Posts Tagged With: London

Go Big or Go Home

So…it’s official!

And Jason pulled it off in classic Jason style: go big or go home!  We’d talked about marriage and getting engaged often enough that I can’t say I wasn’t expecting it to happen at SOME point, but with a long, romantic weekend away in Rome coming up, I was sure if it was going to happen it would probably happen there.  I mean, who wouldn’t, right?  That coupled with Jason’s general dislike for very public celebrations (e.g. being sung to for his birthday in a restaurant), I actually figured it’d happen in a pretty private setting.  Needless to say, I was completely oblivious right up until the last minute when in the heart of London near the Eros fountain in Piccadilly Circus, surrounded by many of our local friends (and those who couldn’t make it were there in spirit!), I came out of a souvenir shop with my friend Katharine to a row of people holding signs with individual letters spelling, “Will You Marry Me”.

I wish someone could have been secretly filming the lead up to this, because it was just hilariously and amazingly orchestrated.  But…let me back up and start with the early details.  I discovered at lunch that there were huge sales going on in all of my favorite stores in downtown London.  After getting back to the office, I let my friend, colleague, and shopping buddy know about the sales, who, excited, asked if I’d like to go with her after work.  Jason had texted me to see if I would meet him at a nearby pub where Katharine’s boyfriend is manager for dinner around 7:30 so we had quite a bit of time to kill, and holes to burn in our wallets, before we met up with the boys.

As shopping with Katharine tends to snowball, we were running quite late by the time we got back to the office to pick up all of our stuff.  Evidently behind the scenes Jason was pacing like mad and his boss, Tom, who played lookout was saying things like, “Where are they?  We said 7:30 right?  Did I miss them; I mean I know they’re small?!”  So, Katharine phoned Phil to let him know we were on our way (still I wasn’t suspecting anything), and we headed out.

After crossing the street, we bumped into a couple that we work with who Jason and I are friends with (Rajko and Dimitra).  This wasn’t really that out of the ordinary, and we stopped and chatted really quickly.  I was conscious of how late we were though so I was keeping the conversation rather short and apologizing that we couldn’t chat longer.  They were on their way to dinner for Rajko’s birthday in any case, so we parted in short order.

Almost immediately following meeting them, Kelvin, one of Jason’s basketball teammates, and his girlfriend who had recently moved to London from Hong Kong, came out of the tube station we were next to.  I was shocked to see him so randomly (or so I thought!) and gave them both a hug, introduced Katharine, chatted hurriedly, and headed off again.

On the move again, we crossed the street toward the Eros fountain heading in the direction of Waxy’s when we were brought up short by Phil walking with Jason Roberts, a friend and colleague of ours.  I didn’t really think this was odd, since Katharine had mentioned earlier that Phil and she were planning to meet up with some friends and go to Waxy’s too so we would all just have dinner together.  I assumed Phil and Jason R. were on their way to pick up said friends.  We chatted briefly, and they promised to meet us at the restaurant…and off we went (again!).

Still at this point I’m not really thinking anything much about it.  It was evening, right after work, and most of the people we’d run into so far were people we worked with…until we then “bumped” into a friend couple of Jason and mine.  Will and Nicolette were dressed quite sharply, so I assumed they were out on a date.  After exclamations of “What a coincidence!” and hugs all around, they told us they were heading to see Jersey Boys (a play that is on in the area).  Katharine chimed in, “Oh I’ve seen it! You’ll love it!”  And with promises of meeting up for dinner soon, we parted ways while I commented to Katharine, “So weird, everyone I know seems to be in Piccadilly tonight!”  And proceeded to blithely explain the relationship between Will and Nicolette and Jason and I.

As I chattered along, Katharine pulled me into a large souvenir shop as we passed.  She to be quick (since we were still running late) but said that she wanted to look at a Guinness jersey for Phil that he’d been eyeing.  We wandered around the shop a bit, but ultimately weren’t in there more than 5 minutes or so when we hustled out…

My first thought was, “We just saw them!” as my eyes hit Will and Nicolette first.  Then rather slowly my brain clicked and I realized a bunch of people I knew were standing lined up in front of the shop.  One by one they raised their signs with a large letter printed on it…about half way through I realized finally what was going on and started looking for Jason.  Hehe.  Well I suppose the video can tell the rest.

