Archive | August 2012

A Different Side to Portugal – Day 5: The ‘Eco-Museum’/ Old Shipyard in Seixal (Friday 31st August 2012)


Introduction: This was a very quiet day, especially as Laura wasn’t feeling too well. We only went out for a few hours and stayed in Sexial. We went down to the ‘Eco-Museum’ by the river which was more a museum about the shipyard before returning home. Laura had an early night due to being ill and I learnt how noisy a fire brigade band could be!

The non-existent morning

We up very late in the morning and dossed around the house for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. We had breakfast and lunch though. The rest of the time we mainly just watched TV. We didn’t leave the house until about 3 o’clock.

Walking down to the river:

We tried to walk the shortest route down to the Eco-Museum. We walked down the river as normal; although this time we went down one of the main roads to cut the corner. It was obvious where it was because there was a small wooden building on the river the side and a boat wreckage just outside.

Arriving at the Museum

The wrecked boat outside the museum

The ‘Eco-Museum’

The ‘Eco-Museum’ wasn’t what I was expecting by the name they gave it. When I think of ‘Eco’ I think of the environment and ecology but this museum was about the shipyard which used to be there. There was lots about the types of boats they use to make and how important it was to the area. They also showed how they bought the boats in to fix them. As well as models there was a video with old footage from the area. In the next door, there was one of the craftsmen who use to work on this shipyard. This time they was making models of the boats and talking about how as a demonstration of what they use to do.

Part of the Museum

A model of the shipyard before it became a museum

From off the video showing in the museum

The craftsman showing how it was made

More photos from the museum here  


A noisy evening… due to the fire brigade

When we got home we didn’t do too much as Laura wasn’t feeling too well. After dinner Laura went to bed. I stayed up and read for a while… or at least I tried to but the fire brigade’s band was practising. This is not something you find in the UK. Apparently they practise every week. The fire station was only just across the road and was absolutely deafening. They seemed not only loud but quite out of tune, and to make it worse there were 2 groups playing different things on different sides of the station at the same time!

Video of this and to showing a) how loud it was and b) how out of tune they seemed! here 

This entry was posted on August 31, 2012. 1 Comment

A Different Side to Portugal – Day 4: The Castle, the Cathedral and the National Pantheon (Thursday 30th August 2012)


Introduction: This was yet another really busy day and involved a lot of walking! We got the ferry to Lisbon like normal and then walked a lot of steps and steep roads to the castle. After visiting the castle we headed a little down the hill to Lisbon Cathedral which Laura wanted to show me. Then after this to the National Pantheon which is which is kind of a burial place/ memorial to Portugal’s icons from history who they want to remember.

Getting to the Castle

As always we got the ferry from Sexial to Lisbon like we usually did. We then walked a similar route as we did before towards the direction of Rossio Square. We called by one of the tourist information/ shop stands to get a map. We thought it might be useful for the future and I could take it home. Laura knew the route quite well as she use to have drama classes not far from there. She took me this same route telling me stories of this. It first involved a lot of stairs, almost in the back streets of Lisbon and then a lot of windy roads on cobbles. In the rain this could be very dangerous and slippery. On the way we called by a view point she and her friends use to stop at after drama classes. Not it is summer this is also a cafe. From here it was not too far up to the castle.

I took a photo of the Ferry Terminal in Sexial

On the ferry Laura was giving me a bit of a history less as you can see

The stairs toward the castle

A view from the view point

First sight of the castle walls

A few more photos taken while getting to the castle here 


The Castle of Jorge

After entering through an entrance to the front of the castle we reached the queue to pay. Cars don’t usually come up here but there were several when we were there and made it a bit more difficult getting through the narrow archway. Around the corner was a barrier to put the tickets though and this took you to a open area and view point. The view was amazing looking right over Lisbon and also across the river. There were also several statues in this area too. The open space then curved around into almost like a lower wall and we followed it around to another archway leading a small kind of garden with the main keep. We stopped here for lunch, going up a set of steps to the top of a terrace opposite the main part of the castle to eat our sandwiches. We then went into the main part of the castle. Unlike British castles with lots of inside space and exhibitions, this was more a series of winding walls with turrets between each with little in them, although great to explore. We did spend ages experimenting with photos especially of us sitting in window archways. There was, as always like a traditional, a lack of safety. Although you often notice abroad. As well as a lack of information signs, English Heritage and National Trust cover ours in information signs. We then followed a different part back out to the main view point we started at.

There were several strange things at this castle. To begin with nobody is suppose to live in the castle grounds yet met this weird English sounding guy who claimed he did with his 12 cats! Also in one of the turrets were a group of peacocks, literally locked behind bars.

The archway which is the entrance to the Castle walls

Me at the main view point in the castle (not sure why Laura’s phone made it orange lol)

The entrance to the keep/ main part of the castle

Walking the walls of the castle

I just liked this photo

A lot more photos from the castle here 

More information adnd History from Wikpedia


The walk to the Cathedral

We then headed back out of the Castles walls. We did stop in a shop just outside the castle walls at a shop which sold postcards. Firstly I had yet to buy some to send home but also they had ones made out of cork (appropriate I thought) and told the legend of the cockerel which is often associated with Portugal (although I think of Nandos usually lol) and explains why it is the symbol of hope and justice in Portugal. Then after this minor detour we headed down the hill again towards Lisbon Cathedral which Laura wanted to show me. We did try to use Laura’s GPS but probably a good thing she knew where she was going as that struggled to find us. At the view point/ cafe we stopped at on the way we got a lift down. I was amazed as this was a lift outside and even put cobbles on the floor of it. After stopping again at the supermarket for biscuits and water we reached the Cathedral.

The postcard I bought about the legend (admittedly take a lot later)

The floor of the lift which I was amazed with

The lift itself (on the right side of this photo)


The Cathedral

We went inside Lisbon Cathedral, I was annoyed at Laura’s camera wasn’t working and my phone typically wasn’t working so I had to resort to using my old phone which didn’t have a very good camera. After looking around the Cathedral we were deciding whether or not to pay and go to the treasury. This was something I was not use to and had no idea what that was. We decided we might as well. We couldn’t take any photos here (although we could from the balcony where the choir sat looking over the Cathedral). I learnt a lot about all the different colours worn by the Catholic church at different times of years. It was also very creepy to see the remains of someone’s hand as they cut off the hand of the saint and keep it! In another little room there was an incredible ornament. It was just pure gold and cover in precious stones.

