All posts by canadianmamainlondon

I am a French Canadian mama of two living in London, UK. I am here with my husband and while he works all day I get to go and explore this wonderful city that is London. My husband and I also do a lot of traveling in the UK and Europe. While we are here, we are trying to take advantage of everything. Ours kids study in Canada so I also find myself visiting them as much as I can. Basically, I don't have time to get a job, I'm a Mama!

WTF Wednesday, My Christmas Tree Delivery

If you want a nice Christmas tree in Central London, you should order it on-line. I know, I know, there’s probably a tree farm somewhere where I can go cut it but honestly, by the time I get the car out of the garage and drive out of London, the anticipation and fun is gone.

You can buy one locally, they sell them around churches and tube stations, we have done it in the past but then you have to carry it home through crowds of people and as much as it can be funny, (for other people), it’s not for us. So two years ago, I found an on-line service that delivers at home. Of course there is, this is London, everything can be ordered on-line.

I just told a Canadian friend of mine that I had ordered my Christmas tree on-line and she was looking at me with a WTF look. What can I say?

My WTF moment just came to me when I read the email confirming delivery this afternoon between 1 and 6 pm. I just noticed that for £5 more I could have requested that the driver wear a kilt and for £10 more I can have them drag it up the stairs to install it in the stand. Geez, how much to have the Kilt guy decorate it? WTF!

I know my friend Lorrie would have splurged and paid the £5 for the kilt but no, I already paid £80 for this tree, I don’t need the extra costs.

I wonder if my driver Gareth (that’s his name according to my confirmation email), will have one anyways, I can’t imagine poor Gareth having to change his attire for every  household delivery.

Or maybe they bunch the ”Kilt Deliveries” and they are all done by the same guy who looks like Sam Heughan. Lorrie would have paid for that.

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Christmas Reading

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Every year I look for a Christmas book to read in order to put me in the Christmas mood. This year, I found this little gem, Tolkien’s “Letters from Father Christmas” and truly enjoyed it.

It would seem that Tolkien was very devoted to his children and every year from 1920 to 1943, he would send them illustrated letters from Father Christmas. Every year the letters got longer and he would add stories of his main helper, Polar Bear. Over the years he even added characters that can be compared to characters from his books. He had the ”Snow Man”, which in real life was his gardener and ”Ilbereth” the elf, who was his secretary. There were also various other minor characters that would help him battle the goblins who rode on bats and who would also help him with Polar Bear and his many pranks.

Tolkien would write letters back as well as make drawings. He also invented this alphabet that Polar Bear found on the caves where the Goblins lived. Some say a lot of these stories were the foundation for ”The Hobbit”.

What I found truly enjoyable was that Tolkien relates to the events that happens during the years while writing to his children. 1929, he sort of mentions that Christmas will be light this year and I think he was referring to the beginning of the Great Depression. 1937, the year The Hobbit was published, he writes that Father Christmas has been VERY BUSY this year. When they move house he makes funny comments about losing their address and of course, in 1939 he writes, ”I am very busy and things are very difficult this year owing to this horrible war. Many of my messengers have never come back.” In 1940 he writes, ”We are having rather a difficult time this year. This war is reducing our stocks and in so many countries children are living far from their homes. Polar Bear has been busy correcting the address list. I am glad you are still at home!” I imagine since they already lived in Oxford and not London, the Tolkien children did not have to be displaced like so many kids who lived in London.

Even if at times some of the world history was bleak, for the most part, Tolkien kept the stories funny and upbeat for his kids. He would note as they were getting older and probably no longer believed in Father Christmas, that if they did not hang their stockings, they would not get any presents, so whether or not they believed, or even if they no longer wrote him a letter, if they wanted presents, they should hang up their stocking.

In 1943 he wrote his last letter to his daughter, Priscilla, she was 14 and I presume she no longer believed. In part of the letter he wrote,

”My messengers tell me people call it grim this year. I think they mean miserable: and so far it is, I fear, in very many places where I was specially fond of going; but I am very glad to hear that you are still not really miserable. Don’t be! I am still very much alive, and shall come back again soon, as merry as ever. There has been no damage in my country; and though my stocks are running rather low I hope soon to put that right. Give my love to the others: John, Michael and Christopher.”

