Goodbye London

October 17th, 2010 by matt

Our stuff is on a boat, we’ve moved out of our flat, our finances are sorted, a myriad of goodbyes have been said and all the other little things required have been dealt with (we hope). It’s time to head home again.


In a few hours, we lug ourselves to Heathrow for one last flight and say goodbye to our home for these past 3+ years. Chewy will join us the next day on his second trans-Atlantic flight. It’s been a wonderful experience and we’ll miss it, but a new adventure calls.

Goodbye London.

Goodbye London

September 23rd, 2010 by matt

Well, this was it, 30 minutes before we threw our packs on our backs to head to the airport and parts unknown. After that, we had no keys, the flat was officially vacated. We’d already tearfully said goodbye to Chewy and left him with the wonderful Heather and now it was time to say goodbye to our home of 3.5 (for me, at least) years.


A sad moment, but time for a new adventure.

Saying Good-bye

September 18th, 2010 by carolyn

We have hit the final countdown in London and the past two weeks have seen Matt and I both finishing up at work.  We have been exceptionally lucky in that we both have been graced with amazing colleagues.  We have been fortunate enough to not only enjoy working with our colleagues but have developed some of our closest friendships in London through work.  It has probably been the key reason why we like it here so much.

So, saying goodbye has not been easy.  Last week I had my work leaving do at the Vortex, a jazz club in Dalston, that I have been meaning to check out for ages.  It was a lovely evening for sitting outside and enjoying some pints and food and then a few of us listened to the Deirdre Cartwright Band upstairs.  Matt’s leaving do was this week and we went to the Old Fountain, one of Matt’s favorite London pubs for some general merriment including ale followed by some Malaysian food.  It was great to celebrate with good friends but not easy to say good-bye.  Maybe we will leave it at so long for now.

More Flashbacks: London with my parents

August 28th, 2010 by carolyn

We have also been lucky to have my parents visit several times during our time in London.  But it seems we never got a chance to properly document all these trips.  So here are a few flashbacks to the adventures we have had on their visits.

My mom first came over in April 2008 and we had a girls weekend in London.  Shopping at Harrods, Liberty and street markets, enjoying high tea at Browns and the Kensington Orangery, taking in a show at the Victoria Palace and partaking in some culture at the V&A and the Royal Academy of the Arts.

billyelliot.jpg liberty.jpg

arts.jpg pic.jpg

browns.jpg  orangery.jpg
Both my parents next visited in February/March 2009 for a ski trip in Zermatt, previously mentioned here, and some more time in London.  This time around we experienced the amazing train journey the Glacier Express in Switzerland (well until a mini-avalanche cut the journey a bit short).


This trip was when we finally made it to the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London with my parents.  We also explored some new places including the re-opened Monument and the London Eye, saw an Opera at the Royal Albert Hall, enjoyed a few pubs and visited Dina and Adrian in Brighton.  My mom and dad also kept themselves busy without us visiting other friends, museums and taking long walks on the Thames.
narrowboats.jpg monument.jpg

royalalbert.jpg brighton.jpg

bigbeneye.jpg eye.jpg

My parents returned to London with a side trip to Scotland in October 2009.  We weren’t able to join them in Scotland but we kept pretty busy in London taking a narrow boat ride on regent’s canal, visiting Winchester Cathedral, taking a Halloween walk in Hampstead and visiting Somerset House.  And as usual we fit in some good pubs, food and tea.

winchester.jpg  somersethouse.jpg

halloween.jpg  routemaster.jpg
The last time my parents were here was at Christmas time last year when we met up in Madrid, Spain to celebrate.  It was great fun to go back to the city again and remember my semester studying there in 1998.  That trip was previously documented on the blog here and here =).  We didn’t mention the fact that we took a day trip to Avila, a beautiful walled city, and to Segovia, which was where I had my orientation for my semester in Madrid, while we were in Spain.  It was great to go back with Matt and my parents and see the city decorated for Christmas.

avila.jpg   segovia.jpg

Most of these photos are courtesy of my dad so he is strangely missing from the recap.  I promise he was there.  Thanks for joining us on some great adventures!

