Thursday, September 26, 2013

Stoppin' By


No good pictures or stories today- other than my neighbor ringing my doorbell at 8:30 AM, asking if I can save a butterfly (really, a moth, but she tried to argue with me about that so, whatever, it was a "butterfly") that was hanging out on her window, inside her home. She kept telling me how she can't hurt anything and doesn't want to kill it, but needs my "moral support" while she tried to shoo it out. Once we got inside her flat, she proceeded to put on rubber gloves, give me a container, and scream while I chased it around. She actually went to hide while I caught it.  Finally, I trapped the poor "butterfly" in the container and tried handing it to her, and then she screamed bloody murder and nearly knocked the container out of my hands, yelling "I AM FRIGHTENED BY ALL THINGS WITH WINGS, DISPOSE OF IT!" in the swankiest yet most terrified English accent. So I set the "butterfly" free outside while she watched from the window. Afterward, I tried to hand her back the empty container. She asked me to please keep it, she no longer wanted it. Ha, the joys of sharing a house with a bunch of other people! But really, I am happy that I was able to help her.

Other than acting as a "butterfly" saver (or an old lady saver, depending on how you look at it), things have been low-key here. Daniel got back from Paris last night. Our French friend Vincent, who lives in Houston, was visiting Paris at the same time as Daniel, so they got to reconnect. Also, one of Daniel's best London friends got to go, as well, so he was happy to have someone to eat and drink with while they weren't working. Other than that, though, Daniel had to sit through lectures from 8am-8pm. He was happy that he had a comfortable bed and quiet room to sleep in.

Speaking of quiet rooms, my body now has a defense mechanism so that I don't hear the stomping around at 6 in the morning. Daniel says that I now snore so loudly, it drowns out the stomping. Which is good for me- I haven't woken up in a long time due to the neighbors!

Also, just so y'all know, our water heater finally works again and the cold that I had over the weekend has gone away.

Tomorrow, we are leaving our flat before dawn to catch the 6:19 am bus ride to the airport. Our flight is at 9:45! Once we arrive to Genova, we will take a bus from the airport to the train station, and then a train to Vernazza. I can't wait! We will come home on Tuesday- expect a picture overload!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Future holidays

I think it can go without saying that traveling is a priority for us while we are here. That is why I began babysitting, why I cook nearly every night vs going out to eat, and why every single clothing item I have bought while here has been from a thrift store. We really try to save every penny so that it can all go to our savings account or to a travel budget.

With that said, we have planned several little trips for the rest of 2013.

First of all, we will be here on Friday. Worth mentioning again. Can't wait!

Our hotel. I booked it before reading Rick Steves, and this is the B&B that he recommends for Cinque Terre. We always trust good ol' Ricky!
The place where we will be eating our free Italian breakfast.

Town we are staying in. Excited for the wineries, pesto, and the fact that we will have NOTHING to do while there!

Trail we will be hiking on.

Next, we are taking a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath in October. There was a Groupon for a fabulous bus tour for 30 pounds a person. Ricky raves about Bath, so I hope we don't regret only spending a day there!

We never were planning to go to Stonehenge. It's a far drive and not around anything special. It seems like people drive the 2 hours there, take a picture, turn around and go home. I mean, it's a bunch of rocks. How much time could anyone possibly spend there? Since it was included in the Groupon, though, we'll take it!
Bath...the more English cities we go to, the more they start all looking the same. I'm going to trust Ricky on this one!

In early November we are going to Budapest for a long weekend. We also got a Groupon deal, including the flight, and after spending nearly a day on the phone with the merchant, I will NEVER recommend for people to buy a Groupon that has flight included. It was such a pain to book and all of the flights that we wanted were not "a part of the Groupon" (aka only Monday-Thursday flights, at 6 am or 10 pm). After planning and paying extra for a "premium" flight, I wondered if we are even actually saving money with this deal? Whatever, we will spend 3 nights there and I'm sure it will be

Budapest, Hungary // Study in Budapest! Learn more at the #EHEFPhilippines!
Next, we will be going to Paris with both my mom and sis, and then a few weeks later with Daniel's brother, Justin, and his wife Brandee. With my mom, a friend of Daniel's and mine was nice enough to let us stay in his family's flat in the Latin Quarter. With Justin and Brandee, we will be hosteling it up (my first experience, should be exciting!) I hope we get to do separate things on each trip there, because I don't know if I will want to walk through The Louvre or Eiffel Tower two times in two weeks (First world problems, I know).

