England

Winter has finally started in full force, and it snowed in many parts of the UK overnight. I slept in super late, but eventually we got up, and biked up to Devils Dyke, for some exercise.   It had totally snowed, though most of it had melted by the time we got up there.  However, we enjoyed the bracing air (ie freezing), and wandered around in the mud for a while, to get excited about the itty bitty bit of snow.    Looking forward to our ski trip in a few weeks, when we get to see real snow!

A tiny snowman, with malteser eyes

A tiny snowman, with malteser eyes

Dramatic clouds

Dramatic clouds

See?? Snow

See?? Snow

Selfie, of course

Selfie, of course

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It has come to my attention that I have fallen behind in my blogging this year…and last year…  I have many posts written, but it is mainly the photo sorting, adjusting, and then adding into the post that takes so much time.  After one or two, I lose the will, and don’t get me started on our long trips.
I don’t particularly have any resolutions this new year, as I’ve already been doing (trying to do) the exercise/healthy thing, already doing the travel thing…so my main goal is to actually be better at blogging, and finish posting all the things we have been up to for the last nearly two years.  So, you will see posts from April 2014, all the way to now, appearing in the next few months.  Don’t be alarmed!  I will try and post them with the date we did them, so things stay in chronological order.

 

In the meantime, here is what we did for New Years..

We hadn’t planned to do anything much for New Years, my only real idea was to find some fireworks, and hang out with friends. I had to work New Years Eve morning, but after, we headed over to Chris and Erin’s, for some quick planning. Once idea was to go up to the Fireworks in London, but, of course, it is very popular, and no tickets were left. The fireworks are near the London Eye, along the Thames, and I hear it gets very busy. The roads are all closed around, and it looked hard to get somewhere to see.  Security was up a bit, what with concerns about large gatherings of people in a popular city being a target.
We decided we could head to Primrose Hill, which has a good view of London, and join the others that would be revelling there. It was a good plan, but turns out there were bus replacements, so the hour ride up there, and hour ride back would be a 2-2.5 hour ride each way. Not fun! We gave up on that plan, and instead headed out to the Pavillion, for a cheery dinner, and ice skating, which was very fun, then home for a quick mulled wine, mulled wine into the thermos, then headed down to the beach. There seemed to be no planned fireworks in Brighton, but we figured, if there were gonna be any others celebrating, they would probably do it on the beach. So we went there, and welcomed in the new year, along with lots of other cheery people, on the cold, windswept beach, though it wasn’t lonely. There were fireworks along the beach, as far as we could see, and lots of happy people, chinese lanterns, and general revelry.

The best part was, once we were done, it was a 10 minute walk home, instead of a 2.5 hour train and bus ride.  Fireworks, ice skating, mulled wine, good friends, and lots of sleep!  Happy New Year!

Someone is a fox

Someone is a fox

Ice skating!

Ice skating!

Dinner

Dinner

I Had lights

I Had lights

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Pengins

Pengins

The Pavillion is very pretty, alllit up

The Pavillion is very pretty, all lit up

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A quick pic in front of Rocky Horror, which we went to see a few days ago

A quick pic in front of Rocky Horror, which we went to see a few days ago

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Fireworks

Fireworks

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Christmas in the UK.. I had workmates and English people asking me if it was weird to have Christmas in Winter, and how different does it feel?

Christmas in NZ is in Summer.  We usually still have a big tree, with tinsel, decorations and lights, and usually a big cooked dinner.  We wear fluffy Santa hats for as long as we can, but they usually come off pretty quickly, as it is summer, and if we’re lucky, it gets hot.  Christmas day activities are usually walks in the park, beach visits, or a swim at the lake.  There is usually warmth and sunshine* and jandals.  But our cards are still covered in snow, wrapped up santas, robins, and roaring fires.  So in a way, it was setting us up for winter.

Christmas in the UK is cold, dark, and grey.   But weirdly, it doesn’t feel that out of place, it feels like it should be.    There’s a reason for having the Christmas lights, and decorating houses and shops, and being festive, and that’s because it is dark by 4.30pm!  You need the lights and cheer and parties, otherwise everyone would be sad.  Christmas Jumpers are totally a thing here, and its because its darn cold, and you want to snuggle up.  Also, the worse the jumper, the better.  Bobbles and pompoms and fluff stuck on the front, santas and reindeer and lights that  actually light up, cause there is a battery pack attached to the sweater.

