in and out again

As is tradition, when you return from one trip you must immediately book the next. We’re going back to Ireland! More on that later, though – here’s all about London.

I had a great time, even though I was sick and had to work and was very cold and had many internet issues. Still, London. All of those things are minor annoyances when you’re in your favourite place in the world.

That being said, next time I think “hey I should go somewhere in January”, please remind me that most people would go someplace WARM, as opposed to some place colder than the place they left. London was surprisingly frosty, and in my delirium (I was so sick) I kinda forgot to bring a coat. I don’t wear a coat in Vancouver (mostly because I do not go outside), so I should be fiiiiiiine in London. And I wasn’t, at all! The first day I went outside (still sick), I had on 5 layers of cardigans (because that’s all I brought) and I froze my vagina right off. It was cold. Luckily, I had internet and money, so I bought a coat and arranged for it to be delivered the next day. It wasn’t the warmest thing I’d ever put on, but it did the trick and I spent the rest of my time in London delightfully warm-ish and also plaid.

The last time I did London solo, I was gone for over three weeks and found that to be too long a time to spend inside my own head. This time I was gone for just two weeks, and it was perfect – I missed Ed and the cats and general human contact, but I wasn’t despondent in my lonely despair. This is good information to have, because now I know I can be all “lol bored going to Germany now bye” yet retain the majority of my sanity.

So, what’d I do in my two weeks of me time?

  • Wandered Brick Lane for hours, taking pictures of graffiti and finding my favourite piece again to test my location memory
  • Visited Spitalfields Market
  • Watched the sunset from Sky Garden
  • Attended the Women’s March on London
  • Took a canal boat from Little Venice to Camden Lock, wandered the market, drank SO MUCH orange juice
  • Did nothing (was sick)
  • Went to the V&A (three times)
  • Visited the Saatchi Gallery
  • Explored the area around my flat, which included squares Sloane and Duke of York
  • Saw many Sloane Rangers (hah!)
  • Went to the Natural History Museum and spent a lot of time in the earthquake simulator as practice for Japan
  • Met up with Jen of Oxford and had Lobster Rolls!
  • Bought every damn pair of leggings from Primark – sorry, everyone else
  • Went to the waterfront by the Tower of London and took several thousand photos of Tower Bridge all lit up at night
  • The V&A is open late on Friday nights; discovered it turns into a bizarre nightclub with live acts and fancy people going WOOOOOOO
  • Got locked in the V&A courtyard and had to literally scratch at the door to be let back in (aka stand and wave at people until someone made eye contact, then played charades until they realized I was trapped) – luckily, that courtyard is one of my favourite places on the planet (albeit much more so when it’s warm and I’m not locked outside) so I didn’t mind all THAT much
  • Discovered that eating grilled pieces of halloumi cheese with a spicy-fruity sauce is fucking amazing and that’s all I’m going to eat from here on in
  • Had many adventures with the Travelling T-Rex
  • Portobello Market! Love this place. Wandered. Did not buy boots, but did buy pearls. I am so fance.
  • ASTRONAUTALIS SHOW WOOOOOO I’d been wanting to see Astronautalis in London for some time and it just so happened that he was playing London while I was there so I went to the show and remembered to stand on stage right and it was so awesome and YAY
  • Chinese New Year! Went to Chinatown and watched dragons and crowds and got totally soaked in the rain.
  • Seven Dials. Accidentally bought four boots.
  • Covent Garden! London Transport Museum is awesome! Also, Shake Shack. So good. Missed Ed.
  • Finally visited Tate Britain!
  • Waterfront, this time by the London Eye. Took many photos of Big Ben, the parliament buildings, and the Eye.
  • Science Museum! No cosmonauts this time, though. Still cool.
  • Ate fish and chips (but only once, on my last night there)
  • Had an amazing fucking time
  • Finally shook off my terrible flu/cold thing
  • Rekindled my need to live in London for a while

.. I did a lot of things. I walked a terrific amount, so much so that my watch and ring were both very proud of me. Had some fun shopping, which caused issues bringing stuff back even though I tried really very hard to be good. Honestly, I didn’t want to come home: I wanted home to come to me. I missed Ed and the cats and having hot water and water pressure and loads of internet, but dammit .. I want to be in London. Especially now that Vancouver is fucking covered in frozen white bullshit. Yes, the UK gets winter too, but some things are easier to manage when you’re where you need to be.

