Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!

 Our last hurrah before going home for Christmas...

Sunday night, Daniel and I walked down Regent's Street to meet friends for dinner. Although I have done this many times already this year, this was my first time at night and with Daniel! It is a sight to be seen! 

We met with our South African friends, Bailey and Tristan, at Yauatcha and shared some tasty dim sum and appetizers.

We can't believe we are going home tomorrow! Our driver picks us up at 8 am and our flight leaves at 10:30. Thankfully, we have pretty nice seats for the flight, but still....it's going to be a long 10.5 hours! Also, I haven't been feeling great. I call it "the sick throat". It isn't exactly a cold because it's just my throat. It is more than a sore throat, but I don't think it's strep. It just feels sick! I've been drinking lots of tea today in hopes that it would go away. 

Merry Christmas everyone! Don't know when I will be updating, since we will be in Houston for the next week! I hope you all have a happy, safe, joyful holiday! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Day on Regent Street

I am a very, very lucky wife. My husband buys me little gifts all of the time, and I usually don't brag about him, but I have to today! I wish I was as thoughtful as he is...he can just go on a whim and get somebody an awesome gift. Me, on the other hand...I just over think it too much. 

For no good reason other than being the sweetest guy ever, Daniel booked me a really fancy spa day at the Langham Hotel on Regent Street. It's a 5 star hotel, and I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb in my tights and H&M sweater! However, the staff were all very friendly and I ended up having such a wonderful morning.

 I've only had a handful of massages, but this one was by far the fanciest! Upon arrival, the staff gave me a robe, slippers, and sparkling mineral water. I got to sit in the "relaxation room" where I filled out a questionnaire about "the harmony of the elements" in my body (a little bit of a quack, but whatever!).

Next, I got to pick out which oil they used (I picked lavendar and chamomile, but my other choices were basil/ lemon and orange/ something or other) and then enjoyed a relaxing massage. It was my first time to not have a deep tissue massage. Although I prefer the deep tissue, I will say this one was WAY less painful and I was able to relax more. Afterwards, I had some organic loose leafed tea and fruit, then used their salt sauna and hot tub. Fearful that I would fall asleep and drown/ sweat to death, I had to leave after a couple of hours. Perfect morning!

 Since I was in one of the main shopping areas in London, I decided to try and tackle some last minute Christmas shopping...bad idea!

 Everything was SO overcrowded with tourists and other last minute shoppers. Plus, shopping just really sucks in London when you are used to American prices. For example, Daniel loves Brooks Brothers so I went in, hoping to get him something. The prices were the SAME in pounds as they are in dollars...which means it is nearly double the price as it would be in America! UK brands aren't any better, either!

 I ended up going to Selfridges, Liberty, Fortnum & Mason, and some other small shops...and bought NOTHING! It was too crowded to even think straight, let alone browse without a specific list in mind.

 At Selfridges, they sell American foods. I almost bought these Oreos for Daniel...before seeing the price! Y'all, that is equivalent to about $12...for 1 pack of Oreos!

 Even though I didn't buy anything and became frustrated with the hordes of people, I do love seeing London at Christmas time! All of the store windows are decorated over the top and the displays entice you to buy things you never thought you needed. Thankfully, I am very frugal and have excellent self-control, or we would have had to eat nothing but cereal for the next 5 weeks!

I am going to be a complete lunatic tomorrow and go to Harrods right when it opens. I can't even fathom how crazy it will be on the Saturday before Christmas, but tis the season!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013: One Great Year

After deciding in December to make the move, we started telling our family and close friends. Let the exciting year begin!

February was a crazy month, work wise. I knew that lots of changes were about to happen at my school that would be very stressful, and to top that off, I had to tell my co-workers that after only one (glorious, fulfilling, and enjoyable) year teaching there, I was moving to another continent.

We took our first trip of the year, to Costa Rica. It was not what we were expecting, but we still had a great time making friends, looking for monkeys, and drinking out of coconuts!

The most memorable weekend in April was visiting Austin with one of my closest friends, Lindsay! We stayed our first night at Anneke's, one of my best friends,  home and had a really great time at "Sandy's" restaurant, Bess Bistro! The next morning, Anneke and her husband were going to Dallas, so Lindsay and I packed up and went on a super long run (we swear it had to be 8+ miles) around Town Lake, and then met with my brother at Kirbey Lane, where I ate some delicious pancakes (shoulda ordered some cowboy queso, too). Next, we checked in at Lost Pines and had a really nice time (despite our husband's numerous jokes about our romantic getaway). Perfect girls' weekend!

May brought many tears. I had to say goodbye to all of my precious students. I had such a great class and year at Grace School and formed really strong relationships with my kiddos. It was so, so hard leaving both them and a job that I really loved.

Oh my God, was June crazy. We found renters by the seats of our pants and spent the month vigorously making our home ready for new tenants. On top of that, I went to a bachelorette party in Gruene, a family reunion in Boerne, and we both went to Rockport with my mom's side of the family. June will go down in history as being one of the busiest, yet BEST months ever (and to all of my non-Texan friends reading, those are all small towns in Texas)!

We moved on the 4th of July, found a flat, and became accustomed to life in London.
Such a freaking cutie, enjoying his free champagne while relaxing in his plane cubby 

One our first days in London! 

