Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On Holiday, Day 2 - Shopping, Sweat and Underwear

I was not expecting this heat and humidity. Who knew anywhere in the UK got an ACTUAL summer? I did not come prepared wardrobe wise for 28 degrees, no breeze and high humidity.

I already needed to go shopping because of the packing fiasco and forgetting to pack underwear so I might as throw on the list to look for a few summeresque clothes. I don't want to spend a fortune because it's not like I'll have much need for them when I return to Glasgow.

It was 4 months ago I was here last so I still remember the bus/tube connections to get me from the house into the city. I want to head into the Kensington shopping district to take a wee wander and see if there are any sales. I don't think I can manage the crush pack crowds in the Oxford Circus area just yet, it's toooo hot for that.

I take a look at my little tourist map inside the cover of my eyewitness guide book and can see that the bus makes a stop at Piccadilly Circus and from there it's a straight line to where I want to go. However, enroute I make a fatal mistake once we cross the Thames and I decide to get off there and walk a different way to see a different part of the city.

You see living in Glasgow for 21 months I've become accustomed to Glasgow distance and scale when it comes to their maps. So you look at something and think 'wow, that's far' and then find you're there in 10 minutes. What I failed to take into account was that tiny little 'scale reference' at the bottom of the map and the heat, humidity and absence of any breeze. This all added up to me doing my own personal death march. Trying to find a little shop to purchase some water, criss crossing the streets trying to find shade. After 2 attempts I did manage to get on another bus and get to the correct area but at this point I was in no mood to shop, but the loor of air conditioning changed that.

H&M had a big sale on and loads of racks with all items 5.00 so even by Glasgow standards that's a pretty good deal. Managed to find a pair of shorts, a tank top and a little black sundress that will look oh so smashing with my red sneakers all for only 16.90

So that chore done my stomach is reminding me it's been a long time since breakfast and I seriously need some water. I remembered from a trip back in December there was this fabulous French Patisserie down the road and their prices weren't too bad. So I find it and pick up a Crayfish and Rocket sandwich, a chocolate croissant and a can of Perrier.

I cross the street and eat it on the steps of the Victoria and Albert Museum as it's good place to people watch. And yes it was delicious!

So now that I'm fed and watered I still need to find some inexpensive underwear. I wander the other direction of the district but it's mostly designer shops. I'm sorry I just can't bring myself to spend 86.00 for a pair of knickers, I don't care who's name is on them. It's about then that I remember there is a Next Warehouse at Victoria Station. Back underground I go to make my way there.

It must be hot, I can see signs all over the stations warning what to do if you are feeling ill. Number 1, don't get on a train! It is even more muggy when you're on the underground as they are not air conditioned, throw on lots of hot sweaty bodies and it's not pleasant.

I've found success at Victoria Station and have now completed all I set out to do and none too soon. I feel in dire need of a nap and a few litres of water. Tomorrow I'll be ready to face the heat in cooler clothes and clean underwear!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On Holiday, Day 1 - Getting There

I need to accept the fact that it always takes me about an hour longer than I plan to get ready to leave on a trip. Even if I make a list of things to do/pack I still end up scurrying around. I needed to arrange for the plants to be watered so a last minute text to a neighbor took care of that. Need to clean out the fridge of any perishables, take out the rubbish and then pack. I thought I was being proactive by making a list to make sure I didn't forget anything. But lists are only helpful if you actually reference them. I'll expand on that a bit later.

My train leaves at 11:50 and I had wanted to be out the door at 11:00 or 11:15 at the latest. So here I am at 11:25 madly flying out the door to the underground station. I really wish they had escalators all the way down to the platform level. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk I go with my heavy suitcase. I packed lots of 'just in case' items as every time I come to London I am completely unprepared for the weather. December it was freezing cold and windy, February it felt like summer, March it snowed and had record breaking cold temperatures. So even though it's the end of July I'm taking 2 long sleeved sweaters and threw in my Taiga because you never know, it might rain.

I get to the train station and look up at the clock, 11:48, ooops. I still need to get my ticket from the machine yet. I run over as I already know what platform and start to get flustered trying to in put my confirmation number. I look over at the platform again as my tickets get spit out and think, hmmmm it looks pretty empty, that's not a good sign. Queue to me running to find car L as I hear the station agent's whistle blow so I just jump onto the first car with an open door. The door shut behind me and the train starts to move. That was cutting it just a bit close.

I find myself in car C and my seat reservation is car L so I have a bit of a hike. The aisles in the cars are just a smidgen too narrow to pull your suitcase behind you which means you need to carry it in front of you. Remember I've packed for 2 weeks, plus have my back pack with my laptop, some books and all the power cords and such. By the time I get to car L I am glistening with sweat. I put my bag in the rack, find my seat and collapse.

For this trip, seeing as it was so close to my birthday I thought I'd splurge and go 1st class. When you book in advance isn't not all that much more (unlike for flights). What it gets you is a wider seat, more leg room and a few perks. Like free coffee, cookies, water. Table service should you wish or priority seating in the dining car.

National Express has complimentary wifi service on their trains which helps to make the time pass quickly. So I can look out the window, take a photo of some nice looking fields, pop the chip from my camera into my laptop, tweak the shot and then upload it onto my flickr page. Easy Peasy, ain't technology grand!

