Monday, December 22, 2014

Food glorious Food at Borough Market

Anyone who knows me knows that I love my food...I love it a little TOO it's no surprise that one of my favourite "newer"finds in London is Borough Market beside London Bridge.  Borough Market marked it's 1,000th birthday in September..yes, really!!!  Of course it wasn't as it is now but there has been a market on that site for a thousand started off as a street market and evolved from there. For me a visit there every trip is a must and of course this time around there will be SEVERAL trips...I can actually buy food to take home and cook/heat up.  Yippee!!

Another photos essay follows on my trip last week to the festive version of Borough Market. Enjoy!!!



On the Paddington Trail...or stalking "The Bear" (part one)

I think everyone has heard of Paddington, the lost bear from Peru with his blue coat and red hat, who found himself  at Paddington Station in London. To celebrate the release of "Paddington Bear" the movie (which I intend to see soon) 50 plus Paddington Bear statues were cast and then designed by various famous personalities such as Kate Moss, Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. They are all over London.  When I found out about this I decided it would be a fun way of revisiting my favourite places in  London and discovering new ones.  However the pressure is on as the bears will be gone the afternoon of December 30th.  They will then be auctioned off with the money going to a Children's Medical Charity   This is why this is Part 1 - Part 2 to come next month!!

Normally my first day in London I do the Westminster to Tower of London walk sanctioned by the British Walking Federation.  It is a wonderful 10 km walk that takes in all my favourite tourist sights. However I have decided to do that on January 1st instead.  (or as much as I can do...)

This time it was all about The Bear.  So come along and see this sweet little fellow in all his painted glory.  And I didn't have to kick too many children off statues to take these photos!

Golden Paws near Canada Gate in Green Park - designed by David Beckham.

Good News Bear - Parliament Square
Dapper Bear by Guy Ritchie - Notting Hill tube station
Taste of Peru - Borough Market

Fluttery by Emma Watson outside Harrods

Paddington the Explorer - Piccadilly Circus

Special Delivery - Covent Garden
Paddington Lloyd Webber - (designed by Andrew Lloyd Weber) Chinatown
Sherlock Bear designed by Benedict Cumberbatch (of course) - Museum of London

Shakesbear near the Globe, BANKSIDE

Good Morning London - Guildhall
The Journey of Marmalade - Hyde Park
Wonders of the World - London Bridge station
These are not all that I saw - just my favourites.  I think you have to be pretty hard hearted not to be touched by these sweet statues.  As of this writing I've seen 25 of them.  And before you think I am strange ..there are a few of us couple I saw at the "Good Morning London"statue were at about 25 as well but were working on 17 that day...Hope you enjoyed seeing these bears as much as I did!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Getting settled in

Yes I's been five days since my last blog post - or six?  I have had a hectic week of sightseeing and stalking Paddington Bear. (more on that in another post)  I am now at my pet sit in Wembley, North London.  I have been here since Thursday evening but the owner is off to the United States today so it's just me and the critters (and a couple of guests) until Monday January 12th.  So far, so good!  What has it been...four hours?  I am sure we will all be fine.  Now if I could just find the cat....kidding, kidding...I think...where is she?  Ah..curled up with the dog... Emma is a Basset Hound and Scylla is a tiny black and white cat.

It's been a whirlwind six days since I got here.  For the first four nights I stayed at my usual Bed and Breakfast in Hampstead Garden Suburb in the little room that overlooks Hampstead Heath extension. I have been staying there for the past ten years.  As you might guess I do love it.  And the price is right.  However for this extended stay I do need a place where I can cook as well as neither my figure or bank balance could handle six months of eating out - not to mention it would be awfully sickening after a while.

Monday evening I went with my friend Pat to a Christmas concert at the Rose Playhouse on Bankside.  It is a reconstruction on the site of the original Rose Playhouse which was built in 1587 before the Globe and where Shakespeare, Marlowe and a few others hung out.  The ruins were rediscovered in 1989 and slowly but surely work is being done on it.  We got the tickets on line for six pounds and it included mince tarts and mulled wine.  As there was no heat nor bathrooms I thought that was why it was such a cheap price... we found out why it was so cheap later....anyway the concert was a quartet of singers who were very entertaining and we both enjoyed it.  The host kept thanking us for being volunteers and the penny dropped...oops...but it said nothing about being a volunteer on the poster.  Anyway all very enjoyable.

The next evening I went to a Christmas spectacular at the Royal Albert Hall.  I hadn't realized my ticket was in a box seat - and neither did the rest of the people around me.  As the concert was a complete sell out we couldn't have been upgraded so were we all so oblivious?  Maybe!  Anyway it was wonderful..The concert featured trumpeters from the Coldstream Guard as well as a huge choir, musicians...sorry I forget their names and the fantastic organist.  It started with "God Save the Queen" and covered most well known carols as well as "Waltz of the Flowers"" which to me is the most beautiful piece of music ever created (sorry Paul!)  It gives me shivers EVERY time. We sang along at times and other times listened in awe.   It was an absolutely magical three hours and worth every penny - I wish I could sit through it again.  Truly one of the best musical experiences I have had made even more special by being in the beautiful Royal Albert Hall.

