I’m going to give this blogging thing another go as a space for my not-so-normal life to reflect back…
I’m going to give this blogging thing another go as a space for my not-so-normal life to reflect back…
The sun woke me at 6, but I managed to get back to sleep after a while, and finally got up at 10:30. We had a lazy day planned, and I came out to find Kathryn reading the paper in her PJ’s! Perfect.
We did decide to be civilised though, and once showered and dressed, we went for a walk along the river to the suburb of Barnes. Barnes is quite fancy, and is popular for many reasons- not the least of which is its Farmer’s Market. Kathryn raved about it, and I now understand why- cause OMG YUM and WOW
Every food you can think of- fresh veggies, every type of meat, including seafood, breads, cheeses, desserts, prepared foods! Incredible, and everything we sampled was delicious. We did well to resist the divine brownie, but indulged in a few cheeses, and a fresh loaf of grainy sourdough, all for dinner on Sunday night, as well as some olives stuffed with anchovy and a hand made salami/chorizo! Sundays dinner was going to be amazing!
Our stop at the supermarket on the way back to get the dessert ingredients for the recipe found in the paper that morning, meant that it was a speedy walk home before the icecream melted.
The rest of the afternoon was very chilled. After lunch on the picnic blanket in the back yard- just cause we could and should, we did very little. I read and wrote, which I’d was very behind in. Then, given we have to leave at 4, we started getting ready for our night out. It had been a long time since Kathryn and I had got dressed up and gone out, but it felt pretty normal and was just as fun as always. And she had an awesome night out planned.
We were meeting her friend Jen, her friend Phil (who I also knew from Ballarat), and his boyfriend Zehn. We met Phil at the station, and he guided us to the bar where we were going for drinks. I knew it was special, but had no concept of how special- it was on the 40th floor of the building, we had to get permission from the security us to go in (there were people rejected ahead of us for not being well enough dressed)’ and up we went in the glass elevator on the side of the building (so you could see everything as we climbed higher and higher). Then we were in ‘Duck and Waffle’- a very cool, trendy and expensive bar! Luckily the drinks were amazing, and after one cocktail we switched to a bottle of wine to share to make it a bit cheeper. But the views were totally worth it. On one side, where we were, it was great, but on the other, where there was a staircase, was Kathryn’s favourite building, the Gerkin. So after a bit of a photoshoot with the Gerkin in the background, we made our way down and back to ground level.
We only had to go around the corner really to our restaurant for the evening. Kathryn had found an amazing deal online- three courses, plus a free champagne cocktail on arrival, all for £25- and this wasn’t just anywhere- it was at Marco Pierre White’s Steak and Ale House. Now even I know he’s a famous chef, and it was clear we were getting a bargain, when we saw just our free drink was worth £10.50. And then there was the food! So amazingly yummy! Dessert was a bit disappointing, but who really cares after an amazing page and bread entree, and the best steak I’ve ever had! And with two bottles of wine between us as well, we had a fantastic night!
There was consideration of going out on the town with the boys, but once we walked to the door to discover it was pissing down with rain, we concluded that anything else would ruin a perfect evening, so we all headed home. And we were there by 11pm- one suspects we might be getting older, but the home time was the only thing that has changed for a night out on the town with Kathryn 🙂
Friday turned out NOTHING like I expected, but in a really good way.
Up early again and this time into Paddington Station, where, of course, there is a statue of the famous bear! After a photo with Paddington Bear, and a quick lap of the station, it was time to get on our train to BATH.
One of the things I’d wanted to do early in my planning was visit the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, so a day trip was organised. It was about an hour and a half on the train, and I enjoyed looking at the typically English countryside and getting little stories from Kathryn about various places. And finally we reached our destination!
Someone needed sustenance to keep her going (not me) so as we wandered we found a gorgeous little cake shop, where Kathryn got Scones, Jam and Cream, and some Tea, and I had a mineral water and used the loo! I did help by eating one half of a scone, and I must say, as someone who doesn’t really like scones, that it was delicious.
After our very English morning tea, we finished our walk up to the Centre. We went in, got our tix, and went to wait for the next talk and tour. While I learned a few things, our speaker wasn’t very engaging, and then when we got to the exhibition, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. There wasn’t much the that I couldn’t get off Wikipedia and YouTube. The most engaging thing was being able to put in a bonnet- that was fun! But otherwise it was a bit blah. I was relieved later in the day hear Kathryn tell her hubby she’d enjoyed it, cause I felt bad having dragged her all that way for something so crap.
