Christmas 2017

Is it too late to tell you about my Christmas last year? I know it’s already February but I figure while I’m into this documentation craze (Here are my recent posts from my summer travels, 1, 2, 3, 4) I might as well include our little London Christmas.

We have had a lot of very different Christmases since leaving New Zealand 8 years ago. I did a recap of these in 2015. We then spent last Christmas with family and friends in New Zealand. 20171225_005938This Christmas started unexpectedly with a trip to Westminster for midnight mass. A friend let us know that she had some tickets going as she couldn’t use them, so we jumped at the chance to get inside Westminster Abbey and experience the great church at work (and for free!).

Before we left for Westminster, we had our first Christmas Skype session with my Mum, and sisters,Claire and Nikki. They were waking up on Christmas morning so we opened presents together and got into the Christmas spirit and buzz of the day.

We had a heap of presents at home under our flower bouquet Christmas tree which were mainly food based and we couldn’t resist sampling a few. So we were full of Marshmallow Santas and Whittakers chocolate when we met Ange and Helen at the station. Yum!

Although not a church-goer myself I really enjoyed the Midnight Mass experience. It was a nice way to get into the spirit – singing Christmas carols and listening to the sermons in the great hall. We weren’t supposed to take pictures inside but I did sneak a few as it was hard not to. The hall was lit with candles and had the nativity scene set up in the middle of the hall. As we spilled out into the quiet night, we said goodbye to Helen and Ange for a few hours and went home for hot drinks and bed.

We woke up Christmas morning for my Skype sessions, me with my dad and sisters after their evening meal and Ben with his parents while he prepared the turkey.

We cooked the turkey at our flat and then walked 15 minutes down the road with it to get to our friends place where they were cooking the veges. Some other friends bought hand glazed ham too! It was such a feast.

This is us turning up with our hot turkey in a bag “resting” and a pot of gravy. Too funny!

For dessert I made chocolate tarts and my first ever pavlova. Luckily it turned out fine, although probably a little bit big on reflection – there was about half left over after.20171225_173825Delicious Christmas pudding was another addition to the desert table so we were well sorted.

After eating our fill and then some, we opened Secret Santa presents – I got these elfie selfie photo props so we had to give them a go.

We then settled in for the longest game of Monopoly I think I have ever played. After a mammoth run, I think it was about 3 hours (although a few people tapped out before the end), we finished the game. Ben was the winner, and enjoyed it way too much. Although an orphan family, we did manage some squabbles about the rules too. Classic!

Thanks for an awesome Christmas orphan friends! I wonder where we will all be for Christmas in 2018…?

 

 

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My London: My Perfect Day in London

What would I do to create a perfect day in London? What would be my dream day if I was well prepared with money to burn….?

I’ve put some thought into it, so come and join me for a day to remember.

20151025_Kew_Gardens_0015Well firstly, the weather gods would need to co-operate. I don’t want any pea soup fog. My favourite days in London are early autumn. When the mornings are just starting to get cooler and the nights are drawing in, but the days are still warm and the skies are the clearest blue with white fluffy clouds. We did have a few of these this year and I relished every second on my walk to work.

So, now that the weather is sorted get ready for a full day. I said it would be perfect, but that doesn’t necessarily mean realistic. We’re going to have to teleport everywhere if we want to keep up with my itinerary, I’m also moving Wimbledon to autumn to fit my schedule. Oh and bringing someone back from the dead…

First let’s wake up and wander down to the new Granary Square development in Kings Cross and park our bums at my favourite cafe, Caravan, for some avocado on toast. Yum! You need all that fuel for your next stop, St Pauls Cathedral.

20150705_walkietalkie_lookout_london_0222We’re up with the larks so we’ve bet all the tourists. You can marvel at the splendour to your hearts content before heading up the spiral staircase to the Whispering Gallery and higher to see the views of London from what was the highest point in London until 1967.

If you’re in need of more views from a higher vantage point, we can squeeze in a sky high view of the Thames from the Sky Garden. 20150705_walkietalkie_lookout_london_012120150705_WalkieTalkie_Lookout_London_0208.jpgWhile we’re in the east, a trip to Old Spitafields Market for a cupcake from Flavourtown Bakery is a must. Seriously they cannot be beaten!flavourtown-bakery-london-marketNext we need to hop, skip (or fly?) over to Richmond Park. We’ll rent a bike for the day (these guys are great) and pack a picnic lunch. We’re cycling around the park to the lake in the middle. It’s so secluded you will forget you’re in one of the biggest cities in the world for a moment. Be sure to make friends with the deer on your way.

