Beas of bloomsbury

So maybe this year I should try a few other coffee shops in London. In the past 2.5 years I’ve been in here, London has seemed to experience a new love for coffee. Tea stays strong, but the love for good coffee is growing (ask any Expat and good coffee doesn’t equal costa, nero or pret) independent coffee shops have popped up all over the city. I’ve been biased to the Aussiekiwi places, probably influenced by the coworkers. But as they all seem to be heading back home, and I’m on a pure decaf diet now, its time to expand.

So, here I am in bea’s of bloomsbury. British run. Actually more of a bakery, really, the selection of cakes is extreme. Weird thing is, all the tables are reserved! This is the first coffee shop I have ever been to that takes reservations.

Forced to linger by the door for a few minutes while a table frees up I notice all the patrons are having scones and …. Tea!. Busted, my expectations on the coffee imediately drops.

A few minutes later though, I’m seated (and told that I have to free the table in 45 min for the next booking). a decaf latte arrives, dressed with a pretty little fern leaf (the showy finish every good coffee place likes to do) I’m surprised. Coffee is excellent.

Maybe next time I should graduate from newbie status and make a reservation.

note: a good article on the coffee culture;

Back in the UK

And back to a simplier time where people haven’t been subjected to sophisticated technilogical advances like shredded lettuce. Come on UK Subway, your lettuce looks like it was ripped apart by a monkey wearing oven mits. Everyother civilalised country knows that lettuce, like cheese, is way tastier when shredded. A sub may hit the spot post flight home, but can we not catch up to north America 20 years ago?

Ps, stop asking me what salad I want on my sub. Its not salad, its toppings.

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Increadible Crowds for Holiday Shopping

The streets of London – particularly Central London – get ridiculously busy in December as people buy their gifts for Saturnalia. Oxford Street and Regent Street were both closed this weekend to accommodate the crowds.

Here are two pictures taken at Oxford Circus. One facing one direction:

Oxford Circus Holiday Crowds

And one facing the other direction:

Oxford Circus Holiday Crowds

Carnaby Street was busy as usual, and had some new decorations up for the holidays:

Carnaby Street Decorations

We did most of our shopping online this year, but it’s great to go out and see the crowds! I love this city.

Tea snobs.

No surprise that there is a huge snob factor with the tea, but even after 2 and a half years there are still things that will shock me. Business trip in Brussels, breakfast at the hotel. 2 British colleagues ask for tea. They get nicely serving piping hot earl grey tea, and the conversation goes like this:

British 1: earl grey tea?! In the morning???

British 2: I know, can you believe it?

British 1: no! This is outrageous.

British 2:: only on the continent.

British 1: I mean seriously, earl grey in the morning???

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I miss corn!

Good solid autumn Canadian corn. This corn here in UK is awful. Chewy rubbery a bit brownish? How dare they even call it summer sweetcorn. Especially after being back home in Toronto last week and having amazing peaches and cream ontario corn on the cobb at my parents house. The things I end up missing.

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Morning paper

I know the Uk goes against their stuffy stereotype and happily puts topless sunshine girls in their newspapers. But as the guy beside me on the tube is looking at that page now, it seems a little unsettling at 6.40am. Anytime before 9am seems too early to me. Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

its cold and drizzly

Well, typical English weather actually. And commuting sucks. This morning I missed my 6.45am train by 5 minutes because of stupid edgeware road station. Its that collector station that likes to hold trains anywhere from 1 minute to 10min depending on its fancy. Its a game of Russian roulette every morning taking the tube through that station. And I can’t go around it. So on days like today I miss my train by 5 min, which leaves me stuck at Paddington for 28 min before the next one. And yet the vast majority of people in and around London do massive commutes just like this.

Well, I’m not british yet. Until then, commuting will probably be the end of me.

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Joining the commuting world

With my office now out in theale I’ve joined the masses in commuting hell. Kings cross shut due to over crowding, missed my 7.30am train from paddington to reading and believe it or not almost missed the 8am.

