Friday, February 29, 2008

UK: Cardiff, Belfast

From London we have been lucky enough to go on some sneaky weekend jaunts around the UK and continental Europe. The first two of which were to Cardiff and Belfast. We went to Cardiff perhaps sometime in November last year... and Belfast in December... I think. I am well behind. But here are my thoughts on both. I'll quickly sneak in a photo of the White Cliffs of Dover, my first impression of all that is English.

First escape was to Cardiff, the capital of all that is Welsh. It was a town.. quite nice and windy around the harbour. The highlight (aside from a little shape cutting and a candle that changed colours while it burned.. pretty amazing really) was heading out to the country for a sunday roast with a friend of mine. The countryside was, for lack of a better word, quintessential. It was so... Wales. And aside from the abundance of wild life we don't have at home (I love squirrels) it was also very familiar looking.

The most defining moment for me though was when my mum for the day bought out lunch... it was such a fantastic lunch. Roast Lamb, vegetables, and dessert! .. so good. But the scary part was that it was virtually identical to a roast mum would make for me 20,ooo in White Rock (obviously you can't compare anything to your own mums cooking, my mums is the best in the world by far). If I think about it I shouldn't be surprised, we are after all part of the same empire, but I was a little surprised. Anyway, here's the evidence:


Second jaunt: Belfast. With a sneaky, wicked cheap flight from RyanAir we made one giant carbon footprint and flew over there. Its a cool little town and the most Irish I have ever been. We stayed with a super friendly English lass and managed to really explore the whole town. The most remarkable thing for me was the reality that is Northern Ireland. I have a habit of forgetting about things if they are not on the news every days... so I figured everyone in Northern Ireland was happy and the all the trouble had merrily resolved itself... how ignorant I am. Sure its super safe and it is just a normal town, but the history (a very recent history), is still so real. There is a frickin' massive wall separating two parts of the town, I was well surprised.


And there are also very cool murals all over the place, either side of the divide.
But Belfast is a cool town, its not just all walls and murals. There was a cool market going on in town and we met some very cool people and saw some pretty sites.

So we got Wales and Northern Ireland done over two weekends. Next blog post: Dumfries and Canterbury. And tonight Andy, Lucas and I jump on the EUROSTAR(!!!!) and go under the sea to Belgium. I'll post about that in 2009 sometime. High five!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

London

If you thought I was still in Paris, I apologise, that would be completely my fault. I am in actual fact now in London, England. The capital of the world. The most cosmopolitan, busy, eclectic, explorable and generally English speaking city in the world.. and by far NOT the most English. I love it.

St Pauls Cathedral

I arrived here October 21st, one day after the Rugby World Cup final which luckily enough (there is always some silver lining) had England in it. This made hitch hiking from Paris to London a little too easy in that we jumped in the boot of van load of English lads from London who took me one block from where I was staying in Clapham, London (andy had to take a bus.. poor kid).

Our flat. Andy found it.. and we flipped a coin to choose it, the first we saw. I was convinced as soon as we got a scoop of chips from the local.

It took one week to find a flat, two months to find a job and I am still seeking the best kebab in London. I am now well settled in a flat in Leytonstone, East London. Its absolutely fantastic. We have had many many couchsurfers sleep on our couch, on the kitchen floor and in the stairway cupboard. During my two months of unemployment I was essentially managing (read: conversing and partying) with couchsurfers. Averaged about 6 a night.

Our lounge, note the shisha on the right.. our pride and joy. and the largest thing I own (thank you Fi).

I have now got a sweet job at a company similar to my one one back home, aside from this one is 20 times bigger. WDA is in full swing with a regular crew every week. I have been able to sneak away on a few sneaky little trips, more about that in the next post (yes, I intend to post two or three times in the next few days... it may be possible). Life is pretty darn sweet. Even the English weather has been far better than I anticipated (admittedly I had extremely low expectations).



One high light in London has been having Lauren (my most awesome little sister ever) sneaking over here for Christmas. It was a cool opportunity to explore London together. I didn't realise how much I missed my family until I had Lauren here (which is rather convenient really).

I would like to give you some insight into London, how it works and what I think about it. But I am really not sure where to start. Its massive, that's obvious. Its diverse... which I reckon is the best part. We live in East London, Leytonstone to be precise, and there are more Eastern Europeans, Africans and Middle Easterner people than there are English people. In fact its quite a treat to meet a pom. I love London, you know what i mean?

I thought it best to finish with a small video clip from the banks of the Thames in London just before Christmas. You can see The City in the back ground with the 'gherkin'. I also managed to capture a 'rare' kiwi well out side its natural environment.. cutting some mean shapes. Big ups Lauren!

video