Sunday, 13 June 2010

Unpacked, after 15 months

And so, I was back at Abercorn house - I had avoided it for a month, but there was no escaping it this time. The room I had been in wasn't available, which wasn't too bad - as I got the bottom bunk straight away, and this room had a sink, and ample storage (floor) space for my multiple bags of possessions gathered in the previous 15 months. Unfortunately my roommate - Attila the Hungarian (that's his real name) had just left that day to go back home. Which was a real shame, as he was a good guy, and I didn't get to get his details.

I had been looking for flats ever since I started my new job, but my motivation was renewed with a passion, especially when I came home the following Sunday afternoon and my roommate was doing coke (cocaine - not the drink) off the top of the fridge. It seems over here coke is pretty common place, for you non-NZers, if someone told you they had coke in NZ, they are probably full of it as it would require being up someone's bum on a plane for over 10 hours. A very good reason kids, not to do drugs.

Anyhow, I checked out Little Venice, and walked along the canal for ages, but turns out it was not the branch I intended going along. Might explain why I haven't seen that date again either.

That Tuesday was the first game of touch for the new season - I had so been hanging out for it to start again, for enjoyment, but also as a form of exercise. Following my game, I went and checked out a flat again - to meet the flatmates before I agreed to move in. I said yes, and subsequently moved in the following Sunday - which was euphoric - finally emptying some of my bags after 15 months, and knowing I didn't have to move them again.

On the Friday (prior to the Sunday) I went out to my cousin's, as my Auntie was over visiting, so figured it was a good opportunity to catch up.

The next Tuesday I went to Wembley Arena with Suzanne & Bevan to see Flight of the Conchords. It was awesome. Admittedly I'm a little bit addicted to them, and seem to consult videos of them on YouTube for application to my life - which might sound a little weird, but considering most of what they sing about is girls, and the show is about them being Kiwi's in New York - it's easily transferable.

The following Saturday I went and watched the Rugby 7's at Twickenham, which was a good day out, but because NZ didn't play a whole lot, it was slightly boring.

The following weekend was a long weekend. I didn't have anything planned, and if I did, I wouldn't really have been able to afford it. On the Friday night, it ended up that I drinks with my workmates, which lead to dinner as well, I called it a night however while I still had time to catch the tube home.

On the Saturday, I went to farewell a friend who essentially was my flatmate for a good part of last year (albeit I was on the living room floor) which was nice, but also naturally sad.

On the Sunday, I went down to the Redback - the local Kiwi/Aussie pub near me, as they do free BBQs on Sundays - so I figured a free lunch is a good lunch. Turns out a friend from my Turkey trip lives just up the road from me, and she was there with another friend, and her friends, so I joined them, and later we carried on to the Shepherd's Bush Walkabout (another hangout). Since then, my friend's friend has become my newest partner in crime, sightseeing and drinking around London.

On the Monday I went to Brick lane for a curry festival - where there was supposed to be free curry tasting. You had to line up for ages, and then they closed the tasting an hour early, so I was suitably not impressed, and was rearing to rip someones ear's off, especially because I had skipped breakfast in anticipation.

The following week Saturday, my friend from Kaitaia had her leaving party, and on the Sunday I went to an Antique map fair by Hyde park, for about 10 minutes. After that my friend and I walked back to Shepherd's bush, which didn't really take all that long.

The week after that... Watched the All Blacks play Ireland at the pub, then went to an information session (complete with free Sangria) on teaching English in Spain, which is probably what I'll do when I finish here.

The following Tuesday was the All Whites first game - against Slovakia - I managed to time my lunch to catch the last half an hour - which included seeing our goal in the last half a minute. Priceless. That night after touch I went and saw the Feelers (one of my favourite NZ bands) play for free at the Walkabout.

To be continued... but enjoy for now. Currently this is up to mid-June.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Geordies & Scotties: Bev, Jam, & JT do the North

