Saturday, January 21, 2012
Day Five: England 2011/2012
As mentioned in my Christmas post, Krista bought us a day at the spa. December 27th was that day.
Since most of you reading this know me, you know that I am absolutely a girly-girl. I'm not ashamed of this. I am alright with the fact that camping, while marginally fun, is not my go-to vacation. I like clean. I like down time. I like dresses and makeup, shoes and hair. I like pretty things. So, a spa day as a Christmas present was really the best gift possible.
The strange piece in all of this is that I haven't actually ever been to a spa before. 26 years without a facial. I'm serious. That's a big deal for a girl like me.
We entered this spa, called Sanctuary. You check in and they give you a little electronic locker wristband and they give you a giant robe. They also give you your schedule for the day. We each had a massage, a facial, a sleep retreat and lunch. The rest of the time is free time.
After changing into our swimsuits and wrapping up in our robes, we headed out to explore. As we walked down a staircase, there was a pool with a swing. Apparently it's quite iconic as it's been photographed numerous times for magazines, etc. This was a lounging pool mainly. Ladies just paddled around and enjoyed the warm water. There were so many big comfy chairs to sit on, including enormous bean-bag style chairs.
When you head further downstairs you enter another pool and hot-tub area, with wet and dry saunas as well. Krista and I both swam for a little bit, went in the dry sauna for a little bit and then just chilled out in chairs and read magazines for a while before our sleep retreat.
For the sleep retreat, we went into a room with individual beds with blankets, pillows and headphones. You put on the headphones and this lady is talking to you with gentle wave type noises in the background. As she started talking about going into a 'meditative' state, I was immediately skeptical. I was thinking to myself, "Oh blah, blah, what a load of garbage I will never sleep with this lady talking in my ears." She was talking about walking out to a yard with a hammock in it, then she said to walk over to the hammock and climb in.
I kid you not, I was OUT. Like, completely dead-to-the-world asleep. When it was time to wake up, even the lady speaking again didn't wake me. Krista had to touch my arm before I even moved. So, I was wrong. The sleep retreat was incredible.
After this we got to lounge for a little longer, in the huge and comfortable purple chairs upstairs. They had throws everywhere so you could just cuddle up in the lounge-style couches with a blanket and read.
We had lunch. You were given your choice of appetizers, main course and dessert. So much to choose from. I can't remember exactly what my appetizer or dessert was. My main course was a butternut squash ravioli and, oh my goodness, it was some of the best ravioli I've ever had.
After lunch I did a little bit more lounging and then went in a hot tub, prior to my massage. The massage was relaxing and I had upgraded it to an hour instead of 30 minutes. It was a really good choice.
After the massage I headed to the wet sauna. I thought I could sweat some junk out of my face before my facial. Oh god was I ever right and wrong at the same time. As soon as you go into the wet sauna, you are instantly sweaty. Like, think the most sweaty you've ever been and multiply it by ten. And then you just sit there. In the heat. With sweat dripping into your eyes. I lasted five minutes. Defeated, I showered off and headed up to my facial.
The girly-girl that had never had a facial before is a reformed version of herself. It was HEAVENLY. My face felt clean for days. I just wish I could have someone give me personal facials every day.
All in all, it was an incredible Christmas present. A day well spent for sure.
Then we went for dinner and drank two bottles of wine between the two of us and shared appies galore. It was perfect.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Day Four: England 2011/2012
Boxing Day has never been a huge deal for me. I'm not one of those people that anticipates Boxing Day even more than Christmas. I don't rush out of the house early in the morning, shop simultaneously with hoards of other people, stopping only for some lacklustre mall-food at lunch and then continuing shopping in a fat-induced stupor, coming home with things that you inevitably don't need, but are much too lazy to return.
That is not fun for me. Fun for me was Boxing Day in England.
There was a train strike, which meant even less people were out and about. Krista and I took a cab to Camden Market. For those that haven't been to England, Camden is England's hipster/artsy district. Lots of punk-style clothing, souvenir shops, tattoo places, etc. Camden market is huge. It's like a giant flea market, where most everything is new instead of used. I loved it. And, there was almost no one there. Krista was taking pictures of how dead it was and sending them to her friends. I was in heaven. We had free reign of an enormous market! I still had the nasty stall food for lunch, but I wasn't overwhelmed by people. I over-bought, but all cool things that I would never want to return. Well, except for when I realized I bought lights that have a british plug on them. That wasn't smart. But with an adapter, they are still beautiful and useful!
