We are up at the crack of dawn and head off towards Limoges where we drop my cousin at the airport for his flight back to the UK and Scott and I continue to drive to Calais in convoy.The drive is relatively boring as we elect to take the motorway.However, once we reach Paris the rain starts and our plan unravels fantastically.We had made lots of plans about stopping etc but we became separated and realised that I didn’t have Scott’s mobile phone number for France and he didn’t have my mobile number for London.After a few calls back to London we realise that I had overtaken Scott and was now close to Calais and sat at the petrol station waiting for him to arrive.Also in the best planning we have managed I didn’t even have a jumper etc, so it was a cold wait.By now it was getting late and dark, but once we catch up we elect to continue the drive to Calais as it was only an hour away.
On arriving in Calais we grab a pizza and then park at the Aires de camping spot.It is incredibly windy here; it feels like the van is going to roll over.We are exhausted so just crash.
8 December 2011 – Earls Colne, Essex, England
Up and finish cleaning and packing up the van.During the night due to the wind and rain, Vinnie is now covered in sand (we are on the coast), but we decide to head to the P&O Ferry Terminal early and see if we can get an earlier ferry.On arriving we find that due to the bad weather they have put us on an earlier ferry but it isn’t scheduled to leave until after the one we were on.However, we get in the queue with everyone else and sit there and then sit there some more.We eventually board the ferry and the crossing is very rough and also takes an hour longer than normal.
We are having dinner with friends in Essex, so hit the motorway and make great progress until we get to the M25 junction with the A12 and sit there for 45 minutes before electing to continue to another junction.The traffic is a nightmare along with the road conditions.We eventually make it to have dinner with Nancy and Marc about four hours late.
9 December 2011 – London, England
We get up early to see Harvey and Mary in their school uniforms which was fantastic.So annoyed that the travel plans for the day before were so bad.We pack up Vinnie and then head down to Kent to drop Vinnie off.Sadly we waved goodbye hoping he finds some good owners and they have as much fun as us.We are soon on the road to London where we are staying tonight.The weather is totally different today and there is even some sun.The roads are clear and we arrive in London by mid-afternoon.
10 December 2011 – York, England
We are still trying to do some sightseeing to head up to York to have a look at the Cathedral and the town.It is a lovely town with the river currently at a high.We had no idea it would also be so busy and managed to get a room at a B&B with the help of the local Tourist Office.We park the car nearby and drop our bags in our room.Heading out for drinks and dinner we realise it is only 5:30pm.Considering it gets dark so early plus it is freezing, we are also exhausted; we do a quick walk around the town and have a drink.We end up eating dinner at 6:30pm and then just crash.
11-16 December 2-11 – Morpeth, England
We are spending the next week visiting family and friends in Morpeth who I haven’t seen for about 25 years, so it is good to catch up with people and Scott is enjoying the hospitality of roast dinners and lots of pints of lager.
13 December 2011 – the weather is getting colder and windier so we decide to head to Hadrian’s Wall and have a walk around one of the Roman forts.We are the only tourists, but it was a great place to visit and you appreciate how skilled the Romans were at building, especially ones that last.
14 December 2011 – we hire a car and head up to Edinburgh through the snow and ice for a night in Edinburgh.The city was all lit up for the Christmas period.
15 December 2011 – we drive back from Edinburgh via the coast road visiting Bamburgh Castle, Craster (fantastic lunch at The Jolly Fisherman), pop into Alnwick and then head back to Ashington to visit my Uncle and Aunty.
17-23 December 2011:London, England
We catch the train from Morpeth back to London to spend the last few days arranging some boxes to be shipped to Australia and catch up with more friends and family. We spend the time wandering through some of the places we still haven’t visited and start organising work and travel options for 2012. We still found places we hadn’t visited before i.e. The British Museum (absolutely fantastic), Tate Gallery (love Turner) and also revisited some favour haunts of the Morpeth Arms and Mildred’s. In addition Scott did his best to drink as many beers as possible before heading back to Australia where he will miss traditional ales.
We can’t believe our trip has ended, although we are getting excited to see some sun and warm weather.
A relatively quiet week was meant to beckon, but stupidly, very stupidly, well I just can’t explain how stupidly things happen. On 27 April 2011, Scott and I signed up for ….. the 2012 London Marathon, well the ballot for a spot anyway. Of course knowing my luck I will get a spot and Scott won’t and let’s face it, without somebody pushing my lardy ass I won’t do it. So I spend the rest of the week in shock and listening to Scott coming up with a training plan for 12 months away. Hmm need chippies and wine to contemplate all this.
29 April 2011
Monumental day for some. Whereas Scott and I decide to spend the royal wedding day sightseeing. Figured everyone would be watching the wedding. And were we right. At 11am we were on the London Eye just watching all the crowds, whereas we just wandered through the streets, going against the stream of people. The London Eye is actually quite good, you get a map that tells you what all the buildings are and really gives you your bearings. Should have done it earlier. It is meant to be cheaper to buy on the internet, but it doesn’t save you much and you still need to pick up the tickets inside the ticket office.
After the London Eye, we head off to the Imperial War Museum. This has a Holocaust Exhibition on at the moment and I thought it was incredibly moving and we ended up spending most of the afternoon there. The exhibits are well maintained and vary from WWI through to more current wars.
We headed back to the Morpeth Arms for lunch and a quick energy booster. We found this pub just after we arrived in London and it still has a nice feel, good food and good staff. We head back to Victoria and get a tube to Hammersmith and walk home along the river If we had our time here in London again, we would live in the Hammersmith area as it is nicer, cheaper and more lively than Chiswick.
30 April 2011
Up early to pick up our hire car from Avis (Fiat Punto Evo Dynamic 1.4) as we are heading off to see some friends in Winchester (Susie, Jeremy and Alfie), but decide, as the weather is nice, to take a detour to the New Forest. Seemed like a good idea – but in hindsight a bit stupid. It was sunny and there are only a few roads in and out, these were the roads that everyone else was on. Eventually we pulled off into a small village, found a pub (Waterloo Arms) with a beer garden and decamped there for a bit. We then did a quick visit to the seaside (Lymington/Lindhurst) so Scott could dream about finding a girlfriend who liked packing up everything and buying a yacht to sail around the world in, before he came back to reality and we headed off to Winchester. It was fantastic to catch up with Susie after about 15 years and meet Jeremy and her adorable 2 1/2 year old Alfie, who introduced me to Dr Seuss. We were spoilt with food, drinks and company and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
1 May 2011
Well the beginning of May, omg the time has flown by. We decide to visit the Submarine Museum near Portsmouth this morning and head off there. There are three submarines to view – don’t know the details (Scott’s forte this section) but we do a tour inside one of the submarines and then wander around the other exhibits. Afterwards we head to the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth to see HMAS Victory, HMAS Warrior and Mary Rose. Getting onto the boats is expensive, so we save our pennies, instead wandering around the outside and through the dockyards. Fascinating place and I felt it was a shame that so much of it was taken over by shops and restaurants, the shops sell the same old trinkets that don’t have much to do with the things you even see there. Anyway Scott loved it and we then went to a local pub for something to eat and to watch the world go by before heading back to London and dropping off the hire car. I think we should soon be premier Avis customers, although would never hire or buy a Fiat Punto, very uncomfortable car to drive in and generally lacking in any performance capabilities.
2 May 2011
I am sure most people by now are getting sick of all the bank holidays, running out of things to do. We decide to go for a walk along the waterfront and see what is happening, but things are very quiet. Even though the weather is sunny, seems a lot of people are either further afield or at home. We watch a couple of lasers ailing up the Thames and generally meander through the streets sticking our noses into some of the gardens and houses along the way.
4 May 2011
Off to see Rocket to the Moon at the Lyttelton Theatre at The National. Been looking to this play for a while, gets a good right up and also stars Keelie Hawes from Ashes to Ashes. We grab something to eat and head into the theatre. The seats here are a 100% improvement on the last theatre, unfortunately the play was very long and quite boring. We had purchased last minutes reduced price seats and it seems like they had put all of us in the middle section surrounded by nobody, very strange, you would think they would spread people out so the theatre looked fuller. I am sure Scott nodded off at one point. It also takes us ages to get home, so bit of a fizzer night really.
