February 24, 2007


Long overdue, the conclusion of our London Experience...January 23, 2007, continued: Following the London Eye trip, we headed in the direction of the British Museum. Free to the public, this museum contains historical artifacts collected from civilizations, ie. the Rossetta Stone (my photographs don't do it justice, as it is behind glass) and Egyptian and Greek sculptures (much, much more, but that is what we browsed). Since memorizing many Egyptian and Greek items of art and architecture in college for my art history classes, I've completely lost the ability to identify or recall such knowledge, so for the sake of what we saw, I will just describe it all as ancient. Especially the parts of the Parthenon we saw. It's been something like a decade since I've immersed myself in Greek mythology, all of which I used to just love, but my interests have changed. Seeing it was thrilling, nevertheless. There was also an enormous library of books called The Reading Room. This was a highlight for me, of course. After an hour or so here, we wandered across the street to fill out postcards at the Museum Tavern. We managed to get postcards to most of the friends and family on our list, I think. I love filling out postcards but one can only handle so much of it, really. After the Museum Tavern, we walked for a while. Craig wanted to walk along Regent Street. It was chilly and overcast at this time.
Tellie booths on the Strand...note, that isn't Craig in the third booth from the right...
Aside from the temperature, it was nice to walk with Craig in a city so new to us. I feel an overwhelming sense of peace while we walk together. It's one of the many reasons I just love adventures with him. And he was loving London so much. Anyway, after walking, we ducked into two more pubs. The first had a lonesome single guy with pint and cigarette quality to it.

After this, we found another pub on Great Portland Street as we neared our hotel. This particular night, then, we met up with Alison and Scott and Alison's cousin from Leeds. He was in London for work. We had a few drinks with him and with a British friend of his, then headed to another place for Italian. It wasn't exactly what I had in mind for the night, but it was an interesting time. Alison and Scott would be leaving to visit another relative of hers the next day. So, we said our goodbyes to them and wished them a safe conclusion to their trip.

