Hop on Hop off

Hop on Hop off
London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom


Our first full day in London. I woke up feeling relatively normal, which was a relief. Breakfast was included in our hotel rate, so we didn’t have to go anywhere. S

peaking of the hotel, you’d think our room would have a fridge wouldn’t you? Maybe this is just an Australian thing, because it’s not something we’d even thought about. However, at this hotel, you had to ask for a room with a fridge in it. We didn’t, so no fridge for us. Not a major deal in the grand scheme of things, and I certainly wasn’t going to ask for a different room, because we hadn’t realised until we’d unpacked yesterday. Repacking and unpacking again was not something I had any intention of doing.

We had tickets for a hop on hop off bus tour of London. There were several routes taking in various areas around the city and a stop for the ‘museum’ route was close to our hotel, so we duly hopped on the bus and plugged into the headset commentary. At one point the commentator reminded passengers to take all of their belongings with them when they got off the bus. This included their bags, coats, cameras and, of course, their children. We weren’t sure if this was supposed to be a joke or not.

After a couple of stops, we changed onto the route with the live commentary, which was a lot more personal. Our guide, Steve, was friendly and gave a really interesting commentary. During the day we learned that Steve doesn’t like modern art, and that jokes about no work ever being done in public servant offices aren’t just an Australian thing. There was a lot of information about the things we passed by and I don’t remember any of it.

We saw most of the landmarks you’d expect to see in London. Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament! (Although as we all know, Big Ben is the name of the bell, not of the tower, which is called Elizabeth Tower. The Great Bell chimed 12 as we went past.)

We played Spot a Monopoly Square (I’m sure we aren’t the first people to do that) and were basically overwhelmed by how much there is to see and how much we wouldn’t get to see in only a week.

The bus took us past Buckingham Palace, which is open to visitors at the moment while Her Majesty is away on holiday. (I noticed that this was how Steve referred to her, where we Aussies would just have said ‘the Queen’.) It’s tempting, because this opportunity isn’t available very often.

We crossed the Thames several times, including over the Tower Bridge, and ended up at Westminster Pier, where we took a river cruise back up the way we’d just come. The river cruise guide told us about the history of London’s watermen, and explained that it was a tradition dating back 500 years, carrying people and goods across the river. In recent years their role has changed to taking people on pleasure cruises. He said he was very proud to carry on the traditional profession of waterman.

The river cruise took us under the bridges we’d crossed on the bus, including London Bridge, Waterloo Bridge (built by women during World War 2) and up to the Tower Bridge, where we got off to visit the Tower of London. I didn’t have much of an idea about what I might want to see in London, but as soon as we passed the Tower in the bus, we both decided we wanted to go and see it.

After a quick lunch break, we made our way in, past the security guard whose job it was to confiscate any chocolate visitors might have, just in time for the start of one of Yeoman Warder tours. The Yeoman Warders are the bodyguards on duty at the Tower.

The tour was a little over 30 minutes and then we were free to explore the Tower on our own. We saw the Crown Jewels, the tower where the two princes were supposed to have been imprisoned, walked along the wall, saw the ravens (there is a legend that the Kingdom and the Tower will fall if the 6 ravens leave the tower, so Charles II insisted that they be protected – there are currently 6 captive ravens at the Tower -plus one spare).

We shopped for tacky souvenirs – which is going to be a theme of the trip, as always. If you haven’t worked it out yet, this will be a feature of the whole trip.

At the end of the day we hopped on another hop on hop off bus, but we were too late to catch the one that would take us back to our hotel, so we got off at Baker Street Station and caught the Tube to Kings Cross, where it was an easy walk back to our hotel, having dinner at a pub on the way.

Slabs will appreciate this, but when I was talking to the barman, he asked if I was from New Zealand. He was surprised that I wasn’t, because he said he thought he’d heard a Kiwi twang in my accent.

Advertisements

Tassievore Eat Local Challenge: Weeks 2 and 3

In which Weeks 2 and 3 collide and then bounce together into Week 4.

For Week 2 of the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge, the suggested challenge was to shop only at Tasmanian businesses. I started to write a post about this, and ended up talking about Two Metre Tall, which is one of my favourite local businesses.

So this post is a catch-up on how I went with Week 2 and then, as I continued that challenge into Week 3, I’m going to cover Week 3 as well.  Week 3’s challenge was to buy only Tasmanian fruit and vegetables.

In our town we have one supermarket, which is old and due for replacement (which is supposed to be happening soon), and not exactly known for a huge range of produce.  I try and avoid it as much as possible – and this month I’ve stepped this up (Operation: Avoid Multinational Duopoly) nicely.

