Strolling the South Bank to a Cuppa at Twinings Tea

As I’ve been preparing for my upcoming holiday (One week until takeoff!), I’ve been going through the photos from my last trip to Europe in summer 2015. (What did I see, what did I miss?) And I came across the photos from a sunny stroll around London that I absolutely loved.

My Airbnb was in a beautiful neighbourhood in an area called Lambeth, which leads on to the South Bank of the Thames from the Lambeth Walk. My good Edinburgh friend, Jim, travels to London a lot for work and had suggested an extension of my regular routine – with a few of his favourite stops – when I told him how much I love to walk along the South Bank. (And because he knows I am a long-time musical theatre geek. There’s a song called “The Lambeth Walk” from the 1937 musical Me and My Girl that was written about (three guesses!) Lambeth Walk. Needless to say, I had a little bounce in my step as I hummed my way along in my head. The locals must have thought I was nuts.)

Jim also gave me a destination that was right up my alley: the 300-year-old historical Twinings London Flagship Store.  And so, from Lambeth to the Strand, this my South Bank Stroll.

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Should you not be staying near Lambeth (or not be inclined to whistle or hum your way down the walk – it’s okay, I forgive you), and war history is your thing, a good starting point for this wander is the Imperial War Museum’s London branch (Tube Stop: Lambeth North). The Churchill War Rooms are housed here and the set of exhibits “tells the people’s experiences of modern war from WW1 to conflicts today”. Admission is free – a get thrifty bonus that you will find with most museums in the UK.

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From there, get your step on for a 30-40 minute walk along the South Bank.

Never mind Big Ben and Westminster (though they are spectacular). I love these lamp posts along the Thames because they have such fabulous expression and character. They are apparently based on the Fontana del Nettuno in Rome.

 

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While the lineup at the London Eye always deters me from experiencing it, I do love to photograph it. It’s also a good landmark for me if I ever feel a bit lost. This area is very touristy, but is a good spot to pick up some reasonably priced postcards or London themed souvenirs from the street vendors.

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One of Jim’s instructions was for me to skip the Westminster and Jubilee Bridges, and though I’m quite partial to Westminster Bridge (the South Bank Lion makes my day), I listened and went to Waterloo Bridge. There’s a song by The Kinks called “Waterloo Sunset” that I was instructed to sing when I got there, but that was not happening. (Sorry, Jim!) Should you know the song, go for it.

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When you get across the bridge, you might want to stop at Somerset House to see one of the exhibits. When I was out and about, I was on a tea mission (and it was way too nice out!), but Somerset House is on my list for this next trip. It’s a beautiful building, as is the very impressive Australian High Commission. (My photo does not do it justice…)

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If you’re like me and send a million postcards, the post office is en route to the Twinings shop and museum. Pop your postcards in the mailbox and walk thirty seconds to enter a tea lover’s paradise – final destination: the Twinings London Flagship Store. Single tea bags? No sweat. Gift sets? Done. Make your own tea box or buy a fancy tea set? You’re in the right spot. The get thrifty portion of the day was officially over. I bought a lot of tea.

If you have willpower (clearly, I didn’t), initially ignore the things to purchase and march to the back to check out the museum portion of things and have a “cuppa” or tea tasting experience at the tasting bar. The classic Earl Grey is spot on.

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I think I clocked about 25,000 steps that day. (At least!) Thank you to Jim for the suggested deviation from my usual Westminster Bridge stroll.

What’s your favourite stroll in your city or somewhere you’ve travelled?

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.

~ C. S. Lewis ~

I’m incredibly excited to be going back to London in June, this time on a girls’ trip with my besties. Some exciting things have been lined up for this trip and I’m looking forward to sharing our adventures!

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Acropolis Sunrise

You know you’ve had a good trip when you have really good memories. I was away for two months and collected many a memory, but a definite stand out day was the morning my flat mates and I trekked up to the Acropolis in Athens to see the sunrise.

