January 29, 2007


January 22, 2007: continued. After our droll breakfast at the Melia White House, we began our initial exploration of London. Since our hotel was practically ontop of the Great Portland Street Station, we were able to duck through the rain showers between Melia and the Station and the end result was not overly damp. But we needed umbrellas, it was decided. Too much rain on our first morning of tourism. So we took the underground to Trafalgar Square and bought umbrellas (London umbrellas, I called them). Turns out we only needed them for a total of two hours. We walked beneath our London umbrellas in the direction of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, toward Westminster Abbey, these landmarks striking unbelievably statuesque poses in our midsts as we stood humbled beneath them. I've never witnessed anything so ornate, so intricate, as this corner of London (and so old!) Craig was silent nearly the entire time - although, I recall he gasped his wonder here and there - it was like being in a different dimension of time. We walked around and around, staring up at the impossibly beautiful grace of these buildings. And then we walked away from it. We walked to Buckingham Palace, right up to it, as close as we could get which is these days not too close (I couldn't poke the guards to try to make them laugh). Craig decided we would walk around the Palace. Traveler's tip: Do not walk around the Palace: you will see nothing but a towering stone wall guarded by intimidating wrought iron spikes circling the topmost frame of the wall. I complained a little at this point. I couldn't help it - the wall surrounding the grounds of the Palace held no magic for me. Craig felt bad - he had no idea! But it was quickly water under the bridge. After the Palace we wandered along St. James Park and wound up near Trafalgar Square again, where we opted for fish and chips and pints at the Sherlock Holmes.
I suppose this was our first actual exposure to English fish and chips. But what can I say? It was fine - a normal serving of battered white fish served with a side of tartar sauce and a pile of "chips," or fries which we smothered in vinegar - voluntarily. Because that's what the English do. At least so we think.*While we sat at Sherlock discussing our tourism thus far, the door swung open and in walked a stream of Craig's friends. I don't know how small of a world it is but clearly it is small enough that all of us would elect for the same touristy pub in the same afternoon around roughly the same hour. We didn't arrange it in advance. Not at all. So seeing them there after Craig and I were seated with a pint and some food was weird. Not bad. Just weird.*

January 28, 2007


January 21, 2007: We woke fairly early even without an alarm clock because we were invited to breakfast in the barn with all of those who had stayed on the grounds the night before. Mind you, the night before had unraveled into an after hours party (I played the role of the passed out on the couch girl in the cottage where after hours events took place, which was probably the smartest thing I could have done, given the morning after conditions of those who stayed awake and continued to drink!) Most of the friends made it to breakfast, which I must note was strangely snug (I observed while in England that many quarters are close and drink cups, excluding pint glasses, of course, are tiny, leading me to reflect on our senseless size indulgences here in the States!) - therefore, I was elbow to elbow with Craig and another Allison to eat breakfast, all of us hungover, all of us travel-weary, to boot. And I mention the drink cup sizes because in our hungover states, likely all of us would have preferred giant waters and oj's versus the mini servings. But no complaints, because it was generous of Dustin and Fiona to feed us the morning after their wonderful wedding reception! After bidding farewell to Dustin and Fi, their friends Day and Geraldine, and any other wedding attendees not headed back to London on the bus, we loaded 19 people's luggage and 19 people into the transportation Dustin had arranged for us. The drive back to London took what felt like an eternity, including the stop the bus driver took to smoke a cigarette, at which point many of us piled out to retrieve snacks from the convenience store. We finally rolled into London around 4, I believe, and the bus stopped several times depending on which part of town people had planned to stay. The plan was to head to our hotel, wash up, change clothes and head out with Alison and Scott to track down American Football, despite how miserable we all felt from the travels. Alison and Scott are from Chicago, and Craig is from just outside Chicago and I was born there and my Dad was born and raised there and there you have it, the Bears were battling for their spot in the Superbowl and even though we were in London, England, we had decided to try to view the game. We managed to hunt down a sports bar called, appropriately enough, London Sports Cafe, where we stood in a queue outside for 45 minutes while their football, or soccer, wrapped up. Then, for 10 whole minutes, football watchers filed out of this seeming enormous establishment. A full 10 minutes of sports watchers filing out of a bar is a long time for people to file out of a bar, believe me. But finally we were permitted entrance, at which point we were seated in the restaurant section, just Alison, Scott, Craig and I, and we ate and drank a couple of pitchers of beer. Then a whole ordeal unfolded, which found us abandoning our prime seats to join Craig's friends upstairs, who had arrived a while after us, in an overcrowded, completely packed, standing room only section of this bar. Here, Alison and Scott good-naturedly accepted the fact that we not only wouldn't get a table, or a seat, barely beers, but also that Craig's friends, for whom we abandoned our great table downstairs, proceeded to leave not 10 minutes after their arrival (because they weren't comfortable in the packed nature of that bar). Chalk it up as bad planning on all counts. We should have figured the upstairs not to be conducive to a good time. But no matter - we powered through. At halftime of the Bears game the 4 of us departed that bar and joined the others at a place called The Walkabout, where seats were good and plenty. There we finished the Bears game and watched part of the Colts game. And so concluded our first full night in London.