After our morning/early afternoon at Camden market, we headed to the "touristy" places. Trafalgar Square was next up. Obligatory photo by the London 2012 Olympic countdown clock. Then, a short walk to Big Ben.
We took photos of Big Ben, we took photos with Big Ben, we took photos of us in red phone booths with Big Ben in the background:
Then, Westminster Abbey. Could I really go to England and not see the church where Kate and Wills stifled smiles while marrying each other, because apparently marriage is a serious affair and you can't possibly be happy during the ceremony? Of course I couldn't. Westminster Abbey at night is a creepy and wonderful sight to see:
After all of this, we went to Krista's house and she whipped up some delicious pasta for dinner. Lots of veggies...mmmm.
Then, Winter Wonderland! This place is the Calgary Stampede turned Christmas. It was so enchanting! You wander around with your beer or mulled wine (yes! finally!) and take in all the bright lights of the rides. And as Krista and I discovered, a carnie is a carnie, no matter what city you are in. They are equally as strange in London as they are in Calgary - and likely have equal amounts of missing teeth. We took pictures with basically every Christmas statue we could find. I took my obligatory photo of me kissing a statue while on vacation. This one was a little bit more exciting though because as I went in for the kiss, Santa almost fell over. He almost got a little more than he bargained for, lucky old man:
After all the festivities of the day we were still gung-ho so we grabbed Starbucks coffees and went to Piccadilly Circus. I got hit on in the bathroom by an Italian man. The two washrooms shared a common sink area. While drying my hands, I was approached. Here's a tip, boys - don't try to pick up a girl in a dirty place like a bathroom. It won't go well for you.
Then we waited forever for a bus, since the train was out of commission and there was an accident blocking buses from getting through. It was an exciting trip back to Krista's, but we made it, exhausted.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Day Three: England 2011/2012
Despite the 7:30am wake-up call Krista and I received from her family celebrating Christmas Eve in Canada, Christmas morning started splendidly. After the phone call, where Krista promised her Father it would be reciprocated, we decided to just get up and open the stockings we had bought for one another. Stockings have got to be one of the best parts of Christmas day. Mine had (surprise, surprise!) quite a few pairs of adorable socks - many of which you will see, hopefully soon once I get all caught up. Yes, I have been promising that for a long time. Maybe follow-through is not my forte at this point in life.
Alas, I digress. We opened our stockings and then exchanged "big gifts". Krista booked us both in for a day at the Sanctuary Spa! My first ever facial, as well as a massage and a 'sleep retreat'. And it was only two days away! Excited was definitely an understatement.
A bit later in the morning, Krista and I headed over to Susie's place for Christmas brunch. When we arrived, the adorable Sam was there to greet us.
Seriously. That face. So cute!
We ate. And we ate. And we ate some more. In fact, other than our jaunt around Kensington Gardens, we basically just ate all day. However, it was really tasty food. Susie went all out. And I even ate shrimp - and enjoyed it. Tiny Tim would be so proud. It was a true Christmas miracle.
While eating shrimp, eggs, baked oatmeal, fresh fruit, pastries, sausage rolls, cheese (oh god, so much cheese), prawn bites, etc, etc, etc. And drinking champagne and OJ by the keg-full, we watched some movies. Christmas classics, of course: Love, Actually and Meet Me in St. Louis. We also made time to watch the Queen's speech. Being from Canada, I never knew this was a British tradition. Oddly, it was like being at Christmas church service. It was a little bit about the struggles of England, more about royal weddings the past year and then it was all about baby Jesus.
I don't know what you did on Christmas, but I heard a sermon from the Queen of England.
We also went for a walk. It was a nice, long walk. Poor Sam was tuckered at the end of it. This walk was significant for me though. As many (ok, all) of you know, I adore the movie Peter Pan. In fact, I've been Peter Pan obsessed since I was a small child. This has culminated in me having enough Peter Pan memorabilia to effectively furnish a room, simply with Peter Pan goods.
Therefore, the walk in Kensington Gardens was significant, as it is where J.M. Barrie is said to have come up with the idea of Peter Pan. As such, there is a magnificent Peter Pan statue and plaque erected there. Obviously, a photo with me and Sam playing "Nana" was in order. Sam was a pretty good sport about us emasculating him with our request that he pose as a girl dog. What a champ.
