More Than You Expect

The Easter weekend was good fun for Clare and I. We had a day at home on Good Friday doing the washing etc and getting ready for Easter Sunday.

On Saturday we got up nice and early to head into Victoria Station for a day trip of Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath. Despite the obnoxious American tourists (socks and sandals, Denise), who give the rest of their excellent country and fellow countrymen a bad name, it was a really good day.

We first headed off to Windsor Castle with a commentary about London the whole way there. We had a couple of hours to explore the castle seeing the grounds and then commencing the tour of the inside of the castle. Unfortunately cameras are banned, so there are no photos, but have no doubt; this place is grand. Everywhere you look there’s some gold plated ornament or gift from foreign lands. It could almost be classified as a museum.

After we finished the inside we had a wander around the grounds, saw a few marching guards on ceremonial duties, then watched the marching band play for the changing of the guard.

From Windsor Castle we headed for Stonehenge, arriving around an hour later. It’s a pretty spectacular sight, for its history as much as what physically stands today. We were given an hour to wander around the site and take in the information on the audio guides, which was full of speculation about the site’s history.

Following Stonehenge we went to lunch. Lunch was nice, albeit small, but we had to laugh, having paid £34 ($85), when the restaurant slogan was “More than you expect.” It certainly was!!!

As the day went on the weather improved even more, ending in a really nice afternoon in Bath. We were given an hour to explore the city. As I’d been with Bianca last year I knew a couple of places that I wanted to take Clare. We looked at the Royal Crescent and The Circle again, and had a look at the gardens by the river which had been planted up and opened for the Spring. It was really pretty.

From there we went to the Roman Baths where we were supposedly undertaking a torchlit tour and champagne reception. Neither of these happened, which was slightly disappointing, but it was still interesting to see the Baths in the nice weather.

Following Bath we had a really nice drive back to London through the countryside with the sun setting. I finally got to see that true English countryside!

On Sunday morning Clare and I got up and got ready for Easter brunch with Cynthia. Clare gave me chocolate eggs, plus a really bottle of really nice chocolate liquor in the shape of an Easter Bunny. She made me promise to get it refilled at Christmas, as a laugh.

We had Clare’s special Easter pancakes (impregnated with chocolate eggs) with champagne, dips, fruit etc. It was nice, and by early afternoon we were feeling nice and relaxed. We then took some beers to our park and had a drink in the gardens in the first really nice sun we’ve got! It was lovely!

Later that day we headed to Cynthia’s for dinner. Her place, in Little Venice, is really nice. She made us bruschetta and a delicious mushroom pasta with hot cross buns for dessert! We watched some Kath and Kim and Zoolander, then chatted to her flatmate for the night.

Monday was a relaxed day, we didn’t get up to too much. That night, however, I took Clare out for her Easter present – We Will Rock You. Though I’d seen it in Melbourne several years ago Clare really wanted to see it, and it was really good and a nice way to end a great Easter weekend!

The weather is definitely on the improve, t-shirts (and very pale skin) have been witnessed on me a couple of times now!

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The Imperial War Museum

Throughout the week Adrian brought his laptop over and we finished Skins season 1 🙁 . We’re now going to have to find another series to keep us entertained for a while!

On Saturday we had a lazy morning, watching The Holiday in bed, then we headed out to the Portobello Road markets for the afternoon. The weather was great and we had fun exploring the very extensive markets. Later that afternoon we went shopping for some work clothes etc before meeting Sally in Fulham for dinner. After dinner we headed over to Andrew’s pub to have a few drinks and he joined us for his dinner break which was cool.

Yesterday we visited the Imperial War Museum’s Holocaust Exhibit. It was well done, but again very shocking and moving. It’s interesting to see the different accounts given by the different museums across the world. Though all tell similar stories, the exact personal accounts tell a variety of tragic stories and each museum has been a whole new experience. I find it interesting that I’m learning far more about world history on my weekends and in my last 6 months of travel than I ever did in school.

After a couple of loads of washing and dinner we watch the Da Vinci Code and headed to bed.

By the way Beth, if you’re reading, I bought another lilac shirt, haha! How metro! And yes, it was almost as ‘affordable’ as the last one!

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Avenue Q

On Monday (26th), after our flat out weekend and my second day at work, I met Clare at home where she was picking me up for an 18-month surprise!

We headed for the tube, changed at Green Park and jumped off at Leicester Square.  At this point I was getting a little suspicious.  When Clare said we had to find St Martin’s Lane, I was pretty sure where we were headed, and was getting pretty excited.  Some background: I had wanted to see Avenue Q in New York, having heard all about it from Chris while we were in the Cinque Terre.  It didn’t eventuate in New York and I noticed that it was showing here and had decided it would be something I’d do as soon as I got a job.  As it turned out, Clare surprised me with tickets for our 18 month, which also tied in nicely with my getting a job.

First we went to a local Chinese restaurant for a very nice dinner, then we literally ran to the theatre taking our seats just as the lights were dimming.  Good timing I say!  The show was very funny, I’d highly recommend it!  It was a fantastic surprise!  We went out for coffee afterwards then headed home to bed.  Thanks Clare!!!

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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.

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I Have a Job

Well, I’ve finally got a job, albeit a short one!  Thanks to an awesome recruiter I’ve got four weeks work at the Health Protection Agency which will take me up until Clare and I go to Turkey for Anzac Day.

Hopefully now, with a foot in the door, I will find it a little easier to find work in the future.  So yes, that is pretty exciting!  I’ll be in touch with other news shortly.

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