Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We have had our first visitor this week. Claire's friend Vanessa has made the journey across to start her own adventure and is staying with us for a while. She is trying to find a job and has a couple of interviews lined up. We have of course tried to show her around and spent a cultural weekend checking out the Tate Modern Art Gallery and then headed out to Leed's Castle for the day.
Claire and Vanessa along one side of the moat at Leeds Castle.

This is an intact castle built sometime in the 1100's that is still used today for events and political meetings and of course a tourist attraction. It was used by royalty until around the 1600's when King Edward gave it over to private ownership. Since then it has been a prison and hospital as well as a home. It became predominantly a tourist attration in the 70's when the last owner Lady Baillie died. There are 24 bedrooms and nearly all of them are used for guests. The only two not used are those of Lady Baillie and Queen Catherine (one of Henry's wives).
Main entrance

Side view. Castle built over two islands.

The castle also had some other attractions, such as a maze which Claire won the race to the middle. She claims it had nothing to do with the helper who was giving her directions. Vanessa was a close second. Once there the underground grotto returned us to the outside. A friend of Lady Baillie decided to give her their dog collar collection (yes you have read that correctly) so of course we had a look. It was included in our ticket after all. The highlight was Sooty's collar. Yep, they have a fake dog's collar!!!! The final attraction was the Falconry show, but due to the excessive windy conditions they were only able to demonstrate the Buzzard. The Falcon was still a baby and still learning.

Sooty's collar - remember the tv show

Buzzard show.

Monday, November 13, 2006


This is the capital city of Belgium and the head of the European Union but if you aren't a delegate or politician then you go there for chocolate and beer. Depending on who you are that may be in reverse order. We gave the Eurostar a go and would recommend it when compared to flying. Customs was quick and the stations are in the centre of the city, rather than being 40kms out of town. Travelling backwards was probably the only downside. Our first day in Brussels was Armistice Day, which is a public holiday in Belgium. Unlike Australia it was a true public holiday with all shops, museums and attractions closed. Our trusty Insight guidebook saved the day as we followed the suggested walks and checked out all the sights. The city is beautiful with all the hidden parks, but the cobblestones do get a little annoying. Lucky I don't wear heels! The one strange tradition about Brussels is the appearance of the umpires chair outside major sights.

This is La Petit Sablon with monuments to notables of the 16th century

Steve in front of the garden next to Mons de Arts

This chair was opposite the Royal Palace in yet another park.

The Grand Place is a big cobblestoned square surrounded by pubs, chocolate shops and lace shops. This area is the main touristy bit and thus the only place open over the weekend. Having been bombed and then rebuilt around the 1700 the streets off it are tiny. It is in these lanes that many of the restaurants are located as well as more choccy shops and antique shops/galleries and not to forget the undressed Mannekin Pis.

Grand Place

I gave the traditional 'mussels and fritz' a try and thought they were really salty. Not sure if that was the mussels or the broth that they were served in. The chocolate over there is second to none. Not just in taste but in look. The christmas ones were just being put in the windows. Godiva won my heart though. Those pralines are divine!! Then i found the biscuit shop. This place has moulds that are over 1m tall and made of wood and for sale. The ginger figures were fantastic and so were the macaroons.

We were a little early for the christmas markets, but there were a few small ones around the place. Steve has found the one stall just made for him. It's a pity they weren't the real thing!!

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Okay, so we have obviously arrived in the UK and are living like the locals….well almost. After a couple of hectic weeks we did manage to find a one bedroom flat in Surrey Quays, in South East London. Great location, only 100m from the waters of Greenland Dock and pretty well fully furnished. Only luxuries such as chopping boards and stuff to buy.

Outside the flat. Our's is the one on the 1st floor, on the left.

Greenland dock...

My job at The Doctor's Laboratory is going okay. Quite different to Australia in that we work with the public lab and share resources. No night work which is nice and located within about 70min walk or 40min by tube.

Steve has a 6 month contract with Hermes Pension Management, who manage the pension money for the Royal Mail & British Telecom. It is a mangement accounting role in the real estate division, based in Tower Hill in the financial area. Working in the real estate industry made the transition to London a little easier. Being a contractor is good. Being paid by the hour, and it is only about 25mins on the tube, although would probably be quicker if I ran, but so far that has sounded like far too much effort.

We're slowly getting around the sights of London. So far we have visited the Royal Observatory and the Greenwich Mean Time, Tower of London and a few museums. Not to forget the zoo where a Seagull decided to christen Claire's arrival to London, and some deer decided to attempt adding to their numbers. Very educational trip!!

Claire & the time.

The crown jewels are just to Claire's left...

Inside the Tower of London, some former Kings were much more "protected" than others...

Tower bridge...

London Zoo

The arrival of our first pay inspired us to travel out of London and the first stop was Brighton. Now this is the summer holiday place, so the numbers were a bit down when we were there. We wouldn't classify it as a beach as there is no sand. A stroll along the edge of the rocks is not quite as relaxing. The pebbles were quite lumpy and chilly to sit on! I did find a fantastic café and would recommend the orange and cinnamon hot chocolate. Mmmmm. Visited the pier and tried our hand at some of the arcade games. No luck though.

The little bathing huts were down the rich end of the beach (Hove - where the famous people live) and there were over 200 of them. Not surprising, but very few were actually open.

Bathing huts....

Brighton pier....