Return journey – Day 1 – London to St John’s

The month in London flew by. At times it didn’t but when we arrived back at Gatwick  Airport after saying goodbye to Fergus’s Mum Alison at Croyden train station it seemed as if it were only yesterday we arrived. I guess any trip home seems short when you have been away so long. 

After the obligatory breakfast of Eggs Benedict at the Wetherspoons and a bit of shopping in the North Terminal we boarded our Westjet flight an hour and a half late.The flight was fine except for a 10 minute bout of what the stewardess described as ‘moderate turbulence’. During this time I was on the verge of tears/heart attack and gripping the seat as if my life depended on it, I even yelped aloud at one point, everyone around me wasn’t bothered in the slightest.  Pussy….

We landed in St John’s just after 1pm, luckily we had no trouble at immigration and got a cab straight to Ben & Philippa’s. A key was left in the letterbox for us but Ockre (their dog) barked and growled every time we tried to openthe door, afraid of getting eaten alive on our very first day back in Canada we dumped our bags at the back door and headed into town for some lunch. Double pussy….Found a street full of bars in town and went to a pub called Green Sleeves, had a couple of pints and a burger each. They were lovely burgers but the bill came to $80! For a pub lunch! We had forgotten how expensive Canada was so were a little shocked, in London you could get the same for £15 in Wetherspoons. 

Wandered down to Eastern Edge Gallery where Philippa is the Director and got a ride home with her. Freshened up and repacked our bags and enjoyed an afternoon beer on their patio.  

Walked up and down the steep roads into town and went to The Gypsy Tea Room and had a bite to eat. Set in a large, open courtyard, this restaurant is just so cute, with its white buildings, trees, outdoor bar and lights I felt like I was back in South Africa enjoying wine in a Franschhoek Winery. Fergus and I shared Chicken Wings and fries and had a glass of Chardonnay. Chatted about Weddings, babies, house prices, life in Canada compared to London, our trip and lots of other stuff. They are such a lovely couple and it was great to spend more time with them. If we  do manage to get PR and stay in Canada I’d love to come and visit again. St John’s is a beautiful place. Went for a drink at The Black Sheep where it was Jazz jam night, saw some really talented musicians, especially Philippa’s friend who played the Banjo and sang. St John’s has a healthy music scene and a lot of people follow local bands which is really great. The music scene is so important in any town and I’ve always been a big supporter of local bands as my father was a misition for over 40 years. Big thanks to Ben and Philippa. Even though they are so far away it’s comforting knowing you have good friends from the UK living in the same country. They have been so good to us and we thoroughly enjoyed our 2 very short trips to St John’s. I hope we can return someday. 

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Food, Food, Food!

One of the great things about London is it’s vast array of cuisine. 

Being one of the most cultured cities in the world, people flock here to live from all corners of the globe.  You name it, it’s here. Traditional British pubs, Authentic Indian Curry houses, Michelin star French restaurants, Firey Mexican fare, Irish boozers, Proper Turkish Kebab shops, Chinatown, Cat cafes, box park grub and hoards of restaurants and bars specialising in something or other. 

Pop Brixton These pop ups are in a few places around the city and are full of ever changing bars, restaurants and shops, check out their blog here!

The Bickley Pub & SteakhouseThe Bickley is a lovely pub set amongst tall trees and shops in a valley in Chistlehurst. It has a huge outside area and kids playground and big dining room. 50% off the whole menu for the month of August too. We had a lovely Steak lunch, see above.

Agra IndianI’m not a huge fan of Spicy food but Agra was fantastic! £10.95 for a 5 course meal is great value and the food was just lovely. 

Senzala Creperie Senzala is a great wee Creperie in the heard of Brixton Village. The starter was so good (The Churrasco) and the crepes were huge!

Miso Noodle BarAnyone that knows me knows I love Asian cuisine and noodles especially! Miso is similar to Wagamumas but there are only 2 restaurants. Yummy!

Wetherspoons PubWetherspoons pubs are all over the UK, they are super cheap and the food is a pretty nice. £3.50 Eggs Benedict? Winning! 

Lorenzo is a family run Italian restaurant that has 3 branches across the city, the one at Crystal Palace is the one we frequent. It’s old style, Italian cooking at its best, pizzas, pastas, meat, Chicken and seafood at great prices. 

