Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book 16-Great Expectations.

I just finished book 16-Great Expectations by Dickens. I made sure to start this book, just prior to my trip to London. It was the perfect book to be reading in London, because it is set in the old City of London and throws around street names quite a bit. I was very excited to visit the district that Pip walked and also to see sites from Bleak House while I was at it. I even had the privilege of enjoying an ale in Ye Olde Cock Tavern a favorite of Dickens among other famous literary figures.

I enjoyed this book, though not as much as I enjoyed Bleak House. Daniel S. Burt among other critics points to Dickens life when they say that this book is a rehashing of Dickens own poor upbringing just as David Copperfield was.The main differnce between the two books, is that in David Copperfield the middle class life is idolized where in Great Expectations it is seen as bad thing.Pip's "great expectations" ended up being his ruin and he went through a journey of discovering what was important in life, both for what is important to a man's character as well as what are important ambitions and dreams.

As with Bleak House, almost every single character in the book is connected with another in some important way. I love him for that, because the plot thickens the more you find out the interconnections. I made the mistake of reading what Daniel S. Burt had to say about the book before finishing the novel, so I knew the major plot twist. Despite that I was still suprised by a few other things in the novel.

I read the majority of this novel on trains, and in the air flying to and from London. I still made sure to keep notes on some of my favorite quotes.

The predominant theme is guilt and also what revenge can do to those who are consumed by it and also those affected by it. Both Pip and Estella are ruined by the revenge schemes of their benefactors. Here are a few quotes showing that:

"Break their hearts my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy"

"Throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meanesses are usually commited for the sake of the people whom we most despise"

"if you had done this, and then, for a purpose had wanted her to take naturally to the daylight and she could not do it, you would have been disappointed."

"She had secluded herself from a thousand natural and healing influences; that her mind, brooding,solitary, had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reverse teh appointed order of their Maker"

There are also several quotes about love, although I don't know if I agree with all of them. The story of Estella and Pip is a love story of a kind. It is different from most, because it is predominantly one sided but still it is a love story.

"It is blind devotion, unquestioning self humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world"

"In a word it was impossible for me to seperate her, in the past, or in teh present, from the innermost life of my life"

"I knew to my sorrow often and often if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace against happiness"

"Told me! Why, yoiu have always told me all day long, when you told me your own story, you told me plainly that you began adoring her the first time you saw her."

I think this is all I will say about this book. It will always be very dear to me as I read it almost entirely while traveling. I am a fan of Dickens although I seem to have read his two books where he reverses his previous theory about the middle class. Pickwick Papers is further down on the list and it will be interesting for me to read it and see if I still like him under his former theory.

Returning Home

So I was just about to type up a blog on Great Expectations which I finished yesterday (the day after I returned home) but I decided I should do my traditional last blog which typically consists of a grouping of lists summarizing the trip. First I wanted to describe our flight home briefly. We arrived at the airport quite early, because I am never calm until I have checked in and made my way through security. There was a huge area after security which went so fast and Lynette and I ate breakfast and sat amongst the throng of people.I found a bagel that came with REAL bacon instead of back bacon (aka Canadian bacon)...I dislike Canadian bacon and I am assuming we most have gotten this food from our British ancestors. Boo. The flight was mostly on time and ran smoothly. We got bribed with really good food. Our two snacks were vanilla bean icecream and a thai vegetable wrap. Yum. I am not sure if this is normal for international flights or not, since I have only been on domestic flights but I was impressed. I read almost the entire 8 hours trying to finish Great Expectations before I got home. We passed over Iceland and Greenland which was so cool. I was very impressed by all of the ice in the water and the beautiful scenery on land. Customs was a breeze as they now have automated machines that take your card and give you a score. If you are given a low risk a single man checks your card and waves you through. We were low risk. Our luggage took forever to come through which left us in a bit of a panic, thankfully it made it safe and sound, though my bag has a ton of rips and tears on it making it completely unusable for another trip. We had an hour wait for the ferry, but made it on just fine. I went to bed at 8 beign extremely jet lagged and slept for 11 hours. It was glorious.

Now for the summary lists:

Types of food sampled:

British pub food
Welsh food

Drinks sampled:

London Pride
London Glory
Brains Beer

Major sights seen:

Big Ben
Westminster Abbey
Dickens London
Portobello Market
Fortnum and Mason's high tea
Tower of London
Various bridges
Watership Down
Covent Garden/Seven Dials
Sherlock Holmes Museum
Scottish afternoon tea at the Willows Tearoom.
Millenium Centre Cardiff
Mermaid quay Cardiff
Cardiff Castle
Thames River cruise
Cardiff bay cruise

Hotels stayed at:

Premier Inn, Glasgow
Regency Hotel, London
The Big Sleep, Cardiff
Stylotel, London
The George and Dragon, Chichester
EasyHotel, London

Souvenirs bought for me (not others don't want to spoil the surprise)

4 magnets
1 Welsh lovespoon
1 lovespoon necklace
10 new kinds of tea
100 vintage book cover postcards
3 new reusable bags
2 locket watch necklaces
1 ruffled umbrella
1 new wallet

Thats all I can think of to itemize at the moment. Hope you enjoyed the adventure. Now on to the book review!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 12-Chichester/ London shopping.

Today was a super fast day. Lynette and I got up and had breakfast at the Geroge and Dragon conservatory across from our room in the barn behind the pub. This hotel is so fantastic. The food was good too although I only ate breakfast and wolfed down a bowl of soup prior to the wedding. We headed to the train and had no problems whatsoever. I enjoyed reading Great Expectations the whole way (particularly after visiting some of the sights that Pip visited). We arrived at our hotel near Paddington and rejoiced that we never had to haul our luggage through the underground again. Tomorrow we get to hop on the Heathrow express from Paddington Train station. I will be sad to leave the underground but not when dragging a close to 50 pound bag behind me. I am getting huge muscles though! Guess I'll have to try to keep up with it when I get home!!!

