Friday, May 16, 2008

London recap: It's hard to believe...

We lived in another country, successfully for two years. It's hard to believe how fast the time went. Where did it go? Let's recap:
It started with a mess... Our place. Rolling Ridge Norwalk, CT c. late Feb 2006... MOVING
Leaving for London! Our introduction to British Airways at Kennedy Airport. A slight redistribution of the weight in our bags was in order.

Property Viewing: Check out this guy. In the States we have used car salesmen. In London they have Estate Agents. We called him Shhhwwwarmy. Beth did not look impressed with him or the flat.

IKEA = Assembly required... setting up our place in London. 69 Redcliffe Gardens SW10 9JJ

Quick trip to Barcelona, Spain


Then to Brussels, Belgium
Frolicking in one of the Royal Parks


Bus trip with my parents: England, Scotland, North Ireland, Ireland, and Wales... This was taken somewhere in North England. Windsor Castle

Greenwich, London with a view of The Docklands in the distance
Brighton: England's answer to Coney Island


Punting in Cambridge
Feeling smart in Cambridge

London Eye
Amsterdam


Beth looking fab in Malta


And again up in Lake Windemere

Oxford... not like the shirt


In the back yard of Buckingham Palace

The staredown

Canterbury

Friends. This was actually taken at Tiger Tiger, the same place they tried to do a Jihad a few months later.


Richmond, London
My place of employment


Beth being giddy in Geneva, Switzerland
And more serious in Paris, France

Blown away in Lisbon, Portugal

Beautiful Bruges, Belgium

Winchester, England
Friends... we were lucky. Always surrounded by many great friends.


Positano, Italy
Bath, England
Llama trekking in Surrey, England
Santorini, Greece

Majorca, Spain... We learned why they called this "Hot England"

On our street

Vienna, Austria
St. Petersburg, Russia. On the same cruise we also saw Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Estonia.

Can I fix you a cup 'a tea?
Prague, Czech Republic

The Footy... We kinda followed a local team, Fulham

Hard to get enough of this

Christmas in our flat
Enjoying brews in Munich, Germany

Brunch a la flat
Colchester, England (I think. They all seemed the same now)


Beth and Buda. Budapest, Hungary

Cape Town, South Africa
I guess that's where the time went.
Here are some facts:
- We took 6,533 pictures during our time in Europe
- We visited 20 countries (incase you were counting)
- We had roughly 12 different guests visit
- Our flat was about 550 square feet
- We flew home 7 times
- Our cat gained 3 pounds living in England
- The dollar weakened from 1.70 to 2.02 over the two years... lucky me!
- I got promoted to Sr Manager while in London
- Beth's business grew AMAZINGLY while we were in London
- Our blog started with roughly 30 unique visits per day. By June 2007 there were 70-80 visits per day. By the end of our trip there were 120-130 visits per day. Thanks for all of your support! The higher our counter went, the more we were inspired to do this. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed posting to it.
London is an AMAZING place. It will always deserve a special place in our hearts. All of the stereotypes of bad weather, poor food, and stiff lipped people are not true. London treated us well and we're greatful for it. We're also thankful for all of the amazing friends that we made, both expats and English. We'll see you all again soon.

Our last night in the UK... Cheerio Mate


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Update and recap coming soon.... I promise!

Monday, April 28, 2008

We're back in the States!

UK recap and update on the move coming soon!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

More South Africa pics
We returned to London from South Africa yesterday morning... believe it or not, the taxi comes in 20 minutes to take us to Heathrow for our return trip to the USA! As promised, below are more South Africa pictures.
Local children playing in a ship wreck in Hout Bay.
Cape Town and table mountain as viewed from Robben Island
Penguin on Boulder Beach

Mandela's Cell
Robben Island Prison

Top of Table Mountain
Top of Table Mountain

View from Table Mountain

Cape Town and V&A Waterfront from Table Mountain


African dancers in Camps Bay
Clifton Beach at Camps Bay

Hiking on the hotel grounds
Sunset from the 12 Apostles

Sunset
Beth trying to hold only her cap

Franschhoek
Stellenbosch


Beth at Le Petite Ferme
Anniversary dinner at La Quartier Francais

Le Petite Ferme
Le Petite Ferme

Le Petite Ferme and a le petite Bap.
Vineyards

Franschhoek Country Inn
A Bap.

