Sipping Tea and Coveting Manolos

There are only 16 weeks left until we leave for the US/Canada and, of course, our wedding. The next time we have a full week at home will be 7 weeks from now since we decided to take advantage of all the public holidays coming up (which seemed like a good idea at the time but right now just looking at our calendar is exhausting). So, this past weekend, we forced ourselves to cross off a few more items on our wedding To Do list so we aren’t overwhelmed come June/July.

We ended up not doing too badly either! Matt ordered his suit from Cad and The Dandy on Saville Row (definitely recommend them if you’re in the market for a suit, so knowledgeable, helpful, and not at all pushy), I got my wedding band, and Matt has a good idea of what type of ring he wants now and just needs to order it. Also, what are peoples thoughts on a ‘sit wherever you like’ policy for dinner at weddings? Cause you know what’s not fun? Seating plans! All kidding aside, it took a while but that’s nearly done too.

Liberty

In between all the wedding fun, we decided to take part in one of the top things to do in London – have afternoon tea at Liberty. Liberty is a luxury (in every sense of the word) department store in Soho, just off Regent Street. It’s been around since 1875 and is built from the timber of two HMS ships. There’s also a plaque commemorating those who died in the building during the war. It really is a beautiful building and houses some equally beautiful (and expensive!) items. I even got to hold a pair of royal blue Manolo Blahniks I’ve been coveting ever since I saw them in the first Sex and the City film. But at £650, Matt didn’t let me hold on to them for too long!

At £35 for 2 people, the afternoon tea isn’t too crazy a price compared to the rest of the store. Out of the smorgasbord below, my favourite item was the scone – hands down the best one I’ve ever had (sorry, Mom!).

Afternoon Tea at Liberty

Afternoon Tea at Liberty

Here’s where I admit I’m not a huge fan of this kind of afternoon tea (besides the scones) because while tasty, it’s just a little bit on the bland side (maybe just a British thing?). However, it’s definitely something you need to do at least once while in good old Blighty.

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Our 2014 Plans

We’ve been neglecting the blog a bit lately due to a combination of being busy, a little lazy and generally not having too much happening other than ordinary London life.  Multiple tube journeys and trips to the grocery store don’t tend to make an interesting read.

Our last trip away was to the Christmas markets in Vienna which was obviously too long because we got serious itchy feet.   I just got back from a weekend in Edinburgh for Craig’s stag do (couple of nice blurry phone photos below) but all this sticking in one place was getting to us.

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So before I went to Edinburgh, we managed to forget that we have a wedding this year and instead Dayna and I spent all our money on travel again.   In short time we filled up most of our spare weekends so we now have all of the following to look forward to:

  • April – Bristol (this one is a lads trip away for some English tourism for a change), and a train trip around Luxembourg/Cologne/Amsterdam (3 countries in 4 days – I think we might have been watching too much Amazing Race when we booked this one)
  • May – a train trip through the Swiss Alps with a daytrip to Liechtenstein (because, why not?), our friends’ Craig and Gerrie’s wedding in Ireland, and hiking up Preikestolen in Norway
  • June – my stag do (tbc but likely to involve somewhere in Europe that serves cheap beer) and a girls weekend away for Dayna (also TBC).
  • July – Dayna’s hens do
  • August – Vegas, Grand Canyon, Banff and the Rockies, Vancouver, Sunshine Coast, Victoria, Toronto, Niagara Falls, New York…and getting married somewhere in there of course
  • September – Dayna is going to a friend’s hens do in Sitges, Spain
  • October – Octoberfest in Munich, Dayna is staying home for this one (her choice)

So our year of not travelling because we’re saving for our wedding has still ended up involving trips to 12 countries (and maybe more…we’ll see).  We’ve also been discussing making it back to New Zealand in December maybe so hopefully that one pans out too .

In between booking all our trips for this year we’ve also been talking about whether we could do a much longer trip one day. So far our plans for “The Big Trip” haven’t got too far past mapping out some exciting routes but it is exciting to have something to day dream about when neck deep in spreadsheets and tax returns.  We’d love to be able to go for a year or longer but the first step is finding a way to get paid when travelling – any ideas let us know!

