Monday, August 30, 2010

In Which We Go to England: Part 7

We're now starting our final week here! This past weekend was our last, and I have started bidding things farewell as we leave them. Things are winding up, and as such, we have been busily cramming in all that we can before leaving. It will be nice on our next trip here (whenever that is) to not have our sightseeing time limited by a work schedule, but heck, we can't complain. We saw so many things this week! I will describe them to you now with words and pictures and maybe an emoticon or two.
  • We went, at last, to the British Library. Despite its modern facade, there were many impressive old things inside that, naturally, one cannot take pictures of. But we did see many original manuscripts of things like Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre. We also saw Jane Austen's writing desk, Handel's Messiah and the Magna Carta. All of these things reaffirmed my belief that most penmanship these days is pretty wretched.
  • On Wednesday we made our final foray into the theatre district to see Starlight Express. Unfortunately we were about 8 years late so we saw Wicked instead. There was a brief kerfuffle at the ticket pickup when the (always)* crabby attendant refused to accept Mr. Graham's signature as genuine, despite the fact that he has one of the most consistent signatures I've ever seen. Apparently she just wanted to make extra sure it was really Mr. Graham and not his Wicked-loving evil twin. No, really. That was the reason. ANYway, so we went to the show and it was all spectacular and the cast was good. The show itself has too many girls and too many belty girl songs for me and my ears, but Mr. Graham had a great time. It did make the effects of Phantom and Les Mis look even more dated by comparison.
  • On Thursday all three of us travelers went to the British Museum. Caity hadn't been yet, and it was a much more pleasant experience this time for us. No crowds, no sweltering heat, huzzah! This time we went upstairs and saw the rest of the Egyptian collection as well as the Anglo-Saxon things. We saw the Mildenhall Treasure, which I was pretty excited about since I recently read about it in Roald Dahl's The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More.** I was also excited to see the Sutton Hoo objects. I'm pretty sure I wrote a paper about Sutton Hoo, but for the life of me I cannot remember what it was about. I definitely remember writing a paper about this though: It was a pretty bad paper, but it was also my last and I just wanted to graduate (sorry, Dr. Finlayson, that you had to read it).
  • Friday we made another trip to the National Gallery because it was one of the few places that I really, really wanted to see again. We stayed for a few hours and I bought more postcards. When we got home we watched the last two episodes of the latest IT Crowd season, and one episode was like XD and the other was like o.O
  • Saturday started with a run and the progressed into running about from one place to another. We went to see the Marble Arch at Hyde Park, along with the giant horsehead, before going for lunch at the Orangery. Mr. Graham got the Ploughman, which we understood to be a sandwich, but we were a little bewildered as to how it all went together. We must have been feeling extravagant because we got dessert too. I got the lemon crunch cake because I was imagining candied lemon peel and some delectable frosting. Alas, it was simply pound cake with a sugar sort of topping. Mr. Graham had better luck with the Orangery cake.
  • After the Orangery, we went to Hampstead Heath, which is basically a large, wild sort of park. We tromped up and down hills and wandered through many little woodlands and felt pleasantly isolated. On the way home we stopped at Wagamama for dinner, but both agreed it was overpriced and not particularly amazing. What WAS amazing though was the most recent episode of Project Runway which we watched later. It was possibly the greatest runway judging I have seen on that show.
  • Our Sunday plans were up in the air for a long while because we couldn't decide on going to Yorkshire or not. In the end we decided not to go because the amount of train time and cost required were pretty high for the amount of time we'd be able to spend there. Next time, York, next time. Instead we hit three museums: the science museum, the natural history museum and the Tate Britain. The Science Museum was mostly a snooze, but we did check out the IMAX Deep Sea movie. I was hoping it would be a domed IMAX screen because those are the best, but it was just a bit curved. I told Mr. Graham that we will go to the St. Louis Science Center over Christmas and he will see just how cool a science museum can be (so cool)! We did have fun in the veterinary history exhibit, which was the size of a small bedroom and probably hasn't changed in 15 years.
  • The natural history museum was much more entertaining with its collections of dead creatures. The real winner of the day was the Tate Britain. It was much smaller than the National Gallery, but it was a pleasant smallness. They had a great collection that included some really lovely Pre-Raphaelite paintings, among them one of my least favorite paintings in the world, The Awakening Conscience: Blargh.
And that was our week. It was much more hustle and bustle than usual, but it was very satisfying to cross off so many things on our to-do list. This week will involve packing and sorting, but it will also include standing for Shakespeare in the Globe Theatre and more ice cream. Huzzah!

