From High Street to the Country

Impossible to believe but I have hit my final week in London! Since my last post I have seen multiple exhibits, finished work and enjoyed a wonderful weekend in the country. It is also for this reason that I haven’t made many posts. Too busy seeing as much as I can before my departure.

As was mandatory I did one last visit to one of my favourite spots in London, Somerset House. Just down the street from where I work, it is a beautiful building full of a wide variety of galleries. This trip I went to see the Guy Bourdin exhibit. Guy Bourdin was a well known, and slightly controversial fashion photographer due to the fact that the women he photographed were often shot with fragments of their body showing and without their faces.

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On a more optimistic note Somerset House has also got itself ready for the holidays with a Fortnum and Mason Christmas market and skating rink. It definitely got me into the holiday spirit!

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To keep the festivities going that weekend Addi and I did some wandering and checked out the Christmas markets and activities set up along the Southbank of the Thames, including a German themed one we quite liked. We also got to enjoy a nice cozy evening at Shoreditch House thanks to Addi’s friend Cassie who is a member there.

Getting cozy at Shoreditch House

Despite a late night we  took advantage of the good weather and set off to check out the University of Oxford. It was like going back in time especially at Merton College which was built in 1200. Once done with our tour we popped into a cute little pub for some mulled wine and traditional British roast.

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With the weekend over it was back to work… for my last week at Topshop! While I am glad to be done I will definitely miss my coworkers and all the friends I made working there.

With so much hustle and bustle in the city Addi, Jamie and I decided to spend last weekend with a trip to the countryside at Jamie’s mum’s in Forest Row. Jamie’s mum Annie picked us up from the train and we drove out to Beachy Head to look at the beautiful chalk cliffs overlooking the coast. After a quick bite to eat we got to the top of the cliffs just in time to see the sunset. As you can see from the pictures the colours were beautiful.

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One nice thing about Annie’s place is that she lives within a very short walk of the same forest the Winnie the Pooh books were written! So after a traditional Canadian pancake breakfast we set off through the same trails the beloved characters were imagined to live.

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Well just one week left. Lots to do and see before I go so I will make sure to have one final post.

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Winter is coming

Well winter is certainly coming closer. The past couple of weeks can be described as none other than cold and wet. Although unlike back home the rain comes and goes fairly quickly so we have still managed to find outdoor activities to fill up our free time.

That is something I found very surprising, that despite the rain and wind people still head to the parks, stand outside to watch parades and hangout outside the pub, taking it all in.

We have definitely done the same! After a very wonderful Halloween spent watching one of Jamie’s friends dj we kicked off November with a lot of festivities.

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First up was something that was high on my list of things to do in London and that was to see a football game. Not only did I get to go but a friend of Jamie’s had tickets to see Arsenal. We definitely had a fantastic time and got to hear all of the chants, although we knew none of the words.

Just some Saturday afternoon Footy

Next was the Bonfire/Guy Fawkes Night on the 5th of November. Essentially once upon a time a man named Guy Fawkes decided he wanted to blow up parliament. His efforts were thankfully thwarted and the British now celebrate this victory of not having their parliament blown up by blowing up some fireworks and setting bonfires all around the country. We went all out and headed to Lewes for the biggest bonfire celebration in the country and saw the parade and fireworks that came with it. They even had crackers, literally ropes filled with them and would set them off right in front of the crowd. My ears were ringing for quite sometime afterwards.

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That next weekend we enjoyed some shopping in the Oxford Circus area followed by  Jake Gyllenhaal’s new movie Nightcrawler. It was an amazing film although very disturbing. Jake’s performance was fantastic but left us all feeling a bit unsettled afterwards. We walked it off with a nice stroll around Tower Hill on the way home where we got some night time shots of the poppies. It was nice to see it at night as the area has been incredibly busy during the day with people from all over coming to see the beautiful display.

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After a busy week we had a low key weekend with a trip to Hamstead Heath. Definitely one of the finer areas of London we went into the park, that is more like a forest. It is incredible that such a busy hectic city can still have such massive natural forested areas, barely 30 minutes from where we are.

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One thing that has changed along with the cold is that Christmas is fast approaching which means my trip will soon be over. Just a month to go! There is lots to pack in so expect a few more posts before I leave.