January 22, 2007: Thus begins The Tour. If I haven't said so already, Craig is singlehandedly one of the finest tourist companions of our generation (many thanks to his father Ed for being this way, too). Craig believes in the art of seeing as much mainstream touristness as possible, which is always suitable to me, because I would certainly hate to miss out on any of these things yet without him, I'd struggle to see it all myself. So, off we were, into the world of London, following an impractical bizarre and overpriced breakfast at the hotel. We stayed at Melia White House located very near the Great Portland Street Station and on the edge of Regent Park. Allow me to use this instance, this breakfast instance, to explain the weakness of the American dollar in England. The ratio is currently approximately 2 U.S. dollars to 1 pound. In other words, it was safe to double every amount we spent. Example: Melia White House breakfast, buffet-style: 19 pounds. For one person. That means breakfast (per person) totalled $40. Apply this to our entire trip and it is now understandable why Americans believe London costs twice as much as New York: because it literally does. Anyway, we had some weird voucher, luckily, which entitled us to one "free" breakfast, so the meal was actually only 19 pounds for each of us.*I'm going to publish this and continue on with my London chronicles hopefully tomorrow night after we begin the work week. We've rented a couple of movies for tonight and are eating leftovers first and I just hate how quickly Sundays slip away!*Cheers.

January 27, 2007


We're back from an unbelievably eventful and unforgettable experience, and without further ado, I present to you England: Craig & Kristin's International Adventure.

January 18, 2007: We spent the day at the office wrapping up loose miscellaneous work ends before leaving for a week. A co-worker drove us in New York's first light snow of the Winter of '06-'07 to Kennedy International Airport, where we were dropped extremely early for our 9.10 p.m. flight. I called Alison, a new friend of ours who was getting ready to board with her husband Scott to leave New York at 6.45. We had arranged to meet them at Heathrow upon our arrival in London two hours following their arrival; in other words, they would land at Heathrow at 7.00 a.m. the next day and wait for us to land a little after 9 a.m. Alison informed me when I phoned her that the security line there at Kennedy was a breeze, and maybe we should try to jump on the earlier flight to depart with them? And so we did. We even arrived at Alison and Scott's gate 20 minutes prior to boarding. American Airlines boarded the small handful of people onto the enormous jumbo international jet and we managed to find 4 open seats together in the bulkhead area of the plane (bulkhead - I still have no idea what that is but that's what Alison, Craig and Scott kept calling the space where we found seats!) There we sat, for an hour. Then another. The pilot informed us each half hour of the "continued mechanical problem experienced below" which was constantly "almost resolved". A little after 9, too late to re-book us on the 9 p.m., the pilot announced that our flight had been cancelled. (The comic relief at that point was the adorable blonde toddler who ran down the aisle waving her arms calling, "Everybody off the plane!") Needless to say, we were all worked up, and we darted off the plane quickly and broke into mad dashes for the ticket counter. One last flight would depart New York for London at 11.45 p.m. and we would not miss that flight. Alison took smart charge and shoved all 4 of our boarding passes at the woman and insisted we be seated together. Flooded with relief of being ticketed for that flight, we found some fast food and a couple of cocktails by our new gate. We boarded our new plane a little after 11 and proceeded to wait an hour. And another. And another. It was near 2 a.m. before our plane finally pushed back from the gate. And thus began our international adventure.

