My apologies for all the Christmas Cheer in this post

The Better Half and I don’t exchange Christmas gifts, and some people think we are a bit Scroogish. That’s so not the case. I love this time of year and I try to soak in as much holiday cheer as possible. For me, this time of year is about spending time with my loved ones.

Last week we made a whirlwind trip to Brussels to visit their Christmas market. We went with two friends and we didn’t have a lot of time there, less than five hours. But I tried to pack in as much as possible, including beer, sausage, a waffle with chocolate sauce, and wandering through the market. This was my first foray into Belgium and I really hope it’s not my last.

And of course we’ve been to the Christmas market in London. Each year, Hyde Park hosts Winter Wonderland and so far we’ve been lucky enough to visit twice. Another visit may be on the horizon very soon.

I’m not the only one who loves this time of year. Here are some holiday scenes around London. Two of the photos were taken on Oxford Street, one of the main shopping areas in the city. I snapped a photo in St. Bart’s before the Nine Lessons and Carols. And one night, I pub I was in was invaded by Santas. At first I thought I had too many beers. Turns out the Santa race has just finished.

Even the pubs are feeling festive. We spotted this skinny pub, I think it’s called the Coach and Horses, on the way home the other night and I had to pop in. It was packed inside, but it wasn’t my first beer of the night and I had that warm feeling and braved a half pint outside.

I would like to wish all of you happy holidays! And before I go, here’s a photo of Miles. Even he loves this time of year!

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See ya in 2015 folks!

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London Has Been Invaded By Bears

Paddington Bears to be exact. Fifty Paddington statues have popped up in London as part of the promotion for the Paddington movie. I noticed one several weeks ago and when I searched online I found out that the bears will be on display until December 30th. Each statue has been designed by an artist, designer, and even some celebrities have joined the fun. If you visit the website, you can find a map and several suggested trails. So far I’ve tracked down thirteen of them. Some of the statues will be auctioned online and all the proceeds will go to charity.

I found an area called Little Venice during my Paddington Bear quest. I’ve been in London for three years, and I didn’t know there was a place called Little Venice. It’s not my favorite spot in London, but Miles likes it since it isn’t so crowded and he likes to peer over the edge into the water, making me uncomfortable. I can just picture him tumbling in and me having to jump in to save him.

 

I know this is totally random, but last week I was wandering through Kensington Gardens and I saw this man. The birds love him!

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Before I go, I want to apologize for not blogging much lately. There has been a reason. A very good reason. I’ve been preparing my fourth novel, Claudia Must Die, for publication. And it’s finally ready! Actually you can pre-order a copy on Amazon for the sale price of 99 cents until December 7th. The e-book will be officially released on December 8th.

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Here’s the blurb:

Claudia doesn’t feel like herself anymore—she feels like prey. Her husband’s hired goons have stalked her all the way to Boston and will only stop their pursuit once she is dead.

Divorce is not an option. Instead, she has stolen a bunch of her man’s money to disappear into another life.

In order for Claudia to live, someone else must die. A lookalike college student becomes the target capable of freeing her from an awful marriage.

The plan goes horribly awry. Instead of murdering Claudia’s double, the assassins shoot the woman’s lover who is the cousin of a powerful Irish mobster. Claudia becomes hunted by all involved. Can she survive? Should she?

Purchase Links:

Amazon (US)  /   Amazon (UK)

I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend and that the upcoming holidays aren’t stressing you out too much.

Posted in Life, London | Tagged , , , , | 60 Comments

A Pub, The Color Purple, and Life in London

It’s been a while since I shared a pub on the blog. My quest to visit all the pubs in London is still going strong, but it’s getting a bit hard to share all of them here. Some of them aren’t worth mentioning. Sometimes I forget to snap photos (this usually happens when I visit more than one pub in a day).

A few weekends ago, we found a delightful pub, The Ship and Shovell, near Trafalgar Square. Luckily when we ordered our first round a table opened up and we ended up enjoying chili cheese cheese fries and another round of beers. Both of us were starving so I didn’t take a photo of the fries. They were a tasty treat. This pub is near The Sherlock Holmes pub and I found it to be far superior, with less tourists. Of course I don’t mean you should skip the Sherlock pub. Afterwards, though, head to this one.

Book Update: 

I finally read The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I avoided this book for years, knowing it would be a difficult read for me. The Better Half loves the movie and we’ve watched it together once all the way through. The Better Half has watched it a few times since then, but I always find something else to do. Both the film and book are fantastic, but talk about an emotional roller coaster.

Saying that, I ended up enjoying the book more than I anticipated. In fact, I thought I would have to force myself to sit down and read it so I could mark it off my 1001 list. Even though the subject matter was difficult, the writing was engaging and the historian in me loved the letter format. What can I say, I’m a nerd. I’ve read 97 books from the 1001 list. Still a long way to go, but I’m starting to feel like I’m making a dent in the list.

I’m a bit too lazy today to share some travel photos, but here are some random photos I’ve taken in London over the past month. I know it’s only Thursday, but we decided to take tomorrow off and I’ll be starting my three-day weekend soon. There’s a cider in the fridge calling my name. Have a wonderful weekend folks.

