Last week in L-Town

I was lucky to get work back at PwC for our last week in London (24-28 Nov), such a nice surprise after having been off work for three weeks. Was good to get some more money in our bank but also gave me a chance to spend some more time with the friends I’d made at work. The time just flew by so quick with us both working hard, packing our stuff up and attending various farewell events. Wednesday we had drinks at Bar Kick (lots of laughs trying my hand at foosball) followed by a curry on Brick Lane. Thursday night was drinks with all the lovely PA’s from PwC and even a few of the Partners took time out of their busy schedules to wish me well (and open up their wallets and buy us some wine!). Sunday night we cooked a roast dinner at Pam and Kev’s and had Louisa and Tim over. It was so hard saying goodbye to everyone, but at least we know we’ll be seeing the kiwi contingent in the next year or two.

Sunday 30 Nov was supposed to be our departure date but because of the protestors in Bangkok’s airports our flight was cancelled and we weren’t able to fly until Wednesday 3 Dec. Pam & Kev were darlings and let us stay in their lounge which was such a big help (thanks again guys!). We were pretty down about the delay as we were totally ready to leave and were gutted at having to spend our hard-earned pounds on stupid things in London + needless to say the weather was crap! Our Thailand holiday was therefore reduced by a few days but as you will read in the coming (uber long) posts it didn’t really matter and we had a blast. So so glad that we didn’t get caught up in the hype and change our flights to avoid Thailand that’s for sure!

Winter Wonderland

On our last Tuesday in London (ahhhhh), Niki met me after work at Hyde Park for us to go check out the Winter Wonderland set up there. It was absolutely gorgeous, the main attraction is an ice skating rink and an observation wheel, which just looks stunning at night. There are lovely Christmas lights and lifesize Santa figurines everywhere, christmas-fied carnival type rides, also cute traditional German market stalls selling wonderful arts and crafts, and then there is of course the stalls of food including of course German sausage, Dutch poffertjes, crepes, mulled wine etc etc.

I know it's shocking but we didn't spend a penny! I'm not a fan of ice skating and the food was super expensive and since it wasn't really a meal time we were happy to just look, although I must say I would've loved to have brought some of the crafts, they were amazing (damn luggage allowance)!

I was wearing stockings and work shoes and as it was super chilly out after 40 mins or so my toes started to become rather numb and I had shooting pains up my foot - so I figured it was time to leave. For those in London you must go check this out... there is a similar winter wonderland in Edinburgh which I recommend as well =) Enjoy, have a poffertje or two for me. xx


On Friday we were up at 6am and I went “to work” with Niki. His boss had arranged it so that Niki had a few deliveries to make all in the direction of Wales, meaning I got to briefly see beautiful Oxford and a handful of other small English towns including a fandangle property belonging to some Duke or another. We are really lucky with Niki’s work as we are able to use the work van and petrol, free of charge!! We arrived in Wales by 2.30pm which gave us extra time to see a bit more of Wales than we had originally anticipated. We made a stop in Chepstow to see the Chepstow castle and a bit further up, the ruins of the 13th century Tintern Abbey. The abbey remains remarkably complete for it’s age, and is now basically a large brick “shell” of a church and is rather eerie yet lovely.

From there we continued on to our accommodation at Newport where Gina & Ben arrived around the same time. That evening we took a train (15 mins) into Cardiff and had a good catch-up over a pub meal. Saturday morning we made our way back into Cardiff for a cooked breky before heading to Cardiff Castle for a couple of hours. I’m not really into castles or history, or anything intelligent really and hardly ever bother paying an entry price but I’m glad I did for this one. We got an audio guide and also a guided tour of some of the rooms of the castle (unfortunately no photos allowed) but they were spectacular, all the artwork, wood carving and detail is amazing.

Early afternoon we decided it was time to head to a pub, the streets were all filling up by then with lots of rugby colours and flags on display. We found a random pub and managed to squish inside, I had a strawberry cider (never seen that before) which was delish. A group of men started singing welsh songs which was really neat…we were to hear a lot more of that later during the course of the game. We decided to keep moving and try a few different pubs, stopping for a hot Cornish pastie in between as it was freezing outside.

