Sunday, December 31, 2006

Just one sleep till 2007

The past few days in London have been alternately relaxing and stressful. London started off tres chilled out as I got here over the Christmas weekend, and basically spent the next three days reading, watching movies and eating yummy Christmas dinner leftovers.

Moved to another friends house on Tuesday in the Bethnal Green area. Quite a funky place really; full of life on the streets and off them too! A mix of little India with a good measure of China town and getto thrown in just to balance things out. Great little kebab shops, good pubs and even a Tesco just steps away - what more can you really want now?

Over the psat few days, Ive managed to dodge the crappy weather and go to Covent gardens, Soho for drinks, a walk along the canalways to Little Venice, the eclectic shops at Camden Market and even a quick matinee show of The Mousetrap! I tried to get my behind to Wesminster twice now, but both times was thwarted by either crap weather or a crap hangover from drinking the night before! Still have one more day that I can go there (on the 2nd) so lets hope that pans out. If it does, then I would have come to London and done ALL that I wanted to do this time around!

And then it will be time for the next adventure!

Friday, December 29, 2006

All fun and games

Its 3:20 in the morning and we´re still up playing Charades.
I LOVE this holiday!!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Very Desi Christmas

Yesterday was one of THE most relaxed and chilled out Christmasses I have ever had! Woke up late, curled up on the couch and listened to softly playing carols, had some friends over and the menu was very un Christmas-like with Chicken biryani, raita, puris and channa masala served! And of course what's a desi christmas without cheezy Hindi movies??

And the best thing of all - I stayed in my comfy jammies all day and no one gave a damn!

Merry Christmas indeed!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Goodbye Scotland, Hello England

Friday was my very last full day in Glasgow and Skippy - pal of Very Best Friend - organized a nice lunch for me so that I would get to try Scotland's traditional dish - Haggis!

VBF and I spent the morning in the city as I had yet to see Glasgow Cathedreal - the only religious structure to survive the Reformation fairly intact. Once again, I was just awestruck by the sheer magnificance and majesty of the place. Words can just barely describe the feeling of wonder I experienced as I walked around the cathedreal. Several memorials line the walls of the outter cathedreal in memory of soldiers and warriors who perished at home and abroad in defense of their country. The inner chapel is still in use as a Church with regular services. Below, we saw the tomb of St. Mungo - patron saint of Glasgow and to who the Cathedreal is named after. Several other smaller chapels and pray stations are randomly scattered around the Cathedreal making it not just one Church, but many churches in one.

Once we had thoroughly explored the Cathedreal, we made our way to the city centre to meet up with VBF's friends. Lunch had been pushed back an hour to 4 pm now, and I was starving!!! Killed time in a little underground bar on Sauchiehalls (sp?) street and once the troops had assembed, made our way to Hengler's Circus a bar/restaurant where I finally had my first Haggis meal. It was really quite delicious, as long as one can ignore HOW its made! Wasn't all that fussed about the turnips they serve it with though - could have done without 'em! One friend even showed up wearing his kilt so it was a Scottish meal, with Scottish folk in Scottish wear. Now, can one really ask for more?

The flight to London on Saturday was rather uneventful. Got to the airport real early as I was quite worried about my baggage situation, but thankfully thanks to me unloading a lot of items with VBF and also more creative packing, I didn't have to pay excess this time. The flight was a bit delayed, but had nothing to do with the weather so I finally got to London at around 2 pm and by the time I navigated the Tube system with my baggage, got to friend's home by 4:30 pm.

The girls had planned a Christmas party for that evening, so I barely had enough time to get changed and freshen up and appear half decent before their guests arrived; And when they did arrive, it was the first time in a long time that I was surrounded by Indians and it wasn't my family! Mallus everywhere!! Big ones, little ones, tall ones and short - I was quite submerged in a sea of Mallus! But it was great listening to the Indian accents all around - kinda like a prep for when I get to Bombay in two weeks.

Today, Christmmas eve was rather low key as we woke up pretty late and then since there are about 3 different denominations of Christians in the house we had to all figure out what service we were going to, and more importantly - how does one share 3 house keys between 4 people?? After some much complicated tube/bus/rail investigations we finally had a game plan that "seemed" viable. Let's hope it actually works in practice!

Spent the afternoon wandering around Greenwhich's the main street and Palace areas that's all pretty and decorated for Christmas. Met some more friends of friends of friends and had a couple o pints together at one of Greenwhich's oldest pubs - the Spanish Galleon.

