Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day four, Museum Sunday

Last night was the USC-Notre Dame game in LA. This is the first time in six years that I haven't been there! (it's not so bad really, they only play at Thanksgiving every other year) At 1am, we brought up the online game-tracker and watched the beginnings of what we hoped would be a massacre by the Trojans. And it was! I went to bed after the first touchdown, but the final score was 38-3. Fight On! (and, Oregon State lost to Oregon, so SC might get to go to the Rose Bowl after all!)

I thought about sleeping late, but decided to get up and go to the British Museum with Mom and Bryan. I mean, I'm only in London once a year -- if I'm lucky -- and the last time I was here was 3 years ago. I could spare an hour or two of sleep for the British Museum! of course, it was cold and rainy and gross outside, but it was worth it to go back and see the sarcophagus of Cleopatra and the Mesopotamian sculptures and Egyptian hieroglyphics. I love that stuff. :) I also love the architecture of the internal courtyard of the museum, which they covered over with a skylight in 2000.

For lunch, we met dad and two of his British friends at the Texas Embassy Cantina. Yes, I went to a Texas-themed Mexican restaurant in London. The chips and salsa were good ... my aunt's cheese enchiladas were covered with Velveeta. (ugh.) The other food was good (not great), but I did have a Pacifico beer! And I bought a burnt-orange t-shirt with the restaurant logo, to wear when I get back.

After lunch, mom and Abbe and I headed over to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Annie Leibovitz exhibit. It's the companion exhibit with her new book, which includes both her well-known photos of celebrities for Vanity Fair, and personal photos of her children, her parents, her partner (Susan Sontag) and other life events. I heard an interview with her about the whole thing on NPR a few weeks ago, so I was excited to see the photos. The rest of the gallery was horrendously crowded, though, so we didn't stay too long.

At that point, we headed straight for the tube to come home. It was dark at 4pm, and cold, and raining! Bleh. The group couldn't make up their minds about dinner, so I chose the Greek place down the street. It was great! We brought home a bunch of leftovers. Dad tried to order spanakopita, but the waiter didn't understand him -- the guy was Italian! He only knew the name of the "spinach pie" in English. heehee :)

Tomorrow: Covent Garden market, the London Transport Museum, and souvenir shopping.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Day three, a chilly Saturday

Starting with dinner last night: Indian food at Bengal Clipper near Betty's apartment. The food was tremendous, but the service was crap. (Betty did warn us that this was the case.) I hadn't seen Betty since she was in DC visiting, right before I moved to Texas. She hasn't changed! :) We took the tube to Tower Hill and walked across Tower Bridge. (Photos of this part of the evening did not come out well, because of my inability to hold 100% still when taking a photo at night. Oh well. You've all seen Tower Bridge before! Instead, I give you a photo of Big Ben that I took on the way back yesterday evening.) The food was very good, and we were part of a group of 13 -- Betty's oldest friend from high school and her husband were visiting from the DC area for Thanksgiving. Both of their sons live in London, too. And apparently the girlfriend of one of the sons went to Bryan's high school for a while, but was a year ahead of him. (did you follow that trail?)

So that was last night. We didn't get home til after 10. Bryan went out to dinner and a pub with some of his Aussie friends who are working here. He didn't come home til 3:30am... but I wasn't awake to hear it! I slept like a dead person.

Saturday is Portobello Road market day. Mom and Dad got up early and went to meet their friends around 9:30am... I didn't make it out of bed til 10:30. Bryan didn't even move a muscle. With a little effort, I made it up there by noon, and we battled the chill and the crowds looking for bargains for a few hours, and then found a nice Italian restaurant for lunch. Mediterraneo was crowded, the food was excellent, and it was staffed entirely by actual Italians (unlike most places in the States). I said "grazie" once and the waiter asked me (in Italian) if I spoke Italian. umm... no. At least I know my accent passes muster. Maybe I'll be able to pull it off when Dani and I go to Italy (someday). :)

We walked through the food stalls - they sell everything! - and bought some fruits and veggies. There was a paella stand with those giant traditional paella pans - three feet across! Amazing. Here's the guy setting up a third pan to make a new batch of paella.

Slightly off-topic... I've decided I want one of those giraffe handbags. Ok, so I'm six or eight months behind the times. Mom and I saw the giraffe bags at Dooney & Bourke in Vegas, but the real thing is very expensive. I saw one at Spitalfields market the other day, and didn't buy it, and now I can't find one anywhere! I hope they have them at Covent Garden on Monday.

The rest of the day was uneventful. We took the bus home from Notting Hill, and we haven't left the flat again. It got REALLY cold towards the end of the day -- like, "it's going to snow" cold. We cooked dinner at home - moussaka (they do a lot of pre-prepared foods here, it's great!) and vegetables, and Bryan made guacamole. Yes, it's a little random, but mom and I had bought avocados at the Portobello market (5 for 1 pound!) and dad went to the store and got us some salsa and chips. Well, not really salsa. He got us Old El Paso "fajita sauce" -- which has a "smoky" flavor. In other words, it has bbq sauce in it! ICK! We tried very hard to add only a small amount of the sauce to make the guacamole... it tasted kind of odd.

