Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Belfast (trip through the UK part two)

So that's coming along... Here we go, this will cover Belfast which I was in for the later half of Tuesday April 10th, all of Wednesday April 11th and the wee hours of Thursday April 12th.

I left the mainland UK and very shortly got my first glimspe of the emerald isle and I tell you folks, they don't kid, the place is GREEN!!

Picture doesn't do it justice... it's SO GREEN!

Maybe next time I'll get to go in!
I landed in Belfast in the very late morning, nearing noon. By some lucky stroke I managed to catch the (somewhat infrequent) city bus from the airport to the city center. On the way I actually got a bit of a sightseeing tour though I hadn't realized it. We passed by the new Titanic museum as well as the Titanic Quarter, St. George's Market and other pretty landmarks.

I got off at the city center and then I was in a little pickle. I had no idea what to do! I had Edinburgh pretty well planned out... and I had my flight BACK to London booked... for Saturday the 14th! All I had to do was figure out how to get myself to Dublin for then... but what to do with the almost 5 full days in between?

First things first, my backpack wasn't light. I mean, without the laptop, it wasn't overly heavy, but I didn't feel like packing that bad boy around all day! As I may have mentioned before, I'm not afraid to ask for help. (case and point waking my flatmate up the day before to get my bottom to the train station!) So I asked the nearest friendly looking guy (who happened to be handing out touristy brochures for bus tours) where I could find accommodations. Fortunately for me I have this sexy Canadian accent that made everyone want to help me out. Unfortunately for me the guy was a local so not too used to staying in hotels. He pointed me to the nearest one (and gave me some pamphlets) and sent me merrily to the nearest (and I'm sure most expensive) hotel... A Radisson.

Oh how I miss this room....

I've got to say though, I did not mind paying an obscene amount of money for the luxuriously huge bed, fluffy pillows and bathroom that was larger than my bedroom in my flat (which... really isn't that hard... I honestly think the shower was bigger than my postage stamp sized clo...er... bedroom) considering the bed I paid for in the next city.

Once my pack was safely stowed and I had a dry pair of socks on (thank GOD I packed too many socks, my feet got pretty wet in Belfast!) I started to wander! What better way to discover a town than by hitting the sidewalks?! Firstly I headed in the direction of the Botanical Gardens (which is southish of where I was staying). I didn't make it to the gardens but I did manage to find a little home tucked away in Northern Ireland! TIMMY'S!!! (which I had to buy and drink and find funny since I don't actually drink Tim Hortons at home!) (but it was good, strong and hot which is what I needed since it rained off and on all day!)
Bit of home to keep me warm!

I turned back northward (paused back at my hotel for those some more dry socks!) and continued on north. That's where the REAL fun started. I was able to use the City hall as a decent reference point (since it was big, all roads seemed to lead to it, and I could see my hotel from there). I cirsscrossed all the streets I could find. People watching as everyone else went about their shopping in the mall and other stores. I eventually made it into the visitor's center and got a lot of good information and a better map from a gentleman there. Armed with the new map I managed to find St. Anne's Cathedral (and about a billion other (very pretty!) churches), the public library (and some other architecturally awesome buildings) then down to the harbour and over to the new Titanic museum (which was booked SOLID so no, I didn't get to go in... next time!!) over to the Titanic and Olympic slipways (which were unfortunately closed because they were getting ready for a concert that would be held... there....) I didn't wander too far down that area on the first day but returned on day two for a tour of the dry docks (more to come on that!). Then I meandered on my poor sore feet back over the bridge to a lovely clock (Albert Memorial Clock, for my favorite queen's husband!).

Looking down towards the Harland and Wolff Ship Yard

At this point it was getting a bit late so I headed up to town for some food (got a less than good noodle box) and saw an ad in my little guide book for a haunted walk. I called, they told me where to meet and I went back up the street in my new dry socks and met up with Clair (my tour guide) and a gentleman from Germany. That was it, only us. Unfortunately for Mr. German, (who was leaving early the next day), there needed to be a minimum of three people participating. Claire invited me back for the following evening's walk (at a discounted price!) and recommended I take the Titanic Dry Dock tour (a company she also worked for) the next day (at a discounted price! Just say Clair sent me!! ... which was unnecessary since she was the one I paid for my tour the next day anyway!).

