Friday, 25 February 2011

Here I Go Again On My Own

 As I write this, Mom and Chris are a few hours in to their long journey home. Wednesday turned out to be a dreary day. We went in to the city to watch the changing of the guards. Then we made our way to Leicester Square to get some cheap theatre tickets to a matinee show of We Will Rock You. It was great!

 We came back to Wimbledon for some dinner at Nandos, yummy!

Thursday the sun was out, which really made us notice all of the flowers coming up. Dare I say Spring is almost here?! Chris wasn`t feeling very good in the morning, but was a trooper because the last thing on Mom`s London To-Do list was the London Eye.  We got our tickets and what a ride! It is a 135m ferris wheel with views of the city from all sides. Although it moves so slowly you can barely tell that you are moving at all, it was a great experience.

We then walked toward Trafalgar Square and on to Picadilly Square, everyone has to at least see it! Then the last thing they really had to see was the Tower of London. So we jumped on the tube and walked across London Bridge, past the Monument and along the Thames to the Tower of London, all in the lovely sunshine!

One last true English pub dinner, then one last English Breakfast, and I escorted them to the airport this morning.

The weather was still holding out this morning so I went for a run (my body is still in shock) and decided to pull a few weeds in our front 'yard' in preparation for the flowers that have already started to come up. I cannot wait for spring and color and sunshine!!!
Now my week break is almost over and detox and exercise are definitely needed.  I have decided to do my best at making March a month of no sugar and no shopping... wish me luck!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Paris, je t'aime

Breaky on the train

Sunday morning we woke up early and made our way to St. Pancras station to catch the train to Paris.  It was great!  We had to check in half an hour before the train left, we ate breaky on the train as we thundered through England, under the English Channel and through France to arrive in Paris in just over 2 hours. Already at the main train station, we jumped on the metro and were at our hostel about 20 minutes later. Yup, you heard right.. hostel! Somehow I convinced ($$) Mom to book the same hostel Jeanine and I stayed in on our trip in October.  It is in a great location, just out of the city in the Montmartre area, and the price was right!! We had a 3 person private room, so it was like a very basic, slightly squishy, cheap hotel.
Near our hostel, Moulin Rouge

We dropped off our bags and set out to hike up Montmartre and check out Sacre Coeur. We walked past the cimitiere de Montmartre, about 55 acres of family crypts and famous graves.  Through the cobble streets, past old windmills, vineyards and cabarets up to Sacre Coeur - the basilica built in memory of the 58 000 dead of the Franco-Prussian War. We each had a delicious ham, cheese and tomato crepe before heading back to the hostel to check in.

On the night river cruise

Once it started to get dark, we made our way toward the city to take a boat ride on the Seine. We boarded right by Pont Neuf and had about an hour ride on the Seine seeing all of the main attractions all lit up.  It was a nice night, chilly but dry.  I would definitely recommend taking the boat trip (it was recommended to me) and I also highly suggest taking it at night, love seeing all of the monuments lit up.

View from the boat

 Monday morning we met for the free walking tour that I had also done in October.  I always check to see if a city offers a free walking tour before going, they are a great way to get a quick history and glimpse of all the main sights. Also a good way to get oriented.
After the walking tour it started to rain. We quickly ran up to l'Arc the Triomphe and over to Notre Dame so that we could see them up close.  Back toward the hostel for some eats while we waited for the sun to go down again. Then we bundled up and headed to the Eiffel Tower! We watched the light show from Trocadero Square then wandered over through the rain to venture up to the top... the very top! Unreal heading up into the sky knowing this monument was built in 1889! Built for the World Fair it was supposed to be dismantled after 20 years, but since the engineer cleverly planted a radio antennae on top and built a radio station below, it got to stay. And for that I am thankful, because it is amazing!
Tuesday we packed up our things then went to see a couple things before heading back to London.  Since the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, we decided to check out the Conciergerie.  This served as a prison and torture chamber for more than five centuries! Many notables were locked up here awaiting trial and execution, including Marie Antoinette.


Bye bye Paris!
After this jolly excursion, we did got some souvenirs before grabbing lunch and getting ready to grab the train back to London. Another lovely trip to Paris. This has probably become one of my favorite cities and I really want to visit in the late spring/summer to really see it in bloom, I can only imagine how beautiful it will be!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Packing my bags.. again

On Friday I set out in the morning knowing that I was not only going to my little oasis of a school, but also that it would be an extra easy day. The last day before term break and teaching 1 hour French lessons! The older kids all had little brochures they were working on and the younger ones were learning colours = 1 hour of colouring! Wonderful day. And to top it off, I had something to look forward to at the end of the day too. After work I met Mom and Chris in town and we went for a little walk, had some dinner, then went to the theatre to see Billy Elliot. This is one of the shows that is always highly reviewed and was at the top of my personal must-see list. Definitely was not disappointed! It was fantastic.
Today the London rain returned. We went in to the city and walked around the British museum for awhile, then braved Oxford Street. Enjoyed a little delivery back home and now we are packing our bags for a couple nights in Paris <3

Special Birthday wishes to a loyal blog follower, Happy Birthday Marge! Can't wait to meet Maggie, Mom and Chris absolutely loved their tour of Parliament.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

TGIF (tomorrow)!!!!

