Saturday, January 28, 2012

Four more sleeps

Yes! Four more sleeps and it's off to the next adventure - Orange County, California and Austin, Texas for 12 days. I am getting pumped - it will be nice (once again) to walk without fear of slipping on ice. While we are having an awesome winter here (relatively speaking..) it will still be good to see palm trees and the ocean. Why am I going to Austin? I am on a walking program to walk all the state capitals (and states) of the U.S. I am over half done for both...I still have to go back to Texas to visit San Antonio and Galveston but that will be another time....perhaps in early Spring some year before it gets too warm.

My trip will take me to Laguna Beach for three nights, Huntington Beach for two nights, Newport Beach for four nights and then over to Austin Texas for three more nights. It will involve lots of walking and who knows what else. I have booked into motels/hotels that are close to the beach but economical...well except for Huntington Beach. I am registered to walk a half marathon there but because of recent problems with my foot the jury is out on that one. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Back in the frozen north

Whoa baby it's cold outside! So if I close my eyes and click my heels three times can I go back? Ha ha. I wish! The flight back was pretty good considering. The chicken and rice was much better on the way back....my seat mate went 7 hours without using the loo. I was impressed and said "I want your bladder". Although slightly on the weird side as instead of saying excuse me I need to get out she just smiled at me and I said "do you need to get out to use the toilet" and she said yes. So not sure if she was shy or what as she could talk. (and I don't mean that in an ignorant way) And I kept thinking when she turned to look at me and I smiled back did she mean let me out I want to use the toilet? Oh well not the strangest seat mate I've had and certainly I will have worse I am sure. It was good to fly through Calgary and only have that one hour flight although it was late leaving due to no ground crew. Then my backback was so fat it would not fit in the overhead bin nor under my seat due to the smaller aircraft (I was tired and made a nasty crack about now I know why I prefer Westjet as on their aircrafts it would fit) So I had to sky check it and fretted the whole time as it had my computer, camera, memory cards etc. I got it no problem and I was on the side they were loading so watched it like a hawk and no drops. I just hope the extreme cold did not damage anything. I was by the emergency exit and it was cold the whole flight...brrrr.......

On one hand sad to leave London but on the other...well I had been on the road for a month and for some insane reason was ready to come home. I've been away much longer than that...am I getting old? I think Eddie had a lot to do with it. Seeing me take Eddie down the stairs at Simon's yesterday was a picture...but I did it.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Wizard of Oz. The little dog (a Westie) who played Toto stole the show. Very enjoyable - in fact so much so that at the intermission I bought the CD of the cast recording. And that's a first for me to buy anything at a musical...that my demented mind can remember anyway....I would definitely see it again.

I got the taxi to the airport - it felt decadent but due to no traffic on a Sunday morning I got there in just over half an hour so had a lot of time to snoop around the shops in the airport. I had waited until the airport to treat myself to a glossy travel magazine (Wanderlust) that cost the earth here but can you believe they didn't have them. (I see them all the time at Heathrow) Oh well I survived.

Now it's home and countdown until the next trip...16 more sleeps. I will put pictures up and work on my blog a bit more as well.

Oh and this is officially Blue Monday - the most depressing day of the year. I shall spend it doing laundry, reading my Christmas mail, catching up with friends and viewing my pictures on the big screen. No wandering outside for me today....I will happily spend the day indoors. Not blue for me at all! Back to real life tomorrow!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Getting ready to say goodbye

Well am at an internet cafe just off Piccadilly Circus - it's nuts out there. ~TONS of people and you can barely move. Putting in time until it's time to go for an early dinner as the show starts at 7:30. I will be finishing up my packing when I get back tonight.

This morning I took the tube to Canary Wharf and saw all four ice sculptures in the ice sculpture festival... - luckily I did not go all that way for that. I carried on to the Museum of the Docklands which was fantastic....the history of the docks/Thames from Roman times until the present day. I really enjoyed it. Highly recommended and it's free. They have developed the old dockland area- leaving some old buildings in place (like the musuem) but mostly new buildings....lots of skyscrapers out there! I then took the tube back to the west end and have been rambling around Covent Garden, along the Thames, Trafalgar Square, etc. There are places I didn't get to this trip but I discovered new ones. I took this trip at a leisurely pace and am glad I did.

I am checked in for my flight tomorrow - boarding passes printed. Mentally I am getting ready to go...I think these crowds are a good thing...makes it easier to leave!

I have booked a taxi to the airport - I decided that taking the tube with my bad foot and bad knees right now was asking for trouble. I am so worried about falling. It costs 30 pounds and takes about 45 minutes. I did that once before and it was wonderful to sit and relax and not be watching the time and guarding my luggage not to mention hauling my luggage around down stairs, escalators, onto busses. I just walk in the door of the airport. I can leave later as well and have a relaxing breakfast. Sometimes it's good to make things simple. I won't be taking this duffle bag again I can tell you - it's on wheels but is still so awkward.

I wore most of my wardrobe - only used a fancy woolen scarf once ..in Paris. A cardigan I brought along was barely used due to the zipper breaking so my fleece jacket was used in it's place which was a lot......three pairs of shoes....never again. I brought dress shoes because of going to church and the ballet in Paris..next time it will be running shoes or leather walking shoes. Too bad so sad if people don't like it. I wear my heavier hiking boots on the plane.

After a month on the road I am ready to go home...Salzburg seems a lifetime ago. Home for two and a half weeks then on the road again...gotta love it!

Wizard of Oz tonight - can't wait!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sunny day by the Thames

It was clear and cold today. After toast and coffee for breakfast I headed off on the bus and tube to London Bridge. I walked along the Thames past Tower Bridge and down Shad Thames which is a street in the old Docklands area that has been revitalized but still looks like it did back in the heady days of the dockyards. I wanted to check out a pub I had seen last time.(maybe next time.....) I wandered into a square and what do I see but a large bird flying around. A falcon or hawk maybe? Well turns out it was a Harris Hawk - I talked to his handler and this hawk is a working hawk (wonder how much he gets paid. :) ) used to scare off the pigeons. The handler releases it and off it flies around to different areas of the square. I was able to get some close up shots of it. Really a thrill to see something like that. Amazing!!! This is a posh area - the docklands are no longer in use and now are very posh real estate. Either office buildings or luxury apartments. So guess they don't want pigeon poop on their balconies!!! So this bird must go around the city with his handler scaring off pigeons.

