Category Archives: Travel

Happy Christmas

This morning I got an email from the US Postal Service alerting me that our mail forwarding period is about to expire. This made me feel emotions. Surprise, mostly. A year! Almost a YEAR since we moved to London. I think I’ll save the sentiments for the actual one-year anniversary at the end of January, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Last Christmas we were feeling weirdly grounded as everything actually spiraled out of control. This time last year we were hosting Friendsgiving at our apartment, knowing it was the last time we’d host a big group of people for awhile, and that it was certainly the last celebration in that JC apartment. I remember the deliberation over it — thinking we wouldn’t be able to do it at first, because things would be so crazy, and then ultimately deciding to throw caution to the wind. I remember being distinctly worried about people leaving serving trays at our place and them going into storage for a few years because I wouldn’t be able to get them back to them. Turned out OK.

In the midst of that, Melody was HAVING A BABY. I mean, A REAL HUMAN was born unto the Abergs and I literally ran out of work to get to the hospital. In a cab. I’ll admit it. I took a taxi to get there faster. It was not cheap. WHO CARES.

Chris flew back to the US yesterday to spend some time in Jerz before heading to the farm. I’ll be making my way to Boston on Friday evening, so this is the first time I’ve slept in our flat alone and it feels…not weird. I actually feel so comfortable and at home in this flat and this city that it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. (Different from when he went to Barcelona three weeks after we moved here and I was absolutely freaking out in our temporary flat.) I’m excited to get home, but I’m equally excited to get back. Partially just because I really do love it here, and partially because Brynn and Jeff are coming back with us to visit for a week. I can’t wait!

I am so in the Christmas spirit this year, which is a marked improvement from the past, oh, three years or so. I’ve felt like Christmas crept right up on me in past years, and I didn’t have time to enjoy it. So I made darn sure this year was different. We started with the Southbank Christmas market the weekend after Thanksgiving, shopped on Columbia Road and bought our Christmas tree the first weekend in December, spent a weekend in Germany at the Christmas markets in Stuttgart and Esslingen, and walked up Oxford Street (like the lunatics we are) this past weekend. I’ve sufficiently excited myself. I bought wrapping paper at Marks & Spencer with little royal guards on it. I wrapped at least one present every night for the past two weeks, while drinking wine on the sofa. I bought pine-scented candles at John Lewis. English people help out a lot by unabashedly wish you a merry or happy Christmas, without bothering for a second to first check what religion you might be. I asked about using the term “holidays” in an email subject line and I was told that no, that would not make sense, and people would be confused. It IS the CHRISTMAS break.

I’ve never been in an airport anywhere NEAR Christmas, but this year I’ve found myself back and forth to Brussels, back and forth to Stuttgart, on top of the upcoming trip to Boston at the end of this week. I’m prepared for a hairy terminal three at Heathrow on Friday afternoon and keeping fingers crossed my flight is not delayed by a second. I need to get home, and get some Dunkin’ Donuts.
I’ve packed a carry-on with mince pies, cookies, and chocolates from Belgium, Germany, and England to make sure they get to the US in one piece. Hopefully it all makes it through security. I will probably sit there on the ground outside security and eat the entirety of the package of Fortnum & Mason mince pies if anything goes wrong. I will not share any with the officers.

Apologies for the few and far between posts that are pretty much just rambles of emotions. Perhaps I’ll find where my clever, biting wit went in 2013.

They’re Coming to America

So, I decided somewhat last minute that I needed to get back to the US for some time this summer. Since I’d expected to have a real job at this point, I didn’t think that was going to happen. But since I’m still freelancing, and…quite frankly, kinda livin’ the dream right now (whether I want to be or not)… I decided I needed a week of real summer. I needed to see some ocean. I needed to see my family, and spend a week on the farm, and have ice cream from Somerset Creamery.

So I’m flying from Heathrow to Boston on Monday, for a week. This will only be my second international flight alone, and frankly—I really am totally uncomfortable with that. I’ve been doing really well lately on our short flights, and not freaking out. But 7 hours is a different story. What’s the lamest thing that can happen to someone who loves to travel? To suddenly, in their late twenties, develop a moderate-to-intense fear of flying, and intense-to-severe claustrophobia. It’s better if Chris is there so I can squeeze his arm, and to make me feel like someone will take care of me if suddenly the Xanax turns on me. That said, the prospect of reading Game of Thrones for six unadulterated hours is getting me through. I wonder if I’ll get a flight attendant who decides they don’t care if I keep my Kindle on through take-off, or one who will require me to go BALDWIN. Reading is as good for me as Xanax. (How’s that for an advertising tagline?)

Things I learned the last time I visited the US: It’s really weird to be “home” and not have regular use of a cell phone. It’s really weird not to walk to the grocery store. It’s really weird to suddenly crave terrible food you didn’t know you missed.

Aside from that, this will be the longest Chris and I have been apart, since, um, I think, ever? Guess we’ll see how this goes!

But I am thrilled to get to spend some time with my family, and wear SHORTS!

Upon my return, we will be heading to Paris on Friday, the 24th for a long weekend. That day we’ll celebrate two really amazing things: First, our 8TH MONTH living in the UK, and second, the date that, ten years ago, Chris and I played cards at a dorm room kitchen table and sealed our fates forever.

I get knocked down, but I get up again.

This post title brought to you by the late Chumbawumba. Did you guys all seriously know they were a band until two days ago, still? And they apparently broke up? And now the internetz is going crazy over it.

So, wow, I pretty much let almost an entire month go by without writing here, which is real bad news, but to be fair, the following things have been happening:

1) I have been watching The Bachelorette.