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I am not a morning person, but I love anything about Ancient Greece. So if I was going to see one great thing during my 24 hours in Athens, it was going to be the Parthenon. It was an amazing place to visit and absolutely worth the early wake up. The ruins are beautiful and so detailed (like the ruins we visited in Italy a couple years ago, the craftsmanship from thousands of years ago blew my mind); and the view of Athens is spectacular. One day, I hope that technology advances so that people can walk through the restored ruins without worry of damaging the stone.

If you love dogs (and I do), you will inevitably meet at least one. The grounds outside of the site are a popular dog walking spot and the caretakers seem to own a couple dogs.

TOURIST TIPS:

Go Early: Avoid lineups and the heat. Athens is HOT in the summer. But not too early. When I had suggested an Acropolis sunrise to Carrie and Danny, they were game. So there we were, all gung-ho and out the door by 6:30; but did we remember to look up when the Acropolis opens? Nope. FYI, the ticket office opens at 8:00. 😉

Sunrise: Should you end up there before opening, I do recommend watching the sunrise from Areios Pagos Hill. We stumbled upon it while walking through the park and it was the best place we could have watched the sun come up. It’s a nice little hike and a great way to start the day.

Admission: When you purchase your admission to the Acropolis, you have then purchased a pass valid at other amazing historical sites in Athens including: Ancient Agora of Athens, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos, Museum of the Ancient Agora, North slope of Acropolis, Olympieio, Roman Agora of Athens, South Slope of Acropolis. It’s €12 full price and a reduced price of €6 for university students and EU senior citizens. We found this out after the fact and also had very little time in Athens, but, next time! There are also free admission days. More info here.

Hydrate: As I mentioned, Athens is HOT in the summer. Make sure you have a bottle of water handy, even in the morning.

Acropolis no-no’s:

  • Don’t eat or drink coloured drinks when you enter the site. They worry about the marble. The staff member pounced when she saw us eating our Clif bars. Water is okay though.
  • Don’t take 1-2-3 jump photos and most importantly, don’t take photos where your pose involves having one foot off the ground (like Dancer Pose). Someone will jump out of a little cabin and tell you “no gymnastics!” True story.

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My apparent gymnastics

To connect or not to connect?

I have spent the last week in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to: Kythira Island in Greece. The purpose of my trip was for a Kundalini yoga teacher training retreat through Semperviva Yoga, which is a set of studios back home in Vancouver. It has been an AMAZING week. I come off the island having made a pack of fantastic new friends, eaten a lot of really good Greek food, and more importantly, learned a lot about myself (and that my brain does have an off switch for meditation after all) and a different kind of yoga that I previously hadn’t thought was for me. And I actually got a bit of a tan. See? Amazing on all levels.

Last day of walking on the beach. Yes, I did actually get in the sea, - more than once - but that's a story for another day.
Last day of walking on the beach. Yes, I did actually get in the sea, – more than once – but that’s a story for another day.

Gloria Latham is the director and owner of Semperviva (which is also where I recently finished my 200 hour RYT yoga teacher training), and one of the first things she suggested for the week was that, while there is wireless at our lovely hotel, it’s not super reliable, so why not disconnect from the outside world and electronics for the week? This sounded like a great idea for me, being the social media semi-junkie that I am. But then I got to my room and I had my own wireless router that was super reliable… To connect or not to connect?

I am proud to say that this was only a mild setback and despite the wireless access and my Europe travel pass for my phone, I didn’t post anything. For a week. Other than a quick “peace, out” when I got there and occasionally connecting with Sean via text, I didn’t do anything except upload photos to my blog server to go with the post drafts and ideas that I had ample opportunity to write. I loved it.

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I had a really great dinner tonight in the town of Rafina, where I am staying the night before I fly back to Scotland tomorrow, but more about that later. Actually, one thing I will say about my dinner is that the tzatziki rocked my world. YUM.

The week must be catching up with me as I am starting to nod off at my computer. Kalinýchta!

Yukon Days – Part One

A couple days ago, this city girl got on a plane to the Great ‘White’ North. I say ‘White’ because, well it’s summer, and right now, it’s mostly the Great ‘Green’ North. Still spectacularly beautiful though. It’s so… Open.  Or, as the Travel Yukon tagline says: Larger Than Life.

