22 April 2012

2am wedding

Alastair has been a good friend of mine for a long time. As my little brother's best friend he spent a lot of time at our house and is considered an honourary member of our family. I was so happy when he got engaged to a newer friend of mine. Love is wonderful and it's delightful to see people you care about find that special someone. All this makes me quite sad though as being on the other side of the world still on my UK adventure means I couldn't make it to their wedding. I'm sad to have missed joining the celebration. But I joined as best I could.

So at 2am British time I went online and accepted a skype video call from my dad. While technology is never perfect and can be quite frustrating (thankfully I got the newly linked internet here to work again in time and also the video wasn't the best quality), I am thankful for what it makes possible. I witnessed their wedding in real time.

I didn't hear everything and sometimes the video was very blurry and pixelated but it never dropped out. It was great to see people there--people I know too--celebrating with them. I am looking forward to some clearer photos though. :)

As "at" the wedding as I could be.

Once it was all witnessed and I was happily satisfied and there was no longer much for me to really see (since communication wasn't easy and it's not the same as hanging out), I went back to bed. When mid morning rolled around I got up and went to meet some friends who kindly joined me at a local cafe in London to eat cake in honour of the new Mr & Mrs Dixon. At 11am on Sat 21st April. ; )

Congratulations Alastair and Celeste. I hope you have an amazing and fun start to married life and that the whole journey together is a wonderful adventure.
So happy for you both.
xO xO

13 April 2012

easter in Venice

Well my apologies for a wonky looking post. I tried the new blogger layout and it's done wierd things to my positioning of photos. So what I've managed is what you get. I'm sure you'll still enjoy looking at them. Venice is much more about the photos I think than what I have to say. It's amazing scenery wherever you look.

Thursday night I never went to bed. Since I had to leave the house at 2:30am on Good Friday to get to the airport in time to catch my early morning flight I just didn't think it was worth it. I survived the weekend but it was a perpetually tired one. Being that I kept staying up too late reading the last of the trilogy books I started on my last holiday. Anyway, I touched down at Marco Polo airport in Italy about 9:30am local time which was only one hour different for me. I tried to access my money and couldn't. I went through two cards before I finally used my UK bankcard to purchase my alilaguna (riverbus) ticket. Phew! (Thankfully later after a phonecall I realised I just had to find an ATM that would accept mastercard and I had access again.  Bigger PHEW!) An hour boatride later and I got my first sight of Venice.

On land my first mission was to find my way toward my hotel and locate my aunty who had arrived the night before from Australia. I think we'd both wandered in circles a bit before we finally spotted each other. It was wonderful to see some family again. Aunty Sandie informed me that we had a different hotel that night as it poured rain last night and made our room damp. So after finding our way to the nearby hotel and dropping my bags off, we headed out to roam the streets. With a few exceptions, that's pretty much what we did all weekend. Snooped around and scoured the shops, stopping frequently for a quick photo or four.

I quickly became the 'guide' as with a map in hand I could keep us from going in circles which apparently Auntie Sandie liked to do when she roamed alone. :P We spent a lot of our time wandering the main tourist area shore front and the Piazza San Marco. We were staying in the centre of San Marco and only ventured a little beyond it to other venecian districts. On the Friday night we wound our way up to the Rialto Bridge that you can just see in the evening photo of my aunty and I. We crossed over and found a restaurant where we could sit by the river and ordered some italian food. We both had gnocchi and I also had some red wine. I must admit though. I was quite disappointed with the food. It was barely average. The price we paid was for the tourist location not the quality. Only the pizza we had twice from a restaurant near the Piazza San Marco and the gelato we indulged in were delicious. The only disappointment in those was the gelato scoops were so small. Don't italians know how to scoop an icecream? My second gelato I went for the five scoops! :)

On the Saturday we headed back up to the Rialto to visit the markets up there. By this stage I'd decided on a few things I wanted and was searching for the ones that met my increasingly specific ideas. (This and a tiredness makes a bad combination resulting in frustrating indecisiveness.) We stopped by Mercatto Market which is a farmers market (food as opposed to tourist trinkets) which I could instantly picture a scene from The Tourist. I'm sure it's the same spot where Johnny Depps character jumps onto the market's tent-like roof collapsing it onto the ground and bumping a policeman into the water. We crossed the Grand Canal and wandered down around the other side before crossing the next bridge back to San Marco.

