Laters, London

As you may or may not know I’m back in Canada now as my UK visa was up this summer. It was really tough to leave, but c’est la vie. Anyway, knowing I’d be leaving for good I spent the last few weeks wandering the city, seeing friends, and eating delicious food!

(The photos aren’t great as they were all taken on my phone.)

Around the neighbourhood

I can’t even begin to express how in love I fell with South London this year. I was living around Elephant & Castle station in Southwark and it was fantastic. I could walk or bus almost everywhere I needed to go, there were parks galore, it was a multicultural hub, and just generally an endless amount of things to do.

Burgess Park – We had several weeks of gorgeous weather and I spent a lot of time here:

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Buddhist centre – On one of Saira and I’s weekly adventures we wandered into a spiritual centre down the road from my house and discovered this beautiful meditation room:

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Dunning Library – I walked by this building daily on my way home from work. It’s stunning:

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On the walk home:

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St. George’s Circus – Nothing exciting, but I walked or bused through here several times a day. Each side of the column stated the distance to a major landmark:

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Finishing my post-grad

I also spent my last few weeks in London finishing my final paper for my post-grad. Many afternoons were spent writing in the park:

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Star Trek Live @ Royal Albert Hall

A friend told me about a screening of Star Trek at Royal Albert Hall. As I’d never been, and love Star Trek, it sounded like a great idea! And icing on the cake- When I arrived one of the ushers upgraded my ticket, putting me in a much better seat, and I found a program (selling for £10) under my seat. Score!

Inside RAH:

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FREE THING:

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The film played on a large screen while the orchestra and choir performed the entire film’s score live. It was incredible:

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And guess who showed up to introduce the film? Simon Pegg (!!!), JJ Abrams (*bows*), and Michael Giacchin0 (score composer):

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Playing tourist

I, of course, needed to play tourist one last time around the city.

Trafalgar Square:

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Cleopatra’s Needle (1st year of uni memories!):

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Oxford Circus:

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River Views:

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Piccadilly Circus:

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Leicester Square:

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One last gig

I saw a ton of incredible concerts while in London, so the last one needed to be epic. Lucky for us Arcade Fire were in town:

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Not-so-lucky for us, we missed the last couple of songs because I was booted in the head by a crowd surfer and blacked out from a minor concussion… But some hilarity ensued at the doctors, so that’s something, right?

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Urban exploration

For our final adventure Saira and I wandered around an old eerie hospital in south London, which had a derelict sanatorium on site. It was also raining and dusk, aka perfect ambiance for such an adventure.

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It was definitely a great last few weeks, but I was still so sad to leave. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone, to pack up the last 2 years and head home (minus the time home for sickness last year!) without knowing what was coming next. It’s been a couple of weeks and I still have no idea, but in London I finished my post-grad, gained a ton of fantastic experience, and met the most incredible people. It was a great experience, and at the end of the day that’s all that matters!

Sunrise At Primrose Hill

The night before last I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to venture out at 3:30am to catch the sunrise from Primrose Hill. It was already quite light out when I arrived just before 5am:

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But thankfully I still had some time before the sun made an appearance:

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The colours were incredible:

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The view was more than worth the long trek:

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I absolutely recommend this to everyone in / visiting London.

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The viewing area.

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Nevermore.

Christmas in London 2012

Christmas 2012 was a new kind of Christmas. My mom traveled to London and we spent a week here doing touristy things. It was very different, but a lot of fun. Sadly the only photos I have at the moment are from my phone. I took a lot with her camera, but then forgot my SD card reader and couldn’t get the photos on to my computer! Ah well. Hopefully my iPhone pics will suffice for now.

Over the course of the week we:

  • Wandered around Christmas markets on the Thames
  • Climbed the dome at St. Paul’s Catherdral
  • Shopped on Oxford Street
  • Did a Charles Dickens walking tour (around Trafalgar Square, Embankment, West End, Covent Garden)
  • Toured Westminster Abbey
  • Saw The Hobbit at the IMAX
  • Visited Harrodds
  • Wandered the Science Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, and The Natural History Museum.
  • Wandered Hyde Park
  • Ate at Hummingbird Bakery
  • Went to North London for dinner with Sally and Karen
  • Toured Tower of London
  • Visited Buckingham Palace
  • Visited The British Museum

View from the top of St. Paul’s:

23749_736307313804_499168664_nChristmas Day Charles Dickens Walking Tour (Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden):

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545469_737049721014_273341217_nI think she had a good time in London. She kept talking about wanting to come again, so that’s a good sign!

