07/23/13
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Hat Hunt

Ivan, Lil Dave and I packed everything up.  Tomorrow, we would be leaving London.

We took the bus and then the train with Neal to King’s Cross.  It’s the platform where the 10 1/2 Harry Potter platform is.  I wanted to take a picture with the bags, but the line was too long.

Lil Dave went out to meet up with his friend Robert.

Ivan and I stored our luggage at baggage storage which was £9 per bag.  We all went to Leon for lunch.  I had a tasty chicken superfoods salad.

We walked to HintHunt which was nearby.

HintHunt logo

We met up with Ivan’s dad Ken.  We were going to play HintHunt which is a fun live escape game designed for groups of 3-5 people.  The lady told us about the room and that we had 60 minutes to try to solve a murder and try to get out of the room.  She would help us along the way if we got stuck by the tv screen in the room.

The room was the John Monroe room.  We had to try to solve his murder by looking for clues in his office.  The lady helped us out on the tv screen telling us to look for something or if we’re going in the wrong direction.  It was really warm inside the room.

It was fun searching for clues.  I’ve always liked mysteries.  You really have to search the room under desks and in books.  Sometimes you have to put in numbers to open something and we did find keys to open locks.  We found another room and then later a closet.

Words on the closet wall

I was taking pictures, but was told to erase them.  I kept two though.

We had a good time trying to solve the murder, but unfortunately we ran out of time.  We came really close though.  I recommend doing HintHunt.  It’s lots of fun and makes you work as a team.

We met up with Ivan’s mum Denise at Whole Foods.

Then, we walked to the Soho’s Secret Tea Room which is located upstairs in the pub Coach & Horses.  I love this cute place.

Tea and scones at Soho's Secret Tea Room

Ivan and I had tea with a tasty scone.

We walked to Covent Garden.  We wanted to go to Union Jacks for dinner, but unfortunately their basement room was only open on Saturdays.

Ivan, Neal, Ken and Denise and I walked to Bistro 1 for dinner.  Ivan and I shared falafel and hummus, grilled sardines, creamed spinach and salmon with cream sauce.  The food was good.  We said good-bye to Ken, Denise and Neal.

Ivan and I went to see the musical Top Hat.

Top Hat sign

Ivan thought that it should have had the big musical act with the whole cast like most musicals have.  It was a good musical, but not amazing.

We went back to Kings Cross to retrieve our bags and we met up with Lil Dave.

Ivan, Lil Dave and I took the train to Heathrow and then a taxi to our hotel. It was then time for bed.

07/22/13
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Indian Lady

Ivan and I met up with Neal at The Draft House for lunch.  Lil Dave was out with his friend Robert doing a banana boat tour on the River Thames.  Neal recommended a Yolk burger.  I decided to go for it and eat some meat.  Ivan got a Beirut burger.

The restaurant had cool Ghostbusters wallpaper in the staircase headed to the bathroom.

Ghostbusters wallpaper at The Draft House

Neal was disappointed that the yolk burger wasn’t right – it should have a sunny side up egg, so when you eat it the yolk goes all over the burger.  The burger was good, but the yolk wasn’t runny at all.

We said bye to Neal and went shopping.

Tried for the lottery for the Book of Mormon, but we didn’t end up winning a chance to buy tickets.

Ivan bought tickets for the play The Ladykillers.

Dinner was at Masala Zone.  Ivan and I each got a thali that comes with lots of tasty Indian food.

Thali at Masala Zone

It was time to see some theatre.

The Ladykillers was a funny play about a group of men posing as amateur musicians who rent a room with the sweet old lady Mrs. Wilberforce.

The Ladykillers poster

They make a plan to involve her in the heist job. It was a good play.

We walked to the bus stop.  The Royal Baby was born, so we saw the London Eye all lit up in red. white and blue.

The London Eye lit up in red, white and blue

07/21/13
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Ramen Tower

Ivan and I had lunch at Le Pont de la Tour on July 21, 2013.  We sat outside which gave us a beautiful view of Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge from Le Pont de la Tour

We each got the set menu.  Started off with the heirloom tomato soup for Ivan and the sardine for me.  Our main course was grilled sea bream fillet for Ivan and asparagus and pea risotto for me.

Grilled Sea Bream Fillet at Le Pont de la Tour

The food was good.

