Exploring London with Our Girl

A few weeks back, Richard was to be in London for work, so the girl and I tagged along with him. Because we were driving, we decided to stay at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford to allow us a place to park and easy access to the tube. It also was convenient for me because there was a Waitrose just below the hotel, which became our go-to for quick and healthy food for me and our girl.

The two days we were there were boiling hot, so I wanted to be sure to enjoy the summer weather but also make sure that the little one was comfortable. So, on the first day, we walked a 5 minutes or so to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where the London 2012 Olympics were held. We wandered around enjoying the flowers and the buildings until we settled in under the shade of a tree along the river. Our girl and I had a nice little picnic, which resulted in her being covered in strawberry (her favorite food) juice!

IMG_4193

IMG_4192

The park was a nice place for us to chill. If you have older kids, there are water fountains that squirt up at various times and it was full of kids running and laughing through the water. There is also a sand and water play area for kids. It was a pleasant surprise to see how much they have transformed the park to cater to families. The thing I wish I had known though is that the Aquatics Centre to open to the public. How cool would it have been for us to swim in the Olympic Pool?! Next time, for sure!

QEOP1

We walked around the park a few times during our stay and really enjoyed seeing all of the buildings we saw on television. Although we were lucky enough to watch the women’s beach volleyball finals and the women’s marathon during the Olympics, neither of those events took place in the park, so we had never made our way out there until this trip. During our walks though the park, it was always full of people enjoying the weather and the beautiful surroundings. I hope that this area continues to bring people in, and hopefully its proximity to Westfield will help with that.

I definitely recommend checking out Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park if you have some time and are in London. It’s especially great for families. You can access it easily from Stratford Station via the DLR and the Jubilee and Central lines.

IMG_4203

With Westfield having such great access to the tube, our girl and I hopped on the Jubilee line the following day and headed to Green Park, so we could meet up with a friend who works near there. We did a little sightseeing first, and I made sure to take her picture in front of Buckingham Palace. We then headed over to St James Square for a picnic with our friend. It was a great place to get some relief from the heat and escape the busy-ness of the city during the summer.

We had such a lovely time down south that we’re already planning a trip back in autumn over a weekend, so Richard can join us for our jaunts around London.

PalaceSNot impressed with the Palace.

Advertisements

A Day at the Sea

This past weekend, we spent 24 hours in our home away from home, Abersoch in North Wales. I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Richard’s family has been visiting Abersoch for years during the summers, so it’s fun to carry on that tradition now that we have a daughter.

Although this was our second time there this summer, this was the first time it was warm enough for us to sit on the beach. That meant that our girl felt sand AND sat in the sea waves for the first time! It was absolutely a huge milestone for us since Richard and I are such big beach fans! She giggled away at the sand, but was slightly unsure about the waves. The wind picked up as the day went on, but it truly was a glorious day on the Welsh coast.

Abersoch082014

And what makes a day at the sea even better? Oh, fish and chips or some equally delightful seafood dish! We didn’t indulge this visit as we had a barbecue in the evening, but enjoying fish and chips really does make a trip to the British coast! That being said, Beach Hut Life put together this very cool infographic featuring a range of seaside dishes and where they can be enjoyed. I’ve never mentioned that the beach huts of Abersoch Beach are absolutely iconic, so it’s very fitting that you will see an Abersoch eatery featured on this infographic by BHL. We have yet to try 5 Degrees West, but we plan to in the near future!

Hope you enjoy the infographic and will take a look at BHL as they look to bring more attention to the delights of beach huts and the color and fun they add to the coast!

Fish n Chips: Posh or Nosh – An infographic by the team at Beach Hut Life

I was asked to post on behalf of Beach Hut Life as they grow their website. I obliged as I love gazing at the colorful beach huts of Abersoch. I only wish I would have taken a photo of the huts to share on the blog!

A Sunday at Bolton Abbey

Ever since I heard Gesci talk about visiting Bolton Abbey when she lived nearby, I knew it was a place I wanted to visit at some point. Two Sundays ago, we were looking for something to do, and because the weather was so nice, we decided to visit Bolton Abbey and do some walking.

We paid the £7 to park and walked past some cute cafes and shops, which I’d love to check out at some point. That day though, we were focused on getting in a good walk before the forecasted rain was to come later in the afternoon. We headed straight through the cow pasture (Seriously, the cows are just wandering around you chopping on grass, so pay attention to where you step!) to the Priory and the Ruins.

Bolton Abbey dates back to the 12th century. The ruins are what is left from the monastery and its buildings. The church was allowed to continue on as a parish and is still open to this day. We had a little wander inside the church, which is fairly small but full of character and history. I didn’t take any pictures inside, but the stained glass, the baptismal font, and the kneelers in the pews are just a few of the characteristics that really caught my eye. I think some of my fascination with the beauty and the details of the church has to do with growing up going to mass in a church built in the 1970s.

