A (birth)Day at the Races

For birthday celebration number two (you can read about the 1st celebration here), we decided to attend Ebor Day at York Racecourse. The Brit had been wanting me to experience a good old-fashioned English day out at the races for awhile, so it worked perfectly that one of the biggest races of the year in York took place so close to my birthday. I, of course, was excited to spend time with our friends…and to drink champagne and wear my fascinator!

When we arrived at the train station to head to York, we were greeted by our lovely friends, who had brought buck’s fizz (aka mimosas in the U.S.) and croissants for our journey to the race course. We were off on our merry way and the weather was surprisingly lovely seeing as how horrible most of the summer had been, so we were excited.

If you know the Brit and his group of friends at all, then you know that when it comes time to celebrate or enjoy a day out in which we are all dressed nicely they head straight for the champagne, and this day was no different. We had booked  badges for the County Stand allowing us access to most every part of the course and stands, so as soon as we went through the entrance we found ourselves imbibing at the champagne lawn.

I think we need a set of these Pimm’s chairs in our back garden!

After a few glasses bottles, we strolled over to the Fifth Floor of the Ebor Stand as we had booked in for the Fish and Fizz and the Carvery. It was a good deal since it included food and a drink, so we decided to book this when we booked our badges about a month earlier. The Fish and Fizz was basically loads of seafood piled on a plate — I’m not going to complain about that! I didn’t take a photo, so you’ll have to trust me on the ‘loads’ bit. Three of us had this and the other went for the carvery, which was apparently just as good.

As we were finishing, the first of the races was due to begin and two more of our friends had just arrived, so we set off in search of them and for somewhere to place some bets…not difficult at a race course! I’m not much of a gambler, but I would pick 2 horses and put a few pounds on them to win either way. I actually did well and came out just over £9 ahead of where I started. I was betting measly amounts compared to some of those people though. I heard a man put £10,000 on one horse…just wow. It was definitely a new experience for me to see people throwing that much money around.

There were seven races throughout the day, so we spent it flitting between the finish line and the paddock area where they bring the horses out. These horses are seriously beautiful creatures. And, the legs on some of them? So. Long. I don’t think I have paid much attention before, but a few of those horses were exceptionally tall. I realize this all sounds strange, but I was in awe. Then, in comparison, we have the jockeys, and they are just so small!

Watching the final race from the stands.

We were at the race course from 11:30 AM until about 6:30 PM, and I could not believe how quickly the day went. It did rain for the last hour or so, but we just popped open our umbrellas and all was fine. (I mean it wouldn’t truly have been a day out in England this summer if it hadn’t rained!) I really enjoyed taking part in this British tradition of spending a day at the races, even better celebrating my birthday there! So, thank you to the Brit for arranging it and to our lovely friends for joining us!

Nearly a month.

It’s been nearly a month since my last blog post. I’m not okay with this. At all.

Especially, because since then, I’ve celebrated my birthday at least three times, turned in my dissertation, attended the weddings of two lovely couples (one of which was the Brit’s sister and I felt so honored to be one of only two people to have seen her dress prior to the day and to be her official dress lacer-upper), celebrated the end of the Olympics and Paralympics by watching the parade of athletes with one of my good friends while stood amongst the crowds in London, and a host of other things.

To say the least, it has been a whirlwind of events and emotions. And, I’ve wanted to write another blog post since September 3rd when I submitted my dissertation, but I’ve been overwhelmed. Where do I start?! I have so much to say. So much running through my head. And, not just about everything I’ve been experiencing, but about what I’ve been feeling and observing.

Because, along with all of what I listed above, I also celebrated one year since moving to England. That just seems crazy to me. One year. It went so fast.

So, why today? Why start writing again today? Well, no reason really other than I didn’t want to wait another day. My new goal is to post once a day for the next month. I realize this could require some pre-planning on my part as we have a getaway planned for the last weekend in September, but I know I can do this and I really want to do this, which is the most important part.

I’m excited to get back to writing the blog and sharing more about life here. I hope to re-cap some of the fun we’ve already had and the fun we plan to have in the next few months (hello, two trips to the Caribbean and our wedding!!!). So, to my loyal readers out there (I know there aren’t many of you, but I do appreciate each of you that does read — thank you!)…I AM BACK!