We walked along the River Thames.  I saw a cool big art piece of a head.

Big head on side art piece

Ivan and I chilled out at the apartment.

Later, we met up with Neal.  We walked around to find a bar to sit outside and have drinks.  It seemed like everybody had the same idea though since it was such nice weather.

Man singing and playing the guitar in the water

Noticed a guy singing and playing the guitar on the beach, in the water.  I wonder if he made a lot of tips from his music.

We went to All Bar One and had some Pimm’s.  This drink is so refreshing and tastes so good with the fruit in it.

Ivan wanted to try out a new restaurant.  So, we walked to Bone Daddies.  It’s a ramen bar that serves, you guessed it, ramen.

Ivan got the ramen salad while I got the Sweet 3 miso ramen.  My ramen was sweet with corn, wakame and chicken.

Headed to the train station.  Ivan and I said bye to Neal since he was going in a different direction.  We went back to the apartment for the night.

07/20/13
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Easy Shopping

On July 20, 2013, Ivan and I had lunch with Neal at All Bar one.  Ivan had the Pad Thai while I had the Halloumi and pepper wrap.

Ivan and Neal walking around

Neal went back to work and we headed back to the apartment.

Later we left at 3 pm and went shopping on Oxford Street.  We checked out Zara, Top Man and Ann Summers.

Ivan, Lil Dave and I went to Union Jacks for lunch.  We didn’t get to sit outside, but downstairs in the basement.

Union Jacks

It was nice down there.  Lil Dave got a specially made banana pizza.  Ivan and I shared pea soup, fish fingers, coleslaw, flat beans and onion and the Woodman pizza.  I love this pizza!!

We headed back to the apartment and took it easy for the rest of the night.

07/19/13
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Drowned Purl

On July 19, 2013, Ivan and I met up with Neal at Borough Market.  Lil Dave was out with his friend Robert.

We had lunch at Nando’s sitting outside since it was such a lovely day.  I had a great chicken burger with the tasty garlic peri-peri sauce.  We shared a bottle of rosé‎ which felt refreshing in the warm weather.

View of the River Thames

We walked along the Jubilee Walkway.  Noticed a guy playing the bagpipes on the beach below.

Guy playing bagpipes on the beach

Neal said bye since he had to head back to work.

Ivan and I checked out the Suck UK and a prop store that sold theatre props.

We also walked the Queen’s Walk in Southbank.  There was a cool art exhibition with gardens and lots of windows happening.

Part of the Queen's Walk Window Gardens

I love Southbank since they have lots of cool art exhibitions.

That night, Ivan and I had dinner at Cristini where we shared cannelloni with spinach, mushrooms & dolce latte cheese and a crab squid ink tagliatelle.

Next, we want to the Punchdrunk production called The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable.  It’s located in a huge 200,000 square feet building.  Everybody must wear masks during the production.  It was annoying for me since I wear glasses.

The story is set at the fictional Temple Pictures.  The basic premise is about a couple within Temple Pictures and another one who live in the outskirts of this Hollywood town.  It’s great to be able to roam freely or follow the actors around.  The actors won’t interact to you since wearing the mask makes you invisible.  It’s great to be immersed in this world.  It’s greatly detailed with products in the stores and the houses fully furnished.

The Drowned Man artwork

The production had interpretive dance and lots of things going on like betrayal, voodoo and murder.

I think everybody should go see a production like this once since it’s really cool and different.  It was like being in a weird, surreal David Lynch movie.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but of course I snuck in a few.  The story was a bit confusing.

Creepy faces on the wall

But, I know that Temple Pictures were doing something shady.

After, we stopped at the cool bar Purl.  This speakeasy bar takes reservations on their website.  It’s a bar that serves up drinks in a unique way.

Ivan and I decided to try a couple of the drinks.  We got Puffing Devil No2 which comes with a mini espresso ice cream cone and a cherry atomizer.

Puffing Devil No2

You’re supposed to spray the cherry on the drink before taking a sip.

We also got Smoky & The Bandit where you had to smell smoked salmon which was in a jar before taking your drink.

The Cerez Joker warns that you should inform the server if you have a weak heart.  It includes a fun little surprise.  I won’t ruin it.. just get it – it’s cool!

