Sunday, January 21, 2018

The adventure so far...

Well I am sitting here in my room in Streatham listening to the rain and drinking my second cup of coffee.  Time to get a blog post done.  It is going to be a "stay at home day" today me thinks.  I have to keep reminding myself that I have over four months of travel and can savour it - just like I remind myself when I am walking around Marks and Spencers foodhall and I want ALL THE THINGS and have to remind myself I have plenty of time to sample them all.  (what a great feeling!)

So let's start in Toronto.  As my niece is currently traveling she let my sister (who lives in Hamilton, an hour south of Toronto) and I stay at her apartment.  It was so handy especially with a subway station close by.  Unfortunately the weather was fairly cold so we didn't get out and do a whole lot but it was nice to just visit and also have a more relaxed start to my holiday.  We did have a couple of nice meals out and also went to the Royal Ontario Museum to see the Vikings exhibit.

Even the Museum subway station is impressive!

Replica of a Viking boat

The exhibit was so interesting - I have always been fascinated with Vikings.

Then it was time to head to London.  My trip was made much simpler by simply taking the subway and train out to the airport.  The flight with Westjet was a bit late but due to head winds or whatever they are our flight was only five and a half hours.   There was a bit of a wait at passport control - one poor lady collapsed and the medics had to be called.  A scary way to begin your holiday for sure.

Before I knew it I was back in Streatham having coffee with Claudia.  I was so tired though.  I have never been that tired from an overseas flight - except maybe when I flew to Australia many moons ago.

The first two days I gently eased myself into my London life...getting a new SIM card for my phone.  I am now with Vodafone instead of EE and so far so good.  I eagerly went to the Balham library only to find out it is closed on Tuesdays and Sundays.  However I did get a casual year long seniors membership to the Streatham leisure centre - for a princely fee of five pounds!  This enables me to get a discount on classes and public swimming.  I went in on Wednesday only to find myself in the way of the lane swimmers and then got kicked out of the pool in the class area.  I headed over to the learners pool where I was most welcome to join the toddlers learning how to swim.  So in about two feet of water I sat and watched tiny rubber duckies float by.  Ah well, it was an experience.  The next day I attended my first aquasize class.  Hmmm...the music pounded while the instructor stood on the outside of the pool and showed us what to do.  Nothing could be heard over that racket. I kept getting in the way there too.  The lifeguard who had kicked me out of the pool the day before was giving me looks...yeah, I know I am not coordinated.  By the time I figured out what was going on it was on to the next thing.  I lasted half an hour and I was done in.  Will I try it again?  Not sure on that one. It's not what I would call my idea of a good time and listening to blasting music with women singing...more like shrieking...well some of us would call that torture.  I just may stick to the public swimming times and do my stretches there.

Wednesday evening Claudia, Ale and I went for Japanese food in Central London. I stuffed myself full of tempura prawns, avocado sushi and terriyaki chicken.  Then Thursday I headed into town to see the Lumiere London lights festival and see a play.

First up was the aquarium in the Seven Dials area...

Yes those are little fish...swimming in a red telephone booth...

And a bigger guy too...

Flamingos "flying" around in Chinatown.

All sorts of critters were lurking around Leicester Square!

Then I wandered into Piccadilly Circus and there was a spectacular multimedia display on a building.  Actually I didn't know what to look at first - the wonderful new digital advertising billboard that replaced the older one earlier this year, the light show or the crowd standing all over the place because the normally frantic circus was closed to traffic!

The play I attended, "Mischief at the Movies" was put on by the Mischief company and I have seen all of their plays (thanks Loraine for telling me about them!).  It was held in a rather dilapitated old theatre.  When the fellow ahead of me sat down I realized I could stretch my legs out but I learned the hard way when he stood up to let someone past that maybe that wasn't such a good idea.  The back of the chair crashed down on my feet and the weight of it was unbelievable.  I sat there gritting my teeth, trying not to scream and slowly pulled my feet out.  Did I learn my lesson? soon as the play began I stuck them under again anticipating he wouldn't be standing up again until the end. I  Okay now for the play was improvisation at its best.  Now I am really not a fan of improv - I appreciate the concept and the talent but it's not really my "thing".  We, the audience decided what type of movie it would be and the concensus was a "mafia" movie that started on a bouncy castle. Hilarious!  The performance was just over an hour which worked out perfectly for Thelma (my replaced knee) as she doesn't like sitting for too long.  As I had only paid ten pounds for my ticket I felt it was money well spent.

