VTT Postcard - Day 3 - Still In The UK

Monday, January 31, 2011
My cousin and I did not have any plans for this day as I had pre-arranged a trip to Stonehenge, Bath and Salisbury. I left early that day and navigated the Underground system on my own to land up at the Golden Tour offices. Imagine my dismay when I was told the trip had been cancelled due to the weather. They offered me another tour though, one that would take me to Windsor and Bath. Afraid I’d end up not seeing much of London, I took the offered tour.

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle was a surprise. It’s a pity that no photography was allowed inside. The group saw some pictures of Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret in their younger years. Followed by what seemed to be endless displays of tableware used in the castle. We visited the State Apartments. The architecture and design of each room were stunning. The Christmas dining table was set as if the Royal Family was coming out any minute.

I was most impressed with the paintings in each room. I used to see them in pictures and never really cared much for them. But when I was in the presence of real paintings, I understood how talented the painters really were. With whatever was available to them at the time, how did they make the canvas come to life?

We arrived around 2pm in Bath and proceeded to The Roman Baths. Also a nice tour although I felt a bit like part of an unfinished excavation. It seems they were still discovering some parts of the site. The main bath looked like a big shallow swimming pool with hot springs underneath because of all the smoke. It was not really tempting to touch the water as it looked dirty.

Inside The Roman Baths
After the tour of The Roman Baths, I went into town. Thought I would look around some more. By this time I was starting to worry about my camera battery. I packed the charger in the luggage and there were still no word as to getting the luggage back. At the rate I’m going, my battery would run flat and I would not have any photos for the rest of my trip. This made me sad.

I found a luggage store first and decided to buy a hand luggage instead to keep all my “new” stuff together. Further walking revealed a camera shop and I decided to try my luck. The guy at the shop was so helpful and sold me a charger…which actually worked with my battery! I was so relieved.

Around 4pm, we left Bath and I was left feeling quite good about the whole thing. For me, the trip had started to go well indeed.

That night, I got back at the hotel at around 7pm. Just missed the cut-off for the Contiki Basement and so was not able to meet my group beforehand. It was still early so I thought I’d have dinner. I was kinda missing Nando’s so I made my way to Soho, London’s Chinatown. The meal was every bit as good as back home. Or maybe I was just hungry.

I got back to the hotel at 9pm and thought I’d have an early night since tomorrow would be the day the real tour started. This was one of the earliest nights I turned in whilst in Europe.

A Flame-Grilled Poem

Thursday, January 27, 2011
Today at lunch time, you and I met again,
I called for you and I am really glad that you came,
You're brought in and instantly you demand my attention,
I truly simply can't describe this most fatal attraction!

"Money please," I am told, and I become fully aware
That our feelings were never mutual but I don't really care.
The excitement and anticipation just builds up inside
And I succumb to the hunger that I can no longer fight.

I lay you out in your yellow coat and this just drives me mad.
For me, you will always be the best I've ever had.
The pieces that you show make me want for more.
I really must confess that you rock me to the core!

You give me all these choices of how I want you to be,
I want you mild, as always....today, no hot charms for me.
I really wish you and I could always be together
But I know that this moment can never last forever.

We are finally done and I await our next meet
And hope that such gathering will be ever as sweet.
So you see, Mr Nando's, you are my only vice...
I am especially keen on your strips and spicy rice!

P.S. Nando's is a South African fast food franchise, supposedly of Portuguese/Mozambican descent. They specialise in chicken dishes with lemon and herb, mild (medium), hot and extra hot peri-peri marinades. If you happen to know what Nando's is, kudus to you! You are living in one of the luckiest 30 countries over 5 continents in the world. (This according to Wikipedia.)

Disclaimer: Nando's did not pay me to play poet to their strips and spicy rice. In fact, all I had from Nando's was what I had for lunch. And I paid R35.95 (roughly $5-6) for it. But it doesn't mean I'm not gonna let them know about it. I wanna be MADE! LOL! As the chick who has flame-grilled chickens on her mind.

Today I am a poet for Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop prompt #2: Write a love poem to a favourite food.

Happy eating!

Novice Blogging - Note #16 (Extreme Makeover: Blog Edition)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I have yet to celebrate my first year but I am already contemplating a blog template overhaul. Boring, boring, boring is what my template screams at the moment.

