Algarve, Portugal, Lisbon, Portugal, London, England, Sintra, Portugal

My Very Merry ‘Unbirthday’

IMG_9682Thirty-three is my favorite number.  It was on my basketball jersey for years.  Corey deems it lucky because he’s won money at the roulette table betting on double three.  I also turned 33 years old this past February.  It made this birthday special for me though I understand that this age isn’t a significant birthday when it comes to milestones like 21 or 30.  But Corey and Miya did find a way to celebrate thirty-three for me. They plotted together to ensure that she could visit London the first week of May which is why this post references my special unbirthday gift (only because it’s June and not February).  Cheers to celebrating unbirthdays like this for my entire thirty-third year and many more to come!

What better way to start Miya’s first day than with a good meal–lunch at Ottolenghi! We’ve both cooked with his recipes for the past few years so I wanted her to visit his restaurant in person.  The dessert display from the window is enough to make your mouth water.

* Miya brought Daniel Tiger along to show Daisuke what fun things were happening on Mama’s trip with Tia. Spot him throughout this post!*

We toured parts of our neighborhood and then walked to Brick Lane to see the graffiti art as well as the historical sites in Shoreditch.  Corey and Miya kept track of our steps and signaled when it was appropriate to sit down for a huge dinner at Lahore.

We rode the 341 bus to Westminster Abbey. I’m listing the bus number because we’ve never taken this bus from our house to this part of town.  The ride has a great view from Waterloo bridge when you cross over the Thames.  We walked to Westminster Abbey, which was closed (!), over to the Horses Guard, and through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace.  The flowers were in full bloom still!  Corey couldn’t get a word in edgewise as Miya and I talked the entire time we were together.  He hung out with Daniel Tiger a lot.

After learning that you need formal wear for afternoon tea at the Ritz (think ball gowns!), we opted for a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea where Mr. Wonka himself shows up with golden envelopes for the table!  It’s a pretty good gimmick.  You can’t use the prize in the envelope if you open it before returning for tea at another time.  We will be back with future visitors for sure.

From tea, we strolled Picadilly Circus, Soho, and Covent Garden.  There’s always something to see at Trafalgar Square like chalk artists and bubble magicians.  In Convent Garden, we were swept into shop similar to Sabon. The gentleman there must have been their top salesman as he got us to buy so many of their products in less than 15 minutes! We had a yummy meal at Kipferl before calling it an early evening.  Miya and I had to catch the first flight to Portugal the next day.

Once we figured out how to program our GPS in English, not Portuguese, we had a pretty smooth ride in the Algarve.  We had a rooftop lunch at Hotel Faro before heading out to Praia da Marinha.  It’s a gorgeous beach, and the sea breeze kept us cool even when there was little shade to be found on the sand.  At first, Miya wasn’t sure she needed to go into the water.  We were content relaxing on our towels and exploring the rock formations along the shoreline.  At one point, though, Miya sat up- “How could I not go into the water? I’m going,” she said matter of factly.  It was a good decision 🙂

Ferragudo is a beautifully small town, and our airbnb was on a cute street with bougainvillea climbing up along the tiled walls.  It’s easy to take a water taxi across to Portimao, a much more built up town with shopping promenades, and it’s also easy to stay put and have an afternoon coffee in the main plaza of Ferragudo.  We rested and showered before our night out on the town.

You can see our amazing meal at Fim do Mundo, where the staff were just as jovial and welcoming as I remember.  Get the clams and garlic sauce as a starter!  For someone’s first time to the restaurant, order the cataplana.  The sheer presentation of the dish is a fun experience.  The menu lists this dish for two or more people. If there are only two of you, ask for the half order, and choose a meat dish to share.  To help digest our food, we took an evening stroll to see other parts of the neighborhood-  where the taxi boats docked, how many different tiles we could find along the walls, and a small church atop a hill.

We took our time to drive out of Ferragudo.  We visited the Playa Grande, a longer flatter beach than Praia da Marinha.  It seemed a great beach for families with young kids as the waters were completely calm.

Miya expressed wanting to see Pena Palace, so we took the day to drive to Sintra and then took a tug tug up to the palatial grounds.  It was fun for me to see Miya’s architectural brain spring to life as she pointed out the columns, nooks, crannies, and influences in the art of the palace.  I love hearing about the connections she was making and I was conscious of how quickly I’d previously moved through the palace without taking note of the details she could see.  I had to remind her to take a break and eat something since she was so enthused by the palace!  I probably should have asked her to write some captions for the pictures below as she was able to explain so much!

We got into Lisbon later than we expected, and were pretty worn out from the long day of travel.  Ramiro Cervejaria wasn’t helping us out with dinner as the wait was over an hour.  We opted for roasted chicken and chips with a glass of complimentary port from our hotel–a quick recipe for getting a really good night’s sleep.


View from our hotel. Thanks for the hotel points, Core!

It was strange that the three days could go so fast but feel so relaxed at the same time.  Dropping off the rental car was a breeze, and the cafe where we had breakfast was incredibly cute.  Erica and Brian suggested it from their trip, and one of the Leitaria locations was around the corner from Hertz.