We made our way to the Millenium stadium at 4pm as the boys didn’t want to miss a thing (kick-off wasn’t til 5:15pm!). The stadium is right in the centre of town which is very handy. It was cool seeing it so empty and then 10 mins before kick-off it was chocker. It was a pretty poor first half with no tries being scored and Wales managed to be beating us by 3 points at half-time (9-6)! To be honest, I don’t mind watching sport as long as we’re winning - not because I really care who wins, I just don’t like dealing with the sport-result-induced mood-swings of a kiwi bloke!!! But Niki didn’t seem phased at all at this point, and in fact was still on a major high after hearing the league result that morning!

The second half was more exciting and I found myself screaming at the players…no particular words, just screaming (and squealing too apparently)! The final score was 9-29 to us.

The streets were blocked off to cars and there were people everywhere, including many young ladies wearing far far too little for the temperature. I'm all for a skimpy outfit but I was seriously shivering and I was wearing long pants, big jacket and all the trimmings. hehe obviously I hadn't had enough vodka.

We were lucky to find a table (albeit outside) at an Italian restaurant where we had a lovely drawn out dinner - which Gina & Ben sneakily paid for (grrrr). Later we headed to a pub for a drink where the boys watched the replay of the league but by 11ish we were all shattered so home time it was!

Sunday morning we had breakfast together at the hotel and then went our separate ways, and sadly we won’t see each other for another year at least! Niki and I headed to Barri Island which I’m sure was once a cute seaside village but is now unfortunately overtaken by the british staple of awful tacky theme park rides, casinos and gaming arcades. It was extremely windy and cold so we only explored for 15 mins before hurrying back to the van! We arrived home at around 6pm, with my time as a passenger being occupied by speaking to drunken Toni & Louisa lining up for the walkie post churching.

Nobody puts Baby in a corner

So I’d been unemployed for 2.5 weeks and had made good use of the time, cleaning the flat, travelling to NY (getting engaged!!!!), and just generally tying up loose ends, trawling the internet, relaxing etc etc. By Wednesday 19th I’d hardly left the house for three days and was constantly dressed in trackies and a hoody (with frizzy hair!), so I decided it was high time I got spruced up and out of the house.

Dirty Dancing (the stage show) was on my list of must-sees before I left London but as I had (typically) left it so late to arrange, there were no decent seats available on the dates Toni and I could go. On a wim I decided I would go alone (bit of character building) and just get the cheapest seat possible. So I went into the box office and asked for the cheapest seat (it wasn’t actually as awkward as I thought it would be asking for just the one ticket!). Anyway the girl suggested I pay £22.50 rather than £15 to get a much better seat which I was happy to pay, and that price wasn’t even available online.

I arranged to meet some work friends for lunch and they had 50% off vouchers for Zizzi – so it meant we could dine in style rather than the usual manky £5 lunch meal deal - I had a scrumptious mushroom and chicken risotto….mmmmmm. After an extended lunch hour, I followed them back to work and visited other friends on a different floor, used the facilities (photocopier, water cooler and loo!) and then hightailed it back outside to enjoy the last hour of daylight. I basically had three hours to waste before the show, so I wandered in and out of shops, walked around Trafalgar Square and up to Covent Garden, which is all so beautiful and I’m sure once I get home I’m going to wish I spent more time there!

Dirty Dancing was really good. The girl who played Baby really looked the part although I thought they could’ve cast some of the others a bit better, or at least put wigs on ‘em! But I guess that’s only because I know the movie so well and it’s hard not to compare them. The girl playing Penny (ex-rockette dance instructor) was awesome and super duper hot.

They had added a few extra scenes especially for the stage show and they generally pulled it off really well. Because it was a “musical” some of the cast sang but other big songs from the movie, for example “Hungry Eyes”, were just on a backing tape. The set was really well done with a revolving o-shape panel in the middle of the stage, and I loved how they did the water scene! The dancing really was magnificent and the audience squealed when Johnny got Baby out of that damn corner. It was lovely, I was grinning like an idiot and cheering and clapping too. I’m so so glad that I saw it.

It was acceptable in the 90’s

Saturday 15 November was my “last” weekend in London so to make the most of it us girls decided we should head out and sample some of London’s city night life. We had seen a weekly 90’s party at WaxBar advertised on the handy “London Loop” e-mail and thought that sounded like a bit of us.