6 May 2011
I am actually taking my Friday off work and as the weather is nice we head into central London and go to the British Museum. I went here years ago and can remember a huge egyptian exhibition, so am keen to see that and compare it to Paris and The Louvre. The good thing about London is that most museums etc are free, so we wander into the fantastic opening for the museum, it is covered in glass and is just so light and airy, has a great feel. Scott likes the fact that there are plenty of places to sit around, have something to eat and even get a beer! We head into the egyptian galleries and Scott is disappointed with the Rosetta Stone – apparently was expecting something huge. Whereas in reality it was tiny. We then go through the exhibits and towards the end he asked when we were going to see the Elgin Marbles, I had to remind him we saw them at the beginning – again he was disappointed in the size of these. We both agreed that the museum was lacking a little bit in some of their exhibts and after all these years I was disappointed. We did find a lovely place called PJ’S Grill and had something to eat. We walked down to Tower Bridge and caught the Thames Clipper (riverboat) to Greenwich.
We are seeing Proof at the Greenwich Playhouse tonight and after the theatre on Wednesday hoping it is a better showing. On arrival it doesn’t bode well, the theatre is tiny and the box office isn’t open. We had to go back a few times before we could get our tickets. On going upstairs to the Playhouse there are two rows and the scene is amongst the audience. I am sure Scott is going to kill me one of these days. Anyway we settle in for a fantastic time, the play was good, the story good, it was great to be so close to the actors. We were very pleasantly surprised. This theatre has some great reviews of the productions they stage and would definately recommend it to anybody that is visiting London and wants to see fringe threatre at its best. We were then not very pleasantly surprised at the 2 hour journey to get home on the tube. Ridiculous.
7 May 2011
We are catching up with one of my oldest and best friends this weekend, but first head off to Cambridge. The traffic is a nightmare and every road we go on is full of roadworks, make it a long and tiring drive. We get to Cambridge to find that parking is at a premium, but eventually find a spot and walk into the old city, visiting several of the colleges (same set up as Oxford). However, some of the universities I really wanted to visit are closed to examinations – very inconvenient, so we head along the Backs and watch people trying to punt – it looked bedlam. We both felt that the town lacked the charm of Oxford.
We got back into the car and headed to Earls Colne to visit Nancy, Marc, Harvey and Mary. We arrived to a fantastic welcome and loads of hugs and catching up. It has been 11 years since I have seen Nancy in Australia and it felt like yesterday. Scott was soon the big favourite by carrying the kids around upside down – he thought the novelty would wear off (hah!). We spent the afternoon chatting, drinking more bubbles than good for us, having a great Indian takeaway and generally relaxing.
8 May 2011
Up late – this area is so quiet and the kids were obviously worn out and slept in as well. We got up, played some more. It is a lovely day with sunshine, although it did rain overnight, and then headed into the village to play in the park and have a walk around with Marc and Harvey while Nancy watched Mary pass her dancing exam.
After some great fun on the swings, we headed to The Five Bells for lunch. This was a lovely lunch spot and the staff were excellent. So after eating our body weight in food, we walked back home and did some more playing. In Scott’s case more walking around with the kids upside down before having to drive home. Very sad.
11 May 2011
Back onto the culture trail tonight and we head off to the Globe Theatre to see Shakespeare’s Alls Well That Ends Well. We have hopefully booked a seat with a cushion so with trepadation we finally get to the Globe, have a glass of wine and find out that yes we have a chair and cushion. The Globe is designed around the original configuration so you either stand or sit on wooden benches. I seem to have become accustomed to some sort of luxury, so am pleased I got the seats right. However, we are at the side of the stage so that is a bit weird. Wish we were in the box next door as the staff from HSBC were having champagne and canapes – things can’t be too bad in the banking sector.
13 May 2011
Well it is Black Friday and things have turned into a disaster. After spending the week on the phone to Citibank, we find that because we don’t have a landline in London they won’t transfer our (yes our own money) to the company we are meant to be buying the campervan from. It has taken them 5 days to tell us what the hold-up has been and understandably we are furious. Instead we are now relying on ANZ to do the transfer over 4 days, so it looks like we may be homeless. So as we then spend the morning cancelling bookings and tickets, I went to work for a few hours. In the afternoon we decamped to the Bulls Head for one too many drinks to bemoan the uselessness of banks in Australia. Even more annoying is that we have had to incur car insurance/breakdown insurance for nothing and we can’t change them, so fingers crossed the money eventually gets where it is meant to get and we soon have something tangible.
14 May 2011
Off shopping for the last bits and pieces of clothing etc that we think we will need over the coming months. Things like Merrell, North Face, Mountain Hardware are very cheap here, so we stock up as we have a box going back to Australia, so replace a lot of things that were wearing out with some new stuff and sending back all my workclothes etc, so we have plenty of space in our bags.
15 May 2011
Back on the tourist trail and off to Hampton Court Palace, the home of Henry VIII. We spend the morning trawling through the Palace and the huge gardens. The weather was so nice yesterday, but alas today it rains and is cold – we certainly won’t miss this weather. After hours rambling around the palace, the gardens were disappointing, there are loads of aphids and bugs on the roses and some of the other plants, don’t seem to have been tended very carefully and weeding seems to have been ignored for a considerable length of time. Eventually due to the cold, we decamp back to Kew and head to the Coach & Horses for a Sunday Lunch. The pub is packed and they must have some new staff and it was a disaster getting the right food and drinks, very disappointing considering how many good meals we have had there in the past.
19 May 2011
Officially my last day at WorleyParsons, so now I am unemployed. Can’t believe it has been nearly 5 months. To celebrate the end of my working days I have a horrible cold and head home to bed.
20 May 2011
Yeah finally the money trickled through to our motorhome company and we head down to Kent to pick it up. We spent ages with Graham from Select Motorhomes going through the home and how everything works, before we are given the keys, signed all the paperwork and now officially have a roof over our heads until Christmas 2011. We tenatively leave the car yard and drive off to a local pub for a meal and a drink before tackling the UK roads and the motorway back to London. Luckily with our apartment we have a parking bay in a secure complex, so we park the 6.3m long motorhome into a car space and start going through what we have and making a list of things we need to arrange and purchase. The list seems daunting, but more daunting is actually finding the shops to buy things in – there isn’t a Bunnings here.
21 May 2011
We hit the shops with our list doing several trips back and forth to the apartment, shops and motorhome stowing and moving things around. We have also had to pack a box which is being collected on Monday for Australia, so are taking the opportunity to sort out the huge amount of stuff we seem to have collected since setting up home. Anyway many trips to the recycling center also follow and we eventually sit down at the end of the day exhausted.
22 May 2011
Up early as we are off to Twickenham for the London Sevens. Scott has been looking forward to this for so long, I hope it is going to be good. The theme for the games is “beach” but we give up as today it is cold and a bit drizzly. However, there are many games played very quickly and plenty of things to look at and see. It is quite a fun atmosphere and like previous Twickenham games is very biased towards the English who have a cheer squad (of the ugliest cheerleaders you can imagine who didn’t realise that the orange tan look isn’t no longer fashionable, if it ever was). Anyway we stayed to the bitter end to watch Australia play awful rugby and deserve to get beat.
23 May 2011
Our box is being picked up for Australia today, and we decide that we may as well give the motorhome a trial run, so we head off to Chipping Norton about 2 hours north of London to a lovely little campsite where we park up the campervan, unpack all our stuff and head on the bus into the local town to try out the local beers. Scott is very taken with Hook Norton, so after one too many pints we stagger back to the campsite and have some dinner and gently chill out for the evening. It has been a very windy, wet and blustery day.
24 May 2011
Heading back to London as the UK Visa agent has called and all Scott’s paperwork is being couriers to the apartment ready for our departure to Ireland. So we can’t enjoy much more of the local scenery.