After leaving the church, Richard spotted the stepping stones across the River Wharfe and said, “You do know we will be crossing the river on the stones.” I never imagined we would have crossed the river in any other way. We scoff at bridges! Ha! And, off we set on what would be about a 6ish-mile hike for the day.

The grounds truly are beautiful. More than once I found myself thinking how lucky we are to live in an area surrounded by such incredible scenery. I hope you enjoy some of our photos from the day and maybe you’ll decide to check Bolton Abbey out if you are ever in the area!

BA1Walking to the Priory and Ruins

BA2The Ruins

BA6The River Wharfe

The areas right around the car parks were busy when we were there, so take one of the walking trails and miss the crowds if you want a more peaceful experience. Although there are other walkers out there, it will allow you to see some more of the beauty and hidden gems of the grounds at Bolton Abbey.

BA3

BA4You can leave the trail and walk these big boulders for a closer look of The Strid.

BA5The Strid

A Yank at the Cricket: Bowled Over or Board to Death?

Big thanks to my witty husband for the ‘punny’ post title!

Last year we tried to make it to a cricket match, but the weather had other plans for us. This year though, we were much luckier. First and foremost, England is having a summer (!!!) that has made for perfect cricket weather. (I really should spend every day writing about this weather after all of the moaning I did last year about the lack of summer.) Second, England was host to The Ashes 2013, which is a big deal cricket series between England and Australia. Our brother-in-law scored some tickets from a friend and asked us if he wanted to join him and Richard’s sister for Day 2 of the third test match series which took place at Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester over this past weekend.

**At this point I must point out that I am still learning cricket and all of its intricacies, but I feel like I have a decent grasp of how the sport works from the endless watching of it that Richard has done since we got the Sky Sports package on tv in the new house. With that disclaimer, please grant me some leniency as I write about the match and the game. Richard has already said he might write an addendum to this post if I go into a lot of detail. I welcome his addition, but think I will stick to a simple post that doesn’t involve too much discussion about the rules!**

TheAshesfieldofplay

For those who do not know, a typical cricket test match last for five days, beginning on a Thursday and finishing on a Monday. There are two innings in each match allowing each team to bat and to bowl twice. (When I learned this fact, I started to compare cricket to baseball, but they really are not that similar so my comparison should not be acknowledged.) The Ashes are comprised of test matches, but there are also a few other types of matches that are shorter in duration and might be a good place to start if you are new to the sport.

TheAshespitch

We ended up with great seats that were just under cover, so we didn’t roast throughout the day like most of the other 20,000 fans did as proven by their extremely red faces. We were on the side of the pitch where the team ‘dugouts’ (I have no idea what they are called, but they are like actual boxes.) are and had a great view of the field of play. The match began at 11 AM and play ended around 6:30 PM. They take two breaks during that period as well – one for lunch and one for ‘tea’. (Ah, England.)

I will be honest and say that it can make for a long day. Because Australia was batting the majority of the day we were there, I didn’t consider runs to be a big deal as we did not want them to score more, so in my eyes, it took nearly 1 1/2 hours for the first major thing to happen, which was someone being caught out. As Richard likes to point out, that is an extremely long time to wait for those of us used to sports in the U.S. that are filled with big plays from start to finish! (I actually agree with him.) But, you make your own fun when the innings get long by laughing at drunk people and their antics. I also had a lot of questions about things that were happening, so that helped to fill some of the down time. I’m actually looking forward to going to another match next summer when I’m not pregnant because I spotted some people with pitchers of Pimm’s in the stands – now you’re talking!

So, what’s the verdict? Was I ‘bowled over’ or ‘board to death’? Overall, I would have to consider myself ‘bowled over’, which actually surprised me! It was fun to be part of a tradition that has gone on for years and to soak up the beautiful English summer. I couldn’t believe it on Monday when I was home alone and found myself putting the match on the telly to see how it finished. It ended in a draw (or a tie as we like to say in the States), which means that England will retain The Ashes urn for the time being!

Have you been to a cricket match? Do you enjoy watching the sport?  

TheAshessleepingA cricket match – the perfect place for an afternoon nap!

{The Olympics} Women’s Beach Volleyball Finals

In 2011, the lottery for Olympics tickets opened for UK citizens, so the Brit entered for three events:  the Opening Ceremonies, athletics (which included the 100m men’s final), and women’s beach volleyball. We were pretty lucky as he was one of the only people that we actually knew that got tickets through the lottery, and you already know what they were for because of the title of the post. Both of us were excited, especially me knowing there was a chance I could see Team USA in either the bronze or gold medal match!

