The Changing Seasons: From Summer to Autumn

Yesterday was a crisp Autumn day in London. There was not a cloud to be seen and, despite being freezing, the day was beautiful.

Adrian, Cynthia and I set off early for Oxford for a relaxing Sunday out of London. Sipping my coffee (I’ve discovered decaf), I began to feel very relaxed as the train departed Paddington and sped through the city into the countryside, past rolling meadows and picturesque hay bales. I realised, as I sometimes do, that I haven’t updated this journal for too long.

We arrived in Oxford a little over an hour later and wandered into the city centre to book a walking tour for the afternoon. We then bought ourselves a cheap (comparative to London) lunch and headed for the botanical gardens. I really enjoyed sitting under the yellowing Autumn leaves, nibbling a baguette and watching the passers by. It was the first time, in a while, that I’ve felt truly relaxed.

From here we had a look at a climate change centric photography exhibition before thoring ourselves in the greenhouse while being wowed by some incredible tropical plants. As it approached 2:00 we strolled back to the centre of town to commence our walking tour.

This took us through various parts of the town with our guide commenting on the history of the city, its buildings and its various colleges. Luckily we were able to enter several colleges, as part of the tour, for an interesting inside look into their beauty and grandeur.

Possibly the most enjoyable part of the day, for me, was spending the remainder of the afternoon in a restuarant / bar on the main street listening to live jazz while we had Devonshire Tea and read the Sunday papers. It’s something I often intend to do, and never do it, and sitting there relaxing with friends really made my weekend!

In other news work is going well, having had my St George’s contract extended until the end of November. I have booked my ticket home for early December. I will arrive in the midst of several major birthdays and Christmas before madly job hunting to start work next year.

Since my last entry I popped over to Paris, needing some time out of London, and had an amazing Autumn weekend with beautiful weather and great culture (thank you Gilles). I wandered the streets, visited Le Père Lachaise (home to the tombs of Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison) and spent Sunday night in a funky underground jazz club.

I’ve also been spending many days in London trying to fit in as much as I can before I head home. From a trip with Yumi (one of Adrian’s house mates) to the Tower of London, to a morning service at the beautiful St Paul’s, to free outdoor cinema at Trafalgar Square, to days in the Tate Modern, I’m trying to make the most of this city.

I will be home in a few weeks but, until then, stay well and I look forward to catching up soon!

j j j

The Last Two Months

I thought I’d update you on the last two months in London.

On the Friday after the snow, despite being a bit sick, Clare and I went into London to catch up with a friend, Nicola, who I’d originally met in New Zealand and who was doing a bit of travel in England. It was great to see her, even though it was a pretty short meeting. It’s nice to be able to catch up with people, who you don’t see often, over the other side of the world and get on so well. Nicola and I have agreed never to meet up in our home country, it’s overseas from now on!

Later (much later) that night we had to pick up Clare’s German friend, Anja, who had done exchange at Clare’s school 5 years earlier and who she hadn’t seen since. She arrived at the bus station at around 2:00 Saturday morning and we headed home to bed.

During her 10 days in London, and between me looking for work and working on my content management system, Simple Site, we did some sightseeing and headed to Oxford on a day trip. Oxford was really nice, although pretty cold. It was a real university town, like I’d never experienced before. Very Harry Potter; with academics everywhere and 19 year-olds sitting around solving the world’s problems over a coffee with their bikes parked close by!

Clare and I are going to head back in the summer to experience it in the warm with long days. They also have boat rides in the warmer months which could be good fun.

Clare took me out on Valentines Day for breakfast, which was nice to get some time just to ourselves. That night Adrian joined Anja, Clare and I for dinner and a few wines.

The weekend before Anja left we went into the city to explore. We climbed up the pedestrian overpass of Tower Bridge, and had a tour of the old engine rooms which were used to lift the bridge for ships to pass. We then wandered along the Thames before climbing the Monument (a memorial to the Great London Fire) which afforded us a pretty good view across the city. From there we went to the Tate for a quick look at some modern art and across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s. Anja then headed home on the Monday morning.