Jason  Proposes and the Crowd Goes Wild!

Though I had initially thought Jason would propose more privately, I couldn’t imagine a better way for him to have done it.  There was absolutely nothing better than being surrounded by our friends as we celebrated.  The only thing that could have made it better I think would be if everyone we loved and knew could have been there.

As it turns out, Jason had planned this initially for last Friday.  Because I was sick and the weather was, as it usually is in London, awful, he postponed.  Then apparently yesterday morning sent round an e-mail to everyone and said “It’s today!”  A lot of people who were going to be there on Friday, couldn’t make it the new day unfortunately, but it’s the thought that counts and really I think they were all there in spirit.

After lots of hugs and happy words with everyone, a few people peeled off to head on to other engagements (haha!) but a group stayed and came to celebrate with us over drinks and appetizer platters at Waxy O’Conner’s.

Categories: London | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

While the cat’s away…

And boy did the mice play!

When first Jason mentioned he’d be going Stateside for a full week, I was admittedly at a loss as to what I was possibly going to do with so much time alone.  With visions of long, luxurious bubble baths complete with wine, candles, and a smutty romance novel dancing playfully about in my head, I figured I could probably manage well enough.  In truth, I actually had rather ambitious plans to transform our little flat (which had been accumulating a rather alarming amount of muck) into a sparkling palace through a weekend of deep cleaning and minor renovations of both decorative and functional varieties.

Needless to say, most of that didn’t actually happen (though to my credit I did manage to vacuum, clean our bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, and also do a bunch of laundry over the course of the week).   Instead I found myself “out and about” almost every day, gallivanting around London, an expedition complete with several nights of drinking, feeding the rodents of St. James’ Park…twice, shopping, visiting a horseback riding school, and having my hair dramatically dyed and cut (a decision made while completely sober, if slightly hungover).

I can’t in good faith claim full credit for my weekend deviance, though, as I had considerable help and encouragement from Katharine whose boyfriend, incidentally, was also away for a week.  Honestly, I had a great time if there was any question.  Everyday I’m becoming more and more intimately acquainted with London and feeling more and more settled.  Katharine is lovely company, and given our numerous similarities we certainly don’t lack for mutually enjoyable trouble to get into.

Having left mid-week, most of our shenanigans were relegated to the weekend, though Katharine and I did go to St. James’ Park to feed the critters nuts and bread and then out for dinner and drinks at a fantastic Irish pub called Waxy O’Connor’s Wednesday night.  Thursday remained uneventful, and Friday saw a reprise of St. James’ Park before I headed home to handle a bit of industrious cleaning.

Saturday began early with an appointment, after which I met Katharine at Borough Market for what seems to be a growing tradition of “Saturday Morning Coffee” and lunch before heading out on our mission for the day: assessing a riding school in Dulwich (pronounced: Duhl itch for anyone who cares).  Travelling to this little area in southeast London would ordinarily have been a relatively simple affair if it weren’t for all the engineering works being done on various rail lines throughout the city in preparation of the impending Olympics.  Inconveniently, both train lines we needed to take to get to the school were closed for the weekend so we had to do a bit of creative travelling by bus and foot to get there.  On the upside, this route turned out to be rather scenic, and Dulwich is a gorgeous area.

It was late afternoon by the time we arrived, though still quite light out.  The Dulwich Riding School (creative name not withstanding) was clean and quaint, greeting us at the gate with a pleasant and enthusiastically hand-painted sign on a slate of wood that said:

It’s hard to tell whether this is an offer to any runner passing by who might be in need or a call to emancipation!  In any case, I wasn’t in the market, but you never know when the need for horse dung will randomly pop up.

