Hello from London

March 31st, 2008 by carolyn

I thought some of you might be curious about what I (Carolyn) have been up to during my trip to London (while Matt has been at work). While I have been keeping busy getting settled into the apartment and job searching, I have found a fair amount of time to explore the city and do some touristy things too. I am not much of a blogger so I am just going to include a pictorial journey of my last week with some descriptions. 🙂

On St. Patrick’s Day, we celebrated with Guinness and I discovered the joy of half pints.

halfpint.jpg

Last week I went to the Kew Botanical Gardens, on Dina’s recommendation, to see an exhibition of Henry Moore sculptures. I was able to get to the gardens on the London Overground rail system which is about 20 feet from the apartment for just one pound with no transfers! There were over 20 sculptures scattered throughout the gardens and I spent several hours wandering through the plants and art. Here is one sculpture set near the tropical green house.
kewgardens.jpg
This past weekend, I went to Germany. I got to explore Frankfurt, Germany a little bit. It is a really interesting city. Frankfurt is the financial center of Germany, extremely modern with tons of skyscrapers, and has an amazing array of museums. It was pretty much entirely rebuilt after the city was devastated by allied bombing during World War II. I spent one day wandering around the reconstructed old city, visiting museums and walking on the riverfront.

frankfurtoldsquare.jpg

frankfurttallbuildings.jpg

Another day, I took a train down to Heidelberg about one hour from Frankfurt. Heidelberg is a beautiful town with a large university, ruins of a historic palace, and tons of students and tourists.

heidelberg.jpg
Matt and I had a chance to travel in the Rhine river valley which Matt can tell you all more about tomorrow.

And a Merry Easter to You!

March 24th, 2008 by matt

Since I’ve got another bank holiday, I thought I’d start the day off with a little Easter festivities. In keeping with our youth, all parties involved this weekend made sure we ate plenty of Cadbury candy (mmmm, cream eggs). However, on Easter Sunday, Carolyn and I decided to take a trip to church. Well, which church does one go to for Easter whilst living in London?

easterwestminsterabbey.jpg

Why Westminster Abbey, of course! It was a very chilly, snowy March day and we got off to a bit of a late start and arrived just as things were getting started. And there was still a line out the door. However, the folks running things were very efficient and the line moved quickly an we managed to get inside to a standing room only service. We found a nice pillar to lean against which afforded us a decent view of things. Alas, being part of the unwashed masses, we were standing in the back half which is behind a large decorative divider which made it hard to see much beyond the Gospel reading (which was done right in front of us) and the backs of the London Brass who played for the service. The music was beautiful overall. They had an organist, the London Brass and the Westminster Choir performing during parts like the offering and Communion. It was a very nice way to spend your Easter morning.

What’s that you say? That picture could have been taken anytime since it’s always gray and rainy in London? Here’s the Easter program:

easterprogram.jpg

Hope everyone had a happy Easter. And to those of you in the US who had to work on Easter Monday? Ttthhhbbt!! 🙂

Adur Beer Festival and Whatnot

March 23rd, 2008 by matt

While we get less bank/federal holidays in England than the US, we do get a 4 day weekend for Easter. In honor of this, Carolyn and I took a trip down to see Dina and Adrian in Brighton. As it were, there’s a beer festival in Adrian’s hometown of Shoreham, which is a nice short trip from their flat. Naturally, we needed to partake of the fun and games that a beer festival has to offer.

goodfridayadurwalk.jpg

Those of you with exceptional memory might recall my trip along the River Adur. This picture is near where it empties into the Channel in Shoreham. The cool-ass buildings in the distance make up a private school. This as a meandering route to the festival so people could take in some natural beauty.

goodfridaymatt.jpg

Here stands a solitary figure guarding Britain from the Germans. I’m standing next to the Shoreham International (really) Airport on the remains of, I think, an old WWII anti-aircraft defensive thing. It was very very windy that day.

The festival was in the Red Lion which I’d been to previously. For those of you unaware of beer festivals, it’s basically where a vast number of good beers are set out for people to buy samples of (half or full pints — ok, so more than a sample). This festival had about 70 different beers on tap. Take a look see:

goodfridaykegs.jpg

Lots of choices! Well, because it was a very cold March day, seating in the protected areas of the pub were highly prized. After moving tables about 4 times in the first hours, we managed to score a coveted indoor table. Here are Dina, Carolyn and Adrian soaking in some afternoon sun and beer:

goodfridaygroup1.jpg

It wasn’t just the four of us. We ended up with a jolly old crew consisting of Heather (former coworker of Adrian), Ben, Lou, and Heather’s brother, David. Alas, I managed to snap nothing but shit pictures of all of them, so I figure I should spare them the embarrassment of posting them online. 🙂 We spent a good 3 hours there enjoying ourselves and the nice setting. Now, this being a pretty small town in southern England, it wasn’t just a lot of beer snobs/geeks sampling beer. We had the good fortune to meet what might be described as a cross between white trash and frat boys if this weren’t England. I guess it would chavs here. Anyway, they are harmless, but it can be a little annoying when the rain and hail comes down and 100 people who all know each other come rushing into a room that normally fits about 20. And, each time one of them walks in, there’s a big “HEY!!” that goes around the room. Eventually, the sheer number of people got to be a bit too much, so we moved on to other pubs. We met up with Adrian’s parents in a pub called the Amsterdam and then went on to a pub called the Sovereign:
goodfridaysovereign.jpg

