Category Archives: England

Why I’m traveling with my baby

This week, Vera and I came back from a few days in London to see friends and get a little dose of Christmas (it turns out, 3 days of pre-holiday shoppers and relentless Christmas music is plenty). The UK is country #6 for my baby who is not yet five months of age, and I’m already itching to plan another trip. On each flight, a fellow passenger or flight attendant will ask, “Is this her first flight?” and I respond proudly that it’s her 12th and counting. When I talk to people about traveling with the baby, I’m often met with reactions that indicate I must be insane, reckless, or just selfish. These are all valid points, but so far Vera is a very healthy and happy baby, and I hope to keep traveling as long as she remains so. I’m paranoid about ever being the mother-with-the-crying-baby on a plane so I watch her like a hawk for signs of distress and I’ve been lucky so far to have a nearly perfectly-behaved baby (it helps that all I can really do with her is feed and hold her, which are her favorite activities) on each flight. Occasionally, I doubt my own sanity and decision-making when I’m walking around a foreign city late at night with a crying baby, taking a cross-border bus with no adult help, or trying to  juggle a stroller and a suitcase while nursing and walking, but I have no real regrets.

So, in case you wondered, why the hell am I dragging my baby around the world?

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Rye: More sheep than you can shake a stick at

On our second day in Rye, we took a country walk to the Nature Reserve, the other great pastime of the British.  I got excited when we first saw lots of sheep:

Then I realized that they were *everywhere* and especially aggressive around Camber Castle

About a million sheep later, we found the sea:


For perspective, here's looking toward the sea from the town.  Rye used to be a port city:

Our tourist map of the country walk sorta failed us once we got to the beach, so we ended up lost in the country amongst holiday caravan villages (read: trailer parks) and old man pubs.  After a replenishing pint, we finally found a bus stop and got back to Rye, where we hit another pub:

At the Cinque Ports, I got hit on by an old Australian sailor who was once stationed in Brooklyn in the 1970s, which was pretty exciting, I got a free pint out of it.  It was there that I read the awesome news of David Hasselhoff being thrown off a plane at Heathrow and Mel Gibson's infamous DUI.  Love British tabloids. 

The next day, before we headed back to London, we went to the Castle Museum:

Ye olde fun was had:

Neither husband nor I were able to really lift the longbow bag of sand, it's heavy!

With this weak ending, we took the train back to London, more later…

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More Rye: Ye Olde Pubs

Since I just went to Chile and am itching to recap that trip, I thought I'd finish England first.  So Rye is mostly pretty cobblestoned streets and ye olde houses:

As a Lamb, I hoped I could go to the Lamb House and have them give it to me, as a potential heir.  But, alas, it was closed the day we were there, so I didn't have a chance to find out:

After wandering around for awhile, there was nothing to do but go to an air-conditioned pub and hang out:

Husband got absorbed in a John Major biography found on the shelves and I read more guidebook.  We ended up going to dinner that night at SI! Simply Italian across the street:

We didn't realize it was a chain until we got back, but wow, the English know how to do a chain, with locations that are different and menus customized to different restaurants.  Unlike American chains, where everyplace looks exactly the same.  After dinner, we had more beers at the longest-continually operating pub in England, The Old Bell:

Pretty amazing to drink in a place that's 700 years old, but how do they really know it's been open that long?  Most of the places we went to in Rye were at least a few hundred years old, so a lot of places make the claim that they are the oldest.  Good pub, though, and the bartender settled our dispute about whether or not Charles would be king (probably not, because the Brits loved Diana and won't forgive him for how he treated her, though he could technically become king if he wanted to, he'll probably turn it over to his son).  Finally, here's a sight you don't often see in America, straight men sharing a cider:


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Rye: Too cute for words (except the ones below)

We took the train from Brighton to Rye, enjoying insanely fatty sandwiches from Marks & Spencer.  Damn, they really know how to make a sandwich, though everything is "swimming in mayonaisse" (TM the original Kicking and Screaming).  I've heard that Pret a Manger had to change their recipies when they opened in NY to cut down on the mayo.  Our loss, I say.

A few shots of the lovely Brighton train station to see us out:

Arrived in Rye in the afternoon, which is so quaint and cute, it hurts.  It seems fake, it's so old and adorable, but everything really is a million years old and impossibly charming. Evidence:

We stayed at the Old Borough Arms Hotel, which was great, but Rye is so small it's hard to be in a bad location.  Here was the pub across the street:

And the hotel corner:

Believe it or not, it was here in Rye at Simon the Pieman on Day 6 of our trip that I had my first cream tea in England.  Check out my sunburn:

It was a bit weird having hot tea and scones on an insanely hot day with a sunburn, but hey, I couldn't resist the lure of cake:

I will continue when I've finished uploading photos tonight, as not a lot happens in Rye, but there are lots of pretty photos.  Happy New Year!

