Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Venice, fair Verona and gelati

Friday night after work, Laura, Charlotte and I haul-arsed out to the airport on the Stansted not-so-Express, for our much anticipated long Bank Holiday weekend in Venice. After our flight, we then bussed into the station on the mainland, and then bussed again out to our hotel.

Having booked quite close to the actual weekend, our hotel was out in the...interesting suburb of Spinea. Public bus trip in and out of town, it worked in that it was just a bed, with breakfast...but was a mission to get there!

In the morning of Saturday we headed to the cluser of islands that is Venice. Wandering through the tiny cobbled streets, and over the many, many bridges of the many canals, we reveled in being lost, and wandering aimlessly. This is the only way to soak Venice in! Away from the hordes of tourists, just walking through the little streets, where life is happening right there - washing strung out to dry, and people traveling by boat to everyday things.

Walking through the streets, we sampled gelati, chocolate and pastries, before arriving at the beautiful Piazza San Marco, with the Basilica and Doge's Palace. Drawing in the visual spectacular of the square over lunch, we walked through dodging pigeons and tourists. Walking out towards the Grand Canal, we were approached by a gondola driver for the wheeling and dealing.

Securing our price, the three of us jumped into our gondola, and were spirited through the canals, under the Bridge of Sighs, and past the former home of Marco Polo. Sitting at the side of the boat proved a little rocky for me, much to the amusement of the girls, and I needed to swap seats - after our placement had been specified for balance! Our driver gave a spiel as we went around, and answered questions, comically (not!!) rocked the boat, and even sang for us!

More gelati and a lounge in the sun in one of the many piazzas, after walking down to see the Rialto Bridge. Dinner of pasta and calamari ("tourist menu" with a sample of several dishes - very good!!), and several drinks later, we then made the trek back out to Spinea.

Coming back into the city the next morning, we walked to the other side of the Venice island cluster to catch a ferry out to the further islands. We disembarked on the island of Burano, an island famous for it's lace, but we were there to check out the pretty coloured buildings. Very cute, every house was painted with a different and bright colour, contrasting all the way down the, canal. Lunch of pizza, and another serve of gelati, we stretched out of the few patches of grass we had seen all weekend, before the next ferry.

A short ride across the lagoon, and we arrived in Lido, another island around Venice itself. Hiring bikes, we rode for an hour covering a fair bit of the island (the first time I have riden a bike since I was a kid - a major conquest!! Hee hee!). We had been planning to visit the beaches, however the warm weather had started to drop off. Ferry back to Venice, we headed to Harry's Bar, after receiving recommendations from Niny as a 'must do'.

Sitting at our table, quite keen for a decent drinking session, we almost had a stoke when we saw the price of a Bellini! Champagne and peach juice, we actually ordered one of the tiny glasses and shared it between us!! All class!! And considering it tasted like Passion Pop, at 16 €uro, that was more class than we could afford!! Hee hee!

Drinks at an off-the-main-trail piazza, we then found a spot for dinner, and walked through San Marco's when it was all lit up. We then wandered back to the bus station through the labyrinth of the tiny cobbled streets.

Venice is so quite! No traffic, the absence of car traffic noise, honking and flow, was so apparent here. The only sounds were conversation, the lapping of the canals, and footsteps. So lovely.

Yesterday we got the intercity train across to Verona. A beautiful Italian town in the hills, Verona is the picturesque scenery you imagine. Walking through the main piazza with the Arena on one side, we headed through to Piazza delle Erbe, and the market there. Following the map, we found the Casa di Giulietta, which features the mythical balcony of Romeo and Juliet fame. Mystery surrounds whether this was actually the home of a family of the Capulet name, however this does not stop the droves from a visit and a wistful look up to where she may have stood... Not far away is the Tomba di Giulietta, where the star-crossed lovers are said to have ended their lives.

More gelati to keep to our daily quota, we then boarded the train back to Spinea, on which we got a private cabin. All very lovely, pulling out of Verona with the sun setting behind the rolling green hills.

Had a gorgeous weekend, one which even the drama of getting to the airport and arriving in rainy London for work could not dampen. (More photos.)

Thursday, May 25, 2006


On a semi-regular basis for the last couple of weeks, a group of us have been congregating for something I have labeled our WBBSs on a Wednesday night. Dinner and drinks of a different cultural cuisine each week, our Wednesday Boozy Briefing Sessions have been heaps of fun...and more Bitching sessions, really! Better out than in!