25 May 2011
Last day in London and it is apartment cleaning time. Scott and I firstly head off into Holborn to help our my cousin and fix his computer if Scott can, before heading back to the apartment to do the final cleaning. We are only eating in the apartment tonight and will be sleeping in the motorhome, so everything can be cleaned with a final inspection tomorrow. Sad to leave our little apartment, we have got used to it and it is going to be a bit nerve wrenching giving up any form of stability and abode.
Well back from our wonderfully, albeit extended stay in Iceland, this week is fairly quiet. We have some meals out at the local pubs and generally do some research on campervans/motorhomes, where to go and what to do once we finish up living in London on 27 May.
16 April 2011
Off to London Heathrow to pick up our hire care. We have changed from Avis and trying Budget who were marginally cheaper. We get there and eventually after a huge amount of paperwork (not sure why you need to fill it in on the webiste) and get the keys to a Peugeot 308 Verve Hdi. Inside the car is filthy, don’t think it has ever been cleaned and the outside looks like it was cleaned with a muddy cloth. Might have saved £5, but Avis certainly understands customer service. We head to Cambridge in Kent to look at a motorhome and we put down a deposit. We both really liked the look and feel of the home and it is available through a buy-sell back scheme which would save any problems with selling the campervan at the end of the holiday. http://www.motorhomes-buy-sell-rent.com/prices/20k-30k/euramobil-635-2002-due-april-20th-2011.html
Of course one of the best things was an actual bathroom – no having to find somewhere along the way and I think this will be fantastic and because the toilet/shower and separate, we can hang up our wet diving gear without soaking everything else. The other benefit is having a sepatate bed/lounge, so we don’t need to set up the bed each night.
Fingers crossed it all comes together.
So we then head back to Hampshire where we are staying at the Premier Inn as it is a friend’s surprise 50th birthday party. We drive up to the hall to help do some set up and get reading for the big arrival. Although I would be surprised if Sally didn’t have some hint something was going on. But the look on her face when she walked in was priceless. It was a great night and we got some great travel/dive tips. Also topped off by the walk home where we came across a man being escorted by his girlfriend – we think he had had a few drinks as he was trying to walk with his pants down around his ankles and kept saying, his pants had fallen down. Very interesting.
17 April 2011
The next day we dropped by Sally and Pete’s and catch up with the London Marathon news and headed to Windsor Castle.
Last time we were here, it was too cold to do much, but today the weather was lovely, so we did the usual British thing and queues up to get in and see the sights.
We did agree that it shouldn’t be called Windsor Castle, more like Windsor shopping castle as everywhere there are shops. We did find out that if we got our ticket stamped, we could come back anytime in the next year, so we did that before heading out as there were a couple of places we wanted to visit within the castle that weren’t open at this time. We then meandered around the town and had a nice lunch down near the waterfront at The George Inn, which had a nice beer garden, to enjoy the sunshine for once here, before dropping the hire car back at Heathrow and then tubing it back to Gunnersbury.
19 April 2011
The start of my manic period to see as much theatre as possible starts tonight. We are off to the Theatre Royal in Haymarket to see the Terrence Rattigan Flare Path (starring Sienna Miller). We had a drink in the watering hold next to the theatre – paying a wonderful £30 for 2 bottles of beer and 2 small glasses of wine – who said London was expensive!!! We had booked last minute tickets and were seated almost on the roof of the theatre. The play was really good, very enjoyable, lots going on and good witty dialogue. However, the seats were shocking, I am sure they were designed to make you never want to sit there again and stump up for the expensive tickets below.
20 April 2011
Scott has agreed to come shoe shopping with me – in fact he reminded me about it. So we are heading up towards Seven Dials to the Birkenstock Store to get some summer shoes. I am missing my shoes more than anything, so the excited it almost uncontainable. I do resist buying too much and get one pair, with the hope to come back again (minus Scott) for some more.
Not much happening this week, we have decided to actually spend a few nights in and relax. Besides as usual the weather is pretty ordinary and we have a few busy weeks coming up. We did manage to go out for a few walks as the trees are certainly starting to change in the area with a lot more greenery appearing, making it actually really lovely.
4 March 2011
I have taken the day off, so we head to The Bulls Head for a late lunch and a walk around the area and just some general sightseeing and nosey parker looking in people’s windows of their houses. Luckily there are two ways to the pub, as the way we usually walk along the river is now flooded over with the spring tides.
This makes a real change as only earlier in the day we were able to actually walk along the Thames riverbank. The tides here are phenomenal and fast changing. Of course it may be spring time ish, we are still rugged up wherever we go.
5 March 2011: Richmond
The weather is relatively nice, so we walk to Richmond, which is the next town on the river. It was a lovely walk past Kew Gardens and we then walked along the river in Richmond and having a good look around and enjoying the busy streets, cafes, pubs etc. This is definately a lovely area and we will be back when it is sunny, so we can take advantage of the lovely weather overlooking The Thames. Of course it starts to get a bit grey and cloudy so we take a bus back home. We had taken advantage of a free TasteCard a while ago and decided to use it tonight and go out somewhere nice. However, after 4 restaurants, we had almost given up of getting a table anywhere, when we call a local pub which did have a table. The gastropub “El Bullo” is in Chiswick and was a lovely pub, the food was good, there was a great mix of clientele and we got talking to a few people and ended up having a thoroughly enjoyable meal. However, the cold walk home was a tad sobering.
6 March 2011
Cold, wet and miserable – groan. Not really conducive to going for a walk or doing much, so we had a lazy day and headed to the Coach & Horses for our usual Sunday lunch.
Today we were not alone, half of London was there, so we could not get our usual table. Still the food was good and Scott is really enjoying the variety of bitters.
7-10 March 2011: Bulgaria
I am yet again in Bulgaria and Scott is keeping the home fires burning in London. Again Sofia is cold and snowy, however, it starts to warm up and I even get out of the office and head out to some of the restaurants etc. The weather is definately bringing people out and Sofia seems to be a totally different places to previous visits.
11 March 2011
Scott is meeting me at Heathrow as we are picking up a hire car to get out of London. Of course, best laid plans and all – both Scott and my mobiles ran out of credit at the same time and Heathrow Terminal 5 is not the place to realise you don’t have a back-up plan. However, as I was wandering around aimlessly wondering what on earth I would do, when in front of me appeared a madman in a red hat – whew, I had been found amongst all the chaos. We picked up our hire car – Ford Feista Zetec and once we got over the shock of actually driving again – it has been a couple of months, we head back to our apartment via the supermarket for some food. The car is fairly basic, what you would expect from a Ford, but it has a bit of get up and go so driving into the country tomorrow should be great. I am absolutely shattered after my week away, so Scott has done a home cooked meal and glass of wine, so I put my feet up and got pampered, maybe I should go away more often.
12 March 2011: Bath and Hampshire
We are catching up with some very old friends (Sally and Pete) this afternoon, but in the meantime decide to head off to Bath to see some of the sights. We we plug in the GPS (how would we be without them these days) and head to this beautiful historic roman town. Sadly we weren’t the only ones, but managed to find a parking space, locate the tourist office for a map and put our walking shoes on.
We head into the main square which houses the Roman Baths, Pump Room and Bath Abbey. There are queues and queus of tourists everywhere. We are presuming that the slightest glimmer of sunshine brings everyone outdoors. So walk through the crowds into the backstreets to get some photos of the roman architecture. We walk up the pedestrian malls towards the Royal Crescent and the Royal Victoria Park which is quieter. The Georgian architecture is still very much a huge presence here, can only imagine it is impossible to do anything to the facades, but having a sticky beak through the windows you can see a lot have been completely modified inside.
It is certainly a beautiful city and we walked through all the back streets admiring the architecture. You can only imagine what it would have been like during Victorian times before automobiles and tourists such as ourselves and of course the ever present open tour buses that like to stop just in front of where you want to take a photo.
There is a great exhibition through the streets called “Britain from the Air” which gives you a different perspective of Britain and how fantastic and varied it is for such a small island.
We find a tiny little pub that is downstairs and although tiny managed to do lunches, drinks and even space for what seems like a constantly moving clientele. We then continue walking back towards the main part. We will definately be coming back to partake of the spa baths during the summer months. We follow the River Avon along to see the Pulteney Bridge which is beautiful.
