Category Archives: Christmas

London Calling

Yesterday, as I caught up on the latest episode of Sherlock, I found myself distracted by the backgrounds of the show, remembering London, even though the scenes on tv were not most of the places we had been, though I was delighted to see Sherlock and a companion walking through Piccadilly Circus and by the Tube station we used. Sigh. Still, all in all, it was London. And London is wonderful.

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Despite starting off the first two hours at Passport Control with 800 of our closest friends at Heathrow, this was a most wonderful and needed trip. Due to the horrific outcome of the election and other extremely stressful things going on for Ed and me, the timing of this trip was perfect. And London was perfect.

Some high points and strong images:

*Walking 27 miles in three days (no buses or Tube on Christmas Day, if you are planning a trip).

*Women smoking hookahs in sidewalk cafes on Edgware Road.

*Having an Italian lunch on Christmas Day with our new friend Bobby. During that lunch discussing how Bobby loves country/bluegrass phenom Alison Krauss. I told him she was from Peoria, which was only an hour or two from where we live. Then the man at the table next to us leans over and says, “Did you say ‘Peoria?’ I’m from Peoria!”

*Feeling like a sardine in a can at Harrods. Honestly. How can that many people fit into one store?

harrods

*Getting lost on our first day of walking and seeing a house with the plaque “Home of Benedict Arnold, American Patriot.” The hell, you say. That’s not what we call him.

*”Mind the gap” and “This is a Bakerloo line train to Regent’s Park.”

*Watching Kitten Rescuers as well as The Glenn Miller Story on British tv. Also seeing a celebrity panel show that included Carrie Fisher just two days before she died.

*Lights, lights, and more lights on Oxford, Regent, and Bond Streets. Simply stunning.

oxford-peacock-lights-fulloxford-wired-lightsside-street-lights-2house-of-fraser-lights

*The store windows of Fortnum & Mason all decked out for Christmas.

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*Thinking I might have seen British author Neil Gaiman in the Christmas Eve crush at Fortnum & Masons (I asked. It wasn’t. Though I do not regret asking.)

*Seeing Stomp in a teeny theatre. Amazing!

stomp-stage

*The tiniest hotel room on record, though centrally located and affordable. I will stay there again.

*Rekorderlig Swedish pear cider. Ahhh.

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*The most amazing food (Bangladeshi, Indian, Italian; and Ed had Portuguese and Brazilian).

*Accents from most everywhere in the world except Britain (or very little British). A lovely man I spoke with at the Victoria pub said most actual Londoners leave the city over the holiday. To make room for us interlopers, I suppose.

*Waterstone’s Books. A little five-story piece of heaven on earth.

*The world’s best chippie (that’s fish and chips in Brit-ese) at the Golden Union on Poland Street, just off Oxford Street. Thanks, Bobby, for that!

*Hearing the pealing bells of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day. Heavenly.

*Beautiful and ginourmous Hyde Park.

*Having Oyster cards for the Tube before we left home so we could quickly (relatively – see paragraph two above) leave Heathrow for London. So happy I did my homework on this one.

*Walking, walking, and more walking and, happily, just getting tired, not sore, feet.

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*And, to cap it off, getting surprisingly upgraded to business class for the flight home, including complementary drinks, the best food, warm towels to wash up, a nice blanket and space, glorious space to relax in. We kept poking each other with goofy grins, repeating, “I can’t believe this!”

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That, my friends, was London. Wonderful, beautiful, courteously well-mannered, polite, cosmopolitan, ancient, direction-confounding, marvelous London. A spot of tea or chippie, anyone?

 

 

 

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Packing my Bag!

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A giant photo of my in-progress packing. Trying to learn to rotate and crop photos, but, as yet, that is eluding me. Stay tuned for better cropping, rotating, photo-bits in the future.

While the mercury dips to “colder than a well digger’s butt in the Yukon,” I fuss and do laundry and make out last-minute instructions for the house/dog sitter, not quite believing that one week from this exact moment, we will be celebrating Christmas in London!

For the past four months, I’ve been reading, researching and surfing to gather more information than I can possibly use on one trip, trying to sift and juggle and prioritize. What new things do I want to see (Victoria and Albert Museum, Harrod’s, Windsor Castle), and what repeats that Ed wants to see (Imperial War Museum) and that I didn’t have time enough to see well on my first trip to London (Westminster Abbey).

And I am hoping. Hoping I am bringing the right shoes to pound the pavement in all day. Hoping I have finally figured out the Tube this time around. Hoping to find a good Indian restaurant for Christmas Day (nothing says “Christmas” like a good curry). Hoping to get some sleep on the flight over so we will have enough energy to make it through Christmas Eve and do some shopping and hop-on-hop-offing of buses to get oriented. Hoping to have a Happy Christmas in the greatest city on earth!