Since my return from my trip, I have been procrastinating from blogging. I have no idea why because I've accumulated all these information and photos from my trip for my blog....only to find that "driving force" and "inspiration" have left me all by myself. Aaargh!

Anyway, I'm thinking that the root of my motivational problem is that I am liking my blog design less and less. Each time I go in, zap! All the creativity just goes away. Not to mention that I've visited several other blogs (that I used to visit) and they've had major revamps.

So what better time to make renovations than now - at the start of the year?

This is Extreme Makeover: Blog Edition. I'll have a brand new blog (template) in 7 days time!

Nearly Sixteen...But Not Just Yet

Tuesday, January 25, 2011
“Oh….her eyes, her eyes make the stars look like they’re not shining,
Her hair, her hair falls perfectly without her trying.
She’s so beautiful and I tell her every day.”
                                        – Bruno Mars, Just The Way You Are

Today she celebrates being fifteen.

Fifteen. Past the awkward thirteen and just short of the dreaded sixteen. Dreaded because just like a scene from The Sound of Music, I can hear the hills singing faintly about being “sixteen going on seventeen”.

Not so long now. That boy singing about “seventeen going on eighteen” better not show up at my house yet!

Because for now, we are celebrating her fifteen-ness.

She, who when asked to do something, will in turn delegate to her much younger sister.

She, who doesn't mind being a bad girl in the making.

She, who will offer her domestic services, for a set of bikini.

She, who will have to be asked thrice, to clean her room…and still forget to do it.

She, the coffee master, who makes coffee with more sugar than coffee in it.

She, who is born bright, but lazy as hell, to study. (Now does this not remind me of me?)

She, who gives me instructions on how to be cool, even when I insist on being un-cool by rolling on the bed with laughter.

She, who makes her cellular phone a part of her anatomy.

She, who calls me un-funny, but laughs at my jokes anyway.

She, who brags about her mom, and tells her friends that I am the Queen of England. (Call me Elizabeth then.)

She, who will talk to me about a boy and other boys, even though she knows that the subject is a no-further-talk-zone.

Hmmm….with this list, you think maybe I should call that boy to come earlier?

Happy birthday to my gal!

MZ with her cardboard pirate, which makes mommy happy :-)

VTT Postcard - Day 2 - London

Monday, January 24, 2011
My cousin and I decided to start early and trek to Portobello Road, Notting Hill that morning.

First up were new shoes and some tops. As I’ve arrived with no luggage, my feet were starting to kill me with my killer boots. Saw a shop that had a sale and bought myself some nice and flat takkies (rubber shoes). I’m talking real serious walking shoes here :-) Walking along I found another sale. 3 shirts for 10 pounds. Well, “I love London” and “I love Notting Hill” shirts are as good as any.

We had some photo opportunity with the bookshop that was made popular by the movie, Notting Hill, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. I was half expecting Mr Grant to come up to tell me everything felt surreal :-)

Further down the road, we got some Belgian waffles for breakfast. Right about now it started snowing. This was the first time I came face to face with “adverse weather”. Of course, since we don’t get snow much in South Africa, I simply loved this!

My cousin and I made our way back. Buckingham Palace to be exact. Got to Buckingham Palace and saw that the tourists were there in full force. There were no Changing of the Guards that day as they already had one the previous day (They change guards on alternate days during winter).

We played around in the park next to Buckingham and it started snowing pretty hard but only for a short while. The snow on the ground thickened. But what glorious sight it was!

At lunch, we took the tube to go to the Tower of London. We had some lunch….real original English fish and chips. After which we went to Tower of London and was told that they had closed for the day because of the snow. I was slightly disappointed that I did not get to see the Crown Jewels. One of the beefeaters came out and I asked to take a photo with him. I had that at least.

We took the tube again and landed up at the British Museum. Surprise, surprise. The museum was closing because of the snow. I felt this kinda weird since the museum was an indoor attraction and technically, should not be affected by snow. But anyways, what do I know of British thinking? We managed to sneak into the Greek collections and had some photo opportunities with the statues.

After which, my cousin took me to Leicester Square and Oxford Street for a major, major shopping spree. Whee! I didn’t know how much I needed it until I remembered that I still had not heard anything about my luggage. I picked up a jacket, a pair of jeans and some undies on sale at Gap. While we were walking through the streets, I was very surprised to find a Nando’s in London. How very South African, I thought.

