Archive for the ‘london’ Category

Interruption

December 11, 2017

We interrupt the usual broadcast to tell you that we are back in London, we have been back a couple of weeks now, and yes, we are behind with blog posts. We just have a couple more posts to do on our last few days in Spain before we returned to the UK, hopefully we can get those done this week.

Meanwhile here are a couple of pictures from yesterday’s snow event…..yes, it’s cold, but it’s pretty and what you expect at this time of the year we are just hoping we get more for Christmas Day then we will have a white Christmas.

looking out of the upstairs hall window to the street

The neighbour clearing her driveway

Ian’s family came for lunch and to introduce us all to Beth, who was only born just over a week ago, and her big sister Olivia. With the snow falling continuously for most of the day Olivia wanted to build a snowman, Alex was co-opted into assisting with the making of the snowman, complete with stones for his eyes, a carrot for his nose and twigs for his arms,

Then to finish the day, we had a little gingerbread house building and decorating with Olivia….not sure that all of the decorations ended up on the house but she loved doing it!

Normal blog transmission will resume shortly!

Advertisements

Birds of a feather

November 3, 2017

Back in London after our holiday in Lanzarote and we have managed to keep ourselves busy with one thing or another. Roy and Ian had a couple of boys days out, which Roy will write up in a blog post……..soon he tells me! Meanwhile Alex and I did what girls do, go to netball and go out for lunch with some of Alex’s girlfriends, both events which I neglected to take a single picture! Oh well, you will have to take my word for it that it was a couple of great days.

However we did all go out together for the day on Sunday to Eagle Heights, a wildlife and bird sanctuary that has flying demonstrations with some of the birds.

We were not sure what to expect but I have to admit we were very surprised as we did not expect to be able to get up so close and personal with the birds.

First up we had a talk and information from the guide about the birds we were about to see and of course some Health & Safety instructions….like put away all food as we were about to have demonstrations from birds of prey, and they like nothing better than a free meal.

First out was an American Bald Eagle.

What we did not expect was to have the bird fly over us repeatedly at very low levels, as in my hair got ruffled a few times as it flew overhead as it’s wings beat down overhead, it took all my resolve not to duck suddenly so as not to distract the bird. It was very impressive with the eagle flying from the handler in front of us to another handler who moved along the back of the crowd so that the bird flew over as many of us as possible. A truly amazing bird, and a lot bigger than I expected.

Next out was an owl

It too swooped overhead flying from one trainer at the front to the one behind us.

All throughout the demonstrations we were told all about the birds and their idiosyncrasies, and tales of interesting and funny incidents that have occurred over the years.

Next came a Caracara which hopped along the ground, running in and out amongst our legs and hopping onto seats. Native to the Falkland Islands it’s a very clever bird that has been known to put its memory and knowledge to good use. We were told that during the Falklands War the birds watched land mines being laid and knew exactly where they were. Over the years that knowledge was handed down through the generations of birds and put it to good use by luring seals to where a land mine lay buried so that once the seal triggered the mine, the birds got an easy takeaway meal!!!

After he was safely put back in his enclosure the Peregrine Falcon was brought out. It put on an impressive display climbing high, almost stalling before turning to swoop down at impressive speeds to try and catch the lure being swung by the handler. Apparently these birds have been clocked at over 230mph (that’s over 300kph) whilst pulling 26G Force. Did you know that fighter pilots pull up to 13G max so these birds are really amazing. And yes, they are the fastest member of the animal Kingdom.

and it was almost impossible to take a picture of the birds in flight as they move so swiftly, in fact the handler challenged those with the big cameras to try and capture a good shot of it diving down and past the lure. So my picture taken with my phone is not too bad as I managed to actually capture an image of it flying by!

After the flying demonstrations we wandered off to see the rest of the birds and as well they had an opportunity for us to hold and pose with either a wee baby owl (which children queued up to hold) or an American Bald Eagle.

Roy and Alex had a go at holding one of the Bald Eagles,

Bald eagle and balding Roy – he had just had a haircut!!!

Alex chatting to the bird.

We spent a bit of time looking around the facility and the numerous other birds that they have including; maribou, rhea and kookaburra, they also have many other different types of eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures and owls, as well as huskies, meerkats and some reptiles.

By the time we had finished admiring all the animals it was getting on for mid afternoon so a late lunch/early dinner was in order at a local country pub.

that’s us enjoying a great pub lunch, washed down with appropriate beverages of course before we headed back home to relax for the evening. A great day out with many thanks to Ian and Alex for organising yet another lovely day.