My flight was me and a very large Swiss tour group that comprised of very active senior citizens. Despite this, the plane was not full and I had not only the rare treat of a window seat (a battle I tend to lose with my pilot husband), but the entire row to myself.  I must say, the Swiss looked, as most European tourists tend to look, very active and not their ages. Our pilot (who, during meal distribution, I randomly found out, is gluten-free) announced our descent and all of a sudden, there was all of this amazing landscape.  The Swiss were glued to their windows. It was pretty cute.

Flying in to Whitehorse
Flying in to Whitehorse

Sean met me at the arrivals gate of the very spare, yet efficient, Whitehorse Airport and brought me back the very cute heritage home of our friend Geoff and his girlfriend, Collyn. While the house must be crazy expensive to heat in the winter, it is really lovely. (Geoff moved to Whitehorse last year and Sean and I have been trying to get up here for a while. Sean and Geoff drove up last weekend, and I flew up a few days later. So worth my points! It’s beyond beautiful here.)

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$6.00(!) milkshake - it was worth it
$6.00(!) milkshake – it was worth it
The long-reaching arm of Starbucks has traveled to the Klondike.
The long-reaching arm of Starbucks has traveled to the Klondike.

We strolled down Main Street and along the Yukon River waterfront, and after a ridiculously expensive lunch at a local diner (though the black cherry ice cream milkshake was worth the $6.00(!), it was still $6.00 – things tend to be a bit more expensive up here), I learned about guns. No joke. Geoff works in the local outdoors sports shop, and I was blown away (ha) by the variety of firearms that are available to someone who comes in and shows their license to carry. Even a pink camo rifle. (To me, that seems a bit indulgent and would stand out in the trees, but that’s just my opinion!) Hunting season just started, so business is fairly brisk. There are also a lot of Canadian military in town right now for training (I think it was called Op Anook?…), so there’s lots of camo walking around.

This just seems wrong to me.
This just seems wrong to me.
In the unlikely case that I would actually purchase a handgun, I would opt for something a bit more streamlined...
In the unlikely case that I would actually purchase a handgun, I would opt for something a bit more streamlined…

Whitehorse was a Gold Rush city – a topic I know I studied in History class in high school, but I am rusty. A refresher at the museum is in order, I think. I got a bit of a refresher when Sean and I went for a hike in Miles Canyon yesterday. It is the site where Canyon City used to be during the Gold Rush, before the railway made it obsolete. In case you are curious, click here for the Wikipedia notes.  

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My favourite part of Miles Canyon? The stunning turquoise-blue colour. That, and the quiet of being in such a wide open space. Chipmunks make their weird chipmunk trilling noise (so bizarre!) and birds chirp, but other than that… Nothing. It’s pretty damn great when you are used to hearing horns honking, people yakking on their smart phones, and other miscellaneous noise.

Remnants from Canyon City
Remnants from Canyon City.
A butterfly posed for me.
A butterfly posed for me.

There is a suspension bridge across the canyon that – at least for me when I cross a suspension bridge – makes the impact of such a wonder of nature, that much bigger. It’s a very real moment to stand on a swaying bridge a mile above the water and look at something so breathtaking. Scary, but real.

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Something also scary (well not scary, but definitely rare) and real? I hung the wash out to dry this morning. Such a simple, and oddly relaxing task… We did laundry yesterday but as we are on the basement level, our load was still damp on the rack. And so, I hauled a basket out to the yard, stood on the picnic table, and hung the wash on the line. I haven’t done that since I was a kid and it made me miss my Granny. Amazing the nice memories that can be brought forward in your brain by the simple act of holding a clothes pin…

Hung wash

In driving news, I’m learning to drive Sean’s car today. Should be entertaining. Maybe I should have done an extra Sun Salutation this morning. 😉

Thankful Birthday Weekend – Part 2

It’s raining outside. Yup, it’s raining, it’s cold, and it’s officially autumn (or the less elegant sounding “fall”) in Vancouver. I sound a bit whiny about the weather because up until Tuesday, it was sunny and warm; and up until today, there was no need for a super warm coat and a pair of my Hunter boots. That being said, the cold, damp weather has made me even more thankful for the fabulous weather we had, especially over the Thanksgiving long weekend.

