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Lazy Saturday – UK Trip Day 6

Saturday was a more relaxed day than the others. Victoria woke up feeling under the weather and I had felt a bit achey from all of the walking we had been doing, so we decided to take it easy.

We left the hotel and went for a short walk to check out the laundry facilities we could find. There are actually quite a few along Shepherds Bush road. We stopped into one to see that it’s actually quite expensive to do your own laundry here.

After that, we dropped by Spice Grill’s Curries & Grill’s (sic).

“Do you want the basic service, or the deluxe service where we spell check it for you?”

A certain joke by David Mitchell about sign painters comes to mind. Anyway…

Having experienced a “medium” piri piri in Britain I asked the owner if he could give me a medium spice according to him, not Britain. He obliged and it was delicious. It matched about what you’d find in Toronto for medium spice level at a good curry restaurant, and was full of flavour.

Delicious! We shared this plate as well.

We nipped into the Costa for a quick coffee and to share a square with each other, and beside it was a Superdrug where we picked up some insoles for me as I had neglected to add them to my Blundstones before leaving Canada.

After that, we headed to the park again. It was such a lovely day, we took a slow walk through the tiny park and then sat at the far end for a while.

We took it all in and watched people pass by. One man’s dog was a big fluffy malamute and seemed especially sad that he was not allowed to play with the other dogs. He circled the area where we were so I saw him twice huff, dejected, that he was not allowed to play. I smiled, and the man taking him for a walk kept his same, unimpressed expression.

One thing London has no shortage of are these bicycle share services. This one appears to be the leave-anywhere kind of service, except that there are actually proper parking zones for them. The bicyles all had red tags hanging fromm them saying you had to park in a proper zone to avoid a fine of 20 pounds!

Having our fill of sun, we headed back to the hotel to rest again. Victoria was a little better but still not feeling 100%. I took our clothes across to one of the laundry facilities—for only a pound or two more we could have them do the laundry for us—and we both relaxed for a bit.

At dinner time we decided to try the nearby Thai food place. We shared a pad-see-ew and spring rolls with a mixed berry cider. The whole meal was a bit pricey, about $36 CAD, but that was only really one meal we payed for.

The ambiance was worth the price of admission at least once. It was a cute restaurant.

In the evening we took a little walk south to the other park, Brook Green.

This park was also quite nice, and the same huge trees we sall all over London were here too. We sat in a fenced large open space where some man was playing kick-ball with presumably his children as well as any of the neighbourhood kids who wanted to join.

We played a little bit of Pokemon Go here as Victoria had dropped a lure and she noticed one of the stops was a composer’s old stomping grounds.

Then we stood outside this pub and beat the Blissey out of a yellow gym. Take that, paste-eaters!

When we finished up with that, we walked the diagonal path through Brook Green home having noticed that our friends in cosplay were sword fighting with light sabers again. Apparently they are a club, whom you can find here!

Satisfied with our sleepy day adventures, we retired to the hotel. Instead of watching something we brought with us, we took in British TV and they were showing the story of Eddie the Eagle, the British ski jumper from the 1988 Olympics. It was a real life wild story shoehorned into a save-the-cat adventure formula, changing bits of history to make it fit. This actually made it… worse than it could have been. The real life story of Eddie the Eagle is worth a read.

Sunday we start our first road adventure ending in a farm-house cabin! See you then!

Climate Protest, Tate Modern, and the Thames – UK Trip Day 5

We started out by heading toward the climate change protest. Since we were headed via the Victoria line, we took a few photos of Victoria in front of her line sign.

On the way to the protest we found Penguin Random House UK, which was a nice surprise for Victoria. She’s trying to get published and she’s always been an avid reader.

One nice thing I noticed is that there are some raised and separated bicycle lanes. That seems much safer than just a line painted on the road, and pylons which drivers seem to enjoy running over.

I didn’t know this but we were headed for the Thames, so I was able to see it too for the first time. It is very brown, with many impressive buildings surrounding it.

We didn’t have to use the map as there were already swarms of people making it toward the protest site. We passed the Tate Britain along the way, but didn’t go inside as we had a mission.

Victoria pointed out more palm trees, which would never work in Toronto, so that was novel. We had finally arrived at the site and this was much bigger than we had anticipated. Protests in Toronto are not typically even close to this scale.

