Hove to Gatwick to Iceland to Quebec (With Bonus Views of Greenland)

I was awake just before my 5:30 alarm this morning. I quietly slipped out of the house by about 6:10, with my train to Gatwick being at about 6:30. I was surprised that it was already light out at that hour. Moira had given me a heads up that the café at the Hove station is decent and inexpensive, so I grabbed from there a coffee to go with the croissant I’d bought at Tesco’s last night.

Train was on time and rather full as I’m imagine it’s a commuter since it goes to London Bridge. It was a quick trip to Gatwick, even with stopping to attach more cars at the stop prior to the airport.

Wow Air hadn’t let me check in online and their website said that the counter would open three hours before my flight, so about 7:50, but it was open when I got there at about 7:20. As I suspected, I had to check in in person so they could examine my carry-on luggage. Their scale is inaccurate as it weighed my suitcase as being quite a bit heavier than it is, but they let it through since my other bag was under the limit. I then had an absolutely painless and quick trip through security, complete with complimentary full body massage…

I then had a couple of hours to kill. I popped into a Boots to get some water and saw that they had a meal deal for just £3.50, so I grabbed a full litre of water, a bag of crisps, and what turned out to be an amazing Moroccan style chicken wrap complete with raisins. I would regret not buying more food…

We boarded on time and left pretty much on time. The cloud cover was very thick.

Before I knew it, we were approaching Iceland.

It looked like an alien world!

The highway seems to be out in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

We arrived at Keflavik Airport a few minutes late. I only had a one-hour layover, so I was glad I was right at the front of the plane. I really wanted a bathroom and food, but my first priority was to check the status of my flight to Montreal…. Delayed one hour. I was actually happy about that! The bathroom and food lineups were insanely long and I wouldn’t have been able to do either with my original layover length.

The bathrooms were impressive. Each cubicle is its own complete little bathroom!

What was not so impressive was that the bathroom was flooding and most of it was about to be shut down. You can’t see it well in this picture, but water was pouring through the ceiling!

Food was incredibly expensive, and not just by airport standards. I knew that if something was, say, 1,500 króna, that meant it was roughly 15USD, and from  that, I could get to the rough Canadian price. I bought their cheapest sandwich, ham and cheese (no mustard as that was several dollars more expensive),a yoghurt, because I’d been told I had to try this brand…

and some Icelandic chocolate…

…which was very odd and not very chocolately. More vanilla-y. You can tell just by the colour that it’s not normal chocolate.

My meagre lunch will end up costing me about 20CAD. But, hey, I get an Icelandic charge on my Visa statement this month. 🙂

Before I knew it, my Icelandic stopover was done.

After a snooze, Greenland was upon me…

Which was good preparation for the mess that awaited me in Montreal!

It was a really easy and effortless travel day, yay! Now, I’ve been up almost 24 hours and it’s way past time for bed…

Brightoned Out, But So Glad I Went

I forced myself out of bed early this morning for two reasons: 1) to get a bit of work done so I wouldn’t have a daunting amount left after my outing; 2) to encourage me to get to sleep early…

My destination for today was Brighton proper. My host strongly recommended that even though it’s only a 3mi/5KM round trip on foot that I buy a £2.90 return ticket and go on the train to save my energy, which I think was very good advice. I headed out around 9:45 to take the 10:08 train, but I got in with plenty of time to catch the 9:59 even with having to stop to collect my previously purchased ticket.

That put me in Brighton just past 10:00 and I headed out of the station to my first destination of the day. There was plenty of signage and clues that I was heading to the touristy part of town.

The first touristy thing of interest that I saw was the Brighton Dome, an arts venue. It is part of the Royal Pavillon complex and is quite impressive from outside!

I walked around the Dome and got my first view of the Royal Pavillon. Keep reading for more details, but let’s just say that I was not expecting this in Brighton and am so happy my host and her decorator put it on my must-do list! There were even palm trees by it, adding to the exotic feel.

I wandered up North Street to find a second breakfast.

Then sat in front of the entrance to the Royal Pavillon to enjoy my last sausage roll and really good coffee from Greggs.

Then, it was time to enter what is, bar none, the most incredible building I have ever had the privilege of visiting.

Unfortunately, interior photography is not allowed in King George IV’s seaside pleasure palace. But the are tons of high resolution photographs on the palace’s website. Please head there now to at least look at photos of the banquet hall and its dragon chandelier. This palace was sold and completely stripped by Queen Victoria, who did not find it a suitable home for her family, but was bought by the city and carefully restored over the years to give an inkling of how sumptuous it was in the days of George IV. Spoiler: while the outside is of decidedly Indian influence, the interior decor is of Chinese influence!