There's enough time for us all to gather around the Christmas tree, listen to some carols and just relax and share a nice quite evening before we all leave for our respective Churches.

If there's anyone out there reading this, I wish you a Merry Christmas; but more importantly I wish you a peaceful Christmas, a safe Christmas and one filled with the company of loved ones around you.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

All around Scotland - in the past 2 days!

Glancing through some brochures I realised that the Rosslyn Chapel - made infamous by Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code - was a mere 30 mins away from Edinburgh. Well, I just had to go off and check out the chapel for myself. The most amazing thing happened on the bus to Roslin; came across another tourist who just happened to be a fellow Canuck from Victoria Island, BC. Then on further investigation it turns out that Joe (the guy I met) was actually born and lived in the same wee-little-middle-of-nowhere-in-Ontario town as the Jibblett! How’s that for crazy coinkidinks??

Anyway, crazy Canucks aside the ride to Roslin was quite lovely! The weather was totally cooperative for a change and the way to Roslin was lined with rolling Scottish countryside and tranquil village scenes that I thought only existed in idyllic pictures or a movie set. After about 30 mins of meandering around the countryside, the bus dropped us off on main street Roslin – also the only street in Roslin! A quick 15 min walk later I was at the quaint Rosslyn Chapel. All conspiracy theories aside, the trip was totally worth it. The chapel is one of the most intricate works of architecture that I have ever seen a wee little chapel. I must have spent about 2 hours in there just trying to soak it all in. The chapel is currently under some much needed renovations and they have scaffolding all around the outer walls and roof. What would normally have been a bummer, turned out to be quite an experience as I was able to climb the scaffolding and actually walk around the entire chapel to take an up close look at some of the stunningly carved outer walls and a chance to take in some more of the beautiful country side.

Met my new Canuck friend back at the little pub in the village and we had just enough time to grab a quick pint before we rushed out to catch the bus back to Edinburgh. Should have stayed and had another though coz the bus apparently worked on its own schedule and turned up almost 45 mins past its due time leaving us all out in the cold and freezing our collective tails off!

Got back to Glasgow and Very Best Friend’s place just in time for a quite bite before we both headed into the city centre and met up with some of her friends for a couple o pints and some laughs. Forgot to take my camera with me, so no pics unfortunately but we’re meeting up again Friday as they’re arranging for me to have a full on traditional Haggis lunch! Somehow I have the feeling they’re all going to take the Mickey outta me and will laugh like silly when they finally tell me just what all has gone into the meal!

After the past two days of intense sightseeing, it was nice to just sleep in a bit on Wednesday and not have to rush around madly to catch trains and busses! Once we finally rolled out of bed and got going, we made our way to the west end of the city to see the “Tall Ship” the Glenlee and had a wonderful time delving into some of Glasgow’s nautical and merchant navy history.

One of the things on my “wish list” was to go to Loch Ness, but as VBF pointed out it was quite a trek up to Inverness and suggested a trip to the much closer Loch Lomond instead. So off we went today. That involved another long bus ride winding in and around all sorts of tiny towns giving me a nice insight into country Scottish life. The initial plan was to go on to Luss a tiny village along the western shores of Loch Lomond and has the distinction of being one of Britain’s most well preserved and maintained “heritage” villages. Unfortunately the weather didn’t hold out long enough and the clouds rolled in while we were still in Balloch on the south shores of the Loch. I knew that it would be near impossible to get any decent pics as the light was total crap and we decided to head back to the city instead and go check out the Gallery of Modern Art or GoMA.

Watching the news tonight brought a nasty surprise as well. Apparently the dense fog around London has been playing havoc with flights to Heathrow and Gatwick and causing huge delays and backups all over the country. It looks like my flight on Saturday will more than likely be either postponed or cancelled altogether. I now have to make a decision about whether or not to tango with fate on Saturday or just postpone going to London until after Christmas. VBF is supposed to be spending Christmas at her boyfriend's place with his family. Guess they should be prepared to set an extra place at the table!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Whisky tasting is not for the faint of heart

Day 3 of my Scottish stay saw me heading off to the fair city of Edinburgh bright and early this morning; well it was so early it wasn't even bright yet! The citylink busses are a popular mode of inter city transit in the UK, and Edinburgh is just about an hour and 10 mins from Glasgow - all things and traffic being equal. It was my first time getting into town and finding the bus depot etc. by myself, but armed with loads of instructions from Nups and a handy dandy map and my God given good looks and great sense of direction, I was just fine!

