Sunday, February 24, 2008

It is NOT 10 degrees!!!!

Ah, London... I get off the plane and I feel like I'm home. A little explanation regarding the title of this post. Sometimes the hardest part for me will be coming up with a unique title. I had several thoughts but landed on this one. One of Jana's colleagues had been in London the week before and told her the weather was 10 degrees Celsius (approx. 50 degrees Fahrenheit). As we were walking through the park on the first day, shivering, we emphatically agreed there was no way it was 10 degrees out!!

February 13th/14th
British Airways has always been my airline of choice when flying to Europe but they have been slipping recently in my estimation. I usually still fly with them since they are the only option for a direct flight from Seattle to London. Rumor has it Northwest will soon have a direct Seattle to London option so I might be flying BA less and less (not to mention I would get Continental miles from Northwest!). My vendetta against BA started with their new policy of having to check-in online to get your seat assignment and you can only check-in starting 24 hours prior to your flight. It was further compounded by the fact the on-demand entertainment system was not working. I probably spent more time trying to make it work! And then when I couldn't I tried to join the programs already in progress but couldn't get into them since I had missed the beginning. There were a few other things, having to do with the food choices, but I won't bore you with them. Poor Jana, she had to listen to them all! In fact when I got to the hotel room, after saying hi, I told her she was going to have to listen to all my complaints. Her response was to tell me she expected that - I usually start off our trips complaining about the plane ride! I guess there is something about being on a plane that puts me in a complaining mood! The plane ride was not the smoothest I've had - it was extremely turbulent at times, which I don't particularly care for. The passport line was extremely long - but the good thing about that is by the time I got to baggage my suitcase was waiting for me! I took the Heathrow Express to Paddington and debated briefly about getting on the tube before deciding to get in line for a taxi. The taxi took me a different way than I have gone before, through near Hyde Park. I knew the hotel was close to the park, I just didn't realize how close. Jana had emailed me and let me know she had checked us in and we were in room 1042. I committed room 1024 to memory and after arriving at the hotel I went up to room 1024 and knocked on the door. As I was knocking on the door I thought to myself "hm, was it 1024 or 1042?" Fortunately nobody answered my knock at 1024 and I made my way to 1042. We were both starving by this time so we went to our favorite little cafe right near the hotel, The Muffin Man. One of the reasons we ended up staying here was because we liked the area and we knew of good restaurants! After lunch we walked over to the park and meandered over to the Albert Memorial. We were both freezing at this point, not to mention jetlagged, and it was getting dark so we decided to find a coffee shop. We sat at the shop and drank coffee until it was time for dinner. It was a very lazy afternoon!! We didn't walk far before we came across an Italian restaurant and decided it was as good as any. The food wasn't the best, and the restaurant was across the street from a church (St. Mary Abbotts) whose bells were ringing incessantly the entire time we were there! We made our way back to the hotel for an early night.

February 15th
As we had both been to London before, we didn't really set a schedule. We had a leisurely breakfast at the Muffin Man before heading to the Tower of London. We arrived just in time for a Yeoman warder (or beefeater) tour. We admired the crown jewels (I really like Queen Victoria's small diamond crown) and looked through the other parts of the castle. We were there for awhile and ended up getting kicked out because they were closing. Our next stop was All Hallows church before making our way over to the Hung, Drawn & Quartered pub where we shared a basket of chips (fries). The chips came with ketchup, vinegar and mayonnaise. I was just happy we got an actual bottle of ketchup!!

It was late night at the Victoria & Albert Museum so that was our next stop. I love late night at the museum - it's usually really quiet and there aren't a lot of people. It reminds me a bit of Night at the Museum with Ben Stiller and also the Sesame Street episode where Big Bird gets locked in the museum. Although I'm not sure if that is an actual episode or something I made up as I haven't found anyone who remembers it. We started off in the Renaissance but the room with David was closed!! I could see his head through the top of the door but that was it. We looked around for a bit more and by then we were ready for dinner! Last time we were in London we had found this great Italian restaurant and we were excited to go back. But we were in for a disappointment. The restaurant was no more. Maybe it was a good thing - maybe we had hyped it up to much in our minds and we would have been disappointed when it wasn't as good as we had remembered it being... Still, that didn't help us because at that moment we were hungry and cold. Jana knew of another Italian restaurant so we got back on the tube. Seriously, if we worked for Rick Steves, we would have a section on the best Italian restaurants. Il Borgo looked like a hole in the wall but the food was very good.

Looking at the map before heading home, we decided if we cut up through a few streets we could reach our hotel faster than going up and around. And we were right, except for the fact there was a big wall blocking our way!!! The even more frustrating part was we could see our hotel, but had no way to get to it. We tried to circumnavigate around the wall but alas, we could not. We ended up walking in a giant circle back to the restaurant and then we had to walk up and around back to the hotel. It wouldn't have been so bad except for two things - it was really cold, and I really had to use the bathroom. Guess you should always listen to mom's advice and go before you leave!!

