The Northerners

For the second month in a row we didn’t leave the country, and for a few days we went up North to a town called Barnsley where our housemate Emma is from. It was her birthday weekend and was going home for it so we went too and got to spend some time outside of London once again. It really is quite nice getting outside of London for a while as it is just a city that is so big and can be quite intimidating. Don’t get me wrong, I love it here. There is always something to do or something to see, and it’s so easy to find something new at every turn. It is just nice to get away from it all and relax for a while.

Friday night after work we hit up King’s Cross Station to catch the train out to Wakefield, not too far from where Emma lives, where her Dad was going to pick us up. Catching trains is still a bit of a novelty for me as I don’t really catch them that often. There is the tube, but that is so much different from the trains. I like that with the trains you get your own space and you can see the outside world as you go along which meant it was another opportunity for us to see some more of the English countryside. A couple of hours later the train was pulling into the station, where we met Graham (Emma’s Dad) and then made our way back to her house to drop our luggage, get changed, and then head to the pub. We walked down to the local pub which also happens to be famous cricket umpire, Dicky Bird’s local, where we drank for a while and before moving onto another pub in the area where we drank some more before we called it a night and headed back to Emma’s for some much needed sleep.

Saturday morning we were up for some breakfast of bacon butty’s and some of Emma’s nieces and nephews had come to visit so we were heading down to the park so the could play on the playground. Although, this was probably just as much fun for me and Elese being the big kids that we are. After spending some of the morning and early afternoon at the park we went onto the supermarket to grab some food and drinks for the BBQ we were having that night once some more of Emma’s friends arrived to celebrate her birthday weekend with her.

Naturally, because I’m Australian, I had to cook the BBQ, which I didn’t really have a problem with. As long as my beer stayed full, I was happy. It wasn’t the best of BBQ’s to cook on, which is why I also think Graham wanted me to cook on it, because if I had a problem cooking on it, being Australia, then he must need a new one. After BBQing we setup for a bit of a games night and that was about it really, although the games night got a little bit heated when Emma and her friends decided that they had won when in fact they hadn’t actually played by the rules. I then also declared all the previous games they had played null and void seeing as they had never actually played the proper rules. Our last day was then spent having a proper English Sunday roast which was absolutely delicious and after some cake for dessert we were stuffed, much like after any roast, and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon before Elese and I made our way back to London on the train.

Tourist to Tour Guide

The day that Monica and Para came to London I unfortunately had to work so I was eagerly waiting 5.30 to get out of the office and see them! It had been a while since we had someone visit and I was looking forward to seeing them, having not seen them in over a year. Elese had picked them up from the airport and I rushed home after work to find one in the shower, and one asleep in my bed. No need to rush home at all! Later on though, we got ready and took them out for a night at Bogan Bingo! If you don’t know what it is, click the link! We had a great night out and got very messy. In mind, body and our clothes due to all the Bingo markers and it was safe to say that Friday was a tough day at work. What did that matter though, we had fun, and Elese won a weekend in a Wicked Camper. What a  great night! Monica and Para didn’t care either as they just slept most of the day until Elese took them out for a bit of shopping on Oxford Street and then I met them when I finished work where we took them around and showed them a bit of London including Buckingham Palace by night, which was very different to the other times that I had been there. There were only a few people around and we could actually get up close to the gates and have a good look. We also walked on as  many streets of the Monopoly board as possible!

Moni, Para & Scotty

Moni, Para & Scotty on The London Eye

Saturday was a bit of a touristy day, for myself as well as there is a lot that I still haven’t done in London. We first went into central London to do one of New Europe’s walking tour that I had done before, but by the time we got to Trafalgar Square, we were all hungry and getting a bit tired. So we stopped in Trafalgar Square and had something to eat before I took them on my very own London tour and gave them the history that I knew about it all. It actually turns out I know a bit about some of the landmarks, even though Para never really believed a thing I said. I took them around to most of the places that they would have seen on the walking tour anyway, as well as more streets from the Monopoly board and we ended up at the London Eye for our ‘flight’ on it. The London Eye is the tallest ferris wheel in Europe (once the tallest in the world) and stands at 135 metres while the wheel itself is 120 metres. I hadn’t actually been on it before even though it is one of the biggest attractions in London, so I was looking forward to it, as were the girls. It really was quite cool and we got to see some really good views out from over London, including a long the Thames River and the skyline every way you look. The wheel moves quite slowly with the whole rotation taking about 30 minutes, but it didn’t seem as slow as I expected. At the end of it we headed down to the riverbank for a Thames River Cruise which was a lot of fun and relaxing at the same time. It was good to just sit back on the boat and see all the sights along the Thames with a bit of comedic commentary including interesting and fun facts on the side which made it that bit more fun.