Speaking of pigeons....what can I say... I like them. I know they are vermin but I love the way they walk or should I say strut. They have such an attitude. I keep asking them if they are Brian - I read a pigeon blog by a foul mouthed London based pigeon named Brian.(google pigeon blog and it will come up) ..it is hilarious...well I think so anyway. I know, I know....

I then walked back to London city hall which is a modern glass building right across the river from the Tower. By then I needed to use the loo and thought they must have one...hey sometimes you have to be creative! I had to go through security but that was no problem...they have a cafe that is open to the public and I knew they had to have a toilet there and they did. A very nice one I might add. Back along Tooley St. until I got to Borough market. By this time it was just before noon and I was a bit peckish and I knew I wanted a meat pie. I went to the Pieminister kiosk where they had every pie imaginable...I had a lamb, mint, carrot, swede & potato one and it was delish. It was a tough choice that is for sure but I picked well. I was able to find a small table to sit at as well. I walked around the market a bit more and got a small hunk of Borough market cheese which I adore - that is tonight's supper along with a french roll. I resisted getting the WORLD'S BEST CHOCOLATE BROWNIE again...aren't I good?

From there I walked along the back streets to the Clink museum. This is one of the places I always stop and look at and say next time - well today I did it. Wow what a place. It is the site of the first prison in London and called The Clink - which is why prisons are referred to as that now. It was a bit gorier than I had anticipated and I was able to see all the instruments of torture used in the middle ages and beyond. Yikes. But in a morbid way I found it fascinating...which kind of concerned me. :) Very interesting....the term "pulling your leg" came from families of hanging victims pulling their legs to shorten their suffering. I then walked to the pedestrian bridge that crosses over to St. Paul's Cathedral. I must say I was in a photographing mood so was in my element snapping away....I do love that river and the views along it.

I walked over to St. Paul's Cathedral and saw the Occupy movement - guess it's the longest lasting in the world. Not only are they protesting the banks but also the way the British government has taken away subsidies for seniors, students, etc. Good for them I say. I then took the tube to Camden where I had another quick look around and got myself a pair of earrings I had been eyeing on Tuesday - also got some dangling elephants from India that Margot had in her flat in Paris.

Took a bus to Hampstead Heath but when I looked at the hill I would have to climb to get there I said forget it and popped into Marks and Sparks instead and got some apple juice and some more chocolate biccies (shh....) I guess I won't see Hampstead Heath this time but that's okay.

I will need some sustinance tonight as it's packing night. Packing night, double Corrie night, uploading pictures to my computer night - it's going to be a busy one.

Tomorrow I plan to go out to Canary Wharf to view the ice sculpture festival and the Docklands museum From there no plans....but it will likely involve Covent Garden at some point. I plan to have my last meal at Woodlands near Leicester Square - it is a veggie Indian restaurant and so good. Then off to see the Wizard of Oz which I am really excited about. It will be an action packed day from start to finish which is why I have to do the majority of my packing tonight.

Oh I did a trial run on the tube today to Leicester Square as they are doing maintenance work this weekend and I cannot go through Kings Cross which is upsetting as they have elevators. Luckily all the stairs are down so I will drag Eddie down the stairs - no way am I going to carry it. Golders Green station has elevators so the worst part will be getting Eddie down the stairs at Simon's without taking out all Simon's pictures on the walls. NEXT TIME I GO ANYWHERE EDDIE STAYS AT HOME AND I WILL TAKE MY SMALLER BLACK (UNNAMED) SUITCASE.

I guess I have to allow time tomorrow to get to the internet cafe and print my boarding pass (after 1 p.m) ..mental note to self...take my flight info out with me tomorrow!!!!

By the sea, the wonderful sea

Well yesterday (Thursday) I went down to Brighton for the day to see my friend Judi. I got the cheap day return (after 9 a.m.) so it was less than 16 pounds which I felt was reasonable. Judi was there to meet me so we headed for a cafe and both had eggy bread (bread dipped in egg and fried) with cheese on top. Delish. And a coffee of course. Late breakfast sorted we then headed off to look in the shops. Judi did more damage then I did. From there we worked our way to the seafront and the sun had come out by then. I was so excited as I have said many a time I am a misplaced ocean child. I do love the ocean. And here was the English Channel - Atlantic ocean basically and less than three weeks from now I will be seeing the Pacific ocean. Gotta love it!! We walked along the seafront and onto the pier. By then we needed to sit down (my foot gave me a bit of grief yesterday despite having a 'rest day') so we went to a cafe and shared a plate of chips and I had a cup of tea. A cuppa tea and chips - what could be more English than that?
We took the bus to the shopping centre and attacked HMV. Okay I indulged myself and got the remastered Beatles White album for 12 pounds. One of my projects is to buy all the remastered Beatles and Paul McCartney CD's - well the ones I like...I have them all on vinyl and original CD as well of course...hey don't knock it until you try it!!! I just could not resist for that price....like I said previously I used to attack HMV in the good old days and haul home all sorts of stuff. A lot of my record collection is English..and yes I still have a record player!!

Anyway I am getting off track here...after prowling around a bit more we decided to have an early supper and ate at Food for Friends, a vegetarian restaurant. I had welsh rarebit (bread with melted cheese on basically) with salad and it was good.

We then got a taxi back to the station and Judi headed her way and I headed back to London. The train left on time and I was back into London by just after 7. Getting on a Bedford train made me a little sad as I always used to go up to Bedford to see Tom our old family friend. (and like an uncle to me really) Tom passed away in early 09 and it just seems strange to go to England and not be going to see him - I really miss him.

Back in time for Corrie at 8:30.

