Staycations; International friends and the beauty of holidays at home.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet a heap of wonderful people in my relatively short life so far. Many of whom, hail from places half a world the way from me.

I’ve found its amazing to make international friends, and it’s always so exciting meeting up after a long while apart…

airporthugs_1413448987

This weekend, my friend Layne (check out his travel blog, right here), who was my colleague last summer in Frankfurt (we taught the same classes together, every day for 7 weeks) is staying with me in Guildford! Layne is from Missouri in the USA, but has been living and working in Granada, Spain, for the past few years since finishing Uni (or College, as he calls it!) Having not seen one another since parting ways at the end of last August, I was super thrilled to be reunited yesterday at Gatwick airport, and give him his first taste of green and merry England this weekend.

laynee
Postbox by the Old Electric works in Guildford, a really SUNNY Friday in May!

This isn’t my first Staycation rodeo, though… Around a month ago, during the Easter break, my school music exchange partner, Lara, came to stay with me for a few days along with her boyfriend Elias. Lara and Elias are from Smallish towns in Hessen, fairly near to Hanau, a short train ride out of Frankfurt, Germany.  I’ve known Lara since I was 14 and seen her every year (bar one) since we first met. It’s been especially nice being close during my time in Germany and we’ve seen way more of each other than either of us could’ve anticipated a couple of years ago.

gif lara elias han
This was the three of us enjoying some happy hour cocktails at Fifty-Five Bar in Camden.

Moreover, I’ve spent some time with my German boyfriend Felix staying and I’ve also sort of played host then too- doing some touristy things and enjoying the sights together. Cooking obligatory full English breakfasts and tracking down the tastiest fish and chips in London.

han and f oct
Touristing it up with Felix, last October
lara
Lara’s red telephone box picture… artistically back-dropped by St.Paul’s cathedral!

Showing your friends around your home town or city has plenty of benefits you won’t even realise until you do it.

Both of my recent staycations (one currently in-progress) have made me more appreciative and aware of the beautiful things in the place where i’m from (and the place where I live now!) It’s so easy to ignore things nearby that you enjoyed doing once or have entirely ignored, despite the fact they’re right on your doorstep.

castle
Guildford Castle Grounds

One major plus side of a Staycation is, by throwing yourself into a busy schedule, going out and doing stuff, you feel like you’re on holiday, but you have the benefit of being close enough to home to go back and crash out at any point. It’s really flexible. What’s more, you cut travel costs… no flights means just trains and buses to factor in.  It can actually get kind of expensive, especially in London, where almost everything is pricier than it needs to be- but there’s plenty of stuff to see and do for free, if you know where to look.

It has been really good fun for me reeling off loads of random cultural and historical trivia I have to my friends as they look on in (what I hope genuinely has been) fascination! Local knowledge is always something I really appreciate on trips abroad.

layne and i
Layne and I at Guildford Castle

Food wise- you can cook whatever you want and eat whenever you want. You aren’t bound by restaurant meal times (and prices) and it’s totally acceptable to grab a drink… a pint, a glass of wine, a tray of tequila shots… (just kidding) at any time of day. YOU’RE BASICALLY ON HOLIDAY, FOR GOODNESS SAKE! But you know where all the best places to eat are, how to navigate a supermarket perfectly, and have all your own utensils and crockery… perfect!

IMG_20170408_143358087
Why not make a picnic full of traditional favourites? That’s what I did for Lara and Elias, and it went down a treat!

This isn’t always an issue, but it’s really useful to have a local around for navigation and communication can be super handy. Knowing the quickest and prettiest way from A to B, as well as… the cheapest train ticket option, the fastest bus route etc. is a real bonus. Especially if you’re on a short trip somewhere- you don’t want to waste time bumbling around in circles (although there’s no concrete guarantee that won’t happen a little to a native in some unfamiliar areas of London- it happen’s to the best of us!)

Getting an outsider’s perspective on somewhere you take for granted can be really refreshing. 

Living in the UK, one thing you can’t count on is the weather- So far this year, all of the sunniest days have landed when I’ve had guests to stay… which has been damned excellent luck- that or they’ve just been bringing the sun with them, which is a definite possibility.

 

lon night
Westminster after dark, from Southbank

Those were just a few of my thoughts on holidays from home/ Staycations! Definitely a great thing to do, especially when you have friends from elsewhere to stay.

Cheerio-

Han xoxox

 

 

Guildford: My Surrey Student Experience

For the past three years, or thereabouts, I’ve been spending most of my time studying in Guildford. I’ve decided to write this post, reflecting on my time in the place where I’ve been a student, as last night, I ordered my graduation robe hire… and it dawned on me that over the next 4 weeks I probably won’t get much time to stop and reflect on the place that has played such an instrumental part in my University experience.

(Incase you’re wondering, I started my BA Hons English Literature back in 2014, and hope to graduate from the University of Surrey in mid-July!)

For those of you who aren’t aware, Guildford is a relatively large town (some call it a city- it has a cathedral but not official status) in Surrey, West of London. Official population 137,000- the population of the surrounding areas are included in this number- the central town area is home to more like half of the Borough’s population. This means that it feels big enough to always have something going on, but small enough to easily find your way around and get from A to B in a reasonable amount of time.