Half of my pictures can be viewed here. The other half will be uploaded shortly, but I experimented with not hauling a camera around with me and looking like a tourist, but using my phone instead. I have some extremely good iPhone lenses that extend the abilities of the already-amazing iPhone 7 Plus camera, and it was nice to be able to wander around with fewer things to carry. I don’t think I’m going to repeat this in Japan because I’m going to want to capture every damn thing ever, but for a place I know very well, it was nice to have options.

It was a really good trip, yo.

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i love this place.

getting high in london

Places that are not Vancouver are all weird and flat, so if you get up really high you can see for miles. There are a number of places you can go for a great view, and seeing as I am now an expert in great views (having seen three in as many days), I thought I’d share my findings with y’all.

One New Change Place

Perfect if you:

  • Are mildly afraid of heights
  • Hate queues
  • Don’t trust x-ray machines
  • Are on a budget
  • Can work an elevator yourself, thank you very much
  • Really like St. Paul’s Cathedral and want to admire it from different angles

One New Change Place is free and self-service all the way. It’s also the lowest rooftop terrace I went to, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit. Located directly behind St. Paul’s Cathedral, people are free to take the elevator up to the roof and have a look around. There are a couple of cocktail bars up there if you’re fixing for a sky drink, but you aren’t obligated to purchase anything. Great views of the Tower of London and St. Paul’s can be had here, and if you’re as lucky as I was, you’ll encounter a class of ESL high school students on a field trip to read their essays on London’s notable sights aloud.

Sample views from One New Change Place:

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The Sky Garden

Perfect if you:

  • Are FANCY AS FUCK
  • Love greenery
  • Want to try some fancy cocktails
  • Love waiting in line
  • Could walk through full body scanners all day long
  • Prefer to spend your pounds on the aforementioned fancy cocktails instead of admission

The Sky Garden is another free viewing platform, and a much fancier one than One New Change Place. It does require booking a ticket online in advance, as it gets very busy during the tourist season – I arrived well before my 2pm entry time, but still had to queue up with the masses. There is a security checkpoint to go through with an x-ray scanner for bags, but once you’re through that, you take a fancy elevator some 36 floors up and walk into – wait for it – a garden in the sky. There’s a couple of restaurants and a bar serving snacks, drinks, and fancy (aka expensive) cocktails. Again, you’re not obligated to spend any money while visiting the Sky Garden, but it’s really tempting to get a glass of wine and admire the view while daydreaming up a fabulous backstory for yourself. I highly recommend visiting the Sky Garden if you’re in London, because just look at this place:

look at this majestic shit right here

this is some majestic shit right here

I am tempted to return to the Sky Garden in the evening before the end of my trip. It was really cool.

The Shard!

Perfect if you are:

  • Rich
  • Proposing to your girlfriend
  • An annoying Italian tourist having a very important, very loud conversation
  • A rude woman who refused to stop taking pictures of the sunset (on a piece of shit camera, with the fucking flash on) for even half a second so I could get in and grab a shot for myself, even though her husband asked her 4 times to move for me
  • In love with heights
  • Really into amazing views

The View from the Shard is expensive – £25.95 per adult ticket. However, it’s also the tallest building in Europe, and offers a one-of-a-kind view of London. There are three levels to view from – the 68th, 69th, and 72nd floors – a couple of standard bars offering snacks and champagne, and no limit to how long you spend gazing out the window. The Shard is something I’d always wanted to do on previous trips, but it can be prohibitively expensive if you’re in a group and/or have to choose which things to skip due to time or money. It was the perfect (if a little lonely-panged, especially during the surprise proposal with all of her friends in attendance) thing to do by myself, and I timed my visit so I’d arrive with plenty of pre, during, and post sunset viewing. The views were amazing, the exhibit and audio tour were cool, and the staff was very friendly (one of them brought me a chair when I plopped myself down on the floor so I could stare at the Tower Bridge without being jostled) – but don’t go to the Shard for any of these reasons. Instead, go because of this:

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All the bathrooms are on the 68th floor, and along the exterior of the building. They’re each a self-contained unit with toilet, sink, dryer, etc.

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I literally took this photo WHILE PEEING.

IT WAS THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD.

There are blinds you can draw, of course, but WHY WOULD YOU. WATCH ME PEE, WORLD! I AM LITERALLY ON THE EDGE!

That bathroom was worth the price of admission alone. I highly recommend it.

There are some good views to be had outside the bathroom, too:

just after the sun set (which I did not get a picture of because that woman sucked so hard)

basically the entire reason I went to the shard: tower bridge at night

That bathroom, though. So good.

