Sunday, September 27, 2009

Catching up

It's been two weeks since my last post, and the primary reason, is also the main topic of my post-a lovely 5 day trip to Boston to visit my lovely friend Jen.

What can I say? It was a perfect trip! Surprisingly, the weather was as close to perfect as you could expect (especially for mid-September), Simon & I both had a good time playing tourist, it was great to see Jen and have a proper catch up (and Fiona too!...), and all in all, it was just a good way to spend 5 days away from the insanity that is London. I think we both would definitely go back again-and at 'only' a 6.5 hour flight from London, it was easy and fast to get there. Yea, Boston!
We landed Thursday around 1.30p, and by 3p, were already at Jen's place. After dropping our things off, Simon & I headed to the nearest metro station and went to this cute area of Cambridge called Davis Square. Puttered around for a bit, and then headed back to Jen's where we met up and then headed back out to go to a Boston Red Sox game (YEA!!!). Our seats were good, the dogs were good, the beer was good, and the guys in the row behind us?...Pure Boston!.. Simon & I started fading around 9.30p, so we decided to head back to Jen's.
Simon & I started Friday at Harvard, and the square. Jen took a half day on Friday, and came to join us for lunch. After, we headed out to be tourists for the day-Boston Common, Downtown, general puttering around, with frequent stops for drinks and nibbles. Good times!

Saturday was another puttering around day-after brunch and a quick trip to the grocery store so I could stock up on a few things to bring back, we headed to Little Italy, where we hit a local bar for a few beers while watching some American Footaball. Around 3p, we decided to grab lunch, and then head to Mikey's Bakery to get yummy Italian pastries for dessert. I wasn't stuffed from lunch, but I made the mistake of getting something called the 'lobster tail'-basically, a *large* pastry shaped (and striped) like a lobster's tail, filled with cream. It was delicious, and though I didn't eat the entire thing, by 7p that night, my tummy was *very, very* unhappy with me. So unhappy, that I had to bail on dinner plans to meet up with my friend Fiona, and spend the evening over the toilet. oy. I was fine by 10p (which, as there wasn't a single thing left in my stomach, I should have been!..), but was bummed to have to spend Saturday night of my vacation on the couch feeling icky.
The weather on Sunday was, if possible, the most perfect. We had a luxurious brunch on Jen's back porch-complete with mimosas, and then headed to the wharf where we hopped a boat to Spectacle Island, in the harbor. We simply puttered around the island, hung out, and enjoyed the day & weather.
Around 5p, we headed back to 'land', where Jen headed off to church before meeting up with a friend for dinner, and Simon & I puttered around before meeting Fiona for dinner. Ole! Mexican for the evening. Most perfect fish taco's I've ever had. yum! :)
We had a 9a flight the next morning, so we were back at Jen's and calling it a night by 10p, for the 6am wakeup call.

Oh, and that's one of the other good things about Boston-it's possible to get back from Boston without taking a redeye flight. Double yea!
Since returning, this past week in London has seen the weather gently begin to slip in to the first part of Fall. The weather has been chilly enough in the mornings to warrant wearing a scarf for a few days, but not a coat. At least not yet. That being said, I sat outside in the Mews reading the newspaper around noon today, and I'm fairly certain if I would have stayed out for another 30 minutes, I would have had a touch of sunburn!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

RIP Monmouth Coffee

As per my usual Saturday errands, I went to Borough Market this morning to do the weekly food shopping.
I know it's been coming for quite some time, and last week while at Borough it appears as if the threat of construction due to the expansion of Thames Link rail, has become a reality. As a result, a good bit of the stalls have been shifted to new space, crammed in to existing space, or in the case of at least one stall-has decided to simply bail: Monmouth Coffee. Not to sound cliche, but this stall is an institution to Borough, at at least in the beginning, one of the reasons I kept coming back to Borough-I finally found a place in London in which their coffee rivalled that of the cafes in Seattle, and it gave me a comforting feeling of a Saturday routine.
Apparently, no longer.
Though there is a permanent Monmouth Coffee shop in one of surrounding market buildings, the inside stall was always half as busy, more friendly, and less touristy (yes, I'm complaining about the tourists...). I'm simply gutted, and while standing there waiting for my latte be finished, actually contemplated not going back to Borough-unless shopping for a special occasion.

RIP Monmouth Coffee

Catchin Up: Bonjour Paris

It's been a bit since I've blogged-sadly, I've been too busy during the week, and with travel & weekend guests the past three weeks, this is the first free weekend I've had in a month with proper time to sit down & catch up.

After our quick 'pop down' to Brussels a few weeks ago, Simon & I geared up for the last long weekend of the Summer with a trip to Paris. The August bank holiday meant Monday, Aug 30 was off for us, so we spend Saturday & Sunday nite in Paris. God bless Eurostar...

For my previous two experiences in Paris (with the stereotypical rude waiter/taxi driver, horrible lines at touristy sights, etc..), I found this trip to be 180 degrees in the opposite direction-amazing service, friendly/helpful people, minimal queues to get in to the Eiffel Tower & Louvre; all in all-a perfect weekend! Oh, and the weather? Perfect! And (all kidding aside...) the few times I had to use a toilet while out and about...twice was totally free & clean (at Notre Dame and off the Champs Elysses. who knew?!?), and the other time was 20 cents-but still clean. Amazing!!!

We stayed in a lovely hotel in the St Germain area, and spent Saturday after our arrival walking around. We walked all the way to the Eiffel Tower, and the queues were so short compared to the last time I'd been there that we decided to go all the way to the top; Simon had only been to Paris once for a half-day stop over on a road trip years ago, so this really was his first touristy experience there.. We queued for barely 30 minutes before getting up to the 2nd level, and immediately queued to get to the next level. Again, 30 minutes later, we were at the top of the Eiffel Tower! I know it seems crazy to suggest 'only one hour'...but the last time I went, I was in line for 45 minutes just to get to the 2nd area, and the line to get to the top literally wound all the way around the 2nd floor. In comparison, I knew our timing couldn't be better, and the time we'd spend in line would be 'minimal.' It's all relative...:)
With the weather, our views were amazing!

Dinner was at some quaint little place in the area we were staying in called 'La Grennouille'-the frog. As you can probably guess from the name, they had an entire menu dedicated to frogs legs. As Simon had never had them before (this southern girl certainly has...), he opted for that for his starter, while I went a bit more 'traditional': escargot. Honestly? Pretty tasty!-kinda like mussels..


Sunday was the 'power tourist' day. After a lovely breakfast at a cafe around the corner, we decided to do one of those hop-on hop-off busses. As painfully touristy as they are-they also provide maximum viewing pleasure (esp when the weather was a good as it was) for minimal effort. There were three different bus routes in Paris, and we took all or part of all three around town. Hopped off & puttered down the Champs Elysses, had lunch, took le metro to another part of town to catch another bus...cheesy thought it is, it really is a great way to see a city when you've limited time. Yes, we have become 'those tourists.'

Monday was an early trip to the Louvre-we really wanted to avoid the queues and crowds-so we got there at 11am. And honestly? Aside from the crowd around the Mona Lisa, it really wasn't bad! But, truth be told...I still like the Tate Modern in London better. :)

We were going to be on the train back to London during dinner time that evening, so borrowing from one of my last train trips in France, we hit the local grocery store, bought some cheese, bread, meat, & wine, and had a little mini-feast on the train back. All for less than $15!

Vive Paris!