Mommy Comes to Visit

A couple weeks ago something I really hoped but never thought would actually happen, did. My Mommy came to visit Matt and I in London for 10 days and we kept her very busy for that time!
The day after she arrived, we met up with Catherine and Matt’s sister to go wedding dress shopping. Yup, wedding dress shopping. I’m not even going to begin to describe what a surreal experience it was but it was also so much fun! It was more of a ‘try everything on to see what style looks good’ exercise and I didn’t have any expectations of finding the dress. But I did. I have dreamt about it most nights and I cannot wait to go back for my 2nd fitting in a couple weeks. I’m so glad Mom was there for the experience, I couldn’t imagine doing it without her opinions and hilarious comments like:
“You ROCKED that dress”, “Your boobs looked AWESOME in that one”, and “Are you going to say Yes to the Dress?”.
Oh, I miss her so much already.
I wasn’t able to take any leave from work while Mom was here but there’s plenty in London to keep her busy! She spent a couple days doing the local touristy sites around the city and a day trip to Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge. We also took her to Mamma Mia and all our favourite restaurants.

Momma and her ribs

Since Mom doesn’t get to travel outside of Canada very often, I really wanted her to try and go somewhere besides London for a few days. After a bit of back and forth and not having a lot of time to go to another country, we settled on going to Glasgow for a weekend. Most of you would probably think there isn’t much going on in Glasgow and wonder why would we want to go there out of all the other places in the UK. My Grandma (Hi Grandma!) and Great Aunties grew up in Glasgow before moving to Canada and I’ve always wanted to see the house they lived in. There was no better time to do that than with Mom! After a quick train ride from Glasgow train station we checked off number 10 on our 100 Things List – Visit the house Dayna’s Grandma grew up in in Glasgow.

The house my Grandma and Aunts grew up in

The house my Grandma and Aunts grew up in

Mom holding a picture of Grandma and Aunty standing in front of the house

The house my Grandma and Aunts grew up in

Can’t get over how much my younger sister looks like Grandma in this picture!

Mom also wanted to see the church they used to attend. Grandma told us it was right around the corner from their house but when we got to the end of the street there 2 churches – one to our left and one to our right. We came to the conclusion it was the one to the left. Were we right, Grandma?

The church my grandma went to

Church to the left

Church

Church to the right

We didn’t go into the house (anyone else think it’s a bit weird to ask a stranger if you can take a look inside?) and without my Grandma there to point out different things there wasn’t much point anyway but it was awesome to see it and remember all the stories she told me of growing up there.

The rest of our time in Glasgow was spent walking around pretty much the whole city. We went to parks, the Botanical Gardens, the Glasgow Cathedral, and ate delicious food (no haggis though!).

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral

Old Grave

Cathedral

Botanics

Bees in the Botanics

Mom smelling the roses

Mom and I in the Botanics

Exercising in the Botanics

Exercising in the Botanics

We also stumbled across these guys – you know you’re in Scotland when…

Mom gave us the greatest surprise leaving gift as well – she cleaned our entire flat while we were at work! Feel free to come back any time Mom 😉

All kidding aside, seeing my Mom for the first time in 2 years and having her see what our life is like on the other side of the world was so special. Two weeks wasn’t long enough! I miss you already, Mom!

Mom and I in the Botanics

Michelin star restaurants and late nights at the Zoo

My birthday was back in June and Dayna set up a surprise dinner for us which also allowed us to tick off another thing on our list – eating at a Michelin star restaurant.

We had looked at a bunch of different Michelin star restaurants months ago when we were thinking about going to one and the top of the list for me was Amaya which serves contemporary Indian cuisine. Dayna doesn’t have the greatest memory sometimes but she definitely does when it comes to anything food related so she booked us in for my birthday. Amaya had a no photos rule as do a lot of the higher end restaurants (maybe to protect famous people from Paparazzi?) so we had to sneak the few photos we got.

One of the rave reviews we had heard was about the Passionfruit Mojito so we went for 2 of those for a pre-dinner drink. Since we didn’t expect to be making many visits to restaurants as nice as this, we decided to go all out and went with the tasting menu with wine matching.

Passion fruit mojito. Amaze.

Passionfruit mojito

The lamb was so tender and had so much flavour – it was the most amazing lamb I’ve had in my life. Having the perfectly matched wines to go with each dish was also great (and reminded us of when we got to do this with Mum back in Wellington at Logan Brown).

