The Oxford Street Incident

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Yesterday, what was meant to be a lovely catch up with a friend I haven't seen in two years turned into a rather terrifying experience. 

It was around 1615 when I met up with Lizzie in one of the busiest streets in London -Carnaby Street. The place was even busier yesterday because of Black Friday. Also, a lot of people visit the area this time of the year because of the impressive Christmas lights and unique decorations. 

So, we decided to have a quick coffee in Sacred Cafe along Ganton St for some "New Zealand cafe experience" as I have been missing New Zealand coffee lately. This explained why I finished my latte in five minutes. 

Deep into our conversation, the waiter interrupted us and asked if he could take our empty cups away. Lizzie and I said "yes, please" in unison. We were talking about going to Primark in Oxford Street to buy some pyjamas, when all of a sudden we heard a commotion from the street. The sight of fleeing crowds, screaming and crying, sent us into a panic mode. And then I heard loud banging and clanking noise, as more and more people entered the cafe. It seemed like the people were being chased. The first thing that occurred to me was the Westminster bridge attack. It couldn't be another terror attack, I thought. But it certainly felt like it was. Then I realised that Carnaby Street is pedestrian only so it couldn't be a vehicle incident.  As the cafe staff instructed us to go down the basement, my mind went blank for a second. Lizzie led me down the stairs and when I realised what was happening, I started shaking and my body went cold. People rushed down in a calm manner, and the next thing I knew, we were in a very dark place.

The people having coffee at the basement had no clue what was going on. They looked as confused as we were. Lizzie and I went all the way to the back of the basement. I noticed a lady opened a door. I had a peek and saw  bottles of water and some cans inside. My mind suddenly played, "If anything bad happens, Lizzie and I will hide inside the room" 

Buffled, I phoned J to tell him not to get out of his office, and that we were in a basement because something happened. As soon as I put the phone down, I heard loud footsteps coming down the stairs. Lizzie told me to sit down. I heard the door shut. It suddenly dawned on me that something terrible has happened. Terror attack sprung to my mind. What if someone went down the basement and started shooting at us? I was shaking terribly and my heart was pounding. I wanted to cry but I couldn't. That was it, we were locked down.

Then a lady next to us caught our attention. She was crying because she got separated from her family, including two children. She was one of the people who ran inside the cafe for safety. She came from Oxford Street. She told us that there were numerous police cars in the area. She didn't know what was going on either. Then someone said gunshots were heard in Oxford St.

I'm not sure how long we were locked down in the basement but it felt so long. When the staff finally said it was safe to go out, Lizzie and I made our way up. Lizzie actually left her suitcase upstairs. Luckily, it was still there when we went back.

We were instructed to avoid the main roads. Fortunately, we could take the back road to our flat. Lizzie doubted at first whether it was safer to stay at the cafe for a few more minutes. In the end, we decided to leave.

We braved the whole situation and started walking. People we met on the streets were on their phone, looking so worried and confused. We walked hand in hand, Lizzie obviously very shaken by what happened. I have calmed down by then. As we got closer to our flat, there was a sense of security. People in our area seemed oblivious of the chaos only one kilometre away.

When we got home, we had cup of tea- because tea makes everything better. Lizzie started crying when she spoke to her parents. I was calm, only because I was in emotional shock. I watched the news while Lizzie spoke to her loved ones. After an hour, it was reported that there was no evidence of gunshots. I felt so relieved. I thanked God no one was hurt this time. 

Lizzie and I reflected on what happened afterwards. Now we know how it feels like to be in that situation. It felt so surreal. I felt like I was in a dream. It may have been a false alarm, but what if it wasn't? Lizzie was at the Oxford Tube Station less than an hour before panic erupted in the area. Imagine?

Our reunion may have been cut short, but we were very thankful for the renewed life and friendship. I am glad I was with Lizzie. We are lucky because although we were terrified, at least we were not traumatised.

Yesterday is certainly one of those days I will never forget.


The Day Trip To Paris That Became All About Me

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

"Ate, who is the tourist, you or your friend?" is the question I was asked by one of my dearest Adings when she saw my photos with my friends who visited London from the States in the summer. It happens all the time when I am playing tourist guide either in my city or any other place that I have been to before. Sometimes I even doubt myself whether I genuinely want to be the tourist guide, or because I just want my photos taken. Haha. Either way, I should really be a very special person to you, for you to even consider asking me to show you around, because I have the tendency to make your most anticipated trip to be all about me. You have been warned. Lol.

Kidding aside, a much needed catch up with one of my favourite people warranted a trip to Paris in October. Paris, being so convenient from London, has become a perfect rendezvous for me and anyone who genuinely wants to spend some time with me. Whilst I half-heartedly put Paris as one of my favourite cities in the world previously, I can now guarantee you that I absolutely love Paris. What I like about traveling to Paris is that each time I go there, I learn something new (of course), not only about the city but most importantly, about myself.

So, what is special about this trip? Well...

At last, I met up with Kristale in a place other than under our mango tree in Zambales. Having come from humble beginnings, where we are in our lives now is a proof that dreams do come true

Also, this time I went around Paris like a local. Naks. Only because I finally found my way from Paris Gare du Nord to Sacre Coeur in Montmartre on foot without getting lost. Big achievement indeed. :)

From Montmartre,  we walked down to Boulevard de Clichy for Moulin Rouge as per Kristale's request

As we had reservation for lunch and were running late, we took an Uber taxi from Moulin Rouge to Rue de Rivoli for more or less than 10 euros. You would think that I would go back to Laduree because I used to love this place. However, I wanted to try something different this time. I wanted Kristale to experience something that perhaps people she knows who have been to Paris haven't heard of before. Besides, we have Laduree in London so I can easily go there whenever I fancy some Laduree treats. 