I had made my usual mince pies and christmas cake, and we were looking forward to eating them.

Carol Service

Carol Service

The best mince pies have kitties on them

The best mince pies have kitties on them

The tree in the square

The tree in the square

Pretty tree

Pretty tree

Present time

Present time

Squirrel lens!!!!! (a zoom lens for squirrels)

Squirrel lens!!!!! (a zoom lens for squirrels)

Squirrel (Thanks Erin :) )

Tree Squirrel (Thanks Erin :) )

Our Christmas consisted of a delicious pancake breakfast at Erin and Chris’s house, with Stacey, and a friend.  It came complete with berries, maple syrup, and plenty of bubbles.

"Roaring fire"

“Roaring fire”

Gingerbread house

Gingerbread house

What a pretty table! I should have taken an after shot too

What a pretty table! I should have taken an after shot too

Food and booze! Becca, Erin, Chris, Stacey, Dale

Food and booze! Becca, Erin, Chris, Stacey, Dale

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Mmmm mince pies

We relaxed and hung out, then later on went for a walk along the beach, even though it was grey and windy and cold.  I tried out my new zoom lens, and we tried to stay warm, meeting up with Lenka, and her dog Luna.  They played on the beach, and we watched the starlings .. murmurating…  where they all fly around in a crazy flock together.   The like to do it at dusk and dawn, and it was getting dark by 4pm, cause of the clouds.

Beach walk

Beach walk

Lets skip!

Lets skip!

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Birdies

Birdies

 

Old pier

Old pier

Cuties

Cuties

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Erin doing her vlogging thing

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Even the doggies had jumpers!

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Starlings over Brighton Pier

Santas on a bike

Santas on a bike

Walkies

Walkies

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Brighton Pier

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Luna

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Shark egg

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A rough and stormy channel

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Sunset lolz

After a nice long walk, we headed back to ours, for a good and proper cooked roast dinner, and then game playing.  It was just how I like Christmas, nice and relaxed, with plenty of food, and family.

Xmas dindins

Xmas dindins

peeps!

peeps!

Pretty baubles

Pretty baubles

Even puggle got into the xmas spirit

Even puggle got into the xmas spirit

 

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old pier

old pier

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Starlings, doing their thing

Starlings

For Easter weekend, we decided to head over to Devon and Cornwall, for a nice long weekend away.  We was myself and Dale, and Henri and Alastair.  I was excited, as Devon is the home of cream tea, and Cornwall the home of pastys, both of which I love!

They hired us a car, and we left on Friday 18th April, and to beat all the traffic , we were up super early, and on the road by 7.30am.  The streets were deserted.  By about 9am, roads were very full of travellers, just like us.  We had a quick stop at a service place off the motorway for breakfast, but Henri and I mostly just slept for the trip.   We stopped for lunch at delishuz little pub, then on to Carrington, where we are staying in a little house.

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Amused by the life ring for the pond.

 

Saturday

We drove to a nearby woods, and hired bikes, for riding around forest!  Zoom zoom.  It was very pleasant, with easy soft trails, and lots of trees.    Had cream tea at tiny café in Morewellham, which looks like it was an old mining town.   Biked up a big hill, which wasn’t as fun, but it had a lovely view.   Mossy, green, overgrown, pretty Devon countryside, birds singing.

