Wednesday, April 27, 2005

We're moving to Barons Court - W14

After only a 4 day search, Carly has come up with goods!

This Saturday we say goodbye to our temporary abode at Willett's place at Putney, and move to our very own one bedroom apartment in a converted terrace house at Barons Court (see a map of the street by clicking here: http://tinyurl.com/db2e8). It's a fantastic renovated apartment on the 3rd/top floor of the building, with a new-ish kitchen and bathroom, modern furniture & fittings, timber floors (great for spilling drinks at parties!) and the front room (lounge/dining) has two huge windows which overlook the tree-lined street which is a beautiful & traditional-looking west London address. It'll be great in summer as we'll be able to leave the windows open and it faces south so it will get all of the winter sun when that comes around..

If you check on the map the Queens Tennis Club is just around the corner and its also within walking & jogging distance of many of London's touristy sights!! The building backs onto the tube line, however after two inspections to test it out we are happy that the double glazing on the windows makes sure that you can't hear the trains rolling by at all from way up on the 3rd floor - and at least they stop running at midnight!

The place is halfway between Barons Court station (Piccadilly & District tube lines), and West Kensington station (District only), and our street comes off of North End Road which is where the local supermarket and other shops are.. There's also buses running along North End Road to the surrounding suburbs where our friends live, and its a 10-12 minute walk to Fulham Broadway and the bars and pubs around there. The Agent told us that there is a pub in the street around the corner which we could see from the front window, so we'll have to give that a try and decide if it will become our local..

We'll be in there on Saturday night, and will move the rest of our stuff over during this long-weekend - we'd rather be travelling somewhere exciting for the weekend, however we are so excited about finally going into our own place, with our own phone line and permanent address etc!

I'll post again on the weekend with photos, once we have the keys and are moved in..

Exciting times ahead!!!!

-shane

Monday, April 25, 2005

Anzac Day Dawn Service - Hyde Park Corner, London

We just returned from the Dawn Service at the Australian Memorial in Hyde Park Corner in London..

A huge crowd of young aussies and several Australian servicemen and women were there - a great service with a reading by Ian McFarlane MP, and Lietenant General Peter Leahey AO (head of the Australian Army) who gave the ANZAC address..


Flags at half-mast at dawn - at the Australian War Memorial; Hyde Park Corner, London

My brother was at Gallipoli this morning so I am keen to hear from him and how that was, and I too will get there next year..

We will remember them -


-shane

Sunday, April 24, 2005

back to London, and the house-hunting begins

With our amazing trip to Spain over, we've returned to normal life in London and our temporary accommodation yet again in Karen W's flat at Putney, however this time she has taken flight and has moved into her boyfriend Andy's house at Watford.

So, we're back to square one - after our trip back to Brisbane it almost feels like we've arrived 'fresh of the boat' again with no where to live, so yesterday and today we've been hitting the streets and visiting the numerous Real Estate letting agents in the areas we'd like to try and find a new flat to rent in. We've also been on the web non-stop since returning, searching for anything suitable that we can go and inspect.

From where we lived last time in Fulham (next to Parson's Green tube), we would ideally like to be based somewhere around the Parson's Green area, putting us a little closer to town than before, and one less station outbound on the horrid District Line to Wimbledon. This will also put us close to friend Renee W. who now lives near Fulham Broadway.

We've seen a few yesterday around Fulham, but nothing too promising as yet. Everything is only on the market for such a limited time gievn the demand for the areas we are looking in, and if it isn't snapped up straight away, then there is usually a reason for that such as the distance from the Tube, or being in a dodgy area. While Carly is still trying to get things organised to start her Nursing contracting work, she will continue the search during the week while I unfortunately head back to work at Ealing Council..

Fingers crossed for something soon. We've only got a limited tenure at Karen's place while she searches for a replacement tenant, and while her current flatmate is away in Australia. And incase you're counting, this is the 3rd time we've bunked up at her place here in Putney - however with her move out to Watford, it will sadly be the last.. So goodbye Hill Court!

-shane

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Touring the south - Santa Maria, Tarifa, Gibraltar, and Seville

After seeing a fair bit of the town with John, and having caught up on much required sleep over the last few days in Cadiz, we hit the road for a few trips out of town to see a bit more of the south.

