Friday, April 6, 2012

Ice Cream Truck = YUM!

During the recent warm spell in Birmingham Andrew and I were sitting outside...I was marking (puke) while he was studying (even bigger puke). After hearing the sounds which are supposed to draw in young children I discovered that they also draw in adults (as I am told that is what I am now supposed to be). Andrew, pretending to play along with my childish desires which I am positive were actually very close to his own, found some spare change and ran down the street with me to find the beautiful thing which I now refer to as my ‘new best friend’ aka the ice cream truck! As I had never enjoyed the delights of said truck I had assumed that it was full of pre-wrapped ice cream bars etc. I was wrong, oh was I wrong! I am sure you can only imagine my delight as I found that they actually have soft ice cream, prepared into many different sundae delights! I had a simple cone with a raspberry sauce (I am told that this is a special ice cream truck treat) with a piece of chocolate for good measure. There is only one was to describe this discovering. DELICIOUS. 

Kelly and Alicia play 'posh' for a day

On the 31st Kelly and I woke up at the crack of dawn (for a Saturday that means around 10 am give or take), suffered through the heart-wrenchingly painful task of choosing the perfect dress to which disguise our commoner upbringings, arranged every last hair on our heads into its perfect position and glided (yes, glided as we were clearly playing the part of an upper class lady taking part in a regular daily activity) onto the train to London. 
Upon arrival we took the tube (okay, let’s face it, playing rich for the day is costly, some more ‘common’ activities just had to continue) to Park Lane for our cream tea. After we located the Four Seasons Hotel which may or may not have involved a map, gps AND a phone call, during which Andrew told us to simply cross the street and go in as we were standing in front of it, we changed from our ‘travelling shoes’ into our ‘play posh for a day heels’. On a side note, these were the first pair of heels I had worn in 2-3 YEARS. I am still proud of myself for looking what I hope was ‘natural’ in them. 
Part of my ‘posh for a day’ outfit did not include my watch as it cost a mere 10 pounds and I thought it may ruin the rich aura I hoped to be alluding to. This meant that when we arrived at the hotel I simply assumed that it had taken us the planned 45 minutes to get from the train station to our destination. Therefore when I said that “we have a reservation at 3:15 but we may be early” with a rather large smile on my face I thought that this was a reasonable statement. After checking my phone in what may be the cutest bathroom in the world I discovered that no, we were NOT early. We were the exact opposite. It had taken us 1 hour and 30 minutes to do a rather simple tube journey. We were 45 minutes late....aka Alicia looked slightly insane to the lovely waiter. No surprise there, even the most perfect dress in the world can’t hides ones inability to tell time (or location for that matter)!
We started our cream tea with a glass of champagne and then a mango oolong tea, followed by (each) 4 scrumptious sandwich fingers, 2 scones with clotted cream and jam and then a whole platter of mini desserts of which I attempted to take at least a bite of each one but failed. To complete the atmosphere of all things indulgent there was a man playing a pink grand piano all the while we were ‘lunching’. It was wonderful.

We completed our day by walking around Harrods (isn’t that what rich women do after tea??!?!?!) and looking at purses that cost more than my rent for half a year. Side note: I was still wearing my heels!! Mom, you better be proud!! We then had some regular food to eat as the high sugar content of my stomach was causing an ulcer and then took the train back to Birmingham. A perfect way to start our Easter holiday :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

