Monday, April 30, 2012

Rain and Shine

Weather-wise, yesterday was miserable: it was so wet and sooo freezing, and we didn’t really accomplish much but it was still a pretty alright day! The plan was to go to Westminster Abbey, but we didn’t take into consideration that it was Sunday and the Abbey would be closed for worship. Still, it was nice to wander around Westminster, which is absolutely beautiful. We had brekky at a very, very, very strange Italian restaurant: possibly the most gaudy place I’ve ever seen, and a mean waiter who wouldn’t let us order bacon with our eggs on toast.

Does it get any more stereotypically English than this? 

Horse Guard

Westminster Abbey - closed :(

So we decided to catch the tube to Oxford Street to do some shopping: I needed a phone and a cardi, Mads needed jeans and boots. Unfortunately it seems the British are either deluded or just wishfully thinking it’s hot and are selling only very, very summery clothing. Strike two!

Mads FINALLY gets her Star Bar fix.

As a result, we thought it might be a fun idea to head over to 221b Baker Street – those literary (or Robert Downey Jnr) aficionados out there will immediately recognise the address as belonging to Sherlock Holmes – seeing as we were in the area. There was a fair line out the front waiting to get in, but we bought a ticket and joined the queue. Naturally the rain started getting a bit harder while we were in line, I think Inspector Lestrade out the front thought we were all a bit nuts and suggested we go and get a brolly from the sports shop down the road on our way home. The museum was fun, only a little too crowded to be thoroughly enjoyable. The first couple of floors are presented as Holmes and Watson’s rooms, the rest houses fun props from the stories and slightly creepy full-sized figures of various characters. But possibly the best part of the museum: the gift shop!! Books, pipes, deerstalker hats, other fun Holmes-related memorabilia.

Me and Inspector Lestrade, Sherlock Holmes Museum

Holmes' living room. Notice the deerstalker hat on the coffee table!

We headed back to Walthamstow to dry our feet, then went to church at St Helen’s Bishopsgate in the city. It’s an absolutely amazing church, built around 700 years ago and full of Elizabethan effigies and 17th Century memorial plaques. Apparently Shakespeare was once part of the congregation. It was nice to meet some of Madsy’s friends; we had dinner together in the church.

Downtown Walthamstow

Today we went to possibly my favourite place in the world, Hampton Court Palace, home of Henry VIII. It is a very intense and amazing experience walking in the footsteps of one of England’s most famous monarchs – you can almost feel his presence as you walk through the Great Hall and the Great Watching Chamber. The palace itself is absolutely stunning, and seeing as it was a perfect day with the sun shining, we spent a lot of time in the gardens. We had a go at the hedge maze and actually got lost, trying to find our way around for about 20 minutes, getting slightly desperate, before Mads switched her noggin on and we found the centre and, more importantly, the exit!! We explored the gardens for a while, taking in the royal tennis court, the magnificent flowers, and having a ride on a horse-drawn buggy thing. We even saw Henry himself having a wander.

The BEST hot chocolate on the planet, bought on the train platform at Hampton Court.

Hampton Court Palace, my future home.

Base Court


A lone tulip in the informal gardens. So artsy, as Mads put it, I should have put it on instagram.

The backyard. Apparently this is where 'Mary Mary Quite Contrary' originated.

Formal gardens

Into the hedge maze!

Completely lost.

Made it, finally!! The centre of the maze.

Horse drawn buggy thing.

Mads and the Thames.

Me and Aragon.

Henry VIII!!!

In to the palace next, viewing an exhibition of portraits of Charles II’s many, many mistresses, Henry VIII’s apartments,  and the Tudor Kitchens before Mads headed back to Walthamstow for her pre-match ritual (City has a VERY important game against the evil United), and I stayed back to continue exploring the palace like the good little nerd that I am! I think when I move in I think I will take over the Georgian apartments. Eventually I managed to tear myself away and headed back to the flat, navigating the tube all by myself and finding my way home without getting too lost!! Crumbed chicken and potatoes for dinner, and now to just eagerly await the results of the City/United game... and what kind of mood Mads will be in for the rest of the week...

Henry VIII's Great Hall. 

The entrance to what used to be Henry VIII's private rooms. 

Mads in the Great Watching Chamber

Fish Court. 

The firebug with a bloody great fire. Bliss!

The Cartoon Gallery. This will be an excellent space in which to have my housewarming party.

A tudor lady.

This just in: City won so we are all good and jolly! 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

To London

We made it to London! Hooray! And after some initial disasters we are well on our way to having an excellent time!

