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17 May 2015

I couldn’t help it… I peaked.

This year, our vacation schedule is unfolding a little differently.

I get 4 weeks a year, and so we usually do two one-weekers in the spring, and one two-weeker in the fall.

This year, the two-weeker in the fall is not happening.  The dates for the Norway bus tour did not extend into the fall as much as I wanted so we’re doing it in late summer, plus my husband’s niece is getting married in the fall and at the time I had to pick my vacation dates, she did not have her date yet and I did not want to book anything and miss the wedding.

All this too say I now have a vacation week planned in the fall with nothing booked.  ITS DRIVING ME CRAZY!

I want to go to Europe, and I already have two plans – either Florence with day trips or Brussels with day trips.  My husband wants to go to Vancouver or Washington / NYC / Chicago.

I like all his ideas! In fact, they are all on “the list” and I DO want to go to all those places…  I just want to go to Europe MORE!

Sooooooo….  what did I sneak a peak at? Airfare prices. I wish I hadn't; the prices are great!!! All under 1000$ which is the good price marker for trips to Europe in general.

Brussels was 800$… and there is a direct flight!


Essentially, I have just tortured myself.

1 May 2015

London Field Report 7 – Day 6

Well, that’s it!  Another vacation done.

It was GREAT, as we knew it would be…  who can go wrong with London??  It’s a given we’ll be back one day, you can bet on it!

This morning our friends went off to do the Tower of London and since my husband and I didn’t want to revisit it, we embarked another one of our long aimless walks through different parts of the city.

We started in Little Venice, then made our way down to Kensington Park and Gardens; also saw the Palace but no need to revisit it.

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We saw the Albert Memorial, then walked down Sloan street to Belgravia finally ending up at Victoria Station.


We stopped into a pub for a drink, then hopped on the tube to go meet up with our friends for lunch followed by a visit to the London Museum. My husband and I were up for a revisit so we were a foursome for that activity.


We stayed until closing, then walked around the neighbourhood so we could show them the Machine, the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin, but I think they are not as keen on aimless wanders as we are.  We therefore decided to stop for a drink but had a hard time finding a pub with room to sit! People were spilling out of every single place we found!!  We realized later that it was because it’s was a Friday and a long weekend.




Eventually we found a place near Leadenhall Market and decided to eat there (as opposed to just having a drink) because it was getting close to 7 and we were not going to have any better luck elsewhere.  It was a nice stop, but SO LOUD!!!!  we were shouting at each other the whole time.

Have a look at my nachos, aren’t they pretty??  Toppings included sweet potato and pomegranate seeds.


After this, we went back to their hotel for a nightcap and say our final farewells. I hope it won’t be 2 years before we see each other again!


We left around 9:30, a final walk across Westminster Bridge to wave good bye to Big Ben and the Eye.



I can’t wait to come back to London…  I’ve already started working on my list of things to do whenever that will be!


London Field Report 6 – Read the Fine Print!

If you are planning a trip to London, I have some good advice for you: read the fine print on admission prices! I have noticed something all over the city: Voluntary Donations.

Because it’s voluntary you can opt out, but what a cash-grab to include it in by default!! It feels so sneaky and dishonest that I’d almost call it a scam. People never read the fine print, they just see a price and pay! I don’t disagree with the idea of asking for a donation, but slipping it in to the price does not sit well with me.

So be warned: The big bold advertized price on the information board is not the real price, you have to scour the small print for that.

Here’s the latest example I saw today at the Cutty Sark, but I also noticed it at the Tower of London and at the Churchill Museum / Cabinet War Rooms:

It’s normal to conclude the price for this site is 18.50!!


… but zoom in on the fine print:


Admittedly, the amount is small and a donating is a nice thing to do…  but I don’t like the bait and switch aspect of the way they are going about it!

London Field Report 5 – Day 5

It feels so redundant to say “Yet another great day” but it’s true! It was!

We started the day by visiting the Cutty Sark – one of the fastest Tea Clippers in the world. (I don’t have internet access right now, so you will have to Google it for more details). We first saw it in 2005, but did not visit the inside… if my memory is correct it’s because it was in such bad shape that we couldn’t, and that makes sense when you consider that it was being renovated from 2006 to 2012.

Now it’s practically as good as new and you can even tour the underside! They have sort of encapsulated it in a glass enclosure that is supposed to recreate the water line.  It’s really neat, but in my opinion it’s still nothing compared to the Vasa in Stockholm. (I can’t add a hyperlink right now, so search my blog for more details).

Still, very impressive!





After this, we had lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon at Greenwich. Have a look at my lunch; possibly the ugliest Fish & Chips ever!


I was up for doing the Royal Observatory in Greenwich again because like the Cutty Sark it’s been recently renovated and therefore worth another visit – also the picture I have from 2005 while standing at the Zero Meridian line is awful! I look bloated and my eyes are closed so my mission was to get a better picture.

