Tag Archives: london

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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A few favorite places

While importing all of my old blog content from Vox this week (and trying not to go back and edit myself), I had a chance to look back at some of my favorite trips. While I can’t say that I have absolute favorites (partially since I rarely make repeat visits internationally since there are so many places I want to visit), there are a few spots that stand out.

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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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London, Day 1: I heart the U.K.

Traveling to London was fairly uneventful, but somewhat unpleasant as
my husband becomes The Business Traveler when flying and is no fun from
moment we arrive at an airport to the minute we arrive. I'd think that
flying all the time would make him more relaxed about it, but he's
massively tense and disagreeable while flying.

We arrived in London on Friday morning just before noon, tired but
excited. I had spent literally hours reading Transport for London's website
all about Oyster cards, their version of Metrocards. It's enormously
complicated because of all the zones and price capping, but basically
if you buy a prepaid card, a single ride in one zone (which is pretty
much most of Central London) will cost £1.50 rather than £3 and at a
certain point, it caps off so if you take many rides in a day, you'll
never pay more than you will for a One Day Travelcard. I can't really
understand why anyone would buy a Travelcard when you pay no more and
you'll pay less if you only ride once or twice a day, but I guess you
get some other benefits if you buy it. Anyhoo, it took ages to buy the
two Oystercards and get on the tube, but it was an easy ride to Holborn
station by our hotel, around an hour. Heathrow Express is only 15
minutes but costs £14.50 and you'd still have to transfer to a tube to
get to your destination.

I had forgotten how, despite how Americanized London is, it's still
European and thus not air conditioned. We were there on the hottest
July on record, with temperatures in the 90s almost every day. The tube
is not at all airconditioned and I feel bad for commuters having to
crush onto a hot train every day. :x  I  almost need a parka on the NYC subways, they are so  air conditioned.

The location of our hotel, the Renaissance Chancery Court (a
Marriott, yes, but free) was perfect: a few minutes walk from Covent
Garden, Soho, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Clerkenwell, the Meatpacking
District of London. We were right on the Central and Picadilly lines,
very handy and a block away from our hotel. Many of the stores are
closed on the weekend, but plenty of pubs and food chains (Krispy Kreme
and Pret a Manger, to name a few) are open every day. The hotel itself
is gorgeous but not too stuffy or intimidating.

We spent our first afternoon wandering around Covent Garden &
then along Oxford Street and back to Holborn. Oxford Street is like a
nicer version of NYC's 34th Street, more charming and cleaner, but
just as hateful once the initial thrill is gone of seeing hoardes of
British shoe chain stores. I must have gone into a gazillion stores in
search of flat sandals that were not flip flops and sexy fun patent
leather heels (which are everywhere right now for some reason). 
Also went to the Top Shop flagship store, which was extremely awesome.
Having read many British chick lit books, I was really psyched to go to
Top Shop, the local H&M/Forever 21/fun knock off store. The
flagship store is amazing: 4 floors of men and women's fabulous clothes
and shoes, plus accessories and candy, randomly. We wandered around the
store in a daze but didn't buy anything, the exchange rate is a real

Random things I noticed walking around London: 
1.  Their public bathrooms are just amazing.  Every couple
blocks, you come across a public subway (like an underpass, not a
train) with toilets that are clean!  And attended!  And
free!  I was less impressed with the self-cleaning pay toilets,
after a bum advised me to go into a pub instead.
2.  English girls really get tarted up when they go out.  Not
like New York girls, in sample sale designer shoes and $200 jeans, but
really tarted up in short skirts and tight tops.  Husband was v.
3. Pubs are just awesome.  I love how you can always get cider,
and Magner's comes poured over ice (why do we not do this with beer,
considering how much Americans love ice?).  Also amazed how big
pubs are, many with large basement rooms, and huge bathrooms, a far cry
from the tiny dirty stalls in most New York bars. And Pimm's is
delicious, I could drink it all day, perhaps alternating with cider.:p
4.  Brits have also surpassed us in the area of potato chips.
Augusten Burroughs has a whole story about crisp flavors in his new
book, they don't stop at BBQ and Sour Cream & Onion, they have
Prawn Flavor, Thai Ginger flavor, and Steak and Bacon! Awesome. I'm
with Augusten that we should have never left this place.

A few pictures that might need some commentary:

This was a gallery/installation we passed coming back from
Soho.  The fairies are apparently some
artists/socialites/secretaries/tarted up girls who some hate and some
love, according to the posters in the gallery. One of the girls can be
seen at right, they appear to just be party girls who wear fairy wings.

My maiden name is Lamb, so naturally, I had to
go to the Lamb pub on Lamb's Conduit Street.  Lovely pub, the
first I went to, actually.  Forgot to mention my name, so no free
pints, sadly.

Because of the heat wave, almost all the grass in London was
dead.  That didn't stop hoardes of people from going to parks
after work and sitting on the grass drinking beer.

Posting before this gets longer…

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London, Day 1: How we got there

A brief intro in case you don’t know me: I live in Brooklyn, NY with my husband, go to school (undergrad, one more year left) for Physical Anthropology and Italian, and work at a travel magazine in PR.  My husband is a consultant and travels all the time, racking up enough frequent flyer miles and hotel points to take the major burden off of traveling.  The summer, frequent flyer tickets were hard to come by, so we ended up going to England for 10 glorious days, staying in London, Brighton, and Rye.  It was my first trip to the UK, only my second to Europe (first was Naples, Italy in 2001), but I have always been a major anglophile.  I adore cider, bacon, and scones so I was looking forward to eating my way through England.  I reread a lot of Nick Hornby, selected chick lit, and the Adrian Mole diaries before traveling and spent ages poring over guidebooks in the research library at work.

I’m still figuring out how this new fangled site works, so photos are going up before the text.  Photos are almost all by the husband, text by me.  Depending on how this works, I may get ambitious and do an old trip recap before school starts!