Minus the 90’s fashion, Pam, Toni and I met up early at Louisa’s house for dinner nibbleys (including maggi onion dip…now there’s a reason to head home in itself, YUM), vodka fun and girly chat, with saint Nicola arriving at 9ish with a fresh bottle of voddie in tow.

The girls were all rather tipsy by the time we dragged our butts to the tube station at 10:30pm, and this state of mind combined with the all important full “water” bottles and an empty carriage, lead to some rather amusing antics including dancing and photo posing, earning us a special mention over the intercom by the train driver… lucky for us that he had a sense of humour as drinking on the tube is now forbidden (we so bad ass!)

We met up with Maz & Robert (our new Aussie pals) who had secured a good seating pozzie near the d-floor where we proceeded to cut some serious shapes to the loveable tunes of the 90’s. The DJ was “rocking” and was kind enough (after much harassment and pinkie promises from Toni) to play Dave Dobbyn’s “Slice of Heaven” so we had a big nostalgic group dance, a scene somewhat reminiscent of the Grumpy Mole. Later our thirst was quenched by “ice ice baby” cocktails…I totally love the cheese-factor of the 90’s.

We had to put our names on the guest list and pay a cover charge to get in to this club, and disappointingly it was all a big hoo-hah over nothing special… Luckily we all have personality-plus and had a fandangle night anyway, but I ain’t recommending it to anyone…


Wednesday 12 Nov I went to the O2 Arena to see Kanye West in concert with Pam. This was my first ever “very famous person” concert so I was rather excited. I had really wanted to see Madonna or Coldplay but unfortunately their concerts didn’t work with my dates, so I jumped at the chance to help Pam blow her concert diet by accompanying her to Kanye. I hadn’t seen Pam for a whole week and a half and since we’d both been travelling (her & Kev to Dublin, us to New York) we had lots to catch up on. It was lovely to share my engagement news with a girlfriend face-to-face, appropriate squealing and hugging followed.

Kanye came on at 9pm and did a 2 hour gig on stage, all by himself, no costume changes or nothing. The stage was pretty basic and the theme was them in a spaceship and getting lost, (complete with fancy smoke and lighting and girl machine space voice) which was all a tad tacky but I commend his hard work nonetheless. I only knew about four of his songs, but it was still entertaining, especially watching all the “skinny white boys” shaking their thing and raising their “diamonds in the sky”.
Toward the end Estelle showed up as a wee surprise guest so we were treated to “American Boy”. Kanye went on a bit of a tyrant against the critics and also mentioned Britney winning some award over Rihanna… I think there’s a bit of anger there, or maybe it’s for show…tough rapper and all.

I am looking forward to going to a big name pop concert next – hope my gal pals in NZ are keen!

New York New York

We arrived in NY 11pm local time on Thursday 6 November...We flew American Airlines from London Heathrow (approx 7 hours) and it was exciting having the added extras like reclining chairs, food, drinks, movie screens - you know everything you don't get on budget carriers! I was however a tad disappointed with the very limited movie selection (and it was exactly the same on the way home!)...but on a positive note I now know "Mamma Mia" off by heart (and yes, I do requests).

