Home Sweet Home

This will be short. I’m using my iPod tonight as it’s too late to get out the computer and all. Everything went smoothly except for the fact that we left an hour late, but it didn’t say we were late until after we were supposed to have landed. It’s good to home and my bed is looking so comfy right now. More in-depth post about today to follow. My mother has ordered me to bed ;).


London Calling – Day 1

*I apologize in advance if the paragraphs aren’t separated… apparently I’m having some formatting issues. At least I was while previewing the post. Drat* 

Friday, November 18, 2011:

The morning was spent getting ready. After lunch Adeline and Bastien dropped me off at the train station in Namur (around 1:30). I left Namur at 1:51 and arrived in Brussels at approximately 2:58. My train from Brussels (with Eurostar) wasn’t scheduled to leave for an hour, but I’m glad that I was there so early. I was able to go to the washroom and have lots of time to wait in the check-in line. This was my first experience with border control since leaving Canada/arriving in Belgium. I had to show my passport and Belgian residence permit. Then once that was done I had to stop and fill out a landing card for England. This had my name, birthday, place of birth, address of where I was staying in the UK, how long I was staying, how I was getting there. Then I had to hand that in and get my passport stamped.

The women I dealt with here was nice. She asked me how long I’d been in Belgium (almost a year). Is this your first time in the UK? Yes. What took you so long? Well, I had to wait till it worked for my friend! I laughed…well, I laughed after the fact, internally. I might have chuckled with her, I’m not sure. Then it was time to get in line and go through security. I’m so glad I was able to put everything in my backpack and purse. A suitcase would have been easier on my back, but my smallest one is too big to take for a weekend storing it on the train would have been a little harder. Not to mention stairs. When I finally got to the waiting area I looked for a place to sit down, but it was pretty crowded. I spotted an ATM where I could get some UK currency. That made it really easy. By the time I had my money I only had to wait a few minutes till we could start boarding. It was awesome because the car where I had my seat was right in front of the ‘moving carpet’ (or whatever those escalator-things that aren’t steps are called) that brought us up from the station. I had a window seat and no neighbour. I kept expecting someone to come and scan my ticket that I had printed off. No one came. Maybe I was supposed to scan it myself somewhere…

Ready for lift off! Oh wait...wrong form of transportation.

I kept a log of travel times on my iPod:

  • Departed Brussels: approx. 3:56pm. For both rides, there and back, I was facing backwards…you only noticed if you were looking out the window…which I did a lot.
  • Arrival Lille Europe: 4:30
  • Departed Lille Europe: 4:36 – still no neighbour.
  • Entered tunnel under the channel: 5:03 (4:03 UK time)
  • Exited tunnel ”                                     “: 5:26 (4:26)
  • Arrival Ebbsfleet International: 5:44 (4:44)
  • Departed Ebbsfleet International: 5:47 (4:47)
  • Arrival St. Pancras International, London: 6:00 (5:00)

My view upon arriving at St. Pancras International in London.

Of course when I got there I couldn’t see a thing because the sun sets just after 4. It took me a little while to find Martha. I just sort of followed the crowd, went down another ‘moving carpet’, went through a deserted area that had Customs signs everywhere (but no checks), and finally out into the station where I spotted Martha. Maybe I should explain who that it. Martha is a friend of mine from school. I guess you could say from childhood because we’ve shared classes and been friends since grade 1. That’s a long time. Actually, almost 19 1/2 years now. Crazy! We went to school together until the end of high school. She went on to the University of Toronto and I did a victory lap before heading off to Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo. Right now she’s in London attending Law school. This is something she always wanted to do and I think it’s awesome that she’s able to, and in London! September 2010 I sang at her sister’s wedding. Well, the 2nd sister. She has 4 older siblings: brother, sister, sister, brother. The 2nd brother (Martin) is just a few years older so we did go to the same school as him occasionally. Martha’s family is German. As far as I know all of her extended family lives in Germany, it was just her parents that came to Canada. He mother is so nice. She had my Mom and I over for brunch once, I went over there for meals a few times to discuss wedding stuff…and since all the kids are fluent in German and English, it doesn’t really matter when their Mom talks using both in the same sentence. For me it was a little different, and her English is pretty accented. It was neat though because I had studied German in school and was able to pick up a bit.
Anyway, so we’ve been friends for a while. I thought – if it worked out for her – why not try to visit her since I’m over here. Thankfully it worked out! So once we connected we loaded up an Oyster card for me. That’s a card you use to take the tube or bus. On the tube you scan when you enter a station, and you scan when you exit one. The price it calculated based on how many zones you travelled through and maybe time too, I’m not sure. I sort of got the hang of the tube by the end, but I didn’t pay that much attention because I didn’t have to lead/find my own way. I just did my best not to lose her in the crowds. We had to stop off at her campus to print off our ticket for the show we were going to see. After that we stopped at a grocery store – I felt like a bull in a china shop with my bag! – stopped for coffee, and then finally went to her flat. She warned me it was ghetto, and it was, but not really any more ghetto than our hotel in Amsterdam :). Her two roommates happened to be Canadian as well. Huh.
So we were just getting ready to leave when Martha asked her one roommate if she knew what the dress code was for the place we were going. Dress codes are taken very seriously over there and a lot of places won’t let you in if you’re wearing jeans. I guess this place was one of them. So we both changed. Although, we were both wearing really dark jeans that if you didn’t look real close might not have been jeans… Finally we were on our way. We were afraid we were going to be late. Turns out we weren’t. We took the tube for a ways and ended up getting off at the station (I can’t remember the name!) right across from the Tower of London. We were there twice, but I never really saw the tower because both times were at night! >_< Then we had to walk a while. We actually almost walked past it, but I saw a sign and we stopped. Then a guy walked right into Martha and apologized profusely. As we were waiting to get our tickets checked that same guy came in and made a comment about how he swears he wasn’t following us. It was funny. Don’t worry, he wasn’t creepy or anything ;). We took a seat near the bar so we would have a good view. Plus we weren’t eating supper there (there’s the option of doing the dinner/show deal). Martha got a Manhattan, I believe, and I tried my very first Cosmo. It was actually pretty tasty. Martha’s Manhattan was a lot stronger than she was used to. The guy we had bumped into twice  came up to us to ask if one of the stools near us was being used, while apologizing again and making sure we knew he wasn’t following us. Then when Martha was up at the bar getting the drinks he offered to buy us each one. She declined. I think he was there alone. When Martha told me about it she said he was sitting by himself at the bar and me, not being sneaky at all, very obviously (but also accidentally) looked right at him. So he probably knew we were talking about him. Anyway, I just thought that whole experience was funny.
Now, time to try to describe this place. Have you ever seen that movie that just came out about a year ago with Cher and Christina Aguilera, Burlesque? If you have, then you’ll have an idea what this place looked like and the atmosphere. The waitresses were all in corsets, little shorts/skirts, some had stockings, all black. The design of the place (what I could see in the dark and dry ice floating around) looked 1920s. Like Chicago. It was a cabaret show called ‘Decades’. It started out in the 20s and with the use of costumes, music, and dancing took us through to the present. They ended the show by inviting people to come up and join the dancers – a nice segue because after the show the stage opened up as a dance floor. It was quite the show, very high energy, and very entertaining. They used a big area including the stage and the floor among the tables. When they were on the stage though it was hard to see because there was a big post in the way. We still had a great time though. I didn’t get to see a musical, but I can go see one in Toronto if I want. This is something I’ve never done before and it was a lot of fun. Plus, between acts Martha and I were able to catch up on a lot of stuff.