Amongst the "heat wave", we took the train to York and had our first lil vacation while living abroad.

I started babysitting! And, my two aunts visited. We had a great time frolicking around London and Hampshire, making new friends and just having a great time together!

My favorite trip so far....Take me back to Cinque Terre!


My mom and sister visited and despite the purse getting stolen, we had an absolutely perfect time.

Another crazy month. Daniel's brother Justin and his wife Brandee visited and in total, Daniel and I spent five weekends in four different countries! Scotland, France, England, and our last weekends will be in the USA in Houston!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Paris Is Always a Good Idea

However much I hate to agree with the masses, I just gotta say it: After visiting 3 times, I have come to the conclusion that Paris is the most wonderful city in the world (at least, that I have been to so far). Yep, gypsies and all. Freakin' love that place.

It's so beyond its architecture, although that sure does help. It's beyond the Eiffel tower, the Seine river, the masterpieces of art, the cobbled roads. To me, it's the small wine bars on the street corner. The fromageries, the bread shops, the macaroons. It's the croque madams, quiches, duck confits, and crepes. It's the people. The waitresses, the vendors selling their paintings, the shop keepers selling scarves. It's the feeling of vibrancy that the city gives me, the take-your-breath-away, heart skipping excitement for no other reason than simply being so happy to partake in this Parisian day. That feeling that with every winding street you walk on, you will find something new. There is no getting lost. There is no taking a wrong turn. It is all an adventure, one filled with such an immense amount of beauty. Being in Paris, you feel like life is wonderful and bountiful, you could live a million years in that city and do something new and exciting every single day.

Whew, so you get the picture. I love this city. I could go there again and again and always be happy. I hope that one day we can live there, but only time will tell!
Not where we stayed, but just a gorgeous hotel
So, the 4 of us hopped on the Eurostar on Friday to take the train to my beloved city. This time, I didn't screw up on our lodging and we stayed in a private flat, right by the Louvre.

Daniel and I got to sleep on a loft bed, Brandee and Justin got the pull out couch. It was all lovely and a wonderful experience. I don't know if I would always recommend renting a flat, but for Paris, I really do. It just makes me feel like I am experiencing true Parisian life.

Justin and Brandee are novice Parisians. We got them to eat stinky cheese, but couldn't convince them that the rind is edible

He thought that if he made this face, I wouldn't put the pic in my blog. He thought wrong.

We walked along the Seine, back to the wine bar that we so loved when we visited with my mom and sister. Our same adorable waitress, Chloe, was there. She remembered Daniel and me, and that we lived in London but were from TX. Whoever says French people are impolite and rude really need to go back and give these people a second chance.
Leaving with warm bellies, we walked to The Latin Quarter (I deem this my favorite area in Paris) and had dinner at a little bistro, where I had Steak frittes and everyone else had croque madam (a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich). Had to get a pic of the decor- Scooby holding the Tasmanian Devil's head. Silly Europeans! 

 The next day, Daniel and I split up from Brandee and Justin. They wanted to see things that we had just seen a few weeks ago, and there are so many other attractions that need to be experienced!

Daniel and I started off our morning with breakfast by our flat- him, a hard boiled egg and fresh squeezed OJ; Me, a chocolatey waffle and latte.

Our first stop was to the Catacombs. We had to take the metro (which was fairly easy to understand) South of the river. The line was crazy long, and we had to wait for 90 minutes before getting in!
I called this man the Crypt Keeper. He was the man with all of the power, deciding when to let people in and how many at a time. I suppose whenever the ghosts of the catacombs called out to him, he would let a handful of people in, about every 10 minutes. If I would have known how long we would have to have waited for, we would have done something else! 

The catacombs came about in the 1700's. The cemeteries were overcrowded and there was no more room to bury the dead, so the king declared that the bones would be dug up and thrown into this underground maze of tunnels by the cemetery. The bones of six million people were transferred there in the late 1700's, and dead bodies continued to be deposited in the quarries until the mid 1800's. It was later that an artist decided to arrange the bones in such a way. It took 20 years for his project to be complete. And this, people, is why I want to be cremated when I die! 
Gotta say, I can't recommend the catacombs. It was a very cool thing to see, but not worth the wait. Maybe if you go at opening time on a weekday. 

We were a bit rushed through the catacombs because we had a wine class to attend, at a wine bar called O Chateau. We only got to try 3 different French wines, but we learned so much about wine! Some tidbits:
-Always buy 2005 and 2009 French red wines
-The more north, the drier the wine
-If you can read text through a glass of red wine, then it is light bodied. If you can't read it, it's full bodied.
-The cheaper the grape, the more sulfates added
-If the bottle is from a "Domaine" then it is a small mom and pop producer; from a Chateau, then it's from the big dogs. 
-A sweet French white wine is usually in a clear bottle; a dry white is usually in a green bottle

Our 3 tastes were clearly not enough, so Daniel and I wandered the streets to find some more wine (not a difficult task, when in Paris!). I had the most decadent, velvety glass of champagne. I rarely drink actual champagne, so it was such a treat. 

Library by the wine bar

We met up with Justin and Brandee for dinner, where Daniel and I split Duck confit and a Nutella crepe. We wandered to another wine bar, where we had our last glass of wine in Paris for 2013. 

Au revoir, Paris! I do hope to see you again soon!


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