Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

I went to wander through parts of the East End, taking in Brick Lane and two small museums in one day.

I have actually been to Brick Lane once before, on the night Jon and I first arrived in London, but I thought I’d explore the place in the day time to see what it was really like. On the North end of Brick Lane, it’s a bustling place with cosy cafes, vintage shops, and specialist stores. Quite young and trendy. Then as you progress Southwards, the place is fringed on both sides with restaurants – the Brick Lane I met on my first night. In the day time that area is much less bustling as the touts are not on duty; and the streets are filled mostly with locals going grocery shopping at the local store (which stocks all types of South Asian supplies) or emerging from the mosque after prayers.

The colours of Brick Lane

I had heard that the Brick Lane Beigel Bake had the best bagels in London, so since I was there I had to try it didn’t I? I was happily munching away while wandering about the place. But I have to say, I think the best bagels I’ve had are still those from New York! Mmm…

I then head to the Geffyre Museum which traces the changing styles of interior design in London.

It’s like peeping into people’s houses cos it’s basically a series of spaces decorated in the style of various periods, from 1600s to the present. Fairly interesting to see the change in styles – from simple and functional, to ornate and flowery, then on to minimalist and modern.

The museum also showed the evolving style of chairs over the centuries.

This chair is, I think, the most comfortable of the lot :) When you sit in it you really melt into the cushion and feel like you’ve become part of the chair.

The Geffyre is a small museum and quite off-the beaten track. Not really a main attraction for a passing tourist unless they’re particularly interested in interior design. So having walked through the entire place without taking too long, I moved on to the last destination for the day, the White Cube. It’s a minimalist art space that has changing exhibitions. The day I went there were two photography exhibitions of mild interest. I think there are probably more interesting exhibitions at other times.

Anyway, having covered everything I wanted to during the day I went home feeling mighty pleased with myself :)

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There’s a weekly antique market in Islington called the Camden Passage Market, which is actually not that near Camden. It’s a cosy little place, and all the wares line narrow passages behind the main row of shops lining the road. The Camden Passage Market also takes in the Pierrepoint Market, which is similar in nature, just a little distance off the main thoroughfare.

It was fun poking around the place looking for interesting buys. Quite a lot! But most out of my budget :) So just browsed…though I did get my parent’s Christmas present from there! Was quite pleased with myself :)

When I went to visit the day started nice and sunny, then it suddenly burst into rain, even though the sun was still shining. That’s the crazy British weather for you. But it did make for nice photos :)

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After the excursion to Goodison Park, there were more activities lined up for us at the Peak District National Park, which lies just south of Manchester. This was a bonus trip for us because we had not planned to make a trip here. Since we were going to Liverpool and had to head south to get back to London (for us) and Exetor (for Ernest), we thought we’d take the opportunity to visit the area.

We headed for the small village of Ollerbrook Booth just off Edale (itself a small town), and which lies between the White Peaks and Dark Peaks. The roads there were winding, steep and as we were arriving at night, they were also pitch black! It took us a while to locate the place. The B&B was the most lavish Jon and I had ever been to – we had a spacious room complete with a sitting area, stereo, TV, a full sized bathroom with a jacuzzi sized bathtub and shower, a walk in wardrobe…wow!

The B&B and trusty ol’ Suzie (Ernest’s car)

Evidence of spring – Snowdrops!

Around the B&B

Near the B&B was a field with plenty of sheep, which reminded me of the super tasty dinner I had the night before – lamb stew in a giant Yorkshire pudding :)

After having our fill of a full English breakfast, we headed off to explore the Peak District proper. It was lovely, bright and clear day, which was perfect for sightseeing. Our first stop was to Mam Tor – a mountain overlooking Hope Valley. But we didn’t climb that; instead we walked to the top of another hill also overlooking the valley – which was lovely except for a tall industrial chimney spewing out smoke. From the top it looks like you’re on the top of the world, even though it really isn’t that high.

We next headed through the steep-sided Winnats Pass to Castleton, where we were going to go down into Speedwell Cavern – a flooded mineshaft. Inside you take a boat ride down a narrow flooded tunnel to a natural cave where a huge subterranean lake lies. Unfortunately although the pictures on the brochures look like you will get to take a boat onto the lake and explore deeper into the cave, in actuality, you only get to stand in the cave and peek at the edge of the lake. Still, it was a fun experience, and we got to stay down there longer than expected cos some silly people from a second group got on our return boat, taking our places, even before they had a chance to look around the cave! So we had to wait for the next boat to arrive. Good thing the return boat comes every 15 minutes so we didn’t waste too much time.