We get back in the car and head to Yateley in Hampshire, which is not far from the Duke of Wellington’s home. Sally and Pete are playing our hosts and quickly get Scott in front of the huge TV to watch the rugby. Francesca, their fantastic chef – waitress (and their daughter) makes a fantastic three course meal and I spend the night laughing and being entertained as Francesca can also play the piano as well as sing and dance. We hate people who are so talented. Nevertheless we have a great night and I haven’t laughed so much for ages.
13 March 2011: Hampshire and Windsor
Yet more food, with a lovely prepared breakfast while Scott gives James (their eldest son) who is off to Australia for a debating competition some camera assistance. Scott isn’t feeling very well today, so at lunchtime we head off via the royal town of Windsor. We found a parking bay for 30 minutes, so do a whirlwind tour of the outside of the castle and a couple of streets.
After the beautiful day in Bath yesterday, today is absolutely freezing, so we give up and head home. Just in time for Scott to watch England v Scotland in the rugby – I am sure he is planning everything to fit in with the 6 Nations. Having a car has been great, but in London it is so impractical where everything is within walking/public transport or can be delivered to you.
14-16 March 2011
A quite week is planned as we are off to Paris on Thursday. So we stay in and relax, with the exception of Wednesday night when we head out to The Bulls Head for a drink and some dinner. We met some fantastic local people, who have given us some great tips for the Oxford/Cambridge boat race happening next week.
Another week in Bulgaria for Tracy, so Scott is left to his devices in London where he is running and running and more running – not from me, whew, but in an effort to get fit and there is a running track of sorts where we lived (Thames Path). So although it is cold, wet and sometimes muddy it is an interesting run. Meanwhile back in Bulgaria, it is snowy, freezing and even colder. I cannot believe how cold it gets outside. However, in the office, each morning someone has cranked up the heating to about 30 degrees which is unbelievable.
On Monday Scott headed to to listen to a lecture at Oxford University in relation to Radiation and whether the hype and fear can be overcome in our lifetime. So he made a dash from home in Chiswick all the way to Oxford and back in an evening – very committed to the environmental discussion cause and very happy I as he got me the book and took lots of notes. I am not in favour of nuclear energy, but realise we have to do something different as nobody is willing to adjust their lifestyle or reduce consumption, in fact it is ever increasing and although renewable energy is a feel good source of energy, unless storage is addressed, it isn’t a permanent answer.
25 February 2011: Natural History Museum
I am flying back to London and get home, change clothes and head straight out to the monthly Friday night drinks at the Natural History Museum and debate with Scott. We really love this place for something different – you can have drinks, see the museum and engage in a debate with people who are interested in similar events. Definately one for your diaries if you are in London. Although after a week of working away, I am totally exhausted and pleased to get into my own bed at the end of the day.
26 February 2011
Well although the weather might be a bit warmer in London, it is also wet. What is new, our new saying is that if it isn’t raining, it soon will be. Miserable – no idea why people live here. So we are trapped in the house deciding what to do when the weather breaks – yes it has stopped raining, so we take advantage and head up to Chiswick High Street for some shopping and the obligatory visit to the bookstore, if only I had a whole container to bring back to Australia, books are so cheap here, it is fantastic.
Before you know it, it starts raining again, so we pop into the Bow Marley Pub to watch the beginning of the Rugby and end up staying for the game and way too many drinks. The atmosphere was fantastic, especially with the result going England’s way. Scott had a great time – he is loving the Rugby here, not just because it is great to go and see the game at a proper rugby ground, but the pubs are interesting.
27 February 2011: Kew Gardens
The weather is nice, sunny even, although freezing. So we take advantage of the free entry to Kew Gardens for WorleyParsons employees, and wander across the river and into the park. Obviously it must be spring as the daffodils are in bloom everywhere, someone obviously forgot to tell the weather though.
As usual we headed out without a jumper as we were so excited it was sunny. So we had a cold walk walk through the park, which is very interesting and full of different perspectives. Some of the trees are just huge and beautiful.
During Victorian times, botanists were obviously flavour of the times with the amount of flora that was brought back from the English travels abroad.
This has resulted in an extremely diverse variety of plants in addition to the beautiful buildings, conservatories and water features. The art within the park is also interesting, using natural materials.
We particularly enjoyed the Bamboo Garden, getting some ideas for a new part of our garden at home. Also very impressed with the art made from natural materials, again lots of ideas for home – we are of course missing having our own garden, so can only dream. Eventually the cold weather got to us and we headed out, walking past a family who were telling their young child to try and catch the shadow – Scott thought this was funny as it was probably the first time the child had seen a shadow due to the overcast and gloomy weather.
After our walk, we yet again undid the good work and headed to the Coach & Horses for the obligatory Sunday lunch, pint and paper. Again it was packed, lovely and warm and a nice way to while away the afternoon.
28 February 2011
After work we did a quick trip to Wesfield, Shepherds Bus, via the worlds slowest bus trip. We are both convinced that we could have walked there quicker, which is saying much as I am a slow walker. Anyway we were there to try and get an iPhone cover that Scott could put on his arm, but alas, there seems to be a million of them and none of them offer any waterproof protection for the iPhone and I think it is a bit of an expensive item to let it get wet considering the weather here. After shopping we visited Wahaca which is a street food mexican restaurant. Alas it was a very westernised style of mexican food and we were disappointed. I have no idea why westernised food ideals should dictate such huge changes in a cultures food styles. So after a disappointing meal we headed back home.
Well as we went for a walk/jog on Monday and Tuesday, it was time to undo all that good work and head out for a local pub meal with a drink. We went to the coach & Horses for dinner as it does two main meals and a bottle of wine for GBP20 on a week night, so we imbibed and had a great night reading the local papers, listening to the locals and enjoying the warmth of the log fire.
11 February 2011: Oxford
Up early today as we are catching the 8:22am train from London Paddington to Oxford. I have to say it takes almost longer to get to Paddington that the overland train service too to get to Oxford. We opted for the bus from Kew Bridge to Hammersmith which just took forever as it stopped at every stop and just slowly made its way through traffic. We should have caught the train from Gunnersbury – but hindsight is great.
On arrival to Paddington, the object of the game was to find the self-service ticket machine, as the tickets you print off are only for your record. We finally found the one and only ticket machine and joined the queue, put in all our details to get our tickets (9 individual tickets were dispensed, so there is no idea of sustainability and reducing resources in this process), before standing around trying to work out where our train was as the platform isn’t printed on any of the handful of tickets. What was even funnier, is that none of these tickets worked through the barrier, you have to show them to the guard, begs the question of why bother and just use the voucher we printed off? We had booked a window seat in a quiet carriage. We ended up with an aisle seat in a quiet carriage, which I can only presume was noisier than the normal carriages. The lady next to me, just loved the sound of her own voice and prattled on for the 2 hour journey about management training skills etc. God I was almost sick with the information she sprouted.
We arrived in Oxford and eventually found the tourism office and booked our walking tour, before going around the block to the public toilets (these are probably worse than India, just awful and seem to be the only ones), however, not far away we found a lovely cafe (Heroes) for a coffee.
There were a variety of nationalities on our tour and Felicity our tour leader was full of information and kept us on track. We went into Jesus College, Divinity College, walked through some streets and found out a lot of information on how the colleagiate system works. Oxford is made up to approximately 38 colleges based on a federal system and has been in existence for 800 years (older than Cambridge). Entering the colleges is like stepping back in time, they are steeped in tradition and history and the most beautiful architecture. They still operate similarly to when they were first founded and are heavily in the news these days for increasing tuition fees to the maximum of £9,000. To be honest, just studying where some of the great minds have been before you would be awe-inspriring.
Of course, Felicity’s big information of the tour was that Exeter college was where J.R.R. Tolkien studied and that “The Inklings” drank at the Eagle and Child pub, so that was our afternoon sorted out. Felicity also pointed out areas where Morse had been filmed and also the restoration processes being currently undertaken in the Bodlean Library section. This is a huge restoration project and doesn’t look like it will finish anytime soon. Inside the Bodlean library was fascinating, and we sat in the hall there the undergraduates prepare to walk through for their graduation ceremonies. It would seem that this has been happening since the start of Oxford and whenever a new piece of tradition is attempted to be introduced it gets voted down. This hall was also used in the Harry Potter films as the hospital.