Having ridden at a few different schools in the States, all in the rural areas of South Carolina on great stretches of open land, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of a riding school in the middle of the city with little or no conceivable “countryside” to make use of, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to notice that the school in terms of land space was quite small.  Set literally on the roadside, it appears to have carved a small acre (I’d be surprised if it was much more than that) out of the edge of Dulwich Park.  The school has presumably been there for 50 years, so it’s possible that the park was built around it rather than the other way around.  In any case, it boasts of a small stretch of stables housing perhaps 20 horses and ponies, an outdoor ring, an indoor training facility, and a small paddock all clumped together in a charmingly old-fashioned sort of way.

While there were a few cars parked in the lot, the stable area was largely deserted save for a handful of curious horses poking their heads over their stall doors and the most adorable little Rottweiler puppy sitting with its little puppy tail wagging  frantically and pink tongue lolling underneath a “Beware of Dog” sign.  Katharine and I couldn’t resist petting and playing with him/her (we didn’t check) for a few minutes while we waited for someone who looked reasonably official to come back into the front area of the school.

Eventually we wrangled a young woman out of a stall where she looked to be busily weighing and tying up bundles of hay to speak to us for a few minutes.   Lessons at this school are surprisingly inexpensive – only £22 for classes (up to 8 riders) and £27.50 for semi-private (2 to 3 people).  On top of the excellent price, the school is also rather conveniently located near to Clapham.  Katharine and I immediately scheduled a lesson for the next possible opening (April 14th at 11:30am) and can now hardly wait for it to get here!

By the time we made it back to the more central area of London, it was growing late.  Though we rushed to try to run a couple of quick errands, most of the shops were closing, and sure enough the store Katharine needed to go to was closed by the time we reached it.  Abandoning any remaining effort to be productive, we hopped on a train and headed west to the Baron’s Court area to meet up with a friend of Katharine’s, also from Trinidad.  A couple bottles of champagne and wine and several hours later the two of us were stumbling home in a cheerful haze.

Sunday started off slowly, and painfully – wine hangovers are the worst – but ended with the highlights of getting pampered at a hair salon followed by a Caribbean dinner and a gourmet French bakery for post meal coffee and dessert (amusingly the food and coffee here

were better than anywhere I ate at in Paris, and the wait staff was infinitely friendlier).  I had something called “Russian Honey Cake” with a honey and ginger latte.  It was really delicious.  The cake tasted like graham crackers and custard.  Katharine had Bailey’s cheesecake with a hazelnut and ginger latte.  We split both.

Work largely kept me out of trouble for the last two days before Jason got home, though I did manage to completely devastate my kitchen making homemade Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes for supper Monday night.  The meatballs were actually quite delicious despite my forgetting to add one ingredient (2 egg yolks) and putting a bit too much nutmeg in the mixture, but the mess I made in the kitchen looked more like my refrigerator had exploded across the counters rather than a simple dinner for one.  I’ll say this though, cooking in a tiny, one-countered galley-style kitchen requires a special kind of talent (and patience) that I’ve evidently yet to master.  I honestly would have taken a picture if I hadn’t been either up to my elbows in raw meat or trying to mash potatoes and whisk gravy simultaneously.  God knows how I’m going to manage to cook a respectable Easter dinner for 8 or 10 people this weekend.

Interesting Tidbits:
  • Squirrels are adorable close up.  They’re also surprisingly polite when taking nuts out of your hands.  Very gentle.  Birds on the other hand are flat out obnoxious.
  • I’m in dire need of a puppy fix.  Rottweiler puppies are ridiculously cute.
  • Bank/Monument Station is quite possibly the most convoluted place I’ve ever had the misfortune to be in when in a hurry.  Allow at least 20 minutes to find your way out of the rat maze that is Bank station.  (It has three or four lines, 11 exits, and naturally, just as with airports, the line you arrive on is the furthest away from the exits when you’re in a hurry and requires you to travel through three other line platforms to just find your way into a common area.)
  • The Piccadilly Line is by far the best tube line.


P.S. Most of the images in this post don’t belong to me, as I have once again failed at photo logging my experiences.  One day before I die, I will adopt this habit.

P.P.S Check out the newest video uploaded to the “For Laughs” page here.