Flashback to more London Exploring

August 21st, 2010 by carolyn

Back in June, Marsha and Judy came to London on a 2 week tour of the UK and Paris.  We were excited to see them and to have an excuse to show them around London and do some more exploring ourselves.  We didn’t take nearly enough photos during their visit so maybe they can share some of theirs to add to this post.  Each time we have had visitors in London we have eagerly asked them “Would you like to visit the Tower of London?” thinking we should save visiting the Tower until we had visitors to share it with.  And each time our visitors said “Nah, that’s okay.”  So we were thrilled when Marsha and Judy said yes.  So we finally had a chance to visit the Tower during the day (see previous entry re: the nighttime Key Ceremony) and see the Crown Jewels which are suitably impressive.

We also took the chance to finally visit St. Paul’s Cathedral and visit the crypt and climb the steps to the dome to enjoy the views of the city.
We spent an afternoon wandering Borough Market enjoying the sights and smells.  Judy and I particularly enjoyed the mushroom pate.  If you haven’t tried – go now!  We snapped some photos of bacon.


We spent sometime at old favourites like the British Museum, Vietnamese restaurants in Shoreditch, enjoying prawns on toast at the Nobody Inn and sampling pub food around London.  I didn’t manage to get any photos of these spots.

While the weather was mostly grey and cool during Judy and Marsha’s visit, we did get one day where the sun tried to poke out and we took advantage by heading over to Primrose hill to enjoy the view, try out a new pub – The Princess of Wales – and wander through the rose garden in Regent’s Park.  Marsha has all the photos but we hit the garden in prime rose blooming season.  It was beautiful!

Exploring London

August 9th, 2010 by carolyn

So I have officially hit “tick that off the list” mode which essentially means that I am trying to take advantage of as much as I can in London before our upcoming move back to the US.  I am trying not to be too obsessed with it but on the other hand there is still so much to see.  I would be impossible to see everything London has to offer even if you lived here your whole life but I am doing my best with the time I have.  Here is a little round-up of some of the spots I/we have been over the past few weeks.

I think one of the best ways to explore London is by foot.  One of Matt’s friends gave him a great gift when he moved to London – City Walks 50 Adventures on Foot.  Basically it contains 50 cards with different neighborhood walks around London and at this point we figure we have done all but about 3 or 4 of them.  Recently we covered a few more cards when we visited a former colleague of mine in Chiswick, walked around Chelsea, and did a pseudo-pub crawl around Clapham Common.

In Chelsea, we visited the Physic Garden founded in 1673 as a training garden for apothecaries.
chelseagarden.jpg  garden.jpg

Next we walked through the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a retirement home for British soldiers /pensioners and spotted one of the remaining elephants from the London Parade of Elephants.
rch.JPG  elephant.jpg
In Clapham, we visited the Common (Note what the amazing sunny, rain free summer we have been having has done to the grass!) and some pubs.

common.jpg pub.jpg

My second favorite way of walking around London is taking a guided tour with London Walks.  We have taken quite a few walks in Greenwich, Hampstead, Canterbury and East London.  After work last week I decided to join a tour around Westminster because I haven’t really spent much time in that area.  We got the general history of the Palace of Westminster (Parliament) and Westminster Abbey and also got to wander the streets in the neighborhood.  The most interesting part of the tour was seeing these signs for WWII bomb shelters on a very posh intact street just behind the Abbey.

This past weekend, I visited another London Park – Gunnersbuy Park in Acton Town to join in the London Mela Festival, an annual South Asian festival featuring music, food and fun fair rides.  Sorry no photos.
I have also been trying to fit in a few of the smaller museums around London. We thoroughly enjoyed the Wellcome Trust, a personal collection of medical oddities, and the Wallace Collection, a personal collection of master artwork in an amazing home full of furniture from the time of the French Revolution.  The Dickens Museum was worth a stop to see the place where Oliver Twist was written.  We also returned to one of my favorite London spots, the British Library, to see an amazing exhibition of maps from all over the world and all through history.  Here is a photo of the outside of the British Library where you can find the original manuscript of Alice in Wonderland, the Magna Carta and supposed notes written in Shakespeare’s own hand among other original works.


I’ve got a few more weeks and plan to continue exploring this amazing city.  If anyone has any suggestions or wants to join me let me know!