After the tour we headed straight to the Eagle and Child pub where both J.R.R. Tolkin and C.S. Lewis used to come with other writers in Oxford at the time to drink and discuss their writings. I would suggest that the pub is riding on the glory of times past. However, Scott was excited and stuck his nose into the part of the pub called the Rabbit room (convenient name) where all the discussions used to take place.
After a, I must say, ordinary meal and drink, we walked back through Oxford to Exeter College. This was meant to be open to the public, but is strangely enough closed, however, on looking very bewildered and disappointed, the porter let us in to have a wander around. The first quadrangle was surrounded by gorgeous architectural buildings and a wonderful chapel. The colleges were originally aligned with the church, but, apparently, no longer have this alliance, although I would still have to question this.
So Scott is now very happy, having seen where one of his favourite novelists lived. We can now go back to focusing on seeing the architecture of Oxford – oh, now I am mistaken. Apparently in the Museum of the History of Science there is one of the actual blackboards Einstein wrote on in one of his three lectures in Oxford (1932), so that was next on the list.
The Museum was an intersting place, having a huge variety of exhibits – including the equipment used by Florie in his penicillen experiments. Amazing that people remember to keep this stuff, as I presume so much would have been destroyed.
We were now free to wander the streets of Oxford and enjoying the atmosphere, trying not to get run over by cars, buses or bikes. We have booked the late train on the expectation that Oxford would be packed and lots of things going on. Alas, hardly any of the buildings were lit up and although we enjoyed a drink etc in the White Horse, it soon thinned out. Obviously there is the after work drinks crowd, but I suppose a lot of people have to commute, so they didn’t stay too long. We continued to walk around the area, finding another nice pub to rest up before making our way to the train station. This time our tickets were also booked, but we couldn’t sit in our seats due to the sleeping person who took up his seat and the rest of the table and therefore our seats. We sat in another spot and before you know it, we were back at Paddington and then making our way back via tube to home – exhausted, but having a great day out.
12 February 2011: Twickenham
Finally Scott is excited. We have had the tickets to the England vs Italy Rugby Union 6 Nations game for a while and it is today – plus it looks like it may not rain. We head off early on advise that the roads may be busy, so better to get there earlier rather than later. We arrived in Twickenham to what felt like a million other people – we had to ask directions where to go, but the Police were very helpful, even giving us a map where to go. so we walked off to Twickenham Stadium, even though we were early.
There was a great outdoor area set up with loads of food, pubs and general entertainment areas, along with huge screens to show previous games and highlights. Strange that were was so much alochol, two different teams and more people than you can imagine, but there was no trouble, everyone was jovial and the biggest thing forus, there was no rubbish on the ground – everyone put their rubbish in the big bins provided. In Perth this would be unheard off.
We watched the England team bus arrive, with the biggest cheer by far reserved for Johnnie Wilkinson, he may not play a full game anymore, but is still a massive crowd favourite.
We didn’t have the best seats in the stadium, but were able to get close to the english team as they were warming up. Everyone around us was great to listen to, they certainly had their opinions about what was happening etc. The game was a total whitewash for England, with lots of singing and dancing from the English supporters. Not that we worked out the signing and dancing as it didn’t happen everytime there was a try scored. However, the minute Johnny Wilkinson came onto the field the crowd went wild and you feel a bit bad for the other kickder (excuse my rugby incorrect naming, but not really my thing). The most exciting thing to happen for me was that Johnny kicked the ball straight into the crowd and it was coming straight for me and I was paralysed, but luckily Scott put his hand out to hit the ball away. Of course in hindsight apparently he should have let it hit me, and I would have been on the TV!
And proof that I did attend:-
13 February 2011
This now the traditional Sunday walk followed by a roast dinner at the Coach & Horses in Kew. They have a log fire and also a big TV so Scott can spend the afternoon watching the France v Ireland game in the comfort of a local pub with a cleansing ale.
18 February 2011: Brighton
We are off to Brighton today. Catching the 9:21 from London Victoria on the express service. I have to say it is very cold and bleak and as usual we think we have undercatered in the layers and clothing department. Never mind, too late now. We arrive in Brighton at 10:30 and walk into the cultural quarter. Quickly ducking into the lanes to find a coffee shop to dethaw. We head to the Royal Pavilion. This is one very strange but so interesting building.
Built by the Prince Regent, later King George IV, in stages between 1787 and 1823, it reminds you of an Indian Palace with its scoped domes and intricate carvings. So different to the regency architecture of the time.
There aren’t many tourists here (no surprise as it is definately a stay inside near a fire day). After walking through the grounds and the building, we now head into the lanes for some lunch, finding a new Thai Cafe that is awesome – great food and wine, worth hunting down if you are there. Next on the list is a walk along Brighton Pier. Brighton Pier was originally opened in 1899 and in 1984 it was upgraded with new features, as well as free admission. It still has some of the original features such as filigree ironwork arches, but alas looks like an old theme park with very dated equipment and some average looking food outlets and of course a casino.
We walked from there along the “beach” in the loosest terms. Scott is fascinated that it is a beach when there are only pebbles. Anyway, there is a large sailing fleet here, but it looks sad and deserted, hopefully in the summer it would be a sight to see all the boats out off the coast.
It is now getting even colder, so we head back into the Lanes for a wander through the historic shops and also for a respite from the wind.
We eventually give up and head back to the train station and buy some earlier tickets back to London.
Up early this morning as we want to visit the Borough Markets in the morning and get in before the crowds.It is also not raining.So we decide to walk to Borough Markets which is about an hour away – we get there only to find it is only Thursday to Saturday, luckily we weren’t the only people walking around totally puzzled and bewildered/. There are so many different websites it is difficult to know what is on etc without being connected to the itnernet or finding a tourist Information counter which doesn’t seem to be located in many places and do lack qualified staff that can help or even understand English, but I suppose that is the way of the world, gone are the days of actually speaking to someone who is knowledgeable about the area.So we walked back to the apartment before heading off to the Natural History Museum which has the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.We had to queue for about 45 minutes just to get into the Museum and it is packed inside.Anyway we are only going to the exhibition so head there and get our tickets.Wow and awesome, there are fantastic pictures.Although I wasn’t convinced about the winner, he did take a fantastic selection of photos and his winning photo certainly stood out from the rest.There are some photos there taken by children which I would be happy just to take on off in my life.It was certainly worth going and I hope to get the chance to go back before it closes on another day that isn’t so busy.
We then headed around the corner to the Science Museum (literally) to meet the Strahans who are enjoying their last few days in London before heading back to Perth.We spend a few hours wandering through the exhibits.It is a very hands on museum and great for kids as there are loads of things to do and everything is laid out and explained well.Strangely enough we spent a lot of time in the computer and “nerdy” sections which just gave me a headache and made my head spin.Scott of course loved it.We said goodbye with plans to catch up over the next few days.We headed slowly back to Holborn.It is only 3:30 but getting dark and has decided to rain yet again.
17 -20 January 2011:Holborn, London, England
I am back into the London Office from today, so Scott and I head off for the 1 – 1 ½ hour tube journey.Scott then walks/jogs home through some of the sights i.e. Hyde Park etc in the usual rain and busy streets. He does get to see heaps of sights and also has managed to find some fantastic statues and local art.From today I am going to start making some enquiries into getting an apartment closer to the office.It has been great in central London, but we want our own space and also somewhere that I don’t have to spend 2 hours a day travelling for, beside Robert and Kevin are fairly booked up with people staying, so time to say adieu is fast approaching.So the hunt begins and it is phenomenal, there is a lack of short term accommodation that isn’t a flea bitten expensive kennel.The rest of our week is similar, but we are heading out for dinners and some wandering around the streets. It is good to be able to get out so easily without the hassles of a car and parking. On the downside is the fact that Scott and I are apparently invisible and everyone must walk through us – sometimes I make a real effort and put my head down and just plough on, but am driven back. Finally on Tuesday I manage to contact an estate agent that deals with short term furnished rentals (under three months) and I go and see an apartment that is 7 (yes 7) minutes walk from the office.It was more expensive than we had originally budgeted (rents here are huge (GBP350-450 per week, which makes us wish we had charged more rent for our complete house with garden back in Australia), but due to location, availability (rare as hens teeth – and having hens this is a good saying) and the fact we would save on travel fares etc, I make the executive decision to rent the apartment and set the wheels in motion to move in by the end of the week.