After we left we walked up to the circle to see all the houses that look the same and form a circle- pretty cool, and I’m told by my guide that Nicholas Cage used to own one. Then we wandered back down into town, contemplating our options. We had talked about my going to see the ancient baths, and we vaguely talked about visiting a modern bath. In the end I think it came down to fate- we pretty much walked straight into the Thermal Spa that uses the hot water from the Springs in a modern way, and it just seemed the right thing to do in Bath. With bathers on we spent time in the indoor “bath” (pool), in the steam rooms (not a huge fan of that kind of heat), but mostly we hung out and loved the rooftop pool!! Looking out over the city (no photos unfortunately) in warm water and gorgeous sun! It was incredibly indulgent and relaxing, and there really should be more of it!! I finally got a true sense of the “day spa” concept, and I’m in love with it! My expert your guide even knew the tricks, and with our train tickets we got four hours for the price of two! With so long there, we needed a light lunch, so visited the cafe on the second floor and both had lobster sandwiches- what more could we ask for.
Turned out we could ask for one last treat, so after we finally left the spa, had a drink at the pub, got lost and walked a long way in the wrong direction, we had dinner at Giraffe- a chain that reminded me of TGI’s in many ways, but I had a yummy steak, and super yummy Mojito’s! After that the various train rides home were a breeze- we were two super relaxed girls, who got home and went straight to bed, ready for as much of a sleep in on Saturday that the sun would allow!
The amazing week was to continue on Thursday, with another pre-booked wonder!
We had a slightly later start, but still had to leave by 9:30, so we got into Blackfriars, bought some batteries and crossed the bridge over to the other side of the river. We took a quick diversion into the Tate Modern for Kathryn to use the loo’s.At least I could say I’ve been there. I’d read somewhere that they had an exhibition of Chagall on at the moment- turned out to be happening at their gallery in Liverpool. Bum!
But our focus for today was not modern, but rather Elizabethan! As we collected our tickets for our show and tour at Shakespeare’s Globe. We still had to stand in line for a bit, but got on a tour at 11:30, which is what we’d planned for anyway. I loved exploring the exhibit, but it was nothing to the anticipation I had to go into the theatre. I was a bit annoyed at how many other groups were in there all at once, making hearing quite a challenge, and the actors for the afternoon were amusing in their techniques too- entertaining in a totally different (and slightly wrong) way. Once the tours was done, we went and sat outside to eat our lunch (Yay Tesco deal!). After a visit to the shop it was finally time for the show! I’m so glad I had purchased tickets months ago, as we had great seats, and the line of people waiting for returns was ridiculous.
I’ve seen many productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” over the years, and its one of my favourites, but this version was beyond amazing! Yes, it was in the Globe, which is incredible in itself, but the direction and acting bought out elements (and naughtiness) that made it very modern and funny. And happy to confess the perve factor was pretty high too!! It’s was great cast, and even the people I planned to dislike based upon their warm up techniques were wonderful! I loved every moment, and it is now a must on every future trip I make to London to see a show at the Globe!!
But after the show we didn’t have a lot of time to mess around, cause we had the second big part of our day to get too. Kathryn had got a text message on Tuesday evening from a friend to see if she was interested, and we gave a resounding YES in response. We though we might be a it late but got there in plenty of time, met her friend, and found ourselves with tickets heading into LORD’S for the T20 match between Surrey and Middlesex! WOW! It was billed as Ricky Ponting’s last game, but he didn’t end up playing. Nonetheless, I was at Lord! It’s not a huge ground at all, so its no wonder tickets there are like hens teeth, especially for the Ashes. We cheered on Surrey, who batted well for their 177 and then watched then bowl out Middlesex for about 86. Glad we batted first for sure, otherwise it would have been a very boring quick game. But it was so great to just be at Lords, I didn’t really mind anyway. It has a great atmosphere, and passionate cricket lovers!
While Shakespeare and Cricket at Lords are quite a contrast in many ways, it was a pretty great day!