Me outside the Cathedral


In traditional style here: Lots of gold again

Entrance to the Treasury

From the balcony for the choir at the back of the church


The stain glass window above the balcony

More photos from inside Lisbon Cathedral here

More information and history from Wikipedia


Yet more walking…

When we left here, we walked back further down the hill towards the sea. As we did this I was told not to talk as this is the kind of area apparently tourists can be targets for thieves, etc. Laura said a few things in Portuguese and I just nodded along, pretending I knew what she was talking about. We followed the coast a bit before heading back up the hill to The National Pantheon.

The streets leading up to the National Pantheon

Our first glimpse of the National Pantheon


The National Pantheon

I had never heard of this before and I assume our closest is Westminster Abbey. But this where all the key famous figures in Portuguese history were either buried (all had their remains moved here)/ had memorials to them. It was started to be built hundreds of years ago but they didn’t actually finish it until 1966. I later saw a photo of Lisbon from the 1930s and you could see the dome missing from it.

Inside the main dome part was 6 tombs, 3 either side. These were the ones which were not the actual remains. These were a lot older than the others and mainly royalty. Then each corner of the building had a room. Each of the 4 rooms was designated to a subject area like culture, politics, etc and each with tombs with the remains of the famous people. The most recent of which was a world known Fado singer, Amália Rodrigues who only died in 1999.

As well downstairs it was possible to climb right to the top of the dome, which we did. It was a little scary looking over the balcony looking down inside with only a rail there and great views again of Lisbon outside.

The outside of the National Pantheon

The middle part of the building (you can see some of the 6 there and an old organ in the section opposite the door)

One of the 4 rooms

Looking up to the ceiling (you can see where we stood at the top of the dome)

Looking back down from the top of the globe

Quite a few more photos at the National Pantheon here 

More history and information about it from Wikipedia


Home Time

By this point and especially going up and down all those stairs and hills we were so tired. We walked back towards the sea and to an underground station. From here we just got the underground back to the ferry. We didn’t do much in the evening except watch TV and read.


This entry was posted on August 30, 2012. 1 Comment

A Different Side to Portugal – Day 3: Sexial and the Cork Factory (Wednesday 29th August 2012)


Introduction: We were so tired from the past few days/ weeks so we decided to have a quiet day. Thus we stayed in Seixal and I had the opportunity to see Laura’s home town. After walking down the river and into some of the streets we found an old derelict Cork Factory which was fascinating. Luckily a tour group where there at the same time and we learnt more from their tour guide; which Laura translated for me. They also were able to show us where to go as it wasn’t the easiest to locate even inside the grounds. After dinner we came back to this area for the cafe which looked so nice in the dark with live music playing.

A Very Lazy Morning

After the previous day in Lisbon we were absolutely shattered. The other reason of course for this too was although this was only our 3rd day of my visit it was also the 13th day of our kind of exchange and in England we were just as busy as we were here. Consequently on this day we got up very late (about 11am) and breakfast and lunch were almost the same thing. We had already planned the day before hand… or at least the area at we had not quite planned to exactly where. After several episodes of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ which Laura was getting me into, we finally left.

Walking Down to the River

We walked down to the river in Sexial again. I was here on my first visit but this was this time we did see more of it, going a further distance. Also parts I had seen before made a little more sense this time. Including looking across to the other side you can see the remains of the old mills, literally just left and abandoned. In one of the little parks near the river in Sexial there was a model of one which you could see across the river. One of the other things we saw was what seemed to be a beach. Seixal is not a beachy place and apparently this beach is known as the ‘poor man’s beach’ as it is not known for being very clean and most people who come here are unable to travel to the proper beaches a little further afield.

This chimney was just in a street, elements of factories and mills are seen everywhere it seems

The ‘Poor’s Man Beach’

The model in a park; of one of the old mills across the river

The mill which the model is of (view across the river, with Lisbon in the background)

More photos from the river on this day here

The Streets of Seixal

After walking a stretch of the river we headed back in land a little to explore some of the streets of Seixal. The streets were all very typically tight and windy.  It was nice to see another side of Portugal which was a little mundane. We also walked past a nice church, which literally seemed to be squeezed in somehow. Then from here we headed back towards the river and continued down a little further.

A typical little street in Seixal 

A little opening between these narrow streets

Me outside the little church 

Back at the river again, although a bit further down now

More photos from within the streets of Seixal here

The Cork Factory

After walking a little further down the river we saw a sign about conservation area and seemed to have a museum about the ecology, etc of the area. We didn’t know where to go, the security guard at the gate directed us to a building. Obviously at this point Laura did all the talking I just nodded along. It turned out that this museum was a lot further down the river but there was one of the Cork Factories open to the public just down the road, however it closed within an hour.

We were quite lucky that a large coach trip arrived when we were just got back to the gate. This may sound like a bad idea but Laura spoke to the tour guide. We had no clue where we were going as it was a little further down this track, but the tour guide said we could tag along.

When we arrived in the building she made a speech about the factory which Laura just listened to and then translated for me at the end. I had no idea how big a part cork played to this area of Portugal and seemed to basically be the community in some way. They watched a video which we tagged along for parts before exploring the rest of the museum. The tour guide also showed some of the cork which you were allowed to touch and around the building were lots of photos, so even I could understand the exhibition, even with the severe lack of English signs lol.

As we left and headed out it became obvious how big this place was. We were only allowed in one small part of it which was the museum but the rest stretched out for about a further 150m or so! I wanted to know if these buildings were just shells, so walked up a bit closer. When I looked through the windows I was shocked to see what looked like a ghost town the buildings all had their machines still inside just left  untouched!

The outside of the building which was open to the public

One of the photos from the Exhibition which showed what it used to look like when in use

Some of the cork produced we could touch

From outside looking at some more of the factory buildings

What we saw looking through the broken glass of these windows

Some more photos of the Cork Factory (including some of the exhibitions and machinery inside the public part) here

Heading Home

We walked just a little further up the river, only until the end of the factory buildings before turning left and back towards the house. I felt I had been blind as we were walking up now the other side of the cork factory and could see better how large this area was. I was here only 48 hours ago as we were also walking past the Graffiti Competition wall and I had seen this last time, not noticing the massive factory sitting right behind it.