Got to Edinburgh by about 11ish and wandered about for a bit down quaint alleyways and up and down steps and turns that seemed to lead nowhere, but opened up into the cutiest little squares. After a bit of aimless wandering, I suddenly stumbled upon my destination - the Royal Mile; the street that connects Holyrood House Palace to Edinburgh Castle and is probably one of the oldest streets in the city. Still cobblestoned for the most part, and sometimes barely wide enough for a single car to fit through, the Royal Mile winds its way across the city and up the steep volcanic hill where the Castle stands proud at its summit.

The Mile itself is marked with several points of interest and historic buildings and monuments, the most noted of them being John Knox House, St. Giles Cathedreal and the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre.

I spent almost 3 hours at Edinburgh Castle trying to seep in all the centuries of history it had to offer. From the most important symbols of Scottish nationhood, Crown Jewels of Scotland The Honours of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny to Mons Meg a giant Medieval seige gun who's canon balls were said to weight over 180 kgs, Edinburgh Castle is rich in Scottish tradition and history and seeing it was an absolute delight for me.

I finally managed to tear myself away from the Castle telling myself (firmly) that Edinburgh has a lot more to offer and after one last look, and one last picture I once again found myself at the very start of the Royal Mile. Situated quite conveniently just outside the main gates was the second thing on my "must do" list - the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre! I decided to take the tour that included the tasting of several samples from across Scotland and was not disappointed with either. I only wish I could have done the tasting with someone else - sitting at a bar drinking all by youself is rather boring even though the bar staff were really nice and helpful and took some pics of Mac and me, and even offered to call me a taxi when I was done as I was rather ... *ahem*... shakey!

Still managed to find my way back to the bus stand and catch the Citylink back to Glasgow and then the local transit back home. Note to self and for those who want to do a whisky tasting: Don't do it on a largely empty stomach. The whisky goes down fine, and then tends to shoot right up to your head!

Ah well, live and learn!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Around Glasgow City

Just finished a lovely dinner and am chewing on dark chocolate bought at Gickman's Glasgow's oldest confectionery. A nice teat after a long day out and about the city. With Very Best Friend as my official giude, we went on our own made up walking tour of important sights and sounds of the city.

Started off in Tollcross where we saw the Tolbooth steeple which used to house all sorts of vile nasty prisinors awating trial and was the site of public hangings up until 1814. Just to the east is Mercat Cross a modern marker for where weekly tradings used to take place. After this particularly cheerful start, we slauntered off towards Saltmarket which is downhill from Tollcross and as the guide book said, "was the gathering spot for the filth of the area" as pretty much all the waste and gunk from the houses was thrown out into the street and made it's way down the hill and collected at Saltmarket.

And pics were taken - including one of a pub where locals were glued to the TV watching the match twix arch football rivals the Celtics and the Rangers battled it out on (and as VBF mentioned most times off) the field.

Our next destination was Glasgow Green, scene of plenty a baby and doggie stroller on the wide paths that wove all around the green. Noteable monuments there included the McLellan Arch, the Collins Fountain errected by the Temprence movement (party poopers!) and a monument in honour of Lord Admiral Nelson. At the other end of the Green stands the People's Palace and the Winter Gardens; the former a museam dedicated to the history of the people of Glasgow and the latter a veritable oasis of lush tropical paradise in the midst of a misty city. The Doulton fountain stands in front of the main entrance and is the largest Terracotta fountain of it's kind in the world. Built during the reign of Queen Vic, it depicts the four main colonies of the British Empire namely India, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

Popped in to the Barras (a flea market that's been around since 1921) next for a quick look see stopping first for a quick pic of Templeton Carpet factory which is modelled on Dode's Palace in Venice. Barras reminded me a bit of Mapusa market actually with all the little stalls around and the sellers yelling out and trying to hawk their wares. Just outside the Barras is Glickman's; the afore mentioned "sweetie shop" where I got some delish chocos!

Trekked up High street passing by some intersting landmarks of the city like 215 High St. the former British Linen Bank building and Babbity Bowster, a restored merchant's house now a popular restaurant and hotel.

