Saturday, May 31, 2014

Plymouth & Ivybridge: Historical Town & The English Seaside

Plymouth: History & Sky Ride

Last weekend Kiara and I spent a beautiful few days visiting Cherry and Jonny at their home in Ivybridge, a town near Plymouth (on the west coast of England). What a beautiful part of the country!  We took the train down and the landscape literally changed in a minute --from deep forest to a beautiful, red, sandy sea!  We spent Friday evening on the moors. (It rained, but it was incredibly beautiful; the pics are in the slideshow at the bottom of this post). Now, these are not the Wuthering Heights moors, but a completely different type! I plan to see the Yorkshire moors before I leave the UK in the Autumn (*gasp*, I know, but more adventures lie ahead...)
Kiara Ready for her Road Trip!
Dawlish/Teignmouth - Where the forest turns into the sea!
By Saturday morning, Kiara and Daisy the Westie were best buds (up to mischievous behaviour while we were out, of course). They even posed for a photoshoot!  

Kiara and Daisy - Posing for the Camera!
Then, Cherry, Jonny and I went on the Plymouth Sky Ride , an annual cycling event that just happened to be this weekend. Basically, the city closes down the roads to cars for a few hours so cyclists can cycle the 6 mile circuit alongside the ocean. Cherry and Jonny just happen to do triathalons, so they had an extra bike and helmet for me to borrow. So beautiful!

I had a chance to spend the afternoon and have lunch with Tina, who is in Plymouth doing her PhD. So lovely to see you, Tina! Thank you  for treating me to lunch at the Original Pasty House Company where we enjoyed delicious paninis and salads! 

 Tina and I walked to the university campus and then down to the water-  the site where the first explorers set off to discover America!  

Jacket Potatoes at Cherry's Mum's place & A War Bunker

We had a lovely dinner on Saturday night with Cherry's family. I have never had jacket potatoes made in the oven before! SO much better than the microwave. Wow! It was a summer salad and stuffed jacket potato spread. 

You're not going to believe this.  Cherry's family's house was the site of the neighbourhood war bunker in World War II. Unfortunately, as a sea port, Plymouth was heavily bombed during the war. The bunker is used for storage now, but here it is:
WWII War Bunker at Cherry's family home

Slapton Sands & Cream Tea

On Bank Holiday Monday, we had a lovely day --the weather was gorgeous! So, Cherry took Kiara, Daisy and I on a road trip through many beautiful towns (such as Dartmoor, and a few other tiny places). The River Dart is a beautiful, deep, ocean blue and the town has the Royal Naval College, which adds to the atmosphere. 

We decided to meet up with Cherry's family again and enjoy a picnic on the beach at a place called Slapton Sands. There is a monument there to the intercepted D-Day training exercise, in which more people lost their lives than D-Day itself. A historical and beautiful place to be.

Kiara even took her first steps into the ocean!  

Mmmm....salty ocean water! 
We also stopped at a small,picturesque town called Totnes so I could have Devonshire cream tea. Yes, the cream tea tastes better on this side of the country!

Check out the slideshow below for the best summary I can provide of this amazing weekend!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Book of Mormon & Fatal Attraction: My Encounter with Celebrity and Two London Shows!

Dayna and I were incredibly lucky two weeks ago - we saw TWO shows in one day, in my favourite city.  (This is my last retro-blog post from Dayna's trip).  Our plan was to wander London in the morning and then  catch ONE show (the matinee of Book of Mormon). I was hoping to get same-day half-price tickets from Leicester Square's TKTS booth, as I usually do, but we had tried that during our trip to London earlier in the week. No one is selling half-price tickets to this amazing show.

So...we decided this would be our splurge and we ordered the tickets online a few days before. We got a last minute "deal" for £40. They were seats that Theatre Monkey said were "you get what you pay for" and not that great. Turns out ---they were Dress Circle seats and the weren't even restricted view! Seemed pretty amazing from where we were sitting.

Picture from Book of Mormon site
Book of Mormon is incredible ---it's HILARIOUS! I cannot believe that it hasn't become a major religious controversy. Apparently it also appeals to people of the Mormon faith (but I can't see how, since it seemed to be mocking it the whole time!). Definitely a must-see!

On our random walk around London a few hours before the Book of Mormon matinee, we walked down Haymarket street. Dayna stopped suddenly. There was a massive poster in front of the Royal Haymarket Theatre that looked like this:
Picture from Royal Haymarket Theatre site

Dayna said "Oh, wow that's Fatal Attraction!" and I said, "What's that?!" No, I haven't seen the film, but I definitely will now. Yes, that's Kristin Davis who is Charlotte on Sex and the City, Natascha McElhone, who is Karen on Californication and Mark Bazeley, who played in The Bourne Ultimatum and The Queen. Star-studded cast ACTING LIVE.