Celler tour at Haut Cabriere
Haut Cabriere


Dog
An expert at work

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Just a preview of some South Africa pics... these pictures do this country no justice

We landed last Friday morning in Johannesburg and made the 5.5 hour drive to Kruger... We based ourselves at a hotel right outside of one of the main gates. The Protea Kruger Gate couldn't have been in a better spot... We did four safari drives (two which were guided by pros, two which were guided by non-pros (us)). We saw many animals including most of the famous "Big 5". For some reason, the lions and the leopards were on strike. I guess this might have had something do do with the fact that Kruger Park is the size of New Jersey.

On Monday we made the drive back to Johannesburg and caught a flight to Cape Town. Again, we rented a car and drove to our hotel near Camps Bay. The 12 Apostles is hands down the nicest place we have EVER stayed. I've been lucky to have my employer put me up in nice places in the past... however, none of them even compare to this place.

Sunday it's off to the wine region in Franschhoek where we will stay at the Franschhoek Country House...

Baboon family on the side of the road
Elephant
Naughty monkeys at our hotel... if you don't look, they climb up to where you are sitting and steal your food

Warthogs
Giraffe


Family of baboons on the road - check out the ones on the left fighting
Giraffe


Coming at ya
Kudoo (I probably butchered the spelling)

Cape of Good Hope... not sure what I should have been hoping for.
Penguin beach (forgot to upload the penguin shots - but we took tons of them)

In front of our hotel
Us

South Africa...

IS AMAZING. Pics and stuff to come very soon once we figure out how to connect our camera here...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Homeless.

The professional deep cleaners came today. Although we're renting our flat through tomorrow, apparently, we're not allowed back in our flat after they clean. I understand some of the merits of that.... but come on, it's not like our place is a hotel. We're not that messy.

Anyway, at 9:15 this morning we found our selves standing in front of our stoop, holding 4 bags and a cat, in the rain. Nice goodbye from London.

Thank God for Base2Stay and the kennel's acceptance of Candy 1 day early.

After a nap in the COMFORTABLE hotel bed and a last lunch at our favorite Hereford Arms, we were ready for my work leaving drinks at the Albannach. AND, we saw Mick Jagger leaving from a hotel across the street. Not a bad night.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Moving day: well, the UK part at least

The movers came bright and early this morning... It was nice to sit on the couch and watch. The only one who didn't enjoy it was Candy; she spent the time in her pet carrier. We put her out on the landing to get some air.

After 2 years in the UK, we thought that we had mastered the art of understanding English, no matter how strong the British accent. Meet our movers this morning. I'm not sure where they were from, but it sounded like "umjht jkj oieij jkjnkjkj atsjnij sea freight kjor ekjkj air freight mjkoke Arsenal kwjepokk kje football"

That's not a BBQ grill. It's a cat in a pet carrier on our window landing.
Moving van
Boxes

Ohhh.. this was funny. Our landlord is selling the flat. The estate agent thought it would be a good idea to send out the inspector on the same day as our move. He had some surprise when he turned up.

Love the power of moving. That's right. Parking suspended in front of our flat. Reason: The Nori's are moving (actually it says "John Mason Removal" (the moving company) but you get the point.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Here we go again...

Although the we cannot official pack our possessions (due to customs and insurance reasons), we've started to dismantle our flat in anticipation of the movers who show up on Tuesday.

That creepy looking hand in the picture seems to be crying out from the mess... Next stop for these items: USA

Friday, March 28, 2008

I'll (actually) miss: my place of employment in London

Today was my last day of work at PwC in the UK. It ended a manic week of sorting out admin, passing files to people, completing tasks, etc... Sadly, I said goodbye to the many people that I have become close with over the last two years. It's weird to say that I'll miss work... but I think I really will; at least the people that is.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

We'll miss: The river and the bridges between our flat and Westminster
We took a long walk the other night from our flat to Westminster (Big Ben) via the River Thames... There's something magical about the bridges along the way.
Battersea Bridge
The beautiful Albert Bridge
Chelsea Bridge
The end of the walk: Westminster

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter from London


Beth is cookin' up something special

Saturday, March 22, 2008

We'll miss: Pubs

You're probably thinking that we have a drinking problem... Reflecting on many of the blog postings we have done, many of the shots show us (really me) drinking beer. The reason for this is to tribute the local brew and commemorate our experience (actually, I've always taken pictures showing the label/brand - because I ALWAYS forget to remember it!).
There is something special about pubs in England. Unfortunately, due to the smoking ban and changes in consumer taste, traditional pubs are closing every week and being replaced by "gastropubs" which are upscale versions with fancier/pricier food.
As yesterday was Good Friday, we shared fish and chips at a pub in Notting Hill. Happy Easter everyone.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

We'll miss: some of the signs

This sign was setup not far from my office this afternoon. My guess is it's in preparation for the long Easter weekend (which seems to be more about partying than faith).

