Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I'm writing this on a barf bag

Hello from 10,000, give or take a few, feet, or so the pilot just told me. Currently, I'm sitting on the plane to Prague. It's weird to think I'm leaving London for good, minus my 4 hour layover in a week or so. We're flying over the city that has become my home for the past 4 months. It has certainly been an experience, one I'll never forget. In this short time, I've learned and experienced so much. I discovered parts the world, met great friends, learned a lot and changed a little finding a new home far away from my old home. 

(As preface, this post may be on the long side as I have an hour and a half to kill and it's been a very busy few short days, just ask my feet and legs how tired they are!...And as this title suggested, I'm writing this blog on a barf bag.)

Since my last post...

Early Friday morning, Barb FINALLY arrived in London. At 8am, I met her at Paddington Station, from where we headed to our hotel, Rubin's at the Palace, which is probably as close as I'll ever get to the Queen, although I'm still holding out hope for Harry! We spent the day exploring and shopping in different areas of the city. We enjoyed my last meal (tear), a veggie burger, at Champions and officially moved me out of Palace Court. We might have done the stairs about 7x before all my bags had been moved out of my room, if only it would fit into our hotel room. We enjoyed our nap time and then headed out for some food, YoSushi, and WICKED!

I always wanted to see Wicked. Barb & Eric went without me and enjoyed it and from camp, Marni, GLEE and god knows what else, I knew the music. So I was excited. We had purchased half price tickets in Leicester Square that morning, which turned out to be great, just like the show. Going in to it, I didn’t know much and was amazed at how well they incorporated the already great story line into a show. Not to toot my own horn but I was able to figure out some of the connections before they were even made! Needless to say, it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

The next morning, another early one, Dad and Dave arrived in London, just in time for breakfast, which was even better than Italy—equipped with an Egg Station : ) and had black pudding (gross). As you know, because I know you all are such avid readers, I had planned a tight schedule for my families visit (see post: Suggestions, anyone?)—there was a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in! What I didn’t plan for, however, was the London Marathon on Sunday, or rather around. So we had to make some adjustments over what to do on what days. So after the boys showered, we “hopped on” a London bus, which took us around the city viewing everything from the open roof top, (Barb wanted a window seat…she really never lets us down), with commentary from our tour guide. We saw everything from the sites to the Parks. We hopped off in Parliament Square to go into explore the Square, go into Westminster Abbey and Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms. We then enjoyed some Fish & Chips, my last in London, with no mushy peas! The horror! From there, we walked home via Green Park & The Palace. As the boys were ready for their nap, Barb and I had just enough time to head out to the Burberry Outlet before dinner…however, no worries for Eric, our trip was a failure. We then went home to change before we headed out to Indian Food in Bayswater, my old neighborhood. I’m happy to report that THIS TIME, my fellow diners actually enjoyed their meals. We then grabbed some Fro-yo at Frog before hopping on the tube to head home. (That was a lot of “hopping”)

The next morning, in attempt to avoid the marathon, we headed North to Camden Market—we explored the market, its goods and, of course, the plethora of food. From there, we went to check out Abbey Road and yes took a few corny pictures. Then we went to Kensington Palace and Hyde Park stopping for lunch at YoSushi in Knightsbridge. Yes, I said Knightsbridge, which can only mean one thing: Harrod’s This was where I spent probably over an hour trying to convince/show the boys (ERIC) that Harrods is more than JUST A DEPT. STORE. I spared them Pet Kingdom, if they agreed we can get a puppy when I get home! While I’m not sure how successful I was, I am certain we all enjoyed the sundaes this adventure included: Banana Royale & Black Forest. By that point, we all needed a good walk and the sun had come out just in time for us to head over for a spin around The London Eye. That evening, we went to Rules for dinner. Rules is the oldest restaurant in London so I was very excited to get to try it. Located in Covent Garden, the family thought the area seemed extremely similar to Boston, especially Faneuil Hall and I couldn’t help agreeing, which is pretty cool since Covent Garden is probably one of my favorite parts of London. The restaurant served traditional British fare: we had pate, Sunday roasts, venison and I tried squab pigeon…which I thought would help contribute to getting rid of pigeons and its official: Pigeons actually serve no purpose and aren’t even good! But I did enjoy sampling everyone elses food…especially the sticky toffee pudding.