One of the things we researched on our Tuesday lunch break was tickets for Harry Potter. Turned out the only ones available were at 6:30 in the evening or on days we had other plans. The only available time that suited was the Wednesday at 9:00am. So even though Kathryn couldn’t come, there was no choice but for me to get the ticket and get ready for a very early morning. So I was up early Wednesday morning and at the train station before 7am. Did my swap over easily and got to Watford Junction and onto the Decorated Harry Potter Bus, and I was out there by 8:30 and in line ready for it to open. I was in the first group! Yay me.
They let people enter in waves, so being in the first group was initially helpful. I won’t give a blow by blow explanation of the whole place, but I’ll do it in person for anyone who is interested. I took a ridiculous number of photos, listened to every second on the audio guide, plus I watched all the extra little featurettes on the guide too (so cool to use iPod touch’s so its audio and visual). At the welcome they suggested that each section takes about an hour, so three hours for the whole visit! I spent three hours just in the first section! I loved it so much and was looking at ridiculous details on some of the props and sets. Plus I even lined up to have my photo taken on a broom, so don’t forget to ask for a look!
The second section is the courtyard, where you can have some lunch and try the butterbeer. It’s delicious, and should be available in pubs!! Mind you, it’s affect on my BSL’s is probably not great. But as you eat and drink you can check out some of the larger set pieces and props, including Privet Drive, the Knight Bus, Potter Cottage, Chess Pieces and the Hogwarts Bridge. Very Cool!!
The third and final section is the technical stuff- masks, creatures, concept design and more. Pretty interesting how they pull of some things. And then some of the larger indoor sets- the highlight of which is Diagonal Alley!! How cool to just wander up it, looking in all the shop windows. Just wish I could have gone in them all!! The tour and display finishes with the most spectacular thing ever- the giant scale model of Hogwarts that they used for all the exterior shots of the Castle. It’s about 25 square meters, and so amazingly detailed. It was about halfway around the castle that my camera ran out of battery, so a got the last ones on my phone thankfully, but I could have taken lots more I’m sure.
No surprise that the tour actually ends in the shop though!! And I hit it hard, getting things for everyone I had promised something too, although not wands for everyone, as they were just too expensive (as the whole store was really, but what a treat). So it was about 2pm as I left, and I’d had a fabulous time!
I got myself back to Kathryn’s eventually, and because she was going out, I had a relaxing evening at home on my own, which was probably what I needed, as I’d started getting tired and grumpy. I was naughty and ordered some food online and had it delivered- almost too easy to do really! So I had a rather disappointing pizza- proof I should have got off my bum, but I needed the down time. Nothing could spoil my Harry buzz though, so I had a lovely rest and an early night.
Up very early (bloody sun) and we were off on another day of adventure. Apparently I HAD to go to Camben, and when we got there I soon found myself exploring the Camden Lock Market. What a treasure trove of things you can find there. I was on the lookout for the one shop Kathryn was waiting for me to find. When we did finally get to it, she gave a huge sigh of disappointment as it was closed. The doorway has two giant statues, but I’m told that its quite amazing inside, with dancers (of a particular kind) and a huge section that FLO would love! (If you don’t understand that reference, its probably best anyway)!
So with Camden Market done, it was time for a wander along the canal, discussing the wonders of the lock system, and how one would cope living on the canal in one of the many boats that does (how does the toilet system work?). After a distance we diverted into the Primrose area to the Primrose Bakery, where they have amazing cupcakes, and its also where Kathryn saw Chris Martin (from Coldplay). Again. Not such luck with the celebrity spotting, but we took our cupcakes down the street to the almost open pub and enjoyed them with a cold drink.
After a relax, and a wander through some shops on the way, I was again ordered up a tall hill for an amazing view. So I climbed up Primrose Hill, and again was amazed at the view. On the other bunch a group of older ladies were clearly on a tour, and we had no choice but to listen to the history of this hill. It was quite amusing really. The clouds were looking a bit ominous, and by the time we trundled down the hill to the loo’s it was raining heavily. At what we thought was the end, but was just a lull in the weather, we made our move, but got caught, so dashed to the nearest bus stop and onto a bus. Back to Camden and then on another on to Leister Square. On the bus we developed a new plan. Now, I swear that Kathryn suggested it, but we decided to, wander down through St James Park, and check out the craziness happening at Buckingham Palace. We didn’t attempt to get close to the fence or anything, but would have had no chance anyway. With the bookies signs taking bets on the babies name, and the media contingency, there was no way we were getting closer. So we wandered up the Mall, and about three quarters up, near where the horse place and Downing Street are, we were stopped to watch a huge stream of horses and riders, and large guns(!) being processed somewhere. I later discovered in the paper that they were on their way to perform a 41 gun salute to the birth of a future King.
