Charlotte et Céline à Londres

Besides taking Dom’s mom and aunt to Ireland, Cambridge, and Canterbury, we also showed them some of our favourite areas in London.

Less than 50 meters from our place is the Marylebone Farmers Market, which occurs every Sunday from 10:00 to 14:00.  It’s fairly small, but we often go there for our weekly vegetable, bread, milk, and butter supplies.  Charlotte and Celine bought some delicious quiches and chilli sauce.

Our favourite sunny-day stroll is through Regents Park and along the canal to Camden Market.  Both of them absolutely loved the shopping at Camden Market. :)

We also stopped by Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane to show them some of London's street art scene.

Lastly, we did a quick tour of the National Gallery, introduced them to our favourite local foods (fruit ciders, scones with clotted-cream, fish&chips, Thai street food, etc.) and visited a few other miscellaneous places such the local Gunmakers pub right across from our flat.


For our last day-trip with Charlotte and Celine, we visited Canterbury, home of the archbishop of the Church of England.  We assumed it would be just another town with a huge church but we were pleasantly surprised to discover that it's actually a really cute town several nice walking streets and parks.

Of course, we couldn't go to Canterbury without visiting the beautiful cathedral.  We lucked out and happened to be there while a choir was practicing, making the experience even more magical!


After 6 days of intense driving (on the left side of the road) in Ireland, we decided to take the next 2 weekends easy doing day-trips from London by train. Our first trip was to the university town, Cambridge. 

The only thing we knew about Cambridge was that it’s one of the 2 major university towns in the UK.  Luckily, we found a really interesting free walking tour where they told us many interesting facts: 

  • Cambridge is made up of 31 colleges.  
  • Students in the UK are only allowed to apply to either Oxford or Cambridge.  If your application is rejected from one, you aren't allowed to apply to the other.
  • Apparently Prince Charles got rejected from Oxford but Queen Elizabeth managed to get him admitted in Cambridge anyhow.
  • Henry VIII founded Trinity College, the now richest college in the UK, owning the O2 Arena in London as well as a large part of Tesco
  • Many students claim that Trinity College is the birthplace of the famous dessert that they call "Trinity Burnt Cream".. more commonly known as "Crème Brûlée"
  • Girton was the first female college to be established in Cambridge in 1867, but women students were not considered full members of the university and could not receive degrees.  After several attempts, it wasn't until 1948 that the vote finally passed allowing women to become full members of the university.
  • Our guide told us that in the past, women could be arrested and thrown in jail if they were caught talking to male students (even if the man had approached her).  The grounds for arrest was "distracting men from their studies", and they could be held indefinitely without any proof being required
  • Most of the colleges in Cambridge were men-only and refused to allow women admissions until around the 1970-1980s.  Magdalene College was the last - in 1988 they were forced to admit women, resulting in their male students protesting in the streets.  Apparently they wore black and carried a coffin labelled "the death of education".

Our guide was quite opinionated about the difficult history for women at Cambridge.  We were pretty surprised to later find out that Cambridge actually still has 3 colleges that only admit women.  Apparently they're now re-assessing their stance on admissions for transgender students who identify with the female gender.

At one point, we were wandering the streets and heard oddly muffled music and singing. We looked around to find the source and finally realized it was coming from one of the garbage cans!  It was definitely one of the most unique street performances we've seen in our travels …best costume ever :)

Biking Brighton

We lucked out with the weather and spent a beautiful sunny Saturday biking the coast of Britain.  

We took a train to Brighton and rode East, past Saltdean, along a coastal trail that runs below some beautiful white cliffs.  

On our way back, we stopped at the Art Cafe in Rottingdean for cream tea.  We learned that Rudyard Kipling lived in Rottingdean for many years and took a stroll through the Kipling Gardens.  

Since it was still early, we started cycling West along the colourful beach huts that line the Brighton & Cove boardwalks and stopped to check out Hove Lagoon and waterpark where we discovered a pretty cool wake park!  

It was such a beautiful day and a really lovely area to explore.. we'll definitely have to come back to Brighton again!

Cycling the York Solar System

In February, we returned to London for another 6 months of work.  On one weekend, we decided to try something a little different - we took our folding bikes for a ride through the solar system! 

A few kilometres from York, they've repurposed an old rail line into a cycle path with a scale model of the solar system (  What a neat idea! 