The next day (Friday) I decided to have breakfast at a small local cafe called the Deli Lama.  The barista/cook was friendly and it helped that I was the only customer.  We had a great discussion about Mexico, travel and music.  Not only is it a cafe but it is a music venue AND a record store! (vinyl)  My egg and bacon wrap was delish as was the flat white coffee.

With tummy full I headed off on the train to Farringdon where a short bus ride away, the Mail Museum was located.

First of all I wandered through the exhibition which took me about an hour - I could have dawdled longer.

This is a copy of the original Penny Black stamp with Queen Victoria on.  Yes it cost a penny.  Before this only the very rich could afford to send mail.

During the Second World War some red pillar boxes were painted with white bands to avoid accidents during Black outs.

Then it was time to go on the Mail Rail across the street.  The train we went on has been updated for we tourists to an extent but of course very small.  I whacked my head a good one getting into the tiny carriage.   Between 1927 and 2003 (carriages were updated in 1987) there was a network of trains that ran underneath London distributing mail to the sorting centres.  Off we went to see some of the route with a wonderful multimedia presentation about half way through.  Spoiler:  they even pretend to shut the power down at one point so we could experience that. We had a driver but the actual mail trains were controlled remotely.  I thoroughly enjoyed both the museum and the train - highly recommended.  But book ahead...way ahead! 

I looked on my long "must do in London 2018" list to find something in the general area and found St Pancras Church yard which I discovered was just a five minute bus ride away (yay for google maps on my phone) so off I went.

There has been a religious site in this location since the 4th century.  The interior of the church was simple but beautiful. 

That is one weird looking tree - any guesses what it is? 

Above is a beautiful elaborate sundial unveiled in 1879 by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, a Victorian philanthropist who heavily donated to the poor and whose aim was to eradicate the slums in London.  She was known as "Queen to the Poor".  The dog is said to be a replica of her collie. 

Pictured above is the famous "Hardy tree" - named after Thomas Hardy, the author.  In the 1860's the Midland railway expanded in the St Pancras area to go right through the old churchyard. Hardy, who was studying architecture in London at the time got assigned the grisly task by his instructor to remove the corpses and dismantle the headstones.  The headstones were placed here and the tree has grown around them.   

I was growing weary from all that walking so made my way towards Mornington Crescent tube station.  This area of London was all new to me.  

I was on the prowl for an independent coffee shop with a "loo" (toilet).  And I found it!  I had my tea and worked on my journal.  I now enjoy writing in my journal - the secret (for me anyway) is to buy pretty ones.  For years I bought cheapos from the dollar store but my friend June gave me a set of pretty ones and now she has created a monster.  I have a whole stack of journals at home waiting to tell my stories.  I still can't get over the fact that for those six months over here in 2015 I did not keep up a journal - I have my blog of course but there are still things I write about in these journals that I would never put on the blog. 

Then it was time to get back to Lumiere London.  Unfortunately by the time I got my bus a lot of central London had been closed to traffic so the bus was on a diversion route.  I got off near Piccadilly Circus and made my way to Carnaby St - the lights were sadly disappointing.  

Then there was a huge ball in the middle of Oxford Circus that changed colours.  The area was heaving with people and it all got to be too much so I headed back "home".  I missed seeing Westminster Abbey lit up but with the public transit so limited I knew I could not walk there.  It has been raining pretty much ever since.  

Ah well, next time!!  

This weekend is seeing me doing errands like laundry (coming up next), a bit of shopping and going to the Balham library where my card was updated.  So of course I had to take out a book (Nicci French's latest) and spent a few hours yesterday curled up in bed reading it.  

My energy is still not totally back so I need more downtime than usual.  Thelma?  Well she is pretty stiff.  Something I haven't shared on here yet...I had a fall about six weeks ago.  I tripped over a shoe in my apartment.  I know, I know.....I went to the surgeon just before leaving on my trip, he did an x-ray and I have a dent on my new knee cap!  Nothing to worry about but I need to get it checked out again when I am home.  It has made me a bit paranoid and cautious because if I can dent it on carpet what could I do to it on pavement?  

Two rest days in a row for me is unheard of but I want to be ready to explore my new destination tomorrow....Barcelona!  

1 comment:

Barbara Mulligan said...

Wow, London lights look fantastic. Thank you for the tip off about St Pancras Church yard’s proximity to the Mail Museum - both are on my list for Easter.
Great photos.

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