If someone is drunk enough to actually urinate in the street, do you think this sign will stop them?


Sunday, March 16, 2008

We'll miss: The friends we've made in London

We had a gathering last night at a local pub, The Hollywood Arms with many of the friends we've made in the last few years. We've been lucky to have met such great people...

Liz and Matt - Authentic British friends... It's not just American expats that we've met
Heather and Jason - expats representing Raleigh, NC
Katy and Jeremy - expats from St. Louis/Alabama/Texas... somewhere in that neck of the woods... We've been lucky to know Katy and Jeremy for most of our two years here

Helen and Neil - Another authentic British couple... They have been more than just welcoming hosts

Janice and Chris - new expats just getting used to the experience of customer service in this country

Noel - Greece, Boston, London... not sure if she considers herself an expat anymore
Nonye - expat from Chicago

Heather, Beth, me and Kelly
Beth and Katy

Kelly and Andrew - expats from Alabama... deep, deep South
Christie and Tim - expats from Nebraska.... their time is almost up as well


Friday, March 14, 2008

Won't miss: The Post Office.

I remember my first experience at our local branch. All I wanted to do was mail a card, but I needed a stamp. After waiting in a loooooong line (of people doing non-post related things such as paying their TV bill), the following conversation ensued:

Me: Hiya (British greeting), I just need to post this and I have to buy a stamp.
Them: Right, that will be 34 Pence.
Me: Great. (Pays the fee)
Them: Here you are. (Hands stamped envelope back to me)
Me: Can you post it?
Them: No, we don't do that here
Me: ?!?!?!?!? (this is a POST OFFICE right?)
Them: There's a letter box outside the pub, you can post it there.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Paris c'est bonne


As mentioned, we took a weekend city hop to Paris with some Eurostar points. 2:15 hours from the new St. Pancreas station. We'll definitely miss its proximity (in the spirit with the, we'll miss, we won't miss list).


Pics below

Versailles Hall of Mirrors
Versailles

Ma belle femme in Versailles' back yard
Versailles


The weather was not spectacular
We had a GREAT meal at La Coupole


Iconic Metro sign


Je m'appelle Rino (Beth told me how to spell this - hence my C+ in French class throughout High School)


Où est Rino?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

We won't miss: Random weather - by the hour!

You could wake up to a perfectly sunny day. If you forget your umbrella, or "Brolly" as they say here, you could be in a tough situation about an hour later.

Take the weather yesterday, for example.

9 AM

10 AM

And this pattern repeated 4 times throughout the day (I counted). At least it keeps the day interesting.

Monday, March 10, 2008

We'll miss: Random days around town... stumbling upon great exhibits, shops and restaurants. (And I'll certainly miss having a great bloggin' friend who can write all about it, so my lazy butt doesn't have to!)

Click here for Heather's post. We'll update on our weekend in Paris shortly.

Friday, March 07, 2008

We'll miss: Europe at our doorstep

Tomorrow AM we're off to Paris, for the weekend! In the States this would sound like fantasy or reality for only the wealthy. We'll miss being able to do these Europe City Hops so easily.

Au revoir

Thursday, March 06, 2008

We won't miss: lack of personal space on the tube

This morning's ride in to work made me think of think of this one. The Piccadilly line was down, which meant that everyone took the District line from Earl's Court. Even on a normal day though, close bodily contact with total strangers is common.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

We'll miss: Signs telling you which way to look

I fear that I've become so used to watching out for traffic from the right that I'll get it wrong when we move back to the US. White painted signs on most crossings in London tell you which way to look... Sounds trivial, but all you need is one mistake with a bus.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

We'll miss: Free healthcare


We have about a month to go... the countdown is on.


With that said, I'm going to make an effort to list out the things that we will miss and not miss about the UK - I'm sure the miss list will be much longer!


To cap our 2 years here, we're going to South Africa in April. Beth and I went to our local NHS GP this morning to get all of the shots we'll need. Amazing... We got vaccinated for a host of things and did not pay one pound. I know feelings about free healthcare are controversial in the States... but it's quite nice to walk it, receive treatment, and leave without paying for anything.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One month to go...

