Friday, April 20, 2012

Flying UK visit

Almost a month ago (!) I popped over to the UK for a quick visit for my sister's birthday, fitting in an overnight trip to Cambridge to see my friend Ruth and her new baby as well. I haven't got around to blogging it until now due to sheer laziness, because lots of photos = lots of time doing the blog, but here we go! The flight, direct from Tours, was fine, except they confiscated both my empty water bottles, and when I asked if that was a new rule, said that they had been doing it since 2003. They got a bit huffy when I pointed out that I had already flown out of French airports three times THIS YEAR without encountering this "rule". Anyway, that at least gave me an excuse to buy Magners cider on the flight rather than paying ridiculous RyanAir prices for bottled water. From Stansted, it's an easy hop by train to Cambridge, where I caught up with Ruth. I hadn't seen her since her wedding, and obviously between not really getting to talk much at someone's wedding and the fact that she's made a whole new mini-person since then, we had a lot of catching up to do. Didn't actually see any of Cambridge, but saw the lovely new house, the lovely new baby (I think I sold Ruth on my theory that all you had to do with baby was pat him like a kitty cat - nothing to do with me being out of my comfort zone there), the lovely new(ish) husband and R's local pub, where I managed to almost knock a table over before we even had a drink! Firmly blaming that on Ruth though, she has a long-standing fetish for sitting on stools, so when some came available shortly after sitting down, she made us move from our comfy couch to the stools and I managed to trip over the fireplace and nearly up-end the table in the process. D'oh! R's lightening reflexes saved most of our drinks though, woohoo!

Me and baby E - I don't look tense *at all* ha ha! I was a bit constantly worried he might die somehow under my charge, but nope!

The next morning, after a bit of a mad dash across one of Cambridge's commons to buy some water before the bus left, it was down to London. The bus was way cheaper than the train and it actually was not bad at all, although obviously takes a bit longer. I got into London about lunchtime (Friday), met my sister and her boyfriend Scott at Embankment and then deposited Jess to get her hair and makeup done before Scott and I headed to his place to drop my bag and get changed for the evening (with strict instructions not to get drunk along the way). Scott's apartment is gorgeous and filled with beautiful real art and antiques, so obviously I was terrified that I was going to come home drunk and destroy everything. Scott put me (mostly) at ease though by pointing out one vase that I was forbidden to break, while the rest was, if not fair game, at least pardonable. Phew!

Chez Scott and Jess... Eeek, so many breakables!

As it happened, there was no time for drinking before heading back to meet up with the glammed-up and gorgeous Jess and on to her birthday party. The champagne and cider was flowing, there was an amazing birthday cake that not only looked like an elephant, but tasted awesome too, and I got to catch up with my uni friend Amber, who moved to London last year (and was meant to visit me last year except she lost her passport) and my cousin Vanessa, who I hadn't seen in years. Good time had by all!

Me and Scott at Jess's birthday

Party Librarians! Someone unfortunately spilled red wine all over Amber's lovely white jacket and blouse later in the evening, oops! (NOT me!)

Birthday girl!

The (homemade) cake! Normally I'm a bit suspicious of novelty cakes, but man, this was moist and tasty and delicious! I'm sorry what with all the drinking I didn't manage to eat more of it!

We were once again blessed with good weather the next day, so we shook off our hangovers and took the bus to Greenwich, a part of London I've never been to before. After a yummy pub lunch, we strolled along the waterfront and checked out the Old Royal Naval College, which has free entry to see the beautiful Painted Hall and chapel.

Me and Jess in Greenwich

Jess and Scott copping a feel of Nelson

The Naval College Chapel is very bijou and beautiful

An amusing crest at the Naval College

The Painted Hall

And then hauled ourselves up the hill to the Royal Observatory, home of the Prime Meridian i.e. 0° longitude and the home of Greenwich Mean Time. Suckers pay to get into the observatory to take pictures on the Prime Meridian, but Scott's inside knowledge lead us around the side, where you can do it for free! There are other bits of the observatory which are free as well, so we spent a bit of time wandering about before visiting Scott's Favourite Tree on the walk back down, where we decided to catch a ferry back into the city.
Jess and I straddle the dateline in a sort of "mad '60s models" style

The Greenwich Observatory. Scott had an interesting story about the ball on top, but I forgot it, sorry!