There were a lot of good signs and the protest took over a street and the adjacent park. There was a giant stage where the leaders of the protest said their piece, followed by a live band, which was a bit different from how the protests we had been to happened.

We were standing directly in the sun and after we had enough of that we made our way back, stopping for a walk along the banks of the Thames along the way. Victoria and I found quite a few interesting bits and pieces including a large black molar! Maybe from a cow?

Fully exhausted, we had planned to go back to the hotel for a nap, but London had other plans. A jumper cancelled all of the subway trains between ourselves and our hotel. We didn’t know this at the time, so we spent 10 or 15 minutes waiting on the sweltering tube station platform and took the train 1 stop before exiting onto the street.

We tried to find somewhere to go to the loo, and maybe have lunch, but there was really nowhere good/inexpensive. We found out that the bus on the surface went our way anyway, so we finally had a ride on a double-decker bus!

Lots of traffic and police sirens. We could have walked quicker, but were exhausted and enjoyed the sit. The bus was very slow, so I took some photos of Hyde Park, which we had also not seen yet.

After a brief nap, and Victoria with practically no rest at all, we had to head back out to meet Victoria’s friend Nick!

They had not seen each other in about 20 years, so even when we were standing about 10 feet away from each other it took a few minutes for them to recognize each other.

When we had said our hellos, we made a plan and walked over to the bust of Joseph Bazalgette, an engineer who is notable for finishing probably the first and last London public works project on time. He was responsible for the first major sewer system in London, and it was no small feat. We of course took nerdy appreciation selfies in front of the monument.

Nick’s next suggestion was a cafe in the crypt of St. Martin in the Fields. It was very crisp and clean for a crypt. There were interesting curved ceilings which lead into the columns. The floor had a few plaques which were completely unprotected, worn away under foot from years of foot traffic.

We crossed the foot bridge at Embankment station which was wavy and seemed to sway with the foot traffic. Nick suggested we take some touristy photos in front of the eye of London, which we did, as well as capturing a few photos of Big Ben during its face-lift. We all need a little care sometimes, it’s okay.

We walked along the other side of the Thames, past the National Theatre for a great view of the variety of modern buildings London has to offer. We were set on seeing the Tate Modern, which is free to enter and has some interesting displays.

Once we had our fill of culture, we headed for the Founder’s Arms pub nearby. We each had 1 pint and a very good chat. It was a great spot to take some night shots of the skyline, so Victoria grabbed my camera and took a few.

Nick had to get home to his family, and was taking a train from Paddington station. We were under the misapprehension that we had seen Paddington, but we had not. We had seen a tiny section of the tube station attached to it. Paddington station is huge. Nick insisted we take a photo with the real statue of Paddington if we were to take any at all.

We all wanted chips, but the nearby options were slim, and we headed into the McDonalds for some fries. There was no gravy and cheese curds, however. No poutine for us!

We spoke with Nick awhile until he had to get onto his train, said our goodbyes and headed home. What a nice day. Thank-you Nick for showing us around.

Culture for DAYS! – UK Trip Day 4

We started the day by going out in search of a towel. We had both dyed our hair before leaving and Victoria worried about leaving dye on the Airbnb towels, so we hit up a Primark. Victoria’s friend who works as a flight attendant had said it was a good place to get supplies.

We had a quick coffee at Cafe Nero and headed over to the mall to find the towel. There was a small market outside made of vendors in tents. Inside it was… a typical mall. We found a towel and a few more odd bits and bobs inside.

We picked up some apples from the outdoor market and tried Windsor apples for the first time. They are pretty good! Very juicy.

After a short pause in the hotel to write yesterday’s blog, we headed out toward Leicester Square on the Picadilly line. This train seemed to be one of the trains which exemplify, “Mind the gap.”

Some of the trains are at a different height from the platform, enough to be a significant step down when entering the train.

There was a lot to see at Leicester Square. We hit up Chinatown by accident, with the intent of getting some fried chicken at Good Friend. It turned out to be Taiwanese, and delicious popcorn chicken as well! We drank bubble tea and wandered the street for a short time on a roughly direct path toward the British Museum, stopping only to check out a comic book store (“Forbidden Planet”) on the way.