The blond girl in the back was the host/singer. She was fabulous! As you can see from the feathered women right in front of me, even some of the patrons got into the spirit of the place.

 By the time we left it was after 11. We got there around 7:45 I think. When we arrived at the tube station we saw a sign for a Jack the Ripper walking tour. We decided we wanted to do that, it was something Martha hadn’t done yet that she was interested in. I though it would be a good idea. More about that in the post on Day 2.
I was pretty tired when we arrived at her flat. I think it’s about a 10-15 min. walk from the closest tube station to her flat. And I walk a lot slower than she does. Before going to sleep I took some time to look through the booklet I picked up at the station in Brussels. When I finally went to bed it was 1am – a.k.a. 2 am – and I was beat.
And so ends the tale of my first foray into the city of London. I didn’t see much because it was dark, but I still had a fun time. I wonder how long I’m going to say ‘pardon’ instead of sorry when I bump into someone? Or how long I’m going to say ‘merci’ instead of thank you? I was doing that so much, it’s ingrained in me now, it’s just my reaction. Even in an English-speaking country I still reacted with French! Not much, but it was still my first reaction.

For the rest of this tiny album click here.


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Tea Time with Mr. Tack

This afternoon/evening Bastien and I had tea.

Of course it was fake tea silly. He’s very nice, always asking if you want more, quite the charming host. He’s also tricky. He kept changing his mind regarding the temperature of said tea. Sometimes it was hot, sometimes it was iced tea. Most of the time when he said it wasn’t hot I would ‘take a sip’ and pretend to burn something. And then he’d say ‘oh, c’est chaud’. It was cute. This actually went on for a while. After each sip, he’d ask if I wanted more. Also, Adeline joined us at one point when Bastien wasn’t looking switched his cup and Greg’s cup…it didn’t take Bastien long to see the difference (all 4 were different colours), he was quite indignant over it.

I’m not sure how this idea started, but I thought of showing him my pictures of my family. So I brought out my picture frame/collage and started telling him the names of my parents and sister. He was actually doing quite well with identifying them in other pictures (there’s one of all of us and one of them separately, each with me). He always remembered they were my parents, but when I called them Mommy/Daddy/Mom/Dad, he said no, because Diego’s parents are Mommy and Daddy. In case you don’t know any kids Diego is the main character in a children’s show that focuses on teaching about animals and secondary language skills…in this case it’s French/English. He said Sue no problem, but Mike was a little harder. After a couple of minutes he started saying that Lisa wasn’t my sister and those weren’t my parents. I knew then it was probably a good idea to put the pictures away. Even so, I was quite impressed. I’m not sure if all 2.5 year olds are that quick, but he did well.

Wow, this is a late post…Up late watching TV. Chuck of course. It’s almost 3:10am over here. I think I’ve mentioned something like this before, but it’s great that I have my time zone set for Ontario still. That gives me 6 extra hours to make sure I get a post in every day. Besides, the day’s not over until you hit the sack right!? Right.


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