Wednesday, 1 September 2010

1 year in Leicester and still kicking!

Nina reminded me this morning that it has been a month since I updated my blog! I thought I would get pass on that since I spent 2 weeks in Vancouver and most (if not all?) my readers are in Vancouver. In fact, I personally spent time with almost all of them. Nina was quick to remind me I also have dedicated readers in Germany (Hallo Deutschland!) and so I need to stay on top of my updates.

So… I spent 2 weeks at the beginning of August in Vancouver. Here are some of the highlights of my trip:

*** My dad took the day off and we spent my first full day in Vancouver together. We drove to Horseshoe Bay where we parked the car and walked onto a ferry for the short ride over to Bowen Island. We did a lot of walking through the woods (I missed the sights and smells of the Pacific Northwest forests with their immense trees). We walked a lot, talked a lot and had a good time. It was a perfect way to welcome me back home.

*** Shawn and his uncle were out on his boat for a week in Desolation Sound when I arrived. They came back a day early to pick me up from Dundarave Beach in West Vancouver. We headed out to Gambier Island for the evening and spent the night. We swam, BBQed, walked in the forest and took in the tranquil nature of the island. Being on the water and out of the city was
a peaceful experience and one I hadn’t counted on. I also enjoyed the perspective of coming back into Vancouver from the water as the city grew in front of me on the horizon. All the pictures

throughout this first half of my blog are from that trip.

*** My best friend growing up (Sarah Jane) and I hadn’t seen each other in about a decade. By chance she had just moved back to Vancouver and so we were able to reconnect. That was probably one of the best unexpected highlights of the trip.

*** My nephews and niece grew so much in the year that spanned my last Vancouver visit and I really looked forward to seeing them again. I am just glad they remember me which is quite a feat since they are so young.

*** Of course, seeing friends and family are the main purpose of going back. I purposely missed the Canada Day celebration this year to be there for dad’s birthday, which was a fun party as well. I was glad I got to see so many people that I hadn’t seen in years. Speaking of which, Dad, I promised the Cherry’s we would invite them to the Canada Day party next year. Please remember.

I had a pretty crappy flight to Vancouver. They added a stop in at Edmonton so the 8 hour flight I had booked morphed into an 11

hour flight. To make matters worse, I was sitting in the very last row meaning I had a bathroom directly behind me. My seat could not recline however the person’s in front of me could and she spent most of the flight with her chair in the reclined position. So before flying home, I booked my return seat (window seat) and ensured it was nowhere near a bathroom.

When I arrived at the Vancouver airport to return to England, they didn’t have a record of the seat I booked. And, to make

matters worse, the plane was booked. They offered me a mid-row seat which I was not thrilled with. I never do this, but I thought I would ask if there were any upgrades available. The man disappeared for a few moments and then returned. He worked on a computer for a moment and then handed me a ticket. I looked with delight to see I had been upgraded free of charge!

I have never flown in the front of the plane before so I started to get excited. Then I remembered that I had seen the “1st class” compartment and it wasn’t exactly what I had expected. They called it Premium Plus as the seats were the same, just with more leg room. Instead of a seat-back table one unfolded from the armrest and was actually larger.

I was happy to discover there were also more entertainment options on the seat-back television as well as a choice of meals and complimentary drinks. On my out-bound flight I had paid $2.50 for a coffee. The upgrade was certainly appreciated and made the 11 hour voyage a lot more tolerable.

The next weekend Nina and I headed to London for the day. Living so close, we thought it would be a nice way to spend the day especially since Nina hadn’t been since she was quite young.
We arrived around lunchtime and headed for a shop that I was eager to revisit (dad introduced me to it last November) and knew it would be right up Nina’s alley: Harrods. She was impressed (and in fairness, regardless of your views of shopping, it’s hard not to be impressed by Harrods).