I got my little H2 bus home from the tube station. I get the tube (underground railway but everyone here calls it the tube) to Golders Green then a small bus to where I stay on Wildwood Road. The drivers have such patience...sadly they now have big vehicles over here (everyone used to have small cars here due to the high price of fuel and the roads) and so many of the suburban streets here are narrow. Big honkin' SUV's that are really needed in London....uh huh...I can see if you lived in the Yorkshire moors but we must have them because of course we have to keep up with the neighbours. And the area I stay in is wealthy...usually it's mainly soccer mums taking little Snotleigh and Bratlan to school and they haven't a clue how to drive a vehicle that big and the traffic can get really blocked up as they don't know where to go and you have to wait for them to clue in to back up or whatever. There is not room for two large vehicles to pass when there is parking on both sides of the streets.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sunny day in the parks

Well today I finished the walk I had started on Monday. As luck would have it the sun was shining as I got out of the tube station and walked to Trafalgar Square. What was even better is the lack of tourists....yeah yeah I know I am one too but I like to think I am "special". :) Anyway I walked down Whitehall to the Horse Guards at Whitehall and can you believe I was the only tourist. That is a first ever....wow. I then walked to St. James Park and skulked around there for a while...love that park so much. It's beautifully manicured with all sorts of waterfowl and of course squirrels. I then walked past Buckingham Palace - people were lined up but the sign said no changing of the guard until tomorrow...but I did see the horseguards go in their horsey procession down to Whitehall. Love that...one of the many things I love about London. I carried on past Hyde Park corner and into Hyde Park. The walk instructions said walk on Rotten Row..boring...I walked by the Serpentine lake which ran parallel. I then carried on to the other side to the Lido where I haven't been in years. I had only had toast for breakfast and it was now noon so I had a small pot of tea and a piece of cake. I sat outside at a little table by the lake...it was fantastic. Nice enough today to sit outside as long as you had a jacket on...it was wonderful. From there I carried on to Kensington Gardens and saw the Peter Pan statue. I never get tired of seeing that and there is always something new I see on the statue. I then walked across the park enjoying the green green grass and the doggies....past the Albert Memorial and around the Royal Albert Hall. Past the musuems - the V & A and Natural History musuem and through Chelsea and ended up at Earls Court. Had fish and chips in a pub. Very tasty. And no black skin!!

I then decided to visit Sir John Soanes musuem in Holborn. I was bored - and creeped out as the basement was full of sculpures, pottery, etc. and only lit with candles. I had to hand in my backpack and I can see why as there wasn't much room to move about. Even the main floor living area did not interest me. It was disappointed as had heard it was wonderful but it did nothing for me.

Tonight I went to Brent Cross which is only a ten minute bus trip from here. I bought a new top mainly because I need one and that was about it. I really can't believe how little I bought...when I think of all the stuff I hauled back in the 70's and 80's - clothes, records, books, all sorts of gifts like shoes for my niece, etc. Yikes. There is just nothing that appeals.

Of course I still have three more days......

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Crazy Nutcracker

Yes the Nutcracker production tonight was really different - vaguely the same story line as in boy and girl get together in the end but this was set in an orphanage and featured a motorcycle gang, men dressed as can can dancers (and there was a bit of pole dancing in there too) But it was fun. Not something I'd want every time and next time I will want the traditional but it was fun for a change. However the first time I've seen Waltz of the Flowers performed and not had goose bumps. But that will happen again..Had a nice chat with the ladies beside me as they were interested in my ereader.

I had problems finding a place to eat by the Angel tube stop. I'm not saying there weren't places but I didn't want to eat at McDonalds or a kebob place - I probably missed the street they were all on as there was a wagamama advertised in the tube station but never saw it. I saw a chinese veggie buffet place and went there and enjoyed it. By that point I needed something fast but I had a kebob and chips a couple of evenings ago so didn't want that. I still need my pie and chips! And an Indian meal!

Boy all I talk about is food - what can I say....it's a big part of the trip. I don't understand people who don't enjoy food - it is one of the great pleasures in life. Could be why I have a weight problem!

Cuppa tea and a biscuit (or two)

Back in my room to rest up before heading out tonight. Yes having a cuppa tea and a biccie or two....Marks and Spencers extremely chocolately orange biscuits. Oh my my...I had forgotten how much I love you. I have been pretty good since I've been in the UK - I think I had too much chocolate in my system (is there such a thing as too much chocolate?) from Germany - hell I still have most of the stash I was given so it may be coming back with me. (talk nice to me people and I may share!) Haven't even had a date with Mr Kipling this trip and doubt that I will but then again there are still a few days left.

Had a late start this morning...told Simon no breakfast please so no alarm clock - of course woke up at the usual 7:30 but lounged a bit in bed and then had some fruit and yogurt. M & S sell these lovely packages called mango tango that have pieces of fresh mango and pineapple in. Very yummy. And pear with butterscotch yogurt - love all these different things. I walked over to the market place and got a bus and got off at East Finchley because I'd never been there. Had a coffee and bacon sarnie in a coffee shop and wrote a bit in my diary. It has been totally neglected since Germany being as I am doing my blog - only time for so much "paperwork"!

I then took the tube to Camden Town and visited the market...got a couple of little things but nothing much. I want to buy some new funky handmade earrings but I can't find any that "grab" me. It was quieter than on a Saturday which is when I typically go which was good but then again the shop keepers were not busy so I could not get photographs of all the crazy t-shirts as they don't like that...anyway it was fun looking. I then did something I've been wanting to do for a while and that was walk along the Grand Union canal to Kings Cross which took me about 30 minutes and was enough for my foot today. It wasn't the most scenic walk - in fact it was down right ugly in places but the canal fascinates me. So much so that I visited the London Canal musuem which was interesting.

Hopped the tube back here and am resting my throbbing foot. Off to the Sadler Wells theatre in Islington tonight to see The Nutcracker...the alternate version...should be interesting. Rosie, Simon's wife told me she did not like it at all and it spoiled the music for her. I LOVE the Nutcracker music so we shall see.....

Monday, January 9, 2012

Not quite the trek I had hoped for...

Well this morning I headed off on what I thought would be a 18 km walk but turned into about half that...maybe a bit more as I walked for three hours...my foot started hurting too much so I gave up. Disappointing but oh well...I did enjoy the part of the walk I did do and I will finish the rest on Wednesday. I started off at Earls Court tube station and walked through Chelsea in areas I had never been before then walked along the banks of the Thames until the Houses of Parliament then onto St. James Park. I stopped there so I will start there and go through three parks and back to Earls Court - am looking forward to it.

Time is marching on and I am trying to get things done before I leave on Sunday....

Very mild today but also very dull - it was getting dark by 3 p.m. I kept trying to get London's red busses in my photos to add a bit of colour!

