Last Weeks in London

Since we weren't able to get UK work Visas for the rest of the year, we had to hop back and forth to London for meetings every 6-7 weeks in June, July, and September.  Each trip was only a week long, so we didn't have time to do much sight-seeing.

We spent a lot of time doing what the Londoners do.. drinking with friends and coworkers!

We also made time to check out the Turner paintings and other "art" at the Tate Britain Museum.

Dom and I don't often go to art museums.  There's usually some stuff that we like, but there's also a lot that we just.. don't.. really.. get!  Here are a few examples:

Sarcophaguses made from slices of old bread with bites taken out of them... ?

A canvas with just black and yellow intersecting lines

A painting called "Veil"... that's just an entirely black canvas
If someone can explain the significance of these pieces and why they're amazing enough to be in a prestigious museum, please enlighten us, we're really quite curious!!

Secret Cinema

During our July trip to London, we had a team building at the "Secret Cinema" in London.  

Secret Cinema is a unique interactive cinematic experience where they show an undisclosed film at an undisclosed location, which is usually some sort of warehouse that you find out a couple days before your event date.  There are elaborate sets and actors that act out scenes from the movie and interact with you as though you're part of the world.  

This year, they decided to disclose the name of the film ahead of time: Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back.  

Prior to the event, viewers were invited to begin immersing themselves into the world through an elaborate website that provides you with a "character" for dressing up, plus helpful items that you could bring for the event (dress and items are optional).

In addition to being immersed and participating as "extras" in various scenes of the film, you also figure out that there's also a bit of a side game going on in the world, so the more you interact with the various characters, the more tasks you accomplish to progress to stages/scenes of the film.  

It's impossible to describe how amazing and elaborate the entire setup and experience was!!  Since it was mandatory for everyone to seal their phones and cameras in electrical static-bags at the beginning of the event, we don't have any of our own pictures of the amazing sets and characters to post :(  But here are some pics that we grabbed from this article.. these are images from scenes that we actually experienced!

The event is a bit expensive but it lasted 6-7 hours and all of us, including the skeptics in the group, were blown away by how well done and amazing the experience was.  The event is only ever offered for a limited time, but if you happen to be in London when a secret cinema is happening, you absolutely HAVE to go!  It was SO much fun!!

Alternative London

London has an awesome graffiti culture. To learn more about it, we did a 4 hour graffiti tour&workshop with Alternative London.

We spent the first hour of the tour walking through the streets as our guide, Kia, opened our eyes and minds to the world of London street art.  His excitement and passion were contagious, so we both gained a new appreciation for the various styles and works that he pointed out to us.  

The most fascinating piece that we NEVER would have noticed without taking this tour was done by a street artist who paints the gum that's stuck to the sidewalks!!

We returned to their office, a big green bus in a yard, and started to make our own graffiti stencils.  They taught us some basic techniques using the spray cans and then set us loose to test our our graffiti skills on the practice boards!

The tour was so interesting that on our way home, we decided to detour through Bricklane - another area known for its street art. 

Our London graffiti experience wouldn't be complete without checking out the Millennium Bridge.  You could basically walk the entire bridge without ever noticing anything (and most people do!).  If you look down and pay close attention, you'll start to see the hundreds of pieces of gum that have been painted!

The Tail of London Winter

So after 2 nice warm winter months in Vietnam we were called back to London, earlier than expected, and just in time to experience the tail end of London's winter.  Let’s just say that London in February is really cold and... not that exciting.. but we made the best of it!

We had Chris bring our "work luggage" to Vietnam since it sounded like we might have return to London early.  The day before we left for Vietnam, we had thrown the luggage together in a rather frantic "just-in-case" state of mind, so it was somewhat ill-prepared - just enough work items to wear something different each day.. which is great if you're only here for a week, but it really started to get noticeable after 10! 

Within a week of arriving, London got snow.. not a lot of snow, but enough to cause a bit of excitement since it's a somewhat rare occurrence here.  We tried to stay warm by checking out few museums and markets that we hadn't been to previously.

Besides weather-shock, we also experienced some sticker shock going from $0.75 Banh-Mi Vietnamese subs in Mui Ne, to $6 vegetarian subs in London.

We splurged on a couple of movie nights to keep from going too stir crazy in our little apartment.  We saw "Kingsman: The Secret Service" (admission ~$25/person), and "Suite Francaise" at the Electric Theather (admission ~$36/person)!. 

We also opted to attend a geeky weekend at the Swift Summit (a 2-day conference on Apple’s new programming language, Swift).

We also paid about $50/person to have ourselves locked inside a room for an hour, with 2 of our friends.  Hint Hunt is a real-life "escape room" where you have 1 hour to search the room for clues, and solve puzzles that will lead to being able to escape out of the room.  We were a bit nervous and unsure of what to expect but we all really enjoyed it and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and unique experience!  We won't say anything more about it since we don't want to ruin the experience for anyone :)

Last, but not least, we met and worked with lots of great people!!