After Speedwell Cavern, we drove on to Millstone Edge to check out the view, which was supposed to be spectacular. The scenery there was supposed to be more craggy compared with the White Peak area, consisting of cliff edges that stretch for many kilometres. I really enjoyed walking around the park area surrounding the lookout point, just being in the outdoors on a sunny day and being near to nature :) The rock formations were intriguing, some aerodynamic looking, some were huge monuments standing up in the middle of nowhere. And of course being the monkey, I climbed everything I could haha :)

As the sun was setting we decided we’d better start making our way South, but we thought that before we left the Peak District we’d stop by Bakewell to try their famous Bakewell Pudding. It’s very sweet, has strawberry jam, almond essence, and some other ingredients.

After a good dinner and the Bakewell Pudding as dinner, we drove on to Birmingham where Ernest dropped us off at the train station where we caught a train back to London :)

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Finally! We made it to Everton’s home ground at Goodison. That was the same stadium Jon had seen on the telly since he first started supporting the club. It’s a great thing that they’ve not yet moved. So silly as the pillars around stands are, it was a fuzzy and exciting time for Jon :)

The night before I was being nagged at to make sure I wake up on time, cos we can’t miss the bus, cos if we miss the bus we’ll not get to Liverpool in time, we’ll miss the match…etc etc etc :O) Actually he was excited for the whole week! He kept asking “when are the tickets going to arrive?”

So it was a grand outing to Liverpool. We caught the bus, and got there in good time. Met Ernest who had driven up from Bristol – he was joining us for the match. From the city centre we decided (actually Jon dictated ;) ) that we take a cab cos he was worried we’d get there late and miss the match and not have time to go to the shop to buy the jerseys…. hee hee… I was just enjoying watching him so excited! =)

It was fun taking the cab cos the cab driver was really friendly. Turns out he was a Liverpool fan and Jon and him were chatting about soccer, about the history of Everton and Liverpool, and making light-hearted jibes at each other :) The cab driver was telling us that actually most people in Liverpool support Everton, it’s just that on an international scale Liverpool has more supporters. Anyway, I think the funniest part was when we were trying to get out of the cab somehow the door wouldn’t open, and the cab driver joked “that’s cos you’re Evertonian!”

Jon went on a shopping spree at the Everton Club store! He went in with his old ‘Kejian’ jersey, and out he came donning the new ‘Chang’ jersey! :) Add to that the scarf he bought and he was all decked out for the match!

Ernest and I were all made into Everton supporters for the day as well :) (yepp..the old ‘Kejian’ jersey went to me)

Jon had even downloaded the lyrics for all the Everton cheers to his blackberry! He really came fully prepared. We were actually listening to the cheers/songs a couple of days before as well to familiarise ourselves with the tunes! Too bad where we were sitting wasn’t too spontaneous with their cheering, partly cos they were frustrated with how the team was playing heh…

Everton wasn’t playing quite so well that day (even though Reading is wayyy below on the table), so we were so happy for Jon’s sake when Everton scored!! Final score was 1-0 to Everton! Yippi!! At least Jon could go back satisfied that his team won!

I appreciated how the place had wheelchair access for supporters who required them. I had not noticed this at the other stadiums we had been to (but perhaps I had just overlooked it).

After the match on the walk back into town we passed by the St Domingo sign, whereupon Jon proceeded to give us a history lesson on how Everton FC used to be called St Domingo FC :) Altogether now, “ooohhhh!”

For all the anticipation, excitement and thrill of going to Goodison, this was certainly the highlight of the trip for Jon!

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We’re off to Liverpool tomorrow!

Jon’s all eager to pay homage to Everton at their home ground – Goodison Park! We’re catching the Everton-Reading match with Ernest :)

After that we’ll be heading to the Peak District! More when we come back :)

I’ve decided to update current events and past events at the same time. All these technology troubles have taken too much time away from bloggin’!! January looks boring, like we’ve not done anything! But we’ve been keeping ourselves busy nonetheless!

Updates to come! Gotta go sleep! We’ve an early start at 5.30am, and Jon’ll kill me if I wake up late and miss the bus haha :)

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I had read about Piccadily Market in the London Planner – a free local tourist guidebook of sorts. It sounded interesting, but in the end the place was a bit of a disappointment. Not as exciting and interesting as the other markets I’ve been to. It was set in the churchyard of St James’ Church which is along Piccadily Road. There was one thing that I found out from there though. There was a picture of a monument I had seen on the cover of one of the tourist magazines in October, and I saw it again on a postcard at the market. I had been wondering where to find that monument cos it looks quite grand, so I decided to ask around. A few of the shopkeepers weren’t sure where it was, but finally one person solved the mystery! It’s the Albert memorial and is found at the south end of Hyde Park. I’ll go by there one day to take a look! I was feeling so pleased that the mystery was solved :)

Anyway one of things I like about the old buildings in London are their glass windows. They tend to be made out of many small pieces of glass, and I like how the glass pieces capture and reflect images differently. St James’ Church had these windows. It’s just one of those small pleasures that I enjoy :)

Having some time on my hands I decided to go check out Sir John Soane’s museum at Holborn. John Soane was an architect who decided to establish his home as a museum to ‘educate and inspire amateurs and students in painting, architecture and sculpture’. He collected numerous pieces of random fragments from as far as Rome and Greece, and even possessed an Egyptian sarcophagus! In accordance with his wishes, the house/museum has been kept in essentially the same state as when he left it.

