The Royal Chopper

I’ll start by saying I don’t know if my co-workers are trying to pull a fast one on me… but apparently we saw the Queen was flying around in her helicopter today. Even as I repeat it, it sounds silly. But since I work within blocks of Buckingham Palace, it seems conceivable, and these very same co-workers did point out through the window Buckingham Palace, which is is plain view (and so his her majesty’s bedroom!). I suppose it’s plausible, but I can’t help but feel they’re trying to fool the dumb Canuck. God I’m such a sceptic!

Ok! Maybe it was the royal chopper! This is the helicopter I saw:


Does this count as a Royal sighting? I’m going to say yes.

Picnic with the Royals

I’ve noticed that picnicking is much more prevalent here. Maybe that’s because in Canada I worked in the downtown core where green space is limited to really only the TD Towers court yard. Or maybe it’s because there are a heck of a lot more people in this city that due to pure volume, it seems like more. Whatever the case is, people have no problems plopping down on the grass in a business suit munching on some M&S or Pret a manager sandwich pre-made delight.
At lunchtime today the park closest to my office, Grosvenor Gardens, was packed with people sprawled out on the grass enjoying their lunches. I grabbed a patch of grass and lazed in the sun with my sandwich and free London Lite paper reading up about the big Royal split. This is such big news here. Poor Wills and Kate. Like another famous Kate, Kate Middleton over the past few years became a bit of a style icon. Apparently she wore a dress from Top Shop once, and within hours it was sold out.

Well, since I don’t particularly care about the Royals. the gossip and all that nonsense, perhaps I can use her to help me choose a hat for the Royal Ascot that we’re going to in June (the big horse racing event of the year in which hat wearing is mandatory!)

So. Should i go with option A, a traditional saucer like chapeau that is just ooh so British?

Or… Option B, a miniature nouveux styled chapeau perched delicately on the side of my head reminiscent of a party hat you’d wear to a 5 year olds birthday party a Chucky Cheeses, but yet somehow looks Parisian chic?

Leeds Castle

I can’t go on enough about how good the weather is here! ( I guess that just makes me so Canadian to constantly mention the weather) But 25C and blue skies in April!? How can I not?

Today we took a day trip out to Leeds Castle, which is not actually in Leeds but rather in completely the opposite direction of Leeds, in Bearsted. This weekend I’ve learned that the British manage to make something as simple as rail tickets incredibly complicated! We finally smartened up and bought a one year Rail Card today so that we could cash in some major discounts.
Here’s what I don’t get. Why is the round trip price to Bearstead £14.50, but £9.50 if you have this magical Rail Card? The Rail Card only costs £20 to begin with… £20 for both of us. So by getting that card, Jason and I saved £5 each, total of £10 saved. Now if we go on one other rail trip wouldn’t the savings have paid for the card?? Just 2 train trips and the card has paid or itself. But here’s a question?! Why bother with the card in the first place? Why have a card that pays for itself in only TWO TRIPS?!!? Why wouldn’t everyone get it? Isn’t is conceivable that pretty much every person who takes the train once outside of London will likely take the train again sometime that year? Why bother with the fuss, administration and annoyance of a Rail Card? Is this to scam tourists who don’t know about the Rail Card? That’s retarded. Why make it so complicated?!
I’m learning there’s a reason the Brits call everything a “scheme” (i.e pension scheme, pet travel scheme, rail card scheme..)

Sorting out tickets to the actual castle was silly too. You can either buy your train ticket, bus ticket (short bus from train to castle) and castle entrance fee separately… or if you do the research you’ll learn that there is a complicated scheme to buy package prices in London before you leave and another combination if you arrive at the train station and need to take the bus to the castle. I just find it to be such a bother. Don’t have 3 different price possibilities for a 10 minute bus ride from the train station to the castle. Just charge one price and take me to the damn Castle!

At least the castle was nice, and a perfect day to visit it.

The grounds were huge, and crawling with families. The maze was quite interesting since at one point it lead into an underground grotto. The interior of the castle was a collection of old stuff that I find marginally amusing. But what was truly bizarre was the tiny Museum of Dog Collars:


So strange.