2) I have been reading Game of Thrones.

3) I have been planning trips to Lake Como and Milan (next weekend), Paris (in August, to celebrate ten years of annoying the crap out of each other), Munich in October (yes, exactly what you’re thinking), and Greece in September.

4) We actually kind of have friends now and we’ve been going out a lot. Weird!

5) The weather has been absolute shit. Again. I woke up this morning and there was sun shining into the living room and I felt shock.

6) We’ve been putting together new IKEA furniture.

So what this all means is that A) I have lots of photos to upload and will do so shortly, and B) I think we can finally do a whole house tour!

One last really important thing, is that we finally had all of our shoes delivered to us, which was great. Not that I generally have much use for gold Michael Kors heels, but it’s nice to know they’re there if I want them. But it was also really fun because it was like opening presents! Aside from some knitting, and the shoes, we didn’t expect anything else. So when four boxes showed up, I was sort of worried. But it turns out they were almost entirely packed with things we had meant to arrive here, and didn’t realize were missing. (Which I’d guessed was going to happen, because there was pretty much ZERO way they could have screwed anything up because our house was organized so perfectly for the movers.) So we got our “pretty” laundry basket, for one. Some little mini golf set of Chris’s.  And, possibly the biggest thing that was screwing with my head without me even realizing it: three dish towels. I cannot tell you how baffled I have been about how quickly we’ve been running through dish towels. And I could not figure out why. Turns out it’s cause we only had half of them, and we have been so unsettled I DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE THAT. I know what you’re all thinking right now, and no, I am not ashamed that I felt off-kilter because I was missing dish towels, or that I am publicly explaining it.

I swear things have been more exciting and fun than this makes it sound.

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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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Norwegian Wood

No, seriously, we saw a lot of wooden stuff. Ships, churches, all kinds of houses!

I’m not going to pretend I had some real desire to travel to Norway before I spotted the £13.99 RyanAir flights (roughly the equivalent of $21), but I’m so glad we went. We just focused on Oslo this time around, which turned out to be the perfect amount of time to spend there. We’ll absolutely go back to visit Bergen and the west coast, and see more of the dramatic fjords on that side of the country, and perhaps even get to Svalbard. I only read the first book of the His Dark Materials series, but if there are seriously polar bears that talk: I’m in.

Our first day consisted of baked goods at a gluten-free bakery called Bakefri around the corner from our hotel, which was Chris’s dream come true. They had real, serious bakery items—not your run-of-the-mill sub-par cupcakes that most places try to play up as a gluten-free selection. He ate some kind of lobster tail thing. I don’t know what it was called, because it was in Norwegian. But he was seriously happy.

Afterwards we walked over to see some museums (obviously). First was the National Gallery where we saw Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and then the Museum of Cultural History where we saw some amazing medieval pieces, including a ceiling from a stave church depicting about 12,000 Bible scenes.

THEN, we had McDonald’s. And I’m not ashamed to say it, because after three years of suffering from Celiac, Chris deserved a gosh-darn Big Mac.

And enjoy it, he did.

Afterward, we walked along the wall of Akershus Castle before heading back to the hotel and getting ready for dinner.

We ate that night at Le Benjamin, which had some “glums and glows” (if I may steal a phrase from my favorite travel blogger, Ms. Sarah Fox). Glows being the lovely service to dumb Americans who are thanking God the menu is at least in French, too, the nice atmosphere, good house wine, and ice cream for dessert. Glums being that they served fried avocados with our steaks, and that it COST $140 USD. Norway is crazy expensive. See what oil money does to people? THEY FRY AVOCADOS. This is clearly messing with their culinary brains. Or maybe it’s that it doesn’t get dark there until almost midnight. (And for those of you out there thinking, “Hm! Fried avocados! Maybe that could be interesting, Marissa!?” I assure you: It was not a good idea.)

The next day was our boat trip out to an area of Oslo called Bygdøy, where we went to the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Folk Museum. The Vikingskipshuset was impressive, despite its small size. There are three large ships that take up a wing of the museum each, and a fourth dedicated to items found within the ships, which had all been buried throughout Norway as part of mediaeval burial processes for royalty. Most of them were found, however, already raided. I mean, duh. You can’t really hide that you’re burying an entire ship.

The folk museum was an open air museum that had more than 150 buildings relocated from around the country, separated by the regions they came from. In short, it was totally amazing, and while we didn’t get to tour the entire country, visiting the museum really made me feel like we’d seen more than we would have otherwise.

The highlight, by far, was the Gol Stave Church, which was originally built in 1212, and brought to the folk museum in the 1890s.

Our last day before heading to the airport, we managed to squeeze in a trip to Vigeland Sculpture Park and some gluten-free pizza.

Before heading out to the park, we got to meet up with Chris’s friend and Norway-native Kenneth for coffee. Some of you might remember Kenneth from a show Chris played with him in BK a few years ago at that creepy club with the dolls on the walls. If you haven’t listened to Beezewax yet, get thee to your music portal of choice and start with the following: I’m Not Where I’m Supposed to Be, Your New Town, The Snooze Is On, In the Stands, and When You Stood Up. I promise you will fall in love. Frankly, I can’t get over how amazing it is to be so far from “home” and still be able to have coffee with someone you know in a country you never expected to visit. Life is funny.

For fun, please enjoy a very, very, very old, and very, very very poor-quality video of his band, partly filmed in Chris’s hometown/partly in Manhattan:

And finally, Chris and I rating the trip, in terms of thumbs-upness:

In retrospect, we probably should have picked something that made us feel less like losers in public.

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