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September 30th 2012
Published: October 2nd 2012
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30th September 2012

We are currently in the channel tunnel on the Eurostar to Paris. We have spent 12 days in the UK and I am catching up and recalling our experience.

We flew into Glasgow, Scotland from Athens via Heathrow. Well the weather was certainly a shock to us – coming from 25 degrees to 15 degrees (or thereabouts!). Anyway so we boarded the airport bus without a CLUE what the bus driver was saying in his thick Scottish accent. So after we had settled into our hotel we set off to see the town centre. I had heard Glasgow wasn’t very nice but actually the city centre was quite nice and hustle bustle. Old building and churches with a gothic look to them. As bill was attending the arms and armour conference at the Kelvingrove museum (another lovely building) I had 2 days to myself. That night we had HOT Thai food and that put a smile on our faces. Ahh some chilli and herbs!!!

The next morning I set off to the city centre and basically walked around and shopped. There were 3 or 4 H&M’s so I was set! I also went into the modern art gallery for a laugh. Imagine a post-it note with ‘back in 2 hours’ that was art and on display in a case! Another one was giant manila folders, and a picture of a balloon and a bottle of pee and a description of how to use it as a water bomb. Wtf? So all these ‘art pieces’ I think it was more artistic to come up with a little blurb for the description rather than these art pieces themselves! The ‘artists’ are probably laughing all the way to the bank (I would too!). so after a long day, I went back to the hotel and we went to a Spanish tapas restaurant for dinner where we had black pudding (cooked with chilli oil on top of mushrooms…..ok a bit of a fancier version and not very Scottish!). The next morning after a look around the kelvingrove museum I went to Edinburgh, unfortunately it was raining and despite the beauty of the city it was a bit dreary walking around. I made the mistake of not going to the castle first up (even though I walked up that way) and decided to go an hour before I had to leave. So I walked around the new city centre shopping. I had lunch in this charming alleyway – Japanese. Unfortunately the dish I chose wasn’t very authentic and I should have had the yummy sushi instead. When I walked back to the castle, I had an hour before I had to get on the train and it was 16 pounds to get it so I didn’t bother. Edinburgh is a lovely city with lots of historic buildings. That night we went to our Thai restaurant again and got great service as of course, they remembered us!

The next morning we set off to the airport with a rather cheap taxi and the driver animated telling us how to get the best deals, what taxis not to catch etc. We got to the airport, I forgot my phone! Checked in, rang the hotel and confirmed my phone was in the room. Ordinarily, I would just leave it but because of my phone contract, we spent an expensive taxi drive there and back to pick it up. We got back to the airport on time to board our flight.

Gatwick airport and trying to get into London. The train station was madness! What was more maddening with hundreds of people and half a dozen ticket machines was the confusing array of train services – using the same tracks to get to the train station but with different carriers and prices. Very confusing and frustrating, but we got to London Victoria. We found our apartments and had to wait to check in so we had lunch at a Mexican place. Once we got our keys, we dropped our bags in our apartment room and just flopped down. Our apartment had a washing machine so you can guess we did a load every day. Now I was in London to do some belly dance workshops that weekend starring Kazafy and Dina (big names in the world of Egyptian belly dance, particularly Dina). I had previously done workshops with them both in Australia but I figured while I am in London why not? So that night I went to the hafla (dance party) in Croydon. Working out what train to catch in London Victoria was soooo frustrating!! I have a bit of a temper you see, and not getting information when you ask the information desk set me off! Anyway, rather than rant on about it, I got on the train in the end. I got to east Croydon and found my way to Fairfield halls (after failing to get money out of the ATM!). There was a huuuuge souk (market) of belly dance goodies. So after a look around, I went into the Halfa and found Alison (a lovely lady who lives 5 hours north of Brisbane and supplies us ladies with glittery costumes appliques) and Dahlia from Perth, whom I just met on that night. We had a lovely time listening to a live Arabic band (they were older men and really really good) and dancing the night away. Then the starts – Kazafy and Dina walk in. Party time! I had a great night and to think I almost missed it. I got back quite late, but London is always buzzing so getting home was no problem.

The next day, I set off to Croydon again (knowing what trains to catch now) and did the Kazafy oriental workshops. Now the first time I did a Kazafy workshop in Brisbane I was a beginner and really couldn’t follow. This time I loved it – Kazafy is one of my favourite dancers and performers. And being male, that is a real accomplishment. After that I went back to the apartment and Bill and I went for a walk to Westminster abbey and the houses of Parliament. Because of the exuberant price, we didn’t go into Westminster Abby (16 GBP or free if you want to worship). And I didnt want to pretend to worship it’s not very nice to pretend, so we gave it a miss. The houses of parliament would be one attraction I would go to, but we didn’t have that much time. We walked to the Thames, then back to the hotel to get ready to go to the concert that night. We went to Croydon then to attend the shimmy in the city concert. So I met up with Alison and showed Bill my red outfit I wanted to buy (a Hanan so I was told!). 180 GBP for a belly dance outfit so cheap compared to the other stalls there oh and belly dance store too. So we went into the concert hall and we thought we had good seats until everyone arrived in late (even up to 1 hour late) and as we were sitting near the door we kept having all these people walk in front of us. Grrrr! So all the stars – Aziza (Canada), Orit (Israel), Charlotte and Khaled (UK), Kazafy (Egypt) Prince Kayamer (Greece) danced and danced….then there was Dina!! Now I had seen her in Sydney and she is the bees knees of belly dance, however dare I say, I’m not really into her style that much. However this time, I don’t know, perhaps I have a greater appreciation or I found those points of Dina’s style of dance I really love, I enjoyed it much more. Bill, on the other hand, was falling asleep and wads like nooo Dina stop dancing! Ah men, lol. It was fabulous though.