(Canadians the travel equivalent is having your downtown office in TD centre moved to grimsby outside of Hamilton. Fun.)

In other news this morning our towel rack warmer was on, autumn has arrived!

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Three Years!

Three Years in the UK

Today is my three year anniversary of coming to the UK!

It’s been a great three years, and Sylvia and I are still loving it (sorry: no plans to move back to Canada).

During this time I’ve learned to love British pub culture and in particular (warm) English ales. Beer anywhere else in the world just doesn’t cut it any more: there’s nothing better than a warm pub & pint on a cold English day. There’s so much going on in London – great food, great events, and lots of friends coming through – that we’re never in search of something to do! Decent public transit is a nice change as well, and it’s fantastic to be able to take a fast train to Paris or Brussels with St. Pancras right around the corner! We also (obviously) love the ability to travel easily (while cheap flights are still around!). I miss good peanut butter though …

In these past three years we’ve travelled to the Cook Islands & Fiji, Hong Kong, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Italy, Finland, Turkey, Morocco, Greece, Ireland, Estonia, France, New Zealand (& a bit of Australia), Germany, Egypt, Sweden, Croatia, Montenegro, Belgium – not to mention numerous trips back to Canada (bloody weddings!). I’ve also been shipped off for work to Taiwan, Korea, Japan, China, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and various parts of Europe more times than I’d care to count (though I have to count for tax reasons). After all that travel my passport (a 48 page one!) is full! Of course, my UK Ancestry visa is still valid and the UK government doesn’t want to re-issue it so I guess I’ll be carrying two passports for a while … and don’t get me started on trying to get a new Canadian passport while living abroad …

We’ve spent a lot of time out of the country, so we’re starting to think we should try seeing a bit more of the UK (and London). Plus, working in Cambridge doesn’t allow me to get out in London nearly enough for my liking. Speaking of which, I don’t even want to think about the amount of time I’ve spent on the train between London and Cambridge on my way to & from work. This year I finally cracked and started working from home one day a week, which has allowed Sylvia and I to start taking Chinese lessons together (我们会说一点汉语).

I’m definitely heading to the pub today. Here’s to another great year in the UK!

You call this a loyalty program?

We signed up for Tesco’s “ClubCard.” Basically a loyalty program card like every big chain has these days. After several months of “collecting” I decided to see how many “points” we had worked up. Huh. Only 360? Doesn’t seem like much. Then I find out how this ridiculous program works.

First of all, you need to start collecting points, and then log into the Internet or call Tesco’s to request how you want to get your points. Why do you need to do this? I don’t know, but any points you collect before this point are null and void. Then, Tesco’s will send you a newsletter each month with your “coupons.” No, it’s not like a useful loyalty program – you know, like when you go to Shoppers Drug Mart and the cashier every so often says “Would you like $10 off of this purchase?” Oh no, you have to register, collect points, then wait a month or two for your “coupons” to come in the post.

So the damned thing finally came in the post today. Here’s what was in the envelope:

Tesco's ClubCard Garbage

Here’s the part I actually care about:

One stupid coupon for £3.50

Yeah, that’s right kids! I get a whopping £3.50 off of my next purchase!! That’ll just about cover one coffee for Sylvia at Fernandez & Wells. Remind me why I go through all this crap for £3.50? And of course if I forget to use this coupon I lose the £3.50 and the points are useless. Thanks Tesco’s!

Incidentally, I’m curious to see what they do with this data so I registered the ClubCard in my cat’s name. So every newsletter comes addressed to “The Lady Rib.” I’m sure Tinrib enjoys getting new mail in the post. Maybe I can use the excess crap Tesco’s sends her every month to line her litterbox.

Seriously, what’s to film?

This guy in the seat beside me has been filming out the window of the eurostar for the last 15 min. Seriously, why? Its northen France, pretty enough, but not spectacular. And I can see his video, bouncy and blury. Why tourist, why?

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