We struggled a bit with the subway into Manhatten, mission to say the least, very very confusing compared to London's tube that's for sure. We had bumped into a solo travelling kiwi guy (as you do) and later decided to share a cab to our respective hostels. We walked up and down West 95th Street trying to find Candy Hostel (how cute is that name) to no avail. By this time it was the equivalent to 6am London time...and we had obviously not slept for nearly 24 hours = slight freak out! We noticed another hostel across the street and a cop (a massive tall black man...very NYPD action movie type) that does security for all the surrounding hostels kindly showed us the way... through some back door... turns out our hostel is actually on West 94th street...handy that!!! ahhhhhhh, thank goodness we were in an english speaking country!!
The jet lag kinda got to us on this trip, just feeling a bit dizzy and hungry at weird times, but we managed alright and we were out of the hostel by 9am every morning and were just super tired when we got back around 10pm each night. On our first day we purchased a 48 hour hop-on-hop-off bus ticket which came in pretty handy as it included a night tour over Manhatten bridge and tours of uptown, downtown and obviously all the tourist spots. The only crap thing about them was the awful tour guides...who really were crap yet tried to drum into you that as they were part of the service industry you should tip 'em.
We went in to the Trump tower (which has cafe, restaurants open to public), Disney store, Tiffany's, M & M's store, Macy's, Century 21 (designer bargains) and Toys'R Us - which has a full size working ferris wheel, amazing large lego figurines, a giant barbie house and a "life-size" dinosaur...very cool! Times Square was fantastic, walking around that area is just like being in the movies, seriously so cool. It is manic, the billboards are unbelievably impressive and massive, the lights are blinking and yes there is a "naked" cowboy!
We wandered through "Chinatown" and "Little Italy" and ate evey takeaway you can think of including of course a street vendor hotdog, some new york cheesecake and doughnuts! We also saw the Ground Zero site of the 9-11 attacks - which is currently just a big building site, I think they have completed the basement levels but there is alot of work to be done as. There are quite a few tributes around still - we didn't go into the churches but apparently they have lots. Especially touching was a nearby fire station which is right on the footpath and it had a memorial thing set up with photos of about 8 men... which were obviously from that outfit, so very sad.

We spent some time in central park and again that was just like being in the movies!! There are a gazillion people jogging and there's those lanterns that we all love. The autumn colours are really stunning, I've never appreciated them before.

We took the Staten Island ferry, which is free, to see the statue of liberty, it was pretty exciting seeing her although it was a pretty crappy day and she was rather far away. Luckily on our last day, when the weather was beautiful, we had a free 1 hour boat trip (which we got with our bus pass) and we got so close to her, it was awesome. Plus obviously was great to see the buildings and bridges from a different angle and the guide/narrator was really knowledgable.

We took a train over to New Jersey to do a spot of shopping, we didn't buy much and it wasted alot of time, but anywho it was a bit of a thrill to have been in a different state! The view across the water over to Manhatten is pretty spectacular also.

That afternoon we lined up for the Empire State Building at 4pm but by the time we got through security and ticket purchase, and up the lifts to the 85th floor (90 mins) it was dark out, but still absolutely gorgeous. The view is terrific, would be awesome to see it on a clear day. The only thing that took away from it was the cold - luckily Niki had just purchased two big hoodies...although he was still in jandals! brrrr

On our last day we went to a different part of central park by Harlem Meer (lake) and the more manicured gardens which were very pretty. And you all know what happened next! We are engaged =)
Our flight was at 18:50 so we had time to have a quick lunch do our 1 hour boat cruise from 1-2pm, rush back to the hostel and then off to the airport - takes about 1.5 hours on the subway and airtrain. We were absolutely buzzing all day and grinning like idiots (and forever glancing at my bling). We have been together so long so I didn't think it would really change much but it is such an awesome feeling!! Anyway pics are in facebook and on the top link to the right... it's a nightmare putting them in here.

You mad cow

Nicola's flat hosted a halloween party and they were kind enough to invite a bunch of us. We had Gina and Ben staying the night prior to their early morning flight to Italy, and Toni, Louisa & Tim made the trip down from up north to attend. Their flat is just a 5 min walk for us so no battling with London public transport - yay. They had a great turn out with most people making a good effort with costumes which resulted in lots of prop swapping and of course plenty of fantastic photo opps!

At 22:45 Toni, Louisa and I thought it would be a good idea to head to the local supo and purchase another bottle of vodka... it was an entertaining journey to say the least. Unfortunately for me it was my undoing and I spent the next entire day hungover... Hayley styles... bucket required!

I must give Toni a special mention who was found asleep in our bath tub at 6am! Gina and Maz (flatmate) had both needed to pee around 5am but had both seen the light was on so figured someone was in there. Gina and Ben left to the airport - still busting. 40 mins later Maz just bit the bullet and went find Toni comatose in the bath...she wouldn't stir so what was a girl to do... she was busting! Anywho an hour later when Niki and I were transferring from the lounge to our own bed (as Gina & Ben had stayed in there) Niki noticed, and was like "Hayley, Toni is in the bath" and then he went to bed. Like it's an every day occurrence. Sort it out Hayley! Anyway it was hilarious, how that girl managed to sleep in there is beyond me. When I woke her she said "oh I was just taking out my contact lenses"... mmmm right!

