Sunday, September 25, 2011

Battle of the Blades

Karen and I went to Battle of the Blades tonight. It is at the Mastercard Center in Etobicoke this year. New place so we went down early to find the arena and a parking space and see about dinner.  I got off at the wrong exit but the GPS found the place for us and I managed to back into the parking space without causing damage so I was happy. 
We brought some dinner with us and ate it in the area near the concession then headed in to find our seats.  We had no seats!! We found the section and the row but our tickets were #18 and 19 and there were only 16 seats. We started asking where our seats were and no one could figure out. It turns out they put an extra camera on that side of the arena and eliminated our seats.  They called for the floor manager and she thought she could solve it. She decided we should get the bleacher seats in the corner of the arena - no chairs just benches and in a bad corner.  I refused. I told her I had accepted tickets at center ice and that was where I wanted to be.  There were several celebrity seats that had no one's name on them so I said we would sit there. She was worried someone would come but I said no one's name is on them - who is going to come?  In the end she gave us two seats in a section marked Marie-France Dubreil and said she had been told that Marie-France was not using all her seats tonight.
Boy was she wrong!!! Marie had eight people show up including her husband Patrice Lauzon and daughter baby Billie-Rose.  They ended up in front of us - which was really great and we didn't have to move.  Part way through the show the baby started fussing and Patrice was trying everything to keep her from crying.  She was hanging over his shoulder and ended up grabbing for my hands and squirming toward me.  Patrice let me hold her and she jumped and danced on my knee - I was thrilled. I was good though I gave her back after a few minutes.
The show was great, Marie Frace is my favorite, Wish I lived in Toronto so I could go tomorrow night as well. I can hardly wait for next week when we go again.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Postcrossing - Fun Mail

I've been back from holidays for a week and working from home. That is a little unconventional for me but I expect to have a proper office soon.

In the meantime I have takien up a new hobby and it is so much fun I have to share. is a site that gives you addresses so you can send postcards to people around the world and once your post card is recieved you get a random postcard from someone you don't know somewhere in the world.

These are three of my favorite so far.

So far I have recieved cards from Germany, Holland, South Africa, Indonesia, Finland, Macau, USA.  I love opening my mailbox these days because I never know if there will be a postcard inside and if there is - where will it be from. 

In turn I send out postcards to addresses I get sent by the website. So far I have sent postcards to Russia, Belarus, Finland, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Netherlands, Taiwan and USA.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Last full Day in London

Last night we had our bags 99% packed so that we would be ready for today.  We got up early, went down to breakfast, completed our packing and checked out. For a pound the hotel stored our luggage for the day as we are going out to Gatwick airport to stay the night at the Hilton so that we are there for early check-in tomorrow. In the meantime we needed a little more adventure.

We checked all of our wish lists and discovered that we hadn't seen Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament up close. It is the wrong time of the year for a tour and you have to book ahead so we just circled around and took pictures. We found a cafe to have an almond croissant at and a coffee as it is a little cool today.  We had a couple of hours before the Borough Market opened so we walked down Whitehall and took pictures of the war heroes.  I spotted Monty (Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery) but I didn't know the rest. It was nice to see that they had a war memorial for the women that served. Along the way we were going to visit the Banqueting House - included in our Historic Palaces, but it was closed for the day.

I picked London Bridge as the underground stop for us to use for the Borough Market. I thought we would have to walk along the river a bit to find it but we practically fell over it 1/2 a block from the underground station.  Markets like this are always interesting. Everything is going on at once; there are samples of food everywhere and the variety is spectacular. There was wild boar, kangaroo, ostrich, venison, sausage of all kinds; cheddar, blue, stilton, goat, and camembert cheese to name a few. We saw candy every colour of the rainbow, fish I didn't know existed, mussels, oysters, and parsnips as large as cucumbers. dozens of fruit and veg that we don't see here in the grocery store, plus organic goods and one man who claimed to be a high quality non-organic farmer.

We walked through the market several times - it is very large and then decided to walk along the river to see the reproduction of Shakespeares Globe Theater.  Had beer and sandwiches down on the wharf and headed back to the hotel to collect our bags. Got lost looking for Southwark underground but finally headed for Bloomsbury, Russell Square and the Tavistock Hotel for the last time.

I tried to find a bus route but it was not a direct route so we decided to take the tube to Victoria Station.  Most of the way we had lifts (elevators) to take us up and down so we didn't have to carry the luggage upstairs until we got to Victoria. Luckily with three flights of stairs we kept meeting nice men who carried the cases up for us.  We were tired enough as it was from dragging them around.  We thought that was the worst of the day until we got to the station.

We had prebought the ticket for the Gatwick Express train to take us out to the Hilton.  Easy-peasy put the reservation number into the ticket machine and out comes the ticket  --- NO!  The ticket machine said "Sorry but there is a problem with your ticket.  I went to one counter - the man tried but couldn't get the ticket to print.  He sent me to the Gatwick Counter and Renee tried to print it - no deal.  She passed it to a supervisor who also couldn't get it to work. They sent me to the Reception area where the lady on duty and then the team leader tried to get me a ticket. No Luck.  By now we had been in the station over an hour as we waited in line after line. I was exhausted and ready to burst into tears.  They kept saying that the number I had and the ticket didn't match it was in someone else's name and someone else's credit card. Could I go where I had bought it to get it printed. (London Ontario - I think not) In the end I had to buy two new tickets and get signatures from the people who I had dealt with as they told me to apply for a refund.

