Thursday, 31 October 2013

Covent Garden at Night

Mummy and Daddy wanted to go to their favourite Mexican restaurant, Cantinda Loredo. It's kind of an upscale version of a taco place, and is off the main street near Covent Garden. They're really fmous for their made at the table guacamole. So we had that, and some other things, and then we walked to try and find some nice ice cream that Mummy likes. Well, in the end we walked all through the market at Covent garden, but couldn't find it, which was a shame. We did however, find Laduree macaroons, which were wonderful,
and had a good wander around a place that is so totally different in the dark than it is in the day. It was so empty, but lit up quite nice, and it had much more of a warehouse feel than normal.

St. Paul's in the Sunshine

St Pauls is actually really, really near my house, and I almost never go. When I was at Uni in Bristol, I used to stay at a youth hostel which was right next door, and wake up to it every morning I stayed there. It is beautiful at night, and one of my favourite walks in London has to be walking across the very snazzy Millenium Bridge, walking towards St. Pauls. It is so majectic, and big, and a little magical! Winter in London has perfect time of day, sometime in the afternoon, before the sun sets, where everything in town just looks magical, and is bathed in this pretty orange light.
To be honest, it doesn't happen often in London, but sometimes it does, and we were lucky enough to be able to catch the beautiful St Pauls at the right time of day. We didn't go in - but we did take some photos outside. Mummy and Daddy were staying at a hotel near there, so we walked over there and managed to get to see them in time for dinner. I didn't get to spend as much time with them as I had wished, because I was so busy with school, but I was glad that Josh had gotten to spend time with them!

Greenwich Park

Mummy came to visit London for a few days, taking Josh to different museums and places (especially scary places like the London Dungeon), while I was in school all day. I was so glad that he didn't have to be alone in London because sometimes that can be really boring, and everything seems a bit underwhelming. So one afternoon, after I finished with my classes, I met them in town, and then we headed out to Greenwich Park. Although Josh and I had just been there, I wanted Josh to see the park and go up to the prime meridian!
So that's what we did, and we took the DLR on the long trip there. The main hall was closed because they were filming a period drama there (I'm not sure which one there, although aparently it was from America), but we did get to go into the music hall and watch the end of a concert. That hall was really beautiful to see, so I can only imagine what the library looks like! Then we made the big trek up the hill to the Prime Meridian. Now, you have to pay for it, but it was so worth it to go and stand where
time starts! Josh and I and Mummy took lots of funny photos, as we do! And then we stood and admired they great view over Canary Wharf and the Marine College, which is one of my favourite views in all of London. It doesn't really feel like it still is London, but it was so great!

Dinner in Greenwich

We met my friend Dave for dinner at this great little pub right next to the Cutty Sark. It was a great dinner, and so nice to get to spend some time with Dave, and for Josh to finally meet some of my friends! Afterwards, the boys were really patient while I took a photo of Canary Wharf, which was all lit up across the river!

Westminter Abbey

Right before I left for Japan, Prince William married Kate in Westminster Abbey, and my friend Dave and I got up early to come see it at Westminster Abbey. It was a great day for England - lots of fun and a great deal of Union Jack's everywhere! I havent been back since, and it was so nice to be back there because that last trip to London was really one of my last places I went before I flew off to Japan. Josh and I had actually tried to go and see the inside of Westminster Abbey the night before, but found that it closed really,
really early (like 3 pm or around there). Like many places in London, I have discovered that you weren't allowed to take photos of the inside. Although I couldn't take photos, we did have such a good time listening to the great audio guide that they provide! Lots of famous people have been buried there and there is a really great history which they tell you all about with the guide. It was one of the highlights of Josh's trip! After, we we were able to roam all the corridors outside, which were really
beautiful, and we wandered around them until we were able to find a tea room which was in one of the cellar/crypt places. It had a beautiful ceiling, and we had a really great breakfast of scones and jam, and croissants! We then wandered around the outside gardens, which are kind of attached at the back, and people that work in the church can live there. It reminded me a lot of the University of Oxford, in both the style and the quadrangle layout! After, we were pretty cold,
and it was yet again raining, so we headed over to a nearby Starbucks for some nice warm hot chocolate and a cookie!That part of town is really nice, and I had to point out all the fun things in the area for Josh - especially the statue of Abraham Lincoln, which is randomly there in the square opposite the Abbey, for reasons unknown to me!