More to come soon

-shane














Friday, April 15, 2005

Cadiz

We've just spent the last few days relaxing around the southern Spanish city of Cadiz, where we are staying with Carly's Uncle Johnny who lives here studying Spanish (amongst other somehow relevant subjects!).

The town is our first taste of a smaller regional Spanish town, where the people are friendly and interested in the small number of tourists that venture down this way, and the food and drink is pretty much authentic and without the influence of what we'd expect in the larger more touristy centres.

We landed into nearby Jerez after our early morning flight, and travelled by bus into Cadiz where we met Johnny. He let us spend the rest of the day catching up on sleep at his place as we suffered the first day of some very ordinary jetlag from our flight back to the UK from Brisbane. On the first night out I managed to doze off during dinner, and on the second night I performed the same feat, but this time standing up holding a beer - pretty poor form.

He is living in this amazing high-rise apartment overlooking the beach which runs along the edge of the new town, and takes in the beautiful Spring sunsets over the Atlantic. With daylight saving started in Europe, each afternoon we have enjoyed sitting out on the verandah watching the sun go down over the beachm which seems to fill up in the cooler late afternoon with locals out walking. After exploring the old town all day while Johnny is at Uni we've been stopping off at the supermarket on the way home and grabbing some Cruzcampo beers, and Johnny has been whipping up some amazing things to nibble on while we sit around chatting.



Watching the sunset over the Atlantic from Johnny's place


Late night sightseeing along the city walls

During the day we've been walking along the beach front from where Johnnny lives into the old town - which is an old Spanish fortified town which, because of its location on the exposed Atlantic coast close to the Mediterranian, was subject to attack and has an old wall surrounding it, and many of the buildings have tall towers above them from which the locals used to keep lookout for attacking fleets.


Carly and Johnny sitting atop the walls with the City's cathedral behind

The buildings and narrow streets of the old town are something we've never experienced, and the people in the restuarants, markets and bars are very friendly and always asking where we are from. I think we are standing out a bit around here!

As you walk along through the long narrow shopping strips, you make one turn and a large impressive square will open up, where locals have stalls and the cafe's and bars open up with alfresco seating in the warm sun. We took advantage of a few of these on our many walks.


One of the large town squares, during day-time and night-time

The main town markets here are fantastic to say the least - much different to the Produce and Farmers Markets in London, this large purpose-built space is alive with amazing seafood and a huge range of local meats such as the delicious hams we were sampling at the tapas bars all over town for what seemed like breakfast, lunch, and the very late quick fast tapas dinners.


The entrance to the City's markets

That is another that I am liking - the way they eat! Quick, fresh, fast, and late!! No-one comes out here to eat until past 9pm, and even then you'll find the tapas bars only just starting to get going. This caught us out a few times as we would look for a late lunch, only to find very little open as they've gone home to have a mid-afternoon snooze, not to be seen again until the night time session. As much as its very different, you quickly get used to it and we've both really enjoyed standing at the bar at well past 10pm enjoying the food and wine.

One of the most obvious features of the town is the beautiful fishing boat harbour, only used these days by some of the die-hard locals - and next to it the old town forts, one of which is way out at the end of a long causeway which you can walk along at low tides.


The view of one of the City's forts, as seen in 'Die Another Day'; Carly and I in front of the fort



This fortress, and some other parts of the waterfront were used in the filming of the Havana/Cuba scenes of the Die Another Day starring Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry. Infact the scene where Halle appears bikini-clad out of the sea and onto the beach, replicating the original scene by Ursella Andress, was shot there on the beach in the harbour. I will be making sure my brother Jay - a huge Bond fan hears all about this. And on the days that we were there they were filming the final scenes on the beach for a movie starring Viggo Mortensen.


Carly and Johnny sitting in the sun doing very little out on the causeway; Carly with the harbour in the background

On several of the nights we were out eating and drinking with Johnny in the old town, we got to see and experience what the local teenagers get up to on Friday's and Saturday nights. Very late in the night, say from 11pm, they all gather in this one square of the old town carrying (sometimes on removal trolleys!) bottles of spirits, mixers, and bags of ice, and then proceed to all congregate crammed into this one square and check each other out and generally just have a good time. There is no trouble, no violence, everyone is drunk just having fun! There are two policeman who discretely watch from the sideline, but according to Johnny they never seem to need to be needed as everyone is well behaved despite the mayhem.