January 19, 2007: We arrived at London Heathrow a little before 1 p.m. We had each managed to sleep on and off through the flight, but nothing could have prepared me for the thick fog of jet lag I would experience as we climbed off the plane, found our bags, went through customs and hurried to the Heathrow Express. We took the Heathrow Express to the Paddington Underground Station, where we switched to the tube. Even though we're 4 savvy New York subway riders, we looked like dumb Americans surrounded by huge suitcases peering up at tube maps, trying to figure out, in the midst of disrupted line service, how to get to the Liverpool Street Station. Alison and Scott are not new to international travel, so they were helpful, but we were all still wrecked from lack of good sleep and extensive delays. Finally we made it to the Liverpool Street Station, where we switched to yet a new train, the One, I believe it's called, which would deposit us in Norwich (pronounced Nor-itch). On this train, Craig turned to Alison and said, "Well, I will give you guys the address for the lodge, if you don't have it, so that when you get in a cab you know how to get there." Alison looked up, haggard and pale and said in response, "Aren't we coming with you?" as if, We've come this far and now you're ditching us?? It was funny and a misunderstanding (Craig didn't expect the 4 of us to all fit into one cab with all of the aforementioned luggage, is all). We arrived at the Norwich train station by 5.30, deboarded it and luckily managed to stuff ourselves into one cab. We announced to the Brit, "Beeches Lodge." Then we proceeded to sit in gridlocked traffic. If I haven't mentioned it, we were supposed to arrive 6 or 7 hours earlier in England. Here we were, nearing 6 p.m. and the shuttle for the rehearsal dinner for Dustin and Fiona would be leaving Beeches Lodge at 6.30. Somehow the cabbie wound the car out of the mess and delivered us to the Beeches Lodge at 6.10. Needless to say, Craig and I had not showered since the previous morning. I've got too much more to say to do the math but that's a long time without a shower. We jumped from the cab, spotted a collection of Craig's friends at the corner and they called, "You have twenty minutes to get ready." And so unfolded the fastest freshening up Craig or I have ever pulled off in the history of ourselves as individuals or as a couple. I think the same might have applied to Alison and Scott!*The rehearsal dinner was nice - it took place at a small establishment called The Last Wine Bar, where we ate and drank and swayed a bit in our jet lagged glory. The rest of the night consisted, of course, of drinking, friends, et cetera. There we were, our feet on English soil.

January 20, 2007: Alison and I both managed to miss our hair appointments which Dustin had scheduled at Fiona's hair studio for 9 a.m. I could barely lift myself from the bed, much less imagine stumbling alongside Alison to have my hair curled and sprayed, and it turned out to be alright because frankly, my hair is so fine and thin that the gusts of wind in Norwich that day would have blown it all right out. So we packed up our bags and headed down to meet the group: Djay, Diana, John, Liz, Corey, Brooke, Chris, Scott, Alison, Dave, another Allison, Dustin and Djay's father Doug and Dustin. The majority of us walked through Norwich to a Moose Lodge pub where we ate unfortunately unsavory lunches (well, Craig and I made the grave mistakes of ordering burgers in England) and then it was time to retrieve our bags and travel to Suffolk outside of Norwich for the wedding. The beautiful sprawling grounds where the Elms Barn is located consists of groupings of cottages and a larger 17th century barn which is where the ceremony would be held. We didn't have an alarm clock so napping was out of the question (note: when next time traveling to England, we will purchase a travel clock because it should never be assumed that one will be provided in lodgings there). So we instead walked the length of a long road to where the others' cabins/cottages were comfortably tucked (ours was situated closer to the actual Elms Barn) and had English tea, then a beer while the Indiana natives played Euchre for a while. Then it was time to return to the cottage to shower and dress for the wedding. I still felt as though I were operating through a cloud but it was fine. Dustin and Fiona's ceremony was performed by a woman who belongs to an organization that Craig recalls only performs legal and recognized ceremonies in Scotland and possibly Ireland, therefore the ceremony wasn't legal there in the United Kingdom (Dusty and Fi are legalizing their marriage in the states later). It was beautiful and touching, as is their love story. We were instructed not to shoot photographs during the wedding, so I actually don't even have a decent photograph of the bride and groom (but I can surely find one from a friend soon). After the wedding, there were cocktails in a tent adjacent to the barn, and following that the reception was held back in the barn itself, where a rocking British 80's cover band performed all night, guests drank and danced and ate the finger foods offered buffet style. Cheers and many, many beautiful future memories to Dustin and Fi. When she gets settled here in the states with Dustin, I hope we can have them to visit. With this, I want to conclude Part I. of the adventure so that I can accomplish a few other things tonight - but stay tuned for the continuation of our return to London where we would spend the next three and a half days in the splendor that is London, England.