Cannot remember where this was....somewhere in Paris! Taken 4 years ago.

Our last planned trip of 2013 (other than, fingers crossed, to Houston) is to Edinburgh with Justin and Brandee. It will be cold, but I am excited to drink some scotch and see some castles. Hopefully we will have time to rent a car and drive through the Highlands of Scotland.
500px / Edinburg Castle by Lee Crawford.  I was here about a week and a half ago in this wonderful city and fell in love. The contrast of the medival architecture next to the newly added super contemporary buildings is amazing.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hampstead Heath

Yesterday we didn't do much since I wasn't feeling 100%. We took the bus to a nearby neighborhood called Hampstead Heath. It is a really quaint area and we would love to live there other than the fact that it is even further from Daniel's work than our current flat. 

french restaurant, Hampstead, business lunches and romantic dinners

We had reservations at a French restaurant called La Cage Imaginaire. It was at the end of a cute brick street.
The food was okay. At the table waiting for us were olives and bread with tapenade on it....super good but weird for a French restaurant. We started with Foie Gras..aka fattened goose liver. And I thought it was disgusting. This was my first time to try it and I am usually a pretty adventurous eater, but there was something about the idea of an organ that literally melted in my mouth that truly grossed me out. Yuck. For entrĂ©e, Daniel had duck confit and I had coq au vin...his was great, mine was nothing to write home about. Good, but not memorable. They we had homemade chocolate cheesecake and that was delicious. We also had a bottle of white wine from the Alsace region of France...I am hoping that we will go there while we are in EU! 

Afterwards, we went to the neighboring pub called The Flask. It was a nice date night before Daniel left for Paris!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Stupid London

I'm trying to focus on the positive today, but first I've gotta vent.

We love London, but have decided Houston is DEFINITELY a better place to live. London is a fun experience and offers many travel opportunities (more on that later), but so much of it Case in point:

Last night, I babysat until about 11 pm. It is another family with 2 adorable boys, aged 2 and 6. Their bedtime was at 8, so I just cleaned and tried to be productive while waiting for the parents to get home from their date. When they came home a little after 11 pm, they graciously offered to call a cab to take me home, but I declined, seeing as that would have cost them a lot of money and it's only 2 miles away, with several bus lines.

I go to the bus stop and wait. and wait. and wait. I usually only have to wait 3-7 minutes, but I ended up waiting for about 20 minutes (at night, there are less buses). Finally, I see the 187 bus drive by, and I get excited, getting my Oyster card out and ready to swipe. As I look up, I realize the bus is going way too fast...I start waving my arms...and it passed me. And I might have screamed an obscenity and ran after the bus, shaking my fists at the idiotic, incompetent bus driver (wow, incompetent bus there anything lower than that? You're a bus driver. Who can't drive. Clueless, anyone?)  This happens all of the time and is SO frustrating. I could have been home if I would have just ran the 2 miles! So, I decided I was going to do just that, instead of waiting around for 20 more minutes just to be passed up, at 11:30 pm. I would have normally ran it anyways, but I had already ran a lot that day and was very sore, plus I felt uncomfortable running in the dark. Thankfully, I felt safe because there were a lot of people out and about, but still, I was nervous crossing roads since I didn't have any reflective gear on! I didn't get home until a little before midnight. And all along, I'm thinking about how if I was in Houston, I would have drove home and been there in less than 5 minutes!

So, I get home and I am annoyed, just wanting to take it out on someone. Daniel is in bed and appears to be asleep, so I bang around really loudly and yell, "I just ran home and it's midnight, and you didn't wait up for me!!! What if I never made it home?!?! You would have never known!!!" He claims that he was lying awake in bed, but whatever. I'm grumpy, sweaty, and just want to shower and get to bed.