Just outside, the same side as the entrance to the factory (near the cafe)

Around the corner from the cafe, where you can see the wall with the competition graffiti (you can see too the chimney of the section we went to on the right hand side)

Just to give a scale and perspective, this is edited from Google Maps (bird eye view)

More photos from this walk home, walking around the outside of it here

The Cafe

After dinner that evening we headed back down the same way in act almost to the factory entrance again, to the cafe which Laura used to work at. There was live music outside and the river looked so nice all lit up in the dark. We had a cup of coffee. I also seemed to practice a bit of sign language as when Laura went up to flaunt to her old colleagues that she wasn’t working I was left with her Mum and Grandmother and this was the only way we had learnt to communicate.

The musician playing outside the cafe

This entry was posted on August 29, 2012. 1 Comment

A Different Side to Portugal – Day 2: A Walking Tour of Lisbon (Tuesday 28th August 2012)

Introduction: This was such a busy day! It was Laura’s Mum’s day off so her and Grandmother went us with to Lisbon for basically a walking tour of Lisbon. I saw so much in Lisbon that day alone, including lots of streets, shops, view, plazas and an incredible church. This too was my first chance to try the traditional custard tarts (pastéis de nata) here and learn a lot about both Lisbon’s and Portugal’s history. In the evening we went to dinner with some of Laura’s friend’s in a traditional Portuguese local’s restaurant, trying to get use to Portuguese customs. 

Our Late Start

We were still very tired from the day before so we had a lie in. This also worked out well as Laura’s Mum and Grandmother were going to go with us to Lisbon as it was her day off, and they wanted the morning to sort some errands in the morning. We had breakfast, which I was now getting use to, because bread with just butter seemed strange without being toasted, etc but now it seemed quite normal. We then got the ferry again across to Lisbon. Although we practically had to run there it seemed and lucky to catch the boat.

Laura’s kettle, I just had to take a photo as it’s been ages since I have seen one, we generally just have electric

Terreiro do Paço

From the ferry we walked towards Terreiro do Paço. As we did this we walked past the Marinha Ministerio Defesa Nacional (Marine National Ministry of Defense). We walked about the plaza at Terreiro do Paço, as Laura told me all the history regarding [Wikipedia link]. It use to be until recently where most of the ministries but now it is more touristy in a bid to get people to visit more. In one corner too there was a little cafe called ‘Martinho de D’Acarde’. This is a cafe which a famous Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa use to visit and this is where he use to sit at the time. So this table is set up how it use to be when he visited in the early 1900s with photos and memorabilia around it.

The Marinha Ministerio Defesa Nacional

At Terreiro do Paço

The side of the square the Ministries use to be which are now cafes

The corner in Martinho de D’Acarde dedicated to Fernando Pessoa

The table itself

More photos from around this area here

Into the Centre of Lisbon

From he we went through the archway leading into the more central part of the city. The layout is similar to a America with the grid system so every junction you would see small road leading off. Also not only buses but trams everywhere; some new and some very old fashioned.

Looking back to Terreiro do Paço from the other side

One of the little side street

The floor, this what what the pedestrian roads are like everywhere you go

This is traditional style of building with these types of tiles all over it

More photos from the streets in Lisbon here

Small Very Old Shops

We walked up one side to Praça do Rossio (Rossio Square) we walked but down the other. This occurred in many street but here more than most: There were very old shops, most dating back to the 1800s or so. They were all clearly very proud of their age and tradition. Others such as bakeries, which Lisbon seems to be famous for might be not quite as old in places but with just as much tradition and heritage.

One of the little old bakeries

A tiny little glove shop

An old style van selling Fado musical (traditional to Portugal)

Saw this in one of the old fashioned book shops which made me laugh

More photos from the shops in this area here

Custard Tarts

After a while we stopped at a cafe called ‘A Brazileira’. We were having a very traditional snack which is typically what most people have in the cafes here. It is a pastry in the form of a kind of custard tart, called pastéis de nata [Wikipedia link]. Which are very traditional in Portugal. They are quite small though and they often sprinkle cinnamon on the top. The other difference I suppose I should be use to is the coffee they have usually more like an Espresso than an Americano.

Outside the cafe was a statue of the writer (as mentioned before) Fernando Pessoa. Next to this statue is a seat, so being the tourist that I am, I did the whole have your photo taken with Fernando Pessoa.

The sign of the cafe we went to

Inside the cafe

The custard tarts (pastéis de nata)

More importantly us eating them

Me outside with Fernando Pessoa

More photos from this cafe (inside and surrounding area) here

Igreja de S. Roque (the Church of St Roque)

We then walked up to an amazing church called Igreja de S. Roque (the Church of St Roque). It traditional style of Catholic churches especially this background it was basically just all gold inside with really impressively painted ceilings; in a way that I don’t think an photo could do it credit. It was definitely one you had to see first hand.

As soon as you arrive in the church

Another view looking to the front of the church

One of the little alcoves 

The ceiling

A box where it believed if you out money in it and make a wish you will find love

More photos from within the church here 

Link to it on Wikipedia

Escardinhas do Duque

We headed back towards Praça do Rossio. To get there we went down what they consider a kind of staircase. It had great views the whole way; especially the castle which was almost framed between the buildings. Over the top of the roads and stairs was what seemed to be streamers and tinsel. This was actually left from a festival back in June, for some reason elements still remained. The other thing that several times were the sights of old cafes and some based on what small old cafes up in the north of the country look like. When we got back to the square we also passed a very old train station, then finally the square itself.

One of these mock up cafes as mentioned

Me on these stairs talked about; looking down on Lisbon with the castle in background

Looking back the way we came


Arriving in Praça do Rossio

More photos from here

Praça do Rossio (Rossio Square)

At the square this is when Laura’s Mother and Grandmother left us. From by the sounds of it, this Square is basically the equivalent of Trafalgar Square for Lisbon. They were going home but me and Laura were staying in Lisbon still as we were having dinner with some of Laura’s friends. We sat and ate some sandwiches here before heading around the corner to a kind of shopping centre called Chiado which had a Starbucks in so we could get some Frappe but more importantly use the internet and charge our phones.

