Saturday, October 31, 2009

Still Here




Just in case anyone is wondering or worried, I did arrive home safely, did not hand over my passport and become a ex-pat or anything. Just had to jump right back into work, (the day after I got home) and getting ready for The Wine Country's big Beaune Imports tasting, seriously going to be one of the finest tastings of the year....and between the jetlag, tons of work that was waiting for me and a slowly creeping-up-on-my-ass chest cold I just have not had the time or inspiration to write much, but I'll be back.

I still have more to say than anyone wants to hear, (like most bloggers) have opinions coming out my ass and I'm about to have one hell of a wine week so there will be lots to say, lots to share and plenty of things to write about. Oh on top of that...My Amy is flying in for a visit on Monday, (insert happy dance here..looks a little like Snoopy's dance but with more swing in the hips) so if anything was going to pull my head out of my, "I'm so blah after a wonderful vacation" ass, it's her. Just thought I should let the few regular readers I have, know what's going on let you all know that this blog is not going away......just taking a few days to get caught up!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Our Way




Call-o was still feeling pangs of anxiety about hearing people break our bawls about not seeing the sights while in London, I’m thinking he was mostly fearing getting an earful from his mother…a very sweet, well traveled woman who will in fact break our bawls when we see her. The fact that there is not one photo of either of us anywhere in London is going to just drive her mad, it’s not that she is mean, nothing could be further from the truth but for her, seeing those pictures and knowing that we saw all the “important” stuff, well that means we had a great vacation, she’s more traditional that way.

So his plan for our final day was to pop on the tube, hit all the, “important stuff” and take a picture of Travel Buddy in front of all of them. Now for the sake of not making my hubby look like a total, mom-fearing-weenie he had first intended to have me snap photos of him in front of all these places but he was now on board with Travel buddy and thought it would be funny to have him be our proof of a great vacation mascot.


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We woke Monday feeling a tad exhausted, didn’t sleep much after all the power outage excitement from the night, well…couple of hours before, but we had to get a move on if we wanted to take our little friend’s picture and still have time to do a few things for us, which of course meant sitting in a pub soaking up the beer, Gin and the comings and goings of a town we were now deeply in love with. “So we’ll head over to the Market, get something to eat and then hop on the tube” Call-o running down how the day was to go. “Okay, I’m ready when you are” I replied and we headed out to lunch at the little pub we were refused, (“Kitchens closed”) the night before, The White Lion.

After a plate of eggs, thick cut ham steak, chips and a pint of London Pride…well, the hubby seemed less interested in pleasing others. There was this mellow hue about him, the slightly melancholy but calm energy that I could feel from my little bench seat across the table from him. Plates cleared, second pints drained and I could just sense that he wanted to stay there, right there where he was sitting. Unsure what to do as I didn’t want to be the one to say, “Screw the pictures, let’s just do this our way” I offered a tiny solution, “We can go back out to the square, have a coffee at one of those cafes and then go take pictures” I said with a somewhat forced, perky voice. His reply, “Or we could have a coffee, blow off the pictures and spend our last day of our vacation doing what made us love this fantastic place. Let’s just do it our way”…I was so proud.

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We walked around the curvy streets and found one of those little cafes that just have a few circular tables and seats that face the street, grabbed a couple of coffees, the paper and just sat there reading, sipping and watching the people go by. Listening to brief snippets of conversations that had started way down the street and would continue long after they passed us sitting on our tiny perch. A little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old, wearing a new faux fur jacket, “What do you think of me now daddy?” tiny fists pushed deeply in the pockets of her fancy coat, shoulders standing at attention, tiny head looking up at her tall father, “You look quite idol in that, very pop star” he replied cradling her tiny head in his large hand.

“We had an argument the other day. I was firm but fair” a woman retelling of a work scuffle to her husband. “That place is very good, they have fab steaks and the set up is very American” two friends rushing by on their way to the square….we sat there for a good hour, warm coffee, flies on the wall, the ink from the paper staining our fingers….Our way.


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Went back to the room for a brief rest and to find this chocolate that his mother had requested with the help of Google, turns out the stuff is like made by Nestle of something and it was available at ever grocery, who knew?! Rested, threw on our evening jackets and spent our final night roaming the square. We were dead tired now, not enough sleep, knowing the trip was coming to a close, wandering the antique market looking at old World War Two medals, letters still stuffed in their original envelopes…now that’s history, coffees, watching the street performers in the square, dinner and drinks in an outdoor café and we knew, just knew this was the perfect way to say farewell to the London that we fell in love with. Went back to the room early and drifted off to sleep.



We spent our vacation doing what we love, seeing the things that matter to us and found ourselves completely enchanted….what a lovely trip.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are You Ready For Some Football...American Football That Is




So after my love affair of a brunch we headed back to the room to digest and take a little rest, (So Euro I know) before heading out for the reason we came to London in the first place, the football game. Now a dear friend of mine thought the idea of coming to London to watch an NFL game was about the stupidest thing he could think of, now this man hates football mind you, but I knew what he was really getting at. The thing is, we didn’t really fly all the way to London for football, football is what made the trip “go” as it were. The whole idea was hatched during a drunken evening with Amy and Sexy Bitch, we flew to Chicago last year to celebrate Sexy Bitches birthday and watch his beloved Tampa Bay Bucks take on the Chicago Bears. We had a great trip, travelled really well together, (different hotels, each couple taking little day trips without the other) and thought coming to London would be yet another great time…just so happened that Sexy Bitches Bucks would be playing, perfect. We got the tickets to the game and then the sky fell, or Amy and Sexy Bitch got exiled to Dallas. They went round and round but in the end they had to sell their seats but Call-o and I were so pumped, not for football but to be coming to London. So football was the catalyst not really the reason.

