Category Archives: Photos

A Proper Summer

It finally arrived. A real summer. Proper heat. Days in the park. SUN.

Also sweaty people, smelly tube cars. But no (NY) hot trash smell. And that I will continue to be thankful for.

I’m in the middle of uploading all of our photos from our week in France with Ally and Tim onto Facebook right now, and will do a blow-by-blow shortly. (If I say that, I will definitely do it, right?)

In the meantime, here’s pretty much the coolest photo I’ve ever taken, from around this time LAST YEAR, of the top of a building in the city that I can’t remember the name of.

dome

OLYMPICS. OLYMPICS, OLYMPICS, OLYMPICS.

I totally did not expect to be this excited about the Olympics. I was with everyone else in my new country, whining about what it was going to do to my travel plans and getting to and from our friends’ flats. I was with everyone else in my new country thinking something (if not many, many things) were going to go horribly wrong. And while I don’t want to speak too soon: it seems like things are going swimmingly so far. (HA. SWIMMINGLY. I swear I wrote that before realizing it was a pun.)

We started our Olympic journey at a pub on Friday night to watch the opening ceremony. While probably one of the most fun nights we’ve had in London so far, it was also sort of a strange atmosphere to watch what ended up being an extremely cerebral event. We had lots of pints and trouser-dropping and a drinking game happening, while we were being read William Blake poetry by the country’s premiere Shakespearean actor. Cool, Americans! What was strange was how excited we all were—8 of us together—compared to the rest of the Brits in the room. No one clapped. No one cheered. No one made a peep when Team GB came into the arena. We had to cheer for everyone. After all of the crazy patriotism we saw here leading up to and during the Jubilee, I really just didn’t know what to make of that. We stayed for the entire ceremony and the pub didn’t even kick us out and kept serving us. I was shocked.


I should have asked them to mark it: “Reserved: For the loud Americans. You probably don’t want to sit anywhere near this table.”


Still early.


Before Chris spilled a full beer on Katie trying to get to some pickled onions.


Megan tries on Matt’s USA glasses. They are determined to improve vision.


Things are getting more serious. Thanks to our drinking game, we’ve all already stood up and said “God Save the Queen” five or six times, much to the chagrin of our fellow patrons. But I actually think we all really love her maybe more than they do. In typical English fashion, though, no one said a word to us. They all just went home seething, I’m sure, and we have informed another ten years’ worth of of stereotypes, at least.


Merrills!


My man, Kenneth Brannagh.


Jimmy’s USA “pants” which were the biggest hit of the evening.


American ladies in London.


Nice, normal, American lads in London.


Oh, wait.


Matt showing off his amazing knee socks.


Brother and sister.

Guys. We found our people.

It was really hard to understand the significance of so many of the elements of the show in the loud pub. Without hearing the explanations of some of it, we were—frankly—a little confused. I was guessing at the literary references because I only caught half of them, and was so excited when I saw J.K. Rowling pop up that I didn’t even hear that she was reading J.M. Barrie. So the next morning, in our hungover state, Chris and I watched the whole thing again on the BBC website from the couch. So my official ruling after this, is that it was totally awesome. I cried, like, 30 times, because I am pretty sure I live in the coolest city on the planet, in one of the most amazingly historically-rich countries. For a person who is as obsessed with history and literature as I am—I kind of felt like that ceremony was made for me. Voldemort! Anyway. Some “Moments in Buffering” for your enjoyment:



A little interjection: I am loving this P&G campaign with the parents, and can’t get enough of all of the ads with the word “mum” in them. I am so happy it’s happening here in the UK, too, because I saw it sort of launch when we were home in May in the US and I thought it was just absolute genius. Moms love things like dishwasher detergent and hand soap! EXCELLENT brand work, P&G.

So last night we went to our first Olympic event! Team GB vs. Brazil women’s football at Wembley, and it was awesome. I’m pretty sure I’ve never waved a flag in my life, of any nation, but I am shocked how quickly I got really into it. Chris picked up a pack of little plastic Union Jacks for £1 yesterday, and I was so pleased. I was downright CHUFFED, as they say here, that he was getting so into it. (Best word for “happy” ever.) So we waved them around and had a great night with our real English friends Colin and Rox, and we WON!


Chris outside Wembley before going in!


