the Romans that some historians postulated that it might have been a possible site for the Arthurian city of Camelot.

What I love about Colchester is the history that is all around the town, quite literally.  The town is still surrounded by Roman walls that were built after the rebellion led by Boadicea.  The Romans wanted to fortify the town and fortify it they certainly did.  Parts of the 3,000 yard-long walls still stand.  One of the biggest and oldest parts is the Balkerne Gate that stands right next to where the Mercury Theatre is.  The history geek in me was excited to find that you could actually touch the Balkerne Gate.  There were no protective walls around it.  It was literally history you could touch!

Colchester is a mixture of old and new but still has that lovely small town feel that makes you smile.  It still has lovely old houses nestled in between relatively new Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses.  During a trip to Colchester to see what Invasion Colchester was all about last Saturday, Alan and I stopped off at North Bridge in Middleborough in Colchester to photograph this small, charming collection of Medieval houses that were sitting along the River Colne.  I’ve seen photographs of it and it has always been biscuit-tin pretty.  These lovely pink houses did not disappoint and I got my Instagram-worthy shot (pity about the shadowban, or I’d post it on IG really…maybe I will (if) when the ban gets lifted!).  Even the River Colne cooperated and made like it was glass.  Pity there was so much coverage on the river or else you’d see perfect reflections of the lovely cottages with their exposed timber frames.

With the fastest train journey from London being an hour and 2 minutes, if you love history, Colchester might just be the place to come and visit.

 

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Waiting…

Terminal 3 NAIAI got to the airport REALLY early I got put on the earlier flight (I ordered an UberX cab for 4AM because I had to be at the airport at 8AM for my 11AM flight.  But there was no traffic!).  I got a chance to use the relatively new Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  I didn’t get much of a look when I arrived because my main goal was to get through immigration and customs really quickly so that I could get home and see my family.  My brother and I spent about 4 hours being stuck in Manila  traffic so the rushing through was time well rushed!  They told me that traffic was bad but I didn’t really think it was THAT bad.  I’ve been away from Manila too long.  I’ve lost the ability to plan journeys and understand Manila traffic and predict travel times!

Terminal 3 has been reported repeatedly as over budget, over priced and not worth the pesos that were spent on it.  I’ve been looking forward to seeing it and I must admit, it left me a bit underwhelmed.  It needs a bit more zhuzhing.  The terminal was mostly dark and I constantly wanted to ask people to switch the lights on (I didn’t, of course).  For an international/interisland airport it looks just a tiny bit tatty (super shiny floors and wide-screen Samsung tellies notwithstanding).  I shouldn’t really complain because at least it’s being used and Terminal 3 is a lot less shabbier than Terminal 1.   My favourite terminal though is the Centennial Terminal or Terminal 2.  It was the terminal we were in when we flew out of when we flew to Edinburgh in 2007.

I do love the windows though…I just really wished they switched on more lights…and probably courted more food places so that there would be more choice of food places to get food from before the flight.

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Leaving…on a jet plane…

In a few hours I will be traveling to the airport to get on a plane to get back to the life I have in a country 6,754 miles away. While my visit was (too) short, it was (very) sweet. I got a chance to see my family, celebrate my father’s 80th birthday with him, laugh and bond with my brother and sister and hug my mum loads. I went to church and saw my church family and met the new additions to our growing spiritual family. I managed to see the dentist, stuff my face silly with food that might not be, for all intents and purposes, exactly ideal for a diabetic, experience Philippine traffic in all its stand still glory, learned to use Uber and Grab, melt in temperatures that I would usually consider a heatwave, see my hair snap into weird unruly waves, and marvel at how much the Philippines has changed (how we are considered a third world country with all these vehicles on the road and all these malls and condominium developments, I will never know).

I will be going back to colder weather and it is with a heavy heart that I leave my loved ones yet again (kung pwede lang magkasya kayong lahat sa maleta ko!). But my heart is full and my spirit is recharged. It’s trips like these that make me realise how much I have in my life and how blessed I have that the people in my life are in my life. For that I will always be thankful to God. I have new memories to tide me over until the next trip.

I’ll see you all again soon!

Snaps

Pretty Harwich Town

I am guilty of complaining about the little seaside town that I live in.  I find myself complaining about how quiet it is, how dead it can be during the weekend and how annoying the dog owners are.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love dogs and think they make the most amazing pets BUT there seem to be a lot of irresponsible dog owners.  If you intend to walk your dog and you allow your dog to relieve themselves, PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG!  Right.  That’s me off my soapbox.  This is, after all, a post about the unappreciated good things about Harwich, Essex, England.

2012-06-04 17.00.39Harwich is at the very northern end of the Mayflower Line.  It boasts a lot of historical snippets dating back to Roman Times.  There are a lot of notable names connected to Harwich: Captain Christopher Jones, the captain of the Mayflower, lives in Harwich; Samuel Pepys, the famous English diarist, was a member of Parliament for Harwich, Captain Charles Fryatt, who is a First World War lived and was buried in Harwich; and my personal fun fact favourite, apparently, Clive Owen lives near Harwich (haha!).

Captain Christopher Jones' houseThere are a suprising number of little historical corners in Harwich: Captain Christopher Jones’s house (apart from being captain of the Mayflower, he was a quarter owner of the Mayflower as well); several notable lighthouses dating back to the early 1800s, as Harwich was a notable port and it was where the Royal Navy Dockyard was established; the Harwich Redoubt Fort, which was a circular stronghold built to defend England against the Napoleonic invasion; it also has the old Electric Palace, one of England’s oldest purpose-built cinemas still surviving and functional.