Both of us enjoyed taking public transportation to the Tile Museum, or the Museu Nacional Do Azulejo.  Azulejo means ‘small polished stone’ and comes from the Arab word azzelij or al zuleycha.  I was absorbed into the color and glazed shapes of each piece, and the chronology of the museum was really helpful to when comparing eras.  There were also tiles in braille that described the various color schemes in a hands on way for guests.  We were in awe of the numerous boxes of tiles that filled one of the museum hallways.  There seemed so much more to add to the exhibitions but they had yet to be unboxed!

We arrived at Cervejaria Ramiro just a half hour after they opened, and were seated immediately.  I highly suggest lunch here as it’s much less of a scene than dinner.  The seafood was tasty as ever (crab, langoustine medium, and lots of buttered bread).  For the first time, I also ordered the prego sandwich to cap off the meal!

We did some final shopping around the corner at A Vida Portuguese and then had coffee and tea in an outdoor plaza.  It was a perfectly warm and breezy day, and we couldn’t have been happier.

Back in London, Miya had some more sights to see to ensure she had a well-rounded trip across the pond.  Our Kipferl breakfast of pan fried potatoes, streaky bacon and arugula salad was the perfect fuel needed for a day of walking.

First stop: St Paul’s Cathedral.  I can’t get over the mosaics every time I visit.  The Whispering Gallery was as far up as we could walk in the cathedral, but that was more than enough to hear about Miya’s challenging architecture classes at the University of Washington- full of all nighters, sketches and out of this world projects.  Miya’s vote was that we take everyone to see St. Paul’s Cathedral when they visit.

The South Bank and Borough Market are also highlights that we share with all visitors and this trip was no exception.  We shared snacks in the late afternoon, and Miya found some vanilla bean pods to for her homemade tea recipe.  IMG_1237

In keeping with the architectural theme of her vacation, our final two visits of the day were to Kings Cross St Pancras station and The British Library.  We sat under the train station’s arches and sorted how Miya would navigate her way to the airport the next morning.  Then I had to show her the facade of the St Pancras hotel before we went to the library as I really enjoy the treasures room.  It’s such a great sized space to see some amazing artifacts at the library.  You can do it all in about an hour.  Miya packed her bags back at home and we had Thai food at our local spot for her final meal.  The week was up too soon! But I know that a trip like this is one where we’ll relive the memories over and over again…for thirty-three years and beyond!


London, England, Oslo, Norway

Big Barbara Comes to Town

IMG_9234On Friday, I was actually more excited to be in the airport itself than to be in the new city I’d just landed in.  Why?  I was meeting Barbara in just a half hour at the baggage claim!  She was flying across the pond to hang out for almost two weeks, and the first part of our adventure would be in Nesoddtangen with her longtime friend, Trine (pronounced Trina).  I should clarify that I was excited to visit Norway, but I hadn’t done much research on what I wanted to see in Oslo.  This is probably because it was the first time I was traveling to a place where I’d know a local.  For me, the ‘must see’ sights would be any and all suggestions by Trine and her son, Julian.  And, of course, a highlight of the trip would be witnessing Barbara and Trine reunite after many years.

After meeting at the arrivals terminal, Barbara and I texted with Julian to get directions to get to their home.  Nesoddtangen is about forty kilometers from Oslo, right on the fjord.  We ran to catch the ferry at Aker Brygge, met Julian in the parking lot on the other side of the fjord, and enjoyed the short drive to their house. I felt like I was in a combination of seaside home with light blue walls and shells lining the windowsills, and a mountain cabin, cozy with furry blankets and birch logs lining the fireplace.  It made me realize how many big cities I’ve been to and how relaxing it felt to be in a home surrounded by nature.  I lost track of the number of times that I sighed ‘how beautiful‘ in just a 48 hour period.

When I visit friends and family, the first night I expect to stay up way too late because we’re so excited to catch up on everything in our lives.  This evening proved to be no different between Barbara and Trine, friends for over 30 years!

The next morning, after a long lie-in (British for ‘sleeping in’), Trine made us scrambled eggs, fresh orange juice, and gravlax.  We walked with Yogi down by the bath houses along the fjord.  The bath houses used to be connected to a property on the overlooking hills.  Families would use the bath houses as changing rooms before swimming or wading.

Taking the ferry to Oslo takes exactly 23 minutes and you get a great view of the fort, Aker Brygge’s promenade, and the city hall.  The first stop on our list was Vinmonopolet, or the wine monopoly shop.  The government-owned wine shop has limited Saturday hours until 3pm and is closed on Sunday. You have to plan ahead if you want to imbibe on the weekends.  When we asked the staff member to help us pick our red wine to pair with our dinner, she wanted to know what vegetables we’d serve and how the lamb would be prepared and other specific details that no one has every asked when I’ve picked out a wine for dinner. Who am I kidding…I just pick a label I like.

With our wine in tow, we rode a smaller boat to Bygdoy island to check out the open air Norsk Folkemuseum.  This museum showcases life in Norway from the 1500s to present day with 160 historic buildings that have been relocated from regions around the country.  Staff members wear traditional dress native to each region and give various cultural demonstrations for visitors.  Trine actually used to work here when she was in high school, and could remember bits and bobs about her time in these little neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, we were too late to visit the Viking Ship museum but we peeked through the windows to see the most famous ship on display.  After the ferry back to Oslo, we checked out city hall.  Lining the walkway to city hall are huge wooden panels telling the story of creation and depicting Norse gods in various mythical scenes.  We also visited the Nobel museum gift shop before resting our legs at Sputino for an aperitif.

