101 things about me

Monday, 24 October 2011

Adios Barcelona, hello London, bonjour Paris...

The last couple of weeks of my trip have been so so busy I have struggled to post. I will just have to do some catch up posts when I get back to Australia on the 31st of October, because I just know the next few days are going to be chock-a-block.

I will then be able to post images more successfully as I have a few issues using the blogger app on my mobile. I can't move the images once I have loaded them which I am finding quite frustrating.

But in the meantime, a quick summary if what we have been up to...

Barcelona was amazing. What a city. The art of Picasso and the architecture of Gaudi in particular were worth the trip. I will post more soon. About the crowds, the cost, the pickpockets, the sights.

We arrived back in London late last night and leave for another mini break tomorrow morning, this time 2 nights in Paris. As I said... go go go.

It so happens today is my birthday. I have had a lovely day in Richmond, London with my Mum and friends Lucia & Felipe. We shared an amazing lunch prepared with love by Lucia, followed it by a long walk along the Thames between Richmond and Kew Gardens and then topped it all off with an incredible chocolate cake ala Lucia. 2 slices each!

What a perfect way to spend one's birthday, with such special friends. How lucky I am. We will see them when we get back from Paris, catch up again... and no doubt shed a few tears when we say our goodbyes on Friday.

Unfortunately time is running out and we will be heading back to Aus at the end of this week. And whilst I am looking forward to my own bed, some warmer weather and seeing family and friends, I will be very sad to say goodbye.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Being in the hot seat on a double decker bus...

I'm not one for history. Not of the 'old' type of history where I have to remember dates at least.

Which is pretty sad for someone travelling in a country brimming, positively overflowing and steeped in the stuff.

So much here is just so bloody old. There's just no avoiding it... Buildings, monuments, artwork, wars, traditions, victories and tragedies. This was all being created, invented, built and discovered here many generations before white man even set foot on Australian shores. Centuries.

And whilst I've just said it doesn't really interest me, as a person who resides in a country where buildings have a use by date, it's hard not to be impressed in a place like this. Just a little bit. And perhaps also (just a little bit) embarrassed about my historical ignorance.

I got talking to a guy on the bus the other day who started asking me all these questions about Australia and it's history, it's politics, it's literary and geographical details. It was hard not to start hyperventilating. It was like school exams all over again, but worse, because I have no doubt my answers were being scored by others on the bus too, not just by my seat-mate.

When he asked me who I considered was the greatest Australian, I didn't have an answer.

I responded (as one does when one is cornered) by turning it back on him, by asking him who he thought was Britain's greatest person. It silenced him for a moment, but he considered it as his exam questions continued, and managed to come up with a selection of responses during our remaining conversation.

It was an impressive group that included Shakespeare, Elizabeth I, Dickens, Darwin. Undoubtedly (historically at least) great people. And not a sportsman amongst them.

And so the question remains. Who IS the greatest Australian? Maybe we haven't got one yet. Maybe Australia hasn't had enough history yet. Or maybe I haven't.

So, what do you think?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Birthday wishes...

Today (October 13) would have been my brother Jezza's 47th birthday.

Every day he is in my thoughts.
Every day I love and miss him.
Every day I wish he was here still.

This pic was taken in Stoke Newington, where we used to live in the late 80's and early 90's. Mum and I went back there earlier this week, stopping for a quick drink at one of the local pubs.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Art & drama in London...

We continue to keep busy. The pace is relentless and the list of destinations is seemingly endless.

I'll admit to craving a day of rest. A day where we can stay local, stay away from London underground, a day where we can hang out and do pretty much nothing... But then, as we did this morning, we look again at the list of things we still want to do and realise there really isn't time to rest. For now in any case.

Today, as every day, it was worth the extra burst of energy.

First up this morning we headed to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, followed by the Tate Modern. Both were high on our must see list, and both were new destinations since the last time I was in London.

The Globe Theatre is open by tour only and was introduced to us by a very theatrical and excellent guide. It is a remarkable building and it was easy to imagine a play on the stage. Unfortunately the season is over for this year so we were unable to view a performance, but it was still well worth a visit.

After we had finished there, we walked less than 5 minutes to the converted Bankside power station next door, which is now home to the Tate Modern.

The 7 levels of modern art ranging from photography and sculpture to multimedia, painting and art installations is extensive and too much to absorb in one visit. But wow.

I was especially taken with a temporary exhibition by artist Taryn Simon called "A living man declared dead and other chapters. I-XVIII" which was created over the course of 4 years. It was a touching and insightful photographic display and narrative. Well worth a visit if you happen to be in London anytime before January 2nd 2012. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you get to see it.

Tomorrow we are having a break of sorts... a day out of town with a trip to Oxford. At least on the trip there and back we get to sit down for a while!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Squeezing all we can into six weeks...

I sat on the tube on my first day in London... Listened to the scraping and squealing of the wheels on the rails, the beeps announcing the closing of the doors, the "mind the gap" warnings... I felt the uneven jolting and rocking of the carriages and the gusts of stale air as underground tunnels were negotiated... And I felt as if I had never been away.

So many things have remained as I remember them. I have been genuinely surprised to find streets are lined with many of the same shops. That buses travel the same routes to the same destinations. Pubs still smell the same (sans the stale smell of cigarettes) and bar staff still welcome patrons with the standard "alright?"
The chaos of central London is certainly more frantic, and yet the relative calm of Richmond (where I used to live, and am now lucky to be staying) feels like the haven it always did.

And as for my long list of things 'uncool' about London in yesterday's post, rest assured, there are so many more things that ARE cool. London public transport is awesome. The history, the tradition, the icons of London are ageless and still take my breath away. The art is brilliant. The shopping is varied and full of treasures (and a lot of crap too!). The shows are vibrant and affordable (if you're willing to sit in the gods!)

The scale of everything here is breathtaking. Each turn uncovers another icon or a hidden treasure. It's easy to fill hours just walking the streets and catching the sights or grabbing a seat somewhere and watching the world go by.

I am loving being back here after all this time. Every now and then I pinch myself to remind myself I am here and how lucky we are to be able to spend six weeks exploring and enjoying it all.

So far I have returned to many places I have been before, but I have also explored new areas too. Windsor and it's castle, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and parliament, the London Eye, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Hyde Park... Hampton Court Palace, the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Wallace Collection, Kew Gardens. Les Miserables. A long weekend in Aberdeen, Scotland visiting family friends.

Phew! Did I say we'd been busy?

Being a tourist is exhausting. But there's still so much to see and do...

There's still the Globe Theatre, Portobello and Spitalfields markets, The Mousetrap, the Foundling museum, the Tate Gallery... And a few trips out of London... a trip to Bath or Salisbury where we can also catch up with blogging friend Trash... we have a four night trip to Barcelona booked and (time permitting) we might even squeeze in a two night break in Paris. Not to mention catching up with Lucia & Felipe when they get back from Brazil.

Busy times.
Busy busy times.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Not everything is cool in London...

Food poisoning is not cool.
Stepping and then standing in front of someone looking at a painting in a gallery is not cool.
Picking your nose on public transport is not cool.
Eating it is definitely not cool.
Singing louder than the performers during a West End show is not cool.
Leaning forward in your theatre seat so that you block the view of the person behind you is not cool.
Having a full on argument with your husband on the tube, with someone sitting between you, is not cool.
Not returning reservation emails is not cool.
Missing a bus and having to wait for another in the rain is not cool.
Blisters on blisters are not cool.
Smothering yourself in perfume and using public transport is not cool.
Littering is not cool.
People speaking at full volume on their mobile phones on public transport are not cool.
Whinging is not cool.