We rested a bit then headed out to the somewhat long trip out to Wembley. The tube was full of folks in NFL gear, both Americans and Brits, it was way exciting and when we finally stepped off the tube at Wembley there was a river of people flowing into the stadium. After a rather long hike we made our way to our area, quite nice seats at the club level, got a couple beers and settled in. The game, well it blew, was boring as fuck and the Bucks just got rolled over…it was painful and not at all exciting to watch. By the 3rd quarter I was ready to go and thinking about trying to get in the tube with the over 84,000 people that were there…dreadful. At the top of the 4th quarter the hubby finally admitted he too was ready to make a break for it, the reason…aside from the game being a total dud, he was watching other people pick up an leave, he was worried about get crunched in the tube as well.



We folded into the pack of people moving towards the station and at a few points I had to grab hold of the hubby’s jacket to keep from being swallowed by the crowd, it was horrific and I simply cannot imagine what it must have been like for those poor souls that waited until the end of the game…ugh! Once on the tube we made friends with a very charming English guy, funny how polite and friendly people can be when you have your nose shoved into their Adam’s apple. This was the first NFL game he had ever seen and he had a great time, he had us giggling and was full of questions and comments about the cheerleaders, “I am a man and my blood is red” he kept telling us…too cute. Made one transfer and got off at the Covent Garden station.



We walked into the now quite familiar square, damn thing was still full of people but the restaurants were pretty much done serving dinner at 9:00 on a Sunday night. We wandered into The White Lion, a pub across the street from The Nag’s Head, (where we had a lovely lunch a couple days before). The pub was damn near empty so we sat at the bar and ordered a couple drinks, the bartender…well, she was simply adorable. Small little thing, hair pulled back in a puffy little ponytail, buzzing around like a little sprite picking up empty pint glasses and wisecracking with the few guests that were there. We asked when the restaurant upstairs stopped serving dinner, “Well they kind of close when there is no one there, so if you go up they may still seat you” she told us…sweet. We gathered our drinks, walked up yet another tight fitting, windy staircase only to be told, “Sorry, the kitchen is closed”.

Walked back into the bar our little sprite said, “Awe, were they closed? I’m sorry” with her very cute accent. “Nah, don’t worry about it, we can just drink our dinner” Call-o told her, and we took our seats again at the bar. A few cocktails later, and tons of giggles between myself and the bartender she walked up to us with a bowl in her hand…her snack, some “chips” with melted cheese. “Here, have a few of these” she offered and ran to get a coffee cup which she filled with chips and cheese, so freaking sweet of her.



We sat there for hours watching the pub begin to fill, watching all the NFL gear come marching down the street, watched this very odd youngish guy…big ratted hair, low-rise jeans showing off his very flat, and very shaved…area. He was an intense dude, kept ordering pints and sitting in his seat staring at the pub across the street, he was fixated; obsessed…I was dying to know what or who he was waiting for. I caught myself staring at him, caught the bartender staring at him, we just kept giving each other this look like, “what the hell is he waiting for?!” and then grinning at one another. We chatted a bit more with our adorable new friend, she was unbelievably charming, she was even excited to find out we were Americans. She made me laugh, made me feel welcome, more than welcome, she made me feel like we had been coming to her little pub for years, loved, loved, loved her. As we made the stroll back to our hotel I was once again feeling the very real, very palpable, ultimately powerful personal touch of this place and its people.



Got back to the room, ordered some dreadful room service, (if that was a burger than I am Elizabeth Hurley) a bottle of wine and thought about getting some sleep. The hubby, well he was restless, couldn’t sleep and saw fit to wake me from my slumber to keep him company, damn it Call-o. Now both wide awake, at like 3:30 in the morning, Call-o thought this, this was the perfect time to try and figure out the lighting system in our room….something that had been bothering him since we got here. “One of these has to be the master switch” he blurted while jumping out of bed and dashing to the light switch panel next to the entry door. Lights on, lights off, lights on, lights off, click-click-click and….complete darkness, even the bloody television shut off. “Damn it Call-o, you ate the power” I said now in a fit of sleep needing giggles. He had flipped a breaker or something and had to wander down to the front desk at almost 4:00 AM and tell them our power was out. I sat there, in the dark until Call-o and the night manager came through the door, flashlight a-blaring. Sat there shaking my head, trying not to burst into laughter, while the little manager dude stood on a chair and flipped whatever switch would undo what my dear husband had done.

After laughing for a solid 20 minutes we both drifted off to sleep not wanting to think about the fact that the next morning would usher in our last day in London.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Driving Slow On Sunday Morning, I May Never Want To Leave"




“Let’s get up earlier and get out of the hotel before noon tomorrow” the hubby’s final words before drifting off Saturday night. He had big plans for the following day, lots of things he wanted to do before we headed out to Wembely Stadium to watch the New England Patriots take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I believed him when he said it, I knew he meant it but I also knew that he was up way past his regular bedtime and knowing how much sleep he requires…well let’s just say I wasn’t panicked. I was also wondering just how much was going to be open on Sunday here in London, sure the bigger tourist places might be, but I knew from my past trips to other parts of Europe, Sunday is kind of closed and stuff.

