London, England

Autumn Art Show of 2017

Sometimes the events in your city or town make you feel like you’ve been on an adventure even if you’ve barely left your postcode.  My autumn was full of art from around the world and I wanted to share.

There are telltale signs that Autumn is rounding the corner in London.  The sun sleeps in until 7:35am, and the trees do lose their leaves but not in the same fiery reds and oranges as in New York.  “Remember, remember the 5th of November” is a line from an English poem, but you might be familiar with it because of V for Vendetta, a movie hinting at the historical plot to blow up Parliament.  Guy Fawkes night on Nov 5th is celebrated with numerous firework displays all around the city…think 4th of July.

Potentially less familiar to an American audience is that October is Black History Month in the UK.  You’ll see that many of the art exhibitions below reflect the incredible talent showcased in London.

A side note before moving on to the art: Many of the classrooms I’ve visited have bulletin boards with Beyonce, Obama, Mandela, MLK, Jr and Malcolm X (I even saw one with Cardi B this year?!).  All are honoring key figures in …well, not UK history.  I’ve asked a few teachers about the historical figures in the UK whom pupils should celebrate, and I’ve been told that the figures posted are reasonable since they relate to the fact that kids in London study the US Civil Rights movement, and that the figures don’t need to be limited to UK history.  On the contrary, however, I’ve also finished reading ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ this fall, and the author, Reni Eddo-Lodge, interviewed Linda Bellows whose leadership founded Black History Month in 1987.  Bellows specifically states ‘I thought Black History Month was a great idea.  What I wasn’t going to do was make it like the American one, because we have a different history….” She stated that the current-day UK Black History Month seemed more about culture, fashion and hair, but she wished it would actually ‘celebrate the contribution that black people had made in the United Kingdom.’  It seems that message is still a work in progress in many of the schools I’ve worked with, and I look forward to passing this sentiment on.

But I digress…Let’s celebrate the art that London offered this fall! Organized by category for your reading pleasure, or the time limit that you have for tea-break reading!

Film

Chasing Trane is a documentary about the talented life of John Coltrane.  It was a bonus that the Doc & Roll Film Festival was screening this piece at the Royal Opera House!  Neither Corey and I had been to the Royal Opera House but we’re now determined to go back to see live music at this royal rotunda.  See Chasing Trane if it comes to your neighborhood.

I took myself out for an agile-working afternoon.  I enjoyed a working lunch at Machi-ya where I’d suggest the appetizers more than the noodle plate lunch.  I will go back to try more of the menu when I have more email admin to complete.  Since I worked through lunch, I took some time back to see Loving Vincent (review below). I finished my email admin and participant calls over a Negroni at the top of the National Portrait Gallery.  This life!

IMG_1516Loving Vincent is stunning is because it is the first fully painted feature film.  Over 100 artists painted every scene in Van Gogh’s impressionist style, and the film develops a narrative around his real paintings that is seamless.  The film’s website does a great job of showing how Van Gogh’s paintings were transformed into characters and settings in the movie.  My only challenge with this film is that it is set in France –yet none of the actors speak in French or speak with French-English accents.  If the movie was done with live actors, I doubt they could get away with this.  But see it if it comes to theaters near you anyways!

Image result for bloodlight and bami

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami was a film that I was very excited to see, but one that did not do justice for its muse.  There didn’t seem to be a strong narrative that I could follow, and some of the footage was drawn out without clear purpose.  Grace Jones doing her make up was a highlight, however, I’m bummed that I wouldn’t recommend seeing it– at all.  The bonus was that the film was screened at the Institute of Contemporary Arts near Buckingham Palace. This place was full of good energy so I know I’ll be back to see more exhibitions and films soon as the seasons change.