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Well over half way

What an incredible month! Just a couple of days after spending a week in Venice Addi and I were greeted by the arrival of my parents who were visiting for another week. This has definitely been my longest stretch away from home and seeing my family, so it was great to see the rents.

View of Canary Wharf from my parents condo

View of Canary Wharf from my parents condo

With their first day here being so beautiful we decided to take them to Stratford and see the Olympic Park. The park is actually open to the public and you can sign up to participate in all kinds of activities. We chose mountain biking. Despite being completely flat the park has numerous little routes to help you practice your mountain biking skills. Sharp inclines, rough rocky terrain, big drops and mud puddles. It was so much fun but a definite workout. It is also a fairly cheap activity to partake in for anyone coming to London on a budget, or not!

Olympic Park rock climbing wall

Olympic Park rock climbing wall

After the park we went to a nearby cafe along the canal and got to watch the houseboats and kayaks go by. The amount of water activities in London is endless!

The next day was a main highlight of the trip that involved my parents being introduced to Jamie’s mom and sisters! Although some people were a bit nervous we had a wonderful time at one of our favourite Italian places right along the Thames.1488785_10205014321778272_5427601093360648762_n    10704078_10204935149639018_1982413937171824352_n

Unfortunately I did have to work that week but I was able to make time to go see the wedding dress exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibit had dresses from the late 1800’s all the way up to some current celebrities such at Kate Moss and Gwen Stefani’s wedding gowns. Even my dad enjoyed it!

We then followed up the exhibit with some lovely “shopping” at Harrods.

Kids area at Harrods

Kids area at Harrods

I know what iPhone I want next, good old Harrods

I know what iPhone I want next, and yes that says 68,000.00

That night we also went to see Wicked at the theater. Despite being theater fans my family had never actually seen it before, it was amazing! Such a good plot and the singing and acting was some of the best we’ve ever seen.

set at Wicked

set at Wicked

Unfortunately my parents trip was over too soon but I will be seeing them in less than two months now.

Can’t believe I only have a month and a half left before I am home. I am certainly excited to come back to Canada but I will certainly miss London!

Until next time… it’s Halloween tonight, who knows what we could get up to.

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A wonderful place to visit

Most of the time I go somewhere on vacation I leave in awe, but feeling as though I’ve checked another place off my list and a desire to see new ones. Not with Venice, with Venice I felt a desire to come back, to walk the streets again with the sensation of having at long last conquered a city.

Not only was Venice beautiful but it really is a lovely, unique and quiet place to go, if you know where to go. We found this difficult the first day having arrived late at night. After dismounting our bus boat from the airport (only way to get to the island from the airport) we waited for the lady from Airbnb to show us to the apartment we would call home for the next 5 days. When she arrived she took us down a route I knew I would never be able to repeat on my own and down alleyways so small I was worried our luggage would not fit. Tired and disoriented we went to sleep knowing we would have to figure it all out in the morning.

I woke up that first morning to the sound of my neighbour and his weed wacker. Turns out the area we were staying in was inhabited by an older generation which made it quieter most of the time, other than when they woke up early to garden. Aside from that it really made it a nice place to come home to at the end of the day.

View from the window

We spent that first day getting to know the main tourist area by our place, the Strada Nova and had lunch which entitled some very expensive but tasty seafood risotto. It would take us a couple days to learn the tricks to a cheap meal. But I’ll get there.

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We spent the rest of the day seeing some wonderful sights Jamie knew about from his last trip and enjoyed drinks at a local Jazz bar we would revisit a couple of times over the week.

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Day 2 we went to the south side of the island to Dorsoduro and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. It was incredible to see the works of art she had collected over the years. She literally had at least one piece from every major artist between 1920-60.

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After the Guggenheim we had a lovely snack of 1.20 euro wine and 1 euro crostini’s at a local bar Addi heard of online. It was delicious and we were finally getting the hang of doing Venice on the cheap!

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We then took a detour route coming home and stumbled upon the Armenian Biennale exhibit. The Architecture Biennale is an international architecture exhibit that takes place every two years in Venice and was Jamie’s main reason for coming. So finding one of the pavilions on the other side of the island for free was a definite treat.