London 2012 – Part One

It’s closing in on 2 months since my London trip (WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?), so I figured I should probably get the promised blog up! It was a rather long trip, and I’m not too sure if WordPress will let me put all the pictures I want to in a single post. We shall see!

I left for London on February 14th, and came home on the 26th, making it the longest single trip to London I’ve ever done. And I had a marvelously wonderful time!

I landed on the 15th, stood in line at immigration for nearly 2 hours, and then headed out in search of Sally. 3 trains, and 2 extremely graceful falls later, I found myself Hertfordshire, in North London, where an extremely cold Sally sat waiting for me for hours (I didn’t anticipate the 2 hour immigration line and had no way to contact her!) We then made our way back to her house where I promptly collapsed after 15 hours of travelling.

The next day (Thursday) Sally, Michelle, and I headed to the country for cream tea, shopping, and lots of general tourist-y things.

(As always, click on pictures to enlarge)

Cream (Creme?) Tea:

The Roman ruins at St. Alban’s:

That night we decided to take on the daunting task of making Orla a TARDIS cake for her birthday as a surprise!

And the finished product, a good 6 hours later:

(Don’t laugh- making a TARDIS cake is not as easy as it seems!)

Picture Op!

The next morning, after a whopping 2 hours of sleep I headed in to central London to meet up with Orla and Aideen. With two pieces of luggage, a backpack, and an enormous tupperware container holding the cake, I ventured out solo and somehow managed a bus, two trains, and about a kilometre of walking. Eventually I made it to our hotel to find Orla semi-conscious in the lobby waiting for me. She was early, I was late, and the hotel was in my name. Woops! But, we checked in, managed to not pass out, and actually ventured back out to find food!

Later in the day Aideen arrived and we set out on an evening stroll, got some dinner, and headed back for some much needed sleep!

St. Paul’s Cathedral at night:

Saturday was jam packed. It was Orla’s birthday, so we’d planned a pile of fun things to do! In the morning it was raining, but we headed out to Camden regardless to wander around the markets and grabbed some lunch.

After Camden we headed to Oxford Street to find the Hummingbird Bakery. Unfortunately it was packed, so we opted to come back another day! Still, the rain had let up, so we wandered around shops for the afternoon. That evening we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the birthday festivities. Cake, out to dinner, cake, GloZell, cake, out dancing, and, of course, more cake!

(Please ignore our friends behind us: Mr. and Mrs. Dryhump)

Sunday was the last full day with three of us, but we were also exhausted, so we opted to have a full, but relaxing, day. We headed to Kensington Gardens, saw Royal Albert Hall, wandered through the shops in Kensington, and then went to see The Muppet Movie!

Monday we headed back to Oxford Street to get cupcakes at the Hummingbird Bakery. Well worth going back for!

We then walked to Covent Garden, and back to our hotel. A carnival set up under the London Eye:

Aideen headed back to Dublin that evening, and Orla and I transported ourselves from our fancy birthday weekend hotel to the Travelodge. And we, thankfully, had a much better experience that this Travelodge (Southwark), then we did on our last trip to London (Travelodge Waterloo). On Tuesday Orla and I headed to the Olympia for.. *drumroll* THE DOCTOR WHO EXPERIENCE!

Mock us all you want, it was amazing! They had everything there. We even got some sort of Platinum package, which means we also got a bag of nifty-gifties, including a certificate saying we flew the TARDIS. That’s right, be jealous.

WordPress is starting to freeze, so I think it’s time to end this one. More in Part 2!

And we’re off!

Ello, ello!

It’s our last few hours in London. So sad! But, we’ve had a fantastic time. We were able to fit in much more stuff than I was expecting, which is great. If anyone is visiting London I highly recommend The London Pass. It was so handy, and saved us a ton of money. Win, win!

On Monday we visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, Downing Street, Churchill’s War Rooms, Harrods, Westminster Abbey, and Parliament.

(If you click the photos you can see larger ones)

St. Paul’s Cathedral: We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but it was gorgeous!

10 Downing Street: Orla’s unimpressed with David Cameron face

Inside Churchill’s War Rooms:

Westminster Abbey

Parliament

Shopping at Harrods

And, finally, the highlight of my day: Banoffee Pie! (Kidding, kind of. I’ve been waiting 5 years for this!)

I haven’t uploaded pictures from yesterday yet, but there isn’t much to see (didn’t take many pictures), so, no worries. We visited the British Museum (saw the Rosetta Stone, and some original columns and plaques from the Parthenon), the National Gallery (Renior, Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Picasso, general awesomeness!), I had more banoffee pie, and then we went to A Conversation with Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish BFI centre, which was great. Edgar Wright is a director (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and most recently, Scott Pilgram). The show was so funny. I’m really glad we went.