So I'm finally allowing myself to unwind after a busy, stressful hectic couple of months. I realize my last holiday was in March so 4 months is a long time to go with no real break. It's also about now that it hits me, I FORGOT TO PACK UNDERWEAR! Ooops, guess the first thing I'll be doing on Sunday is going shopping.

Back to the train, looking out the window, sipping coffee, getting annoyed with the lady next to me that insists on yakking on her mobile for the entire trip. I mean her husband is sitting across from her, how rude is that? Trip is about half way over and we stop in York. The announcement came on that the dining car had been shut down 30 min earlier to prepare for the change over in staff. The mention of this causes my stomach to grumble and I peruse the seat service menu. I'm thinking afternoon tea of a sandwich of my choice, scone with clotted cream and preserves and coffee should hit the spot and at 5.95 seems like a fair price.

Waiting, and waiting and waiting. Then another announcement comes on apologising for the delay but there have been some switching problems (as in rail switches) that has caused a back up. No worries, I'm on holiday and have no schedule.

Still waiting and then a staff member comes into our car and announces we all need to get off and board the train sitting on the platform next to us. Queue mass chaos.
Now seat reservations mean nothing, no worries I'm able to find one right away and get settled in. Numerous announcements come on reminding people to take bags and such off spare seats, only 1st class ticket holders are permitted in 1st class. But strangely no announcement as to why we are being moved to a different train.

People are becoming cranky. Why? I have no idea, really what will it accomplish. We're still going to get to London on time but this train is smaller than our original and some people from standard class (queue posh upper class accent) are insisting on sitting in 1st class. Horrors! Then there is this woman sitting across the aisle. I heard her get on lecturing the poor attendant about how she had made a reservation and she wanted her single seat facing forward and how dare she be inconvenienced yadda yadda yadda. Some nice young boy (I saw his family outside on the platform) gave up his forward facing seat so she could get her way. Then, THEN she starts banging a spoon on her coffee cup and shouting 'And when will we get our coffee!?!?!' Oooh this is going to be a long 2 hours. I spent the rest of the trip listening to her moan at anyone who happened to look her way.

'It's almost 4:00 and there has been no one to take our tea order'
'This is despicable service'
'I can't believe we're being treated this way, no sight of the service cart'


I eventually wandered back to the snack bar on my own as I hadn't had any lunch to find out what the scoop was. It seems the train we are on is much smaller and they were just not stocked to service this many passengers and they ran out of hot food. So my lunch consisted of a bottle of water, a nut & honey bar and a packet of crisps. What can you do? These things happen. When I got back to my seat I opened up my i-Tunes and drowned her cries of injustice out.

We pulled into London Kings Cross station on schedule.

Let the holiday begin!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Day That Was My 43rd Birthday - July 20, 2008

Yes it's a bit late but I hope it's worth the wait.

If you've gone to my flickr page at all you'll have noticed the shots from last Sunday taken out at Loch Lomand. A lovely little spot but man-o-man was it cold. The sun that I left behind in Glasgow was no where to be seen now. Took some OK shots but I can't help but think they could have been that much better had a brilliant blue sky been in the background. But in Scotland that is a bit too much to ask.

On the drive back to Glasgow I told my friend to stop at an open field. I had an idea. I had been joking that my friend was going to be my 'official' birthday photographer. If the Queen can get an official portrait why can't I?

So he pulled off to the side of the road and parked. Grabbed the camera gear and hopped the fence. At this point he says, 'Now there's no bull in this field right?' and I look around and say 'You mean like that one waaaaaay over there that's looking at us?' But the bull seemed quite happy hanging out with the sheep and staying in his far corner so no danger.

This was the perfect spot to document number 43

This shot is one of my favorites.

Acting your age is highly over rated.

My interpretation of 'sensible' shoes.

And what does one do when standing in an open field, in the sun, surrounded by sheep and it's your birthday? Why twirl of course! And no, I was NOT singing The Hills are Alive.

How about an abstract shot

Not bad for an old lady eh? Ok maybe not old, how about middle aged?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Country, Castles and yes more Cows

The weather was just lovely this weekend. I'm trying not to get too accustomed to the warmth and sunshine knowing that at any second it could all go horribly wrong. I always dress in layers and take a hat with me because I've been caught one too many times leaving the flat in glorious sunshine only to walk 2 blocks and get soaked through to the skin by a random rainstorm.

But hey, it makes life interesting.

So this weekends adventure and the next chapter in this little photo blog is the beauty that is Mugdock Country Park.

What a wonderful place!

It has not one but TWO, yes you heard me TWO castles. The first one was Craigend Castle

The second is Mugdock Castle

There are also these old Anti Aircraft Gun Sites that were fun to explore. They were placed there after the Clydebank Blitz

I thought it might make an interesting location for a self portrait as well since I just so happened to have my tripod with me.

And yes, there were Highland cows too.

Don't you just want to take her home and cuddle her?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Day at the Beach

Being without a vehicle means I don't get outside of the city much. So it's a special day when someone offers to pick you up and go for a drive to the beach.

There's a beach?

What beach?

Apparently there IS a beach.

And cows, did I mention the cows?