Shaun the Sheep, Better Late Than Never

Last week I included a couple of photos of statues of Shaun the Sheep and I mentioned in the comments that I had snapped photos of many of them when they were on display in London. Several asked to see the rest. Before we get to the photos, here’s a bit of background information. During the spring in London, there were 50 of these statues, which was organized by Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s FoundationCurrently, there are 70 sculptures in Bristol. All 120 Shauns will return to London September 24-27 and will be displayed in Covent Garden. On October 8th, they’ll go on auction. Proceeds from the London sculptures will benefit Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Charity supporting children’s hospitals and hospices throughout the UK. For more information, click here. Here are the photos. Please note, these were very popular and it was hard to get a shot without people posing with Shaun. I don’t know any of the people in the photos below and I hope they don’t mind. 

 

Posted in London | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

An Amazing Experience at the Tower of London

Recently we had a chance to attend the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. We had reservations for weeks and to be honest, I completely forgot about it. Thank goodness The Better Half didn’t.

The key ceremony has taken place since the 14th century and it happens every night without fail. Only once, during an air raid in World War II, the Tower doors were locked late. The Officer of the Guard felt so bad about it, he wrote a letter to King George VI apologizing. The King said the officer shouldn’t be punished sine the delay was caused by enemy action.

So what happens during the ceremony? Every night, at 9:53 pm, the Chief Yeoman Warder meets the military escort to secure the main gates of the Tower. The group secures the main gates and when they return down Water Lane, they are halted by the sentry and are ordered to identify themselves:

Sentry: “Halt! Who comes there?”

Chief Warder: “The keys.”

Sentry: “Whose keys?”

Chief Warder: “Queen Elizabeth’s keys.”

Sentry: “Pass Queen Elizabeth’s Keys. All is well.”

After this, the group heads towards the Bloody Tower Archway into the fortress, where they stop at the bottom of the Broadwalk Steps. At the top of the stairs, the Tower Guard present arms and the Chief Warder raises his hat, shouting:

Chief Warder: “God preserve Queen Elizabeth.”

Sentry: “Amen!”

The Chief Warder than takes the keys to the Queen’s house while the Last Post is played by a bugler.

Just in case you are curious, there’s a small side door you have to squeeze through to get out. After all the guests are outside, this door is locked.

Pictures are not allowed during the ceremony unless you want to stay in the Tower permanently. I’m not sure how serious they are about this rule, but I decided to play it safe. I’m sure after the first hour the charm of being a prisoner in such a historic place wears off.

I did snap some photos outside of the Tower while we waited. The Shaun the Sheep statues were part of the promotion for the movie. I think they have been removed, which is a shame since I loved spotting them in London.

I would like to wish a happy Fourth of July to the folks back home. And I hope everyone has a splendid weekend!

Posted in London | Tagged , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Horses, boats, pubs, and a royal baby

Last weekend we had three days off. It was wonderful, but I do have to admit, I’ve been scrambling this week to make up for the day off. Not only did we have three days off, but the days were filled with random events. First, we met a buddy for an early lunch. And we stumbled upon these horses. The kid looks completely befuddled.

After lunch, we headed to Little Venice. I had heard they had some type of festival going on and I was curious to see what was happening. As it turned out, they had a ton of boats. More than I have ever seen there. There were food stalls, some rides for the kids, and some stalls for shoppers. We didn’t stay too long since it was quite crowded and the space is a bit limited. But it was fun to see the boats.

After Little Venice we popped into a pub Miles and I wandered by a few months ago. I had been meaning to take the Better Half there when the weather improved. The weather wasn’t great last weekend, but good enough for a longer stroll for a pub visit. The pub was okay. Not the cleanest, but the staff was friendly and I enjoyed my half pint.

Next, a buddy texted wondering if we were in the area. He wanted to meet at a different pub. I know what you’re thinking. Three pubs in one day. But we couldn’t let a buddy drink alone, so we went. We chatted with our friend for almost two hours. He left, and we stayed a little longer to finish our drinks. Turned out to be a good thing. The pub had the news on, and in case you haven’t heard, last Saturday, a princess was born. Almost everyone in the pub was watching the news of William, Catherine, and Charlotte leaving the hospital. (By the way, check out the stairs to the toilet. After a couple of drinks, it gets tricky.)

 

One of the gentlemen at the bar, who hadn’t said a word the entire time we were there, turned to me when everyone in the pub, including the bartenders rushed outside. He said, “Surely they won’t drive by here.” Then he cocked his head. “But the hospital is just down the road.” He got up. We followed and sure enough, the Royal Baby went by. The photos aren’t great and it happened so fast. We didn’t actually see the baby and it was difficult to see, but William was driving. I think it’s funny that the cop is pointing which direction William needs to turn.

20150502_181817

 

20150502_181821

On Monday, the weather was pretty decent so I decided to go for a long walk. After three hours of wandering the city, I made my way home through Hyde Park. They had much of it blocked off for a gun salute. I pondered staying, but it was time for me to take Miles out. However, I did see this.

 

I never know what’s going to happen in London.

Posted in London | Tagged , , , , | 43 Comments

I’m back, sorta

The last time I posted I was on my way to Edinburgh. Well, we returned to London, and I came back with a nasty cold. Then The Better Half got it. Next I was hit with the flu. Now The Better Half is coming down with yet another cold. The last few weeks haven’t been great. At least the weather is improving and Miles and Att have been happy campers, sunning themselves every chance they get.

Our trip to Edinburgh wasn’t a complete bust. We had a fabulous time. Not only is the city breathtaking, but we discovered so many wonderful pubs. I’ll do my best to share more about the trip, but for now, here are some pictures.

 

I hope all of you have been well. Have a marvelous weekend folks!