There’s a smaller supermarket in the CBD, which sells some fruit and vegetables and the local rural produce outlet has also started to stock fresh local produce.  There’s also a local butcher, which I always choose rather than going to the supermarket for meat.

We have a weekly growers market on Saturday mornings and, if you know where to look (or stumble upon them), there are local growers selling produce from roadside stalls around the area.

The Big River Growers Market started in late 2012, as an opportunity for local growers to have an outlet for their produce and for people to be able to get fresh, locally grown food. The market’s motto is “From back yard to bellies”, which I think sums it up beautifully.

Image

We’ve been regular customers ever since it started and have had some wonderful dinners where everything on the plate has come from someone that we know. That’s a fantastic feeling, and the only thing that would be better would be if it was food we’d grown ourselves.

It’s a small market, and what you can get each week depends on which stall holders are there and what’s been growing well that week.  Most weeks there’s a range of fresh seasonal vegetables that are heaps better than what we’d have got from the supermarket.  It does pay to get there early!

Image

An interesting stallholder is John, who grows a fantastic range of potatoes, including some varieties that he’s cultivated himself.

Image

There’s also lots of pies, cakes, relishes and jams, as well as laksa, spring rolls and dumplings cooked on the spot – just perfect for a late Saturday morning breakfast.

Image

Image

I’m working in Hobart most weekdays, so I have several options for shopping at Tasmanian businesses and getting Tasmanian produce.  We’re regular customers at Hill Street Grocer, (being able to order online and pick up the next day makes life so much easier, especially if I do this at the same time as I meal plan), Eumarrah Wholefoods, Salamanca Fresh and also West Hobart Gourmet Meats.

All of these stores label their produce as either Tasmanian grown or Australian grown, which made Week 3’s challenge of only buying Tasmanian produce a lot easier.  Eumarrah is great, as their signs tell you where in Tasmania, or which state in Australia, the food has come from.

There are a couple of other places I’d like to try out, but getting to them in the limited amount of time I have after work on weekdays is a bit difficult at the moment, so I have them filed away for future reference.

I think Weeks 2 and 3 were a success, and I’ve started to think a bit more about organising my meals around local produce that is available seasonally.  The need for this became apparent when I was planning my Week 4 challange.

Week 4 began on Saturday. The challenge was to host a Tassievore Feast, where everything was sourced from Tasmania. Ideally I would have planned my feast this week, and cooked it all this coming Saturday. But I have other plans on Saturday, so everything got shifted forward by a week.

But that’s a story for another post.

P365 – Day 354 – on the bus (and the year in review 1/12)

Juniordwarf doesn’t travel on buses very often, so he gets very excited whenever he gets the chance for a bus trip.
The first few times, he sat right up the front in the seat behind the bus driver. If you haven’t sat in that set before, let me tell you that there is not much leg room for anyone bigger than, well, a school kid.
After that wore off, he decided that sitting down the back was more fun, as was having an entire seat to himself and moving between seats during the trip.
Today we decided to go into town to do some shopping and meet Santa. Last year, rather than park in town, we went on Hobart Council’s shopper shuttle service where you can park at the Regatta Ground and catch a free shuttle bus into the city. Even though it was only a five minute ride, Juniordwarf loved the fact that we went on the bus.
He was very keen to do it again this year, so we did.
On the way in, he sat up the back.
On the way back he sat on one of the side-facing seats, which he was particularly taken with, because we were ‘going sideways’. So that was a bit different. (He’d also been fascinated, on his class visit to the Transport Museum recently, how some people sit facing backwards in a train.)
We saw Santa, he had an ice cream and we got some shopping done.
I think he enjoyed himself.
And now for something completely different. This:
2011 in review: Month 1/12


Since my Project 365 is rapidly coming to an end – there are 12 days left – I’m going post a link to my favourite post from each month since the start of the year over those 12 days.
Today, we return to January, and one of my very first blog posts. 
It’s about an event that I was terrified of attending, and very nearly didn’t, but was so glad I did because it helped me to believe in myself and my ability to go out and talk to people. I think that going set me up for a lot of the changes I’ve made over the course of the year.
Tomorrow: February