Latitude Festival 2010

July 24th, 2010 by matt

The summer music festival is something of a modern British tradition. It’s gotten to the point where, every weekend in June, July and August, there are multiple weekend long festivals to go to. People show up in a field somewhere, put up tents, drink, eat and watch music. They all tend to have a specific demographic they are aiming for and are of a variety of sizes. Last year, we tried out the whole thing with a nice small “boutique” festival called The End of the Road Festival. We had such fun, we wanted to do it again before we left. It’s nice to kind of check out on the world and spend three or four days outside with a shitload of people all (hopefully) having fun. This year, we gave the Latitude Festival a try and we were not disappointed. It’s mostly pop music, mostly in the folk/rock category and is in a beautiful park in Suffolk, about 2 hours from London.


This is the sign for the festival. And yes, those are sheep dyed multicoloured.


This is Mumford and Son playing a late afternoon set on Sunday. The weather was absolutely amazing. The band was very good and the crowd was loving it. Overall, there are over 100 music acts on 4 main stages and a couple of smaller stages so there is plenty to do. If you don’t keep yourself in check, you can feel a little overwhelmed and everyone misses something they wish they’d seen.


Here are a couple of happy concert goers.


Some of the nice bits of this festival are that it’s in a wonderful location (35,000 people and there’s a lake in the middle of it with lounge chairs if you can get them) and the variety of things to do. There is public art scattered all over the venue, tons of music, a good choice of food and drink. It’s also not just about music. They have performances throughout the day and night of poetry and literature readings. They also put on dance performances. This is Sadler’s Wells doing a snipit of Swan Lake. On top of that, the festival ran late into the night. One night, we just sat and soaked in some late night story telling on this lake stage. Another night, we danced in the woods to cheesy 80s music.


On fun thing at a gathering with so many people is to seek out some of the quieter joys that the festival organizers put around the venue. Last year, at End of the Road, we found late night games, like Jenga, something you wouldn’t think of but then you find it and have a nice little moment. One of my favourites at Latitude was finding some of the public art late on Friday night in some of the woods. There was a makeshift shack erected which would enter and then sit in the dark listening to odd noise. In that same area, we found some sort of kids area that, at 2am, was shut. But we wandered over there the next day as things were starting back up and found a small stage, some good coffee and kid friendly activities. It was a nice little intimate moment to enjoy.


So who did we spend our weekend with? Our core crew was Cath, a former coworker of Carolyn’s and our dear friends Dina and Adrian. Among our crew was also Maxine (a colleague of Carolyn’s) and her group of really nice friends. They helped make the festival a really great time. We all slept in this field in our tents with 30,000 other friends 🙂


I feel like we have very few photos of Dina, Adrian, Carolyn and I together. This one is a nice one.

Anyway, the festival was a wonderful time. It’s definitely one of the many things we’re going to miss about the UK. I know the US has things like these, hopefully we can check them out and see how they compare.

First Last

July 12th, 2010 by carolyn

Two weekends ago was the first of what will likely be many lasts in the upcoming months (and to be fair, there have probably been quite a few lasts already but Matt and I really noticed this one).  On Saturday night, Matt performed Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle in his last concert as a part of the Islington Chorale Society.  The group, based in Islington is a group of about 80 or so people who enjoy signing choral music together.  Matt has been a part of the group for the past year and a half and has performed in several concerts in venues around London.

This past concert was at St. Mark’s in Regents Park.  The chorus was accompanied by soloists, two pianos and a harmonium.  Below is a shot of the entire group during the performance.


Hopefully Matt will find a group to continue singing with back in Chicago =).

Time for Some Big Changes

July 10th, 2010 by matt

Well, we’ve not made mention of it on the blog, so I thought it was time. I started writing here in January 2007, a few months before I moved to London. Now, in the next 2-3 months, our time in London will come to an end. I’m going to transfer back to Chicago, same company, back to the same apartment. And yet, in the last 3+ years, nothing is really the same. It’s been a time of so many change for Carolyn and I, that this is just another one of those. Weddings, deaths, new friends, a million new experiences. But now it’s time to move back. We’ll keep updating here. Originally, it was mostly just for a few people (particularly Carolyn while and I were apart). It’s remained that way, but it’s also become a chance for us to make a semi-permanent (we’ll download all the entries and print them) record of what we’ve done here.