The shops fascinated me. So many shops and stalls and so many have very similar things and yet they were all interesting to look in. What surprised me most was the Murano glass. I never learnt much about it except that it's a nearby island which has a reputation for glass making. The things that they make with glass are amazing! Just check out the photo above; this display being labelled "The Great Barrier Reef". Such a wide variety of objects both useful and asthetic and mostly all fascinating. The likes of which I've not seen before. I was very impressed with the glass objects. Saturday afternoon we fumbled our way to our meeting point for a booking we made. While we followed the instructions we were left unsure with worried questions. But after wandering and querying we soon found the person we were looking for and she soon took a group of us down to the shore where a small fleet of gondolas were waiting to humour us tourists. My knowledge of Venice before I came was quite limited; city seemingly on the sea, canals and gondolas. :) So a gondola ride was the main thing I wanted to make sure I did. We got the cheaper alternative--sharing with others--and had a lovely half hour float around the canals. Two things I must admit here: one being that until my arrival in Venice I'd always thought the gondoliers moved the boats with long sticks they pushed against the bottom of shallow canals. It turns out they are actually oars and are rowed about. Two being that I'm really impressed with the gondaliers manuvering skills, especially when there's four or five gondolas in the same section of a narrow canal going both directions. Secretly I really wanted to have a go standing where the gondolier does...even just for a photo. But I doubt they would have let us. The ride was relaxing and exciting though sitting on a side seat, twisted to face semi-forward, I often felt I was going to fall off onto the floor of the gondola. Ah, it would be nice to splash out on private gondola and have a delightful and comfortable private float about sitting in the king and queen seat....maybe with a boyfriend/husband? ;) Still, it's definitely crossed off one of the points off my "would love to do once in my life" list.

After tea that night we went to a concert. A small stringed orchestra performing "Le Quattro Stagioni" (The Four Seasons). I wasn't particularly fussed about going but when my aunty offered to shout me, why not? And besides, Venice is a very artful place so to embrace my short adventure there was to embrace some artful experiences. It didn't take long for me to remember how easily we humans forget things. I had forgotten how wonderful it is to watch talented musicians performing in front of you. It becomes more than just listening to music. There was four violins, a viola, a cello, a double bass and what sounded like a harpsichord. Each violin took the lead position of a different season and the cellist was particularly fascinating to watch as he was so passionate as he played he practically danced with his cello around all the pieces. He even seemed to playfully entice some of the others occasionally into his dance. It was if he was joyfully and elaborately involved in a community where the language was music. I'm glad I did go.
Sunday came around and we set out to do a few final things we wanted to get done while in Venice. We made our way over to just beyond Piazza San Marco where we'd passed by the Bridge of Sighs a number of times as I'd previously failed to get a photo of it. Now that I realised the name and it was one I'd vaguely heard of before I rectified the situation. Then while Aunty Sandie went through a Marilyn Munroe exhibition I trotted off north out of San Marco and into a more lived in district. After searching ALL weekend for a venecian mask with an ever increasing collaboration of design features making it impossible to find one exactly as I now wanted, and had a final 20min bout going between two shops trying to find a satisfying compromise. And naturally I ended up with a nice one that was completely different than I was looking for. Ha ha. (Sorry Auntie Sandie for dragging you around and making you wait ridiculously long for me to make a blasted decision. :S )
And the biggest drama for the weekend, as we sat down to another unsatisfying attempt at good italian food, was to realise I got the times wrong for the alilaguna I planned to catch back to the airport. As we ordered I realised the one I planned to catch was now and not the next hour. We hurried through our meal and headed down to the water. We said our farewells as Aunty Sandie caught her waterbus up the Grand Canal to the train station and continued her Italy adventure and I waited anxiously for the next alilaguna boat hoping I'd make it to the airport on time. I already knew I'd have a decent walk from the boat to the terminal plus if I missed my flight on an already busy, expensive weekend to fly a replacement flight would be expensive. At the other end I ran half the way to the terminal, I searched and asked for help a little frantically to find the check in desk (as I couldn't find a simple sign to say where what flights were being checked in), but made it through security and to my gate with enough time to spare to grab some tea before I boarded. Only to be served by the cafe man who spoke only a little english and accidently charged my card 80 euros for my simple meal instead of 8. Of course I noticed this just as I pressed enter--damn it. Me, speaking even less italian than he spoke english, pointed to the price on the register and then to the price on my eftpos reciept so he would understand what I was saying. Obviously cursing the mistake he had to phone someone to come and help, wait for them to arrive and then figure out how to set it all right. In the meantime I'm watching the gate hoping they don't start boarding too soon. I started eating before it was all cleared up and managed to scoff most of my burger before deciding the boarding line was too short to not get in it. I stuffed my drink and my chocolate tart in my bag and headed back to London. Phew!