I woke up before Call-o and was half ready by the time he got out of bed, “Wow, check you out” he commented on his way to the shower but in the end it was about 12:15 before we stepped out of the hotel, again. We had plans but we needed to get a bite and I remembered reading about the traditional English Sunday Roast, didn’t really know what it was but it was what I flashed on when I thought of Sunday here, so we headed out into our little neighborhood, his plan was to just get a bite to eat, mine was to see if I could find a Sunday Roast….walked up about 2 blocks before I saw a sign on one of those a-frame chalkboard deals in front of a little bistro, “Full Sunday Roast” we walked in a were seated right away.



The place reminded me of a Paris bistro, warm brass, dark wood, white linens, heavy cutlery and a 3 foot tall face bursting with Stargazers that I could smell from my table. I ordered a glass of Chablis, Carl a cocktail and we went over the menu, I was instantly drawn to the roast beef…reminded me of my mother, we always had roast beef on Sunday when I was a kid, but there was also Eggs Benedict, with fries no less…hum, what to do?! When our server Michael, a tall, very friendly, somewhat gangly young man, returned with our drinks I just asked, “Oh well the roast beef is quite nice, goes down really easy that” well that was all I needed to hear..Carl went for the roasted pork belly and we munched on bread smeared with unsalted French butter.



I was sitting in the banquette facing the bar so I got to watch all the goings on back there, watched as one guy stocked the bar, made drinks from bubbles and juice and kind of barked at the other servers…seemed like he scared the hell out of them, there is always a pecking order in a restaurant and this guy, well he was clearly pretty high up on the food chain. While we waited for our food I watched as families came in, pink cheeked kids, sweater and scarf clad adults, all looking to enjoy a Sunday Roast together, many times meeting the grandparents as well, the place was filling before my eyes. The sound of children with their adorable English accents talking to their grandmas, the clank of heavy silverware being rested on a plate, the bar active….. pouring glasses of Champagne, pulling pints and mixing drinks…the smell of roasted meat, French fries and the faint whiff of rosemary, and those beautiful Stargazers. The music just pushed me right over the edge, little louder than one might expect for such a quaint little place, but at all too loud, in fact it was at the perfect volume and the tunes they had spinning for a room full of people enjoying a Sunday Roast, “Send me forget me not’s, to help me to remember. Baby please forget me not, I want you to remember” disco and soft rock like Van Morrison and Elton John. All of it, the music, the smells, the sound of a four year old saying, “Oh but granny I want it” in that accent, the warm brass, dark wood…it all spun around me, slowly, softly, sweetly, you that moment when you are listening to someone talk and you realize, “God, I am in love this person”…that was me yesterday afternoon at JT’s Bar and Grill, falling in love with the day, the people, the ritual…this place.



My roast beef was very nice, not as good as mom’s used to be, but good and the Yorkshire Pudding was unreal but Call-o’s pork belly, holy mother of gorgeous meat! I had pictured braised, not sure why, just how we tend to see it back home but this was a perfectly roasted hunk of pork belly with a think, crusty band of super crunchy skin on the top….drool. We ate slowly, I ordered more wine, we had coffee and I even ordered us a Bushmills just so I could be in love just a little bit longer, that was when the lyrics to that song came bouncing into my head, “Driving slow on Sunday morning, I may never want to leave” summed up my feelings exactly.

We got our bill, said thank you and goodbye and walked out into the brisk but absolutely beautiful Sunday afternoon. We walked past the square at Covent Garden where I saw couples holding hands, shopping bags clasped in the other, groups of friends sitting in the outdoor cafes, eating meat pies, drinking pints and just sharing the afternoon together. We walked past Fuel, the place we had dinner a couple of nights before and there were these groups of kids, maybe 18-20 years old and they were having a few pints, some crispy wood fired pizza and talking…not quite the horrific picture people try and paint to warn against letting 18 year olds have a drink right? They were laughing, sharing a meal, sipping on pints and behaving just like….well, just like the rest of the adults in the square. We passed people dressed to the nines, we are talking gowns and tuxedos here, on their way to a Sunday matinee at the theatre, whole families dripping in their finest, spending the afternoon enjoying and appreciating the arts.



As we made our way back to the hotel I started thinking about that stupid Tower of London tour, how people make you think to understand this place you have to see those things…utter bullshit. That may be the kind of vacation that some people enjoy, they may strive to have a photo of their ginning face in front of Ben Ben, one that looks just the one of their parents, their grandparents and that’s fine, just not the way that I choose to learn about a place. I had read about the Tower of London, watched specials on the History Channel, seeing it in person did nothing to further my understanding of it. For me sitting in that bistro, walking the square on a Sunday afternoon, passing the beautifully clad people making their way to the theatre, that made this place real for me, gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding of the people that live here, made me long for a few more days to wander amongst them…. “Driving slow on Sunday Morning, I may never want to leave”…..

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Fitting End




So once I got up from posting and walked, well…tried to walk to my purse to head out for the night I was pretty sure that I could not make the trek all the way down to Chinatown. Apparently while at The Tower of London someone drove nails into the tops of my hips, fucking felt like I was going to shatter with each step…my giant frame was punishing my, over exercised legs, pain…I was in serious pain. Had to throw in the white towel and tell the hubby, “Dude, don’t think I can do it” he was gracious, manipulative but gracious. We headed down to Covent Garden again, now I knew the train station was there but assumed he was not trying to punish me for questioning his directional “issues” from earlier so I followed.