If you prefer your city views to have a little more history behind them, there are two others I know of: you can climb the Monument to the Great Fire of London (£4), or climb the various domes in St. Paul’s (£18). I have not done these – note the use of the word climb; these attractions are stairs-only and I have a heart condition (and also have walked an average of 8 hours a day for the past week and my blisters have blisters), so I’m skipping these. Plus, I’m kind of all viewed out at the moment. You should see the other pictures.

Do you know of any other must-see vantage points in London I should check out while I’m here? And if you ever find yourself at one of these places because of my recommendation, please let me know – I’d love to know what you thought.

Okay, I need to sleep. Tomorrow: museums! Yay!

(s)pots of tea

Europe makes me buy tea towels. I don’t drink tea, I don’t eat tea cakes or tiny sandwiches, I’ve never held or been to a tea party – but something about Europe makes me mad for tea towels, and I came home with seven eight of them.

It all started during our trip in 2012, when I bought this in tea towel form. Come to think of it, that’s the reason right there – I loved all the London-themed art I came across, but a) don’t have room for additional prints and b) know that posters are the single worst thing to try and bring back from a trip. I bought the towel instead, because it can be folded and was a great deal cheaper than a print or tote bag. LOGIC! Sometimes I have it!

Just look at all my lovely tea towels!

I don’t really know what I’m going to do with them all, though. Perhaps it is time I take up tea, or towelling off tea. Something like that. Tea!

if you live here, drinking tea is mandatory

if you live here, drinking tea is mandatory

utter failure

Guys, this didn’t work.

This trip to London was supposed to get it all out of my system. I’ve spent a total of six weeks in the city – each trip a week longer than the last – but I’m not done. I know my love of this city is a little irrational, but have you met me? There’s something here that wants me to stay. I can feel it. No vacation, regardless of length, will ever be enough here .. I need to live in London. I know this as well as I know anything.

This isn’t just the idle rumblings of someone who isn’t quite ready to return to reality, either. I’ve only felt like this one other time in my life: when I was wholly convinced I would shrivel up and die if I didn’t live in Vancouver. I was supposed to be in BC, and every passing month I spent languishing in Calgary was killing me with angst. I needed to be on the coast, so I worked my ass off (and did so much fast talking it became a habit) to make that happen.

I still love Vancouver, but I love it like I love Fresca Victoria – many fond memories, and a permanent place in my heart. It doesn’t really feel like home anymore though – there are so many things I’ve been done with for ages now – and the urgency I felt years ago has been long sated. I feel it here, though. I’m supposed to be a Londoner. So how do I make that happen?

Complications. So many of them, least of which is qualifying for that Visa. I don’t know if anyone truly knows how hard it was to convince Ed that Vancouver wouldn’t kill him, but that would be like asking Ed if he’d like a blow job in comparison. The house. The cats. The sheer amount of money it would take to make it happen. So many obstacles .. but they’re the same obstacles I’ve faced, and conquered, before.

I can do this. I have to, because a force stronger than my ridiculousness is driving me to.

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i’m gonna live here one day

drawing to a close

The first truly bad weather we’ve experienced this entire trip has given us an excellent excuse to do absolutely nothing today. I feel a little guilty, given that we only have two full days of London left before we leave for home on Tuesday, but we’re kind of exhausted and desperately needed the rest. Tomorrow we’ll be back to our usual routine of DO ALL THE THINGS, but today .. well, couch. And bed, and football, and pizza.

I love London and everything about it, but I really miss my cats. We’re both looking forward to going home – this is the longest we’ve ever been away, and I think I drastically underestimated just how long 22 days really is. That being said, we’ve had an amazing time. We’ve done almost everything on the London List, and will likely bang out all but two (a cemetery, and Camden Town – I’m just too tired and broke) in the next couple days. We come home on Canada Day, which is fitting. I will miss London – I’ve been trying very hard not to look at these last few days as “the last time I’ll lounge at the V&A, the last time I’ll be able to find a Pret 15 feet in any direction, the last time I can reach out and touch the Tower Bridge and lick Big Ben (even if they’d really rather I didn’t)”, etc. It’s still a goal of mine to live in London someday, and since I didn’t crumple into dust on my birthday, it could happen.