Lynette and I gave up on trying to site see today and ended up doing some last minute shopping for souvenirs four both ourselves and others. My one purchase of note was a box of 100 postcards of vintage penguin book covers. I bought it Hatchards because I had seen it and walked away, but still wanted it. The bookstore has been in existence since 1791.Soo cool.

Lynette and I had coffee at this cool place called Picadilly Institute. Coffee house by day and high end pub/coffee place by night. There are 6 themed rooms but most are only open at night. We sat in the foyer which was equally as cool. We were sooo tired.

Lastly we met Sarah at Oxford Circus (can I just say that I HATE circus' my brain can just not compute directions off them. I have yet to get the right road the first time off of a circus (meeting of 6-8 streets) Lynette and I wanted to have a traditional Sunday dinner of roast beef and yorkshires. We found a pub by the circus and ordered the dinner. It was pretty good. I also found breaded pickles and HAD to order them and try them...deep fried pickles folks! Suprisingly good. I also ordered my final ale....most likely ever London Glory. It was not as good as the others as it was pretty watery tasting.

Tomorrow we leave London. I am sad, but know I am starting to get a bit punchy. Today I started following Londoners out into the street prior to the light changing (a very odd quirk we see daily here) and my directional ability has left me a sure sign I need to go home and catch up on sleep and eat regular food. We leave at 10 and arrive at 11 (about an horu later our time...but really 9 hours later for us). I hope I am not too jet lagged as I have to return to work after only 1 day off.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 11- Chichester, Kim’s wedding

Today was the whole reason I came to the UK, so as such it was the most stressful day. Lynette and I got up early to try and catch the tube which we knew was going to be a problem thanks to several planned tube closures. It was a pain in the butt as we figured because we thought we just had to change at two stations, however the entire Victoria line was closed. Because I was so stressed we took a taxi to Victoria station. We arrived with plenty of time, and stood around waiting to catch the 10:32 train to Chichester. The train to Chichester divides so you have to make sure you get in the right car or you end up going the wrong direction. Of course our section was the farthest away from our starting point so we had to run to the end of the platform and Lynette almost didn’t get on the train because the door closed. Thankfully it closed on my bag so we both got on the train just fine! When we arrived to Chichester we had to walk for a long time down the main street of Chichester.

The town is soooo cute. I am so sad I didn’t have more time to enjoy it. The main street is full of super cute wares. We got to check our luggage but no one in Chichester seemed to know where the town of Clymping was so I left an hour early via taxi to make sure that I got there in time. I wanted to eat lunch quickly before I left though and I managed to wolf down a bowl of soup (cauliflower and nutmeg) which was delicious. I got there with half an hour to spare and that is when I was finally able to relax! The church Kim got married in was next to a HUGE prison which I found highly amusing. It was a very old church with a church of some sort standing on that location as early as the 1100’s. It was gorgeous! Sarah arrived and we sat together and chatted. Just before the ceremony started I met Kim’s roommate from Toronto Hannah. She was very nice and we chatted with her after the ceremony was over until Kim and Craig arrived. I hadn’t seen Kim’s dress so when she arrived I was absolutely awed. It was a cocktail length dress with a huge puffy skirt. Hannah thought it looked like an Alice in wonderland dress. She even had a wee little white hat that completed the outfit. I was so excited.

The ceremony had tons of beautiful readings including one from Madeline L’engle. There was also one from George Eliot and Captain Correlli’s Mandolin. I loved all of them. When the ceremony was finally done Craig put on a hat and had a cane. It was so great!
The reception was outdoors but the weather actually got nice for once! While waiting for Kim and Craig to come we had pimm’s which is some sort of alcohol drink (not ale, but a sangria-ish) type drink with fruit. The cupcakes for their cake had glitter on them…which made me so excited! I went with Hannah in her taxi to Little Hampton where I caught the train back to Chichester. There was an unsavoury crowd at some of the stations at night because I had to transfer at two. There was a middle aged man who was falling down drunk with a two litre bottle of some sort of alcohol who thankfully boarded a different train from me. Predominantly though there were a lot of youth and young adults with open liquor spilling into the train and talking loudly of their various exploits. Despite all this I survived and walked the several blocks to the George and Dragon where I found Lynette. I was still a bit hungry from the wedding so I got Chinese Takeaway from across the street. It was delicious. Lynette and I found a Miss Marple mystery so we watched that and then several Red Dwarf episodes (I used to watch that show a ton as kid….so cheesy). Tomorrow we had back to London for our last hurrah before our trip to the airport and our crazy ride home. Will be happy to rest a bit at home on the couch with some tea and a book before I head back to work.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 10-Watership Down and Dicken's London

Today was a great day! Lynette and I went to Kingsclere and Newbury which is by the site Watership Down which is in the book of the same name. This book was Lynette’s favourite book as a kid and since I have known her since I was 8 I read it too. The book follows a warren of rabbits as they leave their home and head towards Watership Down a large hill where they hope to make their new home. This venture was much easier than either of us thought. Thankfully since we are located next to Paddington Station we just had to hop on a train from there to get to Newbury. This was the larger city next to Kingsclere, the town you start your journey from to get to the down. The bus station was actually conveniently located next to the train station and the signage was perfect, so we had no problem finding the station. Unfortunately Lynette left a bag at the bus station which contained her fancy new umbrella and some flip flops. She had been worried about something like this happening and it finally did. I keep asking her how it is possible as I always do one final visual sweep before I move on. (I overcompensate for being forgetful myself). Thanks to the helpful bus driver we got off at a good station to walk to the down from. WE bought gum at a convenience store and asked that lady for directions as well. Both them cautioned us it was really far to get to, but we persevered. The down was a bit of a walk down a tiny country lane but we didn’t get hit so that’s always good!!! We found the foot path to the down without any glitches and started our ascent up the down. It was pretty rough, but I was fully enjoying myself. The view was absolutely stunning and we even saw rabbits, just like in the book. I squealed so loud I scared them off though!!!