Next up? Some world class sport. Yes! For once I won the ballot. Tickets to centre court in our hot little hands we’re off to one of the most quintessentially British events I know of. Be quiet as you go in, you don’t want to put Serena off.

You can’t spend a perfect day in London without catching some of the world class West End theatre. We have tickets to a matinee screening of my favourite musical Wicked. Enjoy!466516_10150800601007118_126440377_oPhew! You must be hungry. Time for a fancy dinner? My cuisine of choice is Japanese of course. I have always wanted to try out Roka, so guess where reservations are sorted..? We’ll be dining on sushi, prawn tempura and the Roka dessert platter tonight.p9040128-1024x745We’re finishing the day on my ultimate London high, a gig at Wembley! Because this is my perfect day, let’s see Bowie play Wembley. The gig of a lifetime, you must have sorted tickets out over a year ago for this…. You’re welcome.

It was lots of fun dreaming up ideas for this post. It’s a compilation of all the best things I have done in London, from the everyday to the fantastical, to those things that are still on my wish list. What would you do? What do you think I have missed?

The idea to talk about a perfect something came from the Travel Linkup bloggers. I’m too late to add my post to the link, but check out other bloggers ‘A perfect…’ interpretations through one of my favourite blogs Silverspoon London. Just scroll to the bottom of the post.

All pictures are my own aside from the below listed. Photo credits with thanks:

My London: My Commute

20160909_andiescommute_0015I said in an earlier post, that my lifestyle had changed heaps since moving from Tottenham to Tufnell Park, and one of the most awesome changes has been my commute.

I no longer battle the rush hour squeeze on the Victoria Line at 8am. Instead I leave the house and wander (or power walk if I’m late) for about 4k to get to Finchley Road station then catch a tube one stop north to Wembley Park.

It is bliss!

I listen to podcasts, random playlists from my Apple music subscription or go sans sound and get in touch with nature or what not. Nature? Who am I kidding? Cars, trucks, buses and trains are the soundtrack to my commute

When it’s raining or I’m late/lazy I swap the walk for a 10 minute over ground train ride. Easy as, except the train is really unreliable, which is what lead me to walking in the first place. Talk about turning a negative into a positive.

Anyway, enough of my smug commute loving, today I want to share my journey with you. Ben was doing lots of research on his next camera lens purchase and decided to do some experimenting with our 50mm lens by taking photos on his commute. I might share his effort with you next post. I thought it was a really good idea, so the next day I slung the camera around my neck and decided to get creative.

I need a lot more practice with the 50mm, but it was fun and taught me a lot about moving for the shot. I got so engrossed my 35minute walk doubled and I was quite late for work that morning, ooops!

So this is what my journey looked like in September 2016.

This was a bit of a moody morning, but we had been having really warm sunny days. I think it was said to be the warmest September on record? Or maybe it was that we hit a few of the highest temperatures for September? A quick google search hasn’t really helped me come up with any facts for you, so actually just know that we had a good summer. It was hot.

20160909_andiescommute_0050_1^^^ The most excited empty shop I’ve seen.

^^^ This is my favourite pair of pictures; walking past this pink flat makes me smile every time.

^^^ Empty train. This is such a rare sight in London. The other guy and I basically had the whole train to ourselves.

My commute ends at the iconic Wembley Stadium. As with all things you encounter daily it has become part of the furniture for me, but every once in a while an event will be on or it will be lit up on dark winter nights and I’ll get swept up in awe of it. It is always one of those moments I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe I’m actually living in London.

 

My London: My Netball Team

dani-backWhen I first arrived in London, I knew no-one. Well that’s how I tell the story at least, I did know a few people. I have extended family here, an uncle and cousins that live in and around London. There were also a few acquaintances from high school, and an Aussie couple we met while travelling in Japan. That couple turned out to be a big part of our London life, but we weren’t to know that at the time. So for all intents and purposes we had no-one but each other so I knew I had to get out there and make some friends fast. I love Ben, he’s really good company but my London life was definitely going to need some girlfriends to get me through it.

