Tuesday, October 28, 2008

There's a Presidential Election?

As the US Presidential election nears, I have to admit that I feel completely out of the loop. I know this may sound absolutely nuts but I would like to see the constant barrage of television ads and receive those annoying automated telephone calls. I would like to hear everyone on the streets talking and/or arguing about the cadidates. Heck, I would even like it if someone to knock on my door in the middle of dinner to hand me a brochure. Yes, I have sent in my absentee ballot (weeks ago, in fact). Yes, I try to keep up on the latest election news on cnn.com. And, yes, there is quite a bit of interest among Brits in the election and most locals here do have an opinion. Unfortunately, it just does not make up for the excitement of the election and the buzz that it brings when living in the States. I have to admit that I am not usually one to follow elections and am not a big fan of politics. I hate to say it but I have even skipped the polls the last few Presidential elections. However, there is something about this election that interests me. Maybe it is the state of US economy, housing market, or Iraq war. Maybe it is the candidates. Or, maybe it is simply because I am living in a different country and long for a piece of home. Nonetheless, I will be anxiously waiting for the results regardless of how late I have to stay awake and I am excited to see what will happen in the next US Presidential term.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hampstead Pub Walk

Last night, Jignesh and I joined a group of Jignesh's co-workers for our first London Walk. London Walks, a popular walking tour company among tourists and locals, provides guided walks in London's most historic and scenic areas. This particular walk was a pub walk in our own neighborhood, Hampstead. Even though we live in the neighborhood, the walk introduced us to some well-hidden cobblestone streets that we had yet to explore. We also learned about many of the famous authors and artists that lived and worked in Hampstead including D.H. Lawrence and Peter O'Toole. We also visited a plot of land that was a public execution site! On this particular plot, individuals were hung in front of thousands. The victims were then left to sway in the wind for 5 days to allow royals and celebrities to view them without the crowds. I had been by this plot of land several time but never knew the signifcance of it until now. Our guide even took us to the highest point in all of London. Halfway through the walk we stopped for a drink at The Holly Bush, one of London's oldest pubs that started as a stable block in the 1640's. The walk ended at the Olde White Bear Pub, another quitessential London pub, where we finished the evening enjoying a few pints next to a great fireplace. Despite the rain and chilly weather, the walk was an informative, fun avenue for learning about London's deep history.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Sounding like a Brit

It is amazing that after just a few months in London, I am starting to sound like a Brit. No, I have not mastered the accent (although Jignesh and I often like to practice our very bad British accents after a few pints) but I have found myself saying many of the common phrases and words not used in the States. While I do not think I will ever be able to use words like knackered (tired), gutted (upset), or wanker (I don't even know how to explain this one!) without a slight giggle, other British words now flow naturally. I no longer use the restroom but rather the "toilet" or "loo." Instead of taking out the trash, I take out the "rubbish." I dread the "queue" at the grocery store and not the line. Some of my other favorites include bloke (guy), bugger (shit), and pissed (drunk). Of course, you cannot forget to throw in "bloody" every once in a while! I am sure I could spend hours coming up with American phrases and their British equivilants. I guess it is just another interesting difference between two countries and their cultures!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Time to Say Goodbye

Napping with "Grandson" Schlopy

Riding the tour bus and checking out the London Eye

Jignesh's mom in front of Tower Bridge

The trip for Jignesh's mom is winding down. She will be returning to Chicago on Friday and it will be sad to say goodbye as we have had a busy two weeks full of visiting, indulging in loads of Indian food, and sightseeing. Jignesh's mom even connected with a school friend that she had not talked to in 44 years. The weather has been remarkable for her visit as the last week has been filled with days of warm temperatures and sunny skies.

When asked about her visit, Jignesh's mom will tell you that her favorite thing about London is the London Eye. Even though we did not even go on the eye (Europe's biggest ferris wheel built for the millenium), it has somehow made a big impact on her. Whenever we are out and about and the London Eye comes into view, she remarks with glee "Look, it is the London Eye!" While in London, Jignesh's mom also went on the double deck tour bus, saw the Royal helicopter land in front of Kensington Palace, walked across the Tower Bridge, took a cruise to Greenwich, ate at various outdoor markets, and braved the crowds to see the changing of the guards. It was especially great to have family in town to help celebrate my birthday. She has defnitely seen more of London than Jignesh himself! Our flat will become a little lonelier and a lot more quiet come Friday as this fornight ends but I am sure we will fall back into our routine of daily life and begin to look forward toward our next adventure.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Where are all the pumpkins?

Autumn is my favorite time of the year. I love unpacking the sweaters for those chilly evenings. I love the brillant colors of the trees and I love the excitement of the upcoming holidays. Over the last week, I have felt that there is something missing this fall season but I have not been able to put my finger on it until now. There are no pumpkins here! I have not seen a single pumpkin! How can you have Autumn without pumkins patches, toasted pumpkin seeds, and homemade pumkin pie? Have British children ever even heard of pumpkin carving? I cannot imagine a childhood without spending a Saturday afternoon picking out the the perfect pumpkin, lugging it home, cleaning it of those messy seeds, and then finally attempting to create the perfect jack o' lantern. I have to admit that I really miss my pumpkins! It is amazing how something as simple as a pumpkin can make you miss home. I have heard rumblings that Whole Foods in London does have some pumpkins that have recently been shipped from the States. With the goal of staying away from stores that cater to American expats (and the outrageous prices they charge for American products), I have avoided Whole Foods like the plague. I can live without Betty Crocker cake mix and Wheat Thins but I am not sure I can go through Autumn without adorning my door with a pumpkin. So, I might head off to Whole Foods tomorrow to pick out the perfect pumpkin, lug it home, clean out those messy seeds, and then attempt to create the perfect jack o' lantern!


Monday, October 6, 2008

Brick Lane Market

On Friday, Jignesh's mom arrived as our 3rd guest! After a long flight from India (she was there for 6 weeks visiting family and friends), she was suffering from a little jet lag so it was a quiet day of relaxation and catching up with one another.

Saturday, we hit the ground running and headed to the Sloane Square area. With no exact agenda in mind, we wondered the streets and stumbled upon the Chelsea Market. It was perfect timing as we were all ready for lunch. Jignesh's mom and I selected surprisingly delicious and flavorful vegan wraps while Jignesh was a bit more unhealthy with his chorizo sub! After lunch, we did a little shopping and then walked along the Thames River. We ended the day by taking a ride on the #19 city bus that gave us a cheap, self-guided tour of Chelsea, Mayfair, Belgravia, Hyde Park, and Piccadilly Circus! Our quick tour made me realize how lucky I am to be living in such a diverse, beautiful, and active city.

Yesterday, Jignesh, Jignesh's mom, and I braved the cold wind and rain to check out Brick Lane Market. We thought it was going to be filled with mostly Indian food, clothes, and accessories. We were wrong. The food booths covered everything type of ethnic food imaginable (from Thai to Brazilian) except Indian! The other booths were a little bit of everything...second-hand clothes, jewelry, various arts and crafts, etc. Despite our disappointment in the lack of Indian food and clothes, we still had a great time browsing the booths and checking out all the stuff. I did pick up a coin purse made out of eel skin to hold all the coins I seem to collect here. After the market, Jignesh and his mom headed to an Indian restaurent in our neighborhood to get their fill of Indian food while I opted for the gym. The day ended with naps for all (especially for Jignesh's mom who is not use to all the walking that city life requires).