Posted in Books, Pub of the Week | Tagged , , , , , , | 48 Comments

A Lazy Afternoon In Trieste Italy

My hope of posting once a week hasn’t worked out so far. Right now I’m posting twice a month. However, one of the big projects I’m working on is almost done and I can’t wait to cross this one off my to do list.

Last time I shared some photos of Miramare Castle. After we visited the castle we sat outside one of the restaurants to have a beer before taking the bus back. We made friends with a cat. Actually once the cat realized we weren’t eating he wandered away for a nap. I still found him entertaining even though he wasn’t impressed by us at all.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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A Castle, Football, and Sullivan’s Travels

I completely forgot to post last Friday. Well that’s not entirely true. I remembered Friday night that I didn’t but I was already enjoying a cider so I said, “There’s always next Friday.” And it’s Friday again.

When we were in Trieste we heard one of the places we had to go was Miramare Castle. This castle overlooks the Gulf of Trieste and was constructed in the 19th century for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife Charlotte. Years later it was home to Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota of Mexico. The castle had a turbulent history during the first half of the 20th century. During the First World War all the furnishings and pieces of art were removed to Vienna and weren’t returned until many years after the war. German troops used the castle as a school for officers in the 1930s. And the Americans, after the Second World War, used the castle as their headquarters for the American garrison Trieste United States Troops. Now the castle and the grounds are open for the public. No photographs were allowed inside. I did see many tourists taking photos but I just can’t do that.

Last week we went to an Arsenal match. Before the match we met a buddy for a drink at a place called The Junction. It’s not a pub but here are some photos anyway. I didn’t try any but their pizzas looked pretty tasty.

 

The weather was beautiful that night and I didn’t even need to put on my sweater at all. Since then the weather has been much colder. The match was a Champions League game against Galatasaray, a Turkish team.  It turned out to be an exciting match with Arsenal winning 4-1 and Danny Welbeck had a hat trick. Right from the start there was a buzz in the stadium and the Turkish fans were fun to watch. They never stopped chanting, playing the drums, and waving their arms. I told The Better Half I wasn’t in good enough shape to be part of their fan club.

There was a moment of real excitement during the first half. Galatasaray was down by two goals and one of their players received a yellow card. This upset the visiting team’s fans and they reacted by throwing flares. I had never seen anything like this when in attendance at a match. I have seen it on the telly. To my knowledge no one was hurt and the game was stopped momentarily while the riot police came out. I don’t support behavior like this at all, but I have to admit it looked pretty, although a tad bit scary. In fact, when it happened I just stared and The Better Half said, “I can’t believe you aren’t taking photos.” So I started to take photos.

I finally watched the next movie, Sullivan’s Travels, on my list of top 100 films. I enjoyed the movie, but I wasn’t wowed by it. This 1941 movie stars Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake and it’s about a director who decides to become a hobo to learn about life so he can direct hard-hitting films, not comedies.

It took me weeks to track down a copy and I think this influenced me some. After searching for it I wanted it to be exceptional. It was funny, but not exceptional. Oh well. It’s off the list and Duck Soup is up next.

Happy Friday!

Posted in Movies, Sports, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Pearl Jam, Fear and Loathing, Tourists, and Miles

I still haven’t figured out how to title these random posts so my apologies.

I’m asked a lot how I decide on my vacation spots. I don’t have a certain method. For instance, we went to Prague since I wanted to see the Christmas Markets. We ended up in Malaysia to visit friends that we met in Botswana. We went to South Africa for the World Cup.

And most recently we visited Trieste, Italy for a Pearl Jam concert. The Better Half loves Pearl Jam. I mean really loves the group and knows the words to every single song. During a concert in Toronto TBH was singing her heart out and the woman in front of us turned around and said, “I’m amazed that you know all the songs!” She wasn’t annoyed in the least by TBH’s singing and they became buddies for the night.

I haven’t had a chance to organize the photos from our latest trip, but here are some of the photos of the Pearl Jam concert. I hope to share more photos of Trieste next week.

 

Another book that I recently completed from my 1001 list was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. I wasn’t sure how I would like this book. I’m one of those oddities in this world. I haven’t tried any drugs. Not even pot. I know a lot of you don’t believe me, but I’m telling you I haven’t. I have an illness that causes heart issues so I figure it’s probably best I don’t mess around with drugs.

Saying that, I thought a book about drug use might annoy me or I might not be able to connect to it. However, I found his writing to be hysterical. Most of the book I was chuckling and at times I was laughing out loud. Also I found his insights to be, well insightful. The book was published (1971) before I was born but a lot of the issues he discusses are still pretty relevant today.

Last Saturday we went to Borough Market to buy some cheese. I love going there and sampling different cheeses to find the perfect one. The sellers are usually really kind. Cheese shopping makes me thirsty so when I spied The Market Porter I marched right in. The outside area where we enjoyed our drinks and people watching was pretty filthy. I don’t think this is the pub’s fault. I saw many market goers who weren’t even patrons of the pub throwing their trash or placing it on the window ledges. I hate seeing people litter like that. Why do they think others want to pick up after them? The inside of the pub was unspectacular. However I did enjoying sampling a new cider called Lady in Pink. It was yummy and the location of the pub does provide free entertainment. Tourists are funny. One group of ladies was having a ball taking silly photos with sausages they purchased. I was laughing too much and didn’t get any photos.