All in all, it was an extremely relaxing Christmas day, with delicious food and fabulous company throughout. I'm grateful.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Day Two: England 2011/2012
On my second day in London, I didn't wake up until around 9am. It was a glorious 12-hour sleep. I don't think I even moved. I was just out.
Upon waking up and after getting ready, as people do, Krista and I headed to the Southbank Christmas Market. I had requested that we do something Christmas-y on Christmas Eve, as it's my favourite day of the year. Krista came up with the Christmas Market - and it was perfect!
We wandered around the market, took some photos with Big Ben and the London Eye in the background. We purchased some treasures, including artwork for Krista's flat. It was a relaxing morning/early afternoon.
We then headed back to Krista's place to pick up the things we needed to make Christmas dinner at Sarah and Irene's place. These two girls are a lot of fun - as are Alicia and Sally! Us six girls did Christmas dinner (with Krista cooking most of it and myself helping with some of the slicing and dicing). I was the Sous Chef to Krista's post as Master Chef.
The meal was absolutely delicious. I can't think of anything feeling more Christmas-y on my favourite day of the year than an entire Christmas dinner.
All the ladies did a gift exchange, which was great fun. Then we watched Home Alone and part of Home Alone 2, before Krista and I had to leave so that we didn't miss the last tube home.
Back at home we watched the Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special before retiring for the evening, anticipating Christmas Day!
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Alright, friends. It's officially catch-up time! I am going to go day by day and tell you what I did on my England and Ireland trip. I kept notes so it'll be just like you were there with me! And you'll get to understand the inner workings of my brain as well - how did you get so lucky?!
Day One + Two: December 22-23, 2011
These two will count as one day because December 22nd I went to work at 6am, then came home at lunch and did last minute packing. At 1:30pm my family and I went to Peter's Drive-In. So delish. At 3:00, I was at the airport ready to go! My plane left at 6pm. Let me tell you, I did not sleep at all. I think it was excitement of what was to come. Seriously though, it was awful. I watched The Help, which was not a great movie in comparison with the book (I hate that!). The 9-hour flight went by quickly though, so I was glad for that.
Upon arrival at Heathrow (10am, Dec 23), I felt like a movie star. As I walked out of the doors to the reception area, there was a man filming the arrivals. I was the only person that walked out at that point, so I wished I had my sunglasses to play it up a little.
Krista and I eventually found each other and maybe cried a little upon getting to hug again for the first time in approximately six months! So good!
We took the tube back to Krista's - my first time back on the London Underground since I was a 14-year-old. We ate Ketchup chips, which I had brought with me from Canada specifically for Krista. England has gross chip flavours (and they call them 'crisps' not chips). Prawn cocktail flavour, anyone?...I didn't think so. Yuck.
We had lunch at a pub near Krista's house called "The Mitre" and I had my first bottle of Bulmer's Cider. The pasta I had was so yummy and the cider was perfect. At this point I started to really feel only 45 minutes worth of sleep on the plane, but I needed to push forward until bed time to get on a proper schedule.
We then walked in search of a clinic because Krista's nose piercing decided to hibernate under her skin. This ended with us in "A&E", which is England's version of Emergency - but only after this delightful mixup:
Walk in to clinic attached to hospital.
Clinic Worker: We've just closed.
Krista: I'll just explain what's happening. It may only take a minute to fix.
Clinic Worker: Alright.
Krista: <explains nose piercing issues>
Clinic Worker: Why are you here?
Krista: Because you are a clinic and I thought you could help.
Clinic Worker: Ummm...we're a sexual health clinic.
Oops. That explained the gigantic poster about STIs that I was laughing about on the way in.
We went to A&E and Krista got all fixed in no time - not like the year-long waits in Canada. Then we went to Oxford Circus and walked down Regent Street. I probably messed that up, but I was SO tired at this point. We had dinner at a HEAVENLY restaurant called Mother Mash. It was bangers and mash. The mash I chose was Irish with cheese and green onions in it. The gravy was onion. The bangers were I think Cumberland Sausage, but I don't quite recall. It was incredible food.
We walked (read: I stumbled, barely putting one foot in front of the other) to the tube and headed home.
Krista was successful in keeping me awake until 9pm and I was very thankful for it after I woke up the next morning feeling rested.