Another cool one was Purl Open No. 1 Cup which includes a tasty Pimm’s drink in a jug on top of a piece of grass.

‘Our’ Tai came out in a bottle on top of a shell with edible sand on the bottom.

'Our' Tai at Purl London

The drinks were average, but you’re really going here for the drink presentation.  It’s a great place to come visit to chill out and sip on your expensive but wonderfully presented drink.

07/18/13
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Aussie Tea

On July 18, 2013, Ivan, Lil Dave and I met up with The Aussies at Wetherspoons.  We talked and had a pint of cider.

Ivan, Jen, Gabbie & Tim

We walked to the bus station.  Tim and Gabbie were headed to Manchester today.  Their bus was delayed.  Ivan, Lil Dave and I said good-bye.  We were all very sad since we weren’t sure when we’d be able to see each other again.

We got the tube to Temple and tried for Top Hat concession tickets, but we didn’t have any luck.

It was time for lunch, so we walked to Union Jacks in Covent Garden.  Ivan and I got the Cornish mackerel, mussels in a vodka sauce and the delicious Woodman pizza.

Tasty food at Union Jacks

Lil Dave got banana fettuccine and a banana shake.

Lil Dave went to explore London with his friend Robert.

Ivan and I went to see the play Relatively Speaking.  It’s about a guy named Greg who likes a girl named Ginny.  She says she’s going to visit her parents.  Greg thinks it’s a good idea to go there uninvited to ask her father for her hand in marriage.

Greg goes to the address and he meets two people, but they aren’t actually Ginny’s parents.  The guy turns out to be Ginny’s older lover.  It was a very funny play.

Headed to the Soho’s Secret Tea Room for tea time.  It’s located inside the Coach & Horses pub.  You can make reservations, but we didn’t have one.  Ivan asked the bartender if there were any openings.  He called upstairs and told us we could head up.  We walked through the bar and up the stairs.

There’s a timer, so you know how long to steep your tea for.  Ivan and I had some tea with scones and jam in the cute tea room.

Jen & Ivan at the Secret Tea Room

After, Ivan went with me to Magma, Agent Provocateur and Ann Summers to look for bras.  I didn’t have any luck finding a good bra though.

We went to see Derren Brown’s show Infamous next.  It was a very entertaining show with lots of Derren’s amazing tricks.  I’m always baffled by what he does.

Ivan and I went to Spuntino for dinner.  We shared a prawn po’ boy, eggplant, fennel, feta and casareccia, egg and soldiers & a beetroot, walnut and ricotta salata.  The food tasted great.

07/17/13

Comedy Garden

On July 17, 2013, Ivan and I went to the Book of Mormon lottery.  The theatre has some tickets available for £20 each for the lottery.  Everybody who shows up fills out a form and names are pulled out 2 hours before the show.  There was lots of people at the lottery and we didn’t end up winning.

We had chicken burritos at Benito’s Hat and then walked around Covent Garden.

Covent Garden

We went to see the play The Cripple of Inishmaan with Daniel Radcliffe. 

Jen & The Cripple of Inishmaan sign

The first act was alright.  We sat closer by sitting in empty seats and the second act was a lot better.

We got the train to Ealing Broadway.  We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant called 8 Treasures.  Ivan and I shared cloud ear fungus with coriander, vegetarian hot pot and Kung Pao chicken.  The food was good.

Later, we walked to Walpole Park.  There was a big top tent set up for the Ealing Comedy Festival.

Ealing Comedy Festival big top tent

We had a seat way in the back.  I was mad that a family of giants were sat right in front of us.  Oh well, at least I could hear.  Paul Thorne and Lee Mack were really funny.

07/16/13

Shopping & Beatboxing

I woke up at 10 am on July 16, 2013.  Ivan was already up.

I used the internet and ate breakfast while Ivan went to ASDA with his parents.

We said bye to Denise.  Ivan, Lil Dave and I hopped in the car with Ken.  He took us to the Thorpe Bay train station at 12:05 pm.

We got the train at 12:24 pm.  Ivan read while I worked on the blog.  We enjoyed the lunch that was prepared by Denise.

Ivan thought that we should walk to the Airbnb apartment with our luggage, but it was too hot out.  So, we hailed a cab to the place.

Ivan went to get the key and then we went inside the apartment.  It had a big room for tango dancing lessons. 