January 17, 2007


Tomorrow night we board the plane for London...

January 13, 2007


Above pictured is a bag that rivals our apartment in size. Today's priority was to track down and purchase such an item, seeing as the only set of luggage I previously had to drag to another continent on the globe was a ratty burgundy-colored sorry excuse for a set of luggage which I found was not even managing to travel my shoe selection, much less clothing and shoes and dressy clothes (for the wedding) and every other minor bit of my life I always feel the need to pack along for a trip (the just in case stash, although, just in case of what, I have no idea). So anyway, this morning we ate bagels and drank coffee. Then we left the apartment together and wandered to 86th Street, where we split up: he headed to the GAP, and I headed to 59th Street and Lex via the 5 train (thank goodness the Express trains are running on weekends!) to track down Lexington Luggage. Before I continue, I want to insert that I am not a shopping fan. This is not to say I don't do my fair share of it, or that I don't enjoy a new article of clothing or scarf or bag or what have you as much as the next girl. But I cannot shop successfully, ever. I know in my head what my "style" should be, but when I find stores to browse I never seem to find anything that I would qualify as me-ish, which leads me to then purchase a stack of clothing that doesn't seem quite like me but will satisfy the yearning for something new to wear. Today I just so happened to notice that Express was selling everything for $20 and under. It seemed so, anyway. There were boxes and boxes of items marked down from holiday leftovers and winter layers that no one has had much of a chance to flaunt because the temperatures have been weirdly mild this year. So I found myself rummaging through these boxes for far too long, then found myself in the fitting room line 20 people deep far too long, then once more waited in a long line to pay for the items which only vaguely interested me. Some Saturday. But after Express, I darted down Lex to find the luggage store. My mom recommended a brand to me that she found before her trip to the Middle East about two years ago. I found the brand right away, and flipped the tag to see the price, which revealed such an obscene number that I immediately shrank back in terror. The sales guy standing nearby observed me a moment and said, "I will sell that to you for $129." Huge difference in numbers. So I sort of hastily inquired about the next size up, the 29"-er, and he replied, "$149." So I took it. While these bags are substantially more affordable on the internet, I have luggage-shopped before and have some idea that the bag I bought will be worth every cent of what I paid (just not worth every cent listed on the tag as it sat there on the floor of the store!) Stores like that one in Manhattan are funny. They're cramped for space because real estate everywhere in Manhattan is so hot, even hotter right there in Midtown in the throbbing heart of shopping (on the same strip as Bloomingdale's, et cetera). And the sign out front, "Lexington Luggage", looks very much like perhaps this store was all the rage in the seventies - pale yellow with brown letters - something like that. Or maybe the signage that looks like old school is just inexpensive and therefore desired by store owners like that. Whatever, either way, I'm ready to cram that suitcase with all the necessities for a week abroad!*We're really excited. That sounds so ridiculous, like one gets really excited about a good plate of food, or about a favorite sitcom or a good day at work. We're more than really excited, but I don't know what words to use for it. Craig and I are what I would lovingly term travel nerds. We love to see new things, to learn new streets and to run our index fingers along the glossy surfaces of new maps. It's a common thread we've shared since we first met, way way back when we were just brand new to each other. We love to travel. I know many, many people share this love, too, but ours is complimentary to one another and that counts for something big when a trip like this unfolds before us. Yesterday or today Dustin (the groom-to-be), Djay, Diana, John and Liz left and are presently in England. I can't remember if John and Liz have traveled internationally before but I believe Djay and Diana have, and Dustin is a whole story of world travel in and of himself. But it will be fun to get there - we've got approximately 4 more days of preparation and then we somehow drag this monstrous suitcase and whatever other bags to work next Thursday. Our co-worker Josh is driving us to Kennedy (big thanks to Josh - he will be on the souvinir list) and we fly out at 9 p.m. - red eye, landing us at London Heathrow at 9 a.m. Friday morning London-time. Getting through these next few days will be torture. Much to do, and things to accomplish - yet, tomorrow we're going with our new friends Alison and Scott and their Chicago friends to watch the Bears in the playoffs at a bar. Well, we worked hard today to get things done, it's ok. Craig got a haircut and bought a new hot shirt and some socks. I already narrated my thrills for today. It will be so amazing. It will be so much fun.*

