It's amazing how quickly you get comfortable in a place. The lifestyle here, although there are differences from NZ, is pretty relaxed and easy to get into. Biggleswade, Bedforshire is a nice wee town with everything you need. The local pub has become our place to eat, cos the menu is really good.....we have been struggling with food here....nothing has salt!!! I had to add salt to my chips, my nachos were plain, the chicken and steak needs a bit of a boost too....I've decided I'm a sodium addict. One awesome discovery is free delivery! you can get fish and chips delivered (salt free.....but they do throw in baked beans...go figure?), indian delivered, pizza delivered, anything delivered for FREE! It can be very easy to get fat and lazy here I think, you don't even have to cook. One wise person told me I was going to come back twice the person I was...I am starting to believe them!
The other day I went to the supermarket and after about 1 hr looking for 4 things finally got together the ingredients for a lasagne which I thought would be a cheap way for a couple of meals (and I could
add my own salt)...on a side note, I have found it interesting that all the 'normal' things I would normally buy in a weekly shop in the supermarket back home are located convienently in the 'world foods' aisle at the supermarket here...I'm such a foreigner! (subsequently the salt and items with flavour are located in this aisle too!). Anyway after purchasing my lasagne items for about 5 pounds I made my way home and started to put my expert lasagne making skills to work. I was half way through creating my dish when Graydon popped in and said "oh you are actually really cooking"....."you know you can buy a larger one of those for 3 pounds already made and ready to pop in the oven"......I did a mental calculation in my head.....so my conclusion is instead of wasting precious time cooking I could be doing something else (like writing this blog). You might ask, yes but the preservatives, it wouldn't taste that good.....I thought the same....but no it seems you can get endless amounts of premade stuff for cheap and because of the population is goes really fast and is really fresh with no preservatives.....crazy. You can get premade salads,
nibble platters, hotpots, roasts all for a fraction of the price of actually buying stuff and making it yourself...no wonder no one marries here....women are no longer required! (ha de ha). However the issue is if you do want to eat fresh, you really pay for it. You can get heaps of rubbishy food for really really cheap, yet you pay a stupid amount for some fresh carrots or other veges and meat.
Anywho as we have arrived in the UK while the Olympics are on we thought it would be stupid not to go into London to experience the atmosphere...so two days out from it finishing we ventured into London. A train ticket from Biggleswade (including a one day pass on the London tubes and buses) costs about 25 pound, so London is a 'sometimes' thing not an 'everyday' thing from here. However people do commute everyday into London from here for work....one of Vaughn's mates works in London and spends about 500 pound a month just on communting using public transport! So being the big grownups we are we headed off with our backpacks from Biggleswade to Fensbury Park as instructed by Graydon. Rail is a good
Guard doing his thing
I wonder if he knows he has a dead cat on his head?
way to see the countryside, and the countryside around here is really pretty. From Fensbury Park we were to 'disembark' and change to the tube to Green Park.....all I can say is thank goodness for mobile phone apps and gps, I don't know how people travelled without it! The London Underground has an awesome tube map app which tells you exactly what you need to do, where to get off, what to get on and where to go to get to your chosen destination and it was a lifesaver!
Green park was really cool and it was the best place to start our London sightseeing tour. Firstly Green Park itself is lovely and because of the olympics had a few stalls and food stands convienetly placed for caffeine struggling kiwis like ourselves. We just followed everyone else through the park and eventually came to some huges gates which was of course Buckingham Palace! Unfortunatly we missed the changing of the guard (which happens at 11.30am each day) but we did see the guys with their fuzzy hats and red coats doing a wee march back and forth with their guns....wouldn't want to mess with them. The palace is amazing
and HUGE! So we will definitley go back and take a tour....I wanted to see the Royal Mews of course, but that will have to wait for another day. Turning around we were faced with the massive Victoria Memorial fountain and The Mall which for me were iconic places I always associated with London ( so I knew I was actually there!). Because of the Olympics the roads were closed around this area which was great for us to walk around. After taking out photos we crossed the road to go through St James Park. I never knew London was such a beautiful city with so many parks. It's so green and colourful. St James Park was really lovely, it has a huge lake and river meandering through and there are ducks (with ducklings), swans, pigeons, geese, squirrels and more ducks. I could have walked around all day there. We just followed the path around which took us closer to around Westminister. From here we saw some of the parliamentary buildings (ha missed Downing Street! by one block! should have had a decent map) and continued on to the River Thames and the Westminister Bridge. We got our photos with
Had to stand back to fit it in the frame
Big Ben at the house of Commons and saw the stunning House of Lords, mind blowing buildings! Because there were so many people we decided we would just be sightseeing today and do the "touristy" things later. Cues were massive! Crossing the bridge we follow the River Thames passing the London Eye. Even though there were so many people, you didn't ever feel unsafe or crowded. London can certainly handle the influx of people during the Games. There was kind of like a buskers festival on in Jubliee Gardens next to the river which was cool. Crossing the river back across another bridge we entered more of a businessy district, but then were surprised to find another park which I think was "The Embankment" which was once again beautiful. We followed through this and continued on.....by now our feet were starting to feel it, note to self do not wear jandles (called flip flops here btw, they have no idea was I mean when I say 'jandles'