The next morning I did a Dina workshop with Alison and Dahlia which was fabulous. Never mind the choreography but got lots of technique to work with. The in the afternoon I did a hot drum solo workshop with Aziza. Now, I like some of her work, but not so much others, this drum solo is what I would call LA belly dance, nicknamed after LA salsa which is American style Salsa – you know flashy style and jazz hands! So lots of jazz hands and neck rolls which left my neck really really sore for the next day or so! Though again, I wouldn’t use that choreography but lots of technique to take away.

So I was feeling that I did too many workshops and sacrificed my time in London. However since it was raining, Bill didn’t do much that Sunday. The evening we went to meet Sonya, a friend from Brisbane who had just moved to London a week before to find work. So we caught up and went to an Italian place, then back to Victoria to a good ol’ English pub afterward. It was a lovely night, even with the rain!

The next day it was raining…..AGAIN so we went to the British museum and spent hours there. There was mainly sculptures and other artifacts spanning thousands of years BC (Assyrian, ancient Greek, ancient Egyptian) and artifacts AD (from the British exploration). There was also an area dedicated to Asian and Islamic artifacts and art. The most amazing thing I saw was when entering the Islamic art section was school kids and a teacher (all English) and the teacher was asking kids simple things about Islam and the Islamic culture…. And the kids were sooo excited to give their answers and do their activities. They couldn’t be more than 7 years old….so wonderful I just wish we had more of this in Australia giving kids lessons in diversity at a museum of all places it was so lovely and really touched me! Afterward, we headed to a pub for an early dinner then walked around and shopped.

The next day, after brunch and an HOUR to book tickets on the train (sooo frustrating) we set out to Harrods. Is amazing, so lavish so expensive. It was the experience and we bought chocolates as presents…..ekkkk we did spend a lot. So we had to rush in the toy store (I bought some hello kitty things hehe) then caught a cab to the London Eye. That is one attraction we paid for and it was worth it to get a grand view of London. Luckily it was a sunny day so we got really nice views. That night we went to meet Sonya again and had a lovely dinner in a pub in Brixton called the white horse and had some magnificent fondue!!

The next day, we set out by coach to Oxford to see our friend Alan. Now Alan is a retired Oxford professor whom we met on our Middle Eastern trip. Back then Alan was 81, the fittest elderly person I know climbing up Mt Sinai and all. Now Alan is 85, still fit as ever, going on a few trips a year. The last time we net Alan was in 2009 in Budapest (he worked for 4 years in Budapest after he retired plus 1 year in Istanbul, hence his love for travel). So we thought it time we visit him, in his hometown. We stayed at a hostel next to the bus station but we didn’t spend any time there as Alan took us all over Oxford, both days we were there. Oxford University really is a bunch is colleges all over town. We got a really good historical tour of the old town and new town, plus all the lovely green meadow’s around town. Both nights we went to his home where Alan and his son treated us to dinner. We had a lovely time in Oxford, and Alan is coming to Brisbane the week after we get back so of course we’ll reciprocate his hospitality.

We then set off to Grantham, to visit my shcool friend Fiona. Now we went to primary school together, however Fiona and her family moved back to England and I hadn’t seen her for 20 years!! It was fabulous to see her, and now she has a little 9 week old baby Riley. We stayed with her and her husband in their lovely house and visited the little English villages. We visited Marcus’s (her husband) parents place and their huge property and sheep (!), and then we visited her parents. Wow, that brought back memories, visiting them again. I vaguely remember them and visiting their home when I was 6 – 9 years old playing with Fiona and riding our BMX’S! So lovely to visit them all over again. The next day (yesterday), we set off to their sister-in-law’s 30th in Sheffield. Along the way we visited Sherwood Forest, and they were having a medieval event there, much like the Abbey festival back home. Re-enactment and all, all throughout the forest. It was lovely, and bill bought some shield things. So the re-enactment was from medieval time through to WWII all through the walk in the forest.

We then arrived to the party where we ate and drank through the afternoon and night. I might add we froze our butts off lol, and there was a cocktail bar and cocktail man (who won TGI Fridays best British bartender award this week I might add). It was a great night and met some wonderful people (and some old guy who wanted to house swap lol). Riley was on his best behavior, sleeping and just being cute!

So here we are, on the Eurostar. Our train form Grantham was smooth, and we dashed across to St Pancras to catch our train to Paris. The UK – I had some moments particularly in London where I was like I hate it, lalala (when bookings tickets) but really I said that in the heat of the moment, and truly I had a great time. It took some adjustment to be in an English speaking country strange at it may seem. But I’ll come back, and again it was so wonderful to see friends particularly Fiona!


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