Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Weekend That Was

Two days back at work and the weekend that was already seems a distant memory. A really fond distant memory that elicits random chuckles and plentiful smiles when I think of it. It was a fantastic weekend, fantastic for its simplicity and fantastic for the amount of fun to be had.

I was in London (such a rare and welcome treat – I’ve mega booked my weekends with many trips so I’m home every other weekend at best). My friends were in London. L, an old time school friend living on the coast here came to play and stay with me. With several things in mind, and only a few set plans, we enjoyed the best the weekend had to offer.

Horniman Museum is South London was a treat. The perfect museum for those with short attention spans but varied interests – we saw an amazing musical instrument collection, the aquarium, the body adornment exhibition, stuffed animals) and enjoy their stunning gardens with views back over the city of London. Most of this museum is free (the aquarium is £2.50 and whilst small, certainly worth this cover).

The Spiegeltent (as part of the Priceless London Wonderground festival) on Southbank late on a Saturday night. Knowing not what to expect other than to expect fun, we were amused, dazzled and entertained. Maybe not all of it is fit for description on this blog but I guess it can be best summed up as an adult’s circus. A magician, acrobatics, hula hooping, singing, a comedian, sword swallowing, irish dancing (the most entertaining I’ve ever seen), it had me in stitches and awe throughout. An amazing show.

The Horniman pub on the Southbank for some drinks pre show in the late sun. Some champagne in the backyard whilst painting nails, reading papers & books in the shadows of Buckingham Palace on Sunday, shopping for shoes, choosing cheeses. Laughing, plotting, listening to songs from our school days, dreaming of our futures, wondering about the inbetween. L and I, whilst we’ve know each other since our school days, have come into a stellar friendship in recent years. Convo can go to the absurd to the deep and back again in a blink of an eye. For all the fun we had “doing things”, it was the company that made it.

This weekend was superb. Come back soon L.

Do you guys get to hang out with old friends ofen?

Monday, 21 May 2012

Thames Path–Henley-on-Thames to Cookham

Following on from Saturday’s stroll, I wanted to get some more distance under my belt and get use to back to back days of walking.  Rather than continue on where I left off on Saturday (which would have put me in the path of 2000 bike riders taking part in a charity ride), I went a little further afield, carrying from where I left off the walk before last.  i.e. Henley.
The plan was to walk until I ran out of time.  I’d loose dinner plans back in town and with the trains to this part of the world hourly on a Sunday, I’d just walk and see.  I missed a train, walked some more, missed a train, walked some more and then got a train.  Four and half hours of walking had me covering 13.5 miles all in.  The first 8 or so miles were a breeze before my hip flexors got a bit sore.  They do every time – 8 miles is always the magic mark.  The key for me on a walk of any length is to not stop.  When I stop, I seize up a bit and the soreness can set it. 
The path itself felt pretty rural.  The river is wide and flowing and there are people about, mainly near the villages you pass.  It’s not remote, but it felt a long way from London.  Highlights included a Mr Whippy van near Hurley, seeing an old couple out walking for the day, Temple Island and some spring ducklings.
Villages and towns passed included Hambledon Lock, Hurley, Marlow and Bourne End.
EnchantingThis person obviously asked their architect for a castleMr Whippy on the #thamespath ? Yes please
I've walked 56 of the 180 miles so far.  Only another 124 miles to go!
All Thames Path posts can be seen here.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Thames Path–Barnes Bridge to Richmond

Last weekend saw me with a free and easy weekend with no plans.  Keen to keep chugging along at my walking goal and to get some training in, I set off to walk some of the Thames Path both Saturday and Sunday.  After a lovely lie in (read: getting up after noon) and some procrastination, I set off quite late and knocked out the last of what I consider the suburban section of London.
To be fair, there’s a further three miles for me to walk to have covered all of the tidal Thames, and there’s another 10-15 miles until I reach the M25 (London’s orbital motorway).  But Richmond is the last part of the Thames Path I can reach by tube.  From here on out, it’s all national rail.
I stayed on the south bank for the duration, enjoying walking with the sun on my back.  This section (part of section 13) goes past Kew Gardens (with fields of purple), my uncles favourite pub, many a lovely waterfront home and under several bridges.  It’s enjoyable easy walking but reasonably non descript.  Distance covered on Saturday was low, only about 7 miles.

I've walked 42 of the 180 miles so far this year. Only another 138 miles to go.

All Thames Path posts can be seen here.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Thames Path–Tilehurst to Henley-on-Thames

I mentioned in my 2012 goals that I wanted to do 12 walks.  I really enjoy walking as a way to relax, a social activity, a time to think and plot and plan.  When setting that goal, I had it in mind to try and walk the length of the Thames Path (180 miles).
A while back, on a sunny Saturday when spring was still promising, a friend and I set out to walk from Tilehurst to Henley.  It’s a regional but not remote section, passing quite close to the commuter town of Reading. Blessed with sunny weather, it was a great days walking. 
Henley’s a great town to finish in, upmarket and with plenty of cafes. With time to kill before the next train to London, we rewarded ourselves with both afternoon tea and a cheeky beer.  If you can’t enjoy a beer after 12.25 miles, when can you?