All those empty seats. Tsk, tsk, London 2012.


Filling in those obviously empty seats.


Team GB wins!

It feels kind of awesome to be able to genuinely root for two different countries in this thing. There are just so many amazing athletes between the two. Phelps! Lochte! Wiggins! Wieber! Armitstead! The horses!

Speaking of: Chris and I watched an equestrian event on TV the other day and we thought they were just like, being announced and walking around, but it was an actual event. I still don’t understand what happened.

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Epic, England-y Weekend

This weekend was the most England-y we’d had in awhile. Meaning, we woke up on Saturday morning and set out for “adventure.” And yes, we completely un-sarcastically use that word in our house.


HEVER CASTLE


We took the train out to Kent on Saturday to visit Hever Castle, which is the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. It’s also home to what I consider some of the most beautiful gardens ever, and is the very first thing I ever did in England, when I visited in the yeeeaarrrrr 2000, so I have some very fond memories. I don’t actually have very “vivid” memories of much in my life (it’s why I take so many pictures), but the images of the intricately carved staircase, the grotto in the Italian Gardens, and somber Jacobean walls, I’ve been able to recall easily and clearly since first seeing them on that trip. I was excited to take Chris.


Chess set of shrubbery. There are no opponents, which doesn’t seem fair or realistic.


Everybody’s getting a piece of the Jubilee pie.


That’s me in my new quilted navy vest from Primark that I bought so I could fit in in this country. I think it’s working.

The website offers two options for getting to the castle from two different train stations. The first option is to alight at a stop three miles away from the castle, and take a taxi. They urge you to book the taxi in advance. The second option is to alight at a stop one mile away from the castle, and walk. Obviously, we thought: “Of course we’ll walk! Why wouldn’t we walk? It’s a mile! N.B.D.” Oh, B.D. BIG. DEAL. It was way farther than we’d anticipated, and we’re pretty sure the “one mile” was in reference to using this completely overgrown, certifiably Lyme Disease-ridden footpath that we did not take, opting instead for the tiniest, thinnest of country roads that the seven cars in total we saw drove way too fast on.

But, we did see this out in the middle of nowhere, which was pretty much the most ridiculous and awesome thing I’ve encountered since moving here:

And we saw some animals:

And some unidentifiable plants:

And a church:

And we thought this was funny at the train station (To France!):

At the castle, we wandered around the house and down through the grounds, and SADLY, the most beautiful part of the gardens (and my favorite) was closed for a wedding. I’m not sure if I was more upset about the fact that we couldn’t get over to the grottoed terrace overlooking the lake at the far end, orrrrrrr if I was just in a blind red rage of jealousy that someone was getting married there. Guess we’ll never know.


The Loggia. Sorta. Chris thought we should try to get our money back because it was closed.


The Italian Gardens at Hever.


Is this a classic Russ Huss move, or what? Chris made me stand still to take the photo, and then brought the camera over to me, giggling.


This guy wanted to be friends with me. I did not want to be friends with him. I didn’t even have any food so I can’t imagine what he thought was in it for him.

We hopped on the train back into London (or, hopped on three transfers’ worth of trains, rather) and made a dinner reservation at a local Italian place on our way. We killed a half an hour at one of our local pubs, The Old Parr’s Head, and then headed across the street to the beautiful Pentolina, where we’d been meaning to go since we stumbled upon it on one of our first discover-our-neighbo(u)rhood walks. We took a chance on this place as we actually rarely have Italian food outside of our home these days, because not as many places as we’d like actually have gluten-free options. Amazingly, we were totally rewarded for our risk. This place seems to be owned by legit Italians, which means they actually know about Celiac and—had gluten-free pasta for Chris! It was a great meal, which we followed with the most devilishly thick panna cotta I’ve ever had. And yes, you’ll note, that I’m something of a connoisseur.


One of the most genius things in all of England: Half pints! Perfect for when you have just a few minutes to sit.


Chris with his half pint of cider at the Old Parr’s Head.

Then we tried to go home and watch Sherlock Holmes, but it didn’t download fast enough and instead we fell asleep on the couch waiting for it some time in the realm of 10 PM. Oops.


KEW GARDENS


But, alas! Sunday was equally adventurous! We met up with our new friends Amy and Jimmy for lunch in Chiswick at Kitchen and Pantry before hopping on the tube out to Kew Gardens, the royal botanic gardens.