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More Brighton

I'll be in Chile in a week, so I'd better finish this…

It was on our second day in Brighton that we encountered a chav family, what we in America would call trailer trash.  We were outdoors at a pub in the Lanes and I had gone inside to obtain pints and order food.  I came outside to find Husband sharing a table with  several children who had pounced on the empty seat while I was gone.  One of the youths squinted at me and muttered, "You want you chair back, eh?"  He was only 10 or so, but scary enough that I nearly let him keep it.  Soon the kids were joined by their parents, sharing a pint and speaking something very different from the Queen's English.  The mother looked as tired as you would expect from having 4 children before the age of 30 (a guess), but it didn't stop her from wearing short denim shorts, unfortunately for us.  Despite a few open tables outside, the family preferred to sit on the curb, resting their drinks on our table.  The family shared a few packets of crisps and yelled at each other, until they were out of drink and then left unceremoniously, leaving any empties on our table that they had not smashed on the street.  As you can imagine, it was AWESOME.  When I was later back in New York, I read a lot about chav and have thought about applying to do a Fullbright there and study them, but Husband thinks I'll get knived, and he's probably right.

We stayed in Kempton that night and got a bit smashed with a few guys we met in a pub who were visiting from a nearby town for the weekend.  I told them of how I admired their country's crisps, so they bought me a few packets to experiment.  While the exotic flavors of Thai Chile and Lamb and Mint are fun, nothing beats good old Salt & Vinegar.

I'm not sure I've really captured the wonders of Brighton, but it's really a fabulous place and if I ever go to grad school, I will certainly apply at University of East Sussex, home of my idol, John Maynard Smith.

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A few hours on a train brought us to sunny Brighton, a fabulous and odd
city.  Parts are old like The Lanes, but it's urban and on the
beach.  What else could you want?!  We stayed in a nice
guesthouse/B&B in Kemptown, the "gay" section of town, which I
can't fault in any way, but the owner was a little too involved for our
tastes.  We walked from the train station to the beach to find our
hotel and the owner was immediately all, "You know service, you are
American!" (?!), and showing us how the lights work.  Thanks, we
can figure it out.  Headed down to the beach, which is really
rocky, I recommend some sort of practical shoes.  Pebble beaches
are nice to avoid sand all over, but hurts to walk on (check out my
Flickr photos for evidence of this. Forgive my Burberry bikini, it was
before I knew about chav. More on that TK.).

The pier is as cheesy and fantastic as you expect:

I played and lost at a lot of casino games.  At this point,
Husband joked that it was "impossible to get burned by the English sun"
and yet between him (Russian) and me (olive skinned English with a dash
of Trinidadian), who do you think got burned?  Yeah, me. 
Photographic evidence will later show the pain of this.

Wandered down the beach to the marina that night, and discovered ASDA,
literally the Walmart of England.  Marveled at the ingenuity of
English booze:

As a major cider aficionado, I was psyched to find two liters of it:

Contrary to the photo, I am not pregnant, it's
just a bad angle (That's the fake Marc Jacobs I bought in Buenos Aires
for $15, btw).  Had drinks at some nutty bar on the
marina   Think it was Karma,
as it was Asian-ish themed with ginormous bathrooms (at this point, I
began counting stalls, at least ten there!  Maybe this means
nothing to you if you don't live in NYC, Land of Single Occupancy
Bathrooms, but I was amazed.  I swear this is the last long side
note in parantheses.).  We had had a late lunch at a pizza place
in the Lanes (don't remember the name offhand, damn this infrequent
posting!), so no memorable dinner that night.  Hunted down late
night drinks (read: after 11pm) in Kemptown at a cool place (I'm
looking it up) with photos of people who died young.

Day 2, we returned to the beach, where I improved on my sunburn (I was
yet unaware of it) and read Brit chick lit in its native country. 
Decided to shell out the $15 each for the Royal Pavillion tour.  TOTALLY worth it, it's amazing.

Also explored the western end of Brighton, with the sad and kinda creepy West Pier:

Just an awesome name:

Will continue soon, month or two, max.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Mo’ London: Weekend 1

In honor of increased traffic thanks to the magic of MySpace (whassup
THMS, AADA, and Hunter peeps) and inspired by my planning of Winter
Trip 2006 (Chile!), I thought I'd update.  It's been less than 2
months, right?!

