Welcome to Margate: Land of Dreams…

 

Sometimes the best things in life show up when you least expect them to, and I have been witness to this in the last couple of months. Although London feels like home now and I have found a kind of comfortable routine, everyday still feels in someway like an adventure. London has afforded me some amazing opportunities and now more than ever, I feel like I have complete control over what I can do with my life. I can choose everyday whether I get out of bed or not – and yes it is ok to stay in once in a while, to appreciate what it is to do nothing.

For some of you who don’t know, I recently left the job I started when I first arrived in London. I have kept my small part time job which I work online each week and was fully expecting time off to explore and hopefully be creative. My plans were thrown into the air when I was lucky enough to snag a small contract at the High Commission of Canada doing similar work to my previous contract in Paris. I have put my creative plans on hold to work at the HCC for a few months and come summer I will see what happens next.

 

In the midst of all these ever changing plans in my life, there is someone who has shown me a million and one beautiful things in the last couple of months who I want to tell you all about. Meet my boyfriend Steven. He drives a bad-ass car, is smart as a whip, has impeccable taste in music and movies and knows how to make me smile. For the last couple of months we have been swapping time in London and Margate adventuring, laughing and learning to roller blade(for him) and skate (for me).

We are both becoming pro skaters, as you can clearly see by the photos above, and Steve is hoping his newly formed soon to be ice hockey team will be up and running full steam soon . Here they are, the Margate Skulls, having a late night practice: (Go Habs Go!)

Margate is an adorable sea side town which I think should be turned into the new Brighton – to be fair, I’ve never been to Brighton but I know enough about to it to make this call.  With an old downtown full of funky retro vintage shops and handmade markets, a cup cake shop, England’s best fish and chip shop and plenty of little galleries and studios all next to a long beautiful beach, it has all it needs to thrive – now if only people would come.

Even after several weekends of walking through Margate, I’m not tired of it, and perhaps it’s because of who I am walking through it with but I still think there is something about this little place that deserves more. The tired main strip of old shut arcades makes me think that everything is just waiting to be awoken from its slumber. How could you resist this?:

I love hanging out by the water, and the first day that I spent in Margate, we walked along the beach collecting shells and Steven knew the names of absolutely everything. What I know as a shell, there being many versions, is known to him as the proper name. I’ve decided knowing things like this is important, and is what makes a person worldly and fascinating, so I think I will start reading more. I want to know things.

It was only a short while ago that weekends came and went, cold and rainy in London and now they feel like a vacation. The countdown is no longer for the weekend but rather for the dream to resume again.

I have lots of photos from Canada to show you all so I’ll be back tracking soon with those.

xx Spec

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An Arm With A Little Charm

I’m back and so much has happened! I’ve been from London to Toronto, Toronto to Halifax, Halifax back to Toronto and then Toronto back to London all in the span of three weeks. It has been a grand adventure and it was so nice to see all my family and friends who I have left back in the Great White North while I am off living in the UK. I did so many things while I was back home and will have to do more than one post to show you all, but this post is dedicated to my new tattoo, which I am absolutely crazy about!

I had decided that I wanted to get a Shel Silverstein illustration a while back but had not settled on one in particular. I waited until I got back to Toronto, where I have his entire book collection nestled on my bookshelf to crack each book open and mark off which illustrations I like most. I decided on the poem ‘Invention’ which shows a little girl/boy trying to plug a light bulb into the sun (see the poem at the top of this post). I am so lucky to know a fantastic tattoo artist in Toronto who you should definitely pay a visit to if you are looking for some new ink, her name is Emma James and she can be found on Facebook or pop me a message and I can pass along contact details to you. Emma is so lovely and super cool and the entire experience was wicked! I can’t say enough good things about it all.

 Here are a few pictures of how it all went down:

First, the stencil…

Then, Emma worked her magic:

How I felt throughout the tattoo:

And Tada!!!

And now, a couple of weeks later, it’s mostly all healed and looking amazing. Now I wake up smiling even bigger than usual.

Thanks Emma for jazzing up my visit back home with this new tattoo and thanks to my darling friend Andrew for hanging out and taking photos of it all!!!

See you all soon!

xx Spec

“If you are a dreamer come in…” – Shel Silverstein

Down on the corner, Out in the street…

Oh Hi There – Thanks For Coming Back!!!