It’s a fascinating place to wander about. It has to be seen to be believed. To see how Sir John collected everything and took care to display everything in the house. At some places you can hardly see the wall because there are so many marble fragments. He also left a huge collection of books on all topics – history, natural history, philosophy, architecture, etc. Very inspiring to browse the titles on the shelves. And I loved that all the books were old and worn. I love the look of old books :)

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Jon watched his first live Everton match at Stamford Bridge, and it was an exciting and entertaining night, both on and off the pitch.

We weren’t able to get tickets with the Everton away fans, and ended up sitting with Chelsea home fans. It was fairly entertaining hearing the fans jeer at the players and the referee. They were making snide remarks about the Everton players. Like when one player fell and was down on the ground, someone shouted “make sure he doesn’t steal the pitch!!!”.

But being in the home side meant that Jon couldn’t cheer freely. So when there was a call that the Chelsea fans weren’t happy with and were standing and shouting “boo!”, Jon would secretly go “woo!!” =)

Chelsea scored first, and I was hoping Everton would score for Jon’s sake.

And then they did!!


Jon stood up and cheered…

….and suddenly realised he was cheering alone and everyone else sitting around him was quiet…

then he quietly sat down…

From his point of view he saw the goal, then he saw the Everton fans standing and cheering and followed suit, forgetting he was surrounded by a sea of Chelsea fans. He was just so excited and couldn’t help himself! :)

Less than five minutes later a steward came by and asked Jon rhetorically, “Sir, would you like to follow me please”. Jon went..and never came back! I SMSed him to find out what was going on only to find out he’d been thrown out of the stadium hahahahaa…It is funny :) I had thought maybe he was escorted to the Everton side, but instead he was escorted right out of the stadium. Apparently the steward told him that they could not guarantee his safety, and that there were thousands of Chelsea fans out to get him. He couldn’t stand at the back, he couldn’t go to the Everton side, he had to leave. Period.

In a way it was good cos he left when Everton was on a roll cos the match ended with Chelsea scoring yet another goal in extra time. Final score Chelsea 2, Everton 1.

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Shan & Ben came over to our apartment on New Year’s day and brought their Nintendo Wii with them.

I think the funniest thing is watching people playing Wii. In games like the 100m race in Mario & Sonic Olymic Games, it’s so funny to see the three of them suddenly burst into action and shake their hands frantically when the whistle blows :) (The faster you move the faster your character runs you see).

But then Jon & I apparently entertained Shan & Ben no end too when we were playing boxing. We were literally prancing around desperately trying to KO each other, and Shan & Ben were just laughing their heads off… Jon & I had learnt to play the game from people who were equally, if not more, animated. But we shall try to learn the more controlled, and less tiring, way of playing heh…although I must say prancing around makes it feel a little more realistic :)

Anyway you can see how traumatised Shan was in this photo ;)

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Hyde Park Conspiracy

Unbeknownst to me there was a conspiracy taking place all throughout the time I was travelling in Belgium and Netherlands, and even before that when I was back in Singapore to attend PS’s wedding!

I had been talking about wanting to go ice-skating in the open air just to try it for once. I imagined there would be a greater sense of freedom compared to skating in a rink back home in Singapore, covered up with a concrete roof and surrounded by lifeless walls. When we were back in London from our Christmas trip I kept telling Jon I wanted to go skating.

It so happened that we were meeting Ben & Shan at Hyde Park to wander around the Christmas market there which had a skating rink. I was asking Shan if they wanted to go skating, but they didn’t really respond.

I thought it was lovely walking around the market and carnival, and when Jon & I went to get a snack, I was wondering why Shan was hurrying us. I was curious why the rush. Theeennn….when we had got our sandwiches, she whipped out tickets for the ice-skating rink! :O) Shan was rushing us cos there were allocated timeslots for skating in the rink. She had booked the tickets long before, and Jon knew about it the entire time!!! He said he was laughing to himself the whole time I was talking about skating, and had been msging Shan about it even while we were in Belgium! These people…see lah…when friends get to know your husband too well ;)

The surprise was a perfect match to what I had been wanting to do :) Hee hee…it had been so long since I last went ice-skating…I think it was primary school, or at the latest sec 1 or 2.

It was such fun being in the open :) I tried learning from Ben how to skate backwards in the “pro” way, you know where you bring one leg behind the other…well, I didn’t come close haha. Ben was pretty good at it though!