Cycling: you're doing it worng

Cycling: you’re doing it worng

Nice view

Nice view

On the edge of a cliff

On the edge of a cliff

View another way

View another way

dangerous rocks

dangerous rocks

Waterways

Waterways

Zoomzoom

Zoomzoom

Zoomzoom

Zoomzoom

Cute little Norwellham

Cute little Morwellham

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Morewellham

Waterways

Waterways

nomnom cream tea

nomnom cream tea

I’m not sure if I’ve talked about cream tea yet, but it is amazing!  At first I was confused, as it sounds like tea, with cream in it, which doesn’t appeal that much, but it is actually scones, spread with clotted cream, and jam, and served (of course) with tea.  The essential component, I think, is the clotted cream.    It seems like a cross between cream and butter,  it is very thick. I think they make it by heating cream, and taking the thickest bits from the top once it has cooled.  To be proper Cornish clotted cream, it needs to be made in Cornwall, and have a minimum fat percentage of 55%, but they can average around 64%.  Normal single cream is about 18%.  It is very thick, spreadable, but just a little teensy bit liquidy, and spreads easily on scones.  It is rich, and thick, and delishuz.
Wikipedia thinks that clotted cream in America would probably be classed as butter, though it is not as solid as butter.

We then drove to Tavistock, wandered around, and looked at the river and buildings.  They had a market outside, and in and around the town hall, was built ages ago, and looks kind of like small castle.  Was an old market town, so many of the buildings are old and pretty.  Bought relish, cupcakes, flapjacks (like sweet, sticky oatcakes), and some pasties, took them down to the river to eat, where we enjoyed the sunshine, and discussed dog breeds.

Tavistock

Tavistock

Tavistock

Tavistock

Easter weekend market. Tavistock

Easter weekend market.
Tavistock

Tavistock

Tavistock

Easter weekend market. Tavistock

Nomnom carrots! Easter weekend market, Tavistock.

Easter weekend market. Tavistock

Easter weekend market.
Tavistock

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Pretty bridge

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Tavistock Canal

We then drove up to Dartmoor.  Amazing place, my favourite.  Windswept and rocky.  I really wanted to go to Stonehenge, but it was out of our way, you have to book a time, millions of other people want to go, and it costs.  I’d researched the area, and found there were plenty of stone circles, mounds, and stone lines, that were just spread around the moors, with just a little walk to, and no entry fee.   We went to the Merryvale circle, lines and area, where there used to be a prehistoric settlement.  Small circle of standing stones, and two sets of two lines. Then we walked up the neighbouring tor, where it was very pretty, but windy.  Got stuck in a marsh walking back.

Powwwny!!!!

Powwwny!!!!

Dartmoor ponies

Dartmoor ponies

Dartmoor

Merrivale Prehistoric Settlement – Dartmoor

Merrivale Lines

Merrivale Lines

Merrrivale Prehistoric Settlement

Merrrivale Prehistoric Settlement

Merrivale Lines

Merrivale Lines

Merrivale Circle

Merrivale Circle

A big rock!

A big rock!

Merrrivale Prehistoric Settlement

Merrrivale Prehistoric Settlement

Cool rock formations - Merrivale

Cool rock formations – Merrivale

Merrivale

Merrivale

Merrivale

Merrivale

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It was a tad windy

Merrivale

Merrivale

Merrivale

Merrivale

Merrivale

Merrivale

Drove around a bit, visited Burrator reservior, where they had a big dam from 1910?  And the earlier reserviour was older.  Pretty.  A lovely area of woods next too it, all green and moss and fallen leaves.

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Dartmoor Ponies

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Reservoir

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Reservoir

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Reservoir

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Bare trees

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Edge of the dam

 

Them rocks in England are pretty scary

Them rocks in England are pretty scary

waterways

waterways

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Chickn

Chickn

Piggies

Piggies

Merrivale Lines

Merrivale Lines

Merrrivale Prehistoric Settlement

Merrrivale Prehistoric Settlement

Merrivale Circle

Merrivale Circle

Dartmoor, Merrrivale Prehistoric Settlement

Dartmoor, Merrrivale Prehistoric Settlement

Nice Views - Merrivale

Nice Views – Merrivale

Birthday 2014

The big 30.  Eeek.

I didn’t really want to turn 30.  So much so, that I had a 25th birthday about 6 times.  I am now no longer in my twenties, and I don’t really like it.

To me, 30 always seemed like the marker to being a proper, adult-grown-up type person.
Who really wants to be that old?  I certainly wouldn’t want to be a teenage again, hells to teh no… But my twenties, I enjoyed them.  I thought that by thirty, you would have received the instruction manual for life and all things related.  But no, it turns out everyone is just playing along and trying to figure it out as they go, no one really knows.   And everyone does it for so long, that it gets to the point that we all think we know now, but we’re still just figuring it out as we go.