P365 – Day 238 – something is missing

One of the things my counsellor told me was that I have to take a little bit of time to do things purely for myself without feeling guilty about it.
So to cut a long story short, I decided to take a day off work (and not eat into the ever diminishing time I get to spend with Juniordwarf now he’s at school). The plan was to go shopping (my work wardrobe is in serious need of a makeover and my lunch break isn’t long enough to do any ‘proper’ shopping), drink coffee and have a massage.
Brilliant idea, right?
Actually I rather detest shopping. It’s hard to find clothes that fit me – everything in the shops seems either designed for skinny young things or the more, um, ‘matronly’ types, and I don’t identify with either. As a result, I normally find shopping a rather stressful, unpleasant experience.
A coupe of weeks ago I put a call out on Twitter to try and find places where a (ahem) ‘curvy short chick’ might find clothes that don’t fit into either of the above categories. I got a few suggestions and decided to go for it.
I figured if worst came to worst, I could call a halt to the shopping and go on a photo walk. Or drink more coffee.
It sounded like a plan. 
Only when I got into town this morning I discovered that I’d left my wallet at home!
Now who heads out for a shopping trip without their wallet? Turns out I’m not the only one, and I had a few people on Twitter tell me how they’d done exactly the same thing.
Luckily Slabs was with me when I realised what I’d done, calmed me down, escorted me to the ATM and gave me cash.
I went to the coffee shop, ordered a coffee, caught up on a few blogs (one in particular cheered me up immensely) and, revived, headed out to shop.
It was a mostly successful outing. My work wardrobe is looking slightly more professional and, without the time pressures of having to go back to work, I didn’t hate it as much as I feared I might have.
The strangest thing was paying for everything in cash. I normally card almost everything I buy, and the feeling of handing over actual money for things over about $10 or $20 was just weird. But I think it also kept me in check a bit, because I could see how much I was spending, rather than adding it up at the end of the day.
Sa here is today’s photo – the inside of my bag. Camera – check. Lip gloss – check. Pen – check. Notepad – check. Fold-up shopping bag – check. Wallet – oops  . . . 

P365 – Day 205 – the scrapbooking shop is closed

Earlier this week I wrote about how Juniordwarf loves to describe the route to wherever we’re going in great detail. He does it in the car and he does it when we walk Sleepydog.
Yesterday when we were out walking with Sleepydog, Juniordwarf asked if we could walk to one of the streets we usually drive to. I said we could, but that it would be easier if we went without Sleepydog, since she’s not the easiest dog to walk.
He agreed with that, and this morning said he wanted to walk to that street, which is close to the centre of town, more than two kilometres from our house. I agreed and decided that since we were going that way we might as well do a couple of errands at the same time, to save someone driving.
So we set off, after me telling Slabs he might need to be on alert to come and pick us up if it got a bit much for Juniordwarf. Juniordwarf was very excited, setting out our route before we went, and telling me how we would also walk past the scrapbooking shop so he could see the sign in the window.
He has quite a thing for the ‘open’ and ‘closed’ signs displayed in various shop doors, and every time we drive past any of the shops that he’s become interested in (there are several regulars), he checks to see whether the shop is open or closed, whether the lights are on or off and whether the blinds are up or down.
The scrapbooking shop in our town is his main focus, but he’s also amused by the op shop next door (or in Juniordwarfspeak ‘the dressing shop’), which has another sign in its door that partly obscures the ‘open/closed’ sign, giving the impression that the shop is either ‘pen’ or ‘losed’. This provides him with hours of entertainment.
When we got to the scrapbooking shop, he spent an amazing amount of time looking through the window ‘at the stuff’, and at the sign. A couple of people passing by gave us strange looks, and I wasn’t sure if they thought we might be casing the place (fingers crossed that the shop doesn’t get broken into any time soon, or Juniordwarf might receive a visit from the cops . . .).
He’s very excited because I’m going to print some photos of him and his best friend so that he can do his own scrapbooking page. I told him that once we get the photos he can pick out some paper from the shop to do his page, and he’s really looking forward to that.
Once I managed to drag him away from the shop, we did a tour down the main street, so he could examine the doors of all the other shops to see if they were open or closed, on the way to the DVD store to return some DVDs for Slabs.
Juniordwarf said he wanted to look at the numbers. Not being a regular in that shop, I had no idea what he meant, until he dragged me into the shop, to the wall where the top 100 DVDs are displayed. He then walked along that wall counting from one to one hundred (which Slabs says he’s done before), and then all the way back again counting back to one (which is a new development).

Then he was ready to go.
After another detour, we headed for home. We weren’t far from home when I noticed him lagging a bit. He said, ‘I need to be carried.’ 
I managed to convince him that he didn’t. My back would not have thanked me for lugging a four year old the rest of the way home. So we made it home under our own steam and I didn’t need rescuing. All in all, about a five kilometre round trip.
Not a bad morning walk.