It is the second most expensive city to live in, outside of London, after Oxford, so at first glance, not the ideal place to be a student. I’ve spent the past 2 years (in private rented accommodation) constantly whining about my rent, especially this year, where it equals many East or West London peripheral rents for an equivalent room… but I am grateful to have a lovely house, with great friends, in a good location (close to Uni) and a nice scenic walk from Town.

Guildford’s location is fabulous. Just 34 minutes into London Waterloo on the train, but on the doorstep of the rolling Surrey Hills, I think Guildford offers a really lovely mix of city and country.

guildford map.png
Guildford is where you can see the dropped red pin on this map!

Coming from South London Originally (the little Blue dot on the map is where my parents live and where I am right now on my last day of Easter break), It has been really nice to live in a smaller, contained town. The University of Surrey itself has a main campus situated very close to, but distinct from, the town.

The town of Guildford is historic, beautiful and extremely well set-up with plenty of shops, restaurants, services and sights to enjoy as a guest or resident.

Something that’s made me appreciate how lovely Guildford is more recently was hosting 2 friends (from Germany) for a ‘staycation’! Their interest in and fascination with it all reminded me how beautiful it can be.

IMG_20160924_144239811_HDR.jpg
Narrowboats on the River Wey (which runs through Guildford) for a celebration
IMG_20160930_082411226_HDR.jpg
View under the old railway bridge and wooden footbridge, near Dapdune Wharf, Guildford
IMG_20161019_161140095.jpg
The Angel Hotel, Old Posting House and throughway from The High Street to North Street in the town centre. (There’s a great little independent coffee shop through that arch!)
IMG_20161129_100408705_HDR
Frosty morning view up to Guildford Cathedral on University of Surrey’s Stag Hill Campus
IMG_20161009_182946357.jpg
Damp Dusk on the High Street
IMG_20161011_105222612_HDR.jpg
Terry’s Pond, on Stag Hill Campus, University of Surrey
IMG_20170320_172602069
Railway line through Stoughton
IMG_20161012_124128475
Along the Wey, by Guildford- view from Walnut Bridge
IMG_20161012_123459861
Autumn on the Wey
IMG_20170118_095052572_HDR.jpg
Frost on Southway
IMG_20161205_161521350.jpg
Sunset on my walk home from Campus
IMG_20170410_125235682.jpg
Guildford Castle Gardens, early April
IMG_20161203_111645037_HDR.jpg
Dapdune Wharf
IMG_20170323_085916448.jpg
Positivity post-it notes at the bus stop
IMG_20170227_170819469_HDR.jpg
Chapel at Stoke New Cemetery
IMG_20170203_132612356_HDR.jpg
View from Pewley Down

I have grown awfully fond of this place and the memories it now holds. I will miss it dearly, but I am certain i’ll be back to visit before long.

In addition to its natural beauty and cultural heritage, (Guildford is old, it was in the Doomsday book) Guildford also has some lovely Pubs, bars, restaurants and venues.

The Boileroom is a great independent music venue I recommend you check out if you have time (you can find my Tripadvisor review here).

IMG_20160927_220112018.jpg
Trashboat gig at the Boileroom

I’ve come to know many wonderful things which hide in the corners of the town, learned the shortcuts and the nooks and crannies, but I still learn new things all time.

A few of places I would check out whilst in Guildford if I were visiting would be…

  • The Cathedral(but be aware it’s undergoing restoration works in part at present!) It’s pretty cool and ominous looking- rather appropriate as they filmed the omen there. It’s become one of the most distinctive symbols of Guildford for me, you can see it from almost any vantage point nearby, as it sits high atop Stag Hill on Campus.
  • Kokoro (Sushi and Bento)- this is a strange one… but go there, get the katsu curry (or anything else for that matter)… you shall not regret it.
  • Creams – though not exceptional to Guildford, who can say no to a huge, indulgence topped waffle when it’s on offer?
  • The Castle- Worth the trek up the High Street to see, the castle is very very old and quite spectacular. You can ascend the tower for a very small fee and it’s worth it for the views.
  • Pewley Down- This is a beautiful big down looking away from Guildford from the very top of the town. I was lucky enough to live right next to it last year, which was just wonderful. It’s a great place for a picnic or to find other peoples dogs to pet.
  • Pubs… This one is a bit vague… there are many. My favourites are probably- The King’s Head, The Star Inn, The Three Pigeons and The Wooden Bridge (would recommend the Sunday pub quiz for the brave and savvy.

Guildford is a really great place to live and study. Bit pricey. Bit full of rich middle-aged people… but it also has plenty of perfectly normal, working people. And it’s really rather lovely.

IMG_20160930_084551112_HDR.jpg
Abbott hospital (now private residences), Guildford High Street

Right, I’d better pack my things and head back for my final 3 weeks of lectures! (And final month living in Guildford!)

If you’re thinking about a trip to Guildford, or moving here to study (especially at The University of Surrey)- do it, you won’t regret it!

Ciao for now,

Han

xoxox