A different view of the Square

Us in the Square

The building at the back of the square

The square next door which is a lot smaller

More photos from in Rossio Sqaure here 

More info from Wikipedia

Dinner with Laura’s friends

This was interesting and another chance to try some Portuguese food again. There also seemed to what appeared to be an endless supply of Sangria too; this was clearly a locals restaurant than a normal touristy one. We got to the restaurant called Arguivo Geral rather early. The first thing which I found at this point is that unlike restaurants in this country who don’t seem to like it when you have a massive party and you have to book in advance, in Portugal these particular restaurants they generally won’t take any bookings of less that 13 to 15!

The next thing I found strange when Laura’s friends arrived was that they all greet each other with 2 kisses. In British social culture that is rarity and you may get a few strange looks for but here it was the same for everyone you met, whether you had known them for a while or this was the first time! We planned how I could speak fast and in Geordie so they wouldn’t understand if I needed to ask Laura anything. It actually didn’t matter as they couldn’t understand what I said anyway; saying I speak to fast and my accent is too strong and that is even when I spoke very slowly.

The Long Journey Home

As we were going back to late the boat to Seixal wasn’t running. We had to get another and then a bus from there back home. Being me I desperately needed the toilets by the time we reached the ferry terminal and we just missed the bus. There was a cafe actually open just outside luckily so we stopped for a cup of coffee so I could use their toilets. This too is when I learnt that me and tram tracks don’t go well I caught my foot in one and went flying, after that I was really, really careful with them.

This entry was posted on August 28, 2012. 1 Comment

A Different Side to Portugal – Lisbon Day 1: Arriving in Lisbon and the river at Sexial (Monday 27th August 2012)


Introduction: This was a quiet day after being up all night for our flight and were shattered. We got the underground from the airport to the ferry terminal, calling by a shop to pick up some lunch on the way. Then a ferry to Seixal and a lift from Laura’s Mum to the house. In the afternoon we walked by the river back to the house. Later we went to the local shopping centre, before falling asleep on the sofa.


Flying to Lisbon

Laura preferred me to go through security first as although she speaks English very well she would be more confident if I dealt with any issues if there were any. We sat in the main waiting area for a couple hours until 7am when finally our gate number was called. There was no sitting down there as everyone was queuing to get on the plane already. They were asking people to put their hand luggage in the hold, it would be free (unlike usual) but we wanted to go straight from the plane with no waiting afterwards.

We stupidly sat at the wings which as it was an escape route we couldn’t have our bags with us. We slept through most of the flight as we were so tired.

Us waiting for our gate to be called at about 6:30am

To the Ferry Terminal

We arrived in Lisbon Airport. We had no bags to collect and only had to go through passport control. We thought we were saving time by going through the electronic passport control but one wasn’t working which we were unaware of and cost us some time. From here we went straight to the underground. That is the great thing about being with a native we knew exactly where to go instead of spending ages finding everything out. We got the equivalent of an Oyster Card and then the underground. This took us to the ferry port, called Cais do Sodré. We got some lunch from a shop on the way as we were hungry and ate it in the ferry terminal as we waited for the ferry to arrive.

At the Ferry Terminal (Cais do Sodré)  in Lisbon

A better photo of us waiting for the Ferry

The Ferry to Seixal

We then got the ferry from the terminal in Lisbon and across the river to the Seixal. We were going to walk and maybe get a bus we were undecided, however when we arrived Laura’s Mum came and picked us up from the ferry and gave us a lift home.

Us on the boat

Inside the boat 

View from the boat back to the terminal

A view from the boat (admittedly on a different day as the first day they didn’t come out well) 

View from the boat looking back to Lisbon (again from a different day)

Arriving in Seixal (still from a different day)

More photos from the boat (still from a different day but the journey is 100% the same) here  

The River and the Local Shopping Centre

When we got back, I had a quick tour and kind of settled in Laura’s Mum dropped us off by the river by Seixal and we walked down past the river and back home again. While there I made a call to just say I had arrived safely. We also stopped at the cafe which Laura worked at over the summer for some coffee. And way back towards the house we went past a wall which is covered in graffiti although this graffiti is deliberate as they hold a competition here each year. This wall was actually very long, perhaps close to 50m(ish).

When she got back Laura’s Mum took us to the shopping centre. I needed some more socks and also wanted to ask about a new Portuguese SIM card to save me some money while there, although with no success.

When home we watched some TV but just fell asleep straight away. Then was just dinner which as always Laura acted as translator for everyone.

Me and Laura by the river in Seixal

View across the river from Seixal 

The view from Sexial across the river towards Lisbon

The Graffiti Competition wall on the way back home

Another view showing the full length of this wall

This entry was posted on August 27, 2012. 1 Comment

Show-casing England: Day 10 – London [Day 4]: Harrods, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, The Globe, Tower Bridge, etc, St Pancras and Luton Airport (Sunday 26th August 2012)


Introduction: This was our last day in London. We went to Harrods to begin with after checking out of the hotel and changing buses (plus lunch) at Marble Arch. We then went to St Paul’s, walked across the Millennium Bridge to Tate Modern. We didn’t spend too long at Tate Modern before following the river up to Tower Bridge. We then got a bus to Liverpool Street as we had to change their to get back to Harrods in order to collect our bags from there. We then went to St Pancras station for a while, which is where we said goodbye to Nona for her to get her own flight back to Sweden. We then got to Luton Airport just after midnight and spent several boring hours there before we were finally able to go through security at about 3:30am.



We checked out of the hotel at 10am, or just before and lugged all our luggage to Harrods. We had a whole day to spend with our luggage and although confident that there would be no issues with this at Harrods as they much have had this before there we did worry slightly they wouldn’t let us in. This was kind of true. We arrive at 10:50 with 10 minutes until Harrods opened. They didn’t let us in with our bags but showed us the cloakroom. So glad this happened as we could leave our bags he all day. It wasn’t free but was only about £3 or £4 each for the whole day, which for London is so cheap. We spent a little while looking around Harrods before deciding what to next for our last day.

This was a sign in the hotel, the spelling was dreadful so I corrected it for them lol

The shoe section of Harrods, we tweeted it because we think our friend CJ would live there if she could

Marble Arch, Lunch and Buses

We topped up our Oyster Cards and decided the places to go would be down by St Paul’s as we could get a lot done it that area for the afternoon. As we were still only getting buses we got a bus to Marble Arch and had to change there. By this time it had gone midday and we were all so hungry so we had lunch here before getting our connecting bus to Marble Arch.