So, look… it was totally beautiful and impressive. The massive white, Victorian greenhouses were stunning. But… I wanted some gosh darn flowers. We walked the massive grounds for two hours, aiming our direction at the “Bluebells,” the “Rhododendron Dell,” the “Azalea Garden,” on the map, only to be sorely disappointed. For a country that exists in perma-spring, you’d think there would have been more COLOR.


Inside Queen Charlotte’s cottage. I want these chairs.


Inside Queen Charlotte’s cottage. I want these walls.


The pagoda at Kew.


Beautiful greenhouses.


The lion of England.


Chris and Jimmy on the terrifying, swaying, Tree Tops walkway.

Finally, at the end, we found a really beautiful flower garden that sorta satisfied what we were hungry for. So, yes, it was totally amazing, and of course, what the real takeaway here is, is that I am so desperate for something that is not GRAY, I’m going to complain about one of the most renowned outdoor spaces in the world!


Finally: Flowers!

I should note that throughout these two days, Chris is grumpy and mildly cranky and extremely worn down and getting sick. But he actually did not complain very much despite that, so: Good job, Chris.

Chris trying to climb a tree that I say he can’t reach, while two small girls watch, in two parts.


“I always wanted to know what it was like to have a little brother, so I got married.”—Melody “Genius” Jabergson

Last night we went to the OXO Tower Restaurant with friends visiting from NY (former Londoners) and: the view is everything it’s cracked up to be. St. Paul’s lit up at night is really something to see from that angle. It cements the sentiment in the city immediately following the Blitz; That St. Paul’s had to be rebuilt, and quickly, as it was a symbol of the heart of London. With other tall landmarks dotted around the city, and St. Paul’s only really being visible from certain parts of it, it’s easy for it to fall into the shadows. While it sometimes feels like you can see The Shard, the Swiss Re Tower and the Eye from everywhere in London, when you get up to St. Paul’s in the evening and see its dome so brightly lit from below, it reminds you who the real owner of the skyline is. And, the food was good! Scallops with lemon curd, and the most beautifully-cooked tiny yellow tomatoes I’ve ever had. And some kind of marshmallow thing that tasted as though it had been sprinkled with Pixie Stix.

The End.

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Imagine.

Imagine a life where grocery shopping was really exciting. Where it was not one of the most—if not the most—mundane, thoughtless thing you did all week. That is my life. Going to buy the things I will eat for the next few days is truly one of my favorite things to do here.

The first thing to understand is the very European idea of shopping for only what you need that day and maybe tomorrow. It changes how you approach your meals entirely; Changing how often you buy ingredients, what ingredients you buy, and therefore: what you’re actually cooking. There are not scary preservatives in everything that will keep it good for the next three weeks—so we have to be careful not to over-purchase, lest we throw money out the window. I bought “sieved” tomatoes for the first time yesterday (the equivalent of crushed tomatoes, I…think?), which typically would have been such a staple in our household we would have had five cans of San Marzano at any given moment. I finally spent enough time reading all of the labels in the tomato section to find what I needed. Now I can make Angie’s sauce, properly, cause it was gettin’ dicey there for a bit. (Get it?! DICEY?!) (Oy.)

What’s great about England and the anti-preservative lifestyle is that the resulting high-quality produce is just unbelievable. Pears, apples, plums, tomatoes, lettuce—all far superior to what you would have available in a grocery store chain in the states. (Not superior to Medeiros Farm, to be sure, but, better than your average supermarket.) I used to like cauliflower, but now, I’m roasting one at least once a week. It’s like candy!

Buuuuuuut all of that is not nearly as amusing as what I took pictures of yesterday during my shop with the intent of sharing here. For putting up with that boring VEGETABLES-ARE-DELICIOUS set of paragraphs, your reward is now a photo set of the ridiculous, quirky, zany, delightfully-English things I see during these trips:


That is exactly one brand of pretzels. And ironically, they are called “Pennsylvania” brand. Apparently Pennsylvania is known in England for… having… pretzels? And there are only those two kinds. Plain, and some chive flavor to the right. That’s all. I’ve seen the awesome(-ly fattening) Snyder’s pretzels in some bodegas around, but no big bags in the stores. COME ON. WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE EAT WHEN YOU’RE DRUNK IF NOT HONEY MUSTARD SNYDER PRETZELS? Ahem. But you’ll notice that everything else around is pretty much as you’d expect. Doritos, Pringles, et al. Oh, except for maybe the “prawn crackers” down in the bottom right there.


