Tag Archives: London

London, 2011

In September of 2011, I received word that my grandmother has passed away in England. She was the last of my grandparents left, and even though you are not meant to have favourites, she was mine.

My mother and I flew to London to meet my father in Weymouth. My bestie was living in London at the time, so I decided a detour was in order before the funeral.

My bestie was living in the suburb of Forest Hill in a lovely large house with a cute English garden and patio. Her partner was working on the London Olympics hence the temporary move from Australia.

We went shopping on Oxford St where I very much enjoying being back in familiar London with the beautiful old buildings, red double decker buses, telephone booths and John Lewis.

A visit to Harrods was a delight. The detailed ceilings in the jewellery and food halls and that made it seem more like a museum than a shop. Then there was the life sized beefeater and policeman teddy bears and the London themed Christmas decorations section. We found Paddington Bear, an indoor merry-go-round filled with stuffed animals and shared a glorious ice cream sundae.

The next day we had tickets to The Lion King in the West End, but we decided to explore the surrounding area first. I spotted St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Whitehall Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from a bridge.

We went to Covent Garden for some Christmas shopping. I also picked up some England only products for myself, saw the biggest paella I have ever seen and spotted one of the many White Lion pubs in England. The show was in the beautiful old Lyceum Theatre and was very entertaining, especially the costumes.

Too soon it was time to bid farewell to my bestie and head to Waterloo to catch the train to Weymouth. A brief, but fun packed visit where I was glad to have been able to catch up with my bestie in her new home.

Related posts: England, 2006, Europe, 2003, England, 2002, England, 1997, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988

Small town vs Big city

Small towns are cute, quirky and green. They are safe, comforting and friendly.

Everyone seems to know of one another and celebrate the same things in the same environment.

But this means that small towns can also be gossipy, stifling and routine.

Big cities are different, fun and challenging. They are tall, concrete and filled with endless possibilities.

They take you out of your comfort zone into a sometimes overwhelming place where you can make new friends and have new experiences every day.

But this means that big cities can also be fickle, lonely and expensive.

I grew up in a small town, and whilst I appreciate it was a nice little place to grow up, I think I was always a big city girl at heart.

Being an avid traveller doesn’t always mean you are necessarily a big city person, although it probably helps. Sometimes it’s the small towns that really show you what a place is like and who the people really are.

But I am a big city person and just the thought of going to a global city like London or New York gets me excited. Big cities are also big enough that they contain many smaller places to explore.

Being in a big city that you are familiar with gives you a sense of achievement and conquest, especially when you can navigate to your favourite places without a map.

But big cities are so big, that even in my home city of Sydney I often need to whip out Google maps to find out where that new restaurant is.

Small towns have their place and perhaps I wouldn’t be who I am today, or get that big city buzz as much, if I hadn’t grown up in a small town.

I still enjoy visiting my hometown of Berry, all the memories I have there and I am looking forward to taking my daughter to my birth town of Weymouth hoping that she can see what I see.

But I also can’t wait to take her to Central Park or a show at the West End; to see what she makes of the big hills of San Francisco or the mountains of Vancouver.

I wonder if she will be a big city girl with small town values like me, or just be a sophisticated city chick with no time for small town matters. I guess only time will tell…

Related posts: Sydney vs Melbourne, It’s an English Thing, Cocktail hour in Sydneytown, Home is where you make it, Travel Rememberings

It’s an English Thing

Whenever somebody asks me where I am from, I always pause to answer.

I was born in Weymouth, England to an English father and a Sri Lankan mother. We lived in and out of England for the first few years of my life, I went to pre-school there, and then we moved to Australia where I grew up in Berry, NSW and was brought up as an Australian.

However, my father never really lost his accent (I still pronounce garage differently to everyone I know), I received a UK passport at birth and have spent a few trips, including a gap year, back in England.

My grandmother never left Weymouth and I always loved going back to visit her. The green rolling hillsides, the little wishing well behind her house and the thatched rooved cottages. The typical English seafront, the rocky beach and the harbour filled with fishing boats. The gorgeous Dorset countryside of quirky towns, white cliffs plunging into the blue Channel and walks through fields picking blackberries along the way.