The sun is setting on our 2 years. Ok, that was cheesy.

I will miss being able to just walk out of my office with an Americano (closest you can get to filter coffee), walk halfway across the Hungerford Bridge and see this.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another weekend of walks...
This past weekend we took our trusty book along for another walk - this time the itinerary was The City. For those of you who don't know, The City of London is actually 1 square mile - less than 10,000 people live in The City - however 340,000 work in it... compare it to downtown NYC. The City itself is ancient and has many of the narrow roads and alleys that people associate with London.
Temple Church - As seen in The Da Vinci Code
Royal Courts of Justice - technically in Westminster
Statue at the Temple Church
Somewhere along the walk

The Gherkin next to the famous Lloyd's of London building whose interior is on the exterior
Somewhere else

First Coffee House in London

Monday, February 11, 2008

Weekend walks
It's tough to complain about the weather in England when it's in the high 50's/low 60's (F) and clear in early Feb. This past weekend was just that. We spent both days taking a long walk in remote sections of London. With our trusty book in hand Walking London, we explored Dulwich (on Saturday) and Syon Park taking us through Richmond and Twickenham (on Sunday). The Sunday walk was 4.5 miles and took us along the Thames.
Dulwich
Park in Dulwich
Dulwich College
The Conservatory in Syon Park - part of the Syon House
Syon
Somewhere on the Thames (or more precisely, an offshoot of it)
Syon Park

Thames
Train platform on the way home

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Budapest
Our European weekend getaways are winding down... One of the last cities on the list was Budapest. Despite the gloomy weather and the fact that we had to cut the trip a bit short due to the sad loss of a close family member back home, we still made the best of the weekend.
Castle Quarter
Chain Bridge
View near Matthias Church
View of Pest from Buda - Parliament in the distance

Parliament
A gypsy player serenading Beth

The Danube
Saint Stephen's Basilica

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Advertising in the UK

After almost 2 years here... I still don't understand the advertising concepts in the UK. Commercials, print ads, fliers, etc... They make no sense to me. In fact, I find them annoying.

Take for example, the sight of this when I got off the tube the other morning:

It's an advertisement for Gym Box, a new high-end gym up on the Strand. The last thing that comes to mind when I see a guy dressed in a plastic gold suit (on stilts) is going to the gym. Once I see they are advertising for Gym Box (men handing out fliers are not in the picture), the only thing that comes to mind is that (a) the place must be a rip-off if they can afford to stick this guy out on a sidewalk, or (b) they spend all of their money on advertising concepts and nothing on equipment.

I know you marketing buffs out there are likely to say "hey, but at least you remember it now... it stuck in your mind...." Right it did; I know never to go there on the basis of the picture above.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

When we realized that our time in London was quickly whittling away, we also realized that we had a long list of things to see and do before we could go. So, our weekends are now spent running around London in an attempt to check things off said list.

This weekend: The newly opened London Transport Museum, fun and folly in Covent Gardens, birthday drinks with friends, dinner at Goucho, the National Portrait Gallery, and lunch at a "1950's American Diner," mmmm...


Here's me at the Transport Museum with Mr. and Mrs. Ed. Am I the only one who wishes she had lived during an age when horses were the main form of transportation? Yes? Really?


And Rino is very excited to sit in an old train car. Well, it was First Class.


Bus stop.


The National Portrait Gallery had a great exhibition on Pop Art.


Finally, we topped it all off with burgers and shakes at "Ed's Easy Diner." (My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard...ARRRG stupid song!)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rino!

I just want to wish my lovely hubby a very happy 31st birthday today. And, while I'm at it, a happy birthday to Matt, Neil, and Terry as well!


The birthday boy. I baked Rino a cake for today, and was lucky enough to have brought some Betty Crocker cake mix back with us from the US! Mmm, a taste of home.



Rino also received a lovely new briefcase from Selfridges. And candy received a new bag. Everyone was happy. Though, I don't think Candy is showing proper respect to the Selfridges bag.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Chichester
We took a day trip to Chichester yesterday. Chichester is a small cathedral city located in West Sussex... It took about 90 minutes to get there by train. The town is dominated by the Chichester Cathedral, which was built in the 12th century.
Some pics below.
Sign from a local pub. We ate at local pub called The Fountain - supposedly haunted by a man and his dog.
View of the town from the cathedral grounds
Cathedral

Inside the cathedral - reflection of some of the stained glass windows
Cathedral