Monday morning, we walked over to the Palace to see the Changing of the Guards. Then we went on a Notting Hill Tour seeing Portobello Road, the Travel Bookstore and famous Blue Door. Unfortunately, Hugh Grant did not make the tour thus I’m returning home without him for a British husband but again: Harry, I’m available!...if only Harry was reading this! After that, we went over to the British museum. Then Barb and I headed to Fortnum & Mason while the boys went to the Tower. At F&M, we explored the dept store, especially the food halls before treating ourselves to High Tea at St. James, and you all know how I feel about that little tradition! We had sandwiches, scones, cakes, cupcakes, breads and I can continue but I will spare you, this post is already long enough. That evening, we went to see We Will Rock You, which may be more of a concert than a show. Nonetheless, the music was great but the story line was a little odd. On the way home, we walked through Leicester Square, Piccadilly & Soho, stopping for some late night Chinese food, which was as always delicious. I needed some food to refuel before heading home to pack and actually leave London.

Now, I’m sitting in my seat, 20A, in an empty row, with my feet up across the seats on this Czech Air Flight, where its beginning to hit me that this is all almost over. While I’m excited to go home, as is my stomach, which is currently dying for some routine in my diet, a little less cheese a little more health, it’s weird. However, I’m beyond grateful for the time I’ve spent both in this wonderful city and throughout Europe—THANKS MOM & DAD!!! I’ve made both great friends and memories. So with that, See ya later London & Helloooo Prague!

Over the next 2 weeks, my blogging may be few and far in between. However, I’ll try and keep you posted as I venture to Prague, Barcelona, Athens & Santorini…yes, you should be jealous, I cannot wait! However, I will be without my computer…gasp…from Barcelona on. I know how sad you all are. But there will be barf bags to write on and I will be back to update you. Does anyone know if Blogger has an app for Blackberry?? Bare with me, I’ll be back!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Finally on her way

Well I'm now updating because it appears that it is actually happening: Barb is on her way to London, and Eric and Dave will soon follow after. In 7 hours, I'll be making the early morning trek to Paddington Station, again, to meet my visitor. 

I guess now, I'll apologize to Paula, my mom's travel agent, who I have probably been a little too rough on, thinking she's not doing her job or not working hard enough to get my mom here. And with everything going on, she actually got her here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eyjafyoll

A word that looks more like something my keyboard threw up...and that's exactly how that word makes me feel: like I want to throw up.

I begin this post with an apology, to my readers and my mother, for not blogging over the past few days and for making your life a living a hell. I have avoided blogging in a fear of jinxing anything. For those of you living under a cloud, or better yet those of you not living under a cloud, in case you managed some way to miss it, volcanic ash has taken over the airspace in Europe, closing airports throughout the UK and Europe since last Thursday, grounding my mother's flight, which was due to land in London in a mere 4 hours and nearly ruining my family vacation. Needless to say the word Eyjafyoll brings on tears, disappointment and extreme anger.

However, last night, as I resigned to the idea that my family would most likely not be coming to England or Prague, the British Airport Authority decided to surprise us all and open Heathrow. So it looks as though the family will be getting here after all, maybe even Barb a little early, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

So with that, I ask you to cross your fingers for exactly what I mentioned above. I may not have the best of luck but that's what I have readers for, to help me out and share their luck with me!

Keep your fingers crossed and I'll keep you updated
xo 


In unrelated news: The Last Week
While the ash cloud may have been looming in the sky, here on the ground the weather has been beautiful. Cloud free, sunny skies.
-Portobello Road, again
-Paddle Boating in Hyde Park
-Itsu Sushi, conveyor belt style : )
-Stonehenge
-Bath
-V&A - Grace Kelly Exhibition
-SUMMER, minus my dissertation defense in 2.5 hours

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Are you alright?

You know, after living and working in London for nearly 4 months now, there are certain things I never got used to. This includes, but is by no means limited to, very strong British, Irish & Scottish accents, the crowded and hot tube at 9am, waking up at 8 every morning, although I'm sure that's not something I'm used to at home, and being asked "are you alright?" For some reason the second anyone utters it to me, I turn on the defensive. Yah, I'm alright, do I not look okay? It's very confusing. 

That's all for now.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

As I sit, midst my last "real" week of my London program, I'm becoming both sad that my time here is ending while simultaneously very excited to be returning home in a few short weeks. And as a side note: After nearly 4 months, I still struggle with a UK keyboard, it took me a few seconds to actually find the " button.

Mostly, however, I'm growing more excited for the weeks between then and now. If only I could fast forward about a week when all responsibility will subside, summer begin and my mom will finally be in London, soon after followed by Dave and dad. So to keep myself and you occupied and cause I really have nothing new or exciting to report, I'm going to share my planning, brainstorming, researching, etc what to do while my mom and family are here and in Prague, Barcelona, Athens and Santorini. I included many of the things other people have told me they'd like to do and a few things I have yet to do. And of course, I'm open to any and all of your thoughts, questions, suggestions...and maybe your concerns.

