It's taken a long time - having somehow missed out on the obligatory kiwi OE to Europe - but I've finally made it to London after two uneventful long haul flights from Christchurch via Singapore. It's a first taste of the city for me on the way over to Ireland for Glynn's brother's wedding in Carlingford, and a bit of a scoping exercise for a lengthier return visit on the way home in January.
We arrived in the central city by tube at around 6.30am on Monday morning. We walked up out of the underground at Piccadilly Circus to be greeted by Christmas lights, morning traffic and shop owners on Regent and Oxford Streets sweeping and washing down their shop fronts and getting ready for the day.
Between stops in cafes for coffee to keep us awake and the essential muffin or two we wandered throughout the morning from Piccadilly through Soho and Chinatown, down to Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column. The Christmas lights and store decorations were sights in themselves and Glynn spent most of the time making sure I didn't get run over while I stared at the buildings and lights and snapped away on the camera.
We arrived in Trafalgar Square in time to see an annual gift of a Christmas tree from Norway being placed in the square by crane. Every December a tree is felled in a Norwegian forest and shipped to England along with trimmings as a token of appreciation for the UK assisting Norway during WW2. Glynn and I had a chuckle about how many workmen were required for the task of standing looking at the tree being placed in the square. Every year the Lord Mayor of London and the Mayor of Oslo light the tree during a carol ceremony.
While watching the process we were interviewed by an English journalist writing for a transport magazine who had travelled from Norway with the tree and was doing an article about the history of the annual gift. We had a chat about the New Zealand War Memorial which has been opened recently in the city to remember those who lost their lives during the world wars from New Zealand and the UK, and it also marks the special relationship NZ continues to have with the UK. It is located in Hyde Park and was opened in November by the Queen and the NZ and British Prime Ministers, with a contingent of war veterans in attendance, and a good number of ex-pats (for those current and ex Goffice readers spot Scoops coverage of our very own Jacinda at the ceremony). The memorial seems to have made an impression on the city and the journalist was advising me to visit, which we will do on the way back.
In the evening we went for a walk around the city from our hotel near Victoria Station to Knightsbridge and a look in at Harrods. No pork pies because they were closing for the night but another list item for the return visit. From Harrods we walked to Buckingham Palace via a pub for a pint, and then onto the Thames and to see Big Ben. Its been a great orientation and looking forward to January when we can explore some more.
We are currently at Glynn's parent's in County Wicklow - a rural area south of Dublin characterised by old irish sea cottages and small one lane roads lined by stone walls and hedgerows. Our bedroom window looks out over green rolling hills and sheep so feel at home. We've taken some drives around the coast and through local villages and will enjoy spending more time in the area on our return from up north. Just feel surrounded by history - with Glynn's dad pointing out that the ruins to the left are part of King James' original Castle - a casual comment as we drive by not even 5 mins from the Foster family home.
Unfortunately Glynn has been unwell with suspected Glandular Fever but will still take the two hour trip up to Narrow Water Castle for the wedding and reception tomorrow. Looking forward to meeting the Foster clan and experiencing more of the warm irish welcome.
Thursday, December 7
Posted by Jayne Wallis at 10:27 PM