Tomorrow, we're doing museum(s) where we can be indoors and warm. Because this cold, rainy English weather is just awful!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Day two, and it's not Black Friday

No waking-up-at-6am-to-shop for us today... although given that I didn't really fall asleep until 7:30am, I could have! This time zone thing is a killer. I slept mostly from 7:30am to 10am.

Then Bryan made breakfast. Eggs and bacon (or sausage) and toast and tomatoes. The kid can actually cook! :)

We let the "grownups" go off on their own today, and Bry and I went to the Imperial War Museum to see the Ian Fleming/James Bond exhibit. It was REALLY well done. I hadn't realized how much Ian Fleming had used his personal experience in Naval Intelligence as influence on his Bond adventures. It was also interesting to see the gadgets and memorabilia from the movies, and how the films had differed from his original stories. (Many of the oddest villains were not written by Fleming at all -- like Jaws, Scaramanga, and Drax.) I bought some goodies and some Christmas presents at the shop! :)

The Imperial War Museum is a huge place, full of moving exhibits and interesting artifacts. Today, however, it was also full of kids on school trips. OMG! I have never seen so many people in there before! We did our best to go in the opposite direction from the student groups. We walked through the exhibit commemorating World War I. The opening wall of the gallery has pictures of the last 3 British WWI soldiers who were alive at the start of 2008. It was very moving. The exhibit also has personal effects, letters, and information about a wide range of personalities who were involved the war, including Harry Truman, Winston Churchill and Edith Cavell (and a lot of non-famous figures as well).

Then we walked through the D-day experience. Again, really interesting and sobering stuff. Bryan and I are both well-versed in WWII history, given the house we grew up in. ;) The D-Day exhibit explores the preparation, planning, and execution of Operation Overlord. There's an Enigma machine, maps, guns, photos, artwork... it was really neat.

At that point, we were just exhausted, and we hadn't eaten lunch. We took the tube back to Embankment and got out so we could go see Trafalgar and Big Ben. We stopped for a snack and took some pictures, and then got back on the tube at Westminster. Lovely, rush hour on the tube! Worse than rush hour in DC!

Tonight we're going to dinner with Betty over near the Tower Bridge. Indian food, yum!
(pictures later, time to leave for dinner)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

London, Day One

I can't believe it's Thanksgiving!

Today we started off with some quick antiquing at Spitalfields. (What, you thought this family could get through more than one day without a flea market?!) They've apparently updated the space recently, so there were fewer dealers, but a slew of new restaurants -- a Gourmet Burger Kitchen(gbk), Wagamama, La Tasca, Giraffe, and some others. We didn't find much in the antique stalls, but the artist stalls on the other side were full of gorgeous goodies - purses, jewelry, shirts, dresses... (no, I didn't buy anything)

We stopped for lunch at gbk -- a fancy version of Five Guys or Mighty Fine -- we just beat the lunchtime rush. Then we went looking for Bevis Marks, the oldest synagogue in London. After a minor challenge with the map, we found it, but we couldn't go inside. The "best kosher restaurant in London" is also there. After that, we walked over to the Guildhall Art Museum, to see an exhibit of GF Watts paintings.

In the search for the synagogue, we also managed to walk right under the "Gherkin" -- (I think I'd rather call it the Towering Innuendo). But trying to get one of us in the picture AND the whole building was a challenge.
<-- Bryan and the tower

By the time we were done with the art museum, we were all exhausted. It was supposed to be naptime, but that never happened. We came back and within an hour we had to leave for Gordon Ramsay's restaurant at Claridges.

I have to say, this was one of the best meals I've ever had. We had the three course menu (which also includes at least one amuse before each course...). The first amuse was a soup/puree of parsnips with mushrooms. My lobster and salmon ravioli was incredible. It was one very large round ravioli, with a lovely coconut sauce. We all ate too much of the bread/crackers with butter, and interesting spreads -- one with truffle and one with salmon. Then the main courses came. I had venison with cabbage and an interesting dark chocolate sauce. Dad had the lamb, but the lamb was rubbed with anchovy paste, and he doesn't much like fish. So that was almost a bust - but not entirely, because Bryan thought it was fabulous! He liked that better than my chocolate-sauced-venison, but then again, he doesn't *ever* mix sweet with savory flavors. Bryan and Abbe both had the pork belly, and they really enjoyed it. Mom had the sea bass, which was also tasty.

For dessert, Bryan and I split the Apple Tart Tartin. Oh. My. Gawd. It was fantastic. But wait, that was preceded by a little skinny glass of vanilla cheesecake with blackberries. That was excellent, but then the apple tart with vanilla ice cream beat all! (yes, I was popping lactaid all night, but it was SO worth it.) They also served us little post-dessert amuses: a toasted-almond-covered ball of vanilla ice cream, a square of candied passionfruit, and a dark chocolate truffle. We literally had to ask for little boxes to bring them home in, because we couldn't eat another bite!