The flight, although long, was pretty good. Emirates is a pretty good airline in my experience, the food is unusually tasty and plentiful for airline food, there is plenty of leg room and the hosties were all really nice. It turned out to be the best time to fly, as well: leaving Sydney at 9.45pm meant there were no screaming children at all, and it was easier to sleep on the plane which Mads and I both miraculously managed to. It also made the change in time zones seem more natural: in the morning we landed in Dubai, ready for our next flight in to London which would arrive in the afternoon. Due to fog the flight was delayed, we sat in the plane at the gate for nearly two hours, but it didn’t seem to matter.  Generally speaking I don’t like flying, but there are some amazing things to see: the sun rising over the horizon at 25,000 ft was incredible; sand dunes in the Middle East; the snow-capped Austrian Alps; wind turbines in the English Channel; the patchwork fields of England and finally the London Eye by the Thames were highlights.


We found our driver at the airport easily, however disaster struck when we arrived at the holiday flat in which we’re staying in Walthamstow: the owner was not there, and her phone was switched off. So after 24 hours on the plane and a desperate need for a shower, we were homeless and had no idea where to go. Calling a cab is impossible in London unless you have a destination, so asking a driver to take us to a hotel anywhere was not an option. I left Mads with our tonne of luggage to try and find a black cab on the main road, to no avail, however I was spied by a nice fellow and his wife at the petrol station who took pity on my ‘what the heck do I do now?’ expression and gave me the number of a good cab company and even let me use their mobile. We decided to head to Hampstead, and a hotel we will stay in later in the trip, however on calling from the taxi they had no accommodation for the night. After another desperate call to the directory number 118118, we found a room at the Holiday Inn at Brent’s Cross – a dilemma for the taxi driver as it was not our original destination and he would have to call the cab company to figure out how much he would need to charge us. Anyway we made it, it was a nice hotel and we got to have room service for dinner and crash, and figure out what to do for the next day.

At Brent Cross Station

Saturday was rather better, although I felt pretty homesick due to the fact that in London we didn’t have a home yet.  We had a huge, delicious buffet breakfast at the hotel, then decided to leave our bags there and explore the city. We’d gotten in touch with the owner of the flat and agreed to meet her in the afternoon, so we headed to the local tube station and went to the Museum of London. Wandering along in the city we came across the ruins of the Wall of London – damn I love this city and it’s history!

The ruins of the old London City wall

The museum was good – there was a Charles Dickens exhibition on which included the handwritten manuscripts of Bleak House, Great Expectations, David Copperfield and a number of other books, as well as his writing desk, chair, quill and ink pot. The museum also has a section set out like a Victorian street, and a pleasure garden that has dresses from the 18th and 19th centuries.
We wandered the city after this, into the garden of St Paul’s to watch some squirrels running around, and completely tripping out as there are heaps of flowers around, but it’s really cold and rainy. I kept trying to figure out how that worked, then remembered it’s actually spring here, not the middle of winter.  We wandered over the Millennium Bridge, purchasing a cup of caramelised nuts on the way, and strolled down the Thames to Waterloo Station before heading back to Brent’s Cross. London is just so pretty! It’s beauty actually took me by surprise the first time I came here, and I still think it is absolutely stunning.

At St Paul's Cathedral

Caramelised Nuts on the Millennium Bridge, looking towards Tower Bridge.

We finally made it in to the flat! It’s really nice in here, a one-bedroom place with TV and wi-fi, and a shower and a bed and a kitchen and what more could you want? Pizza for dinner, which I pretty much ate single handedly I was so hungry! So NOW I’m super excited to be in London and ready to see what the rest of this trip brings! 


Saturday, April 7, 2012


Mads and I are pretty standard tourists, really: we love the cultural, touristy stuff that most people do on holiday in Europe, and we're not ashamed of this fact! There is nothing better than a historical site, a gallery or museum, a famous landmark... not to mention a great souvenir/book shop! So naturally the itinerary for our trip reflects this. We're staying in hotels, thanks to I think I got some pretty good deals. I'll try to keep the blog updated mostly with photos, so at any point in time you can see where I'll be reporting from! Cannot wait to go - 20 days left before we head off for our adventure!

April 26 : Leave Sydney Australia
April 27: Walthamstow, London, UK
May 4: Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK
May 6: York, UK
May 7: Glasgow, Scotland, UK
May 9: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
May 11: Roadtripping around Ireland, starting from Dublin
May 15: Bath, UK
May 17: Thornbury, UK
May 18: Hampstead, London, UK
May 20: Paris, France
May 27: Bruges, Belgium
June 1: Rome, Italy
June 4: Naples, Italy
June 6: Assisi, Italy
June 7: Venice, Italy
June 9: Lugano, Switzerland, and the Italian Lakes
June 11: Florence, Italy
June 13: Rome, Italy
June 15: Vienna, Austria
June 16: Salzburg, Austria
June 18: Munich, Germany
June 19: Regensburg, Germany
June 21: Nuremberg, Germany
June 22: Berlin, Germany
June 25: Walthamstow, London, UK
July 1: Sydney, Australia

Here is a Google map of the trip - I've mapped out all the points at which we'll be staying.

Keep in touch!