This book is at times funny and sometimes a bit grim but f you are a fan of Tolkien, I highly recommend it. I am passing my copy along to a big fan in this house, Thing 2.

Christmas Music

It’s December 1st! Time to crack open the Advent Calendars and to start listening to some Christmas tunes. Although I must confess the Cooper family has been listening to some on and off for more than two weeks but we do this as a public service to you.

Every year, Daddy Cool and I look at what is new in terms of Christmas music. Yes, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby and Michael Bublé are all excellent but every year there are artists who come out with their own Christmas albums and it’s nice to mix things up. This year, there are 11 New Christmas albums, and we had Thing 1 download them on our Spotify ”Cooper Christmas Tunes” family account (available to download for free for anyone who has a Spotify account) and we have been listening to them for research purposes.

The new albums are by the following artists; Sia, Alabama, Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefanie, Cheap Trick, Josh Groban, 98 Degrees, Lindsay Sterling, Fantasia, Reba McIntyre and Hanson.

Personally and surprisingly my favorite one is Sia. She has some original songs and they are quite good. Cheap Trick comes in second. They took some old classics and rocked them out.

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Pentatonix is not on this list but they are on our Christmas Tunes list and they are excellent!

An Update on Weirwood

The spiral staircase and banister were installed on Wednesday but of course, like everything with Weirwood lately, it wasn’t easy. I was saying WTF on Wednesday. Apparently, they tried to remove the patio doors in order to get the staircase in but the previous owner had screwed and sealed one of the doors themselves so they had to call in a ”Door Installer” to literally remove the frame itself in order to be able to get the staircase in. Once the staircase was in and installed, the door installer reinstalled the patio door frame. I wonder how much extra that will cost us?

Anyways, here are some photos. And no, the floor is not grey, every time the designer sends photos they look grey but when I was there last month, it looked entirely different.

 

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The mezzanine is ready!

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Tomorrow our elves (Thing 1 and Thing 2) are going to decorate for Christmas with some of their friends. We can’t wait to get there next weekend for the annual Christmas Cooper Extravagannnnnnza!

 

 

In Search of Poldark

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Harlyn Bay Beach, Cornwall

Just like men read ”Playboy” for the articles, I watch Poldark for the stimulating historical content about tin mining in the UK in the late 1700s!

It has nothing to do with this guy at all…

 

So, I have been asking Peter if we can go to Cornwall, you know, to hike some of the 630 miles of Coastal Path and see if we can bump into Ross?!

Cornwall is at least a 5 hour drive from London. Friday morning I left around 8:30 and started to drive towards Newquay, that’s where our B&B was. The plan was, I drive to check in, and then drive back 75 miles to the ”big town” of Exeter and pick up Peter who was coming on the train.

He left London on the 14:20 train from Waterloo station and arrived in Exeter at 17:50. I picked him up and we made our way back towards Newquay. We stopped for dinner at Rick Stein’s Fistral and had some of the best fish and chips we’ve had in a long time. Then it was off to bed, we had hiking (looking for Ross) the next day.

Saturday morning after a nice breakfast we drove an hour to the tip of England, Land’s End. There we hiked along the coastal path and it was windy but beautiful. This is a pretty part of England.

Alas, we did not see Ross Poldark along the trail so we went to see if we could spot him in Penzance.

There we walked around and regrouped while having a lovely Cornish Pastie at Warrens. 20171125_125928

After some food we walked on and since we couldn’t find him in Penzance, we drove to St. Ives.

St. Ives is a cute and quaint town. We ended spending the afternoon walking around the old streets and enjoying a Cornish tea. A Cornish tea means,1 scone, some Cornish clotted cream (they are famous for it) and some jam, well with tea of course.  It was excellent. We were going to have to walk some more if we wanted room for dinner!

We walked and looked until dinner time but still no Ross.