After an evening of birthday fun and turkey goodness, we slept in and woke up to a fridge full of leftovers. A LOT. (First world problems.)

I did a workout video and off we went for our second turkey dinner being hosted by Sean’s parents. We picked my mom up on the way and I was mesmerized by all the beautiful red, orange, and yellow leaves on the trees in her neighbourhood. There is nothing like a sunny fall day.

Dinner at Chez Hardcastle was delicious, as always, and I remembered to take a picture of my plate, unlike the night before. Sean’s parent’s recently moved into a condo and that involved furniture shopping – they now have the most beautiful dining room table that looks like it’s a slab of marble. It was the perfect canvas for dinner.

As the fridge was already full at home, the leftovers were declined. I don’t know that we could have fit a toothpick in the fridge up until a couple days ago.

On holiday Monday, we worked off our turkey dinners with a hike up to First Peak at Mount Seymour. Sean’s friend, Geoff, joined us, and I discovered that he has also bought the Five Finger shoes that Sean has. They look a bit odd but the more I see them, the more I want a pair… But I digress.

My Merrill trail runners flanked by my Five Finger shoe companions

Geoff was not able to make my birthday dinner as he was working – he is a pilot. I was telling him about the dinner and was corrected by Sean when I said it was the first time that we had made Thanksgiving dinner. I was reminded that we made a January turkey dinner during the cleanse last year. (Oh yeah… The cleanse. That was a great dinner considering we had to be very creative…)

Anyhow, it was a beautiful day for a hike with more of the beautiful autumn colour palette, and even the appearance of a black bear(!). I actually got a bit of a tan. In October. But now it’s raining and my skin is counting down to the beginning of November when I am oceanside in Mexico.

Top of the peak
There’s a black bear eating berries in those bushes. We accidentally interrupted his meal, but he didn’t mind. Phew! 

Cracking the coconut

I went to a lunch time class at Inner Space on Tuesday, and the teacher was one I had never had before named Heather. Heather is awesome and so was the class. The class focus was opening the heart, so lots of upper back bends to open the chest.

Back in the fall, I ended up with a minor rotator cuff injury. Very inconvenient for this girl, as that meant that I couldn’t do downward facing dog without my shoulder hurting. As some might know, downward dog (or if you want to get fancy, Adho Mukha Svanasana) is a huge part of most yoga classes. And I was going 3-4 times a week. My yoga mat is one of my happy places, so I’ve felt a bit out of sorts the last few months…

So, off to physio I went for three months and I resorted to actually using the gym in my work building. I’m not fond of the gym in general, but it’s a great place to do my physio exercises and the elliptical and I have become friends – sort of. Most of my Pilates stuff was okay for my shoulder, but I missed yoga.

I started going to class again back in February but I’ve kept it to once a week or practicing at home. But I feel like my shoulder is happy now, so I continue to do my physio reps for strength (Sam, my physio, would be very impressed with me) and I’ve started to go to class on a more regular basis. It’s been hard and very humbling because I’ve been taking more beginner classes to get back to basics and my body is accustomed to more advanced postures. But I don’t want to re-injure myself.

I can’t remember everything Heather talked about in class on Tuesday (there was talk of elephants and their symbolism in yoga and Indian culture, something I will have to research another day) but the thing that stuck out to me was her talking about the Hindu ritual of cracking a coconut as an offering at temple. The symbolism of cracking the coconut is the breaking of the ego. The message in that for me was reiterating that back to basics is a good thing and happy shoulder = happy me. Also, that I just needed to relax. As silly as it may sound, I did feel my heart open and when I walked out of there, I felt great. Coconut cracked.

Have you cracked a coconut lately?

Yoga Online posted this on Facebook the same day I went to lunch time yoga. So appropriate.