Tag Archives: flowers

An actual post about the weather and getting free tea at Waitrose 

7 Apr

If there’s anything that’s helped London bounce back from last month’s attack, it’s our collective British sun guilt. The weather has been truly amazing lately — sunny and 17 (62) degrees almost every day. The flowers are in full bloom throughout the parks and seemingly everyone — from tourists to office works on lunch break — is outside.

st james park flowers.png

I’ve been running in the late morning as usual, but almost every afternoon I’ve come up with a reason to get out and enjoy the weather more. Usually it’s to go to Tesco to buy one thing (yesterday it was a cantelope, but they were out of cantaloupe so I got a mango). Today I walked unusually far to go to Waitrose to buy yogurt and get a free cup of tea. I’ve been shopping at Waitrose for years now, but I haven’t been taking advantage of their free tea or coffee with your MyWaitrose card offer until recently. Every store seems to do it differently, though. Some give you the cup when you check out, others have a special separate kiosk and you just have to scan your card. And on top of that, they recently changed the policy so that you have to buy something to get the free tea (which I thought was the policy all along. How many free cups of tea did I miss out on every time I walked by a Waitrose?). I had the following exchange at the Waitrose checkout till today:

Cashier: That will be £4.50. Do you have a MyWaitrose card?

Me: Yes ::Begins fishing through wallet::

Me: How do I get the free cup of tea?

Cashier: You have to have a MyWaitrose card, it seems like you don’t.

Inner me: Did I not just say “yes” when you asked and am I not at this moment getting it out of my wallet?

Me: I have one, here it is.

::Awkward silence::

Me: So where do I get the cup?

Cashier: Wait.

::Cashier immediately starts serving the next customer, who practically pushes me aside::

::Other cashier brings over stack of cups, cashier finally hands me one::

Cashier, calling out as I walk away with the cup: You have to have a MyWaitrose card!

It was such a bizarre exchange! Perhaps it was my mistake by phrasing it as a question. Next time I’ll be sure to say “I have a MyWaitrose card and would like my free cup of tea, please,” but if it’s the same cashier, it seems verbally and physically confirming the ownership of a MyWaitrose card is somehow not enough.

Preparation for the Great London Walk

21 Apr

One thing I love about London, or any big city, really, is that when traffic is really bad or the Tube is “properly buggered,” you can always say, “Screw it, I’m walking.” This happened to me a few months ago when I was going to apply for my Chinese visa. It had snowed — I kid you not — maybe one centimeter overnight, and it threw the entire Central Line into chaos. I had to get off at Oxford Circus and take a pricy taxi the rest of the way so I wouldn’t be late, but I was not about to do that on my way home. I figured in the amount of time I would spend waiting for a bus and transferring I could almost walk home, so I did. All 5 miles. I considered it practice for my Great London Walk.

What’s the Great London Walk, you ask?

At the beginning of the year one of my employers sent me a survey. The last question was “What are your personal goals for 2015?” or something like that. I could have put the generic “Eat better, run more, stop attacking jars of Nutella and biscuit spread with a spoon” (I’ve gotten better at that! And by that I mean I haven’t allowed myself to buy a jar of Nutella or biscuit spread in two months), but I decided I should put something specific. So I wrote “Earn the 30,000 steps Fitbit badge.”

30,000 steps is equal to about 13 or 14 miles. The closest I came was on April 22, 2014 when I hit 25,563 steps and 11.39 miles when I was in NYC. But this year I want to hit 30,000, which is where the Great London Walk comes in.

Some day this year I am going to walk 30,000 steps (maybe even more!) around London. I have not chosen a day yet, because the conditions have to be perfect. With my work schedule, I’ll have to do it on a weekend, and since Stephen is not as passionate about Fitbit steps and miles as I am, it’ll have to be a weekend when he’s traveling for work.

I’m still working on a route. I’m thinking I will plan it so I arrive at Borough Market for lunch, which is about 5 miles away, and then I’ll wander along the Thames, strategically stepping into museums for bathroom breaks. I had another training session last week when I decided to walk to Oxford Street and back. I ended that day with 21,215 steps, 9.25 miles, and legs and feet more sore than when I ran 10K. Clearly, the Great London Walk is going to require more training.

I recently upped my running weekly mileage, partly because I want to get faster and better, partly because I cannot stop eating Chinese bakery cake. I think it’s working, because I did my fastest 4 miles yet today (with a bit of cheating — I pause the app at stoplights, does that count as cheating?). Hyde Park and Regents Park are particularly beautiful this time of year, so I’m trying to soak it all in before next week, when I’ll trade royal parks for Kentucky suburbs and nature trails, at least for a month. Though it seems Christmas was just yesterday, I’m looking forward to some quality time with friends and family, and of course, American food (apparently my Easter basket is waiting for me). (See above about the need to run more).

And now some pretty Hyde Park flowers from this afternoon’s run:

hyde park flowers

Return to Regent’s Park Rose Garden

28 Jun

It still amazes me that a place this beautiful is within walking (and jogging) distance from my flat. As promised, I went back last week with my good camera when the roses were in bloom. There were a few bushes that were still budding and I’ve been checking on them each time I run. If we ever get another sunny day I may have to go back to take even more pictures.