The day arrived and the weather was absolutely beautiful in London. (The Brit asked me to stress how nice it was since I often talk about how rainy it has been this year…haha!) I had big plans to paint my nails red, white, and blue, but I forgot my nail polish at home, so that didn’t go so well. I wore a blue shirt and the Pennsylvania necklace that the Brit got me for Christmas, so I was country pride, but definitely nowhere near over-the-top and the nails would have been a nice touch; that’s how it goes sometimes!

To get into the venue at Horse Guards Parade, you had to go through airport-style security, which was so seamless and the volunteers directing us and the military completing the security checks were so friendly. The Brit made a comment that airports should take lessons from them…so true!

St James Park

Horse Guards Parade constructed from sand!

Once inside, there were loads of places to grab food and drink. And, when I say ‘drink’, I’m not just talking soda, juice, and water; we are talking beer, wine, and champagne! We started out with a couple beers, but when the Brit went back to the bar between the two matches, he came back with 4 glasses of pink champagne! Seeing him walk up the bleachers with those plastic cups of champagne had me in stitches! He still hasn’t told me how much that cost, and I think we’ll keep it that way!

There was a group of English people sat in the row in front of us who were waving US flags and continually yelled ‘yee-haw’ when something good happened. A bit random, definitely…but all in good fun! The atmosphere inside the stadium was brilliant as well. They would play music in between each point, got the wave going quite a few times, and had the crowd involved in various chants and slow to fast clap segments! And, with nearly everyone at least one drink in, it really was like a giant party!

The views from inside the venue were stunning! Check this photo out…

The first match was Brazil v. China for the bronze medal match. Brazil ended up with the win and the bronze medal. It was so exciting to watch and got me really pumped for the gold medal match between both teams from the US. Yes, we were that lucky that we got to see Team USA play Team USA!

I just thought this was a neat shot from when Brazil won the bronze medal.

During time outs and between matches, these people came out to rake the sand and the announcers would crack jokes about the ‘rakers’, who would rake to Benny Hill music. It was brilliant! Here is a photo of the volunteers who were deemed the rakers…

In addition to the rakers, there was some lively entertainment in the form of dancers who even had costume changes between sets. Below, you can see them in their red, white, and blue outfits that they wore throughout the gold medal match.

The start of the gold medal match!

It was fun to not have to pick sides, although the Brit will tell you I was cheering a bit louder for Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. I attribute that to the fact that I knew this would be their last Olympics, so I wanted them to go out with a bang! We had a good laugh though when we realized all of the British people in attendance were cheering for the other team representing the USA of Jennifer Kessy and April Ross.

It was really an amazing match and both teams played very well, but Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor came out on top. (I don’t have any good photos of the three teams on the podium because we videoed that part, and after I watched it again, it is a very bouncy video and you hear my voice cracking as I scream my lungs out, so I think I’ll keep that on my laptop for now! :)) It really was an incredible experience, particularly getting to hear the Star-Spangled Banner and see the US flag flying high on the gold and silver medal flag poles!

{The Olympics} Women’s Marathon

My posts on the Olympics have been a long time coming, but I wanted to make sure I gave them the full attention they deserved. Here is the first of three….

I’ve mentioned before that this has been a summer to remember here in England, and the Olympics added so much to the memories. We watched both of the Opening Ceremonies from the comfort of our couch. And, both times, I was completely and utterly blown away by the magnificence of the performances. I found myself with tears in my eyes through many moments of it, especially when you see the smiles on the faces of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes. I found myself so moved by the dedication of the athletes as well as by the effort and dedication of the volunteers that went into making those ceremonies possible. I felt so proud to live in this country, that like any other country has it good and bad points, but for these Olympic and Paralympic Games, I saw the United Kingdom, and London especially, really show the world how amazing it is here.

Oddly, I found myself much more connected to the British athletes than the US athletes because I knew the stories of the Team GB athletes. Do not misunderstand me and think I did not cheer my heart out for Team USA because did I ever cheer for my home country! (You should hear my embarrassing yelling on some of the videos we took at the events and the Brit and I had a nice little country rivalry going.) But, because I am in England obviously much more attention was placed on the Team GB athletes, which led to my becoming more emotional than usual as I had two countries to support.

We were so filled with Olympic spirit and wanted to enjoy as much of the Games as we could, so since we were already going to be in London for a few days, we chose to go a bit earlier and catch the women’s marathon. The weather was rainy, but the the vibe was incredible so the rain didn’t seem to phase anyone in the crowd. We set up camp on the Embankment with a view of Big Ben and the London Eye. Our spot also offered us the opportunity to see the runners five times throughout the race, which was pretty amazing.