The chaotic scenes of the binge session in one of the squares

Then as quickly as it gathered, they are all gone again, and all that is left is a huge mess for the cleaners to look after eary in the morning! Brilliant to see!!


Carly walking back along the beach from the old town

We're planning on making some trips out of Cadiz to the nearby port town of Santa Maria (where Christopher Columbus left Europe from to discover the new world), the nearby city of Seville, and a few days down the coast to Tarifa and then around to the British province of Gibraltar so I can finally see this huge rock!

We'll post again after we've done those trips. But from what we've seen so far, we really love Spain.

-shane

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Just back to London, now off to Spain

Well we're now on the way to southern Spain! Having made it out to London Standsted Airport in a mini cab for our 6:30am flight, we are now aboard our Ryan Air flight to Jerez where we'll travel by taxi and bus down to the old port city of Cadiz where Carly's uncle John lives while he is studying Spanish at the Cadiz University.

Not sure how my jetlag will go over the next few days, but at the moment we're both pretty excited considering that we are on our way to spending over a week on our first trip to Spain, within only 48 hours of being back in Brisbane!

More to come in other posts soon..

-shane

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

leaving Brisbane & back to London

Because of an earlier debacle with Qantas staff travel embargoes, we departed Brisbane on separate flights, very late on Monday night.. I’m typing this from Karen’s place in Putney, having just heard from Carly that she has finally landed at Heathrow and is making her way to here on the Tube to start repacking our bags for our very early flight to Spain tomorrow.. I travelled on Malaysian Airlines via a 3 hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur, whereas Carly drew the short straw with her last-minute booked Singapore Air flight and came via a miserable 6 hour stopover in Singapore, and then the daytime last leg from Asia up into Europe.. having done both the overnight final leg, AND now that leg of the journey in the daytime, I can say that I much prefer the night time – at least you can sleep, rather than enduring a 13 hour daytime flight as the jet chases the sun – all up it means you are in sunlight for 20 hours!! No thanks!

I know how bad I’m feeling, so I cannot imagine how she’ll be when she gets off of the Underground shortly. We’ll be repacking all of our summer clothes for the next week away, and will probably only get 3 hours sleep (ontop of our jetlag) before we’ll be picking up the bags again and heading to Stanstead and Spain..

Time for sleep..

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Brett & Elise’s Wedding

The second of the weddings we came for has come and gone yesterday, and today i'm sporting a wicked hangover from what ended up being a very late night as we kicked on after the reception.

Todd and I had a bucks night of sorts for Brett last Saturday night, one week before the wedding so that we couldn't put him any predicament that might result in him missing the wedding or being forced to turn up with one eyebrow shaved off. With him coming up from Melbourne in the early evening, we arranged for all of our mates (except Dan and Gav who were away) to meet at the Dioth family home at Bracken Ridge, for an old-fashioned BBQ out the back, and a catch up as many of us hadn't seen into the city to visit many of brett's old haunts, such as the Victory pub where we both shared an impromptue 'Livin' on a Prayer' karaoke moment on stage.

Later we ventured into the Valley and enjoyed some adult entertainment at a not-so-classy establishment.. but that's where it all went pear-shaped - Brett, who still had his mobile phone switched on, took a call from Elise and her hen's party who were on their massive night out in the City, and to cut a long story short it all ended in tears! The rest of us stayed on with me and Buse, as we spent every '$5 note' we had on us before having to make our way home as the sun came up.

Overall the whole night was pretty low key, and was more about all being together and having a cigar and some drinks and a chat about old times which we certainly did - I think Todd said to me about 20 times: "Can you beleive we are on Brett Dioth's Bucks Night?" - and no, I don't think we could beleive it at the time!..

As for the wedding - well, what a show this would be!! There were high expectations for this one as we had been hearing all about the organising dilemma's since their engagement at the Bowery in the Valley back in late 2003. Poor Elise had been through all of the typical trials and tribulations with family etc. in planning it all, and then throw into the mix that they had relocated to Melbourne for Brett's new job halfway through the organising - but she pulled it all of with little help from others.. top effort young lady!

Brett, Todd, myself, Brett's dad, and the father of the Bride met very early on the morning of the wedding, for a very close old-fashioned razor shave at a barbers in the city. Something that Brett was very determined to do with all of us, it was a great way to share with him the morning of his wedding.