We walked up to the Cambridge Theatre to collect our tickets for the show that night and then found a quiet (Canadian) pub for a rest. It was just down from where we were having dinner,so after a few drinks and some research for the following day, we went to dinner at Fire and Stone. It was delish, with all the pizza’s named after cities or countries. As nice as the Queensland and the Melbourne sounded, I had the New York one.
Then it was up to the Theatre again, where we were thankfully able to sell on the spare tix I had. I’d heard about all the great reviews of Matilda, but it was still beyond all my expectations and dreams!! I’m not going to spoil if for anyone, but I ORDER everyone to see it when they get the chance. It’s unbelievably clever, funny, poignant and WOW!!!!! Up there on my best shows ever list (and I’m listening to the soundtrack as I write this too) and if it hasn’t been said before, Tim Minchin is ridiculously talented, and his music is incredibly quirky and smart! Another practically perfect day!!
Kathryn let me have a tiny sleep in, but in order to fit everything in she had me up and on the move pretty early. She had the whole day (week) planned, and she had a lot that she thought I should see, plus all the things I had on my own list!
We caught the tube, and then changed to a bus, so I got to see more of the streetscape. Before I knew where we were, I found myself at Hyde Park, looking in one direction at the huge Albert Memorial, and on the other side the Royal Albert Hall! Both on my list and both impressive testaments of love. Took lots of photos, and we wandered our way into Hyde Park. It’s Huge!! And you can still see how it would have been a great hunting ground for Henry XIII, even with all the larger wildlife long gone. We headed to the Serpentine (the big lake) in search of Colin (the big Pride and Prejudice statue). It turned out, after asking a friendly gardener where it was, that it had only been there for a few hours when they put it up 😦 I thought it’d be there’re at least a few weeks, but apparently not. If I realised that two weeks ago, I would have rushed straight in to see it. turned out we were in the exact right place, just too late. I was bummed, but we were also at the second reason for visiting Hyde Park, so I had to get over it pretty quick.
Even though I’d seen photos and footage, the Diana Memorial Fountain/Water feature was still surprising and unexpected in reality. It was a wonderfully summery day, and there were children everywhere playing in the water. It really was like a water park with really shallow water, and it was a place full of laughter and life. Exactly what it was intended for, but still quite profound to experience and see for myself. After we did a lap of the fountain, we continued our walking through the park, towards the Kensington end. As soon as we noticed and thought about it, I twigged other events had begun in the world. We were near Kensington Palace, and not far from the hospital, and my suspicion was confirmed when I checked twitter to see Kate had gone into labour. It was funny to realise we were witnessing and hearing a rather bizarre aspect of the media craze.
Kathryn put us on another bus for a few stops, and we hopped off in Notting Hill, and walked our way through to walk the length of Portobello Road and its kooky market. We took a slight detour to one of Kathryn’s favourite brunch places for some delicious lunch at Tim’s (which is where she once ran into Jason Donovan- no such lunch this time). After we filled our bellies, we finished Portobello Road and walk to the nearest Tube station. We heading into the city and then south on the DLR through Canary Wharf, and to Greenwich. There was a slight pause for some delicious gelati, and then we walked up to the Maritime Museum. Not that we went in properly- but the hard bit is climbing the hill, and I managed that! Through the fence I saw where the line between East and West Hemisphere’s is marked with a big line and a laser too. The point of Greenwich Mean Time- a pretty cool sight that I’m glad Kathryn made me see. And the view of London from the top of the hill is pretty spectacular, so it was definitely worth the trek.
Coming down the hill was comparatively easy, and we walked down to the river. The best way to see bridges and the river is to float down it, so we caught the Thames Clipper along the River for about half an hour all up, and got a great view of everything. We found ourselves on dry land again at Embankment, and walked our way up to Covent Garden. The market and shops are amazing, and you could spend a fortune pretty easily for sure! But we weren’t there for shopping, we were there for Happy Hour at one of Kathryn’s favourite bars! And half price cocktails always taste better!
After two each, and after a very long wonderful, but exhausting day, it was time to head home. PJ’s on straight away, and Kathryn whipped up a delicious warm salad for dinner! Was a pretty wonderful day, and I went to bed very early!!