Three Plays, and High Tea On A London Bus

While in London Jess, Luke and I stayed at a flat in Camden that was in an excellent location for two reasons: first, it was only a block away from Camden tube station and second, because it had a huge glass window that overlooked a narrow street where van played dodgem cars – literally ramming each other to make parking spaces. As we watched I couldn’t help thinking how much my dad would enjoy sitting 5ere and watching the mayhem play out below.

The apartment, like all AirBnb places under a certain price, had its oddities. Like 18 halogen downlights in the small lounge/kitchen space and a bathroom fan switch that was so high up it almost touched the ceiling. Weird.

While in London we did a bunch of things! Here they are in a roughly chronological list.

The Play That Goes Wrong

Andrew and Lila came down from Cambridge with us and we bought them tickets as a thank you present for letting us use their house as a backpackers hostel.

We had seen a bit of the play on YouTube and it didn’t disappoint live. Much hilarity, both slapstick and more clever humour. Well worth the ticket price.

High Tea On A London Routemaster Bus

My friend Lorraine and her daughter Rosie were in London at the same time as us so Jess and I joined them for a lovely afternoon tea on a bus!

We arrived a little early and had a chat to the bus driver who was a proper cockney.

I booked an upstairs table and we had a lovely time! They catered for vegetarian and gluten intolerances (Jess and Lorraine) and the food was good!

After we’d eaten the food pictured above the scones were brought out and these were the first warm scones we’d been served in all our UK afternoon tea experiences. We were very pleased!

I will admit that we didn’t pay all that much attention to the commentary and the only thing I really remember is passing the ship front from the movie Kingsman.

Not a cheap experience, at £45 each but worth it for the special treat.

Cereal Killer Cafe

Jess’ friend Erin joined us for the next few days and we all made an early trip to Cereal Killer cafe to see what the fuss was about.

Although not all he ones pictured above were for sale. I had Oreo and a peanut butter cereal mixed together. It was delicious but tasted more like dessert than breakfast. There was literally nothing healthy on the menu.

The decor was neat – very 90s bedroom chic.

A Comedy About A Bank Robbery

At the end of the first play we saw they announced that the same production company was putting on another play in the West End so we went to see that too.

This time it was just Luke and I – Erin and Jess went to see The Lion King – and we LOVED it. It was funny and clever and they set design was fantastic. Go see it if you get a chance! We bought tickets on the day and still managed really good seats. The theatre itself was beautiful- like a wedding cake turned inside out.

My photo doesn’t really do it justice.

The Importance of Being Ernest

We saw this production on our last day and it wasn’t bad. I’ve seen it before many years ago and I like all the Oscar Wilde I’ve read but I wasn’t thrilled by this interpretation. It felt rushed and the two male leads seemed to be shouting most of the way through.

Camden

We all did quite a lot of walking around Camden. We looked at street art.

And I went with Jess and Erin super early to take a photo at… well, you can guess where.

On our last day Luke and I took a walk around Hampstead Heath and looked at all the dogs. I’ve tried to go to HH a number of times previously but my hay fever has always flared up. Autumn was definitely in the air this time so I was safe.

Our last meal in London was a return to Five Guys, a burger chain Luke’s Aunt Sue had recommended. We enjoyed it a lot more this time as we’d been able to read the menu, unlike our attempt in France;-).

Also Oreo shakes are amazing!

So that ends the European part of this trip! We packed our bags and boarded our Thai Airways flight for Bangkok. I spent most of my awake hours on the flight thinking about how I could manage to come back next year to do more hiking in the north of England. We’ll see!

Last Day In Paris

On our last day we didn’t do much at all. It was the hottest day of our stay and also a Sunday, which meant that half the shops weren’t open. I decided the first thing we had to do was eat chocolate eclairs. I hadn’t had one in years so we went to three different bakeries and tried one from each.

They might look identical but they were (slightly) different. All were excellent!

Then we spent half the day being real locals – we sat in a cafe eating french food and drinking. Aperol Spritz for me and beer for Luke.

Lovely! Well, except for the wasps. Wasps everywhere in Europe right now! Everywhere we’ve been the pleasure of sitting outside and inhaling other people’s cigarette smoke has been mitigated by wasps trying to get into our drinks and food.

After this exceptionally lazy day we packed our bags, ready to head for Colmar via Strasbourg.

A few last examples of Paris street art. For those who like this sort of thing I have to note that stencils seem to be hugely popular here. Maybe they’re quicker to put up?

England: Friends and Family

On our way back from the south west we stopped for a night with Jen and Rob in Bristol. Jen had told me that Bristol is considered by some to be quite like Melbourne, and I could certainly see the similarities. There’s lots of (good quality) graffiti and there seemed to be strong and varied cultural scene. More people with dreadlocks and op shop clothing than I’ve seen in a long time. Jen took us for a walk to a green hill very close to her house, from which we enjoyed and excellent view of the city at sunset. Then we walked through a huge area of allotments that reminded me of CERES and a community farm just like Collingwood! I think if I was to come back to stay for a while Bristol would certainly be somewhere I’d consider.

Somewhat surreal.