And, none of us fell throughout the hour-long slot! :)

I remember telling myself as I was skating not to forget how it feels like to skate in the open with the trees above you, and to see leaves stuck in the ice cos it had fallen there when they were freezing the ice. To remember that I was skating in Hyde Park!

After battling the crowds to retrieve our shoes, Shan & Ben sprung another surprise! A ride on the ferris wheel! Yippie :) Been so long since I rode on one too! I guess it was for us a mini London eye. In fact, from our mini-eye we could see the real thing :)

Speaking of mini, guess who I saw in the park? A mini Luke Skywalker up in a tree!

Anyway, having expanded all that energy on skating and being excited, we headed to South Kensington for pancakes! This was the same shop that had an outlet up in Hampstead, and I remember queueing in the cold for pancakes at that pancake stand the last time I came to London. The pancakes were really really yummy, and definitely worth waiting in the cold for. And in a way, I thought it was nicer to eat the pancakes out in the cold – to which Shan agreed. But the guys (being guys? heh :p ) rather stay indoors in the warmth to enjoy their pancakes. In any case, the South Kensington one was indoors.

How lovely to be surprised :) It’s not easy to surprise a girl you know! Thanks Quack! =)

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Wedding Anniversary!

How wonderful and unexpected that we’d spend our first wedding anniversary in London! Both of us had no idea one year ago that that would have been the case :)

Well we figured that since we were in London, and some people pay to come here just for their anniversary, that we’d spend the day just wandering around the city! As it was the Christmas period, there were several Christmas markets around to explore. So after church we head down to Pimlico area to look for the Elizabeth Street market, which was only being held that particular Sunday.

The atmosphere was lovely – decorations, cold weather, carollers, and the tingling happy feeling of being in love and celebrating a most special occasion ;) Even though it wasn’t a sunny day and it was drizzling a little, it was sunny in my heart and cosy to cuddle under an umbrella-ella-ella :)

We wandered into Waitrose as we’d heard about it but not actually been to one outlet. And there was quite a crowd mingling about. Why? There were at least 7 tasting stations with all sorts of good food! Champagne, wine, cheese, sausages, minced pie, chocolates, sushi, bacon, christmas pudding.. Sounds good huh? I have not seen such extravagant tasting stations before. So we wandered along with the crowd and tried the goodies :) That was a nice thaw-ing stop cos it was cold out.

We wandered through Belgravia, past many embassies, and up to the Knightsbridge area, and ended up at Harrods :) We’ve only ever been to the ground floor, so thought we’d wander about a bit more. In particular I wanted to go see the pet shop! The place is really more for window shopping if you know what I mean ;) But we did get something there! Jon found the complete first season of the A-Team! Now who of you actually know what that is? I don’t recall having watched it before, but maybe if I watch an episode I might find it familiar, but it’s a show that was shown loonnggg ago (I would add more ‘g’s except that I’ve since discovered that Shan knows what it is, so it can’t be an era thing…darn! Though on the bright side, Ben wasn’t familiar with it either! Hah!).

We were working up an appetite for the grand finale of the night – dinner at Gaucho! It’s an Argentinean steakhouse that apparently has the best steak in London!

We were gonna splurge that night on a really good dinner! And the food did not disappoint! On top of that, we were really pampered the whole night. They had made a note that it was our anniversary, and had passed the message around such that once they knew we had arrived, all the waiters and waitresses we met greeted and congratulated us :) We were escorted to the bar where they generously served us some complimentary champagne! And to top it all off, they had prepared a bouquet of flowers for me =) I thought it was interesting that they did that, because when I made the reservation I had mentioned that I wanted to surprise my husband. And then they surprise me instead! Which is clever since men are usually themselves happy when the lady is pampered :) (maybe it’s cos they then don’t have to pamper the ladies themselves? ;) )

The flowers were beautiful! Romantic with a modern twist. Deep red roses accompanied by dried leaves spray-painted black with sparkles, and a twig spray-painted white. It was all put in a black vase and wrapped with black paper. Very Anna Sui.

The restaurant itself is definitely not a place for vegetarians. Besides the fact that it is a steak place, the restaurant is almost entirely decorated with cow skin! From the walls, to the chairs, to the foot stools!

Well if you thought that was the end of our pampering, it wasn’t! A friendly (and slightly drunk) American man was at the next table along with two other friends, and he started chatting with us. He asked if I was Jon’s girlfriend, and Jon explained that it was actually our first wedding anniversary :) Then the man started telling us about his marriage and his kids, and encouraging us to have children of our own, how they are wonderful, etc etc. His friend chimed in as well. Then the American man decided to buy us a glass of champagne each! =)

What a day! Really had a great time :) More than all the pampering and activities, it was a lovely day spent with Jon ;)

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