Thursday if all works out I will be heading down to Brighton for the day to hang out with my friend Judi. We will meet at the train station and have lunch and do some shopping. I can't wait!

I won't even say what I have planned for tomorrow as plans have a habit of being changed...what I do know is I will be going to the Nutcracker in the evening. A bit concerned as Simon's wife went to this production and didn't like it. It is an alternate version - same music but presented differently....makes me wish I hadn't cheaped out and gone for the Royal Opera House production again. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Market day

Well I am in the internet cafe for the first time - one that I've used lots in the past. So far I've crashed one computer so we will see how this goes.
This morning I headed over to Brick Lane and Spitalfields markets which are in the east end of London. I got there a few minutes before the Backgarden market opened so I walked along Brick Lane and got a bagel and cream cheese from the Beigel Bake. It is just one of those things I do - they aren't to die for bagels or anything - they are good but.... so have decided that is my last one. It wasn't busy at that time- later when I wandered by the line was out the door. I then went over to the market and got a gift for the lady who is watching my apartment and got myself a funky mouse necklace. Sadly the fellow who did the coasters I loved so much has left the market - the fellow who told me that was selling coasters as well so I bought a couple of his. These were cute but the typical ones with cork on the back - I loved the glass ones but oh well. I need more coasters like a hole in the head but oh well what can I say they are my "thing". I went through the food area of one market and noticed they had momos....oh dear. I wasn't hungry so carried on walking around and over to Spitalfields market - but resisted tempation. I really haven't bought much on this trip at all - I am impressed with myself. I think it's the thought of dragging it all home again that is stopping me!
Anyway I walked over to the Spitalfields City Farm but it was closed so said hello to the adorable donkeys through the fence. Lots of artistic graffiti on walls and doors so my camera was busy. It's a very unique area and I would really recommend any visitor to London to visit Brick Lane on a Sunday. I'd say go in the early afternoon - more crowded but also more vendors.
By then I was ready for some momo's - I asked for one of each - there were deep fried and steamed with veggies, chicken, pork and lamb. I got to pick my sauces as well and enjoyed them so much but I had to leave some as was just too full. I went back to tell the couple how much I enjoyed them and we had a short chat - they are from Tibet and have lived in London for nearly ten years. They were interested to hear where I was from in Canada - a lovely couple. As any Tibetans I have met are.
I then hopped on a bus bound for Hackney Wick just to see where it went - well ended up by what they call here a flyover (freeway overpass) I don't think that's what they meant by a wick but still have to find that out. The Olympic stuff was just over the flyover but couldn't see it and absolutely no interest anyway. I crossed the street and hopped a bus heading back and got off at Somerset House to photograph the skaters. They have an ice skating rink there until late January - as do the Tower of London and Natural History Musuem to name a couple but theirs close today. I walked over Waterloo bridge and photographed the Thames then onto the South Bank. All sorts of buskers and people dressed as statues. A fellow had his head through a box and was barking and meowing - it was stupid but struck me as hilarious. Must have been the mood I was in. I had to videotape him. Reminded me of the fellow who was pretending to be a dog a few years ago and had his head sticking out of a kennel - I video taped him too. Then I walked across the pedestrian bridge to Charring Cross station and then over into Covent Garden. Looked in a few shops - you name it they've got it. I went into M & S and got another pkg of knickers to stash away. I once again walked around the food hall and drooled over the brussel sprouts - I am sick I know...
I briefly thought about doing a walking tour of Soho but to be honest after walking all day the last thing I want to do is go on a two hour walking tour - plus while it was fairly mild today it really gets cold at night. So I will hang out here for a bit then head back to my room and organize things. Somehow I have misplaced the mouse for my netbook - only I can misplace something in a tiny room like that....it's a gift what can I say....
And on the bright side my feet were much better today...here's hoping they hang in there for tomorrow....

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Curses to you my foot

Yep it was not a good day for the foot. I am getting quite concerned actually - almost on to worried. I know my problem - a developing bunion and arthritis in my big toe on my right foot. As I mentioned in a previous post it bothers me now and again and I never know when and no medication (over the counter anyway) can control the pain. It has been pretty well nonstop every day since Paris - today was particularly bad. I walked with a pronounced limp and in pain - the pain would go away for about a minute and then back again. Four weeks from tomorrow I am scheduled to walk a half marathon in California.....it is my dream and has been for years. Not happy....

Anyway needless to say this was not a really productive day...I took the bus to St. Johns Wood and poked around a bit (Beatles fans will know what I mean...) and then carried on to Regents Park and walked for about ten minutes max - if that. I saw it from the bus and knew I had to stop....I walked along Baker St. for a bit - checked out the Beatles shop (RIPOFF) - from there I took the bus to Waterloo to check out where the theatre was...and then back to Belsize Park where I went to Pizza Express (by this time it was 3 p.m. and I had nothing but toast and that was at 8 a.m.) and had a margareta pizza filled with salad in the middle. I had one last year and really enjoyed it. They had a special on until tomorrow where you could get a cappucino and cupcake for 20p - how could I refuse? So that was my meal for the day sorted. Came back here to rest and change my shoes.

The play I saw tonight was The Railway Children...performed at Waterloo train station at the old Eurostar terminal. I was on platform 2!!! It was cute and featured an actual steam train. It was full to the rafters with not much room in the seats. Apparently it was difficult to get seats - I had booked mine from home a few months ago. With my sore foot it was tempting to stay in and forego the ticket but am so glad I didn't go.

The ride home was interesting. I was happy as it was a direct trip on the tube with no changes. Well a fellow got on at Leicester Square with a box of pizza - he was a big fellow. Not big as in obese - just big. He slid down into the seat beside me (literally) and and proceeded to eat his pizza - piece by piece. Well it was half done when he opened it in the carriage but he finished it off which was weird enough - who eats pizza on a subway train but the best was yet to come. He kept reaching into his pockets to get napkins and everytime his elbow would almost hit my face - the people opposite me were nearly peeing themselves but gave me sympathetic eyerolls. The carriage was packed so nowhere to go....then the piece de resistance....he reaches down (another elbow in the face) and pulls out a milkshake. I kid you not. So now he has the milkshake balanced on the pizza box (which is now closed as he's polished it off) and proceeds to drink it but oh no let's pull the lid off (another elbow in face) and lick the lid - while there's still milkshake left. I had buried my head in my ereader by then but then heard kissing noises and saw the look of horror of some young girls opposite. I am not sure if he was just smacking his laps or actually making kissy faces at them but I got the hell out of dodge and got off the train and into the next carriage. I saw him get off at Hampstead or Hamster as I like to call it as that's what it sounds like when the automated voice says it. Never a dull moment in London.

