Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter Sunshine in Hyde Park

Today, the sun was out, the skies were blue, the temperature was barely over zero, so I decided to make the most of it. I went into the city to walk through Hyde Park and visit Kensington Palace.

Getting off the tube at Hyde Park Corner, I discovered the toilets there, right near the gates, are very clean, with soap and working hand dryers...which in London deserves a mention on its own! My path through the park was alongside the Serpentine, which looked absolutely gorgeous in the winter sunshine. What I should have been doing though, was watching where I was walking. There had been a bit of snow early this morning and had quickly turned to ice on the path and yes, I slipped. Right in front of a whole crowd of people outside The Boathouse. I'd like to think it was one of my more graceful falls, feet slipping out in front and landing straight down on my bum, but embarrassing enough!

After I brushed the ice off my coat, and hurried away from the scene, I followed The Serpentine, which then became The Long Water, which I guess is called that because it is long! There were a lot of Londoners and tourists out in Hyde Park today, most of whom were immaculately dressed. However, the Best-Dressed-in-the-Park awards have to go to the Chihuahua's. I saw one in a full body, blue jumpsuit, a couple with fur-trimmed white coats and even one in a matching baby pink cardi and hat combo. Well, one does have to look one's best, even in the cold weather!

Following the path around, I ended up at Kensington Palace where, thanks to my lovely friend Hannah, I have membership to, and it didn't cost me a cent to enter. They currently have "The Last Debutantes" exhibition, featuring multi-media displays, gowns, music and even a etiquette room where you could practise your curtsy, balance a book on your head for deportment and even learn to set a table correctly. I hurried through this room so I didn't show myself up!

The tour then leads into a display of some of the gowns worn by Princess Diana, followed by The State Apartments. In this part of the Palace, you can see the Cupola Room where Queen Victoria was christened and the Queens Rooms where Queen Mary entertained her friends. I did see a King wandering around, but no one else seemed to take any notice of him. Oooh, maybe he was a ghost! King George I, perhaps??

As with most places, you leave the tour through the gift shop (no tacky Vincent Van Gogh toys here!), stocking lots of things your nana would love...lace doilies, handkerchiefs, lavender pomanders, that kind of thing. All very nice, though!

On with the coat and back out into the gorgeous London winter sunshine. A great day out, even with a two hour bus trip home. This is London, after all!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Designs of the Heart

Check out this blog:

My sister, who is always a big fan of my blog, is the author and since she has given my blog some good press lately, it's high time I repaid the favour.

When the talents were given out in our family, my sister got all the artistic ones. Have a look at her page, especially her Etsy shop. She makes all sorts of things that are awesome, unique presents for those people hard to shop for or just to keep all to yourself.

Mention you heard it from me and she may even give you a discount!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Not For Tourists

If you're new to London, you must grab yourself a copy of NFT (Not For Tourists).

It's a comprehensive guide, all in a very handy pocket size, to what to see (and what to avoid) in London. It's written by people who actually live here and some of the stuff in there is hilarious.

You can pick up a copy for under a tenner at most bookshops (I got mine in Foyles on Charing Cross Road - love that store!). Well worth the price!

(Obviously, you'll want one for London if that's where you're living...unlike the one for New York City in the picture, but I guess you worked that out already!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy Australia Day 2010

So last year, I spent Australia Day watching the NFL and thinking that it would be my last Australia Day in Australia for a while. Here I am in London, with my tiny Aussie flag on my wall, set to celebrate the day...very quietly, I guess.

It got me thinking how I have spent Australia Days Past, and the ones that stick in my mind are always the ones spent with family and friends, usually surrounding a BBQ, a swimming pool and then a trip into the city or to the beach to watch the fireworks. With a top temperature estimated to be 3 degrees here in London tomorrow, I can't see me doing the first two things. But fireworks? Surely, with the amount of Aussies that call this city home, there will be some fireworks. You can buy them in the supermarket here so what better excuse than Australia Day.

I made a pit stop at The Australia Shop in Covent Garden last weekend for supplies for the day, but since I have already eaten and drunk them (!), I will need to make do with a packet of Tim Tams...if Tesco still sell them. Please tell me they do!

But what matters most of all is not my location or my lack of all things Aussie, but the fact that I am Australian. Where I live will not change that.

Happy Australia Day, everyone!

(and if you are a fellow Aussie out there, away from home and a whole lot more organised than I am, then have a Vegemite sandwich, a lamington, a lamb chop, a cherry ripe, Anzac biscuit or whatever takes your fancy, for me!)

Monday, January 25, 2010

The National Gallery

As part of my kid-free Sunday (which turned out not to be totally kid-free after all!), I decided to spend the afternoon in quiet contemplation (?) at The National Gallery.

