Tuesday, June 15, 2010


It takes 2 hours to get from London to Brussels.  One to Paris.  If you can get over the fact that you are travelling at high speed beneath the English Channel, the Eurostar train is a great, easy and fast way to access Continental Europe.

It was actually a surprise holiday that Neil took me on, and I didn't find out where we were going until the day before.  This prevented any planning, which was actually a great way to go for the weekend.  We spent it walking around (although not necessarily knowing what we were looking at), enjoying the sun, enjoying each other, beer, food and football (ahem, soccer).  (GO USA!)

Here are some photos of a wonderful weekend in the Belgian sun.  I'll spare you the history lesson.

Manneken Pis: Has been a fixture in Brussels since 1618 or 1619.  They like to dress him in costumes.  Last time I was there I believe it was a devil of sorts.  Now a waiter.

This bar serves over 2,000 types of beer.  A few of the samplings: strawberry, cherry, banana, apple

Enjoying some apple juice, I mean beer.

I've heard of a handle bar mustache, but perhaps not a beer stein handle bar mustache.

The main square.

Sustenance for the football (ahem, soccer) game.

Belgian booty.  Beer and chocolate, chocolate and beer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day Tripping

England is a pretty small country.  About the size of Michigan, in fact.  And so while it doesn't make it so great being crammed in here with 60 million other people, it does make taking day trips to some beautiful and historic places very possible.

So possible, in fact, that a friend and I headed to Cambridge for the day.

A few fun facts:

-Last year in 2009 Cambridge celebrated it's 800th year as a University.  One of the oldest olleges is Clare College, named after a woman who had been disallowed from attending the university as she was a "lady of disrepute".  A few rich (and dead) husbands later, she made a large donation.  I guess money has been speaking for a very long time.

-The following is the site of the first bridge over the River Cam.  Hence: CamBridge

-It is illegal for anyone except for the Queen (and a few select members of King's College at Cambridge) to eat swan meat, for the commoners the offence is tantamount to treason.  They are all by default property of the Queen.  How often she eats them I'm not sure (and what if she wanted to share a meal?  They are pretty big...)  

- Prince Charles attended Cambridge.  King's College to be specific (fitting, no?).  One of the national newspapers reported on his bodyguard, who, having sat through all of the lectures, also sat the final exam.  He scored better than the future King.  It's not what you know, people, it's who you know.

-Punting.  A fancy word whose etymology I don't know (and am too lazy to look up) but assume is just "boating" because Cambridge likes to think they're smarter than everyone else.  So yes, punting is a fancy word for boating on the River Cam.  The boats are all 23' long with 4 rows of seats, made of wood and have a flat bottom.  They were designed specifically for the river as it is very shallow and traditional boats wouldn't pass through it.  They are maneuvered down the river gondola-style, but instead of paddling they push the long stick along the stony bottom.  Most rivers had muddy bottoms.  The Cam, however, was filled with stones by enterprising merchants who refused to pay travel taxes to the University for travelling on their land.  As the river is shallow and public domain, that is where they chose to travel.

-Here are just a few more photos of the various bridges, colleges and greenery.

                                           The Bridge of Sighs. 

                                                     Henry VIII. 

Really beautiful until you realise those gray things in the back are graves.

   My friend Sarah and I as we enjoyed a cloudy day on the river Cam.

-How quintessentially English is this guy?!  He looks like he is straight out of a movie.  I know no real English people that dress like this.  But I do give him a lot of style points!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Little Things

It's the little things in life.

 Like screens on windows.  Or knowing which way to look when crossing the street.  (And the existence of stop signs.  And the innate knowledge that the oncoming car WILL stop for you).  Not to mention easy access to macaroni and cheese.

The little things.  That really do make life easy.  That make it routine.  Comfortable.

That resolutely do not exist in the UK.

Okay, I get that mac and cheese isn't a gourmet delicacy spread to new worlds with great pomp and circumstance.  I understand that Britain had roads, and things driving on them, whether motorised or not, long before the US was even a country.  I give in and I give up on those.  (And with spelling.  See above "motorised".  And with word choice.  I can only take asking for a "roundtrip" bus ticket so many times only to be reprimanded with "it's return ticket here miss")

But seriously.  No window screens?  It begs a simple question -- WHY?  Do you like flies and spiders and centipedes and all likes of creepy crawlies having unabated access to your homes?  Do you prefer that it makes it that much easier for someone to rob you blind should you forget to close a window?  And people, the windows are open.  It's summer.  Air conditioning is about as prevalent as window screens and I have one word for you - humidity.

But cheers to a sunny day in the UK.  But I do ask, politely, but yet again, for the men to put their shirts back on.  And for the women to do the same.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Q: Who Wears Short Shorts? A: Not me. But every other woman in England.

Howdy Folks!

Can you believe it is 27 degrees here today?!  Wait, what?  27?  In summer?
Oh, Celsius, you tricky dog, you.  That means 80?!  (Or 300 Kelvin, if you're into that kind of thing)  No wonder the snowpants and down jacket seemed a little excessive (and sweaty) the other day.  But one never can tell on the tube.  They see the likes of everything.  And I mean everything.

Why David, that new hair-style is just fetching.

It's been hot and cloudless the past few days.  And just to prove that cultural differences don't always run deep, the British too, shed their clothes at the first ray of sunshine.  I don't think I've seen a man with his shirt on for four days.  I am also almost nearly blind from the glare of white, white legs that are in short, short shorts.  Eight months is a long time people.   Self tanner.  Or trousers.

To enjoy the beautiful weather like a proper tourist, I went on a "Royal London Walk". Below is a photo of at least a few reasonably dressed (and by that I mean well-covered) people.

I'm off to tackle part of a creative writing project I've procured for myself.  Because surely watching TV is research.

That's all I've got for now, folks.  
Catch you on the flip side.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm a Rambling (Wo)Man

Here in England apparently walking for the sake of walking isn't enough.  It is called "Rambling".  And ramble I did this weekend.


The above is an image of the Stevenage Outer Orbital Path.  On which I went walking with Neil and some friends this weekend.  We passed a few proper ramblers (rucksacks, maps and all), but I'm going to venture we ambled more than rambled as we "kind of knew which direction we were headed" and found the car muchas gracias to GPS.  Working off the Mexican feast from Saturday night and the mega American-style breakfast Sunday morning we worked our way through six miles of sunny, green English countryside.  Add the hay-fever inducing fields of rape (ugly name, beautiful scenery), some seriously quaint churches and thatched-roof houses and it truly was any movie or the imagery from a Jane Austen novel.


Datchworth Church


In other English news, there is a new Prime Minister and a new government.  (Although it sounds strange to say new government.  Like it is finally democratic or something - really it just means they had an election).  There was some hullabaloo about the whole thing as the Conservatives (Tories-who, are quite liberal and progressive by my American standards) won the majority of seats but not enough to form an absolute majority, thus enabling them to drive through any legislation they want.  So, instead of calling another election (yes, they can call an election whenever they want over here) in a few months and hoping to secure the magic 326 seats in Parliament the Conservatives have formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats (who only secured 52 MP seats in the election), and the two have pledged to govern together.  I for one, find this to be a most pleasing solution to a major political "problem".  This forces the nutters in either party to the margins, where they usually belong, and at the end of the day I feel the policies and interests of the government cover more people in the country.  One big hot-button issue for all the parties is immigration.  And by that I mean they are all vowing to curb it, cut it and cease it.  We'll see how this plays out for all students hoping to get visas in the near future (meaning, me).  This melange of parties in power also encourages, nay, requires DEBATE.  This, for reasons unbeknownst to me, is a four-letter word in British politics. 

My favo(u)rite election poster, courtesy of the UKIP (UK Independence Party):

Needless to say, they did not sod the lot.  In fact, they got two for the price of one.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo, the English Way

which, means...doing nothing.  And reading about all the delicious Mexican food my friends and family back in the States are planning on consuming back in the States (thanks, Facebook!).

It's strange being in a country where not only do they not recognize or celebrate the holidays that have made up your life (think, Labor and Memorial Day, MLK Jr., etc.), but that there are holidays of which they have no idea of their existence (they don't bother to name their holidays other than Christmas, Boxing Day and Easter - they're all just known as Bank Holiday - and there are a lot of them).  Take Cinco de Mayo for example.  While not an official holiday in either the US or Mexico it is generally recognized (if incorrectly as the Mexican Independence day) and celebrated.  Cue the tacos and beer (I'll take a Dos Equis, por favor).

The state flag of Puebla, Mexico

Neil and I celebrated his inaugural Cinco de Mayo whilst in Madison, albeit a few days early, with plenty of Mexican-style BBQ (seriously, corn tortillas on the grill, you haven't lived until you've tried it), several salsas, guacamole, margaritas and dos equis.  Not to mention great friends, beautiful weather and even a little Spanish-speaking.  It was a beautiful evening, and it was interesting to watch someone celebrate a holiday that they didn't know existed until a few days earlier.  It just goes to show that good friends, good food, good conversation and a few dirty jokes transcend cultures and borders and I thoroughly recommend it as a formal foreign relations policy.  Seriously.  Add a little booze and I'm positive this whole Middle-East thing could be worked out in no time.

Seriously, droooooollllll

I've scoured the British countryside (well, okay the grocery stores where I live) in the attempts to find decent (because that is all you can ask for here) Mexican ingredients, and luckily I've discovered a few secrets.  The first is that at the Borough Market in London there is a stall that sells real, honest-to-goodness Mexican ingredients that are so delicious that I don't even mind paying for them what I would pay for the entire Mexican grocery at home.  If I find the inspiration any time soon, I'll post a recipe for pulled pork (made in the slow cooker!) Mexican style that is delicious, easy, and most importantly - able to be assembled with ingredients found in English shops.  Yum yum.  You'll just have to come back at a later date to check out my blog (again!) to see if it's been updated.  Check out the recipes section.

When some friends come up for the weekend I'm planning a Mexican feast and I can't wait.  So instead of an on-the-day Cinco de Mayo celebration this year, I'll be celebrating it twice, on both sides of the pond.  Once a little early and once a little late.  Once with some folks from Mexico and once with some folks who have never heard of the holiday, but both times with good food, good friends and good fun.

Hasta pronto,

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Weathering in Wisco

Howdy folks!
As most of you know (because I've seen you! yay!) I am safely back in the land of beer and cheese and enjoying every moment of it.  I couldn't believe when I landed it was 80 degrees (of course a few days later it snowed...)

It was a long and mostly uneventful flight, save the man seated next to me who played every conceivable air instrument whilst listening to deafening loud music.  And not even good music.  Beastie Boys and Janet Jackson.  And some other things I asked him to turn down.  Twice.  (Yes, twice.  I paid a lot of money to attempt to sleep in the most uncomfortable position ever.  Bad music is not going to stop me!)  And the crying babies.  But just in the airport, and T to the G not on the plane.  It felt great to finally get in the car for the last stretch home, windows down, (good) music up, and some freshly baked oatmeal cookies baked by my beautiful Mother!  (And btw, they were seriously amazing.  I just might be kind enough to share the recipe with you on the recipe page :-)                     


There was supposed to be a photo of delicious
looking oatmeal cookies here, but I guess
learning how to use the iPhoto program
will come with time and practice...

I've been a busy girl, and couldn't be happier that I've had the opportunity to see so many of the people I know and love over the past week and a half!  I've put a good few miles on the car (oh driving, how I love thee), and a good dent too (I swear not my fault!  I got hit in a parking lot!).  It's nice to be back in the country for awhile - peace, quiet, where one can see the stars and share a good meal outside on April 1st (and it was an April Fool's day trick...like I said...a week later - SNOW!)  I've completely neglected any studying and reading I should start doing for the summer and autumn, but have completed some "required" school work by purchasing a brand new MacBook!  (From which I bring you this lovely message!)

There was supposed to another
photo here that I took with my
lovely new MacBook.  I guess
that too, will come in time...

So, in closing, I just want to say, Wisconsin, I do love you.  And although I didn't miss you one iota this winter, I do miss the people you house, and it's so great to be back.  (Now that I've sucked up, can I ask you please to stop pollinating as I seem to have contracted allergies for the first time in my life...k thanks)