I also love the city of London. Red telephone boxes, double decker buses, Big Ben, the tube and my favourite Tower of London. I love the parks, the palaces, the plays and the feeling of being at the centre of the world when you walk down Oxford St. I like mixing with the hip crowd at Covent Garden, standing on the edge of Greenwich Mean Time and imagining what it would be like to live inside the houses of Notting Hill. I enjoy seeing the gold encrusted Buckingham Palace gates, Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square and the bustling Piccadilly Circus. It’s also fun meeting all your Australian mates in a London pub as they are living there temporarily too.

So of course, I am Australia, but I also identify with all things English.

I was brought up on Sooty and Sweep, Noddy and Blue Peter on the TV, Punch and Judy shows at the sands and reading Beatrix Potter and Rupert at bedtime. I enjoyed eating treats from grandma like Hula Hoops, Hob Nobs and Quality Streets.

It’s always fun to go shopping at Boots, Marks and Spencers, H&M and window shopping at Harrods. I love drinking at one of the many great traditional English pubs with the same names in different places like The Golden Lion, The Red Lion, The Swan, the White Hart, The George Inn, The King’s Arms; and running to get into a nightclub before lock out. I have seen people being out on the pull for a snog, have worn a thong on my bottom instead of my feet and flitted off to Europe for a long weekend to escape the long dark winters.

The English culture is not so different to ours which makes it easy to relate to and it’s those little details that help strike up a conversation with a visiting Brit come to Australia to escape the bad weather for a time.

So, I guess I’m not English, as you are from where you grow up. But it is nice to know that I have the experience and knowledge to morph into an English person if needs be.

Related posts: It’s a Spanish Thing,  Toys, People vs Place, England, 2006England, 1997

England, 2006

My first overseas trip with my husband-to-be (HTB) was to Weymouth to introduce him to my grandmother. My dad was also visiting at the time, so we caught up with friends old and newer. Alan and Viv cooked us the best roast I’ve ever had. One of Sarah’s brother’s friends had his 30th birthday at a local pub so we went along to share a few beverages with my old drinking crew.

I showed my HTB, Perry’s where I had worked the summer on Weymouth harbour and the sea front where I had spent my time off on the beach. We saw a very cool live band in a local pub as he loves live music.

We took my HTB on the usual tour of Tyneham Village, Corfe Castle, the Man of War at Lulworth Cove and Stonehenge. We also went to a few pubs including the Red Lion in Weymouth, The Cove House Inn at Portland and the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers for the warmest cider on the planet.

For a healthier alternative, we climbed up to Hardy’s Monument and visited the town of Cerne Abbas with its ancient monastery and large Abbey Farm House. We went to Cirencester to visit family, Bourton-on-the-Water and Bibury to see Arlington Row.

It was nice to show my HTB where I had come from and the places that were so much a part of my childhood and trips away.

My HTB had been to London before, but at a time when he had done more drinking than sight-seeing. So I dragged him around on a whirlwind tour of my favourite iconic sights- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, St James Park, the River Thames, Oxford St and Covent Garden.

This time I got to go on the London Eye and we had a rare clear day affording great views of the city, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the new to me Millennium Bridge. I also got to see the awesome media centre at Lords Cricket Ground and sit in the captain’s chair on the HMS Belfast – two things I never would have done in London before meeting my HTB.

Between us, we had lots of family and friends living and working in London- both local and Australian. So, rather than spending days driving all around the city visiting people, we organised a night to meet everyone at once at The Horniman at Hays which had a view of the Tower Bridge and most importantly- lots of beer for more drinking.

Related posts: Europe, 2003England, 2002, England, 1997,England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988 

Europe, 2003

Leaving my parents in England visiting family; I went to Barcelona to party with local friends Ernest and Jordi. Ernest and Jordi were students of Leigh (who I had stayed with last time I was in Barcelona). They had recently travelled to Australia and were now back in Barcelona at university.