So I start up the water...and there is NO HOT WATER. Now, this really ticks me off and is of course Daniel's fault. I make him get up and try and fix it, to no avail. I ended up taking a sponge bath (yuck) after a day of running 6 miles and an hour and a half of yoga in a 95 degree room. Yah, still feelin' a lil grubby this morning.

Anyways, everything in this flat keeps breaking, which I know it also frustrating for the landlords because they just did an overhaul and replaced everything in the flat. I think in London, everything isn't exactly made to the quality as it is back home. This is the second problem in a week that we have had with our plumbing, and a plumber just came by on Tuesday. I called our landlords and hopefully a plumber will come IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS....cold showers for everyone!

I wasn't even planning on going to yoga today, but I am now, simply because I can use their hot showers once I'm done. Really, that's where I am in life? Having to go to a public place to bathe? I feel like Zooey Deschanel in Elf.  Anyways, I wasn't planning on doing any exercise today because I'm sick. I think it has something to do with running on smoggy streets and being in such a dense, crowded city, breathing in the same polluted air as the 10 million other people that live here. And I keep forgetting to douse myself in Purell after I use public transportation. I just have a head cold, thankfully, because my National Healthcare Systems (NHS) forms haven't processed yet since I just turned them in on Thursday (oops, my bad).

I was going to end this post talking about more travel plans we have, but I am running late for my shower yoga,  so I will save that for tomorrow!

Love you all, and thanks for listening to my complaining! I'll be more positive next go around!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cutting Room Floor

Hello! Things have gotten very quickly back to the routine since my aunts left...we spent last weekend cleaning and doing literally nothing, and this week I've been doing my routine 3:30-7 nanny gig on Monday- Thursday. It is working out great. The children are precious- a 7 year old boy and 9 year old girl. They share a room and are seriously best friends. As soon as we get home from school, they throw their backpacks to the floor and immediately get into some sort of fantastical game of "magic devil horse", or "stuffed animal boarding school", or "doll hospital". It is so sweet how well they play together and makes me want to have children one day that are close in age! On top of that, the parents are really easy going. It is just the perfect setup for me. I have time to sleep in, workout, get dinner prepared and clean our house, then I run to the school (it's only 2 miles away), walk the kids home, and I run back home around 6:30 (they live only a mile away from me). If I am feeling lazy, I can also take a quick bus there and back.
Ok, here are some photos from my aunt's stay that for some reason never made it to the blog.
Laura and a robot, on Covent Gardens
Really cute elephant, Regent's Park

Laura, me, and Dianne in Hampshire

My cutie and me on our way to brunch

Daniel, me, Gail, Russ, Dianne, and Laura at Nopi for brunch...I had black rice with coconut milk and mango. It was scrumptious and what I needed after all of the unhealthy foods we had been eating.
Laura and me

Us at Downton Abbey
Not from my aunt's trip. I saw this wonder while running. I literally ran past it, saw it out of my peripheral, stopped, realized that it is NOT normal to run past a massive wooden rocking horse being towed by a truck, and backtracked for a photo.

This weekend, I am doing even more babysitting. Daniel is going to Paris for work and I need to be kept busy! Plus, it is extra spending money while we are in Cinque Terre (we leave next Friday!). Have a great weekend, y'all!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hampton Court

One of my favorite things that my aunts and I did together was go to Hampton Court. As I think I have blogged about in the past, I am a huge sucker for old houses, palaces, and castles and I would say that if you are as well, Hampton Court should be a must see when in London. Much better than Kensington Palace. The only downfall is it is a bit of a hike to get there. You have to go to Waterloo and take a 45 minute train ride there, but it is a stone's throw from the Hampton Court Train Station so at least you do not have to rent a car.
Once we got of the train, we just had to walk over a lovey bridge to get to the palace. 

The palace began as a large barn in the 1200's and then was renovated to become a lavish castle in the 1500's by King Henry VIII. I read that he spent the equivalent of 18 million pounds to fancy it up to his likings! 

