Sunday, 22 August 2010

A Wedding in the City

Canary Wharf, as seen from Greenwich Park

This weekend we celebrated the wedding of The Other Half's youngest brother. It was actually the first wedding I've been to in the UK, and it was everything I would have imagined an English wedding would be. The ceremony itself took place on Friday afternoon at Southwark Register Office. After that, we hopped on an old Routemaster bus that had been specially hired for the occasion (a gift from one of the bride's friends) and were transported to Greenwich Park, where we had afternoon tea and an evening meal of fish and chips (driven in from Faversham, on the Kent coast, so it was no ordinary takeaway; I think I can honestly say it was the best fish and chips I've ever had). We drank and danced the night away in the grounds of The Pavilion Tea House, right next to The Royal Observatory. The sort of eerie picture above is the view we had from the marquee of Canary Wharf.

Of course, Crumpet's routine was completely broken, but routines are meant to be broken for special occasions, and she kept going strong until nearly 11:00 (the nap she took in my arms during the ceremony certainly helped!). However, she is still making up for the lack of sleep. Last night I put her down at 6:45 and didn't hear a peep from her until 8:10 this morning.

Almost as good as the wedding itself was the deal we got on our hotel room. We stayed at Devonport House, which was literally just outside Greenwich Park, and we got dinner, bed and breakfast for 89 GBP. Of course, we missed out on dinner, but it was still a great deal. You can't find many rooms in London for that price. The room was clean, comfortable, and they had the all-important baby cot we had requested. The staff were friendly, they served a hot breakfast as well as lots of cereals, fruits, and pastry options, and we were even able to check-in early (and we hadn't even requested an early check-in). I would stay there again, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting London as it's a great base for exploring Greenwich and has good transport links to the rest of the city. Wow, I should get paid for these kinds of endorsements!

Before we came home yesterday, we took a stroll through Greenwich Park and stopped at their fantastic playground, where Crumpet wore herself out again on the swings and in the sand pit. It was almost like a mini-holiday, which was a great way to end my summer vacation. As of this Wednesday, I'm back on the clock. Eight weeks sure has come and gone very quickly.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

10 Things I Love About England

Cornwall, Southwest England

I've been battling a bit of homesickness since we returned from our trip to the States last month (coupled with, paradoxically, a bit of wanderlust). So in an effort to cure these afflictions, I thought it would be appropriate to include a post about the things I love about my adopted country, a bit like the post I recently wrote about what I love about North Carolina. So here goes (in no particular order):

1. London. I don't love everything about London, mind you, but it's hard not to love a city of such mythic status -- and with so much to see and do. As Samuel Johnson famously said, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."
2. Tea. Nothing can compare to a good cuppa. No matter how hard I have tried, I have not managed to replicate the experience anywhere else, even with the same brand of tea. Whether it's the water, or the type of cows they rear for milk here, or whatever... the Brits sure know how to do tea.
3. A good curry. Curry houses are to the UK what Mexican restaurants are to the US (or to the South, at least). I was never a big fan until I started visiting England regularly, but now a good curry is a favorite indulgence of mine. I still miss my Mexican fix (there are a few good Mexican restaurants in London, but they're few and far between), but I'm happy to substitute that with a chicken tikka masala, sag aloo and cauliflower bhaji. Oh, and fish and chips. And a good fry-up. Okay, maybe I should just call this reason "food" (although I'll pass on blood pudding and haggis and the like).
4. Pubs. I have yet to come across a bar in the US with the same vibe as a British pub. It's hard to explain, but the pub is an institution which crosses age groups, classes, and genders. And a good pub is hard to find.
5. Cornwall. This is where The Other Half and I took our first holiday together, way back in 2003, and it will forever hold a special place in my heart. (I don't blame you if you gag on that cliche, by the way). Aside from London, images of the rugged Cornish coast and little fishing villages and country pubs are what spring to mind when I think of England.
6. Quaint villages. Especially with thatched cottages. And cosy pubs with log fires. Do you see a running theme here?
7. Public transportation. This is actually sort of a love-hate relationship, but I do like the fact that I haven't depended on a car for almost four years now.
8. The NHS. This may seem like an odd addition, and many people may disagree, but I am so thankful for national health care. I know it's not a perfect system, but at least I can be assured that if I need medical attention, I will receive it. And I won't go bankrupt in the process.
9. History. Everywhere you turn in this country, there is a piece of history to uncover. Castles, ancient ruins... even the church up the road from us is over 900 years old. And, as an old friend-of-a-friend once said, England has beer that is older than America.
10. Having the rest of Europe on my doorstep. Need I say more?

Monday, 16 August 2010

Blogger's Remorse

It seems like it's been ages since I last blogged. Every time I think to write a post, I get distracted by something else. Since we've returned from our month-long visit to the States, I've caught up with friends, taken Crumpet strawberry picking (twice), tried out a couple of new recipes, and even managed to get some work done for the upcoming school year (and I don't even go back to work until next week). I've been doing a little bit each night -- a lesson plan here, an essay idea there. Hopefully, when I do go back and pick up two new IB Diploma-level English courses (in addition to the middle school courses I already teach), I won't be ready to tear my hair out. And I've been writing again, though I won't say too much about that because I get a bit superstitious talking about it. But hopefully good things will come out of my newfound inspiration.

We've got a busy couple of months ahead of us -- The Other Half's youngest brother's wedding this week, my return to work full-time (which will take some adjustment for all of us), a work trip to the Isle of Wight and a possible one to Barcelona for a workshop. Oh, and our four-year anniversary and Crumpet's second birthday. So, even though I haven't been posting as regularly as I would have liked, if you follow my blog (regularly or just occasionally) be patient with me and I'm sure I'll have some more exciting entries coming up.