Dayna jokingly said, "We should see two shows and catch the evening one." I laughed and said the tickets were probably £100! Then, I remembered that Kat said she had been to the theatre a few times for under 20 quid, an hour before the show. However, we were a good EIGHT hours before the show, so I was sure they'd still be full price.

You won't believe this.

We got FRONT ROW CENTRE seats for £15! We were TWO FEET away from Kristin Davis. We could see all of the actors' facial expressions. We could see that the wine looked fake, but the blood looked real. THAT close. 

I LOVE London. I love it so much. One of the most incredible experiences, ever.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Walking London, Bleinham Palace Maze, College Dinner at St. Cross & A Polish Festival

Wow, a convoluted title - I know!  I'm still retro-blogging from Dayna's trip to visit me in Oxford ten days ago.  Since our first day in London was spent at Tower Bridge and Vegan Cream Tea, we spent another entire day walking around my favourite city. and a day in Oxfordshire visiting Bleinham Palace (and doing the hedge maze!) and enjoying Oxford's college traditions with Kat.


So, one point I forgot to mention about our day at Tower Bridge was that, on our way to find an alternate tube station (due to a strike and engineering works), we randomly came across a Polish festival! We were drawn to it by the giant PIMMS sign. Dayna had never tried Pimm's and, as we were lucky enough to have beautiful weather, we stopped for drink!

It turns out Dayna LOVES bridges and parks  (Dayna, you need to meet my friend Camille. Camille, remember our trip to Prague and Vienna in 2008 where you convinced me that a full day should be spent touring parks? Totally one of our best days!)  Dayna and I spent the day wandering around London, and visited Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James' Park and then strolled past the major tourist sites (Big Ben, etc). 

Bleinham Palace Maze

The next day, we ventured out to Bleinham Palace. If you'd like to see a slideshow of the Palace itself, check out the post I wrote when I went to Bleinham with Janice. The pictures I took this time were similar, except that Dayna and I spent most of our time outside (in the parks!) It was really lovely. We even took the mini-train (which went slower than our walking pace) to a few extra gardens, and the beautiful Bleinham Palace hedge maze. It said it would take 25 minutes to solve...and we did it in 13!  Here are some pics of the palace and gardens! 
Bleinham Palace Gardens

Bleinham Waterfall

The Regal Lion
Winston Churchill's Train
Dayna's Truffles from France on bread. Or, the $40 sandwich!

Dayna at the Maze

Bleinham Palace Maze!
Dayna and the Cannon

St. Cross College Formal Dinner

Kat was kind enough to invite us to her college's formal dinner which happened to be on  the Tuesday. Every college has these (one per week; the day depends on the college). St Cross' food was quite good, and they even made Dayna and I vegan Thai green curry. Our dessert was an amazing sorbet! Of course, we  dressed up and wore our college gowns on top, as per the tradition. Dayna tried on Kat's gown, too! What a lovely way to spend Dayna's visit to Oxford (and Kat's last couple weeks in Oxford)! 

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Vegan Cream Tea & Kensington Wine Rooms: London Fun!

Dayna at Coconut Cream Tea, La Suite, London
Dayna, who Kiara and I used to run with every week when we lived in Edmonton, came to visit me this past week! (Yes, I'm retro-blogging by six days; we had so much fun, I didn't have time to scribble down my thoughts). As Dayna was in France doing a cycle tour of Provence, she came back with delicious truffles (yes, real truffles, not just oil) and tomatoes that were not sun-dried, but looked it, and were fresh, red and juicy. 

We had vegan burgers at The Gardeners' Arms, Oxford's vegetarian pub, and then spent the night with Katarina and her friends at Love Jericho's cocktail bar.

The next morning, we spent Dayna's first day in London at Tower Bridge (we saw about half of it, skipped the 1 hour queue for Crown Jewels and it still took us 3.5 hours!) Check out the creepy ravens (there are 6, who are kept to follow an old legend and guard the tower against bad luck)

Tower Bridge, London

Creepy Ravens, Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge - in the Gardens, London

Next, we headed over to La Suite Hotel for vegan cream tea!  Oh, wow, was this ever amazing food! Guacamole, corgette, tofu scramble and hummous sandwiches,  vegan scones (which were sooo light), coconut cream, strawberries and jam. Plus, chocolate cake and a dessert called bavarois (a jelly-like thing which I could not swallow). 

Sapna at Coconut Cream Tea, La Suite London

Chocolate Cake, Almond dessert and Bavarois

We completed our evening by meeting up with Alexandra in Kensington Gardens. We walked through Hyde Park, took a peek at Kate and William's home, and wandered through to the Kensington Wine Rooms, an incredible wine bar. We split a bottle of Ballon, an organic Bordeaux wine. We also sampled a white wine made from fermented oranges (it tasted a bit like candy), but decided that a full bodied Bordeaux was the way to go! 

Stay tuned for more of Dayna and my London & Oxfordshire adventures!