Melt in your mouth lamb

Melt in your mouth lamb

The lamb was so good I had to get in there and use my hands despite being in a Michelin starred restaurant.

Using his hands at a fancy restaurant....

Dinner was pretty fancy (and expensive…we just bought flights to Vienna for less) so we had to bring ourselves back to earth by going to see Hangover 3 afterwards.

London Zoo has been on Dayna’s list of things to do in London for awhile and what better way to do that than in the evening with drinks in hand. We heard about Zoo Lates (basically adults only, late nights at the zoo) and managed to get tickets before it sold out luckily.

Half the people there were dressed up as animals and were taking advantage of the face painting on offer. We settled for just grabbing a few drinks and checking out the animals without a million children running around. It was a nice change after visiting the Dinosaur section of the Natural History Museum the other day and being mobbed by kids.

Along with drinks, Zoo Lates also has great food and desserts for sale set up in a market type area. We stuffed ourselves until we could barely walk so set off to check out some animals that were fatter than us.

There’re also random shows going on, a silent disco and play areas with boxing (with giant gloves), ball pits, hula hoops etc but we ran out of time and settled for drinking whilst checking out some more animals.   We did catch one of the shows though.

Silent Disco

Silent Disco

Aunty Myra

“Aunty Myra”

Single Ladies

All the single ladies

Drinking by the Flamingos

Drinking by the Flamingos

Butterflies

Rats

Lion

Komodo Dragon

Tiger

When we first got to London we went through a stage of going to a musical or show every one or two weeks but haven’t been to many lately. We’ve been trying to rectify that by booking a bunch of tickets to concerts and shows lately to get back in to it and the first show we actually went to was Once – The Musical.

Date Night

Once is a pretty good movie if you haven’t seen it (trailer below) and the soundtrack translates really well live. At the start of the show and in the intermission the stage turns in to an actual bar where the audience can go up and get drinks and the cast sets up around the waiting gets and plays music to get everyone in the mood. The cast was great too so I definitely recommend it.

Furry New Neighbours

Matt’s working on the next post from our Egypt trip but in the meantime, I wanted to post about our new furry neighbours! We’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn to go to the gym lately and last week we noticed a lone fox on the shed roof outside our bedroom window. Foxes are pretty common around here but this was the first time we’d seen one just hanging out.

Family of Foxes

It seems like the popular spot now as we got up this morning and saw 5 foxes including a couple babies! There were a few up on the roof and others running around the parking lot.

Family of Foxes

Family of Foxes

Family of Foxes

Family of Foxes

Family of Foxes

Then Sushi the squirrel (named by my Grandma) showed up. It’s a David Attenborough show around these parts!

Sushi the squirrel

Our new flat

We’ve been thinking about getting our own place for a while now. While we really lucked out with great flat mates and an alright room for our first flat share in London, you reach a point where there are more negative things about living with a bunch of people than there are positive.

There wasn’t a huge rush to move out (our lease wasn’t up until June) so we decided to take our time looking through one bedroom flats for one that fit all our criteria.

In early April, we had looked at lots of places online and decided to actually go and see a few of them. Out of the 7 flats we saw: one had the washer in the wardrobe of the bedroom and was above a loud pub, one had a bedroom where the bed touched 3 of the walls, I can’t even remember 4 of them, and the last one was pretty much perfect.

I’ll admit that I had made up my mind I was going to hate it before even going into the building (it had been a long day of seeing below average flats and I was tired) but as soon as we met our landlord-to-be and stepped foot into the flat, we were both sold.

However, a couple of things about our situation did make moving out a little more difficult.

1) A few months prior I decided I wanted to move some furniture around and give the room a spring clean. In the process of moving the wardrobe we discovered a rather large mould issue on the wall behind it. I’ll spare you the pictures but it was really bad. We spent an entire day scrubbing the walls as per instructions from Mr Google and managed to get most of it off. However, it was due to the exterior wall being, well, full of holes so it kept coming back.

2) The lease wasn’t up until June and even though there’s no break clause, the agent was happy to let us move out before then provided we were able to find someone to pay us back bond and a month’s rent (which was about £2000 total) to replace us on the lease.