 Peggy Porschen CakesThis is a place I found on Instagram. The outside is stunning. There are so many cute cafes around the city. 

Where is your favourite London restaurant and why?

The Dreadnoughts – Chaos, Cider & Pumping tunes!

We only recently discovered this band during our roadtrip around Nova Scotia. I downloaded a random playlist of sea shanties on Spotify and it was filled with a selection of Dreadnoughts tunes. 

I assumed they were Irish and was very surprised that they are in fact from Canada.  

The band formed in 2006 in Vancouver and play fiddle, accordion, mandolin, tin whistle, guitars and drums. The music is powerful, chaotic and ruthless Punk strewn with polkas, gypsy dances and sea shanties. In 2010 they announced an indefinite hiatus but luckily for us they are back and played a gig at the Underworld in London while we were bank. Great timing! I have seen loads of bands at Underworld, Gnarwolves, Argy Bargy, Agnostic Front, Old Firm Casuals, my mates band Lost Gravity and plenty more. The venue isn’t huge but it’s over 2 levels and has 2 bars so on busy nights you don’t have to wait too long to get drinks and you can usually find a place where you can see the band or get in the mosh pit, whatever takes your fancy.The Dreadnoughts put on an amazing performance and probably one of the best I’ve seen at Underworld. The energy was insane, from the very first smash of the drums my feet were invested in a frienzied kind of jig and the whole crowd followed. 

Polka’s Not Dead from the album of the same name started the night off with smash in the face burst of oomp-pa-pa celtic punk and the crowd energetically joined in chanting the chorus and fistpumpimg the air with gusto.My favourite song on the album, Turbo Island, is about the area of Stokes Croft in Bristol where homeless people hang out to drink, funilly enough I actually walked past the area earlier in the week. I wish I had popped in now, if the song is anything to go by, it must be one hell of a party down there!

The pumping track Poutine went off with a bang despite most of the audience probably not knowing what Poutine actually is. As the evening continued on the frenzy of the crowd reflected off the band and they had us singing, chanting, jigging cumulating in everyone dancing in one giant circle pit. There was pushing, there was shoving, drinks were being spilled and the crowd was like a bunch of drunken Irish sailors. 

It was a fantastic night, the sound was great and both the band and crowd feeding off each other was crazy and chaotic. I really hope the new album about to come out is as good as their last offering and they have lots more success. I’m going to keep my eye on these guys. Lucky for us they have a Canadian tour in November so we will be off to Calgary to see them again and I can’t wait. 

Polka, is definately not dead.

Bristol, a short trip to see my oldest English pal.

Megabus is great, it cost me all of £12.50 for a return ticket from London to Bristol, a journey of approximately 2 hours 45 minutes. Pretty good value in my opinion. The coach, which was full due to it being school holidays, followed the Thames down to the luxury riverside flats of Chelsea before heading through Hammersmith and over the flyover to the M4, a motorway I used to regularly travel on when I lived in Newbury, just West of Reading. Once out of London it’s a pretty boring drive. Windsor Castle can be seen from the M4, today there was no flag flying meaning the Queen was not in residence.I have so say, England’s roads, well the M4 at least is so nice and smooth compared to most of the 9000 kilometres we travelled in Canada. The lack of substantial snowfall and extreme weather in England means the  motorways last a lot longer than the poor Canadian motorways that get months and months of snow and ice covering them each year.  This meant it was a very smooth journey and I had plenty of naps.I did however have my trashy magazine for the journey, I used to buy them all the time, who’s wearing what, who had broken up and who has put on weight, who really cares to be honest but there was no wifi so why not? 

It was slow going getting into Bristol, why I chose to arrive in rush hour traffic I don’t know but we were only 10 minutes late and Jasmine was already there to collect me.

Went to her lovely ground floor flat on Ashley Down road and had a tour before walking up to The Wellington on Cheltenham Road for a couple of lager tops (they don’t do these in Canada and I’d forgotten how good they are!) and a catch up. It’s strange, when someone isn’t overly active on Facebook, (unlike me) it can be just like the old days when you meet up with them. You find out how much their lives have changed and vice versa. It was so nice to hear she is happy and has lots going on, it was also lovely to have someone so interested in our Banff life, partly because she hadn’t seen the thousands of photos I’ve posted online. Afterwards we enjoyed a lovely meal of Sausage and Mash prepared by Jasmine’s boyfriend Andy. Had a few beers,  looked though a few of my photos and played with their 2 very cute cats.