 

IMG_1530Play Your Gender was also featured in the Doc&Roll film festival.  A film that focused on women in the music industry fell so flat for me. I had such high expectations! I wouldn’t recommend seeing it as there are numerous interviews with people saying the same basic thing ‘The music industry is heavily male and it can stink being a woman in such a male-dominated space”.  I felt that was obvious.  What do we do about it? Who is making a difference?  What can women in all genres of music do going forward? What is the role that men play and how can they be better?  Corey and I walked away without any depth or insight into these questions.  We were also sad at how few women of color played a role in this film when so many dynamic women of color make musical history every day 😦

They Will Have to Kill Us First is an intense title, I know. The title of the film is a quote from one of the musicians who fought through the music ban in Northern Mali. In 2012, Islamic extremists banned music, radio, and live shows, and this film follows four artists who stood their ground during such turbulent times.  One of the bands has even made it out to London to spread their messages of hope through live shows.  Listen to this film closely.

For this last one, I thought I was seeing a full length film, but it was actually set up on a small TV on the 4th floor foyer at the Southbank Centre.  Shoutout to Tracy who suggested the film!  Mother Tongues is a short film featuring four British poets of color and their mothers.  The mothers recited their daughters’ poems in their own ‘mother tongue’ (Ga, Shona, and Yoruba) and then the audience listens to the dialogue between the poets and the women who raised them.  My favorite part of these intimate interviews was hearing proverbial advice like “Grow your nails so you can scratch yourself” …meaning save your money so you have something for yourself.

I was surprised to realize that the woman who created and produced this piece, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, is someone I’d seen sing and recite her poetry at an event called Jazz Verse Jukebox at Hoxton Hall.  It made this sprawling city feel just a bit smaller since it felt like running into someone I knew while on the tube.

Exhibits

Soul of A Nation didn’t disappoint!  Art born from the civil rights movement is powerful on its own, and when brought together with the stories of the brilliant and thought-provoking artists who continued through the 70s and 80s, it was a journey.  We experienced their personal politics, identity, and ultimately, their historical contributions in this showcase.

After such a powerful show, we checked out the Tate rooftop!  Then, Corey and I stayed for dinner and a show. The closing party for Soul of A Nation was hosted by the Hiphop Karaoke crew, and the beers on tap were from Brooklyn Brewery.  Pumpkin Ale, veggie burgers and very brave souls tackling the mic? Bravo!

Boom for Real is still showing at the Barbican so see it if you are in Londontown before January 28th!  I enjoyed the chronological organization of the show, illustrating howJean-Michel Basquiat’s work transitioned from the 1960s to the late 1980s.  Though his life was short, he leaves a lasting impression.  And because his canvas was NYC, it brought me back down memory lane.  Bonus: We saw the show with Tracy and Andrae– and you know what? They love gift shops too!

Honestly, I read about this exhibit in an in-flight magazine! But after visiting Hassan Hajjaj’s work at the Somerset House, I will make scouring articles before take-off a tradition.  Hajjaj’s work is vibrant, fun and it reminds you to think about the layers that make up our everyday lives.  To help explain the exhibit, I took a video (see below).  There are numerous screens set up as framed pictures, but you realize the frames are actually videos.  Each artist plays a solo.  While they perform their solo, he’s taped the other artists turning to the left or right in their frame so it looks as if they are in one long concert line.

 

Directly out the back door from the Hajjaj exhibit, is the river Thames.  We caught this additional piece of art and wanted to give a shoutout for this one.

Corey and I took The Grays to explore Shoreditch one autumnal afternoon.  Our main goal was to show them the graffiti art all along Brick Lane, but Zanele Muholi’s exhibit caught our eye so we took a pitstop.  In the photos of the dark lioness (herself), she was decorated with daily objects like steel wool or cords.  If not decked out in a mane, she was in a natural setting like a forest or coastline.  Every picture was of her staring directly at the camera or with Muholi purposefully positioned in a way where you could not deny giving her attention.