It was a nice local pub with a good friendly vibe. We all did what you usually do at a pub: socializing, getting to know new people and drinking. Here’s another picture of some of the happy crew:

goodfridaygroup2.jpg

As always happens the night winds down and everyone goes their separate ways. The four of us went back to Dina and Adrians. Alas, the next day, Carolyn was having all sorts of problems with her leg which, coupled with it being cold and snowy (yeah, it’s snowed a little for the last 3 days) meant the next day was just a nice lazy weekend kind of day. It did give us a chance to a have a freshly baked Guinness cake. Here’s the cake with the chef:

goodfridaycake.jpg

Carolyn and I are back in London now. We’ll post about our actual Easter Sunday tomorrow.

London Fire

March 17th, 2008 by matt

This was the view when I came out of my elevator this morning in my office:

buildingfire.jpg

My coworker came in for some work on Saturday and they were just putting it out. Since I took this picture, it seems as though the roof has collapsed even more and there people milling about taking pictures inside and whatnot. It was unoccupied at the time however, the part to the left was (I think) still an active hipster kind of bar. The building is literally 20 feet from my building, just across a street but it seemed to be pretty well contained.

Wow, this guy got action photos. Crazy!

She’s here!!!

March 16th, 2008 by matt

Well, it took a year, but Carolyn is finally making the move. She arrived for her first really extended stay on Friday night. She makes the final, official move after the wedding (in 2 months!). Now we’re stocking my bachelor pad up to make it a little more friendly to others as Anna and Chewy get used to the confusion of another person around. And, as luck would have it, the hot water broke in my place. Allegedly, it’ll be fixed tomorrow morning. I never realized how much I love having a shower nearby. We have some nice friends who are letting us borrow theirs, but it takes a little trip to get there. Never fear, Linda, your daughter is not stuck without a hot shower.

In the meantime, I’m obviously very happy to have her here. It’s nicer to have your loved ones around in person than over the phone. And, the waiting is over as Carolyn begins her adjustment to a pretty big move. Here’s a picture of Carolyn and her new roommates:

carolynannachewy.jpg

What’s going on

March 11th, 2008 by matt

Just a little quick update on things. Carolyn moves here in 4 days (yeah!), my place needs work to get ready for a second tenant (boo!). I’m cat-sitting for my coworker who’s on holiday and they’re both very cute (yeah!), Anna hasn’t been the healthiest I’ve ever seen her since she moved here and I’m giving her medicine to settle her stomach which she just loooooves taking (boo!). With that in mind, my life this week will pretty much be cats, work and cleaning. But I enjoyed seeing some spirited debate about these bags. I’m excited to see these snazzy new ones they seem to be selling in the US. All we have here are canvas bags which aren’t exciting, they just work. 🙂

Plastic Shopping Bags?

March 2nd, 2008 by matt

So I’m not always the most environmentally friendly person in the world. Carolyn does a much better job of it than I do. But, I’ve always been confused about how plastic shopping bags suddenly appeared at some point in my youth and became the standard for buying things. I know there’s always some study out there claiming paper bags are worse for the environment overall, but that seems a little suspicious. Anyway, lately, I’ve noticed people have slowly been picking up on a newish trend which is going towards reusable cloth bags. This seems like a nice idea.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, aside from my more environmentally conscious friends, I hadn’t noticed a whole lot of increased use of these bags in the US. In the UK, there’s definitely a nation-wide trend towards cloth bags. The government is sabre-rattling about getting stores to charge for people using plastic bags. I’ve got a cloth bag I try to bring with me all the time so I can use it for shopping. If I don’t always have it, I never seem to have it when I need to go shopping.

Today, I had an interesting experience. I went to a bakery to get something tasty baked goods (there are seemingly tons of them around me) and, instead of just handing me my roll and baguette, the woman behind the counter put them in a free cloth bag. I looked on the bag and the local borough council seems to be sponsoring this giveaway.  That’s a really nice idea. And all the major grocery stores either sell reusable bags or give them away.
On a related note, back in 2002 (yes, 6 years ago) Ireland imposed a €0.15 (later increased to €0.22) tax on any plastic bags which decreased its usage by 90%. That’s impressive. Seems like a smart idea. People aren’t necessarily going to do this on their own initiative and if you leave it to the grocery stores, people bitch to them and they give in. Countries like China and Taiwan and Singapore are apparently putting bans on them outright.
So, my question to my US friends and family: Is this something that is becoming more of an issue in the US? Or is it confined to the damn dirty hippies in the cities and university towns? 🙂