Oh man... today was an adventure in itself!
Start the day heading out to the same school I was at yesterday. Kids are a little unruly, but school is quite nice, though on the other side of town.  I am almost there, but one tube change away and a short walk. EXCEPT the tube is delayed because a train broke down up the line and is going to be 15 minutes. No worries, I know that I can jump on another line and the walk is a little longer but I have plenty of time. I quickly call the agency to let them know and get the new walking directions. Directions are "Stepney Green station: walk up Globe Rd. Left on Portland Rd...." Sounds easy enough. Except I go out of the station and start walking 'up' the road and up and walking still and now am at the next tube station?? I call the agency and they spend a good 10 minutes trying to figure out where I am as I explain to them where I have come from, how far I walked and the crossroads I am standing on. Now time is ticking away, and I am thankful I left early.
They finally figure out where I am and tell me to turn around. Apparently I have gone North when I was supposed to go East. Oh, my bad, I left my compass at home this morning! So they are still telling me go up Globe Rd. I say "Aren't I ON Globe Rd??"  The response, "No you had to turn left on Globe Rd". Now I LOSE IT!! Your directions say go up Globe Rd, they do not say turn out of the station then TURN LEFT on Globe Rd! I finally back track basically all the way to the station I started at, it is now close to 8:30, and they finally get me proper directions so I can get to the school. Now the fun really begins...
I get transfered to someone else at the agency who now begins sternly lecturing me and telling me I better apologize for being late. How the head is calling them asking where I am since I was there the day before why am I late. I need to go in and apologize and I am making the agency look bad by being late.  Ummmmmm SORRY??!!? Do you not think I realize that I am going to be late? I wasn't exactly lounging in my jammies all morning enjoying a nice cappuccino and freshly baked muffin. I was running between tube platforms trying to get there on time, I was working up a sweat walking around the city. YOU are making ME look bad because you are unable to give proper walking directions.
Of course this was all in my head.  What really happened was I started crying and finally shouted into my phone "I REALIZE I SHOULDN'T BE LATE, CAN YOU STOP SCREAMING AT ME" and then I hung up.. But at least they got the point and later on they felt bad and apologized.
Oh, I bet you think that is where my bad day ended. Well, you would be wrong. Kids are haywire.. whatever, nothing new. Until the afternoon, when one kid who was being annoying all day suddenly makes annoying noises and starts flailing slightly. I am about to really lay into him until I realize he is now on the floor having a seizure. Fabulous. I get the rest of the kids out of the class and instruct the TA's to get someone to help ASAP.
I survive the day, only to make a nearly 2 hour journey home due to signal failure delays on the tube... Just peachy.

And the lesson learned in all of this you ask?
ALWAYS check the calendar and book off full moon days! Bahh...

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Outside the Vatican

Valentine's Day <3

We jumped on the metro for the Vatican and met up with a tour guide for our tour of the Vatican. With my flight that evening we wanted to get the most out of this day and a tour is usually the best bet. Our tour guide was Canadian and very good. The Vatican is HUGE! Strange to pass through the metal detectors and security as you actually leave Rome when you enter Vatican City.

Vatican courtyard
We had another gorgeous day. The tour stared in a lovely courtyard, then wound through the Vatican museums which were filled with breathtaking paintings, sculptures and tapestries. One could spend months, even years, soaking in the beauty packed into these museums.  Of course the crowning jewel is the Sistine Chapel with its amazing frescoes.  Again, words and pictures cannot even begin to do justice!
Sistine Chapel
St Peter's Square
After the whirlwind tour we were tired, hungry and running short on time.We made a quick stop to see St Peter's Square before heading back towards the hotel.  I could not believe how big it is. It would certainly be quite the experience to be in that square when it is packed with people to see the Pope. It can hold almost a quarter of a million people!
We stopped at a pizzeria (but of course!) for some lunch, then I packed up my things and headed for the train station.  Made it back to London in time to get organized for work the next day and head to bed.
St Peter's Square

Today was a dreary drizzly day, welcome back to London.. I got called to work at a school tomorrow and Thursday called Bangamandhu.. not even joking. The agency told me to bring my A game, show up early etc.  They said that the school was contemplating not using this agency any more so they had to send in the big guns - apparently that is me? Good to know that they have faith in me, and good to know this is why I am getting lots of work, a little nervous what this school will bring. Got the "it could be tough" warning.  But it will go by quick enough. Mom and Chris arrive in London Thursday night. Friday we go to see Billy Elliot and Sunday we head to Paris for a couple nights. What a life!!