As you can imagine, point 2 has the possibility of being a lot more difficult when you consider point 1.

We decided we couldn’t risk losing the new flat even if that meant paying double rent for a month so we made an offer (yep, you need to make an offer even if you aren’t buying the place) and it was accepted right away!

I put the ad up for getting someone to take over our room on a Monday, had 5 viewings on Wednesday, one of them confirmed they wanted the room that night (even with the wall issue!), we moved out on Saturday, and they moved in on Sunday (and paid us everything that day before even signing the lease)! It was crazy how fast and well everything worked out. The girl who moved in was absolutely lovely and made the whole process so easy – turns out she was in quite a rush to move (she had to be out of her place that same weekend) which definitely helped things.

So! After a long and tiring moving day (thanks to Jono and Cath for driving the van/helping with all the heavy lifting etc – we could not have done it without you) and many, many trips to Ikea, we are officially living on our own for the first time in our relationship!

The flat came unfurnished (besides the massive wardrobe in the bedroom) so we were looking at making a large deposit into Ikea’s bank account for things like a couch, bed, etc. Luckily, 2 people that Matt works with are in the process of getting rid of a bunch of furniture and we were able to get quite a few big ticket items for free. We were given a couch, bed frame, book shelf, coffee tables, kitchen appliances, and wine glasses for Africa. Without those things, we could’ve easily spent 4x more than we did to fit out the flat and we are so grateful for their generosity!

Kitchen

Kitchen

Bedroom

Bedroom – the wardrobe is huge!

Lounge

Lounge – Matt didn’t want to stop his game so I could take a photo

It’s not a very big flat but it’s perfect for just the two of us and already feels like home.

Catch Up

Our little blog has been around for just over a year and it’s already proved invaluable. It must have something to do with only going on one trip in the last 3 months but I’ve found myself reading past posts and reminiscing about all the amazing places we’ve been since we started our OE. It’s crazy how quickly I’ve forgotten all the funny stories and awkward situations we’ve experienced. Blogging can sometimes be the last thing we want to do but I’m so glad we’ve stuck with it. Reading old posts has really motivated me to write more even if it feels like we don’t have anything exciting going on! Which brings me to the past 3 weeks…

We’ve been stuck in the work/eat/sleep routine for the last little while and the lack of exercise has definitely caught up with us. Add in wanting to look good in a bathing suit for our beach trips this summer and my WEDDING DRESS (that’s weird to type) next year and yeah, I need to get in shape. We’ve both signed up to the gym and are slowly getting back into the routine of working out. A nice thing about London gyms is that most have swimming pools which (when you have lots of beach/water oriented holidays planned) will come in handy for increasing our (nonexistent, at least for me) swimming skills.

So excited!

Last week, I went to see Viva Forever with a few of my girlfriends. As you may know, this is the new musical based entirely on Spice Girls songs. For someone who was a massive Spice Girls fan in her early teens (I won’t give you all the seriously embarrassing details but there may or may not be a photo of me dressed as Scary Spice floating around), it was such a fun night and I highly recommend it!
Most theatres hold discounted tickets for walk ins to buy for the performance that night so we got to sit in the 3rd row for only £20!

Matt’s work just moved into new offices in the West End so hopefully we can get more deals like that.

view from Matt's desk

View from Matt’s desk

After 4 years of using my trusty D60, I’ve upgraded my camera to the D7000. It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while but got serious about researching a replacement after our trip to Norway. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my D60 but it is an entry-level DSLR and I’ve outgrown it. There were many reasons for choosing the D7000 but the main one was that it’s a lot of camera for a very decent price.

I was going to wait until shortly before our trip to Egypt to buy it but I’m so glad I didn’t – it’s going to take me that long just to figure out how to use the thing! I wasn’t expecting just how different the layout was going to be from my D60 so it’s taking me a little while to figure out which button/dial/shortcut does what but that’s all part of the fun! I’m really looking forward to taking it on our next trip although I’m not sure if St Patty’s Day in Dublin is a safe place for an expensive camera…

Speaking of trips, I think I’m getting cabin fever and cannot wait to get out of London. I’m counting down the days until our travel plans for the year really kick off.

Countdown

We’ve also been busy with wedding plans and have nearly got a few of the bigger details locked down…but I’ll save that for another post.