So, as my last weekend at home winds down, I will anxiously flit around the house, setting everything to rights, trying to double and then triple check my packing list so I don’t forget anything. We aren’t checking our bags, so I am using travel space bags. I initially had what I thought was a great idea – use those space bags to save as much room as possible!  Then I learned from the great YouTube channel Love and London that they make travel space bags You just roll them up to squeeze out the air.  Genius! I am also trying to pack just enough and not over-pack. Again, thanks to Love and London!

I also got a great idea from that channel to make an itinerary and to match up outfits to each day’s itinerary so that I will have just the clothes I need and not a whole bunch of stuff I won’t wear but that takes up too much room in the bag. Takes a little time to do, but if you don’t want to check a bag, again, genius! But it also takes some work, which is fine by me. I am just hoping to maybe find a clothing item or two (or maybe some shoes?) to bring back home with me. To that end, I am taking my oldest running shoes (I plan to run each morning through Hyde Park, which is maybe a 10 minute walk away) and, as I did in Ireland, if I need room in my bag for something else, my shoes will get to live in London, even if I don’t.

As for bringing stuff home, we aren’t planning to load up on tchotchkes (and, in case you are wondering, I did have to look up the spelling for that one – meshuga! – look that one up on your own). When we were in Ireland, we met a nice couple from Long Island, and Hank’s advice was simple: don’t buy something you’ll throw in a drawer and then throw out two years later. They never took pictures either because they figured they’d never look at them. I take some, but am not really the scrapbook type. I’ll post some here and on Facebook, I suppose. But I prefer to write about my trips and journeys, so the journal will definitely fit in my new giant “purse” that I bought for the trip.

Speaking of, I finally decided that if most of the women I see getting onto a plane can carry a “purse” the size of an aircraft carrier, then, by God, so will I! It ought to hold my knitting (yes, needles are allowed as are scissors less than 4″ – I’m no fool – I checked TSA), my journal, a book, guidebook,  miscellaneous necessary paperwork, some snacks and an empty water bottle. I could probably fit one of the cats in there and claim it’s a service animal, but I don’t think he’d enjoy the trip so much.

So, if I can make it work, my next Sunday post will be from London! Keeping my fingers crossed for no winter storms on this end for the next two Fridays (the out and back). Stay tuned for “The Adventures of Jen and Ed in London!”

Oh, Fudge!

fudge

Well, boys and girls, it’s that time of year. Time to make the fudge. And yesterday, at 4:30 a.m., I woke up mighty early and did just that. Chocolate walnut and a new one: white chocolate candy cane. Yum! Not too cloyingly sweet with just enough peppermintiness (I have created a new word in honor of this new level of deliciousness).

Today I will also try the Oreo fudge (the one I did not get to make yesterday and totally forgot about until just this moment). Good thing I am sticking to my Sunday blog deadline, or there would be no Oreo fudge. Just saying. So, it’s a good thing to write.

Am also getting into the old-fashioned Christmas spirit thanks to a couple of things I picked up thanks to Dick Taber and his wonderful estate sales. This spring I practically stole a stereo system with a working turntable (and the CD player also works, and I get both public radio stations – not sure about the cassette player, but not worried about that at the moment). At a later sale, I picked up this little gem:

bing-christmas The Bing Crosby Merry Christmas album (Santa is just in the picture to lend holiday spirit). To be precise, on a few of the tracks it’s Bing AND the Andrews Sisters. Twenty-three skidoo! Or maybe, “It’s the cat’s pajamas,” or maybe “The bees knees.” No matter. It’s making mine a merry holiday.

So, as I wait for my dearest hubs to create his spareribs and kraut supper in the kitchen, Bing and I will be watching the lovely snow on the sunporch while the Juncos and woodpeckers dine at the feeders which are now chock full of tasty seed-liciousness (sorry – it must be the holiday beverage just making odd words pop from my keyboard).

woodpecker It’s a little hard to see, but here’s the woodpecker, who was hopping up and down the sycamore. I couldn’t really get good pictures with my phone, which does lead me to consider actually getting a decent camera.

And that brings me to the fact that my pictures aren’t cropped very well as yet. But I am making it a New Year’s resolution (all pun intended – get it? pictures; resolution?) to work harder at improving the look of this blog. I will learn how to insert better pictures and try to keep to my weekly posts, and maybe even post more often than once a week. But I don’t want to get crazy here.  Well, maybe just a little. Stay tuned and see how crazy it really gets around here.

Cheers.