The Potato Chick
Travelling, eating and my other favourite things...
London, England: Round 3
In a sentence...like having a couple of nights at home.
Food we loved...a dinner we cooked at home with Jules and Emma P – good food and great company.
There is something incredibly relaxing about returning to a destination we have already visited. We know how to get from the airport into the city and there is less pressure to tick off “must-sees”. Our final trip to London was particularly lovely as we stayed with Jules and Emma P which meant we could sit around on the couch each night chatting whilst drinking wine and eating chocolate.
Don’t worry, we did leave the house. We finally made it to Tate Modern and spent a few hours there looking at odd bits and pieces and pondering whether they were really “art”. We tried (and failed) to go up to the top of the Shard for a sunset drink and had to settle for a drink at a cosy street level pub instead.
We did a whirlwind trip out to Greenwich which is a really pretty and peaceful part of the city. We walked up to the observatory for fabulous views of London. We saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night for the bargain price of 15 pounds, in the front row! We also managed to squeeze in dinners with Liz and Brayden and Emma.
On our final day in London I had a wonderful girls day with Emma P. We wandered the Camden markets and had afternoon tea to celebrate her upcoming birthday. Meanwhile, Nick had lunch with his work friend John and visited the Museum of London. We topped off a fabulous day with a delicious dinner with Jules, Emma P and Emma B.
The next day we bid a sad farewell to London, a city that has really captured our hearts during our trip.
Next stop...Reykjavik, Iceland.
London, England: Round 2
In a sentence...a great place to recover from Glastonbury.
Food we loved...strawberries.
After an exhausting 5 days at Glastonbury some relaxation in London was in order. This time our host was Jules in the inner Eastern suburb of Bow.
We spent our first full day at Wimbledon. As soon as we were handed a 20 page booklet titled “Guide to queuing” I knew that this experience was going to be in stark contrast to Glastonbury. We were lucky enough to get seats in Showcourt 2 where we saw women’s 3rd seed Simona Halep and then men’s 5th seed Stan Wawrinka. In between matches we enjoyed the typical combo of strawberries, cream and (over-priced) Pimms while soaking up the glorious sunshine. Nick and Jules caught some Martina Hingis action via the mixed doubles while the rest of us topped off the day lying on the hill watching young Aussie Nick Krygios beat Rafael Nadal.
Together with Mitch and Emma P we had a trip to the West End to see The Book of Mormon. We transported ourselves back to Melbourne with delicious dumplings for lunch and rounded off the afternoon with a trip to Harrods. Given our budgetary constraints we had to confine our purchases to the gift shop.
In preparation for Spain, we enjoyed a tapas dinner and catch up with our friend Liz.
We finished off our time in London with two nights in Canary Wharf. We explored the culinary delights of Borough market, watched Wimbledon on a riverside big screen while drinking Pimms and picnicked in the park with Emma P, Emma B, Hannah and Jules.
All in all, another fabulous few days in London.
In a sentence...a week spent living in an almost indescribable alternative universe.
Food we loved...roast pork baguettes with stuffing and apple sauce.
I must admit, when our alarm went off at 1.45am I questioned whether I really wanted to go to Glastonbury. Eight hours later, as our time spent in the queue (laden with many kilograms of supplies) reached the three hour mark I still had the same question running through my mind. But – a bit like childbirth - by the time the festival was over I had forgotten all about the initial difficulties and was already planning to do it again very soon.
The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is a 5 day music festival held annually on a farm in the English countryside, about 4 hours drive from London. It tends to attract publicity back home for two reasons:
a) the big name performers it attracts (the 2011 festival featured U2, Coldplay and Beyonce);
b) the terrible weather, rain and mud.
There was so much more to the festival than these two things. Yes, it poured with rain on several occasions and we spent four whole days wearing only gumboots and being splattered with mud constantly. Yes, this year’s festival line-up included Metallica and Dolly Parton. But in addition, everywhere you looked there was something interesting and stimulating to explore, with perhaps our favourite place being the karaoke tent at Shangri La.
Attended this year by about 173,000 people, the site itself was something that really needs to be seen to be believed. There were tents as far as the eye could see in every direction, along with numerous stages, bars, food stalls selling every cuisine you could possibly think of and areas dedicated to particular interests such as health and healing.
We travelled down in convoy and camped with a group of about 15 fabulous new (and old) friends. Over the weekend we saw the following performers: Blondie, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Haim, Lily Allen, Elbow, Arcade Fire, Lana del Ray, Imagine Dragons, Jack White, Metallica, Dolly Parton, The Black Keys, London Grammar (me) and Kasabian (Nick).
My top five (in no particular order) were Rodrigo y Gabriela, Lily Allen, London Grammar, Imagine Dragons and Dolly Parton. With the unfortunate exception of Blondie, every performer we saw gave a high energy performance and was clearly thrilled to have been invited to perform.
Despite the mud, the rain, road trips there and back at ungodly hours of the night/morning, the festering squalid toilets, the hour long queue for a shower (if you chose to wash at all) and the even longer queue to get in; Glastonbury will go down as one of the absolute highlights of our trip.
English road trip
In a sentence...a gorgeous part of the world.