BARB Comes to London - April 21-23
Shopping, if you're surprised, I really have absolutely no idea why. Stops at Liberty, Cath Kidston, Burberry Outlet and I'm sure we'll find more.
Wicked? Stratford-upon-Avon? Bath/Stonehenge? Art Museums (she is an art history major after all)? This planning is clearly in its preliminary stages.

Dad & Dave Come to London - April 24
Portobello Road, featuring Hummingbird Bakery? and of course a stop at the Travel Bookstore for Eric, Kensington Palace/Gardens, maybe a final meal at Champion, Harrods, and yes you must all try a sundae...I'll double up on Digestive Advantage, Indian Food for dinner?
London Bus Tour - I might suggest the Red Tour with stops at Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, St. Margarets, St. Paul's, Tower of London and more. Probably some sushi for Lunch, cause I know Dave wants that and Reservations at Rules already made.
Trip to Tower of London, High Tea with mom at Fortnum & Mason, We Will Rock You at Night
Covent Garden for some Ben's Cookies

The Holsteins go to Prague - April 27
Old Town Square with the Astronomical Clock & Prague Castle, Municipal House, Gehry's Dancing Buildings, Lenon Wall, Love Lock Bridge
The Jewish Quarter
Terezin
Sampling of Budweiser, a local beer there too, or Gambrinus, and Becharovka, a Czech liquor I'm very interested in trying, and somehow managing to get by with Prague notorious for less-than-great food. I'm SURE we'll find a way. After all, I know Barb already made some reservations...can always count on her for those!

Barcelona - April 30
In addition to the partying, the beach, Sangria, tapas and Paella, I know virtually nothing about Barcelona. Chalk it up to 6 years of studying French, I've never really had an interest in Spain. However, I suppose there's no better time to start learning than now.
Obviously the beach, Sangria and the foods listed above will probably be must-dos but I figured I'd see what else is there. And any of you, LAUREN, who want to tell me what exactly I should and should not bother with, PLEASE SHARE.
Gaudi Architecture: Cathedral, Casa Mila & Park, Picasso Museum, Las Ramblas, 
Oh, and churros...I didn't mention churros. I can't believe I forgot to mention churros. mmmmm, I'm hungry and it's only 11.

Athens - May 3
The Parthenon, The Acropolis, National Archaeology Museum, Temple of Zeus, Plaka, Markets...and did I say eat? a lot? Greek food might possibly be my favorite: the salads: Fattoush or the standard Greek Salad, the soups: Chicken Lemon Soup, I wont even attempt the Greek word for it...Avego...I have no idea, the meals, spanikopita, the desserts: baklava...I'll stop now to prevent the sheer boredom later.

Santorini - May 6
Is there anything to do here other than relax and enjoy the beach?
I spent last weekend watching Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, both 1 and 2. I like to watch movies, which feature the places I'll soon be going. You can imagine the mass amount of options I had in January. But I didn't realize Santorini was the Island where Lena goes to when she meets Costas. So since there's probably not much else to do, maybe I'll try and find my own Costas. Oh and eat. Definitely more Greek food there. 

more later.
comment your suggestions, please!
xo

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Check or Strike Through

If you didn't realize it already, I like making lists. They help me both organize and prioritize. I have them everywhere: on my cell phone, notebooks, computer and filofax. I'm constantly making them and crossing things on them off. Cause there's really nothing better than crossing something on a to do list off...at least in my opinion. So with that, I bring you another list.

To Do Before May 10th
-4 days of work
-5 classes
-1 book
-3 papers to write
-2 papers to edit
-1 presentation
-1 exam
-register for Wisconsin Fall Classes
-buy all those things I've been putting off for 3 months: London Post Cards, Tea, Little Bus, Liberty fabric, etc. etc.
-Tour Westminister Abbey
-Go to Bath & Stonehendge
-Rent a boat on the Serpentine & lawn chair in Hyde Park
-Do a London Bus Tour
-Pack
-Prague
-Barcelona
-Athens
-Santornini

Monday, April 5, 2010

In his own words

I'm not a talented enough writer to adequately explain how my stomach is feeling right now, but I'm going to give it a try anyway.

As I sit in seat 36B on my flight from London to Chicago, my stomach is turning, twisting, rumbling, and growling. If it could, I bet my stomach would ask me why I had to stuff so much food in it over the last four days. 