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The next day was a long one, we woke up early to head to St. Mark’s Campanile where we got some great photos of the sun coming up over the water. We then headed to the main exhibit for the Biennale with our packed lunches and a full 6 hours of architecture.IMG_1239    IMG_1238

We saw most of the international pavilions, from Germany, Canada, Korea to Brazil each with their own display of a discussion, a review, an idea for architecture that relates to their country. The Canadian pavilion discussed the need for new infrastructure in Iqaluit to help sustain the growing population and encourage education in the Nunavut people. The Austrian exhibit which was one of my favourites had models placed on the wall of all the federal buildings around the world.

Canadian parliament

Canadian parliament

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Following the Biennale we were quite tired so we watched the beautiful sunset from the South then headed back home for a good nights sleep.

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The next morning we were up bright and early again to see Burano, one of my highlights of the trip. Burano is an island about a 40 minute boat ride out and is known for its bright coloured buildings. Incredibly small we literally got to see the whole island and have a drink before coming home to purchase some cheap wine in the Jewish Quarter and enjoy our last night.

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For our last night we returned to our favourite local bar where the staff had actually come to know us and met a group of men from England in Venice for a bachelor party who provided some good entertainment. We then stopped by our favourite cafe for a night cap. This cafe had become a favourite thanks to the very kind owner and the 1 euro coffee and pastries making it our main breakfast stop. That night they were also offering up free crostinis!

Before we knew it, it was our last day. Jamie took us to one more beautiful exhibit of an old building that had been remodeled on the inside with a very modern finish. This was followed by my favourite meal of the trip. With a strong desire for some authentic calamari before we left we stumbled upon a restaurant filled with local construction workers that served grilled calamari. We ordered it to go and sat along the canal with all of the ingredients to make a delicious sandwich, our usual fresh baguette, deli meat, some veggies and the best calamari ever. It was the best way to finish of the trip.

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I really do encourage Venice to anybody who likes to travel. Once you know the tricks, like not eating in any restaurants on a main square and researching cheap and local favourites it is easy to do on a budget. You also save on transport as you can literally walk the entire island with no need for bus, boat or gondola. Now knowing all of this I definitely hope to go back some day!

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Market to Market

Another couple of weeks have gone by and a lot has been happening. The weather is certainly getting cooler, Scotland decided against independence and The Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with her second child. My personal life has also  remained exciting even on a day to day basis.

One of the best parts of my weekly routine is my runs. There is a wonderful 5k route that goes from my house, along the Thames River, around Southwark park and back. The views are spectacular and Southwark park has paths that are lined with beautiful trees. It is a great way to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

I was also able to spend sometime outside while at the Natural History Museum. After seeing everything there was from animals to jewels I enjoyed some lunch in the Charles Darwin garden. A tiny little eco oasis in the middle of West London.

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The other museum I visited was the Tate Modern which Addi and I did on her day off. There we were able to see the Malevich exhibit after having lunch from Leon’s on the lawn along the Thames. Leon’s has become one of my favourite places to eat in London offering tasty and delicious takeout meals.

Tate Modern Gallery

Tate Modern Gallery

Millenium Bridge

Millenium Bridge

Probably my favourite thing I did the past couple weeks was the Proms at Royal Albert Hall. For just a few weeks every year Royal Albert Hall hosts the Proms music festival, where for just a few pounds you can sit on the upper balcony, have a picnic and lay back and listen to some wonderful classical music. Joining me were Addi, Jamie, and Jamie’s mother Annie and sister Sophia. The hall and music were absolutely breathtaking.

Proms at Royal Albert Hall

Proms at Royal Albert Hall

Picnic at the Proms

Picnic at the Proms

I got to see Sophia and Annie again along with Jamie’s other sister Charlotte for lunch at Charlotte’s place. It has been very nice to have some family time while away, it definitely helps me feel more at home.

That same day Addi and I visited Broadway market, one of the bigger food and antique markets and also the place where her old roommates sell marshmallow deserts. These are not your typical marshmallows but specialty marshmallows with a variety of flavours from lemon and berry, maple syrup and cranberries, oh and they are absolutely delicious.