Sunday, 13 February 2011


Gelato on the Spanish Steps
Friday night I left my place just after 10 to go to Gatwick. My flight to Rome left before 7 making check in quite early and difficult to get to on transit, and pricy by taxi!
Found a nice little spot to curl up and got a little sleep. Slept about an hour at a time before getting sore and waking up to roll over and readjust. Just before 5 I decided to check in. Tried to get a little more rest while I waited to go to my gate. Flight went well and before I knew it my 2 hour flight was descending and I was in Roma!!

As soon as I got on the train I was thinking his feels like Mexico or Cuba! The air was warm :) on the train ride to town I even spotted some palm trees and even cactus! Now we're talking.

Higgly with gelato on the steps :)
Managed to get from the train to the hotel, checked in, mapped out what I wanted to see and headed out. Toured around the city and got some great photos. Took a break once I got to the Spanish steps and enjoyed some gelato. I brought a class mascot from my school - Higgly the elephant- since the kids thought it would be cool if he got to go on a trip. So I took Higgly's picture on the steps too! Walked a bit more til my feet started to hate me then went back to the hotel to await the arrival of Mom & Chris.

Trevi Fountain by night
Once they arrived we set out towards Piazza Navona for dinner in a pizzeria. They couldn't believe that after one afternoon I could pretty much find my way around. Guess I'm getting used to exploring on foot!

<3 Rome!

This morning we wanted to do the Ancient City. We jumped on a packed city bus to save some walking. A grubby little lady with her maybe 9 year old daughter and tiny baby got on just after us. Mom makes a comment about the baby as the lady squishes right in between us.

A few minutes later the lady behind me says watch your pockets. I reach for mine and all is good but realize I can't see the lady's hand under her baby blanket and she is pressed against Mom. I grabbed her hand, which was in mom's purse just as she pulls it out. Now I'm reefing on her hand and telling Mom her purse is unzipped. The guy behind me is now yelling and swearing at the gypsy about how she's a disgrace to the country. I tell Mom we're getting off this bus. As we step out she sees her wallet on the floor of the bus. We figure out later that by the time I grabbed the gypsy she already had the wallet and most likely passed it to the daughter who cleaned out the cash then dropped it on the flood of the commotion I was creating.

Welcome to Rome!! We were a little shaken, but nothing we could do..

Enjoyed another day of walking and saw all the big sights of the ancient city. Colosseum, Roman forum, Pantheon.. Amazing!

Colosseum in background and Roman Forum
Now we are tired and relaxing before a day at the Vatican tomorrow.

Colosseum by night with Constantine's arch
Love the Spanish Steps

Big wine, small beer?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Hugs Always Welcome

Slightly crowded in Trafalgar Square
A rather relaxing weekend. Saturday had my hair trimmed and did checked out a nearby shopping centre with Josephine.
Sunday we ventured into the city for the Chinese New Year celebrations. MAYHEM - the only word to describe the masses of people all jammed into Trafalgar Square to see the performances.  We arrived and could not even get into the square.  We finally squeezed our way along the street until we could see one of the big screens and got a peek-a-boo view of the dragon dance. Then while they were preparing for the next performance the crowd shifted somewhat and we made out way down to the lower part of the square by the big fountains. Here we got a partial view - between heads and on our camera screens held above the crowd - of the lion dance. This dance was amazing with two performers in the lion costume, who then climbed on top of a series of poles and jumped and threw each other around while balancing on top of the poles. These guys were crazy! Next came the bowl dancers, who were far back on the stage, so we could mostly only see on the screen.
We eventually grabbed some not so good Chinese food and wandered around the square.  Getting tired of the crowds we headed towards Chinatown. This was a mistake, have not seen crowds like that since the Nottinghill Festival in August, which was frightening to say the least. So we made our way over towards Oxford Circus, which amazingly seemed deserted compared to the crowds we came from! We grabbed a delicious sidewalk waffle and then headed for home tired from all the bustle and bumping into people.