It’s not very often that I have so many requests for me to blog, so I am pulling this one out  for all my lovely friends who so kindly follow and read – you guys are the best. The last month has gone by faster than I ever could have imagined and so much has changed since I last wrote to you all. I am now working two jobs – which for everyone back home, will not be a surprise because you know I am always too busy for my own good. I’m also planning Christmas at my humble little London abode for all my foreign friends who can’t make it back to their native lands for the holidays. I am super excited for Christmas day, despite the fact that I am very very behind on everything to do with Christmas at the moment. Anyways, I didn’t make you come on here to read my to do list, did I now?

 Today I did something special… I explored my own neighbourhood!!! I know this probably sounds unexciting to you, but I have only really ever walked in one direction from my house which always takes me  to the weird and sometimes wonderful place that is Shoreditch.

Today, Carmel (my Kiwi friend seen above looking all California 1980s chic), and I took a little stroll down the other way. All of this was prompted by the fact that Carmel has just recently moved up into the area and has become curious about what fun stuff there is to do around her house. We started down on Roman Road by the London Buddhist Centre (because this exists! So Cool!) and walked towards Stratford. To start, if you look right down, you get a glimpse of the ridiculous statue they are spending insane amounts of cash on to build for the Olympics – which my dear friend Marie has so correctly named “The Iron Fart”. I’m generally pretty open when it comes to art and interpretation etc. but I’m just not feeling this one and can’t help but laugh every time I think of Marie describing it as a fart. (If you haven’t seen it and would like to – CLICK HERE!)

I have to say that this side of the hood is a lot cleaner than what I am used to , and quieter too, but they also don’t have a mad sidewalk market everyday, so I suppose that’s normal. We also came across this statue of a man walking his dog (or as I later learned – is actually a blind beggar with a seeing eye dog) which I kind of love. This entire neighbourhood is a strange mix of huge old estates (like the green building behind in the picture) and clusters of houses, with little pound and knick knack shops strewn about and this statue is just another random thing thrown in to the mix.

We spent about an hour and half (because I was limited for time for my work lunch break) walking up and down Roman Road until we came to a park and a section of Regent’s Canal which was really lovely! I had no idea or had never even considered the possibility of there being a bit of water near us. Across from the water, is this amazing exercise park built by Adiddas. All the equipment is neon pink, yellow and blue and is all quite fun. Despite not being dressed for the occasion, we still tried everything out and for the record, no one got hurt. Now imagine Carmel saying something tough like “OOOSHE!” as she does this leg press with her arms in the air!

I re-confirmed that my legs are strong, and that my arms are less strong but that I can in fact shimmy up a wall when necessary. I was tempted to tell you all that I was running along this wall below, but I think it’s pretty clear that I am holding on for dear life. This is not nothing.

Before hitting up the pound shops to buy stuff we didn’t need but bought anyway because it was 69p, we frolicked by the shores of the canal and made friends with a couple of ducks.  Carmel insists that they were under the impression that I had food, but I’m sure that somewhere in their ducky brains they just wanted to come up and say hi. Also, I was sure I would forget about this one thing I saw not too long ago about ducks, but sadly, as soon as I saw them coming, this hilarious image appeared back in my head. If you haven’t already seen this, I’m about to ruin ducks for you.

RUINED! ALL I SEE ARE MASKS!

So there you have it, my exciting day of weird statues, pound shop adventures and ducks wearing masks – I don’t think I could ask for much more really! I guess I was more surprised about how much I discovered in such a short time right outside my front door. There are quite a few neat things to take in not far from home and I’m definitely going to be going back to all of these places again! To end, I would just like to clarify that I’m not writing this to encourage you to get down to Roman Road right away, because yes, we did have fun and it’s nice to know where you live, but the actual place itself is not terribly exciting on it’s own.

On that cheerful note my lovelies, I will leave you. I hope you all have a smashing good time over the holidays no matter where you are!

I promise I will be thinking about you!!!

xo Spec.

I Planned For An Hour, Stayed For The Day: Deptford, London

Hi everyone!

I know you are probably shocked to find an update here as it very well looked like I would never write again. I had completely lost my desire to write when I got to London and was really struggling to find the excitement and creativity to write about things you would actually want to read about. I want to assure you that I have been very busy doing fun things all over London, but just couldn’t find the drive to write it all down in the right way. Today, however, I had a spontaneous day of exploring that reminded me how it felt to want to tell lots of people about something amazing, and I thought that this would be the best way to launch myself back into blogging, by making a new project for myself. I want to really explore London with no boundaries and visit areas that perhaps I wouldn’t go to had I not searched them out or stumbled upon them. I want to know many parts of London and not just my area.  Let me tell you about my day!