Sunday morning we set off away from Newquay along the Coastal path towards Padstow. It was a little less windy than the previous day but at times we had gale force winds and rain. But I could feel we were more in Poldark country.

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For those who watch the show, doesn’t this look like Poldark country?

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This could be a modern version of Ross’s farm…

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This could be the path where he rides his horse to and from town…, or Trenwith.

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Could it be Wheal Leisure? His mine? (It was not!)

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Could this be his mine? Nope, as we got closer we discovered it was an old type of lighthouse/fortress of some kind.

After nearly 12 miles of hiking in the wind and rain and no Poldark in sight, Peter brought me to a nice restaurant and bought me some cider to help drown my sorrows.

 

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It’s okay Ross, I’m not that upset because after all, your first season was good, you second season was okay and sad to say, during the last season I thought it was too much of a soap opera and I was missing the ”Historical Mining Facts”.

Aside from not finding Ross Poldark, if you can make it to Cornwall, it is absolutely a beautiful part of England. Food is amazingly good and cheap and people are very friendly.

This morning I dropped off Peter at the Newquay airport at 7:25 am. He flew into Gatwick and took the Gatwick express to Victoria station. He was at work at 10:20 am, not bad. I drove home and got here at noon.

All in all, another great weekend!

Back from Petra!

Petra has been on Peter’s bucket list for a LONG time. Ever since we moved to London he has been mentioning it even more often since it would only  be a 5 hour flight.

Last August when we heard we may be relocating I thought to myself, “well, that could be a good birthday present!” It was then I started to plan this trip in order to give it to him on his birthday. Of course, even if I’m the COO and CFO of Cooper Enterprises, the CEO found out. Nevertheless, we were set to go to Petra during our wedding anniversary weekend.

We arrived Thursday night at 9:30 pm and got picked up by a driver I had requested. The drive from Amman to Petra is 2 1/2 hours. It would have been easier to go to the airport in Aqaba but it’s closed to commercial flights at the moment, a couple of conflicts in the region so the airport is primarily used for cargo.

No matter, Zacharia was able to get us to our hotel in Petra just before midnight. During the drive I looked at the stars that were shining in the desert sky while Peter slept. He had flown back from NYC in the morning. I had picked him up, brought him home for a shower and we had turned around back to Heathrow. No matter, it was his birthday present and Peter had been waiting for this trip for a while.

Friday morning we got up around 7:30 and after a nice breakfast at the Movenpick hotel that is literally outside the entrance to Petra, we headed over there, bought our tickets, hired a guide for 2 hours and off we went.

Essentially the guide walked with us for two hours and talked to us about stone formation, politics, history and trade. All fascinating but you must be there in person to appreciate the magnitude of the site and take it all in.

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As you walk onto the site you see the first set of tombs.DSC_4470

Carriages, horses and camels are taking people to and from places. We walked the whole time and according to my garmin, we managed to walk close to 12 miles during the day.

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The iconic walk to the Treasury.

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Sculptures in the sandstone everywhere.

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The treasury! No access since 2004, when they found tombs just below the entrance. Indiana Jones was ahead of his time!

When we reached the Treasury, our guide invited us to sit and enjoy a nice cup of mint tea. We sat and talked about the history of Petra and watched the many tourists who only come to see the Treasury and then walk back the 1.3 km to the visitor entrance. Not Peter Cooper. He was in for the whole day. After our tea we headed down further into the old city to the center.

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I got a little obsessed with camels.

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The treasury door up front.

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The tomb they found under the Treasury door.

 

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Royal tombs.

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Hadrian’s gate A.D. 130. The man gets around. Peter and I hiked Hadrian’s Wall (A.D. 122) between England and Scotland.

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More camels.

 

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The theater.

After getting in front of the Roman ruins our guide announced that his tour was up. I wanted to hike up to the Monastery and he told us how to get there and that it would take us about 40 minutes. With the midday sun shining and the temps rising we Peter and I started the ascent. The view did not disappoint.

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We could see the Royal Tombs from the Monastery trail.

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The Monastery!

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The view from up there!

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After coming down from the Monastery we had lunch before doing some more exploring.