They were only visiting London for a couple of days so that night we spent at Jimi’s to show them what a English BBQ is like, and it was nothing like they had expected! At least the weather held out though and we could sit in the backyard, have a few drinks and eat some meat. Sunday morning we headed into Leicester Square to show Para around Chinatown and also visit M&M’s World and meet Dung. We had a look through M&M’s World which is 4 floors full of M&M’s paraphenalia and crazy tourists throughout the place so you can barely move! Then we headed down to have a Sunday roast at a pub, another very English thing, and then realised that we had just enough time to rush home, pick up the bags, then get to King’s Cross Station for them to catch the Eurostar to Paris. It was close, but they made it with a very small amount of time to spare, as when we got there the train was already boarding. I’m sure if I hadn’t have gone with them they would have missed the train, just like some of their flights they had missed in the US. Then they were gone. It was a whirlwind visit but was great to have them both stay for a few days seeing as it had been so long since seeing either of them. I love when people come to visit me, even if it is only for a short time!

MCITP Certified

As of yesterday I am now further qualified as I passed my Microsoft 70-685 exam with full marks of 1000/1000. So now I am qualified as a Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician. Long enough name don’t you think? I certainly do, but I digress. The study for this exam was a lot quicker an easier than the first one I took, mainly because a lot of it revolved around things I have been doing in my varying roles the past 5 years. The exam took me a little over 35 minutes to complete and although there was a few questions in there I wasn’t too sure about, I managed to come through with full marks. So now it’s onto the Windows Server 2008 books and then hopefully greener pastures.

An English Beach

Brighton Beach

A view of Brighton Beach with the pier in the background

A day at the beach was in order as neither of us had actually even been to a beach in the UK at all. We caught the train in the morning down to the south of England to the seaside town of Brighton which is famous for its stone beach and the Brighton Pier. That’s right, no sand, just stones. It’s not the best for walking or running on, or lying on, or playing on, or building sandcastles, but we did sit there and eat some pretty amazing fish and chips and drink some beer.

Other than that we walked along the beach in the water and also up and down the Brighton Pier and took in all the atmosphere of the pier. The pier goes quite far out into the water and all up and down it there are shops, bars and restaurants, as well as arcades and games and rides. It is a fun filled place and you could easily spend an entire day there. We played some arcade games and also went and got our feet munched on by some little Garra Rufa fish. A very strange experience indeed as you put your feet into a big tank of the fish and they swim around and nibble on your feet to get rid of all the dead skin. It is so bizarre as they swim around tickling your feet and ankles and even swimming through the gaps between your toes.

We were lucky enough to have some beautiful weather for the day seeing as it had been such a dismal Summer, and we enjoyed the sun and even got a slight tan, but before long it was time to head back to London and the reality of work the next day.

Stonehenge & Bath

Stonehenge

Stonehenge with the Heel Stone in the foreground

Instead of going to another country on Elese’s weekend off we instead decided to stay in the UK and see some of the country we had been living in the past year. On the Saturday we were up early and getting a tour bus from Victoria Station to take us out the UNESCO World Heritage site that is Stonehenge. Stonehenge is believe to be thousands and thousands of years old, but no one really knows how it came to be there, but many people have theorised about it. Unfortunately we couldn’t get very close to the stones themselves as it is all roped off, but we did get audio guides that we could listen to as we made our way around. The audio guides mostly told of the theories about how the stones got there, which included aliens and the devil transporting them there. All in all it is quite interesting the fact that no one really knows much about it, but seeing the stones themselves isn’t really that interesting. It would have been much better if we were able to go up to the stones and see them up close and touch them, but these days that is only possible on the Summer Solstice of each year when a big party is held there.

After the hour or so we spent experiencing Stonehenge, we then got back on the bus and continued our drive the British countryside on our way to the city of Bath. It is a beautiful city and has a kind of country town feel, and like Stonehenge, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. All the buildings in the city are made of Bath Stone which is a type of limestone quarried around the area and even now new buildings need to be constructed with it to keep the looks of the city the same. Bath gets its name from the natural hot springs in the city which were used as communal baths and then had a bathing complex built around the by the ancient Romans in the year 70AD. These are now known as the Roman Baths and attract over 1 million visitors a year. Today it is no longer used as much of it has been destroyed and decayed inside the whole complex, but the water is still heated naturally and can be viewed as well as some of the artefacts and other things that have been found throughout the complex over time. We spent about an hour wandering through and looking at everything including the large pools that were once used by the Romans which was all quite impressive. The main part of the complex is the Great Bath, which can be viewed from a terrace level above it as well as by walking around the Great Bath itself.

Roman Baths

The Great Bath in the Roman Baths complex in Bath.

After visiting the Roman Baths we had the rest of the day to wander the city. We didn’t really get up to too much other than look around the city and see some of the sites throughout it including some of the beautiful heritage buildings as well as the Pulteney Bridge, which is one of only four bridges in the world that has shops across the entire bridge on both sides. We stopped at a small café after looking at going to the famous Sally Lunn’s, (one of the oldest houses in Bath), for something to eat, but then realising that there was probably no chance of us actually getting in as there was so many people there. Everywhere was quite full and luckily we got a table and sat down and enjoyed some tea and scones and some ice cream. Then it was time for us to get the bus back into London via the lovely countryside that the UK has to offer.

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