So on the Wednesday night, after work, I got changed, left some of my clothes at work, and headed to Kings Cross to catch a train to Newcastle with Suzanne and Bevan. They got a little held up due to tube issues, but in the end made it in time, which is just as well as they had my ticket.Once we got to Newcastle we found our Travel lodge, Suzanne went to bed, and Bevan & I went out to take a few photos before bedtime.
The next day I got up reasonably early to have a look around before we had to leave Newcastle - checking out the bridges and Castle Garth. Once I got back to the room, Suzanne & Bevan went and got the car from the hire place, we then jumped in and went and had a McDonald's breakfast (being Suzanne's Birthday).We then headed North to a place called Seahouses - where we boarded a ferry that took us around, and to one of the Farne Islands. These islands were teaming with birds, including puffins - something Suzanne and Bevan had been hanging out to see for ages. There were also seals resting on the rocks nearby. All-in-all it was pretty cool. Once we had finished the trip we drove back to Newcastle to check out the 'Angel of the North'. After that he headed back north, and had a pub meal in Bamburgh.The next day we checked out Bamburgh castle, and then headed to Holy Island - an Island that you have to time it right, as when the tide comes in there is no access - there we looked at Linsfarne castle and Priory before heading on up to Edinburgh.Once we got to Edinburgh, I got a bus from our motel to the Royal mile and had a look around, mainly looking in souvenir shops and stuff, later being joined by Suzanne and Bevan - where we took a walk to the New Town, got a bit of dinner from the supermarket - tried to go to somewhere in Holyrood park to eat it, but the park was closed for a Fire festival - as it was some pagan festival (the following day was May Day - 1st of May). Anyhow, we ate our food near the train station, near the Scott Monument, looking up at the Castle. We then headed back to the motel, and jumped in the car and made a trip out to the Firth of Forth - so I could see famous Rail Bridge - a big red steel construction.
The next day we got up, and went and had a traditional Scottish breakfast, and for once, I'm not using that as a euphemism for McDonald's. This was the real thing - Black Pudding, Haggis, sausages, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, beans, and toast. Totally awesome, the things I would've thought I would have found gross, were actually OK, especially Haggis, in fact after completing a free walking tour, I had Haggis again for lunch, accompanied by 'Neeps & Tatties' - Parsnips and Potatoes. The walking tour was awesome - one of the best I've been on, probably only second to Berlin. It was all about the Convenanters, the Stone of Destiny, and a wee dog called Bobby.
Once that was done, I meet up with Suzanne & Bevan, and their friend Colin who they'd met on their Italy tour, and we headed to Glasgow, and had a pub meal there - I had chicken in a white wine sauce with roast potatoes etc, totally awesome, especially since things seem to be so much cheaper in Scotland, or even outside of London. We then went on to Carlisle, which is just back within England again, for the night.
Once waking up, we promptly headed to our first destination of the day - Hadrian's wall - a wall constructed by the Romans back in the day to protect their territory. It was pretty cool.From there we went to the Lake district, and looked around a town called Hawkshead, and had lunch there, as well as some high tea - I had a piece of sponge cake (which they call Victoria cake here) and a hot chocolate. On the way out I insisted we have a quick stop at Wray castle.
From there we headed to Blackpool - which to be honest didn't inspire us much after a quick toilet stop and walk on the beach, so we soldiered on to Liverpool.The things that look like people on the shoreline, are in fact statues, such as the one below. Something like that wouldn't fly in New Zealand, as people would think someone is drowning.We got some Fish & Chips and ate them on the beach, had a bit of a walk and photo shoot near the docks, and then retired to our motel, somewhere between Liverpool and Chester. I did try to convince Suzanne & Bevan that if we made a small trip we could also cross into Wales, and then could have said we went to 3 countries in our travels, but they didn't have a bar of it.
Anyhow, the following day, we nipped back into Liverpool, walked around the docks, went to the Maritime Museum, which included an exhibition on slavery, and also emigration, which was interesting. After that we went to the Beatles Story - museum, which was also quite interesting, despite the fact I think the BeeGees were bigger than the Beatles... The above photo is of 'Superlambananas' art in Liverpool. (Recently near my work at Tower Bridge, there were something similar - but elephants).
So, from there we high-tailed it out of there to Coventry - to drop off the rental car, and catch the train back to London. The reason we dropped it at Coventry was because Suzanne works there, and therefore already has a train pass to and from there to London, as well as the fact that it saved driving it through London as well. Once back in London, I went back to Abercorn house -the Hostel in Hammersmith.

In Between times

So, back in England...
The next three weeks I was staying at my mate Scott's while they were all away in South Africa - it was supposed to be just 2 weeks, but the volcano in Iceland that erupted and covered Europe in ash prevented them from flying back.

My first day back - Tuesday, I started my new job at the Crown Prosecution Service. When I signed in I overheard another temp sign in also - a guy with an 'Aussie' accent. Once I got talking to him upstairs I discovered he was actually a Kiwi, and had also been working at The Listening Company, albeit on a different campaign.