Back to London and a show

October 15, 2017

We left our lovely apartment in Langermark late in the morning and headed off to Lille, I have to admit that I was ready to hand the car back although the driving had become easier as we went along. Funnily enough I found the roundabouts the easiest of all to handle and I have to admit that my co pilot was excellent at guiding me and making sure I was OK, and as well the roads are easy to drive on and well maintained.

We got to the Lille train station in plenty of time, however, we missed the entrance to get into the car park building so ended up going around in a grand circle to get back to where we should be, it only took an extra 30 minutes of driving through central Lille with blood pressure slowly rising, sweaty palms, and a dry mouth before we got to where we should have been. We got into the parking building only to discover that we needed to be in the next building to return the car….with a lump rising in my throat at the thought of more driving, we made the move to the next building and returned the keys.

Whilst at the station we saw a couple of things which were memorable. The first was the free charging station for devices, to power the charging you sat at the desk and cycled!

Right next to this was the lounge with plenty of plugs and USB charging sockets, guess which one we used?

Once we got through immigration – and we did get the third degree at immigration too…..why were we away so long? When are we going back to NZ? Where were we staying in the UK? Where did our daughter work? What does she do? Why were we in Europe? What was our connection to Passchendaele? Did we intend to work in the UK?…..and so it went on. Once through we met up with a couple of crazy but ever so friendly Scotsmen who were raising money for Cancer research by standing for 24hrs and travelling from Edinburgh to Paris and return. They were really lovely and were having a great time and were raising lots of money too.

The trip back to London was a breeze with Alex picking us up at Ebbsfleet Station which is much closer to her home than St Pancras in the city.

We had a lovely weekend in and around London. Sunday, Alex and Ian told us that they had organised a surprise for us for the day, so at about midday we headed off on the train into town then a walk through to a lovely rooftop bar overlooking St Paul’s cathedral. Ian, Roy and Alex with St Paul’s dome in the distance

panorama from the roof top

From here we went off into Piccadilly Circus where we were to go to a the show ‘A comedy about a bank robbery’. It was fast paced, hilarious and well acted play, I haven’t laughed so much for a long time. It was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

After the show we took a London black cab

Passing Trafalgar Square along the way

To near Victoria Station for dinner where the fellas tried a beer or two

Then it was a train back home to end a fabulous day, well done Alex & Ian.

Meeting the other half’s family

October 4, 2017

After a couple of days of catching up on sleep and getting into some semblance of a sleep pattern, it was time to meet Ian’s family. It seemed rather fitting that we do the “english” thing and meet up to have dinner at a curry house or as we know it in New Zealand as an Indian Restaurant!

We first met up at an old English pub for a drink before dinner. The pub was built in the 1600’s and I am sure I was the only one who didn’t have to duck to get through the door, with low beams and of course full of character as well as characters. We met Ian’s parents, Barry and Christine, his two brothers Matt and Hen (I think his name is Michael but everyone calls him Hen), Hen’s partner Sam, and Ian’s cousins Brian and Julie. They all made us feel so very welcome and at ease, it was really lovely.

We wandered off to the curry house for dinner where we had a fantastic spread laid out for us. The conversation was flowing, as was the beer & wine, all in all a great night out.

Ian was meeting up with some mates later in the evening as a couple of them were celebrating birthdays, as Ian and his brothers prepared to head off to the pub it somehow transpired that Roy went along with them. We all know what happens when Roy + Rum = a bit of a laugh, and so it was. I am sure Ian was attempting to lead him astray but I think Roy may have a little more experience at these matters! Alex and I got a ride home with Sam, I am not sure what time Roy and Ian got home as I was well asleep by then.

We are now looking forward to our break in Lanzarote with Barry & Christine, and Ian and Alex next week, but first we have a trip to Lille and Ypres for the 100th commemoration of Paschendaele.

Landed in London

September 30, 2017

Oops I did it again, I accidentally swiped the publish button on the last post before I had finished writing it.

We eventually landed at Heathrow 30minutes later than scheduled, by this time we were both exhausted and restless but ready to disembark. We were one of the last off the plane as everyone else was in a hurry and blocking the aisles for a good 15minutes before we were able to retrieve our hand luggage and disembark. Then it was off on the long walk to immigration and customs, why is it that all our flights seem to end up at the gate farthest away from our next point of departure? I know we need the exercise but by this time we were shattered. Next we were to face the long queues of people lined up at the “other” passport entry, fortunately I travel of my British passport so it was straight to the UK & EU line where there was just one couple on front of us. A cheery passport control man welcomed us to the UK where we chatted about the length of our flight and the prospect of a good cuppa before we were through and off to collect our bags, then straight through the green exit line to where Alex was waiting for us.