The following morning after a lovely breakfast of fried eggs, we said our goodbyes and I headed off for a wander around town. I walked down a very pleasant Cheltenham Road which was filled with quirky shops, bars, galleries and cafes.  It’s nice to see an area of independent shops, minus the odd chain store, thriving. It’s such a lovely area and I could have spent hours there browsing through record stores and charity shops and having coffee and cake at one of the many shabby-sheek cafes.  I headed into the town centre via The Bearpit, an area in the centre of a huge roundabout where there was lots of funky grafitti and pop up cafes to Cabot Circus, for a look around. It’s your typical inner city huge mall so headed for Castle ParkThe park is suituated next to part of the harbour and has the ruins of St Peter’s Church in the centre. The church is surrounded by pretty gardens and a fountain and has views over the harbour and park.I had time for a quick manicure (it’s been so long since I’ve had my nails done so I thought I’d treat myself) before jumping back on the megabus to London.It was really great to see Jasmine. I met her on 24/02/2006, I remember that date as it was when I first moved to England, I met her the night I arrived and despite living in different parts of England and the world at times, we have remained good friends. 

Paying to use the washroom? Err no way!

One of my biggest gripes about London and some other cities in Europe is pay to use washrooms. 

Using these facilities is a human right, we all have to use them every day of our lives so why should we pay for the privledge?

At Victoria Coach station and the mall opposite the public must pay 30p to use the washroom. What a bloody joke! I understand they need to pay an attendant but what I experienced was a dirty toilet, no hot water, broken driers and an attendant that only appeared to be there to make sure people paid. Why pay to go to disgusting washrooms when I could just walk into the nearest 5 star hotel and do my business in luxury for nothing? 

Canada knows how to do toilets, in Banff the public washrooms in town are clean and free. They have solar panels on the roof so are environmentally friendly and also save on electricity. And most, if not all of the tourist stops and rest areas have toilets, they are usually longdrops but I have always found them to be clean and tidy. 

So a warning when in the UK, especially if you are a card user and rarely have cash on you, check to see if the train/bus has washrooms on it before your journey and also go at home before you leave, this means you won’t have to pay at the stations. 

London…it’s good to be back but it’s raised a few questions.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about being back in the city.  I am often asked “how is it being back” but I’m not sure how to answer.  Yes, it’s great to see all our friends and family, sometimes it feels like we saw them only yesterday which is a good thing I think….There have been many changes here, new boyfriends, jobs, houses and babies, lots of babies.  

I’ve realised it’s probably about time we decide what we want out of life after travel. 

  • Do we want a house and mortgage? Do we want to stay in London? 
  • Do we want a child? 
  • Do we want a houseboat? 
  • Do we want to keep travelling? 

Who knows?  What I do know is I’m going to make the most of our last year in Banff just in case this time next year I’m pregnant, living in a tiny rented flat in an area of the city I hate and have no money to even get a coffee with a friend!

Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration but that’s what I’m terrified of, having no freedom and being ‘stuck’. I’ve always valued my freedom. I think Fergus and I are alike in that sense, he is always keen to get out and enjoy life, I think the houseboat idea is a good one as property in London is insanely expensive. Do I want to pay a mortgage on a tiny, dingy flat with no yard or sunlight for the next 60 years? Nope.Having a baby is another expense, how some people manage it I have no idea. Little ones seem like a lot of work but everyone says they are worth it in the end. I don’t doubt that one bit and I don’t want to miss out on all that. 

Lots of people have said they think I’ll be a great Mum, I don’t really see why, I have never changed a nappy and am afraid of holding a baby in case I am thrown up on!It’s so hard being an adult, that’s why I’ve been putting it off so long, it seems a bit stressful to be honest but it’s something we need to think about, we can’t put it off forever.

We have another year of playing backpacker so I plan to cram in as much fun and travel as I can, you only live once and from where I’m sitting, life will probably be a lot different on our return to the UK, wherever we choose to live.

Roll on 40……