Hackney City Farm

Hackney City Farm is a 30min walk from my place and a great place to take my niece and nephew. We went this weekend, checked out the farm animals and then had some food at the cafe. The kids got to do some Easter activities too. It’s nothing like the farms you can visit in Wellington (Staglands was a favourite when I was a kid), but better than nothing. I understand they rotate the animals, bringing them into the city from a real farm.  



A day trip to Greenwich 

On Friday it was a stunning spring day, I took the bus & DLR to meet my friend at Royal Victoria DLR station. From there we walked to the Emrites cable car, crossed the river and ended up in North Greenwich. From there we got a bus to Greenwich town centre. The town centre is lovely, almost felt like a beach town, but that might have just been because of all the tourists. We checked out a little market and had a picnic lunch in the park. After that headed to the Royal Observatory & Planetarium.  There were too many people to make a wander around the museum enjoyable, but I loved the show at the Planetarium. 

There is quite a lot to do in the area and we didn’t have time for it all, definitely worth a trip back there. In particular I’m keen to visit Cutty Sark, the last clipper ship to sail between China and England. I’m also keen to visit the Maritime Museum.  



2016 in London

I’ve been living in London for almost a year and have a love-hate relationship with this city. I can see that I need to make an effort to step out of the rat race and tip the scales in the direction of ‘love my city’.  So for 2016 I’ve promised myself 2 touristy things a month, thats 24 touristy things a year. I’m already behind as January was a crazy months for me. I’ll be flexible about when I do things, but the goal is 24 touristy outings in London during 2016.

My wish list contains things like:

  • Tower of London
  • Buckingham Palace when the state rooms are open (Aug/Sept)
  • St Paul’s Cathedral
  • Greenwich and the Royal Observatory
  • See a West End show (a famous one)
  • Tate Modern
  • National Gallery
  • Museums (incl, British & Natural History)
  • Yoga class at the top of The Shard

There is plenty more and I’m hoping to do some random things too. You know, go to a new part of town and do what the locals are doing. A few weeks ago my brother and I ended up in Ilford and went to an Turkish restaurant, it was very traditional and the food was so good that it took me back to Istanbul.  London is a really good place to travel the world via visiting restaurants!



Another horrible commute home from Canary Wharf

Holy crap… welcome back to London!  After 2.5 weeks away I’ve returned to find the weather is colder, the leaves are falling off the trees (its actually quite pretty) & work is still FULL on.  To make a pretty rough 2nd day back in London worse, getting out of Canary Wharf this evening was diabolical due to a DLR strike. Tonight was possibly the worst commute so far!  I left work quite late (around 7pm) and by then the Canary Wharf tube station was limited to one exit, there was an obvious presence of police (with their bomb sniffing dogs) and the queues for the tube started outside the station!  The mall & pubs seemed unusually busy. Being so tired from my trip I have been struggling with the crowds at Canary Wharf today, I did a U-Turn and went back to the office for a couple of hours.  I couldn’t even handle going to the pub as it was too crowded!

Take 2 of my commute home involved avoidance of the tube. I got a bus to Liverpool Street and then the train to Walthamstow.  It took me over 1.5hours to get home but I was quietly surprised at how lovely it is to be overground on a bus. I spent a lot of time in the area around Liverpool Street when I first arrived to London and it is VERY different to Canary Wharf in so many ways.  I think my impressions of London are skewed a lot by the place I work & the area I currently live.  It will be interesting to see how I feel a few months time when I will have settled into my NEW area.  This weekend I’m moving into my new flat.  Exciting.

First impressions of London

I’ve been in London a week now and my first impressions on day one were that “it’s old, cold, grey and green”. It is spring here so its not actually that cold, but it was really hot in Asia and I’m a wuss when it comes to being cold.

The plan is to stay here in London, find an awesome job, settle and make the most of my new British passport. After the first week I will admit I have doubts about this plan. Yesterday I shed a few tears and thought “what the F* was I thinking?”. If I’m honest, my first impressions aren’t fantastic. But to be fair on London, being broke, unemployed and having just had 6 months in Asia (where it was warm and constantly sunny) has not helped. I also managed to get a cold on my 2nd day so have been feeling a bit rubbish.

