Jan 12 2013
1

Royal Windsor Horse Show and Jubilee Pageant

On Friday, we had another Royal event. I really was loving all of this pageantry!!

This time we were heading up to Windsor to attend the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant. It was also at the same time as the Royal Windsor Horse show. So we tied that all together with a visit to Windsor Castle.

We hopped on the bus outside our hotel and got that to Paddington Station. We then got some snacks at Marks and Spencer and Boots and jumped on the train to Windsor.

Waiting for the train –

Paddington Station

Paddington Station

Paddington Station

Paddington Station

Ticket machine photo for Ev –

Paddington Station - Ticket Machines

On the train –

Train to Windsor

We had to change trains at a lovely little station called Slough –

Paddington Station

Slough Station

Arriving in Windsor was fantastic and we did the short walk to the castle. A lot of the castle was cordoned off as the Queen was in residence and then also, because of the pageant that night, the place was a flurry of activity!

Home sweet home –

Windsor

There was not many visitors at all so we had ample opportunity to relax in the grounds. For about half an hour we sat down on some chairs, looking over the gardens, pretty much on our own, eating Salt and Vinegar chips and watching the planes take off from Heathrow. It was peaceful, quiet and beautiful. We were just hanging out in Windsor Castle – how fabulous!

Our pre-packed M&S lunch –

Our Marks and Spencer's Lunch

Our Marks and Spencer's Lunch

Our Marks and Spencer's Lunch

Now let me fill the post with an excess of photos of the castle –

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

After going through the various displays and a spot of shopping in the Windsor souvenir shop we decided to go and discover a bit of the town of Windsor. This was when I discovered Cath Kidson. Think of a more English style of Vera Bradley… then you have the Cath Kidson store. It was gorgeous – with an upstairs/downstairs shopping area and everything in the most gorgeous prints ever. As soon as I saw the Hampton Rose print, I was in love. I got a case for my Metrocard/Dining Room card and work ID and also a new iPhone case.

Screen Shot 2013-01-12 at 8.00.03 PM cath-kidston-hampton-rose-iphone-case1

Pretty hey? I love that store!

We then went and grabbed a cornish pastie and sat in the main street and watched the world go by as we watched some of the performers leave the castle and make their way to the arena for the pageant.

I just had to capture Bill devouring his first cornish pastie. They were REALLY good.

Bill eating a pastie

Windsor - Main Street

Windsor

Windsor

We took all of this activity as a hint that we better make our way over there. It was a good 15 minute walk to the castle where we passed literally hundreds of Land Rovers and ladies in hunter boots. Due to the rain, the area was muddy and it was then we realized that with our pageant ticket, we also got entrance to the Royal Windsor Horse show. It was SO GOOD and very muddy after the rain we experienced the day before.

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Windsor

Royal Windsor Horse Show

Royal Windsor Horse Show

Royal Windsor Horse Show

Royal Windsor Horse Show

Royal Windsor Horse Show

Here I was, wandering around in my RM Williams when, out of nowhere – there was an RM Williams stall! The clothing and field goods were amazing. Bill had been searching for an Akurbra style hat since he first visited Australia. Unfortunately, he could never find any that fit! It was then, while we were browsing a random stall that I suggested Bill try on this ‘Australian bush leather’ hat. IT FIT! Of all places in the world, we found the perfect bush hat… in WINDSOR… and it was a GREAT price. We were high-fiving and cheering! I assume people would have thought we must have been crazy… or upon hearing Bill thought of us as one of ‘those strange American people’!

Here he is modeling his new hat –

Royal Windsor Horse Show

We did some more wandering (and AWESOME people watching) and we finally made our way over to the special marquee where we were to join other guests with our package for some pre-pageant English hospitality. Slight problem, after walking all day (and for the past 2 weeks) my feet were killing me and there were NO chairs. Upon entering the marquee, we also realized, we were one of the youngest people there! We were assigned a stand up bar table and quickly became acquainted with the other guests.

Blurry photo of our marquee –

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Many were charming English royal enthusiasts from all areas of England. One gentleman who I got talking to simply said “Our beautiful Queen gave up any kind of normal life for us and has served us so well – we wanted to come here to say thank you…” Awwwww! They were very excited to meet and chat with the resident New Yorker who was a Monarchist… and Bill was loving the attention!