At Marble Arch

More photos at Marble Arch but also on the bus and from there in our changes of buses here

St Paul’s to Tate Modern

We got off the bus at St Paul’s. We walked around St Paul’s before heading down to the Thames, crossing the river at the Millennium Bridge. We crossed over the bridge to the Tate Modern. We went inside but there was little we wanted to do. There was only a few free exhibitions and instead looked around only a bit including a moving piece of art which to me was just pure weird because it was just a large group of people walking/jogging/running at various speeds from one end of a large space to another. I think within the Tate Modern the place we spent the most time was in the gift shop. I suppose this was quite typical for us.

At St Paul’s Cathedral 

On the Millennium Bridge looking back to St Paul’s

Looking down the river from the bridge

View of the Globe from the bridge

Approaching Tate modern

Standing outside Tate Modern looking back the way we came

More photos from St Paul’s, Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern here

Walking Tour: The Globe, London Bridge down to Tower Bridge

We walked past The Globe. We were going to go inside… well until we saw the prices and though the time and effort involved we would just be happy enough to walk past it. Then from here walked down following the river through the London Bridge and Southwark area right up to Tower Bridge. We stopped just a little just before Tower Bridge mainly for photos. Then walked up to the bridge itself to get a bus across Tower Bridge and onto Liverpool Street so we could change for Harrods again.

The stupid Olympics mascots which they had everywhere!

Us with Tower Bridge behind us

The Tower of London over the river (next to Tower Bridge)

Getting closer to Tower Bridge

At the bus stop on Tower Bridge

More photos from this walk up to Tower Bridge here

Getting back to Harrods again

At Liverpool Street we had to get the Number 23. This change seemed to be more complicated than any other we had done. First we couldn’t find the stop. Even on the map we struggled to find where it was, luckily we had Laura with us who had the brains it seems and cutting through Liverpool Street train station it didn’t take us too long. Some other people who were looking at the same time us walked the long way round and took a lot longer. I suppose it made little difference as there seemed to be no buses for 20 minutes. Like many others we almost gave up, and even afterwards we had no clue what happened there.

We finally got our bus back to Knightsbridge for Harrods. We actually missed the stop as we were expecting to drive past the building like we did before and this one didn’t. As we walked back the way we came on the bus we saw lots of paparazzi, still not sure why as they wouldn’t tell us, and we went past some very expensive cars on the way.

We went back into Harrods as Nona wanted to buy something and then to collect our bags. We had plenty of time to spare as we didn’t want to get into a problem of missing the closing time of 7pm.

St Pancras Train Station

We had plenty of time to kill so we went straight to St Pancras Station. There was several reasons for this. Firstly this is where me and Laura would have to get our train to Luton Airport from, secondly it had a Paperchase which stayed open later than most and I had a plan for Laura there, and thirdly it has the only Starbucks which is open all night there. The plan did kind of work, however we found although Starbucks was open all night the reason we like it is because they have sockets to change laptops and phones, but this one however didn’t. In the end we resorted to Costa Coffee as they had one socket. It was not greatly accessible but was better than nothing. While there we did go to Paperchase as it is a shop I know does a lot of London styled stationary although this one almost ironically seemed to be lacking, but Laura settled on something all the same. We were also hungry and had a long night. We couldn’t find much around as it was late and little was open so we left St Pancras and went to the McDonalds just past Kings Cross Station. This also was the perfect opportunity for us to charge our phones again, although we did have to wait a bit for some sockets to be free.

Luton Airport

By 9:30pm Nona started to needed to go as she had to get to Victoria Coach Station to get to Stansted Airport. We went back to Strabucks for a while before deciding about midnight to get the train to Luton Airport Parkway and then onto Luton Airport. Laura was a little concerned that the shuttle bus from Luton Airport Parkway train station to the Airport itself might not be running at 3am but with early flights I couldn’t this being possible. I double checked it and although the service was not so frequent it did meet every train to arrive in the train station. We spent the whole way chatting and comparing almost every aspect of our educational systems.

At Luton Airport we had several hours to kill until we could even get through security, so we didn’t fall asleep every now and then we would walk around the airport, ate M&Ms, got food and coffee, etc. Finally we could go through security at about 3:30am.

Laura falling asleep in Luton Airport

This entry was posted on August 26, 2012. 1 Comment

Show-casing England: Day 9 – London [Day 3]: The No 9 bus, The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, The National Gallery, Piccadilly Circus, ‘M&M World’ and an evening with Val (Saturday 25th August 2012)


Introduction: This was probably one of our busiest days (although most days were usually very busy). In the morning we got the No 9 bus which is my favourite bus as it is so old and went to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. After a few mishaps losing Nona we had some lunch and spent a fair bit of the afternoon in the National Gallery; obviously looking at paintings but also a fair part of that sheltering from the dreadful weather outside. It wasn’t too bad though and we sang and danced to ‘Singing in the Rain’ through most of it anyway. For the evening after calling by the M&M shop we spent the rest of the evening with Val. First having cocktails at The Hampshire Hotel in Leicester Square and then dinner at The National Theatre on South Bank. We even attempted a let night walk a short distance on the Thames.


The No 9 Bus

The plan for the day had been planned in advance. We discussed it the day before, thus knew what we were doing. We wanted to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and even checked with Val that it was still on for that day.

To get there we had to get a bus back to Trafalgar Square again and then walk down to Buckingham Palace. This involved several buses, but the best part is we got my favourite bus the No 9. It is my favourite purely because it is the old buses mainly on it with the doors at the back and proper conductors. I had got the No 9 before but typically I had always got one of the few new ones on the route! We started downstairs and then sat at the front upstairs to get the best view for Laura’s sake.

The No 9 bus as it approached us

Getting on the No9 bus

Us upstairs on the bus

We went past The Royal Albert Hall on the way

More photos from our journey on the Number 9 bus 

The Changing of the Guard

We then walked down to Buckingham Palace. Being August 2012 and being between the Olympics and Paralympics nothing was easy as it should have been! There were signs for Buckingham Palace which seemed to take you almost up to Hyde Park, there were some people cutting through though onto the Mall not too far from the end. This wasn’t too bad, not like it usually is but better than the other route as we could walk straight up towards Buckingham Palace down what is usually the road.