It was close to 5pm by this time and the traffic on the motorway was a bit slow at times but it wasn’t that bad and we were soon on our way to her lovely home in Erith.

Erith is circled in red in the above map.

Erith is just a 40minute train ride into central London, and is right by the Thames. A very pretty area that we shall enjoy exploring over the coming weeks.

Alex and Ian have bought a lovely home which they moved into earlier this year and they have already done some decorating to put their stamp on the place. That evening we managed to stay up until around 8pm before bed was calling out for us to sleep. Oh what bliss to be able to lie down. The following morning Roy and I managed to get the bus into the village (well, I say village but the population is around 68,000 people) the bus goes right past the house and even though there is no official bus stop in the street you just hail the driver and they stop for you. Assisted by a very friendly and helpful bus driver, we got into the centre of the town where the bus driver told us this was where we got off then she made sure we knew where to catch the bus home again and which number bus we needed, extremely helpful.

We wandered around the local supermarket, Morrison’s, where we were like kids in a sweet shop as everything was so cheap. To top it all off, we got free wifi in the store so we could chat with Alex about various matters (getting UK/EU SIM cards for our phones tomorrow). We could not believe the price of food compared with NZ, especially the price of fresh produce, the store even has cheaper versions of fruit and veg if they are deemed “wonky”. The wonky veg looked perfectly fine to me, as well as the price the range and quality was good as well. For example, baby gem lettuces were two for 50p, raspberries were two 250gm containers for £1.50, tomatoes were similarly priced. They even offer a pack of wonky veg for £3 which they say is enough to feed a family of four for a week. We had to restrain ourselves from buying too much as we knew we had to carry it back with us so we just got the essentials…….including Melton Mowbray Pork Pies!! Of course essential supplies included rum and gin, all available at the supermarket and at prices cheaper than Duty Free!

and the variety of different brands was extensive and impressive.

We headed back home with our bags of goodies, again with the help of a very kind bus driver who stopped the bus practically outside the door advising us this was where we should disembark.

We have tried to reestablish our sleeping patterns with the time difference, it has taken a day or so but we are pretty well sorted now. I have to admit that I take the No Jet Lag tablets available at New Zealand airports, which does help me as I have suffered jet lag (nausea and disorientation) previously on one long haul flight when I forgot to take them.

Alex & Ian have of course been working all week, so now we have the weekend together to do some sightseeing and some shopping. This evening we are going to a curry house, a typical English thing to do apparently, for dinner and to meet Ian’s family which we are really looking forward to.

PS. The weather has been very good to us so far, quite warm with very still days. Let’s hope it continues.

The daughter has landed

February 25, 2014

The arrival area of Auckland international airport is always a fascinating place to people watch. Where have they come from? Who is meeting them? What is their relationship? It’s interesting to watch and speculate. Antony met us as the airport as we were all there to wait for Alex to come through from her long journey (30hrs) from London. We only have her with us in NZ for just a week, and we only get to see her for a day before she heads south for Lee’s wedding. It wasn’t long before she came through the doors.

20140225-204942.jpg Alex arriving

She was pretty well exhausted by the time she was here, but we soon headed off to our second home at Jacky and Chris’ place where we are staying for a couple of nights. Alex had a quick shower whilst we got dinner underway, Steve and Les arrived to join us a with Simon arriving a short time later. We had a great evening with lots of laughter, good food, great wine and good company.

The next day (Monday), Alex and I went off to do a little retail therapy as she needed to purchase a few items to fulfill her role as Maid of Honour and organiser of the hens day/night!! We managed to complete our purchases relatively quickly and efficiently so we had plenty of time to fit in a little relaxing.

20140225-210211.jpggetting a little reading done in NZ sunshine

We headed over to the Shore later in the afternoon as we were due at Claire & Matt’s for dinner and to see their new house. Alex will be returning to NZ in October to Claire’s Maid of Honour. We had a really lovely evening and they have a very nice first home in a lovely setting surrounded by a reserve of native trees. You would not know that you were really in the middle of a big city.

Tuesday and we were to pick up another of Alex’s friends and take them both to the airport for their flight to Dunedin. It just so happened that Jacky & Chris’ flight was due in just half an hour later so we were able to pick them up and return them to their home. After a catch up with them, we returned to Ardmore and our home. For some reason it seems like we have been away for ages even though it was just a couple of nights.