January 24, 2007: The Tower of London/Tate Modern/Laura~KB reunion day. We woke up without our requested wake up call. Craig was hot under the collar over it. He had inquired about a wake up call the night before because we had naively not packed an alarm clock and again, alarm clocks aren't to be expected in lodgings, even of the 4 star variety like ours. So he placed another phone call to complain. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, we climbed out of bed and got ready to spend our final day in London. First on the itinerary would be The Tower of London. This definitely was a highlight for Craig but hey, I enjoyed it, as well. I'm not as into castles and knights and swords, but I'm easily amused. We headed to Tower Hill to arrive a little after 10. I had arranged that we would meet up with my lovely redheaded enigmatic friend Laura from IU, who has lived in London for several years and also whom I had not seen in practically five. She had a doctor's appointment so we would do the Tower and meet up with her around 1 at the Liverpool Street Station. So, the castles were interesting. Craig's excitement level over the experience was additional entertainment for me. He surprises me sometimes with what he likes. We spent an hour and a half or so at The Tower, then took the Tube to meet Laura. Oddly, the place we selected to meet at Liverpool Street Station turned out not to be unique. That is, we had discussed on the phone that we'd meet at the bookstore on the second floor, the tiny bookstore where it would be impossible to miss each other. Craig was being so sweet as we stood at the bustling station waiting and waiting and waiting to see my girl. It didn't seem in Laura's nature to be so late, so as all the women passed us by and none were Laura I became increasingly concerned. We decided that since Craig had never met her, and wouldn't rely on seeing past pictures of her to recognize her, we would go together to a tellie booth to call her. I had a fistful of pence and was shoving them into the machine all the while a wallpaper of XXX porn stared back at me inside the booth! Ha. Craig said, poking his head in, "Stop looking at the naked ladies." Anyway, as it turns out, there are not only two of that tiny bookstore, but three in the confines of the Liverpool St. Station. We finally found her and it was a beautiful reunion. Laura has known me since I was a bumbling idiot at eighteen, so I rather identify her as one of my dearest and longest friends, given she still loves me eleven years later after tolerating me back then! She's as gorgeous as ever and being reunited with her was like we had just seen each other the day before, as usual. I introduced Laura to Craig...as odd as it is that I've been with Craig for the greater portion of six years, give or take, they've never met. Anyway, first we grabbed lunch at a big open market area called Spitalfields. Then we stopped into Ten Bells, a pub beneath the apartment where Jack the Ripper allegedly killed his last victim, and had a pint. Then together, we headed to the Tate Modern. This turned out to be the savviest art museum I've ever, ever seen. It even beats out the Chicago Art Institute, which I love. There was an exhibit on Poetry and Dream, with ample amounts of Dali, Tanguy, Duchamp and Bacon. The first room we entered blew my mind. The paintings were arranged so seeming haphazardly but it was beautiful. I loved it. Craig and Laura joked about modern monochromatic art. Then we left the Tate and headed across Millenium Bridge to St. Paul's Cathedral. The photograph at the start of this entry is my favorite from the entire England experience. We didn't get to go into St. Paul's, but we walked around it and took it in. After this, we headed out to do some more pub crawling. We had encountered a neat little area near or in Soho called Carnaby Street, and we wanted to return to it. Laura is by no stretch of the imagination a pub girl - she doesn't like beer, and really doesn't even drink often, but she hung in with us and helped us enjoy our final night in London. We took her to dinner at a pretty decent pizzaria, and finished the night off with a couple more pubs. I miss seeing her more often!*So, when we got back to the hotel, there on the table at the far corner of the room we found a bottle of red wine, an opener and two glasses. Propped against the bottle was a letter from the hotel, apologizing for any inconvenience they may have caused by not delivering our wake up call! It was so generous, and of course we didn't want to travel back to the States with a bottle of wine so we enjoyed a night cap. And so concluded our incredible England experience. The next morning we were up early, grabbed a taxi to the Victoria Station where we took the Gatwick Express to Gatwick Airport. We ate breakfast there and tried to spend the remainder of our quid, but I still wound up coming home with nearly 20 quid (which, of course, here is nearer 40 US dollars!) Oh, well. I can tuck it away for our next trip to London.*Finally, I've wrapped it up. This entry lacks the momentum of the earlier posts which just goes to show how memory can fade too quickly following an experience. I'm just so happy that Craig and I got to do something so magnificent before I turn 30 this year. Granted, there will be plenty to see and to do in our 30's. I look forward to all of it. Now, for a weekend in New York.*