So no, that probably didn't paint a clear enough picture for you of how I feel, but I think if you read the rest of this post you'll have a better understanding of what's going on.

I'm on my way back from visiting Carly in London and she's asked me to write a guest blog post (ok, ok, I begged her to let me). Naturally, I think it would go against the spirit of this blog to write about anything else other than what we ate over the last four days. And, if I can sprinkle in some details about the things we did not related to eating, well, that's just frosting on the cupcake (cue Carly getting hungry).
My culinary tour of London started after our trip to the British Museum on Thursday morning with falafel at Cafe Diana (a restaurant oddly obsessed with Princess Di, there was zero wall space not occupied by a picture of her) and picked up that evening when the tapas restaurant and its sangria ended up being well worth the long wait in the cold. Even though most of the menu was written in a language unfamiliar to me, Carly did a nice job translating what all the different sauces and veggies actually were. I think Carly's favorite was the apple's in the sangria or the chutney-topped bruschetta while I was more partial to the sweat potato polenta.

Friday meant filling up on sushi, then taking the next couple of hours to explore Harrods where the highlights were finding out that they had a puppy department and taking advantage of the free jellybean samples. Walking around Harrods was all just a buildup however to eating a Berry flavored ice-cream sundae in the food hall that put a smile on both of our faces and left me in desperate need of a nap (although we managed to squeeze in a visit to Buckingham Palace first).

Dinner that night was nachos and some terrific fish 'n chips at a nearby pub where I enjoyed a pint and also got to experience a taste of Carly's new favorite drink "Pims" (my verdict: good, but definitely not a drink for guys). Sadly the pub we went to didn't serve mushy peas, but we still had a good time eating London's most famous food while sipping on cider. 

Now, like most of you who have been following along with the blog, I've heard a lot about Portobello Road. I'm pleased to say that our experience there on Saturday morning did not disappoint. My favorite part of the market was Hummingbird Bakery where we picked up a couple of cupcakes (Carrot Cake and Red Velvet) that were both terrific. After that, we enjoyed the smells of all the different vendors' booths that extended for several blocks. Had my stomach not been bothering me I might have sampled the Ghanaian stews or maybe the Chorizo, but picking up the cupcakes was satisfying enough.
Saturday afternoon's trip to the Churchill and Imperial War Museum was much more interesting than even I had anticipated and after seeing the dark and cramped headquarters from which Churchill planned WWII, visiting the famous toy store Henley's was a nice change of pace. The day wouldn't have been complete though without a stop at McDonald's so Carly could finally try the Cadbury Egg McFlurry. Though my family has long argued that it is impossible not to smile while eating ice cream, I think the smile on Carly's face as she ate her McFlurry was extra big.

Perhaps our best meal came Friday night at the Fountain Restaurant in Fortnum & Mason where appetizers of mussels and chicken liver pate preceded my terrific steak, Carly's fish cakes, and something called "carrot and swede mash" which was also very good. Dessert brought orange pekoe tea for Carly and us sharing a Baked Alaska, which was the perfect way to finish off a really great evening. 

Later on, Carly showed me her favorite late-night food place where we picked up lamb kabob, french fries, salad, and hummus at 2 a.m. Though the food wasn't as good as I'd imagined, the experience of going there late at night was a lot of fun.

We started my last day, Sunday, with lunch at Carly's favorite pub "The Champion" where my cheeseburger and her veggie burger provided us with the energy to spend our afternoon exploring Hyde Park. There we saw the famous statue of Peter Pan (which prompted Carly to make us watch "Finding Neverland" later on) and took pictures of the swans and ducks around the lake. Thankfully, it was sunny most of the day and believe it or not I went the entire four-day trip without ever experiencing anything more than light rain. Very lucky for me.

Sunday night's dinner was brought on by a critical mistake I had made in the days leading up to my trip when I told Carly that I had never tried Indian food. This meant Carly insisting we go to Brick Lane to find a nice Indian restaurant. Let's just say it wasn't my favorite and leave it at that. Fortunately, we found a bakery where Indian desserts made a much better impression on me.

And that brings us back to my stomach. Sitting on the plane I find myself reliving all the great meals we had this weekend, much to the chagrin of my stomach, which experienced something of an overload. I'm disappointed to head back to Madison where my meal options include Subway and trying not to overcook pasta. 

It's quite clear to me that I'm going to miss the food I've tried in London, but it is even more clear that the thing I'm going to miss most is the company I got to keep while eating it. 

Hopefully you've enjoyed this guest blog post as much as I enjoyed my visit to see Carly in London. Four days was just too short. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take another Tums.


-Mike