Monday, February 26, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
As is typical of the English weather, it was raining when I arrived in Oxford. Instead of doing the logical and well thought of approach to travel and asking for directions, I did the Bubble approach and just walked in one direction. But, in the end it turned out to be a blessing because I stumbled upon some markets where the elderly gentlemen who were tending the stalls were very chatty and happy to point out a few of the less touristy places worth visiting. One day really isn't enough time to spend in Oxford so I am going to have to go back again for the weekend sometime soon.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
It proves two things...
This second photo is to prove that other people actually ate the food I cooked and didn't die. That's Adriaan and Karen doing the washing up!
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I walked down to the beach and stood on the pebbles and if you closed your eyes, and ignored the freezing wind, you could imagine standing at Mona Vale beach eating lunch with the fire crew on a Sunday afternoon. I'm not a fan of the whole sand thing but pebbles just seems so wrong for the beach. I did manage to find some sand though. Pity it was a beach volleyball court and it was separated from the water by pebbles and a walkway.
The famous Brighton pier juts out a fair way into the ocean and houses amusement arcades and rides. I popped a few 10p coins into the slots and play a few of the games but didn't win anything. They have a roped off section which houses poker machines for the adults in the same room as the rest of the games for children. The old fogies sit in the poker machine area while their grandkids play the video games not 3m away.
Along the walkway are tiny booths where shops have been for many many years. You can imagine children in the early part of the 1900s running down the wooden planks towards the old lolly shop that stocks every kind of boiled lolly known to man and then some. Plus you can see their mothers following them slowly carrying parisols and wearing long dresses with corsets and bustles and their leather boots tapping along the same planks I walked on (although to be fair some planks were newer than others).
The weather was very overcast and foggy and you couldn't see very far but I overheard a lady saying that there was an old pier futrher around the boardwalk that had fallen into the ocean, so I set off in the direction that she pointed. About ten minutes later I saw the pier emerge from the shrouds of fog and instantly felt sad for it. It must have been a wonderful sight in it's day and now it stands looking charred and black alone in the sea. The bridge that once joined it to the mainland has long since collapsed into the sea. As you walk up to the old pier you are met by the sight of rows of small boats that are pulled up high on the shore for the winter. Hooligans have attacked the fences and pulled them down and there is rubbish and debris all over the place. It just adds to the whole sad atmosphere of the old pier and is a stark contrast to the fun and games of the new pier.
I also managed to get lost in the labyrinth of small "lanes" that accomodate the small shops of Brighton. It was fabulous to wander through the mix of old antique and jeweller's stores and the newer trendy card and arty shops. All the streets in this area are cobblestoned and you couldn't fit a truck down any of them. In fact I think you would be hard pressed to fit a car down most.
I hope to go back to Brighton during the summer to see the difference between the sleepy village atmosphere in Winter and the vibrant festival town in Summer.
We had another snow day a week and a half ago. This time there was lots more snow and I saw heaps of snowmen popping up on my way to work. The school I taught at looked so peaceful and white when I got there. Pity it didn't stay that way.
Off to Oxford on Thursday and then touring London via the Monopoly board on Friday.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Monday, February 5, 2007
I was really glad to get out of London and was equally excited about the prospect of travelling on the EuroStar. I can't believe how fast and comfortable the journey was. It was Vic the Man's birthday and we spent the weekend with two of her teacher friends, Tracey and Megan. Because of the time difference (1hr ahead) we didn't have dinner until 12am but we didn't have to worry because we found a nice restaurant that was still open. Apparently people eat later in the evening in Belgium and restaurants don't shut until 5am. Ordering was not as easy and I ended up with a tomato, lettuce, olive and mozzarella salad. I thought I had ordered a pizza!
Saturday was a very crisp 4 degrees but that didn't stop us walking to the main square. It was really interesting to look at all the different architechural designs of the buildings. At the town hall a couple had just gotten married and were celebrating by playing music very loudly out of their red Volkswagon. There was also a group of Scouts (much to Vic's delight - she is a Rover) playing games as part of their weekend camp. My favouraite building was the Town Hall because it has small statues lined up high along the main wall overlooking the square almost as if they are protecting it. I loved the statue of the fat King who looked like he had eaten too much and that he might fall over at any moment.
I couldn't go to Brussels without eating a Belgian waffle. The waffles were HUGE and it was impossible to eat the entire thing, but it was extremely delicious! Also went and saw the only museum worth visiting - the Museum of Chocolate - and learnt about how the chocolatier mixes the blends of chocolate and creates the designs and constructs the actual moulds etc. Got to sample the merchandise too! Even though eating the chocolate was good, I thought the best part was looking at the dresses made of chocolate for a fashion show. I still don't know how they didn't melt when the models wore them.
Sunday was even colder than Saturday but you didn't mind it after a while (Thanks to Holly G for the scarf to keep my neck warm, it worked really well!). We walked a quite a way out of town to the antique markets. I had a lovely time searching through the stalls asking "How much?" in my broken and very rusty French. Vic was doing really well with her own version of Italian. Why Italian? We weren't sure either! :)
The main thing I noticed about Brussels is that it doesn't seem to care about what anyone else thinks. It might be the capital of Flanders, Belgium and Europe, but I think it tries to forget that. It doesn't really care. It has a small town feel even though it is a big city. The people are an ecclectic mix of races, nationailties and speak a variety of languages, yet you still feel like it is one giant friendly neighbourhood. I don't know how else to describe it.
Back to this alternate reality in London now. There are only 2 more weeks to half term and I have a week off then which will be nice. Not sure what to do yet. A few ideas are jostling about in my mind including Copenhagen, New York or Barcelona.