A Truly British Adventure

A British adventure for a break from my Chinese adventure!

From my early arrival at Schiphol, to a wonderful view over London as we circled whilst waiting to land, early again, at Heathrow, every moment of my British adventure was special. The flight over London especially so, as I saw practically every major sporting venue in the capital, including the one that would be taking centre stage during my time in the UK, the Olympic Stadium. I am sad I didn’t have the chance to visit it in person, but I know one day I will.

Anyway, here you go. Hold onto your seats…

23rd July – Some pictures from Xiamen, including my luggage, which both look pretty much the same size, a hotel without a 4th floor (the Chinese think the number 4 is unlucky), my awesome nail wraps, my plane and my leg room for the 12 hour flight:

My hand baggage was probably just as heavy as the hold baggage!

No 4th floor

Patriotic British adventure nails! Note that the line is not a tan, it’s the shadow of my iPod

“Would you like an emergency exit seat, madam?” Would I ever. Best seat on the plane.

Arrived early at Heathrow. Amy was wearing her Chinese dress and had a sign she had made especially for me.

Thanks Amy 🙂

Happily ate cheese at Grandma’s and fell into bed exhausted.

24th July – Headed home via Salisbury. I had to spend my £100 voucher in Crew, although in reality only spent £50 on a top and a dress, and gave the other £50 to Amy. Aren’t I a generous sister? Mum, Amy and I ate in Strada and judged all the women who’d come out in the glorious sunshine in clothes unsuitable for their person. Roxanne and I met in the evening and we had a great catch up.

25th July – My British adventure continued as Dad and I headed to Newcastle via my nan’s house. It was nice to see her after such a long time anyway. The easiest way to head north from her house was through Swindon. “Do you want to go past the County Ground?” Dad asked. Stupid question really. Of course I wanted to see my theatre of dreams for my beloved Swindon Town Football Club! Lunch at Tescos and a good run up ensured we were in the Toon for early evening. I descended on Cate’s house, chatted for a bit before heading to Vodka Revs to meet up with Nichola and Steph, more pizza and cocktails! It felt so much like I’d never left Newcastle at all. Sadly, I was still recovering from travelling and caught the last bus back to Cate’s, not before I saw Henrike, one of my former German lecturers, and also Adjoa Andoh, an actress who’s been in Invictus, after coming out of the Theatre Royal from the RSC’s performance of Julius Caesar. She and her friend asked me if the number 63 bus had been past yet. It hadn’t.

26th July –  I’ve already blogged about this day, so see Newcastle, How I Love Thee for that. Pictures here though of the day! I also forgot to mention that we surprised Starbuck at her cupcake stall, haha!

It’s even got my name on it!

All decked out in Olympic gear!

In St James’ with my awesome London 2012 “countries” flag

Free “Mehico” flag face paint (Olympic Gold Medallists now!)

GABON, GABON, GABON, GABON

27th July – I headed to the Quayside to soak up the summer sun.

One of my favourite views on Earth

Plus palm trees…

I also got to hold an Olympic torch and have my photo taken with it with the Tyne Bridge and the Olympic rings, amazing and a particular highlight of my British adventure.

Dream come true – after watching it for weeks I finally got my hands on one! (Also, it was windy)

I caught the Millennium Bridge tilting,

Millennium Bridge

then sat and ate nachos in the Slug and Lettuce, whilst I sipped on2-4-1 Pimms, which I hadn’t realised until I ordered. You cannot have a British adventure without a bit of Pimms and having it 2-4-1 was a bit of a bonus! So Nichola joined me and we had a bit of a chin wag. We wandered further around the shops, including a wonderful trip to Nandos,

Enjoying Nandos with Nichola

where the automatic drinks machine had broken and the staff seemed beside themselves, including the very handsome one who served me, so I left happy 😉
After Nandos, I headed back to Cate’s to shower and head to Scouts. It was great to see them, and see how much they’d all grown as well, it was a bit of a surprise! I got my wood beads and 5 year’s service badge presented to me.

Thanks Peter!