 

On Sunday we took Miles on a picnic. He absolutely loved it! Not only did he keep stealing some of the cheese but he was able to play with Red Ball.

 

Miles was knackered when we went home and didn’t get out of bed the next day until nine.

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Have a great weekend everyone!

Posted in Books, London, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

The French Open, Maya Angelou, and the Leinster Arms

I’m not sure how these three are related to be honest, but I’m discussing all of them in this post.

Now that I have some time, I can share about our travels this past summer. For the past three years we’ve gone to Paris in May for the French Open. We usually spend three days there and visit the Open on one of those days. And each year the weather has been on the chilly side, but manageable. This year it rained off and on when we were at Roland Garros. Even though it rained, we still had an enjoyable time and it was rather amusing watching the grounds crew covering and uncovering the court. I noticed when I got back from our trip I didn’t take as many pictures as the two previous years. Maybe that’s a good thing. I remember observing a lot more this last time and not just clicking away randomly with my camera.

Here are some photos:

Around this time I was listening to Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This autobiography is a wonderful, albeit emotional book. I know some have questioned the authenticity of her autobiographies since she changed parts of her own story more than once. As a historian I find this fascinating. And this is why history professors tell us never to rely solely on one source especially if the source is the subject of your study. But the variations in a person’s memory are quite telling. I should note that I haven’t delved too deeply into the aspects she changed. I do plan on reading the rest of her works and maybe I’ll be able to spot some inconsistencies. The author narrated the audio book and it was delightful to listen to her gravelly voice and sometimes Angelou would sing. Even with her soothing voice, this is a difficult book to listen to. She touched on many emotional subjects, including being raped at a young age. And her depictions of her life in the South made me shake my head a lot in frustration and anger. If you plan on reading/listening to this I highly recommend the audio book narrated by the author. It really adds to the whole experience.

I’m narrowing in on 100 books from my 1001 list. Granted that still leaves 901 books on the list I need to read. However, reaching 100 sounds like a major victory to me.

A few nights ago we met up with a friend at the Leinster Arms pub located in Lancaster Gate. It was such a lovely evening to sit outside so please excuse the absence of interior photos. The weather is getting chillier and if it’s pleasant enough to be outside I will opt to be outside each and every time. I sampled a gin drink that was slightly tart, but still refreshing. This pub is near Hyde Park and the people watching kept us entertained most of the evening. Have a great week everyone!

Posted in Books, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 55 Comments

New York City and a Blog Change

I’m back from my trip and I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. This year has been quite chaotic with good and bad and I haven’t been blogging as much as I normally do. When I first started this blog my intention was to post something every single day. Unfortunately I can’t keep to that schedule these days. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this blog and how to keep it going.

I do know I want to continue since I enjoy the interaction with other bloggers. Right now my solution is to post once a week. Before each post covered only one subject. Now I’m going to include more in each one so a post might have news about a book or movie from my lists, travel photos, and hopefully a pub visit. They will probably include more photos and less description.

As for now, here are some photos from our most recent trip to NYC. We were super busy including meeting wonderful friends, seeing Cabaret, going to a Yankees Game, three days of tennis, and visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Have a lovely weekend folks and if you have any questions/suggestions about the new blog format, don’t be shy. I always love to hear what you think.

 

One last thing. I published my latest novel, Confessions From a Coffee Shop. Currently the e-book is on sale for $0.99 cents. Sale ends on September 16th. Pop over to my writing blog if you want to find out more.

Posted in Travel, Travel Photos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

It’s that time again

I look forward to August every year. Many years ago we started a tradition of going to the US Open. I can’t remember exactly how many years we’ve gone and I never get tired of it. And it’s time once again. New York here I come! Have a great couple of weeks everyone and I’ll see ya when I get back.

Not everyone is happy to see the luggage out.

Not everyone is happy to see the luggage out.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , | 25 Comments

Having a blast this summer

I know I’ve been absent from the blogosphere lately and I thought I would check in and say hello. This summer has been wonderful and full of fun events. Last weekend we went to the races at Newmarket. It was my first time attending horse races in England and it was an interesting and exciting experience. We couldn’t have asked for better weather and our friends prepared a wonderful picnic.

Not only have we been super busy having a blast this summer, I’ve been busy getting my third novel ready for publication. It’ll be released in September. I’m looking for tour hosts who are willing to post a spotlight, review (free review copy provided), or an excerpt of Confessions From A Coffee Shop. The tour runs from September 9th – 30th. If you would like to participate, leave me a comment below or send me an email: tbmarkinson@gmail.com

I hope everyone is well. And soon our nice weather will be gone and I’m sure I’ll be blogging more. Lots to catch up on, including a trip to Trieste, Vienna, and Berlin.

Posted in Everyday life, London | Tagged , , , , , | 67 Comments