Theater

The Barbershop Chronicles. I hope Inua Ellams and the production get to travel with this piece!!! Go see it if it comes to a theater/theatre near you!!!  (more exclamation points!)  This play allows you to be a fly on the wall in barber shops in six cities…five of them on the African continent, and one in the UK.  The energy is incredible, and you’ll be shocked you’ve been rapt for almost two hours without a break.  Sam, Abs, Corey and I are still talking about the stories a week later!  Strong performance, yall!

And more…

Food and drink can be art, right? You have to read the captions for this section.

 

IMG_1520An event that I hoped to attend, but missed: Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book talk at the Tate.  I was there 45 minutes early with book in hand, and waited in a line snaking through the entire pavilion.  An extra 15 minutes after the man stood on the table to announce there was no more room in the theater, people were still crowding towards the door. Go ahead, Reni!

 

Grafitti art in East London

Other events this Fall…

Thanks for taking the time to reflect on these escapades. Cheers to the art, the artists, and …sheepishly, the audience.

 

 

Standard
London, England

LonSum 2: Join Us in July

9th July: Corey and I celebrated our one year anniversary this month. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year. In fact, we are both terrible.  We kept accidentally booking events and hang-outs with friends and then had to cancel because we’d remember it was actually our anniversary on Sunday.  Were we forgetful because so many people were traveling to London in July and we were just overly-excited about visitors?  We finally had to put the date into our calendars as we were clearly not very good at remembering anniversaries.  While the anniversary bit is a work in progress, we never tire of talking about how our friends and family made our wedding day so special. We had the BEST TIME EVER, and we will reminisce about it whenever we can.

We decided a tradition we’d like to start on our anniversary would be to do something new each year.  To kick off our annual endeavor, we took a day trip to a small seaside town called Rye.  We read that this Southeastern town had a long stretch of beach and a nature preserve and it was just 90 min from London by train.  July 9th was a very hot day with very sunburnt Brits on the beach!  The waters were waveless and shallow so it was perfect for kids with floaties and inflatables rafts. We didn’t make it to the nature preserve, but we did find picturesque Mermaid street!


*I’m bummed have zero pictures with our July visitors. Maybe because so many have traveled /lived in London already, I lost my focus?*

I think Marc was our first visitor in July.  Marc and Corey were basically in a emotionally-attached relationship before I moved to London (they will admit it, too).  While Marc lives on the East Coast now, it felt like a homecoming for him since he spent a few years living in Bermondsey.  He still hadn’t been to Lahore so it was great to have that experience with him. Now, I’m already missing him thinking that we’ll have our first NFL season at Hippodrome Casino without him.

Next up: Taya! If you think we’re traveling a lot, you should meet my friend Taya.  She’s a dynamic lady, thoughtful and hilarious, and is changing the world little by little.  She also previously lived in London, but is now in Dubai (we’re setting up a trip asap).  We caught up for an evening at Jazz Verse Jukebox at Hoxton Hall.  The poetry and singing was really great, and we plan to buy tickets again for the show this month. Miss you, girl!

PhD Graduation:  Al and Gypsy visited to celebrate Al’s graduation from Oxford!  The last time they were in London, we introduced them to Sam and Abs over a Sunday roast.  This time, we met Al and Gypsy’s mates at the Jugged Hare, and the champagne was flowing! Such good conversation, and bar snacks to boot.

Dreamgirls: Janine and Danielle stopped over before their summer trip to Scotland.  Janine is a homie from Infinity and I was really happy to spend more time getting to know her partner, Danielle.  It was easy to see why she lights up J9’s life.  We walked Regent’s canal, took a jog to Columbia flower market, caught a show (Dreamgirls), and of course, ate our faces off at Ottolenghi.  Each day, they’d visit landmarks when I was working (Savoy for tea!), and then we’d reflect at the days’ ends over dinner like a true team and family.

Dinerama and Dancing: Sam clearly lives in London, but I have to include her bday celebration because it was the last London-y thing I did before wrapping up July.  It was the perfect time to celebrate because it was also the conclusion of my Summer Institute work.  It started as a low-key night with great people and good food from Dinerama.  I met her colleagues, hung out with Rich’s siblings, and shared plates of dumplings and tacos with Corey’s friend, Ricardo.  Then we went dancing at a spot around the corner. I loved the effort but sometimes I’m just older than I remember (oi!)  Cheers to my dear friend!