We had got to Trafalgar Square at 10:30am as planned so when we got to Buckingham Palace we were there early enough to get a good place. It wasn’t as busy as it often is in the summer. Half way through the changing of the guard Nona got bored so disappeared to Starbucks. Laura and I however stayed on to watch the rest. Both while waiting for it and getting there I taught Laura all 40 Monarchs in the correct order since 1066. She was really good at remembering it all! It just seemed appropriate at the time. We were hoping they should walk straight past where we were standing however although just a couple did the first main group went the opposite direction to usual! At first I was confused then remembered they were going to Horse Guards and that was closed via the Mall due to the Olympics. Because of this, we left our place and tried to head around the other side. Typically the next group left and walked straight past where we were originally stood. I felt so bad as that was why we stood there in the first place! We tried to get as close as possible. It then hit me where they were going and why they didn’t follow the first group: They were going to the gate house thing on the opposite side of the Mall a little further up. Laura and I legged it to there just in time to see them walk straight past and we were at the very front.

The archway to the Mall

Walking up the Mall to Buckingham Palace

Me and Laura at Buckingham Palace

The band arriving 

When they walked straight past us

Some of the cavelry arriving

At the gate house thing as they left again

More photos from the Changing of the Guard and at Buckingham Palace here 

Signs to Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus

After staying on a little longer for photos we phoned Nona to find out where she was. She said we just had to follow the signs to Trafalgar Square, we would soon the see the Ritz and she was just around the corner from there. We were a little confused as we were sure the Ritz was in the opposite direction but seeing how she got there that way and knowing what the Olympics sign posting is like so we tried anyway. When we arrived at Trafalgar Square we called again and was so funny because Nona kept saying to us we obviously couldn’t have been following the signs to Trafalgar Square, we replied laughing: “No I think we did as we followed them to much we ended up at… Trafalgar Square!” lol. In the end we gave up and asked a policeman on the street who said we were miles away! The end conclusion was Nona would walk towards us and we would meet half way around Piccadilly Circus. While there we could be a bit touristy for Laura. Finally Nona arrived and even then trying to find her within that confined area was still difficult. The reason in the end for this difficulty was because Nona didn’t realise we had walked down the Mall and coming out further down, we didn’t think that this would affect it but clearly it did.

One of the photos we stayed on to take

Laura at Piccadilly Circus 

Laura at Piccadilly Circus’ underground station

More photos from Piccadilly Circus here

Leicester Square and Lunch

We were hungry so we went down to Leicester Square as this has the biggest variety of places to eat that we could think of. It also was not too far from where we are. There was another reason we wanted to go there too: We were meeting Val at the Hampshire Hotel in Leicester Square so this gave us an opportunity to find out where it was first. After lunch at Burger King (because we are cheap and this trip was costing a lot) we walked towards Trafalgar Square again as we had planned before to visit the National Gallery.

We walked past The Prince of Wales theatre on the way; which currently is performing ‘Mamma Mia’

The National Gallery (and phone case buying)

The timing of this walk down to the National Gallery perhaps wasn’t the best as it just started to drizzle. We did on the way find a shop for phone cases and even more amazingly enough they had some for Laura’s Blackberry there too. We spent ages choosing phone cases and Laura in the end got two and I got one. Poor Nona has a very limited selection for hers. As soon as we stepped out it just tipped it down! We went back to the same shop and bought some very touristy umbrellas! We (mainly Laura and I who were huddled under the same umbrella) started singing and dancing to ‘Singing in the Rain’ the whole way there!

At the National Gallery itself we wanted to get as much seen as we possibly could. So we started in the most western wing with the old 13th and 14th Century painting and worked our way across to the famous 20th  century of Van Gogh and Monnet. When we had finished we sat around in the group booking areas as the weather had got even worse (if that was possible) and almost sounds like a storm brewing outside. When it sounded like it had calmed down we decided to make a dash for it.

[There are no photos from this because a) you can’t take photos in the Gallery and b) well it was too wet!]

The M&M Shop

There a little time to kill until we met Val so we walked back up to Leicester Square and visited the M&M shop just around the corner. I must admit I had not been inside before. We spent a little time walking around but most of our time in basement area which you could mix your own M&M colours. Half were familiar like reds, blues, greens, etc, but there was also colours like teal, gold, silver, white, aqua, etc. After spending perhaps far too much money there we walked back over to meet Val at the Hampshire Hotel.

Outside ‘M&M World’ [admittedly taken earlier in the day when walking to Leicester Square]

The pick’n’mix section of the shop

An Evening with Val

We were sitting outside to find that Val was inside even though we were early. This was perhaps one of the few times which I have met Val and actually been early! We went inside and had a few cocktails together. I’m not sure who was the most embarrassing; us or her! We may have been spinning around on the spinny chairs but she was basically chasing a strawberry around her glass, it was halarious to watch. Then we walked and got a bus to South Bank singing and dancing still to ‘Singing in the Rain’ again.

We had dinner at the National Theatre after spending a little while in the book the bookshop there which Laura loved. Val actually ordered for all of us as we had no clue what to have, and meant we could share and try it all. We then walked a little distance down South Bank in the dark. Perhaps a not as far as we could have gone as Val thought she had forgotten her umbrella, so went all the way back to the toilets in the National Gallery… only to find it was in her pocket all the time!

Finally we got the bus (or several buses, getting a tad lost while changing in Oxford Circus)  to get back to the hotel.

Drinks together at the Hampshire Hotel in Leicester Square

From our night walk, looking towards St Paul’s Cathedral 

Another photo from our night walk on South Bank

A few more photos from the evening here 

This entry was posted on August 25, 2012. 1 Comment

Show-casing England: Day 8 – London [Day 2]: Embankment, Westminster, Oxford Street/ Regents Street, Selfridges, Hamley’s etc (Friday 24th August 2012)


Introduction: Although I suppose in a way there doesn’t seem to be too much in this diary entry, being London it was always a very busy day. After a rather late start, we did the very touristy thing of walking from Embankment up to Westminster, doing a lot of sightseeing on the day. Then to Oxford Circus to do some shopping, including in Selfridges and Hamleys. Before having some dinner at Bella Italia and finally heading back to the hotel again.


