Week 1: Tuesday (Colchester)

I bade farewell to Dover this morning after a yummy continental breakfast at my b&b, and, in the lovely heat of the still-young sun, I wheeled my wee carry-on along the cobblestone streets towards the train station. Today was moderately heavy on the travelling end: Dover Priory to London Victoria (£6.65), a tube from Victoria to Liverpool Street (£1.60–I think this “transfer” might be included as part of my next trip, but the trainman at Dover Priory said otherwise, though I might try something similar in the future), London Liverpool Street to Colchester (£5.95). I started at 10:30am, and got to my Colchester hotel at 3:30pm.

Unfortunately, once I got to the hotel, I experienced my first bit of negativity on my trip so far. I’d booked the Globe Hotel because of its reasonable price (£45) and because of its name (yes, I’m a lame Shakespearean), but I didn’t expect the subpar accommodation, the dirty sheets, the creepy bug in the corner of the ceiling, or the rude response I got when I pointed out these things. The wifi doesn’t work in my room (and I’m writing this in the lobby now), there aren’t any facial tissues (not ideal given my awful hayfever right now, but I guess toilet paper will suffice), but by far the worst aspect was when one of the staff curtly told me that I had ordered a standard room, and not a premiere or delux room with better facilities. Given this is marketed as a hotel and bears the prices of lower-end hotels, I expected the basic features of a hotel, including general cleanliness. In fact, I’ve stayed in hostels that were cleaner, friendlier, and better priced than this hotel, and I was just so frustrated and sad that my initial experience of Colchester was to deal with such “petty” things as defending my not wanting someone else’s pubic hair on my bedsheet.

So at 4:15pm, after things had been “sorted” and Colchester Castle was on the verge of closing, I was sad, tired, and indignant, and decided to self-medicate with a hefty dose of Mother Nature. This more or less did the job (though the constant sneezing didn’t really help), and I went for a nice riverside walk, through the Castle Park, and along the Roman walls.

Squirrel! I spoke to this little guy for a good minute or two while I took a kazillion shots.

Squirrel! I spoke to this little guy for a good minute or two while I took a kazillion shots.

Sing all-a-green willow... <3

Sing all-a-green willow… <3

Flowers growing on the Roman walls.

Flowers growing on the Roman walls.

Why Colchester, you (and folks all across England) ask? Well, the town is renowned as the earliest recorded city in Great Britain, going as far back to 20-10 BC. There are indeed many signs of Roman presence here, exciting my little fangirl heart. After living in Belfast for the last three-and-a-bit years, it’s also very strange for me when people respond to my queries and such with English accents–it’s almost as if I’m in England!

The entrance to Colchester Castle (note the blue sky!).

The entrance to Colchester Castle (note the blue sky!).

After my meander, I went on a wild goose chase for dinner, primarily because my map had misinformed me… According to the Interwebz, one of the best eateries in Colchester is an “Asian” place called North Hill Noodle Bar, which turned out to be really delicious. I got the spicy prawn crackers (£2.50), which I couldn’t finish but doggy-bagged, and the mixed seafood crispy noodles (£11.25), which was an absolute delight, especially since I’ve not had crispy noodles since I was about 10. I really enjoyed my meal, and was especially happy with the service–I’d enquired about the wifi, was told it didn’t exist, and was then given the details when the staff returned after having learnt it does indeed exist. I’m now very tempted to return for lunch tomorrow before my 1pm-ish train…

Look at all those prawn crackers!

Look at all those prawn crackers!

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A Chinese feast at Oriental Jewel

My parents can be quite particular about Cantonese-Chinese cuisine, which, for me, comes with the advantage of dining with them at all the super yummy Chinese restaurants. Since they’re regulars of Oriental Jewel, to which I’m also quite partial, some of the dishes were complements of the chef, and not on the menu. I’ve also no idea how much the entire meal was supposed to cost, but I do have lots of photos and thoughts on the deliciousness!

But first, some decor! I’ve always loved the Chinese theme–some of it might seem a tad kitsch or overdone, but I just love the lantern lights and the bamboo steamers.

Yay for getting there early enough to take photos of tables, not random strangers!

Yay for getting there early enough to take photos of tables, not random strangers!

Yay bamboo steamers!

Yay massive bamboo steamers!

One of the restaurant’s signature dishes is an epic Cantonese double-boiled winter melon soup, which is made to order with prior notice, and, to my knowledge, is a rarity amongst Cantonese-Chinese restaurants in Sydney.

Amazing soup!

Amazing soup!

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Chefs Gallery at Town Hall

After mum and I spent a morning running errands in the city, she took me out to lunch at Chefs Gallery. We arrived at noon, which meant it was very easy to get a table, but by the time we had finished about an hour later, the place was packed, and there was even a wee line.

Mum ordered some of her favourites, including two hot soya milks with azuki beans ($3.90), warm, comforting, and just sweet enough. Mum’s usual dish is a Zha Jiang noodle: handmade noodles with minced pork sauce, cucumber, carrots sticks, and edamame ($13.90), which she easily polishes off by herself. And I could see why–the noodles were simply delicious, having been freshly handmade on the premises, and the minced pork sauce super yummy. I would’ve liked some more of the vegetable toppings, though–especially the edamame, of which there were only half a dozen.

Yummy toppings for the yummy noddles.

Yummy toppings for the yummy noddles.

More of the noms!

More of the noms!

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Yong Feng Restaurant and its generous servings

On Saturday (aka Day 2 of Samantha in Sydney 2015), my parents (with whom I’m staying) decided to make a trip to Sydney’s southern suburbs and pick up a few things from a family friend. While we were there, they took me out to lunch at Yong Feng Restaurant, a local Chinese eatery–and, unlike Bang, its market was most decidedly the local Chinese population. In the vein of Chinese dining, mum and dad ordered several dishes to share, while my sister and I sat back and chatted away.

The servings at Yong Feng were very generous, and at a ridiculously low price that even my yet-to-be-recalibrated-Sydney-monetary-radar could recognise. Make no mistake: this isn’t where you’d go for an up-market gastronomical experience, complete with pressed linen and three sommeliers, but if you want to be seated while stuffing yourself with some cheap and satisfying grub, then Yong Feng is definitely worth a visit.

Halfway through our meal, when all the dishes had arrived.

Halfway through our meal, when all the dishes were happily gathered together.

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