We settled to eat at a burger place. And when we finished, we went on to the London Bridge (click, click here) and also caught the view of the Tower Bridge (another click, click here) from there. We explored a bit and stumbled upon The Monument.

Again, we ended the day just before midnight.

Old Topic Reposted: A Social Network Butterfly

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Originally published just last month, I can’t believe I’m re-posting this hot-off-the-press blog entry, which probably went unread anyway, haha. But with today’s Writer’s Workshop, I just couldn't resist, the entry seemed apt. (That or I'm just drumming up readership here.)

Okay, so I am not quite there yet but I feel that ever since I’ve gotten my new “always connected” HTC phone and reviving my blog….I have crossed over that line between just semi-crazed about the social networks (Facebook specifically) to full-blown internet vixen.

I have always been easily influenced by social networks, joining Friendster in 2003 and Facebook, probably around 2004. I just love that whole idea of connecting with people, especially those I’ve lost contact with over the years. And believe me, being an expat, I’ve lost a lot….but social networking has remedied that situation a bit.

I have recently joined the bandwagon of twitter-ers (Yo! Did I just invent a new word?). Much like I hated Facebook in the early years I’ve had the Twitter account but never used it because I didn’t like the way it worked. But since my HTC supports these two networks, I have started tweeting more and more. Plus, my tweets also update my Facebook, showing up as statuses….so you can be sure I will definitely check out how it all gels together.

It’s a toss-up between the computer and the cellphone but I am not shy to admit that I cannot live without my internet connection on both these items.

And why should I be ashamed when the connection has brought me that sense of being part of a revolutionary movement?

Friend me.

Follow me.

Tweet me.

I’ll be waiting.

This post was re-published to coincide with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop topic: How has social media changed you?

A Gift Fit For Young Accountants....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011
While recently visiting a homeware store, we found a gift idea that would have been truly ideal for me, as a very dull accountant, to have given my children:

Calculators stolen from Gigantor
Solar and battery-powered and comes in mega-sizes!

Just think...we'll never be lost for numbers again!

VTT Postcard - Day (Or Night) 1 - London

Monday, January 17, 2011
So my first day in London didn’t quite pan out because of adverse weather and a cancelled flight, but I got to London anyway. I just basically lost a whole morning and afternoon but I was okay. The night was young, my cousin said, there still a lot to see.

My cousin and I decided to meet up at the Russell Square tube station before setting off that night. The tube station was quite near the hotel I was staying at – The Royal National Hotel.

The hotel was nothing spectacular but was adequate and served the purpose. It is the 3-star hotel with the usual amenities. This was the meeting place in London for Contiki as the Contiki Basement was located closeby (right next door).

My cousin took me sightseeing by night. In South Africa, one does not dare walk around the streets at night, so this night touring was very foreign to me. I will find out later in the tour that most time I will be touring countries by night. I must say though, that most attractions are prettier at night because of the lighting effects on them.

We got out of the tube station and I was greeted by the Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. I still can’t get over that there were a couple of tourists taking pictures. Around the streets. At night.

Walked a bit and the London Eye came to view. Another picture taking moment.

My cousin and I walked around the London Eye area. Settled on an Asian restaurant for dinner and caught up a bit. Can't remember the name of the restaurant now because was a bit overwhelmed being in a new city.

After dinner, we walked around again and landed up at the Westminster Abbey. Click, click.Found our way to Downing Street but was heavily guarded. Guess the Prime Minister did not know I was coming :-)

Made our way back to the tube station and found a red telephone booth for more picture taking opportunities.

We called it a night just before midnight.

All the most valued sightseeing…..and all for free.

First Day Of The First-Grader

Friday, January 14, 2011

A first of something in a kid's life is always a sign of growing up....

Last Wednesday we celebrated another first for my youngest. On this day, my youngest attended her first day at school as a first-grader.

To me, this marks a piece of her independence.

To her, oh well, it's just another school day.

Novice Blogging - Note #15 (Yet Another New Page)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
A few months ago, I was doing a Writer’s Workshop about my ABOUT page and one of the suggestions that was given me was to add another page about the topic of my blog, more specifically about my family (since I am more of a humorous mommyblogger).

And so after working at it for a few weeks, I’ve decided to unveil the page today.

I have entitled the page BLOG CELEBRITIES because they are indeed the celebrities.....of this blog anyway. Yes, yes, not much thinking there, I admit. Couldn’t come up with a name more creative than that at the moment.