I could have spent a day going through the palace as there were so many exquisite details to take in, but it was overrun by school children and hard to visit leisurely. 🙁 I think the music room was my favourite, but the dragon chandelier that is just two feet shorter than Miranda (!) was the most memorable feature.

Entrance to the palace is £12.50, or you can buy online a combination pass with the Brighton Museum for £15 (plus play an additional £2 for the palace audioguide if you want to get any real value out of your tickets). So the museum was my next stop.

It’s adjacent to the Dome.

The museum has a hodgepodge of exhibits, most of which are behind glass, so difficult to photograph. The building held  more interest, to be honest. Here are photos of a few things that caught my eye.

The tiles are gorgeous and have so much depth!

I enjoyed making a motif of Iranian-style tiles.

This turquoise colour is very traditional in Iran.

This pot looks like a beautiful work of art, but is a”stealth bomb.” The background of the images are of unspeakable wartime horrors.

This stack of crockery has a rod going all the way through it to hold it.

There was an exhibit about how Brighton was the place to come for a “dirty weekend.” This is very much England’s Sin City.

The mosaic floor in parts of the museum was a work of art.

This French-inspired bathing costume was the standard in Brighton for a long time.

I really liked these.

This one looks like a rainy day viewed through a window.

This one is deceptively simple. So many colours in it!

Frankly, at £5.20, I don’t think the museum is worth a detour unless you pair it with the Royal Pavillon and basically get in for half price.

I was ready for lunch when I came out of the museum and knew where to go, a little Japanese restaurant right in front of the Dome. Get this. I was thinking I wanted Asian noodles for lunch and was going to ask my host if she could recommend a place, but she beat me to it! It’s rather scary how well she’s gotten to know me! The restaurant is Pompoko and it was super busy, always a good sign. I went with their lunch special of udon noodles with prawns and squid. This picture is terrible, but if you squint, you can see how they cut the squid to make it more tender. This was crazy good!

I then meandered my way down to the water.

My destination was, of course, the tourist trap that is the Brighton Pier.

The pier is free to access, so I got to take it all in without spending a penny. The entire structure is owned by one company so prices are the same throughout all the shops. Not much was open today.

There are free deck chairs to use on the pier. I imagine these go very quickly in the hotter months!

At the end of the pier are a bunch of rides, some for kids, some for adults.

I learned while watching a programme recently that that tower at the back with a slide is called a helter-skelter.

I eventually reached the end of the pier. I’m looking towards France here.

Spot the annoying typo.

The last thing on my list was to walk through “The Lanes,” Brighton’s shopping district in a maze of narrow lanes not unlike the bazaar in Sarajevo.

On the way there, I paused for a gelato, surprising myself when I picked “sour cherry,” which was exactly that, with very tart fruit contrasting pleasantly with the smooth vanilla ice cream.

Brighton Square.

This block of flats does not suit the ambiance of the neighbourhood.

Most of the shops in The Lanes sell jewelry.

I didn’t linger long and decided that I was ready to go home after having a beer.

More pretty tile work at a hotel.

Another church made of flint.

This pub seemed welcoming.

I ordered a half pint of bitter and was offered a choice of four. I went with their darkest and strongest, Laine’s Best Bitter. So pretty! One of the options was an American pale ale, so I’m thinking that’s what I have to look for in North America.

I then meandered my way back to the train station.

But took a detour up a very steep hill to check out St. Nicholas’ Church.

I am fascinated by the use of the flint as a construction material. It is exquisite!

And here I am back at the Brighton train station, where there was a train only going to Hove leaving in two minutes. Talk about good timing with trains today!

I’m glad I went to Brighton for the day, but it’s definitely not a place I would care to return to and I’m happy I stayed in Hove. As I’d been warned, Brighton proper is very dirty, run down, and full of panhandlers. It’s also very tourist and gaudy. I can imagine that there are much nicer places to go for a seaside holiday in England. But the Royal Pavillon is worth the detour!

When I got into Hove, I had the bright idea of picking up my ticket for Gatwick tomorrow to save me a step. Well, I witnessed a distraught young girl have her money eaten by a machine. She said that there’s never anyone working at the Hove station and that when this has happened in the past, she was never able to get her money back. A nice man stepped in to buy her a ticket on his card before I could offer, so she was able to get home. But that sure validated my feelings of hopelessness the other night when I missed my stop!