For dinner, we had homegrown lamb!  The couple that rents the attic at Trine’s raises sheep, and that’s how we had Lulu the lamb as a treat for dinner.  Trine made broccoli and mashed potatoes which paired perfectly with our red wine just like the lady said it would.  I forgot to snap a picture because I started eating so quickly.

Here are a couple other random shots from our day.

Sunday, we had another lie in, but as I was up a bit earlier, I spent the time finishing up bits of my blog while watching the fog burn off the fjord.  I could make out boats dotting the horizon and neighbors walking along the path by the bath houses.  I felt so relaxed having Yogi, their black lab, at my feet and their calico kitten nipping at my pen as I was scribbling on the page.  Julian started a fire and we had another lovely breakfast of eggs, cucumber, cheese and marmalade.

Trine explained that her neighborhood is deregulated– no cops or authorities– just artists and alternative thinkers living their lives on the water.  The forest was also just a five minute drive from her street.

We hiked along Trine’s favorite trail that afternoon.  The pine trees were striking and the forest floor was soft with moss.  There were also sprawling blueberry and lingonberry bushes on both sides of the trail.  Berries weren’t in season yet, but seeing how many bushes covered the forest floor would mean more berries than I could imagine.  I can see why Trine considers the Bjornemyr forest her therapist, her gym and her church.

We had just enough time to take a very very chilly dip into the fjord before heading back into Oslo! Trine mentioned how exhilarating it would be, and Julian said it was highly recommended, so when in Rome… ahem, when in Nesoddtangen?!?!

Vigeland Sculpture Park was my last stop before I had to get on the airport tram.  It’s a beautiful park with over 200 naked statues in various still and active positions. Families, joggers, couples and tourists alike were giggling and posing with the statues, making their own fun.

There’s in a word I learned on this trip: dugnad, which means to do something together; create a garden, pave a road, or shovel snow with everyone from the neighborhood helping.  Being in Nesoddtangen, with such natural beauty, made me think about how small I am but how much we accomplish when we do things together in this way.  I guess I just felt a calm sense of possibility looking out over the water each day.  Big shoutout to Trine and Julian for welcoming us into their home, and I’m happily dreaming about what reunions will be like with my girlfriends after 30 years of friendship.

Barbara stayed an extra day in Norway, so our visit in London started Tuesday! Because Corey was home healing his kidney, he and ‘Big Barbara’ would have breakfast and plan out her days’ adventures.  Of course, he started the nickname ‘Big Barbara’ as well.  Here are the escapades day by day.

Tuesday: Corey and Barbara visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, and she climbed to the top to see the 360 view of London.  They spent time in the free exhibits at the Tate Modern, namely in the Rothko section. For a late lunch, we all met up at the National Theater for a proper afternoon tea! We shared sandwiches, scones, and even small meat pie.  The themed menu was based on the plays of the National Theater.  Our gift certificate also included a backstage tour where we saw the props and costume studios, as well as the three stages on site. I’ve only seen a show at the largest theater, but was inspired to check out more show dates in the future.  We relaxed that evening with a meal of roasted veggies at home.

Wednesday: Big Barbara went big! She conquered the West side, visiting both the Design museum and the V&A! She also walked Kensington gardens and still had energy to meet up with a friend of mine for a play called Posh. The play tells the story of a fictional drinking club (think fraternity) at Oxford that must confront their own definitions of brotherhood.  This modern version kept the exact same script but was played by an all female cast creating lots of food for thought.  It was also an experience to see a show where we could understand the literal words of the play, but where we didn’t understand most of the British context,  jokes, or references.

Thursday was Westminster Abbey, St James Park and Buckingham Palace.  Memorial flowers dedicated to the four victims of the attack on Parliament were laid out across the lawn in front of the Abbey.  With a stroke of luck, we saw the changing of the horses guard, and Corey met us for a lunch at Koya, an udon bar in Soho. I went to visit a school in the afternoon while Corey and Barbara made their way back to the flat.  After a day of walking, it was a perfect evening for a feast at Gokyuzu, my favorite Turkish restaurant.

Friday: She is still going!  Barbara checked off the Tower, Tower Bridge, and the South bank. We also had a tasty lunch at Borough market after I left my meetings.  It was a good day to have some Hendrick’s G&Ts at the Pig and Butcher before making a tasty dinner at home.

Saturday: We spent time at the Tate Britain, and then rode the Thames Clipper back to central London.  We wiled away the afternoon touring Spitalfields market, seeing Brick Lane’s graffitied walls, and strolling down Regent’s Canal.

Sunday: Rise and shine for Columbia Flower market, and a hefty Sunday Roast.  Then Kew Botanical Gardens and a final Sunday supper of Ottolenghi take out. Barbara said she felt inspired by the veggie dishes!

I hope that after reading about Barbara’s trip, you’ll feel inspired to visit us as well, and use this outline as a starting point for your own travels. We had such a good time adding new sights to our repertoire and thank you, Big Barbara, for bringing a bit of CA home to London.

London, England

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes…

Seasons of Lah…Lah…Lon-don!

It’s my one year London-versary, y’all. Time has been flying. Here’s an month by month update from Essex Road since I’ve been in the UK.

September 2015:  Touring the London sights with Anne, discovering Brixton market, and settling into the Hippodrome for an American tradition: the NFL on Sundays.