Lynette saw some of the sights from the book, but it was mostly just really beautiful to be there. Of course when we got to the top we found the car park located at the top and realized had we had a car we could have drove up it! I have been so proud of our use of public transit. Besides the first day in Glasgow we have not used Taxis even once relying solely on trains, the underground , the bus system and walking. Thank God for cities where all of the above run smoothly well into the night.
When we got back to KIngsclere we had to locate our return stop, which was not easily identifiable. In the process we found the George and Horn an Inn which I had thought to stay at when if we only stayed there instead of London. We ate in the pub and I had GOOD fish and chips for the first time this whole trip. That first batch at the Freemason Arms was NASTY. The George and Horn has six hotel rooms above the pub and is truly a country inn. I can just imagine horses and carriages pulling up there on their journey and staying the night.

The repeat journey home was also uneventful, and we continued on our journey on the underground to Old London so I could see Chancery Lane, and some Dicken’s stuff from the book I am reading right now: Great Expectations. When Pip comes to London with his guardian he stays near the Inns of Court which are grouping of Lawyers who all had to practice Law in one of the various Inns. We walked on High Holborn street where Pip walked his first day and I also saw the Inns of Court , the Courthouse and Chancery Lane which is in Bleak House.

While on our bus tour we passed all the Old pubs in Old London and I really wanted to try one of them. One book suggested Ye Olde Cock Tavern which is a narrow pub that partially survived the fire of London. Dickens favoured this pub, as did Tennyson who even wrote a poem about it which is displayed in the front window. When we first passed the Cock Tavern it was full so we carried on our way to Ye Olde Chesire Cheese but that was full too. Since I really wanted to try one in this district we checked back into Ye Olde Cock Tavern and it was finally empty. We made the mistake of attempting to arrive at the pubs as all the Lawyers were leaving work so we caught the after work rush. Lynette and I ordered Bangers and Mash which were good, but not after also having fish and chips that day! It was the last of London Pub food we had yet to try. We also ordered a Fuller’s Bitter Ale which is brewed in a London Brewery we passed on our way to Stonehenge. It was again, not bad and we stayed for awhile to enjoy ourselves.

Lynette and I have a crazy stressful adventure tomorrow to Kim’s wedding as there are several tube closures on the weekend. Our journey will be extra long as a result of (yet again) having to take the long way around. I can’t wait to see my old roommate and good friend, Kim gets married tomorrow in Chichester. We will be staying in the George and Dragon which is another old country Inn. Our rooms are located in the stables attached to the pub and Kim tells me this is her favourite pub in Chichester. If we get there early enough before the wedding I hope to have lunch there. We will have one last day in London after that before heading back to Canada the next day. I apologize for the dryness of these blogs as I usually try to make them a bit silly, and funny. Sadly we have done soooo much each day it takes me long enough just getting the bare details out. Thanks for coming along on the journey with me. I love to hear what people think of all we’ve done (although these notes can hardly be considered literary masterpieces!)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 9 The crazy, cheesy whirlwind tour of London.

Today was a looong day. I am starting to get a case of the crankies! I did so good for so much of the day because we were on the bus tour, but by the end, when I hadn’t eaten lunch, and I realized that I was not going to get to see everything that I wanted to see I started to get irritable. Ugh. This tends to happen about day 8-10 of my trips so I have lasted equally as long on this one. Tomorrow we are heading to the country though so that Lynette can walk through Watership Down. I think that will be a nice change of pace and it will be good to see rural England a bit, as we have mostly just seen the city of London so far, besides what whizzes by on the train!

Sarah spent the night last night after the play so we all had breakfast in the breakfast room. It was very nice, but we got there late, so we didn’t have a lot of selection. We followed Sarah to Victoria station and we headed to the Original Bus tour ticket location. Sarah was off to Kim’s wedding shower, whereas I (a not so good friend) was continuing my trip through London. I am very excited for Kim’s wedding, but because I am travelling with Lynette (and also because I am cheap) wanted to make the most of the adventure and squeeze as much as I can into the trip!
We chose to take the original bus tour which among other things does a two hour tour of the city. Our tour guide was very attractive and the over the top, extremely cheesy jokes made me smile so much. Lynette and I were sitting directly in front of him so he kept looking at us. We made a “woo hoo” noise when he mentioned Wales and he started talking with us about why were excited about it. He eventually realized he was still on mike and then apologized to the whole bus and got back to commentating. It was really cute! I took a total stalker picture of him while he was singing Handel’s Messiah which is the sound that Big Ben makes before chiming. I definitely wanted to take him home in my bag with me. :O

We mostly accomplished a full circle before we hopped off at Buckingham Palace/Westminster Abby to REALLY see the sights of London. I actually really loved Big Ben. I was thinking it wouldn’t be that impressive, but it really is. Westminster Abbey was stunning and not as busy as I thought it would be post Royal Wedding. The architecture is beautiful and I was awed by all the author’s graves in Poet’s corner. There were several of the author’s on my list that I have recently read including, Henry James, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot. A few of the other impressive ones include C. S Lewis and Robert Browning. One of the memorial plaques on the wall had a quote that said, “Do Great things for the Lord”, and I really liked that. I was in awe almost the entire time I was in the Abbey. I was shocked though by people’s need to be buried in the church. Most people of ancient times I think lived with a real respect for the afterlife and wanted to make sure that they go to heaven. Sadly you couldn't take pictures inside but I did catch a few outside the building on the way in.