With a full day ahead of me for my FULL day in Belfast, I had a nice long shower, watched some bad Brit TV and hit the large comfy sack.
Love this picture!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Edinburgh (trip through the UK part one)

Did you know that I've been saying Edinburgh wrong my whole life? Turns out the rgh isn't silent! You actually pronounce it "Ed-in-bur-ah". It's a good thing my kind British coworkers pointed out that little fact to me BEFORE I left for my Aptil trip or I may have been in trouble! (But apparently the Canadian accent means you get a little more forgiveness when you make those little mistakes)
Flights booked!!

Before I left the UK I decided it was about time I saw more of the place other than just Kendal and Cartmel. So after my last official shift (and the week where I helped out anyway because I'm just that nice) at work, I headed off on my little journey.


I think before diving in I need to explain two things. One: I've never really planned a trip before. Sure, I'm living in the UK but that's not a trip. Not really. I left home to come here and live. No booking hotels, no (well not much) wandering around strange cities trying to see the sights... Two: I like leaving things to the last minute. Want proof? I'm writing a post about my April trip 2 months later. :)

My trip sort of began on Wednesday the 4th of April. I didn't leave for the trip for another five days but this is the day I decided I was going. I bought my plane tickets and booked a budget hotel room for my first night, went into Kendal and bought a really cool (and on sale!) backpack. (also on a side note, this was my last trip to Kendal so it was kinda bitter sweet for me). I packed some clean clothes, my ipod, camera and some contact solution and I was good to go! I decided that since I was going to be carrying my possessions on my back that I would leave my laptop behind. This was basically my first time being without it since I got it in September 2007!!

Yep. Definitely in the UK!
After a couple more days of 'helping out' at work, Monday (and the actual start of my trip) rolled around. I should probably point out that my foresight was sort of lacking here. It WAS Easter Monday... but honestly, who would have thought that the buses wouldn't be running their usual route on Easter Monday?! So after waiting at the bus stop (in the rain... it IS England after all!!), I went back to the flat, woke up my lovely, wonderful, gorgeous, selfless flatmate (:D) and she drove me the five miles to the train station in Grange. (Have I mentioned how much I love my flatmate??)

I caught the train from Grange-Over-Sand to Lancaster then back up north to Edinburgh. It was standing room only from Grange to Lancaster and also from Lancaster to Carlisle then I was able to get a seat on the very crowded train (so unfortunately I didn't take any photos of the train ride but it was BEAUTIFUL!!).

Lovely little hotel room!

The very first thing I did on landing in Edinburgh was find out how to leave it. I was already at the train station so I figured that would be the best way to figure out how to make my way to the airport in the morning (10am flight meant I would be leaving earlier than most shops would be open to point me in the right direction so I needed to get all that sorted early!). I bought my bus ticket that would take me to the airport in the morning and then headed into the city center to check things out!

I did a small amount of wandering through the main downtown core (or the touristy part anyway) before I found my cute little hotel. VERY lovely, I wold recommend this place to anyone! After settling in, and ditching the super heavy backpack, I went for some more wandering and stumbled on the castle! Seriously. I approached it from a lower vantage point, coming at it from the bottom of the hill so my first view of the castle was AMAZING! So glad for that little misdirection!
The castle!!

I bought some shawarma (cause I'm not brave enough for haggis) and finished off my night by going on a paranormal ghost hunt under the streets of Edinburgh! Another highly recommended thing to do in the city, go on a tour with Mercat Tours. VERY fun!

Because of my early(ish) departure in the morning I called it a night after the tour, thus ending my (all too short!) time in Edinburgh.

I promise I'll be back!!!

Stay tuned for Northern Ireland, Ireland and my short adventure on the London Underground and Oxford!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Monday April 2nd, Fishing

Probably not the most timely post... but I did just switch countries here!! SO let's play catch up!

Starting with fishing.
Still lake with a bit of drizzle.
Not quite a week after my solo trip to Dove Cottage, one of the chefs made good on his promise to take me fishing (in the UK) (duh) before I left. Good timing since I wasn't actually suppose to work after finishing the shift on Sunday April first, but seeing as they hadn't found a replacement for me yet I decided to help out for the week before my holiday then travel home.

Monday morning I got up at around 6am (which is the earliest I'd woken up in a LONG time). Met the aforementioned chef in the Square of Cartmel and got a little tour of the countryside as we made our way over to Coniston Water (one of the few lakes in the country).

The last dock we fished off
This day was to be fishing like I've never had before. I'm not used to driving to different spots... in a car. On that note, I'm not used to casting off a dock (well... actually expecting to catch a fish when casting off the dock anyway). But that's what we did. Starting at the southish end of the lake we parked on the side of the road and went through a field. At the end of the field we went through a gate and down a path to a dock and tried casting a bit. It was a nice cool (for me and my thick Canadian skin, cold for the poor Brit) misty morning. The birds were singing, the lake was like glass... but the fish were not biting.

