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Sunday, November 30, 2008

moving and thanksgiving!

finally - we have furniture!! as i mentioned, last week was busy. we got our furniture delivered, internet installed, and we got cell phones! i feel connected to the world once again!

so our furniture was delivered on wed, and the movers wasted no time bringing in all the boxes and unpacking them right away. and by unpacking i mean taking everything out of the boxes and putting it randomly all over the floor or beds. but whatever, help is help. it was an exhausting day, and thank god brian was able to take the day off and help, but it was SO nice to see our stuff! and it seems the apt was made for our big american furniture, everything fits perfectly! we were worried about a couple of pieces not fitting, but everything managed to squeeze in.

we had a thanksgiving party at the apt on saturday night, which helped force us to finish unpacking! we had a bunch of friends (ok, basically all the friends that we have here) over for dinner, i made the turkey and everyone else brought a dish to pass. i have to say - the turkey turned out well! no one died, and i got a lot of compliments! hooray!! unfortunately we forgot to get a picture of the beautiful bird before brian started hacking into it, but you can get the idea...i have to say, i have see enough of the inside of a turkey for one year. and guess what - someone brought a pumpkin pie! turns out whole foods got another shipment in, not only of canned pumpkins, but of premade pumpkin pies. so, i got my pie this year after all :)

i hope you all had a nice thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

the great pumpkin search

if you read the blog you know that brian and i are hosting a thanksgiving party on saturday for our american friends. brian always has pecan pie on thanksgiving, and i like to have pumpkin. it looks like he might win hands down this year.

i started my search for canned pumpkin (assuming at there wouldnt be any ready made pumpkin pie filling like there is in america, and assuming i am waaaayyy too lazy to actually boil/mash/make my own pumpkin filling) yesterday at our local grocery stores. i searched high and low and couldnt find any, though i wasnt that surprised. racking my brain of some other grocery stores, even specialty grocery stores in london i remembered that there was at least 1 Wholefoods in the city. thinking that they are an american company, perhaps they would have some canned pumpkin.

i trekked down to the west side of the city today to wholefoods. again, i searched high and low and couldnt find anything. since i had travelled out of my way i asked customer service if they had any. they assured me that they did, and i had simply over looked it (silly me!). i was led down to a big display area where the pumpkin was kept, only to find the entire shelving unit empty! after my customer service rep conferred with a coworker, it turns out that they sold out of the whole lot yesterday! they even helped me out and called the other 4 wholefoods in london to see if they had any laying around, and everyone was sold out. turns out there are more americans here celebrating thanksgiving than i thought! next year ill have to remember to stock up on pumpkin a few weeks beforehand....

until then, pecan pie here i come.

Monday, November 24, 2008

11/24 - hooray!

lots of things to be excited about this week....
1. our tv was delivered today! we will only be able to watch a couple of the local channels until our cable in installed (in another 2.5 weeks, ugh) but at least we can watch those!

2. i discoverd today that british DVDs work on my computer!!!! this is big...well maybe not as big as it would have been a few weeks ago (since we have our tv now we can buy a dvd player) but up until today i didnt think that british dvds would work on my comptuer, since they are both formatted differently. my comptuers one smart cookie though and rearranged its setting to accomodate the dvd! yahoo! like i said, not as big of a deal since i can just go buy a dvd player for the tv...this information would have come in a lot more handy the past 2 weeks weve been in the apt without any tv or shows to watch....sometimes its the little things i guess :)

3. our furniture is getting delivered on WEDNESDAY!!!! two days from now i will be sitting on my couch!! and sleeping in a real bed!! and have all of my pots and pans to cook with!! im starting to feel normal again!

4. we get internet hooked up at the apt in friday!! yahoo!!!! now i wont have to go to the internet cafe anymore, i can surf the web from my own home!!! im almost crying with joy...

5. well ok, i guess thats it...oh yeah, were having a thanksgiving day party at our (newly furnished!) apt on saturday! cross your fingers i dont burn the bird...i should stock up on frozen pizza just in case....

hope you guys have a lovely week, and a great thanksgiving!!

11/22 Saturday and 11/23 Sunday - Oxford

hello! i hope you all had a nice weekend. brian and i took a last minute trip over the weekend to Oxford. and i mean last minute...we didnt secure a hotel room or get the bus tickets until friday afternoon! we left london early (and i mean the-sun-wasnt-even-up early) saturday morning and made our way to oxford. its only about an hour to an hour and a half bus ride from here, so not bad at all. we werent sure how the weather was going to turn out as there were clouds and darkness looming on the typical english fashion. but thankfully, we ended up having a gorgeous day!