After we were done in the Abbey which took a surprising amount of time we took a tour bus back to London Tower. Unfortunately we left it way to late and by the time we arrived back at the London Tower there was not enough time to view the exhibit, so we had to settle for taking pictures of the outside of it, which is still impressive. We took a river cruise back to Westminster/ the London Eye. We were privileged enough to watch the Tower bridge opening to let a tall ship past through. These cheesy tourist guides were also awesome and pretended to have it done just for us, but I knew better. This tour guide sounded just like Hatter off of Syfy’s Alice so I was greatly amused. The only dude of a tour guide we had was on our way to the London tour. He listed the sites, but without any of the funny jokes. LAME!

Lastly we tried to go to the Slug and the Lettuce but it was jam packed so we ended up just catching the tube back to our hotel and eating at a Scotch steak place by our hotel. It was alright, nothing to write home about and nothing like the great pubs we have been eating at so far. I am really hoping to go to one of the REALLY old pubs that are in London, but I fear that may be one thing on my list that I won’t get to do. There is always something that you have to cut out. I was just sad that it had to be recommended food place. I love sampling the local food. After our crappy meal (actual it was alright I ate chicken cordon bleu) I was still hungry having completely skipped lunch so we got some pastry from Mimo’s café across the street. We drank coffee for a while in the cool lounge downstairs with the blue leather couches. Now we are reclining in the room trying to catch up on notes and also photo posting.

Fun fact from the tour bus: the majority of “London” is actually Westminster, but the small old city still remains. I was so excited to drive through it and see where Dicken’s used to hang out. I took a photo of Chancery Lane as we passed it which was in Bleak House. The tour guide talked a lot about the London Fire and the Black plague which was really interesting….although quite creepy and a little sad.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 8-London Eye, Fortnum and Mason’s high tea and Much Ado about Nothing

Today was a fantastic day. I can’t get over how much we have been doing each day. When I review the day every day seems to be a week in “normal” time. We started our morning off at the stylotel having breakfast. It included hashbrowns and hot food as well as the usual continental spread.
We headed fairly quickly to the London Eye for our 10am ride on the infamous London Eye! It was quite pricey to get to Fast Track ticket but we literally got to walk past rows, and rows of people and instantly get on to the ride. Before going on we watched the 4-D video which was so fun. It is a short 3-D movie of the London eye but the 4-D includes fake snow which falls on your arms, bubbles and “rain” that pours down on you. At first I was disappointed with the London Eye because it was so crowded but people were very kind and rotated through so you could see all the sites. Of course it started raining so we killed some time in the gift shop. (I don’t think we have had a single full day rain free since arriving). We walked along the Embankment for awhile and then got back on the underground to go to Picadilly Circus and Fortnum and Mason’s for our super early high tea seating. We got there super early having over estimated how long it was going to take us to get there and we walked around the store itself for a awhile. Apparently the Fortnum and Mason partnership was created over one of the pair selling the candle leftovers from the queen’s house. She demanded new candles every morning. The department store is so fancy. I loved looking at all the stuff, but besides tea and a token bag I didn’t buy anything. We got tired so fast, so we headed for tea early. Turns out we were the only people in the restaurant but that meant that I got a lot of really great pictures. Having been to high tea in the Empress in Victoria on Vancouver Island this place was ten times better. The décor was both modern and yet true to the theme of afternoon tea. I just love it when the cart arrives with all of the goodies both sandwiches and treats. This tea came with Madeline’s which I mentioned in my In Search of Lost Time blog I have grown to love. I was feeling much better than our experience in Glasgow so I mostly got through all of the stuff. On our way back home we stopped in to of the famous bookstores of London: Hatchards which has been in existence since the 1700s and a modern one Waterstones. I didn’t buy much but it was fun to look.
On our way back to meet Sarah the Underground announced a closure on one of the lines. The sign talking about it said, “closure due to person under the train” as though it were no big deal….but really if you are UNDER The train you are probably dead. The London Underground repeatedly says, “Mind the gap” (I guess they didn’t head instructions!!!) I loved the phrase so much that I am bringing home a cell phone case that says Mind the Gap! It just sounds like a creepy phrase that would be repeated in a horror movie or a Dr. Who episode!!!! We arrived back at the hotel and headed downstairs to wait for Sarah’s arrival and enjoy the complimentary coffee in the sweet blue lounge downstairs. When she got there a short 20 minutes later we quickly got ready and picked up our theatre tickets for Much Ado About Nothing. We picked up our tickets and got so excited! David Tennant and Catherine Tate, from Doctor Who among other things are in it. We had dinner at The Cork and the Bottle which was recommended in my travel book. It is a wine bar that also serves excellent food. Both Lynette and I had Chicken Kiev, which was excellent. In keeping with my theme of trying new things I had Pinot Grigo. It was quite excellent….and no mom I am not becoming an alcoholic!!!
The play was AMAZING!!! The play was set in the 80s which was just ridiculous! The costumes were crazy. At one point David Tennant had on a mini skirt, fish nets and when he reached under his skirt and pulled out smokes a leather thong!!! LOL. It was hilarious! The whole thing was just over the top fun. Both David Tennant and Catherine Tate have the best facial expressions. The story was amazing too. I don’t remember whether I have actual read much ado about nothing or not. I was quite moved by the story though because two hardened characters eventually fell in love. I myself have been resistant to love, but it has been no secret to anyone that I have desired it greatly. A lesson can be learned from this play not to push others away. We were in the front row and the stage was so close we could touch it. (These were the last two tickets when we booked). David Tennant sprayed a bit when he talked and we were so close to being spit on. The seats were not bad, although it was awkward when we were craning our necks to look at them and they were towering over us. Despite that I had a perfectly close view of the entire staff. I love David Tennant and think he is the cutest man alive. I have only seen a few episodes of Dr. Who but I thought that then and I think that even more now!!!! I want a scrawny, sweet, dorky boy of my own! :D Final note of the day is that the theatre we were in was to die for. The art on the boxes, the balconies and the stalls was so intricate and beautiful. I so wish that we could have taken pictures in there, but of course you aren’t allowed. Although it was expensive I would go again in a heart beat!!!! Tomorrow I think we are going to do a hop on, hop off bus tour to cram as many sites as we can in. We were going to Watership Down but we are exhausted and didn’t think we could pull it off.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 7-Cardiff, Barry and Piccadilly