I was supposed to go to the Who on Wednesday evening but it was postponed due to Roger Daltrey having throat problems. I have to look into getting a refund as it's doubtful I will be in London on March 22nd when it is rescheduled for.  I have to think about this one as there are a few things happening in that time frame.  Anyway I needed an evening in so happily watched Coronation Street and caught up on uploading photos.

Now this weekend I hope to get caught up on blog posts...we shall see...

I joined a few London meetup groups online and the first one I am attending is tomorrow.  A Twelve Days of Christmas Walk starting at the St Paul's tube station.  I am looking forward to it.

It will be nice to live life at a slower pace than I usually do in London.  I am enjoying being in a house and plan to cook for the next three evenings...okay...heat up ready meals and cook fresh vegetables....all those meals I drooled over in Marks & Spencer I can now eat....and yes there is a small bag of brussels sprouts in the fridge.

I can't wait to get to Borough Market again and buy some food to bring post coming on my visit there on Tuesday as well as stalking Paddington Bear.  Now to heat up some water to brew some of that fabulous second harvest darjeeling tea I bought at the market....stay tuned for more stories - and lots of photos!!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Yule boys, music and Smorbred

Yes it was quite the day yesterday,  After another great breakfast I headed over to the National Museum which Magnus (owner of the guest house) assured me was an easy walk,  Well it was I guess but what he failed to mention was that you had to walk over and under busy roads via a pathway and bridges.  It worked out well however - I just could not get over how the bike paths were cleared off and sand added after such a recent snowfall- that would never happen at home!  I got to the museum just in time to watch Gryla the ogre mother of the thirteen Yule lads.  (more on them later). She eats children so you can imagine the children's reaction when she cane bounding onto the stage. Before she came the children were happily singing along with a pianist, 

Isn't that profuse enough to scare you?

She cackled and carried on until one of her "Yule boys" came out,,,(they eat naughty kids - their mother eats any)

Here's number two son

It was fun watching the kids' reaction - heck  I was such a scaredy cat when I was a.kid that I was afraid of Santa,  I can't even imagine my reaction to something I was told would eat me!  Get the hell out of dodge I am sure,   There was a talk put on by English speaking students at the University about Icelandic Xmas traditions, 

For the thirteen days before Xmas Icelandic kids put a shoe in the window each night for a gift from each one of the Yule boys,  If they are bad they get a cold hard potato in the shoe but there isn't much complaining as the alternative (being eaten) is much worse,  Oh yes did I mention they have an evil pet cat who eats children who don't get any clothes for Xmas,  I bet Icelandic kids are the only first world kids who are happy to get a pair of socks or any piece of clothing for Xmas.  These are ancient Coca Cola Santa Claus for them.  Afterwards we were given free coffee and cookies, (always important)

From there I went upstairs and had a look around and it was interesting but hearing those Xmas traditions was so much fun.

I then walked back to town and along the sea so I could see the Sun Voyager again,  So beautiful!!!  It was designed for Reykjavik's 200th anniversary.

I then carried on to the beautiful concert hall by the harbour called Harpa,   A stunning building,  The concert was a family oriented one with a clown as the emcee talking and joking but of course I could not understand a thing,  The performance comprised the Icelandic symphony,  ballet dancers,  an opera singer with someone doing sign language and a children's choir,   The concert lasted an hour and was absolutely delightful,  I am so glad I went. It closed with "Silent Night" sung in Icelandic (of course).  It literally gave me shivers. 

Can you see the sea? 

Inside the auditorium
I walked out of there in such a happy glow - as I turned to look back at Harp I noticed coloured flickering lights on the building and immediately thought of the northern lights.  I had decided to treat myself to a nice meal and opted for a Danish smorrbred restaurant. 

Smoked salmon and roast beef.

What a wonderful day! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Rambling around Reyjkavk again

I am enjoying my time here in Reykjavik even with the short days.  It is interesting to learn the Christmas traditions and see the lights. 

Breakfast here at Snorri's guest house is a choice of cereals then bread, cheese meat, jam, peanut butter, fruit - no chance of going hungry! 

Yesterday I wandered over to Hallgrimskirkja and was able to listen to a renowned organist rehearse for a concert last night,  The organ pipes are magnificent. The concert was free so I could have walked over there last night but decided to stay in after a day of wandering around. 

From there I wandered up the shopping street that leads from the church - popping into book stores.  Icelanders LOVE their books and this time of year many new books are released which has everyone in a frenzy and there are talk shows, radio shows about these new books.  My kind of place!  Iceland has a huge amount of published authors - more per capita than any other part of the world I believe.  And yes I had to buy a book by Iceland's most popular mystery writer.  I look forward to reading it on cold January nights in London with a warm doggie snuggled up beside me. 

