Sunday, September 20, 2009

Four Seasons

It was exactly one year ago when we landed in England.  Four seasons had passed by us, leaving us with lots of bittersweet memories. 

Autumn was not too bad.  The sight of yellow leaves was actually quite a sight.  It was not too cold even when our bodies were still adjusting to the temperature here.  We began to learn how unpredictable the weather could become.  We had also learnt that using an umbrella when it rained was pretty much useless if the wind was threatening even to blow me away.  And so, we should just walk in the rain wearing a hoodie.

Then came one of the harshest ever winter England had for a long time.  Our first winter was a total nightmare for us.  Living in an old Victorian flat with lots of crevices and an empty basement, the flat was like a freezer even with the heater on.  It was so cold that at times, the outdoors seemed warmer than indoors.  All we could do was to dress up with lots of layers and drink hot drinks.  To make things worse, chubby kid was down with pneumonia and was hospitalized for more than a week.  Despite a very difficult time, the view of our first white winter was quite a sight to behold.

When the cold began to slowly subside, flowers began to pop out from the grounds, signifying the arrival of spring. 

The temperature continued to rise and more and more people began lazing around in open fields and gardens, having ball games and picnics, picking summer fruits, going in throngs to the beaches and getting most out of the sun.  And so, we learn, this is how people here enjoy their summer.

We are now bracing ourselves for another round of four seasons and the lessons that will come with it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Muffins He Baked

My husband's baking genes finally surfaced.  He baked us some delicious chocolate chips muffins.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Making the Switch

Some weeks ago, I switched from using Microsoft Windows OS to using Mac OS X.  I bought myself a Macbook Pro and there was a deal that gets me an iPod Touch for a really cheap price.

Switching from a Windows-based system to a Unix-based system is not as difficult as I thought it would be.  Although I needed some time to get use to the interface and learn new shortcut keys, the learning experience is quite pleasant.  I learn more than just configuring my preferences and I am quite satisfied with the progress I am making.  There are still lots of other things that I need to master about Mac but for now, I am taking things easy.  Or rather, I need to concentrate more on my Java programming.

I am having a ball with the iPod Touch applications.  It is the coolest gadget ever.

One thing though.  Blogging becomes a little cumbersome.  That is why I have been off blogging for quite some weeks before my London posts.  I used to use Windows Live Writer in Windows systems but in Macintosh systems, there is no FREE equivalent blogging tool.  I have to use the the Firefox extension called ScribeFire and before I can upload my photos, I have to resize them in iPhoto.  Cumbersome but yet I am thoroughly enjoying my Mac experience :-)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Wimbledon and Stonehenge

Before we headed for Stonehenge in Amesbury, approximately 2 hours from London, we drove to the All England Lawn Tennis Club to see the grounds where Wimbledon Tennis Championship took place every year.  Unfortunately, we could not see much from outside.

From Wimbledon, it took us about two hours to drive to Stonehenge in Amesbury.  Upon reaching there, we saw the rocks even from afar and it was a great feeling for us to be able to visit one of the most famous sites in the world.  Here are some pictures of Stonehenge from different angles.

I did not notice this when I was there but upon browsing through my photos on my computer, I saw this picture that gave me an eerie feeling.  Did you see a face on the rock looking back at you?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

More of London

On our second day in London, our first stop was the British Museum. 

It was huge and chubby kid had the time of her life running around for two hours.

Here are some exhibits on display, which I manage to take photos of before chubby kid snatched away my camera.

We then headed to Picadilly Circus to have a look around.  There were lots of interesting sights and sounds there.

The Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum is also located there.

Lunch was something that we had not eaten for one year.  Simply delicious.

After lunch, we went to Harrods.

The food hall sells lots of food items that look too nice to be eaten.

Needless to say, there were lots of luxurious branded items.

There is also a shrine dedicated to Diana and Dodi in the store.

Our next destination was the Westminster Abbey, which unfortunately was not opened to public when we were there.

The last place we visited in central London was the Buckingham Palace.

The view of the grounds was breathtaking, wide and green landscape, dotted with enthusiastic visitors.

We were so tired by the end of the day but managed to get on Facebook before resting for another long day the next day.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sightseeing in London

Our drive from Liverpool to London took an astounding 6 hours and 30 minutes because of the traffic jam on the motorway, particularly from Liverpool to Birmingham. It was not such a good idea after all to travel on the last bank holiday weekend before schools reopen.

Since this was our first trip to London, we did what typical tourists would do, that is to visit all those touristy places. London Waterloo station was our first stop. It was a Saturday on a bank holiday weekend and the station was packed with people.

From there, we walked to the London Eye, a really magnificent piece of steel work.

As expected, the queue was really long, so we could not get on it. Chubby kid dislikes waiting in queue and will make so much noise that you can hardly pacify her. Instead, we stopped by the London Sea Life Aquarium. Here, chubby kid enjoyed herself looking at those fishes and roaming freely around.

Across the River Thames is the Houses of Parliament. Yeah, I finally get to see Big Ben :-).

Here is a picture of the Houses of Parliament up close.

One thing to note though, London tube stations are a nightmare for people with strollers. Most stations do not have any lift and you have to carry strollers up and down lots of flights of stairs. Using the stroller on the escalators are quite scary too, as the escalators go deep underground. See how high we have to go from the bottom.

Our next destination was the famous Borough market. On a Saturday, the market was bustling with people and there were all sorts of food stuffs on sale.

Then, we proceeded to the "London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down...".

Just nearby is the Tower Bridge, which is always mistakenly known as London Bridge.

Next, we headed to Greenwich to the grounds of the Royal Observatory and Greenwich park, which houses the National Maritime Museum, the Queen's house and the Royal Observatory.

Since we were pressed for time, we did not visit the National Maritime Museum and the Queen's house. We just headed straight to the Royal Observatory, which was quite a long walk uphill.

And finally, I was able to step on the Prime Meridian line, the line that separates the eastern and the western hemisphere - Longitude 0 degree.

The view from up here was magnificent. The park was huge and there were lots of people having picnics there.

The Greenwich market is also as good as the Borough market, although it has more knick-knacks and less food stuffs.

We then headed to the St. Paul's Cathedral.

Unfortunately, we could not take any photos beyond this point.

But it was magnificent inside. Truly magnificent.

Chinatown was our next stop.

We found some durians here.

Some friends mentioned that there is this restaurant called Four Seasons that sells very nice roasted duck. So, we went there to have a try.

I would say it was just so-so. Nothing too spectacular about it and the waiter was not too friendly either. We have better tasting roasted duck and services back in Kuching.

After filling our stomachs, we walked around Leicester Square and headed towards Trafalgar Square. Trafalgar Square was swarmed with people.

This is the National Gallery. We did not manage to visit it this time but there is always a next time.

This ended our first day of sightseeing in London.