Every 100m of the trail corresponds to 57 million kilometres in space, so we started at the Sun and arrived at Mercury 101m later.  Doesn't sound like much of a bike ride, but at this scale, the distance between the Sun and Pluto is nearly 10.3km :).  Apparently if you were to walk the trail, your scaled speed would be equivalent to around 3 times the speed of light.. since we biked, we flew through the solar system at around 10 times the speed to light!

After our little jaunt through space, we returned to York to check into a really lovely B&B called the Dovecote House.  The rooms were super cozy and we were served really delicious, freshly baked (still warm!), croissants for breakfast!  

We spent the rest of the day wandering the walls and many pedestrian streets of York's fortified old town.  

And, of course, when in Yorkshire.. eat Yorkshire Pudding!  They were plentiful and super-sized!

When it started to rain, we found ourselves at Stonegate Yard Bar & Brasserie, a local pub with a really charming atmosphere.  We discovered our new favorite pub drink (for those of us who don't drink beer) - Rekorderlig Wild Berries Cider (and on tap to boot)!  Yum!  

Speaking of yummy things, we discovered that Rowntree, the company that brought us Kit Kat, Aero, Jelly Tots, and Smarties, originated in York.  They were bought out by Nestle in the 80's, but Kit-Kat factories continue to operate in York... evidenced by the rich, mouth-watering aroma of warm chocolate that blankets the entire town when the factories are running.

On Sunday afternoon we met up with Mark and Trish, our coworker and his girlfriend, for a couple of hours since they also happened to plan a trip in the area on the same weekend!  We explored the Rambles, walked along the river to Millennium bridge, and checked out the museum gardens. 

By Sunday evening it was pouring rain, so we checked out the Railway Museum and then watched Logan at the local theatre.  

Despite so much rain, it was a perfect weekend getaway.  We both really enjoyed and recommend York!

Bath At Last

A few people had recommended visiting Bath when we were previously here, but we never seemed to find the time.. until now!!  

We finally booked our train tickets and did a day trip out to city of the Roman Baths.  Since it was quite chilly, we were a bit disappointed that you can’t actually swim in the Roman Hot Spring Baths.  Fortunately, they did a really good job with the audio tour so that made it a very interesting place to visit!.  Near the end of the tour you have the opportunity to taste the bath water, which many people apparently describe as a repulsive taste.. to us, it just had a slight sulphur smell and the taste was quite similar to the well water you get in some places in Canada! :) 
All in all, it was worth the trip :)

Cycling Stonehenge

Unless you rent a car or book a pricey tour, there isn't really an easy way to get to Stonehenge.  We recently splurged on a pair of folding bikes, so we elected for the choose-your-own-adventure option - we booked a train ticket to a small town called Salisbury and biked to Stonehenge from there.

When we arrived, we discovered that it's actually quite pricey to get into the visitor area surrounding Stonehenge (£18.20 ($30 CAD) per person).  Even if you pay the entrance fee, the stones themselves are fenced off by a rope, so the closest point is still about 10m away. 

Lucky for us, when we arrived at the entrance, a nice older gentleman approached us and asked if we had tickets.  We said no, so he proceeded to tell us that we can head back to the the visitor's centre to pay £18.20 each and then come back to get into the designated visitor area, or we can continue walking just a few meters further, enter the gate along the farmer's fence, and see the stones from there.. for free.  Seemed like a no-brainer for us, so we graciously thanked him!  He gave us a friendly smile while pointing out the farmer's fence and forewarning us, "just watch out for the sheep droppings, they can be slippery!".  

So, if you don't mind seeing Stonehenge from 20-30m away instead of 10-20m, you can do so for free!  

Bringing our bikes allowed us to also explore the surrounding area, including Stonehenge Cursus and Woodhenge.

We ended up biking around 48 km, mainly along quiet country roads, so we saw some really beautiful countryside.  We stopped to visit the towns of Amesbury and Salisbury along the way and finished off our first folding-bike adventure at a nice traditional pub where we tried fish & chips with mushy peas, a traditional meat pie, and cider.

We were surprised that about 30-40% of the bike commuters that we see daily in London, are riding Brompton folding bikes.  The bikes are built in the UK and really well designed, but they are relatively quite expensive.  We suppose they do make a lot of sense for people living in these huge megalopolises where property value is outrageously high - apparently you can actually find studio flats here, as small as 9 sq.m., for sale at a mere... £295,000 (approx. $530,000 CAD)!!  