After a quick game I gave them a presentation about my time in China so far. They seemed interested and asked sensible questions too, so that was nice. After Scouts, it was finally time to head out “on the Toon” and meet up with everyone in Vodka Revs once again, haha. Not before we’d caught the first 15 minutes of the Opening Ceremony though, fantastic!

The rabble at Revs included Cate,

Cate and Starbz

Nichola, Sarah’s Gregory and Starbuck,

Starbz, me, Nichola and Gregory

Adele and Brigitte from Gang Show,

Brigitte, me and Adele

Gregory’s boyfriend Chris and his friend Ed. It was wonderful to see everyone again.

Bennett and Gregs

The night went on further and after several hours of drinking and dancing and various people drifting home, I left Starbz and Nichola I crawled into my (very) comfy bed at Cate’s around 3am.

28th July – No hangover? SCORE! Same couldn’t be said for Cate though 😉 I met Dad in town as it was his birthday and gave him his present. He’d had a good night out too, though had gone to bed slightly earlier than 3am. I met Gregory and Chris in town who were wedding shopping, (for one they were attending, not their own!) and we had fun before I headed to the coast to meet Nichola and her friend Annette for fish & chips (another thing you cannot miss out on during a British adventure!):

YUM

and general seaside times. Yummy yum yum. I also wrote China in big letters in the sand and an arrow.

It’s this way, I think –>

Not sure the direction was correct, but who cares, it’s the thought that matters right? I also saw a Ruby-a-like. We were talking about dogs when it walked past and the woman heard me say “schnauzer!” So we had a chat.

Ruby-a-like

I met Dad when back in town and we had a celebratory Kopparberg birthday drink sat by Monument in the sun, watching some of the Olympics on the big screen that had been erected at Monument for people to watch.

Big screen at Monument, including deck chairs!

We then headed to the Fat Hippo to reacquaint ourselves with that fine establishment. Lamb kofta burger + Kopparberg = very happy Sarah.

YUMMMMM! Check out the retro phone I was using whilst home 😉

Chris and Gregory joined us a bit later, Dad left as he was heading out to some more entertainment that evening and I then dashed to Cate’s to get ready for Starbz’ party. It was great to see so many people again and we were all transfixed on the men’s gymnastics, randomly.

All the Sarahs

Adele and Brigitte, again…

Lloyd and Lucy, newly affianced

I accidently overstayed my welcome as I forgot to book a taxi and as it had been Ladies Day at Gosforth Park racecourse it was a wild night out on the Toon. Glad we’d stayed in a house!

29th July – Again, no hangover, how did I manage it?! Cate kindly drove me to meet Dad to drop off my bag in his car, as we had more Olympic football! I revisited the Fat Hippo again, with Gregory, Starbz, Paul and Jake and had nachos this time. Wow. I mean, wow. I don’t half love that place! Gregory and I then went to do a bit of shopping before saying goodbye and I went to meet Dad at Monument to head to the football. We were caught however, by the Women’s Road Race on the big screen and saw Lizzie Armistead win the silver. The atmosphere was amazing, everyone was cheering her on despite being hundreds of miles away! I also saw Luke, an old friend from German, who was well. Football consisted of Morocco vs Japan and Honduras vs Spain.

Gorgeous weather

The Japanese, complete with drum

I had the Japanese and Honduran flag painted onto my face this time.

Honduras and Japan, winners!

And I chose correctly, especially as Honduras knocked Spain out of the competition! I also made friends with the little boy sat next to me, who didn’t understand sarcasm, so I was winding him up all through both games. I did let him wear my lovely flag for both second halves though, so I’m not that mean! After the football Dad and I headed for the car, via news that the TeamGB football team had won, meaning that the game we’d be seeing would be worth something. Tescos was open, even though it was 10.15pm at night on a Sunday (relaxed trading laws for the Olympics it seems) and we stocked up on food for our journey through the night.

30th July –  It was nice to have a day of nothing. I sat and watched the Olympics (important part of this particular British adventure – we were amazing!) and wrestled the taxman, unsuccessfully, pain in the arse that he is. Also had my first attempt at making jiaozi, Chinese dumplings, with Amy.