Down by Big Ben

One of my favourite places is the bridge right in front of Big Ben. Most of the time, it is crowded with tourists, and musicians and all sorts, but some times it is really quite empty, and then that's a really good day. We seemed to spend a lot of time around by the Eye, and the houses of Parliment during Josh's trip in London, so I figured we needed some bridge photos too! The weather had gotten a bit rubbish, but that was to be expected, and I grabbed these photos right down by the water, in one of my favourite places, away from all the hustle and bustle
on the bridge above. It had just stopped raining (thankfully) but was still a little chilly - I even feel cold looking at the pictures! As a student, and because I gre up coming to London, I don't spend much time going and taking photos in all the tourist areas, although I certainly wish I could. It was so nice that while Josh was here,
we could go and do those touristy things, because I really dont have anyone to do those kinds of things with. When I lived in Japan, it was what I lived for, so it was nice to be able to do these together.

The very famous British Museum

I have actually never been to the British Museum. Maybe I'm picky about my museums, or whatnot, but Josh wanted to go, so off we went. There was a really interesting exhibit about Japan, and one about Money. However I feel I should did that I did see the Rosetta Stone - surrounded by a million and one other people vying for a photo of it on their smart phone! It was a museum full of British stolen artifacts - some of it sadly very, very pretty!

A little bit of Tokyo in Chinatown

Chinatown in London is home to coincidentally, some great Japanese restaurants too. So we tried Little Tokyo, which turned out to be great because not only did they serve really authentic Japanese food, everyone there is Japanese and speaks Japanese, which was so nice to feel like it was ok to shout "Sumimasen!" across a crowded restaurant!

The London Eye

I had booked Josh and I tickets to go on the London Eye. When we arrived earlier in the day, the line was really quite long, so we wandered around for a few hours, and then came back. It was a much better line when we arrived in the afternoon. and actually we almost walked right on to our pod. The pod takes about half an hour to go around, although it seems to go quite quickly. It was really nice to wander around the pod, and then point out all the different buildings that you could see from the sky.
From up there, you have really nice view of all the buildings along the bank, like the Houses of Parliment and Big Ben, and great view of the Old City Hall. But I enjoyed pointing out where MI6 was, and where the big train stations were, and seeing if I could spot my house too! Josh had really wanted to go on the London Eye and he really enjoyed it! Since I havent been on the London Eye since I was little kid, I really enjoyed it too. It was just a lot of fun! We even got someone to
snap a picture of us, on my phone, which turned out absolutely great, considering it was taken on an iPhone! Maybe the guy was a photographer or something! However, it was a nice momento to have from our nice little jaunt on the Wheel

Together at Tower Bridge

While I go to Uni right under the Shard, one serious icon of London, I also live really close to Tower Bridge, which is also a seriously famous landmark. So you could say I live right in the middle of everything! We went down to the water, and walked along the south bank for quite a while.
We managed to get a nice family to take a photo of us, and it was the first photo of us together in London. It's still one of my favourites! We actually went into Tower bridge. You can take a lift up, and walk all the way across the top - theres a little museum up there, and then a covered walkway
with photos of other bridges too. It was kinda silly, but fun none the less. Over the trip, we walked over the bottom of it several times. It was so nice to wander around London, explore the different random pieces of art along the bank, enjoy the sunshine and cross such an iconic bridge!

The iconic Red Phone Booth

I dragged Josh all around town from the moment he arrived in London. He didnt get long to relax after arriving off the plane, but we had a lot to do!! I had discovered the Hay's Galleria, the outdoor shopping area near Uni, which is full of Boots and Next, and Starbucks,had a few red phone booths, which were actually clean, and perfect for having Josh take a photo! So that's where we went, and got a great iconic shot!

My University: King's College London

Only a week after leaving on the Sunday, Josh was back in the UK the following Saturday. I got to the airport super early because I was just so excited he was coming to London, finally! I chatted to some American ladies for a while and then he was finally here! I took him to my apartement, and then to see my
Univeristy. I am pretty lucky this time - I work in the pretty building, rather than the 1960's monstrosity! Actually, the campus I am on is really pretty! It's only one little block, but so pretty, and nice and compact. It is a really nice quiet square, and on a Saturday - deadly quiet!
It really is, so far, a great place to go to University - and it so nice walking into a pretty, ivy covered building every day! I liked showing Josh my new place of work too!