We leave in few hours for Edinburgh. The weather is gorgeous in London, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we have the same luck up there! It’s the Edinburgh International Festival, so there’s a lot happening in the city right now. Should be exciting! Maybe we’ll spot some celebrities. I think Angelina Jolie drove by us the other night as we were eating dinner. We were a few blocks away from the Salt premiere, and a car drove by with papparazzi chasing after it.

Anyway, I should get packing. My things are a mess at the moment.

We won’t have Internet, I don’t think, until Sunday. So, talk to you then!

~Spencer

London, Part 2

It has been a busy couple of days here in London! I’m pretty exhausted and I probably won’t be too detailed in this post. But, I have pictures!

Saturday, August 14th

We started the day out by walk to Trafalger Square, visiting an info centre there, and grabbing some breakfast:

We then took the tube up to Nothing Hill to visit the Portobello Market:

We then took the tube to Earl’s Court to visit one of the city’s few remaining Police Public Call Box’s (Because we’re enormous Doctor Who nerds. Don’t judge!):

After that we got on the tube again and went to Picadilly Circle and wandered around. We then strolled over to Buckingham Palace:

After that we wandered around some shops, got some dinner, and walked along the Thames at night:

Sunday, August 15th

This morning we walked to the Globe Theatre and took a tour:

After that we walked to the London Bridge to go through the London Bridge Experience and Tombs. It was terrifying! I didn’t get any pictures since they weren’t allowed.

We then walked down to Tower Bridge:

Followed by Tower of London:

And finally a 2.5 hour cruise down the River Thames. I took too many pictures and can not decide what to post! I did get a picture of the 500 year old pub where we had dinner:

We have another busy day tomorrow, so I really need to get to sleep. I’m so tired! But feeling great.

Hope everyone is doing well!

~Spencer

London Calling!

Greetings from Londontown! After a long and somewhat painful journey, I finally made it! Exhausted, cranky, and sore, but, still, here in one piece!

The trip did not start off well, unfortunately. My bags were too heavy and I was charged quite a lot to check them. Thankfully the guy working at the counter was very nice and lied about the weight to save my about $45. That made me feel a bit better, until my debit was declined when I went to pay for the baggage charges. Not what I want to hear when I’m about to board a trans Atlantic flight!

Can I also just mention how much I absolutely hate Toronto Pearson Airport? It’s ridiculous. I kept getting turned away at security lines because my gate wasn’t in that section. Fine, but there’s no signs telling you that you need to enter from certain ports for certain gates! And then, of course, I misread my gate as C23, instead of C32, and start to panic because C23 doesn’t appear to exist! Good news though, I used my debit to purchase a bottle of water and it worked. So, I was relieved about that.

I also forgot how much I hate trans Atlantic flights. Long, and cramped, and noisy, and just, ugh. Not fun. I had a window seat though! Not that you can see anything at night over the Atlantic, but, it meant I didn’t have to get up to let the people next to me up. Which made me happy enough.

My view this morning. I wasn’t able to sleep much, but the clouds were lovely to watch this morning. And then of course they start playing Two and a Half Men on the cabin televisions. That annoyed me more than it should have. But, I know a lot of you understand ;).

I had some more stress once getting to London, including getting on the wrong train (the ticket checker on board was very nice though! He didn’t fine me, and told me what to look out for next time.), and having my Visa not work at the hotel. I’m hoping it’s just their machines. I’ll try it out somewhere tomorrow. The last thing I need is to be here with a Visa card that doesn’t work!

I’m feeling much better now, I’m happy to report. I got the hotel, napped, showered, and wandered around for a bit. I just picked up some dinner, and am anxiously awaiting Orla’s arrival. If she ever makes it! Her flight was delayed, so I hope she isn’t stuck too long.

Anyway, I took a few pictures today on the Waterloo Bridge:

Today is pretty overcast and cool, but, since I can’t stand the heat and humidity at home, I’m loving it! I can’t wait to explore the city again. I can’t believe it’s been over 4 years since I was last here. I’ve missed it! Tomorrow Orla and I are going to Portobello Market and possibly starting a hop on, hop off tour. It’s funny, for all the time I’ve spent in London, I’ve never done most of the touristy things. I’m excited! So long as my Visa works…

I think that’s about everything from this end! Hope all is well with everyone!

Cheers, Spencer