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Archive for the ‘London’ Category

Erika took us for a stroll around her neighbourhood and we stopped for breakfast at a little cafe/bakery. They had fantastic coffee and made us pretty pictures in the foam. We walked through a huge park that had a couple ‘football’ fields in it. It was full of these huge amazing trees. I found it kind of strange because when you see trees that big and old in Canada, you know they planned the area around existing trees. These trees were evenly spaced around the outside of the park.

We walked through a flower market down a cobblestoned street. It was hilarious, every booth you walked by the people selling flowers would yell prices at you (`Ten for a Fiver, `Just a few Quid mum`), and gradually get lower as you walked down the street. It was very, very crowded, but we took refuge in a couple cool shops selling handmade coffee cups with figures popping out of the sides, and a pretty vintage teapot shop with a little coffee shop in the back. We made our way back to Erika’s house and packed up the rest of our stuff.

Around 4, Erika walked us to our bus stop and we were on our way to Vlissingen. We couldn’t fly to Amsterdam because our luggage would have cost us the bank to fly over there. So we found some tickets over to the Hook of Holland on a night ferry. We caught the 5:00 train to Harwich International, but we had to switch trains once before we got there.

I’m not sure if I have mentioned this yet but England is the least wheelchair accessible place I’ve ever been. There are no elevators anywhere! And the trains always have a six inch gap from the platform and then are another six inches higher than the platform. It’s terrible when you’re dragging a suitcase that weighs 70ish pounds. (Took all the heavy stuff out of my backpack, and put it in my suitcase because we weren’t flying ;). 

When we switched trains we were looking around the platform for where the next one was supposed to be, and we saw it across, on the other side of the tracks. We had to drag our suitcases down two flights of stairs, and then back up to get to the other side. I’m not sure how many more flights of stairs my suitcase can take. (Okay, not my suitcase, sorry Dad.)

Anyways, we got to Harwich at around 8 pm. Turns out we looked at our tickets wrong, and our ferry didn’t leave until quarter to 12. So we waited. They were showing antiques road show on the TV in the lobby of the station. They have way cooler antiques here. They boarded us around 9:45.We found our ‘super economy’ room, which consisted of two tiny bunk beds and a bathroom. Liseanne called bottoms; the higher bunk had a rail about two inches high to keep you from rolling off. We couldn’t figure out how to get up onto the top bunk, there was no ladder..but there was a small platform that pulled out from under the bottom bunk. It still would have been a 4 foot jump to get to the top. We started thinking maybe these Dutch sailor people were just really really tall, when we finally spotted the ladder hooked on the back of the bathroom door. We felt a little dumb. (Are they trying to make life confusing? Why not just leave it hooked to the bed?)

We strolled around the boat for a couple hours, ate and went to bed. I woke up around 6 because the boat was trembling kinda hard. We freshened up in the little bathroom and grabbed a bite to eat before we docked. Again, we had to take two trains to get from the Hook to Vlissingen. Only one of the stations had an elevator.

We almost got stopped at Immigrations. HZ had told us not to apply for visas, and just to come and they would help us make all the arrangements we needed to make. What they didn’t tell us is the immigration guys probably wouldn’t let us through when we tell them we’re staying for more than three months, and we don’t have a visa. Luckily I had a copy of the email from HZ telling us they would set up our appointment. We got a stern warning and a deportation threat from the officer before he let us through.

We took a cab from the station in Vlissingen to our apartment, because it would have been a very long, and very confusing walk. Our apartment was less clean than we would have liked (It was so disgusting). We carefully placed our bags on the barren carpet, locked up, and headed straight to school.  We found the international group, they gave us a brief run through of what our week would look like and a schedule.

It was around 2 when we made it back home and decided to get some groceries. We ended up in a hardware store at first, but finally found somewhere to get groceries. A Dutch lady got stuck between two doors, and then told me what I think was probably joke in Dutch. Unsure, I laughed along with her.The grocery store was a nightmare. We sat in front of the ‘spreads’ for a good twenty minutes before guessing at a bar, hoping it was butter. At one point we asked where we might find a milk substitute like rice milk, and got a vague hand gesture towards the milk section. We finally escaped with enough food to keep us alive for a few days and enough cleaning supplies to kill every germ in our apartment.

We scrubbed for a few hours and got ready for dinner with the international group.We met at 7:30 and walked downtown to the restaurant. We met two Belgium girls at dinner, who offered to take us to their home town, because it is better than the Netherlands (apparently). They swore they have better fries and better beer. One of them asked me half way through dinner if I knew Bob from Canada. I laughed and continued to eat. It turns out she was serious, had never heard that joke before, and there was another group of Canadian students.

