London half filled

Last Monday, Hubbie and I went to a clinic on Fleet Street for flu jab. Since the jab reputed to reduce the risk of serious hospitalisation from corona virus, it was a no-brainer decision for us.

From a double decker’s window toward Aldrich…

It was still a few days shy of the second lockdown but the city looked like starting to wind down already. The traffic was light and the streets were empty.

‘Let’s have lunch at Shake Shack!’ We walked towards Covent Garden along Drury Lane.

Surprisingly, building works along the street were busy and somehow furious while theatres and restaurants were deathly still. We wondered what kind of landscape would emerge after this COVID-19 saga.

QR codes filled world is a pain!

At Shake Shack, we were told to scan a QR code in order to pay for our food and drink. However, the procedure didn’t work despite we each tried using our iPhones more than five times. In the end, Hubbie donned a face mask went to the inside of the restaurant and placed the order.

Yay, my burger & chips!

During the first lockdown, Shake Shack was shut down completely – even delivery service, and as a result, we were deprived of our small weekend joy (SS burgers & fries with Netflix) for nearly six months. I hope they will keep going with their takeaway service this time around.

Giant mistletoes over our heads…

We found it so ironic that no one would be allowed to kiss under those mistletoes this Christmas unless you were wearing a face mask. Why on earth did they choose mistletoes as this year’s display? Being ironic?…

The clinic was a stone’s throw from High Court of Justice…

A few tv crews were setting up cameras at a traffic island in front of the high court’s entrance and we wondered if it was anything to do with Johnny Depp’s lost libel case.

I must say that the clinic was the busiest place in London! People filed in every few minutes for the jab and a woman at the reception looked overwhelmed by the surge.

I felt relieved that we both managed to receive the jabs before the lockdown. Two weeks ago, when I booked our appointment, I had no idea that the second lockdown would start from the 5th November. The clinic may stay open for emergency but I can’t imagine they open for routine appointments such as vaccination.

After the clinic, we walked along Chancery Lane towards Grey’s Inn Road & Clerkenwell Road junction.

‘Wow, there are so many buildings and premises related to the legal professions here!’ I was excited to find a few men’s clothings shops, like Jermyn Street’s, but a barrister’s wig and a gown in their window display.

This is what I brought home. A Christmas card and a musical box for my mom…

I bought them from Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop in Covent Garden. They stock fabulous 3-D cards and also pretty gifts for all ages. The shop floor was reduced to half and most of the items were behind the counter but the display was dense and it was lovely to be surrounded by beautiful and cheerful objects! The owner remembered me because he was a big fan of Bella and we chatted about our experiences during the first lockdown. We both agreed that the past six months were just a blur, despite many local and global crises. It was like endurance swimming without a goal in sight, we mulled…

Best lockdown shopping!

It’s my day-off from training so I am writing another post.

I imagine some of us indulged in retail therapy during the last seven weeks in order to alleviate the hardship of the lockdown.

I was certainly one of those people and treated myself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

Ta-dah!

In fact, I was considering about buying the pair long before this coronavirus business. ‘Do I really need them?’ I was asking myself every time I came across people who were sporting the pairs. Wouldn’t they be another wasted tech gadgets, like my AirPods? (unfortunately, my ear shape wasn’t suitable for Apple’s wireless earbuds.)

Then, I noticed one of my teammates came to the practice with a pair of Beats’ noise-cancelling headphones. He was commuting to the ice rink using public transport and therefore the headphones were essential for his journey. ‘Hey Dennis, can I try your pair? I’m pondering about buying one for myself.’ He handed me his pair and I was blown away by the comfort of the over-ear headset as soon as I tried them. ‘Wow, they are so nice! Much better than on-ear or in-ear types!’ I was sold…

A few days later, I visited a local Currys PC World to sample headphones. My budget was £170 max and as far as I researched the web, Sony’s MDR-1AM2 appeared ideal. ‘Can I see noise-cancelling headphones, please?’ I was led to the far end of the store with a wall a full of headphones. ‘These are MDR-1AM2.’, the shop assistant pointed at one of the display models on a shelf. I duly tried them on and listened to a sample track. Hmm…, they are okay, I thought but not 100% impressed. Then, I tried Sony’s top range pair WH-1000XM3…

OMG! I was amazed. The pair was unbelievably comfortable. The part which sat on the top of my head was well-padded and the ear pads which encased my entire ears were plush. I felt the headphones securely fitted without scarifying the comfort.

‘They are nice, aren’t they?’, the assistant gleefully asked me. Oh yeah, I was sold except about the price tag of £269. I painfully realised what difference £110 could make. I loved the WH-1000 pair the most but £100 more was a stretch. So I walked out of the store empty handed.

Then, the lockdown commenced and my world had become very different from the one I knew – spending far long time at home. Hubbie was busy running his business at home and there were many Zoom meetings and phone calls. Even though we got on well as always, being together 24/7 could be testing as a couple. I tried to get by this “new-normal” by wearing a pair of old on-ear headphones but found they were simply too uncomfortable to wear all day long.

‘All right! I’m gonna buy these Sony pair for myself!’

Since I am not paying monthly subscriptions to our team, I should use the money to pay for the headphones, I reasoned. And it was the best decision I ever made!

