Archive | November, 2013

A British Sun Guilt Visit to Hyde Park

24 Nov

Last Friday (yes, I’m over a week behind on posting) I intended to stay in and clean the bathrooms, but it was sunny outside. And there is an unwritten rule in Britain that if it’s sunny and you have the opportunity to go outside, you do not stay inside and clean the bathrooms. So my camera and I walked to Hyde Park.

hyde park fall

The swans were out and looking for bread.

hyde park birds

A lady threw a piece on the swan’s back by accident.

swan bread

This swan and dog threw down… the swan won.

swan dog fight

View of The Serpentine with the Italian Fountains in the background.

hyde park london

I love that this tree has almost every colo[u]r of autumn.

london fall

swans swimming

Ravens are creepy. I thought there was something wrong with his beak until I noticed he had a piece of bread.

raven london

I guess I got too close to his precious bread so he flew away.

swans raven

majestic swan

How does the childhood story go? If you give a swan a piece of bread…

swan seagulls

… the seagulls will come.

crazy seagulls

And eventually the swan will have to share.

seagulls swan fight

I walked all the way through Hyde Park to Harrod’s in Knightsbridge to do some Christmas shopping. I’ve finally been there enough times that I know my way around and don’t end up curled up in a corner crying. Their Christmas window displays were impressive, but did not photograph well. I also decided to put my camera away because even though I’m sure 90 percent of Harrod’s customers are tourists looking for the gift shop, I didn’t want to wander around with a camera strapped to my neck.

Regent Street Christmas Lights and How Jessie J Made Me an Amoeba

20 Nov

Yesterday I ran around Christmas shopping. I mean that in the most literal sense — I laced up my running shoes and ran three miles to Oxford Street, then on to Regent Street and Piccadilly, awkwardly hugging my shopping bags as I weaved in and out of crowds of pedestrians, all of whom gave me rightful odd looks for being the crazy person who dared to run on what have to be three of London’s most congested sidewalks (what they call “pavement.”)  I like to think it was practice for my big race on Thanksgiving where I may have to weave around walkers and fellow runners. My run to the first store was purely exercise and training, but running between stores was more out of necessity because I was freezing. In fact, I stopped at Lillywhites to buy some thermal base layer shirts because it’s getting a little too cold to just layer on another T-shirt, and it’s not exactly easy to move when you look like this:


Since I often head back to the US for Thanksgiving and stay through Christmas, I don’t have any problem with London getting into the Christmas spirit in early November. (There’s no Thanksgiving to get in the way of Christmas magic!) The other day my friend asked me if I’ve been taking any photos lately, and it dawned on me — that used to be what I enjoyed and blogged about before my life was consumed by looking for a flat, moving, unpacking, and lately, working. So last Tuesday, the first day it wasn’t raining, my camera and I went down to Oxford Street to do a little shopping and take in the lights.

I came out of a store around 4:30 pm and was surprised that the lights were not on yet. Then as I made my way to Selfridge’s, I noticed more and more people gathering on the sidewalks and the street had been blocked off. When I came out of Selfridge’s, I could barely move. I crossed the street to try to avoid the crowds, but they absorbed me. We moved like a giant amoeba as police officers guided us around the block, denying us access to the stage in front of Selfridges because of the crowds. Thanks to the rubberneckers and inquisitive onlookers, we moved slower than a snail’s pace, but I learned that that night — the night I chose to leisurely walk around and take photos and shop — was in fact the night that Jessie J was to perform and officially switch on the Oxford Street lights. I just wanted to get to the other end of the street! Eventually the bottleneck broke and I was free to take back roads to Regent Street, where the lights had been turned on days earlier.

regent street lights

The lights were similar, if not the same, as last year, showcasing the 12 Days of Christmas.

regent street christmas

I like the above photo because you get the effect of almost getting run over by a double decker bus, which happens all too often.

london christmas lightsMy next stop was Carnaby Street, a tucked away pedestrian street that always has an impressive Christmas display.

carnaby street 2013

They also have some quirky shops, like the place that sells this panda getup that even I wouldn’t wear:

crazy panda outfit

And then my hands got too cold so I took the bus home. From the window of the bus I saw the hordes of people trying to get into the Oxford Circus Tube Station after the performance was over — it had to have been at least 20 people thick on all sides, just trying to get INTO the station, never mind onto a train. The Evening Standard said queues were up to 30 minutes! Score one for the bus wankers!




Excuse me, ma’am, but there’s a giant panda on your butt

11 Nov

“When you have an opportunity to include a panda in something,
a panda should be included.” -Seth Stevenson, Slate Magazine

This is not just my email signature, it’s my mantra. …Or at least it was until this morning. Up until now I’ve always included a panda when the opportunity presented itself, and when I saw an item of clothing in my size featuring a panda, I bought it. But this morning I was browsing an online store looking for new ankle boots (because nothing says “Thank you for your service, veterans!” like free shipping, no minimum), when I stumbled upon this skirt:

panda skirtI was torn. Here there was an opportunity to include a panda on something, and a panda was included. It was also 20% off plus free shipping. On the other hand, it would mean walking around with a giant panda — literally a GIANT panda — on my butt. I may have gone for it if it were a shirt — I own a giant pug face shirt, after all — but I don’t think I could handle giant panda puppy eyes staring into the soul of the person walking behind me. Plus, what shirt do you even wear that can compete with a giant panda face?

In short, there are many opportunities in life in which a panda can be included, but I’m not sure a skirt is one of them.

iPod Touch running apps

1 Nov

I am finally going to join the 21st century and get an iPhone. I say “going to” because said iPhone is already purchased (an early Christmas present!), but has just left Anchorage, Alaska after journeying through China and Korea, and is en-route to my parents’ house, where it will hopefully be there to great me at the end of the month. I’ve been resisting the smartphone bandwagon because I like my cheap pay-as-you-go plan and, perhaps most importantly, I have an iTouch. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain to my smartphone-loving friends that an iPod Touch is basically an iPhone that can’t make or receive calls. I can even text my friends’ iPhones with iMessage. I became convinced that my 3-year-old iTouch is really just a phoneless iPhone even more when I discovered it had GPS capabilities (or so I thought…).

Now that I’m getting more into running I was thinking about getting a Garmin watch, but realized I could probably use my new iPhone to track my runs. The other day it dawned on me that I didn’t have to wait until I got back to the US and unshrinkwrapped my new phone — I could use my iTouch! So I downloaded Runkeeper and headed towards Hyde Park. Everything was going swimmingly until a voice came on and told me my pace was 5 minutes a mile! Once I got into the park, the app started going berserk, drawing a crooked path and backtracking. After I finished roughly 5 miles, the app voice proudly told me I completed 11.4 miles at a pace of 6:18/mile. I probably should have posted it to Facebook to show off. At that point I blamed Runkeeper and tried MapMyRun the next day. I took a different route, thinking all the greenery and trees of the park blocked the signals. For the first time I ran for a solid hour — almost 6 miles, which MapMyRun told me was 6.75 miles — not accurate, but much more reasonable than 11.4.

My iTouch may be able to text and play games like an iPhone, but apparently it’s missing a GPS chip and just uses WiFi signals around the area. If that’s  true, it’s pretty impressive that it was only .75 miles off yesterday. I guess I will have to try out my iPhone 5s before I decide if I need a fitness watch.

(I realize this post is boring for those who don’t care about iPhones or running, so here is a picture of a fat pug and obese corgi dressed up as a fat pug and obese corgi for Halloween)

fat pug corgi halloween