Bill managed to find me a chair and we settled in for our sample of foods from around the world (we had the Around the World package) and it was lovely! We were all so excited and full of anticipation for the pageant. I found out earlier in the day that for our night, we would have Prince Edward and Sophie as the Royal guests and they were sitting just two bays from our seats! By the way, it was really chilly that night which is why we are all rugged up!

Queens Jubilee Pageant

We got to the stands that was a small outdoor arena and we got talking to some of the people around us. Also, as part of our package we got a lovely plate and book and tote bag – as well as great seats! We were so lucky to experience such a great event – it was really one of those ‘pinch me’ moments!

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Before we knew it, we were all standing for the Royal arrival and to sing God Save the Queen.

We were both a bit excited and this resulted in blurry photos. Here are Edward and Sophie arriving –

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Then, the entertainment started. This was essentially a show of horses to reflect the Queen’s love of equestrian and we took a trip around the world with horse demonstrations from the countries the Queen has visited during her reign. I gave some loud cheers for the Australian performance which focused on the New South Wales police horses, but our favorites were the kossacks. The New Zealander’s did a haka directly to Edward and Sophie and they loved it!

New South Wales police horses –

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Queens Jubilee Pageant

The crowd cheered and there were lots of collective “Ohhhhs” and “Ahhhhs” throughout the night. Each of the performers were absolutely amazing and it must have been such an honor for them to be selected and to be flown to England to perform. Our show was on Friday night and there was also going to be the same performance on Saturday and Sunday – with the Sunday show being in front of Her Majesty herself.

It ended way too quickly but we were also exhausted and now, had to get the train back to London. Everyone was quiet on the train (exact opposite of the Collingwood crowd after a night match!) and I was pretty much dreaming of my pyjamas. When we got back to the hotel at midnight, I just had to call mum and dad and tell them all about it. We got to enjoy a real slice of England and had a brush with royalty – it was definitely a day and night that we would never forget!

Jan 12 2013
0

A restful day in London

On Thursday in London, we had a bit of a sleep in and a bit more of a ‘vacation’ day. This sleep in was one of the few we managed to get on our ‘holiday’ – oops! We were going over to visit our colleagues at the Cadwalader London office. It was SO great to see the offices and also chat about the differences between working in London and New York.

Here is the exterior of Liverpool St Station – it was a very busy area –

Exterior - Liverpool St Station

Our London office has fantastic views –

Cadwalader Offices

Cadwalader Offices

View from the Library –

Cadwalader Offices

Cadwalader Offices

After our lunch, we then went and did a great load of shopping at Marks & Spencer Food Store where we stocked up on chocolates and ‘English stuff’ to bring home for everyone.

Ewwww –

Marks & Spencers Chips

OH YES YES YES – NOTHING BETTER THAN CHICKEN CHIPPIES!!

Marks & Spencers Chips

Then, we headed over to Westminster Cathedral to take refuge from the rain (we got experience lots of rain while we were in London!) and do some sightseeing. It offered the peace that we were yearning for as well after a busy time.

After this, we headed back to the hotel for a breather. I wanted to do some more shopping on Oxford Street and Bill wanted to see The Avengers. Now – funny story time. Bill booked his tickets for the 5pm session earlier on his phone and it was 3.50pm when he looked at his confirmation. He actually booked the 4pm session. EEEEK! So trying to get his wallet, watch and everything together, he bolted out of the hotel to the cinema and made it JUST in time. When he went to use his ticket they realized… not only had he booked for 4pm session he had booked it for the FOLLOWING week. OH DEAR! It was a BIG ordeal for them to swap his tickets around. But he STILL made it to the film – one that he had been so excited about seeing for the past 12 months.

Park Lane

My shopping trip was not without drama either. As I was having a horrific experience in the change rooms at Marks and Spencer. The air conditioning was not working and it was SO hot it was unbearable. I gave up and went and waited outside the cinema for Bill and we ended up strolling back to the hotel for an early night as we had a HUGE Friday planned.

Here is something interesting to share on our quiet day. On Park Lane near our hotel there is the Animals In War Memorial. It really is beautiful.

Animals In War Monument

Animals In War Memorial

Animals In War Memorial

Jan 11 2013
1

We saw the Queen and stepped back in time

We had grand plans for our first full day in London. Checking out the markets and lots of shopping.

This was all thrown to the wind when I checked Twitter and found out that the Queen would be opening Parliament that day and there would be a full procession down the Mall to Westminster. I was literally jumping out of my skin. I saying over and over to Bill – “WE ARE GOING… WE WILL SEE HER… OH MY GOSH!”