So far, we've found the Bromptons really fun to ride and they make it easy to zip around and explore.. plus they fold up so small that we can even keep them under our desks when we commute to work!


For Jen's birthday, we took a 3-day weekend to celebrate in the land of scotch whiskey and haggis.  It was actually suppose to be a "surprise" birthday, but our credit card statement blew the surprise - Jen could clearly see “Edinburgh” on one of the line items, a couple of weeks early.  Fortunately, it was no big deal since Jen doesn't really like surprises anyhow!  

We arrived by train and our first stop was the “Scotch Whiskey Experience” in the centre of Edinburgh.  We learned about ow scotch whiskey is made and how the flavours differ between the various regions.  The tour allowed us to taste scotches from each of the 5 regions.  Jen discovered her (new) favourite whiskey (Glen Scotia) which, of course, is one of the harder scotches to find since it's from the smallest region, Campbeltown. We also discovered that scotch goes really well with chocolate!  It's our new favourite "treat" :)

The next day we climbed up to a popular viewpoint called Arthur’s seat.  We hoped it was actually where King Arthur ruled from, but no.. turns out it's not :P.  The hike is, however, quite beautiful with its 360 degree view of Edinburgh Castle, the city, and surrounding area.

We were really impressed at how well Edinburgh maintains its historical look. We spent a lot of time wandering the old town since it's such a beautiful city to see.

We also experienced some local foods including delicious roasted-pig sandwiches at "Oink" and some local game-meat pies that warned that they may contain "shot" (ie. bullet) residue.

A 40th wouldn't be a real birthday without a nice dinner out!  A coworker recommended “The witchery by the castle” - a super nice restaurant with an amazing atmosphere and really good food.  Happy Birthday Jen!  :)

Afternoon Tea in Stratford-Upon-Avon and Oxford

We decided to spend a few weekends exploring small towns around London.  Our first trips were to Stratford-Upon-Avon, the small town where Shakespeare was born, and Oxford.  We wandered the cute towns to see the sights and strolled the river paths that pass through the towns.

Our colleague from work recommend trying the typical British "afternoon tea" in Stratford-Upon-Avon, so we chose a cute 1940s-themed tea house, appropriately named The Fourteas (, to experienced our very first British afternoon tea! 

It wasn't anything particularly fancy - white-bread sandwiches with the crust cut off, a few bite-sized deserts, their special blend of 4 teas with milk and sugar, and scones with fresh strawberry jam and clotted cream.  It didn't look like much food at first, but it was surprisingly filling!  Our favourite part was definitely the scones with jam and clotted cream, since we hadn't had before.  The clotted cream tastes something like a cross between unsalted-butter and whipped cream.

Since we enjoyed the afternoon tea experience in Stratford-Upon-Avon, we decided to try "cream tea" in Oxford.  "Cream tea" sounds to us like it's just tea with cream in it!  Turns out that "cream tea" here actually refers to a "lighter" version of "afternoon tea" - just tea, scones, jam, and clotted cream.  We also learned that cream tea is a hot debate topic - what's the "proper" way to eat a cream tea? jam first? or cream first?  

Fortunately the Brits have done extensive research to scientifically prove the optimal way to construct your cream tea:  Revealed-the-scientific-formula-for-the-perfect-cream-tea.   Yay for "science" funding!  :)

We also found a cool shop in Oxford called Demi-John where they brew various homemade liqueurs!  We poison-tested a few and settled on the Morello Cherry Liquor and the Ginger Wine to take home :)  Yum!!

When in England, do as the English do... Pimm's o-clock on the train ride home!

Rollerblading London

We finally returned to London to work for 3.5 months.  This time we decided to bring our rollerblades with us because Jen discovered a free rollerblading event that occurs every Friday and Sunday (year-round) through different parts of London. 

The event is really cool - it'a run by volunteers who select different routes each week and ride ahead, blocking off the roads to ensure the group stays together and is safe from traffic.  They even strap big speakers to their backs so we can all roll along with synchronized dance music blasting away in the background.

Our first week was during the Olympics so they went from Hyde Park all the way to the Olympic Stadium - around 25 km total.  On that route, we saw most of the big attractions in London including Regent Street, Big Ben, the London Eye, and the Tower of London. 

For our second week we did a smaller loop North of Hyde Park (13 km) and saw a less touristy side of London. 

The London Friday Night Skate ( is free, really well organized, and accessible to anyone who is able to skate, turn, and stop.  It's great fun and we highly recommend it!