February 16, 2007


I realize my London diary is incomplete yet. This is a result of a great many factors, some of which are everyday, others which are more like heavy burdens or distractions causing me an inability to focus on a decent description of the remainder of our trip. Nevertheless, I will finish the travel diary. And I will even add things to it that I've left out. I intend to do so this weekend. I hope.*But tonight, while Craig watches TiVoed Lost and before we watch TiVoed American Idol Season 6 (guilty, guilty pleasure), I wanted to spend some time posting about recent activity in and of my New York life before I lose complete track of the fact that I live, thrive, work and exist here beyond just a fantastic trip to England and the memory thereof. Our week has been long, longer than even usual. Our first Nor'Easter blew through the boroughs this week, although Craig finds it dubious that they'd even term it that because whatever storm shot through here hardly deserved Nor'Easter status. There was some snow, and some ice and slush and there were definitely freezing freezing freezing temperatures. I refuse to complain about work here so I will isolate my complaints to the fact that our commute is hugely unsatisfactory. We walk 10 minutes to the subway in Manhattan, and that's fine, completely acceptable and to par with many New Yorkers. But when we arrive to work, which is situated in a highly undesirable neighborhood, which I will leave unnamed, we have yet another 10 to 12 minute walk to our office. So much for giving up cars, right? But whatever, it's all part of the experience. Anyway, the past couple of weeks since we returned have been not noteworthy. No, they've been unsettling. We moved to a new office space (all that I will say on that) and with our extended commute, our days seem even longer still. Coming down from the high of London has kind of caused us both grounding reminders that life isn't just one long vacation, but dammit that it isn't! And days in general have been mundane. So life lesson learned? Even winters in New York can feel heavy, desolate, burdensome and unending.*So to get to today. It's been no shock or news to me that for quite some time, my eyes have been straining to see. Back in Atlanta I had different insurance with a different company and I went to a vision care provider on said insurance. To prevent any rehashing or reliving of the experience, I will just say the whole thing sucked. They had every excuse in the book as to why they couldn't service my eyes properly. My conclusion? They just sucked, period. But after waiting months for my glasses (who does that??), I finally accepted whatever pair of lenses they wound up leaving in the frames I had paid an unreasonable price to own. I knew the prescription was incorrect, even then. But as a lifelong glasses wearer, and a girl now well into adulthood where I've had to front the money for my eyes myself, I will say eyesight doesn't come cheap. If it isn't the frames, it's the lenses, and if not that, it's just the fact that the whole eyeball industry knows that the public will pay to see and therefore, they rob us blind, pardoning the pun. Today I left work at 3.30 to travel to Grand Central Terminal where an expensive eye doctor was just counting the bills in her wallet while she waited for me to breeze through those glass doors. And I did breeze through the doors, and I did seem confused as I stood in the tiny glass enclosed retail space eyeballing, so to speak, their collection of Prada frames. Side note: I did not know of Prada until I moved to New York City. The slender Asian woman likely younger than me and far more sophisticated led me to the optometry area, where she proceeded to, with the help of fancy machines, quickly analyze the fact that my vision and my current glasses prescription aren't even a close match. In fact, she didn't hold back. She said, "You can't see out of your left eye." Then she looked down at the formula of my prescription she had written down on a notepad, looked back up at me and said, "Don't you get headaches?" Lady, am I paying you to ostracize me for the fact that I can't afford eyecare?? I was probably red, all shades. Embarrassed to be close to legally blind, embarrassed that as a salaried adult I have not been able to afford to keep up with the changing and worsening of my sight, I walked, tail between my legs, out to the L-shaped glass counter where they keep their plastic Prada (et al.) frames. And some sales guy convinced me to purchase a pair of light-colored tortoise-shell frames with pink undertones that won't match one item of my bland gray or black clothing, but hey, at least I get my hands on them Tuesday. If all goes well at the "We've Never Seen Such a Strong Prescription" lab here in New York. I'm trying to remember that I do have minimal amounts of my eyesight left, and be grateful for at least that. At least for that.*Today is my Mom's birthday - Happy Birthday, Mom! She's so blissfully young, for a mom of a girl my age. We sent her orchids. And I have her eyes.***Happy Birthday Mom.

February 08, 2007


January 23, 2007: We woke up feeling utterly exhausted and possibly still a little drunk from getting in so late the night before. But, the thing about a vacation, particularly one of such grandeur as what you encounter in London, England, is that sleep can always happen later. And must. An added challenge was that the Melia White House bed was extremely comfortable. But it was London - far too much exploration needed to take place, especially with our time constraints. So, we heaved ourselves out of bed and showered and dressed for another day. This was the morning we went to the cafe at Great Portland Street W1W 5PP (yes, addresses are peculiar in London, to Americans, at least) located just outside the Great Portland Street tube stop, Cafe Meze, where I had the best cup of coffee ever. EVER, please let me stress ever. It tasted like heaven in a cup, if there is such a thing. And here we were, not even at a stupid Starbucks! There were two types of coffee on the menu: white, and black. I couldn't bear to stand at the counter, my head was reeling that badly from the previous night, so I sort of waved in the direction of the menu hanging overhead, and dimly spoke to Craig, "English Breakfast #1 with Coffee," heading in the direction of an available table as quickly as I could. Craig ordered at the counter for us, then came over and shortly after arrived the cup, albeit small and resting on a saucer, of the deliriously good coffee veiled in a thin froth of steamed milk. Oh, it was perfect. And the breakfast arrived and even it was alright, for English food, although the baked beans spilling onto my eggs, fried tomato and mushrooms (all constituting an English breakfast, mind you) were a bit much for my liking. But I ate around the baked beans.*Following breakfast, we headed right to one of London's tourist hot spots, The London Eye. This is a giant ferris wheel operated by British Airways, consisting of a huge wheel and enclosed capsules that lift ever so slowly up over London, carrying passengers to heights that the intercom lady measured in meters so I failed to do the conversion and therefore cannot say how high we rose, but it was high. Anyway, we bought tickets for the ride, and were on board very shortly after...what with it being a week day during an off season in London, I don't think tourists were out in full force.