Chaos getting to Embankment

We (well I) decided that we should be stereotypical and go to Embankment and towards Westminster from there.

We didn’t however have the best of starts. As the hotel room was so dark we overslept. Me and Nona got woken up by Laura pulling the curtains and complaining we needed to leave, we didn’t appreciate that it was already 10:30am! Then even getting to Embankment turned out to be difficult because Nona and I went through the barrier of the underground at Earls Court, but Laura couldn’t because her Oyster Card had run out of credit. So the guy let me back out as we were only using my debit card while in London. But then I couldn’t get back in and a different guy got confused so got charged a bit, so I had to stand in line for ages at the tickets in order to speak to someone there and get my money re-credited before I could finally re-enter!

Me and Nona on the underground to Embankment

Laura really wanted this photo, and spent ages looking for this

Embankment and Westminster

We finally arrived at Embankment and then walked back up along the Thames (which Laura actually pronounced as Thames rather than “Tems” as it actually is pronounced; bless her). This means we could walk past the London Eye and South Bank on the other side of the river and up to Westminster with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and then continue onto Westminster Abbey. We walked between the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey towards what I call the BBC view. In that when you watch the BBC news and they talk about Parliament this is where they always film from. I knew I was close and looking towards the building I finally said I was confident. I was quickly proved right as I pointed where the camera should be and there was a camera pointing straight at me and a load of sockets next to it clearly for that purpose. We went back to Westminster Abbey, but as this so expensive and over priced for what it was so we just walked outside the building the surrounding area.

Walking past the London Eye, near Embankment underground station

Laura with a red phone box near Embankment underground station

A typical tourist’s photo Laura wanted as we got closer to Westminster

The camera left near the “BBC view”

Laura standing at what I call the “BBC view”


The most stereotypical photo of London ever

Me and Nona outside Westminster Abbey

More photos from around Westminster here 

[There are a few which seem to be missing :S]

Shopping in London

We couldn’t decide what to do and what to show Laura next. We also couldn’t decide how to get there as we seeming to be spending a lot on our Oyster Cards, so we decided from now on we would only get buses as they are capped at about £4.00 a day. We decided to go to Oxford Street as many tourists only come to London for the shops and places like Selfridges and Hamley’s are a must!

When we arrived in Oxford Street our first port of call was McDonalds as we were starving and that  is basically what we saw first although we struggled to remember where we saw it as we saw it while on the bus. And then from here spent a lot of time in Selfridges, Waterstones and John Lewis. Next we walked to Regents Street for the famous toy shop called Hamley’s. We did do a minor detour via Starbucks again. We were in Hamley’s for what felt like to me and Laura  was an eternity! Mainly on the top floor as this was the Doctor Who section and Nona turned into a crazy fangirl. After buying half the shop (as my Mum would say) we finally left and started to decide what to do next.

All the stuff Nona had bought during those 2 days!

Bella Italia and a few misunderstandings

We were all very tired, but also very hungry so we walked around until we found Bella Italia and was the type of restaurant we could all agree with.

After Bella Italia we were quite boring and went straight back to the hotel, although it still wasn’t a particularly early night as we still stayed up chatting for ages and laughing at how both me and Nona both misheard Laura. For example when talking about explorers arriving America (randomly) we both thought she said “bounding” rather than “bonding” and from this conversation imagined these explorers bounding across the American landscape almost like kangaroos.  Also thought she said “50 ships of grey”, rather than “50 shades of grey”, and even then we had a different interpretation of the word “ships”.

This entry was posted on August 25, 2012. 1 Comment

Show-casing England: Day 7 – London [Day 1]: Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square and a Sports Pub in Kensington (Thursday 23rd August 2012)


Introduction: We finally left Southampton and not planning to return. This was our first day in London (out of 4). We met Nona there and after checking into the hotel and having lunch we went to Covent Garden for a while for coffee and shopping. We didn’t know what to do so we headed to Trafalgar Square and after after visiting Starbucks like usual we resorted to Nona and I’s normal Sports Bar in Kensington.


Getting ready to leave for London

We had to get up early this time to pack and get ready. We weren’t returning to Southampton again, as we were going to London for 4 days and then going to Lisbon straight from there. Mum, Dad and Tom left the house at 7:30, which gave us time to sort ourselves out, including printing off our boarding passes and having breakfast. We walked directly to the train station. We were going to get a bus but as there was no buses for ages thus we decided to walk it instead. As we were only going with hand luggage it wasn’t too bad.

The photo Laura took of my house when we left

Us on the train to London Waterloo

Arriving in London

We got the 12:00 London Waterloo train and arrived in London at 1:20pm. That would have been perfect time to meet Nona as we timed it so we all arrived at the same time… however she got a bus half an hour earlier and thus came to us in Waterloo, rather than meeting half way. To save the issues which Nona and I had on previous occasions we agreed to meet at the same Starbucks which we met at before. We were all very hungry and I looked around Waterloo, both inside and outside for somewhere to eat. I couldn’t find anything so the new solution was to go straight to the hotel and look for something on the way.

Checking into the hotel

We got the underground straight to the hotel. It didn’t take us too long to find it as it wasn’t too far from Earls Court underground station. We saw a KFC on the way which made us even more hungry but decided that we needed to drop off our bags first. When we got to the hotel we had to pay, of course being me I didn’t have enough cash on me, so I had to run down to Sainsbury’s on the way. We settled down for a bit in the hotel working out who was sleeping where and where to go. We decided we would have to do something which we could be there not too long and was fairly close by. We settled on the idea of going to Covent Garden to begin with and decide from there.

Covent Garden

After going to KFC opposite Earls Court underground train station and getting my travel insurance for Lisbon at the Post Office, we got the underground to Covent Garden. We walked around and downstairs inside Covent Garden we had a cup of coffee. We heard a lot of singing and clapping. There was clearly a group busking outside, suddenly the sound was moving and they were singing and playing instruments right past the cafe door. When we had finished our coffee and ‘mini muffin’ we stayed and watched outside for a while. There were a few more acts around too. One of which was a guy with a sword doing scary trips balanced on a ladder, etc. We (especially Laura) found this a little disturbing so we left quite promptly. Laura said she wanted a phone case for her Blackberry. There were some touristy shops in Covent Garden so we went into one the biggest ones which was more like a market area than a shop. We found phone cases for practically every phone case… but not the one Laura wanted! We also found in the same place lots of flags from around, Nona and Laura went looking for the Swedish and Portuguese respectively and were annoyed they couldn’t find them. Just as we were almost giving up they spotted them and they were actually right next to each other! As we were leaving Nona spotted a guy selling Dr Who stuff which involved her stopping there for ages.