Finally we took the train and arrived out at Gatwick.  It took a while to find the hotel as Gatwick is large and under construction - like the rest of London. The hotel said we had two rooms not one - got that fixed - hope I haven't been charged for two? We had a bellman take our bags up to the room and we headed for the airport so we could check in as we had trouble on our iPods. Couldn't check in until tomorrow. Back to the hotel and asked about WiFi. We are in the only hotel in London that charges for WiFi. And a lot of money. Since peggy couldn't be sure when Mike would be home for face time she couldn't buy 15 minutes for 3 pounds as she might miss hime completely. The airport was suppose to have WiFi but it wasn't working.  That was why I didn't blog last night.

To top it off we hit the first hotel of the vacation that didn't give you two sheets on your bed.  I like to sleep with just a sheet unless it is very cold so we phoned and asked for another sheet and we ended up with 4 extra sheets. We picked up a couple of beer before we left Russell Square and 2 eclairs at Marks and Spence in the Airport so after dinner at the Sports Bar we went upstairs and ate eclairs and drank beer and watched "Red or Black" and "the Million Pound Drop".  Time for bed and an early morning.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tikki patchwork and Covent garden

Started the morning with the charger for the iPod going off like a fire alarm. Woke us and possibly the neighbors up. I pulled it from the wall and the noise stopped, so I assume it overheated. After breakfast we headed for the underground to get an extension to go to kew to a quilt shop. Ticket man said no just take the bus - it is free. Found a pattern for a Brit flag pillow and some beautiful rooster material. Charged it. On the way back we stopped at the local shopping center and browsed the shops. Found an airline pillow for a pound at Poundland.
In the afternoon we discovered Covent Garden. Shops, food stalls, market stalls etc what fun!
We roamed round and round and in between until we were tired and went back to the hotel to pack. After we packed we went back to Covent Garden to The Nags Head for dinner - bangers and mash for me and steak pie for Peggy and of course beer. Finishing the night with this blog and then a little more sightseeing tomorrow and off to gatwick. Will blog again tomorrow night.

More Palaces in London

Today was the big day. Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London. We walked through Green Park to get to Buckingham Palace as this is the closest underground. Many others joined us it was like a pedestrian street. Sorry to say the Canadian monument with it's fountain and carved leaves is being renovated but the Canada Gate was bright and shiny. Asked a policeman for directions and had my picture taken with him as there was no crowd. Short lineup to show e-mail and get tickets then a wait for our time. Usher kept telling everyone to go use public toilets as none were available in palace. We got to see the state rooms and the faberge jewels. This castle appear to have had the most done to it for comfort. There are rugs on the floors and it is homier then the others, if a castle can be homey. I guess it had the air of welcome for all the ornate and regal rooms.
After the tour we stopped at the outdoor cafe. Peggy had hot chocolate but I had strawberries and whipped cream. I shared a dollop of cream with her. Since it was early we made our way towards the Tower of London stopping for a burger and beer along the way and of course some more souvenir shopping along the way. We watched a parade of Horse guards ride up the mall which is as long as the Champs Elysee. And we took pictures of the guards at Clarence house and had pictures taken with several. More later.
Off we went to Trafalgar Square. We took pictures of the lions and the fountains and the column with Nelson on top.
Next we were away to the Tower of London. We listened to some of the history told by a Beefeater, like the gin but then we wandered around checking out the exhibits. Wee saw the crown jewels and the vaults that protect them then we climbed to the top of the wall and walked along it and I tried on a medieval helmet and we checked out the exhibit describing the animals the kings kept -now kept in Regent park zoo. We saw and did just about everything then went out and walked along the bankment to take pictures of the Tower bridge.
Back to the hotel for local food and rest. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hampton Court and the members room

Slept in a little as we had a late night back from Stonehenge. I usually don't eat breakfast but watching others eat a full English while I have a continental breakie is getting to me.
After breakfast of toast and tea we headed for Waterloo station to catch a train to Hampton Court Palace. Mastered the ticket machine and found seats facing front - not too full. The palace is across the bridge and right on the main street. After doing the first set of Henry Rooms we decided to visit the members rooms as it was a perk of our Historic Castle membership. Very nice very English lady answered the door and welcomed us. The tea machine broken but she managed to get me half a cup and went out and got Peggy one at the cafe when she lost our money. Shabby rooms but nice people - volunteers.
After lunch we continued to explore, found the rest of the wives and portraits of Edward and Elizabeth.
Headed back to London and went to Piccadilly circus and walked down th Waterloo Place. Took some pics and went back up to find St James Market. Mostly antique items that I don't know the value of so we just looked. Had to buy a new umbrella as the wind and rain today destroyed mine. Picked a Union Jack. Found a couple of small figures of a Bobby and a Busby at a street vendor. Gave up siteseeing because of the rain. We will eat near the hotel tonight.
Tomorrow Buckingham Palace.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Windsor Castle, Oxford University and Stonehenge

