England, Expat

A bit of whimsy on the London Tube


A bit of whimsy on the London Tube

Balloon-animals ran through the whole train of a westbound District Line service during rush-hour.

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England, Europe

Hunting giant Easter eggs in London


There are giant easter eggs hidden all over central London and this morning, I decided to join the search for them.

The eggs can apparently be found in several areas of the West End, including Mayfair, South Kensington and Piccadilly, as well as The City and Canary Wharf. There are 12 egg zones in total.

A different artist designed each of the 209 eggs. It’s all part of the The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt 2012.

Basically the idea is that when you find an egg, there is a keyword written on its podium that you can text in to possibly win a prize. The prize is pretty awesome, a £100,000 diamond-encrusted Fabergé egg, but each text message costs £0.25, and you get charged £3 when you first join.

So, I’m definitely not doing that.

I’m still going to try to find all the eggs though.

I read in the rules, that you can also entre by mail (for free) by just sending a letter with the keyword and your mobile number. So I might try that… though to be honest, I have no idea what I would do with the Fabergé egg if I won it.

But contest aside, I actually had a lot of fun searching eggs today. I went down to Bond Street Station and started ambling down random streets in Mayfair, a part of town I am not very familiar with. And I felt quite excited each time I stumbled on a new, egg. They really are works of art.

I discovered, too, that egg hunting is actually a great way to meet people. Maybe it’s because of how silly it is, but people naturally start chatting, while you are all taking photos of the same egg.

I even got to meet one of the egg artist, Daisuke Sakaguchi, when he was taking photos at a different egg.

I caught up with him again a few minutes later and got a photo of him with his egg.

In total, I tracked down 19 eggs today. The eggs are on display until April 3, though, so I have plenty of time to find them all.

England, Europe, Travel Tips

The importance of keeping e-copies


Just a quick post to tell you all that this morning I was reminded how important it is to keep electronic copies of all your travel documents.

A few weeks ago, I booked a bus tour of the Cotswold (in England) for April 15. This morning, I was putting it into my calendar and couldn’t remember what pick-up site I had specified. So I decided to call the company.

After telling the customer service rep my name several times, she told me that she had no record I ever made a booking. (That didn’t stop them from charging me £29 for the trip.)

Now, I have booked online many times and normally the tour company sends a confirmation to your e-mail… this one didn’t.

Thankfully, I remembered that I had printed off the ticket confirmation that had popped up on my screen when I booked.

So after 15 minutes of rummaging through my desk, I eventually found the print-out.

I called them back and read them my ticket number and the tour company confirmed that, actually, they did have a booking for me.

So everything is good now.

However, I would have saved myself a lot of grief if I had just done a Print to PDF of the ticket screen, and maybe even e-mailed it to myself.

Now, I’ve learned my lesson.

England, Europe

Discovering the Saatchi Gallery, London


Yesterday morning, I was forced out of my house at 8 a.m. My landlord was replacing the water heater and the workers cut the heat and water in the house. Not a fun place to be. (On the plus side I now have the luxury of hot showers, which I haven’t had for about a month.)

First thing I realized when I started my adventure is that not much is open at 8 a.m. on Saturday, at least not on the east side of London. So I spent several hours just wandering around aimlessly. Eventually, I found myself at the Saatchi Gallery in Sloan Square, Chelsea (west London).

Front of the Saatchi Gallery

The gallery is located off the main square in the Duke of York’s HQ. It is a 3 to 4 minute walk from Sloan Square Tube Station and a 12 minutes from Victoria Station.

I am pleased to announce that it is my new favourite gallery. This is big news because I’m not normally the biggest fan of art, especially modern art. I am prepared to admit that I find the Tate modern boring! (The only thing I liked about it was the view from the restaurant at the top, though I hear you can only go now if you’re actually eating.) And don’t even get me started on the National Gallery…

But the Saatchi Gallery definitely gets the Thriftyabroad seal of approval as it meets my two most important qualifications:

A) You can see the whole thing in an hour. (This is about the maximum I can stand to spend in a museum or gallery.)

B) It’s completely free, including the special exhibitions. Even better, it is also free to become a member. Apparently it gives you access to preview events and members evenings. I signed up yesterday, so I’ll keep you posted.

Anyway, if you get the chance. Definitely go check it out for yourselves! Hopefully some of these pictures will inspire you:

Belgium, Europe

Sharing a pint with God: Antwerp


If you are ever in Antwerp, there is a pub you absolutely have to visit.

Located inside a four-storey, brown brick building with leafy green ivy crawling up one wall, Het Elfde Gebod, gives you the chance to drink among a swell of religious artefacts.

Now, before I go any further, I should let you know that I’m not at all religious. But it’s still very cool.

Having a drink in the Kathedraalcafé

The pub, which is also known as Het Kathedraalcafé, is right beside Antwerp’s cathedral (which you should also visit). To get to it on foot, simply exit the cathedral and walk along the pedestrian-only street directly to the right of the building, Blauwmoezelstraat. The pub’s official address is Torfbrug 10.

The pub features everything you would expect: a pretty good choice of food (including Belgian’s famous mussels and fries or moules et frites), wine, coffee and, of course, beer. Over 50 different types of beer to be exact. They even carry several varieties of Trappist beer. (Brewed by trappist monks.) In case you’re curious, here is the full English menu.

I ordered a Kwok, which they serve in a wooden holder that reminded me of something you would see in a high school science classroom. I had some fun taking pictures.

My absolutely delicious Belgian Beer
There's something very fun about getting drunk in a place that feels so Holy
The bar, Kathedraalcafe, Antwerp
The wall of the bar
The upstairs of the cafe