Redoubt FortI’ve always loved my little seaside town, my home away from home.  I like to say it’s where I properly grew up, because I learned to live and depend on myself and not my parents.  I love the little interesting nooks and crannies of this little town and it breaks my heart that some of the people who live here don’t seem to care enough about their town to keep it pretty and clean.  We all have to have pride of place, to be proud of our quaint little town because it is significant and important historically.

Harwich sunsets

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Tick tock says my body clock!

My body clock is so screwed up at the moment.  It’s after 10PM and I am now wide awake.  About 2 hours ago, I was as groggy as can be.  It doesn’t help that I’ve just come back from New York (yes, I may have mentioned it in a previous post!).  What I found completely strange was while I was in New York, my body clock was still on UK time.  So I thought when I came back from the trip I’d be okay.

I didn’t factor in the fact that I could have post-travel illness.  I normally don’t get really sick after a trip, just really tired.  But this trip was different.  I came back with a sore throat with a slight tickle that made me cough and a fever with a slightly runny nose.  It’s gone down hill since Wednesday.  I am keeping myself up with all the coughing and have found myself drifting off to proper sleep at 4 or 5AM!  It doesn’t help that tomorrow is a work day and I’ve got to go in and catch up on a week and a half’s worth of work!

Where is that lottery win when you need it eh?

I loved New York.  I just wanted more time to reacquaint myself with the city.  I didn’t do a properly touristy visit when I was last in New York.  We went to a few choice places (I was with my parents and my baby sister) but didn’t really experience New York as such.  Not properly.

This trip was different.  I managed to see, maybe, 400% more than when I had when I was with my family.  I even managed to start understanding the Metro subway system, which, I think, in itself, was a major achievement!

Wollman Rink, Central Park

It was a good time because I was ticking off places that I’ve seen in New York movies.

Tomorrow, I’m going to get an antitussive so that I can stop coughing and get something to soothe my sore throat.  I’m going to go take a hot, steamy shower in the hopes that it will help my congestion.  One thing that the trip did highlight was the familiarity of the US pharmacies to what I grew up with in Manila.  I miss the familiar brands and the familiar generic medicine names.  When I’m less groggy, less coughy and generally feeling better, I’ll write about the food and my New York highlights!

Watch this space!

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Sick bay after New York bay

Soooooo…I went to New York.  I spent 5 days in the city that never sleeps and got home on Wednesday.

I am however, coughing up a storm and have a terrible cold.

I will eventually find the strength to write about New York.  5 days isn’t enough.  Figuring out the subway system is a whole day activity!  I haven’t ticked off the movie and TV locations that I wanted to visit.  I did love my 5 days in the Big Apple though.  There was so much to see and not enough time to see all of it!

I’m going back though.  I just need to save money so that I can stay longer!

I’ve got a few photos to share so watch this space!

Central Park

Snaps

Upwards and onwards

In 1666 a great fire ravaged London for 3 days, devouring 13,200 houses, 87 parishes, St Paul’s Cathedral and most of the buildings of the city’s government.  At the time, there were about 80,000 people living in London and it is estimated that 70,000 of that total number lost their homes.  The fire, which apparently started on Pudding Lane, in the bakery of Thomas Farriner, very nearly reached Whitehall Palace where the current monarch of the day, Charles II, was in residence.  Surprisingly, only 6 deaths were verified.

On the corner of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill stands a monument to the Great Fire commissioned by Charles II.  Identified simply as “The Monument,” it is described as a fluted Doric column and stands 202 feet from where the Great Fire started.  Until very recently, I didn’t know that you could go up the Monument.

The Monument

On a bright, breezy and sunny Saturday morning, Alan and I went up the Monument.  I approached this challenge with trepidation.  I am not the fittest of people and have been known to huff and puff on some days when brisk walking from my flat into town to get groceries.  I’d much rather read than walk these days.  So this activity worried me a lot.  I was afraid I’d embarrass Alan by wanting to stop in the middle of the trek up to the top of the Monument.

Up we go!

So we paid our £4 for the privilege (it’s £4 for each adult to go up but we had a 2 for 1 voucher, so it was only £4 for the 2 of us) and up we went.  There are 311 steps.  Yes.  Three.  HUNDRED.  Eleven.  Steps.  At first, I wondered why there were hooky bits along the banister.  Then I figured, about a third of the way up that you could use those hooky bits to pull yourself up the steps!  There were these lovely little alcoves as you went up and boy, was I ever grateful they were there!  You could sit down, catch your breath while not get in the way of the other people, more fit than you who trudged up that blessed spiral staircase!

Look down!

But somehow, despite the huffing and puffing, screaming leg and thigh muscles, thinking in my head that I was going to die soon, I made it up the top!  I had to catch my breath first.  But after that, after I recovered from the jelly legs and shortness of breath and pounding heart, I looked around and marveled at the view.  It was glorious!

Look down!

The mesh cage at the top was added mid-19th century to prevent any other persons from leaping off the the platform.  I think it was a good decision!

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You get to see the Tower Bridge.

The Tower Bridge and the Thames

An unobstructed view of the Shard.

The Shard

The BT Tower.

The BT Tower

The The Cheese Grater (the Leaden Hall building), the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe) and the Walkie-Talkie (20 Fenchurch Street) and the Lloyds Building.

London skyline

So, if you want a challenge, a work out with a reward of a brilliant view of London, go up the Monument.  Despite the palpitations, the hyperventilation, the jelly legs, the view is spectacular and very definitely worth it!

Monument to the Great Fire