When My Sister Came to Visit

November was an exciting month for me as my sister Belinda was coming from Australia to visit for 3 whole weeks. She arrived one Friday morning at stupid o’clock where Elese and I tried our best to get there by the time she landed. We got the first tube but she still had to wait for us to arrive, but when we did we found her sitting down reading her Kindle. She didn’t mind waiting at all. It was back on the tube after that and on to Brixton where the first stop was Starbucks which she had missed so much, then home, and for me, off to work.

Lunch time couldn’t come quick enough for me as Belinda and Elese were coming in to meet me, as well as go to the Spitalfields Markets, well at least what is there of them during the week. I went back to work as the girls continued to shop but as the jet lag and the cold was catching up with Bel, they headed for the pub to wait until I finished and could meet them there. After a couple of drinks we took Bel down to Brick Lane for some haggling and delicious curry. The haggling didn’t go so well seeing as we were cold and hungry so pretty much went in the first place we got to, though the food was great though.

The next morning we went into market overload and as I took Bel first to the Borough Markets and all the amazing food they have to offer where we bought some cheeses and pâté and bread and dips for an amazing dinner which we had no idea what it would be. After smelling and eating our way through the Borough Markets, we then headed for the weird and wonderful markets of Camden, including the Camden Lock Markets and the Stables Markets. I don’t really know why I thought it would be a good idea to take Belinda shopping as I know exactly what she is like and wanders in and out of EVERY store (or in this case stall) as I stand there and get bored. At least I had the coolness of Camden to keep me entertained. We also got to see the actual lock in action, as when we arrived there was a boat coming down the river and through the lock. It was quite cool as I didn’t really know what they were or how they had worked until previously coming to the Camden Markets, but to see it in action gave me more of an idea. (Although I had seen a miniature one built from LEGO in action at LEGOLAND). After Bel had had enough of shopping we picked up some donuts for dessert then headed home to make some dinner and chill out for the rest of the night before Bel was heading up north to see a friend the next day and then road tripping her way to Edinburgh to meet another friend and see more of the United Kingdom she had come so far to visit.

The New Forest

Wicked Camping

Our quiet little campsite.

Now you may remember from an earlier post of mine that Elese had won a Wicked Camper for a weekend when we were playing Bogan Bingo one night. So one weekend in October we picked up this van and we headed out of London to the New Forest where Elese had decided she wanted to go. The New Forest is large unenclosed pasture land in Southern England where all kinds of animals like horses, ponies, sheep, cows, and more roam free throughout the land, and even on the roads! It’s another very beautiful part of England which all of it seems to be once you get outside of London. Not that London isn’t nice in it’s own way, it is just very different to the other parts of England (from what I have seen anyway).

We got on the road about midday after picking up the van, then getting supplies from Tesco and headed to Dung’s to pick her and Greg up then it was out on to the motorway and time for some fun. It was so nice to be out on the road and in a car again as it is something that has become quite a rarity since moving to London. It didn’t take too long to drive out towards the New Forest and about 2 hours later we had driven past the caravan park/campsite we were staying seeing as it was a small road off the main road, kind of like a road down towards a farm. It basically was a farm as well with paddocks throughout the place and then even some donkeys in some of the paddocks which we found out later.

After setting up our campsite we went for a bit of an exploration around the place, and that’s when we found the donkeys which were making as much noise as possible with their ‘hee-haw-ing’. We stopped for a bit and fed them some long dry grass which they seemed to love, and then when we went to leave a couple of them followed us along the fence line. They couldn’t get enough of the grass, and we had fed them a lot of it! We kept going and found one of the lakes where you could fish for carp and then continued our exploring through the rest of the caravan park. Once getting back to our campsite we saw some deer out in one of the paddocks. There just seemed to be different animals throughout the place. We spent the night cooking some food on our little gas stove and having some drinks before it got cold and we had to move inside the van. Considering the time of year though, it wasn’t really too cold at all and not what we were expecting. People had told us we were crazy for going camping in October, but what do the English people know?