Bobbies in Chinatown

Sunday night I got the sad news that Zack is no longer with us. Wasn't really feeling well in the morning so I took the day off.  Worked the rest of the week. Glad I have been getting lots of work lately. Wednesday I spent the day in a year 1 class where I got lots of little hugs all day long :)


Now I am getting my things organized for the weekend - in ROME!!
My flight leaves very early Saturday morning, so instead of going through the hassle of night buses and trains I am probably going to head to Gatwick tomorrow evening and hope to get some shut eye somewhere in the airport before my flight.
Then Saturday I will explore Rome while I wait for Mom and Chris to arrive! This is going to be a GREAT weekend :)

Friday, 4 February 2011

Swan Song

Another long week, worked every day this week ($$). Good for obvious reasons, not to mention that the other day I booked flights to Amsterdam in April for when cousin Devon comes to visit!! Also, tiring.

Thursday was quite the day. I woke up not as tired as I had expected after a late night at Phantom.  I got ready and waited to be called to work.  About 8:25 I was sitting on my bed reading my book and the agency called to say it was unexpectedly slow and I wouldn't get any work for the day. Oh well, I decided to keep reading for a bit. Called to make a hair appointment but they weren't open yet. About 20 minutes went by and I was just getting up to change into my gym clothes to go for a run and the phone rings. I am told that they have work for me and I need to leave asap. Luckily the school is nearby, one stop on the tube and about a 10 minute bus ride. 

Well after waiting 15 minutes for the bus, I am on my way and get there just after 9:30.  The class is lovely, I can't believe my luck! After playtime they are doing maths and there are a couple stinkers making too much noise, but nothing too out of the ordinary for a supply teacher. Finally I put the name of one boy on the board for messing around. After several warnings I tell him that he will have to stay in when the bell goes (while I try to find out this school's policy for misbehaviour). Well the bell goes and he starts getting belligerent saying he is not going to stay in. He is shouting at me. I send a TA to find a head teacher or someone who knows the school rules... By this time he is now yelling at me to F-off and is kicking over bins, just what I signed up for!

Anyhow, in the end he spent the afternoon with another teacher, I found out he swears at many teachers and that I got off easy with a little F-off, usually female staff get called worse... But without him in the class the rest of the kids were great and all in all it was actually a very enjoyable day.

After work I went for a quick run to blow off any extra steam, and I was still disappointed to have missed out on my morning run. Then it was time to get ready for the ballet!
I met Josephine and we went to the theatre in Wimbledom to see Swan Lake, by Raymond Gubbay and his Russian dance company. It was unbelievable. I have never seen anything like it. When the white swans first came out and the 18 of them are all dancing together it seriously made me want to cry it was that beautiful. The Swan Queen was simply stunning. And then the black swans all dance and it is breathtaking. I know it all sounds so cliche but it really is something I cannot even begin to describe.  I told my flatmates that until I actually give birth to a child, that will probably be one of the most amazing things I will have seen. I was in awe. Now Friday is here and I finally get to relax after a hectic week.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Angel of Music

So my last week was not super exciting. Worked a lot again. I had a long weekend since I didn't get called in on Monday, but then worked everyday after that at my regular school and in my regular class. The teacher that I cover for on Tuesdays is soon due to go on maternity leave and was feeling poorly. Which meant a great week for me! Friday night the Impact Canadian teachers crew all got together at a friend's place for a few beverages. I don' think I will ever drink again when I get back to Canada and see the prices compared to here! I bought a 4 pack of Strongbow cider for less than 4 quid, and still have leftovers for next time ;) Yes, I am officially becoming an old lady!

Saturday I spent the day with Josephine having coffee, brunch, a little shopping, we met up with Angela and saw a matinee - Reese Witherspoon, Jack Nicholson, Paul Rudd in How Do You Know. Then we went to a great Japanese restaurant in Wimbledon. Delicious!! All around great day. On Sunday the sun finally broke through the grey clouds we have been having lately so I spent most of the day just walking. Walked over to Colliers Wood, then went to Tooting Broadway for a bit and around Wimbledon before it finally started to get dark!
This week I have worked everyday so far, so I am sitting here half dressed and ready to go this morning torn as usual.  Want to work to get more money, but also have a bunch of things I would rather get done today... so either way is fine with me.
Last night after work I met up with Jo, Christine and Jen to see Phantom of the Opera. It was amazing. All of the productions here are so well done that I really don't think I could go to one and not enjoy it.  Chicago was definitely more my thing, a little more lively, but still great to go to the show. And it is a busy week, tonight Jo and I are heading to Swan Lake, which is playing in Wimbledon so hopefully not quite as late of a night.
PHANTOM! Christine pretended to get mad, bu how can anyone resist putting out their 'piano hands' every time the famous DAAAA DA DA DA DA DAAAAA is played?? I would challenge anyone to resist!