Taking the Goodroad to London

When my friend told me she had gotten a job in France, I just knew
I had to stick around in England a bit longer so I could show her London. We met in South Korea a couple years ago and hadn’t seen each other since we both left. The decision to stay a little longer for Katie to visit me and for me to visit her in France was an easy one. It was on!

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I combined my mental itinerary with the few things she mentioned- visit to a pub, fish and chips and couple of sights. Easy! The Saturday night she arrived at Old Street, the pub crawl ensued. We continued into Islington, sampling different lagers, ales and ciders along the way.

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By the time we emerged from the last pub, only one thing was on our minds, food. I spied a kebab shop I had been to a couple times previously and explained that in true British tradition, a kebab would be a fitting meal to end the night. She was game. As we stood in there eating our food, wholesome drunken conversation developed with other inebriated souls. Good stuff.

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The next morning started with a tried and tested hangover cure, the Full English Breakfast. Served with a steaming hot cup of tea, of course! We were full and ready for the day.

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What we found in Camden was very unexpected for me. I hadn’t been for years and place is now rammed with tourists. I’m glad I used to frequent it before it turned into what it is today. However, the number of food stalls has gone from great to impressive.

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We then walked to Kings Cross station. Platform 9 3/4 was a must for my Harry Potter fanatic. Even that is no longer on an actual platform in the station. It’s now just a sign on a wall. After queuing up for about 30min we got our pictures and made our way back to Islington. This time to a comedy night at The Camden Head. The talent was excellent. We laughed until it hurt.

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Next, walking across London Bridge we stopped to admire the wonderful Tower Bridge across the way. We walked down to the More London area and got some shots.

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From there, we walked for what seemed like an eternity, along the Thames. Yeah, I didn’t realise just how far away the London Eye was. Oops. The pictures were worth it. I’m glad she got the opportunity to see it and Big Ben at night.

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On her final full day in London, we started with Buckingham Palace and covered Green Park, Piccadilly Circus and Soho. After a stop at an Asian grocery store in Chinatown (yay kimchi!), in Leicester Square we bought some theatre tickets on a whim. The show wasn’t until later that night.

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Trafalgar Square was buzzing as always, with entertainers and tourists. Failed attempts at climbing the lion were made. Boo! We squeezed in the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament so she could see them by day and then the rains came.

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It was time to head over to Covent Garden for dinner and our show. There, some street entertainers held our attention for a while, until our bellies reminded us that it was time to go. I could not let Miss Goodroad pass through London without having Nando’s. She loved it and I loved that she loved it.

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Stomp was great! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was beyond what I thought and extremely funny. We left the theatre with excited spirits and headed home. There was packing to be done.

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I think I did a rather spiffing job of tour guide and host. It was also a great opportunity for me to look at London with new eyes again. Lots of things about Londontown drive me mad, but I still love it and I think it’s one of the best and most diverse cities in the world. It was nice to have a reminder of that. Cheerio 😉

~~~The Wandering Pier

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My First Week in Brighton and Hove: A Photo Essay

New job. New city.

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Good morning from Hove. I’m not used to the 6am wake up, yet. After two years of starting work at 1pm, it’s definitely an adjustment.

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The amazing views on my way to work are a huge perk. I love the ocean.

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My first set of students hailed from Italy. They were lovely to teach.

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I think this is an iconic shot representing Brighton, because here you can see the main building on the pier, but more importantly, there is a seagull perched up above. Presumably seeking out its next prey. You can’t go anywhere without seeing and hearing them here. #hideyourwifehideyourkids

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I inadvertently stumbled upon a Naturist Beach. It was such a shocking and hilarious experience that it got a blog post of its own. https://mamacitagarcia.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/nude-discoveries/

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My very first visitor. A dear friend I’ve missed while I was living abroad. We had a great catch up over the weekend.

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Brighton is punctuated by lots quaint, unique shops, along with some standout spots that really make the city. Just check out Choccy Woccy Doodah! – https://mamacitagarcia.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/a-chocolate-affair/

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Relaxing on the beach. According to the signs, we may be in for an Indian summer. I hope to spend lots of days doing this. Having over 10 years’ experience with British weather, I won’t hold my breath 🙂

~~~The Wandering Pier

Wicked…..Jet Lag

Whenever I’m back in London, I like to fit in a West End show if I can. I don’t mind whether it’s theatre or musical, I’m up for either!
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This time it wasn’t just a treat for me, I also took my mum along as a treat for her. My friend booked the tickets and her sister came along as well. We were off to see Wicked, after our sushi dinner.
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As it turns out we were in THE last row of the theatre. If you’re scared of heights this would have been torture for you. The show was fantastic! Well, the parts I was awake for. Having just returned from South Korea I was fighting some serious jet lag.
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The show was one of the longest I have ever been to, which is great as you get more bang for your buck. Unfortunately for me, I was so exhausted I just wanted it to be over. Learn from my mistake, full belly, late show and jet lag equal a no-no. Rest up well so you can enjoy every minute of your musical experience.