At the very top of High St. is the famous Glasgow Cathedral, St. Mungo's Museum of Religious Life and Art, Glasgow Necropolis and the Royal Infirmary (that VBF had visited just the day before to get her thumb all bandaged up after being particularly klutzy with the garbage bin and a can of chickpeas!) There was just enough time to have a looksee around St. Mungo's and besdies, my camera had just decided to die out on me. I have a tentative plan to go back on Wednesday to get all my pics.

By the time we were done with the museum, it was already pretty dark and so we decided to end the tour for the day! Walked over to George Sq. in the city centre through Strathclyde Uni where VBF had lived and studied when she first came over here. No day of touristy stuff is complete without a pint of rich Scots ale and as per directed, we headed over to The Counting house just off George Sq. which used to be a bank and is one of the most impressive pubs I have ever seen! Good beer too!

Suffice to say, I'm rather pooped right now and must soon head off to get a good night's sleep as I'm planning to head off to Edinburgh tomorrow.

Toodles All!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

First days are never easy!

I can still hardly believe I'm in Scotland - actually on my first leg of the trip; it's somehow all not quite sunk in yet. Only 2 days in, and already adventures galore.

Like most trips, everything started off with the flight. I fully expected it to be terribly uneventful and that I'd sleep the entire way - coz that's what usually happens! Nope - way wrong. I must have eaten something bad on the 'plane coz a few hours in, my tummy gave way and I spent most of the flight hurling into the too tiny loo! Dizzy and disoriented was my middle name when I finally landed in London, but my worries weren't over just yet.

Made my way to Terminal 2 to transfer to my Glasgow connection and was met with the rude shock that I was 15 kgs overweight for a domestic flight and would have to pay 75 pounds in excess duties!

75 pounds!! Over my (nearly) dead body! And they totally didn't care that I had just come in on an international flight - hence the luggage! Grrr. Some quick thinking was required, and super Pixy sprang (err... more like slowly moved) into action. But first, I had to hurl again.

Right, where was I? Oh yeah - springing and action.

I figured my only way out was to bring the weight down - and that would require some very creative repacking. Basically, I noticed that they were only weighing check in luggage, and I had a knapsack that wasn't terribly full. Half an hour later, I went back to the check in desk and voila... now I was just 6 kgs overweight! Ok, so I was wearing 2 shirts and a cami, 2 pairs of socks, had a scarf wrapped onto my bag handle and another around my neck. All my shoes and every "heavy" object I could find was stacked into my knapsack and I had stuffed socks and undies all over the place - even my camera bag - which I also hung around my waist. I was wearing my leather jacket (over the 2 shirts and cami) with more things stuffed in my pockets and I was CARRYING the other jacket with things stuffed with clothes stuffed into the pockets and even the hood and sleeves!!!!

I still had to pony up the charges, but seeing as how I'd brought it down to just 6 kgs over, 30 pounds sounded a helluva lot better than the initial 75!!

I was really HOT though, and hungry too coz I had to get rid of all "transit snacks" I had carried. Still, I saved myself 45 pounds and that was worth everything!

With such a "eventful" start, this holiday is sure going to be a crazy one!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Out of body experience

T minus 7 hours to my flight and I'm sitting here at home, having a complete out-of-body experience.

Bags have been packed.
Documents have been checked.
Affairs have been settled.
Goodbyes have been said.

There is literally nothing TO do until I leave for the airport at 7:45 pm.

If anything, I'm terribly sleepy, as I slept really poorly last night. Woke up in a cold sweat at about 2:30 am and totally panicked and basically had a "What-was-I-thinking-when-I-decided-to-take-off-for-4-months" kind of moment. Was also painfully close to jumping online and trying to hawk my tickets on Ebay! The moment passed, but then I just couldn't get back to sleep, so had to watch some really bad late late late night TV including reruns of shows that should never have made it to Prime Time in the first place!

Hopefully all this lack of sleep will work in my favour and I'll just pass out as soon as we take off and wake up when we're landing. That's the best kind of flight!

S'long all. The next post will be from Pixy in Scotland!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Last weekend in the T Dot

As always, I packed just way too much into my weekend and this week even more so coz I kept telling myself "Well it's the last one for the next 4 months....!"

Finally got all my shopping done on Friday and nearly had a minor stoke when I added up all my receipts and discovered that I had spent upwards of $600 in 4 hours! In all fairness, everything I bought was a necessity including the "big purchase" of the day - a $350 all weather Titanium jacket that comes with a fully removeable fleece lining and the dinkiest little pockets everywhere! Very Best Friend whom I am visiting in Scotland assures me that the jacket will come in handy when I get there, but for now I'm still a bit shell shocked as to how much I dropped on it. FYI, that's the most I've EVER spent on anything for myself.