Amy holding the food processor down for the jiaozi mixture

Jiaozi!

Not bad for a first attempt I thought anyway. Saw Dunc for the first time in a while and finally met his poor girlfriend, Caren.

Duncs, Amy, Caren and I

All the babies in one place

I met up with Roxanne in the evening.

31st July  – An early start in the wet and grey weather turns into a glorious day in Cornwall. I’d specifically asked Mum if she was free this day, as I wanted to include this fantastic place on my British adventure.

Glorious

We have no rain at Polzeath and we arrived to park in our usual space and there were loads! Usually you have to get there really early to get a space, but because of the bad weather, I reckon most people had headed to the Eden Project or something. We bumbled down the beach

Amy bumbling…

to hire wetsuits and a surfboard, have a coffee and came back to the car for lunch. After lunch we all got into our wetsuits, which seemed much easier than they used to be, maybe the years of practice has finally paid off? Dunc helped Caren, but I’m not sure he was that much help… Here they are in their matching t-shirts, very Chinese!

Matching t-shirts is common for young Chinese couples…

The surf was great and I literally didn’t get out of the water for at least 4 hours.

Heaven

We shared the surfboard so whilst one of us surfed, the rest body-boarded. Finally, after years and years of trying I actually managed to stand up! I’d never got past the kneeling stage before, as I never felt nimble enough, but it seems that the gym has paid off and I managed to do it! Just need to work on my balance a bit more, but I did manage to do it, and whilst the family were watching too.

My favourite place in the whole world

We ended the day at Trebarwith Strand, and food at the Port William. Busy but fortunately the weather was kind enough for us to eat outside. I’ve still never seen the beach there in all the years we’ve been going to Cornwall as a family, (that’s about 16/17, as we went before Amy’s time, as one summer Mum was definitely not in the water with us as she was heavily pregnant with Amy). Back home, Dunc and Caren introduced me to a new board game, which I won, beginners luck really.

1st August – Dad and I headed to the Millennium Stadium with a couple of our friends.

I’d never been before, but I really like it

We had a good trip up, apart from busy Bristol, but we were listening to Radio 5 Live when the rowing girls, Glover and Stanning and won the first Gold of the Olympics, yay! Funnily enough, Roxanne was heading to the football as well, and once inside the stadium, after a fabulous lunch in a surprisingly good café off the main street, we managed to “meet” up, although we were on different tiers. We saw the hero of the hour, Bradley Wiggins, secure his Olympic Gold along with his Tour de France win, complete with mutton chops, which many people seemed to be sporting, in one way or another. I on the other hand had my face painted with a Union Flag this time,

Flag + face paint, what more could you want?

and my lovely “countries of the Olympics” flag, which one of the stewards commented on it “the best thing I’ve ever seen” he said. Maybe he’s not seen much…

Millennium Stadium and countries flag

But I had a few other compliments and since Mum tried and failed to get it off the website, I feel proud and lucky to have it (it’s hanging above my bed in China now). The games were Mexico vs Switzerland (Mexico are now Olympic Champions!) and TeamGB vs Uruguay.

Massive flag which just missed our row when it came around

It was great to sing the National Anthem, despite musings that it wouldn’t be sung, and although the match wasn’t a classic, we scored just before half time and won the match. Bellamy was a joy to watch, and he teamed up with Taylor (from Swansea) well on the right hand side.

TeamGB

Getting home was a pain, and after stopping for some food we didn’t get back until about 2am. Although at least we didn’t get the train, that was chaos apparently. (What a British adventure related day with the golds and watching the TeamGB football team!)

2nd August –  Another “rest” day where Mum and I got excited about the judo on the TV. We actually screamed at the TV at one point when we realised she’d won her semi-final match, insane does not cover it. We also saw Peter Wilson win his Gold medal in the double trap. Most of this day was also spent packing, but still, having not brought much with me from China, I was not taking much back either, so still room. Another fight with the taxman though, so I wrote a strongly worded letter, demanding my money he owes me back and giving them permission to speak to Mum. I will get my money back! In the evening, we went to Grandma’s as I said goodbye to Primrose Cottage for another year. Grandma had roast lamb waiting for me, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

3rd August – Not too much of an early start, but I headed to London to meet up with Hazel and Beka and Ali, if he was to get his brain in gear. I wanted to see the Olympic rings on Tower Bridge. You can’t get more “British adventure” than a trip to London!