This time, I stayed at Ernest’s house with his parents and sister. His mother, Lidia, took me to a modern flamenco show one night. It was very different to what I had previously seen of the traditional dance in Seville, kind of like the difference between modern dance and traditional ballet.

Ernest and Jordi took me to Parc de la Citadella which seemed to be a bit of a student hang- out. There were musicians, fountains and modern statues. We went to Zara and complained about how much the prices had gone up since the introduction of the Euro the previous year.

We went to Parc Guell for its famous view of Barcelona and I was in love at first sight with the place. I marvelled at the pillars, tunnels and ceiling detail underpinning the balcony and the brightly coloured gate houses. My favourite part was the lizard statue on the staircase.

As previously mentioned, the real life in Barcelona starts at night, and this trip was no exception. Most nights we partied too hard, got up too late the next day and missed the entry times for Gaudi’s other masterpieces such as La Pedra and Casa Balto.

We walked La Rambla at night and went to the Mercat del Born. I witnessed the best fountain show I have seen- La Font Magica at Placa de Espanya. The coloured fountains were magnificent and perfectly timed to the music.

There were many new bars on the beach were you could sit on a deck chair with a cocktail and we danced the night away at Otto Zutz nightclub.

I flew back to London for more bar hopping with my friend Selina who was living there with her boyfriend at the time and to travel to Weymouth to visit my grandmother.

Fog in London delayed my flight back to Australia in Paris for 2 days. I was put up in an airport hotel and eventually flown to Melbourne instead of Sydney, but there are worst places you can be stuck in than Paris, that’s for sure!

I went to Sacre Cour to marvel at the white washed building and a view of Paris that was new to me. I wandered through the Monmarte district taking in the artistic alleyways, Moulin Rouge and Monmarte Cemetery which was beautiful in its own way and full of cats.

Flying out of the ridiculously hard to navigate Charles De Gaulle airport on the way home, I hoped that I would never have to go through there again. The only way to get from one terminal to the next was by a bus that only traveled in one direction which almost made me miss my flight again!

This post was republished to the Social New England paper.li

Related posts: Vietnam, 2003, England, 2002, Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, England, 1997, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, Travel rememberings, I first started travelling

England, 2002

I returned to Weymouth to stay at my grandparents house in the winter of 2002.

My grandfather had Alzheimer’s and was staying in a home not too far away so my uncle from Canada was also visiting as the same time.

My grandfather had deteriorated to the point of not really knowing who my grandmother was and it was a sad time for us all. When I visited him, he didn’t know who I was either, but he had one moment of clarity where it clicked and he started crying as he did not want me to see him like that.

My grandmother seemed to have partially accepted the inevitable as she had her engagement ring, which she hadn’t ever taken off, resized to fit my finger so that I could take it with me when I went home.

I was glad that I had lived with my grandparents during happier times and hoped that they wouldn’t suffer for too long.

Trying to make the most of the trip despite the circumstances, I went on a country walk to Upwey Manor behind my grandparents house and spent some time with my grandmother.

On New Year’s Eve, the whole town of Weymouth gets dressed up in fancy dress and goes out. So I dressed up as a fairy with my friend Sarah and her brother’s girlfriend Nadine and we hit all the old haunts with the old crew and some new friendly faces.

Sarah now lived in London in a flat with three friends. So I went to stay with her and hang out for a couple of days.

I visited my family in London and we went to the usual sights- Big Ben, Parliament Houses, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, Leister Square, Shaftesbury Avenue, The Strand and the London Wall.

The London Eye was a new attraction which meant the line-up was too long to go for a ride so we admired it from below instead.

I visited Kensington Palace and Holland Park with my friend Clare. She also took me to Kensington High St and the fashionable Notting Hill area near where she lived. I loved the tall houses with their communal gardens.

Related posts: England, 1997, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, Travel rememberings, I first started travelling

By special request…

When I was a teenager, all my friends wanted to go to the Big Day Out and I just wanted to see a Janet Jackson concert.

When I started to go out, I got right into dance music and I had all the Ministry of Sound albums. I danced for hours at the Krafty Kuts show and went to music festivals like Good Vibrations and Harbourlife.