Standard
London, England, Manchester, England, Paris, France

LonSum 1: Lovely Jubbly June

fullsizeoutput_114a

Summer 2017 was full of incredible events! Though it’s the busiest time of year for my role, I was lucky to share meals, celebrate friends, and reunite with family to keep me energized right up to the end of teacher training.  The next three posts will string together the highlights for each month.  As the days get shorter heading into September, I’m having a great time revisiting our warm memories. Missing you all!

 


1st June- London: To kick off the month, Nick Wong visited London prior to his EU tour with his family.  It’s been a big transition year for him so it was incredible to get some time to share reflections and next steps. Plus we tried a restaurant that he’s been interested in for a while: St John’s Bread and Wine (near Spitalfields Market).

We walked Brick Lane, Kingsland Road, Regents Canal, and Essex Road, all the while catching up on life after Ssam Bar, and the goings-on in NYC.

It was also a real treat that I was able to share a meal with the Wong family later that evening to catch up with his broddah and with Mr. and Mrs. Wong.  We actually had double dinner- Ottolenghi first, and then Poppy’s Fish and Chips as a follow up! Now you know where he gets his love for food!


7th-8th June- Manchester:  Training for Summer Institute was a top priority in early June.  Though the majority of the days were spent in a conference room, I looked forward to exploring Manchester after completing professional development sessions.

I took a morning run with a group of PDLs/LDOs through a lovely park on day 2, and hit up a gym session on the final night with my colleague, Zoe, whose circuits felt like that of a personal trainer! I kept up with reading A Little Life between taking notes, and answering emails.

My colleagues planned a night out for our final day of training which was a great time.  But when asked why I was leaving the bar early, I shared that I was heading to St Ann’s Square to pay my respects for those killed at the Manchester Arena.  This created an exodus to the square.  You could feel the emotion of the space.  The intense sadness of the tragedy.  Flowers, balloons, candles and messages to the victims were thigh-high.  Each of us took in the length of the square.  We waited until the last person had taken the time they needed, and walked back in reflection.  One of my colleagues said to me ‘Good idea on coming here… that you wanted to make this happen.  With everything that’s been frustrating with work, I’m sad it took this to remember that we’re all ok.’ I completely agreed.  We are so lucky.


21st- 23rd June- Paris: I still can’t believe I was able to say  ‘I’m going to Paris for a few days for a wedding of one of my dearest friends’.  Congratulations to The Grays!  Corey and I were so happy to celebrate your love in the City of Lights. You two were gracious hosts and you have some incredible friends and family.  Plus, check the pictures –they looked fabulous!

fullsizeoutput_1147

The first night was an easy boat ride on the Seine which was a nice way to spend time meeting friends and family.  On this warm summer night, we waved at locals sharing beers and wine on the edges of the river.  Dinner was on our own so we revisited one of our favorite restaurants, Le 404, with friends Reed and Lauren.

Paris was experiencing a heat wave at this time, but an outdoor ceremony was a must with the Eiffel Tower as the perfect backdrop.  Tracy and Andrae shared their own vows, and looked incredibly happy.  For a part of their ceremony, they had all guests bless their rings with one word as they passed them around to us.  Words like ‘love’, ‘joy’, ‘passion’ were spoken over their rings, and I thought it great that my word was ‘growth’ and Corey’s word was ‘understanding’.

We had a very French dining experience- definitely delicate and delicious at the same time.  Holly and Junior shared their speeches as well as the mothers of the bride and groom.  Then– very organically–each guest started to share a small speech about Tracy and Andrae.  It was clear how much everyone thinks the world of them as individuals and as a couple.  Corey pushed me to share my sentiments by clinking the glass when he thought I might chicken out.  My heart was pumping through my chest as I hadn’t prepared anything to say, but I would have missed that opportunity if it hadn’t been for him, and I am grateful for his perspective on that.  (Trace, if you’re reading this, I love you so much that I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to say everything that I feel about how wonderful you are without writing it down!)