October 2015:  Learning to switch my units of measurement: the Greenwich Meantime 24 hour clock, calculating temperatures in Celsius, and cooking with grams!? Pounds are a currency, not a weight, and I pronounce ‘innovative, resource, and aluminum’ complete wrong. (And oh yeah, Halloween is becoming a trend out here).

November 2015:  Having serious nostalgia for my KIPP family but making the most of my unemployment by cooking up a storm.

December 2015:  The season of employment and holiday cheer! Christmas dos (parties) take over the entire month in this city starting 1st Dec (the date goes before the month)!

January 2016:  Learning a new language at every turn,  and on a mission for the best fish and chips. (Look out for a London glossary soon!)

February 2016:  Treating myself for my birthday, enjoying the various markets near our neighborhood, and watching the seasons change on Regents Canal.

March 2016:  I’m worried that my understanding of ‘good food’ is going to wane as I become accustomed to the food here.  So I must sacrifice and taste test as much as I can before you all come visit me.  Also, Corey was so happy for this surprise weekend trip to North Greenwich for the Ali exhibit (just a ferry ride from London Bridge).

April 2016:  Agile working is a serious change of pace…one that I can get used to.

May 2016:  The sun is coming out…sorta.  The days are growing longer which means there is more time to explore.  I also learned about a movement to make London the first ever National Park City since there are about 3,000 parks in the Greater London region.

June 2016:  My mini-hen do, and the start of Summer Institute.

July 2016:  Ok, I’m breaking my ‘only London photos’ rule and adding a few shots from July 9th.  (The rest of this month was more teacher training so I figured you wouldn’t mind.)  More to come, I promise!

August 2016:  Summer and London aren’t exactly mutually exclusive.  The fact that it stays light until about 10:30pm makes up for reality that most days were only about 21 degrees out (that’s 69 degrees F). At least Andrew David is enjoying our Sunshine state back home (Welcome to my newest nephew!)

September 2016:  I’ve met up with at least three people who’ve recently moved to London.  I remember so many friends of cousins of neighbors taking me out when I first arrived so it’s nice to do the same now that I’ve got a year under my belt!

Corey and I still randomly turn to each other and say ‘We live in London.’  At this point, ‘home’ is still the States but that I’m not taking this stint of my life for granted at all, and I appreciate you taking this journey with me.  No matter what oceans may separate us, I couldn’t do this without y’all.

London, England

‘About two desserts worth…’ G+A Take On London

We’d discussed vacationing with the Goldbergs for quite some time so we had to celebrate their arrival in London with a champagne afternoon tea at the Dalloway, a lovely hotel in Bloomsbury with outdoor garden seating.  As we ordered our first round of bubbly, Goldberg spoke up and said “Well, this is probably the right time to tell you that Alison is pregnant.” AHHHH!!!! Congrats! What a wonderful way to start their trip- great news for great friends!  (Admittedly, though, my self-talk was about the rolodex of activities that I had planned that included a bit too much imbibing. Cleary, I hadn’t learned my lesson from Caity’s visit).  So we had to ‘remix’ a bit but that was nothing we couldn’t handle as we were so excited to host our friends.img_7077

We filled our bellies with tea, sandwiches and decadent custards (that’s British for ‘dessert’).  It was so good just to stroll through Covent Garden, catching up on life stories, including Noodles’ most recent tricks and trainings.  Noodles is their puppy dog.  We hit Chinatown, Leicester Square, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, and Westminster Abbey. You’d think that Corey and I would be able to answer everyone’s questions at this point, but we still get stuck and make up answers.  Luckily, Goldberg knows that he should only believe half of what we’re talking about, especially when Corey starts a sentence with “Scholars maintain…”.  We walked behind Parliament for the first time. We also sat out on the patio at Narrow Boat for the first time before a chill evening at home.

Sunday roast was, of course, at our favorite spot- Smokehouse.  Visitors from home kept bringing sunshine to London, so we were able to walk off our roast through Shoreditch to Spitalfields Market. Alison bought her first ever gift for baby Goldberg, a cute beanie made to look like a pilot’s helmet complete with cloth goggles.  We sampled fine sweets at a chocolate store and this is where I learned how Alison and Goldberg keep track of their expenditures when traveling abroad.  When Goldberg asked Alison about how many pounds she had left, her response was “About two desserts worth…” Absolutely brilliant.

Corey shared the usual Jack the Ripper story over a pint at the Ten Bells and then we wove between the various vendors packed in on Brick Lane.  Alison found stamps that cost more than postcards, and I purchased a couple bowls of produce (everything in the bowl only costs a quid).  We had to hold Corey back from jumping into a jazzercise showcase event, where a very enthusiastic gentlemen dressed fully in sequins and spandex was trying to woo him in as a sidekick.  Of course, the first weekend wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Lahore.  Corey took charge and ordered a meal large enough to feed eight.  There were only four of us, plus baby, but the fact that we’d basically walked a large chunk of east London we felt we had earned it, right?

We said goodbye for the next couple of days as G+A flew to Italy to visit Goldberg’s family and his sister who was studying abroad at the time.  The day we reunited, Alison and I stayed in for hangouts at our flat, while Corey took Goldberg out to the Horse, his local after-work watering hole.  It was really nice to think that our friends were meeting one another even with such distance between us.  That night, Goldberg met some of the same guys from Corey’s stag at the Horse.