And of course, in the grand tradition of our weekends, we took a nap on the lawn:


Isn’t British weather the worst?

For the Love of Cheese – part 2: Morbier

We walked over to Angel today to visit HSBC (a bank that’s open on a Saturday!). I’m happy to report we’ve been granted the privledge of a credit card something Barclays wouldn’t give us. So goodbye Barclays. It’s not us, it’s you.

But I digress.
Today’s cheese, another first for me: Morbier from France


Apparently the bottom layer below the black layer of ash consists of the morning milk and the upper layer is made of the evening milk.
Supposed Tasting Notes: It’s a buttery, pungent cheese with hints of fruit and nuts. I would add that it tastes a bit leathery.
Not my favourite, but quite delicious.

Come on Homer!

Today is the big race day for the Grand National.grand-national.jpg

I find it incredibly amusing that people care so much about horse races here. To me, I associate horse racing and betting to be a bit seedy, but that’s probably episodes of the Simpsons with Santa’s Little Helper that has scewed my perception. In any case, I can’t understand what the fuss is all about, but people seem to care. Especially the free newspapers in the Tube who like to report on which British famous person I’ve never heard of is attending, and which ridiclous hat is she wearing.


Jason entered a betting pool of some sort. So now we sort of care too. Well I care about our 4 horses. So, come on Bothar Na, Philson Run, Homer Wells, and Thisthatandtother!! Homer Wells sounds like a winner, I’ve placed my hopes on him.

And speaking of horse racing, we bought tickets to the Royal Ascot in June today, the horse race of the year. Now I need to buy a hat (I’m not joking).

God Bless the Tube

“Please be advised that the Victoria Line is suspended between Warren Street and Brixton due to a possible fire at Green Park Station”.

That is JUST what I want to hear right before trying to get on a Victoria Line train. No worries, I live at Kings Cross. 6 tube lines run through this station. I’ll just get onto the Piccadilly Line or the Northern Line. So I walk around the corner towards the tunnel to those two lines.

“Attention, please be advised that due to the suspension on the Victoria Line, the Piccadilly Line and Northern Line are experiencing severe volume, passengers are encouraged to take an alternative route”.

Awesome. Just as the announcement finishes I arrive at the entrance tunnel to find them pulling the gate down and closing it! Severe volume indeed! I actually laughed a bit. This would never happen in Toronto. I also cursed that I didn’t have my camera. The tube workers (or maybe they’re police officers?) wear really bright neon yellow vests. In a dingy tube tunnel this amuses me. I also realized today at work that I really should have a camera at all times. We have some crazy art in the office, and since it’s an old building with lots of little corridors I discover something new everyday (yesterday I learned we actually have an original Andy Warhol painting in one of the meeting rooms!).

But I digress. The point of this post is that I had to take the dreaded Circle Line to work and ride half that circle of central London too! It took me about 50 minutes to get to work. Now seems like a good time to mention that Jason’s train commute to Cambridge is only 45 minutes

I did a quick Google News scan to see if I could find a picture to add to this post. Sure enough there is none. Because a delay like this isn’t news. It’s just an average day on the tube.

Primark Madness! – J.Coyle, this post’s for you!

So Primark opened on Oxford Stree last weekend. I had meant to go for the Thursday 10am opening, but completely forgot. I’m not sure if it was as insane the first day, but this is what happened while we were away for Easter!!


Isn’t that crazy!!?! I like the cheap and chic-ness of Primark, but it’s not worth causing bodily harm! And Primark already exits in London!

Seriously… is this not insane?! What crazy backwards city do I live in?!



The End of Leisure

So that’s it. My unemployment comes to an end. After the long weekend I start working again.
Today when I went to drop off my signed contract, I snapped a few photos of the area around my work:


And as you can see, plenty of people enjoying the British weather:

Who ever said British weather sucks, so a liar!! The weather here is awesome (for now). 18C today, 20C tomorrow!
Spring is definitely here, you can see the trees were in bloom when I took this yesterday:


And here’s another one I took yesterday. The buses got in a bit of a traffic jam in front of Selfridges (on the right):

Pub Quiz!