P.S. We later did a little Wiki-research and found there really was a Sesame Street episode where they got locked in the museum.

February 16th
Last time we stayed at this hotel we had a few issues with the TV turning on randomly during the night. We didn't have any issues the first night. But at 5 a.m. this morning the TV started turning itself on. After turning it off with the remote a couple of times I gave up the fight and got up and turned it off completely. I really do like this hotel, except for the odd wiring of the TVs!
After the TV issue, I fell back asleep. Again, as we were not on a schedule, we spent another leisurely morning, with a late breakfast at the Muffin Man. We tubed it over to Paddington Station and caught the train for Windsor. When we got to Windsor Castle we were greeted with a line to get in to the castle! But with it being such a nice day, and Saturday as well, it should have been expected. We ended up waiting in line for probably about 30 or 40 minutes which wasn't too bad. Sitting for a minute in the church we noticed the grave of Henry VIII and one of his wives - the one that died before he could find something wrong with her.

We had lunch at an Irish bar not too far from the castle and then decided to walk to down to Eton, where Prince William went to school. By the time we got to the school it was closed so we took a picture and walked back to the train station.

It was late night at the Tate Modern so we took the tube over to St. Paul's and walked over the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern. The Tate Modern was interesting. It was good to go, but I probably don't ever need to go back. You can say I'm shallow when it comes to art - I like it simple and pretty. Modern art really doesn't do it for me. Although I do have to say, they had an exhibit on art from the Congo that was very thought-provoking. Enjoy is probably the wrong word to use, but I appreciated that exhibit. The Tate Modern did have one Monet but it was not my favorite of his paintings.

We weren't feeling very adventurous when we left the Tate Modern and so we ended up back at Il Borgos for dinner. We had just placed our order when some American college kids were seated next to us. They were very loud and very obnoxious!! Kids!! It wasn't long after we had gotten our dinner (pizza margherita for me - no surprise there!) that I smelled something burning. The candle had gotten too close to the bread basket and had burned a whole in the bread basket!! Oops! Guess the kids weren't the only obnoxious Americans at the restaurant that night. We took the long way home, not bothering to even try to figure out a shorter way back to the hotel.

February 17th
Another lazy morning, another breakfast at the Muffin Man. Neither of us had been to Kensington Palace before and since it was so close we walked over there. They had a special exhibition on Diana. This was her home after she married Prince Charles until her death. She was a beautiful woman. After touring the palace we walked through the park looking for the Peter Pan statue. We couldn't find it so we gave up and headed towards Apsley House (nicknamed Number One, London), where the first Duke of Wellington lived. Part of the house is a museum, the rest is still used by the current Duke of Wellington. As we continued walking towards Apsley House we saw a map of the park and saw where the Peter Pan statue was - we had been so close when we had decided to give up! We decided we would stop and look for it on our way back. Inside the museum we were greeted by an 11 foot statue of a basically naked Napoleon (he had a fig leaf). The story goes that Napoleon commissioned the statue but didn't like how it turned out so it was put into the basement of the Louvre until the British government bought it and presented it to Wellington. Next we walked over to Harrods and spent some time exploring the store. After Harrods we walked back to the park to find the Peter Pan statue. We stopped by the water to take some pictures of a swan who was totally posing for us. We found the statue but it was dark and so the pictures didn't turn out too well. We high-tailed it out of the park because it was getting really dark by this time. We stopped by an internet cafe next so I could check in online and get my seat. Stupid new BA policy! But at least I got a window seat. We went to an Indian restaurant for dinner. No, you didn't read that wrong - I did say Indian. You thought I was going to say Italian! It was quite good.

The TV did its thing except Jana and I were still awake. For whatever reason, neither of us could sleep so we had stayed awake chatting. I still didn't want to get out of my warm bed to completely turn off the TV though but I did finally. I fell asleep not too long after that.

February 18th
Our quick vacation was over. Jana's plane left earlier than mine so we said goodbye and I ate breakfast at the hotel. I still had some time before I needed to go to the airport so I walked over to the park to visit the Peter Pan statue. I walked back to the hotel and gathered up my suitcase and headed to Paddington station to catch the Heathrow Express. The on-demand entertainment worked and the plane ride home was very smooth.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I'm off to London tomorrow to enjoy a long weekend, keeping up my streak of going to London at least once a year since either 2000 or 2003 (I can't remember if I went in 2002 or not). As to what I'm looking forward to most is just being there - that and eating at the restaurant Jana & I found the last time we were there! :) Watch this space for pictures and a trip report...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

This, that and the other

I was trying to figure out what I should give up for Lent. Dessert was too easy or too hard, depending on how you look at it with the potential of completely undermining all my willpower. I ended up with giving up Starbucks. I realize that is a little nebulous but I figured it was something I would miss. However, it doesn't mean I can go to Tully's or Seattle's Best instead, but if it is free latte day at work I can partake. Part of the reason I'm giving up Starbucks is now that they have raised their prices, my cinnamon dolce latte is expensive!! I really missed it this weekend! I can go to Starbucks on any given weekend 4 or 5 times, usually as my reward after a walk at the park. But I made it - 5 days down, 35 to go.