I popped into Tesco to pick up a pizza and a small bottle of wine for dinner. One of the first things my host showed me in her kitchen was how to use the grill to heat up a pizza, so I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble doing that for my dinner.

Now, my host is the lovely Moira! I don’t like to say where I stay when I’m there, but I can finally give a shoutout to her and her  Airbnb listings. Coming home tonight, I marvelled that I’ve been living with her a full week and haven’t gone nuts yet! 🙂 Her home is unfussy, cosy, clean, and so welcoming. I could make meals at home if I wanted, watch telly in the lounge with her in the evening, and just live my normal routine. It says a lot that I felt comfortable leaving the door to my office open while I worked and didn’t feel the need to squirrel myself away to be as invisible as possible.

My European adventure has wound down. If I have time to grab a late lunch in Iceland tomorrow instead of just rushing through the airport, that will be icing on the proverbial cake! It’s been incredible and I feel so grateful to have had this opportunity.

Now, it’s time to go pack. I’m told WOW Air is extremely strict and won’t let me on with my purse in addition to my backpack and suitcase, so I have to get everything packed the way it was when I came over here. Even though I actually have less than when I arrived, I’ve been struggling with the packing, so I really need to go spend some time on that. Then bed, because 5:30 is going to come really soon…

English Sun Is Particularly Lovely

Today was so lovely! It felt like a proper late spring day. Landing in snow and freezing weather on Wednesday afternoon is going to be shocking!

Since the weather was so suitable for exterior line drying, my wonderful host suggested I throw some of my laundry in with hers today. How thoughtful! This way, I won’t land in Montreal desperate to put a load on. Let me tell you, I’m more than a little tired of wearing the same clothes every day…

I had so much work to do ahead of my time off, but I couldn’t spend all of today indoors. I powered through a a large file due at 3PM and was able to head out just before 2PM for lunch and a walk around Hove before going back to work. Tomorrow, my last day (!), is going to be a proper exploration one, but I am going to  fit in a couple final hours of work.

But at any rate, a two-hour lunch break today was definitely in order. I was quite famished since I was well past my lunch hour. So when the second restaurant I passed after the train station had a £5 burger special for takeaway, I was set. I figured based on their menu that this would be a high quality, healthyish, burger and I was right. It was very plain, but was a nice juicy piece of 100% beef and it had lots of veggies on it. I wish I’d thought to ask for some sauce on it, but it was pretty good on its own and wasn’t too heavy of a lunch.

I then decided to wander down a main thoroughfare and then head down to the water to come back the way I came by a different route.

I passed a really pretty church made of flint, just like the Lewes castle.

That’s a florist set up in front of it.

This pub had a striking façade. The sign at the top says “The Wick Inn — rebuilt in 1873.”

Just as I was thinking of turning back, I discovered a gelato shop! I sure wasn’t going to turn down a chance to eat an ice cream by the beach on such a warm and sunny day! They had so many flavours, but the hard to find chocolate-orange was an obvious choice.

I headed towards the water in front of the rows of beautiful houses. Turns out they all have ground floor flats, most of which have beautifully tiled courtyards. The flats must be rather dark on an average day, though.

There are so many beautiful churches in Hove. Here’s another one I passed very near to home.

And here’s a map of my walk. I didn’t realise I’d covered so much ground. 3.9mi is just over 6KM!

I came in and got right back to work, stopping around 6:30 to heat up the other curry I bought yesterday. It was another fantastic one. Oh, Tesco, I will really miss you. I then put in another 1.5 hours of work before having a shower and watching on the ITV website the last episode of Broadchurch I’ll have easy access to.

Now, it’s time to do a little research about what I’ve bought tickets to see tomorrow! 🙂

Comfy

I am so happy with my accommodation in Brighton! So I got that upgrade last night to the larger room at the back of the house with a better bed and that in combination with two glasses of wine meant that I slept eight hours straight! I was so surprised when I looked at the clock this morning. I can’t remember the last time I slept the night through.

My host makes me feel so comfortable in her home that mornings are a relaxed thing here, just as if I was on my own. I get up when I’m ready and then go to the kitchen to make coffee and breakfast. This morning, I got ambushed by the ancient, senile, and deaf cat who greeted me in the near darkness with a scream that made me jump high enough to hit the very high ceiling.

Meet Charlie. This is from four years ago, “before he was senile.”