Update from last night:

We did make it to Cardiff Bay to place Lynette's Canada flag on the Torchwood fan wall, we also took pitures at night and had the most delicious pan Asian food at the Spice Merchant which was a asian fusion buffet. So delicious.

Today was a fantastic day! We started the morning off in Cardiff finishing up where we left off. We took a short trip to the Cardiff Castle where we took pictures outside of the gates. There was a Canadian flag there and a gate that had a a variety of animals posted along the wall (in statue form of course). When one things of a castle and what animals might possibly represent it I don’t think these ones will come to mind. There was a seal, a vulture and an odd animal which was possibly a ground hog. Of course there were the standard ones including lion, wolf etc but the odd ones amused me. We were going to go inside the castle and take a look at some of the cool rooms inside but we only got as far as the gift shop where both Lynette and I dropped a pretty penny. After that we decided not to pay the !2 pound admission fee and just head straight to Barry Island where Gavin and Stacy a BBC show is filmed. I have only seen clips of the show but Lynette described the seaside resort as a tacky tourist haven I love nothing more than tacky tourist stuff. We took the train there using our Britrail passes which meant that it didn’t cost us anything extra. The seaside town of Barry is like any other summer resort town (full of arcades, places to eat, amusement park rides and tourist stores peddling there cheap wares… I loved it! Lynette pointed out parts from the show to me and I took pictures of a few things. I also made sure to step into the ocean to say I had been in that body of water. After having stood in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans I have now added the Bristol Channel to my list of bodies of water I have been in. Lynette and I ate chips and curry sauce for lunch which was DELICIOUS. I wasted some of my small change playing amusement park kids games. I always love those things. I have been in the Seaside, Oregon arcade and loved that too.

Lastly we took the train back home. When we arrived in Cardiff we had to walk back to our hotel to pick up our luggage and then back to the train we had just left. We caught the train just fine and ended up on a direct trip back to London. That left us with an enjoyable 2 hour ride to Paddington station which thankfully our hotel was right next to. We found it with very little problem. It was only a two minute walk away!!! The Stylotel is a CRAZY, AMAZING, AWESOME hotel. The lounge has blue leather chairs, the rooms and halls are made of brushed steel, the headboard are blue leather and the bedside tables are frosted glass with a light inside. Lynette and I feel like we should be on a sci fi show!

We went to Piccadilly Circus at night time to check out the crazy light and chaos. While we wandered around looking for a place to find dinner we stumbled upon Chinatown and decided to eat a set menu Chinese meal. We chose the Szechuan menu which came with Szechuan soup, Szechuan beef, Szechuan chicken, Szechuan vegetables and spicy rice. It was so delicious but extremely good! I would do it again hands down. We ate outside so we got to watch people walk by as we ate. I took pictures of the lights when it got dark and then we came back to the hotel. Piccadilly is crazy at night so many flashing lights and tons of people.

Tomorrow we do the London eye and also afternoon tea at Fortnum and Masons. In the evening we have a play with David Tennant and Catherine Tate in it! It is going to be so awesome! Hope to have time to blog but we will have to see.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 6- Cardiff

Cardiff was sooooo much fun. Lynette and I have both liked it the best out of our entire trip. We ate breakfast at our hotel in the morning in our very retro breakfast room. Huge pink flowers on the wall! We walked down to Cardiff City first thing in the morning and made sure to check out the Cardiff Market. It was pretty cool, but nowhere near as awesome as Pike Place Market.

The only fun addition there was a pet store. For a moment I contemplated bringing a pet back with me!!! Who wouldn’t want a wee little welsh kitty? We also checked out a series of arcades which are tiny hallways containing a series of stores off of them. I found the coolest Welsh Lovespoon ever…which was the one tourist thing I wanted from here. This one was includes a lock and a chain with a key attached to it. Keys are my favourite symbol. We took the bus down to Cardiff Bay and began our Torchwood Tour of Cardiff. Lynette loves the show and though I have only seen one episode in the hotel in Vancouver it was good. We got off the bus at Mermaid Quay and very quickly found the Ianto display where the fans posted a ton of cool stuff in memory of their favourite character. Lynette was so happy that she even cried at one of the sweet comments from a fan. We found a carousel which I was so excited for because I have been on one in Spokane and St. Louis. I have decided that I am going to collect carousel rides when I travel.