Up Longmynd

On Saturday night, we met up with Daddy and went to our favourite Indian restaurant in town. We wanted Josh to have real British Indian food, and I had missed the food there so incredibly much! We often had indian food in Nara, but it certainly wasn't anywhere near the same!
On Sunday, Mummy and Daddy made a nice roast dinner and the Bartons came over to meet Josh, which was nice for him to meet some of our family friends. They are also both teachers, so they all had a good time chatting. After they left, we piled into the car and went up the Longmynd. We were fortunate enough to actully see some wild horses, and we got out and watched the parasailers for quite a while over the mountains. Then we headed back into the little village,
and sat at one of the pubs, where Josh discovered his favourite British, Russian sounding beer! It was such a quick trip. It really went by fast, and it felt so nice to just be at home, after a few weeks of finding my feet in London. I said goodbye at Josh at Birmingham airport, and then caught the train back home to London. It was really sad on the train, and reminded me so much of all those Shinkansen rides (only much slower) that I had taken from Osaka.

Shrewsbury Castle

We shopped a little in town, got Josh some shoes, and then bought a cornish pasty for lunch. Then, we decided we had to show Josh Shrewbsury Castle. Mummy declined going in - she really doesnt like the museum - so I took Josh in. He also found it extremely boring (surprise surprise), but we
took some nice photos outside, by the lovely ivy and pretty old doors. Mummy turned out to be quite a good photographer and we got lots of fun photos. We took a photo for our friend Ben and Jacey, who were getting married that weekend while we were at the Castle, and we sent them a cute picture saying congratulations! We headed up to the keep - and managed to catch sight of a cool steam train coming into the station below!

Josh comes to Shrewsbury, and the Quarry

Maybe only two weeks before, I had had enough of being without Josh. It had been a few months since I had seen him. He went from Japan-> Florida-> Germany, and I'd gone Japan -> Singapore - > Malaysia -> Uk -> America and back. I had managed to get some time with him in Germany briefly,
but I wanted him to come to England. It was actually quite cheap for him to come to the UK one weekend, and so we booked it, and two weeks later, he was there. I trained myself up to Birmingham, and wham, Josh was here for his first trip to the UK. Mummy drove us back from Birmingham, and in the morning Mummy made us a great
full English dinner. We had picked out some coats for Josh, so we spent the morning "home shopping", and then we all walked into the Quarry. It was the first time I had been back since I moved. I spent a lot of time there as a kid, and each time I come back it seems to get smaller and smaller. But it was really beautiful and full of lots of nice flowers still. It was great to show him this little gem in our town, before we wandered into town. It was so surreal to have him finally with me in Shropshire. It was so nice to
show him all the places from my childhood and telling him all about it. It was just so great, and it was great to show him St. Marys church and the great gates to the park!

Off we go to the Natural History Museum

I have become sort of the "event organiser" for our little group of classmates on my course, and when we first started, I decided we should get ourselves used to London, and so we headed over to South Kensington to go to the Natural History museum. For some of them, it was their first time in the
amazing museum! It was really great to go through the museum all together- we explored the body and physiology stuff - as well as the dinosaurs and all the different animals section. They had some mighty big animals in some of the sections - but my favourite was the statue of Charles Darwin which has appeared at the top of the stairs in the grand hall. The grand, main entrance is one of my favourite, Victorian things in London. The outside of the building is wonderful, but really, the interior is so wonderful,
all this stone, and long corridors. It really is something right out of a Harry Potter film! The colour of the stone is so great, so yellowy orange, and you just get a great, warm feeling being there.

Wellington Arch

On our way back from Buckingham Palace, we cut through Green Park. I spent a lot of time commuting through Green Park station so it was nice to be up above and in the lovely, green park. I thought this arch at the end was Marble Arch, but I was mistaken, and for a small fee, you can go up Wellington Arch, which also gives you a lovely view over the city and the park. It was a super clear day, so you could see quite a lot too! It was nice random thing to discover!

We went to Buckingham Palace!