We skipped the bustling square, and I mean bustling, everyone was out, there were like costumes and what not…it was raging down there. This girl, in no mood or condition to rage so the hubby made a sharp turn and we ended up on some tiny street where there just so happened to be a bar…shocking. Two Gin & Tonics and a shot of Jamison later and I was feeling new again, falling out into the street, getting whooshed into the crowd and following. Next thing I know we are in some raging crowd of people in what seemed like downtown Soho, couldn’t move, just shifted my shoulders, dropped my head and was moved with the mass of people. At one point I looked at my hubby with that, “Holy hell, help me” look and he grabbed my hand and yanked me from the pack.

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Walked up half a block and lo and behold, we were in Chinatown. We found the restaurant that someone told us…we, “had to go to” and gleefully bellied up. Um, Chinatown in London compared to Chinatown San Francisco or Monterey Park..ahem, no comparison. The food was under seasoned, lacking any kind of life and the fried stuff sat in puddles of grease..ewe. The upshot, the place had a great French wine list, best one I have seen here in London as a matter of fact. So while the food was insipid I got to wash it down with a fantastic Sancerre from a producer I had never heard of, so not a total loss right? Paid our bill and began our journey back…yeah, the hubby’s radar was just off all day.

Wandered, we just wandered in the cold night air, my buzz getting less profound with each hip jarring step. Oh and the other super cool part, I was wearing my most favorite pants, (Merzie if you are reading, you know the ones) they are giant, way too big but I can wear them, or could without them like falling off and stuff but now…dagnabit.



We aimlessly walked the streets of London, me with my shooting pains in my hips and all the while gripping at the waist of my jeans trying to keep my britches up…I mean, I’m not in the square putting on a show, and I had no time to like prepare for a trow-dropping moment, my “stocking” not so much stuffed it you know what I’m sayin. I’m just looking as pathetic as can be at this point, limping behind my hubby looking like Quasimodo, gripping my pants for dear life and just trying to make it home, “I think I just want one more beer” my captain alerts…I stood there, gimped out looking at him like he just ran over my cat.


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It’s his vacation too so I just trudged on, fist full of denim, nails in my hips and now an aching in my back from the over compensation, that’s when I saw that powder blue lights and heard the, “ungndst-ungndst, dunk-dunk-dunk” music..a bar, I swear it was like finding a chapel for me at that point, “Here! Let’s go here” I blurted, my captain was easily led astray today and he walked right in. We ordered a couple drinks, took notice as to how hot the bartenders were and took a look around the room as we sipped away…um, aside from the 70 year olds that were looking back at us like, “is this what I think it is” we were the only not same sex couple in the joint…gay bar, we were in a gay bar…rad. Rudy’s Revenge, we spent the remainder of the evening at Rudy’s Revenge. By the time we left I was fully rejuvenated and even though my most favorite pants had turned on me, (did a demo for the hubby as we walked to the room, let go of the pants and down they fell…dammit) I ended up having a fantastic day.



So two crappy, “You HAVE to” things and still the night was a swimming success. Just goes to show that laughter, even in the form of your wife gimping around and trying to keep from dropping trow, well that moment, that “cannot believe how silly this day is” moment, can change everything, make it all worth it and make a night that you will never forget.

Oh But You HAVE To....



Next time someone tells me that, tells me what I just HAVE to see on my vacation I am going to turn around and reply, “You just have to blow me”.

So last night after posting and taking down a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the hubby and I headed down to Covent Garden to stroll around and have a bite to eat. We walked a bit and watched a most amusing street performer; there are lots in the area but this guy, what a show. He was wearing nothing but hot pink shorts that looked more like underpants, you know those boxer brief deals…he had augmented his form, that I know for sure, dude so stuffed his stocking of you get my meaning. I kept thinking he must be freezing but this guy was really busting his ass, riding on a 8 foot unicycle, while juggling no less then he popped down and did more juggling, this time with knives and a chainsaw, the whole time being very funny and engaging the crowd the circled him in the square. We clapped, we laughed, we tipped him and settled into a little outdoor café called Fuel.

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We ordered up some cheesy garlic bread, a plate of olives and freaking insanely good tapenade, (green olive and tons of lemon) and a couple of drinks. We chatted, greeted some folks that asked to share our table and watched the street performer breakdown his elaborate lighting system, the whole while his French Bulldog was running around the square chasing this giant exercise ball, damn ball was three times his size. The air was cool but we were seating next to a heater, the noise level was high but we could still hear ourselves talk, the drinks perfectly mixed and the food…fantastic. We sat there for hours, never felt rushed, I noticed that every table had bottles of wine or cocktails on it, no iced tea or soda like back home….ordered some of their wood fired pizza and just let the night settle into us. Pretty cool to see the hubby melt into Europe, there is just a feeling here unlike any other place, a freedom, a lack of pretension or judgment, everyone just out enjoying the evening with friends and family…quite lovely. Call-o could have sat there all night, he kept ordering more drinks and seemed more comfortable in his skin than I have ever seen, I knew he was going to love it.

We strolled back to the hotel; I answered some emails, drank more wine and took a long hot bath in a very long but very narrow tub…dude, I was like wedged in there pretty good, so didn’t care, the night was lovely, I was getting buzzy and the warm water on my flesh felt fan-fucking-tastic. The hubby crashed into a very blissful sleep and I stayed up until about two in the morning puttering around on our now working Internet before crawling into bed and drifting off into a seven hour sleep..hooray!

Woke up at nine, ordered some in room coffee, again…hooray, and got ready for our day. Headed out towards the train station that Call-o wanted to take to get to our, “big” destination for the day…so here’s the thing, my husband has a remarkable sense of direction, the guy can look at a map and pretty much just know a city and which way to go, this is simply amazing to me but, the one thing he lacks is instinct, especially when it comes to finding food. We walked past all the coffee shops, restaurants…the smell of food hanging heavy in the air, and in the direction of the train station which was in a very industrial looking area. After walking for a long ass time we met a bridge and I could see that there was nothing, no buildings, noting for about half a mile. Now I never like to question the hubby, like I said he has that sense of direction thing down but I was beginning to wonder just where the hell we were going and donde…donde the food dude?