Lynette and I sat in the Welsh Dragon on the carousel and fully enjoyed ourselves. Next up was Millenium Centre which is a beautiful bronze stadium style building with the words “Under these stones horizon’s sing” in both Welsh and English. There is also a glass tower where the Torchwood office and magic elevator is. We met a cute Asian boy at several of the Torchwood sights and chatted with him at several of them. I even helped him to take a picture on the “magic stone”.

We hit the Craft on the Bay craft market but did not find anything interesting there. We had lunch at a pub in the Quay where I chose to eat Welsh Rarebit, pronounced Rabbit or so I am told. It was all right, but I am proud that I ate it because I like to try local delicacies wherever I go. Lynette and I decided we were going to take a boat tour back to the city central so we killed some time by stopping and checking out the Red Dragon Centre where the Dr. Who exhibit used to be. There were a few cool restaurant s in there that we may go back to tonight. It was pouring BUCKETS by the time we got off the boat and we had to walk a ways to our hotel. It ended up being okay though because there were several of the arcades with covered halls that we walked through to avoid the rain. Lynette is sick so we stopped in a mall and found her a Boots the chemist (aka pharmacy ) to buy decongestant. The person at the check out commented on our accent and we chatted about living by the sea and sea gulls. We are hoping to go back to the Bay tonight to check it out at night and also drink some more local ale. We may give up on this however if the weather doesn’t hold out for us. Tomorrow we will stop at the castle and possibly make a trip to Barry which is half an hour away. It is a seaside amusement park that was featured in Gavin and Stacey another British show that Lynette watchs. Then we catch the train back to Paddington for four days in London!!!

Fun things on the trip that I forgot to comment on so far:
HUGE fan of British boys and their cardigans and dress shirts….just saying
British coffee is NASTY. They really like their packaged instant food and that is what the coffee is in the rooms. Also, they don’t use coffee cream in their coffee so we have had to put up with milk. Thankfully I am a fan of lattes and I have been drinking them the whole time.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 5 Stonehenge and Cardiff.

So I am now in my third country in four days. We are in Cardiff at a very fun vintage hotel. It is set in a 1960s Office building and has huge bright bold vintage prints....add our room is next door to a building that was on Torchwood!!! It also has fleece curtains too which is hilarious.

OUr hotel for the past two days had a porter/ concierge. He was so fantastic.Helped us out a lot. I will be sad to leave him behind.

OUr day started Soooo early with a tour bus trip to Stonehenge. This is the second wonder of the world I have seen after Mount Rushmore (thats on the list right??). It is beautiful and so inspiring up close and personal. You can't enter the circle, but you do get fairly close. It was made even more awesome by the fact that today is June 19th in the UK and the summer solstice June 21 is a really big deal at Stonehenge. We got pretty close to the day, but that day was sold out.

The bus tour was gloriously cheesy and the driver told the worst jokes ever. They were so bad, that you groaned,but then smiled which made me happy. You also got to watch a dvd in prep for the trip. The our ended back in London with the option of stopping at Harrods (which we chose to do). We walked around the food courts but didn't buy anything. We needed to eat so we chose to go to a Lebanese restraunt across the street which was delicious, healthy and far cheaper. Yummy food. I had fattosh which is a bread salad and Chicken Schwarma. Yum! After Harrods we went into Burberry, but a luggage tag cost $85 and a scarf was a 185 pounds. I love scarfs but not that much!!!

The underground unfortunately has construction on the weekends so it took us a bit to get to Paddington where our bus departed from to Cardiff. I was so excited to realize the signifcance of being there. I found a paddington bear store. I had the bear as a kid and didn't evne know he was from teh station and I have read Agatha Christies 4:50 from Paddington. I got so excited to be actually sitting there. WE got on the train to Cardiff okay, but almost missed getting off at the station we needed to transfer at to complete the journey. We thought it was a direct route.

On the way to our hotel we spotted a pub called the Golden Cross. It has Brains which is the local beer in Wales. We decided to try the ale and eat dinner there. Sadly it was a sunday so we drank our beer but had to eat somehwere else. It just so happened that the Golden cross was a gay bar. It was actually a REALLY nice place, everything was purple and the waiters were really friendly. I'd go again! Turns out Brains is actually not bad for a beer! We ended up eating at TGI Fridays since it was the only thing still opened when we finished at the pub. We ate greasy pub style food in keeping with the theme of the day!!!!

We are chilling at the hotel now, before our full day of touring tomorrow. Can't wait!!

Day 4-Portobello Market and Covent Garden/Seven Dials

From yesterday:

Today was an excellent day. I felt the best I have felt on the trip and I really enjoyed myself. Saturdays and Sundays are market day in London. We went to the most famous of all Portobello Road. This road is actually three markets in one. The first half is antiques , the second half is fruits and vegetables and the third half is bric-a-brac. The streets are filled with people, and it feels cool to be a part of the crowd. Lynette and I didn’t buy much but I found really cool locket watches for 4 pounds.

We also chose to go to Covent Garden which is a very fancy district in London. I was most excited to see the Seven Dials area which I heard about from an Agatha Christie novel The Seven Dials Murders. We got lost and ended up in a completely different direction, but despite that had a delicious lunch at the Freemason Arms pub. Did I ever mention that the Freemason’s creep me out? I had my first British fish and chips. The fish was so high quality it still had bones in it which was actually really annoying. I had wanted to go to the Lamb and the Flag which was recommended by the book and down a very cute hidden alley. Sadly when we got there it was too small and hot for Lynette. I eventually reoriented myself and we found the Seven Dials area including Neal Street and Neal yard. Neal street had a fantastic tea store that I wanted to go to and Neal yard was a very bright and colourful square hidden behind a bunch of buildings. Sadly the Seven Dials which is a clock tower with 7 faces , at the centre of where 8 roads converge was completely covered up by construction platforms. I felt gyped but still appreciated getting to see it.