I've walked 35 of the 180 miles so far this year. Only another 145 miles to go
See all Thames Path posts here.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Pieces of Me–May 2012 Edition

April was a great month.  I was only home for one weekend so it really flew by.  I got to see the great pyramids, the facades of Petra, the moonscape of Wadi Rum, the rock of Gibraltar.  I got a new job.  I snorkelled and swum and walked and laughed.  A great month.  May’s trending much the same - no world wonders but two weekends in London and two away.  One's been (and was fantastic) and anothers coming.

I like: Early nights.  I’ve been making a real effort to go to bed (and sleep earlier).  Computer off, iphone off, book down etc.  Getting some sleep.  It’s been great. 

I don't like: Colds.  I know I had this last month but it remains the same.  I shook one before my middle east trip but then I’ve had one since Gibraltar that I can’t quite shake.  The cough is the worst!  Also on this list is upset tummies.  I’ve not been quite right since I returned from the middle east.

I want you to know: I’m trying to eat meat again.  I’ve been a vegie for more than ten years now but late last year I tried a steak (yuck!) and in the last month or so I’ve been trying different types of meet.  Got to say, I still don’t like the taste and texture does freak me out a bit.  It makes things like yum cha and curry night easier but I do wonder if there’s any correlation between me eating meat and my constantly upset stomach.

I’ve planned: To climb Ben Nevis. Again. Planned again that is, not climbed again.  Last year we tried and failed.  This weekend, I’m heading up with my housemate and a bunch of colleagues to give it another crack.  We’re hoping the weather isn’t as bad.  I’m pretty determined to get up it (I feel it’s my last chance) but I’m also a bit scared of it.  I remember how horrible it was last time.  Normally you forget the pain and only remember the glory but for this mountain, there was no glory and the pain is still fresh.  Regardless, we’re going this weekend so fingers crossed for me please.  Fingers crossed for good weather and my cold to be gone.  It’s the last of the “3 peaks” for me to get to.

I want to say to someone special: I will be in touch! I know I've said that and failed but you are never far from my thoughts.  I know I won't be seeing you this year, there will be no day at the V&A, but we will have our fun some other way!
Reflecting on today
Me, St Paul’s and silver shiny balls

Thursday, 17 May 2012

What would you do–flying edition?

My super awesome friends (yes, those very same ones who’s company I enjoyed in Gibraltar) gifted me a super awesome 30th birthday present last year – a Red Letter Day voucher (on top of coming to Prague to celebrate the occasion). Similar to Red Balloon vouchers in Australia (and I’m sure something else in Canada, USA etc), it’s a voucher towards an experience of my choosing.  And whilst it’s an awesome gift, there in lies the problem.  It’s of my choosing.  What do I choose?
There are hundreds of options to choose from but I’ve narrowed it down somewhat.  Here are the experiences I’m considering; what would you choose, and why?

All pictures are from Red Letter Day’s website and are links through to the relevant experience

Some activities would be solo, some with friends.  Some are less than the voucher’s value but I can “spend” any left over easily enough on some of the other options (manicures, massages etc) or donate it towards a friend joining me if they wanted to do something as well.  So the options are:
  1. Scenic helicopter ride over London (£150 for me so leaves balance of £50)
  2. Scenic plane ride over London (for up to 4 people, it’s a little more than my voucher but not much at £245 or solo it’s £99 meaning I could double up on experiences)
  3. Tiger moth flight (various locations, I’d choose one near a mate’s place on the Sussex coast)
  4. Speed boating on the Thames (£40pp. This is something I could spend the balance on and maybe convince others to do?)
  5. Aerotow gliding (£100 so I could do this and the London scenic flight if available)
  6. Aerobatic Flight (can you see me as stunt pilot?  Would cost me an extra £50 but would be in a once off and probably amazing)
  7. Biplane over London (why go over London in a normal little plane when you can do this? although the 4 person in a normal plane is cheaper than this!)
  8. Hang gliding (again, it’d set me back £35 but it’s always something I’ve wanted to try.  But for that reason, I think I’d likely put my own money towards it in a far more scenic location than Essex?)
Help me decide – what would you do?  And if you’re a UK based friend, want to come and do any of these? 

(there are many other awesome experiences available but I've had to discount a lot because of the travel involved to get to them, given how much travel I've already got coming up).

Auschwitz & Birkenau

This mostly wordless post is because I don’t really have words.  Auschwitz and Birkenau are two stark reminders of World War II.  Of  the holocaust.  Of concentration camps, extermination camps and of man’s cruelty.  After being evacuated in January 1945, the Polish government turned them into a state museum in 1947.  A visit to them is moving, horrific, eye opening and so many many more things.  Photos are allowed throughout most of the site but not of all displays, not of the most horrific ones.  Not of the two tonnes of human hair from victims, not of many other things.  Here are some of the pictures I took.  I’ve tried to include the explanations of what you’re seeing where possible.  The clear sunny day contrasts with the dark stormy history.