Last night we went to our first British pub quiz (well, second for Jason, our first together). It was in Hamel Hamstead about 20 minutes outside of London. Jason’s co-worker runs them every Wednesday. He runs a solid quiz, and even had a round of name that tune (with a connecting theme!). Sadly I will report that there was massive cultural bias! Like I know ANYTHING about Coronation Street, East Enders, Brit Pop, or Football! Oh, but speaking of football, quiz hosts should really steer clear of questions involving football in front of Londers. That one bloody question got soo much protest and discussion!

Anyway, here is a shot of the host on the mic last night:

We got matched up with two Brits that the host knew and we actually did ok. 8th out of 24 groups! (a lot more groups than my pub quiz!)

Sunday! Intoxicating Consumption

Another gorgeous day in London!
We enjoyed breakfast at a local fry-up place a few blocks away (scrambled eggs on toast, side of sausage plus a cup of tea for £ 2.90 is pretty good to me!). We took the tube to Lancaster Gate and spent 3 excellent hours in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. Even though we had a great afternoon, I wasn’t overly impressed with either park. They’re both nice flat city parks, nothing to write home about (.. but wait.. I am writing … home, sort of …). Maybe when the trees bloom in a few weeks I’ll be more impressed. Or maybe I’m a park snob. Hamstead Heath? Too rustic. Hyde Park? To paved. Kensington Gardens? mediocre flower display. I am a snob!

Sitting by the Serpentine was enjoyable:


But of course all that lazing around the park makes you thirsty… and hungry. So we met two friends for a traditional Sunday roast. Well actually, I changed my mind at the last minute and ordered fish and chip, but everyone else got the roast:


Looks healthy, no? Jason said he enjoyed it. I enjoy that they provide you with a roasted potato, and deep fried potatoes. Nice.

My friend Adrienne pointed out this sign as we left the pub:


Well.. as long as we’re clear that my liquor will only be intoxicating!

For the Love of Cheese

I went to Angel this morning to grab a latte and finish my book. I went to the Tinderbox Espresso Emporium which was not as great as I thought it would be.
I did pass through the Angel market on the way home and noticed that as expected, it’s bigger on Saturdays. BUT there are quite a few fine cheese shops on weekends such as this:


They seem to always to be run by some authentic little French man with a thick accent. Or perhaps they’re run by hustlers with seemingly believable fake French accents. Either way their cheese selection is awesome. I was thrilled last week to find Valencay Chevre from the Loire Valley in Portobello Market. Wait… thrilled probably doesn’t quite cover it. Jubilant is more accurate. This is a cheese I used in a wine and cheese engagement party I hosted a few years ago for a good friend of mine. I visited every major cheese store in Toronto and only found it in ONE store, one of the famed Five Thieves actually, and it was $28! ( I bought it anyway, and it was incredible. Since then I saw it again at the Leslieville Cheese store and at the Rushton on the cheese plater when my friend Kyle was the executive chef)
Here in London that same pyramid was £3! And it seems almost every little cheese shop has at least 5!

Today’s cheese choice?
Langres. A cheese I’ve never seen or had before. I snuck a photo of the display so that I would remember the name:

Looks a bit weird eh? And it was a stinky cheese. One description online said dense texture and rich, creamy flavor offering distinct notes of sour milk and a long finish. Agreed on all counts. And I would add, I could taste the stink.

My Daffodils have exploded

I bought these on Wednesday, thinking they were a small bouquet. This morning I see that my daffodils have exploded into full bloom:

I’m off to Cambridge today to meet up with Jason and get a bank account (finally).
Also, noticed that the comments section now works! Ya! Thanks Dan!

Ladies who lunch

Today was another great day of leisure.
I met my friend Adrienne at Sloan Square and were we window shopped before meeting up with 2of her friends who work in the area for lunch in Chelsea.
We ate at a cute little noddle house directly across the street from the Bluebird Cafe, which I learned is quite the popular posh place to eat.
My photo doesn’t do it justice:

I liked the shops, and more so I liked the Chelsea neighbourhood.

Later we hoped on a bus to Hammersmith to pop into a Uk staple: Primark. If you can imagine, it’s seriously cheaper than H&M, and yet the quality doesn’t seem to dodgy. I bought (amongst other things) 5 pairs of black socks for £2! Considering I can’t even by Thai green eggplants for that price, i’m thrilled. The true test of course, will come when I run them through the wash on the weekend.