We had a couple of drinks at a pub before heading to Thali Indian restaurant. I wish I’d taken some photos of the interior, it was an astoundingly bright mix of blue, teal and dark pink. Completely different to any other Indian restaurant I’ve seen and full of character. The food was fantastic too. Luke and I are already moaning about missing the food in the UK and we haven’t even left yet.

Afterwards we went to see a really funky band, then ended the night at Jen and Rob’s, laughing at Rob doing the Birmingham accent and chatting into the wee hours.

We left the next afternoon, much later than I anticipated and got stuck in horrendous 4pm Friday traffic. I swear I’ll never complain about Australian traffic again. You really have to think about what time you’re planning on being on the road here – we spent over half an hour crawling along at virtually walking pace. Still, it was worth it for the huge English breakfast we had at a cafe near Jen’s.

Bristol – we’ll be back one day!

On the subject of Jen, I completely forgot to write about going to Birmingham a short while back to see her play her cello with a band. It was only a short set (or maybe it just felt short?) but the music was lovely and it was the first chance I’d had to meet her partner Rob.

Jen on stage.

Before the gig Luke and I had lunch with an old friend, Liz – my friend Sarah’s mother, who conveniently lives in Wolverhampton, not far from Birmingham. We met up at her house then went to a pub for a roast lunch. The food was great and it was lovely to catch up and hear Liz’s plans for visiting Sarah (who lives in Melbourne) for a few months around the time Sarah’s baby is due. While we’ve been overseas it seems like half the 30-something people in Melbourne have had babies or are about to. It’s weird to think that a few weren’t even contemplating children when I left and when I get back they’ll have babies in their lives. I’m looking forward to meeting all these brand new people :-).

One day I’m going to learn, for once and for all, that it’s always worth getting my good camera out to take photos. Was great to see you, Liz!

Reykjavik

We spent our first full day on Iceland looking around Reykjavik. For reasons known only to themselves, the company we booked our self-drive trip through booked us into accommodation 40 minutes out of town so it was a bit of a drive back. I was still sick so, while I was glad that it was a bright, sunny day, I was also not feeling my best and my eyes were watering the whole time from the blinding brightness of the near-arctic sun.

First stop, after immediately finding a park right where we wanted for the first time since leaving Australia, was Harpa, the very new and shiny entertainment/conference venue in the middle of town. I’d seen pictures of it in the inflight magazine on the way over and thought to take a look.

Fortunately nothing in Reykjavik is outside of walking distance, so we found it in moments and went inside to take a look. It was like I’d imagine bees would do large scale architecture.

Reykjavik’ll make you… jump, jump!

Then we wandered around town and found a fantastic little skate park full of great graffiti. Later on in the day we walked past again and it was full of families of all ages plus young people in groups hanging out and being a bit rowdy. Everyone around town just seemed to want to be outside in the sun.

We walked over to Roadhouse Burgers, which I’d recommend if you’re not on a budget (heck, I wouldn’t recommend Iceland if you’re on a tight budget) because it was definitely the best meal we’ve eaten so far. Then it was up to Iceland’s most recognisable piece of architecture, their very modern Lutheran church.

The rocket-shaped church with a statue of Leif Erikson in front, a gift from the USA to the ‘original discoverer’ of America. Except for all those pesky native people, of whom Leif himself wrote upon his return to Iceland.

You’ll have to forgive me regarding the paucity of photos at the moment. The internet is slooooow anywhere outside the capital and we haven’t even been able to connect the last few days.

The church looks cool but the inside is as bare as the outside and, after all the gilt and marble of other European churches, it looks sort of unfinished. Maybe needs some paint rather than the bare concrete, I don’t know.

Next we walked down the hill to a bar that had been recommended by a friend of a friend – ‘Lebowski’s’ and of course all the decor was movie themed. It was a bit cheesy but we had a drink anyhow and gave our feet a rest.

The final thing on my to do list for the day was look at some Icelandic wool stuff, even just buy a couple of balls of wool and some needles to keep me occupied. Well. Wool here is nasty, nasty stuff. The locals seem to take great pride in it but I couldn’t feel much difference between the wool jumpers and one of those coir doormats. Blurgh.

We spent the last couple of hours before the show we’d plan to see in the evening, sitting in the foyer of Harpa on a couch is the sun reading our kindles.

The show Luke had found out about was a one hour, one person history of Iceland, performed in the back room of a pub. And we were the only audience, which wasn’t as weird as you’d think, especially after we had a chat with the girl performing it. The show was pretty good, too, although there were a few slow bits. Thanks to my reading a history of Iceland before we came I already knew a fair bit of it but being able to ask questions afterwards was helpful.

I was most interested in hearing about the traditional turf houses and the way in which people lived before modern times. I was told that the last people to move out of turf houses (which mostly had no electricity or plumbing) did so around the 60’s and 70’s. Which meant that there might still be people alive today who transitioned from what was, essentially, a medieval lifestyle to one that involved cars, microwaves and the internet. This boggles my mind in so many ways and I’m not even sure why I find it so enthralling. I think it reminds me of that 80’s movie, Encino Man and how I always wished I could be there to see how someone from the past reacted to all the changes that have occurred over the last X centuries. Either that or I could travel into the future and boggle at what has become of the human race.

I guess travel is a bit like that. You see people living in the technological past and also in elements of the future. You see inventions that amaze you and conditions that appall you. It certainly makes every day interesting.