This morning when I woke up, I popped onto Facebook, as I usually do, being the addict that I am, and the top post came from Handpicked London, with a picture of a tube car turned cafe. With a little research, I found that it was The Deptford Project Cafe. The Deptford Project is a sort of artist collective, including Jail Make, a group of creatives who do amazing revolutionary projects,  Crafty Bitches, who run workshops for sewing, upholstery and many other wonderful things. Last of all, there is the Union Cycle Works which is a wicked organization that works with disadvantaged people, teaching them bike building and repair skills to get them involved in the community and other great projects.  On the weekends, next to the cafe, they hold a handmade craft sale as well – bonus!!!

My new bag skull who I will call Mo – can you guess why? (made by Little-Rose Designs)

Just based on my own poking around on the websites, I decided I would go check out the cafe and see what the Union Cycle Works was all about, as I am on the hunt for a bike to get me around this huge city more efficiently.

It didn’t take too long to get there by bus, and I was greeted by a huge street market full of clothing, house stuff  and fresh fruits and veggies. I walked up and down first checking out what there was, until I stumbled on the cafe in the old train car. It’s a really neat set up as it is hoisted quite high up, with a beautiful deck built around it, complete with a ramp for accessibility. The car has been painted a fresh coat of white and has refurbished furniture and crafty handmade chairs from old pallets set up both inside and out. I ordered a hot chocolate and sat outside, thanking the weather gods for letting us have such a warm day in November.

For the record, the hot chocolate was out of this world.

While I was sitting enjoying my chocolate heaven, I flipped through a pile of flyers sitting on the table and came across one for  a hair salon called Miou Miou that really caught my eye. I have been needing a haircut for a while now, and this flyer felt for some reason like a calling. I decided to take a chance and book in for today. They booked me in at 3, which gave me about another 2 hours to explore this new area. After walking around for a good while I stumbled down a charming half block long street with a cafe called Blossoming Together. Naturally, since the words arts and craft cafe appeared outside, I felt obligated to enter.  Once inside, I felt like I was stepping into someone’s cozy kitchen with comfortable chairs and home baked goods. It was lunch time.

I had a delicious soy cappuccino and a homemade pizza bread.

After eating my most delightful lunch, the woman serving me said I absolutely had to go downstairs to meet Francisco who was a shiatsu massage therapist doing free 15 minute trials. Now normally in my book of rules, meeting a guy names Francisco in a shop basement is a no no, but this time I made an exception. He talked over a couple of exercises to help me relax me Camino calves as I have started calling them, and then gave me a 20 minute massage which felt amazing. What a treat!

My new hair!

After the fantabulous relaxation lunch stop, I headed over to my appointment at Miou Miou where I had my hair cut by Keiko, who is from Tokyo, so of course I rambled on about how in love I am with Japan after my trip there 3 years ago. I love my new hair and Keiko brought back my fringe! How I missed you fringe!! I can’t say enough nice things about this salon, as it’s a lovely funky little place with style and charm and the cut is great!  They are new, so be sure to check them out and their prices are very reasonable and refreshing for London.

Thanks Miou Miou for completing my Deptford adventure today!

I’ll be back as soon as I can with a new adventure to tell you all about! London here I come!

Spec.

When Mum came to visit…

Despite talking to my mum very regularly on the phone, it’s just not the same as having her with me. A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to have her come and visit me in Paris. Now I think when she arrived, she may have thought my apartment was small based on webcam shots, but didn’t REALLY know how small it was. I like to call it quaint. We only had a week together, and thankfully, having been to Paris before, my mumsy wasn’t too upset about not seeing all the touristy sites. I just wanted to spend time with her, and it didn’t really matter what we did.

On the first evening, we made a dinner of fresh cheeses, warm baguette and sat and talked. We had spent the afternoon walking down in the St Michel neighbourhood and the Marais, but alas with jet lag, and me having worked part of the day, we settled in to bed early. Now, if you know my mum and I, you know that it is difficult for us to sleep in the same room as one another as we giggle and chat too much into the wee hours of the morning. This is precisely what happened.

Let me share with you the topic of the evening. How the Chunnel built? Brought on, no doubt by the fact that we were set to go through it in a couple of days, to London. Popular questions included: Does it really go through the water? How did they get the tubes in the water? me – Can you see the fish as you go through? etc etc. This took a serious Wikipedia session to solve before we could rest in peace.

