Monday, September 29, 2008


I know that I have been absent as of late. While I don't have a great excuse, I am going to blame my laziness on our recent visitors as well as our trip to Barcelona. Since this blog has been delayed, I will spare you the details of our trip and keep in short and simple (this time only!).

Our long weekend in Barcelona was amazing. Barcelona is a city rich in culture, entertainment, and scenery. Instead of opting for a hotel, we rented a small flat near a busy strip of restaurants, shops, and bars called La Rambla. While it was nice to be only feet away from all the action, I think I would have perferred to stay somewhere more peaceful and less touristy. Jignesh and Dennis, however, loved the La Rambla and the constant party that it provided. During our 4 day holiday, we experienced a little of everything that Barcelona has to offer. We indulged in some amazing food and beverages (paella, sangria, tapas), toured some great sights (La Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera, Parc Guell, the National Art Musuem, the 1992 Olympic Park, etc), and relaxed at the beach. We even attended our second football game in less than a week! While we were there, one of Barcelona's largest festivals was also taking place. We never figured out the reason or the theme of the festival but we were surprised by random bands and large monsters parading through the streets. One night we were even showered with masses of confetti. The locals are some of the kindest people that I have met. They were all willing to help with directions and answers to our typical toursity questions. Spain is truly a country that works to live instead of living to work. Dinner does not typically take place until after 9pm (many restaurants do not even open until after 8pm) and it is not unusualy for stores to close in the middle of day so that people can return home for a long siesta! Clubs and bars stay open until 7am and the main streets are still filled with people at 2am! While I usually turned in early by Spainard standards, Jignesh and Dennis seemed to fit right in. The weather was also amazing. Before leaving, reports were expecting heavy showers for our entire stay. While it did rain a little in the evenings, the days were warm and sunny. It was a nice change from the cloudy and increasingly chilly weather now found in London. Honestly, there was very little that I did not like about Barcelona and it was hard to board that plane on Mondy. Barcelona has ignited our travel desires and we are looking forward to exploring many more countries and cultures.

After returning from Barcelona, Dennis stayed with us a few more days before heading back to Chicago. Brian, a friend who lives in Australia, picked up where Dennis left off and this past weekend was spent exploring a few London sights but mostly just enjoying the company of a good friend. We have a few days of quiet before we welcome Jiggy's Mom this Friday!


Friday, September 26, 2008

Sights From Barcelona

The marina

Having fun in Parc Guell

Dennis, Jignesh, and Kat in front of La Pedrera

Jignesh and the Parc Guell dragon

Jignesh lovin' Barcelona

La Pedrera rooftop

La Sagrada Familia, a Goudi design

Monday, September 22, 2008

Chelsea v. Bordeaux

Jignesh with his new British friend!

A stadium, a field, and some players. That is about all you get when attending a European sporting event.

Last Tuesday night, Jiggy, Dennis, and I were lucky enough to get the last three tickets available to the Chelsea v. Bordeaux football (soccer, for those of you a little confused) match. For Dennis, a huge football fan, this was a dream come true. He must have been feeling the same emotions when I went to Wimbledon…giddy, amazed, and outragiouosly excitied. His perma-grin said it all. While I have been to one European football game in the past, this was a first for Jignesh.

Unlike the American fans, European fans attend games truly for the sport. There are no fancy scoreboards, scantily clad cheerleaders/dancers, or halftime entertainment. The concession stands mirror those at a high school football game rather than the upscale dining that can now be found at stadiums across America. There are no vendors walking the stands while selling foam fingers and overpriced beer (actually, there was no alcohol at all!). On-field advertising is almost non-existent and unidentifiable mascots are nowhere to be seen.

Despite the simplicity of the event, it is an amazing experience. The stadium was packed with 42,000 knowledgeable fans that jubilantly chanted and sang for 90 straight minutes. Even though the home team was leading and dominating the contest, almost every seat remained occupied until the last kick. The athleticism of the players was undeniable and the competition between the teams was marked with intensity but respect. It is safe to say that European football as gained two more fans in Jignesh and myself!