we arrived in oxford a little after 9. after a quick stop in the tourist information office to get a couple maps, we were on our way to the first stop on our weekend get away - Blenheim Palace. It is 20 mins or so outside of Oxford and where Sir Winston Churchhill was born and raised. what a lucky bastard. the place was ENORMOUS. seriously, the pictures dont even do it justice! we got there around 10 and thank god we got there early...there just so happened to be a christmas craft fair going on in the palace grounds that weekend and by the end of the day the place was a mob scene. anyway, a little history for you...Blenheim Palace was built for the 11th Duke of Marlborough as a gift from Queen Anne when he defeated the french. it took over 30 years to build. it was declared a world heritage site in the 80s and is quite an amazing site. the palace is situated on 2100 acres of property, and although it seemed like we covered 2099 acres, im sure it was more like 20. we explored as much of the grounds as possible, without me freezing to death, and saw many of the palace gardens, waterfalls and other hidden spots.

we pretty much spent the first half of the day at the palace and then returned to oxford in the afternoon. after a quick lunch we went on a little walking tour around town, and then checked into our hotel. a little bit about the hotel...all i can say is that our room looked like Victorian era floral prints had thrown up all over the place. not one inch was not covered in flowers or floral prints. oh, except for the brown carpet. it suited our needs just fine though, and was clean and warm (once we closed the window) so we decided to stay. we headed back into town that night for a couple of pubs and dinner. mulled wine seemed to be a favorite of the town, and i happily went along with that. over all we give oxford two thumbs up, cute town with lots of history and culture, lots of shopping and pubs. we saved some exploring to do for sunday, but woke up in the morning with remnants of snow on the ground and pouring cold rain. brian and i looked at each other and headed straight to the bus back to london. overall a fun weekend :)

pictures will be posted tomorrow...i forgot my jump drive today so i dont have them on me. but make sure you check out the blog tomorrow, the pictures of blenheim palace are amazing!
**UPDATED 11/28 - pictures have been added! also, click on the link below to see all of the pictures from Oxford**

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

11/19 Buckingham Palace

I woke up this morning and had quite the surprise…it was sunny out! Not London sunny, when there are still clouds roaming here and there, many of them black and ominous. It was completely 100% sunny out! I guess someone was upstairs listening to me complain yesterday :)

So, I scrapped my plans to go to the museum and chose to do a little site seeing instead, since the weather was so nice. Museums can wait for rainy days. I decided to make my way over to Buckingham Palace.

I got over there pretty early and since it is the middle of the week, it was fairly empty. I was able to get some great shots of the palace. I decided not to do the inside tour, again that can wait for another, darker day.

After visiting the palace I walked along the mall that heads to Trafalgar Square. I decided to cut through St. James Park on along the way, its a little more scenic than the mall. All in all it was a beautiful fall day, and even a little warm!

And on another good note, we finally know when our furniture is coming!! It will be delivered in one week, on the 26th!! Hooray!!! We are getting our new TV next week, and if all goes well tomorrow, we will have our internet hooked up by Thanksgiving. Cross your fingers for me! Since they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving over here and all of our American friends have to work, we are going to have a little thanksgiving gathering over here the Saturday after. Im just glad well have all of our furniture so people don’t have to sit on the floor and eat off of paper plates :)

**UPDATED 11/28 - see the link below for all the pictures!**

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

11/18 - raining again

i know i know...i moved to london, so i should get used to the rain already. ok, fine. im trying. anyway, its another cold and rainy day today. ive claimed my seet in the internet cafe for a little while trying to find a good exhibit or something else fun to do inside today.

i hope you guys had a nice weekend. we laid pretty slow friday night and saturday during the day. sat night was a different story. leave it to brian and his friends to book a reservation at a bavarian beer hall for 20 people for a saturday night. actually, its The Bavarian Beer Hall, and there only ended up being 10 of us. but still. ill include a picture or two, from those im sure you can draw your own conclusions.
i have to say though, they have quite sharp marketing skills those bavarians...conveniently displayed next to our table was a glass case full of beer glasses, hats, and other ridiculous garb...which of course seem completely necessary to own and wear after youve downed a couple liters of beer and had a few 'jager trains' (for the ride of your life...CHOO CHOO!!). dont ask. if you come to visit, we will take you there.

so far, no internet and/or starting to understand why people complain about Sky TV, BT TV and general customer service skills in this country. ill be back on the phone this afternoon pleading with both companies for someone to install cable and internet before the end of this century. hey, at least we speak the same language...i can see this type of issue being an even bigger problem/hassle to deal with in say Italy or France. speaking of which, i think ill go look at flights :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

11/11 Big Ben and Parliament/Westminster Abbey

Hooray! Finally a break from the pouring rain and hurricane strength winds that consumed Monday. I woke up today and the sun was shining! Granted, there were still dark rain clouds looming around, but for all intensive purposes – this was a beautiful day! I spent the morning running errands – library, finally finding the post office, internet…the usual. After lunch I decided to enjoy the nice weather and take in some tourist sites. Since it was a Tuesday, I was hoping they wouldn’t be too crowded.