P.S. And, to the Brit, your sweet text last week about missing my blog posts really lit a fire under my bum, too. So, thank you for always encouraging me and getting me back to where you know I like to be. xx

P.P.S. The Holiday is on ITV2 right now, which is one of my all-time favorite American girl meets British guy movies, so if you haven’t seen it, then I recommend it as a great rom-com with some super cute old man thrown in for good measure. Have you seen it? Did you like it?

{Road Trip} The ‘Great’ North

Two weekends ago, we road tripped further north to Durham on Saturday then to Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the Sunday. This weekend away was prompted by the Brit’s participation in the Great North Run. (Does the post title make more sense now? :))

It just so happened that the Brit’s friend was also running the race, so he and his wife took the train up from London and we all made the trip north together. I love road trips with friends because the time just flies by as we’re chatting away and catching up on each other’s lives. The two and a half hours was gone in a flash.

We (really the Brit) were in charge of the hotel for Saturday night and they were in charge of the hotel for Sunday night. So, for ‘our’ hotel, we stayed at the Durham Marriott Royal County right in the city center. Upon entering, the staff offered us a glass of wine plus canapés. We all indulged in a glass of wine…we were on a short holiday, after all! After enjoying some more chit-chat in the lounge, we made our way to our rooms, which were nice, clean, and spacious plus with a jacuzzi tub for two in the bathroom. Not that I was surprised, but the Brit had made a great choice!

We strolled around Durham for a bit and towards the Durham Cathedral. To me, it’s a city that personifies what I always pictured of Britain before I visited for the first time in March 2010…cobbled stone streets with not many cars, little shops lining the streets, a castle and a massive cathedral overlooking the city. It was this perfect combination of quaintness and beauty that made Durham so charming.

Streets of Durham

Durham Cathedral is completely awe-inspiring. We toured the interior with mouths agape for most of it. (Sadly, we could not take photos inside, but check out the photos on the web site.) The stained glass, the spires, the tombs, the organ, and the overall attention to intricate detail…it was just phenomenal.

The center spire of the Cathedral.

The view from our hotel room window as sun shines upon Durham Cathedral on Sunday morning.

Durham Castle overlooking the River Wear.

That night, we enjoyed a delicious and fun meal of tapas at La Tasca. The guys probably drank a bit too much wine the night before a big race, but the four of us had a wonderful time laughing and eating!

The next day, we enjoyed the hotel breakfast, which was included in our room price. Of course, the typical English breakfast was being offered with bacon, eggs, beans, tomatoes, potatoes…you get the picture. But, the runners chose wisely and avoided those foods (as did I). Hilariously, after the Brit finished his porridge, he went to get some toast and as soon as he sat down to the table, I was overwhelmed with the smell of garlic. He had actually toasted garlic bread and put jam on it! He didn’t realize until I mentioned it smelled of garlic. Awesome morning selection! 😉

Soon, we were off on the 30-minute drive to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where the Great North Run would start. Luckily, we were able to find the hotel, so we could leave the car and our bags there until we were able to check in. You could tell the guys were getting a bit nervous as we started the long walk to the start line. It was a nice way to enjoy a little tour of the city, though I think I was the only one actually looking around! (I’m not afraid to admit I can sometimes be a bit of a tourist!)

Situated at our place for the start... This run is apparently the world's largest half marathon. I don't doubt it. There were masses of people everywhere.

We said our goodbyes to the guys and wished them lots of luck. We met up with another friend whose girlfriend was running the race and had just come into town for the day. Once we found him, the three of us situated ourselves close to the start to try to spot our runners at the beginning of the race. Immediately before the start the Red Arrows, which are the Royal Air Force’s acrobatic team, did a fly-over and then the elite male runners were off followed closely (but only for a short while!) by the rest of the pack.

The Red Arrows at the start...quite cool!

In the throngs of people, I caught a glimpse of the Brit, but we didn’t see the other two. So, after waiting for quite some time to see them, we decided it was likely we missed them and took off to South Shields via the Metro train to hopefully see the three of them as they finished.

The Brit is in the blue shirt and black shorts almost exactly in the middle of the photo right before coming upon the blue column thingy.