Woo, Tower Bridge

Second set of Olympic rings on a bridge in two weeks!

I was also trying out my 18x zoom on my new camera that Grandma and Grandpa had given me for an early birthday present, thank you!

Olympic rings 18x zoom!

The atmosphere around London was amazing, and we weren’t even at the Olympic Park! I also saw a Chinese athlete getting interviews for CCTV (the major Chinese TV channels). There was a big screen next to Boris’ house and I caught the end of the men’s pair rowing final where Nash and Satch won bronze for TeamGB.

Big screen at Boris’ house

There were also loads of different statues of the London2012 mascots around:

I headed to meet Beka and we had coffee with Hazel and her boyfriend Graham. We then headed for pizza and wine, before heading for a mooch around Covent Garden. I SAW A SILVER MEDAL! Hakan Dahlby of Sweden was lunching in the sun in Covent Garden, proudly displaying his medal. If I’d remembered his name from the day before I would have totally asked for a photo, but felt rude if I didn’t know it so just stared at the medal instead. We ended the day in B@1, where I went on the day I picked up my very first Chinese visa.

Me, Beka and Hazel

Ali also managed to find us, incredible!

Ali and I

Once the others left, Ali and I found the White Lion in Covent Garden and put the world to rights, not before we’d seen Victoria Pendleton win her Gold medal in the kerin!

4th August – Another lazy day watching the Olympics. Mum and I headed into town to pick up some Euros as I found out that I could pay by card at the hotel I was staying at outside Schiphol airport. We also bought TeamGB tops, mine I’m obviously going to wear proudly in the gym. My flight was at 6.35pm

LHR-AMS KLM Fokker 70

and I arrived in Amsterdam safely. My hold luggage had been checked all the way to Xiamen, so I didn’t have to wait for it to come off baggage reclaim and could head straight to phone the hotel to pick me up. It’s really easy, at arrivals, they have phones for all the different hotels, so all you do is press the one you want and it’s a direct, free line to the hotel! I managed to get a photo of the Iamsterdam sign first though:

Brings back good memories!

My host was very friendly and the drive to the hotel was nice, and flat. I was in Holland after all! The room was amazing.  I had a balcony, not that I could use it because it was raining, but the bed was comfortable and the room really well appointed. The shower was amazing and I could still watch the Olympics, so I did not miss the triple gold in the athletics on Super Saturday, well done Ennis, Rutherford and GoMo! Here is my celebratory wine:

Go TeamGB!

5th August – Despite a very kind offer from the host of the hotel to stay in my room longer than the 11.30am check out time, as my flight wasn’t until 4.50pm, I wanted to explore Schiphol, as I’d heard it was good for shopping. Not that I bought anything other than lunch and the international edition of the Sunday Telegraph with beautiful pictures of the SIX Gold medalists from the previous day. I had a free photo taken at the Vodafone Nederland booth, so I proudly displayed my TeamGB scarf!

Schiphol photo booth

I managed to find some Olympics showing in the airport though and settled down. Unfortunately, I only saw the first set of Andy Murray’s gold-winning match, as I had to catch the flight to Xiamen, but well done Murray 🙂 My seat in the plane wasn’t as good as before, but there was an empty seat next to me which was good. A couple of glasses of wine and I even managed a little more sleep, although waking up in Xiamen on the 6th August I was still exhausted.

6th August – Luggage collected, I headed to the airport bus and into town to catch a bus back to Zhangzhou. All really simple and I landed around 10am and got back home about 1pm. Easy!

A fantastic British adventure and I know New Zealand is the next thing around the corner, which will be equally fantastic, if not more so! I have my free Rough Guide now so I can begin to get excited…

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Author: Bennett

2 years as an expat in China and now doing the same in New Zealand, Bennett sure likes to experience "slow travel!"

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