London Marathon Fun

April 24th, 2008 by matt

So my silence isn’t because I’m lazy. Since I last wrote, I’ve spent a short time in Chicago, Cleveland and even some time in London. I’ll get into more details over time. For now, I want to add a quick entry about the London Marathon. Our friend, C***** (shall remain anonymous), actually lives in our flat with us with her friend, A****. It’s tight, I know. But because of her UK residence, they were able to get numbers for this years marathon. Amazing! As a result, Carolyn and I decided to check it out. It was a hectic and rainy day (hell, it hailed a little after our friends finished), but it was fun to watch. I think everyone found these signs/suggestions quite funny:

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The words are small but it says, “Don’t wee in people’s gardens”. Very thoughtful of the race organizers to remind dehydrated people in the middle of a 26 mile race that people’s gardens are not, in fact, toilets. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m off to Paris for more office moves, then I return in an attempt to get everything in order in 4 days before I make the big trip to the US. At that time, Carolyn and I finally get married. 16 days away! How cool! I will post lots of catch-up stuff since it’s been pretty action packed lately.

Birthday Power 2008

April 16th, 2008 by matt

So this past Friday, I moved fully into my 30s. I can no longer say “I’m only barel 30” anymore (well, I guess I never did). For this special of special days, I assembled a mรถtley crรผe of friends and coworkers for one of my favourite meals in the London, the Marquess Tavern. That’s the place where you order the amount of beef you want in kilograms and it shows up on the bone. Yummy. Needless to say, much food and beer was consumed and, many of the attendees had never been there and all walked away happy.

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Here is this times selection of beef. Not everyone eats beef, so other options were consumed as well, I assure you.

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Here’s Matt with a nice Belgian beer and a skeptical looking Carolyn. It was the only beer I had all evening. Really!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

I have many incriminating photos of other people. But, this being a tasteful blog, I cannot show them. The night lasted until 2am when Carolyn Wrobel and her boyfriend Mike showed up in preparation for the upcoming London Marathon. We’ll have more on that shortly!

A Quick Trip Through Chicago

April 14th, 2008 by matt

Well, my wedding season is upon me. Four weddings in 5 weeks. This includes my own. Yikes. In the meantime, I’ve got a bunch of postings which will I’ll hopefully put online soon. Alas, Carolyn won’t help me (*cough* *cough*) so I’ve got to do it myself.

Anyhoo, the real point of this email isn’t passive aggressiveness, but to mention that, as phase one of my month of weddings, I will be passing through Chicago! For 12 hours! Since Cleveland, which is where wedding one is located, has no direct flights from London, I thought I’d spend a night in Chicagoland. I’ll be arriving on Thursday 17 April and be free by hopefully 7 or 8pm. I’m hoping to catch up with folks. I don’t know where to eat yet, but if you have any suggestions, lemme know as I’m torn between a number of places. Also, if you’re in town that night and free, drop me an email and I’ll send you the details of the plan. Hope to be able to see folks, even if for a brief moment! My flight to Cleveland leaves the next morning, so I’m not around for that long. Sniffle.

A Tale of Two Stadiums

April 9th, 2008 by matt

So, it’s time for a little more English football fun. Almost a year ago, I had the good fortune to see my local football team, Arsenal, play in their brand new stadium. It was a fun time. But I hadn’t thought much about the old stadium. I knew where it was and that they were trying to preserve the exterior as they turned the rest into apartments. I also knew that the initial consensus was that the new stadium lacked the homey-ness of the old one. The original Arsenal stadium originated in a time when people would pack into standing-room only sections and fit 70,000 people in a stadium that would later fit about 40,000 people seated. It lacked corporate sponsorship and pre-dated the big money era of Premier league football.

Inspired by Carolyn’s run past the original, I decided to finally seek it out. First things first; I am completely amused by the whole talk about how the stadium moved so far away. It moved a whopping 1/2 a mile down the road which, in an area as cramped London is kind of necessary. Second, it’s located in an amazing fashion. From the outside, you could walk right by it from almost every direction and not realize that there’s a stadium right there. Only the the East stands had frontage on the road, the rest seemed to be “protected” by houses. On each side there was a space for fans to get into the complex but it really truly just sat in the middle of a neighbourhood. I’m sure that large chunks of it have been leveled for this new block of apartments, but the situation of it was very cool. Anyway, let’s do a little compare and contrast:

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This is the large frontage part of the old stadium. This about the best “distance” shot I could get because from all other angles, this shot just disappears.

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This was the West entrance. Yes, those are houses that surround it which means that the stadium was literally in their backyard. Wrigley Field, eat your heart out.

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This is the new complex. You can see it from all sorts of angles, through roads, while approaching it. Anyway, it sounds like the fans have been getting more comfortable with their new surroundings, even as Arsenal has choked at the end of this season. But, it’s a stark contrast to their old home.

April (Snow) Showers

April 6th, 2008 by matt

So to say this winter in England was mild would be an understatement. I think, with a couple of weeks being the exception, the weather was never under freezing. It wasn’t warm, but it was nice and pleasant compared to a winter in NY or Chicago. So what do we open our eyes to this morning? Snow! Big fat flakes of it. And it has stuck for a whopping 4 hours. Behold!

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(hmm, this picture doesn’t quite do the snow flakes justice. If you feel like seeing a gigantic picture of it, here you go).