The National Gallery is located in Trafalgar Square and got it's start when the House of Commons paid for 38 paintings belonging to a banker back in 1824, and used his Pall Mall home as the exhibition space. Embarrassed by having their national Gallery based in someones home, the Great British public demanded the Government build a building worthy of a national art collection. The current building was designed by architect William Wilkins and completed in 1838.

I started my self-guided tour in The Sainsbury Wing, the newest addition to The Gallery, opening in 1991. The Gallery is well laid out, with most of the displays on the same floor and you can see most of the paintings in one afternoon.

It didn't hold the same magic for me as The Louvre, but then, I imagine, few places would. It was great to discover some of my old favourites and ones I studied at school - Monet, Rembrandt, Constable, Turner and Van Gogh.

All around the Gallery are seats and benches where you can rest your weary feet and also take in some of the larger portraits from a distance. And in each of the rooms is the ever-present guard / attendant (not sure what to call them!) standing or sitting and looking entirely bored. I'm sure a day in my old office job would seem like too much excitement for them! How they manage not to fall asleep, I'll never know. I did overhear a couple of them talking about whether they preferred gas or electric cookers (I think gas was the winner!), so I guess they have ways of keeping entertained.

The National Gallery is open daily from 10am to 6pm and is free. The usual audio tours, cloakrooms and Gallery Shop are all available. There is a restaurant, but I didn't go in as it looked really expensive.

But my favourite of the whole gallery was discovered in the Gallery Shop on my way out. Among all the prints of the famous portraits, classy stationery and art books was a stuffed Vincent Van Gogh toy, complete with detachable ear and a little tag saying, "I'm Vincent Van Gogh and my ear comes off". Nice.

Sunday Snapshot

Fountain in Trafalgar Square

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It's just another Manic Monday...I wish it were Sunday

This has been a very long week. The only thing that has kept me going is Sunday. My one day off each week and the only kid-free day. Aahh, Sunday!

The week started off pretty ordinary, then got progressively worse. One day on the way to school pick up in the afternoon, I stopped off at the supermarket with 4-year-old in tow, and I thought I would be nice and buy him a magazine of his favourite character, Thomas the Tank Engine. He was so excited and even helped me pick one out for his sister. I had a moment of thinking I must be the nicest, most generous nanny in the wrong I was.

The very next day, 4-year-old could not stop asking for another magazine and, after trying to explain that the magazine only comes out once a month and that he couldn't have a magazine every day as it was a special treat, this turned into a full-volume screaming tantrum, complete with tears (mostly of the crocodile kind!).

Meanwhile, 5-year-old girl has been demonstrating an attitude worthy of a Hollywood diva, answering back, hands on hips, "I'm right, you're wrong!" - the whole bit. I have been at the limit of my patience all week, which as you may remember is not that patient at all!

Add to that, there were copious amounts of snot, endless "Why?" questions, playdates, and trains, trains, trains!

So you can see why I may be looking forward to Sunday. It will most likely rain, so I think I'll find some nice, quiet gallery to spend the afternoon in. Sounds like heaven!

On a better note, on Thursday, I was walking back from the library, feeling sad and missing my friends and family, when I bumped into a fellow nanny I know and we had a really nice chat and then, just around the corner, I ran into a lady from the WI (Women's Institute) and she remembered me from the whole two times I had been to the meetings. It honestly made my day. It just felt so nice to see people I knew and have a conversation with someone over the age of 5!

And finally on Friday, I was without a car and had to do the school run on foot, an hour round trip, morning and afternoon, which was fine as I really enjoyed walking along in the rain. I arrived at the school, thinking how nice the rain was and how great it was to be able to be outside for work and not stuck in the office all day, when the first mum to arrive says, "Isn't this weather grim?".

I smiled to myself and thought it's all just how you look at it, I guess.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday Snapshot

Believe it or not, this photo was taken to today. That strange glow on people's coats is the sun. It's true! The sun came out in force today and I spent the afternoon wandering down Charing Cross Road, browsing in the bookshops and in Covent Garden.

Love this city!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

And, in case you haven't had enough... are some more snow pictures.

I guess I will get tired of all the white stuff eventually, but not today!

My blog has been chosen as's Blog of the Month for January 2010! I am truly honoured. Thank you so much,!

And here was I thinking only three people read it!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Snapshot

I've been a bit slack with the Sunday Snapshots the past few weeks, but this one should make up for it. This shot was taken in the grounds of Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park.

A beautiful snow day!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

First Snow of the New Year

Happy New Year!

I know plenty of places have had loads more snow than here, but here is a picture of my first snow of 2010.