Ah, “sultanas”. Golden raisins, I believe you mean. And to the right? “Californian” raisins. These poor people missed out on one of the most genius claymation ad campaigns of all time. I heard it through the grapevine…


See those? Those are eggs. Just out on a shelf. Like nooooobody told ’em there was a refrigerator a coupla aisles down that they had an appointment with. I don’t care: we come home and put them in the fridge immediately. I just can’t leave them out. It does make you think about the ridiculous things you do as a culture that other cultures just don’t do and are completely healthy, though. But that doesn’t mean I’m just going to give up these senseless American habits.


All. Kinds. of. Baked. Beans. Need I say more? One choice of pretzels, but half an aisle’s worth of Heinz baked friggin’ beans. I’m interested to try the “curry” flavor. And if you look carefully up at the top, you’ll see the enormous family-size containers.


Ah, my favorite image from the trip.

Grocery Shopping!

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Jubilee-Mania

What an exciting week. We went to the Royal Albert Hall for the first time. I got a serious sunburn in Hyde Park on Saturday because we have been having PHENOMENAL weather (as a reward for all the rain, I am certain). I started reading A GAME OF THRONES, for the love of God! And now we’re awaiting the arrival of Chan tomorrow morning, getting ready to leave for Norway on Thursday, and celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee on Tuesday. I get that you guys might not totally understand what exactly that means for the city I live in. And these photos don’t even scratch the surface of what is happening around me, but they are a taste of the patriotic hysteria that is surrounding us:

THERE IS BUNTING EVERYWHERE. I have died and gone to Cutesy English Heaven.

Friday night we went out with one of Chris’s colleagues and it was super fun. We went to a “90s” night at an indie bar and everyone knew every word to every Hot Hot Heat song and it was like we had been transported to some alternate universe. (I put it in quotes because they were a bit generous with their “decade” standards.) But seriously, English people are rad and when they get drunk, it’s kind of something special. Beyond what you can imagine, really. Large groups of typically very conservative people who drink their weight in under two hours and then become an entirely different group of people. Not like in New York where at a “90s” night, everyone would just be standing around trying their best to look cool and playing with their hipster glasses and mustaches without daring to move anything but their right heel and lower right calf. NO, this was a room full of strangers hugging each other, jumping around, spilling booze on each other, and singing at the top of their lungs to songs most people I know have never even heard of. Most. Fun. Ever. Arrived home somewhere in the realm of 3:30 AM.

We did not go here, but it was next door, and because I am sort of a twelve-year-old, I laughed:

I will leave you now with one final bit of Curious-Englishness:

Trouser leggings?

(Yes, that’s Twiggy in the background.)

Missing.

I’m not. I’m here. Living, breathing, attempting to continue a normal life after a crazy whirlwind of a trip back to the US and, frankly—utter chaos on both sides of the Atlantic.

Important things happening:

  • My baby sister graduated from college on Sunday. God bless the internet, because Chris and I watched the entire webcast, which means I saw her get her diploma right up close, and had better seats to the whole thing than some of the speakers sitting on stage did. I took about 30 screenshots, because it was as close as I could get to taking photos. I know it’s not the same as being there, but I saw it all and heard her name and watched all of her friends, too. It was better consolation than I imagined or expected to get.
  • We are going to see Elvis Costello at the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow. I am what you would call “stoked.”
  • We booked a 3-day trip to Norway for the Jubilee weekend. We’re flying RyanAir on the way into Oslo, which I have never done before, and I am terrified. I have no idea what to expect of it. It can’t be good, though. It just can’t be. Please save your horror stories for when my feet are safely on the ground. (Knock on wood.)
  • Finally, all of the photos you never wanted:

MOM AND DAD IN LONDON!



ONE GLORIOUS DAY WITH AL, KOB, and CALLUM!



And, THE FRAWLEY-HAWES WEDDING!



Which left time to get reacquainted with MR. ABERG THE SMALLER!


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