Having Nando’s in South Africa

This experience was surprisingly and sorely disappointing. For all who know and love Nando’s, you may know what it’s like to go without it for a while. Alternatively, you maybe be able to relate to when one of those Nando’s pangs hits you.

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I am for sure a Nando’s lover. When my ticket to South Africa was booked, it was one of the first things that came to mind, no lie. The Mecca, the motherland, the birthplace. So when my mum and I stopped in there on that faithful day, I felt nothing but delight. Until the food came.

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The side dishes were of course different from what we have in England, which was fine. There were also less options on the menu, for example no halloumi cheese, red pepper dip or sweet potato mash, among others. With a heavy sigh, I was also willing to accept that. I knew it would be different. I chose wedges with my set meal, since we don’t have it in England and I ordered sides of spinach and coleslaw.

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The entire meal was mediocre at best. Unfortunately matching what a couple friends had said, though I had refused to believe it. The chicken lacked that flame grilled taste you expect from Nando’s. The reason you’d choose going to Nando’s over some other chicken joint. To be fair, I could stop my little review right there. In fact, I will. Drops mic.

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I’ve recently learned that Nando’s has finally reached the states. Rejoice, American peoples! I’m heading to the US next and if I’m anywhere near one I’ll be all over it like some Wild Herb sauce. Not counting South Africa, January was my last fix. Not sure how much longer I can go on. Nando’s lover problems.

Ice Skating with the Famalam <3

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My sister arranged for us all to go ice skating at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. It’s probably the only time of year I get to do it. Prior to leaving London, I’d (very) occasionally go down to the rink in Streatham.

I wrapped up warm and met everyone there, including our friend Hayden who sorted out the tickets for us. It was my mum’s first ever time ice skating. I had no idea. Even getting the skates on and walking to the rink was a feat. Then, as she got on the ice she gripped the side bar with one hand and my brother’s arm with the other. She made it!
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We had a look to see if the little kiddy section was open so she could take it slowly and so we with our rusty balance memory, could get the hang of things in there, however it was closed. After a short 10 minute stint mum decided it was time to head back in. I was proud of her getting those things on and giving it a go.
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My brother, as it turns out is somewhat of a pro at this ice skating lark. I had absolutely no clue. Mum explained that she used to take him to Alexander Palace when he was younger. He was lapping us, doing those cross over steps and going backwards. I thought it was so awesome. 20140518-230956.jpg

As always the skates there killing my feet. They feel like they’re being crushed. I even got a shoe size up this time, but it didn’t help much. I got off the ice a couple times and took them off for some relief. It turned out to be a good spot to sit in to see my sister land on her bum not too long after. The three of us did a few laps together before heading off the ice. It was a really nice family affair to kick off the new year.

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Brighton with El Belle

We spent the night in Catford and went to bed far too late for my confused body clock, but it was a good catch up session with Elahe & Ladan. In the morning the next day, Elahe and I packed and loaded up into the car. Road trip time!
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The weather was sunny and bright, a good day to take to the roads. Traffic was minimal, so we enjoyed cruising along, chatting and listening to some music. We arrived in great time, making it there in an hour and a half.
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To the shops! We browsed some stores in the local shopping area and made some good purchases. Elahe even found a dress for a wedding she’s going to later this year. Yays. After that, my longstanding desire to couple fish and chips with any seaside visit had to be fulfilled. At this stage the weather was simply awful. Driving along the beachfront was just short of terrifying. The waves were menacing and they looked like they would leap up and swallow us at any moment. The wind was a force to be reckoned with, which we eventually had to face without the security of the car.
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We went to Buddies, which was a delightful fish and chips restaurant and takeaway, that was across the road from the beachfront. We both had cod and chips, which they fried upon request. The mountain of chips that arrived was beyond my appetite, but extremely enjoyable, as was the fish. Crispy and crunchy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside. Perfect. To get back the car the wind assisted us by blowing us down the street. Literally.
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Finally at the house, I got to meet Elahe’s parents. They were so warm and inviting, I felt right at home! After we rested, talked and went through our new purchases, Elahe’s mum said she’d make a start at dinner. What an understatement. The woman produced a feast! It was my first time having Iranian food and it was soooooooo good! I don’t even know what my favourite thing was, I just know I can’t wait to have it all again.
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Well, prior to the meal my new bff Jet Lag was hovering over my shoulder. After the meal I was carrying a food baby in the front and Jet Lag in the back, piggyback stylie. I knew I wasn’t going to make it out. That, I was disappointed about. I was in the mood to have a night out on the town and Elahe had already made some arrangements for us, but my body just wasn’t having it.