We got up early and had our first breakfast upstairs in the executive lounge. Wow – it was amazing. I took full advantage of the chance to have real English breakfast sausages and eggs and awesome porridge. The best part of this was filling up on breakfast meant that we were never hungry at lunchtime.

We quickly made our way down the street to the Mall and the flurry of activity. We were in a great position just past the Queen Victoria Memorial. So we stood there and waited patiently, then the procession started.

Everyone waiting along the Mall –

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Oh look – it is a brunette Polly from The Bill

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Here we go…!

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Playing God Save The Queen –

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

I cannot describe the surge of adrenaline that you feel when you are viewing something so amazing. I am getting goosebumps just typing it now. The marching bands, the pomp and ceremony – it is amazing. Especially when you realize you are seeing something that has happened for so many years.

I kept craning my neck thinking “Is it her? Is it her?” It was then that we saw a carriage turning the corner.. I was SO excited yet it was then we realized, it was her crown. Yes, in it’s own carriage.

Then, we saw her. Sitting in the carriage, waving to the crowd and it all happened so fast. In all my time living in Australia, I had never seen her and I had never seen her while I lived in London either. Yet, here we were – seeing Queen Elizabeth in her Jubilee year. It was exhilarating.

Here she is!!!!

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Before we knew it the procession was over and the crowd were dispersing. I was still looking at Bill saying “Ohmigosh we saw the Queen!” and he was just as excited. Then we heard a HUGE bang. I jumped back and screamed – then we realized. In Green Park they were firing cannons. A full 41 gun salute. They were amazing historical canons on little carts and in the fog that was surrounding the park, it was like we had been transported back in time. There were cannons firing and not many people paying attention so it almost felt like it was just us and the military. It was awesome and then seeing them wheel the canons back to the assembly area – truly a moment where we forgot that we were in 2012. It was THAT good.

41 Gun Royal Salute in Green Park

41 Gun Royal Salute in Green Park

Here is a Bobby ushering us away –

41 Gun Royal Salute in Green Park

41 Gun Royal Salute in Green Park

So here is a video where you can see the Queen going past, where you can experience the full calvary and then also the cannons firing in Green Park. It is long but worth it, especially for the horses!

After standing for so long, it was time for some adventures so I decided to take Bill back to the first neighbourhood that I lived in London – Holloway! We boarded the tube and everything fell into place. The announcements, the station map. My heart was bursting – it was wonderful to be back as I had basically avoided London for 13 years. Getting off the train at Holloway Road it was almost like I was living outside my body. I could picture my 21 year old self walking these steps, so far removed from all I knew in Australia but now, I was walking the same route as a New Yorker, a nearly American and with my wonderful husband. WHAT???!!! It was a crazy experience and when we got outside the station, everything seemed smaller than I remembered. Busy roads in London are nothing compared to what I see in New York, yet for a 21 year old from Melbourne, I remember just being mesmerized at all the people, the traffic and the transport. It is amazing how things change. I looked over my shoulder and saw the ticket window. It was where I got my London Underground ID photopass and bought my first monthly train pass. There were bits of my own memories scattered all over this town and it was weird to be reliving them again.

After trying to jog my memory, I found the old place where Fiona and I first lived. This is a story in itself. I remembered our horror the first time Fiona (who I took this London adventure with) and I saw it. Two young girls from Melbourne, arriving off a long haul flight, now standing on the other side of the world. We had to meet the owner at a laundry nearby, then they would take us to our new London home. I was sitting in the back tray of the ute/pick up truck of the owner as it sped through the streets. (How am I even here to recount this story??!) Remember people, this was organized in 1999. The internet wasn’t the bevy of information and photos that it was now. We found someone offering this place and were able to ensure we had accommodation when we stepped off the plane so we took it. I remember dropping our bags and then Fiona and I found a phone, rang our parents and cried down the phone that we wanted to come home. Mum suggested we go and get breakfast, that we were tired and everything would be better tomorrow. Of course, she was right but I still don’t know how we did it!

How our place looked from afar –

Holloway

Our flat was the one on the ground floor on the far right –

Holloway

So this was my little London dream home… before we moved to South Kensington! Looking at this picture reminds me of being excited to pick up the latest issue TNT Magazine from a pub around the corner, racing home from work to watch Blind Date with Cilla Black, discovering Ambrosia Creamed Rice, walking blocks to an internet cafe (that I could only afford to use once or twice a week for an hour) and my first ever Indian restaurant experience.