lessons learned in paris

lessons learned in ol' paris
  • leaving the metro (subway) can be more difficult that you think. some people like to get stuck in the gates, time after time after time. 
  • combining your own language by combining multiple already-created words into one   and shouting it out at random times, usually in public is not always a good idea
  • blue cheese is extra stinky. we bought some and our entire hotel room smelled of mouldy, rotten three week old used gym socks. a lovely smell to wake up to!
  • when in a foreign country that doesn’t speak english and want to watch tv just turn on some type of talent show, think ______________ idol, or ____________’s got talent. people that have weird talents in english are even funnier in another language!
  • when grocery shopping with multiple people sharing the shopping basket double check  before you put anything back. otherwise you may unknowingly put something back on the shelf that someone took a massive bite out of. oops.
  • before you tell someone in your traveling group that they have you on a form of public transportation going in the very opposite direction that you want to go in make sure that you are right before you put up a large verbal ‘stink’ in a crowded area. realizing you are wrong is the opposite of fun. 
  • if someone asks you for help make sure your hands are in your pockets when you respond. otherwise when you ask what they need they may tie string to your finger, create the worlds ugliest bracelet and force you to pay for it. 
  • just because you are in a country that doesn’t speak english doesn’t mean that no one else does. there will most likely be someone, within ear shot, that can understand you and will listen to you.
  • teachers are EVERYWHERE (three in front of us in the in the louvre, in different parties of people!)
  • if you are choosing to dress ‘cute’, as you are most likely anticipating a day of photo shoots, make sure that it doesn’t include a day of walking long distances, particularly over top of air vents in the ground. having your dress blown straight up in the air while you are surrounded by gawking people does a number on your ego. 
  • just because it doesn’t look like rain the second you are leaving your hotel doesn’t mean it wont be later. always. bring. an. umbrella. 
  • if something is free, especially if is the worlds most popular art museum, get there early. like an hour before it opens. or you will be in the longest line known to man kind.
  • if someone tries to ‘but’ in front of you after you have been in line for over an hour make sure you 1) get them out of that line (or at least not in front of you) and 2) make sure that the security guards know. otherwise they may somehow sneak themselves into the line even further ahead of you and in before you are even close. and that will most definitely cause you to feel great rage.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Barcelona Baby!

In an effort to make this blog actually possible (ie. possible for my lazy self) I will give a quick summary of my daily activities followed by my daily highlight.

Last day of school, YAY!! A quick lunch with the ladies at school, quickly go to the train station and leave from there! Best last day of school ever!

Highlight of the day: after struggling up the many, many steps to the apartment where we stayed I was told that at a place across the street they had falafels. Properly done falafels, in a wrap. This may not seem like a big deal to anyone in the world other than me but I have not had one since I was in London during my undergrad so this was a BIG deal! I had three in the space of 4 days.

After having a late night flight, and delicious falafel snack, I had a wonderful lay-in. We walked to the beach and had snacks at a cute little spot right down on the sand. At night we went to a birthday party for a friend of who I was staying with in Barcelona. It was held on a terrace about half-way up an apartment building. It was definitely the perfect spot for a gathering. The terrace was surrounded on three sides by different buildings and the last side was open to the alley below. There was mini-lights strung around the terrace and candles around the sides. A bbq and delicious snacks made it perfect!

Highlight of the day: This is easy, the terrace birthday party. Both an english and spanish version of 'happy birthday' was sung and the mini-lights cast an almost magical glow over everyone. It was perfect, like the set of a movie.

After another lovely long sleep we had a picnic in Park de la Ciudadella. This park was breathtaking! A huge, almost Aztec, monument type sculpture surrounded by fountains and pools of water was definitely the highlight. There was also a huge statue of a mammoth (RANDOM), a man-made lake where you could rent boats and a few museums. Lots of perfectly manicured grass made a perfect spot for a picnic!

We then went home for a rest and had a stir-fry for supper. We then ventured back out to see the 'Magic Fountain'. It is a fountain show with different coloured lights, all done to music. Beautiful! Afterward we climbed up to the Palau Nacional and got an absolutely perfect view of the city at night.

Highlight of the day: Enjoying the view of the city at night. It was very close to being perfect!

Woke up in a decent time, aka before lunch, and jumped on the metro to the Sagrada Familia. It is a huge Roman Catholic Church started in 1882, construction is expected to be completed in 2026. For many years construction relied on private donations. The intricate design was amazing! However, the line to tour the inside of the church literally stretched around the block....not a chance I was standing in that! 

After the quick decision to leave the church behind we climbed up to Park Guell. Now when I say climbed I actually mean took the wonderfully placed outdoor escalators. If they were not there I can honestly say that the climb up to the top would have killed me. Knocked me down dead. It was a steep incline to say the least! The view at the top was definitely worth it, so beautiful! The park was designed by Gaudi, the same architect as Sagrada Familia and another museum, Batllo house, that we visited later in the week. It was so cool, everything was done so creatively. Near the top of the park there was what appeared to be a large, sand-covered floor completed surrounded by a bench. Now this wasn't a normal bench, that wasn't Gaudis' style. It was swooping, no straight lines, completely covered in a colorful mosaic. We sat on this bench and ate our pack-lunch in the scorching heat of the direct sun. Afterwards we followed a path to the bottom where we discovered that underneath the square was a wonderfully shaded area, with huge stone pillars and mosaics in the ceiling. Then we walked down from the park, had a snack at perfect little cafe and walked into the city center.