By this point Lynette and I’s bodies were giving out on us so we headed back on the tube to get home.
The hotel we are staying in is very nice. We are in a club room which has a lot of interesting technology. The lights are powered by your key card and there are several options which include backlighting on a modern painting, lighting beside the mirror and my favourite feature of all. Blue lighting under beside table and in the bathroom (which by the way has a frosted glass shower, and a square sink!). When we got home around 4, several people were having afternoon tea in the lounge. We thought about doing it too, but we wanted to head to picadilly for the night.

After reviewing our game plan we changed our minds and decided to do a Stonehenge tour instead.
Lynette and I are in London for half a day before we go to Cardiff for a few days and we managed to book ourselves a half day Stonehenge tour. VERY exciting!!! We leave straight from the hotel first thing in the morning and will arrive back just in time to head to Cardiff.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 3-Glasgow and London

So I am in the business centre at our hotel, The Regency in London. The internet was down today so our porter let us us it for free. He helped us with our bags and I was impressed having never stayed in a hotel with a porter. Sad story though...the hotel front desk guy asked us where we were from and we said BC. He knew about the hockey riots and we talked about it for a few minutes. WHAT A SHAME on our nation that it has become international news. OUr morning started with a full scottish breakfast at our hotel the Premier Inn. It was delicious. I decided to try Marmite because that is very british, but it was so disgusting I almost threw up! Everything else was yummy including the sausage and fruit. We got a cab to George square and wandered down Sauchiehall street (sounds like sock ie hall....rhymes with loch). Lynette and I got super cute umbrellas at H & M that have birds and a ruffle. It was pouring again and neither of us were prepared. We found the greatest gift shop ever and dropped a pretty penny there. The whole reason I wanted to go to Glasgow was to see the Willow Teahouse which was designed by the famous scottish designer Rennie MacIntosh (or something like that). It had tall chairs and was very art deco or modern. We had afternoon tea which I JUST adored. I unfortunately got very sick while sitting there and kept feeling like I was going to pass out so I couldn't finish my scone with clotted cream and I never even touched my strawberry tart. :( We wandered our way back to the hotel and then got dropped off at the trainstation by at taxi.

One funny thing of note. At the hotel I was trying to ask for the washroom, but they started at me blankly. Apparently you must refer to it as the toilet for them to know what you mean. A washroom is the place where the shower is!!!

We took the train back to London which took again the 5 hours. We were much more alert for this trip and I spent the trip reading Great Expectations. It is so great because it talked about several London landmarks taht I will very likely see in the near future.

We took the Tube to our hotel which was a nightmare. SOOO many people hurrying to the trains, and us with our crazy luggage. We did it though with no glitches. Transfering two different trains and walking four minutes to the hotel. I was so proud that I managed to get it all figure out (Lynette is hopeless when it comes to directions).

Our hotel is gorgeous and the room is lovely. We are hear for a few days before we are off to Cardiff. I will try adding pictures tomorrow if the net is fixed.

Lastly we went to a Thai restaraunt and each had curry it was delicious. We spend some downtime in our room and sleep. I think tomorrow we are braving the Portobello Market because it is the antique market day tomorrow. Woo.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 1 and 2 cause we lost several hours due to time change.

Hello, all I am sure you are dying to hear how our insane Air Canada flight went yesterday. It was an adventure and a half let me tell you. It is comical in retrospect butit was a lesson in patience at the time. I managed to remain calm for most of, however when we thought we were going to miss our connecting flight I just about flipped.

Our morning started off on June 15th (yesterday for us in the UK) with an early morning trip to the airport to be sure and check in on time via the self check tools. Thanks to the Air Canada strike we wasted even more time at the airport. The self check services were running smooth and we were 2 hours early for our flight. That was the end of our good fortune.

Our flight was delayed despite arriving at the terminal on time because of some odd incident with the gate. When we finally boarded the plan after at least 3 "just 5 minutes more folks" a person got sick and had to be taken off the plane and their luggage unloaded. You would think that this would be a once a trip occurance but NO it happened to a family of 7 on our Toronto to London connection.

When we arrived in Toronto, we had to wait for an hour on the runway because we were late and another plane was using our gate. Lynette and I had to pee so bad, but we didn't want to miss our connection so we ran to our terminal and boarded our plane "on time" but we didn't need to rush because 40 other passengers were late too and as mentioned above yet another passenger had to vacate the plane due to illness (who does that??)

When we FINALLY arrived in London we were only an hour late for our original landing time. We made our way through customs and arrived at the luggage departmant only to discover it was NOT there. A baggage check in person was waiting for us because despite spending an HOUR unloading the 7 sick passengers luggage they didn't have time to load ours. GRRR! It was to follow us on the next flight. We originally thought to wait in the airport the estimated 4 hours it would take to get there, but after eating breakfast and drinking coffee, we decided to brave the city. We even found a luggage check in service and checked in our heaviest bags! Since we didn't have much time, and I wasn't yet brave enough to figure out multiple Tube transfers we chose to go to Baker street and the Sherlock Holmes museum. It was FANTASTIC!! I got to pose in a Sherlock Holmes hat and with a fake pipe.