Brett and I having a close shave on the morning of the wedding

After that we collected the flowers from the Rocklea Markets, and then headed home to get ready at the Dioth's. We donned our suits, cravats, and vests, and got into David's Prado 4x4 for the trip to the service at Nundah. Just before this I was entrusted with the wedding rings, which I continued to keep tabs on right up until I handed them over at the alter!

On the way in the car, you could say that the seriousness of the situation hit a very nervous Brett seemingly all at once. He came out with the statement as we approached the church on Sandgate Road: "I'm about to do something really grown-up aren't I?" he said to us - we all nearly died!! A bit late to be realising this with only 2 corners to go before the church mate!!


My favourite photo - a shot I took as Brett's mum Chris puts his button-hole flower on before the service

We got him there before he changed his mind, and got a few photos together as the guests arrived. Just before Todd and I escorted him into the church, I turned to my mate and said: 'Let's go in and get you married to your girl eh?' - it didn't exactly settle the situation! We both stood there with a bit of a tear in the eye, and then we headed inside to stand up the front with the priest and wait her arrival.


Waiting for the bride to arrive

The ceremony was nice enough (having been at the rehersal the night before kind of ruins the surprise!), and the bridesmaids looked great. Elise had certainly gone all out with her strapless dress etc. and they went through their vowes without a hitch. After it was a done deal I got to witness the signatures on the certificate, and then we headed down the aisle and out of the church to the congratulations of all and then off to the University of Queensland in the limo for the photo session.




Photos of the service, signing of the marriage certficate, and me and my lovely bridesmaid Sam

After that we returned to the reception venue at the Royal on the Park in the city, where the party had already started. All of our friends had started drinking at Dale's place straight after the church, and were in fine form by the time they made it to the hotel. In the taxi on the way they decided it'd be funny to go through my bag of clothes and shoes - that I had arranged them to bring so I could get changed post-reception - and then wear my shoes into the reception to see if i'd notice. The photos below say it all.. Bastards!!



Gavin with my shoes in the taxi - bastard!

With the guests seated we made our official announced entrance into the Reception, and the night began. I had held off from having too much to drink, as I still had my well-prepared speech to deliver! Waiting to make the speech seemed to drag on forever, and it wasn't until after the main course of dinner that I got to take the podium. I spoke about me and Brett as friends since I'd met him back in 1988, all the way through to meeting Elise and our friendship with them both, now becoming husband and wife.

Despite being as nervous as hell I must have done OK, as no-one managed to get a photo of me because they were either listening intently or drying their eyes. Brett and Elise hugged and thanked me at the end, and I have kept a copy of the speech and plan to show my mate from time to time, as there were a few special comments included.



Various shots from the reception


Brett and Elise cutting the cake

A few times in the night the lads adjourned to the outside pool area to indulge in a celebratory cigar supplied by Mr Dioth. There are some classic photos of that gathering which I love to look at, remember, and laugh!! It was something that we'd talked about doing, and will probably become one of those traditions we'll all uphold at our weddings.


A relaxing post-speech beer & cigar!


Ang & Laura; and Ang & Carly

As weddings do, it kicked on until last drinks were called and people began to disperse. We all said farewell and good luck o the bride and groom as they left the reception to headed to their hotel room upstairs, and I promptly got changed out of my English morning suit and into some party clothes so we could head into the Valley to carry on.


Ready to leave the reception and kick-on elsewhere; and out in the Valley where we met Renee W (visiting from London for another wedding) and out on her friend Karla's hen's night

We ended up back out at Dale and Laura's place at Northgate, and played pool out on the deck (looking over to my own house over the back fence!!) and drank until the very wee hours of today. My last memory was waking up under the pool table with Dale laughing at me, because HE had 'drunk me under the table'!!! Bastard!

On Monday night we head back to London via Singapore/Kuala Lumpar (yes, again seperate flights!!), and back to reality after what has been a pretty crazy 3 or so weeks catching up with everyone. But we have our Spain trip to look forward to first - something I haven't stopped reminding Dioth about as he embarks on married life!

So it'll be time to say farewell to Brisbane again, and let's let the UK adventure continue!!! I can't wait to return to all that is London!

-shane