london diaries – week one

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December 19, 2012 by leighnewlands

I’m not going to share my photos just yet as a) I didn’t bring my nice camera and b) the photos are on my sister’s camera so I’m going to wait till I get home and then I’ll make sure to put them up but for now, I’ll fill you in with a relatively short recap of my week…

FRIDAY: So we arrive in Heathrow and are welcomed by the bitterly -celcius temperature that is London at the moment. We ran to the bus and finally got inside ready to face our next task: passport control. Even though you know you’re fine and have met the requirements, you can’t help but have a bit of doubt in the back of your mind. However, we passed with a few doubtful looks from the officer towards me and my stay being longer than my sister and that I’m working – but we made it through! I just smiled and made lighthearted jokes of which the officer did not seem too amused.

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The next stage, our luggage. It arrived (luckily!).

And the next: customs. The only thing we were unsure of was the carrying of biltong. And we didn’t want to dawdle so we chanced our luck, checked if the cost was clear and walked casually. We were not succesful in Johannesburg airport though when they just tossed out mayonnaise and chilli that we bought over for our sister. They just chuck away so much it’s ridiculous.

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Finally we met up with our older sister, Candice, and traipsed along with our luggage on and off the tubes. It took me some time to get the hang of the tubes and the systems but now if there’s a service with a bad line and i have to take an alternative line, give me a few minutes and a tube map, i’ll figure my way around it. I do recommend that those travelling quite often in London and just generally if you’re here for holiday, to get an Oyster card.

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It gets dark by 4pm, the strangest feeling ever and quite honestly, not a fan of it but hey, what can I do! So days are much shorter and unfortunately for my younger sister, she can longer sleep in till 12 as she only then has 4 hours of light left.

We made our way down to Portobello market (most things are in walking distance). We are situated in Westbourne Park in Notting Hill. We were given a guided tour by my sister and her boyfriend where he showed us the bookshop that became famous because of the movie. He explained that a lot of rich people had now moved to the area because of the film but that they wanted to keep the area a mix and so both poor and rich live here. The market is full of everything from fruit, clothes and music and is just festive for everyone. The culture is lovely being able to walk around at night freely and not having to worry and just feeling a sense of independence because of things like the tube. The most you have to wrroy about is petty crime in London like pick pocketing.

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SATURDAY: We did the very touristy thing and visited Madame Tussauds. They’ve added so many more new faces and features, it really is quite amazing. My sister was upset however that in the Twilight section, they had only created Edward and Jacob and no Bella – those three ARE Twilight. Anyway, she got over it and had a photo. The scream section, not so cool. Real actors coming out of hidden corners and climbing along the walls and floor and coming right up to your ears and whispering. The rule is they’re not allowed to touch you but they come close enough to fool you. £30 pounds later and an hour in the queue but well worth it. I recommend if you’ve never been there before.

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In the evening we went to Tescos (our version of Pick ‘n Pay) and learnt that we have to pack our bags ourselves. No one told us though and we only realised once we paid and the teller said “next” and none of our stuff had been packed. We were also introduced to self-service and how no one chances their luck here. Can you imagine trying to have a self-service for paying your items back home in South Africa – not gonna work!

SUNDAY: Test run day – myself and my older sister did a test run for the two different offices I would need to find for Monday and Tuesday. This proved relatively easy. The one was right next to a Strabucks (score!) and the other right opposite St. Thomas Hospital and the Florence Nightingale museum. Upon arrival home, we stopped off at the pub just down the road (it’s a HUGE culture here) to watch the Liverpool vs. West Brom match.  

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MONDAY: EYG induction day. This involved the setting up of our computers, learning the ins and the outs of the EY intranet and gaining a better knowledge of the company. This was off site at a training venue known as Prospero House.

TUESDAY: 1st day of work! Got my little security pass with my picture on it (feel real important now) and met the nicest people you could ask for when working in a big company. All with welcoming smiles and a good sense of humour. Other bright side to working where I am, free cappucino and if that’s not enough, cappuccino WITH chocolate added. My new favourite indulgence here!

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WEDNESDAY: Half day because my boss decided I should go sightseeing with my sister for the rest of the day. SO afternoon came and off us 3 sisters went. We caught a bus to the infamous Oxford street where I was absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of shops in one street. There are just clothes everywhere and they’re beautiful! So overwhelming that I don’t think I’ll even buy clothes while I’m here. We came across the infamous shops such as Debenhams, Topshop, Nike World, Hamley’s, H&M, Marks and Spencer and more. One thing about London: a souvenir shop literally at every corner.

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We continued to walk and passed through Regent Street, Picadilly Circus, Soho and China Town. We were accompanied the whole way with the christmas street lights guiding us. It was so beautiful – nothing can compare to chirstmas time here.

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THURSDAY: I met the big cheese of New York’s EY and built quite a few good connections. Got to visit the Gherkin, second tallest building here in London so made my way right to the top where I was able to overlook the WHOLE of the city. It’s known as one of the few places in London with the best views (have a look – http://cityscapeapps.co.uk/app-development/1690_Gherkin_App/wp-content/misc/360/D7504.htm).  

OH, and why I was at the Gherkin was for the simple reason of getting to sit in on a LIVE interview on Sky News – me not being the one interviewed of course but one of our Ernst & Young employees – it was such a small event but having always watched Sky News back home to be sitting literally behind the camera that was filming it, that was pretty epic. 13 

FRIDAY: Work started to pick up but my free coffee kept me going. And it had been a week since I arrived. Crazy how time flies. 

The evening was EY’s christmas party at The Pavillion at Tower of London. Beautiful venue, set up outside under a marquee and stunning inside.

Food unfortunately was so so but I wasn’t complaining – I got to see the Gherkin and Tower of London in two days where some people have been to none!

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Let week two begin…

Lx

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