A bunch of us went back to Bobs place after dinner and sat in a room filled with people who chain smoke and had a couple drinks. It might have taken a couple years off my life, and my eyeballs have never been that dry. Liseanne and I ended up back at home at about 2 am reeking of smoke and puffy eyed. I got to sleep around 3:30 after rearranging my room. (They had my bed right next to the electric heater on the wall. Totally a bad idea, right dad?)

Love,

Ashley

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London – Day 9

Day 9

We woke up quite late, as we expected we might after the night before.  I was not feeling my best.   It was a little chilly but beautifully sunny outside and there was hardly any trace of snow from the night before.  Erika took us to a small breakfast place about a 15 minute walk from her house, and we had a proper English breakfast.

We were walking to the bus station when I received a small slap in the face from Karma.  The street we were walking on was long and I couldn’t see a garbage can anywhere to put my gum, so I threw it in a forward direction just off of the side walk.  The street was slanted towards where I was walking, and my gum rolled right back in front of me and I stepped on it.  (Moral – Littering=bad)

When we got to the train station the train we usually take was not in service so we took about 5 trains to meet Jen and Malaika.  We bought tickets for a benefit and awareness concert for climate change.  KT Tunstall was playing alongside Katherine Williams, who has the most amazing voice, with Graham Coxon and Robyn Hitchcock.

 The show didn’t start until 7:30, so we went shopping through a nearby market and grabbed some coffee.  The concert was really great and it was nice to get out and see some live music.  It ended at about ten, and we called a little Thai place that Jen knew of, and they said they would stay open for us if we got there before 11.  We hurried our way through the underground and got there just before 11.   It was the coolest little restaurant!  It was BYOB, and they supported the little off-license next door and encouraged you to buy there.  (I wasn’t quite up to drinking again yet)  All the tables were covered with old newspaper clippings.  Ours was covered with a huge trivia quiz, with hundreds of questions and an answer key on one side.  It was a very entertaining way to spend our time before we got our FRESH cooked Thai food.  We headed home on the last train running through the tube.  It wasn’t my favourite ride on the underground; it was PACKED so everyone was sardined into the train.  We got home around 1:30 am, and I decided to repack my suitcase and backpack because we were leaving the next day.  I managed to stuff everything back into somewhere and I headed off to sleep.

Love,

Ashley

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London – Day 8

Erika, Liseanne and I headed down to Spital Field market to find some masks for the Renaissance ball we were going to later that night at the V&A museum. We also strolled through a few vintage shops and Erika found a very beautiful lace dress. I bought some lace black gloves to wear with my black and gold dress I had bought earlier in the week, and a pretty little lace mask. You would all be very impressed that we got ready without a hair dryer (Malaika took hers with her when she moved) or a straighter/curling iron of any kind, and we looked good.  We headed out and grabbed some snacks and wine before heading to Jens house, which is very close to the V&A. After having some difficulty getting up to Jens flat, (We were ringing the wrong number, good thing they weren’t home) we stayed there and had a few drinks.
The ball was amazing (and free)! Everyone there was dressed so beautifully and the venue made it seem like we had gone back a couple centuries. There were tons of events happening inside the different areas of the museum, from classical opera singers, to ‘tale tellers’ and it was packed. In the last half an hour there was a big waltz in the main hall, it so beautiful!
The event ended at around 10ish and we headed to Amuse Bouche (Champagne bar where Erika works) for a bottle of champagne and a few bottles of wine. We headed to the downstairs lounge while they finished closing up and polished off our wine and celebrated the first couple hours of Liseannes birthday! Liseanne had the cutest little brownie cake, and a candle to blow out just after midnight. At around two thirty, after everyone finished closing up and locking up, the seven of us headed to the Bath House which is a ‘anything goes’ techno club that closes at 5 am.
On the way there we encountered a crazy man who had gashed open his arm, and kept asking us for cash. It would have been a little bit scary if we hadn’t been with a big group of people.
The Bath House was fabulous! The front door lady was beautifully extravagant, very tall and surprised me with her deep and very masculine voice. Inside was a little dark and dingy. The DJ was enclosed in a pretty birdcage, it was very eclectic. There were a few very pushy and forward guys there, but Biff was nice enough to keep them away for us. When I left, the y stamped my hand with a ‘paid’ mark so I could re-enter. Mine came out as PAIL.
Again, as we walked home in the early hours of the morning, the birds were singing. I was one lace glove short, and had a huge run in my nylons from my ankle to the middle of my thigh. The majority of our journey home I walked the streets shoeless because my feet were cramping from wearing heels all night. Hindsight.
Malaika, Liseanne, Erika and I made it back to Erika’s flat at about half past five in the morning. We all had a bit of the munchies, and apparently missed out on a McDonalds run with everyone else, so we made some toast and Gouda sandwiches with Erika’s brand new toaster. It started snowing at about 6, just as we were climbing ‘upstairs’ and into bed.