Ever since the headphones were delivered to my door step, I have been inseparable from them. I just LOVE listening my favourite tunes through them. THEY ARE GREAT! My playlist lifts me up so much and literally, the music is saving me every single day of the coronavirus lockdown. And the comfort, oh my, it is heavenly. I just immerse into music and float. No more discomfort on my earlobes! The money was very well worth spent. That’s all I can say…

Exploring Lyon

We alighted the metro at Hôtel de Ville and came out to Place des Terreau. As we approached the square, we saw some white tents and an event was underway.

What is this all about?

It turned out that the event was promoting Paris 2024 Olympics game, letting kids ride stationary bikes and doing some ball games on a makeshift turf.

How could anyone in the square ever imagine Tokyo 2020 would have to be postponed? I sincerely hope we all can cheer the Olympians and Paralympians in 2021 without the fear of COVID-19.

Musée des Beaux-Arts
Fontaine Bartholdi
Hôtel de Ville

‘Shall we walk around the south side of the square as they recommended it?’

One of the shop assistants, who helped mum to choose a pair of sandals after our unsuccessful visit to Monoprix, suggested that the area would have more private shops than Rue de la République area.

Looks promising!

True to her recommendation, we saw more than a few interesting shops along Rue Romaine and Rue Saint-Polycarpe. I bought a canvas tote bag and mum bought some beautiful cards.

Vintage and handmade gems!

After satisfying our pleasure shopping urge, we strolled down Rue Désirée and came out to Place Louis Pradel…

Warm Saturday afternoon
Lovely weather!

As we headed towards a metro station, we encountered a crowd coming out of Opéra National de Lyon and much to our delight, they started singing and dancing!

Carefree joy of pre-coronavirus…

I will most definitely dance in the street when the world is free from this nasty virus, COVID-19!!

We love Carrefour

During our road trip, we used the French supermarket chain Carrefour often, and especially, We liked their organic range very much. Their readymade salads were a godsend when we became weary of eating out in unfamiliar places.

Thanks to free-roaming by O2, we could find branches of Carrefour on the road and replenish our supplies…

We made a detour to the supermarket before we arrived at Aix-en-Provence…

Mum bought boxes of Calissons d’Aix-en-Provence for her friends. We also bought milk, water, strawberries, a box of Kleenex and pastries.

We visited this Carrefour almost everyday while we stayed in Aix-en-Provence…

Regarding supermarket shopping bags, I thought the French were doing a lot better than the British. I bought this large reusable shopping bag at the Carrefour in Limoges and used it throughout our trip. Unlike the British chains, the French counterparts didn’t give out any plastic bag and the only alternative was paper bags. Why don’t they do the same in the U.K???

Even if the chains increase the price of the bag to 10p, it won’t encourage lazy people to bring their own bags. The only way to reduce the plastic waste is making single-use plastic bags UNAVAILABLE!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Gordes

Yes, the snow is here and it makes me feel like we are finally having a proper winter. And I don’t mind the weather as long as it won’t disrupt my journey to the ice rink tonight!

My entry today is going to be a perfect antidote against the present chill because it is about the little village in southeastern France where mum and I visited during our road trip last summer.

From Avignon to Gordes, our first village in the Luberon region of Provence, the journey didn’t take very long…

There were many pretty villages in the Luberon Valley and having to choose just a few was an agony for us. However, it would require at least another week of stay in the area if we wanted to explore it properly and we didn’t have that time.

Gordes was one of those “eagle’s-nest” type villages which were perched on the summits of boulders. As we got closer to the commune, a winding road leading to the place got narrower and steeper. Prior to our visit, we learnt from a guide book that parking in the village could be tricky so we decided to park in a public parking area by the entrance of the village. While we were getting out of our car, a fleet of coaches pulled up and poured out a herd of tourists. ‘I am so glad that we’ve managed to park before more crowds arrive!’, mum and I whispered to each other as we walked behind them.

A view from the roadside…

It was about five minutes’ walk from the car park to the centre of the village…

We wandered around the village for a while…

We strolled down a quiet street which was lined with pretty shops…

Oh, this was exactly I imagined how the village in Provence would look like! Honey coloured stonework and climbing roses. How idylic…

Time to time, we caught a glimpse of a the Luberon Valley between the buildings…

Luscious green of Provence!

These are the colours of Provence. How delicious they look. I really miss them!

Mum spotted a small studio which was selling hand painted plates and she wanted to see the inside…

There were loads of pretty earthenware on sale…

Mum decided to buy a small dish for olive oil. ‘This will remind me about our time together’, she smiled. Oh, thank you, mum!

After shopping, we walked to the end of the row of houses and saw this…

Isn’t it beautiful?

We walked back towards the village centre and came across a little cake shop…

Shall we buy some treat?

Ahhh, our favourite, Tarte Tropézienne! We couldn’t resist it.

Leaving mum with a box of the cake in the village square, I returned to the car park alone so she wouldn’t have to strain her knee.

I saved the best view of Gordes for you…

Upon leaving the village, we did have a little incident and it was hairy! For some unknown error, Google navigation displayed a cycle path instead of car route, and as a result, I drove into an impossibly narrow lane. I am not sure if I could reverse all the way without my mum’s calm navigation. She did save me from badly scratching a bodywork of my car. Thank you, mum!!!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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