I took the tube to Westminster. I exited the underground and while spinning around trying to get my bearings, I found myself face to face with Big Ben. I couldn’t believe how close I was right away; it took me a minute to come out of my tourist trance. Even though the sun was out, the wind was still a force to be reckoned with and the temperature was cold, so I got right to the site seeing. I walked around Big Ben and the Parliament buildings and then headed across the street to Westminster Abbey. I didn’t go inside any of them (save that for another day), but I made sure to see them from every angle from the outside.

Since it is winter and we all know I have a low tolerance for weather below 75*, I wandered over to the Tate British Museum. It has a nice collection of artwork, mostly paintings, by British artists from the 1500s – present day. I spent a couple of hours walking around taking in some culture and then decided to call it a day.

Once I get my internet hooked up to the apt (hopefully by next week!!) I will post a link so you can view all the pics I took today…until then, these couple will have to do!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wednesday 11/5

We were up early Wed morning to go and see the new apt. The agency that we used to find the apt does a complete “inventory” of all new apts that their clients sign leases for. Basically what happens is two guys walk through every room and closet in the apt, noting anything that is not in perfect condition. Anything from slight discolorations on the walls\carpets\tiles to drains and light bulbs that don’t work. The report then gets itemized and a copy is sent to us and one to the landlord. Once we leave the apt, they will come back in and compare the state of the apt to the original itemize list – so they know what to charge us for (anything new, like holes from hanging pictures) and what damages were originally there.

The reason we went to the apt though, was to see the new carpet!! Thankfully I don’t have pictures of the original, hideous sea green carpeting that was in the apt when we first saw it…you would probably throw up looking at it. But the landlord out in new, beige carpeting throughout the whole apt, it looks so much better!

Wed night we went to our friend Katie's apt for a fireworks party. Wed was Remembrance Day...i believe it was the day Parliament was bombed during WWII…and they celebrate this holiday by setting off fireworks and having bonfires and a big party. The big question was, why do they set off fireworks in the middle of the city…sometimes in the middle of apt complexes or on the street! Katies apt building has a large backyard, so all the residents built a big bonfire and set off fireworks. As you can imagine we were pretty confused, since fireworks are pretty much illegal to buy on your own in NYC, let alone be able to shoot them off in such a crowded city!! And yet here…you can buy them at the supermarket…interesting…

Windsor Castle - 11/4

So the weather didn’t turn out to be amazing when we went to Windsor Castle, but at least it didn’t rain – so we were fine with it. We took the train from London to Windsor Castle, it was about an hour outside the city. The royal family still lives in Windsor Castle, and usually stay there on the weekends when they are in town. No sightings of the queen or the princes though…oh well, maybe next time. We took a guided tour of the outside of the grounds and then were left on our own to explore the inside. A very large, destructive fire swept through a lot of the castle in the early 90s, and much of it was destroyed. You would never had known it though, because it was fully renovated to the original d├ęcor – the furniture, paintings and flooring are all exact replicates of the items that were originally there but lost in the fire. Miraculously, a lot of the original furniture and paintings could be saved, before the fire and water were able to destroy them.

We stayed until lunch and then made our way back to London for the evening. We went to an election night party at our friend Sarahs apartment in Islington (where we live now!). I am completely surprised at the amount of coverage that OUR election had over here. Every time we turned on the tv there was a story on about the election, or on Obama, or on McCain. I think they were paying more attention to it than some of the cities in the US were!
It was an early night though, we had to be up early the next morning to go see our new apt!

Monday, November 03, 2008

around town

today brian and i went to the Science Museum, we have to force ourselves to go out and do things even though the weather was gross. its hard to spend more than a couple of hours in this tiny apt without climbing up the walls. the Science Museum, for the most part, was pretty interesting. if there werent 932048392 kids there, it might have been slightly more fun. its a pretty interactive museum, which explains the high concentration of kids running around. the great thing about all of the major london museums is that they are FREE! FREE! amazing! we went to the Victoria and Albert museum last week, which has an interesting and vast collection of pretty much anything created by humans that you can imagine - from paintings, sculpture, iron works and jewelry...the list goes on and on! i am saving all of the major art museums (tate, tate modern, etc etc) until brian starts work...that way i can enjoy them without him getting bored!

we took a long walk through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens yesterday...we basically started out from the furthest corner away and walked through the entire thing, to end up at the corner that is closest to our apt. it is such a great park - it is absolutely HUGE, with tons of open area to run, walk, bike, ride horses, anything you can imagine! it definately seems bigger than central park..but what do i know. we came across royal alberts hall yesterday (we have yet to go inside) quite by accident, but it was cool to see.
its nearing the end of autumn here in london, so we were lucky to be able to enjoy some crisp sunny weather and the changing leaves for one more afternoon.

tomorrow we are planning on going to Windsor Castle for the day, i hope the weather is nice!