I get the impression that many Kiwis who come to London are in awe at its size, the history and charm..etc. All of this is a little lost on me as I’ve been here before and have lived in other big cities before. I do like London, I just don’t love it yet. It is a little bit like Brussels, but not as charming or interesting. Quite frankly I’ve been spoilt by my travels and am being a little bit of a brat! I’d love to live in Europe again, but I don’t speak any other languages so it makes finding work near impossible. London is a relatively easy place to find work and my family is here, so London it is.

London is huge and I’m living on the outskirts. Commuting has never been my favourite thing and I can see there is going to be a lot of time wasted commuting in this city. The public transport is fantastic though, expensive but fantastic. My place is a 15min walk to the train station and a 30-40mins walk to the tube station. If I’m feeling lazy (or if its raining) I can catch the train to the tube station. I have decided that I prefer the train as being so far underground a little creepy. The tube is a little smelly, claustrophobic, a rabbit warren of stairs/passageways when you change lines, and it’s a little creepy. I suspect I’ll get used to it fairly quick as it’s definitely the easiest/fastest way to get around the city.

Supermarket shopping here has been a joy after 6 months in Asia. In Mysore I went to the supermarket 3-4 times and did a lot of my shopping at small local street shops/markets. In Bangkok I was disappointed by the supermarket as the food was highly processed and I couldn’t find familiar vegetables that I’d been craving. In London I found familiar fruit and vegetables, a good range of organic products and my favourite herbal tea comes from the UK so it is cheap. I also found my favourite chocolate, fresh free range organic eggs and artisan bread. There are also plenty of ‘international supermarkets’ so I was able to easily find spices, rice and chilli sauce.

The EU rules state that produce must have the country of origin in the packaging which I think is really cool, but the packaging is not so cool. Everything here comes pre-packed in plastic which is not currently recyclable. In general though, food shopping is MUCH cheaper here than in New Zealand.

They have a really good recycling system here in London that I’m impressed with. Each household has 3 bins.  1 for rubbish, 1 for compost and 1 for recycling. The rubbish bin gets collected fortnightly which forces residents to recycle and use the compost bins.  They even give each house a small compost bin for the bench. As soon as the plastic packaging at the supermarket is recyclable, it will be a really good system.

The other big thing that has left an impression… central heating and double glazing is awesome. It must be costly to run the central heating, but its lovely. The whole house is warm. Er.. except my room as my radiator is a bit broken and needs fixing. Houses in New Zealand are typically very cold as we only heat the rooms that are being used, we don’t have double glazing and we have a “put a jersey on” type of an attitude. This is changing thankfully as many homes get insulated and I have a few friends who are now installing double glazing and central heating.

So, as you can see my first impressions aren’t great. But they aren’t terrible either. I’m very lucky to be able to stay with family as I get settled. I’ve got two brothers here, both with partners and one with two children who are under 4. Its been wonderful to spend time with the family and overall I’m feeling OK about the move here.  My plan is to find work ASAP, find a yoga studio to go to regularly (probably one in the city) and join a local community choir. I know that if I don’t make an effort to like London, London won’t make an effort to be kind to me!


Playing tourist in London

Today I had to go into the city to get my national insurance number, I decided to make the most of the trip and met my brother for lunch. I got the train to the city, found the job centre where my appointment was, dealt with English bureaucracy (terribly inefficient) and got told it will take 4 weeks to process the application.

I had a wander around Liverpool Street which seems to be where a lot of offices are. I liked the vibe and can see myself working in this area. The contrast of modern and old buildings is great, I saw the Gherkin (not sure if its real name) and checked out a street market.

After that I got the tube to Oxford Street and got lost down the backstreets of Soho. I was going to check out an art gallery but couldn’t find it. I did find lots of little shops, cafes and bars. I imagine its quite lively at night, but at 11am on a rainy weekday it was fairly quiet. I made my way to Piccadilly where I met my brother for lunch.  His office has a view of Piccadilly square which is quite cool, the area is an interesting mix of tourists and suits. We met his girlfriend for lunch in a pub and after that I did a bit of window shopping and got the tube home.

So, first day sightseeing in London. I’ve been to London a few times so it wasn’t new to me, but I’ve not been here for years and it was fun to play tourist. My plan in the next few weeks is to check out the free museums and art galleries as I have a feeling that when I start working the idea of playing tourist will quickly loose its appeal.