I think what I noticed most is how difficult it can be to take something in all at once. Riding The London Eye was an incredible experience, especially on such a fine, clear day. But at the same time, it was difficult to properly pay respect to how gorgeous the view really was as we rose higher and higher. There were distractions: other tourists from other countries, a pair of children running around the capsule in awe, themselves, et cetera. But I still loved doing it. Much like going to the top of the Empire State Building, or to Top of the Rock, or to the top of the Needle in Toronto, it was just difficult to swallow how expansive, miniature, simultaneously huge and amazing the world can be when seen from so high up.
Here, in just about the center of the photograph, nearer the left, is Buckingham Palace, as seen from the Eye. We loved England so much. And I'm not even finished explaining it all yet. For the sake of a Thursday night, one which finds Craig attending a scaffolding class, and one which finds me freezing, sitting here in the chilly den, I'm going to close for now. But the conclusion to our trip, including the remainder of the day following our London Eye ride, is still to come. Here's to London, and all we managed to see and do.*

February 05, 2007


January 22, 2007, continued: Back to the London diary...the above pictured is the Admiralty Arch as seen with a line of black taxis beneath it. Black taxis are the expensive taxis, we were warned. But again, what was not expensive in London? Anyway, following the Sherlock Holmes fish and chips and pints, we decided to experience two additional pubs for the afternoon. I decided early on to photograph each pub we went into, but only those pubs, no more or less. It worked out well and I surely will not post each picture of each pub. But our second pub on the tour was called The Salisbury. We've since learned from other seasoned International guests at work that the genuine local pub scene is on the outskirts of London, and what we experienced was the touristy pub scene, but oh well. I liked The Salisbury. It was huge, for one thing. And extremely old. Many things in London are extremely old, adding to the uniqueness of this travel experience as compared with other travels we've taken together. So, after The Salisbury, we went to Lamb and Flag, a pub Dickens used to frequent (where he'd "get bloody pissed in the 1600's," Craig and I decided!) we were informed by our London book. We had plans to meet Alison and Scott that evening, so taking a break from the pub crawl, we walked to the Tower Bridge, where we proceeded to shoot photograph after photograph of this bridge.
When I say photograph after photograph, I really mean photograph after photograph.

I will only include two of the huge set. But clearly from the color of the sky in each of these we were pleased that we chose dusk on this particular night to go. The views were unbelievable. The Tower Bridge is at the Tower Hill tube stop, right where the Tower of London is located. I will get to that later on in the chronicles. Anyway, after spending about an hour trigger-happy at the Tower Bridge, we returned to the Melia White House to change for our evening with Alison and Scott. We had decided the night before to meet at a bar/pub near their hotel. There, we had a drink before beginning our evening pub crawl. The night would find us at a string of pubs: the Wilton Arms, Nag's Head, and the Grenadier, Alison's favorite. We took a cab to Picadilly Circus, where Scott observed, "The cabbie dropped us off in America!" (we were instantly met with signs for TGI Friday's, Budweiser, Hard Rock Cafe.) There we found our last pub of the evening, called the Blue Posts. We definitely weren't ready to be done with our night out, but pubs in London close by eleven and sometimes twelve. So, we broke down and went into a club. Clubs are open much later. We were having a fantastic time with Alison and Scott. They are a really great new couple for us to know. Thanks to Dustin for introducing us here in New York before the wedding so that we could hang out with them in London, too.*I have a lot more of London to cover but I'm really couch-ready tonight. Craig and I ate leftover appetizers tonight from our cozy Superbowl Sunday yesterday (Midwest face off: Bears-Colts! Indianapolis Colts are the Superbowl Champions...!) and it's warmer in the living room than here in the den, so off I go. The temperatures in the U.S. are at extreme lows today. Here in New York it was Zero, maybe in the teens mid-afternoon. Brrr. Bring spring!! More to come.