On Friday, we ventured to Stoke Newington, a neighborhood north of Angel, with a small yet charming upper street dotted with curio shops, vintage clothing, and a couple of hipster bars.  We ate at Rasa, a Southern Indian restaurant, where none of us had any prior knowledge about what to order.  The food had coconut flavoring like some Southeast Asian dishes, but had little of the vibrant coloring.  For example, the eggplant curry was incredibly tasty but looked like the color of the gravy you’d pour over sausage and biscuits.

Saturday, we took the Thames Clipper to Greenwich (yes, it’s a sight that we like to take folks to see).  This visit we added some new spots to the itinerary: the Painted Hall, and the Maritime Museum.  At the museum, Alison donned a real helmet from a suit of armor! We shared plates at the market for lunch, and then took a long stroll up to the Observatory.  Here, Alison and I picked up a few things at the gift shop though we didn’t buy tickets for the Observatory.  I found out that Alison loves gift shops.  I purchased a walking tour guidebook, which I think will be a solid resource for future guests.  We walked all the way down the promenade to Blackheath, a heath that became a graveyard during the black plague. It looks like a big open field right now, but it’s eerie to think about the space in that context when you’re surrounded by beautifully lush rows of trees lining the walkway.  These trees were also helpful as we got our first bit of London weather at this point on the trip.  We huddled into a local pub and shared a sticky toffee pudding to wash away our rainy blues.

Off the Clipper, we made our way to Ye Old Cheshire Cheese.  This was my first stop using my new walking tour guidebook. It’s one of the oldest pubs in London, rebuilt after the fire in 1666, where the likes of Charles Dickens used to contemplate over a pint.  The dimly lit interior is a maze of various sitting rooms, so you can find your own little corner at the end of a long day.  The rain started again as we left the bar for our final stop: a sports bar to watch England play their first game in the Euros. Nothing like hearing the chants and the cheers of the British football fans, even when they took a shocking loss in the 91st minute of the match.  Alison diligently finished her postcards on the last night, while Goldberg packed their bags.  We snuck in a cheeky trip to the British Library on Sunday morning before their flight. We were all blown away with the number of artifacts and historical documents living there. I’d recommend a trip to the library to anyone who visits London, over the British Museum and Westminster Abbey, even.

It’s really true that time flies so quickly when you’re having fun.  We finally made our dreams come true of traveling with the Goldbergs, celebrating with desserts, beers, and laughter.  Can’t wait to meet the newest member of the family in December!




London, England

Bay Blokes in London

So May kept our visitors coming! Brian, Meggie and Gary came to Londontown for almost two weeks. Roll on, you bears!  It was a particular treat to get some really quality time with Meggie as we’d only spent an evening together prior to their trip.  Because Meggie’s cousin, Jen, also lived ten minutes from our flat, the first part of this post should alert you to the fact that we did many things solely within the 5 miles radius of Angel, Old Street, and Shoreditch. This would be like someone coming to visit you in Oakland and you ended up only taking them to Grand Lake, Laney, and Chinatown.  I basically felt bad at one point that we weren’t getting out into other neighborhoods in London, but then I realized that we did what we would do if we lived together in the same city: stayed local and hung out.


Bringing the Bay to London

So let’s get started.  The first night we met at the Narrow Boat for fish and chips, a pub directly between our two flats.  Gary actually arrived later and then had to eat pork rinds and crisps because none of the kitchens in the bars stay open past 10pm.  Gary stayed on our couch just like roommates do!  BK and Meggie stayed with Jen across the canal near City Road.

For their first full day, I was at work. I can’t lie. I can’t remember anything they toured on that Friday so you’ll have to check in with BK and Gary to get the full picture.  I do know that Friday night we went to Lahore and got our serious grub on.  Four plates of lamb chops (for those of you who’ve also had this experience) and at least two mixed grills.  I’m not sure how we still had room in our tummies, but we spent the evening at Brew Dog, a local brewery in Shoreditch.

We forced an early morning run along the canal on Saturday morning to Broadway Market. However, bubbleguts got the best of some of us so we had to take it easy at Broadway’s food stalls.  For me, it was fun to learn that there was an additional bit of the market around the corner (Thanks, Jen!) where Gary found a really good laksa (…and an update about that laksa is that the brewery in our neighborhood is doing a popup featuring that laksa, wings and beer with the same soup company. It’s next-door to our flat!).  We found ourselves a local pub called The Fox and continued to catch up over a pint.  Meggie also secured two pint glasses for our household since we liked the logo so much.  Next stop in the afternoon was Spitalfields Market, for a bit of shopping before an evening of dancing at Radicals and Victuallers.  Nothing like dancing the night away and then grabbing a kebab. This is akin to spending a great night out in NYC and then picking up a slice.bk-broadway-marketbk-radicals

Sunday, Gary and I braved the crowds at Columbia Flower Market before having a serious roast at Smokehouse.  We also shared a pitcher of Pimm’s- my first in London to ring in a (hopefully) sunny summer.  We stuffed ourselves with lamb’s knuckle, beef roast, and yorkshire pudding.  As we rolled down Upper Street, I gave a brief tour before we sat ourselves on Islington Green to catch our breath.  The weather was pretty amazing during that time so good weather means we needed to tour pubs with outdoor seating.  Cheers to that Vitamin D!  We hit up the Old Queens Head, and then the Kings Head as well.  Meggie was hands down the Scrabble champ at the Kings.  Apologies that we ended up at Radicals again for the pub quiz that evening, which was the quietest and tamest pub quiz I’d ever attended.  I’d also say it was way more embarrassing answering questions about America incorrectly when in another country.  Yikes!  Corey met up with us after returning from Portugal and I shamelessly made folks try another restaurant on Upper Street, which had a legit shrimp burger (yes, this means we didn’t leave our neighborhood all day!)img_1280

Brian, Meggie, and Gary left on the following Monday to tour Edinburgh and parts of northern Scotland until Thursday.  We all reunited in Shoreditch at Barrio – Corey’s favorite bar for dancing with friends.  We had some of Corey’s work friends join the dance party as well so the night out was too much fun.