I wish I could go back and stay in Holloway for just a few weeks to rediscover this little pocket of London. The funny thing is, by the time we were due to move to South Ken, Holloway had actually grown on us and we had got to know the area.

Our tube station –

Holloway

Holloway Road –

Holloway

I remember getting dinner from this Chinese restaurant on the corner –

Holloway

Down our street –

Holloway

On the other corner of our street –

Holloway

So after that little tour, Bill and I jumped on a bus just to see where we would end up. Up on the top deck, right at the front, London zipped past us. It was relaxing and a great way to see the city.

Harrods

We then ended up in Harrods. It was different to how I remembered it and now, apart from the Food Hall, it pretty much just plain ol’ tacky. While we wandered around, we both had the same reaction of “We are not buying anything in here..” and we were both happy with that decision. If you want to experience the best of London shopping, Harrods is not it and it is just a shame that so many people think that that epitomizes London. Ugh. Harvey Nicks or Selfridges please.

By this time, it was pouring with rain and we made it back to the hotel for a room service dinner and a lazy night in… Jason Donovan was on TV so that just about sealed the deal. It was such a great day – I finally saw the Queen and I still couldn’t believe it!

Jan 11 2013
1

Best Commute Ever! #happy365

Via Flickr:
Normally, by the time my morning bus gets to my stop there are literally people hanging out the doors. Frequently, they come in packs of three and sometimes I have to wait for two or three to go past until I can hop on board.

This morning something very strange happened and all ten of us at the bus stop were all looking at each other as if to say "Is this a joke?"

A Limited bus appeared out of nowhere. It pulled up at the stop and it was empty. We were so excited when we piled on that I even thanked the driver for our late Christmas present from the MTA. At the next stop, everyone alighted except me. For the next five minutes it was just me and the driver on this huge NYC bus. The most peaceful, comfortable and stress free commute I’ve ever had.

Jan 09 2013
1

Au Revoir France and ‘Allo England… and the Tower of London!

Eurostar - Paris to London

Eurostar - Paris to London

Eurostar - Paris to London

Leaving Paris was a blast as we took the Eurostar. I thought the train from Rome to Venice was fast but this was just off the charts. My ears popped and the way the train swayed when we went around any kind of bend was actually kind of worrying. To travel at those kinds of speeds was an amazing experience but I cannot say I was all that relaxed!

Arriving at Kings Cross-St Pancras was glorious. We were so excited as is evident by this iPhone picture!

Eurostar - Paris to London

We had a wonderful cab driver who dropped us straight on Park Lane with some nice shortcuts through Mayfair.

London Cab

Driving though the streets of London at that time was quite emotional for me. I had not been back to London in so long and all the memories came flooding back. I was so fortunate to be able to live and work there and all of a sudden I was overcome with regret for not staying longer and not enjoying my time there as much. Saying that, it was in 1999 – the world was different and I was much younger!

Now here was the fun part. Our loyalty to Marriott hotels has paid off as we were able to stay in the Marriott Grosvenor Square for ZILCH. Yup – our whole 5 nights in London was free. I can wholeheartedly say that one of the best choices I made when I moved to America and was decided what brands I would be loyal to, the Marriott Rewards program has to be one of the best out there. We love it!

Check out our room –

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

Our view –

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

The hotel was gorgeous and the staff were lovely and bonus – we were able to check in early! Also, because of our Gold status, we had access to the executive lounge which meant a gorgeous selection of hot and cold foods for breakfast and drinks and snack through the day. We were starving when we got there so we ordered room service for lunch to see what it was like. Oh my gosh –

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

We got unpacked, relaxed and decided to head out onto Oxford St (a short walk from the hotel) to get our bearings and to start our sightseeing. Right around the corner was the US Consulate. In their garden is a gorgeous statue of Ronald Reagan –

JFK Memorial - US Consulate, London

I also couldn’t believe how much the Consulate looks like the Department of Premier & Cabinet Building in Melbourne!

Here is Oxford St –

Oxford Street

We then headed straight for the Tower of London. We wanted to spend our time visiting there there so that we could go and grab some dinner before heading back there again later at night to see the Ceremony of the Keys. As we are members of Historic Royal Palaces we didn’t have to line up and could come and go as we pleased. This is how the Tower looks as you exit the Underground –

Tower of London - Tube Station

Tower of London

The crowds weren’t bad at all although and the Crown Jewels display was empty because of the opening of Parliament the following day. We relaxed in the gardens of the Tower and then admired Tower Bridge for a little while… ahhh I love holidays!