Oh, stay tuned for the latest on our trip to Barcelona!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Our first Visitor

Today, we welcomed our first official visitor (the rest of you missed out on that honor)! Dennis, a good friend of Jiggy's from Chicago, arrived this morning for his first trip to London! Dennis is just the first of a string of guests over the next few weeks. I would like to think that our visitors are coming to London as a testament to our charm as great friends but the reality is that they are coming for the amazing sights, the English pubs, and the European adventures Nevertheless, we are happy to pull out the extra linens, stock the fridge (however small it may be), and serve as tourguides (ones that admitedly have to still refer to travel books and manuels). If your timing is right, you may even score like Dennis and join Jiggy and I for a side trip (in this case it is a long weekend in Barcelona)!

Before Dennis even boards the plane for home, another freind of Jiggy's will be joining the crowd. Brian, who currently lives in Australia, will be overlapping with Dennis for a night (that pull out couch will come in handy after all) and then staying a few nights on his own. Just days after Brian says goodbye, Jiggy's mom arrives for a two week stay on her return journey from India! We are extremely honored some of our friends and family have already taken us up on our offer to visit and cannot wait to roll out the welcome mat (ok, at least couch or air mattress) to many more. While we cannot promise a massive guest room and luxury bathroom, we can promise free lodging in one of the world's most amazing cities with tourguides willing to do whatever it takes to show you a great time. With the price of hotels and exchange rates being what they are, who wouldn't jump on that offer? Heck, we will even throw in a spare mobile that we keep just for guests. Who's next?


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rain, Rain Go Away

Well, London has finally lived up to its reputation. It has been raining here almost non-stop for the last month. In fact, August 2008 officially became the rainiest August on record. Sunny skies can quickly turn to rainy ones. My umbrella has become another limb and soggy shoes are are now expected. I don't want to discourage anyone from coming to visit though. The rain is a culture and you learn to live with it. In fact, there are some things about the rain that I actually enjoy. I love listening to the rain hit the conservatory windows. I love bundling up in a soft, comfy sweatshirt after being out all day (a nice glass of wine is an added bonus!). In a weird way, I even love sloshing through the streets! Of course, I might have to be reminded of these things a few months from now! Rain is truly part of the experience and culture and I going to embrace it!


Monday, September 1, 2008

Stonehenge and Bath

This past weekend Jignesh, Brenda (a co-worker of Jignesh’s) and I took a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath. While I am not usually a fan of organized tours, we chose to take this tour because it was reasonable in cost and allowed us to see two sites in the same day. I was afraid that we would have some crazy tourguide with un umbrella and microphone pack herding us around like cattle. Yes, we did have guide (Liz) with a knack for waking us up with a very loud microphone but we were spared the umbrella and portable pack. Aside from getting us through the entry gates (our entries were included in the tour price), the tour luckily (and surprisingly) turned out to be mostly a mode of transportation.

We boarded the coach bus early (a little too early!) Sunday morning and first headed to Stonehenge. Stonehenge is about and 2 hours outside of central London in the countryside. I was a little skeptical of Stonehenge and was prepared to see a bunch of old rocks. My opinion was quickly changed. Stonehenge was beautiuful and very impressive. The mysteries (How it was built? Who built it? Why was it built?) behind it make it even more remarkable.
After Stongehenge, we hopped on the bus and enjoyed a gorgeous ride to Bath. It was great to see the English countryside…it was very picturesque with thatched bungaloos and sheep grazing in open fields. Jignesh, who is not a nature guy, even commented on the beauty of the surroundings! Bath is a cute town of 80,000. It is home to the old Roman Baths and also known for its unique arcitecture. We began our visit to Bath with the Roman Baths. These baths are the only natural hotsprings in England and are where many of the wealthy use to spend their holidays. The Roman Baths have been turned into a musuem now and they are too dirty and toxic to enter (you are not even suppose to touch the water!). After the Roman Baths, we grabbed a quick bit to eat at a delicious bar/restaurant and then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around. On our way out of Bath, the bus passed by two structures designed by John Wood that look like the sun and moon respectively. I thought they were very interesting and unique. Overall, Bath was a charming city that I would love to return to and even spend the night.

The worst part of the trip was the ride home. Due to heavy rain and flooding , our 3 hour drive turned into 4! However, Selvin (the driver) delivered us safely to London after a long but great day!