Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Snippets From London part 3, I Haven't Been To Disney World!?!

Why London? I've had a few friends ask, how in the world did you chose London, to visit in January and for six short days? I know, trust me, I know. The travel was long and I can guarantee the weather was much nicer in the Bahamas, but the experience was one to remember forever.

London simply is charming to me. I've always been enamored with the history, the architecture, the people, of course the accent, the music, and the culture. When you sit down for a glass of wine with friends at a place that has been around since 1890, that's simply a life experience to cherish. London fed my soul and catered to my quirky nature. I like out of the ordinary things, places, and yes that meant London in January.

Another reason why I didn't pass on London, was an old friend. This friend left Colorado about 12 years ago to move back home to England. It had been 11 years since we had seen one another. 11 years. In between there have been marriages, motherhood, four children, houses purchased, houses sold, highs and lows, lots of careers, and plenty of growing, but we amazingly stayed in touch. Knowing I could spend time with one of my life's most cherished friends was the cherry on top for me.

I longed to see her home, catch up in person, share a cup of tea, meet her girls and see her son who has grown into a young man. We reminisced about the good ol' days in Boulder, when our only care in the world was our dogs. Saturdays you could find us strolling to the farmer's market, picking up tea at the Brewing Market and joking on the way home, with our arms full of fresh cut flowers. We'd hike our puppies at Mt. Sanitas and grab a margarita on a sunny afternoon on the patio of the Rio. Life was much different then, but I don't think we'd trade our lives today for that time. We just know how to relish it for what it was.

While making up for lost time, we were chatting into the wee hours of the morning. I sat at her kitchen table with her wonderful man, a beer in my hand, and just sort of chuckled. The topic of conversation had turned to traveling and Florida came up. I joked that I was sitting in London, but I have never been to Disney World. Hello, how funny is that. I've traveled extensively in Europe, to Mexico, Costa Rica, but Disney World, haven't been there yet. Of course I had to throw out the idea of us meeting at Disney some day. We must, I must. For the record, I have been to Disney Land, although I guess Disney Land is like the inferior stepsister to the real deal in Florida. Someday Disney World, I'm coming for you.

What's even better now, even though B and I are so far apart, when I have a telephone conversation I can imagine her sitting at her kitchen table chatting me up. I think of the beautiful sun room off the back of her living room that overlooks her garden or the charming stained glass front door. My visit just helped put the pieces of the puzzle together and honor a bond that I've always adored.

Yes, London in January. London anytime really. When opportunity arises sometimes it's fabulous to have the courage to go for it!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Snippets From London part 2, Lunch at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen

The only definite plans we had for London was a standing lunch reservation at Jamie Oliver's 15. 15 is off the beaten path a bit, in an area of London we hardly spent any time. Rumor has it, the area is up and coming (don't ask me, I was just a tourist). The neighborhood felt industrial and was situated just adjacent to a very large hospital. Of course the day was chilly and even raining for a few moments, but when we arrived the restaurant was warm and inviting. The staff at 15 were beyond exceptional, they made us feel like we were simply a guest in their home. Take that all you pretentious celebrity chefs, Jamie Oliver knows how to treat his customers right. I felt at one moment like I should invite one of the staff members to sit and eat with us, he was absolutely delightful.

Beyond the anticipation of eating at a "cheflebrity's" restaurant, there is an amazing story behind 15. Taken from their website:

"Fifteen’s purpose is two-fold: firstly to offer young people, often in need of a break in life, the experience of learning to work in the restaurant business and secondly, for our customers to enjoy fantastic food and knowledgeable customer service. The restaurant is the trading arm of a registered charity, the Jamie Oliver Foundation (no.1094536), and the profits go towards the apprenticeship scheme."

Basically Jamie has turned his restaurant into a place to train chefs, young men and women that really needed a second chance at life after a bad run very early on. Some of them have just recently been released from jail, they spend their days taking college classes and work at night. They are identified in the restaurant by the black hats they wear. The apprentices work along side Jamie's professional staff.