Hoping tomorrow is a more productive day. I plan to go to the markets at Brick Lane - a light brekky tomorrow as hope to go to Beigel Bake for a bagel if it's not too crowded. We shall see. From there I don't know. All depends on the foot......

Friday, January 6, 2012

A whole day of sunshine!

It was lovely today. First of all I walked over to a cafe near here I have been eyeballing for a while and had a cappucino. This was in an area here in Hampstead Garden Suburb I don't get to very much. After getting money out of the ATM I took the bus to the tube station and off I went. Got off at Leicester Square and started off on the walk. What do I see but a brand new M & M store - I am not a big M & M's fan but had to stop in and take a look. Talk about a friendly staff - well I've noticed most of the London shop assistants have been friendly this trip. It must be an alien invasion trust me...not normal...Anyway I had my photo taken in front of four M & M's walking across Abbey Road. :) All sorts of cute photo ops so I'd recommend anyone to pop in and have a look. Just take a fat wallet with you - I bought as few M & M candies as I could get away with but after all the friendliness I felt I should get something.... They had a whole wall that you could pick out what colours you wanted and there was every colour under the rainbow- I still prefer Smarties and I told them that.....One store clerk accosted me and told me the whole history of M & M's. But don't ask me to repeat it. I swear these sales assistants were aliens from Planet M & M. Too spooky friendly.

From there I headed through Piccadilly Circus and up Regent St. (posh shopping street) and then through Mayfair (posh) to Grosvener Square where the American and Canadian embassies are amongst others. Interesting to stop and see a lovely memorial sculpture to the animals lost in the wars. There were two fellows from an antique brass cleaning company cleaning the sculptures. I had to chuckle to myself as one was cleaning the business end of a horse - no chance of being pooped on but I heard a curse and he had hit his head on the "rear end" as he got up. Anyway the memorial was quite touching...as it said on the inscription "they did not have a choice". Then over to Hyde Park and then carried on to Hyde Park corner and Green Park and on to St. James Park...my favourite park...love it.

I walked by St. James Palace and again through Piccadilly and over to Covent Garden - picked up a you guessed it prawn and mayonaisse sandwich for my supper...or tea as they call it here. Took a bus back here and sat at the front. I started video taping the Xmas lights but had to stop as some woman was having an argument with someone on her mobile..didn't exactly want that on my camera. Don't get me going on people who talk on phones on public transit please...okay don't mind if I do....rudeness doesn't even begin to describe it. If someone calls you make it brief but to sit and yack away about your personal life with a full bus listening in is just plain old common as my grandma would say.

The day was so glorious I decided not to worry about getting over to the east end to the Geffreye museum for the goodbye to Christmas thing. I did it three years ago so not like I needed to do it again...I will in the east end on Sunday.

Back here for an evening of Corrie...

A late start

Well told Simon I wouldn't be having breakfast downstairs today - just had some yogurt and fruit and it was a nice change. A combo of mango and pineapple - yum...M & S of course as well as their lakeland honey and ginger yogurt. Very nice. The instant coffee in the room - well we won't go there but hey for twenty five pounds a night I also have a kettle and tea bags/instant coffee in my room. I will have a cup of the real stuff later. I am on a quest to buy some coffee beans over here. That is one of the things I do - buy coffee beans when I travel. I am past having "souvenirs" - my photographs are my souvenirs and anything useful I find when on the road. I bought a little egg cup in Paris and also two little rubber coasters that look like records. (I have a thing about coasters...)


Just had to pay some bills online this morning and check out the moola situation - yeah even that kind of stuff follows you on the road. A shame isn't it. Speaking of the road I've been away well over three weeks now. Actually in just over a week I will be heading back over the pond...a shorter overseas trip for me but that is because I will be heading out again a few weeks later...I am already thinking when will I get back here. I never thought I'd be back in London at the same time a year later when I was here a year ago...I thought I'd be in Vietnam. That's where I think I will be next year - will be interesting to find out!


I think today I will finish up the walk I started the other day and if the weather holds I will be at Hyde Park so will spend some time there and in Kensington Gardens then over to the Geffrye musuem for their Farewell to Christmas and to look at their Christmas over the years display. But kind of a chill out start to the day and that works for me.

I may do a Spy walk with London walks tomorrow afternoon. Places in London where actual espionage and spys hung out...should be good. At some point I also have a 18 km walk I need to do - Monday? Sunday is the market at Brick Lane....I am hoping the artist who does the wonderful coasters (see told you I have a thing about them...) is there as I'd like to buy a couple more. I love the four I have that he made.

A quiet night in tonight as double Corrie night plus a new Law and Order UK..woo hoo. Tomorrow night will be a play. I have looked for other plays/musicals to attend but nothing interests me or I have already seen it. Next week will be two more outings if not one more - still haven't made up my mind on that one.

Well time to pop into the shower and start my day...no rain and the birds are singing. Gotta love it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Changes

Well today didn't work out quite the way I had planned but it was a good one anyway. I decided to start the walk from the 02 as the Thames Barrier is hard to get to by public transit. However getting to London Bridge tube station (where I needed to connect) was complicated due to the fact they had emergency work at that station on the Northern line which is the line I take from here. Finally I got there, got the tube and started off on the path only to find it was closed! I guess if I was really dedicated I would have walked around a bit and found a place to get back on it but by then I was fed up and thought "maybe this isn't meant to be". After some hard thinking I decided that the Thames Path is postponed maybe even cancelled. Do I really want to walk that far? (180 miles - which would take me a couple of weeks over several trips) I think I have to accept the fact that with my knees and foot I am not up to any long distance paths. That doesn't mean I won't walk and I still plan to do some of the club walks here - but I am going to enjoy other things too. I think I made the right decision...





