London Day 2: Camden Markets and Hamilton

We eschewed our usual breakfast at home for an early wander up the road to Camden Markets. So early that half the shops weren’t open but we found coffee and sat for a little while.

Camden high street.
Cyberdog, sadly not open.

I bought a bead necklace (blue of course) and a hand-painted tile for the kitchen wall.

I had a delicious bowl of salad for brunch. Luke got a Shake Shack burger. I really feel like there haven’t been enough salads and vegetables in my diet lately. I’m getting to that point in the trip where I miss my own kitchen.

After a couple of hours at the markets we went back to the apartment to get ready for…. Hamilton!

We got to Victoria Station early and had time for a drink in a roof top bar. Everyone else decided to play it safe and not have a drink before the show but I had a glass of wine.

The sun came out for a little while but the day was quite cold. In the city every alleyway is a wind tunnel but the underground is always boiling hot. It’s very annoying!

The building looks big but inside it wasn’t huge which meant that, even though we had seats fairly far back, we could see pretty well.

Theatre foyer.
Luckily the family in front weren’t too tall.

The songs were catchy and the singing was great. I enjoyed it but I still can’t say I’m a fan of musicals in general. My favourite song was Washington’s first song and my least favourite was his final song, which felt like a waste of time. A controversial opinion, no doubt!

After the show we walked past Buckingham Palace. It really is a very boring building.

I like the shiny gold thing over the road better.

Then we walked to Soho via Pall Mall (Paul maul or Pal mal??) and then caught the tube to King’s Cross. No less than three independent sources had recommended we try Dishoom, a chain of Indian restaurants. there’s one in Kings Cross. We headed there only to find there was a 1.5 hour queue. They don’t take bookings so we decided to try again another day.

Instead we walked to our suburb and chose a little Greek restaurant that did lovely food. All very simple but tasty.

We got home around 8:30 and spent a couple of hours eating cheese and planning the future days in a bit more detail.

I sent Bonnie a postcard a couple of weeks ago, I don’t think she was very excited.. is this a yawn?

London: Day 1: Covent Garden

We arrived yesterday and met Lea and Pete at Mark’s office before heading to Camden and our accommodation. Our tiny apartment has two bedrooms and a kitchen and bathroom.

I used a wide angle on this. It is TINY. Our feet hang off, or would if some complete idiot hadn’t chosen a bed frame with a wooden fence at the end.
The kitchen, which is the only place we can all sit together. One of the chairs is so wobbly you have to prop it against the oven but luckily that means you can still reach the table because the room is SO SMALL.

After being slightly shocked by the tiny apartment we went for a walk around the block to get some supplies (wine and cheese) and check out the neighbourhood. There is an unbelievable quantity of garbage around the streets… it’s worse than Naples, which is notoriously filthy. However the location, between Euston and Kings Cross, is excellent and Camden is certainly very lively. Street sweepers do come along frequently but if anywhere in Melbourne was this bad there would be outrage.

Also it’s above a kebab shop. That’s our door.

On our first night we went out for a late dinner at a place I found called The Blues Kitchen.

It’s just around the corner from where we are staying and I had no idea what it would be like except that there was live music every night.

Luke and I shared a full rack of ribs and they were perfect, although very spicy!
It was very dark but very ornate.

Yesterday was Amanda’s Big Day Out! We walked the 40 minutes straight south to Covent Garden so everyone else could enquire about theatre tickets and then I took everyone to Bone Daddies for lunch. They do top quality ramen. I’m not sure everyone loved it as much as I did but that’s the price of putting me in charge!

You can press raw garlic into your ramen! They also have sesame grinders, which I’ve never seen anywhere else.

I have one prime mission for the day though: Gudrun Sjoden. I have spent many hours over the last few years browsing this Swedish designer’s online store but never bought anything. She sells brightly coloured, hippy-ish, organic and ethically produced clothing. It is much more expensive than the clothes I normally buy.

About a week ago it occurred to me to see if she had a London store. She did!

I had a quick look in before lunch but then decided I needed much more time, so after lunch Pete and Lea went off to do their own thing and Luke said he was happy to come with me.

The ladies inside were so nice and the store had a basement level as well! Every piece of clothing except perhaps one or two was available in every size (amazing) and they had the entire range that’s online.

I was so excited I only took one photo in the store.

The store has a little table and chairs with glasses and a water jug for those poor souls accompanying the shoppers so Luke had a place to sit while I tried things on. Eventually I decided to buy everything I liked and worry about getting it into my backpack later. Mostly I chose things I couldn’t make myself or that weren’t like things I could get at home. Mainly cardigans and jumpers with knitted patterns, such as these:

Top left, bottom right.

After spending a moderately exorbitant amount on clothes I spent ten pounds on two pieces of cheese.

This place smelled amazing.
The guy behind the counter let us try four different types and the ones we ended up with were a very melty Camembert and a really ancient cheddar.

We ended up finishing the day eating cheese around the tiny table and planning the next week’s entertainment. Luke heroically took charge of the buying of tickets and so now we have a lot to look forward to.

To finish, here’s the most curious shop we walked into yesterday!

No, really!

And yes, they’ve sold quite a few!