Friday, I forced Gary to do some agile working with me and then we all met up at Kennedy’s fish and chips on Goswell road. I’ve never done work in Clerkenwell so it was nice to walk around a new neighborhood, and be out of Angel. That evening, Jen scheduled a cricket match -another first! We had a blast!  It’s completely hilarious trying to learn the rules.  Folks compare it to baseball even though so many of the rules and stats don’t have any sort of parallel.  With a clear night around the pitch, we sat back and just enjoyed the bits we could understand.  The blokes in front of us were also kind enough to turn around explain specific moments in the match.  To be fair, Anson joined our group into the first  few rounds and he was pretty educated on the sport.  We also brought the only element that we could add to the game as Americans…heckling players in the outfield.  Folks were hoarse by the next day as we’d spent a lot of the match yelling at # 21.

Saturday was serious London sightseeing: Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards, walking through St. James park, past 10 Downing street, to Westminster Abbey.  We crossed the bridge to find our way to the Thames Clipper to check out Greenwich.  Brian’s childhood next door neighbor, Sarah, met up with us at a Greenwich pub called Gypsy Moth.  She lives in London as well, but we both realized that we were getting married in Berkeley two weeks apart from one another.  We talked about vendors, make up, flowers, and all things wedding planning from the UK.  It was a lovely day for walking through the small covered market and up to the observatory.  Later that evening, we hit up one of the many Shoreditch food truck parks, and then moved to Hoxton Bar and Grill for a wedding cover band doing Bey and Jay hits all night.  The evening came to an end too quickly and I realized my family would be leaving the next day. I was teary eyed when hugging BK and Meggie goodbye, and since Gary was ‘living’ with us, I just talked his ear off the next few hours while he packed.  While I didn’t want their time in London to end, I did want my blog post to end so that I could finally spill the beans that Brian and Meggie just got ENGAGED!!! Congrats, and we can’t wait to celebrate with you!!! Mucho mucho mucho amor!

London, England, Oxford, England

Caity’s Pitstop to Rosnaree

We were honored to be a stop on Caity’s journey to Rosnaree, Ireland.  Though the trip started with Caity having a pretty hefty airport security experience, we made up for that with an evening at Gokyuzu, a new favorite Turkish restaurant in my book.  In true Forrest/Tremblay/Leonard fashion, we talked for an entire evening about her Davis graduation, her new plans to move to upstate New York, and her other upcoming European pitstops.  Corey was shocked at how he could barely get a word in!

My cousin set off on her own each day, and there are few I know who have a sort of museum stamina like Caity Tremblay.  Each day, she’d return with stories of the smallest clocks built in the last 200 years living at the British Museum or we’d learn about the unique journey of a piece of mail that was not delivered to its final destination at the Postal Museum.  I’m just realizing as I write this how uncanny it would have been if Caity met Jules Capaldi at our wedding. They would be an unstoppable force for museum curators to reckon with.

Caity isn’t so much into drink and I had to reflect seriously about how many activities I’ve shared with our visitors that involve the imbibing.  Thank you, Caity, for keeping me honest about that!

For the weekend, we took a trip out to Oxford, where we had a pretty delicious afternoon tea at The Grand Cafe, the first coffee house established in Oxford. Yes, I know that we asked for tea in a coffee house but they really do both very well.  We got a really tasty clotted cream with our scones, one that Caity decided to take home in a doggy bag regardless of the face that we had about half a remaining scone to use as mechanism for getting the cream into our bellies (no shame!).

We wandered through a mass of dancers with bells, face paint and props as the Folklife festival was traveling through Oxford on this weekend.  We toured the small botanical gardens and also took a lightening quick tour at the Bodleian Library, where parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed.  It’s pretty amazing to know that every single item printed in England is sent to this library, and that the royal family has a tradition of retreating into the vellum stacks to study at some point in their career.  We avoided most of the commercial shopping but did manage to meander through a few markets.  Oxford is an easy day trip from London with a little bit of “British” for everyone in terms of history, beautiful scenery, and treating oneself to lovely tea rooms.


On Sunday, we hit up Spitalfields Market and on Monday we had an extra day with Caity as she got things in order to get on to Ireland.  I always say it’s nice to hang out with cousins as adults.  I know that Miya had this with Ginny (Caity’s sister) so it was fun to have this experience with Caity and to hear about her adventures during this gap year. (Note: As my posts are clearly so delayed, ask Caity about her trip as she’s fully returned from Ireland at this point and quite possibly in NY at this time!)


Dover, England, Dublin, Ireland, London, England

London, Dublin, and Dover with Dad

img_0709_128_hrWe’d been emailing, facetiming, and planning for so many months that I almost couldn’t believe it when I was finally on my way to pick up Dad from Heathrow.  And when you’re picking someone up from a London airport you feel like you’re reliving the opening scene of Love Actually in the arrivals terminal, and you can’t stop smiling.