Venice was a bit of whirlwind weekend but it was a great place to visit and lovely to do so with someone from home and a family member at that. I'm glad I got to experience it as I did but I think I might have to flick through my photos a few more times for all those experiences to sink in.

06 April 2012

eye spy a tourist working

Today was just a half day; my Easter holidays beginning at lunch time. This morning was planned to take the boy for a ride on the London Eye. We were close to not making the trip into the city centre after a one and half hour near non-stop shout and cry from the boy that made the morning progress rather slow--and unpleasantly noisy. A good portion of it was before I started work (the pitfalls of living at work is the screaming soundtrack while I get ready to start work). Pretty much all came about from waking grumpy and finding the whole world was against him. Something of that level of drama. We did manage to make it out the door and thankfully we were both significantly happier. The prospect of riding the underground train was helpful.

My boss had bought me a fast track ticket and it was great to trundle up past all those waiting in queue for their turn. He he he. As a capsule slowly moved by the platform we stepped in and were on our slow lap around the Big Wheel (as called by the boy). I had hoped it might be semi clear but the morning was completely overcast without much hope of any sun getting through. So a little on the misty side but you could still see a decent amount.

The boy was thrilled when I pointed out the worksite below. He spent a long time watching the diggers work and counting how many and telling me what colours there were. I think that was the highlight of his ride. As for me, I think the idea of going on the London Eye is more fun than the actual experience. It's nice to see London from that angle but it's pretty expensive for the view. I was thankful that this was a work day. I don't think I'll spend my own money to go on it again.

While the ride was all fine and dandy and relaxingly pleasant, navigating the mind and emotions and behaviour of a three year old still assured me I was working; not just being a tourist. We pottered around in a couple of shops before I caved to donuts. Really I wanted them but the hesitation was based on not being able to buy some for me and not for the boy. So I ate three quickly while he ate his one. ;) Half way across the Westminster Bridge, a bridge flowing with crowds being in a high tourist spot, that irrational monster exploded through the surface again. Being cold I put his raincoat back on but he didn't want on his back? Sometimes he really does confuse me. This resulted in squatting by the barrier of the bridge holding a screaming child on my knee. Fun times. In the end I picked him up, still shouting and crying, and carried him the rest of the way to the train station. Thankfully he'd calmed significantly by the time we got there and we talked about some things he likes to help him calm all the way down. Then I was able to have that quick talk about listening and not shouting.

Lows and highs and plateaus. That's the way a three year old's morning goes. And now, I'm off to Venice for a weekend of sightseeing and exploring.

02 April 2012

one year old adventure

Has it really? I have trouble believing it to be true and yet it was this day one year ago, after an extended journey, that I finally set foot on English soil. One whole year! I really have done a calendar lap. A year seems to have gone by so fast and despite how much I've travelled and the many things I've done and experienced on this European adventure, I feel a little stressed that I've less than a year to 'do' and 'see' before they kick me out.

Well, there are many more adventures I'll fit in I'm sure. As for today, it was the perfect day to take it easy. I rose late (because I couldn't help reading my latest addictive book as soon as I woke up) and had lunch shortly after. : ) My frustration for the day was trying to find some fabric online to suit my ideas but we'll just skip over that part. I had a lovely afternoon in the sun. After catching two buses I waited around for ages nearby the cafe I was meeting my friends. Their train was taking its merry time. The cafe was busy, busy and when Stephanie and Caroline finally arrived we had to sit on a nearby bench a while before we were able to snatch up a briefly vacant table. Delightfully though by this time the sun was at it's warmest--which was not hot but kept the chilly breeze away--and we sat outside in it with our tea and scones.
Ah, delightfully British. I've been wanting to have tea and scones for a few weeks now and just not quite getting there. While there's no excuse needed to meet friends at a cafe, this afternoon tea was in honour of Caroline who leaves this week to head north. She's weaving her way through north England before she starts her new job in Edinburgh, Scotland. Happy travels, Caroline, and may your job start super well.

It was a most lovely afternoon of sipping, snacking and delightful socialising.