On the Tuesday night we met up with Cynthia, a friend of Izmir and Rik’s, who we’d met when we all went out for dinner and who is living in London at the moment. We went for dinner at a nice vegetarian restaurant near Baker Street called Eat and Two Veg. She’s also from Melbourne and good fun to hang out with. She’s living in Little Venice and a few stories of the area inspired us to head there to check it out.

That was our Wednesday adventure. That afternoon Clare and I headed to Little Venice to check out the canals and see about doing a boat ride. It’s a really pretty area but, once again, boat rides were not operating until summer so we’ll have to head back. We grabbed a coffee then went to see The Bridge, a docufilm about the Golden Gate Bridge and its notoriety for suicide. Not happy, but an informative film.

On Saturday night we headed to Sally’s, a friend from my American tour, for dinner. It was a really nice night, just chatting and watching some DVDs over a nice dinner and wine!

We decided to get into the tourist thing on Sunday and headed into the city to visit Buckingham Palace, the streets of Belgravia and Harrods. Harrods was pretty incredible, but we’re hoping to see more of Buckingham Palace when they open the gardens in summer.

A couple of weeks later Janina and Andreas came to visit for the weekend. We caught up with them on the very rainy Friday night where we discovered a good cheap (£8.00 all you can eat) Chinese buffet before heading to the nearest pub to get warm, dry and tipsy! It was great to catch up with them but not so good for the head. The next day we were up fairly late.

That night we had them over for dinner and some more beers and Alex, another guy from our New Zealand tour [who, it turns out, lives just down the road], dropped by afterwards to catch up. We had a pretty quiet day on Sunday, then went out for pizza with Janina and Andreas before heading to the pub. It was a pretty fun weekend and really good to see them again!

The Friday night before St Patrick’s Day we went to Adrian’s for dinner, and to watch some Skins. He cooked us a delicious pasta and dessert (chocolate mousse). That, added to a bit of red wine, was incredible!

A side note on Skins. Many people don’t like it, but Clare, Adrian and I have fallen for it. It’s a pretty mindless TV soap / drama about some British teenagers. Sex, drugs and the like. But the stories are pretty crazy and the cinematography is incredible. You could watch it for the art alone! So yeah, if you get a chance, check it out.

For St Patrick’s Day we met up with Cynthia and Adrian at The Green (our local) for some Guinness and to watch the Willesden Green St Patrick’s Day Street Parade. And, you can guess, it was every bit as amazing as I had expected! Sarcasm aside, for a local parade it was actually pretty good. The better part of the afternoon, however, was discovering that Adrian had a patio which we could sit out on in the sun and have chips and drinks. That is going to come in very handy in the summer, although you have to climb through a kitchen window to get in or out so it could be interesting after a few drinks. We cooked burgers for dinner, after a pizza for “second afternoon tea”, then headed home fairly late that night.

I’ve mentioned the word drinks several times. Don’t worry, Clare and I have discussed the issue and are having several alcohol free nights per week!

I got a job the following Friday and we started our insanely busy weekend. We had Sally over on the Friday night for dinner. That was good fun and she, amazingly kindly, brought a celebratory champagne, cake and strawberries, as well as wine to congratulate me on finally getting a job! Clare and I were also excited to borrow Sex and the City so we can finish the series!

We woke late on Saturday and decided, rather than meeting Andrew and Bri in the city, to have them over for dinner instead. That was another fun night, although we’ve decided not to do two dinners in a row again. It’s a tad exhausting in our minuscule kitchen!

On Sunday Clare and I headed into Oxford Street before going to meet Cynthia at her local for… you guessed it – drinks! She lives just on Little Venice and her local was very cool – nice and cozy and a good atmosphere. We spent most of the afternoon there playing board games before heading to Baker Street to meet Adrian for dinner. Daylight Savings had also started, making the day last longer! I’m happy.

j j j