Our room was hot.. but with the window open it was good, but noisy.

Ivan and I went out at 4 pm and shared a chicken raita wrap at Pret a Manger.  We also shared a lovely yogurt at Snog. 

It was time for shopping. 

Teal mannequins

We walked around Oxford Street and shopped at many places like Topman and FCUK. 

After, we walked around Carnaby Street. 

Carnaby 2013 sign

I noticed an alley and we found the courtyard Kingly Court.  It’s a nice area with free wifi.  Ivan and I used the free internet and chilled before getting food.

Went to Busaba Eathai for dinner.  Ivan and I shared aubergine with mushrooms and greens.  Ivan got the chicken green curry while I got a fish curry.  It was a delectable meal.

We went to London Wonderground.  Ivan and I tried to get a seat in the cute bumper cars, but they were all full.

It was time to see the greatest beatboxer in the world Shlomo

Shlomo beatboxing

He was awesome as usual.  It’s always amazing to see how he makes such cool music with just his vocals.

07/15/13
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Portuguese Beach

Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up at 8 am on July 15, 2013.  Ivan and I packed everything up.

We left with our bags and went to the buffet at 8:45 am.  Saw The Aussies there and ate our breakfast.

Left the Carnival Legend at 9 am.  While we were waiting for Ivan’s dad Ken to pick us up, we chatted.

We piled into the car and Ken dropped off The Aussies at the Dover train station.  We said good-bye to Tim and Gabbie.

Arrived in Southend at Ivan’s parents house at 12:08 pm.  It was good to see Ken and Denise again.

Denise had fixed up a big feast with fish, walnut bread, salad and more.  A tasty fruit salad with soy raspberry yogurt was for dessert.

Ivan and I had lots of laundry from the cruise, so we put it in the washer and then later hung it up outside.

Ivan, Ken, Denise and I drove to East Beach and walked by the water.

East Beach

It was a lovely day out.

Went back to the house where Ivan and I used the internet.

Bread, Pear cake and a Crumpet

Ivan, Denise, Ken and I had tea with pear cake, bread and crumpets.

Later, that night we all went to the Portuguese restaurant O’Picado.  Ivan and I shared mackerel marinated in herb and wine vinegar sauce for our starter.

Ivan & his vegetable bean stew

Ivan got a great vegetable bean stew while I had a good black scabbard filet in a Provencal sauce.

Back at the house, Ivan and I watched the movie Get Him to the Greek before going to sleep.

07/3/13
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Off on a Cruise

Ivan and I woke up at 9 am on July 3, 2013.  We gathered up our luggage.

It was an overcast day.  We left Sussex at 10 am.  Ivan recognized the area of Gants Hill since his grandparents lived there.  Ivan said we just had to stop at Shalom Hot Bagels for a Jewish bagel.

We parked right in front of the bagel shop and picked up a bagel to share and a few fish balls.  The bagel was a lot more dense and tasted fantastic.  The fish balls were good.

It was a short drive away to Romford where we were picking up our Australian friends Tim & Gabbie.  We arrived at 11 am at Gabbie’s cousin’s apartment.

Tim and Gabbie said good-bye to Gabbie’s cousin and his wife and kid.  We were glad that Tim and Gabbie only had a small suitcase and two small backpacks since we had a a lot of big luggage already in the car.

It was great to see the Aussies again since we get along with both of them so well.  They’re super cool and so fun.  We spent a lot of time with them in Las Vegas.

Ivan drove us towards Dover, our trip took an hour.  We bought alcohol at a convenience store.  Ivan dropped us off and then dropped off the car at the car rental office.

We waited for him and then went upstairs at the cruise port to check in at 1:40 pm.  I’m glad there wasn’t a long line.  Check-in was relatively fast.  We each got a bottle of liquor each on the ship.  You could always try to sneak on more alcohol by checking your bags in.  Sometimes, the boats scan… but we’ve always gotten stuff on with no trouble.  Our group was on the Carnival Legend at 1:55 pm.

This cruise ship is a lot smaller than most cruise ships we’ve been on, but it’s going to Scandinavia and we love the cruise director, John Heald who’s so funny.  He’s the brand ambassador of Carnival – he basically is the face of Carnival.  His personal assistant Calvyn is hilarious.  Together they are such a comedy duo.  We’ve done a few Carnival cruises with both of them before.