Last night Charlotte, Leilah and I headed to Camden for Cambodian... Lemongrass is the only Khmer restaurant in London, according to a quick search. A nothing-special restaurant, the layout did actually feel very Phnom Penh - the fluro lights, uncomfy and cheap chairs, sticky table!! Hee hee.

They didn't have my much craved Fish Amok, however they did have Lok Luk! Hee hee. The dishes we ordered had that familiar taste for me, and very very yummy. The South African white wine was also good, and hit the mark!! Nice.

The dodgy train ride home, on a crusty Silverlink train, was a whole other cultural experience! And then the walk home from the station in what is being labeled the "May Monsoons" - ahhhh, London!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cuckoo's Nest

Taking advantage of Shana's last couple of days of freedom (she starts work tomorrow!), I suggested she pop down during the day yesterday to see if she could score us some cheap theatre tickets. And she did!

For a short run only, Christian Slater and Alex Kingston have been putting on One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, at the Garrick Theatre. We did get restricted view tickets, which meant we needed to lean forward to see the whole stage, but for £10, all good! Had been wanting to see this since it was first advertsied!

Christian Slater...always a draw card in the early nineties, and looking at his list of films since then, seems to have done nothing of note since then!! Except work work on his bod!! The scenes last night where he was half naked were all worth his lack of on-screen success - hee hee!

Alex Kingston, the beloved Dr Elizabeth Corday from ER, played Nurse Ratchett...I am afraid she'll always be Elizabeth to me!! Way too nice to be Nurse Ratchett!! A sterling effort, and she certainly gave a polished performance as the over-zealous, manipulating, mothering and all-powering nurse of the ward - but knowing her as Dr Green's wife, it didn't quite convince me.

Slater was solid in his performance. A real presence on the stage, if not a touch over-acting for the aggression of the role - he's never been that tough, though, has he?!

Was a great depiction of the book, and I really enjoyed the telling of this on stage.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Walk the World

This morning Sharna, Toni and I set off from home, and walked down to Regent's Park to join the Walk the World to Fight Hunger. We met up with Charlotte and Di, and the rain started coming down, at the starting line.

A 5km walk around the park, to raise awareness and funds, for the World Food Programme, the idea is that all over the world people would be walking for the same cause today. Perhaps elsewhere, though, it didn't rain the whole time!! Hee hee.

The World Food Programme is one of the UN programmes I have seen first hand at work, and thus am happy to support them. In one of the little villages in Prey Veng, Cambodia, the locals actually called rice "world food programme", because that's what it says on the sacks that the rice is delivered in. We ordered "world food programme" at one of the little road side restaurants when I was there! At least I know they deliver what they say they do!

After getting around the circuit, which didn't take long at all, there were sponsers giving out all sorts of goodies. Felt very wrong having just walked for hunger and then being given free cookies, smoothies, and fruit!!

Completely water-logged, Toni, Sharna and I made it home, having completed twice the distance for the day!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Big world after all

It has been a year since I had a play on the Visited Countries page, and looked at the spread of places I have visited. At that time my country count was 14 countries, which was 6% of the countries in the world.

One year on, my map looks like this...

And I have visited 23 countries, which is just 10% of the big, wide world!

Seeing the places of Europe, I must admit, has a bit of a ticking off feel to it. I want to see all the much traveled cities of Europe, so I can get back to the rest of the world!! These cities are gorgeous...but not so....unvisited by everyone else.

There is still a lot of white spaces on my globe there!

Friday, May 19, 2006


Last night, and another night during the week, I have spend a couple of hours visiting one of my friends in St Mary's Hospital. She had been in since Friday, mainly waiting around for tests, and then waiting for a consultant to see her, then waiting for more tests... Home now though, and all ok.

The National Health Service in the UK is terrible. The bane of my existance at work, it's is over-worked, under-funded...and St Mary's is just...yuck. My friend was in a dingy little room for the whole 5 days, and walking up to see her on the ward, it was just grimy. Ewwwww.

Certainly makes me appreciate the health care we have in Australia, no matter how much I used to bag it. The NHS makes Aussie government services look first rate.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Regent's, Lord's and Helsinki

Yesterday the homeless girl staying with me, Sharna (Michelle's little sister), and I headed off from home after lunch to walk down Abbey Road, and see the recording studio. After the obligatory photo of Sharna walking across the pedestrian crossing, we then walked further down, past Lord's and down into Regent's Park.