Now, imagine being startled by that meowing, but about ten times louder. That got the adrenaline pumping this morning!

I had a stupidly full day of work to do today and hadn’t factored in the North American time change that made me lose an hour on my deadlines! What didn’t help matters is that I didn’t do the work I was supposed to do when I came in from Lewes yesterday. I’d left it since the jobs for that client are normally super easy and take an hour. What awaited me was a rare difficult file that would take almost two hours! I was just bushed, so I contacted the client and requested an extension, which was no problem. Not very professional of me, but she’s really lax and I know that weekend deadlines are pretty soft. So that meant extra work today.

My host and I had sort of thought to go to a nearby Indian restaurant for their buffet for lunch, but she wasn’t in the mood by the time lunch rolled around. England has been bad for my waistline, so I decided a buffet wasn’t a good idea, plus I didn’t have much time for lunch anyway. So I ran down to the Tesco Extra to grab a quick something for lunch and figured that since I now had curry on the brain, I could get one of their prepared meals for dinner. My host didn’t have a microwave when I arrived, but she asked me if that’s something that would be good if she has Airbnb guests and when I said yes, she ordered one. The machine was due to arrive this afternoon, so I took a chance on Tesco’s 2 for £4 curries that are meant to be nuked, figuring that, worst case, I could eat them gently on the stove.

I came out of there like a bandit since I got two of their pizza-type puff pastries for just £0.62 for my lunch, plus the two curries for £5. So that was three meals sorted for half of what I would have paid for the buffet. Getting ready meals is definitely not as cheap as cooking from scratch, but it’s a good compromise between that and eating out, especially since prepared foods in Europe tend to be fresh and made with real ingredients, just like you’d make at home. Not having a pantry full of spices and other staples, it’s also a great way to get some variety and try new things.

When I came in, I helped my host take apart the bed in the room I was in originally, which she’s been letting me use as an office since the new room doesn’t have a desk. Talk about a double upgrade! That done, I went back to work.

A couple of hours later, she came to ask if I wanted to go with her to Asda, kind of like their Walmart (even carries the George brand products), to go pick up the microwave. I must have been a dog in a previous life because all I could think was, “Ooh, I get to go on a car ride!” It wasn’t until we were in the car that I realised I’ve never ridden in a car in this country, just a bus, and let me tell you, it’s scarier close to the ground to be on the wrong side of the road! 😀 Unfortunately, I never did manage to get to drive here on this trip since all the driving schools I contacted for lessons were booked solid. 🙁

The collection process at Asda was very sophisticated. There’s a touch screen flat panel by the entrance where you can put in your order info and then someone brings it out to you on a cart. He checks your ID and you’re good to go.

I didn’t feel like having a poke around Asda since it’s so like Walmart, so I declined the chance to do that, but I did accept the invitation to pop into a Marks and Spencer a little ways away since I’d heard so much about them. They sure carry some nice things! I was tempted by the sushi, but resisted! We did both stock up on heavily discounted pastries so I have a nice pain aux raisins waiting for me tomorrow and the almond croissant will go to the airport with me on Wednesday (it’s in the freezer, so it will stay fresh).

We also popped into another Tesco Express that she said is a good source of discounted stuff at the end of the day and that I should seriously consider checking out on Tuesday to possibly get food for the plane trip. It’s nice having a local guide!

The outing was a lovely break, but I really had to get back to work when we got in and I finished with a half hour to spare before the deadline! I still had another hour to do for the client who had given me an extension on yesterday’s work, but that would be an easy file. So I took another break to have dinner, breaking in the new microwave to heat up a ridiculously good coconut chicken korma curry with rice. I am going to really miss Tesco. Hope my tikka masala tomorrow is as good!

After dinner, I finished my work and then was finally able to take a hot shower to work out the kinks and slip into my jammies before joining my host in her lounge to watch some crap telly. I made sure to confirm that she wasn’t just being polite, but she said that it’s nice to have the company, one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me. She got up at one point to grill me a small hot cross bun that she’d bought at M&S a few days ago that I simply had to try as it had caramel and chocolate and was divine. She wasn’t kidding. What a yummy treat!

With the weather being miserable today, I was very happy to stay in and make some money. The next two days are supposed to be sunny… I have quite a bit of work left ahead of being off for a while, so I think I’ll focus on that tomorrow and then go out all of Tuesday to properly explore Brighton. But I might be able to do another wander around Hove for a break tomorrow afternoon depending on how late I get started.

Now, here’s hoping I sleep well again tonight!