After lunch and lots of water, (not much alcohol intake in Jordan!), we set out for the “Trail of High Sacrifice”. Sounds scary and at times Peter and I thought we were Hobbits climbing Muldor, but we eventually made it and we saw the Soldier’s tomb (pictures from my phone on my Facebook page. I had to put the Nikon away due to climbing) and there were no sacrifices…

The sun was setting and we decided to exit the site. What a day!

Friday morning we slept in a little. Zacharia who drove us on Thursday night offered to pick us up and drive us to our next location, The Dead Sea!

Zacharia gave us a lovely drive through the mountains, the desert, the farmlands and finally we reached the Dead Sea area. DSC_4623

The rugged terrain of Jordan.

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We were driving down to the Desert.

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Let’s stop for some mint tea.

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From the Desert…

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To the Farmland.

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Potash! Jordan is a big producer of potash.

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Can you see the camels eating from the trees? Camels were found just on the side of the road on the way to Amman.

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Zacharia dropped us off at our resort on the Dead Sea. Peter and I did some floating around. Trust me, you cannot put your eyes or mouth in the water, it burns!

We told Zacharia we had dinner plans in Amman. He offered to pick us up and take us to dinner and he told us to leave some room for dessert. He was bringing us to a famous dessert place in Amman to have Kanafeh, a traditional dessert made with cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup. IT IS DELICIOUS! And people queue for it.

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Hummmm Kanafeh…

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The Kanafeh in the back with the pistachios, was the best.

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This morning we were up at the crack of dawn in order to get to the airport. People kept on telling us you have to get there early…little did we know the reason is the 4 security check points through the airport. I got searched, felt up, looked at, man o man, it was easy to get into Jordan, a little harder to get out, but we made it. We are back in London and we can check this off the bucket list. Petra, DONE!

 

 

 

 

WTF Wednesday!

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Why is turkey so expensive in the UK?

Partridges is a small local grocery store near our house where I go often since they have North American products. If I want to buy some twizzlers, real maple syrup, toll house chocolate chips, etc… I go to Partridges and usually find it. You can also find some high end products. They have a great selection of fine cheese, foie gras, and they make pastries and bake their own bread every day.

When I was there on Monday I saw their U.S. Thanksgiving area with pumpkin pie filling, stuffing, cranberries, etc…and a turkey order form. I took a look at the price of the turkey in order to compare with what I pay at my butcher, Parson’s Nose. Well, at £14.95 a kilo, Partridges is right on track. Can you imagine? If you do the conversion to Canadian $ (which by the way, I shouldn’t have done) it comes to $26.85 a kilo! If I bought a 10 kg turkey to feed 16 people and have some left over, I would have to pay $268.50 for my turkey! WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At the moment I can buy a free range turkey in Montreal for $7.00 a kg. Why is turkey so bloody expensive in the UK? I realize the whole supply and demand thing but still, give me a break. And, don’t the English realize turkey is good for you. It’s a great lean protein meat. I think the pork lobby is TOO BIG in the UK and turkey, the other white meat, doesn’t stand a chance.

Since we are moving after Christmas, this December will be my last turkey purchase at those prices, that’s what I keep on telling myself…that and WTF!!!

Things Are Slowly Happening

Managing our household lately has been…well, sometimes challenging. Not that I am complaining, it’s just that my daily ”to do list” is getting quite long and sometimes I have to deal with people in different time zones.

London

I have slowly been selling the electronics from the London mews since the plugs are not the same as in North America. Some of the stuff we will need till the actual packing dates January 8-9 and 10th but in the meantime I decided to test the market and see what people will buy. So far I have sold the bread maker (I actually met the buyer at the entrance of the V&A Museum with it. It looked suspicious…the things I will do for £40!), I have sold our BBQ (an American from Ohio who had just moved here and was happy to find a small one. £120), Peter’s bike (a student from Sudan who works as a tour guide. He came in his Hop on Hop off attire. £100), my SAD lamp (some woman who called me and really wanted it before the winter. £40), and some small fans and lamps that we were not using. This morning I advertised a TV on Gumtree and it was sold in 30 minutes. The guy picked it up at noon, (Young family came in their car with 3 month old sleeping. £150). So far so good…

This morning I spoke to a neighbor and tried to sell my plants. I can’t bring my big potted trees and big pots in front of the mews. Must sell. She asked me to think of a price…add that to my list.