Jamie Oliver is truly tops in the world of chefs, the work he is doing for school children, young men and women, and even in America. I wish I could've met him, for he's someone to admire and be inspired by. I love when successful people give back. Amazing work Jamie, it made me feel proud to be supporting such a visionary chef.

Now the food. Two antipasti dishes were ordered at our table, Mozzarella di bufala Campana with dressed winter greens and chilli-mint dressing. The mozzarella melted in my mouth, the dressing left your palate wondering, curious as to what flavors were delighting your taste buds. Wonderfully balanced flavors.

Fantastic salad of dressed celeriac, apple, roasted hazelnuts, parmesan and truffle dressing,

Primi dish, ravioli of baked ricotta, caprino and pecorino in a lemon butter broth with pangrattato, I enjoyed this dish for it's simplicity. I was longing for some vegetables or tomatoes to accompany it, but in reality as it stood the flavors of the pecorino and lemon butter broth were just subtly delightful.

Secondi dish, Gratin of winter root vegetables with wild mushrooms, chilli, garlic, and thyme salmoriglio,

A beautiful cappuccino,

Jamie's upbeat and charming television personality, really shines through as the real deal when eating at his place. Take for example the whimsical signs directing patrons to the Loo. Speaking of Loo, while in London, don't ask for the "restroom" ask for the toilet. You'll get very funny stares when saying restroom.
After navigating a steep staircase that Jamie's staff must climb at least 50x a shift, I found the Loo. I was ultra impressed with the modern Dyson hand dryer. I'm a simple woman, very easy to impress.
This lunch helped round out our trip and just put it one notch above fabulous. Hopefully Jamie will bring his enthusiasm, inspiration, and culinary genius to the states. Possibly Colorado?

If you'd like to see a sneak peek of what Jamie has been working on in West Virginia, click here to take a look at Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, a show coming to ABC on March 26. It will be an eye opening show. Way to go Jamie for tackling the unhealthiest city in America.

**I do apologize for my photos, they were all taken with my iPhone, I was more enamored by the food in front of me to really concentrate on perfect shots!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Snippets From London, The Photos, part 1

Today I decided to forgo throwing photos into my posts, but rather giving my accompanying photos their own post.

Trolleys, hello American in London.

British Museum, having some fun out front.

Incredible architecture inside as well.

THE Rosetta Stone. Simply, wow. 196 BC.

Beautiful sculpture, history and splendor.

A snapshot of the weather, it's more of a feeling really.

One of the unexpected gems. Beautiful Leica cameras, FREE Wifi, good sandwiches, and hot tea. A place to regroup before taking in more of the city.

Snippets From London, Seize The Moment, part 1...

I've sat down with a cup of tea in my hands a few times to reflect upon London. The tea bags are from Harrods or Marks and Spencer, two fine shops to bring tea back to the states from. Tea has become a must have ritual since my return. I've always been a tea drinker, but London instilled the beauty of tea in me. I thought through my days and was waiting for that aha! moment to become apparent in my regards to writing about my trip. BUT, in my mind and my heart really there isn't a perfect way to create a written record of my experience.

Instead I walk away from six days in London with snippets of inspiration, moments of clarity, and many times a smile on my face. I walk away changed just a little bit, absolutely for the better from what I have learned and experienced.

Seize the Moment

Beyond truly sucking it up with regards to all the fears, hesitations, nervousness, and anxiety I experienced right before leaving, there was a turning point. It simply came, a total and complete feeling of letting all of those emotions go. Once my feet were on the ground, my passport was stamped in customs, I simply had to seize the moment. Make the best of it, take from London whatever I could soak up.

Funny enough right before my stamp of approval was entered into my passport, the customs agent asked me, "Is there any particular reason why you've decided to come to London this time of year?". I laughed, the fog was thick, there was snow on the ground, and it was cold. I replied, "The opportunity presented itself and I went for it, bad weather or not".

For goodness sakes, I was seven time zones, a very large ocean, and 4,600 miles away from my family. I was standing at the feet of history, a culture that has always enamored and lured me in, and the overwhelming feeling that the world was my oyster.