The next morning we were up fairly early and after cooking up some bacon and eggs for breakfast we got Greg’s fishing rods out and packed up some bags and the esky with the left over sausages, chips, lollies and beer and headed out to the lake that we had found the night before. Greg used to do a lot of fishing when he was younger so he had all of the gear and even a little stand for his rods which when there was a bite and pull on the fishing line, it would start beeping so you knew you had a bite. It was quite excessive for what we were doing but it did mean that would could sit back on the picnic table and enjoy our food and drinks we had brought. It also gave us the opportunity to mess with Greg and when he wasn’t looking make them beep so he would start to run back because he thought he had a bite. It wasn’t too long before we got a few little nibbles though and then Greg managed to catch the first fish. It was a decent sized carp (as that was all that was in the lake) and then we had to throw it back as you aren’t allowed to actually keep them, so back into the water it went.

It was so good just to be sitting out in the fresh air and enjoying the sun coming down on us while we ate, drank and fished. It was so peaceful and relaxing that we probably could have fallen asleep, that’s if it wasn’t for Greg’s rod holder beeping all the time. By mid afternoon we had all caught a fish and thrown them back, as well as run out of beer so it was time to head back to the van. We stopped off at the other lake and Greg setup the rods again while we got some more drinks and spent another hour or so there, but alas the fish weren’t biting so we packed it all up and decided to head to the local town for dinner.

We were told that it wasn’t too far into the closest town, called Nomansland, and that we could walk there. So that we did. It actually turned out to be a bit further than expected, and took about half an hour, of which a lot of it was along narrow roads and in the dark, which wasn’t so great when cars were coming past. We made it there though and found the pub that had been recommended to us called the Lamb Inn. The food was just great! So much better than any pub food I had had in London. I had a steak and ale pie which was handmade and the portion was huge as I struggled to get through it all. All the food looked great and I guess it has to be in a small town like that or people won’t be coming back. I can highly recommend it though if anyone happens to be in Nomansland someday.

The next morning after we packed everything up we went for a bit of a drive through some of the New Forest. It wasn’t long before we came across some sheep walking along the road and had to come to a stop to wait for them to move out of the way. Eventually they did and we kept driving and we came upon some horses and donkeys just roaming around along the road and where ever they pleased. We parked the van and got out so we could get a bit of a closer look. Elese took some apples out to feed to them as well. It was quite odd with the animals just roaming free and they were quite tame as well which was surprising. After while of patting and feeding them we got back in the van and continued our drive through the New Forest before starting the trek back to the reality that is London.

The Happiest Place On Earth

Scott & Dung's Beer steins

Me and Dung with our steins of beer.

Now some people would argue that Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth, but they are in actual fact, wrong. The real happiest place on Earth is actually Oktoberfest, and here is why. Number 1: Beer. How can anyone argue with that? I guess if you don’t like beer then you might, but if you don’t then you probably shouldn’t be at a beer festival either (although there is a lot more than just beer to it). Like Number 2: The people. Everyone is your friend! It doesn’t matter who they are, where they come from, you can sit down with anyone and everyone and be singing and dancing on tables with them within half an hour. Number 3: The food. If there is one thing the German’s do well, it’s the food. The pork belly and pork knuckles, and the different types of sausages and then of course there is the chicken. I have no idea what they do to it but somehow they manage to cook thousands of chickens daily and all to perfection. They are just oh so juicy and the taste is delicious. I think it has something to do with the seasoning and the cooking, but can never be sure. Or maybe it is just down to the fact that you have a few litres of beer in you, but probably not seeing as it is all just as good everywhere else and without the litres and litres of beer. Other than that though, do you really need any more reasons to dub a place the happiest on Earth? I think not.

Saturday it was back to the beer halls to make some new friends and drink and eat our weights in beer and food once again. Kate and Cliff headed out to Dachau, one of the concentration camps during WWII while the rest of us went back to the Oktoberfest. Being a Saturday the place was packed with people everywhere. After walking in and out of the different beer halls, (well at least their beer gardens) we finally found some nice Germans in the Augustiner beer garden who shared their table with us. They were very nice and spoke enough English to speak to as well. The beers started coming and then before we knew it we were a couple of beers down and getting hungry, so what else to do but order some chickens, and of course, more beer. The day went on and soon Kate and Cliff had come to join us, as well as Nick, Soph and Matt, so of course more and more beers were coming out. Later in the afternoon our new German friends who had been there since opening had decided it was time to call it a day, and so we had some more new people join us at the table.

Chicken & Beer at Oktoberfest

Elese devouring the chicken while I drink my beer.