The next morning, I reluctantly peeled myself out of bed. I had woken up around 1am for a couple hours and then again at 5am. Grrr! I had an 11am train back to London to catch. After getting ready, I followed the aroma of freshly made waffles down the stairs (from scratch!). We ate breakfast hurriedly (mmmm Nutella) and headed for Hove train station. Elahe and I said our farewells. It will be months before we see each other again. I had a great time in Brighton with her and her family and I can’t wait to hopefully do it again in the summer. Minus the terrible jet lag. 20140201-233239.jpg

One Christmas, three countries

I was packing right down to the early hours of Christmas morning. I started all the preparation for my final departure from Korea early, to avoid this very scenario. But there I was, 2am, 3am plodding along. Maybe I’ll get that bit right next time.

I finally finished, slept for an hour and then started getting ready. I took my suitcase and bags downstairs. One, two, three carry on pieces. Oh boy, I’ll figure that out at the airport, I thought. Andrew got a cab from his place to mine and I got in. At the bus terminal, Deborah was waiting to bid me my final farewell. 6:10am came and Andrew and I departed for Incheon Airport. I waved goodbye to Deborah 😦

After talking for a while, I fell asleep. Then, I woke up to the realisation that our bus had turned into satan’s a$$ crack. I peeled layers off, drank water and endured the rest of the sweaty ride.

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Check-in time was the highlight of my Christmas Day (apart from finally seeing my sister later that night). Andrew wanted to sing carols in the line, so we did. I had brought candy canes and chocolates to give people, so after each carol I’d wish people a Merry Christmas and give them out. We struck up various conversations with the different people around, who we encountered as the line snaked its way up to the check-in counters. That was great. I heard about some rather wonderful trips. Some going home to see family, some travelling around Europe, some moving abroad to study. I loved hearing each of them!

My suitcase was 1kg overweight, the woman at the counter declared, “Christmas ser-vi-suh.” Service, Korean speak for freeness! She hadn’t asked about hand luggage yet and I braced myself. There the mound sat, further emphasised by my coat, my blazer and my thick scarf. D’oh! She didn’t even bat an eyelid at it *phew* she just put a couple of stickers on them.

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Andrew and I said our goodbyes ㅜㅜ and I boarded the Aeroflot plane for the first leg of my trip. They gave lunch and dinner, but it was a 9 hour flight with no snack between meals, which I thought wasn’t very good at all. I had an apple and Snickers left over from what I was giving people, so I had those. I watched a couple of movies and slept a lot.

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We landed in Russia on time, despite our 30 minute delayed departure. I had three hours to kill at the departure gates in Moscow. That’s when sheer tiredness unfolded upon me. I got myself a salmon and cream cheese bagel. After the 3 hour wait was a 4 hour flight, which I correctly predicted -after that first flight- they wouldn’t give a snack on (unless they did while I was sleeping).

I woke up in time to see the dazzling amber lights of the city of Hounslow below, as the plane descended into Heathrow Airport. Baggage reclaim, immigration and picking up some bubbly in duty free all went quickly and smoothly. It was thereafter that my old frustrations with London were quickly rekindled.

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I needed wifi to contact my sister. No open networks. GAHHHHHHH! Everywhere you go in Korea has [free] wifi, so this was already irritating. There was one that Heathrow Airport offered, 45 minutes free, after you enter a bunch of details. I did that, three annoying times, none of which resulted in wifi connection. I gave up and decided to use a pay phone. Insert £1 to start. £1???? £1!!!!!! To START. Then 20p/min thereafter. In my outrage, I refused.

I found an information …cart… and I asked the lady there about the wifi. She knew nothing other than there was wifi available. Right. She was initially helpful and let me make a call to my sister. The call dropped and we hadn’t exchanged any details yet. Then, at some unknown but fairly immediate turning point, the lady transformed into a huffing, puffing, tutting, rude mess. I remained calm and handed her back the iPad and said in a neutral tone, that it was fine and I’d sort something out. Meanwhile, my inner voice was screaming at the top of her lungs, “THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN KOREA!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Sigh. Making calls on an iPad is absolutely ridiculous anyway.

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I stood nearby fiddling with the wifi again, I paused and turned to her and spoke, again in no real tone. I told her that she was very unhelpful and that she was rude and that I couldn’t understand how she could be acting like that while working on an information desk. At this stage she was packing up the cart. She started wheeling away. I asked her if there was another information point that we could go to. She said it was the only one. I exhaled sharply with a slight laugh, eyebrows raised, to fully disclose to her that I thought we were all pretty damned, if she was our only point of assistance. I felt worse for the other people around, clearly tourists, stranded or trying to figure out what to do and where to go.

Eventually, Dallas (my sister) got on to me and told me where my taxi was waiting. I went out to find it. Rain, of course. After that first hour, I thought, yep, welcome back to London. I prayed that the taxi driver didn’t want to engage in small talk, I was just too exhausted to even muster that. He didn’t. Thank you, Addison Lee, for sending that angel. I knocked out on the ride there. We arrived. I paid and I gave him a Snickers bar.

My sister came out to the taxi. Warm embrace. Rejoice! I was finally back in LondonTown with 30 minutes to spare.

~~~The Wandering Pier