I realized how tired I was when I got to to the airport here and decided that my initial plan to take a bus tour of London was not such a good idea, and I wisely decided to head straight to Oxford. Took the
Gatwick Express train to London's Victoria station, headed to the London Underground where I was disappointed to learn it was not a political movement
(cues rimshot) and headed from Victoria Station to Paddington Station, and from there caught a train to Oxford. Definitely a good idea because I was having trouble keeping my eyes open by the time I got here. I pretty much caught all of my connections and it still took about 4 hours of travel... ugh.
The situation was not helped that in order to find where I was staying I needed to go to the Porter's Lodge at St. John's College in Oxford. This process was impeded by a complete and utter lack of any signage or guidance. I was reasonably sure I was close to it, but to find it I basically pushed open a massive fortress door (which was mysteriously unlocked, and which I saw people occasionally wander out of as I stood on the sidewalk trying to get my UK phone plan to works... note: that remains a work in progress) and wandered into an empty courtyard and meandered into another courtyard and randomly went into a doorway to another area where I saw an open door to something that looked like an office and went in... and there it was (there were a lot of other possibilities for where I could have gone, it was extremely lucky that I "zen navigated" my way to the right place... if nothing else, I would have asked anyone I found for help). I paid for my flat (in advance... thank goodness my Canadian bank card worked, it is supposed to work like Visa debit card and did) got the keys and fobs and set out to find the place, dragging my luggage behind me... it was walking distance, but further than I expected by a little bit. I got in (hauled everything up three flights of stairs). You walk in the door and there is a vestibule with a light switch and two doors leading off of it in opposite directions. In one direction is a living room with a chair, a small couch, a foldable dining table, wall shelving, a desk, a small cabinet, and what was a fireplace (now sealed up). Off the living room is another door that leads to a small kitchen with stove, small fridge, microwave, toaster, sink, cupboards above and below with plates, cookware, etc.. Going the other direction from the vestibule is the bedroom with a queen sized bed, bedside tables with lamps, and a little closet with an ironing board, iron, vacuum, etc.. From the bedroom is another door and a fairly large bathroom with toilet, sink, and shower. It is far from luxurious, but it is certainly more spacious than a hotel room (or hostel room, which is where I was originally supposed to be staying... there is a private hostel for visitors to the facilities in Harwell, but it was full so one of the physicists from Oxford was able to get me this flat I am in now).
It was late afternoon, and I went out for dinner. A lot of the places nearby that looked promising were actual British pubs, and by that I mean I could get beer, but not really anything in the way of food from what I could see (none of the customers had anything but pints). I ended up going to what looked like a chain restaurant (https://www.browns-restaurants.co.uk/
) because they had what looked like decent food and had a menu out front. They were serving mid-afternoon tea with the trays of goodies and such, it was fun to see. Their regular menu was also available. I ordered what turned out to be a micro-brew IPA (my friend in China needs to come here and teach English... I can't understand a thing they're saying... seriously, and lol, they can't understand me one whit either!) that was very strong and bitter (I liked it, most people I know would not have) and their "Slow cooked salted pork belly" which was came with savoury apple pie, buttered green beans, mash, crackling, and red wine jus. It was better than I expected from a chain type restaurant (not a large chain, they have about two dozen locations, but still). They had a very European attitude toward bringing the bill (I had to flag my server down and make air-scribbling motions), but I was falling asleep at my table and had to get out. The good news again is that I was able to use my Canada Post prepaid Visa to pay for my meal (so that works too, which is good). I have some UK currency in my pocket, but my bank in Canada gave me 5 Pound notes that aren't accepted as currency here anymore, sigh, which is about 40% of the cash I had on me. I should be able to trade them in for valid UK currency, but will probably need some help with that because only banks will do it.
From there, I came back home (home is where I hang my hat) — via a convenience store where I bought vegetable samosas and an orange juice for a snack later — and pretty much fell asleep. I just got up am going to try to go back to sleep again soon (had a samosa, it was pretty good, and the juice) but will try to repair my shoe again with the glue I got (and brought), see if Virgin Mobile can fix the issue with my local phone plan in the UK which doesn't seem to be working, and maybe put my clothes away (and maybe even take a shower, which would be a public service at this point I'm sure).
If I wake up early enough, I might do the London hop on/hop off bus tour thing tomorrow but I'm not going to set an alarm. There is also the possibility of just doing a tour of Oxford (they have open topped double decker buses and lots to see here as well, it's quite the tourist town). I also need to figure out where to catch the private shuttle bus from Oxford to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Monday morning (I need to be there by 9:30AM, which seems quite civilized). Two shuttle tickets were waiting for me at the Porter's Lodge that had been sent by mail by my contact. The address was "Phelonius Friar, c/o The College Porter, St. John's College, St. Giles, Oxford, OX1 3JP"... seriously, this place has no actual address... you either know where it is, or you don't! Fyi, I found a little medieval door to the street (short, and studded with iron things) that is the door the area where the Porter lurks, err works that I can go to in the future if I need to. It allows access to one of the courtyards I had wandered through earlier, and has a doorbell that will summon the porter 24/7 from what I was told. It is unlocked, I was also told, until 11PM. There is absolutely no indication on or anywhere near that door or the buzzer as to what might lie behind it or what it's purpose is. I am thinking I will have to leave quite early for the shuttle bus as well... they indicate a location, but I suspect it is also a "you know where it is or you don't" sort of thing... and I don't ;).
I imagine that this is the sort of thing that goes on inside these mysterious institutions in Oxford: