Friday, March 22, 2013

its the time of the season?

"SAD is sometimes known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe at this time of the year.
The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter. They are most severe during December, January and February.
In most cases, the symptoms of SAD begin to improve in the spring before disappearing."
For starters, I'm not at all trying to say that I am depressed over here. I'm not. BUT I can absolutely relate to this whole seasonal depression thing. Usually, I'm a lover of the cold and I honestly don't mind rain (it is just the post-rain humidity that gets me).. I enjoy a good rain or thunderstorm. But lately, this continuous rain and cold are really wearing me down! I am not exaggerating when I say I have only seen the sun a total of about 5 hours in the last month.
I know what you're thinking: Wow, a post about the weather? She is really becoming a Brit.  
"A study suggests more than half of Britons bring the weather up in conversation every six hours" - Thanks, Telegraph
Truthfully, I've been fine with it until it was unending cold and rain on our trip with Mom, Gma and Papa. That was the last straw Mother Nature.. Get it together! Everyone here (and BBC Weather) has been telling me this is rare and it usually doesn't do this rain and cold thing for this long and all that jazz but I've about had it.
So here is my prayer, my rain dance, and my plea to God and Mother Nature..
Make it stop. Can't a girl get a little sun around here?!

Now I'll head to the library and hide there until this obnoxious weather situation has figured itself out. Til then...
Cheers y'all, Lisa

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Part II of London Wild-er Adventures

And so we continue our Wilder Adventure...
Friday afternoon, we arrived back to the lovely Holiday Inn and got settled in.. again. We then quickly headed out for the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square. This collection is a lot to look at - with paintings, amour, porcelain, and so much more - so we spent a good chuck of our time just meandering around the Wallace townhouse. From the Wallace we walked around Covent Garden (one of my most favorite spots in the city - perhaps the world) and found a delicious place to eat dinner before our West End show.. I can't wait to go back there with Dad when he comes! Our next stop was one I'd been looking forward to for so long.. seeing Warhorse in the West End. The show was quite an event. We saw massive horse puppets, guns shooting, bombs exploding, dead bodies, thunderstorms and even a fast paced goose to top it all off. It was an excellent show of just how talented people are, I was so impressed and I think the fam was as well. Overall, it was a great, warm (ish) Friday night after a long week of snow and cold in France.

Saturday started off somewhat late as we bounced off to Hampton Court Palace on the District Line to Richmond and from there a bumpy bus ride all the way to Hampton Court. The palace was originally built and owned by Cardinal Wolsey until my main man Henry VIII basically ripped it out from under him before sentencing him to the Tower. As well, the palace is one of the three Tudor locations that I am researching and analyzing for my thesis so I have a lot invested in this place! Most of the day was spent exploring the massive rooms while listening to the amazing audio guides.. and as it stopped raining we were able to see the beautiful gardens and even get lost in the oldest maze in Europe! We survived the maze and eventually hopped a train back home in time to watch the Six Nations Rugby tournament: England vs Wales. Sorry to say, England bit the dust in the end but Mom and I had a great time chatting up some locals and enjoying a pint!

The next day we trekked out into the non-stop rain to watch Buckingham Palace's Changing of the Guards. Two hours later and a few close calls with eyes and umbrellas, we had seen it. A band, horses, guards (obvi), and tons of tourists.. pretty much what you'd expect but hey, gotta do everything at least once right?! As it was St Patrick's Day, we headed to the pub for lunch where we were bombarded with the crew of the HMS Westminster that had just docked on the River Thames.. they were definitely ready for a St Patty's pint!

Another trip to Harrod's for some yummy souvenirs and then we ventured onto a River Boat Cruise to Greenwich. There is just something about seeing the city from the river, it is quite magical even as it is pouring raining and there are some smelly people sitting too close to you. After spending about 3 minutes in Greenwich, we returned on the boat to Westminster for one of my favorite parts of the whole trip: the London Eye at night! Sun had set and we had fast track tickets so we just sauntered up to the big bubble ferris wheel and climbed aboard! The whole thing takes about 30 minutes, just enough time to see all of London's amazing skyline but not long enough to get bored on the barely moving bubble thing. London at night is better than London at any other time and I absolutely loved seeing it from above! From the Eye, we headed straight to the world's best restaurant.. Da Mario's for round two!