Scott has also been and caught up with the Strahans to visit the Hunterian Museum (at the Royal College of Surgeons) and have a farewell pint. Scott was fascinated by this museum and the amount of displays and information that is here. He is going to see them off at the airport, but will be sad for them to leave. I know Scott loves having them so close, even if we don’t see them a lot, he has always had them in his life and heart and the kids are just fantastic, so interesting and as they get older have such diverse personalities, they are great to listen and talk to.
Of course today is also a nightmare day as I have checked my visa statement to find someone has kindly used my credit card to book flights in China.So now get to spend my spare time trying to get some form of assistance from ANZ back in Australia – who are incompetent.Anyway after faxing the form to three different numbers and speaking to four different people, they have cancelled my card and are going to courier a replacement card in the next 5-8 working days.In the meantime I have had to register for International Services so I can pay the rent and deposit from the bank account.Who said banking overseas was easy, certainly not with ANZ. Particularly with the supposed fraud software they use, which seems to be useless considering I told them very specifically what countries I would be going to and the time period.
Anyway on 20th January 2011, we got the all clear to move into the apartment tomorrow morning, so I race home to Holbourn and we do a very quick pack – it isn’t like we have a lot ofstuff and then head out for dinner and Kevin and Robert are both out, so we decide to go for a walk and see the area for the last time.
21 January 2011, Chiswick, London, England
Up early to finish packing and tidying up our room.Saying goodbye to Robert who we are forever thankful to for putting up with us for a few weeks, it isn’t easy to let people stay for so long. We board the tube with our luggage and head off to Chiswick.This is where it all goes wrong.I am directing and we arrive at Kew Gardens, to find it is the wrong train station, we needed to get off at Kew Bridge which is an overland station.So we get out of the train station and finally find a taxi driver who takes us to where we should be.Not my fault, Scott should just take over with directions – it shouldn’t come as a surprise to him I got it wrong!We arrived at our new address and moved into our apartment.It isn’t huge, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, living room, dining room and balcony.However it is quiet and close to lots of places.We unpack what we can and make a list of definite must haves before walking up to Chiswick High Street to the local Sainsburys to buy some staples.The street is full of nice little shops and pubs and market stalls.
We walk back towards the river Thames (which we are one street away) and find a lovely pub (Bulls Head) on Strand on the Green and decide to venture in for a drink and some lunch.It has a great view of the river and you sit there and watch the rowers going up and down.There is also loads of birdlife to see, this part of the river is literally up to the pubs door with all the birds and swans being able to either swim or walk.Being suitably refreshed we continue along the river front past another couple of pubs before making it back to the apartment for some unpacking and some lovely quiet time, before going for a walk up the river to have a sticky beak in the barges and canal boats that people are living in.Why anyone would want to live on a boat is beyond me, but I presume Scott would think of it as perfect.
22-23 January 2011, Chiswick, London, England
We have decided to venture up and down the river and get our bearings.So first up is a trip back to Borough Markets to get some pantry items .This market is constantly packed – on the days that it is open of course.So we buy some cheese and meats – after suitably trying as many products as possible. although I did get one lecture from one of the cheese sellers about cheese not being suitable for vegetarians and I just kept thinking that he was sucking all the fun out of cheese and I don’t have a lot of excitement in my food choices as it is. We then negotiated the maze that is called London Transport on a weekend where it seems that most of the tubes and public transport options are closed or amended for repair works, it is almost impossible to get anywhere you require without walking from one end of London to the other – bad luck if you can’t do that.We eventually get back to Chiswick and head to another local pub on the river – The City Barge, this is one of the oldest in the area, but is about to undergo some major refurbishment, so I can only presume it will become like a lot of the other pubs and put its prices up as well.
On Sunday we get up earliesh and decide to walk along the river to Richmond.This is the Thames Path and is packed full of joggers and cyclists, you feel like you are in the way.However, we hang in there and continue on watching the rowers go by – we are surrounded by rowing clubs and it is busy at weekends. Considering how cold it is – and I can only provide a guideline with it is frigging cold and probably colder or similar to Nepal, it must make you a fairly committed rower to get up every week.
We made it to Richmond and then walked back past the Royal Botanical Gardens. This looks like a lovely park but is extoritionately expensive, we didn’t go in, but peer longingly through the gates and any other opportunities to look inside. We did decide to go home, have a shower and head back to a local pub we walked past for Sunday lunch.We were lucky, we hadn’t booked a table at the Rose and Crown, but managed to find a table and have our fill of food, before going on another walk up the Chiswick High Street.Yes it is Sunday, but the shops are open, so we spent a while browsing through a few shops, including a bookstore, where I finally couldn’t resist and bought a nice big pile to read.I know I have an eReader, but I love sitting there with a new book.We stopped at the Barley Mow which was having an early Australia Day.SoScott was able to have a beer, watch rugby and listen to Australian music.I think he thought he was in heaven.
24-30 January 2011
Quiet week planned as we are still getting acquainted with our new home and location.We did venture out on 25th January for Burns Night to the local, but wasn’t very busy, so we had a quiet meal and a few drinks at the Rose & Crown.The 26th is Australia Day, but it was too cold to really go anywhere, so we celebrated at home. The main thing of the week was to cook at home with the fresh produce from the market stalls near to our apartment and actually take some time to do some planning on what we want to do over the next month.
Friday (28/1/2011) Today we found ourselves at the Bulls Head for lunch (the second Friday in a row, almost becoming regulars).We just like the atmosphere and sitting there watching the world go by.Yes I know I should be reading for www.ourbookclub.net.au, but after a busy week at work, this was the perfect antidote. We watched the wonderful wildlife paddle up and down the river and adapt to the urban surroundings. Again we remind ourselves to come and take some photos on a day that is sunny – probably limiting outselves with that requirement, as it is never sunny.
In the evening we have tickets to the Natural History Museum’s Great Science Debate, so set off for that, having no idea what to expect.We got there and the entrance had been transformed from last week, there were loads of tables with candles, a jazz band and several other bands in different areas of the museum.
The debate itself was lively and fun and definitely recommend going.When we came out of the debate, the museum was just great, it has a real fun feel to it.
We then ventured to Darwin’s cocoon which lets you map the evolution or science research.It is fantastic to saunter around the museum with a glass of wine and listening to music.
We eventually finished at the museum at about 10pm and headed home on the tube.
On Saturday (29/1/2011) we thought we would go to Acton Markets, what a disappointment and waste of time, except for the walk.It seemed to be a depressing area and we can cross that off and not visit again.
Sunday (30/1/2011) was another long walk up the river past some more rowing clubs to have a good look at this side of the Thames Path before coming back home and heading to the Horse & Coaches for Sunday Lunch.This was another local pub which is full of different age groups playing board games etc.
31 January – 6 February 2011
Back to the work routine.Scott is now jogging around the river paths to get in some more exercise.The big night of the week for me, very sadly was Wednesday night when it was the final episode for Inspector Barnaby of Midsommer Murders , I can’t help it, I really like that show.However, it isn’t the end of the show, just Barnaby, with his cousin John seeming to take over the position.
On Thursday (3/2/2011) we ventured to The Botanist in Kew, which is a pub I definately like the look of from the inside. It has an interesting decor and the menu looked good. On Thursday it was very quiet, but we enjoyed the wine and the people inside were interesting to watch and to listen to – I am a great lover of people watching, and trying not to get noticed while doing it. They are advertising that they will be showing the Six Nations Rugby tomorrow night, so we may venture back and try out the food.