Inner Courtyard

Wall of weapons

The kitchens were massive and the size of a few Texas sized houses put together. We learned that their diet was 75% meat. King Henry VIII often served meat to show how rich he was. It was noted that he also had scurvy!  

King William III and  Mary II updated the palace in the 18th century. When looking at the palace, you see red bricks (from when King Henry) and then white stone (from William and Mary).

The gardens were, of course, stunning, as I am finding English gardens tend to be. Must have something to do with the amount of rain England receives. Anyways, William III was from the Netherlands and imported citrus fruits from there. They had several lemon trees. The built a huge, long, window-filled hallway to house the lemon trees in the winter.
We could have stayed all day at Hampton Court. We were there for probably 4 hours and maybe got to see 1/3 of it. There were also mazes, chapels, and more rooms that we never got to explore. They also gave us headsets for an audio tour at no extra cost, which taught us all about the interesting information I am sharing with y'all today.
 Another interesting tidbit: Although William and Mary had a very loving relationship, historians believe that he might have been gay. They never had any children, and William had an intimate relationship with his male confidant for most of his life, until the friend got jealous of another close male friend of Williams and the relationship became estranged. However, they made up on...either William's deathbed or the friend's (we were there 2 weeks ago so I have forgotten!) 


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

London "Theatre"

People can't come to London and NOT see a play or two. My Aunt Laura is both an actress herself AND lives in Manhattan, so a simple musical definitely wouldn't have sufficed. We saw two different plays that I never even would have heard of it wasn't for her, and I'm glad that we got to see something completely different. 
The first theatrical production (I don't think "play" is the correct term here) was called A Hollywood Fable. It takes place in the early 50's in Hollywood and centers around two different love affairs. You go into what looks like a warehouse, and they immediately give you this mask to wear (this is for many reasons, one being to tell us apart from the actors). 
I was trying to be as creepy as possible

You go to a large elevator, where a creepy man dressed in an old suit from the 40's (think Hollywood Tower of Terror) tells you the backstory and lets you out on to a spacious, dimly lit floor. There are little vignettes, such as a bar with an unmasked, wide eyed bartender slowly scrubbing a dish while blankly looking into the horizon. Another vignette was a small, spiderweb covered chapel, full of bibles turned to various pages and a candlelit shrine at the front. My aunts walked through a room that was just full of discarded prosthesis. As you are looking through the different sets, actors slowly start trickling in and performing. The warehouse is several stories high and all that you do is walk through it. Some people catch different scenes than others and you never really learn the full story of what is going on. I am doing an awful job explaining this, just think Hollywood Tower of Terror+ The Black Dalia+ a haunted house+ a really creepy acid trip or nightmare and then you will get the picture.

Chimerica stage
The next play that we saw was a little more traditional in that we actually sat down and simply watched. It was called Chimerica and was about the famous photograph of the tank man in Tianamen Square. The stage was awesome- it rotated and on it was this huge cube that had different doors, windows, and sets built into it and pictures projected on to it to create the scene

Us at the pub...I think this was before beer was spilt
Not a play, just us at the pub the night that we saw Chimerica. It was their last night in London, so we stayed out late and played scrabble (I WAS winning, and then someone won with the word "wipe"...I think it was Dianne?)
I know that these posts have been out of order, but I still have one or two more days with my aunts that I need to blog about. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Member's Only

On my aunt's first full day in London, we met up with one of Dianne's oldest friends, Russ. Him and his wife, Gail, are both professors in London, him teaching Shakespeare and Gail teaching poetry. 

They are members of one of the oldest intellectual clubs, called The Athenaeum. It was a gentlemen's only club until the 2002....let's not focus on that fact, okay? Members include Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, and 52 different Nobel Peace Prize winners. It was a refuge for them to get together, discuss politics, literature, and science, while smoking and drinking expensive scotch.

Russ and Gail were kind enough to take us to The Athenaeum for an exquisite lunch. It was an incredibly hot day and there was a sign declaring that "because of the unusually warm weather, gentlemen may choose to discard their jackets". No denim or trainers were allowed. Men were in suits and ties, women (well, we were the only 4 there) were in dresses and heals.