But we did take a tour of the kitchen. Our (handsome) head waiter, from Barbados (with a very nice accent) took us into the ridiculously busy kitchen. They have a chef's table, which you have to book waaaaay in advance, and costs over 800 British pounds for up to 8 people! (the price is the same for 2 or 8, so take more people if you can...) The people at the table can just go in and walk around the kitchen and talk to the chefs!

Then, as long as we were all gussied up, we took a family photo. :) (and Winston Churchill in the background - how appropriate!)

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! I hope y'all have a relaxing and pleasant day with your families and friends. (Can't even watch the UT-A&M game, it doesn't start here til 1am!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let the craziness begin!

The family is starting its travel madness early this year... we're all boarding planes for the other side of the pond around the same time today. Mom & Dad on BA, Bryan on Virgin, and me on AA. It's almost 9 hours from Dallas to London.... bleh. I brought some SimplySleep, so hopefully I'll nod off pretty soon. I also brought a pair of socks that have been languishing in my project bag for six months or so (Diamante socks, from knitty, in Fleece Artist, 100% Merino, bronze colorway) I stopped at a sock-and-a-half, though it looks like I have enough yarn left to make more.

One good thing: The Dallas airport D Gate area has a nice little charge station, so my laptop can charge and I can sit on a stool and not huddle on the floor near an outlet like I've had to do at the A gates. So I'm actually getting some work done.

Haven't been to London in 3 years! It was about 10-15 degrees colder last time I was there (it was a month later), too, so I'm hoping what I've brought this time will be enough. I haven't even done any research into what's on exhibit at which museum... There just wasn't time. It didn't even feel like I was really going until I got to the gate area in Dallas. YAY! Now I'm going.

I'm hoping that the Verizon-anywhere broadband modem will work in London. If not, there's always the internet cafe. :)

Safe travels, y'all!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday night out

Aubrey decided that tonight we all had to get some religion. :) We were treated to a performance by the Austin Babtist Women at Oil Can Harry's. [I was one of the only five or six women in the place, and definitely one of the only straight ones!] We had dinner beforehand at Hut's hamburgers, an Austin institution. I hadn't been there yet. Big, greasy, messy burgers and pretty tasty fries. Yum!

Anyway... the Babtist women have been singing together for nearly 22 years, raising money for HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, and other charitable causes. Altogether, they have raised over $6M! We had prime location in the front of the room to watch the show. And while they only did four or five songs, they were a RIOT! They were all decked out in wigs and makeup and dresses and high heels -- though amusingly, they didn't bother to shave off their facial hair! The dresses really reminded me of the dresses that grandmothers wear at Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and weddings. Definitely the kind of dress my grandmother wore to mine! :)

Here they are, in all their glory (sorry, the cameraphone takes fuzzy pics sometimes):

you go, girls!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

vallejo at maggie may's

at the AMD party for SC08 -- we got two tables in the front. The band is awesome!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

one more Obama video's newest -- it's a catchy song! (I love the video snippets of people singing along - Hi Kyra and Kevin!)

Friday, November 07, 2008

more One-Word-Answers

Dani did this meme today, so I thought I'd steal it. :)

Where is your mobile phone?
Where is your significant other? undetermined
Your hair colour? Mahogany
Your mother? Funny
Your father? Stubborn
Your favourite thing? Cooking
Your dream last night? weird
Your dream goal? Peace
The room you're in? Living
Your hobby? Knitting
Your fear? Loss
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Austin
Where were you last night? Wake
What you're not? JAP
One of your wish-list items? House
Where you grew up? Washington
The last thing you did? Cook
What are you wearing? Jeans
Your TV? Small
Your pets? None
Your computer? Old
Your mood? Spent
Missing someone? Joel
Your car? PT
Something you're not wearing? makeup
Favourite shop? Target
Your summer? Hot
Love someone? everyone!
Your favourite colour? Red!
When is the last time you laughed? 8pm
When is the last time you cried? 10am

I'm flattered, but...

Today, I had to rush home at 4:15 to meet the technician from the cable company, because some of my cable channels were on the fritz -- pixelated, blacking out periodically, or not coming in at all. And the phone kept losing its dial-tone. So they had to send a tech, because my "signal was weak."

Little did I know that the dead animal that was removed from the attic in September -- right before Gigi was here - the smell was awful! -- was related to the weak signal... Two and a half hours later, when the tech finally finished re-running my cable all the way across the garage and through the attic and down into the wall behind the tv, he told me that the cable had probably been chewed by a rat. *shudder* Maybe that's what killed it - it got zapped? Yuck.

But that wasn't his most interesting comment. As he was finishing the paperwork, I turned on Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, who was talking about President-elect Obama's first press conference. The tech (who I think was Ethiopian) said, "I guess you are an Obama fan?" I said, yes definitely!

He said, "you want to make another Obama?"

oh my.

(I said no.)

It's been a heck of a week.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama wins!

I feel like I can breathe! And Go Virginia!

Joe Lieberman

.... Is the moral equivalent of Jews for Jesus. --pnav