Click here to check it out!

VTT Postcard - Flying To And Arriving At Destination

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Location: back in Johannesburg, South Africa

So just to recap and ensure we are all on the same page :-)

I left for my trip on Thursday, 16 December 2010 at around 8pm and reached Frankfurt, Germany for my connecting flight at about 5am the next day. My connecting flight was due to depart at around 8am in the morning but was cancelled because of adverse weather in London.

And from there on, it just became a very long day for me.

I queued for at least 2 hours trying to get the next plane into London. I must say that my travel agent and my husband reacted very well to my frantic smses of cancelled flights. Frankfurt airport was in chaos and everybody was trying to get onto a plane just to get out. Some passengers were even there for 2 days already. My agent managed to book me on a 3:45pm flight out of Frankfurt to London on the same day.

Don't know if the crew and the passengers were just out of their minds, but we were crazy enough to leave Frankfurt to arrive in London at 4:40pm (London time). London Heathrow airport was definitely not expecting us as the airport took at least 15 minutes to get an unloading ladder onto the plane to get the passengers off.

And then I went through passport control and thought, "Okay, this should be fine from here on out".

But nooooo. I had to even think that. And as soon as I got to baggage claim, I had the sinking feeling that my baggage did not take the same flight with me. My baggage was probably saying, "I don't want to go to winter weather. Let me travel somewhere warmer!" And so it did. Or well, I really don't have any idea where it went.

So, there I was, along with the rest of the passengers, standing in another queue to report missing baggage. All I had was my handbag and the clothes on my back. I kindly pointed out to the baggage handler that I am in London for the next 3 days and then I'm off to my tour. Please deliver the baggage at the hotel if it arrives. But after December 20, send it back to South Africa. By this time, I had the feeling that nothing will go my way or as planned.

I got out of the airport terminal at around 6:30pm and another surprise lay ahead of me, because it took me so long to get my missing baggage reported, my airport transfer to the hotel left me. Phoned the service provider but was informed that no driver was available to get me to the hotel anymore.

I suddenly felt renewed faith. What the heck was the problem? London was English and everything was in English so I should not be scared. I know where I need to go and best of all, I had a London map. Followed all the signs leading to the Underground and I took the tube to get me there. The people at the station were so helpful informing how everything worked.

I got to the hotel at just before 8pm. Got all the stuff (what little I had) into my room and just lied on the bed a bit, thinking "I am so lucky to be here."

I stood up and went out of the hotel across the street to the telephone booth. I phoned my cousin so we could meet up.

Yep, I was lucky to be in London.

Welcome 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011
My first post for 2011. Live posting anyway.

I have had some pre-posts last week and thought that I would have the energy and strength to jump right back into the thick of things when I got back from my overseas trip but alas, I was wrong.

Didn't really count on having my tour in the worst winter that Europe has ever encountered. Then when I got back, it was sunny and rainy all at the same time here in South Africa. Spent my New Year aboard the aircraft, watching "Eat, Pray, Love".....

This is not all blogged in a complaining tone. Far from it actually. I had a blast!

Worst winter...bah! It was a winter wonderland for me. Plus, there was no better way to start the year off than with a soul-searching movie with Julia Roberts in the frontline, hahaha.....

Okay, so I have not been feeling the best, what with the cold and flu I got because of the change in weather. This was also the reason I have not started live posting from last week. But with the trip I had, nothing can bring me down. And before you know it, I'll be blogging full steam again.

Welcome 2011.

My Little Clever Cow

Tuesday, January 4, 2011
No, I'm not talking about a brand of chocolate nor cheese.

You may have recently been surprised when on my youngest's birthday, I referred to her as my little clever cow.

This is why:

On the new year she will be morphing into either a tweety bird, a pooh, a butterfly or a lady bug as she enters the world of a first grader. I'll let you know when I find out!

VTT Postcard - Locations, Locations

Monday, January 3, 2011

Before I set out on my trip, I had a vague idea of where I wanted to go. And of course, I was all too aware that I had a limited time to visit them. And so, without further ado, herewith my list of must-see places:

United Kingdom - Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey

Italy - Vatican Museum, St Peter’s Basilica, Roman Forum, Colloseum

France - Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe

If I am lucky if I get to visit all of them. Watch this space for photos!!! Live posting from next week on!!!

Welcome me home....