So I took the tube back to London Bridge and went over to Borough Market which is a market across the street from London bridge with nothing but food glorious food. It runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Thursday is the quietest day so a good one to go. I watched a cooking demo for a while but it was going too slow for me however I did try some truffle honey...can I put that down for 60 new things in 2012? No I thought not....I bought some curry spices in tiny containers....I always fancy myself a gourmet cook while I am away and take this stuff back and there it sits but I am really going to try and change. When I am in the mood and have the time I love to cook. I had a cup of fresh vegetable soup made from parsnips, brussel sprouts, carrots, onions, etc. with grated chestnuts on top. Delish! I also bought THE WORLD'S BEST BROWNIE and grazed on it for the rest of the day. I wandered around for quite a while. I forgot to mention that this morning first thing it was raining heavily with a lot of wind but cleared up before I set off. Well that changed while I was at the market and it was getting scary with umbrellas over the booths turning, etc. so I decided to head indoors and took the tube to the Natural History Museum to see the Wildlife Photography of the year exhibition. Beautiful photographs - not as good as last year I don't think but still absolutely wonderful. There were some done by kids under 10 and they were on expensive cameras and very good...amazing. I am so glad I went. From there I walked over to High Street Kensington and looked in a few shops but bought nothing...I love that area of London - love the mews with the cobblestones and cottages...I then hopped a bus to Kilburn High street where I jumped off and had a lamb donar with chips and salad. Burp. Very reasonable and good but way too much food - I didn't even try to finish it. Tomorrow will definitely be a sandwich back here day. But I had to have some wonderful British chips. I find the fish iffy as sometimes they cook it with the skin on which I hate. Seeing that gray skin under the batter makes me want to hurl - that and the fact I threw up fish in London when I was here in 07....we won't even go there...but hey not everyone can say they threw up in a London tube station can they.


I then saw a pound shop and flew in. Got some stationery items that Claudia had that I liked and she said she got them at the pound shop in England and sure enough. Huge Galaxy and Cadbury bars for a pound...but I resisted...well sort of....well it could have been worse trust me.


Back on the bus and here just in time for Corrie at 8:30.


Not an exciting day but a good one. I still did plenty of walking.


If the weather is fine tomorrow I think I will finish up the walk I started the other day and then walk around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.


Being as I am not doing the Thames Path I am going to look into finding a cheap bus ticket out of town somewhere - preferably where I've never been.


Simon's breakfasts are good but light - bacon and eggs and mushrooms which sounds like a lot but the portions are small. No cereal to go with it although might ask for some I am giving him the morning off tomorrow (I am the only guest) and will have breakfast here in my room as I have yogurt and fruit - something different - then on Saturday I will just have toast and coffee. Having too many cooked breakfasts is bad and being as I am not doing the heavy duty walking I had planned I don't need them.


Stay tuned...


No clue what tomorrow will bring...that's the beauty of it all.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Walkers crisps you are too tempting

Anyone who has been to England knows about Walkers crisps - any flavour under the sun and then some....I have resisted for years but I just polished off a bag (they are small that is one good thing...) of prawn cocktail crisps. Oh my.
Anyway....I am listening to the wind blow - you would almost think I was back in Saskatchewan. Rain for tomorrow morning with sun coming out in the p.m. according to the forecast. So I guess I won't be in a hurry to get to the Thames Barrier if the wind is blowing - if not well I can walk in the rain as long as it's not too heavy. It will be fun getting to the barrier - I have researched and have found several ways....
I did over half the walk today and then decided to finish it up another day. I enjoyed what I did very much - Clerkenwell is a fascinating part of London with so much history. Walked through Smithfield market where I saw the spot where William Wallace (Braveheart) was executed, saw St. Johns Priory, ancient churches - I did this walk several years ago and enjoyed it then. I made it as far as Leicester Square so can easily do the last 3 or 4 km another day.
Tonight I saw Backbeat...interesting. I enjoyd it...I think. The best part was the band singing at the end and boogying and singing along. Quite graphic sexually...whoa. I did my seat upgraded to a lower balcony in the front row so that was cool.
I came back in between the walk and the play to have a shower and have a tiny rest before heading out to the west end. I had a pizza and glass of wine at Pasta Brown. Before you think wow a whole pizza they are Italian style which is very thin crust - I just had the margerita which is just mozza, tomatoes and spices. I LOVE pizza in all shapes and sizes.
Tomorrow will likely be an eat at home evening but who knows...but it's time for another one - can't afford to eat out at London restaurant prices. However...have to see what turns up tomorrow....another place I want to try while here is Manze and sons on Tower Bridge road - they serve traditional meat pies with mashed potato and are supposed to be really good - but only open for lunch Monday to Friday....
Yes I know I talk a lot about food....I dream a lot about it too...:)

Birdies singing

I love it. Love hearing the birdies sing...I love seeing green grass and leaves on the trees. (not all of course but some...) Am up extra early this morning - I will regret this later. I guess the down side of this small room is that there is no where else to sit but the bed. My back is sore! Ah well the price is right and when you travel as much as I do you economize when you can. It's not like I am here a lot. I love this little room and looking out and seeing the doggies play on Hampsted Heath extension in the morning.

Tomorrow I start my trek of the Thames Path. I won't cover much this trip as it's 180 miles - I am aiming for 32 miles of it (over four days max) but with the current problems with my foot and also January weather it may not be doable. But that's okay... I will go to the Thames Barrier to begin which is actually the end of the walk if you are doing it the correct way - but either way is acceptable. I was going to start it today but wanted to do the path on days when I had nothing on in the evening as I know I will be very tired.

I must admit this problem with my right foot has me very concerned - I know what the problem is...a developing bunion AND an arthritic big toe. I am madly doing exercises with my big toe "as we speak". I never know when it will affect me and the medication I take for my knees (Aleve) does not work for my foot. I did a half marathon last year with my toe acting up - it was a long hard slog that I would rather never repeat. Perhaps I shouldn't be walking long distances with this foot and these knees but I love it and as long as I can do it I will. It is crazy as it will bother me and be painful and then be suddenly gone....then it returns an hour or so later...I never know when it will affect me on a walk but since Paris it has been daily. That is unusual. During my long walk with Claudia on Boxing Day I had no problems and felt wonderful. Sometimes it's just discomfort but other times it's out and out pain. That's when I stop - unless I am in a race. I have a 21 km race coming up a month from tomorrow - as it is I am not trained up due to the traveling but I am determined. Fingers crossed (well except for my right middle finger that wont' bend properly due to arthritis - oh my I am a mess aren't I?) that all will go right.

