Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Buongiorno!  And that officially exhausts my Italian.  Thus far, however, I adore Italy.  We had a fantastic group dinner late last night with no one at the restaurant speaking English and no one in our group speaking Italian but the meal could not have been more perfect.  I unpacked all my stuff into our tiny apartment and, surprisingly, it feels a bit roomier than our Chicago place.  Perhaps because I only have the two dunnys to keep me company. 
 A few pics of my apartment and my view that only my mom and sister will enjoy!
 Our first day of work started at 9:30 at Barclays and it was full of introductory meetings, HR information, and IT setup.  Our space is beautiful, though, and I definitely appreciate the Milanese’s love of beauty.  Even the bathrooms are gorgeous! 

After work, a few of us decided to walk home (2 km) and pop into a supermarket.  I stocked up on all things Italian – prosecco, prosciutto, pasta, and parma – and attempted to cook myself dinner in our little kitchen.   Things I now know for my next meal:
  1. Fresh pasta turns into glop when overcooked.
  2. I should have bought paper towels.
  3. Hotels provide cheese graters but not wine openers.  Thank goodness for screw top prosecco.
  4. I should have bought Dawn.
  5. A spoonful of Nutella makes up for a lousy dinner.
Here’s to hoping the maids do dishes! 


This morning was a disaster.  We had checked and double-checked our alarms as the UK “sprang forward” one hour at midnight.  At 3:30 am, David’s iPhone went off for some technical reason that I will never understand.  We raced around for about two minutes before convincing ourselves that it was one hour early.  I lay back down and the next thing I know, I pop up to see the clock at 5:02.  Why is it that an alarm will ring promptly anytime I’m trying to sleep in but the second I need it to wake me, it never fails to fail.  Anyway, I jump out of bed and start throwing on my clothes while David races downstairs (in his birthday suit no less) to see if my car is there.  By the time I get downstairs at 5:09, we’ve come to the conclusion that the driver forgot about the time change and David (now clothed) races down the street to find me a cab.  He manages to flag down a cab at the corner and we run down the street with all 150 pounds of my bags only to discover he will not take a credit card.  We must have looked pretty pitiful fumbling around with our money and he agrees to take the 53 pounds that we scrounge up even though the trip ends up being closer to 63.  I jump in the cab, he loads the luggage, and suddenly I’m driving away mouthing “Goodbye” to a still sleepy David on the corner.   All I had pounding through my head the entire drive to the airport was “Keep Calm and Carry On”.  Nice.


We started our day at the Portabello Road market in Notting Hill.  Actually, we started our day experiencing extensive Tube delays and spent over an hour underground trying to get to our location.  Once there, we meandered through the market eating and shopping.  And eating again to recover from our shopping. Luckily, Saints Tattoo Studio (the site of my '99 eyebrow piercing extravaganza) was closed this time so we didn't have to decide how 31-year-olds look with piercings.
 We bought David a Europe book at the famous Travel Book Store to help him start planning his excursions (you know, the excursions that begin tomorrow) and then made our way over to Westminster Abbey to catch Evensong.  This was a beautiful ceremony and a wonderful way to really experience a church rather than just tour it. 

We wrapped up our day at Halepi, a Mediterranean grill that I had gone to with my family years ago, and it was just as warm and cozy as I remembered.  From there, we headed home (missing our sweet hosts who had left that morning for Egypt) and began to organize the chaos that our room had become.  And by “become” I mean happened the day we landed! 
 We wandered home the long way and had fun figuring out all the fancy settings on our new camera.
We have had such a wonderful time here in London and could not have asked for better hosts.  Thank you Nathan and Lindsay for sharing your home, your food, your beer, and your sweet little girl with us!  David got a bit sentimental and took some parting shots.  I wasn't kidding when I said he might still be there when you get back! 
I had a car coming to the house at 5:00 am so I was off to bed by 10, slightly anxious about traveling to Milan on my own but ready to get to my new “home”.


Today was a slow, slow day but the rest was much needed.  I can honestly say I never left the house.  David and Nathan went out for haircuts and lunch but I stayed in my pj’s and tried not to get off the couch.  A few times, Emerson decided to join me.  
We did a lot of ice cream eating:
A little digestive eating:
A little flying basket playing:
And ended with some family dinner-ing:
Well, I guess the day really ended with this:
 Lindsay and I took naps from 10-11:30 pm and then woke up to watch our good ol’ Baylor Bears beat St. Mary’s and insert themselves nicely into the Elite Eight.  Go Bears!

Friday, March 26, 2010


Today might have been my favorite day yet!  I got up early and hung out with Nathan and Emerson while David slept in.  He was up late the night before having talked to his mom who told us that his sweet 99-year-old Mamo had passed away early that morning.  We are so thankful that we were able to make it to Midland last week to spend time with her but we wish, wish, wish that we could just click our heels together and be in Texas this weekend for the funeral. 