Oh, and I did get a little something brought to me from the UK. I had asked Alex to pick up a toaster for us, for use on the gas stove top. I had brought one back from France three years ago but it had started to burn through on the base. A discussion on toasters took place here https://brvannini.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/ and here https://brvannini.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/. After a little searching on the web, I found a replacement, however it was only available in the UK, but I knew someone was visiting shortly so a request was put in. This version is stainless steel so should last quite a while and at just £4, a bargain!

20140225-213016.jpg

New Year

January 10, 2013

Happy New Year to you all, a little late but we have been very slack in keeping up with blog life!  Although now trying to think back on what we have been up to, I fear we have not been up to much apart from catching up with family and friends. 

Antony hosted a BBQ on the 28th December so we all wandered out to his place for the evening.  Mike left us the following day for his sojourn northwards. 

As I had received a small bike for Christmas, as in a 6inch model of a bike with the promise of a real bike,  we headed out to the shops to find a suitable model. This is because we in a moment of weakness I agreed to be part of a family team in the next Round the Taupo Bike race!!  Hence, I have to get fit ….and get a bike.  We found a lovely bike shop nearby where with the shop owner, along with Mike, gave me helpful advice.  So I ended up with a “Comfort Mountain Bike” which will be suitable for all sorts of biking, and not just one suitable for the race.

bike  Set up in a training frame for practice

Antony had given me a nice pair of headphones for Christmas, so now I can bike along merrily whilst listening to an audiobook.  This is of course very good for me and also helping with the rehab on my ankles, for which I am still having physio.  Whilst we are at Jacky & Chris’, I have the bike set up on a trainer so I can happily bike in situ without having to worry about negotiating traffic.

Just before New Year, friends Kevin & Faye from Nelson came to stay and we spent a lovely afternoon wandering along the waterfront,  checking out the views from the top of Mt Eden and other general sightseeing around the central city.  We ended the day with a relaxing dinner at home.  They left on New Years Eve,  and after all the excitement of the previous few days we did not stay up to welcome in the New Year and  we were in bed by 10pm. 

The following are some views of iconic Auckland sights;

iconic 2iconic

Boat Sheds                                     Sky Tower

rangi 2victoria

Rangitoto                                       Mt Victoria and Devonport

waterfrontqueue

Pohutakawa’s                            And of course the queues of traffic,

Another day and we headed out to Howick to the cemetery and the Columbarium where Roy’s parents ashes are kept.   The plaque was a little tarnished so we spent some time giving it a polish.  

plaque 1

From there we headed out for a tiki tour (or trip down memory lane) around Howick and Cockle Bay, as this is where Roy grew up.  We passed many of his old haunts and we also called in at his parents old property in Cockle Bay where there are now two houses on the 1/3 acre section.  We also called past his aunts old property in Pt England where a new house is currently being built.  On our way home we called in to see Bill & Estelle for a cuppa and a catch up.   

And a few days later we were back at Bill & Estelle’s for a BBQ with some of the old crowd.  When I say old crowd, I mean Roy’s friends from his early days around Howick.  These evenings are always fun, and always end up with ‘do you remember…’

bill Bernice listening to another one of the stories at Bill & Estelle’s.

Another day and another trip out and about, this time to Warkworth to meet Roy’s cousin Delyse and her husband Graeme. We had not been on the new highway north on the toll road and through the tunnel, so after sorting out payment (all done via the internet) we headed north.

tunnel 5tunnel 2

Approaching the tunnel                Heading through the tunnel

Delyse has also been doing a bit of genealogy so she and Roy were able to compare and swap notes. We spent a lovely afternoon with them before heading south again, this time via the old coast road.  This time we called in to  Wenderholm and Shakespear Parks to view them as possible sites for a camping weekend with Alex and her friends when she is home from London next month.  Shakespear Park is looking the most likely spot as we are constrained as to where we may park our van due to size restrictions.

As you can see from the photos, we have been experiencing amazing weather, it has been very warm and humid with a surprising lack of rain – very unusual for Auckland!  Long may this weather continue.

We have also managed to catch up with Robyn & Alan, friends from when our children were at school together at Parnell Primary.  We spent a lovely evening with them reminiscing, catching up with happenings and we will not mention the bottle of rum that Alan and Roy demolished!

We are now into our last few days of being in Auckland, as we plan to head off on Monday down to Taupo and back to our van ready for a couple of weeks of tripping around before heading  back to the Auckland region for Alex’s pending arrival.

Now for the interesting photo of the day we have the following;

 crash landed goose  It’s a patch in the tarseal but the shape is interesting…Roy says it looks like a goose that made a bad landing but I say it looks like the map of Tasmania.