Monthly Archives: September 2011

Coming Soon: A NEW Page On This Site



A NEW Page On This Site!



We have registered a new business name — Ad Lib Artisans — and I will be posting pictures of the building and renovation work and the public relations work we are doing as we travel from country to country in Europe and other parts of the world. It’s been an exciting 9 months so far, so there are lots of pictures and information to share.

Come back soon and see what we’ve been up to!

Ready For The Continent!

It’s official. We’ll be leaving England again during the first week of October and we’re headed back to Europe for the winter. Onward to some new adventures!

Part of our long term planning involved deciding where we thought we’d be spending the most time — in the United Kingdom or in Europe. It was a decision that needed firming up because we had two vehicles — one for driving on each side of the road — and it was silly to keep paying insurance on one of those when we only planned to use it half the time.

Diesel is king in Europe and more cars over there use diesel than petrol. Also, since our travelling strategy for staying out on the road between countries involves carrying more tools and equipment than we originally began with 9 months ago (not to mention clothing for multiple seasons!), we decided that we’d be better off purchasing the newest diesel van that we could so we’d even have the flexibility to carry bicycles if we wanted to.

We have now traded in our UK right-hand-drive Ford Fusion AND our precious little European left-hand-drive Kia Picanto. And here’s what we purchased last week — a four year old diesel van that we can customise to our own purposes. We’ll be able to get well over 50 miles to the gallon instead of the 40 mpg we were getting with ‘Katie Kia’ on those long drives across Germany and France in the spring. That certainly assists with our favourite mode of travel — the frugal or budget style!


Mark checking the front of the new van.


Back of the new diesel van.


I can almost hear some of you saying, “So what’s the big deal? It’s just a basic white van.” Ahhhhh — but the possibilities that it offers are quite wonderful!

We’re headed back to France soon and we’ll be working in Normandy again for several months. So you’ll see stories and pictures from there once I get past the backlog from here in England! I’ve been ‘off the air’ for weeks at a time as we finish the renovation of a house in London prior to moving on.

Keep posted for the adventures ahead!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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A Tiny Splash at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London

Calmness, tranquility, order, and beauty — all of these sensations settle upon my shoulders like a soothing cape whenever I step through the doors of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. I’ve been coming here for well over 20 years now and each return visit delights my eyes and stimulates my imagination.


Sculpture Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.


Plaster cast room with massive reproductions at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England.


There is an even more relaxed vibe in the warmer months as families and individuals flock to the central courtyard to enjoy an outdoor lunch or a coffee or to allow themselves a little splash and a cooling wade in the shallow reflecting pool.


A welcome bit of shade in the courtyard of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England.


Cooling off at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.


We arrived on a steamy day two weeks ago. The galleries were cool and comfortable inside but there were even more people outside where it was quite hot and sticky. Almost everyone, especially the children, were drawn to the water like a magnet.


Toddler cooling off in the water at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.


A charming place, a charming day. No matter what the season, do try to visit this wonderful museum for yourself when you are next in London!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Photo Of The Day: London Cycle Network Sign

London is proud of its status as a cycle friendly city — and these signs seen in the heart of the financial district attest to that encouragement to be more eco-conscious by getting out of a car and onto a bike.


London Cycle Network sign in the heart of the financial district.


©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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London’s Funky and Vibrant Spitalfields and Brick Lane

One of the nicest aspects of living in a thoroughly metropolitan place like London is the market scene and we’ve recently discovered two back-to-back and quite wonderful areas. The neighbourhoods are gritty and funky and full of a mix of old shops, new shops, converted warehouses, and vast spaces that formerly housed manufacturing of some kind and which are now partitioned into market stalls where up-and-coming fashion designers ply their wares. Art galleries, performance spaces, and the vintage clothing and goods scene are all quite well accommodated in this part of London, too.

The markets at Spitalfields and Brick Lane are both a short walk from the Liverpool Street Station which serves both the London Underground and the regional above ground trains.

Just getting there is an interesting walk past a mix of old multi-story buildings with shops or restaurants on the ground floor and apartments above juxtaposed with glossy, glass, and oh-so-contemporary skyscrapers such as the London landmark amusingly nicknamed ‘The Gherkin’ and more correctly named 30 St. Mary Axe.


London landmark skyscraper nicknamed 'The Gherkin' looming over older buildings.