That Thursday I went to a STA Travel meetup - which was about wine tasting and Australia - I took along a French date, because it seemed like a great idea, however I haven't heard from her since. Regardless I had a great time. On the Friday I went on a pub crawl in East London. It was good, but after a little while I got tired, so I went for a curry at Brick Lane and called it a night.

The following Wednesday I had Suzanne and Bevan around for dinner, and on the Thursday I went to Putney and went to a South African restaurant there called Chakalaka (I may have mentioned last year having all you can eat ribs there). Anyway I decided to celebrate my new job and do the 25oz Steak in 25 minutes challenge. To be honest when they brought it out I was disappointed that it wasn't all that big, and it ended up only taking me about 18 minutes to eat. However, I got a pretty cool t-shirt for my trouble.

The following week consisted of looking at flats, and a curry with Suzanne and Luke (their old flatmate), and on the Saturday a catch up with a friend from the Normandy trip - after that I went to Covent Garden and did something that had been on my list for a while - the London Transport Museum. It was good, but fell a little short of my hopes - I guess because I had seen a website with a whole lot of pictures of tube stations while I was at TLC, so it didn't compare. While I was there, I bought a new wallet, and a copy of the book that a former employer had published 'The Big Short Break'. From there I went and checked out Carnaby Street (famous in the swingin' Sixties baby yeah!)
On the Sunday I went to Camden and on to Primrose Hill.

On the Monday I went back and stayed in the hostel in Earl's Court for two nights before heading to Newcastle on the Wednesday night.

Viva la Normandie

So here it is, the long awaited Normandy blog. Ironically, if you look at Suzanne & Bevan's blog, its last entry is Normandy too - although that was last year. Anyhow hopefully I will get the other ones typed up and put up here fairly pronto - they are pretty much written, just finding the time and motivation to type them here is lacking.

So...since the last time - basically I worked Monday to Thursday at The Listening Company (the call centre I was at) and had arranged to have weekend (Easter) off, as I was heading to Normandy. The job I had had the interview for got back to me, starting on the Tuesday after Easter, so I had the pleasure of telling TLC I was leaving (for once it not being the other way around)

So on Thursday I left work early, and headed to Victoria Station, to the meet up point for my trip. Originally we were supposed to have had to go to Portsmouth and cross on the ferry there, sleep on the ferry, and wake up the next day in France. However it turned out we couldn't do that, so instead we had to go to Dover and cross there to Calais - which was actually better for us as we got to have a hotel bed to sleep in once we got to France - which in retrospect would've made the trip so much more comfortable (rather than fighting sleep the rest of it).We got a sleep in on Good Friday, as the Driver needed to have a certain amount of hours away from the wheel. Once we got going from our hotel (somewhere in a business park outside of Calais) we headed to Rouen, famous for being the town where Joan of Arc was executed. We had a bit of a walk around, saw the tower where she was imprisoned, the execution spot, and the general town. That day was a bit wet, while we were there, but fined up on our way to Caen, where our hotel for the following days was. Once we got there, my roommate for the weekend, his friend, and the tour guide had a wicked feed at a local restaurant. I chose the Ravioli (French) in a white sauce.
Saturday we headed to Le Mont Saint Michel - the main reason I chose the trip - an Abbey/Fortress. Totally awesome. After an hour or so of exploring that, we carried on to Saint Malo - a walled coastal town in Brittany - walled because of the tendency for Pirates to attack it back in the day. My first mission once getting there was to find a supermarket, which I did with the help of my guide, and bought bread, salami, and Camembert for lunch (and subsequently dinner, and lunch the next day too - Camembert actually tastes best when it's been out of the fridge for a while, so I've discovered) Once satisfying my hunger, I had a look at a ship moored there, walked around the wall and explored a fort on the beach. From there we went home to the hostel. I decided to have a quiet one, to save some money, but also to catch up on some sleep. Sunday we got up early-ish, and headed to Bayeux - we started at the British (and its colonies) WW2 cemetery. From there we went and checked out the Bayeux tapestry - which depicts the Norman Invasion of Britain in 1066 - it basically gives the whole history over its length.From there, because we were running ahead of time, we went to the German cemetery, before heading to Omaha beach and the American cemetery.From there we went to Arromanches/Gold Beach - where the Allies built the Mulberry harbour - an artificial harbour, and saw the museum and the remainder of the harbour.When we came back to Caen, a couple of the others and I checked out the Chateau (castle) and walked back to the hotel. We later went out to dinner with a lot of the others. I had Beef with mushrooms with a red wine sauce. Totally delicious.
Monday we headed back to Calais to cross back to England - on the way stopping at Honfleur - a beautiful coastal village.