Work it a little bit

So it's Halloween... a month til we leave these fair shores yet it seems that my time being an "employee" in London has come to an end... I'm still hoping to get a call offering me some sort of temp work until we leave, but really not holding my breath and also with news of the economy at home I'm feeling a little bit worried that I might end up back at Tauranga Pak'n Save. ah c'est la vie

Anyways thought I'd just post a couple of pics in relation to my uber cool workmates at PwC in London since April this year...

My darling friends from the 5th floor at work got me a Topshop voucher when I finished working for them in August. With it I brought the most beautiful wee dress by Lipsy. I’ve worn it once so far and feel so pretty in it. It will be getting recycled many a time!
And this pic below is my last day at work - 31 Oct...the super fun girls on the 3rd floor decorated my desk and got me gorgeous flowers and a wee eyore cake!! I'm also going back to see everyone on the 27th of Nov for my leaving drinks which is very cool of them all =)

Rain Man @ Apollo Theatre

So like we totally saw Josh Hartnett live on stage! It was so exciting, just a shame we had bad seats and no binoculars! I really enjoyed the play and thought the acting was pretty good and it was as much like the movie as it could be on stage with really great sets. Adam Goodley was amazing and did a convincing performance as Raymond. You could tell Josh was a bit more of a novice and sometimes we weren’t sure if he was pausing for theatrical effect or because he’d forgotten his lines! haha - he could just stand there all night and look pretty for all I care. There was a scene where his shirt came off… Toni nearly fainted.

Beforehand we met at a bar in Leicester Square and could see the paparazzi going mad for some celebrities. We don’t know who it was, assume it was some sort of premiere as there was red carpet. But just to stop and think about it we are right where all this action happens that you read about in gossip magazines. I truly haven’t taken advantage of it. Wish my stalker pals were here =)

3 day Paddy Wagon Tour of Southern Ireland

Friday morning was another early one with our meeting time being 8am at the Paddy Wagon Office. We hit the road at about 8:30am and drove out of Dublin with a quick stop at Phoenix Park (largest city park in Europe at 712 hectares - since I have no clue how big that is our guide told us it was bigger than all of London parks combined or 9x as big as Central Park!) It is so beautiful, just peaceful and acres of rolling green fields, lovely big trees and deer roaming free.

Friday was a rainy day (which I guess you’d expect of Ireland) the windows
fogged up and it was generally miserable. Our first stop was at Clonmacnoise which is the ruins of an old monastry and is littered with golden age celtic crosses marking graves. It was really beautiful and a bit spooky actually! We arrived into Galway at 3pm and had free time exploring the town. It was a cute town but we ended up in a coffee shop to keep warm and dry! That night the group went out to a pub for dinner – 3 other paddywagon tours were there at the same time so it was a massive group. We stayed for the live band and a few drinks, making our way back to the hostel before we were to turn into pumpkins.

Saturday our group of 14 (3 boys total!) took off at 9:30am – and you’ll be pleased to hear we had wonderful weather! We travelled to the Bog of Allen and passed by various castles stopping for many photo opportunities. The bog is made up of peat which if I understand correctly is formed by sediment on the swamp land that hardens into a black substance as it has nowhere to drain, and it is used as a fuel for fire etc. We saw small piles stacked by a farmer to dry and also larger areas which are “bog-farmed” by a factory. We then came across a flooded road and watched with amusement as a few brave cars made their way through but we heard that the local car place has towed 13 cars out in the last day! Our driver didn’t want to risk it as he had spent a few hours the previous day picking up a tour who’s bus’ engine had blown up by driving through a flood!

