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!
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
I Had lights
The Pavillion is very pretty, all lit up
A quick pic in front of Rocky Horror, which we went to see a few days ago
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.
The best mince pies have kitties on them
The tree in the square
Squirrel lens!!!!! (a zoom lens for squirrels)
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.
What a pretty table! I should have taken an after shot too
Food and booze! Becca, Erin, Chris, Stacey, Dale
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.
Erin doing her vlogging thing
Even the doggies had jumpers!
Starlings over Brighton Pier
Santas on a bike
A rough and stormy channel
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.
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!