 

We stood right behind a Hungarian family who had this catchy chant they would shout in Hungarian when their runners went by. I would scream my lungs out for Team USA (even calling Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan by their first names, which led to me being asked if I actually knew them…haha!). And then, the Brit and I would cheer loudly for Team GB. You couldn’t help but yell and clap for the woman who was the last runner. She might have gotten louder cheers than the leaders, and it was so incredible to be part of this group of people from around the world who just wanted to see others succeed. When the runners went by the final time, it started to rain harder so we ducked into Walkabout to dry off, have a drink, and watch the end of the race on the big screen.

It started to brighten up, so we headed toward Covent Garden to meet up with our friend in a pub to watch Andy Murray play Roger Federer. Oh my goodness, what an amazing afternoon because I think every one of us in that pub was imagining being at Wimbledon as we all just screamed and cheered Andy to victory with “Come on, Andy” and “Let’s go, son” filling the air! When that match ended, we of course stayed to watch him play in the doubles final with Laura Robson, so one beer turned to I-don’t-know-how-many beers and we ended up seeing it through to watch Usain Bolt win the 100 meters final. It was a long day, but seriously awesome to be part of the spirit in London!

If you got caught up in the spirit like I did, what was your favorite part of the Olympic and Paralympic Games?

Back to Wales for Celebration #3

The weekend that we went to the races for my second birthday celebration also happened to be a bank holiday weekend meaning Monday was a holiday here. With the extra-long weekend, we decided to head to back to Abersoch for Sunday and Monday.

We were hoping for a true summer day to spend at the beach and on the sea. And luckily, we had fabulous weather on Sunday! Unfortunately, I took zero photos because I was too busy absorbing every ray of sun that came my way, so you’ll have to check out my last three posts on Abersoch to check out the views! I really wish I would have taken some though because the beach was absolutely packed with people trying to enjoy what little summer we have had this year.

The Brit’s mum had packed some treats for us plus some fizz, so we enjoyed a nice little picnic on the beach along with sandwiches and burgers from the little cafe on Abersoch Beach. The sun stayed strong into the early afternoon then it got a little cooler when the wind blew, but it was so enjoyable to be outside.

That evening, we had a reservation at the Venetia for a nice meal. This is the same place where we had a meal and we stayed for the Brit’s sister’s birthday in summer 2011, so we were excited to go back with the Brit’s parents. Whilst we were sat in the bar checking out the menu and enjoying a drink, the lovely owner asked if I was the one who wrote the blog post about them the summer before! I think I blushed a little, but it was so neat that she said something — so thank you if you are reading this! 🙂

This is the lone photo we have from the weekend showing us happy and sun-kissed:

Our meal and entire dining experience was fabulous once more (and I’m not just saying this knowing the owners might be reading this post!). I wish I could remember what I had, and I should have written it down knowing I wouldn’t be writing a post about the meal until after I finished my dissertation, but I did not. It was all delicious — from starter to dessert, we enjoyed it all! It was so nice to celebrate my 30th for the 3rd time in such a great place!

We had a fairly early night and awoke to blowing wind and pounding rain, so we set off for home in the morning as soon as we realized we wouldn’t have another beach day. It truly was a great bank holiday weekend!

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!

Just a quick one.

This has nothing to do with the post, but rather to do with the fact that my speech is evolving into a weird hybrid of a generic US accent with a hint of Yorkshire in some of the words and phrases I now use, as is seen in the subject of this post (and honestly, it was the only post title that really seemed to ‘fit’). It’s a phrase you hear a lot here and I’m apparently not immune to its usage. Oh well…when in Rome, right!?

Really though, this post is just a quick one as the Brit has requested that I mention how absolutely beautiful the weather has been for the past three days, so everyone knows that England does get some nice weather! Here is a photo from our 6-mile walk along the canal yesterday. Hope summer is treating you all well!

The Great British Summer

What an incredible year to be living in England — the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, England making it to the quarterfinals in the European Cup, Andy Murray in the finals of Wimbledon (oh yes, I was sitting on the couch in tears with the rest of the crowd at Centre Court when he spoke after the match), and…the OLYMPICS!!

According to the BBC website, we are now 14 days from the Opening Ceremonies for London 2012 and the build up here in England has been fun to see. Two Sundays ago, the torch passed through our town. (I know I often refer to ‘our village’, which is where our house is, but the village is just outside of a larger town.)

Also, the day I spent in London over the Brit’s birthday was the same day that the massive Olympic rings were lowered on Tower Bridge. Apparently, I missed seeing the actual lowering of them (and a potential sighting of London mayor, Boris Johnson) by about 15 minutes! However, I was able to grab some photos of them with my phone.

And finally, our Olympic tickets arrived! The Brit was lucky enough to nab tickets to the gold and bronze medal matches for the women’s beach volleyball! I am keeping my fingers crossed for an appearance by the US team in one of those matches! (I have been telling the Brit I’ll be painting my face red, white, and blue if it happens – haha!)

Now, if we could only get the weather to recognize that we are actually in summer….