Big day (4/2/2011), I am actually having a hair cut, the days of letting it dry naturally in curly knots has come to an end and it is driving me mad, so after finding the local hairdressers (Cascade in Chiswick) last week, I ventured back for my appointment with no idea what to expect. First up was the colour, amazing, everything was discussed and then the colouring started and I was given a great little coffee plunger etc to keep me occupied. After my colour was all done, next was the cut, where short I went – they were a great hairdresser, even recognising Scott when he popped in to see how long i would be before he headed off to the pub. I will definately be back, which is high praise considering my usual ability to find crap hairdressers in the past.
I met Scott at the Bulls Head, our usual Friday afternoon drinking/eating spot, for a late lunch and drink. We had our usual slow meal listening and watching all the comings and goings in the pub. Just before we finished a couple (4) Australians came in, asking the most stupid questiona bout how many drinks you can have and be under the legal limit – same as Australia idiot! Anyway we left after a while listening to them, as they made the average Australian seem like a rocket scientist.
After some shopping we went home and got ready to head back to The Botanist. We got there tonight and it was packed, we thought everyone was there to watch the rugby, but alas, Scott was the only person who wanted to see it, but they turned on the TV and put the sound up just for him, also got him a table and chairs right near the TV – you can’t say they didn’t go out of their way to get organised. Scott is of course amazed that in a pub full of Englishman, he was the only person watching the rugby.
Saturday (5/2/2011) was an up early and out day as we were off to Westfield Shepherds Bush, this is a huge, huge, huge shopping centre with every shop you can imagine under one roof and not just crap shops like in Perth, but Gucci, Prada, LV etc, I know my eyes were swivelling in my head. Anyway I sat Scott down at the coffee bar with his iPhone and went shopping, coming back every now and then to drop bags off with him. Strangely enough he went shopping (yes Scott) and bought some running gear – not exactly my kind of shopping, but shopping all the same, hmm is he changing. We walked most of the way back home seeing the different markets etc.
Sunday (6/2/2011) was a big day for us. We are venturing into Chintatown for the New Years Day parades and dislays and catching up with some friends. We seriously underestimated how many people would be there, I am sure the whole of London was the the Chinatown strees or surrounds. we managed to see some of the displays and found Wong Kei. Wong Kei is a restaurant I used to go to when I was about 20 as it was cheap and known for having the worlds rudest waiters. we got there, just as Pete had managed to secure a table and surprised Sally with our visit. I haven’t seen them for about 15 years, so it was fantastic to catch up and see James (their eldest, who was only 2 when I last saw him) and also Francesco who I had never met before. They are both fantastic articulate kids who have very different personalities and great communication skills. James has just been accepted to Oxford, so what parent wouldn’t be proud of that. We had a great fast lunch – although it has certainly become a lot more commercial and expensive than our youth, there was still a huge queue. We left there and headed to Abercrombie & Finch, which is Francesca’s epitomy of style. I obviously enjoyed seeing the half naked male model at the entrance way – although he appeared to be very young (Kylie you would be in seventh heaven). The store was very dark inside, with the sales staff dancing on the balconies, it was also super expensive, so we wandered around cramping Francesca’s shopping style before heading off in our different directions.
Scott and I walked back back towards Green Park station stopping at the some art to have a look and be amazed at how interesting they ere (near Marble Arch). We made it to the station and eventually got home, exhausted but happy to have caught up with old friends.
We said goodbye to the Strahans and headed back towards London.We decided to drive the same road back that we came on, unfortunately it was no longer the quiet road and seemed to be full of trucks, who as soon as the dual carriageway came, they tried to overtake themselves making it hard for us to make it through the overtaking lanes.It was certainly not the snow and ice covered road it was a few days ago.Although it was a bit foggy, the weather was a lot nicer, however no sign of the sun still.We arrived back very easily at the Avis depot to drop back the car to realise that the GPS bag was still in London – so after a bit of negotiation we have to drop it back in a few days, but we didn’t get any of the huge charges normally associated with anything to do with car rental.We hopped straight on the Avis shuttle which dropped us at terminal 3 of Heathrow and the London Underground.The tube came straight away and an hour later we were finally catching up with Robert and Kevin.Which we celebrated with a couple of bottle of bubbles.
We walked to Randall & Aubin on Brewer Street for another couple bottles of wine and something to eat.The area was packed with people who were seeming to settle in for the New Year celebrations.We wandered back to the house for a small relax before getting ready to head next door to Tony & Gloria who were doing a small (read absolutely massive) feed and way too many more drinks.Duncan & Gary also came over to join our New Years Eve festivities.Duncan’s dad, Ted, was my Dad’s best man all those years ago.We stocked up the backpack with more champers and wine (there appears to be no restrictions on street drinking here) and headed down towards the Embankment, however as we got close to the Savoy Hotel, the crowds got thicker and thicker, so we stood and watched them wander by and decided to go back to Robert’s top floor apartment to watch the fireworks.Of course walking back was taking your lives into your own hands, by crossing the urine and rubbish filled streets walking past many many people who were a little worse for wear – hmm maybe the drinking in the streets is not such a good idea.
Standing on the balcony we were able to see the whole of London surrounding us and counted down to the fireworks that were set off from the London Eye.They were stunning and worth seeing.We then ventured back down to the downstairs apartment and Duncan serenaded us with showtunes before Scott and I finally hit the sack at about 1:30am, way past our usual bedtime.
1 January 2011:London
We got up relatively early without a hangover which was a great way to start the New Year.So we had a coffee and headed out into the relatively warm London winter.We walked down through Covent Garden which was just being set-up, surprisingly without as much rubbish around as we thought, considering the huge amount of people that were wandering around last night.
We then meandered through the streets to Trafalgar Square, Admiralty Arch, the Mall, Buckingham Palace, St James’s Park, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and then across Westminster Bridge to Southbank which we followed all the way to Blackfriars Bridge.There are quite a few tourists around and as there is a London Parade today, it felt like a million tour buses depositing marching bands, school groups and more tourists.The good thing about wandering around London today was that there was hardly any other traffic, so we were able to walk along the streets without worrying about being hit by the usual tonnes of traffic.We enjoyed the leisurely walk, however, the weather started to change becoming cold and drizzly, so we cut across to Fleet Street where we came across the most wonderful church that had a fantastic time peace of two men banging on bell with large clubs – they were only dressed in gold loincloths, very strange for a Catholic church.We continued up towards Holborn and past Australia House. Due to the weather we decided to have a quiet afternoon in relaxing and finally getting a chance to sit down and read.
2 January 2011:London
Hitting the streets early again, we decided to continue past Blackfrairs and see my old stomping ground around Tower Hill.So we walked back down to the other side of Blackfrairs bridge and continued along the Thames Walk, which really isn’t the Thames walk as it keeps making you walk around the buildings and not along the river.We stopped at Monument, which was built to commemorate the site of the fire that started the Great Fire of London.Scott walked up to the top of Monument (300 steps) and I had a wander around the streets below.After walking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, I have seriously gone off steps, hills and mountains.We wandered off again to the Tower of London and walked around.There are queues of people trying to buy tickets and we aren’t that bothered about going inside.I find the walls way more interesting to look at.We then made it across the road to where I used to work, which is now many other offices but not changed at all – surreal.We walked around, but as it was a weekend the local pubs etc were closed.However, they were all still there and didn’t look any different.The main shock was that The Minories was still there and open – I spent so much of my youth there and it has not changed at all, except now it looks dated and very ordinary.We had a drink and I sat there thinking back to all those years ago.
We walked across Tower Bridge and then along the wharfs which are now very expensive apartments and restaurants.We made it as far as the British Design Museum before heading back across Tower Bridge and into St Katherine’s Dock.Scott was now wandering around with a trail of drool from all the boats that were docked there, even I must admit there was some very nice boats, if only someone could invent a cure for sea-sickness.We made it to the Dickens Inn, which I can remember going to before, however, it might look nice from the outside, but inside it was a shocker, totally overpriced, awful food and awful clientele, it was basically just a childrens playground with kids screaming and running around everywhere, furniture being dragged around and it has been a long time since we have both been somewhere that totally lacked atmosphere.We only stayed to eat and drink as we had already ordered them and quickly made our departure, vowing never to set foot in there again.