This one is an improvement. I don’t love it, but it’s hard to do better with an Iphone 4 and crowd of people waiting for you to finish so they can have their turn.


And of course…  the obligatory foot shot. Everyone was doing this!


This took up most of the day so we didn’t have time for a museum excursion and in all honesty that was fine by me since the weather was still nice.

Instead we did the London Eye; third time for me and although it is on the pricy side I still think it was worthwhile.  London’s skyline is always evolving so there is always something new to see from up there.




After this it was Italian for supper near our friend’s hotel – and we parted ways around 9PM.  It feels like an early night compared to the last few days…  actually getting ‘home’ before 10!!

Here’s a last look at the Eye as we were leaving.


London Field Report 4 – Day 4

It was supposed to rain today, and it did – but thankfully only for a few hours in the morning so it didn’t ruin the day.

We started off by meeting our friends at the Prince of Wales Theatre Box Office to buy tickets for Book of Mormon for tonight.  I’ve been wanting to see it for years, but my husband was never keen on the idea.  When Mr Chicago mentioned he wanted to see it (unprompted by me) my husband reconsidered.


It was fun, good for a few laughs…  some people might find it a little shocking but overall I found it cheeky and it was an enjoyable evening out.

Once we bought the tickets, we parted ways for the day; they went off to the British Museum, and we went to the Hunterian Museum.  Unfortunately, no pictures allowed in there which is too bad because I found it fascinating. It’s really 2 museums in one: the history of surgery and a cabinet of curiosities.  Among other oddities, we saw the skeleton of a man who was 7’7” tall, a goat with an extra leg, what eggs look like inside a snake before it lays them, the skull of twins conjoined at the head…

After that it was off to Hyde Park for a walk. The rain had picked up again but not that bad, it was more drizzle than rain so it was still nice to be outside – we finally saw the Peter Pan statue that we didn’t get around to seeing in 2013 and we also passed by the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, although we didn’t linger…  been there, done that.

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After the park, we wandered around Knightsbridge and went over to the Ecuadorian Embassy to see if Julian was around (Wikileaks)…  no sightings. 


We had lunch at one of the many restaurants in Harrod’s: Galvin Demoiselle overlooking the Food Halls – it was great!

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The rain stopped after lunch and we continued on our aimless wander. We wanted to go to the Ritz for a drink but we were turned away because we were not wearing formal shoes! ha! I think my jeans and his army pants that he wears in wet weather because they keep the rain out were part of the reason, yet the doorman was trying to be diplomatic.  We looked just as ‘sloppy’ in Paris and didn’t have any issues.

We swung by St James Palace to take a picture…  my husband was more impressed with the Rolls being delivered!


After that we wandered around town some more, meandered down Piccadilly and Regent Streets, basically just soaking London in as much as we could before reuniting with our friends around 5 to get a bite to eat before the show.


Another wonderfully full day!

28 April 2015

London Field Report 3 – Day 3

We started off the day by picking up our friends at their hotel, and visiting the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum.

Very interesting exhibits, but you could spend DAYS in the Museum; it’s so packed with information that it’s overwhelming. We spend about an hour an a half, which was a bit of a compromise because Mr Chicago could have spend double, even triple, the time in there at the expense of the rest of the day.  He said he plans to come back one day on a trip with his son and they will plan a full day for this activity.





After this he wanted to go to the British Museum, but I suggested we put that off to tomorrow since it’s supposed to rain and take advantage of the nice weather to do outdoor things instead. (My husband and I are not interested in revisiting that museum anyway; we have our own plans for when they go.)

He agreed, and we spend almost all day outdoors.

We strolled through St James Park, then down The Mall to Buckingham Palace – too late to see the changing of the guard (fine by me, I find that boring as Hell!!) but we heard the band from a distance and saw them coming back.



Then of course, we had to brag about Canada Gate!


From there, we kept walking to Hyde Park Corner where we got on the tube heading west to Tower Bridge.

We had lunch in a nearby pub, then they inquired about tickets to the Tower of London (another activity my husband and I will pass on re-doing). Not sure when they plan to go.




After that we crossed the Tower Bridge to get to our ultimate destination: The Shard.


In 2013 there were no bars or restos up there, and I did not want to pay the money just to see the view. Now that there is something to do up there, we went for a drink and relaxed while admiring the scene.  The best tables for this activity were the tables for 2 around the edge of the floor, and they were all taken. Still, we had a nice time and it felt good to rest our feet!



Here I am showing Mr Chicago where we were on the map:


The plan after this was supposed to be St Paul’s.  We took the tube over, but it was closed by the time we got there so we just got some pictures of the facade and walked back down Fleet Street and The Strand to Trafalgar Square.





Supper was casual Italian, followed by a night cap at the Sherlock Holmes pub:


We parted ways around 9:45 and got ‘home’ just after 10:30.  Now it’s midnight, so I have to hit the sack!

Good night!