How do you make friends in a big city? How do you make friends as an adult? I had no idea really, so I just thought, let me try and fill my days. We joined expat groups, and tapped into all the contacts we had for weekend meetups. But what I now count as my best idea, was to join a netball team.

I hunted for social teams in my area and much to my luck, got placed in a cobbled together team of awesome ladies from all around the country and the world. The team was called The Venus Fly Traps and they had already played a season or two together when I joined. Little did I know that five years on these girls would form the biggest constant in my shambolic London life and we would still be sporting the bewildering name of a carnivorous plant.

The name, assigned to us by a rogue club manager, has never sat well with us, but every Tuesday rain or shine, in stifling humidity or biting cold, we turn up to the courts. We shimmy into our Lycra and pull our hair into ponytails as the sun goes down on another day at the office. We get out into the, usually brisk, air, chatting about life lately and sizing up the competition. We have been winners, losers, injured and angered on the courts, but more important to me is the memories we have made off court.

So here’s to the memories girls! Looking forward to many, many more..

Tournament days with One Netball club…

 ^^ Pink Ladies

We have travelled together, danced together, seen beautiful marriages and supported each other through painful breakups. We have celebrated so many milestones; birthdays, new jobs and study and must have collectively moved flats over 20 times. Which is great, because that means flat warmings.

My favourite times are always those drunken, messy, gossipy girls nights though!

roadie^^ Roadie

Eat your heart out Michael

So much gin ^^^

We have changed and grown so much in our five plus years together as a team. People have moved back home, or to Bermuda and others have arrived in London for new challenges and jobs and joined for new friendships fitness and fun.  I’ve been lucky to get to know such an awesome group of ladies..

Yay for The Venus Fly Traps, past present and future…!

Check out my other posts about London Life, getting a visa and where I’m living. More to follow soon.

My London: Hello, Tufnell Park

20160908_benscommute_0251After less than a year ago writing that I had finally found my groove on Tottenham Hale and we were never going to leave..We left. And it’s the best thing ever!

Some dodgy plumbing and a stubborn landlord meant our hand was forced and after a particularly riling note left by said landlord one day, we promptly handed in our notice and started looking for a new place to call home.

We set our budget, lowered our expectations, lowered them some more and then saw the first of what would turn out to be 18 flats all in all.. and we’re not even that fussy.

Anyway, we had pretty much closed a deal on a super hipster place in Dalston sharing with a chef and his fashionista girlfriend. The place was chic and totally aspirational for us, we’re nowhere near that cool and put together. But I had noticed a humble room in Tufnell Park that I thought I would go and check out just to be sure, as I had my doubts about Dalston.20160723_Saturday_BBQ_0602It was the one. I knew it as soon as a wandered in. But I had consumed half a bottle of wine with a friend down the road beforehand so I had to bring Ben back the next day to be sure. He agreed and luckily the current flatmates liked us too and the rest is history.

We have lived here 6 months now and it’s amazing how much our lifestyle has changed over this time. We walk everywhere possible and when we don’t walk we catch the 390 bus from straight outside our house.20160723_Saturday_BBQ_0554We picnic on Primrose Hill…

And swim* in the ponds at Hampstead Heath.img_6884*Well I have swum once so far but I’m trying to make it a more regular thing.

We buy way too decandent ice creams from Ruby Violet’s on the high street and have brunch at Tufnell Park’s claim to fame Bear + Wolf cafe where they serve Kiwi coffee.. Aaaand also import, to my everlasting surprise and gratefulness, Kiwi Hot Chocolate! I’m transported home with every sip.

We haven’t even scratched the surface of all the great restaurants and pubs in the area. I’m sure I read somewhere some research that shows that people who have a local pub are happier, or something along those lines. I can say that we are much more social having lots of drinking options close by. Shout out to-

Oh and did I mention all the excitement of Camden town is half an hours walk away and that means food markets for lunch!

It has been a great summer here so far. I love our new lifestyle, I feel like we spend much less time commuting and jumping on a tube as soon as we leave our front door and much more time exploring what’s around us and taking time to smell the roses.

So this is where I’m living. I’m posting this as part of a little project I’m doign to record this point in my life for posterity. You can check out earlier posts on My Visa Journey and My London Project.  Next I’ll introduce you to my netball team.

Follow me  @andieinspired and see more of my London life on snapchat @aaaaandie