Popping into shops I picked up a few gifts but resisted buying much as I know I will be back here in June.   I finally found the Christmas market which wasn't up to much really.  I visited Volcano House and saw two films on... guess what... volcanoes.  Very interesting,  And later I got to explore an exhibit of volcanic ash and rocks.  I will spare you the photos of that.

I then popped by Tjornin which is the "City Pond".  All frozen over except for an area left open for the waterfowl.

Okay..... don't we all feel like this sometime.

My travel companion Monty the greyhound freezing his ads off,

Next up was late lunch/early supper so I started with a hot dog from the most popular place in Iceland..Icelanders love their hot dogs as much as they love their books.... these are made mostly from lamb with a bit of pork and beef.  The sauce was made from ketchup, mustard and mayo.  It may look disgusting but was rather good....

From there I walked past Michael's place where I stayed last year - just for old times sake and to see if I could see a "doggie in the window" but sadly Rosa wasn't there.  I would have stayed there but it was not available for this time period.  Hopefully in June as I certainly prefer the location.

The area around the harbor was particularly icy.  I walked slowly around taking photos - the whale watching ships were out in full force.  Brrrr.....I have seen enough whales that I really have no desire to take any whale watching trips for a while and especially not in the winter. 

In the background former whaling ships

In the background is the concert hall Harp where I will see a Xmas concsrt
I needed a warm up so popped into the Sea Baron for their delicious lobster soup.

You could have whale steak cooked to your liking and no I didn't  - I'd never do that

I then headed back via the shops and picked up some Skyr to have as an evening snack. Skyr is like yogurt but it isn't. It is thicker and so much better.  It's been around for hundreds of years but has been "fancied up" in different flavors now.  Blueberry is a favorite.  Num, num
And then to bed for a really lousy sleep.... ah jet lag....

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ice baby ice

Yes, I made it to Iceland and it is icy!  More on that later though.  I got to the airport in loads of time and sat with my last Timmy's for a while reading a book.  My friend Norma and her hubby were flying off to sunny Mexico that morning so once they arrived we had a good visit,  A nice send off, 

The flight from Edmonton was delayed by two hours by the time we took off,  The incoming flight was late for whatever reason as none was given.  And none either for sitting on the plane for another 30 minutes.  We were given a little brochure that stated we would get a special Xmas treat of Xmas cookies and an orange soda/stout drink but when they came by I was told it would be offered later.  I never was offered any.  Icelandic I still love you but didn't understand that.  I was so excited as I love to try traditional things, (as long as they aren't too gross)

Needless to say because we were late landing here most people missed their connecting flights so my bus into the city was full including the cute Rome bound couple who I chatted with in the airport lounge and then sat beside me, (what are the chances of that?).  The London bound passengers were the only ones who lucked out and were whisked through security,  Yep, security,,,,,, this happened last year as well so its standard practice,   Annoying especially if you are flying through,  Very stressful even while on time as most ongoing flights are within 90 minutes, 

At the BSI bus terminal some of us had to get off into the howling wind but luckily we were able to get into the mini van along side without too much delay,  I was dropped at the Snorri guest house which wasn't far.  Due to him not being full I was given a free upgrade to a much larger room on a lower floor.  The large bedroom with king sized bed is self contained with a separate bathroom and shower room outside but still in my own private area,  Bed number one...I wonder how many beds I will sleep in during this adventure? 

It was pitch dark,,, sunrise this time of year does not happen until 11 am or so.  And sunset about 4 p,m,  I can't even imagine living during the winter here.... that is one huge thing about winter I hate.... the darkness. 

I unpacked what I needed and also made myself an instant coffee in the room..desperate times call for desperate measures...

Then I set off for the Phallological museum which alluded me at first so I wandered down Laugavegur which is the longest and most popular shopping street in Reykjavik,  The wind was a force to be reckoned with and the sidewalks are very icy from the usual melt.freeze cycle  at this time of year. 

Side street
I was so cold by this point so I stopped and had a cup of tea and an Icelandic donut. 
Fitting for where I was going next
As I warmed up I consulted my map and was determined to find the museum I was seeking.  And I did!!! 
One of the most bizarre places I have ever visited.  I didn' even take that many pictures. 
Dried whale penis

Another one

 You name the type of creature and it was there.  Yes even human.  It was all interesting but  I think it is somewhere you should visit with a friend for a good giggle.
I then headed over to Hallgrimskirkja, the huge church in the centre of Reykjavik  yes the irony of it I know, talk about one extreme to the other. 

By this time I was cold and hungry so I went into CafĂ© Loci which is known for serving local food and ordered lamb soup and home made rye bread with lamb pate.  And another hot cup of tea,  I then headed for home and that's when the fun started as I got a bit misplaced to put it mildly.  After asking a few people I found my way back and had a  hot shower to warm up and an early night.