End o' weekend one in London was spent on the South Bank of
London.  After much debate, we ended up not seeing the Tower of
London (WTF, $30?!), but beautious photos are to be found in the

We wandered the very touristy but lovely South Bank and ended up having
dinner at Pizza Express, in honor of all of my much-beloved chick lit
heroines who drink lots of cheap red wine and eat pizza there. 
Gotta say, it was pretty excellent.  Yet another thing Brits do
better than us: chains.  The chains are more customized to each
location, you get the uniform quality of the chain but a little
something different of each place.  Also, it was on the river and
the view was lovely:

After dinner, we walked across the bridge and had
some drinks at another massive pub near our hotel.  I was super
psyched to find Lamb's Navy rum, perhaps more evidence of my ancestors
(being both Lambs and navy members):

The next morning we checked out of the
Renaissance and took the only double decker bus of our journey to the
train station.  A little nausiating, but fun, though I am prone to
motion sickness. The ticket dude was a bit rude, undermining my
decision to buy single tickets to Brighton, and they were more
expensive than I expected from copious online research, but thems the
breaks.  This was the one and only time Husband was right about
Londoners being the Rudest People in the World (other than Parisians,
natch), but whatevev.  Journey was made more pleasant by canned
Pimms Cups and bacon sandwichs (secret to world peace?).

Brighton TK…

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Day 2-3: London

Considered going the Tate Modern but I'd had enough of walking and looking and cultural things, so we walked into trendy Clerkenwell in search of some nightlife instead.  Found the fabulous Match Bar. The drinks were expensive but absolutely delicious and an interesting change of pace from pubs. Plus, the bartenders are all adorable and amazing to watch. Another thing we noticed in London is that there are no actual Brits left in the restaurant industry. In every place we went into, our waiters were French, American, Irish, anything but English. Even in the other towns in England we went to they were foreign, it's really something.  When we got the check, I not only forgot that service was included but forgot that standard gratuity was 10% and not 20%. Our waitress was American, natch, so she could have said something but instead she stood by and took my 30%, making me feel like a chump.

Sunday we woke up embarassingly late, when a fire alarm went off as there had been a blackout in the neighborhood (this was the only one we knew about while we were there but the heat wave caused a lot). Once we realize what time it was, we quickly got dressed and went to the British Museum. On the way we stopped for "breakfast" at My Old Dutch, where I had an awesome apple and bacon pancake:

Yes, I ate the whole thing.  The British Museum is amazing, full of stuff the Brits stole from other cultures.  They have a lot of their own old shit too.  I'm thinking England should change it's slogan to "You think your shit is old?!"  Even growing up in New England did not compare to the antiquities of England.  Hmm, maybe the "New" should have tipped me off…

After the museum, I insisted we go back to the hotel so I could change for evensong church service, which was silly as it would be all tourists there and I was way overdressed. On the way to St. Paul's (where Princess Diana was married), we went to the Museum of London for their exhibit on satire. We only had an hour before the museum closed so we only saw that exhibit, but it was fantastic and I wish we had time to go back. I got some excellent cockney rhyming slang postcards at the gift shop ("I've had too much to tiddly wink" (rhymes with drink)).  For more on rhyming slang, check out this BBC dictionary.  I do enjoy a few Britneys from time to time but try not to get bladdered if I can help it.

St. Paul's is gorgeous, and as an Episcopalian, it was cool to go to an Anglican service.  Best of all, it's free to attend a service there, as opposed to the exhorbitant £9 admission charge for tours.  Meant to go to services at Westminster Abbey as well for this reason, but that was really worth the tour.

Seems like after church is as good a place as any to post juvenile photos:

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The TV is better, too

Yet another thing I was looking forward to when going to England was the TV.  Yes, watching TV on vacation.  But this is a country that has brought us such quality programs as AbFab, Monty Python, The Office, and the original Drew Carey-free Whose Line is it Anyway?

The first show I discovered there was Homes Under the Hammer.  It's basically a program where they show a property (usually in questionable condition), then show the auction, then show the winners and check back later on their renovation progress.  It's excellent if you like to look inside other people's houses and the auction winners are generally not very telegenic with unintelligeable accents, which makes for TV gold.  Who wouldn't want to buy an old post office in a dodgy neighborhood in Scotland?!  What can't you learn from a man who buys falling down house without an inspection because he thinks the surrounding buildings will "hold it up fine"?!  Sadly, my ghetto cable company doesn't carry BBC America, but if you have it, you can enjoy it Sunday mornings.

