My crazy dash to London & back started with an almost full day at work. It was hardly my most productive day ever, still very much distracted at all that was unfolding in Christchurch. It was great to exchange a few texts with Adele before a nice long phone call as she finished off her night shift at the hospital. Shortly after lunch I was out of my cement-dust covered garb & in to something more comfortable before hitting the road to Calgary & a red-eye to Britain. Air Canada was the same as always - surly staff, decidedly average food & altogether adequateness; mind you, my opinion is somewhat tainted by my having to take this trip in the first place. At least the entertainment was good - I managed to draw myself away from it for a few hours of dozing. Great to have Shelley & the girls pick me up as I wandered out in to the relative warmth of the T3 forecourt - after all the Christchurch drama I was pleased to see Kiwi friends & exchange plenty of hugs.
Conveniently, post-lunch is nap time in the Patrick household (well, for Amelie anyway) - I was certainly keen for one of those. As this was apparently the best day of the year so far (a balmy 10-15ºC), we spent the latter part of the afternoon at a park feeding ducks, playing on the playground & trying not to bump in to the half-term crowds. Andy eventually made it home from work, sounding a little croaky & the catching up continued over a Thai meal.
I was making the familiar Metropolitan/Bakerloo/South Eastern tube & rail trip to Sidcup on Friday morning to catch up with family. I'm not sure how Trish timed it so well, but just as I started walking down Longlands Rd there she was in her car ready to pick me up. Much more catching up & sharing travel stories as I jettisoned things I don't need for my last few months in North America, Steve turned up & we marvelled at the changes to the back bedroom before strolling around the corner to meet Ray & Jill for a big Indian lunch. I'd had a hankering for a proper curry for a few weeks now & I wasn't disappointed.
Getting off the train again at Charing Cross I was early enough for meeting Levi (a friend I went through the last ten years of school with, who has moved to London since I left) at Euston Station, so I decided to follow my nose through central London. I had forgotten just how much busier the Strand, the West End & Soho are on a Friday night than sleepy Canmore - I managed to not get lost & even find Levi at Euston (my UK sim card seems to have expired - it made meeting people a little more difficult). I read my book while Levi finished a little work & then my Kiwi cousin Chris met us for a pint & much more catching up. Getting a bit peckish I was happy to continue the diversity of ethnic foods - not that Chipotle is fine dining, but it was tasty & filling. Plus it should make Megan suitably jealous - which was the main objective.
Surprisingly, Levi lives about a hundred metres around the corner from Chipotle just off Charing Cross Rd near the Tottenham Court Road tube stop - what an absolutely great location, there is so much going on & to see around here. Of course, the rent is horrendous but it was found in a pinch & is within walking distance to work. Twas a pretty quiet night out, but most enjoyable (some of my Steel Mill stories were even appreciated! But that may have been my sleep-deprived state imagining it) as more travel & London stories rolled out. Must note that it was another mild day where I didn't need a big coat to walk around in & stay comfortable.
Rain, which I'm not too familiar with any more, was moving through the city in bands on Saturday when we (the Patricks & I) headed out for a potter along South Bank (after plenty of waffles for breakfast). We started off at the Borough Market - somewhere I'd often walked through mid-week to get from A to B. It was great to see it on a Saturday morning with all the stalls open & packed with people. There was some pretty tasty food around & plenty of samples - Vittoria's cuteness factor ensured she got a whole lot. Check out these dishes of curries, they were particularly tasty.
There was a lot of cheese around too, in some cases Andy was lucky he had a blocked nose
Still dodging the showers & carrying the buggy up & down stairs we eventually got to the Thames & decided on Greek for lunch - very tasty. The umbrellas didn't get used a whole lot as we wandered all the way down to the Millennium Wheel & across to Westminster. I enjoyed being back in the city & trying to pick various more-obscure landmarks on the skyscape.
Vittoria was pretty energetic after lunch - a brief moment of standing still
By then thoughts were turning to getting the girls home - as it turned out that was a good idea as I had another big nap before a scrumptious satay dinner. I got a big thrashing it what was a very frustrating game of Cities & Knights for everyone. There was next to no wheat around with which to build cities & it was almost two hours before Shelley took out the game (very narrowly beating Andy). Our frustration was mollified slightly by a fantastic pavlova with plenty of strawberries & kiwifruit - of which we demolished, saving a wafer thin piece for Vittoria.
I somehow managed to sleep in until eight on my third & final morning, still aware that I'd picked up a scratchy throat & was therefore fighting off a cold - probably picked up from a combination of sleep deprivation, a wet day outside & Andy's lingering illnesss. But that wasn't going to put me off my breakfast - Shelley had whipped up the best French toast (bringing me up to food from eight different countries in less than four days) I'd ever had. From what I could work out it was a baguette cut up & soaked with egg mixture baked in a pan with liberal amounts of brown sugar on the bottom & maple syrup (my token Canadian gift) with plenty of bacon on the side.
My favourite Kiwi family in London - you can just see the sun on the first spring bulbs in the yard.
Brilliant sunshine continued as Andy & the girls dropped me back at T3 - as we sat on the apron, the rain came on down, good timing on my part. Managed to stay awake for the whole flight back & drive home safely - about 15000 km, 14 hours of time zone changes, 17 hours of flying in four days over; I slept well last night. It's cold again, but it did absolutely puke snow down today, so I hope that there is still some fresh snow for the weekend. My tiny little cold is going away too - so that's nice.