We eventually made it to Hyde Park where we wandered for over an hour and I did nothing but say “this is the place where Darrah and Casey and I used to…”.  Luckily, I married a sweet man who doesn’t mind my reminiscing!  We walked by the Serpentine lake, Kensington Palace, and the Sunken Garden.  For some reason, my memory is of the Sunken Garden being so secret and hard to find but, apparently, all of London has discovered it and there is now signage announcing its existence!
After walking past our old place and launderette, we stopped in at Taormina for a “light” lunch of calamari, minestrone soup, penne pesto, and tiramisu.  The place hasn’t changed a bit and we talked with the owner who sweetly pretended to remember the three of us.
 We decided to walk to our next destination (high tea at The Langham) and I told David the story of how when I took my parents and sister to tea, it started to rain, and we ended up at this nice hotel looking like drowned rats.  Ironically, the showers soon began and David and I repeated the family tradition.  On the bright side, tea is never so good as when you are a bit soggy!  I'd read about the renovation of The Langham in one of my design magazines and the room was stunning - mid-century modern furniture, gorgeous chandeliers, and cozy seating.  As we hate to waste a good eating opportunity, we ordered the full tea of sandwiches, sweets, and scones.  I think we each had two pots of tea, DC ordered an additional gin & tonic, and I had an extra cupcake.
We took a black taxi back to the Adairs and DC finalized his plan (which he stole from Nathan) of purchasing, shipping, and retrofitting an early 80's cab as his vehicle of choice once we move to Cincinnati.  I can't think of anything better than being chauffeured around in one of those!  
After getting Miss Emerson set up with a child minder, we stopped in for a quick drink at the smallest pub in London (conveniently located next door), and continued to impress the Adairs with our extensive eating skills.  We went to an Indian restaurant in Covent Garden that played Bollywood videos, were seated in a private booth above the main floor,  and served plate after plate of curry, naan, chicken kebabs, and lamb goodness.  To cap the night off, we headed home for a leftover tea treat, a glass of wine, and once again kept our hosts up later than we should have!  


We woke up early and had breakfast delivered to our room so that we would have the energy to race over to the Louvre and face the crowds. I have never actually visited the Louvre as I am too overwhelmed at the size and therefore (irrationally) avoid it at all costs.  David, the more sensible of the two of us, does not share this fear and so we decided that the best course of action was to set ourselves up with an audio tour of just the masterpieces - Venus de Milo, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, and, of course, the Mona Lisa where the crowd was nearly more entertaining than the artwork.   I highly recommend this route as it took us just over an hour and did a fantastic job of making you feel that you got a good overview even though it was just the tip of the iceberg.  
We left the Louvre and made our way through the Tuillerie Gardens, past the Place de la Concorde, and onto the Champs Elysees.  We took a side street and stopped in at a cafe for a Sauvignon Blanc and some French Onion soup.   We did a serviceable job communicating with our waiter and enjoyed sitting on the street watching all the passerbys.  I laughed out loud when I noticed the restaurant across the street was Hippopotamus - the site of my rather unfortunate but certainly character-building 21st birthday celebration with Darrah and Casey.  I made DC listen to the story of our plight for the umpteenth time and then we headed out to finish our two-mile stroll to the Arc de Triomphe.  
We climbed the 269 stairs to the top (DC counted so give or take a few), caught our breath, and took in the panoramic views of Paris.  
Ready to get out of the tourist mess, we caught the Metro to Sacre-Couer and climbed hundreds more stairs in order to tour the church and enjoy the live music and festivities at the top of the hill.  Needing more sustenance, we headed to Place du Tetre and grabbed a sidewalk table where we split a Croque Monsieur (there was no Madame to be had) and watched the chaos of the artists painting and hawking their wares - some for as much as 250 euros; the seller of which immediately packed up and headed home.  Feeling renewed, we meandered through Montmarte to the Moulin Rouge before catching the Metro to St Germain where we attempted to eat steak and frites at Marisa and Scott’s highly recommended place (and, yes, if you are keeping count, this is meal number three in less than six hours) that, unfortunately, did not open until 7:00.  We found a substitute cafe with the best service of the trip and dragged our tired selves to the train station.  Au revoir Paris!


While the day started painfully early at 4:00 am, it’s hard to be cranky in Paris!  We took the first Eurostar of the day from London, figured out the Metro (which, for some reason, makes so much more sense to me after living in Chicago), and made it to Hotel La Manufacture where they hooked us up with the only room with a “view” of the Eiffel Tower.  
After unpacking, we were able to enjoy a breakfast of café au lait and tartines at a little café.  I vowed to use my French as much as possible and, though I fumbled through on more than one occasion, I was able to make it work for the most part.  I’m still so in awe of the French language and culture that I’m mortified at messing up but c’est la vie.
Our hotel was pretty far south on the Left Bank so we spent an hour or so just making our way up to the Seine – saw the Sorbonne, the Luxembourg Gardens, and the Musee d’Orsay.  From there, we wandered along the river, across the Pont Neuf, and had lunch at Place Dauphine in a sidewalk café full of business people.  David tried the beef tartar and, I must admit, it was much, much better than my first encounter with it years ago.  
We moved on to tour the Saint-Chapelle (the “jewel box” church), Notre Dame, and Ile St-Louis before taking a much-needed nap back at the hotel.
For dinner, we went to Le Tastevin (highly recommended by Casey) and were not disappointed.  David had escargot and scallops and I had a salad and lamb.  We opted in for a second bottle of wine, opted out of dessert, and decided that we should check out the Eiffel Tower at midnight.  After hopping the Metro turnstile due to a ticket debacle and advice from a newfound friend, we finally made it and were pleasantly surprised by the lack of people.  We were unpleasantly surprised by the aggressive trinket salespeople but DC quickly learned a solid French “non”.   While we arrived back to the hotel exhausted, it was the good kind of exhausted and well worth it.  Bonsoir!