While I am not generally a reality TV person, I will watch anything with an acerbic Brit judge.  Naturally, I want American Idol, but the dance competition So You Think You Can Dance? is even better as it features ballroom dancers doing hip hop and liberal use of jazz hands.  My absolute favorite is Hell's Kitchen, with the incomparable Gordon Ramsay.  HK features some very cheesy production values and all of the contestants are hateful, but you get to hear Gordon call all of them "stupid f*cking donkeys" and make aspiring chefs cry.  So I figured, if we were getting such meanness from British TV personalities that is probably watered down for American television, the judges on BBC must be totally ruthless!  I was lucky enough to see the debut episode of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, where girls compete to be Maria in a new production of The Sound of Music.  Did I mention it features Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber?!  I am not a big fan of his work, but he really should be on more TV shows.  HDYSAPLM? shows him watching audition tapes in his home and while the (disappointingly) perky and encouraging judges pass girls through to the next round, he mutters "Oh…no" and pretty much passes through whoever he wants to.  I think my ears might bleed if I had to hear "A few of my favorite things" over and over, but it's pretty awesome.

On a final (non-British) note, if you don't already watch HBO's Deadwood, go rent the DVDs and catch the final (ever?) episode next Sunday.  It's is the best f*cking show in ages.  Ian McShane is magnificent as Al Swearingen, the dialogue is like Shakespeare in prison (see this counter for the latest number of curses per episode), and the characters are (sort of) based on real people!  See this great L.A. Times article for more on the show and it's fantastic language.

Back to London recap soon..

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London, Day 2: Loads of walking

Day 2 was an obscene amount of walking. We got up early and went for
our free English breakfast at the gorgeous hotel restaurant, The Pearl. My friend Caitlin was right: a full English breakfast is too much: eggs, bacon,
sausage, toast, tomato, and mushrooms. Also, eating at the restaurant
was a little too grand and formal for breakfast but it was nice to eat
a £40 breakfast (for two) for free. We waddled out of there and took
the tube to Notting Hill, where we did not see Hugh Grant.

Portobello Market is really cool,
stretches on for miles, but it was packed with people and is pretty
touristy. It was boiling hot and we stopped to buy a cool drink at a
where we discovered that Lipton Ice Tea in UK is *far* superior to that
of the US. I got a peach flavored tea and it actually tasted like
peaches, and I can confirm it's superiority because I got a peach
Liptons the day after I returned to America and it tasted nasty as
usual. : Notting Hill is very lovely and very posh, I had wanted to go to this restaurant but it didn't happen.

After we had walked the whole market, we wandered around more of
Notting Hill and through a considerably less posh council estate (Brit
for project).  That was pretty interesting, not only to see a
grittier bit of London but to see an area where the super rich live
next to the super poor.  Brits: They're Just Like Us!

A photographic interlude:

Another thing that's awesome in England is the food at Marks & Spencer.
I always knew they had fabulous pre-made food but the store is really
amazing, I don't see why anyone would bother cooking! They really have
everything, from bacon sandwiches to gourmet picnic baskets to meal
kits. Sort of like Trader Joe's, but with more selection and dowdy

After the market, we walked down to Hyde Park, where it began to
rain.  We sought cover under a tree and sat in one of the handily
provided lounge chairs, until we were rudely interrupted by a park dude
demanding £1.50 for each chair.

This is a cool plastic dome thingie in Hyde Park where you can watch arty video installations and eat sandwiches:

British children seem to be a lot cuter than American kids, partially
because they say Mummy. The babies are especially fat and jolly, which
I like in a baby. Here's a cute girl enjoying the Diana Memorial
Fountain, perhaps as she is wearing no pants:

We made our way out of Hyde Park so I could get something to eat and
sit down for awhile. Husband is not the type of vacation person who eats
tons of meals and sits around relaxing; no, we walked for miles and
miles every day and had maybe two meals a day max. I actually *lost*
weight, even with eating bacon at almost every meal. We did wander into the two Marriotts around Grosvenor Square, thinking
we might switch hotels on the second weekend for kicks. The Marriott Grosvenor House
is gorgeous but under construction and kind of intimidating, actually.
There was a wedding going on when we went into the hotel and several
$500k cars with Saudi plates parked outside. Even after living in New
York for eight years, I have never seen the kind of wealth we saw in
London with all of the Saudi princes. Unbelievable! We decided to stay
in the Renaissance again which was great, but maybe after the renovation, I'd
try the GH.

We considered going the Tate Modern but my legs were jelly after
walking so many miles, so we went back to our hotel and refreshed. We
walked into trendy Clerkenwell in search of some nightlife and found
the fabulous Match Bar.The
drinks were expensive but absolutely delicious and an interesting
change of pace from pubs. Plus, the bartenders are all adorable and
amazing to watch. Check out the menu on the website and definitely go
if you're in London.  Another thing we noticed in London is that
there are
no actual Brits left int he restaurant industry. In every place we went
into, our waiters were French, American, Irish, anything but English.
Even in the other towns in England, it's really something.

Will end this flurry of posting with a refreshing Pimm's:

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