Tag Archives: st james park

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.

Jelly Babies, corgis and running achievements

15 Mar

The very first British candy I ever tried was Jelly Babies. My dad traveled to the UK for work in 2002 and brought me back a host of cool British souvenirs — a die-cast right-hand drive lime green Beetle, a Meat Loaf and Friends CD not available in the US, and Jelly Babies.
jelly babies running fuelI remember thinking how weird and foreign they tasted. Their colors were so dull thanks to the natural coloring and flavoring. And they were covered in this weird white powder (which I later learned is starch, which helps release them from the mold at the factory). Still, my family gobbled them up.

Surprisingly, I haven’t had Jelly Babies since — or at least until today.

When I first got into running I swore to myself I would never run a distance that required me to “fuel” while on the run. I lied. While the length of distance that requires fueling is up for debate (some running pros don’t even fuel during half marathons) and my 5, 6 or 7-mile runs probably don’t require fuel, I wanted to experiment to see how “fueling” would affect me. Most runners use energy gels, which are basically just sugar — expensive sugar. You know what else is basically just sugar? Jelly Babies. According to various UK running blogs and forums, Jelly Babies are quite the popular running fuel. And they’re downright cheap — I got a bag at Aldi for 59p (84 cents).

So I wrapped up 2 Jelly Babies in plastic wrap, stuck them in my pocket, and set off to do 7 miles around Buckingham Palace and St. James Park. I ate the Jelly Babies around mile 4.5 and 5 while stopped at lights. They tasted even more magical than I remembered, but that also could be because I was hungry for anything. It was only when I ate one several hours after I got home that I realized how sickeningly sweet they are. It may have been a little placebo effect, but I was able to dig deeper and really push myself the last 2 miles of my run. A 7-mile run probably doesn’t require fuel, but if it helps a little, I’ll take any excuse to eat candy I can get.

I can’t believe I’ve waited this long in the post to mention it: In St. James Park I saw not one, not two, but THREE CORGIS! THREE! Two of them were together and then I saw another, different one on my way out of the park. As always, I tried to stealthily snap a photo, but this is the kind of photo you get when you don’t stop running:

corgis st james park

I really need to stop being so shy and just talk to the owners, even if I usually am a sweaty mess.

Speaking of being a sweaty mess, I also need to share this running achievement:

march 13 run

On Sunday Stephen and I had our first sub 9-min/mile pace 4-mile run. It was also my first sub-8 min mile. While on most of my runs I’m just happy to stay under 10-min miles, it felt really good to push myself. I wanted to die by the end, but it’s good to know that I’m capable of going faster. As the guy at the running store said almost 3 years ago (!) now, I’m a better runner than I think I am.

My first real long run

16 Feb

Today I ran 7.3 miles. Seven! That’s almost 12 km. Until today the longest I’d ever run was 10K (6.2 miles). I want to say I did it because I’m following a strict half marathon training plan, but I’m not. If I do sign up for the half it isn’t until September and most training plans are only 10 or 12 weeks. I did it because it was a beautiful sunny day (a balmy 43F/6C degrees), I ate way too much cake and chocolate over the past few days, but mostly because I wanted to see if I could. And I did! Not only that, but I did it well — though my legs were getting a bit tired by the end, part of me wanted to go longer. I even ended up with negative splits! (Translation: I ran the last few miles faster than the first few). It was such a refreshing feeling, especially after my disaster of a run last week.

I think part of what got me going was the new route. I ran through Hyde Park down to Green Park and Buckingham Palace then through St. James Park. The change of scenery was nice, though it seems every other Londoner and tourist was out and about enjoying the weather too, so I had to do a lot of weaving and dodging. I did manage to see the famous St. James Park pelicans, though none of them were eating a pigeon.

st james pelicans.png

Then I stopped to take a photo of Buckingham Palace to prove I was there, but the combination of the glaring sun, my tinted sunglasses and gloved fingers gave me this:

blurry buckingham palace.png

I didn’t even realize it was blurry until I got home. I snapped 5 photos and this was the only halfway decent one.

buckingham palace.png

We’ll see how I feel tomorrow, but right now I feel good. I did fall asleep for 20 minutes while working with my laptop on my lap this afternoon, so I guess I was a bit exhausted, then later on I wanted to eat ALL THE THINGS, but hopefully my hips and legs will not be too sore tomorrow and I can make long runs a regular thing.

I got day seats but didn’t see a pelican eat a pigeon

21 Feb

Yesterday I woke up early to partake in my favorite London activity: queuing for day seats. A friend and I saw Harold Pinter’s “Old Friends.” I wanted to see it because it got rave reviews, plus it stars Kristin Scott Thomas, and I’m a sucker for seeing celebrities up close and making awkward front row eye contact during the curtain call. Thomas and the rest of the cast were brilliant, but when the show was over my friend and I looked at each other with the same “OK, who’s going to say it first?” face. “I didn’t get it,” she said. I didn’t either. This shouldn’t have surprised me considering under its review “Time Out London” ran a section titled “WTF is going on in ‘Old Times?'” Yet after reading the various theories, part of me wants to see the show again. Maybe when it’s warmer.

After I got my tickets I had the usual day seat conundrum: Do I waste the time and money to go home only to come back in a couple hours, or do I wander around London until lunchtime? This time I decided to bring my new camera and wander around London, especially since I was meeting my friend for lunch before the show. I formulated this plan from the warm comforts of my flat. After I stood in the cold for an hour queuing, walking around for three hours in the cold didn’t seem like the brightest idea. But I had my camera with me and I wanted to get more practice with it — and I wanted to see the pelicans. So despite it being in the opposite direction of the theatre and restaurant, I meandered down to St. James’s Park in the hopes of witnessing this:

If my post title didn’t spoil it for you already, I did not get to witness a pelican trying to eat a pigeon, but I did get some photos of other birds.

Here is the obligatory pigeon on a sign photo:

st james park pigeon

Trying to be artsy:

waterfowl of st james park

I don’t know what this funny black bird is called (should have read the sign above, perhaps?) but they were everywhere and they have weird feet.

black bird weird feet

Birds going crazy over some bread and I experiment with shutter speed:

London seagulls

seagulls london

This girl was happily feeding the geese until this seagull wanted in on the action:

feeding birds london

I wandered through the park trying to find the pelicans, until I noticed a crowd.

pelicans london

Pelicans! They were just standing around like they’re used to people surrounding them with cameras.

london pelican

All my pelican photos started looking the same, so I moved back to the geese and a black swan sneaking up on them:

st james goose

OK, one more pelican pic:

st james pelican

And the funny-looking black bird again:

funny black bird

Classic London scene as I left the park:

st james park

So apparently the Horse Guards Parade actually does involve parading through the streets occasionally? Caught this procession as I left:

horse guards parade

I like the juxtaposition between the old fashioned horses and taxi speeding by.

london horses

In fact, I liked the speeding taxi effect so much I tried to replicate it. I had watched a Youtube tutorial about making the car focused and the background blurry and vice versa, but it was a lot harder to achieve in practice. I stood there on the street corner constantly photographing cars driving by and adjusting my camera settings. Since I still don’t know my camera very well, most of the photos turned out horrible and overexposed. This is the only picture that turned out kind of neat:

london black taxi

As I was working my way towards the restaurant, I passed Chinatown, which still has its Chinese New Year decorations up:

london chinatown new year

…And that’s all the photos I took. Apparently I have a thing for testing my camera out on birds — they’re easy to find in London and more interesting than the same tired shots of Big Ben.