Friday night was supposed to be quiet night at home with the Jibblett, but midway through my shopping I got a call from him saying that we were going to visit one of his friend's and the friend's (relatively) new baby. So much for a quiet night - after an adequate amount of baby worship seen here and an equal amount of kudos to their puppy named The Dude, we made our way home just about catching one of the last trains by the skin of our teeth.

Saturday night saw us heading over to the House of Christmas Fun with The Lady Killer and his GF Cosmo Girl for some festive fun with friends. Jibblett - who is the biggest Grinch of them all had a lovely time inspite of all the Christmas cheer floating around. Perhaps copious amounts of alcohol was responsible for that... or perhaps it was just another Christmas Miracle!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Best day ever!

Yesterday was a truly relaxing day. No stress, no worries, no problems!

Met up with Travis for lunch downtown - so nice catching up with him after AGES. I didn't realize how much I'd missed him and just had to give him this big hug that nearly knocked him over! Lunched at East Side Mario's and caught up on all the "office gossip" and actually went back to the hallowed halls of the Rogers Centre to say hello and bye bye to the TSS staff.

Wandered over to Chapters on John St. and proceeded to use up my $100 gift certi and oooo I had so much fun just buying books without giving a second glance to how much they cost!

List of my new best friends:
Dracula - Bram Stoker
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Tales from Firozsha Baag - Rohinton Mistry
The Undomesticated Goddess - Sophie Kinsella
World Mythology - Roy Willis
Cracking India - Bapsi Sidhwa
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Best of P.G Wodehouse - P.G. Wodehouse
Best Stories from Indian Classics - V.S. Naravane
The Sari Shop - Rupa Bajwa
Olivia note cards and matching envelops!

Total bill - $139.72
Total price paid after discounts, i rewards and gift certificates - $34.72
The joy of owning books - PRICELESS

Wrapped up my day with my last West Coast Swing class for the semester. Sad to say goodbye to dance, but it's only for a while and I'm sure I'll be able to pick right up when I get back. For those looking to start a new and fun hobby I HIGHLY recommend WCS! Check out deets at Toronto Swing Dance Society or my teacher Julie's website.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Footloose and Fancy Free - at last!

After 2 months of constant reading, research and preparations.... I finally presented my workshop on Assertiveness Training on Saturday. It went according to plan and I'm so glad that the participants actually responded to the exercises etc. Now, it's out of my hands while I wait for my evaluation and my final grade. *fingers crossed*

What better way to celebrate a landmark occasion than meeting up with friends? And that's just what I did! Decided to combine my "housewarming" with "Au Revoir" and had a bunch of friends over on Saturday night. Lots of fun... but not as much when you're the hostess coz there's a crap load of running around to be done! Still, I'm really glad I could meet up with everyone coz it will be 4 months before I see them again!

Now that the presentation is finally done, I can concentrate wholly on my travel plans. No word yet from the Indian consulate, but the website did say 5 business days and that will be on Dec 6th. So I'll panic AFTER that! I still have a long list of "must buys" which is not just limited to Christmas presents, but terribly practical things like nice warm travel jacket, new warm socks, funky "going out" pair of jeans, hair ties (I lose these a LOT), travel size body lotion for my dry dry skin..... and that's only the stuff that I can think of right now. I'm sure there's MUCH more!

Arrrgh I HATE shopping!

Friday, December 01, 2006


Being the low tecchie person that I am, I'm always worried when I log on and my blog doesn't look just right. Of late, the side bar with my name and the links and previous posts etc. hasn't been where it should be. It's been waay wayy down at the bottom of the page causing me to scroll anxiously till I locate it. Even when I do locate it, I'm only marginally pleased, coz I know it's not where it should be! And it's also only a tad pleasing when I see that someone else's blog is just as messed up as mine. But then I don't know if we're both tecchie challenged people, or its just Blogger being Blogger.

Suffice to say, all this worry is no good. Especially after just 5 hours of sleep last night. I have to find the strength in me to stumble across town to meet my practicum partner and go over the fine points of our presentation for tomorrow.

I will be SO happy tomorrow at 4 pm! Until then, trepidation and nail chewing.

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