Chapter III: In which our charming and intelligent protagonists come perilously close to engaging in the sin of gluttony and discover definitively that the reputation of the Britons for culinary ineptitude has no foundation in fact and is bold and unjust slander.

So delicious!

For those of you who know anything about the way Natalie and I travel, you know that food forms a huge part of our experience. Our lists of “attractions” to visit in new places often contain as many restaurants, cafes, cheese shops, ice cream stands, and markets as it does museums, monuments, and churches. In fact, we often lament that one of the great problems we have when traveling is not that we don’t have enough time to try all the foods we’d like, but that we simply don’t have enough space in our stomachs to eat everything. London, being one of the great international cities of the world, is a food lover’s paradise, containing everything under the sun. Spain, on the other hand, is full of delicious Spanish food, but the pickings are a bit thin if you want anything else. Therefore, when we wanted lunch the first day we headed straight to Chinatown for dim sum followed by bubble tea and a trip to the Asian grocery store to pick up snacks. We then followed this up by partaking in the national dish of England for dinner with Ron and Betty. I am, of course, speaking of curry, which we enjoyed while watching the first few episodes of Downton Abbey (if you like period pieces and Maggie Smith being sassy you should definitely tune in; it airs on PBS in the States). Continue reading

London, Chapter II: Wherein it is related how our dashing and handsome protagonists impersonate another couple, lose themselves in literature, and spend a night at the theatre.

It’s impossible to visit London without seeing a museum or two or five, and one of the great things about London is that many of its museums are free. Even better, Ron and Betty possess memberships for many of the attractions that charged an entry fee, so when we weren’t going to free museums, we got into places incognito, masquerading as Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence. Our first stop was the Victoria and Albert museum, where we saw a fascinating exhibit about political cartoons from Punch Magazine and unfortunately not much else because we got there right before closing. Next, we went to the British Museum (all plunder treasures of the British Empire collected under one roof) home of the Rosetta Stone and the much disputed Parthenon Marbles. We spent three and a half hours there and still only saw half the museum (a pattern emerges), but I’m glad we took our time and explored the parts we did see quite thoroughly, rather than trying to race through the entire place. Finally, we saw the Tate Modern with Elizabeth and as with most modern art museums I’ve been to, I found it equal parts edifying and mystifying (edifying: John Heartfield’s anti-Nazi photomontages which forced him to flee Germany into exile in the 30’s [by jumping out a window to escape the SS, this guy is a serious badass]; mystifying: the film being projected in the Turbine Hall; mind blowing: eight million handmade porcelain sunflower seeds).

Continue reading

London, Chapter I: In which our intrepid protagonists arrive in the great metropolis by sleeper train still sleepy and call upon various and sundry relations and friends

Nor is it falling down.

Not in fact London Bridge

NB: Gentle reader, in order to keep this post to a reasonable not wholly absurd length, I’ve split it in two three. Part 1 will recount our arrival in London and who met us there, Part 2 will tell of the many sights we were able to see, and Part 3 will tantalize you with accounts of our culinary escapades.

It’s David here, Natalie’s oft-mentioned but until now absent-from-this-blog boyfriend. I’m sure you were expecting another post from Natalie detailing more of our many Christmas adventures (which are now many months past), but finding the number of adventures too great for any one person to recount, even one of her prodigious talents, she has enlisted me to tell you of a few of them. You’ve already heard about Scotland and Ireland from her, so without further delay, let me tell you a bit about London. Continue reading

Family Reunion

On New Years Eve, we caught a flight at the crack of dawn and hopped across the water to Edinburgh.  We were met dark and early by Gordon and Alistair Grant, my cousins who I hadn’t seen since 2005.  Gordon used to travel frequently to Houston for his job, so I got to know him when I was much younger, but he’s since stopped traveling so much, and hasn’t been to Houston in a while.  My dad and I got to meet up with all the Scottish cousins (Gordon, Sue, Alistair, and Jamie, and also Gordon’s parents, Kenneth and Ena) when my children’s choir went to Edinburgh on tour in 2003, but that was almost ten years ago now.  So the chance to spend time with their family was something I was really looking forward to. Continue reading

Thanks, David Lebovitz! (Geneva)

Several months ago, I was catching up on the latest updates on David Lebovitz’ blog, which I read fairly regularly.  An expat living in Paris, he’s the author of several cookbooks and/or food memoirs, and his blog is a combination of recipes, travel recommendations, and musings on life in Paris.  I’ve liked his writing for a while, and since moving to another country myself, I’ve come to appreciate his perspective even more.  When I read this post, I immediately wanted to try this incredible-sounding pairing of meringues with La Gruyere double cream.  When I mentioned it to David, he matter-of-factly asked, “Ok, so when do you want to go to Switzerland?”  That’s one of the craziest things about living in Europe–everything is relatively close!  We can go to Switzerland for a weekend!  So we booked flights to Geneva for our long weekend in early December, and I prepared myself by reading and re-reading Lebovitz’s description of the crunch of the sweet meringues combined with the cool richness of the double cream. Continue reading

Paris!

I know it’s been forever, and I’m sorry.  But here it is!  The update you’ve all been waiting for!  (Assuming you’re still bothering to read this, since I update so irregularly.)

PARIS!  We had a long weekend at the very end of October, because in Spain, All Saints Day (Nov. 1) is a national holiday.  If a holiday like this falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, it’s common practice in Spain to cancel classes for one extra day, creating a puente, or bridge, between the holiday and the rest of the weekend.  Since neither David nor I ever have classes on Fridays, this meant we had a five-day weekend.  We came to the obvious conclusion that this called for a pretty serious trip. Continue reading