It was wishful thinking to believe we could make it from where we were to the finish in enough time to see them cross the finish line. We were still on the Metro when I got a text from the Brit’s mum saying she just saw him finish on tv. (This race is such a big deal that it was broadcast on BBC!) Mr. Speed Demon totally surpassed his goal time! Once off the train, we still had about a 20-minute walk to the finish. So, a solid 25 minutes after he finished we found him and gave him his jacket and change of clothes. We tracked the other two runners (they also did awesome!) down shortly after and walked to the pub for a celebratory pint…or three.

Happy guys, after the race!

So proud of this guy!

Soon, we said goodbye to the two friends who had just come up for the day and we headed back to the hotel. The Hotel du Vin, which our friends chose, is quite posh. Our rooms had two levels with the bathrooms complete with claw-footed tub and enormous walk-in shower, which were situated upstairs. The toilet and a very small sink were downstairs. (There was a large sink in the upstairs bathroom area.) I wish that I could remember the name of the room (it started with a ‘Y’, I think) we stayed in, but each is named after a brand of wine. Our room was situated in the new section of the hotel, which you can see in the photos below.

The downstairs in our room.

The bathroom area upstairs.

This is the courtyard of the hotel -- the main entrance is to the left, the Bistro is directly in front, and the building we stayed in is to the right.

Since the hotel is a little outside the city center, we chose to eat at the hotel bistro that night. According to our friends, the Hotel du Vin chain is known for its attention to food and wine. The food was good, but the service could be improved. We received the best service from the sommelier, who not only knew the wine list impeccably, but also the entire menu. Of course, he was not serving us, but did help us quite a bit. It was a night to celebrate though, so we brushed off the service and enjoyed each other’s company!

Overall, a great weekend with friends! Big congrats to the Brit for his incredible finish in the Great North Run!

3 days to go…

The countdown is really on now!

Both of my parents have said this week that they can’t believe how quickly my time with them has gone. And, I have to agree. It seems like I’ve barely been here. When late August hit, I realized it was time to get serious about what had to be accomplished before I left for England. So, basically, I feel like I have crammed a few months of stuff into the last few weeks. (I honestly can’t believe how busy I have been. Not sure how that is possible without a job. Any ideas?)

Here’s what I’ve been up to since the realization that I’m really moving to England sunk in…

1. Selling my car. Last week, I said goodbye to my Nissan Versa. 😦 In October 2010, I traded in my SUV for something more fuel-efficient. I can’t believe how attached I became to that little car in 11 months. (I was actually a bit teary-eyed when I walked away from it last Tuesday.) It had been with me through a lot…most notably, an 11-day road trip from the Pacific Northwest to Pennsylvania. Such fun times! However, I am looking forward to smooth-running public transportation and car pooling with the Brit.

On the day I brought it home from the dealership...photo by the Brit!

2. Making the most of my time at home. Let’s just say last week was an emotional week for me, so I’ve been trying extra hard to spend time with my parents. I cried and Mom cried and Dad told me he really is going to miss having me around. Mom and I went shopping on Monday and we have plans tomorrow night. Dad and I watched a pre-season game of the greatest football team ever on Thursday and Hillbilly Handfishin’ (seriously watch this — hilarious!) last night.

Mom, Dad, and I on vacation in central New York this summer. 🙂

3. Visits with friends and family. Today, I had lunch with one of my besties and her little boy then lunch with my brother and his fiancée. (It’s 7 PM and I’m not even close to being hungry yet.) Last week, I was in DC selling my car, so I was lucky enough to stay with my cousin and her boyfriend plus catch up with one of my favorite friends from our days as new college graduates at our first jobs. I’ve been cramming in these visits (plus those with friends nearby) and it’s been really great!

4. Phone calls to my friends scattered around the country. I had two wonderful phone calls today with two of my favorite ladies. I still feel like I have a million more people to get in touch with before I leave the U.S. I’m not sure why I feel like I’ll never be able to talk to these people again on the phone! Because of Skype and an awesome phone plan through O2, I’ll be able to stay in touch with everyone.

5. Packing. Blech. I dislike packing. You’d think after my many travels that I’d have this down to an art. Not quite. I’ve taken over my brother’s room (he has his own house, so don’t think he is living around my stuff) and my room. Clothes everywhere!

The brother's room...

My room...