Market number two I visited with Addi again was Borough Market just at London Bridge. This one serves a variety of food three days a week. I chose the boar sausage that came with gravy which I ate in the church grounds next to the market. Just another one of the wonderful ways one can enjoy the outdoors in the middle of the city.

Market number 3 took place this weekend with Jamie, Addi and her old work friends Cassie and Elle. Maltby street market is strictly a food market, but well worth it. This time I chose an incredible flank steak sandwich with peppercorn gravy. We also treated ourselves to what I can say were the best brownies I’ve ever had!

This coming weekend will be busy with work but I definitely hope to find time to explore more of this great city.

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Well I think I have officially settled into London life. By that I mean there is very little free time! Working two jobs has certainly filled my days the past couple of weeks. Yet I have still found time to do some site seeing, see some friends, and attend to the constant appliance malfunctions our apartment is dealing with.

Since the day I moved in our oven hasn’t worked. After finally having someone come in to fix it, we were told we needed an electrician, who then told us we needed a new oven, which led to a repairman coming again to fix it two weeks later. Only issue was that at this point our fridge had stopped working too! This meant we now had to defrost our fridge and freezer for 24 hours, losing all of our food for it to work again. However all seems to be working… for now.

The stress was made all the more bearable with the arrival of the Maich’s, close family friends in London. Here for only a few short days Addi and I took Rachel, Kristin, Will, Tom and Margaret to some of our favourite sites. The Victoria and Albert Museum, Frank’s and dinner along the Southbank. It was wonderful to have them in London and their trip was much too short.

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However, barely a week later my friend Nazia from Humber was in London. Despite working a couple of full days I was able to spend an evening with her at her hotel which was in a lovely location right on the Southbank by Westminster.

Despite the stress and many visitors I have still been able to enjoy some attractions in London, including the Imperial War Museum. With it being the 100 year anniversary there was a very special World War I exhibition open. From artifacts, to documents, to a basic history of battles and critical moments it had it all. I also visited the Holocaust exhibit which was a very emotional experience. One of the most difficult moments was reading letters to loved ones from Jews being sent to concentration camps. The letters would be the last their families ever heard from them.

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Other outings included the National Portrait Museum where you could find the portrait of pretty much any popular or powerful Britain starting with the Tudors all the way to Charles Darwin and the Duchess of Cambridge.

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Then this past weekend it was the Greenwich Tall Ships Festival. The Tall Ships Festival saw ships that hadn’t been to London in over 25 years and a variety of interactive activities. If you were brave you could even taste a concoction of rum and spices sailors would have drunken in the 1800’s.

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I am definitely starting to feel at home here (sorry mom). Just means I have to pack in as much as possible before I come home!

 

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Working girl in London

Good news I have a job! I started last week at Topshop close to Trafalgar Square. So far my coworkers have been very welcoming and it has turned out to be a very fun place to work. It is also in a great location with lots of ways to spend my time before and after my shifts.

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This includes the National Gallery where I spent one morning looking at paintings from around the world starting in the 14th century all the way up to the 19th century impressionist movement.

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Another wonderful site to see close to Topshop is Somerset House. Whether you simply want to walk around and explore the building and fountains, see a wide variety of exhibits or have a cup of coffee on the back terrace it is easy to spend a full day there. Which is exactly what I did. The best part was that almost all of the exhibits were for free and I was able to see works done by my favourites, Monet and Degas.

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In addition to working at Topshop I also just received another part time job two days a week at Tin Lid, a cute baby apparel and toy store close to my apartment in Bermondsey. It’s a very specialized store with unique high quality products so I am excited to help out.

With my weeks now fairly full with work I have been able to take advantage of the past couple of weekends with Addi and James. We spent one weekend doing what were supposed to be errands but found ourselves walking around Olympic Park.

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After most of it being closed since the Summer Olympics there are portions that are now open to the public. Walking and biking paths, the swimming pool, even a rock climbing wall and parks for kids to play in, although we did have some fun there ourselves.

This week things have finally started to slow down, although the rain has certainly picked up. Not sure what we will get up to this weekend but I will be sure to update with anything exciting.

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