Tower Bridge

We love being TOURISTS!

Rule Britannia!

We then jumped back on the bus to head back to Piccadilly Circus for some late afternoon shopping and some dinner. Does this feel like the longest day ever or what?!

From the top deck –

View from the top deck

London Bus

Of course, the first place I went was Boots.

Boots!

I felt like I’d jumped from the land of Duane Reade straight into the land of Boots and I did a stock up of my favourite ‘skin fix it’ product – Witch Doctor Gel! I cannot be without it and it is been this way since I lived in London. Since they stopped selling it in Australia in 2007, it is now only sold in the UK. So for years now I’ve resorted to buying it from eBay in bulk for not only me, but mum and dad too. We then had a look through some of the touristy shops and went off to find some dinner.

Then, down a little street, we found Wagamama. We didn’t want anything huge for dinner so this was perfect. I remember first going to Wagamama when they opened in Melbourne and was so excited about it! After all of our Italian and French food, sitting down to a huge Asian soup was awesome. It was just what we needed!

Wagamama

Wagamama

By the time we finished at Wagamama it was time to head back to the Tower of London for the Ceremony of the Keys. It was VERY eerie at night –

Tower of London

The ceremony that we got to experience was AWESOME. We couldn’t take photos or film it, but this ceremony of locking the Tower has gone on every night for 700 years. It was dark and spooky as we heard the Beefeaters walk and lock each gate, their keys rattling loudly and then, their march up through the tower grounds. We got to follow them while they did it and there was absolute silence. The air was cool and it was so eerie – it was a really good experience and after about half an hour it was all over and we were escorted out of the tower. We both really enjoyed it and I am glad I organized it, even though it involved mailing international reply coupons and too many fingers crossed that there would be a spot for us!

We capped off the night by hanging out at Westminster way past our bedtime just admiring Big Ben and thinking “We REALLY are here!”

Big Ben

Big Ben

Jan 08 2013
1

Aunty Mary Cups #happy365

Via Flickr:
Remember these? I was so excited when my anodized aluminum arrived in the mail today! I have wanted them for years and when I saw them on Amazon last week, I pounced!

I will always think of these as ‘Aunty Mary Cups’ even though we always had them at home too. When we would go up to the north coast of New South Wales for holidays we would stay with Aunty Mary and Uncle Bruce. She had these cups and our drinks would stay cold forever and I loved the vivid colors! I can look at these and be automatically transplanted to South West Rocks. They make me so happy!

Jan 06 2013
1

Recently read… and future plans!

In 2013 I really want to try and make the effort to read more. Finding the time to read is made somewhat difficult by my commute. 10 minutes is spent standing on a bus, 5 minutes is spent standing on the train and 10 minutes is spent walking. No book time at all! Over the past few months, I have read the following and since a lot of people have been posting 2013 book lists, I now have a queue of books I am waiting to read.

My most recently read list-

Monkey Grip – Helen Garner
I had been meaning to read Monkey Grip for ages. I enjoyed it because I love the 70s and I love Melbourne, but at the same time, I feel like it has dated and I found the book frustrating to read. I am now trying to source a copy of the movie.

One Way or Another – Nikki McWatter
If you love Australian Crawl, INXS, the 80s and to know what goes on behind the scenes, this book by rock star groupie, Nikki McWatter is one you should read. I was really surprised but how good it was in the end – some parts were a bit repetitive but all in all, a good weekend read!

How It Feels – Brendan Cowell
If you grew up in Sydney, I think this book would be a must read. I still really enjoyed it. Brendan writes really well – I tend to gravitate towards female writers so it was interesting reading a book set in the time I grew up written from a male point of view.

Little Girl Blue – The Life of Karen Carpenter – Randy Schmidt
This was heartbreaking. It was so well written and not at all sensationalized. If you like the Carpenters, you have to read this. It is a view of stardom and ultimate success but also, of real heartbreak and the pressure for perfection. It was incredibly frustrating to read about all the attempts to save Karen and ultimately, save her from herself.

Patchwork Mysteries series
I LOVE this series of books and I am up to my third one. They are available through Guideposts and are set in Maple Hill, a fictional town in the Berkshires. The main character is a quilt restorer who solves local mysteries. All of the characters are lovable and even better, the first book in the series was a mystery that also had genealogy research in it. Could it be any more suited to me?

Currently ready –

Chasing the Dragon – the Life and Times of Marc Hunter. I am LOVING it!