when on a sightseeing tour of London (unless you are in a bus!) onwards and upwards ( we were actually trying to find Westminister Abbey....seems were were going in the wrong direction! Seems
Westminister City is an area of London....not the direction of the Abbey!) we found the Royal Courts of Justice. This was a really cool building and it was wicked to see the old school courts and the robes etc. So much history! These courts are still used today so we weren't allowed in some areas, but the building was really cool. Following, what I now know was Fleet Street (pretty sure that's in Monopoly) we came through more of a business district. This was more like the London I thought I'd see, but the business buildings were really cool and not more than a few stories high. None of the highrises we saw in Singapore and all very old and detailed, love the architecture here. The streets were filled with all things London, black cabs (did you know these can turn in a perfect small circle on themselves! they need it here, the streets are so narrow), big red double decker buses. We even came across a movie set. There was a sign "Note you are entering a live film set, by walking through here you give us permission to use you on screen" so watch this space, I could
be famous. Vaughn stopped and took a photo of the actors and waved...he's not a very good extra, I looked rather natural I thought. Stopping for a cup of hard earned coffee, we planned our next destination, knowing we were in the wrong area now for Westminister Abbey we decided St Pauls Cathedral was closer so off we trod. You can't really miss this building with it's massive dome top, it is really impressive. Being the amazing planners we are we managed to get inside right before the Eveningsong at 5pm, totally on purpose of course. So we sat ourselves down and the choir boys and the men in their cloaks all came out with their candles and sang. It was awesome! I'm not really into that type of music normally, but hearing it in a cathedral was amazing! The acoustics were incredible and the harmonies would put my aunties to shame (haha). You could just spend hours looking up at the ceiliing and detailing of the building inside, highly recommended.
Being the seasoned tube travels we are, we took the tube from the St Pauls station to Stratford, which was near the Olympic Village! We excitely got of
and found our way to the surface again which was at a massive shopping mall. By now our feet were killing us and in deperation found a shoe shop in the mall and purchased new comfortable 'walking shoes' each. Well, you certainly know you are getting old, when you select your shoes based on comfort and practicality instead of style.....I didn't care my feet were now walking on a cloud! So we merged ourselves into the flow of traffic leading to the Olympic Village and noticed a smaller single file line of people moving in the opposite direction, silly people, obviously didn't know where they were going. As we triumphtly strolled on past with the hoards of people, it took us a while to realise what the people sitting above us with megaphones were yelling....."ensure you have your tickets to the Olympic Village, or you won't be able to get past the gates....." hmm seemed once we got to the gates, we would be joining the single file cue back in the opposite direction...lesson learned for next Olympics ha!
I remembered on the way to Stratford that Hammersmith was one of the stations I had seen. My friend Anna
lived in Hammersmith, so we thought, why not stop in. This worked out well as she had just finished work and we managed to meet in a coffeeshop (yes more coffee). Following Anna back to where she lived I got to ride in a double decker bus! As it was past tea time by this stage we went the local pub (as you do in London) as grabbed a traditional London Pub meal....with no salt. London is a very busy place and bustling at night, Hammersmith is near Kensington so a bit of a posh area, I felt safe enough, but not if I was on my own. We went back to her flat to see how she lived which was cool, but an eyeopener. Anna and Gareth share a flat with four other people and have a room that lucklily fits a couch in it as there is no lounge or other area to sit. They have a very small patio out the back, accessed from the downstairs bathroom that currently has no hot water as the landlord doesn't want to pay for a new boiler and is waiting for it to be fixed. You can live in all
this luxury for a cool 950 pounds a month! It was cool to see where Anna was living and London is a really beautiful, exciting city but I'm glad I'm living out of it and have the option to visit when I want.
To make it home we had to take the tube to Kings Cross Station. This is where part of the Harry Potter films were filmed and you can see it as soon as you get into the train station. Of course we had to get a photo of Vaughn 'running' through the wall. There's actually a piller there for this very reason (we didn't find it, we just used a random piller....and got some strange looks). The tube stations leading to Kings Cross were interesting along the way, Baker Street was particularly cute and was first opened in 1863! Amazing that these lines are still being used today. Trains stop at 12pm so we managed to get the last train to Biggleswade which only took 30mins. It is just so easy to get around here.
We are looking forward to going back and doing the 'touristy thing' without the crowds, mind you I don't think
Downing Street only one block to the left.....should've had a map!
London every really stops. I'm glad we have a few years to get around the place, there is just heaps to see.
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