*I can say always because we have encountered her several times, and she is always sulky and unhelpful (not to mention suspicious of signatures).
**I love to recommend a few stories in this book, though there are several that I am ho-hum about and one that kind of makes me recoil. The non-fiction ones are the best: Lucky Break, A Piece of Cake and The Mildenhall Treasure. Even
(or maybe especially) if you don't like Roald Dahl, you should read those because they're quite fascinating.

Monday, August 23, 2010

In Which We Go to England: Part 6

One of these days I'm going to start a blog post by saying "Here we are in Utah" but it's not quite time for that yet. Still, our return is starting to loom up on the horizon, and we have just under two weeks left here. I wouldn't say the time has necessarily gone speeding by (or dragging by), but I'm still surprised that it's getting closer to that time.

But! It's not that time yet, and we had several adventures this week. Let's get down to business.
  • Last week we went to see Into the Woods at Regent's Park, but the show was rained out before it could start. This past Tuesday we made a second attempt, and we made it about 15 minutes into act 2 when it started to drizzle. Drizzle turned into a downpour and back home we went. Some might describe it as "agony."
  • We took the next night off, but on Thursday after another stop at Harrod's we went back to try to catch the second act. After a lot of poking around the closed up entrances, a kindly usher took pity on us and let us in during intermission. It drizzled the entire act, but we made it through at last!
  • On Friday we had an ice cream party with Caity and Friends. The ice cream here is delicious. I probably shouldn't say how many cartons we've gone through in the last few weeks, but I will say that we bought two more tonight (2 for 3 pounds! How can we resist?). Also, Friends is on here for hours at a time, on two different channels, so we've watched quite a lot of it. Good times.
  • Saturday started out with a run, then our first foray into Portobello Road, which was a kind of pleasant insanity. We came out of it with just some pastries, a giant hot dog and some peaches that went bad way too soon. Also, we may not be able to complain about Walmart crowds ever again.
  • We had plans to go to St. Paul's and then meet some visiting friends for dinner and Phantom of the Opera. When we got back from the market, we picked up our newly-arrived theatre tickets and...realized they were for the matinee show, which started in 15 minutes. St. Paul's for us as we spent the rest of the afternoon trying to contact the 24 hour customer service people (no go) and hunt for more tickets in Piccadilly. The end result is that we found four more tickets, though in two different places, and we met up with Liza and Kent no problem. Unfortunately we have not a single picture of them until they send us their pictures.
  • Speaking of Phantom of the Opera, we saw it from our spots in the very back row of the whole theatre, but it wasn't as bad a view as it sounds. The cast was kind of so-so, but they probably would have sounded better if the orchestra hadn't been racing for the finish line. We both agreed that the show could use a little updating in the costumes and effects. Shooting "fireballs" from a staff are just not as impressive as they were in the 80s.
  • On Sunday we went to Kew Gardens and explored them for about 5 hours. It was overcast the whole time, but it never rained and we saw many exciting plants and trees. We also saw this little friend:
  • He was just running about the greenhouse, and then he stayed put for about ten people to pet him and take pictures. He was an unexpected highlight, but there were many other lovely sights to see.
  • We wrapped up our weekend with pizza, more ice cream and Project Runway. We just love a good old fashioned pizza party.
And thus was our week. We are coming to the end of our to-do list, and we're steadily checking things off. Next weekend is still an enigma. Will we go to York? Or Brighton? Will we just stay in and watch Dear John? Only this weekend knows for sure!

Friday, August 20, 2010

In Which We Do Things Differently

Mr. Graham and I have a lot in common, which is a good thing for our well being(s), but there are some ways that we are pretty different. Some of these differences are super, super crucial. Like the way we dispose of our Starburst wrappers.