But first – Paris! We had three days to explore the city, and that’s just what we did. It was Ed’s first time there, with my being a seasoned Paris vet with almost 9 full hours under my belt. We did traditional tourist things, because of the aforementioned first time – the Eiffel Tower (which almost killed Ed because heatstroke), the Louvre (which almost killed everyone in our vicinity because crowd rage), the Notre Dame, and a day of random wandering during which we accidentally found the Persian sex district. We made great use of the bus tour tickets I bought, and braved the Metro multiple times to get around. It was a busy trip within a trip, but we made the most of our time there. It’s interesting, though – even with more time to soak in all (well, more) of what Paris has to offer, I find that my initial thoughts on the city still hold true: Paris is just not for me. I’m super glad I got to experience it not once but twice, and with Ed this time (who, ironically, feels exactly the same way about the city as I do), but to me, it’s no London. Which I love. Have I mentioned that?

I’ve been taking pictures the whole time we’ve been here (except for today, because I haven’t gone outside), but I don’t know where to put them. I didn’t renew my Pro Flickr account, and I don’t know where kids these days are putting their photos .. any ideas?

So, more coming later. Right now there is pizza to eat, and Canada to cheer on in the World Cup. GO SPORTS!

paris opéra

paris opéra

some sorta big tower dealie

some sorta big tower dealie

london built in brick, paris built in stone

london built in brick, paris built in stone

the angel of selfies

the angel of selfies

penis.

penis.

hello from paris

I fully intended on writing every day (or at least every other day) while on vacation, but then I kept having fun and was exhausted all the time and Heather and Renee were here and it was my birthday and .. well, I forgot. And was too tired. And now Ed and I are in Paris with spotty internet, so don’t hold your breath.

I do promise many pictures and stories soon, along with the dreaded cop-out “my vacation in numbers” post .. but that’ll have to wait: I am going to sleep and tomorrow I will explore Paris for more than the 8 hours H, R, and I had in 2011.

To make up for my absences, here are some things that are hilarious because I am 9 years old at heart:

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london: new vancouver

We’re staying in an area of London that is both new-ish, and new to us. It’s a little further from Central London than our previous visits, and it feels very much like home. Seriously, tell me if this doesn’t look like False Creek and BC Place:

all aboard the mount pleasant gondola

Most of the buildings in the area are new, and built of concrete and glass. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but .. it feels like home. Specifically, Vancouver home. When I visit London, I want it to feel like UK-home: history and wainscotting and ridiculously ornate buildings fit for nobility but are actually a corner grocer and torture chambers and and and. The last place we stayed was right next to the University of London, with all the accompanying Britishness you might expect – but the flat was tiny and uncomfortable for the two of us, and wouldn’t work for the four of us this time around. I did a ton of research before selecting where we are now, but didn’t really look into how London the area felt. It’s not a big deal – as Ed says, we traded charm for comfort – but something feels off about the area, and I think that’s what it is.

But! It’s where we sleep and store our underwear, so it’s all good. We’ve settled in, and have worn ourselves out running all over town exploring new things and revisiting old favourites. Our adventures on Tuesday took us to Canary Wharf for SIM Cards and an accidental high end car show: we made our way through Maseratis and Bentleys and Land Rovers on our unintentional romp through London’s financial district, and once we were fully equipped with internet, I took Ed to Buckingham Palace because it is shiny. We wandered through various Parks, stopping to rest our feet and people watch. Everyone was very fancy – Tuesday was Prince Phillip’s birthday, and some sort of party was happening at the Palace. Hundreds of people were queued up to get in, and everyone was dressed to at least the 8s – top hats and tails on the men, and the FANCIEST HATS on the ladies. St. James’s Park has a huge collection of interesting birds, and I spent a long time looking at baby ducks and geese and swans and this fat squirrel:

it’s hobbes, in squirrel form

We spent some time laying on the grass, then made our way back to home base for sleepings.

On Wednesday, we decided to hop the gondola to London Bridge and walk for a million miles (or 17000 FitBit steps) – all along the South Bank, over multiple bridges, and past my new favourite places in London:

adorable shops in gabriel’s wharf

more 'ffiti

south bank skate park

south bank skate park

more ‘ffiti

The Skate Park was *covered* in graffiti, and was wonderful – I could have spent hours in there (but didn’t, because I killed my camera battery). More South Bank will happen later, as I think it’s my happy place .. so much to do and see and walk and also this old thing:

big ben at seven bong

big ben at seven bong

We wore ourselves the fuck out yesterday, so today was much less exciting: a trip to the mall (because it has the closest M&S that isn’t fucking invisible). We stocked up on groceries and desserts, and are simply resting up because the fun is about to begin: Heather and Renee will be here tomorrow, and then we’re off to Portobello Market and Brighton and Oxford and the V&A and castles and haunted pubs and bus tours and eeeeee!

My feet are gonna hurt so much.

and and and