From outside the main part of Convent Garden

The musicians outside the cafe we were in

The scary guy with the sword

The market area we went to in search for Laura’s phone case

Laura and Nona with their flags

Trafalgar Square and Kensington

We didn’t know what to do so we walked towards Trafalgar Square, walking past places like the Savoy Hotel on the way. We got to Trafalgar Square and still don’t know what to do, we walked back to Starbucks as we had seen we had walked past one and started with that. In the end we decided to go to the same place Nona and I always resort to, which is a Sports Bar in Kensington. We again couldn’t remember exactly which station it was next to (which is the same problem we had last time we were there, you would have thought we would have learnt from that). We guessed right though and a few pints while there, we also were a little hungry so got some chips. Real Madrid were playing and watched a little of the game, although not too much because we played pool again instead. We did finally go back to the hotel and being us didn’t get to bed until 1am as we stayed up chatting and generally laughing at each other.

Walking towards Trafalgar Square

Walking past the Savoy 


Trafalgar Square

Us in Starbucks

Laura and Nona playing pool in the Sports Bar

More photos from throughout this day here

This entry was posted on August 23, 2012. 1 Comment

Show-casing England: Day 6 – Portsmouth Harbour (Wednesday 22nd August 2012)


Introduction: We went to Portsmouth Harbour, after calling by the Tourist Information in Southampton on the way. On the train it was a bit eventful after a cute 3 or 4 year old boy in front of us pulled the emergency stop handle. In Portsmouth Harbour we went up the Spinnaker Tower and I introduced Laura to 2p machines at an Amusements Arcade in Southsea. We got wet both there and walking home, which Laura hated. But had a nice evening at the pub with Tom and Becky too.


Getting to Portsmouth (and the sweet little boy on the train)

We had a lazy morning, not leaving until about 11am. As always we walked through the Common and this time called by Tourist Information as this was our first opportunity for it actually to be open and know where it was. The main objective was for Laura to get a magnet as she kind of collects fridge magnets from the places she visits.

From Tourist Information is was a fairly short walk to the train station to get the train to Portsmouth. It wasn’t the most eventful trip to Portsmouth, although it kind of was. There was  a family in front of us consisting of a little boy (of about 3 or 4 years old), an older girl and their Mum. He was very funny, always pulling faces and trying to chat to us through the seats. For some reason he also kept saying “catch my book” to us too. Then he stood up on the seats, and very soon after had pulled the emergency stop button! His Mum turned to us and said “he didn’t really pull that, did he!?”, which we just nodded. She even tried to push the handle back, but it didn’t work and within a minute the train had completely stopped. She panicked realising there was a fine and went off to find the guard or another member of staff. The guard came over and asked who pulled it. All at once we all pointed at the little boy, who now looked worried. The guard, however, said it was clearly an accident and just for the Mum to watch him closely. His Mum had a go at him and explained that because of him we all had to wait and it was unfair. It was so sweet as he turned to us and said “I’m sorry” in the most cutest voice ever and then did the same to everyone around us.

Us on the train to Portsmouth, Laura got annoyed that I kept using her as a leaning post lol

Outside the train station in Portsmouth Harbour with the Spinnaker Tower in the background

Lunch and the Spinnaker Tower

When we arrived in Portsmouth Harbour finally, we walked through Gunwharf Quays to the bottom of the Spinnaker Tower and stopped for lunch at Subways as we were hungry already. As always I ordered for both me and Laura, as Laura was not too confident with her ‘bad English’ (which translates as perfect English!). We also sat outside, which was freezing! Think Laura was better off by wearing her “boyfriend’s hoodie”.

After lunch we went up the Spinnaker Tower, looking over Portsmouth and the Solent (the water between Portsmouth, Southampton and Isle of Wight). First to the viewing deck and the glass floor and then up to the cafe for a cup of coffee. We did try to brace the cold on the very top floor, but didn’t stay there too long unsurprisingly.

Laura at the top of the Spinnaker Tower 

Laura in the cafe at the top of the Spinnaker Tower (not sure what the face is about)

Another view from the top of the Spinnaker Tower

Us with our Spinnaker Tower stamps

Us on the glass floor

More photos from the top of the Spinnaker Tower here   

Southsea Pier

I suggested from here to go to the fun fair at Southsea. Last time I went with Lorrie the year previously we loved the fun fair and loved the amusements too. Laura didn’t see the point of the fun fair itself; however we practically lived in the Amusement Arcade for about 2 hours as I introduced her to the 2p machines. First of all we got change for a pound and both wasted our 50ps worth. We wanted to do better and this time just couldn’t seem to lose anything. At one point Laura put in 50p and got £1.16! Also we joked that the machines didn’t want us to go because every time we walked away the machine more money came out again without us even touching it. It was even more funny getting to and from Southsea because we walked across the sea walls and as the waves were high we got a tad wet and Laura ran most of it to avoid to get wet.

 No idea why but Laura stopped and meditated by the sea on the way (even while getting wet)

Laura on the 2p machines

When Laura won her £1.16 (I think she was a tad happy lol)

Midsummer Murders, Pub and tipping it down with rain

We finally left Portsmouth and had dragged ourselves away from the 2p machines. We caught the train home. As we walked up Hill Lane when it just tipped it down with rain! I called Dad as we were drenched but as I was on the phone to him it stopped so we didn’t get a lift. Of course, it typically started raining again. By the time we got home we were completely soaked!

At home we got changed and watched an hour of Midsommer Murders which as always Laura didn’t like and got scared very easy. For the rest of the evening we spent in the local pub, The Bellemore. We seem to usually live there as they have 2 meals for £10. This too was a perfect chance to introduce Laura to traditional pub grub. It was a great evening with Tom and Becky.

Laura getting wet on the way home

Becky, Laura, Tom and Me in the pub

More photos from the pub and us pulling faces here 

This entry was posted on August 22, 2012. 1 Comment