Mr. Graham's way:
My way:
We did, however, both agree that the Starbursts were delicious. Phew!

Monday, August 16, 2010

In Which I Expound Fondly

Guess what happened a year ago yesterday?
This! Can you believe it's been a year already? The time really started to speed up about June and now I can't believe it's already been August 15th and all. Now we can say that this time last year we were already married!

You all know this isn't a gooey blog so I won't be gooey now. But I am going to list a few things I have been liking about Mr. Graham in particular the last few days.
  • His eye crinkles when he smiles.
  • The fact that he will drag all the heaviest luggage around, up and down hills with nary a complaint.
  • The way he sings Yankee Doodle Dandy in his sleep or says things like "Trouble is my middle name."
  • The beard! Yeah.
  • He can keep up with me when I start quoting Nightmare Before Christmas.
  • He is always full of surprises--like flowers or a random DVD I have been pining for.
  • He likes me so well and I can tell all the time.
So here we are, married and happy and happy to be married, as we always shall be. And there's only 365 days left until the next anniversary!

Cheers to you, Mr. Graham, and cheers to us. I loves you so. :*

(I may have listened to this song three times in a row today...)

In Which We Go to England: Part 5

Can you believe we're still here? We are! We're still here, doing things and seeing the sights, although maybe not at such an impressive pace as when we first arrived. Also, I have three blog posts in my head right now so if I pop up in your reader a lot over the next 24 hours, well, you're welcome.

I did want to mention one more thing about last week, specifically about Westminster Abbey because I don't think I gave it its due. It was very old and quite beautiful and lovely in its oldness. I made a point to touch lots of things, just to touch something old. Also, I had no idea that Elizabeth I (and Mary, and the other Mary) were buried there. As I was walking around with Jeremy Irons, I was thinking about how England, and the world in general, has been made what it is by so very, very, very many people. Lots of them we still remember, but there are so many more that we don't. But that doesn't mean they had no effect on the world. I mean, Stone Carver #10 at Westminster may not be remembered specifically, but the effects of his life are still standing. Anyway, what I'm saying in such a plodding fashion is that maybe Achilles made the wrong choice.*

So! (As Lawrence Olivier would say) Here we are. And here is what we have done! It was a lazy week and big weekend.
  • Tuesday night we made our first attempt to see Into the Woods at the open air theater in Regent's Park. It wound up never starting and being canceled because of some heavy rain, but it was a fun walk in the rain anyway. I do like the English rain.
  • Thursday night we went to H&M where I got my own posh hat. We may have also bought another posh hat for someone else...
Yeah, so...not much during the week. But then on Friday we took off to the Lake District! We were off on the train at 5:30 and arrived a little before 9 at Windermere. It was so nice to go speeding through the countryside and see the England that I have been seeing in my head and on my TV for all these years. There were sheep, trees, stone walls, fields and little houses. Charming!

We headed up to our sweet hotel, and settled right in. The next day we got up in time to get our included full English breakfast, which turned out to have many options. We settled on just the regular breakfast which included grilled tomatoes (mm) and mushrooms (mmm), as well as sausages and eggs. AND. Black pudding. We weren't sure what it was. So we ate it. Afterwards we did a little research to find out just what black pudding is. It's blood! Blood pudding! The most notorious of English foods! Look at the thing.
They look like super crispy, burnt breakfast sausages, but they're actually all soft and weird. I didn't really like it because it tasted like beans, and I didn't finish mine. Naturally Mr. Graham ate the whole thing. I'm glad I tried it, just for the trying, but I mean...really? Who thought of these things?