January 11, 2007


Goodbye New York, Hello London! We finally, finally, finally received the long lost passports (well, Craig never believed them to be lost, while I frantically imagined the two of us standing desperately at some United States of America counter or embassy begging for entrance into England somehow) and so next week, a week from this precise second, to be exact, we will be boarding a plane for Europe - our first respective trips to Europe - our first trips to Europe together. We're so excited and words won't explain it. So, instead of rambling on about how completely thrilled and beside myself I am, I posted another shot of the gorgeous Manhattan skyline - kisses to you, New York, as we head out to tour your European competitor!**

January 06, 2007


Today was one of those days where being alive just felt sinful, it was so practically perfect. Each moment led to the next in perfect succession, each breath was filled with a lightness that only exists when a person feels complete. Today I did. And do.*I slept until about 9. That, for me, is a massive accomplishment. I'm not a good sleeper. I sleep the amount of time it takes for me to feel renewed enough to move on to the next step of life, and then I'm awake, whether it's to blink stupidly at the ceiling or to run around the apartment fulfilling chores. Whatever - today I got a lot of sleep. My counterpart, however, managed to delay his rise time until well after 10. Maybe a better description would be close to 11. But when he did rise, we spent about an hour drinking coffee together in the computer room, talking about our day, discussing options and enjoying pajama time together. If he only knew how cute he is when he sits there in his pajama clothes, twisting his ankles together and forming a new thought. He has no idea how much he is loved. Anyway, we decided to shower and head to Yura, a fantastic brunch spot at 92nd and 3rd. We've eaten there before, but today's brunch was exceptionally nice: I ate an omelet with ham, goat cheese and tomatoes and his was filled with bacon, mushrooms and havarti. They also served us a five-grain toast, which was awesome, and I drank illy coffee and he drank oj. After breakfast, we headed to the Brooklyn Bridge via the 5 train. What a wonderful activity for people who love to walk, to think, to see and to feel. See above for the reason walking even just half of the Brooklyn Bridge is positively peaceful. Understand that staring down universal urbanity from afar can yield empowering results.*After the Bridge, we were heading to a David Z shoe store to further track down the stupid (gorgeous, gleeful and perfect) UGG boots that every single cool woman in Manhattan wears. I wanted black, I wanted calf-high. I didn't want short, or brown. And I didn't want to submit some random plea over the internet to send these boots to me before my trip to London or else. So we walked into one of the two Broadway SoHo David Z locations. The streets were positively cluttered with people, all of the tourists and locals blending together who couldn't believe that today in New York City, January 7 of the year 2007, it was near 70 degrees (and here I was scouring the City for boots). I headed straight back to the UGG boots display and grabbed the only black calf-high boot I saw. I said to the gentleman nearby, who was watching me amusedly, "Do you have these in an 8?" He smiled and said, "They run large, I'd try on that 7 that you're holding if I were you." He folded his arms across his chest and added, "It's the last pair left." I nodded and sat and shoved my foot into this boot, needing it to fit. And it did. And he looked at me and said, "So you want the other one?" and I nodded enthusiastically and he said, "You're a lucky girl," and I clutched the box of boots to my chest and headed to the front of the store and every store person called out, "Wow, you're lucky," "No other store has those," "Everyone wants that pair..." and I just grinned my crooked teeth off and let the woman slide my debit card through the slot. I don't think, until I have kids someday, I will ever go through this much supply and demand backlash again. The customer service people at the counter even announced to me that I was one lucky soul. The one guy recommended I play the lottery.*And if I didn't live in New York City, would I be so fashion-savvy or concerned? Probably not. But here, it's hard to not be aware.*After shopping (Craig bought a pair of brown shoes, too) we headed to Spring Street Lounge, a cute bar listed in our Great Bars of New York Book, and had one beer. Then we walked to McSorley's. This bar is famous for its sawdust floors and for the fact that when you order one beer, they serve you two. They are small mugs of beer though. Well. And I guess they might also be a bit famous for the fact that they can boast oldest bar in New York and actually mean it. After a nervous 20 minutes there (we'd never seen wait staff gather so many mugs on single fingers to carry to tables - these were feats of impossibility carried out by the possibilitiers) - we decided to leave, to maybe head back to the neighborhood. But on our way to the subway we found a place called the Pour House, and we stopped, drank a lot of beer and ate a lot of apps. And now we're home, done with a night of New York. I love him - he's asleep on the couch and I've covered him with a blanket. But we're here together, in this monstrously happy experience together...I got a promotion at work - a big one - and together we want to conquer this place. Love, love, love to New York, from me, from him, from us, and from the depths of a place that New York deserves love.