Heathrow Express dropped us quickly in London, so we snapped some photos at St. Pancras station and rode the bus top level, front window to Angel to get a warm welcome from Corey at our flat.  We took my dad to his first Sunday roast at Smokehouse, a great little spot in our neighbourhood that has yummy Yorkshire pudding.  We spent the rest of the day strolling through our neighbourhood so my dad could get a sense of where we were living.

We realized how much FaceTime makes the distance between us feel shorter. We hadn’t seen each other for eight months, but we felt completely caught up with the goings on of our daily lives as Grandad and Tia.  But that didn’t stop us from keeping our tradition of staying up late the first night we’re reunited to share our stories all over again.

The flight to Dublin was an easy yet early one.  Honestly, the entire three days in Dublin felt like we had good karma following us around.  We voted to cab into Dublin, and ended up with the nicest cab driver who told us about the previous week’s events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.  We ate lunch at a well-known café bar that we found on a random side street with delicious traditional Irish stew. Our hotel was a stone’s throw from Trinity College, and included traditional Irish breakfast every morning, no additional charge.  I should also note that any time we saw something that was advertised as “traditionally Irish”, we basically bought it, ate it, or saw it.

Doing Dublin on foot was the best way to go from our experience. The Book of Kells was the obvious first stop as we could walk directly to Trinity’s campus so easily.  The small museum is set up with large posted images of the book to show the intricate details of the pages. My favorite part was watching a video clip how the book’s spine was created, and then bound with pages. Also, make sure you don’t miss the library upstairs with hundreds of tomes.

Our map showed that Guinness storehouse was about a twenty minute walk from Trinity.  So we found places of interest on the map along the way: the Molly Malone statue, the bells at Christ Church, and the Dublin Castle. I’m sure we looked so cute, dad and daughter, snapping away on our ‘dad and daughter’ cameras.

The Guinness storehouse was a fun treat.  You have to earn your free pint by touring through the bottom floors of the storehouse. You learn about the process of making Guinness beer, the history of the Guinness family, and how this stout is transported around the world.  On the fifth floor, one can learn to pour a perfect pint (the line was too long), and on the 6th floor, you can have lunch with your pint (again, the line was too long), so we opted for the obvious choice: a glass of the “the black stuff” at The Gravity Bar on the top floor- with 360 degree views of the city.  It started to rain as we toasted to our first day in Dublin- a beautiful sight in a room made of windows.

The rain stopped as we tipped the last of our glasses back, and we walked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Each evening at 5:30pm, there is free entry to see the Choral Evensong.  Hearing those voices echo throughout the chapel was just beautiful.  The church is also next to a lovely garden where we spent some time with our cameras

Temple Bar is a part of the city that is touted as the nightlife, food, and live music part of the city. We weren’t sure how much time we’d want to spend on the strip, but ended up wandering through to find the Porterhouse, a restaurant claiming to serve the best stouts in the city.  We thought this seemed a bit blasphemous seeing as though the Guinness storehouse was less than two miles away.  Yes, we had to do a taste test comparison.  The porters and stouts in our flight were yummy, but my Dad said that he’d stick to Guinness for the rest of the trip.  Also, the fish and chips were the best I’d had, though I ended up with a strange ham cream dish.  To finish our evening, we stood outside of a crowded bar to listen to a duo singing U2 songs as a free concert.

The traditional Irish breakfast at our hotel was the perfect way to start our second day. We decided that we wanted to see some of Ireland’s natural beauty so we found a little seaside town called Howth about 3o minutes outside of Dublin.  The train dropped off right on the piers. What a gorgeous day! We walked the trail along Howth’s head, and were in awe of the beauty of the Irish coastline.

Along our hike, we were herded into a ‘free’ walking tour with an Irishman named John.  He let us know that his retirement gig was to give walking tours every day to anyone he picked up along the trail.  As we walked along he shared fun facts, and legends about the area.  He was optimistically trying to collect other hikers along the trail as well.  Other hikers would make up excuses to leave his little group at some point, yet we were too nice to tell him we’d make the journey on our own.  We knew we wanted to do the entire hike, and if so, John would be coming with us.  I guess that nothing could ruin the gorgeous seaside views, and the fact that we ended the tour over a pint with John and a very sweet couple honeymooning from Costa Rica, we decided it really was a great morning. Lunch was fresh oysters, fish pie, and traditional Irish salmon with rye.

Returning to Dublin, we decided to head North of the Liffey. We poked our heads through the Garden of Remembrance, and then made our way to the General Post Office.  As a side note, on this walk, I learned a bit more about my dad’s travels connected with political work, and his stories coming out of Cal.

The General Post Office was also closed, but strangely had a line around the corner at one of the doors.  While I snapped some shots of the bullet holes remaining from the Easter Rising, a kind woman in line struck up a conversation with my Dad, letting him know that it was the last showing of a play about the Easter Rising in the GPO.  We could stand in line but it might be a sold out show. The folks running the door, asked us to stand aside when we got to the front of the line as they’d have a better idea if tickets were left after everyone else was seated.  After a short wait, we were told we’d have to sit separately, but we were incredibly lucky to get two of the last tickets that evening!  Everyone in the audience was a local, and it was a treat to see the play in such a historical setting.