Love,

Ashley

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London – Day 6 and 7

I love London!  We saw sun for the first time I think today, we also saw the moon for the first time last night.  We took the tube to brick lane and picked an Indian place out of the 8 restaurants on that street.  We didn’t pick very well, the food was a little too sweet and not very spicy (and the guy was a little creepy, I think he watched us eat the whole time).  We stopped at the Spital field market and looked for some masks for Friday night. 

I took off my brown knitted head band that Max gave me for Christmas to try on masks and somewhere between there and the underground I realized Iost it.  I was a little bit upset about it and had a minor breakdown and cried when I wrote her a postcard about it.  I’ve since got over it because this is London and someone is probably wearing my headband somewhere and I am okay with it.  Max will just have to knit me a new one.  (I probably sound really depressed in the postcard I wrote you Maxxie, but really I’m having LOTS of fun, I just had an off minute.)

That night Liseanne and I went picked up last minute tickets to Pricilla Queen of the Desert.  It was fabulous!  It’s about three drag queens riding a pink bus dubbed Pricilla through the Australian outback wearing their sequins and singing well known diva songs.  I absolutely loved it, and would say it was a very successful first live show in London.

The next day we had booked bus tickets to take us out to Stonehenge.  We headed down to the area of town we had to catch our bus, but we made a few big small mistakes.

  1. We did not mark the hotel we had to find on our London map
  2. As we left the tube, a guy with a map kiosk asked us if we needed help finding anything, and because we did not need a map, I said no.

So we came out of the underground and made an educated and correct guess which way the hotel “Victoria Thistle” was.  We walked all the way down Buckingham Palace Street almost to the very end and did not see the hotel anywhere.  The only hotel we did pass by was the Grovesnor.  We headed back down the road and went into a shopping mall/train station because we saw a sign that said ‘Tourist Information” after walking about ten minutes through the mall and down two levels we found the tourist booth, where the lady tried, but pretty much gave us an I don’t know shrug and another map, which we didn’t need.  Initially we had gotten out of the tub with about 40 minutes to spare, but we were just about down to 15 minutes before our bus was going to leave, so we started running.  We asked another lady in a souvenir shop and she pointed us back down the street and said it was a few minutes’ walk.  We ran.  When we reached the Westminster Thistle, we thought we found it and went inside to ask.  The lady at the front informed us that it was not the Victoria, and pointed us the other way down the street, and told us it was right above the tube.

So we asked the map guy, and he was the ONLY person who told us it was not called the Victoria anymore, but the Grovesner.  So we found our bus, which we had run past 4 or 5 times and got on with a couple minutes to spare.  Our tour guide was funny, and kept the two hour ride out there interesting.  Oh yeah, that and I slept (and probably snored).  Stonehenge was very cool, and very worth the two hour bus ride out there.  It would have been nice if it was raining, because apparently some of the inner rocks turn red when they get wet, but we were also thankful for some very nice weather.  It wasn’t too windy or cold, but maybe that was just because we had actually come very prepared and layered.  (I used my long johns from sea kayaking again, awesome, I’ll never not own a pair again).  We stayed there for a little over an hour and listened to some audio about the history of what they think might have happened.  The ride home seemed short as well, and the rolling England country side reminded me of home, but lots more trees and quite a bit greener…I’m not really sure why it reminded me of home.

When we got back to the Victoria station we hopped on the tube and rode down to the Soho area and poked our way around a few shops.  I didn’t end up buying anything, but I found some fabulous boots in three different colours, all just a tiny bit too small.  It was really hard to leave the shoe store without them.

We picked up the flat keys from Erika at Amuse Bouche and went for dinner at the restaurant right below Erika’s place.  It’s called LMNT, it has Egyptian style outside that does not do the inside justice.  When you get inside it is absolutely eccentric.  There are two huge sphinx fire places; the walls are covered with hieroglyphics and Egyptian style carvings.  The booths are stacked on top of each other, and you either walk a few steps down off the main floor to your booth, or climb a ladder up to your booth.  We sat at a table on the main floor because the place was pretty busy.  The food was great but seemed to be more French influenced than Egyptian.  After dinner we grabbed a couple bottles of wine from a nearby convenience store and went walked around the building to Erika’s.

Love,

Ashley

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London – Day 4 and 5

I woke up later than I planned to (again).  I almost can’t use jet lag as an excuse anymore, it’s beginning to look more like lazy.  Or maybe we just need to get to bed earlier.  Liseanne is amazed at my ability to completely ignore my alarm, but I bet it doesn’t surprise most of you.  We hopped on the tube (in the tube?) and met Malaika at Big Ben.  It was beautiful, took some pictures with it and went to hunt up some lunch.  Ate at a cute little pub not too far from Buckingham palace and went there after.  The palace was gated off and wasn’t all that exciting, but the fountain in front was so beautiful!!  We couldn’t get very close to the guard’s, and they were wearing black coats which made them look different than the little nut cracker guards, which bummed us out a little.  We walked to the natural history museum which was very interesting; I took a picture with great Uncle Charlie Darwins Statue.   We got a little bored after awhile. It wasn’t quite as interesting as the British museum, so we went shopping!