Stansted to Spain

I got to London from Sheffield an hour late due to terrible traffic. The driver was very apologetic and good humoured, which made the trip more bearable.

This photo is awful but it’s the only one from the bus.

I got off at Victoria feeling like I was starving and ducked out of the rain into a pizza place that promised real Neapolitan pizza.

Delivered! It was fantastic.

Also check out these fancy taps in the bathroom. Futuristic!

Feeling more at peace with myself and the world, I caught the jam-packed tube and then the Stansted Express and then taxi to the end. By the time I reached my quarters I did not feel particularly at peace with the world, more like a sardine that had spent too long in a can.

My accommodation for last night was pretty weird. I booked a place through that was in Takeley, a village very close to Stansted airport. It definitely didn’t look like a hotel and when I arrived it seemed to be a house made entirely of bedrooms. My room opened directly onto the back patio area, which had all the charm of a prison exercise yard.

‘Princess Rules’ is a pretty strange bit of decor in a room that’s probably most used by backpackers and low level business people.

In the morning I caught a local bus the one mile to the airport and met Danny, who had flown from Belfast. We haven’t seen each other in five years, although we talk many times a week over messenger. We both got married last year so I’m going to enjoy telling people about it and implying it was to each other, just to annoy him.

We quickly set about getting into trouble.

Well, Danny did. Then we had a glass of Prosecco at a bar while we waited for access to a lounge that Danny booked, where we could drink more Prosecco.

At the haunted bar, where a glass leapt off the bench and smashed for no reason because no one was anywhere near it.
A terrible photo (post Prosecco) of the Escape Lounge, where we had three complimentary Prosecco and breakfast.
The Ryanair terminal had its own special charm. I shouldn’t complain though, this was probably the best experience I’ve had with Ryanair… although it might’ve been all the Prosecco. Lesson learned! Ryanair plus four glasses of wine equals a tolerable experience.
Boarding! It was windy.
The final glass of Prosecco was accompanied by a large coffee on the flight.

We landed and saw our first shell, the symbol and marker of the Camino.

We caught the bus into Santiago de Compostella then bought a bag of strawberries to eat on the train. Danny smokes so he stocked up.

Next was the high speed train to A Coruna, where we were staying the night. It was a 30 minute walk across town to the apartment Danny had booked and we were very grateful to grab some bread, ham and tomatoes (to go along with some pilfered cheese from the airport lounge) and have a picnic at the coffee table before bed. we can head all the cafes and bars below are packed with people but we are so very tired!

Stairs in A Coruna.

Tomorrow we catch a bus to Ferrol to start our walk. wish us luck!

Incheon to Heathrow: Making The Most Of Economy Travel

I have nothing exciting to report about the second half of the journey, which was 14.5 hours long and had me questioning the wisdom of my entire holiday.

The plane was full but I enjoyed having an aisle seat so I could get up and stretch. When I’m flying I’m always thinking about the little details that make flying long haul more bearable, so here’s my collected thoughts on the things I do to get through it so I don’t arrive feeling like I want to kick the entire world in the fork.

I googled the flight path, the official one is in blue but I drew the route we actually took in orange. Seems like it’s better to fly over Afghanistan than Russia right now!

1. Taking a very small bag that fits under the seat in front so I don’t have to worry about using overhead baggage space, one of the reasons why most people race to be first on the plane. My cabin bag is actually two small bags that clip together to make a backpack about half the size of a regular daypack. When hiking they each clip to the front of my big backpack which makes them look, rather unfortunately, like boobs, but they are super comfortable and distribute the weight evenly.

They look dorky but they do mean I get to talk to a lot of other hikers who want to know what on earth I’m wearing.
They clip together with a minimal attachable harness to make a day pack and every part of the system has its own dry bag so everything I pack stays completely dry. Aaron is a NZ company and I highly recommend them for travel!

2. Having an aisle seat means being able to get up and down many times and frequently have a stretch. The guy next to me didn’t go to the bathroom once the whole flight! I need a stretch at least every three hours if I’m not sleeping. I did take some ibuprofen on the second flight as my hips and knees ache a bit after so long in the same position.

3. I don’t straighten my hair. I’m sure not many people will find this useful, but hair straightening makes it super dry and with the extremely low humidity on the plane everything becomes full of static electricity. Same goes for wearing wool or any clothing prone to static. This does make me sad, because I prefer having hair that doesn’t make me look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards.

4. I have super dry skin so lip balm and moisturiser are vital. I don’t normally bother at home but it’s makes the flight so much more comfortable.

5. I don’t sit while I wait for the plane. I did 5km in Incheon and saw tons of interesting stuff on my walk, such as a parade!

I didn’t get a good photo, but here’s an excerpt from the airport website.

6. This was my first flight with my noise cancelling AirPods and I don’t think I’ll ever leave home without them again. If the noise of a crying baby or just the plane’s engine noise gets too much for the noise cancelling function, I just play my ‘rain sounds’ playlist that’s downloaded onto my phone and it solves all my problems!

I do have to be careful with headphones though, it’s like they reduce my acuity by about 50% so I turn them off when I am moving or packing so I don’t leave vital things behind or miss directions.

What’s your top tip for plane travel?

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.


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!