Caught the tour bus at 10:30 at the Royal National. It then took an hour and a half for Tim the driver to stop at the other hotels and pickup the remaining passengers. We had the front seat. Tim was excellent as some of the spaces we navigated were only inches wider then the bus. Off we went to Windsor Castle - free audio which we listened to for the first five
minutes then we wandered. Went through the state apartments - a little too formal for me to live in. The castle is really a series of buildings but no pictures inside. So I will upload other pictures when we go to Internet cafe.
After Windsor we went to Oxford University. William the guide was very knowledgeable and showed us the staircase from Harry Potter and the dining room at Christchurch that Hogwarts was modeled after. Harry's scar is based on the stonemason's mark outside Convocation Hall. William also talked about Alice in wonderland and stainglass windows with the characters and other people who went to school there including Christopher Wren.
Finally we were off to Stonehenge. We missed the rain all day except when we were in the bus. It was overcast and stormy which added to the mystery. A henge is a circular wave of earth surrounded by a moat or ditch and is older then the stones. There are two kinds of stones and they are in circular and horseshoe shapes. I took a lot of pictures but ca only post on facebook for now. Tired and happy signing off for now.

Day two

Piccadilly line to Cockfosters. Everyday on the tube we hear this. Today we went to Wrens Cathedral. No charge because of Sunday but we didn't see as much. We walked across the Millenium bridge and had lunch beside the river. Crossed back over and found the tube station closed for renovation. Turned out the whole line was closed for the day but no one working for the tube seemed to know. Went to queensway station to go to KensingtonPalace but it was pouring buckets by then. Tried to go to Kensington High Street by tube but the station was closed. Rain slowed down and we caught a bus going the wrong direction. Got turned around and finally found the Palace - under renovation. Because they had to close and block off the windows because of the dust of renovation they turned it into a fairy tale find the princesses. Ok but I would rather see the real rooms. We had fun exploring and by the time we were done the rain had stopped. We had dinner at the Bloom pizza cafe in the Royal National Hotel courtyard and back to the hotel to face no Internet and head for bed. I will do another entry for today.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Arrived in England

Arrived in London via Eurostar. Nothing exciting except that we changed seat so if the Chunnel had blown up our luggage would have been tagged to the wrong people. Arrived at the Tavistock and had a room near the garbage and machinery but they changed it when we complained. When down to Victoria station and went to Westminster cathedral and Westminster Abbey outside too late to go in to the abbey. We had fish and chip dinner at Albert Pub on Victoria and came back to the hotel. We have a separate router and washroom which is good as the shower sprays the whole room. Good bye for mow.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Vimy Ridge - the Canadian Memorial

Up early so we could make the train for Arras. The websites said if you didn't rent a car a taxi was about €25 and they were right, including a tip. We are experienced travelers when talking about trains in Europe so we had mo trouble. We went to the visits center and bought postcards and pins and signed up for the tour of the tunnels and trenches. Very interesting guide from Ottawa university. After the tour we walked four kilometers to the Memorial which is on a height of land. It is very pristine and beautiful and we had it almost to ourselves, but it is very emotional and sad to see the thousands of names of the dead. I. Found a Leonard and a Warriner (my grandparents names) probably not related but same name. Our taxi came back when we had the guide call him and we bought our return ticket and had a sandwich in the bar at the station. When we arrived back in Paris we decided to go downtown (near the river) for dinner. Didn't have dinner but found great area to explore and found the Center Pompidou - really ugly from up above but very colorful. Looks like a parking garage full of blue cars from Montparnasse tower. We had a beer at what I think was a strip joint but we were sitting outside. There was a jazz club opposite it.
Decided to go home and eat in the neighborhood. Found a really nice restaurant down the street hiding behind a hotel and food market. The man offered us the house specialty and we said ok. Big mistake another CroqueMonseiur! If I see more ham and cheese I will croak! It is all Parisian restaurants serve. We are getting packed to go to London tomorrow so au revoir.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Supposedly easy day in Paris

We slept in this morning until 10 am, of course that was after I had gone out at 8 for fresh baked croissants. We finally left around eleven and explored the area around Hotel de Ville. I bought a watch and found Jacques Tower. Took lots of pics. we also found the smellier washroom in Paris. Drifted over to Notre dame to meet a student guide that would take us on a walking tour of the left bank. Ate a banana crepe. But it wasn't as good as others have been, square and dry. The tour was interesting but the guide was a little immature. It was. Hard keeping up with a 20 year old. Went to Luxembourg Gardens - ok but not gorgeous.
Headed home to do laundry and eat grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and do the laundry.
Peggy says the other customer was doing laundry for his girlfriend and him, but maybe he was a crossdresser. He helped us open the washer when it got stuck, so he was a nice guy. We are off to Vimy tomorrow. Good night. Wish I could add pictures.