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Just as we began to walk on the bridge Call-o says, (pointing in the direction we just came from) “The train station is back there” and just keeps walking forward…away from the station, away from anything. “Um, then where are we going” I asked, to which he said, “Dunno” my face now getting a little tight, “Well, do you see something I don’t?” he didn’t. We had to walk all the back to where we came from to get something to eat…see, no instinct. Found a cute, rather new looking café, I ordered a glass of house Sauvignon Blanc, Call-o a beer and settled on lunch, full English breakfast for him, steak frites for me. The music was funky, kind of R&B mixed with mellow jazz, the food was great, the vibe convivial and I was so freaking happy. We had refills on our drinks and ended the meal with coffee, I so didn’t want to leave, could have chilled in that spot, sipping on wine and listening to the music…watching the crowd bustle by through the tall front windows but….”we just Had to” go.

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Yup, that’s right, The Tower of London, it’s one of those places that everyone tells you that you, “have” to see while you’re here….blow me. What a boring and dreadfully arranged place this is. The maps, stupid and impossible to follow, the little signs kind of point to nowhere and once you do get inside one of the towers you are forced to walk up flight after flight of teeny, tiny, windy staircases, fuck. Now the space in those staircases are tiny so my giant purse kept getting caught on the handrail, the steps are almost too tiny for your feet and when you finally reach the room that you are climbing up to, freaking four thousand degrees, you know just in case you were not already sweating your ass off to get there, once you leave…back out into the chilly London air, fantastic. So by the second or third tower everyone is basically just moving through the room, no one was really looking at anything, climb the stairs, fall into the balzing hot room and get the hell out before you die…I just “had” to see this?! By the time we left I was seriously pissed off and telling my husband, “I will not have someone else’s vacation again. Next time someone tells me, “You just HAVE to see such-and-such I am going to tell them they just have to blow me” he agreed.



I mean if someone came to LA and wanted some suggestions on where to go, I would be more than happy to tell them a few places that I think are cool but I would never, never ever tell them they have to see like Hollywood and Vine, or Mann’s Chinese…if they wanted to then sure but would I tell they, “HAD” to? Hells no…those places are dives, not to mention I would never tell someone what they must do on their vacation….and from now on, never going to let someone tell me what to do on mine.

Other than that, having a blast and we are off to Chinatown for dinner this evening….bringing travel buddy just in case!

Friday, October 23, 2009

More London

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The hubby and I decided to rent a car, and by rent a car I mean rent a car service to pick us up from Heathrow airport, now as fancy as this may sound it really is only a few pounds more than lugging your crap on the tube then flagging down a taxi to carry you to your final destination…so worth it after such a long flight. Our driver was a hoot, short, clumsy…dude kept dropping his phone, quick to mouth off at all the, “carless” drivers on the road as he was trying to go past them doing like 90, and very forward with giving us tips on what to see, what to avoid and where to eat. After waiting for us to have an, “oh so needed” cigarette before getting in the car he promptly stopped off at a shop, “If you don’t mind” to pick up a pack for himself then telling us, “feel free to smoke in the car. Don’t tell anyone but have at it” as he was lighting up one of his own.

Checked into our lovely hotel, The Waldorf Hilton in Covent Garden, dumped our bags and took an accidental one hour nap. The second I realized that we were sleeping I jumped up and tried to rally, it was to no avail…I was dog tired but knew I needed to get something to eat and like be in some fresh air and stuff. Now I thought about washing my face, even showering the airplane gunk off of me but knew once the warm water hit my face and body I would be calling for room service. I tried the never successful, “re-apply” of the makeup…this never really works, especially after that many hours of the crap already being on your face, the results, ghastly. I kept trying to pull the liquid liner over the little bits that remained but everything just kept crumbling…my face was literally disintegrating before my eyes, well..on my eyes. Ended up not giving a shit as my eyes were blood red and only at half mass anyway, pat of power to reduce the oily sheen and a swish of lip junk…you know, to make me look all perky and junk. Changed out of my flip-flops as it was pretty chilly and tossed on my gray hoodie, which matched absolutely nothing I was wearing, didn’t care, needed food, maybe a drink and then bed.



The hubby and I wandered out of the hotel into the VERY bustling area of Soho, man these folks are like high speed, running here and there…and I mean running. We found a very quiet street and an even quieter “sports bar” there was no one in the joint, in hindsight we may have questioned why but in our sleepy, travel weary state we just stumbled in and tried to order a Gin & Tonic, or I should say, “Sapphire & Tonic”. Now they had a Sapphire Martini on the list and the bar keep, well she was Russian…yeah. What came out was a multi colored cocktail, most of which was blue, (have a bad, long and bad history with blue drinks) with a little bit of brown in the bottom…shit. I had ordered some, “jacket potatoes” thinking that they must be like potato skins, well kids, they aren’t, they are baked potatoes…just how lame did I look with my stupid blue drink, in a “sports bar” eating a baked potato? Um by the looks we got from the few locals that came in while we were sitting there, pretty freaking lame. Pounded my sweet, blue drink and ordered a Guinness which the hubby and I took outside where we could have a cigarette and watch the locals rush by, much more comfortable aside from the fact that, a hoodie on a London night in October, maybe not quite sufficient in the keeping warm department, thank goodness it made me look so cool and all…ugh.

Aching to just get to bed we knew we had better get a bite to eat and we had passed a very cool, very traditional looking spot called The Wellington on the way to the bogus “sports bar” and it was on the way back to the hotel, winner! We climbed the stairs to the dining room and took a seat, still not sure if we followed protocol there as it took forever to get any service, what did we know and seeing as we were just barely coherent, we didn’t even care. Ordered a platter of fish and chips and a platter of sausage and mash along with two Gin & Tonics, (which were in fact Gin & Tonics) and soaked up the feel of the place. Very what you would expect, a small warm room, tables close together, high windows with years of texture on the window frames, kind of grimy but not in a dirty way if that makes sense. I so wanted to take a picture but somehow knew it might be frowned upon by the locals that seemed somewhat taken aback by our intrusion already…can you just see me pulling out my little sack, photo and sunglasses and taking a picture? The food was lovely, am now a fan of the English chips and quite full we made our way back to the room and crashed, fully clothed on the bed. I woke 10 hours later…oh wait, only felt like 10 hours, it was actually 2 hours later, shook the hubby and made him get his jammies on and get into bed and went to post….freaking Internet was out, dammit. Woke up every 2 hours after that, every 2 hours on the hour, stinked.



12 hours later the hubby was up, jovial and pissing me off, “Yeah, good for you honey, so happy you are rested” Internet still down, no coffee and no sleep and less than chipper. I was so not going to let my shitty attitude ruin the trip so once the Internet was fixed I popped in the shower and began preparing for our day. So funny thing, all my French appliances, that I assumed would be easier to convert, (those adaptors not so much good with hair appliances) um, they have US outlets in our hotel, merde. Now pissy about my stupid looking hair but not trying to be a total downer we set out for the afternoon and stopped at The Nags Head, a pub I had read about and just so happened to be on our way to The Market at Covent Garden, (a place we wanted to check out and where we were going to catch the tube) for lunch and a pint…bliss.

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This place is right out of every movie or guidebook you have ever read, had a coffee shop appeal, people just sitting around, chatting but over ale rather than coffee. We squeezed into a two top table and ordered two pints, eggs and ham with chips for me and beer and beef pie for Call-o. I was so back to life, this is the kind of shit I thrive on, new place, new faces, new tastes and people just hanging out getting their fun on, could have stayed there all day, we could not of course, (but I am so going back before we leave) but I did order a second pint to make it last just a little bit longer. Hopped the tube, and why don’t we have a form of public transportation like this? D.C, Chicago, Paris and now here, these subways are absolutely amazing and SoCal would be a better place if we had a rail system, you know that like went somewhere anyone wanted to go. Now after two pints I have to warn against the taking of the stairs down into the tube…spiral, black and white painted narrow steps, 193 of them….I was so dizzy by the time we landed on the platform I was simply spinning. We took the tube to a place I had heard of for as long as I can remember, Harrods.

My mother spent some time in Europe when she was a teen and the one thing I remember her talking about was Harrods, how amazing, how overwhelming…I just knew I could not be here in London and not visit my mother’s favorite place. We never made it out of the food court, seems silly to call it that but it is in fact what they called it…um, our food courts back home, just put horribly to shame. There were rooms upon rooms of fruit and veggies, chocolates, cured meats, seafood, bakery items and my beloved cheese…I think I heard harps at one point. On top of that there were all kinds of places to sit, have a bite to eat, (Damn you Nags Head…too full for snacks) Dim Sum, Oyster bar, Rotisserie, Caviar bar, all of which served wine and Champagne…again harps, I heard harps. I walked around too overwhelmed to actually buy anything, planning a trip back tomorrow, bringing a list.

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Back on the tube, back to “our hood” and a stop at Tesco, a grocery store, to pick up some water, a bottle or two of wine…lots of Chilean and Australian wines here people, not so much with the French, what up with that…and we are now back in the room having a slight break before heading back out into the London night. I miss my folks back home but am truly enjoying seeing this new place and cannot wait to see more. I will try to look less like a dolt over the next couple days, no guarantees but I will do my best. Off to try and fix my hair with the hairspray I was able to procure from the Tesco before heading back to the lively Covent Garden Market for more food and maybe another pint or five.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Made It!

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10 1/2 hour flight, no sleep, only one drink and I am finally here! Don't think I will be seeing too much outside my lovely room at the Hilton this evening...can barely keep my eyes open, but tomorrow I will out and about, camera and my little travel mate here, in hand.


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Tonight will be a quick bite, maybe a beer or two and I will be curling into that lovely bed sleeping the sleep of a not so sturdy traveler.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kicking In The Old Gag Reflex



I so wish this was a joke...I had to go to the website where I learned that these cones of happiness are available in different sizes, everything from snack size to "serious meals"...seriously? I'm totally picturing a giant cone that you have to hold between your thighs while you burry your face in eggy, pizza, carmalized apple goodness. Speaking of which...if you are going to list your, "favorite flavors" for the sake of those with a weak tummy, let's NOT use the, "which one of these things is not like the other" method...(gagging).

Flavors As They Are Listed On The Website:

Bacon, Egg & Cheese

BBQ Chicken

Beef Chili

Beef Fajita

BLT

Carmalized Apple

Cheesecake

Chicken Fajita

Chocolate Mousse

Ham & Cheese

Ham, Egg & Cheese

Hawaiian Pizza

Margherita Pizza

Pepperoni Pizza

Pulled Pork

Roast Beef

Sausage Pizza

Spinach

Teriyaki Chicken

Western Egg


I know my ABC's guys, maybe the egg stuff with the egg stuff...too much to ask?