The rest of the day we spent walking. We walked up to the visitors center, then we walked back down and past the hotel to the actual Lake Windermere so we could catch the ferry to the other side. A little ways before the ferry there were a bunch touristy lake cruises and boat rides to the other side and they charged about 6 pounds. We rode the ferry for 50p each. Hah! Take that! It was my first ferry ride, and I thought about The Ring the whole time. Luckily there were no horses.
Anyway, so we found ourselves in the woods on the other side and set off for Hill Top, better known as one of Beatrix Potter's homes. Our trek went up hills and down hills, through the woods and across fields of sheep, and, just over two miles later, we arrived. The house was little and a bit musty, but it was fun to see some of her illustrations and how they were taken straight from the house.With that we headed back the way we came and said hello to the sheep again. We stopped at the lake again on our way back into town and let our feet get acquainted with the water.
Once in town we got ordered some Indian take away for dinner and got some locally-made ice cream while we waited. Maybe it was partly due to circumstances that made chocolate things taste better, but seriously, this ice cream ("Death by Chocolate") was the best thing I have had here. Maybe even the best ice cream I have ever had. It was so good that I got some more the next day. Hot diggity.The rest of the night was spent trudging back up the hills to the hotel with our Indian food before collapsing in front of the TV with our food and a couple of movies. Delicious!

The next day was pretty much like the first, except without the black pudding and Hill Top. Mr. Graham got porridge and a sugar waffle and I had the Cumberland ham (Ham for breakfast! What a country!). We walked down to the lake and sat with the water for a while, playing a game that Mr. Graham's dream created, then sitting on the grass, still playing that game, then finally walking back to town and finishing the game. We had fish and chips and some mushy peas that have me reconsidering my stance on split pea soup, and finished it up with more ice cream. A little while later we were back on the train and heading home.

Oh, I guess I forgot to mention why we went to the Lake District. Sunday was our first anniversary and we were celebrating! Huzzah for us and for our being married! We did have plans to be in Disneyland Paris this weekend, but due to circumstances that are best told not in a public venue, we were bound to England. It wasn't super French or Disney-ish, but there were many delights to be had, and we were just happy to be together (aww). One day, Disneyland Paris!

*Egads, that movie is awful.

Monday, August 09, 2010

In Which We Go to England: Part 4

Another week has come and gone, and we ended this last one with a move to another living place (that's four now, if you're counting). Luckily this was the last time for moving, and we will be spending our last weeks in our very favorite place so far. Don't worry, pictures are coming, but let's do this chronologically shall we? List!
  • My co-worker Caity's old roommate, Melissa, had been visiting for the last week, and for her last night we all went for Italian food and another stop at Platform 9 3/4. (Of course, Melissa wound up coming back a few days later after many failed attempts to get on planes via stand by, but she did finally flee the country successfully on Saturday.)
  • After several unsuccessful tries at getting into the theatre, we finally got tickets for Les Mis! I had never seen it, and even though I don't love it, I just felt compelled. After seeing it I still don't love it and I actually think, technically speaking, it's rather flawed, but the music seems to cover the weaknesses. Also, the guy who played Marius had the weirdest, most quavery voice and I actually mistook him for a woman before I could see him. You can all look forward to Mr. Graham doing a very enthusiastic and accurate impression on our return!
  • Before Les Mis we popped into a nearby Vietnamese restaurant where we had our old favorite: pho! The hostess lady was a little intense so I didn't take pictures, but know that it was delicious.
  • On Saturday we had our own makeshift 5K around Regent's Park, since we couldn't find an official one. Naturally, about five minutes into it we saw a pack of runners with race bibs going through the Park.
  • Our next stop was Westminster Abbey to see the inside. We had a delightful (free) audio tour led by Jeremy Irons and saw many neat and very old things. The Poet's Corner was naturally our favorite and we made sure to rub the tombs/monuments/floor tiles of Dickens, Hardy and Carroll with our bare feet.
  • Also on Saturday we made our big move (during a convenient downpour), and no, the cab driver had no idea where to go (that's five out of five). Our new place is an "aparthotel" and is so modern and clean and nice. Also, it has the cutest and tiniest dishwasher in the world. If I could hug it, I would. In fact, I may try later.
  • Sunday we took a train (my first!) to Oxford in the afternoon. We ran around like mad to see things before they closed, and even though we only had a few hours we saw a lot of sites. Sadly we missed out on Exeter so I was unable to cling lovingly to the bust of Tolkien. But we did get to see the pub where he met with C.S. Lewis, among others, and we also saw a bit of Hogwarts, AKA Christ Church.
It was a mild week, but we definitely made the most of the weekend, as we always try to do. And now, another week! Let us go forth.