We had grouse (a type of bird), salmon, gooseberries, wine, and more. I felt so fancy being there. Government officials were dining next to us. I had to try and use my quiet, indoor voice instead of my loud and obnoxious Texas voice. It was so interesting learning more about Russ and Gail's life in London as professors. They are very into theater (obviously, I guess that's a given if you teach and publish books about Shakespeare) and gave us some good advice on what to see and not see.
By the way, I had to copy all of these pictures from their website. I nearly got kicked out for taking pictures...I think it was obvious that I wasn't a member there, but just a commoner that someone was nice enough to take in. 

I reluctantly had to leave after lunch to go pick up the kiddos that I nanny from school, but my aunts and Russ moved from the dining room to the coffee/ "smoking" room to discuss more intellectually stimulating topics (I'm pretty sure that if you even whispered the word "Kardashian", you would be kicked out).  It was a great time and I'm glad I got to experience this swanky, high class club! I don't think they accept part time nanny's, though, so I guess I won't be becoming a member anytime soon! 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Movin' to the Country...

...Gonna eat me a lot of peaches.

Yes, that song was stuck in my head the whole time while we were visiting the English country side of Hampshire. That, and lot's of David Bowie, thanks to our impromptu karaoke at our Host David's house.

ANYWAS, on Sunday, my aunts and Daniel, along with our new friends Russ and Gail, met for brunch with Dianne's old friend, David. David moved from Houston 20 years ago and is a writer, living a 1.5 hour train ride away from London in the small village of Alton. The aunts and I took the train back with him and just fell in love with the quaintness of the country.

We saw badgers, bunnies, and bobcats roaming the narrow and often times unpaved roads of the country.

Could the cottage shave been any cuter?
 We got out and walked around for a bit, because the windy roads were making me carsick. I've decided that I would be quite content leaving London for the country, if only Daniel wouldn't have a 4 hour commute everyday.
Pub 1

Birthday Pub
 We were lucky enough to spend our trip with David during his birthday, so we went to this pub that was in the middle of nowhere to share some wine, tasty food, and of course a cake or two.


Hampshire is full of hidden walking trails that go on for miles through the woods. I loved how unmanicured and rugged it all was. There were wild horses that supposedly had been left there by gypsies hundreds of years ago. 

We stumbled across an old church. The tombstones were blank and unnamed due to centuries of erosion.

This ain't just any ol' country cottage...It was the home of Jane Austen, where most of her novels were birthed. 

Recreation of the Round Table
We drove to the small town of Winchester. It reminded me a bit of a smaller and calmer York. Everything was old. Ancient.

Church in Winchester

Mosaic window

Winchester, like York, had a big, ancient church. Some cool tidbits: One of the stained glass windows was destroyed during their civil war. All of the townspeople came together, collected the glass, and created the first known mosaic. Another tidbit: the crypt is normally flooded.

This is a picture that I actually took!
But the coolest thing that we got to do was tour Downton Abbey (called Highclere in real life). I am so happy that we got to do this. Although I've only seen the first season of Downton Abbey, my aunts are HUGE fans and really wanted to go see the estate where the show is filmed at. When we called to get tickets, they said they were booked, but we still decided to give it a try and just show up. Thankfully, they had room for us!

Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures of the inside. I'm a rule follower, unlike others (coughcough Dianne) so you'll have to go there yourself to see it. It was much smaller than it appears on the show. All of the rooms were labeled and we got to see the character's bedrooms, too. Everything was perfectly decorated and thought was put in to every nook and cranny.


What was really stunning was the outside. I can't remember how many acres they own, but basically as far as the eye could see was their land. It is different from the perfectly manicured gardens...just rugged, rolling hills for miles.
I just love this picture because A. it looks like I am a baller at handstands when in fact I almost always fall over after 3 seconds and B. It looks like I am giving birth to Highclere (as noticed by my Aunt Laura).
I think we could have spent a few extra days in Hampshire and have been content (we were only there for 2 days). I loved the quiet, slow pace of life there. Definitely need to go back with Daniel next time! 



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