You want a single or a double?

I'm off




So this is both an explanation and a heads up as it were. I was trying to get a post up before I left for vacation, see this is where I’m like “Splain-in myself” and stuff…that last post, (insert hanging head here) just crap, freaking all over the place and random as hell. I just felt like I needed to get something up, let those of you that read this crap, (and I love you by the way) and check in daily, know that I have not given up or forgotten to pay Google for my blog account. I’m still here, still ranting, drinking and tasting wine…just been terribly distracted by my impending vacation. That makes it sound like I am all set, prepared and have lists of fantastic things I’m planning on doing…so not true, not packed, still need to pick up the dry cleaning and have no idea how I’m going to work my laptop on this trip…by distracted I mean I have been sitting on my couch going, “How much longer???”.



So tomorrow I am skipping across the pond, heading out for my first trip to London, (okay so the one thing I do have prepared, I have a list of 23 pubs and 1 cheese store that I have to check out) my first real vacation this year…man, it is so needed. I’ve always wanted to go to London and I thought it would be a perfect fit for the hubby’s first trip to Europe, you know because they kind of speak English there and stuff.



I hope to be posting from London, like bragging about the cool shit I’m seeing while you all read me in your cubicles and what not…not rubbing it in, only sharing people….don’t hate the vacationer, hate the fact that my ass will be roaming the streets of historic London while you turn in your quarterly reports. Cheer-E-Oo all!

Better With Time?




I think I was born an old soul, I was never awash with friends my age, never quite “got” the playground sense of humor and always felt more with my peers in a group of people that were older than I was. Not much has changed there really, and my poor son was born with the same affliction….only now, away at college is he finding people that share his interests and sense of humor, sorry about that kid. Part of that may have been that both my mother, and myself as a mother, were very inclusive, always wanting our kids to be at home and accepted in any situation including adult ones. Well that and having no extra income for sitters means if you want to go anywhere the kid has got to go too. This situation worked out better for my son, he was just born with this natural exceptionalism, people were and are drawn to him right away and he can flourish in groups of 40-60 year olds just as easily as hanging out with his college friends…it’s almost as if he is beyond being a certain age. Early this year one of my “older” friends was going to be in Louisville and wanted to meet up with Jeremy, “We can meet at a bar” he told me, this was when I had to remind him that while Kentucky may seem like another country they still did not allow minors in bars. Just seemed to work out really well for Jeremy, for me on the other hand…



I pretty much sucked at personal relations, never had more than one friend at a time and dating…what a nightmare. I was just awkward as hell, no one thought my snippy little comments were funny, matter of fact most people my age just thought I was mean, mix that with my very shy nature and a somewhat tough looking exterior…yeah, I was super popular. I never really dated per se, and the handful of boyfriends I did have, well they bored the shit out of me. Matter of fact before my 21st birthday the only guy I was crazy about was my 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Ackerman, now that man…well he drove me wild. My infatuation with him would set forth a pattern in what, and who I was attracted to, they had to be wicked smart or quite a bit older than I was or I was not at all interested. My last two relationships pretty much sum it up, the man before Carl, we started dating when I was 21, he had just turned 42 and now it’s Call-o who while a couple of years younger than I am, is one of the smartest people I have ever met…it’s that whole, “My junk is directly connected to my melon” thing.



The word sexy has been lobbed around a lot lately, and as always I find myself at a loss as to what it really means…I never think of it as a look as much as a feeling. My friends and I have spent countless hours discussing what we think is sexy or what sexy means to us….seems like there is no definitive answer and my friends and I could not be more off on what we find sexy. While we could agree that Brad Pitt was very good looking I could not go so far as to say I found him sexy…well, I did like his character in those Ocean’s movies, mouthy, smart and eating all the time…now that, that’s sexy. (Hmmm I am working two outta three of those, wonder if that makes me mildly appealing…) As we went back and forth trying to find one thing that we all might find really sexy we found that our taste in men…massively different but our taste in wine, well this was when we all came together.

One friend found men that were all inked and badass really sexy, one thought that young, chiseled, buffed dudes were sexy and me…fell back on my old habits, “So you’re like into those Hemingway types” one friend observed…dammit if she wasn’t right. As much as I tried to plead my case for the older man, “Um, do you remember what sex was like when you were 18? It was awful, why the hell would you find that sexy now?” my one friend just would not budge. The thing was, for her sexy was a look, at least when it came to what she found physically sexy, her junk and melon, when it comes to men….worlds apart, think she is kind of like a dude that way.



I extolled the merits of time, experience, years of life that was felt and dealt with years before I was even able to walk, damn I think that’s hot…knowledge, the shedding of that, “who’s looking at me” and flashy bullshit. Something beyond that first look, first heart pounding glance…something deeper, richer and with more layers, something that makes me think, well that is what fires my cylinders, what gets my proverbial juices flowing…confidence or comfort in one’s own skin…another major turn on and not often what one finds in a young man or a trying-to-place-best-in-show wine. Personally I feel the same about both…come back to me when you’ve shed your primary crap…I’m willing to wait.





So while my girls and I were at an impasse about what we find sexy with men the one thing we could agree on, wines that make us think and wines with a few years in the bottle…sexy as hell. We all felt that wines, even little wines, were just made sexier with a couple years on them, when they had time to shed their “up front-ness” and had that layer of intrigue, that moan inducing animal or underbrush thing and gained a little weight, texture, and stature…damn, turns out I like my wine like I like my men…unpolished, not showy, thought provoking and even better if they have a few years on em’.