I took more than 100 photos, but here is just a selection:

queen marys garden regents


red rose ladybug

orange pink rose

There was a school group there tasked with sketching the flowers. This little boy was goofing around until he spotted a bee and freaked out. I used to be absolutely terrified of bees, but now I realize they won’t bother me if I leave them alone (although I didn’t really because I kept sticking my camera in front of them)

kid rose

polinating bee

This is my favorite photo — my favorite color rose with my favorite shallow depth of field.

queen mary's garden

The ropes surrounding the garden were even covered in roses!

regents park roses

The place was filled with tourists taking photos (yes, if we want to get stereotypical, many of them were Asian)

asian roses

I couldn’t get over the color of these flowers, my camera didn’t do it justice.

blue nile flowers

I walked back by the pond and caught these two in a stand off:

heron standoff

Queen Mary’s Gardens

28 May

London weather is such a tease. This past bank holiday weekend was gorgeous — sunny, blue sky, perfect convertible weather. I’m sure all those who came to London for the weekend went away thinking the locals just make up stories about constant rain to keep the tourists out (oh, if only…) But today the London I know is back — grey, foggy, cold and wet.
I’m glad I took full advantage of the nice weather while it lasted. On Sunday I took my camera to Queen Mary’s Gardens. My friend told me about the beautiful rose gardens there. I had never been to nor heard of Queen Mary’s Gardens, so I decided to look up where they were.

Regent’s Park.

I walk through Regent’s Park at least once a week and yet never saw them. I “ran” near them on my treacherous 5K last weekend, so this time I decided to walk there with my camera.

Unfortunately the roses were not in bloom yet (Google says early June, so I was a week or two too early!), but I managed to see some other beautiful flowers and birds.

london tulips

Found this little duck family hanging out in the middle of the pond:

london duckling

…and this odd statue:

duck boy statue

Then I found a little butterfly and experimented with my photography:

london flowers

purple flower butterfly

butterfly bee

I don’t know what these birds are called, but they’re everywhere and have funny-looking feet:

queen marys garden bird

Now some final flower/garden pics:

queen marys garden

regents park garden

regents park flowers

The time I saw the queen’s corgis at Windsor Castle and my life was complete

13 May

On Wednesday my parents and I visited Windsor Castle, which has been a royal residence for over 900 years. Allegedly the queen considers Buckingham Palace her office and Windsor her home. So naturally I kept thinking about corgis. I got so worked up about it on the train over that I convinced my mom that there was an actual corgi courtyard. Every time we passed an open field of grass she asked me if it was it.

If they have a Pug Yard, why not a Corgi Courtyard? (No pugs were spotted in said yard. Misleading title.)

If they have a Pug Yard, why not a Corgi Courtyard? (No pugs were spotted in said yard. Misleading.)

"Do the corgis play in the waterfalls?"

“Do the corgis play in the waterfalls?”

We wandered around the castle grounds, audio guide to ear like full-blown tourists, before we entered the staterooms, where photography is strictly prohibited. My bag was heavy, every room was starting to look the same and I had tuned out my audio guide, when my mom called me over to the window that looked out into a courtyard.

“Renee!” she shouted. “Come here! Look! The corgis! They’re out there!”

Now let me pause here and say my mom has a bad habit of falsely crying corgi. It must have happened a good five times over the course of her visit, and every time it was a border collie or some other dog that in no way resembles a corgi. Plus we had been joking about the corgis all afternoon, so I was quite skeptical, but still hurried to the window.

And that’s when I saw them — three white and tan corgis and a black and tan dorgi running into a side door. They were visible for maybe five seconds — too quick to photograph, and I was afraid a guard would stop me if I got out my camera inside.

“Do you think those were the queen’s actual corgis?!” My mom asked while I was still spazzing. We decided we needed confirmation, so I approached a guard who was speaking to another guard (and thus neither would likely have seen me take out my camera, crap!)

“Excuse me,” I said. “We just saw some corgis run by — could they have been the queen’s?”

The guard, who was just minutes ago joking around with the other guy, turned serious.

“Where did you seen them?” he drilled me. I walked him over to the window and pointed.

“How many were there? What did they look like? How long ago did you see them?”

I was getting interrogated about the corgis. Is this a common problem — tourists falsely claiming they see corgis? Or are there always corgis roaming the castle who don’t belong to the queen?

After some consideration he gave me an answer — yes, they were the queen’s corgis! Her Majesty just arrived at the castle 20 minutes ago and her corgis come separately in their own van.

After that we zoomed through the rest of the rooms and went back outside hoping to get another glimpse. Here is a photo I took of the courtyard from outside. (Yes, had we been outside instead of in the staterooms when the corgis ran by I could have taken a photo, but I don’t like to think about that.)

windsor castle courtyard

And here is the same photo with the path of the corgis drawn — we’re not sure if they got out of that car or if they came from a car parked in the gate on the right. They ran into the door where the arrow is pointing and that was the last we saw of them.

windsor castle corgis

I know it is impossible to top a royal corgi sighting, but in keeping with the Windsor Castle theme, here are some other photos I took during our visit:

Does this apply to royal corgis?

Does this apply to royal corgis?

Of course I had to take some shallow depth of field shots with the flowers:

windsor tulip

windsor castle tower

windsor flowers