With the sun shining and all the flowers in bloom, Regent's Park is gorgeous at the moment. We sat for a bit on the deck chairs by the lake, and watched people paddle by in the row boats.

After walking through the park, and finding out what was in there, we headed back the way we came, and found some lads leaving the cricket. After some smooth talking by Sharna, we scored their tickets, and managed to get into the ground for the last hour of play. Awesome! It was so exciting to be in at Lord's soaking up the atmosphere, and watching England play Sri Lanka on the hallowed turf.

Sitting with the lovely Pavillion at one end, and the spaceship style media centre at the other end, the crowd was lively, and we even got to see a wicket. (More photos)

At stumps, we then walked home for a quick dinner and a few drinks, and to load up with a traveller, before heading into ULU to see Melbourne band Architecture in Helsinki's only UK show this year.

They were awesome! Was so much fun, with their funky music, and weird instrument choices. Dancing up the front, nice and close to see all the silliness going on on stage. Ohhh, and one of the guys who plays bass and drums is hot!! Hee hee.

Charged from our massive day, we arrived home, made a call home to wish Mum a Happy Mother's Day, and then crossed the road to join Toni and her mates in the house party over there.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The tube

I get the tube everyday to and from work...and it's awful!! Just when you think that cramming into a train carriage, jammed up against unfriendly Londoners can't get any worse, the temperature starts to rise outside, and the conditions underground reach tropical conditions!

The regular morning 25 minute tube ride, before the overland, does my head in. Unfortunately I am not one of those people who feel justified in pushing other people aside to get a seat, so I only manage a seat for the tube portion of the journey maybe one in every 5 mornings. It's bareable if I can read, and pretend I am anywhere else. Not when I am hanging on for dear life as the train hurtles through it's black tunnels.

Tonight I embarked on my trek home, which usually involves a normal overland train, and then the tube with two changes: should be an hour an a half. I got to Victoria station to jump on the Victoria line tube, only to be routed through the tunnels to a side entrance with 15,000 other people, sweltering. Ditching this plan as the London Underground customer service officers continued to tell the already jammed commuters to keep moving or they will have to close the station, I decided perhaps the District line would be a better bet. Took that down to Earls Court, and thought I would then change to Paddington. Upon disembarking, I am met with the loud, loud speaker announcement saying that there was a fire at the Notting Hill tube station, so most lines have been shut down.

Jumping back onto a city centre bound Piccadilly line train, I have now ducked in and out of London, with another carriage full of sweaty people. Ewwwwwwww! Change at Piccadilly Circus, till I am finally on the usually reliable (touch wood!!) Bakerloo line home. An extra hour for these diversions, and when I emerge onto street level I discover that the sunshine that had been shining over the city when I started my journey home had turned into rain!!! What??!!

Today has been the first real summer day, and it felt like Outback temperatures down there. I am dreading the commute during real summer - I guess the one and only blessing is that there is only about 5 days of it over here in the UK!!! And I must remember, a recent study has supposedly found that the average commute in London can justify twice my current weekly Maccas consumption....gotta cling on to those good points!! Hee hee.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Beautiful Cumbia

Heading south this time in my little golden hire car, I ambled my way down to the beautiful village of Ambleside. Was starting to stress about the mile to kilometer conversion and the translation into reserve fuel tank through parts of the beautiful drive down there, through the hills and winding roads and along the pristine lakes. Damn yellow fuel light!! Hee hee!

Made it though!! And trickled into Ambleside. It seemed every man and his dog was there this Sunday afternoon of the long weekend, and finding a carpark that wouldn't land me a parking ticket proved impossible. I did risk it, and found a quick park to run over and have a look, and take a picture of the Bridge House - apparently the most photographed building in the Lakes Districts! Reportedly built over the river like this to avoid land tax (tight arse Brits at their best!!), it has also house a family with 6 children. Gee, wouldn't that have been fun!! (More photos.)

The whole village was so cute, with the bluestone slate buildings, and the cobbled and tiny streets.

I continued on around Lake Windermere, stopping at Bowness to wander about the little laneways, and walked through (and released a book in) the shop and tearoom of the Beatrix Potter Attraction. Would have been a fun place to take a little person!! If only I had a neice or a nephew to buy for....

For the remaineder of the day I drove down to the shore in the south of the Lakes District area, and read by the sea. Saw the castle off on the island, Piel Castle, from the shore, before heading back to Keswick.

Today it has been raining all day, after a weekend of nothing but sun. Certainly luck out on my days. Another full English breakfast, before returning the car, and catching the train back to London.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...