The following day, I had to go to work, so mum went on a bike tour of Paris, which I hadn’t heard of anyone doing until she told me about it. Mum’s internet travel research for the win! From the  sounds of it, you really get to see all the good parts of Paris, with little tidbits of the obvious tourist stuff.

That evening we had a lovely little dinner at a French bistro called Chez Janou, in the Bastille area. I love Bastille because it is so vibrant and fun and the food was delicious. We also had wine which felt very French… throw in the cigarette smoke and warm baguette from the tables next to us and it’s about as French as it gets! hon hi hon hi hon! (French laugh)

It was so nice to come home after work and have my dearest Mumsy waiting for me. We did quite a bit of walking around downtown but had to prepare for our trip to London for the weekend!

The following day, Mum came to visit the embassy to see where I work just before we were leaving for the Eurostar to London. I felt very important as I am currently using an enormous office of a lady who just recently retired. ( They are fixing up my actual office where I will share a space with another person) For now however, I am livin’ it large in an office 3-4 times bigger than my apartment.

We headed back to the apartment to gather out things to go to London. Now the last time I went to London I was mugged on my way home in the train so this time I was being super vigilante and to my surprise actually saw pickpockets lurking around the metro at the train station this time. It pays to be alert here, that’s all I can say. Anyways, I am happy to inform you all that neither Mum nor I got mugged or had a bad experience, unless you count the metro workers strike which caused a rather gross, hot and packed metro ride to the train station… but that’s just Paris.

The train was great as per usual and I think Mum finally got had a good nap,while I studied for my UK citizenship test. We whizzed through the Chunnel and all of our newfound knowledge of it disappeared as neither of us was paying attention while we went through. We emerged into London and hopped on the tube, shockingly, it was raining. We arrived at Paddington station and walked to our hotel. Our hotel looked like a row of houses on a quiet street and was quiet nice. The staff didn’t know what tissues were and brought us napkins, as well as when told that the room was extremely cold, put the heating on to 35 degrees, and provided beds that compete with rocks in a comfort competition, but we weren’t there for hotel, we were there for the city!  On our first day, I made mum have a real English breakfast because I like that sort of thing. We then made our way down to Oxford street so I could see a new clothing line that I had been dying to see.

We spent the day roaming around the shops and enjoying our little vacation. Thanks to mum’s savvy research we found a couple amazing restaurants where we sat, chatted and enjoyed some good English food. We also went to Portobello market, one of my most favourite places in London, saw my beloved bed-knobs and broomsticks characters, and I introduced Mum to whoopie pies, which I hear are catching on back home in Canada. Clearly I have contributed to this newfound discovery in some way!

 

On Sunday, we went to the Orangery, which is a tea house inside the Kensington Gardens and next to the Palace. It was so charming as they brought little tea sandwiches on white napkins and deliciously orange smelling tea. It was exactly how I would imagine an English tea house, that perhaps the Queen would have her tea in. Here is a photo of me by the strange silo shaped bushes.

 

This man was feeding the squirrels, and they would come right up to him, sit on his hand and eat the nuts they were given, it was really neat.

After our little tea break, we went to see this really fun exhibit at the Kensington Palace. They had turned the palace into a sort of fairy tale where each room represents a different fairy tale or story, and the princesses from each story are real princesses from the English monarchy. It was very regally decorated and the lights were low with all sorts of mysterious montages and exhibits. There was even a game that required us to find all the names of the princesses as we went through the exhibit.  I really loved the exhibit and thought the Kensington Palace was quite lovely. I was expecting it to be a lot less beautiful inside, and was pleasantly surprised.

The weekend was really fun and went by way too fast. I still am completely in love with London, and wish I could go every weekend. Because of tube work, a lot of lines on the tube were not running from many stations while we were there, so we took the regular double-decker city buses everywhere and it was nice to just put around the city and see it from above ground, it really gives you an idea of how the city is connected.

Sadly, on Sunday evening, we headed back through the Chunnel to Paris. We were greeted by the usual sketchy crowd at Gare du Nord, and hopped as fast as we could into a taxi home. Home sweet apartment!

On Monday, I had taken the day off and was determined to show mum a couple of places that I love in Paris. The first, was Sacre Coeur. I love the view and the amazing old architecture. It really is amazing to see. It also gives you a real feel for what Paris is like, and how old and beautiful it is.

We spent our last day together again walking the streets, we went back to the Marais, visited Le Bon Marche, saw the Moulin Rouge and then had a little farewell drink with my friend Thibaut at The Great Canadian Bar, which I will point out, had an Australian server.