So I chose Angelina, a traditional Parisian cafe which opened in 1903 and was apparently frequented by the likes of Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn. I was in awe of the cafe's magnificent interior. The elaborate paintings, large mirrors, classic French furniture and that golden lighting gave me the authentic Parisian feel. 

Angelina is famous for their L'Africain hot chocolate and their signature Mont Blanc dessert.  However, I was not very keen on chocolate drinks and sweets that day so I opted for what I was craving for  (scrambled egg) and some extras (pain aux raisins, croissant, pain au chocolat and brioche) . The only thing Kristale requested was a glass of champagne. 
226 Rue de Rivoli
75001, Paris

After our carb-heavy brunch,  we walked to the Louvre via Tuileries Garden. 

Somehow I always get excited whenever I see the Louvre pyramid(s). It was even more exciting that I was with someone who was as keen to  take photos. One thing I love about this courtyard is that there are so many different angles you can take good photos of. 

I love candid photos and this is one of my favourite photos of Kristale:

And then she instructed me to do the "my head hurts" or "I have dandruff" pose. Well, because I am blogger after all. :)

After our mini-photoshoot in the Louvre, we moved on to the Eiffel Tower. I suppose my trips to Paris will never be complete without dropping by my favourite spot for a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower- the Trocadero. Can I just say that Kristale takes amazing selfies? 

And blogger photos of course. 

Our last destination was Notre Dame. I am really glad that I was able to go there during this trip because I missed it last time.  

And that was about seven hours spent in Paris. 

It was very heart-warming to meet up with Kristale in Paris. If anything, it was sort of surreal.  It felt like it wasn't that long ago when we were both still in the Philippines, perhaps dreaming of the same big things. And here we are now, having champagne in Paris, seeing wonderful places and creating life-changing experiences. I am very happy for her, and I am even happier that we have managed to maintain our good relationship. Loyalty indeed shouldn't be questioned by people who are truly confident and happy.


When Life Takes Over

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Life clearly took over the last four weeks because I feel like I've not had a downtime for a while. October went by so swiftly, I can barely remember some of the things that took place in the month that facebook claimed "I did right". October has indeed been quite challenging for me- mentally and physically. 

Actually, roughly a week before October, I made a prudent decision to quit my current job because we were going to relocate to Edinburgh. And then better things just kept coming to a point where we were no longer sure where we'd be next. But as J's Mom always says, "something will come up and then you'll know". 

And then October came.

My October was about catching up with some people whom I haven't spent time with in a while. First of all, I finally  went to a spa with one of my closest friends. It was my first time to have a facial because I've always believed that I didn't need one. I'm glad I gave in because I felt so relaxed and refreshed afterwards. This is now going to be a regular gift for myself I reckon. 

Then I had the chance to hang out with one of my friends at work, after a few years of planning. And to mark our first 1:1 ever, we went to a Cafe in Camden Town for some dirty ice cream.
Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream
91 Kentish Town Road

My cousin and his family also came to visit, and for the first time since we came back from New Zealand, I had my favourite pandesal.
Romulo's Cafe
343 Kensington High St
W8 6NW

Hmm. Now that I live in the West End of London, I am more excited to watch West End shows. Sadly, I have only watched three shows since we moved here a year ago. Therefore, when one of my friends mentioned that she has always wanted to watch a musical but never had anyone to go with, I volunteered. And to make her first theatre experience memorable, we watched Les Miserables.  But before that, we indulged ourselves with some heavenly chocolate drinks and cakes.
SAID dal 1923
41 Broadwick Street
Carnaby W1F 9QL

Subsequently, the unexpected opportunity to travel to Seattle, Washington came. 

Although we only technically spent two full days in Seattle, I was happy because I was able to travel to the US with J for the first time. Besides, I was able to spend  time with my cousin whom I haven't seen in two years.

The day after we arrived from Seattle, I went back to work. I was very tired, but I didn't have a choice. Worst of all, I was doing the ward round. 

The tiredness dragged on until I went to Paris for a day that same week. Tired as I was, I couldn't miss the chance of meeting one special person whom I haven't seen in years. 

The day after Paris, without much sleep, I went to visit my friend and her family at their new place outside London. It was also the same day I found out that my mother had a stroke. My mind and my body, still tired from all the socialising and traveling, almost couldn't cope with what was going on. Still confused as to where we're going to end up living and working eventually, I was faced with yet another challenge.

When it comes to my parents' health, I am always torn between my responsibility as a daughter and my frustration towards how they manage their priorities. I suppose, no matter how much they make me unhappy sometimes, my love for them still prevails. 

So yes, my October was pretty demanding. Not to mention the daily mundane activities that I have to do in order to survive this life.

It's almost half-way through November and although I am still not fully rested, life has somehow calmed down a bit. 

Perhaps, sometimes life has to take over so we learn how to prioritise things and spend our precious time only with people who are definitely worth it.

Right now, although some things are still uncertain, I am but excited to see what the future holds. 


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