On the way home I stopped by Leicester Square to pick up tickets to Avenue Q on Saturday (I’m very excited to see this!) and saw this on the way home:

Not sure what “Free House” means just yet, but nice to see a pub quiz in our neighbourhood!

T-minus 12 days

So I accepted a job offer today!
My start date is Tuesday April 10th, the day after Easter. That means my life as a lady of leisure ends in 12 days.
Speaking of which, I met my fellow lady of leisure, Kaila for lunch today in Angel.
This is an amusing busker on Upper Street in the heart of Angel:

He totally earned my quid.
We also stopped for a refreshing pear cider at the Bull, an Angel drinking favourite.
The Bull:


I swear the place was really busy like 10 minutes earlier, I just happened to catch it looking completely dead, and us looking like lushes.

Later I ventured into Chinatown to pickup some more cooking supplies. London’s Chinatown SUCKS. What’s with all the white people?! And why are the cashiers speaking English to me? AND she actually gave me a receipt?! But how on earth will the poor white girl get ripped off?! I miss Toronto’s Chinatown where I would happily shop being one of the only white people and only be able to know what I am buying by smelling it (learned that when I accidentally bought mint and not Thai basil once). No, this China town is too touristy. It’s full of overpriced restaurants. Where are all the food markets?! I counted only 4, and not a single one was selling dried shrimp flakes outside their shop! And the prices are obscene too. £2.99 for small package of thai green eggplants?! £ 2.69 for a bunch of bok choy?! To me, Chinatown is synonymous with dirt cheap produce at occasionally questionable quality.
I think I’ll need to consult google to find out where in this town I can buy good cheap Chinese produce.

Tomorrow my life of leisure continues with a shopping trip into Sloan Square.

Hamstead High Street & the Heath

Today we took the tube up to the much recommended Hamstead area of London.
I made an attempt at London fashion today: skinny jeans + coloured flat shoes. We arrived at Hamstead to discover that I forgot one key accessory – my pushchair (translation baby stroller). It seems Hamstead is THE place to be for young mothers, their well dressed children and pimped out pushchairs.

The High Street as you can see was very scenic:


However I did notice an excessive amount of yuppy patisseries (£21 for a raspberry topped mille feuille cake?!) and high end maternity stores.

The Heath on the other hand (which I thought was British speak for a park until I looked it up on wikipedia) was quite rustic. Very few paved paths, no sculpted landscapes, just mostly raw green space:



We did get further into the Heath and ended up in a wooded section that was really nice.

Shame I wore those silly flat shoes.

Portobello Road Market – Notting Hill

It’s Saturday, a good day to visit one of London’s outdoor markets.
We chose Notting Hill’s Portobello Market since our good friend the Internet told us that it’s only open on Saturdays. Portobello Road Market claims to be the world’s largest antique market so I guess that explains all the old stuff. I thought the market was quite interesting. The weather wasn’t ideal, we had proper British weather today – damp, cloudy and quite cold (the coldest 10C!) but the amount of pubs and cafes available to warm up in more than made up for it.

This a picture of the beginning of the south end of the market:


Once you get past the antiques, jewelry and clothes you get to the vegetable stands where we picked up lots of cheap groceries making it a similar Saturday afternoon to those we’ve had in Toronto’s Kensington Market. Here I reach for some avocados:


You can tell we’re in Notting Hill because the presentation of some of the veggie stands is quite lovely:

And this last one is of me, at the end of the market when it turns back into a residential area. I’m carrying some flowers, 14 roses actually, that we picked up for only £1 (2 bunches of 7 roses per bunch, why 7 per bunch I don’t know):


Towel Warmers … quite possibly the greatest things this country has to offer

God bless my towel rack warmer!
When it’s cool and rainy (what? in Britain? How dare mum nature!) nothing makes me happier than a warm towel after a shower. Seriously, how have I lived this long without one?! This is the single greatest thing about this flat. Almost makes me figure and forget the lack of storage. Oh and the fact that all the light switches are all backwards. Oh and I seem incredibly allergic to something in the carpets…
But warm towels!

