Roman amphitheatre, St Albans (aka Verulamium)
The public (well OK Robert) demands an update and we shall provide.
First I must note that we are actually having a decent thunderstorm here. Just like home!
Last weekend we spent Saturday (a) at Bayswater dim sum (per usual ritual) and then (b) at Hyde Park at the start of the Tour de France.
It was pretty cool in the sense of being sweltering hot. I managed to see the top of some helmets as they whizzed past and quite a lot of police escorts and assorted support vehicles. The organisers had chosen to couple a particularly disorganised cabling arrangement with this attractive liability-limiting sign:
Which was itself a trip hazard as people were staring at it in puzzlement while staggering over the cables.
On Sunday we decided to get our moderately lazy tourist asses into gear and went to St Albans. In its current incarnation, it's a moderately pretty satellite/commuter town for London. Two thousand years ago, it had a rather grander life as Verulamium, the third largest city in Roman Britain and the one place in the UK you can still see a ruined Roman amphitheatre (above, in all its glory). There are also some ruins of the original city walls, which were built after Boudicca smashed and burned the joint (and Londinium) in the first century AD or thereabouts. After the Romans pulled out, the locals deconstructed the joint for use in their own buildings, hence the fact that most of the older St Albans places are made of flint. It's quite a look actually.
It's polite to refer to this as recycling rather than sacking, and it's nice to know that our ancestors were as environmentally conscious and/or lazy at getting their own damned building materials as this outfit.
The Roman overlords of the town in its heyday clearly had a bit of cash to spend. See rather spiffy mosaic with underfloor heating:
St Albans also has a very classy street market and a belfry constructed around the fifteenth century. Clearly people were both shorter and skinnier then; the stairway up is so narrow that even I had to twist to pass and Grant was basically going up backwards. Possibly a preview of what Plan B is going to be experiencing come January.
St Albans' belfry; observe (a) short doorway and (b) yokel buck-tooth grin and (c) t-shirt, which has now completely given up all hope of covering bump.
Anyway, the belfry managed to combine my fear of heights with my mild claustrophobia very satisfactorily indeed. Good view from the top, too. It used to be a part of a sort of proto-telegraph with signals transferred from the roof to other towers miles away.
St Albans' other jewel is the cathedral, largely made of flint as you might expect. I don't think I've ever seen a bigger church.
The inside was clearly decorated over several different historical periods with a whole lot of available cash and was just beautiful. Very worth a look, especially given that it's a mere hour by train from our flat. Once again, the esteemed guide 25 Best Day Trips from London proves itself to be made of solid gold!
Last week was the usual work/pretend to study deal. Grant made a couple of really nice dinners on the nights I was working, with organic chicken and sustainable organic cod no less.
This weekend we have been hanging around at home mostly. On Friday, Grant's old mountain biking buddy Tyler was in town, and we went out for dinner and to the pub - Prince of Wales, aka Prince of Pubs, natch. This was wonderful actually, as we hadn't been to either the Mexican restaurant or the PoW since the smoking ban came in. The Mexican now not only provides tasty food but also 99% less worries that every breath one takes is damaging one's on-board embryo, and somewhat ironically the beer garden of the PoW has become a smoke-ridden crowded hellhole while the formerly smoky indoors is now a mostly-empty smoke free paradise.
Saturday being yesterday we went into town for TROLLEY DIM SUM!!! (a concept poorly understood in this country but obviously the standard means of offering yum cha in Oz) in Chinatown. It was OK, and nice to see the trolleys like home, but nowhere near as good as Marigold or the other Sydney joints and nowhere near as good as the ordered dim sum at Bayswater, so I guess we should stick with what we know. Then we went a hunting digital TV tuner cards in Tottenham Court Road, then shopping in Oxford Street, unfortunately in the middle of Summer sales. WHOOPS. Grant picked up some jogging shorts (he has started walking/jogging the days he doesn't ride to work) and I gave into necessity and dropped 47 quid on lycra everything. I'm now much more comfortable and have two whole pairs of pants I can wear, and possibly as many as four shirts that don't show overhanging gut! The humorous thing is that when I wear "normal" clothes it isn't obvious that I'm pregnant (just look chunky); when I wear skin tight maternity lycra people offer me fruit juice instead of alcohol and ask solicitous questions about my health. Answer: fine, can I have a beer?
While I am on the subject, boo to Mothercare for selling me jeans previously that appear to lack a basic appreciation for the shape of a pregnant body, specifically it being wider in the middle than at the top and bottom, and of gravity, specifically that clothing will aim for the smallest point and stick there. ONE CANNOT DESIGN JEANS THAT GO AROUND THE BIGGEST POINT OF THE BELLY AND EXPECT A SKINNY ELASTIC TO HOLD THEM UP, MOTHERCARE! Result: elastic cutting person in half through uterus AND pants falling down; quite a double act for a company that specialises in maternity wear. Advice to purveyors of clothing for bumps: one must either go under or over the bump if all one is relying on is a piece of hat elastic. Advice to everyone else: H&M sells decent cheapass lycra for your bump, provided you don't mind a little exploitation of Eastern European/South-East Asian labour.
Last night Bin and Claire were in our neck of the woods visiting a friend, so we all met up in the evening and headed to the Moroccan restaurant in Goldborne Rd, highly recommended as always and damn cheap really. You can stuff yourself with two courses of really decent food for 10 quid; not always true of the W11 postcode.
Aunt Franny is visiting next week, and then Mum is coming in early August. After that we have Grant's parents in early Sept for almost a whole month. Busy. Times. Ahead. It will be so great to see everyone, and show them around our temporary home, though.