Food we loved...the delicious three course meal we ate at the Kings Head Inn in Bledington.
Let me introduce you to a town in Luxembourg called Schengen. Most people have never heard of it and I doubt that it features on many travel itineraries.
Schengen entered our lives when we started seriously planning our trip. It was the location for the signing of a European Union agreement which created what is now known as the “Schengen Zone”. Most EU countries are part of the zone – fabulous countries such as Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland.
Thanks to the Schengen agreement EU citizens can now pass between countries within the zone virtually seamlessly. For us, however, it places a restriction on our (very) long-term travels because Australians can only spend 90 days out of any 180 in countries in the zone.
When we were planning our trip we therefore knew that it was essential to spend sufficient time out of the zone (in places like the Balkans, Turkey, the UK and Morocco) and we spent many hours agonising over our itinerary and cursing Schengen. In order to rack up some “non-Schengen time”, we decided to spend a week road tripping through the English countryside before heading off to Glastonbury. And what a good decision that was.
A cute starting point, we basically spent our very short time here just wandering the streets. We also sampled some local beers at the brewery and spent a few hours soaking at the day spa.
Bledington, the Cotswolds
Our night at the Kings Head Inn in Bledington was the absolute highlight of the road trip. A wedding present from Nick’s sister Tanya and her family, the whole experience was a luxurious change to our usual accommodation – a king size bed, fluffy doona and a shower that didn’t have someone else’s hair in it! We enjoyed an amazing three course dinner and a cooked breakfast in the morning. Before we hit the road again we did a long walk through the stunning countryside.
Grasmere, Lake District
The Lake District was even more beautiful than the Cotswolds. We did some more walking here and had an authentic cultural English experience watching England v Uruguay at the pub.
York was my favourite place – what a cute little town. We were lucky enough to arrive just in time for the York Food and Drink Festival which meant it was easy to get delicious cheap lunches. We climbed the city walls which allowed us to peek into people’s backyards and see plenty of lovely English cottage gardens. We took a free walking tour and a tour of York Brewery (with samples!).
We also hit the shops here – keep a close eye on upcoming photos for a few new t-shirts...
We had a fabulous weekend in Cambridge staying with our friends Ross and Maddie. They were amazing hosts who cooked us a delicious dinner and breakfast, let us use their washing machine and gave us a personalised tour of Cambridge. We learnt all about the colleges, May week and the academic hierarchy as well as interesting little titbits about the many bridges, gardens and buildings we passed. We spent an action packed day together which included:
We continued the university town theme and spent our final night in Oxford. We enjoyed a free (and very theatrical) walking tour and we even had time for a morning jog along the canal.
After a fabulous week marvelling at the beauty of England’s countryside and enjoying the ease of travel in this area perhaps we will now stop cursing Schengen.
London, England: Round 1
In a sentence...could definitely live here.
Food we loved...fudgey chocolate brownie from the Broadway Market.
Deep down, a part of me hoped I would not like London. I can’t help but feel a tiny bit offended on behalf of my adopted home town, Melbourne, when Australians rave about London, its public transport system and proximity to the rest of Europe. Unfortunately, I have a confession to make – I loved London as soon as we started exploring.
We spent our first full day walking to all the “sights” – Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and the Tower Bridge. Our favourite part was strolling along the Thames and watching Londoners out enjoying the sunshine. Everything was bustling, there were second hand book stalls, pop up bars and restaurants and buskers of a much higher skill level than we had witnessed in Rome. After all that sight-seeing we had a very happy reunion with some wonderful friends from home who are currently living in London - Hannah, Emma B and Jules. We enjoyed dinner and drinks in Soho and Covent Garden and cringed at Australia’s performance in the first half of its World Cup match against Italy.
Hannah was our host for the weekend and she lives in Shoreditch, a fabulous suburb to the east of the city centre. It’s filled with cute little shops, cafes and restaurants and lots of its buildings are covered with the most amazing street art. It felt a bit like Fitzroy, a bit like Brunswick and a bit like Kensington. I loved it immediately.
After a spot of exercise at Hyde Park we enjoyed a late lunch at Allpress cafe. An offshoot of a New Zealand coffee company with cafes in Sydney and Melbourne, it felt just like home. After lunch we strolled through the Broadway Market, a fabulous Saturday market featuring numerous stalls with delicious food, within easy walking distance of Hannah’s house. We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sunshine in Hannah’s backyard with drinks and nibbles before heading to Camden for a night out. Jules had chosen the venue for the 80s and 90s music it promised to play and he did not let us down. Highlights of the night included “Hit me baby one more time” (Britney Spears), “If you gettin’ down” (Five) and “Mmm Bop" (Hanson). I felt like I had been transported back to Grade 6.
Our second day in Shoreditch started rather slowly after the very late night the night before. Together with Jules and Hannah we explored more nearby markets – Spitalfields, Brick Lane and the Columbia Road flower market. We rounded off a wonderful weekend by returning to Brick Lane for a cheap Indian dinner.
The next morning we were very sad to leave London (and Hannah’s generous hospitality) but really excited that we will be returning a couple of times during our trip.
Next...English road trip.