View over London from the observatory

Once we actually got going, the boat was a nice way to see the city from the water on a lovely day, which I've never done before, but I'll just say this - don't use this mode of transportation if you're ever in a hurry! It took us at least an hour and a half to get from Greenwich to Embankment (I think that's where we got off anyway), most of which was spent in the queue - we were unlucky enough to be about the fourth spot back when they roped off one boat, so we had to wait even longer for the next.

St. Paul's from the boat

Tower Bridge from the boat

Tower Bridge with a ship in front of it - someone will know what ship that is, I'm sure

But still, we were in no hurry and had time for a pint in a pub with the world's smallest toilets before heading to dinner at Kettner's, opened in 1867 by Napoleon III's former chef, where we were treated as VIP guests thanks to a less-than-perfect Valentine's Day outing for Scott and Jess. Since I wasn't there on the Valentine's in question, I was more than happy to benefit from the very attentive service and complementary champagne (not to mention the other bottle of champagne, delicious three-course dinner consisting of goat's cheese, confit duck and chocolate torte, and bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé for dessert, which my generous hosts treated me to). I'm not used the champagne flowing quite so freely, so this weekend was quite the extravagant treat and I felt very spoilt!

Reserved for Taittinger!

More Taittinger love - do you think if I mention it often enough on the blog, they might give me some?? Pleeeeaase?

How about if I artfully foreground it?

I had to crop myself out of this lovely photo of Jess

Me and Jess with her special little birthday cake

We ran into (or in my case, lay on top of) this hideous, hideous Oscar Wilde monument on the way back from the restaurant, which very appropriately has the quote about all of us being in the gutter (but only some of us looking at the stars) on it. I was more gutter than stars, as you can see, and only my commitment to tomfoolery leads me to put it on the blog! 

The trip finished with an early night and a trouble-free run up to Stansted by car in the morning, before getting home, feverishly unpacking and cleaning, and welcoming Rick in the evening. It really was a lovely weekend, so lucky with the weather both in London and when I got back to Tours, and lovely to catch up with a bunch of old friends and meet new people such as Scott, who did a great job welcoming me and even did an early-morning supermarket run to provide me with hangover bacon (two thumbs up!!)

Mmmm hangover bacon!


  1. HMS Belfast

  2. That was quick! I assume mum must have alerted you to nerdly knowledge needs xx

  3. Seems as if you had a fantastic time...although you definitely look a tad bit nervous holding the baby! And seeing all the photos of sunshine and summery clothes makes me wonder what happened to the weather?!?

    The elephant cake is incredible. What went first - the ears, the snout? Did you ever make to the belly?

    And finally, please consider joining Steph's Expat Blog Hop. No pressure, but the deadline is tomorrow.

  4. It was an aardvark! And the belly was filled with caramel :-)

  5. Oh, sorry, don't know my aardvark cakes from my elephants! I don't think I made it to the caramel belly, dammit! I know, cold and rainy here too :(

  6. Ah, this is jam packed post! I have so much to comment on!! Where to start, where to start...

    1. I have major constipation face when I am holding someone's child too. I'm scared something will happen too. I'm glad that Baby E didn't die while in your custody. LOL! I love your sense of humor!!

    2. You two are some cute librarians! It's a shame about Amber's coat.

    3.How was that cake made? With an armadillo mold? In separate parts? Who made it?! Details!

    4. The hipster merman is AMAZING. He has a juicy ass. Look at it!

    It looks like you guys had a blast. I can't wait to meet you one of these days and we can drink. You're fun!

  7. 1. I know, parents left the room at one point and he kept snuffling like he might be thinking about dying just to spite me ha ha!
    2. Aw thanks, yeah red wine and white jacket = always a bit risky. Hope it came out
    3. I think maybe if you ask too many questions about the cake, you destroy its awesome mystery. Otherwise, maybe my sister can tell you? (Made by one of her friends)
    4. Yeah, I loved the manly beard with the weird mermaid lower half, he looks like such a mermaid bear (in the gay sense)!
    5. Yes, come back to France! Wine needs you!

  8. It was an armadillo not an aardvark!

  9. If you really want nerdy I could tell you stories about the HMS Belfast that even the nerds don't know!

  10. It's definitely an aardvark, by special request! I'm unsure how it was made, I think mainly stuck together by lashings of chocolate ganache!

  11. Stop spreading cake misinformation, Dad!

    Why did you request an aardvark? Even more impressed, I wouldn't know where to start making a novelty cake of any sort, but especially an aardvark of all things!!

  12. Thats the finest armadillo I've seen. (nothing like an aardvark).

  13. That is definitely a baby armadillo that Gwan's holding!


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