Surprise Dinner with Rosemary

Jen’s friend's mom, Rosemary, was passing through London after a trip to Greece with her friend.  They contacted us and we set up a dinner date at a nice Thai Restaurant in Soho.  
It's always so cool/crazy when you manage to successfully meet up with friends (from home), at a location half-way around the world! :)

London Fish & Chips

London is known for its fish & chips so we dedicated our second weekend to finding the best fish & chips in London!  Actually we both find fish&chips a bit too greasy, so we just selected 2 local spots to try out and crown a winner.

Trip Advisor ranked “Baileys fish and chips" #12 out of 17,940 restaurants in London, so this was our first stop.  It's a tiny local shop in a residential area nearby our apartment with very few places to sit.  We arrived early for lunch and lucked out with a spot.. 20 minutes after our arrival, the place was packed with people waiting both inside and outside of the restaurant (and it was quite cold and rainy outside!).  For 5.65£, you get a piece of fish (the size of my forearm!) plus chips.  We were both stuffed and skipped dinner that night!

On Sunday we went all the way to the other side of town to “Poppies Fish and Chips”.  They were only ranked #297 on Trip Advisor, but we decided to make the trip because Jen discovered that they are one of the stops on the popular Eating London foodie tour.  The location we went to was in a commercial area, near a really cute market called Spitalfields.  The price was a fair bit higher at 10.90£ for a similar portion to Baileys, but the restaurant has a lot more tables and a fun 60's-diner-ambiance with funky memorabilia.  

Both meals were delicious but taste-wise, we both preferred Poppies because the fish batter was lighter and less greasy, and the chips were less starchy.  We do want to mention that we really enjoyed Baileys for the cozy local feel and great service - the staff there were all super friendly and welcoming.

The Book of Mormon

Of all the great musicals in London, we decided to see “The Book of Mormon” by the creator of South Park. 
Similar to South Park, it has some overly crude parts, but overall the show is quite clever and finishes on a really nice note.  We both enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone over a certain age, as long as you have a good sense of humour and aren't easily offended!

If you want a glimpse of the show, watch the following:

Working in London

Within hours of booking our next winter escape to South-East Asia, we received a request to go to London to work at a customer site, ASAP.  We raced to get our UK work visas, which actually required us to go to Edmonton to get all of our fingerprints taken!  2 weeks later, we found ourselves in London, UK for the next month.
The customer's office is located right in central London (Piccadilly Circus) and they put us up in a cute apartment only 5 stations away from the office, so we got to experience the full-on London ambiance - pubs, shows, tourists, endless night-life, shopping, and a huge assortment of yummy restaurants.  What a great experience!
Food-wise, our highlight was an amazing raw-vegan restaurant called Tanya's Cafe (  Since the restaurant owner is our co-worker's wife, we were fortunate enough to get a sneak-peek tasting of the upcoming new Christmas cocktails.  They were so creative and the flavours were amazingly interesting!  We also sampled several raw-vegan snacks including kale-chips, a variety of vegan "cheeses", cashew "sour-cream", and raw nachos.  Everything was SO tasty and we were all blown away by the unique and delicious experience!  We had no idea raw food could be so amazing and we can't wait to go back - Jen's really hoping we will have time to take some un-cooking classes there next time! :)
Since we worked a lot while we were there (plus it rained a fair bit), we didn't get a lot of sight-seeing in, but we did manage to fit in one day of checking out the typical tourist sights.
We really enjoyed the trip and were sad that it ended so quickly... but hopefully we'll get to return again in the spring! :)


Our year-long journey started at the end of April 2012, and here we are 1 year later... filled with memories to fill our life's content. 

While in Morocco, we decided to take a ferry up to Gibraltar to spend a weekend.  Not because of any significant landmark that we were dying to see here..  but to meet up with Jen's parent who were passing through for a few hours while on their Transatlantic cruise.  They were kind enough to transport our laptops here for us, so that we can start the second part of our journey... working remotely, while travelling!

Jen was really happy to see her parents after such a long absence from home.  We met them at the base of The Rock... a huge mountain on this tiny peninsula.  We took a leisurely gondola ride up the mountain and slowly made our way down.  The day passed so fast, but it was great!
On our way down, we ran into several wild monkeys... who are apparently extremely aggressive if you have food with you.  We saw several monkeys leaping atop moving cars, and even saw one boldly go into the window of a minivan to steal a bag of food!
Since Gibraltar is part of the UK, we stopped at a Fish&Chips restaurant to enjoy a nice lunch with Jen's parent and their friends from the cruise.  Then it was time to walk them back to their cruise boat and say goodbye :(.
It's been an amazing year of travelling but we're both actually really looking forward to working and feeling productive again... not sure a lot of people get to say that in their lifetime :)
Oh!  We forgot to mention... since all of the hotels are crazy expensive here in Gibraltar, we decided to stay at a bed and breakfast.. on a boat... that's right... a boat!