With time people and wines flesh out, gain texture, become more interesting and in my book...pretty damn hot.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Modified Date Night




So the one upshot of my little buddy being away is that I have been drinking a LOT less, really cut back on my alcohol consumption over the past week…not sure how long I will impose this, “dry spell” upon myself but it was much needed after this last month….always had a blast but the habitual hangovers and subsequent, “Holy mother of God, what did I do?” moments were weighing heavy upon my body, my fuzzy head and my soul. I’ve not given up drinking but have cut it back by like two thirds. (So funny thing is, right this second I am on my second glass of wine…it’s not even 7, so...let’s just say I am baby-stepping to less drinking) I will confess I had a hard time sleeping the first couple of nights, man…that’s pretty embarrassing, but with the whirlwind of emotion and drama, well the booze was a helpful mind numbing, sleep inducer. But I got past that and have been waking each morning feeling less like ass and ready for my day.

Been letting myself think and feel more, pretty scary that…who needs to feel everything right?! To spend your time thinking about the very human, very tender, perishable nature of the life you think you know, the life you are sure is set in stone, the life that is just perfect enough and then WHAMO…kick in the gut. Doing it with a clear head just makes it that much more…well, wrenching. I’ve actually been pretty “up” in a good mood and looking forward to exploring a less dizzy couple of years and a new, more open and honest relationship with a friend I love with my whole heart, so it’s all good, no pouting, no sadness…actually quite excited about this next chapter. I feel open to new things, like Amy having to do so is making me, forcing me to step outside my comfort zone and to explore.



I got a message the other day from one of my readers, “Going to be in town, might you want to get together?” now this is a, or should I say, “the” reader I have met before, sure some of my already customers read but this was the first, “from faraway” reader that I met, I dug her then even though we didn’t really spend too much time together, (she popped in for a visit at the shop one afternoon) but I could just tell we were of the same, ilk. I thought about it all day and then jumped in, “Would love to!” The sale of some baseball tickets later and I was handing Jess a tasting sheet and running through the Ridge Vineyard wines we were pouring, with her.



I had run through the wines earlier in the day, hate to say it but I was less than impressed. I had/have heard so much about Ridge, the way the wines are built to cellar, not jammy and geared for palates like mine, palates looking for intrigue and complexity…the wines I tasted earlier, um…not so much. Turns out we had mistakenly poured the 2007 vintage releases from Ridge, not the 2006 we meant to. When I ran through the wines the second time my left eyebrow was arched, a clear sign that I am interested…and the wines were so balanced, focused and impressing the hell out of me with their complexity. Would I pay close to $40.00 for an interesting Zinfandel, not likely, but I still thought the wines had merit and I will be looking for older vintages, curious as to what these wines will do with some time in the bottle.

The hubby was at first a tad nervous about hanging out with a blog reader, “You’re hanging out with a stalker you know” he warned, but given the choice, “stay home or come out and play with us” he opted to meet us for a cocktail before dinner…where else, we went to Tracy’s. I so love that slightly awkward moment when you first have drinks with someone new, do you go for something tame and civilized like a Gin & Tonic or do you go for what you really want…”I’ll have a Sapphire Martini, straight up” I blurted when we were bellied up to the bar. “I’ll have a Goose Martini, dirty” was my new buddies reply, just as I thought….this chick is so down.



One drink for us, two for the hubby, (he was drinking mixed cocktails) and we were on our way to Benley, one of my favorite restaurants in Long Beach. We made the menu, “go” which means we ordered what we always do and let Jess chime in with an order of the short rib…(drooling) forgot how sublime that dish is…and there we sat munching on wicked hot spring rolls, fried shrimp, cuttlefish and perfectly marbled short rib that was rubbed with roasted five spice and nestled in avocado.



I grabbed two wines before we left the shop, a 2006 Domaine de Montille Beaune 1er Cru and a Fontainerie 2007 Domaine de la Fontainerie Sec, ($31.99)…dude….dude. That brilliant white wine, with that food, just sick. I loved the restrained baked pear flavor, the slightly musty, earthy notes and the massive, rich, sexy texture that wrapped around the palate and held on for dear life. Not a wine for everyone but Jess and I were diggin’ it big time, so serious, yet so friendly and compelling…a wine that kept you reaching for the glass, “I need one more sip”, freaking love that.

We popped the Burgundy and while I confess to committing infanticide, the wine was just so pleasing. I know it would have been, will be more complex and haunting in a few years but even while young there was something so seductive about it. I was pulled or drawn in by the first sip and Jess was not leaving that restaurant before the bottle was emptied…it snagged us, pulled us in, made us its biotch and we had no problem folding, surrendering to its will. Tart red fruit, little whiffs of smoke and that tangy, racy thing that leaves your palate aching for more.
Jess, Jessica, it was a pleasure hanging out with you, thank you so much for contacting me and next time you are out we are so down with hanging with you chicka. I adored getting to know you better…tad freaked that we are SO much alike, wonder why it is you were drawn to this blog?! I will share Dave with you, for a minute but you must understand that he and I, destine..sorry, it’s a fact, but I will share my wine, my love and passion for wine and my laughter with you any day. Look forward to hearing about your transition into the wine world and am here should you have any questions or need to vent your frustrations……trust me, they will come!



Very cool, very refreshing evening to say the least. Thanks for getting me out of the house, out of my head and back into the bottle, in a good way. Sending giant hugs to you in Colorado and telling you, in all honesty….humbled by the fact that you sought me out..means a lot.