I finally started Uni, again, studying for my Masters this time, and met my great classmates. Another one of the things which is only open for a short period of time are the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace. They're usually only open in the summer, and I knew we would be really busy next summer - so my new friend Emma and I decided to go and see if we could get in. We didn't have to wait long, we were allocated a time to come back, and so we were able to go and grab some yummy lunch at
Pret (which started my yearly obsession with their soup!) and then we were allowed in. The tour was INCREDIBLE - and I was so glad we went. It is so beutiful - a little like some of the other palaces, but this one is so oppulent. Gold everywhere, and it is just so beautiful, every where you turn! We had a good time, and listened to the audio guide all the way, which was full of really interesting things I hadn't known! We even got to see the coronation videos, as well as some of the
clothes worn by Her Majesty. Afterwards, we headed to the great (but expensive) gift shop, and then into the lovely gardens, which were perfect, as the sun was shining!

The top of the Gherkin

Well, I finally had to leave Florida. It was quite sad - I had gotten used to being in the lovely warm climate, and hanging out with my family all the time. But it was time to go back to school! I was terrified of coming back to live in London, but I have a lovely little flat in a great location. Mummy stayed and helped me sort it out for the first few days- and then I was all alone. The very first day I was alone, and it happened to be the very last day of Open London, where they open all these amazing buildings in London which are closed the whole rest of the year.
I knew if I didnt go to St. Mary's Axe, it was literally the one time a year you can go in it. I waited in line for almost 4 hours, but I was really thankful for a cute family in front of me who chatted with me, and a brother and sister who had both lived in Japan behind me. It was cloudy at the top, but such a great experience! I really enjoyed getting to see the great architecture - and really enjoyed being out and being independent!

As close to Japan as I can get

The best thing about Epcot, is all the different countries. They actually hire people from those countries, so as to make it feel more authentic. Japan is the best one. It was so wonderful, and just felt like Japan so, so much. I spoke Japanese to a lot of the ladies
that worked there, and they had all sorts of stuff in their Mitsukoshi branch store - stuff I would have bought at the drop of a hat. They had Rilakkuma jumpers, and great Kimono store, as well as some great pottery - stuff I probably saw in Japan, but never thought of buying because I had no way of getting it home in one of my many suitcases! I bought a Ramune too - which is one of those great drinks that you don't tend to get in international stores back home! I had wished we could have eaten at the restaurant,
but instead, we spent time looking at the temples, and the springs, and the wonderful replica of the Itsukushima Shrine gate - which brought back so many wonderful memories of the best 2 years of my life.

A blast around Disney

We were in the right neck of the woods, so we went and stayed with Josh's family for a few days. I had just seen them in May - so it was good to see them again! It was great for them to spend more time with Mummy, and I got to spend more time with Josh's sisters Miriam and Bekah. We spent a day in
Bradenton, having breakfast at my favourite cafe on the beach with amazing pancakes - and we spent some time with Bubbe too. Then, we drove up to Orlando, and stayed the night in this super cool Disney Hotel - I think it was called the Pop! Century - each area was themed over a different decade. It was so great and full of lots of nostalgia! The first night, we recieved our Magic Bands - we were allowed to test them - they still aren't in full use - so we were pretty special! The first night we had some great dinner at the cafeteria at the hotel
- it was so yummy! The next day - we went on a whirlwind tour around all the parks at Disney. We rode Tower of Terror, and the Toy Story ride at Hollywood studios, and spent tons of time in Epcot, wandering through the countries. For Rebekah's birthday, we went to this great buffet in Magic
Kingdom, where you get to meet all the characters - it was so cute and Mummy really loved Eeyore! In the evening, after the Small's headed home, Mummy and I spent more time in Magic Kindgom - exploring all the new stuff that had been put in since I had last been there - and we rode all the rides - all the big rollercoasters (at least twice each) and went to the Haunted Mansion and on my favourite - It's a Small World! It was so nice staying late in the park - that's probably my favourite time - when it starts to empty out, or when people wait for the parade,
and the rides aren't so busy! Being back at Disney just felt really nice. I had spent so much time at Tokyo Disney, and Tokyo Disney Sea, that it felt like I was back there just a little. It wasn't quite the same, but it was really just wonderful to be back in that great atmosphere. I do certainly love Disney - and we did so much of it in one day - it was really, really great!