Back in the Uk

And we’re back.
It was a short and sad trip back to Canada for Jason’s grandfather’s funeral.
But we’re back in the Uk and we seem to have brought some snow with us. Although the BBC calls it snow, it’s not real snow. It’s more like thick rain.
I have some interviews lined up for the next few days, so with any luck i’ll have my job situation figured out soon.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen

We had a craving for burgers today so we went to GBK – Gourmet Buger Kitchen in Bayswater (close to Nottinghill). It was ok. The burgers were tasty enough, but I really am starting to hate British chips. They’re just little grease sticks. And the garlic dipping mayo Jason ordered was actually painful to eat. But that’s ok, it gave us something to complain about; and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

One observation though, many Brits eat their burgers with a knife and fork.
Now I don’t know if this manerism is influenced by the Royals or by the Seinfeld chocolate bar episode, but to me it’s weird. And it’s not just a Bayswater thing, Jason has confirmed sightings in Cambridge.


Nottinghill by the way is a really posh neigbourhood, as expected.

March 16th Happy Red Nose Day!

I heard on the BBC morning news that it’s Red Nose Day.
Still not sure what this ‘semi-holiday’ is all about.
I’m going to Goodge Street Station shortly to pick up a few things at a shop called Habitat. Hopefully I’ll see something on the street.


I’m back from my errands.. seems Red Nose day is out with some amount of force. I saw a guy in the street with a red nose on while handing out free papers (see picture) also saw a few ads on the taxi’s,


Since it’s after 8pm now, I’m watching the Big One on BBC One now. Interesting! I wish I understood more of the jokes though, I don’t seem to find it as funny as the live audience.
Hmm, this a bit like a nation wide shine-o-rama. only with much better execution.
And, apparently it’s only once every 2 years.


ps. I can’t believe how much swearing is allowed on tv!! They sure say ‘fucking’ alot on the BBC!

A New Word! Hoover = Vacuum

From Wiki:

In Britain Hoover has become so associated with vacuum cleaners as to become a genericized trademark. The word “hoover” (without initial capitalization) often is used as a generic term for “vacuum cleaner”. Hoover is often used as a verb, as well, as in “I’ve just hoovered the carpet”.

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised with this one. In Canada we use plenty of genericized trademarks like: Kleenex, Q-tips and BandAids, but it still surprised me. I bought a used vacuum cleaner today from some guy online and he used the term hoover which totally confused me. If anything, to me, Hoover is either a name of a dam or something I associate with defensive eaters like my friend Cernik enjoying a big tray of poutine.


Getting to Know London’s ‘burbs

I went to East Putney yesterday to visit my friend Kaila and to pick up my flat keys from her (she was kind enough to feed our cats while Jason was in Canada last week). Putney is a really nice area and reminds me just how big London is.
While in Putney I bought a hairdryer from Boots. Check that off my list of to-dos. Boots actually reminds me of the mid 80’s doing weekend shopping with Mom and stopping off at the Yonge Eglinton centre to go to Boots. I think it’s a Pharma Plus in the Y&E centre now.

Ah! Forgot to mention about my trip to Putney I decided to yet again take the bus back to Kings Cross, because well, sitting at the top of a double decker bus feels a bit like a scenic tour and this way I can see how the different neighbourhoods are connected. First bus was excellent, got to Knightsbridge in no time, made mental note that Chelsea and South Kensington is a fantastic area. At Knightsbridge i resisted the temptation to go into Harrods and walked for a bit beside Hyde Park enjoying the weather. The weather has been spectacular. Today is the 4th day in a row of brilliant blue skies, sun and spring weather. I picked up my second bus that would take me to Kings Cross, the number 10. Interesting that the night bus, the N10 goes from Putney to Kings Cross, but in the day time the 10 goes no where near Putney. Odd. But good to know that a solid night bus exists to take me back home after visiting Kaila, Jenny and their boys. Anyway, the number 10 bus goes through Oxford Circus. This was a big mistake. At 5pm, and actually I suppose at anytime of the day, Oxford Street is a zoo. I spent over 45 minutes on Oxford Street alone! I probably should have spent the extra 50p and taken the tube.