Today will be a good test - I would really like to complete this 10km walk that takes me from Islington in north London through Clerkenwell, the City, Mayfair and terminates at Hyde Park. Not nonstop but with a coffee stop or two and parking myself on a few benches if it's not raining that is! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

London in the rain

Had a great day today. The day started with heavy wind and rain so didn't rush out but sat and enjoyed my breakfast and Simon and I had a good yak about the Olympics here, his B & B, etc. Headed out about 9:15 and took the bus to the Strand - when I got off I was the only one on the bus which was a first I think. I topped up my mobile phone at Orange - yikes it is expensive. 20p a minute for calls within the UK so it will be for calls and messages that need to be passed on. A pound a minute to call North America but no plans for that... However it's more convenient that trying to use a pay phone here. Then on to Covent Garden in the pouring rain. I stopped in at the Royal Opera House to inquire about Romeo and Juliet for Friday Jan. 13th but sold out..I may see what the day before has but if nothing oh well I will live. I then stopped at Marks and Spencers to get some new undies...I wear nothing but M & S knickers these days and stock up every time I come over here. And being as I am turning 60 this year and going to try 60 new things I got a pair of black lacy thongs and I don't mean the kind you wear on your feet. I want to see if they are as comfortable as people say they are - can't even imagine. Thank god in heaven there is no floor length mirror so I can't see what I look like in them... I can just imagine. And it ain't pretty. They were on sale so no big deal if they aren't my cup of tea. Speaking of tea I stopped in at Whittards tea in Covent Garden and tried their cherry hot chocolate. Oh my how good but unfortunately it comes in a tin that is just too big for me to bring home. Boo hoo or maybe just as well. I resisted buying more tea...being as I have enough at home to open my own shop.

I then walked over to Trafalgar Square and it was still raining so went to the National Portrait Gallery and had a gander at a few areas. I've been there before of course but it's always nice to go back and see favourites again and see new things as well. I went outside and the rain had stopped and blue skies. So I scurried over to St. James Park and wandered around a bit then through Whitehall palace and over to see Big Ben. By then it was clouding up again but I was able to grab a few photos. I walked along the Thames for a bit then back to the square and into Waterstones where I had a much needed coffee. I drooled over all the books - the combination of all those books and the smell of fresh brewing coffee was wonderful - I do love book shops. However I resisted buying anything. Wow I am impressing myself no end so far on this trip but it's the thought of dragging it all home with me....

St. Martins in the Field beckoned me - it's a church beside Trafalgar Square and they have a lovely shop and cafe in the basement and all the proceeds go to their programs such as helping the homeless. I had my supper there which was a beef and vegetable (mushrooms, parsnips and carrots) stew with roast potatoes and broccoli. Oh my it was delicious. I was craving vegetables as normally I eat a lot of them. That is one of the many wonderful things about solo travel - I can eat where I want to. No compromise.

Regent St. beckoned me...Piccadilly Circus on the way of course. Regent St. sells out to the latest cartoon/movie and this year it was Arthur whatever that is. I then walked along Oxford St. as well and there is one decoration that wasn't there last year. It was all very pretty. I figured I better do this soon as they will be taken down by the end of the week and the rain had stopped.

I then took the bus back...we nearly ran over a girl who was busy yakking on her cell phone as we went around the corner. The bus honked and she jumped back - that is the closest call I've seen. I even yelped OH MY GOD!

Tomorrow I will attempt a walk and see how far I get - my foot is still bothering me but I can always quit and start up where I left off another day. With the rain pelting down today I did not feel like walking. Tomorrow evening I will be going to see Backbeat which is the story of the early days of the Beatles in Hamburg. Can't wait!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tales from the launderette

Well I took the little H2 bus to Golders Green and went to the launderette as I did not have a clean piece of clothing. I was a bit concerned as today is a holiday here being as New Years was on a Sunday. No fear they were open. There was a pretty cool old fellow in there - let's just call him a bloke...anyway this bloke told me to use the next machine to the one I was starting to load up as it was five pounds not six pounds. That was nice of him. I was able to cram everything into one big machine. Plus he didn't charge me for the soap - a rare occurence believe me. I took off to get some money out of the ATM and to grab my first coffee from Costa coffee. Back to dry the clothes and the bloke and I had a good chat. He asked if I was from Canada and said he had been there for a few hours. A few hours? Well what a story. He said way back about 50 years ago he and this woman broke up - he did the breaking up and she was none too pleased. They were both ball room dance instructors and he said hard to believe and it was as he looked he belonged on a harley with long white hair and beard...let's say he looked like he had a pretty good time in the 60's. Anyway together they owned a rare expensive car. Well one day some guy called him and said go to your upstairs window and look out - well his car drove by only it was split in half with one end going each way. Hey that's what he told me. Anyway turned out his girlfriend did that out of spite. She ended up marrying and moving to Canada. Well he decided to get his own back and got on a plane to Toronto and hired a taxi to take him to her house - rang her doorbell just dressed in clothes like he had just popped out of the house for a few minutes (as he put it)and watched her expression. He said we have to talk and then ran back to the taxi that was waiting and off they roared as she ran out into the street. And back to England he went. Kind of crazy but he was a crazy guy. I could not see the point of that - hey if someone wrecked my expensive car on purpose I'd want to do something a bit more should I say vindictive.... He said she has moved back to London and phoned his dad to ask if she could give him her number to pass on but he said he threw it in the garbage. Wow what some people do. Turns out she had a very unhappy marriage and he had a wonderful one until his wife passed away four years ago. I love these random things that happen - crazy story and it passed the time while my clothes were spinning around.
Stopped in a Sainsbury Local (small version of supermarket) and got another prawn and mayonnaise sandwich for my supper - okay I KNOW that's bad but they didn't have much else...honest. Also got some apple juice and some carrot and parsnip crisps and a tiny bottle of wine for later....:) To toast my return to my favourite place on earth.
Double episode of Corrie tonight - ah life is good. A rare evening in so am going to enjoy it and relax and rest my foot. Heavy rain was forecast for tomorrow but will check the updated forecast next as want to do my favourite walk from Westminster to the Tower of London (won't go into Coutts bank this time!) and see the lights in the evening.
I must say I enjoyed my time in Paris - the accommodation might not have been what I expected but I can now say I've stayed in a typical Paris flat. I found the Parisians not rude at all and while friendly might be too strong a word no one was ever rude to me and I found them very helpful and kind. This morning a gal in the apartment building carried Eddie down a flight of stairs for me. I think it helps to know a few words - despite five years of French in school I am not good and just know basic phrases but I think making the effort is appreciated. To me it's only common courtesy to know a few words when you visit a country even if it's just hello, goodbye, please thank you. I did know a bit more than that for Germany and France and hope to refresh my knowledge in the future as I have studied German as well. It's just that when you don't use it you lose it.
Well I think I hear that prawn sandwich calling me...or maybe it's the veggie crisps....cheerio!

