Sunday, 16 October 2016

Went to Malta

Continuing the Trips On My Birthday tradition (like Paris last year), Charlie and I went to Malta for my birthday. 

It's really full of history: as a strategically placed island it has been the subject of numerous takeovers throughout the centuries.

We spent our first day in Valetta, where we visited St John's Co-Cathedral, the bling-iest cathedral ever. All the decorations.

Then we went out to St Elmo's fort. I would not want to try and attack Malta from this direction.

TravelTed had his picture taken at the fort, looking back over Valetta. There are some serious fortifications - these are people who are used to being attacked over and over.

The Three Cities:

More fortifications:

On the Sunday, we went to Marsaxlokk to see the fishing boats and swim in St Peter's Pool. Brilliant.

Seriously. (And yes, I jumped in from the top of the cliffs.)

On Monday, we went to Mdina, the walled city, and had lunch overlooking the whole country (it's small).

And then on our last morning, we went on a boat trip to Comino, which was absolutely stunning.

We swam in the Blue Lagoon, saw lots of little caves and inlets, and found it hard to believe that we had to go back to the UK in the evening!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Went to Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens had been on my to-visit list for ages, but I hadn't managed to sort out a visit. On my mom's last morning here, we had stayed in London, and our plans in Oxfordshire fell through, so we hit up Kew.

It was expensive: £7 for parking and £15 each to get in (even with our student/senior IDs), but the gardens were excellent. We explored the outer parkland first, before heading up to the treetop walk and then through the glasshouses and into the more formal gardens. 

Do you like my new hat?

Treetop walk selfie!

In the tropical greenhouse:

And then the sun came out!

The main glasshouse is closed for renovation, and we ran out of time (and pep) to see the Queen's garden and the Hive. Next time I'll watch their Top Attractions video so that we don't miss anything.

It was excellent, though, and I definitely want to go back!

Friday, 16 September 2016

Saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

To declare something that will surprise absolutely no-one: I love Harry Potter. I was a bit obsessed in college, and read the books over and over.

When I heard about the new play, I was excited, but figured it would be too hard to get tickets.


Charlie's eldest daughter is excellent at finding Cool Things To Do, and somehow managed to buy tickets for all of us over a year ago. It's definitely the most in-advance I've ever scheduled a theatre trip.

In the grand scheme of #keepthesecrets, I won't share any plot (although you can buy the script if you're that interested).

The plays were excellent, the actors were perfect, and it really was magical - there was quite a bit of stage magic and the staging and lighting were really effective.

If you can possibly get tickets, go!

Now, we're just waiting for Hamilton to come to London!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Saw the Serpentine Summer Houses

We walked back from an afternoon prom and checked out the Summer Houses at the Serpentine gallery in Hyde Park. 

The blue sky definitely helped!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Bought Myself A House

Weeks without a house or permanent address: 5

Months between my offer and the sale completion date: 5

Houses in the chain: 8 (of which 1 was a new-build, 1 had a trust, and 1 had a gift from somebody's rich uncle for their deposit, which HSBC thought was money-laundering)

Ikea trips: 3

Crying meltdowns: 2

New Houses: 1

It mostly needs painting (wood chip and green floral wallpaper, anyone?) and some other minor things, along with a complete rewiring (scheduled for next week, because while a 1948 house is super-cool, 1948 wiring is NOT).


Before, during and after photos to follow.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Went to Japan, Part 6: Observations

As you can probably tell from my last 5 (!) posts, I had an absolutely incredible time in Japan. While I was there, I decided to keep a running list of interesting things, particularly those which I was really impressed or unimpressed with.

In no particular order, things which are awesome about Japan:

  • Garbage trucks that play music (not my video) 
  • Baseball!!
  • Osakans biking everywhere, with brollies and kids. I thought the Dutch were crazy about bikes; the Osakans are just as bike-mad and seem to have no regulations about riding on sidewalks, the wrong way down the street, and with All The Things (including umbrellas fixed to the front of the bikes)!
  • The food!
  • Luggage racks, queuing points, and destination planners on the subway. There are maps at each station which show you which car you should be in to optimise your exit at your destination station. Also, there are little outlines of feet to tell people where to start queuing for the next train. In busy stations (or ones with multiple destinations) there are sometimes two sets of queues, next to each other, labelled "first train" and "second train". Once "first train" has boarded, all the people in the "second train" queue step to the left and into the "first train" queue. Amazing.

  • Everything has instructions, rules, and things you're supposed to do and not do. 

  •  Umbrella lockers. Not that anyone in Japan would ever steal anything.

  • Matcha everything. And I mean, everything.

  • Iced coffee is everywhere, including in vending machines, particularly the fact that it's served without milk, as a lot of Japanese are lactose intolerant.
  • Hooks or baskets for your purse everywhere you sit down, like in coffee shops and restaurants.
  • Little towels or wipeys before every meal/snack
  • Shinkansen run every 10 minutes between Osaka and Tokyo, bang on time! Even cooler: the seats swivel so you don't have to face backwards.

  • Taiko video games

    • And now, in my humble opinion, the list of dopey things about Japan:

      • The complete decentralisation of the subway. The lines are owned by a bunch of different companies and it can be tricky to transfer.
      • Riding bikes with the seat as low as it will go. (Apparently this makes them feel safer; no consideration given to the fact that it's stupendously inefficient.)
      • So much shopping - it's a massively consumer-centric culture and economy.
      • No smoking outside but you CAN smoke in cafes and pubs.
      • So much packaging - everything you buy gets wrapped up and put in a bag with a sticker and the receipt, even if you're only buying a bottle of water.
      • Plastic water bottles everywhere.
      And there you have it, my thoughts on Japan.

      Saturday, 30 July 2016

      Went to Japan, Part 5: Ate All The Things

      The food in Japan was incredible - I loved everything I ate, except for the takoyaki (fried octopus balls, very similar to clamcakes in Rhode Island) in Osaka. Takoyucky, methinks. Oh well! (I don't like clamcakes, either.)

      Here's a link that explains different types of Japanese restaurant - it was tricky dining with groups as most restaurants only do one thing (but do it incredibly well). It meant that I mostly ate by myself, but ate exactly what I wanted!

      Our first meal, straight off the plane, was absolutely delicious ramen in Kobe:

      Cold udon (with dipping sauce) in Kyoto:

      Matcha bubble tea in Kobe, which my friend thought was absolutely disgusting but I loved:

      Matcha pound cake and an iced coffee:

      Our bento lunch at "school" (Kobe University). So much better than the food at Cranfield!

      Conveyor belt sushi in Kobe:

      Mall food court lunch in Osaka:

      Kobe beef. This was the food highlight of the trip (and one of the best meals I've ever had). It was crazy expensive but worth every penny and and incredibly delicious:

      I mean, seriously.

      It just melted in my mouth - it was unbelievable.

      Okonomiyaki and noodles in Kobe:

      Bucket-list ramen in Tokyo!

      Gyoza in Tokyo:

      More gyoza the next day:

      Plastic food in Tokyo:

      Yakitori in Tokyo:

      More ramen in Tokyo:

      A matcha donut and iced coffee in Osaka:

      Bibimbap in Osaka:

      Cook-your-own-dinner (yakiniku) in Osaka:

      Katsu curry in Tokyo (it was rainy and gross outside and this was the perfect comfort food:

      Udon at a business cafe - it was cheap and delicious. Please bring to London. Thanks.

      My last dinner was wagyu beef at the airport:

      I managed to squeeze in one last sushi at the airport before we took off:

      The food was amazing - I've been really missing it since I got home!