 

Anyway, I had a nice birthday, got up and went for a relaxing run along the waterfront, then ate a yummy breakfast and watched my favourite episodes for the day.

Lovely morning run

Lovely morning run

After work, people turned up with presents: Henri spoiled me with purple shoes, and pug slippers!   And Dale got me a trip to Paris, once I’m back from NZ!
Then we all went out for dinner at Terre de Terre, a fantastic vegetarian restaurant. where I could literally order and eat and enjoy anything on the menu. Fantastic.

The prettiest shoes

The prettiest shoes

Pug slippers!

Pug slippers!

The most adorable cake, made by Henri

The most adorable cake, made by Henri

little animals!

little animals!

Surprise battenberg cake!

Surprise battenberg cake!

Amazing foods

Amazing foods

The restaurant bought me a birthday dessert

The restaurant bought me a birthday dessert

 

 

Also, I've finally stopped biting my nails off.

Also, I’ve finally stopped biting my nails.  Win.

 

Wednesday – We were up early, grabbed a breakfast Panini as we were walking, and were ready and waiting outside the National Gallery, so we could go in as soon as it opened.  When we visited previously, we saw there was a Van Gogh exhibition, including some of his sunflower paintings.  The line was kinda long though, so we decided to come back today, as soon as it opened, so we wouldn’t have to wait.  And that worked perfectly, got to walk straight in.  It was very lovely, no pics allowed in the gallery though.  More wandering, to see Michelangelo and Raphael, then onwards to our next stop.. coffee..

Early morning at the National Gallery

Early morning at the National Gallery

Pretty springtime tulips

Pretty springtime tulips

Tulips

Tulips

Tulips

Tulips

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The gate on the North Bank of the Thames, back in the day

The gate on the North Bank of the Thames, back in the day

Jerome is a very knowledgeable about coffee, every time Dale needed some, would just ask Jerome what was good in the area we were in, and he would know.  !

Headed out to the tower of London (NOT A TOWER, IS A CASTLE!  Misleading), where we stood in line for a half hour to get tickets (sad), then went inside.  I was expecting a tower, but is so much more.

This is an old wall!  The terracota tile bits were laid down probably around 200AD, by the Romans, as part of the wall around London.

This is an old wall! The terracota tile bits were laid down probably around 200AD, by the Romans, as part of the wall around London.

Tower of London

Tower of London

Tower of London

Tower of London

Tower of London

Tower of London

Tower of London

Lions at the Tower of London

Spent all afternoon there, exploring all the bits.   Definitely worth dedicating a full morning, afternoon or more to a visit.  Especially at the price they charge.  Did a yeoman tour, where he told us stories and was very entertaining; a torture dungeon; crown jewels (so very sparkly); The White Tower (built around 1100AD!), with its armoury, then a quick walk around the walls.

Mid March

Mid March

The White Tower

The White Tower

Trebuchet!

Trebuchet!

Our Yeoman (Beefeater) Guide

Our Yeoman (Beefeater) Guide

A clock

A clock

Armour

Armour

Lastly we crossed the Tower Bridge (pretty!), which you need to realise is different to London Bridge.  London Bridge is just your average run-of-the-mill street bridge, whereas the Tower Bridge is ornate and pretty!

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

London

London

Self-explanatory-ie

Self-explanatory-ie

The Tower Bridge

The Tower of London, and the Tower Bridge

We headed to meet Jerome at the London bridge station to hand over house keys.  So many people.  Headed to green park again, for another loop around the palace, and to examine the statues, which were gift from NZ, then a pleasant walk via Cornish pasties to Victoria  station, for the train back to Brighton.  Got seats which is good, as the train was very full, some people didn’t.

Buckingham Palace - they're having a meeting!

Buckingham Palace – they’re having a meeting!

Rawr

Rawr

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A herd of cranes

A herd of cranes

All in all, a good first visit to London.

Spikey edges

Spikey edges

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Old walls

Old walls

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The White Tower

 

 

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

 

Tuesday – We were up a bit later than expected.  We had Oyster cards, which make travel really easy.  Much like the Snapper cards in Wellington, you just top them up with an amount of money, then swipe into the subway system, or swipe on to the buses.