It was pouring and after a brief trip around the block we decided to go back to the airport. Fortunately when I looked at the arrived flights the next one from Toronto had arrived. We were escorted back through security to pick up our bags and then we were on our way! We headed BACK on the Heathrow express and then on the Tube to Euston station where we caught our train to Glasgow.The luggage cart was completely full so for 4 hours we sat with our massive luggage on our laps. 5 hours later we arrived in Glasgow threw our luggage in the hotel room (completely purple I might add....fave colour ever!) and ate dinner. I had a lamb kofta curry which was delicious and Lynette at fish and chips with mushy peas. We hope to hit the Willow Tea room tomorrow before a 5 hour trip back to London for a few days. (crazy I know, but we had a hotel booked and the 5 hour delay wasn't going to mess with our plans

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pre trip-Day 1

For those of you who have been following my blog as a book blog, I also (about once a year) use it as a travel blog. Welcome to Day 1 of what I have affectionately dubbed Operation UK.....and what an operation it has been! Sadly Air Canada (the company my friend and I are flying)has been on strike since mindnight last night. This has left me with a great deal of angst and probably several extra gray hairs I didn't need. Thankfully from the news today it seemed like despite the strike things have run relatively smoothly. People are checking in early and using the self check in tools so we are hopeful that we will be travelling tomorrow.We may have slight delays in Toronto where the accumulation of many small delays has left flights running slightly behind but it looks like we will eventually make it. Woo!

We arrived at the hotel and were placed next to a hotel room with red tape strung across the walkway that said "danger do not enter". For some reason we thought it might have had bed bugs which made us scramble around our room ripping the bedding off our beds to check our room. Looks good so far , but both Lynette and I are paranoid and itchy! When I travel I rate hotels according to how ugly their comforters are. These ones are hideous!!

On the plus side there was a sweet little rubber duck in the bathroom when we arrived. I was very excited when I saw it and screetched at the top of my lungs, "DUCK!!!". This led to a perfect photo opportunity with my newest travelling companion, a wee little gnome.

After debating for about half an hour what we wanted to do we finally chose to walk next door to the IHOP (International House of Pancakes) restraunt. Neither Lynette and I had ever been to one. I ordered a crepe meal which came with bacon (a must for me in breakfast meals....heck actually a must most times of day!) and scrambled eggs. We both agreed that we would go again. Our waitress was so great we both tipped her $5!

Tomorrow we brave the airport and the Air Canada picket line which I am NOT happy to be crossing. :( I may soon be on strike myself and it just feels wrong. But sadly, I have been planning this trip forever and not willing to give it up. This will be my first transatlantic trip. Make sure to check in tomorrow night when I will blog about the flight and our ever so brief stay in Glasgow!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book 15- Tom Jones

I just finished book 15 which is Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. I liked this book, but it wasn't my all time favorite. I am beginning to see a pattern here with the books that Mr. Daniel S. Burt adds to his list. The majority of them seem to be about infidelity. Dude, seems to have a bit of thing with it!!!

The one thing that I liked about this book is that the writer is a part of the book. He frequently stops his story and directly speaks to the reader. This makes them feel like an active part of the story as well. One of the funny quotes like this was a discussion where he talked about the view from the top of a hill and he concluded by saying, "how to get thee down without breaking my neck I do not know" as though both the author and the reader where actually standing on the hill. Each chapter had headings and some of them were quite comical including these,

"containing such grave matter that the reader cannot laugh once through the whole chapter".

"Most dreadful chapter indeed; in which few readers ought to venture upon in an evening, especially when alone"

Tom Jones is a lovable character. He is full of character flaws, but the reader can tell that he is not a bad person inside. His predominant flaw is a penchant for being easily swayed by the temptation of a beautiful lady. Despite this, he never hides his flaw and is completely open with the world about it (much to his frequent distress). Here are a few quotes about him:

"Though he did not always act rightly he never did otherwise without feeling and suffering for it"

"A single bad act no more constitutes a villain in life than a single bad part on the stage"

A man who commits evil is not totally bad and corrupt in his heart"

Another interesting thing about this book, is that it reminded me a great deal of Don Quixote. Although I hated that book at the time I read it I am now very glad that I have read it because it appears to be an often quoted or used piece of literature. Tom Jones is similar to Don Quixote in that the main characters both go on quests with a completely ridiculous scaredy-cat side kick willing to sacrifice everything in hopes of furthering the hero. There was infact several references to Don Quixote including this one, Tom Jones had a "gallant disposition which inclines men to knight-errantry, that is to be the champions of ladies in distress.

Being a book about infidelity it is also a book about love. Tom Jones is on a road to personal discovery as he travels to London to make his fortune in the world. On the way he is prepared to eventually be worthy of the women he loves. Here are some quotes about love.

The disease of the mind do in almost every particular imitate those of the the affair of love...this proneness to relapse is no less conspicious"

(This is at least the second book to refer to love as a disease!)

Love, I believe, is the child of love only"

"To love the creature who we are assured hates us is not in human nature"

The main point of the book seems to be about the fact that the author is using Tom Jones as a teachable moment so we can learn from his mistakes. Here are a few things that point to this:

"when we find such vices attended with their evil consequences to our favorite characters, we are not onlly taught to shun them for our own sake, but to hate them for the mischief they have already brought on those we love"

"I discern follies and vices too sufficient to repent and to be ashamed of, follies which have been attended with dreadful consequences to myself.

There were a lot of other things to say about this book, but I will leave it at that. I do have a tendency to ramble on. The next posting I post will likely be from the UK! If you have been following my book blog please also join me as I daily check in from my trip. I tend to do a daily log of my crazy shenanigans. i will also, while in London, be reading book 16 which is Great Expectations. As it is partially set in London and I hope to go to the Charles Dickens museum this is very exciting!!! I will leave you with one last quote from Tom Jones on London:

" you have the advantage of solitude without its disadvantage, since you may be alone and in company at the same time."