My days were spend on the go. Like so on the go, that I would leave the hotel around 9am and not return until 11pm, or later. In London there is so much to do and see. It could be overwhelming or you can just roll with the endless possibilities for adventure. I was sure to always keep my eyes peeled even because at a brisk pace there are gems to overlook. With that feeling, I am quite content in my reflection, feeling as if I did savor so many moments. On the go, with foresight to be open to possibility.

One morning I headed to the British Museum with my two girlfriends aka wonderful traveling companions. While en route we were turned around in the wrong direction, navigating the streets a little bit in a fog. Lucky for us, during that time we managed to pop into a few shops off the beaten path. We eventually found the museum and spent a couple of hours completely in awe of the history. Sculptures so intricate, delicate, bold, and strong. I couldn't help but imagine the artists living in a much simpler time, creating these magnificently timeless masterpieces. My biggest reflection from the museum, what will our legacy be? What will people in 500 or 1,000 years going to be observing from our current generation of artists? I wish I knew. Then oddly enough we found ourselves being part of an evacuation at the museum. We still don't know why to this day, but it was a little nudge to keep calm and carry on. So we did, off some for more adventures.

Beyond the history and amazing architecture, both of which left a resounding comfort and yearning in me, London is simply full of so many people. Londoners keep a very steady and brisk pace. Maybe it's the rainy chilly weather or maybe it's just the way it is. Keep moving quickly, get up the stairs, down the stairs, on the tube, cross the street, as fast as you can. Don't look back; right, left, right, steady forward motion. Mind the gap.

We quickly learned the norms of transport around town. Keep your oyster card handy (for public transport). Simply tap your card on the big yellow circle, it will read it in a flash and boy this is a time where you move as fast as you can. There are crowds waiting behind you. You need the card not only to enter, but also exit the tube so don't bury it in a pocket that isn't easily accessible. The tube is the London underground aka subway. Stand firm at the yellow line when your train approaches because what seems like an empty platform, quickly turns into a tight pinch on the train for the last spot before the door closes. Oh and on occasion, if you are traveling with a group of eight people on the tube, fair warning you may get separated. Prepare for that.

A fun rush, the tube. Navigating town. Honestly the lovely accent from the recorded voice that announces each stop never gets old. Next stop, Queensway.

To be continued...

Friday, January 22, 2010

How in the world did I wind up on a plane to London???

A few months ago a friend invited me to London. Her invitation arrived via email on a day I was feeling blah and unaccomplished. Shall we say generally morose? The price was fabulous and the possibility for adventure was endless. I did some soul searching, talking things through with J, some financial consideration, and when the stars were just perfectly aligned, I committed to London.

Then truly before I knew it, I was boarding my first airplane. We connected from Denver through Charlotte, North Carolina. The weather had been quite touch and go the last few days in London. The airport I was flying into was actually closed when I boarded my flight. The tumultuous weather didn't help ease my anxiety ridden flying state. I'm one of those people that listens closely to every single odd sound that an airplane makes while flying. I constantly think is that normal, is there a problem, are we going to divert to a close by city? Will I be a part of an emergency landing? Yes, as you can imagine those thoughts are quite tiring with very long travel days, which includes a transatlantic flight.

There were many moments on my connecting flight that I wished my flight to London would be cancelled. I thought through plan B, which seemed just perfect to me, I'd rent a car and drive to Asheville to visit some friends for the weekend. I would be fine not going to London. But it didn't happen. When I arrived at Gate D1, my flight was on time. I questioned the weather in London with airline staff and she simply replied, "I don't know what the weather is like, but the pilot says it's a go".

During my short connection, I called my parents to say goodbye for the week. I could feel tears well up in my eyes. I was feeling scared about facing my fears of leaving my girls and being so far away, coupled with the intense anxiety that surfaces while flying. I frantically texted J and was relieved to read his texts back to me, which were very grounding and calm. He's good for me like that.

Just like that, I was hopping on an airplane for an eight hour transatlantic flight to London.