Momma, Gma and Papa's last day was not going to be wasted, even if it was raining cats and dogs. We hit up the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum as well as Le Pain, one of my favorite lunch spots. After much contemplation, we decided packing and such would be a good use of time so I packed a massive suit case of winter things from my flat for Momma to take home (thanks, Mom!) and then for dinner we choose the world's best restaurant, again! Da Mario's was glad to see us for our third trip of the week and I was oh-so glad to have my Gnocchi Sorentina again.

As they left me at my flat, I might have shed a tear (or two) in hugging goodbye but I really could not be more grateful for the 12 days we all had together. It was a trip I will never forget because of how much we laughed, the amazing and beautiful things we experienced, the food we enjoyed, the new family stories I learned (Philip, we have much to discuss), and the overall sense of love that I get when I'm surrounded by my family. I'm so blessed to have a family who won't drive me nuts after 12 days of traveling - as hectic as it may be - and to feel so supported in what I am doing, over here so far away. London has been such an unbelivable and 'growing' adventure for me that being able to share and show my family exactly what it is I have been doing since August was such a gift. I know believe that they can better understand my love of London, of art and of travel. So thanks Momma, Grandma and Papa.. you put up with Tour Guide Lisa for 12 days, I hope now you can finally get some rest!

Next up, Momma and Daddy hit London in late May... already planning that GrisWaugh Adventure and what a hilarious adventure it will be!

I don't know what I'm going to do now that these peeps aren't following me around!

Cheers y'all, Lis

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Snow Wild in France

My fingers are still a bit frozen from the Bayeux snow so I thought I'd let Gloria Jean do some talkin' for the both of us.. Here is her take on our French adventures:

Sooo, you read about our first few days with Lisa in London…next stop for the fab four was Paris/Normandy and what an adventure that was! We left on Monday bright and early to catch Eurostar to Paris, beautiful train, beautiful weather (little rainy, but can’t complain about that). From there we switched train stations and then caught the regional train to Bayeux, so-so train, so-so weather (started snowing shortly after getting on the train at three). For those who have never travelled by regional train, they stop at every little town, so after several stops a lady came onto our car and (speaking only in French) told us to get off the train because it was not going any farther due to the bad weather. Amazingly enough, we gathered all that from the panicked look on her face. So, we had to disembark in a town were no one speaks English and try to figure out what to do next…did I mention it was snowing?? Like really, really snowing?? Imagine 30 mile an hour winds and a white out…okay, now you’ve got the picture.

By the grace of God (and the help of a very nice English speaking tour guide) we figured out what train to catch and literally (leet-tra-lee as they say in jolly England) had to  sprint to get on the last train out of town to our destination, beautiful Bayeux.

It snowed for a full 24 hours, more snow than this area had seen in 15 years! It was gorgeous, but we soon found that much like southeastern North Carolina, the town came to a stand still for the next three days! We ended up spending an extra night in Bayeux, but hey there are worse places to be stranded! As our travel service and hotelier said, “by order of the local government, we cannot drive or travel, as we are on red alert”. It was a really big, big deal for the area and we were lucky enough to be there to witness the fun!! We were disappointed that my parents were not able to see the American Cemetery, but we basically saw everything else…side note: we did find out that the French Norman school children in Normandy are taken each year to the American Cemetery and asked to pick out a grave that they will promise to bring flowers to on holidays so that they will never forget what the American soldiers did for them. Humbling.

Back to our situation, each day we walked around a blizzard like town (Papa with bags on his feet because he only took one pair of shoes), we ate really well and met some really nice people, so all in all it was a really great visit to Bayeux.

Of course, that left us only one night in Paris. We leet-tra-lee caught the first train out of town after our somewhat abbreviated tour of Normandy on Thursday and spent the late afternoon travelling. Arriving at 7:30, we hit the ground running. A quick bite of dinner and we headed over to the Eiffel Tower for some token pics in front of the amazing feat of architecture. Never fails to amaze how big it really is.
Leaving town the next morning, I think we all felt like we had been gone for longer than four days, and when we arrived back in Kensington, even Grandma said she felt like she was back “home”!

As always, the best part of travel for me is the people I meet along the way. From Rima Hebert, the hotel owner, to Matthew, our guide, to the school group from Canada that was also stuck in Bayeux in the snow, we are yet again reminded that there are nice people wherever you go in this big, big world.

So now we're back 'home' in London, just two more days of Wilder Adventures! Out of the snow but still in the cold, heading to the Changing of the Guards this morning so say a prayer we don't get rained on..
Cheers y'all, Lis & Momma 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Just Another Wild(er) Adventure! London: Part I

As some may know.. Momma, Grandma and Papa arrived in London last Friday morning to a cold, wet, and yucky day. I have been awaiting their arrival for months on months by now and seeing their driver pull up was so exciting, I wanted to just yank them out and start off on what I've been calling our Wild(er) Adventure.
(Momma's maiden name is Wilder, so it fits.. right?)
So day one, off we go to tour my neighborhood of South Kensington. I know they must have been very tired but I was so excited, I really didn't care! I eagerly popped their umbrellas and just about pushed them into the freezing weather and rain with the hopes that they'd just 'get used to it'.. as I claimed I had months ago.
Well after about two hours of walking in the rain - we covered Hyde Park, my school campus, my flat and a local breakfast place - my trench coat, my hair and my dignity were completely soaked through. I was a wet cat who needed warming up so naturally, we stomped off to Harrods's! Harrods is overwhelming as it is but add in horrible weather and you've got a mess of people and a mess of slippery floors. Grandma and Papa enjoyed the food halls (as everyone does!) but this made us realize how hungry we were.. next stop, fish and chips!
The pub was a well needed break from walking and a pint or two later, we were off again! The day ended with a perfectly appropriate trip to Da Mario's (my favorite in the world) and the family's introduction to the infamous Carly and Kate! Eventually, the yummy dinner and great company came to a close and we felt our early bedtime was well deserved...
The next day was slam packed with our tour guide, David. A completely typical scarf and trench coat-wearing, quick-witted and snappy Brit - he was just about the most knowledgable person we'd ever met! The day included St Paul's, Tower of London and the Crown Jewels, Westminster Abbey, Parliament and a ride along the River Thames. It was a lot to do in just one day but I'm so glad we tackled it all! My favorite part about the day was realizing many of my "unique facts about London" are, in fact, just not true. Basically, I think everyone's just been fibbing with me the whole time I've been here. David was quick to tell me, "No, now I'm not sure that is true" or "Oh, someone has been telling you a story!". So for anyone who I've ever told a Did You Know...? to.. I do apologize, please just erase all my incorrect facts from your memory bank!
Saturday night finished at a steakhouse where we finally celebrating Momma's 51st birthday and Grandma's 76th! Delicious steak, an egg ordeal and of course a good ol' Beef Wellington, topped off the night for us.
Sunday held the "Lisa's London" tour which obviously was just a tour of the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. We sped pretty quickly through each room in the NG (even though I think Papa would have read every single wall text had I given him the chance.. and he would have remembered it all too!) but I was able to show them my favorite paintings as well as see a few I had skipped over in my past 100 visits to the amazing building. We then sauntered on over to the National Portrait Gallery to see my boy, Henry VII, and a few of his wives. As well, we saw the new portrait of Kate - looking quite strange/old/tired, I must say! She's young and beautiful but I really did not see that in this new portrait.. but I guess beauty's in the eye, as they say.
We left the art museum world and headed into the world of Winston Churchill in Churchill's War Rooms near Horse Guard's Parade. What a place... not only can you tour the whole set of underground maze-like rooms, but also an entire museum in honor of Churchill and his interesting and complicated life! This is the kind of spot you could stay in all day if you had a wheelchair and some food/water provisions. The museum and war rooms were very well done but after about two hours, Grandma and I were about to kick the button! Enough sassy Churchill quotes, enough guided audio tour voice commanding us around, enough running into people because the walls are only two feet apart... We were worn out.
Sunday night rounded up with the usual trip to church and delicious dinner at Wildwood with Carly, Kate and friends. I think Grandma and Papa enjoyed my 'rocking', loud church and I'm so glad they were able to experience something that has been so important to me while I've been here in London. Church can be tiring, surprisingly, so dinner and a comfy seat were welcomed as we sat down at Wildwood. And in the end, it was a baked brie and peri peri pasta that helped put me to sleep on our last night in London before France.
Soooo much more to come on our seriously wild(er) adventures in France, it has definitely kept us on our toes (and in our hotel!). Til then!
Cheers y'all, Lisa xo