Later we passed through Burren which is home to an eerily haunting limestone landscape. It is so strange seeing miles of stone, some with massive cracks in it and even hills of stone in the distance as well. We stopped at Doolin for lunch and then continued on to the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs stretch for 8km and rise 214 metres above the Atlantic ocean, they were breathtaking and we were so lucky to have good weather and really enjoyed a good 90 mins exploring. Niki was brave (or stupid) and went over the tourist site boundary (along with many many others) and got a snap of a crazy woman sitting with her feet over the edge. There were “Good Samaritan” signs everywhere… thankfully no one decided to throw themselves off while we were there! That afternoon we took a car ferry and then made our way to Killarney for the night where we were treated to some stunning views. Killarney is the start and end for people doing the Ring of Kerry and is just so gorgeous. We went out for a pub dinner and then on to a bar for bargain drink specials before heading to hear some live music by a 3 piece band. It wasn’t river dance or anything but super fun hearing some traditional stuff and watching the local drunken crowds doing their irish dancing (or trying to!). Our hostel was pretty crap this night – with 12 of us in the same room (Niki being the only boy again)! Next morning (Sunday, last day of tour) we were away at 9am and again lucky to have great weather. Very clear and crisp and a perfect morning to see the massive Killarney park by horsedrawn carriage! The park was so beautiful and peaceful and just how you imagine Irish landscape. We saw wild deer including a very large stag which was very special.

We did a drive through tour of Cork and then continued on to the Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney stone. I had never heard of this before but kissing the stone is mean to give you the gift of the gab - Just what I need! The grounds and castle were really lovely and kissing the tone was an experience in itself as you have to lie upside down with your head hanging back and your get held there by an employee so you don’t fall – and it’s quite high off the ground!

After that we had a couple hours of solid driving (and passenger sleeping) before arriving at the ruins of Cahir Castle. Again a gorgeous setting and we had lots of fun exploring and taking photos. We arrived back into Dublin around 6pm and headed straight home to Debra’s for dinner, dvd and hairwashing!

Monday after our tour we had a much needed sleep-in before heading to town, my plan was to hit the shops! Niki spent the afternoon at the Guinness Factory (surprise surprise) while Debra and I shopped til we dropped. We each came away with a pair of boots and matching grey skinny jeans – my first pair ever! I feel so fashionable it’s hilarious. At 4ish we met back up with Niki in a cafĂ© called “The Queen of Tarts”, this place wins many awards and I can see why. We each had a scrummy treat, mine being a slice of baileys and chocolate chip cheesecake = divine! What a perfect way to end such a great long weekend.
After many hugs and a nearly-tearful goodbye (who knows when we will see Debra again!) it was time to catch a bus and head to the airport for our 8pm flight back to London.

Dublin - Ireland Oct 08

Back in June I was perusing the Ryanair website (a very popular pass-time of mine) when I stumbled across the biggest bargain of my year: £4 incl taxes return flights to Dublin for both of us! Obviously I booked it then and there, figuring if we didn’t end up using the flight it didn’t matter.

Fast-forward 5 months…Thursday 9 Oct we got up at 05:45 to catch the tube at 06:30 and then the train to Stansted airport – our train tickets costing 12x our flight price! The train only takes 45 mins, rather than the 1 hour 40min cheap coach we usually take, what a treat! We arrived at Dublin at 11 and spent a good 30 mins lining up for the non-EU passport line (yawn). Ireland’s arrival stamp nearly takes up a whole page and is bright green… too much detail for you all I guess, but I was excited!

We met Debra in town and deposited our bags at a left luggage facility for the da
y. After a scrummy Italian meal for lunch we spent the next couple of hours exploring Dublin City. It was fab having a personal guide, and it was nice being in a “small” city again where everything is within walking distance and is easy to navigate. We saw a statue of Molly Malone (the cockles and mussels song), Trinity College, Millennium spire, Christ Church Cathedral, endless Guinness signage and pubs, the pedestrian shopping streets and a city park. After 2 hours of dawdling we were getting tired and weary so Debra took us to a bar/restaurant that was converted from a very old church. The interior was absolutely gorgeous, even the pipe organ remained in place.
Later we headed back to Debra’s flat for a home cooked meal. En-route we had to stop for a
railway crossing - and get this, the gates are manually operated - as in a man runs out and opens/closes gate...what year are we in again?!! Later we headed back into town to meet up with some of Debra's friends for drinks. Niki tried all different types of local brewed beer and yummy cocktails were the go for us girls, although I wouldn’t recommend the “jelly bean” – it does taste like a jelly bean, but a black one (ewww) they really should specify!

Keep posted for details of our 3 day tour of Southern Ireland