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..
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our first visit to London, Exciting! We got up at a reasonable hour and headed off to the train station for our 10am train. We didn’t have to catch an early train, as it is supposedly very busy in the morning, with all the commuters. We had to carry our bags around for two of the three days we were going to be there, so we had packed very small bags, with minimal stuff, so we wouldn’t have to lug the stuff around.
We hopped off the train at Victoria Station, and out into London. Almost got run over by a bus within a block, as I was staring simultaneously at the other red double decker buses, and the old stone buildings that were nestled amongst the newer, more modern ones.
A few blocks walk took us to Westminster Cathedral. Not the really big one, but still pretty big! We wandered around, checked out all the small chapels dedicated to different saints, and marveled at the sheer amount of pretty stone that was used in the building.
After that, we walked down to Westminster Abbey, which we didn’t go in to, as the line was out to the road, and halfway down the block. We did admire the outside. Walked down past the Houses of Parliament, and the House of Commons. Such a fancy building. We wandered through a park, and took in our first view of the Thames. A brownish, fast flowing river.
We walked back up the road, and past Big Ben, who chimed 1pm for us. Headed over the bridge to South Bank. There were so, so many other tourists there with us.
We wandered past the London Eye, with a conscious decision not to go on it, like the hundreds of people lined up, waiting. It was near Easter, so there were carrots in the trees, and bunnies all around.
We took more subway, via Waterloo Station, with it’s pretty exterior, and ended up in Leicester Square (hey, these places are named just like in Monopoly!), where we sat for a few moments. There were some very cool, probably super old, knobbly trees, in amongst the rush of people and bustle of city.
After our lunch in the park, we wandered an indirect way to Trafalgar Square. It was quite weird walking through near deserted streets for a few blocks, to come right smack into the middle of tourist central, hundreds of people, as we entered Trafalgar Square. We were greeted firstly by a big, blue cock, who stood out the most, on the fourth pedestal, that is reserved for changing art installments.
Trafalgar square was pretty, if you ignored all the people. Some lions, a couple of fountains, and surrounded by buildings. We had a quick look in the National Gallery, which was free. One of the paintings I saw was of Lady Jane Grey. She was Queen of England for just 9 days until she was removed from the throne, and sent to the Tower of London to be executed. I think she was only 16.
After the gallery, we subwayed to the Covent Garden Markets, which have been around for quite a while. It is quite an interesting place, back in the 1600’s was a developing area around a square, with an open air fruit and veg market. Over time it fell into disrepute, and for a while was a red light district, as taverns, brothels etc opened, and artists and poorer people moved in. They built the roof cover in the 1800’s, and was more organised after that. It has been various things, but is now more of a tourist destination, with cafes, shops, and a crafty market area. We ate at the Pie Shop, and at Creme de la Crepe, where I had an amazing, fantastic apple crumble crepe. Yum. Nearby was Punch and Judy Pub, which has been around since 1787, and is thought to be named after the puppet show that used to take place at the market.
Lastly we headed to King’s Cross Station, to see the infamous Platform 9 and 3/4 (or the representation of). There was a very big line to get a picture taken there, which I didn’t want to stand in, so I have a picture of it, just not with me in it. Maybe one day we will go back when there are no people. There was a cute little shop where you could buy scarves, cups, wands etc.
We stayed with one of Dale’s friends from back in NZ, Jerome and Amy.
I spent a few runs along the water front, in various weathers, plenty of pretty views and chalk cliffs.
One weekend we biked out to the Smugglers Rest Inn, in Peacehaven, for lunch, with Henri and Alastair. They had good bikes. We had medium hire bikes. But it wasn’t too bad. Lovely ride along the South coast, chalk cliffs, a bit of a breeze, a non nudists beach, and chalk!
After arriving back from France, we didn’t get up to much. I was mostly just waiting around till our next travels, as I was going to New Zealand and the end of April, so not a lot of point looking for a job yet. We also wanted one of us to have a job ideally before getting a flat, so we weren’t really looking for that yet either. We had Sunday Lunch at some delishuz places, usually equipped with some great vegetarian option (like nut roast, and mushroom roly poly), roast veges, gravy, and Yorkshire puddings.
Lots of buildings around that are old and fancy stone, or ones that are all the same, a whole row of houses up the street, all like the others.
The next weekend was cruisey, Henri and I went op shopping – lots of cool 2nd hand stores in Brighton and Hove. They are all quite small, but I think they have a high turnover of stock, and they seem to keep a lot of nice stock in. Some of the also seem to get donations (?) from department stores/bigger stores, so occasionally they have new stuff tags still on.
We wandered around town, and the Pavillion, where we met the local squirrels. Wandered the streets a bit, met a few showers (its a bit like a tap is turned on).
Moved to a friends house to stay for a while, whom had a spare room, and we were very appreciative of the opportunity to have our own space. One of the nights, we made Saag paneer from scratch, including the paneer, and it came out a lovely shade of virulent green. Way greener than any curry you get at a takeaways, and I think it is cause the spinach is so fresh.
Went bouldering with Alastair in Portslade, which was very fun. It is wall climbing, but without ropes, so you need to be a bit careful, rely on your skills and strength. It is not as high as a usual climbing wall, only 3-4 metres high.
Monday dawned nice and sunny. We all piled in Curby (our vehicle, a 7 person carvan), and headed out into the local neighbourhood.
We had a bit of trouble finding our first location, and zoomed on to the second. A lot of the roads are quite small, and kinda crazy, zipping through them in a large car-van. We found the second location, but they were closing for lunch – most vineyards seem to close for a period over lunch, perhaps for napping? While waiting, we decided to go to the supermarket and stock up on cheese and bread! We spent the rest of the day trying, drinking and buying wine. It was very interesting, many of the people didn’t speak much English, and we didn’t speak much French, so there was plenty of extrapolation, hand waving and charades, but we enjoyed it, nonetheless.
Our last day was spent in a town called Cadillac, where they had various interesting points. There was a church, Chappelle d’Epernon.
There was also an old castle – Chateau de Cadillac, that was used for various things. It is apparently a good example of French Architecture, and was quite amazing inside, with massive rooms and fireplace. Each one was elaborately carved in marble and stone, with huge tapestries.
The town even had a proper wall, town gate, towers with arrow slits. It was pretty, lots of spring flowers around. We ate lunch at a little bakery, where I had to go back and buy apple pastry things, and eclairs, a couple of times, as they were very yummy.
The day we flew out, we spent a fair amount of time packing, and headed into Bordeaux early so we sort out extra bags. I think a couple of extra bags were bought by people for transporting wine home. We stopped at a massive mall, that had the most amazing fancy toilets I have seen in a while. We also bought more macaroons, and ate them. 🙂 Plane ride back was uneventful.