Atrium on the Carnival Legend

We love walking in to the grand Atrium which was dark brown and gold which reminded me of the Louis Vuitton bags.  Norwegian doesn’t have an Atrium on their cruise ships.  I just think all cruise ships should have an Atrium.  It’s just a great central place to meet, hear music or have a drink.  I really like seeing the elevators going up from the Atrium.

The rooms were ready, so we checked out Tim and Gabbie’s interior room.  Then, Ivan and I put our backpacks in our room.  We got a room with a balcony.  I love being able to see the ocean right from bed.  Also, it’s great to have breakfast on the balcony.

It was time for lunch – so we went up to the buffet in the Unicorn Cafe.  We had some great fish.  The apple crumble was really tasty for dessert.  The food in the buffet here in Carnival was better than the gourmet food on the Norwegian Epic.  That’s pretty sad.

Ivan took us on a tour around the ship.  I call it the ‘Ivan tour’ since it’s just following Ivan around the ship on the first day.  It’s really quiet everywhere, so it’s the best time to walk around and take pictures.  I’m used to really bright décor on the Carnival boats.

Follies Theatre on the Carnival Legend

The décor is bright in some areas, but it has a medieval theme.  I never thought of a medieval theme, but it’s different and looks great.

Lil Dave went to search the cruise ship for other monkeys to play with.

Ivan, Tim, Gabbie and I played a fun game of miniature golf.

Jen playing mini golf on the Carnival Legend

Tim ended up winning.

Ivan and I chilled in the room before going to the Mandatory Safety Briefing.  We heard the cruise director John on the intercom and he made funny comments.  It was good to hear his voice.  Being on a Carnival cruise ship on the first day feels like coming home to me.

Tim and Gabbie met us in our room.  We had champagne on the balcony for the sail away from Dover.

Ivan and Jen with their champagne

We gave Tim his birthday gift which was a fez and stick-on mustaches.

It was cool passing by the white cliffs of Dover.  Too bad that the weather was still overcast.  The pictures would have turned out a lot better with blue skies.

The White Cliffs of Dover

We chilled on the balcony for awhile and listened to music.  Ivan, Tim and Gabbie went to the Truffles Restaurant to change so that we would be on the same dining table for dinner.

Ivan and I started getting ready.  He left after his shower to play the Mind Game Trivia while I was still getting ready.

He didn’t win the trivia game.  I met him at 8 pm.

We went to our table which was #220.  There was a couple sitting there who were in their 40’s.  Tim and Gabbie joined us shortly.  We found out that the couple are from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with three kids.

I started with a linguini for a starter.  My main course was tilapia which was average.  It came with a tasty mac & cheese for a side dish.

Ivan and I got the famous chocolate melting cake to share for dessert.  It was so very tasty.

Tim and Gabi were pigs and got four desserts to share.

Tim & Gabi eating lots of desserts

Ivan, Tim and Gabbie and I headed to the theatre Follies.  We wanted to get a good seat for the Welcome Aboard Show.

I headed to the toilet.  Calvyn was doing Bingo and recognized Ivan.

The Welcome Aboard Show was really funny.  John, the cruise director, talked to Tim and Gabbie since they clapped when he asked where the honeymooners were and we were sitting in the front row.

Later, when they were picking six people to go on stage.. John said Come on, Blondie to Gabbie to head up to the stage.  Gabbie is really shy and doesn’t like being on stage.  I thought it was funny that she was picked.  I knew she didn’t want to go up at all.  I guess she felt she had to.

John can make any situation funny.  Some of the people were funny like the guy who has been married for 50 years.  To celebrate being married for 50 years, he and his wife got tattoos with their names on their upper arm.

John Heald and Gabi at the Welcome Aboard Show

Gabbie was really shy and you could tell, so John didn’t talk to her much.  All six people got a bottle of champagne and a gold ship on a stick (cruise ship trophy) for being on stage.

Ivan, Tim, Gabbie and I headed to Guest Services.  Ivan and Gabbie wrote letters to John.  Ivan told him about our wedding anniversary and Gabbie wrote about how they’re on a year long honeymoon.

Gabbie switched her champagne bottle for a cold one.  We headed to the room to drink champagne and talked for awhile before going to bed.

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