Speaking of walking at the park, I started off around Greenlake this morning and ran into close to 2,000 people coming towards me!! It was the annual Valentine's Day dash. I stayed off to the side and managed to navigate my way through the horde of people.

I've been really bored at the gym lately. That combined with being fairly susceptible to peer pressure has me signing up for boot camp and kickboxing. Several of my co-workers signed up for boot camp and convinced me to try it. After the first class I signed up but I'm only doing boot camp once a week, instead of the 3 times a week it is offered. Getting up once a week for a 6 a.m. class in the cold is enough for me! And if that wasn't enough they also convinced me to try kickboxing and now I'm taking kickboxing classes. But it is cutting down on my gym boredom!

My poor car - after having the passenger side window smashed, it now has a noise (which the mechanic assured me was a normal noise), and Saturday I got a chip in the windshield!

I think that's the update from my world...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A fun game of tag!

I saw this on Stacy's blog. I love these things so I thought I'd play along!

5 Things I was doing 10 years ago:
1. Uh, this is harder than I thought. Finishing up my junior year in college.
2. So if I remember right this would be the year we were having roommate drama. Long story short, we had a roommate who who was very needy and just made our living situation somewhat miserable.
3. Going to London for the first time to visit my freshman year roommate who was studying over there. Who knew that visit would start my love affair wth London?
4. Buying MY first car, a little red Mazda MX-6. My first vehicle was a Ford Escort which I shared with my sister and she drove it more than I did so I don't count that and my second was a 1978 Ford Truck which was really my dad's but he let me use it. So that's why I consider the little red car my first car.
5. Yeah, I have no idea, that was a long time ago.

5 Things I was doing 5 years ago:
1. Living in Houston
2. Trying to decide what to do - stay with Enron or find a new job.
3. That's about all I remember... I'm not sure why 5 years ago was harder than 10 years ago...

5 Things I did today:
1. Went to kickboxing
2. Went to Target
3. This is more something that happened - my poor car got a rock chip in the windshield. Seriously, what is going on with my car?!
4. Watched Duke beat Boston College
5. Did not go to Starbucks (more about this later in another post)

5 Products I can't live without:
1. Hm, not sure about this...
2. Lately, Crystal Light on the go packets
3. The little bottles of Purell hand sanitizer
4. My Coach purse
5. My ipod

5 Things I would do if I won a billion dollars:
1. Give to charity
2. Quit my job!!!!!! And then take a year to travel the whole world.
3. Buy a house (or two or three). One of them in Italy.
4. Buy my parents a house and my dad a car. Probably buy my brother a car as well.
5. Buy myself a car!! I can finally get my BMW!!!

5 Places I have lived:
1. Newcastle, WA
2. Bellingham, WA
3. Houston, TX
4. London, England
5. Newcastle, WA

5 Jobs I have had:
1. Babysitter
2. McDonalds crew person
3. Gift wrapper at a toy store during Christmas (they didn't want to train me to use the cash register so they had me wrap presents)
4. Office Manager for a tradeshow company
5. Tax Accountant

5 Things you may or may not know about me:
1. Since it is college basketball season and all, my favorite basketball team (and probably my favorite team of all) is Duke and one of the thing I would absolutely love to do is at least visit Cameron Indoor Stadium. How'd a Seattle girl end up a Duke fan? Well it all goes back to Quin Snyder (also from Seattle) who went to play for Duke. My dad loves watching local kids so we would watch Quin playing for Duke. It also helped Duke was on TV a lot! :)
2. I once won a writing contest in 6th grade and got to go to a writing camp.
3. Speaking of things I won - I actually won the award for Best Actress in high school. Yes, me, one of the shyest, quietest people around was an actress (at least in high school). There is something about not being me, but being a character, that I enjoy.
4. I love The Mummy and The Mummy Returns movies - yes I know they are silly but they always make me laugh!!
5. I finally passed the last section of the CPA exam on my 5th try. Yikes!!!

6. Oh, and I thought I'd add one more - I'm leaving for London on Wednesday (Feb. 13th) for a long weekend.

TAG - you're it!! Feel free to join in on the fun if you'd like!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Photo Contest

Photoworks has been setting up various photo communities where people can post their pictures for whatever category their pictures fit in - Storms, Pets, Travel, etc. They have also been running a photo contest each month for each of the categories. I entered a picture in the European Travel January contest and I won!! The winning photo: