Posts Tagged ‘countryside’

Wales for the Day

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

As part of my extensive social calendar thanks to my cousin Lesley, I was invited to go to Wales for the day to visit one of Les’s friends. I hadn’t quite realised how close I was to the Welsh border but after only 30 minutes in the car I couldn’t understand any of the street signs. Welsh is amazing! Any language that can string that many consonants together should be strongly encouraged.

Looking for chocolate in the Pethau melys aisle

Looking for chocolate in the Pethau melys aisle

Thanks to Les’s friend, I was taken on the scenic route through the Snowdonia mountains where there was indeed snow. The countryside was spectacular – snow covered mountains and forests and then rocky outcrops of grey and green and purple slate. I didn’t even know you could get purple slate, but now I do! My excitement for the word “sea” meant we went home via a coastal road and I was allowed out of the car to inhale salty air. Oh how my lungs sang with joy! And lambs. Did I mention the lambs? For this Paris-ified city-girl it was a massive country hit and I spent most of the journey staring out the window saying, “WOW! LOOK AT THAT!” I now really want to buy a car and just drive. Or live in a tiny town in Wales, learn to speak Welsh, work at the local pub and marry a local farmer boy. Yep. Good plan.

A llyn.

A llyn.

Mountains! Snow!

Mountains! Snow!

The Irish Sea

The Irish Sea

I Do Like Manchester. Really.

Monday, March 25th, 2013

I have had it brought to my slightly one-sided attention that my previous entry was very anti-Manchester, which I honestly didn’t mean for it to be. But I have had a “I’m so lonely” day today so my view on the world is somewhat negative. My sincere apologies to Manchester – I really do like you! I am going to make up for my previous rant with a TOP FIVE GREAT THINGS ABOUT MANCHESTER entry! Ready? Go!

  1. People are FRIENDLY here. It is remarkable – people smile, are polite, laugh, provide you with additional information when you don’t even ask etc. I am yet to feel like I am wasting someone’s time/generally annoying someone by asking them to do a job they are being paid for. Pure brilliance.
  2. I could finally quench my intense craving for fish and chips. A few months ago I smelt fish and chips in Paris which is impossible because they don’t have it. But since that moment I have wanted, desperately, to have deep fried fish with delicious fat chips. AND I NOW HAVE! Sadly it was served with mushy peas which are seriously, seriously disgusting and I love everything green.
  3. The buildings. There’s something about an ex-warehouse/factory building that has been turned into apartments or a pub that really excites me. The big brick facades, chimneys and large open interiors are fantastic. And I’m living in the heart of the industrial revolution! Plenty of mills and factories here.
  4. Pub food. Hooray for pies, roast lamb and sticky toffee pudding! People say that British food is bad, but they clearly have never had a good roast.
  5. Access to the great outdoors. In the past two weeks I have managed to spend a fair amount of time walking through the countryside. It is so close and accessible (when trains are running) and breathtakingly beautiful. The English countryside offers, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful scenes in the world.

And that, my friends, is why I am very pleased to be living here.

Cars Make Me Anxious

Friday, April 6th, 2012

This week I realised that I am really quite happy to not have a car as they can cause a high level of anxiety as they start failing on you. We hired a car which we picked up from a town about six miles away and Ben took me on a small tour of the local area. After he had shown me the Welbeck Estate where he does his baking course, the car decided to tell us that we needed to check the coolant level. The temperature of the car hadn’t increased and after a small about of concern and discussion we decided to keep going and we’d check the coolant when we got home.

Ben took us on a scenic drive home, showing me where he rides his bike with a local cycle group and as we pulled into a side road between two farms the car then informed us that it was going to turn off the air conditioner because the car was getting too hot. That’s when the temperature gauge shot up and Ben quickly pulled over to the side of the road and stopped the car. No more coolant.

English countryside

At least we had a nice view.

Luckily for us, the car hire office was still open with 15 minutes to spare, so we called them and the AA (that’s British for RAC) to organise for someone to come and look at the car. This was a feat in itself as Ben had to use his phone, iPad and Skype in order to find a good enough signal to call the AA. Thank goodness for technology.

An hour later and the AA guy arrived, checked the car and informed us that the water pump wasn’t working. We’d need to be towed. By this time the sun was almost set and the relatively warm day was becoming rapidly cold and Ben and I wished we had decided to bring jumpers “just in case”. As I cursed Vauxhall for their poor craftsmanship and prepared for another long way for the tow truck, the AA guy simply turned his van around, popped the boot et voila! – a very neat winch and pulley system that after 20 minutes was attached to our car and we were on our way to the car yard. Brilliant! I declared England the home of ingenious car service people and wished Australia was a bit more like the Mother Country.

AA car rescue

The sun sets on our broken-down car

So that was fun. It meant that our planned pub meal couldn’t happen as the kitchens had closed by the time we’d finished dealing with the car. Wonderfully, Enterprise, the car hire place, waited for us at the office and gave us a new car with a free tank of petrol. It was another Vauxhall and this time a bit of a family wagon so we spent the rest of our holiday driving around trying to find children to put in the back seats.

Jolly Good London-Town

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Jolly good. Rightio. That’s rubbish. Woh?!

As you can see, I became fluent in Pom while in London. Considering I spent the first two days apologising in French every time I bumped into someone, I think I have done quite well. I have since returned to Paris and appear to have forgotten how to speak French. Not so good.

Anyway, London was fun although it is one of my least favourite capital cities in the world. I don’t know what it is about London but I always find it confusing, over commercialised and lacking personality. Perhaps it is because I haven’t spent enough time there but usually when I go to a new city there is something about it that really interests and excites me. I don’t get that with London. There is plenty to see and do and I love the ‘free museums’ concept but it feels a little bit stale. I do think it is a beautiful city when the sun shines and the buildings turn a brighter shade of grey and the parks are lovely, but there really is something miserable about London. I honestly felt that Paris looked bright and cheerful in comparison when I returned home, despite the dirt and grime.

A highlight of the trip was our adventures with Tom’s family. We met a few of Tom’s mum’s cousins and were taken on a tour and out for lunch and dinner in the English countryside. Now THAT is something I enjoy. English countryside is beautiful, no matter what the weather, with its rolling hills and green, green grass. It is so fresh and colourful and the little country towns are quaint and adorable. We had good weather for our outing in the country which made things even better, but it was so nice to meet some of Tom’s extended family and to experience a bit of England outside the capital.

England

Green grass, blue skies, white clouds.

We were generously housed by my friends Angela and James who let me sleep on their blow up mattress every time I come to London. They are great hosts and always take me on out-of-the-ordinary nights out – this trip was no exception. On our first night in London, they had organised a dinner at an Austrian restaurant where we ate huge pieces of pork, drank giant steins of beer and Tom and I played the cow bells with the restaurant owner/entertainer who sang Austrian songs throughout the night. It was quite a spectacle. Once again I left thinking, “London has one crazy night life, or maybe it is just Angela and James.”

Austrian bells

Ring a ding ding!

We did manage to visit a few pubs while in England which is something I enjoy. France doesn’t have the same pub culture and seriously lacks good beer and cider. We also gorged on a few decent burgers to fulfil a desire that had been burning since we left Australia and Jus Burgers.

Byron Burger

A Byron Burger

One thing that London has done right is its museum and art gallery culture – I presume it is because everyone needs somewhere to hide while it is raining outside, so they make galleries free to enter. Fantastic. It means you can wander into a museum or gallery and not feel bad about just seeing part of the exhibitions. You can pick the bits that really interest you and then head to the next gallery when you’re done. We managed to visit the British Museum and the British Library and thanks to James’s membership card, we got into the Miro exhibition at the Tate Modern for free. I had been to see a Miro exhibition in Paris a few months ago and saw an extensive range of his sculptures. This time it was mostly his paintings and it was nice to see some more of his work. I really like his style and found it a particularly pleasing display.

So that was London. I have already prattled on about the concert and the mud on my shoes so I won’t go into that again. Tomorrow we catch a plane to New York (it seems the hurricanes have moved on) which I am now very excited about. I’m not so excited about the flight over but I will survive. I will try and write from the Big Apple, even if it is just to say, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY ON THURSDAY!”