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Ok, so it’s not sticking to the street. And, if the car owners wait another hour or two, they can drive off without scraping their cars. But, it’s been four hours and there’s still some snow falling. So it’s our only true winter day in London for the winter. Except it’s April. Ooops! ๐Ÿ™‚

The Rhine River Valley โ€” Day Two

April 5th, 2008 by matt

So we awoke nice and early for our second day of traveling the Rhine River valley. Unlike the previous day where we covered little ground but saw a great deal. Today, we needed to get some miles under our belt while seeing a lot. And only had until 4pm to get to the Frankfurt airport.

Our first major stop was Loreley, a large rock jutting up above the river that provides a wonderful scenic viewpoint of the area. It’s about a 400 ft climb and we decided to get some exercise. We get to the top, slightly winded to find there’s a road on the back side of it and a tour bus of people hanging around. That’s always a fun feeling. Here we worked hard to get our scenic spot and these people just sat around. Well, here’s what it looks like from atop Loreley:

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Note the ginormous ship. The Rhine still gets used for a lot of shipping. This picture doesn’t show it, but along the right bank of the river in this direction, there are two castles: Burg Katz and Burg Maus. That’s right, cat and mouse. They were built by a local duke and archbishop as ways to make each other look cooler and more powerful than the other. Katz won.

We were now in castle country. We made it a goal to check out a castle that hadn’t fallen into ruins and one that had. Our choice for the former was Marksburg. It was one of the few castles that wasn’t bombed during WWII and, as a result was still well preserved after 800 years. Alas, we were hoping to do a self-guided tour of sorts, especially since time was short and we found the only way in was a guided tour, only in German, that would take an hour. So we took in the beauty of its exterior and headed onward.

We made it to the top of the area, Koblenz and made a bit of a U-turn to check out the left bank. Our first stop was a town called Boppard, which is a very nicely preserved old town. We managed to catch the beautiful main church as services were getting out:

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It was a really nice town, sitting right on the river with lots of wonderful old buildings that reminded me of what I picture towns up in the Alps. And it segued into our successful tour of a castle ruin in the next town over, St Goar. This was Burg Rheinfels and used to be the largest castle in the region. Unlike Marksburg, this place was self-guided and encouraged exploration of the ruins. Some parts of it had well groomed paths among the ruins while others were crumbling staircases that led into completely unlit rooms and corridors. As someone who likes to scramble around and explore things like this, I was having a blast. It was a sprawling complex of rooms and fortifications and on many levels that you check out. Really nicely laid out.

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Once the castle was mostly explored, we made our way to the last town we stopped in, Bacharach. We found a nice place for lunch and one more tasty glass of Riesling. Alas, it was time to take our leave and race back to the airport for our flights home.

The Rhine River Valley — Day One

April 3rd, 2008 by matt

So I managed to get Carolyn to post on the blog. Cool! If you think she should post more, feel free to voice your opinion and maybe she can be convinced. ๐Ÿ™‚

As promised, it’s my turn to contribute. I’m going to break it into two parts. Last weekend, we got to spend a lovely, relaxing time in the Rhine River valley. Specifically, we hung out in the part renowned for its Riesling wine. This 60km long stretch of land is an UNESCO heritage site and it’s understandable why. It rolls along with a peaceful, beautiful pace. Every few miles, perched up high, are castles built back when people had pissing contests by building bigger fortresses along the hillside cut by the Rhine river. And at the foot of each castle is a cute German town.

We rented a car to drive into the area. Alas, the map the rental car agency provided was completely useless and we got to see a lot more of the Autobahn due to the fact that the signage is shite and the exits are pretty far apart on the A-3. However, the plus was it allowed me to open up a bit in our top-of-the-line Opal. They can in fact go 100mph. Viva speed limits! Let’s ignore the fact that I was still being passed.

After a little detour, we blindly felt our way to the main road into the right bank of the river and into Eltville. It was a cute town but very dead since it was Saturday afternoon and the quiet season. We had lunch in a place with tasty looking cakes and no English spoken. So we picked blindly on the menu and hoped for the best.

The bulk of this day was spent simply enjoying the entrance to this lovely area. We had gotten some recommendations on some places to see and, as we cruised down the road, we saw a sign for one of them: Schloss Vollrads. It turned out to be a winery with some very good wine. Now, this being Riesling country, we had to partake:

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After a glass, we trekked onward to the gateway to it all: Rudesheim (pardon my misspellingingsjks!). The guidebook we have seemed to make this out as kind of a tourist trap. But, it being the slow season, we were able to soak it in. It certainly is touristy, but it’s very nice and friendly and walkable. So we parked our car and looked around.

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This is the central square of the town. Those cool ass trees are everywhere. The church was rebuilt after it was bombed in World War II.

Perched above Rudesheim is a gigantic monument erected in honor of the unification of Germany. To get there, you can hike up the smallish mountain or take a chairlift up. Here would be Carolyn on the chairlift:

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Look at the church and beautiful blue skies! We had wonderful weather.

Now, I mentioned that this is Riesling country. I’ve never been a white wine fan, but the stuff we had was quite tasty and refreshing. The area is covered in vineyards.

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We made our way to the top of the mountain, took in the beauty around us and strolled back down. We still needed to find a hotel. We found a nice hotel where we were the only people staying there. Dinner was a local winery’s restaurant. We both had some absolutely delicious soup and wine as well as very good mains. We ended the night in the (I kid you not) pub on the ground floor of our hotel where I think the local 12 year olds go to drink (at least in the off-season). Then we retired for the night in anticipation of a very early morning so we could hit the castles and sights of the Rhine River valley. That’ll be next!