We headed off along the Thames again.As usual it started to get dark at 3:30pm, so we headed back home as it gets really cold as soon as the sun totally disappears, even though it is not out often or for long.
3 January 2011:London
Up early again to hit the sights.The weather was still cold, but at least it wasn’t raining too much, more just a constant drizzle.This time we walked the opposite way up the Thames.We headed off towards Oxford Street/Regent Street before making it to Green Park, cutting down towards Buckingham Palace where the Changing of the Guards was happening and there were loads of tourists.We think it may have been the vague possibility that there may be a ray of sunshine, although we aren’t hopeful and have rugged up as usual.We walked up towards Chelsea and Kensington, where alas it started to rain – as usual and again.We kept wandering though and went past the Chelsea Hospital which is the home to the Chelsea Pensioners, a very large retirement home for some of the armed forces.It is a beautiful building surrounded by beautiful gardens and parks, certainly a wonderful way to enjoy your last years.Scott and I were doing the sticky beak walk and trying to see in all the windows of the beautiful terraced houses.We found the house that Bram Stoker (of Dracula fame for all those vampire fans out there) and continued to just be amazed by some of the beautiful homes – we did have a look in the real estate agents and realised until we had about $4m we wouldn’t even be able to buy a bedsit.
We finally found our way back down to The Thames and started the long trek back home.By then we were starving and a tad thirsty, so found a wonderful pub on the worker of Lambeth Bridge and the Embankment, having a lovely glass of wine for me and a pint of bitter for Scott.We did order some lunch, but after a while the bartender came and said she was going to check on it, when she came back the order was running late, so they gave us a free round of drinks to tide us over.It just added to the nice feeling of the pub.They also had a selection of games i.e. scrabble and people sat around play that, it just had a nice atmosphere.So well fed and well topped up we walked back along the embankment, although it was harder to get going, but off we went, however, it started to almost snow and got really cold, yes nothing new, but it actually got colder than even we were used to.
We ventured out with Robert and Kevin for an indian meal at Mazala Zone in Covent Garden. The food was nice, lots of little things to enjoy, however the bill at the end was a bit of a shock. Something we have yet to get used to here is how expensive eating and drinking is.
5 January 2011:London
Off to work this morning to Tracy, certainly not what she wanted to do after a nice long break.Up early we both headed off from Holborn Tube Station to Gunnersbury Tube Station which took much longer than we thought.After arriving at the tube station, Scott walked me to work and waved me goodbye.
I headed into the office to meet and greet and finally find out what I was going to be doing and get ready for my trip to Bulgaria.As usual everyone was really nice and prepared for me to arrive.The building is really big though and like a labyrinth.It was certainly tiring though.
Scott walked back to Holborn which is about 8 miles, stopping off along the way to get some great photos of the art in the parks.
6 January 2011:London
Another day of work for me, if only I could win lotto, but alas until then, it is hi ho, hi ho off to work I go.Today however it was raining, so I had to catch the bus from the tube station and Scott headed off back to the house from there.As usual totally forgot to bring my umbrella, probably should put it in my bag as lets face it seems to be perpetually grey and drizzley.
I got home and Scott and I headed out to the local pub called Princess Louise, which we had been recommended, but it was a bit disappointing, although the drinks were good, the pub was packed, but was broken into little booths, so we had to sit at the bar which seemed to be in the way of everyone and anyone that came into the pub. It was nice to get out. With working I leave home when it is dark and get home when it is dark and I am missing the rays, not to say scuba diving. So we are working on an itinerary to get us to warmer climes asap.
7 January 2011:London
Finally made it to Friday for work.By the looks of the deserted office, it seems to be a day where no many people work, or many people only work half a day, so I was able to get loads done, printed and ready to go for Bulgaria next week.
As usual it was raining – I am seriously getting over this rain and am just dying for a day where I could attempt to put my sunglasses on.
Scott walked back getting drenched. He seems to be covering some miles in his walks each day. Even discussing the possibility of doing the London Marathon.
I got home and we headed out for a meal and a drink.I don’t know what it is, but I am sure I am invisible to everyone, so again in the pub no matter where I stood it was in the way.It was also so hot, we were all sweating, so after one, we headed off to the restaurant (Med Kitchen, Cambridge Circus).
We picked this restaurant because it is on a website called www.toptable.co.uk where restaurants put their specials up.This restaurant was offering 3 courses for GBP15 including a glass of wine.However, on perusing the menu there wasn’t much for me to eat, so I opted for the a la carte, whereas the rest had the set menu.The atmosphere in the restaurant was however awful, it was so noisy because whoever was sorting the dishes and cutlery was throwing them from the floor above, it was horrible, you could hardly hear yourself think, we even complained but got no satisfaction, just blank looks, so we headed off from there.
8 January 2011:London
Saturday at last and I actually managed to have a lie in, which just seemed super luxurious.Due to the stupid visa problems with Scott, we decided to make the most of what could be our last day in London.
We topped up our Oyster Card, which is the tube card so you don’t have to pay for each journey.This involves a complicated process of going to the tube station and topping up the card and then you keep holding the card against the machine until it stop saying there is an error and finally accepts the money.We walked across the road to the Thames Clipper which is the shuttle boat service to Greenwich.This was an even weirder process for tickets there.We walked down to the ferry where they sent us back to the ticket counter to process our Oyster Card.So at the ticket counter they scanned our card and then gave us a paper ticket.We showed this back to the ticket inspector before boarding the boat where we had to show the ticket again (although there was a lady onboard who could give you a ticket).The boat went down the river making a couple of stops, but t was really great, clean, big and the coffee was made by a barista.We disembarked at Greenwich where we had to show the ticket again. Talk about creating employment.
At Greenwich there are a lot of things under construction or being repaired, probably in preparation for the Olympics in 2012.We walked up through the park and headed into the National Maritime Museum which is certainly impressive, but I did feel that it was lacking a lot of things that could have been there because of the maritime history of Britain.However, I thought the most impressive display was the glass windows that were salvaged from one of the buildings in London that was bombed in 1992, it was a dedication to those that lost their lives at sea during the wars, it had been beautifully and painstakingly restored, I could only imagine the patience of those that did that work.
After the museum, we were off to the Royal Observatory, one of Scott’s must see places.We walked up the hill to the Observatory which I had never been too either and it was really interesting.Scott was in his element with the first four clocks that solved the longitude problems for navigators.You could only be in awe at the people who had worked so hard with little monetary provisions to solve some of the great problems in navigation.After wandering through the displays we did the usual stand on either side of the meridian line and take some photos.This Observatory is set in some beautiful grounds and parks which we walked through to get to the main streets of Greenwich.We settled on a pub called the Spanish Armanda and sat at the bar with a drink and a lovely lunch listening to all the voices from different countries.Again the bar staff were wonderfully friendly and made our luncheon break really enjoyable.
Alas it was time to wander off back to the complicated process of the Thames Clipper.We bought our tickets and then got to the ticket check point where we decided to make a run for it and get on the ferry and luckily they put the gate back down and we all managed to pile on.
This time we got off at London Bridge, as we wanted to head to Borough Markets which Robert and Kevin recommended.We found it easily and oh my god it was fantastic, there are so many variations of cheeses, meats, wines and so many other things, all organic – no hint of pasteurisation, homogenisation anything that seems to have invaded our lifestyles in Australia.We settled on two types of cheese, some chorizo and some olives for snacks when we got home.We made a list of things we want when we get back.Although it would have been fantastic to have got there earlier as obviously some of the stalls were cut and there were a few stalls that had sold out of some of their products.It was great as there were so many things that came from different countries within Europe.I could just not ever imagine this kind of market in Australia which is such a shame.We continued to wander around taking in the atmosphere and smells of the market, as there were loads of stalls that didlots of freshly cooked hot meals and you could then take this food and go into Southwark Cathedral and eat in the grounds.Today would have been a nice to have a picnic as it was suddenly sunny – .which seems to be a rare event.
We bought a few cheeses and some chorizo and headed home to have a night in with Robert and Kevin as we have an early flight tomorrow and if the English Immigration officials are as incompetent as when we arrived in christmas, may be Scott’s last time here.