Monday, March 4, 2013

Paris: City of Love, Lights and...?

Oh Paris.. how I hate to love you and love to hate you! Paris is a city that I just cannot put my finger on. It is so unique and beautiful yet dirty and grim at the same time. It has history and prestige, no one can deny that, and that is one thing that makes it so appealing.. yet, it also can be incredibly strange and harsh. On my fourth trip back to the 'city of love', I found myself in an awkward and confusing love affair with Paris.

It was Carly's birthday weekend (the big 25!) so we decided back in January to head to Paris for the weekend to get away and explore another big Euro city. I knew Paris, I'd 'done' Paris, I'd seen Paris (or so I thought) so while I was excited for a weekend with friends, I wasn't quite ecstatic about my fourth trip back as a tourist. Thursday came and we head to King's Cross to get the chunnel, luckily arriving a bit early to the station and knocking back a couple Bloody Mary's - hey, it's always 5 o'clock somewhere.

A few hours later, we got to our hostel in MonteMarte.. we dropped our stuff, bundled up, got some cheese and wine and headed to the steps of Sacre Cour. As much as my love to Paris is conflicted, the steps of Sacre Cour is one of my top ten favorite places in the world. Truly, the view, the people, the atmosphere, the everything is enough to just make you swoon. We popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate Carly's 25th and had the best time laughing, talking and taking in the amazing view of Paris skyline.

The next day was filled with the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, crepes and of course more wine.. ending with delicious steak and potatoes dinner! Although the weather was freezing and cloudy, Paris was growing on me. Saturday, we walked to the top of the Arch de Triomphe to see another great view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.. then we headed to the Eiffel Tower. I've seen it multiple times before yet it never fails to surprise me how massive it is! It is really overwhelming and its height is even more impressive as there are no other buildings even near it to challenge its magnitude.

After a quick nap and a shower, I met up with my Wake friends who are backpacking through Europe before they start work. After meeting up in London a few weeks ago, I was really looking forward to seeing them again... and I was able to show them the steps of Sacre Cour at night. We sat for a while listening to the live music, people watching, and again - cheese and wine (there's a theme here..)! Afterwards, we all met up for dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Eiffel Tower as it lights up. Another delicious meal and a few drinks at a micro-brewery finished off the night.

Sunday morning held another visit to Sacre Cour - so I really do love this place.. can you tell? - and then I spent a few hours at a cafe reading my book and people watching. So Paris, you've won me over. The cafe culture, the lights at night, the museums, the food, the wine and cheese... its taken a few trips but I can finally say I'm a fan. The city is really different but I have realized that is what is supposed to be its attraction. I think my biggest issue with Paris was viewing it as a tourist and visitor.. my favorite moments of my trip were when I just sat, ate and experienced the culture outside of the museum, monuments, etc. Seeing Paris for what it is: a vibrant and exciting place to live really was amazing!

It is a good thing I've had these new found revelations considering in just one week I'll be heading back to Paris with Momma, Grandma and Papa... and I really could not be more excited about it! So Paris, I'm expecting my next trip to be even more eye-opening than my last. See you in a week..

 Cheers y'all, Lis