Took the tube to Green Park, where we walked through, past the deck chairs waiting to be sat on, to our first view of Buckingham Palace.

Squishy subway ride

Squishy subway ride

Deck chairs in Green Park

Deck chairs in Green Park

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

We planned to view the changing of the guard, and had read that we needed to be there early.   We arrived 45 minutes before it was supposed to start… Yet, People!  People everywhere.  Everyone else was also there early.  We positioned ourselves at what we thought was a good spot, and hung around.  Eventually they came, with their music and their horsies and their very straight marching.  They yelled a lot, and marched around, and swapped places.  The prim and proper guard band played some music for us, including Dancing Queen, and various songs by Abba.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Waiting patiently!

Waiting patiently!

All in line

All in line

So very many recording devices

So very many recording devices

::marchmarchmarch::

::marchmarchmarch::

Toy soldier

Toy soldier

Selfiee

Selfiee

Fancy gates

Fancy gates

Wandered up along Constitution Hill, grassy, cool, and pretty.  The mounted police went past occasionally.  They have horse crossings, complete with horse height buttons to press, to cross the road.  We visited the Nz war memorial, the Air corps memorial, and the Wellington Arch.  Briefly stepped foot into Hyde Park.  Literally inside then out, just to say we’d been.  I’m sure we will go back there!

Bumblebee hat is off to somewhere important,,,

Bumblebee hat is off to somewhere important…

Patrolling Ponies

Patrolling Ponies

Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill

Pony crossing button!

Pony crossing button!

Ponies can't cross yet

Ponies can’t cross yet

Wellington Arch

Wellington Arch

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NZ War Memorial

 

NZ War Memorial

NZ War Memorial

They erected this statue!

They erected this statue!

Wellington Arch

Wellington Arch

Entrance to Hyde Park

Entrance to Hyde Park

Rawr ponies

Rawr ponies

Back to subway, over to Brick lane,  where we wandered for ages, trying to find somewhere to eat.  We walked past a lot of Indian restaurant people trying to convince you to come eat at their restaurant.  Apparently we are supposed to bargin.  But the thought of sitting in the restaurant while they all stare at you and rush around to serve you just didn’t really do it for me   We ended up having a very late lunch + cider at a yummy burger place.

Cute little castle house

Cute little castle house

Abandoned buildings

Abandoned buildings

Unicorn house!

Unicorn house!

Street art

Street art

Do not disturb

Do not disturb

The owl and the pussycat

The owl and the pussycat

A pleasant lunch spot.

A pleasant lunch spot.

Then took the Toob to Greenwich.   Large boat, cutty sark, lots of lines!  Walked through the info centre, then up to the observatory, to stand on the gmt line.  It was such a lovely day.  Like everything else awsome that you want to get your picture in front of, there was a line to get a picture with the line.  Instead of waiting, I took a picture of it by itself, then we went down the path to the side, where there also was a line, but it was by itself, so we got our picture there.  Much better than waiting.

Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark

Cannon

Cannon

Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park, beautiful

The Prime Meridian Line, where time begins!

The Prime Meridian Line, where time begins!

A clock

A clock

The lesser known part of the, where you can get pictures any time!

The lesser known part of the, where you can get pictures any time!

Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park

Pop

Pop

A lovely walk back across the green, then the subway back to town, to Oxford Circus.  Ridiculous amount of people.  A seething mass of humanity.  We were meeting Jerome and Amy for dinner at a place called ping pong.   We waited for them at Oxford Circus, so I got to just stand back and watch the hordes.  There was a constant stream of people descending into the depths of the earth to ride the tube.  Constant and never ending.  Or so it seemed.

Masses

Masses

Hordes

Hordes

Oxford Circus

Oxford Circus

Ping Pong is my new favourite restaurant.  they serve Dim sum, and amazingly, a whole vegetarian option!   Mmm steamed bun, mmm dumplings.  Deilishuz vegetarian,  so good.  Home for raspberries and icecream dessert, and chatting with our hosts.

Yum

Yum

Steamed dumpling yumminess

Steamed dumpling yumminess