If I said I could've filled a shot glass with the sweat that was released from the palms of my hands during my flight, trust me I wouldn't be joking. I have a friend that could testify in court my anxiety and nervousness were through the roof, oh and of course I am sure I had lovely flushed red cheeks. I couldn't eat during my flight. But quite honestly there came a point where in my mind there was no turning back. I was simply at the mercy of all those grandiose notions, such as fate and destiny.

I wrote this at one point, scribbled quickly during my flight. I'm not quite sure if it makes sense, but it did to me in that moment:
When you're present mentally, when it's so easy to escape there is so much personal growth. My palms sweat, I felt sick to my stomach, but I just simply faced those fears. I am here in my mind, with no real distractions. I am present.

Although I had hopes of sleeping on my red eye, with a 7 am arrival in London, I was not able to relax enough to fall asleep. I would simply push through a sleepless night for our first day in London, no napping for me. I'm a mother, sleepless nights are our rite of passage.

Before I knew it our wheels touched down amidst fog and close to zero visibility. I was shocked the flight was over. I think I even said, that's it, it's over??? I was in London. It was time for my adventure to begin. I had survived, not just physically but more importantly, I had survived emotionally.

To be continued...
Special thanks to my friend JL, who accompanied me and my neurosis on both flights and during our trip to London. It certainly was one of those once in a lifetime experiences.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Packing My Bags...Again

I wheeled my 49 pound suitcase up to the washing machine, unzipped it and began to do some laundry. Once the clothes came out of the dryer, I folded them and put them back in my suitcase. We just returned almost a week ago from New York and in two days, I'm off to London.

It's just a long weekend. Not even a week, but long enough to need to pack more than just a backpack carry on. Long enough to be apart from my girls and my husband, that when I arrive back home I know I won't be hopping on another darn plane again anytime soon.

Eight airplanes in three weeks. Kinda crazy from me, that hadn't gotten on an airplane in 2009 until December 25.

But I am off an adventure. Shopping, museums, tea, good food, catching up with girlfriends, a little "me" time. London, wow I am really going to London.

I'll be unplugged, so not much updating will happen. More New York stories and I am sure plenty of London stories will appear when I am jet-lagged and settled back in to home.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Notes From New York, How To Offend Others When Parking...

Oh New York, you are like no other place on earth. I mean that in the most sincere way. The day after Christmas my husband and I took a trip to Crossgates Mall to do some shopping at ONE specific store. It's a store we don't have in Colorado and we always like to stop in when we are back east visiting family.

Call us crazy for going to the mall the day after Christmas. I know, what were we thinking? On the upside we left the girls with Nana, so we thought hey why not embark on a little childless adventure!?!

After having to exit the Northway from a different exit (hello, first warning sign!) because traffic was so bad, just getting into the parking lot was a mess. There was some snow on the ground, it was slushy and brown. Lots of beeping horns and impatient people, gone was the holiday spirit. J is a huge fan of parking the furthest spot away from the entrance of any store, so as usual he drove straight to the last row.

Full. The parking lot was totally full, from front to back.

Wow! I was amazed that people in Albany were actually willing to park further than 10 feet from the entrance of any store. If you've been there, you know what I mean. Of course, plan B was to be patient and drive around the lot. The only way to get a spot was to happen upon someone leaving.

As we turned down one row of parked cars, we noticed this Honda, sticking out a few feet from it's parking spot. It appeared as if the car had rolled a bit, maybe the owner forgot to put on the parking brake. As we drove by it, we could see trash on the windshield of the car, a note under the wipers, and even a few cups crushed into the door handle on the driver's side. We were sort of taken back by the spectacle the Honda had become.

We just so happened to find a parking spot a few cars down. Of course I had to take a picture and do a closer inspection of the note on the windshield. When I did, I could not believe what I read.

Only in New York. For real!

Someone was so offended that this person's car wasn't parked properly and was sticking a few feet into the aisle of the parking lot that they actually took the time to get out a piece of paper and leave a note.

This is what the note read:
"I hope you got glasses for Xmas asshole can't park"

I was just amazed, really. Once again I'll defer to only in New York.