The buildings all seemed old and full of history. We walked through the theatre district on Shaftesbury Avenue. This was remarkable to us as our friends had once lived on Shaftesbury in Toronto. So we took a selfie under one of the signs to send them.

One of the theatres had a giant display for a Harry Potter show.

Once we arrived at the British Museum we were struck by the sheer scale of it. It is truly massive, and quite a sight to behold inside and out, with it’s stone columns and vast corridors. The organic styling of the skylight around a giant circular center makes for great selfies.

I took too many photos inside and I’ll leave you with a taste of them here.

We stayed until closing time, which is at 5:30PM on a Thursday apparently. So before we were rushed out we tried to find the Royal Game of Ur replicas in the gift shop but were informed they hadn’t made any new ones for a while.

Victoria was a little sad, but we left to head back home. Our legs were aching from all of the walking we had done so far on this trip. Apparently we had surpassed the WHO recommendation for “weekly active minutes” for the week by Tuesday!

On our way back we took a diverging path and happened to find the Phoenix Garden by accident but it appeared to be closed.

Walking further we ended up at Picadilly Circus and I took a panoramic shot.

We decided to take in one more sight before going home, and stopped in at Trafalgar Square. Again there are many photos taken here. There is a lot to take in! Definitely one of the more touristy destinations. We also didn’t realise that Canada House was right beside it.

We had dinner on our way home at Rooster Piri Piri. I didn’t hear an option for spice level so I was given medium, which as it turns out is very mild. Lightly zesty at most. The sauce was delicious though and they made a mistake in our order and we ended up with free yam fries, so that’s a plus!

Wearily we returned to our hotel, grabbing some ice cream bars on the way to cap off an excellent day. I took a muscle relaxant and slept well for the first time in the whole trip!

Day at the Library : UK Trip Day 3

Today we headed out to see the British Library. On the way we stopped by a local market to see what it had to offer.

It reminded us of the market in Japan because both are right beside a transit line and curve along the length of the track, and both have small booth sellers. There really isn’t anything like it in Toronto. It was novel to us.

We had a very good iced coffee at The Italian Coffee Club while we waited for the man at the momos booth to cook some up fresh for us. They were also delicious.

A pleasant lunch in our bellies, we headed for the tube station. There were two police officers and staff at the door today. Strange.

I was a little freaked out, as I always am with police officers around, especially when they usually aren’t there, but I strode by passing my wallet over the gate and it let me in fine.

I continued to walk and turned to see if Toria were behind me. She was having trouble scanning her card momentarily. Then the transit staff lady told her to step back.

“It’s like I’m talking to myself…” she muttered. Is this some kind of British passive aggression? Seemed pretty odd.

The ride itself was uneventful. We rode the circle line around to the north end of it arriving at Euston Square. Here we exited and made a right and walked in a big circle around the next block or so to arrive at Speedy’s Sandwich Bar & Cafe!

Not familiar? I wasn’t either but I had been informed that it was the filming location for the newer Sherlock TV series. We took a series of photos and went inside.

Inside were more photos up on the wall and a drawing in the corner. A small display case was on the left and some very 20th century diner tables.

The food was passable but bland. Something we expected to find in Britain, but this place was particularly inoffensive. It hit the spot though, and that’s all that really mattered. We also had a pretty good ginger beer. Maybe not good to people who like a lot of ginger, but it was one which Victoria would actually drink. It was watered down and sweet.

Then we exited and headed back north and then west toward the library. There was quite a bit to see in here and I think you could spend a lot of time just exploring the library alone.

We happened upon the rare books display, which was kept dim and cool to preserve the aged and delicate tomes. Some were more delicate than others. I saw some people taking photos at some booths surprisingly some with flash as well, despite the message at the front about light damaging the books.

Kids were using phones, but some old guy with a standard point and click camera was using the autofocus complete with a visible light range finder shinning on the book. Oops!

I decided I could get away with at least one shot without any kind of light emitting from my camera, so I took this one to show off the pretty illustrated books seen below.

We took a look in the book store and the gift shop, didn’t find anything of interest and headed outside for a coffee. We were both quite tired at this point. Perhaps jet lag. Perhaps it was the 25000+ steps we took yesterday.