Categories: London | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

If the shoe fits…buy it in every color!

“Well apparell’d April on the heel of limping winter treads…” – William Shakespeare

“You better come home with something cute!!”

These are magical words, and when coupled with a cheerfully surrender piece of plastic, a joyous song to the ever devoted shopper.  With an unrepentant enthusiasm for fashion and a weakness for shoes, I can hardly claim to be anything but patently female.  So who am I to argue (or disappoint) when my boyfriend hands over his credit card and shoos me out the door for a day of shopping with a new friend in downtown London, his only stipulation being that I must come home with something?

With the promise of pleasant weather, a colleague from work and I arranged to meet up Saturday for a day of self-indulgent shopping.  Katharine may well be the first significant “friend” I’ve made in London thus far.  A four feet something Trinidadian native, she moved to London some four years ago with her Irish, rugby-playing boyfriend when he moved back from Trinidad, and while she definitely enjoys it here she sympathizes with me about missing certain things from home (like tumble dryers) and the ups and downs of adjusting to a new place and culture away from family and friends.   Though 9 years separate us in age, Katharine and I discovered by the end of Saturday that we nonetheless share a surprising amount in common by way of personality, interests, and personal tastes ( both in terms of shopping and men apparently).

I met up with Katharine at Borough Market near London Bridge around 2:00pm.  We didn’t spend a great deal of time here since she had already been at the market for several hours with some friends of her uncle’s visiting from Trinidad, but we did wander around a bit after she showed me a vendor that makes fabulous mochas.  Borough Market deserves a full day of exploration, as well as a full blog post about it, so I won’t expound on the details until later.  Suffice to say it’s an amazing and fascinating place stuffed cheek to jowl with people by midday on the weekend.

After escaping the shuffling stream of people wending its zigzag path through the aisles and alleys of the market, we caught a train up to Westminster where Katharine lives and from there cut through St. James Park (which is lovely by the way) to start our shopping trip by fanning our fashion frenzy with a stroll down the infamous Bond Street where we dutifully left plenty of nose prints on the windows of such shops as Cartier, Prada, Tiffany’s, Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, Michael Kors, Alexander McQueen, etc.  Aside from lovingly fondling a few gorgeous handbags and pairs of shoes, however, we didn’t do much but window shop here, though Bond Street did, by happy coincidence, provide us with the highlight of our day in the form of a blown glass and kinetic sculpture exhibition at a small art gallery we happened to stumble upon.

I don’t recall who was responsible for the large sculptures like this one,

but the blown glass belonged to a small, round artist from Seattle with frizzy, fly-away hair and a black eye patch by the name of Dale Chihuly who has garnered quite the reputation for himself worldwide for his enormous and exquisite blown glass sculptures, chandeliers, and gardens.

Bond Street conveniently dumps out onto the high end of Oxford Circus, which by virtue of vicinity remained significantly out of our price range.  So, instead of spending any time there, we headed down toward stores more our speed.  By this point it was grown dark and the threat of early-closing shops meant that we had to sacrifice leisure browsing for efficiency since Katharine had a handful of stores she wanted me to see in particular.

Our current, mutual, favourites include:

Though strongly tempted to take this jacket home with me…

…I resisted and instead ended up with both of these tops as my souvenirs for the day:

Interesting Tidbits:

  • London doesn’t exactly have a “style”.  Unlike cities in the States where certain things become a trend and spread en masse, style is a personal choice in London…and everything goes.  Literally.
  • Pastels seem to be the choice colors for spring – pale blue/greens, blush pinks, mauvey lavenders, and creamy yellows are everywhere.
  • Though at first skeptical, I have discovered that there is actually affordable shopping in London.
  • Shops in London close at the weirdest times.  On Saturday night Warehouse closed at 6:00pm while Zara and Mango were open until 10:00 at least.
  • I vaguely suspect that women born and raised in London actually have no feeling at all in their feet.  There is no other possible explanation for how they can walk about all day in heels of any kind.

Don’t forget, you can keep up with all the places we go here!


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