While perusing the food floor we paid a visit to the lavish coffee counter where Nina bought some beans. We found some items for lunch and walked out the front doors onto the busy Brompton Road. We walked a half block up the street to a familiar large tree, sitting street-side with seating all around it. This was the very place dad and I had huddled under the branches to avoid the rain while we ate our lunches. Of course, this trip was in August so it wasn’t raining (only typically overcast).

We finished up and headed to Buckingham Palace for a tour of the Royal Rooms. Shawn and I had done this very same tour in 2008 when he came over and I was so impressed, I thought it was worth doing with anyone who hadn’t ventured inside before.

We through St James’s Park and came across a bandstand with a small orchestra playing a free weekend concert. Unfortunately as we arrived they finished. We strolled over to 10 Downing Street, or as close to it as you can get considering the police presence and

gate which blocks the road off. We walked up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square where we stopped for a coffee before heading to the underground.

We emerged a short distance away at Piccadilly Circus (the Times Square of London) and walked along Piccadilly Street. We came across a small nondescript church (St James Church) which had a crafts market set up in its front courtyard. We browsed and Nina picked up some gifts for her family in Austria.

A short distance further down the road we came to Fortnum & Mason which appeared to be a smaller version of Harrods and, if anything, a touch higher end (which I didn’t think was possible). We browsed through a few floors and found ourselves on their food floor where we found an afternoon snack. Back outside, I found myself in familiar territory. We walked down one of the arcades and found ourselves on Jermyn Street where dad had taken me. This was a street almost solely dedicated to men’s tailors, fashion and grooming. I took a peak through Charles Tyrwhitt as I had bought one of their shirts online and it fit perfectly. They had a fantastic sale on, but nothing really caught my fancy.

We stumbled, almost by accident, onto the Geological Society of London (which Nina is a member of) which sits in a gorgeous old building. We walked through the Piccadilly Arcade on our way toward St Christopher’s Square where we found a charming Italian restaurant for supper and a

crêperie for dessert.

Nina is not overly fond of large cities and London is nothing if not large. However she had a good time and said she would definitely be interested in going back. I think it was unfortunate we didn’t walk along the Thames. That is something I would definitely ensure we do on a future visit.

This past weekend we hosted some of mom’s cousins at our house. Being August we had visions of sitting out in our courtyard, or even in the large garden behind the house. Of course, being England, it was chilly and rainy so we spent the day in our living room.

We cooked up a storm; however, some of the items didn’t quite turn out as well as we had hoped. We made fresh pizza dough and I cooked 2 pizzas; one with yellow peppers and cherry tomatoes and the other with courgette, grilled onions and prosciutto. They turned out well except for the fact they fused with the non-stick paper they were baked on. They tasted fine in between pealing off pieces of cooked paper, or just eating them as is and considering the paper as added fibre.

I also baked a side of salmon which we served chilled with fresh lemon. We made a Caprese and green salad and offered baguette with brie cheese and grapes. Nina made chocolate nut brownies for dessert with whipped cream and blueberries.

Jane and Jimmy arrived with Yvonne and were followed shortly by Robert and Cathie. Unfortunately, Mandy and her family were away on holiday as were Irene and Tony. It was the first time we had invited the family around to our house and we enjoyed hosting them for the afternoon. With all the impending visitors we have over the next few months (Shawn followed by mom and then for 1 night dad) it was a good practice for the hosting we will do this fall.

As of today we mark the 1 year anniversary in Leicester; 25% of our sentence is behind us with 3 more years to come. I spoke to Nina’s mother on the phone last week and she wanted to hear all about my trip back home. She loves Vancouver and was hoping Nina and I would move there so they would have all the excuses in the world to come visit as often as possible. She couldn’t fathom how I could leave such a wonderful place in exchange for Leicester. Of course, she did recognize how this move was wise for me professionally speaking.

Nina is away in Ireland for the week on a geology fieldtrip which means I am living the bachelor life. This week is also my final one before I have to submit my extended workshop to the university.

So, back to it…