Day eventually turned to night and we thought that a bit of a wander through the grounds and some more food was in order before we had to get the bus back to camp. We also decided that we needed to acquire some souvenirs in the form of the steins, and we managed to have a lot of them before Cliff lost them all to a crazy lady who worked there. He just didn’t have the knack for stealing, I mean, acquiring steins. We all managed to get some more though, and then Cliff and I headed for the bus, where he then lost his 2 steins to one of the tour leaders saying he couldn’t take them on the bus with him, though I managed to take mine on there with no problems. (Luckily Cliff ended up getting them back the next morning). We caught the last bus back and met the others at the campsite, after much waiting, as they had got a taxi back, and bought sausages too for one final bite to eat before we all crashed out in our tents to prepare for another day. Though maybe not at the beer halls this time.

Oktoberfest Year Two

I don’t think there was any ever question of us not coming back to Oktoberfest after going in 2010. We both had so much fun the year before, and Elese again the year before that, that we just HAD to go again. We decided against the train this time, but instead went by bus, which took even longer than before. Somehow though it was actually more comfortable and it was easier to get some sleep on the bus rather than the train. We left London about midday on Thursday and headed of to Dover to catch the ferry across the channel to Calais, France where we would head on to Munich, Germany. We went with PPTravel, the same company as we went to Pamplona with and we had a nice little group going in Dung, Greg, Kate, Cliff, Elese and myself. Once we got across the channel and into France the drinks came out and we got quite a bit drunk in what was a little warmup in the Oktoberfest itself. Well, the boys did anyway, before finally having enough and falling asleep to get some rest before getting into Munich in the early hours of the morning.

Crossing the English Channel

Crossing the English Channel into France

We arrived at the campsite (which happened to be the same campsite I had stayed at during my Topdeck trip) earlier than expected and it was still dark. We were shown to our tents where we managed to get a few cheeky hours of sleep before getting up, having some  breakfast, then heading into Munich to check out some of the traditional dress being leiderhosen for the guys and drindl’s for the girls. We’d got some advice from one of the PPTravel guides as to where to go and we found a nice little shop selling some of the better quality ones for decent prices. Elese and I had decided long before that we wanted to get ourselves some, so it was just a matter of finding some that we liked and weren’t too expensive. Being in the shop I think made the others want to get some as well, and although Cliff and Greg didn’t get leiderhosen, all the girls did get themselves a drindl. So we all got dressed into our new clothes and took our old ones back to the campsite before heading back into the Oktoberfest grounds for a good solid day of drinking beer.

Dung and Elese wearing their Drindl's

Dung and Elese wearing their Drindl's

We got into the Lowenbrau tent and managed to get a table with some Italian guys and then the beers started flowing. After that, it just gets a bit crazy, or hazy. People came and went to and from our table and somehow we ended up with a huge bunch of roses on the table which some old Italian guy with too much money (so much so that he was rolling up 20 Euro notes and trying to smoke them) had bought. We gave roses out to people who walked past, and even managed to feed them to one very drunk person who had joined us at our table. I don’t know why, but whenever someone put a rose into his face he would just lean forward and take a big bite of it. Crazy, but was good fun for us!

Later in the afternoon we had to leave the table as it had been reserved for someone so we made our way out into the Oktoberfest grounds to see what else it had to offer. Now I’m not too sure but I think we spent a couple of hours wandering the sites, eating food, talking to the owner of PPTravel (whose name is Bomber) and even going on some rides. Somehow after that we found our way back to the bus and headed back to the campsite for some much needed sleep in our cold, cold tents.

Wicked is Wicked!

After already seeing a number of musicals, we had both heard from others that we just must see Wicked the Musical. We had heard great things about it from everyone and in fact that it is actually wicked. So when the oppurtunity to get some top price tickets for a decent price, we jumped on the chance.

It was playing the Apollo Victoria Theatre, so not too far from home and easy to get to. Not that much around London is all that hard to get to! We got to our seats and they were great. Right in the middle of the stage, not too far back on the stage level. An absolute perfect view of the entire stage. The show itself was really quite good and I enjoyed it a lot. It is a very different adaptation on The Wizard of Oz with a great story, excellent costumes and better acting and singing. I never really found myself getting into it like I had with some of the other ones I had seen. Maybe it was just me, but I enjoyed The Lion King much, much more. I’m not saying I didn’t like it, just that I thought that others that I had see were better, especially The Lion King, but that is a lot to live up to!

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