I have to find short term executive rental for January 10th till the end of February. I have a local realtor helping with that. Thank goodness she’s on the prowl for me.

I have to sell the Volvo…which reminds me, they haven’t called back. Mental note, call Volvo again.

Bermuda

I saw several lovely homes when I was there two weeks ago but the realtor assured me they would be gone by March 1 (I think some may still be there by March 1st). Also, landlords are still hoping for America’s Cup prices even though the race ended in June…I saw some places that were asking $12,000 a month and they have already been reduced to $10,000. The ones that were asking $10,000 are down to $9,000. Do I hear $8,000? My Bermuda realtor contacts me every couple days, I will wait a little and see where this Bermuda market is heading. I may have to go back mid January to see places and make a formal offer. Ahhh the things we must do!

But the other things I have been busy with regards to Bermuda are movers and visas.

I met the people who will pack the house in January. Everything should be fine and I don’t expect any trouble but our things will take six to eight weeks to get to the Rock so they are starting the packing the morning of Jan 8 and they think it will take three days. I must get a three day parking suspension though. Mental note, go to Kensington Chelsea borough offices to request a parking suspension.

As for visas, oh well, yesterday I filled out an on-line request for a criminal report for Peter and myself. (Fun times. There’s an hour of my life and £45 each, I will never get back). Hopefully, all goes well and we get our report stating we are not criminals within 5 to 10 days. Last week I went to see local GP and had an examination and had him write me a letter stating I had no ”Communicable Diseases”. He thought it was strange that he had to determine that without blood work but oh well, he wrote me a nice letter. Apparently my ticker is in quite good shape. Dr. said I could live to a 100 if I keep up my lifestyle. WOOHOO!!! Peter has yet to go, he would have to be in the UK for more than 48 hours for me to make an appointment for him. Mental note, check Peter’s schedule and make a Dr. appointment for him. On top of the medical certificate and the criminal report, I have to provide two letter of character references from people who have known me for two years, and notarized proof of my birth certificate and passports. And I have to go to a notary who has a STAMP. Bermuda govt. will not accept a notary that has numbers. They need a STAMP. We had already done Peter’s paperwork and found out that it’s all wrong because it’s not stamp. Something HR could have mentioned before I dragged myself to the ”city” but it was one of those WTF moments. Peter needs a bunch of other stuff for his visa, I won’t bore you with details.

Anyways, I keep working on that and try to make sure we will make it to Jan 10 and March 1 in one piece with all the proper paperwork and our stuff.

Weirwood

At least things at the cottage are progressing nicely. I was there ten days ago and they did an amazing job on the floors. My designer has received some of the furniture we had made out of barn wood as well as the barn door for the guest room. It looks really nice. She was able to put together our room, the guest room and Mackenzy’s room. Sarah’s furniture was delivered too late in the day. It seems it’s very dark at night at Weirwood. Sarah’s bedroom will be put together today. The guest bedroom is finished but again I do not have any photos since it was dark in the basement. I was promised some pictures during the week. Today they start putting the kitchen back together and at the end of the week the spiral staircase and banisters for the mezzanine are suppose to be installed. I can’t wait to see the final product!

In the meantime, I leave you with the pictures I have.

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Our bedroom.

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The living room. Waiting on a rug and the couch. The tables that were re-purposed by the same company who made our beds are very nice. Just not in the picture.

 

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Mackenzy’s bedroom. The floors look darker in the pictures that they really are. Wait till you see them in person.

Must leave you. Pick up laundry at dry cleaners and stop at UPS store. I have a question about sending a picture to Canada since BA tells me if I bring it with me next time I fly to Canada, I will have to stop at customs and declare. Hummm, I don’t want to do that with my luggage at Christmas time.