Highlight of the day: 3rd falafel supper in a row. Delicious! 

This was meant to be a beach day but when I woke up I discovered that mother nature had other plans. So instead it was another day of art! Off to the Picasso museum we went. It was here that I discovered that Andrew is quite the art critique. What an awesome new development. He spent his time in the museum developing a rather detailed explanation for the changes in Picasso's art technique. It would take years to describe it and I simply don't care enough to do so.

Lunch was from a little cafe, we chose our food from a Spanish menu. Andrew had a wonderful lunch and I ended up with fried fish skin and a cold prawn-slimy mushroom number that left me more hungry than when we started. The worst part was I tried to order words that I recognized. The mushroom-prawn mush was what I thought was going to be pasta. Turns out Spanish isn't my forte.

After lunch we walked up Las Ramblas, a big 'street' for only people. There were lots of vendors and artists doing sketches of people. There was also enough tourists to make me wonder if there were any left in the world at all. Afterwards we sat down by a fountain in a big square which turned out to be pigeon paradise/my worst nightmare. After being dive-bombed by many a bird I left with what was left of my dignity. 

Highlight of the day: On the subway on the way home there was a man with a portable karaoke machine singing his heart out. Hilarious!

An early start to Casa Batllo, a house designed by Gaudi for a very, VERY rich family in 1877.  This house was amazing, there were no straight lines in the entire place! It was supposedly designed to represent the sea and everything underwater. Very different but very cool! I would definitely recommend going! While here Andrew again decided to become an artistic interpretation, coming up with 'creative' explanations for the designs around him. 

As this was my day to choose the activities I forced us to traipse around until we found pizza for lunch (I did NOT eat the entire thing myself....okay, fine, I did). It was delicious! Then it was home for a nap, chili for supper and chatting with friends. 

Highlight: Being able to order off a menu that was not entirely in Spanish, and therefore know what I was getting to eat! I do not want surprises on my dinner plate!

Two words: BEACH DAY!!!!! We made a huge lunch and walked down the beach for the day. A perfectly relaxing day, couldn't have been better! Swimming in the ocean, reading on the beach, life is rough! 

Highlight: doing simply nothing all day long. That and Andrews sunburn. Turns out that sunscreen works after all!

Last day....went to Sephora (makeup HEAVEN) and stocked up on supplies. Then we went for a last lunch at a cafe and packed up. Birmingham will not be able to compare to Barcelona, that's for sure!

I had an absolutely wonderful trip, I will be back to Barcelona for sure! :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

nurture vs nature: proof i am turning into my parents

Although I live an ocean away from my family it is starting to become very clear that I am quickly turning into my parents. A very strange combination of both of them.

How I know I am turning into my Father
- I randomly sing at school. People have started to notice and comment.
- I can never remember the names of kids at school... and if they look even remotely like someone else I will probably call them that name first. I don't think Dad has gone a single day at school remembering everyones name. Once he called me Edison. Edison was our dog.
- I don't just walk down the hall at school, I charge. So much so that I tend to run into the desks and chairs of the younger children as they are so short and out of my immediate view. While in Bali I got a pedicure and the lady asked my why I had so many bruises on the same spot on both of shins. It was an embarrassing explanation.
- I am rather....'dramatic'. The staff at school are starting to make fun of me for being 'too excitable' or 'too happy'. As if that is a bad thing!
- It is my constant goal to be the first teacher at school. If I am fail to be the first one I am actually a bit angry at the person who beat me.
- On Saturday and Sunday morning I feel endlessly guilty if I don't jump out of bed and start accomplishing things. Who needs a day to relax? Relaxing is completely over rated.
- Within 5 minutes of deciding that 'it is probably a good idea to sit down and relax a little' I fall dead asleep because I haven't stopped working since I woke up. 

How I know I am turning into my Mother
- I spend all my spare time in my garden, just puttering away.
- I get super excited when I get a plant at a good deal and feel the sudden need to tell everyone about what a 'deal' I got.
- Last night I spent literally 3 hours in front of the tv cutting material, loving every second. Mom does that at least once a week. 
- I have company coming next weekend and started cleaning 7 days in advance. Just slightly ridiculous. My 16 year old self would punch me for that.
- The biggest one: this morning I ate my cereal and drank my tea while sitting on my back stoop in my pj's. If that isn't Julia French I don't know what is!