Anyway, that’s some big news! More fun to come. 🙂

Pride 2010

July 7th, 2010 by carolyn

London Pride 2010 – including a parade and rally in Trafalgar Square.


I attended for the first time last year when one of my friends informed me that the best way to celebrate was to join in the parade.  I didn’t quite trust her on that but we went to the start and jumped in.  This year we headed down to march all over again.  Last year we marched with the Amnesty Float and this year we joined the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home float (proudly blasting the Glee soundtrack) on the whole route from Baker Street to Trafalgar Square.

It was crazy to walk straight through Oxford Circus and Picadilly Circus with the road free of cars and hundreds of people lining the streets!

A Wimbledon Adventure

July 5th, 2010 by matt

Shortly after Carolyn made her move over to London, she and Dina had a lovely day out at Wimbledon. I missed out on that (since I had to work for a living *sarcasm*), but it sounded like a fun thing to try out. Finally, this year, we decided to take a World Cup break and get a couple hours of tennis in after work. We showed up at different times and got to experience the joy that is the Queue (yes, a capital Q). When you get on it, they give you a little booklet with all sorts of information about this famous line. Here would be the most orderly line in the world:


We timed this nicely and managed to get through the 1/2 mile long queueueue in about an hour and then we were through the gates and in! Now we only had about two hours for me to soak in everything, so it was a bit rushed, but here we go. First of all, we got on another line to pick up extra tickets to one of the show courts. Courts 5-14 are general seating. Anyone with a ticket to the grounds can try to find a seat to a match and enjoy. Centre Court and courts 1 and 2 (3 and 4 are not in use at the moment) are the show courts and you need to buy a ticket. If you have one of these tickets and leave early, Wimbledon will resell your ticket and give that money to charity. We decided to have a Centre Court experience. We watched Jamie Murray and his 16 year old partner in mixed doubles lose to some people we’d never heard of:


Oddly enough, we should have paid more attention to their female opponent, Vera Zvonareva. As it were, she made it to the finals in both the Women’s single and doubles (!!). She didn’t win, but it was an impressive run and we saw a little piece of it.

In case you don’t believe I was there, he I be in one of the most famous stadiums in the world:


Wimbledon is built in a hilly, leafy section of London (it doesn’t feel like you’re in London at all). The hills allow you to soak in a lot of nice views of area:


As we walked along further, we saw some drunk people waving up towards that white tent on the right hand side of the picture above. We looked closely and who did we see waving back:


That would be John McEnroe, preparing to do his BBC commentary! hehe.

Any way, we soaked in the crowds, the Pimms, the odd upper level (for the haves) and the lower levels (for the have less) that permeated throughout the grounds and saw some tennis. That included this odd match:


These two players had played 3 very long sets (all in tie breaks). Victor Hănescu was up 2-1 against Daniel Brands. Brands, looked the better player and won the fourth set. At this point, Hanescu asked to have the match called due to darkness. The chair umpire said no and Hanescu started playing badly. Then, all of a sudden, he started spitting and cursing at one of the fans! He got a warning and the crowd got a little feisty. According to wikipedia, the fan called him a gypsy and he, being Romanian, didn’t take that too well. Regardless, Hanescu proceeded to double fault that game away on purpose and then quit. Very surreal indeed.

It was good fun and I was really happy I finally got to partake of a little of it. And, it was yet another bit of London I got to see! Yeah!


June 18th, 2010 by carolyn

Flashback to March: Grey cloudy drizzle and wearing warm coats (oh wait, not that different from this week).  But actually, one of the great things about March was Mehreen came to visit.  She spent a week in Scotland and England visiting her friend in Edinburgh and us.  I love having visitors from home because it’s so nice to share our life here and our neighborhood with old friends.

Mehreen started her trip in Edinburgh and then we all meet up in York (halfway between Edinburgh and London) for an overnight visit.  Matt and I took the train (2 hour express trip) up to York Friday night and we met up with the crew.  We had a great day in York.  First, we visted the York Mininster which is one of the biggest churches in Europe.