Back to the car and on to the next spot! Tried a few casts there for a little while longer but again no such luck. On to the third and final spot and still, only a couple nibbles but no decent hits.

With fishing behind us, the lack of success was more than compensated for when I joined the chef for a bit of foraging. Lots of fresh locally sourced greens are used in the dishes at l'enclume and I got to see first hand where some of these come from. We drove past the restaurant's farm and to a secluded (well... as secluded as you can get in that crowded little country!) little forest and started looking for some pretty little white flowers that were shaped like little bells and had purple lines on them.

I was so excited that night when the little sorrel flowers I helped find were on dishes that I served during dinner service. (and before you ask; yes, I did point that little fact out to the guests)

please ignore the icky nails... they didn't like something about being in the UK :(
Some beautiful and yummy flowers.

So although I didn't catch anything, I was (and still am) so grateful to the nice guy who took me fishing in the UK just two weeks before I left the country. I just have to get out this summer back home and put some photos on facebook for him to see and know that I CAN catch fish!!!

Monday, 9 April 2012

March 28, 2012. Dove Cottage!

I made it!!!!

Dove Cottage (bottom) and the pretty surrounding area.
Let's set the record straight: I'm not the super poetry loving girl in the family. I think some of it is very pretty.... but lots of it goes a bit over my head. I prefer to see a beautiful place rather than read a poem about it.... So that's just what I did!! On my last days off before my final three working days at l'enclume, I went on a little adventure.

I woke up at 9am to catch the 9:30 out of Cartmel to Kendal. From Kendal I jumped on the 555 to Keswick by way of Windermere, Ambleside and Grasmere! Now because I'd never gone this way before and I was alone, I relied completely on the bus driver to get me there. I asked him how long to Grasmere and checked my watch. At the one hour mark, I (by some stroke of luck) saw this little white house just off the main road and a sign (very unobtrusive sign) that said "Dove Cottage-->". Almost missed my stop!!

I spent a little time in the tiny gift shop / ticket booth then jumped on the guided tour! Unfortunately no pictures were aloud in the cottage which kinda sucked... but that just means you'll have to go there yourself sometime!

Looking out at the back garden at Dove Cottage
The garden there was fabulous and the view was stunning. The lady giving the tour seemed to know her stuff and was (fortunately) pretty patient with the older ladies I was on the tour with... they asked the strangest questions....

Front garden.
Next up was the Wordsworth Museum. I didn't spend too much time in there, I prefer things like the cottage over dark and stuffy museum. Also I wasn't sure when the last bus left (because there's no WAY I was being stuck in a little town overnight when I had a flat just an hour south!) so up next was the church where the Wordsworths are buried! Happy thought, I know. But apparently that's another popular place for the Wordsworth tourists to go... and heck, why not, who knows when I'll be back here again.

I stopped in a shop to grab some postcards and find out when (and where) the bus came through and 15 minutes later I was on my way back to Cartmel by way of Kendal and Grange!

Short trip but it was a nice warm day, sun was shining and I got lots of pretty pictures!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Going for a walk, send a search party if I'm not back soon!!

See that dog on the right... running to "greet me"...

February 13th, 2012.

Did you know that EVERYONE (well, nearly everyone) who visits this area does so for it’s “walks”? It’s true. Apparently walking is a VERY big thing in this country. There are “Public Footpaths” and walking trails EVERYWHERE!
Looks like a dream home to me!

So I figured, I’m already here, might as well try. Literally outside my door is the start of one such walks. From the Cartmel Racecourse “Car Park” (parking lot in “North American”) to Cark (near by town) is the walk I choose.

I began my walk by passing through a gate at the far end of the car park. After walking a short distance down a wet and muddy road through a field I was attacked by a couple of equally wet and muddy (but much more adorable) dogs.
The little stream that provided some music
on my walk.

Part way though the field I came across my sister’s future home if I ever bring her by this area (an abandoned farm but it looked pretty sweet to me, a fixer upper but nothing I wouldn’t be able to handle!).

Then next portion of the walk took me through a beautiful wooded area. There was a small river or stream somewhere beside me, some other walkers and some cyclists too.

When I broke through the trees I was at the back of fields full of sheep. A few more gates and after passing behind someone’s home / farm, I went through another gate and was actually IN with the sheep this time!

They're in my way...

A little further along and through another gate and I was in Cark! Because the sun was setting, I decided to go back the way I came and thus ended my walk!

