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Archive for May, 2012

The wait to go to the Queen’s Garden Party is almost over! Steve and I headed down to London on Monday in preparation for the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace Tuesday.

Being the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year makes it even that more special so we wanted to get to London the day before to give us time to get ready. Steve took the day off to drive down to London early and get settled into the hotel. We couldn’t wait for this amazing, high energy and emotional event.

We arrived at the hotel at noon, which is a couple of hours before check-in, so we parked our car in the closest car park, at Victoria Station, down the street from the hotel. We researched the parking situation online the week before and found that there were only 83 parking spaces in this car park and you could not reserve a spot. When we got there, there was just one spot left – it was just for us. Our energy was high and we were “in the groove.”

Victoria Station

We went into Victoria Station to eat a light lunch, relax and plan out the rest of the day. After lunch we walked to the tube station downstairs and bought the new limited edition Oyster card, a big money-saver for tube and bus travel in London. We already have Oyster cards so we really didn’t need new ones, however these Oyster cards have the Queen’s photo on them in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee.

Oyster card in hand, it was back to the hotel to check in, unpack our clothes and then off to walk a trial run of the course from our hotel to Buckingham Palace. All around the Queen Victoria Statue at Buckingham Palace the work crews were setting up for the concert on the weekend and the Queen’s Jubilee event.

Workmen setting up to the Diamond Jubilee

We took pictures and walked around the outside of the Palace area talking to the street workers and the police about the road closures and taxi drop off places near the front of the Palace.

Queen Victoria Memorial

We left no stone unturned. We wanted to make sure that the logistics of the day were clearly laid out and that getting to the Palace, finding the gate to queue at, and getting back to the hotel would run smoothly and in a relaxed manner. It was a beautifully warm evening and we walked back to the hotel stopping for a light dinner and then off to bed to get a good night’s sleep before the “Big Day.”

Our hotel was down the street from Victoria Station, one of London’s major train and tube stations. It was also walking distance from Buckingham Palace – if we were not dressed in our fancy clothes, shoes and hat, and the temperature wasn’t in the high 70’s. Of course we were not complaining at all about the weather as that is the weather that I “ordered” to make it a picture perfect day to attend the garden party.

Walking the Mall

The preparation process was unbelievable. You would think that we were going to see the Queen – oh yeah, we were. It actually began about a year ago when we were told that our names had been put on the list to receive an invitation to the Queen’s Garden Party. There is the dress, the shoes, the hat, the hairdo, the make-up and the weather. Steve was easy as he had the suit and matching tie to my outfit and his shoes. He took care of the hotel, parking and taking off the few days from work. I arranged for us to go to my cousin’s house just outside of London after the Garden Party and stay with them overnight and share the excitement with them.

Buckingham Palace with Queen Victoria Memorial in the Foreground

After all of this preparation, as we slowed down a bit, it then dawned on us and we realized that this is really happening and that we were just one day away from seeing the Queen and having tea at her Garden Party. What a way to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, by attending her Garden Party.

Next Stop: Buckingham Palace

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It has been non-stop over these past few weeks since returning from our recent visit to California. We just attended our friends Anita and Ron’s wedding in London.

The Bride and Groom

It seems like just yesterday that I introduced them to each other, when in fact it was more than a year and a half ago. Things feel as if they are happening so fast.

“You May Kiss the Bride”

“And You May Kiss the Groom!”

It was a beautiful wedding and reception. We met some old friends and made new ones.

Maxine and Anita

Steve, Brian and Danny

The next day Steve and I were off to the Languedoc Roussillon region in the south of France to revisit the area where we are looking to buy a house. We are planning for early retirement.

Funny thing is that Anita and Ron have also decided to make France their home so we are going to be neighbors – actually about an hour and a half away from each other. We had the opportunity to visit them and have dinner at their place in France the end of February on our first trip to the area in search of a property.

We look forward to many years of fun times and making memories together with them and the new friends that we will make along the way.

The Happy Couple

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It is amazing what you can learn on a short taxi ride.

When we moved to England four years ago I chose, for the first time since I was 16 years old, not to have my own car. The main reason being that I wanted to immerse myself in the English culture and I know that many people use public transportation to get around town. Living in a city with a population of 100,000 people and the 4th largest cathedral in the UK, I felt that it was conducive to walking everywhere that I needed to go on a regular basis. The other things that I needed a car for I could do with Steve when he gets home from work. I do have my UK driving license so I can drive the car it is just that Steve takes it to work every day.

Walking contributes to a healthier lifestyle, getting the exercise that I need every day, it is also better for the environment and it saves the expense of owning and maintaining a car. I have found that the places that I discover, the people that I meet and the stories that I hear far outweigh the few inconveniences of not having my own car.

Having said all of that, there are times when I need to take a taxi and today was one of those times.

After my Doctor’s appointment I stood outside the front of his office shopping bags in hand waiting for the taxi to pick me up to take me uphill to our apartment. The taxi drove up and I opened the door and placed my shopping bags and handbag on the back seat, stepped in and sat down, and as the taxi drove away, the conversation began.

My taxi driver Leo, as they call him, is from Morocco. He hears my American accent and asks me where I am from. I answer, “Southern California.” He replied, “I knew it was an American accent.”. Then he told me that his sister is a doctor living in Texas.

I like to get to know people and hear their stories even if it is just for a few minutes, so I asked him how long he had been driving a taxi. He answered, “Just a few months, it is only a part time job for me.” I then asked him what his other job is. “I work as a chef in a local restaurant here in town.” Steve and I have eaten in many of the local restaurants so I asked him which one. He tells me and I said, “That is one of our favourites.” We then start to compare notes on the changes it has gone through since the owner passed away and the manager, a friend of both of us, has left.

We both agreed that it just isn’t the same.

We then arrived at my apartment, I paid him the fare and he said that it was nice to meet me and I said “We will see you at the restaurant for dinner.” I smiled as he drove off to his next client.

It just goes to show that we live in a city with a close community where everyone seems to know someone that you know.

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