My entire CD collection was stolen while I was at university, which probably doesn’t sound so bad in these days of iTunes technology, but at the time it was devastating. Even after replacing many albums, my collection has never been the same.

Working in grass roots events early on in my career, I found myself driving all day with a packed car to places like Parkes and Gunnedah. My CD’s were my friends on these drives- they would pass the time, keep me awake and exercise my vocal chords.

In melancholy moods I listen to The Cranberries, Portishead or Dido. In more upbeat times I favour Texas, Fat Boy Slim or Black Eyed Peas. I have always liked Sheryl Crow and her wonderful lyrics.

But my all-time favourite band is Garbage. My friend Sarah introduced me to their debut album in 1997 and I have been a fan ever since. After not releasing an album for seven years, “Not Your Kind of People” hit the shelves in 2012 and I was lucky enough to catch their accompanying live show in Sydney.

My mum first took me to a musical when I was younger and I have been addicted to show tickets ever since.

I will go to pretty much anything by Shakespeare and have dragged my husband to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet.

I love watching the ballet at the Sydney Opera House and have been lucky enough to see The Nutcracker at Christmas time and most recently, Cinderella.

Of course, my obsession with vampires has led me to see more than one show at Dracula’s.

I like to catch a show while travelling and have seen Lady Salsa on the Gold Coast, Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas, the Lion King in London and Avenue Q in New York.

Recent musicals that I have enjoyed are Strictly Ballroom for the Spanish dancing, Legally Blonde for American cheese and Priscilla Queen of the Desert for the fabulous costumes.

But my favourite musical so far is Chicago which I saw after a bottle of wine with my bestie on a Melbourne girl’s trip. The question is- was it the wine, the company or the show? Perhaps a combination of all three.

Thanks to all my theatre buddies past and present- you know who you are! I hope you have enjoyed the show as much as I have.

Related posts: I first started writing, Home is where you make it, All Creatures Great and Small

England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988

Flying from Bombay, my parents and I landed in London, England. The main purpose of this part of the trip was to visit English friends and family and Sri Lankan relatives.

In London we went to Highgate cemetery with the impressive grave of Karl Marx; the Natural History Museum with its life-size dinosaurs and colourful butterfly exhibit; Kew Gardens to see the squirrels and make daisy chains and Madame Tussauds wax museum to see Ghandi and the Queen.

We drove three hours south to Weymouth, Dorset to visit my grandparents and my Canadian cousins who were also visiting at the same time. There were road trips to Sherbourne and Godmanstone with its white chalky hills and what was then the smallest pub in England- the Smith’s Arms. We went to Oxford, Bourton-on-the-water and Windsor Castle to see the queen’s dolls collection. We visited Gloucestershire, Swindon and Bibury where a relative had lived on Arlington Row. I remember seeing Stonehenge when you could still walk right up to it and touch the stones.

On the way back to Australia we went to Singapore. We stayed in the train station which was very humid and muggy as they had no air conditioning. I loved the Merlion statues and the variety of food that you could get in Chinatown.

We travelled to Penang in Malaysia which was full of temples and monkeys and went riding in rickshaws in Kota Bahru. We stayed in a hut on the beach in Merang, passed through Kuantanand caught the ferry from Mersing to Tekek village on Tioman island.

Tioman was largely undiscovered at the time. You could only get there by boat and we stayed in a Apex hut. There was a pet monkey tied to two trees outside our hut and I spent many hours playing with him on the hammock hung between the trees. The owner wanted me to take the monkey back with me to Australia, so we had to explain about our strict quarantine laws.

I went snorkelling and got spiked in the foot by a giant sea urchin. We walked to a waterfall in the middle of the island and over to Juaru on the other side where there was a long wharf. Dad and I jumped off the end and swam all the way back. I took a picture of the first beautiful sunset I remember with a sailing boat in the foreground.

A few years after we visited Tioman they built a huge resort in the middle of the island and an airport.

Related posts: I first started travelling, Home is where you make it, Travel rememberings, Friendship: Great Expectations?