We climbed all the steps to the roof.  Here are Kate, Mehreen and I checking out the view from the top.
York is a beautiful town with super old rambling streets like the Shambles and Whip-ma-whop-ma gate, historical buildings, a medieval wall surrounding the city, a meandering river and of course Matt’s favorite part – the train museum.

The Shambles                                                 The River and wall
shambles.JPG     wall.JPG

Little streets                                                            Old streets
whip.JPG     gate.jpg
The wall and the town                                  The National Railway Museum

wallpeople.JPG     trains.JPG

We ended a full day of touring with some excellent Chinese food.  Here is a shot of the whole group:


The next morning we got up to take the express train back to London and have a few days to show Mehreen around our neck of the woods.


We did lots of neighborhood walking around Islington and Hackney and introduced Mehreen to two of our favorite markets. First stop, Columbia Road Flower Market followed by an obligatory sunday roast

columbiard1.jpg      columbiard2.jpg
And then Spitalfields Market where we made some purchases – a coat and travel backpack – with Mehreen’s support
spitalfields1.jpg    spitalfieds2.jpg

Thanks for coming to visit Mehreen!

ACE Awards

June 17th, 2010 by carolyn

Last Thursday night I (Carolyn) went to the refurbished Stoke Newington Town Hall for the Ace Awards.  The Ace Awards was a 20’s themed work event (our version of the Oscars as my colleague called it).  The night was organized to recognize staff through a variety of awards including my colleagues who were nominated for Best Sustainable Project.  Congrats to H and A on their nomination:


I was really impressed with the lengths people went to get into the 20’s theme.  Tons of flapper dresses and zoot suits.  Some people could really rock the charleston!

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It was a nice evening to highlight the contributions of staff and enjoy a night out with the team.  Here is a view of the Town Hall from the outside:


World Cup 2010 From Abroad

June 13th, 2010 by matt

Now, I don’t know how many of you are aware in the US, but there’s this soccer tournament called the World Cup that’s a big deal :-D. Being in England for one of them is a very exciting prospect for me, as I always enjoyed soccer (and played it until I was 18). This year, everyone has been feeling pretty optimistic for England’s chances this year, which had even more potential for fun and excitement here. So what’s happened so far?

Well, first of all, not only did the US end up in the same draw as England, but their first match would be against each other. Now, being American, I have to support the US team as long as they hang around in the tournament. But, being in England, I want to see a country that cares about their team (not just the ones who made the trip to South
Africa) do well, especially if I had the chance to see it ‘first hand’.

The big night arrived and we made plans to have a nice mix of Brits and Americans and decided our local was a good choice for it as it’s big, has plenty of TVs (when they choose to have them on) and usually had a pretty non-belligerent crowd in case we had a need to cheer against the English squad.

The match was, from my standpoint exciting. England came out quick which made it look like it was going to be a painful experience. But the US showed themselves to be up to the challenge and was making a go of it. Then we got a gift from Robert Green and the pub went silent. While we were quite pleased to see things evened up, when the ball sneaked past Green, we all felt the pain England fans felt. But, in the end, a tie is a tie.

Our favourite reaction from the press we’ve seen so far has come from the BBC when an announcer mentioned that the English squad was behind Green 100%. Which, in retrospect (and I’m paraphrasing), is probably a very good place to be. 🙂

Here would be a couple of (not so) exciting photos of our night out:


Just a view of a TV, the match, some flags and the nice art on the walls of our local pub.


Ben, myself and Dave (Dave came all the way to England just to watch the match! Really! 🙂 )

A couple of other observations:

  • Serbia and Algeria looked awful today. Here’s hoping the US and England have no problem with them in the next couple of rounds as they really need wins to make sure they can advance
  • The vuvuzelas are a tad irritating. I always love the background noise of the chanting fans and they just drown them out. I think, a little softer or not so constant, they might have their charm, but after 6 matches listening/watching the World Cup, the novelty has worn off.
  • Tim Howard was excellent. There was nothing he was going to do to stop Gerrard’s goal and the rest of the match, he was rock solid. I hope the reports of him having tests after Hesky slid into him are either false or show he’s ok to keep playing on.
  • Poor Australia. 🙂