Victoria had asked me on our way over if I wanted to stop at Paddington station since I had made note of it on the way over.

I said that it wasn’t that important to me, because I was pretty tired, but we stopped over anyway to see what was there.

I did end up taking a lot of photos here. It turns out it’s at the eastern part of Little Venice, which we had previously intended to explore!

There was a great little art show here showcasing art that combines electronics and physical media such as metal, resin, plastics, and lights. I took a few neat looking videos of the pieces exploiting the depth of field control of my DSLR.

We did get video of some water fowl for Natalie. There, I hope you like it!

A duck, for Nat. (I think)

I saw this sign both misspelled and silly and decided to pose beside it with the shirt that Victoria had given me. (She decided she does not like graphic Ts anymore, and it was previously hers.)

Then we returned to the tube station and headed back home. We were very tired at this point, so we took in some UK television and headed for bed.


Canal Meanderings – London Trip Day 2

We started the day by going for a little walk. Both Victoria and I had put on black nail polish before we left and it was starting to look a little ragged around the edges. We went back to Hammersmith Station and into the shops there. There was a drug store where we managed to pick up nail polish remover pads which were surprisingly effective, a tiny hair brush, shampoo and conditioner.

The Saba hotel seems to have given us very tiny amounts of hotel shampoo and we needed something better than that, and more of it to last a week. This way we can use the same stuff all throughout our trip. The square was bustling in the middle of the day as you would expect.

The morning was crisp but comfortable enough for me. Victoria was a little cold. We returned to our hotel for a short stay and then headed out, this time with a light sweater for Victoria.

We decided to walk up toward a new park we had not seen yet. Victoria was a bit disappointed as this wasn’t the dense trees and beauty kind of park. More of a large-ish parkette with open grass and walkways to other corners. The whole thing was on a wedge shaped piece of land. In London, none of the streets are in a grid layout.

We made our way to Ladbroke Grove Station and took the train northeast toward the birthplace of Alan Turing! It is a hotel now and they keep a plaque on the wall to commemorate it.

The next stop was little Venice, a canal with long, elaborate house boats. The water was beautiful and so were the buildings surrounding it. We stopped in a house boat cafe and had a tasty soda and some light snacks before heading down the canal.

Some of the houseboats were rickety, and some were well cared for. One had a Pizza John flag hung in the window, to let you know a John Green fan was there.

Renowned author and pizzamas persona

A short while after this a tiny dog shot past us like a rocket. Apparently her owner had continued to walk while she investigated something more interesting, and decided she had to book it to catch up. It was quite surprising and we both laughed.

Not pictured: the dog. She was too fast!

The canal had a very peaceful vibe. So peaceful that Victoria and I didn’t notice that her directions had been faulty. We went the opposite way down the canal to what we had intended.

We stopped into a Pret a Manger, which was my first time and it seemed similar to the kind of market where you select your own food, pay, and then find a place to sit you find in Toronto. The food was good, though. Afterward we stopped at the coffee kiosk at the closest tube station and headed back home.

On the way back, a nice man stopped in the middle of his phone call to warn us against going down a dead end and that seemed quite nice. We saw some fun and quirky things along the way, or maybe it is we who are quirky.

At the hotel we recharged our batteries, both figuratively and literally, then headed out again. This time it was evening and we were going to find dinner.

Victoria thought we should go through a park east of the hotel which turned out to be a very lovely park, but it was quite far away by walking. It was already dinner time, so we looked for restaurants near the park and ended up at a burger place called Byron. The wait staff must have had a change-over because nobody was minding the “please wait to be seated” sign and we waited quite a while before anyone really came to speak with us. (Even after peering into the restaurant to make eye contact with a server.)

It turned out to be a good choice, however. The burgers they had were fantastic. The hot sauce was… not hot. The cider was excellent. We had a Hawkes mixed berry cider and it was very tasty.

Now faced with the task of making our way back to the hotel on weary feet, we headed on a circuitous route west to Brook Green, where we found two people practising light saber skills in the park in the middle.

Come to London. Learn the art of the… LASER SWORD!

What a delightful thing to find on our way home!

Here I sit relaxing and wondering what tomorrow will bring. I think it may be something nerdy.

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