The walk that leads to the Old Spitalfields Market has the beautiful Christ Church, Spitalfields at the end of the street. Shops, pubs, and galleries flank both sides of this lovely street.


Christ Church Spitalfields at the end of Brushfield Street.


We entered the vast glass-covered area filled with market stalls and stumbled upon an in-progress beauty pageant featuring four-legged contestants — the Paw Pageant.


Spectators and participants at the Paw Pageant in Old Spitalfields Market.


The Paw Pageant in the Old Spitalfields Market.


Leaving the market and turning right onto Hanbury Street, we popped into a vintage store, Absolute Vintage, that was lined from top to bottom with purses, dresses, shoes, and more. In case you were wondering, that perfectly posed female is not a mannequin in the picture below — it’s a shopper frozen in the moment of deciding what purse to take off of one of the many overflowing displays.

Shopping in Absolute Vintage on Hanbury Street off Brick Lane in London.

We walked a few blocks further and arrived at the cafe-lined Brick Lane. I can honestly say that I have never seen such a concentration of Indian restaurants in one place!


Brick Lane in London's East End is lined with a vast variety of Indian restaurants.


More markets are held within the old Truman Brewery buildings — the smokestack of which is seen in the photo below. Everything from one-off sales to designer samples in sparsely furnished warehouses line Brick Lane so it is a slice of shopping heaven for the hip and trendy.


Smokestack of the old Truman Brewery off Brick Lane in London.


The funny, funky streetlamps on funny, funky Brick Lane in London.


One last note — in spite of the occasional crowds in various restaurants (and that is to be expected on any weekend!), this entire area felt less like a ‘tourist market’ and more like a local market with quality products that are aimed at London residents. In a previous post that discussed a visit to the Camden Markets, I aired my aggravation with the throngs of pushy people, the overlapping food smells, the sheer tattiness of most of the goods on offer, and the distinct sensation that it was being touted as a ‘must do’ thing for tourists in London.

Camden Market was such a jolting disappointment that we were thrilled to visit the Spitalfields and Brick Lane area after a recommendation from our friend Claire. This is the happy, upbeat, relatively uncrowded, and genuine market experience for the kinds of quality items that we were looking for in London.

Try it for yourself and see!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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London Police Come Out Again

An English summer brings to mind sandwiches and cold drinks, barbeques in the back garden, leisurely days by the seaside or amidst the green and rolling countryside. And we mustn’t forget the bright pink skin from too much sun on too pale skin. Instead, the summer of 2011 is going to be remembered, particularly in London, for being the year of the riots and for being cold and wet and distinctly un-summer-like.

Emerging from our semi-housebound state (work commitments have kept us tucked up inside), we relished the opportunity to get out into the sunshine with cotton clothing on instead of the cashmere cardigans that have been our friends for months. So on this bright and sunny Saturday, we ventured a few train stops away to go to the markets at Spitalfields and Brick Lane.


Liverpool Street Station exterior on a bright and sunny day.


The sight of London’s police force out in great numbers was a bit jarring as we emerged from the Liverpool Street Station and heard the shouting crowds in the distance. Whole streets were closed off to pedestrians and vehicles alike and we could see — no exaggeration — hundreds of uniformed officers in every direction. According to the late coverage in The Guardian, “EDL London march halted by police”, approximately 3,000 members of the police were in attendance at several key locations in the East End.


Barricaded streets in London during EDL march on Saturday, 3 September 2011.


And the reason for all of this police presence? The EDL — English Defence League, a white supremacy group, was marching in force in the East End and we could certainly hear the roaring and chanting both for and against these people. I lingered long enough to take a few pictures, but we thought it best to keep moving in case the situation degenerated into the kinds of violence that we all lived through in early August.


Strong police presence to deter violence at EDL march on Saturday, 3 September 2011.


Police in London waiting calmly as EDL white supremacy group marches through East London.


There was a calm sense of purpose on the faces of those uniformed men and women — orderly and matter of fact. It’s an odd thing to comment on, but London has been rather turbulent lately so it is comforting to think that there are enough law enforcement folks nearby to keep any potential violence in check.


London policeman quietly watching the streets and people.


Tomorrow will be a pleasant change of pace — a story about the colourful areas of Spitalfields and Brick Lane and I’ll have photos galore to show you that vibrant and fun part of London.

Come back soon!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the words and images on this page.
All rights reserved.