January 03, 2007


Happy New Year...and many loving wishes to all of the wonderful families I got to see over the holidays! I initially wanted to take this opportunity to express my devotion to the warm people who took such great care of me while we were in the Midwest on holiday vacation, but today a startling thing happened, and it has sort of knocked the proverbial wind out of me. We arrived at work this morning right around a little after 7, as usual. Not long after I poured my first paper cup of coffee one of our staff jumped from her chair following a quick phone conversation and, panic-stricken, called a quick collection of us together in the middle of the office. A guy we work with, it was told, woke in the middle of the night to the phone call we all dread, that his mother had become sick suddenly and died. Died suddenly, as in abruptly, with no warning signs. Unexpectedly. So, as we stood in that circle of staff people, the woman explained, he was already in the air, on his way home to Indiana. And his wife was scrambling to figure out how she would get home with two very small kids (one infant, one less than five years old). It was quiet chaos for a few minutes, while two staffers were designated to head to Manhattan to help out: one would bring their car from where they park it on Long Island, the other would go and offer support with the children while the young mom packed for an extensive car ride to Indiana from New York (it being the only affordable alternative). So the only thing I knew to do, other than ward off tears (seeing as I am intensely sensitive and the briefest hint at human suffering brings me to tears) was to e-mail my parents immediately, to tell them that I love them, in case I ever run out of time, at least right then, in the midst of someone else's hurricane I remembered to tell my parents right away that they have my love. And after that I felt insanely guilty for still having my mom (and dad) to tell that to.*So the air was thick today at work, and sad. And while I could spend pages and pages recapping absolute peace spent 'tis the season with our families (with the exception of minor short-lived incidents, which were inevitable and natural), the plane delays at Newark, the endless homecooked food served by Craig's mom, the homemade mountains of cookies, the peculiar absence of snow this year, the Amtrak ride to Ann Arbor from Whiting, the board game playing with my parents, my mom's tequila lime chicken marinade, or while I could run additional paragraphs describing the excitement in having so many friends around for the New Year's Eve holiday - Julie, Gordo, Roger, Mary, Wojo, Karen, Alison, Scott and Mavis - it seems trite and cold for me to even go into any of that, given that today a friend of ours grieves over a random, sudden, painful and confusing loss. So I suppose the way I want to ring in this Year 2007, the Year of my 30th Birthday, the Year My Beloved and I Travel Internationally (London, England - two weeks, here we come!), the Year I Will Hopefully Gain Successes at Work and at Home, is to send hundreds of silent wishes to our friend's family as they manage through this experience. I want to send silent love to all of the people who I wish I could deem absolutely immortal in my mind, regardless of the unstoppable outcome. I hope we're destined to make a difference somehow with the time we have left, whether it's insignificant or as large as the sun. I hope we remember that each moment could be our last.**Here's to a hopeful 2007.