Tracy and Andrae hosted the after party in their honeymoon suite of a room.  Close friends became even closer as we played Heads Up, broke baguettes (broke bread), drank rose, and talked music, politics, race, gender, poetry and love until the wee hours of the morning.  I’m not sure the exact time but around 2am, we realized we needed to get out of their room, but we continued our deep conversations about life until 4am in the lobby!  It was a perfect way to celebrate these two since their relationships with close friends are clearly built on thoughtful exchange.

Congratulations Tracy and Andrae!


27th June- 6th July- Back to London:  Ginny and Jamie flew out to London to start their summer vacations!  It was special that Jamie just finished her 1st year of teaching, and that she would celebrate her birthday in London.  It was also a significant trip since Ginny was transitioning to a new school and new home.

We loved seeing Twelfth Night at Shakespeare’s Globe. It was a modern take on the story with elements of drag, 70s disco, and musical ballads!  None of us had seen a show at the historical theater so it was a great birthday-eve celebration for Jamie Lynn.

Lynn Bynn’s birthday featured a Tamiko-Forrest-Original Pub Crawl starting in Angel at the Narrow Boat for fish and chips and Camden brews.  We walked along Regent’s Canal to Shoreditch for a pint at the Ten Bells.  We strolled Spitalfields market and Brick Lane but Jamie was keeping herself accountable while shopping: no purchases unless they had a place to live back in Oakland.  This limited us to mainly food which was fine by me!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We shared some sour beers at the Earl of Essex and tried a scotch egg (see above).  Our final stop was the Queen’s Head where we had a late evening of philosophical conversations: financial woes and awareness, standards about beauty and weight, mixed families and above all else- love.

Of course, no trip to London is complete without a meal at Lahore, late-night kebabs, and egg sandwiches from Sainsbury’s.   We also snuck in an afternoon tea at The Renaissance Hotel Gilbert Scott Restaurant (booked by Ginny’s roommates). Corey figured out how to get us the afternoon tea menu even though we were told upon arrival that they couldn’t seat us.  By the end of the afternoon, we’d gotten free champagne and 15% off of our bill! Spells to the rescue.

I was tickled that I was able to introduce Danielle, one of my dad’s former students, to Jamie at the Island Queen- a local pub that Ginny stumbled upon during her walk to Regent’s Canal.  Separately, Jamie and Ginny took on London landmarks at their own pace when Corey and I were at work.  You also have to ask them for the photos and stories of their trip to Amsterdam on 2nd -5th July as well.  I know they loved Vondelpark and a small cafe with yummy potatoes.

For a final meal, we headed to Berber and Q for smoky shared platters of cauliflower  and chicken and a bottle of Alicante wine.  I was so happy to catch up on life from this year and that Jamie visited London for the first time.  Every day felt like an excuse to celebrate.

Their trip kept me sane during the start of teacher training, and I’m grateful for their kind words and challenges to my mindset.  Having family visit is just what I needed at this time.

Image result for Only Fools And HorsesTheir trip is actually why the title for this post came so easily.  The phrase ‘Lovely Jubbly’ is an expression used to share one’s delight or approval.  Apparently, the phrase was made famous by ‘Del Boy’ the main character from long running English sitcom ‘Only Fools And Horses’. It’s a show about brothers who sell dodgy goods believing that next year they will be millionaires (some British pop culture for you).  Corey argues that ‘everyone says it‘ while I’ve never heard someone use the phrase in London–other than to say ‘no one says that unless maybe they were a geezer from the 80s’. Either way, it is a way to describe my feelings for the month of June so I’ll allow it!

Standard
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.

IMG_0098

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!

IMG_0005

Standard
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.

Standard
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.

Standard
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!

 

 

 

Standard