Here comes the sun...

Doo doo doo doo....to quote the late great George Harrison. Yep the sun finally came out in north France and has followed me to England. First time I've seen it on the trip for any length of time. The journey over here was good. I had my last pain au chocolate and cafe au lait at my favourite little boulangerie on the corner this morning. Sadie slept with me last night until Simon came home and then she disappeared into his room for the night. She was scratching on the door so how could I resist - poor little thing. Anyway got the metro to Gare du Nord and checked in and everything went smoothly. The journey through the tunnel under the English channel takes about 25 minutes - it always kind of freaks me out that there is a huge body of water above me so I listened to my MP3 player and tried not to think about it. I closed my eyes and thought of England. :)
Arrival went smoothly and I knew there was a M & S food store at St. Pancras station so after I checked out the Xmas tree made from lego (neat) I scurried in and got myself a prawn and mayonaisse sandwich and scoffed half of it outside the shop. I was so hungry. And it tasted so mighty fine. I then got the tube after putting a bit of money on my Oyster card (pay as you go card for London transport) at a machine - a lady helped me as I have never done it that way before. Once I got to Golders Green station I put some serious money on it. It's not cheap. Once I left the station my face nearly cracked from the huge smile on my face as I got on the H2 bus. Well spoke too soon - despite Simon emailing me yesterday and asking my arrival time and then acknowledging my email there was no one home. I stopped a passing couple and asked if I could borrow their mobile so the fellow called for me - busy then answer phone so left a message. They were ever so helpful - really sweet and I got to use an Iphone. Woopee ding dong. (as those who know how much I love cell phones. I rang the doorbell one last time and was going to take off and there was Simon. (no not the dog sitting one in Paris but London Simon) Got settled into my room and then put my stuff together and off to the laundromat. Part two coming up - this wifi connection is better than last year but still a bit slow....

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Au Revoir Paris

Last day in Paris today. And I'm not sad....not that I haven't enjoyed it but time to move on...to my favourite place in the world. My body is here in Paris still but my heart and mind are in London already....I slept in this morning. I did not go to the celebrations for New Years last night for quite a few reasons - the biggies being lots of stairs with my bad knees, my foot was bothering me and the crowds. Oh man do I sound old...well guess I am....and I don't regret it at all. If I want to see what it looked like I am sure I can find out on the Internet! Next year I will do the same - wherever I will be I will celebrate with a quiet glass of wine. In fact last year in Kathmandu I was in bed at midnight as we had our early morning flight to Everest... I had breakfast here and then headed off to the metro station. It would not take my ticket - well it did but it got stuck and that's when I realized they hadn't fixed the free entry from last night. After I had bought enough tickets for the day from the machine. I got out at Gare du Nord as needed to get my Eurostar ticket for tomorrow. Am I glad I did. First of all was trying to get it out of the wrong ticket machine and it kept telling me no reservation - then I had to go upstairs and tried to retrieve it from the correct machines. It said printing ticket but nothing came out. By now I was fuming...I had to stand in line which luckily wasn't too long and after fumbling and getting my passport out of my money belt the ticket agent printed the ticket out for me. So now I am good to go. So glad I did that today and not tomorrow morning.From there I took the metro to Les Halles and after getting temporary misplaced in a huge shopping mall (which is the modern Les Halles) I found my way out. Kept going in circles though as there is a lot of construction in the area. I did not have my morning coffee yet, only tea which I love but NOT first thing in the morning...anyway I stopped for a cafe au lait and to get my bearings with my map. I got myself sorted and headed over to Hotel de Ville which is the old town hall or the Rat house!! :) It was a beautiful building and something I have missed on previous trips to Paris. There was a skating rink in front of the building as well which made it even nicer somehow. I then carried on walking to the Bastille although by now my foot was acting up again. I saw some interested Christmas trees - made entirely of recycled plastic red and green bottles. Very cool! Took photos of the Bastille statue and also of the opera house where I saw the ballet the other evening. Took the metro back to an area where I had spotted a restaurant earlier. It turned out to be kind of a disappointment. I ordered a set meal but misread the menu and I could have a starter OR dessert -not both. Oh well...I ordered French Onion soup which was delish and then a 1/4 chicken with herbs. Well it was tough as old boots - it came with french fries so I filled up on those. It was such a cute little place too. I then walked over to the Louvre - it was closed but still wanted to visit the area - wow tourists galore. But that was nothing...took the metro to Anvers in Montmartre and it was a zoo! The narrow alley to go up to Sacre Couer was chock a block full of people. I just took some quick photos and left - it was a quick walk back here. Now to walk up to the church would have been a whole different thing as it's quite high with lots of steps. There is a funicular but did not even want to think how crowded that was. Anyway I was up there three years ago...back here to pack up for tomorrow. Simon is not back yet - that makes nearly 11 hours of Sadie not going out. I feel for her - her bladder is much better than mine though. But I would never leave a dog that long personally...I think it's cruel. However she is sleeping on the sofa in here - she did come to me and whine but then went and got her food. She does a cute thing - she tosses her hard crunchies in the air and chases them. She does a weird thing though - all friendly when I am in here and wanting to sit on my lap, etc. but when I go to walk out the dor she growls and barks at me and even bites at my legs. She is a little sweetie though and I will miss her. The London B and B has cats but with luck I won't have to see them....