After taking the tube to Kensington and we found urban outfitters where I bought a beautiful black and gold dress to wear to the Masquerade renaissance party on Friday (Yay!).  By the way, H&M has exactly the same stuff, we found a 3 story store, but I recognized almost everything!  We went down a side street because we couldn’t find anywhere to eat and ended up at this sketchy little place but the guy made a mean Panini!  I also bought a really cute umbrella that night, its peach with tiny little dots and a black fringe.  Liseanne and I bought a bottle of wine before heading home and drank it with Erika while we relaxed, to ensure a good night sleep. 

The next day after a sound sleep we headed to the London Towers.  The name is deceiving.  When we got there we couldn’t figure out where we were really supposed to be going.  I saw this pretty castle and we took a few pictures outside it and had a coffee and breakfast while we waited to meet up with Malaika.  After we bought our tickets we learned that the pretty castle was London towers, and it does have not just one, but many towers. (I’m not sure why we didn’t clue in earlier)  The tour was really cool, we saw where King Henry the VIII beheaded a couple of his wives, and where they tortured all these different people.  We also got to see the crown jewels and the biggest diamond in the world.  It has increased my expectations any future jewellery.  It was FREEZING out today (But also sunny), so we found refuge in a Starbucks just outside the tower and warmed up.  We decided to head to Malaikas house to watch a movie and make dinner so we headed to the grocery store and picked up stuff we needed.  Couldn’t find our bus stop and we walked around aimlessly for awhile before getting back on track.  We made a delicious tomato and garlic pesto pasta dish with chicken and spring salad and watched Marley and Me.  It made me miss my puppy.

Love,

Ashley

P.S.– There is a street on our bus route to Erikas that has 10 Vietnamese restaurants in a two block span.  It is so crazy/hilarious, and must be so bad for business.  Haven’t tried any of them yet, but we’re going to.  We only have five more days here, and will probably only hit one, any suggestions on how to pick?

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London – Day 2 and 3

On our second day in London we woke up around one in the afternoon.  It became apparent that neither of us had ever lived in an apartment when Liseanne tried to buzz Erika up to her flat by pushing the light switch.  It was quite funny.  We went to the British Museum for the afternoon, it was huge and had lots of amazing things, but we only got through about half of it. 

Btw, I think people here J-Walk more than people in New York.  I’ve been close to walking in front of a double decker more than once because I was looking the wrong way for traffic.  I’ve got the whole driving on the wrong side thing now.

Later we walked around the Soho area shopping, but managed to get ourselves very lost without our London local friends.  We finally pulled out our map, even though we did not want to look like tourists, and found the Champagne bar where Erika works and had a couple yummy Bellinis (Actually made with champagne!).  We went home early to plan out our week, and finally booked our way to Vlissingen.  We’re still hoping the website we booked it off will pull through and actually send us our tickets.  We were obviously still a little jet lagged that night as we found ourselves staring at each other at 4:00 in the morning.  (Actually I think Liseanne woke me up by staring at me.) 

We didn’t get a whole lot of sleep that night, and our plan to get an early start was spoiled when we got going around noon.   We went shopping at the Bricklane markets where there were tons of awesome street vendors and I bought a beautiful necklace medallion that looks like a pocket watch when you open it up.  We also went vintage shopping for a couple hours, which is amazing here, and then we strolled down and peeked in a few street shops.  I bought some beautiful blue gloves and a vintage brown long strapped purse.  So cute.

We ended up at a little coffee shop, it reminded me of Caffe Artigiano, because the coffee was amazing and they made pretty pictures in the late foam.  From there we met Meleika and headed to dinner. 

Biff was nice enough to invite us all over to his and Andy’s flat for a real English Sunday roast.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I certainly didn’t expect to walk into his flat and see him cooking up a storm in his pink and white polka dotted apron.   It was delicious; we had roast, English sausage, crispy potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, Yorkshire pudding and red wine gravy.   It didn’t quite have the family feel of dinner with the Clarks, but it was nice to be surrounded by friends eating Sunday dinner.  It was the first home cooked meal we’ve had since we’ve been here, and will probably be our last for awhile. 

We met a guy named Tom Riddle.  (So cool, right?)

A couple hours and a few bottles of wine later we headed home on London transit and crashed for the night.  I woke up again around two thirty and stared at the ceiling until about 5:30.  Jet lag sucks.

Love,

Ashley

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