What did I learn from this walk?
-Buy better boots, my shoes ended up soaked and my socks muddy...
-Gates are meant to be gone through (I got stuck at the first one because I wasn’t sure if I was suppose to go through it or not
-On that note, always close a gate behind you! There were sheep in that one field, remember!
-NEVER forget your camera :D

January Trip Home!!!

L'Enclume friends watching the fireworks
New Years 2011/2012

Lets jump right back into to work!! Things were slow for the winter months here. Fair enough, we had the odd busy evening (almost always Saturday nights), but for the most part, things were slow. Half way into December our old sommelier, Vincent, finished here and moved back home to France. In preparation for his departure, he threw a little leaving party for himself and his girlfriend Linzi. As we approached the night of the party, all the others from work arranged for that night and the next day off... the party was being held at the pub, you guess why they needed the time off.

I didn’t plan to ask for time off, I could work and let those who knew Vinny and Linzi longer, enjoy the party. It almost could have worked out that I have the evening off but in the end I had to work. It was with the party in mind that my manager reminded me that I’d gathered a bit of holiday time. I had planned to take it just after new years and somehow at some point, he suggested I take it to go home.

...Go home!?

The manager didn’t realize what that meant to me!! I hadn’t planned on seeing my family until next September. But to go HOME half way in?! I was sold.

I booked my time off and my flight shortly after. Return from Manchester to Newark New Jersey to Toronto to Thunder Bay... whew!!
This was a good reminder of where I was when I work
up after my flight over the Atlantic...

As if the marathon flights weren’t enough, I had an almost completely full schedule from the moment I landed to the moment I flew out again. Everything from family dinners, nights out with friends, even a bit of shopping.

The best part about this whole trip was the fact that we were able to keep it a secret from most of the people back home. Only my parents and my sister knew I was coming so I got to have my fun; surprising friends, my aunt and uncle, my grandma and my boss.. to name a few.

I really enjoyed my trip home, made me realize how much I love the place and really look forward to coming home for more of an extended time.

Makes you love flying...
The only downsides of this trip were the return to the UK. Not because I was coming back, I love this place!! But the early and all day flights, the 7+ hour wait in Newark airport and the fact that I landed in the UK at around 7am (after leaving Thunder Bay the day before at 7am!), caught the train back up to Grange at 9am and was back in the flat by 11:30.... none of that was as MISERABLE as the fact that my manager decided that even after the transatlantic flight... I should work that night at 6pm. Let’s not forget that this day was still suppose to be part of my holiday. Thanks Mr. Manager for making me work on my holiday.


Saturday, 31 March 2012

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011.

Lancaster :)

Alrighty, lets get you updated on Smooshe’s travels!

On the 15th of November (just over 2 months since arriving in the UK) I finally decided to go somewhere other than just Grange and Kendal (not to say I don’t love those places, they will forever hold a special place in my heart!!)!

Kamila had been telling me how nice Lancaster was, bigger than Kendal, so I HAD to go! I got up early enough to catch the first bus to Grange (9:30) then waited a bit for the first train to Lancaster.

Witches go that way? Ok... I'm going...
I’d never ACTUALLY been to Lancaster. I HAD spent a short period of time there when I first arrived in the UK, but I’d stayed at the train station with my suitcases then. Because of this, I had no idea where I was going or what to expect. I didn’t even have a map!!

When the train stopped, I remembered that Kamila said to head right from the station and that street would take me to the shopping centre. I followed the other passengers and LO! (lol) I found shopping!

Now I’ve got to be honest, I wandered around for about 2 hours and I wasn’t impressed. Lancaster had most of the same shops as Kendal, only they were in Lancaster which was farther away for me to get to. I didn’t buy anything besides postcards and I started heading back to the train station.

On the way back to the station, I saw this funny little sign with a witch on it. An official looking street sign... but with a witch on it. Of course I had to follow.

Then I discovered the castle...
Sure looks like a castle to me!
So much fun to photograph!
I wandered around outside Lancaster Castle for a bit, taking pictures of the outside, enjoying the view (because castles have this habit of being perched on hills). I found a sign that said there were tours! So I took one! Unfortunately since it is still used as a court house, there’s no photography inside the castle.... but I got a few postcards and a good little book about the place. Did you know that the site has been used since Roman times? Like, BCE!!! That’s old!

When the tour was over I was a little less disappointed with my trip and glad I got a few good pictures (didn’t want the trip to be a waste!!).

Stay tuned for details of my whirlwind trip home!!