We laughed on the walk home recapping the events of the day.  I felt like I had a lucky four leaf clover in my pocket since most of the things that we’d experienced wouldn’t have happened if we’d tried to plan it that way.

Our final day in Dublin was spent picking up small gifts for our family, and trying on wolly Irish textiles that were way out of our price range. We walked St. Stephens park, and ate lunch at a local chain before heading back to the airport. Corey made us a meal of stew chicken, rice, and green beans for our return back to London.

On the fourth day of my dad’s trip, reality set in that I’d have to go to back to work.  But we didn’t let us slow us down. We hit up Westminster Abbey at 9am to beat the rush, and I left my dad midway through the audio tour to make my first meeting. Boo! However, I intended to use my flexible hours to ensure that I was out of the office by 3pm to meet my dad at the British museum. While I plucked away at a few more emails, he visited the Rosetta stone and other sections of the ancient Egypt exhibit.  Over dinner, my dad shared his trip to the Churchill War rooms, where he got to hold Churchill’s top hat, and where he was so taken with the exhibit that he basically forgot to eat lunch.  We spent the evening doing what I think we’d do in Oakland together: relaxing on the couch, watching a four part BBC documentary on President Obama’s eight years in office.  It felt like a bit of home here with me.  The series is great btw but I’m not even sure if it’s out in our own country.

For Friday, I spent some time answering emails for work, but our day really got started at St. Paul’s cathedral, a highlight of the city that I didn’t even know about.  The mosaics inside were breath-taking, and is was so fun climbing to the top of the cathedral for a panoramic view of London.  I pointed out the other landmarks we’d see throughout the day.  We walked across Millennium bridge, and popped into the Tate for a quick view.  The Thames river walk led us right into Borough Market where we feasted on salt beef sandwiches.  We walked the remainder of the South Bank, towards Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. We were less enthusiastic about seeing the crown jewels after having such an energetic tour by the local Yeoman Warder.  The Yeoman Warders live in their own community within the walls of the Tower to this day! The men, and one woman,  and have served over 22 years in the Queen’s military, and have very expensive and elaborate uniforms.  Our guide really made the history come alive with his dry British humor. PS- they don’t like being called Beefeaters!

We ended our day taking the bus to Bloomberg so that my dad could see the London office. We picked up Corey from work, and walked along Regent’s canal before making our way to Ottolenghi, another neighbourhood favorite.  During dinner, we also decided that our last day in the UK would be spent out of London on the white cliffs of Dover.


The weather in Dover promised to be wet and wild.  About two hours outside of the city, we were welcomed with a grey, drizzly day, so we took a cab to the trail head of the chalky cliffs. It was so windy out on those unprotected cliffs, but incredibly beautiful. We passed ponies, and saw ships coming in and out of the port.  It really felt like some of the images we know of England- just being on that craggy coastline.  The saving grace was a quaint light house out on the cliffs serving cream tea! Well, we couldn’t pass up tea and scones when my dad hadn’t had one yet, so our hike ended at Mrs. Knotts Tea Room.

Admittedly, we hailed a cab to the Dover Castle- though there wasn’t really another choice in the gusts of wind and rain. The castle is definitely built for families taking a day trip, but I think we did alright when we found out there was a tour of old WWII tunnels on the grounds!  After a visit to the dark tunnels that saved the Allied forces in Dunkirk, we had a pint at the local pub while waiting for our bus. What an incredible day! But wait, it wasn’t over until the last supper was staged at Lahore!  My dad said he’d probably be able to live on the lamb chops and the naan as we all wiped our plates clean. Nothing like sharing the stories of our adventures over steamy curries and spiced lamb.

As usual, the week went too fast. On Sunday, we packed up my dad’s bags, got him a final cup of coffee and headed out to the airport. You better believe I took that train the entire way to soak up the final minutes of our time together. I couldn’t believe it. I just spent a week with the two most important men in my life:  the man who taught me what it means to be loved by a man, and the man who I’ll share that love with for the rest of my life.  To have time with them together, I really felt too lucky.

Quick Shot

Dublin Day 1:

Howth Day 2:

  • Train from Connolly station or your closest DART
  • Easy to find information booth with trail maps
  • Maybe you’ll find John out there?
  • Don’t remember where we ate lunch on the pier

Dublin Day 3:

  • Walk St. Stephen’s Park and do some souvenir shopping at Kilkenny’s where they ship to the US for a flat fee

London Day 4:

London Day 5:

  • St. Paul’s Cathedral- yes, walk up to the top, and then see the crypts
  • Walk across Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern (you can stay as long as you want for free but modern art wasn’t really our focus)
  • Walk along the South Bank towards Shakespeare’s Globe and end up at Borough Market (super crowded on Saturday; go Friday if possible; closed on Sunday)
  • Continue on the South Bank to see London Bridge, City Hall, and the Tower of London
  • Get a Yeoman Warder tour before you rush to see the Crown Jewels

Dover Day 6:

  • Train from home to Dover. Might have to transfer to a bus if the rails are still wiped out.
  • Cab to the trail head to find the White Cliffs visitor center
  • Maybe you want to stop at Mrs Knotts Tea Room? The scones were fine but the cream could have been better. You don’t have to pay to see the lighthouse.
  • Do the WWII Tunnels at Dover Castle (there are two options- we opted not to do the medical tunnel)
  • Eat at Lahore before you leave! BYOB (and there’s an off license next door)