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

It’s that time

For a holiday! It feels like I haven’t had a break in years, when it’s only been a few months. Tomorrow we’re heading to Scotland. Edinburgh to be exact. I’ve never been and I’m looking forward to seeing some of the sights.

And maybe enjoying one of these

385

And some of these

20141011_161043

Not everyone is happy.

Miles has to stay home.

Miles has to stay home.

Att is hardly ever happy. Actually that’s not true. He just looks perpetually unhappy, like a serial killer cat.

20140819_192906 (1)

See ya all when I get back and if I don’t have too many beers and shots, I may have some photos to share. Can’t promise though. We are celebrating a friend’s 40th and the bash is supposed to last several days.

Posted in Life | Tagged | 25 Comments

Sometimes You Just Need A Break

And beer. The Better Half and I have been working long hours. So far, 2015, has been all work and not much fun. That was until last week. TBH had a chance to leave the office early and called to ask if I could play hooky. I jumped at the chance.

Our plan was to visit some pubs. First up was The Butchers Hook and Cleaver (love the name) . This is a massive pub. The staff was friendly and we split some fries and onion rings that were quite tasty. It’s not a cozy place, but it would be great for a work function.

Next up was the Fox and Anchor pub. This is more like the pubs I’m used to: dark, quiet, and quaint. Again the staff was friendly and since it was a cold afternoon, I appreciated how warm it was inside. Both of us commented right away that it felt nice to be warm.

And finally we ended up at The Smithfield Tavern . Now this is the type of place that both of us like. The leather couches were inviting. The staff was so laid back I hardly noticed them. And the beer was tasty. I can’t remember the name of the beer I sampled since the photo didn’t turn out. Anyone know?

20150203_171546

The only problem was the temperature. I don’t think they had the heat on and the front door didn’t close properly. Halfway through my beer I gave TBH the look, the one that says, “We need to go.” And we did. Maybe I’ll go back when it’s warmer outside since I did like the feel, but I had zero desire to sit inside and freeze my but off.

Afterwards we went to sushi for dinner. All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon out and it was so nice to have some time together.

I wanted to post this last week, but my laptop decided to crash. It was a scary day since being an idiot, I didn’t have all of my files backed up, including two novels I’m working on. Luckily I was able to coax the laptop back to life and I saved everything I needed. I’m not sure how much longer my laptop will last since it’s dying a slow and painful death. My hope is that it lasts till late spring. If you don’t hear from me, that may be the reason. Or I may be at the pub.

Posted in Life, Pub of the Week | Tagged , , | 34 Comments

Is it really almost February?

Holy cannoli! January is almost over and I haven’t wished all of you a Happy New Year yet. So here it goes and my apologies if you’re tired of hearing it: Happy New Year!

Whew! That’s done. I don’t have to feel like a schmuck anymore. Now I can move onto other things. Many of you know that last year was a stressful year for me. I have my fingers crossed that this year won’t be so challenging.

This year will be about dealing with everything that happened last year. For one thing, I need to fix some of the damage all the stress did. You see, when stressed, I eat. A lot.

I started off 2015 weighing the most I’ve ever weighed. I’m not overly concerned about the extra pounds, but I am angry with myself for not keeping up with exercising. In 2013 I trained for my Mount Kinabalu adventure. Since then, I slipped back into my lazy mode.

Well that’s over. My goal for 2015 is to get healthy and to stay healthy. On January 2 I started a juice cleansing diet to reboot my system.

A snapped a photo after one of our shopping excursions for the cleanse.

20150107_184517

I did this for eleven days and I have to admit that afterwards I felt much more energized. During the juice diet I was exhausted, but I expected that.

I'm fairly certain Mark Twain would be disappointed I used his pint glass for juice.

I’m fairly certain Mark Twain would be disappointed I used his pint glass for juice.

Since completing the challenge, I’ve noticed some positives. I don’t crave junk food. Lately my snacks have been fruit of veg. I was able to kick my tea addiction. Before I was drinking seven to eight cups of black tea a day. That’s a lot of caffeine and sugar that I didn’t need. Now instead of drinking black tea I’m having herbal tea. I’m allowing myself one cup of black tea with sugar on Saturdays and Sundays since The Better Half and I enjoy having a cuppa together. I still want to enjoy the good aspects of life, just be more sensible.

And I did drop some pounds. Now the goal is to maintain my weight through healthy eating and regular exercise. This past year has been a challenge fitting in exercise. Before, Miles loved going for long walks. Now that he’s older (yikes he’s almost 13!), he still likes being outside for the same amount of time, but we cover a much shorter distance. He really likes to sit by trees now and I find it relaxing. I need to figure out how to give Miles enough outdoor time and still fit in my daily walk. This will be difficult, but I like a challenge. Once the daylight sticks around longer, this will hopefully get easier.

As for this blog, I do have some goals this year. I didn’t read nearly as many books as I wanted to from my 1001 list in 2014. I hope to complete at least 20 before the year is out.

Setting a goal for travel isn’t easy since there are too many variables that can change quickly. Time and money are the biggest issues. But, I do want to travel when I can, no matter where. We are planning a trip to Edinburgh this March and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been in England since 2011 and I still haven’t ventured to Scotland. Shame on me.

Hopefully I’ll have more time to blog this year. I’ve missed staying in touch with all of you.

Before I go, here are the remaining photos of the Paddington Bears I snapped last year. I didn’t manage to track down all 50 of them, but I managed to see more than half. Have a great week everyone!

Posted in Healthy Living, Life | Tagged , , | 50 Comments

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!

20131222_125435 (1)

See ya in 2015 folks!

Posted in Life, London | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments

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!

20141120_124354

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.

claudia_front

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 , , , , | 62 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