I was so sad to see my dear mumsy go on Tuesday morning. The shuttle picked her up so early and I wanted her to stay forever! But alas, all good things must come to and end. Now we are back to our regular Skype chats where we discuss the inner working of train tunnels, whether Paul McCartney and Angela Lansbury are the same person or any other ridiculous random subject that may come up.

Day 3 in London – My childhood dreams come true!

Heya!

Sorry for the enomous delay in between day 2 and 3 of my London trip, I can’t quite figure out where the first 2 weeks of September have gone. Anyways, let me tell all about my favourite day spent in London.

On Saturday morning I woke up early so I could go to the Portobello road market. I have always wanted to go to the Portobello road market, and no it’s not because Hugh Grant lived there in the film Notting Hill.

I have always wanted to visit because I used to love the movie Bed Knobs and Broomsticks (with Angela Lansbury!) which is a Disney flick from 1971, and it has an entire scene and song about Portobello road.  If you don’t believe me check out the clip below.

Even better, it also has an entire scene with dancing clothes, which no one that I met in London had seen, so I must have sounded like a complete nut, but in the end I saw street performers doing the scene! I can now live my life knowing that I have finally experienced all these things!

Next time I go, I will get a picture with them.

Anyways, all that aside, the market was lovely. I walked in off of the main road which looks like every other little street in London with small shops and houses squeezed together like cannelloni’s in a casserole dish.

A few blocks in, the street turns into a market with shops full of people, tents and tables set up in every free open space. There were antiques, newtiques, junk and plenty of bits and bobs that I couldn’t identify. I walked for several blocks before stopping to have breaky. I found a charming little bakery called The Hummingbird Bakery, which, if you happen to be in London, you should definitely try. I ordered up a delicious hot chocolate and a whoopie pie. Now, I had no idea what a whoopie pie was when I ordered it but I sure was glad I did. It was like two perfect spungy pumpkin muffin tops with carrot cake cream cheese icing in the middle. Granted, I couldn’t eat the entire thing, because it was so rich, it was also very good!

On my way back up Portobello road, I got a strange pair of Native inspired boots and a Nottinghill shopping bag!

I had to rush from the market up to Hyde Park, because I had decided that with all this visiting in London, that I should probably do a tour of some of the more obvious must see monuments. I had taken a brochure for a free walking tour and met up with the group at Hyde Park at 1pm. It was just my luck as Jessica, the girl who was sleeping on the bunk above me at the hostel, was also on the tour. We became fast friends and spent the afternoon on the tour walking and taking in London. We saw Buckingham Palace, Trafalger Square, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and several other houses of royalty. I really enjoyed the tour and the guide was amazing. I was expecting a tour that would be interesting but potentially a little over the top on the history side, but our guide had stories and little facts that made the tour entertaining and really engaging and I couldn’t believe the 3 hours was over when it was. (If you want more info see the bottom of this post)

After the tour, Jessica and I and a few others from the tour went out for dinner with our guide and then signed up for the pub crawl that evening, that the tour company also offered.

After a quick wardrobe change, we were off into downtown London for a night out of pub crawling. The group of “pub crawlers” was enormous and we seemed to fill and empty out bars as we moved along to each new place. We also added a new member to our team, Colin, a guy staying across from us in the hostel, (and another Canadian… woot!), joined us for the pub crawl. We also picked up a new French friend, Pierre, so became a quad!

We had a wonderful night of dancing, drinking and then all losing each other, with the exception of Colin and I who seemed to stick together enough to get back to the hostel. Thankfully, Jessica made it back a little later and we were all reunited! We had hoped to get together and have a real English breakfast the following morning but being so tired and having to check out at 10 made that impossible for us to coordinate.

Instead, I reluctantly packed up my many new things into my new little bag and headed out to have a solo English breakfast. I found a little restaurant up by Oxford Street and sat down with my book at a little table for two. I ordered a proper English breakfast, complete with beans and a fried tomato. It was exactly what I needed after the late night from before. I sat and read my book for an hour or so before getting up and taking a quick last walk around the area.

At last, my stay had come to an end. I was sad to leave London but as they say, all good things must come to an end. I dragged myself onto the train and sat next to a nosey guy who I was pretty sure was trying to read what I was typing the entire time I was typing it. Don’t worry, I gave him the evil eye. 😉

Cheerio!

PS If you are heading to London and want info about the Free tour, because it was well worth it – click here!