what i miss most about the U.S. (Seattle vs. London)

Come summer we will have officially been expats for a year. It’s been wonderful and terrible, joyful and full of tears. We’ve seen new countries, met new friends, and experienced amazing things I never thought we would. We’ve grown closer as a family, become more self-reliant. I wouldn’t trade the last year for anything, but I also deeply miss my home, my friends, my family and my beautifully green hometown.

West Hampstead--our old neighborhood

West Hampstead–our old neighborhood

To an American, you wouldn’t think Britain is a “foreign country” as they speak the same language (although more correctly and articulately) as we do. Or at least on a scale of foreignness it’s lower than say, moving to Pakistan. But I’ve found that the customs, way of life, social stigma, and way of looking at the world are completely different, at least coming from a very friendly, compassionate city like Seattle. Here I’ve come up with a list of things I miss most about daily life in the US and how my daily routine differs living in a place like London.

Watching the changing of the horse guards

Watching the changing of the Royal horse guard

1. Being nice to strangers

Yeah, I surprised myself with this one since sometimes in Seattle I wish I were invisible. In Seattle you say hello to another human being passing on the street. Cars stop for pedestrians whether you’re in a crosswalk or not. When I was pregnant I had more strangers’ hands on my belly than I could count. You know your neighbors and it’s (fairly) easy to make new friends.

But in London (though not everywhere in the UK) people keep their heads down and thoughts to themselves. You DO NOT speak to strangers on the tube. You DO NOT make eye contact on the tube, or anywhere else for that matter. This distance between strangers makes for super awkward interactions when trying to get to know someone. My closest Brit friends I’ve only seen outside of school say three or four times apiece, and that was after months of “courting”: getting to know them in small, brief conversations in passing and deciding if we had enough in common to see one another outside of school. It’s a lonely way of life.

Captain Charlie

Captain Charlie

2. Ease

Everything was easy in Seattle. Grocery store? Hop in the car, load up the trunk. Furniture? Go pick it out and borrow Dad’s truck. Want to meet up with a friend? Text them and load up the kids. Date night? Great! My friend recommended a really good new babysitter. But here we don’t have a car, and I’m not convinced if life would be easier if we did since there is nowhere to park. Yes, public transport is amazing, but you can only haul four bags of groceries on and off the bus in the rain so many times before it starts to get annoying. And on the friendship front, see number one.

Borough Market--my favorite London farmer's market.

Borough Market–my favorite London farmer’s market.

3. Green

My allergies back home would be in full swing this time of year. But in London I haven’t popped so much as a Zyrtec. Why? Trees and greenery are reserved for parks. The rest is cement-covered, smog-soaked streets and brick buildings. When I blow my nose there are always little black specs in my snot (TMI, sorry, but gross!). I miss the water, the mountains, the lakes and rivers and trees that surround Seattle. Yes, the parks here are amazing. But on a sunny day if you want to go stretch out on a piece of grass, so does everyone else in London. Good luck finding a spot next to someone who isn’t puffing a cigarette.

Yeah, we shouldn't have gone to Borough Market on a sunny Saturday

Yeah, we shouldn’t have gone to Borough Market on a sunny Saturday

4. Space

I’ve gotten used to living in smaller and smaller spaces, and that’s fine. I don’t miss the space of our house (in fact it will feel huge after we get home) so much as I just miss the comforting familiarity of our house. But after a while, London just starts to feel crowded. Being jolted by a backpack on the tube, crashing tiny shopping carts at the grocery, dodging clueless tourists as they meander down Baker Street—it all just feels claustrophobic. I miss walking down empty sidewalks and cruising down the spacious aisles of QFC. Even a trip to the farmer’s market here is a full-contact sport. Trust me, I have the bruises to prove it.

Sunny (cold) day on Primrose Hill

Sunny (cold) day on Primrose Hill

5. My support network

I no longer take for granted my amazing family and friends. Back home if I were having a bad day I could call up my mom and bitch about it. Or if I needed a break from the kids—some adult time—I had friends who could come over for a playdate, coffee and a good old gossip session. I miss bumping in to my bestie at Target and randomly seeing friends at the park. This isn’t just a London issue (though as in #1, meeting new people has been hard), but an expat issue. The 8-hour time difference means I can’t call people back home anytime I want. And when it’s the end of the day and I’m beat, I don’t always feel like a Skype session while the girls tug at my arms begging to watch Play-Doh videos on YouTube and whining “get off the computer, mom!” First world problems, I know.

Lieutenant Lucy

Lieutenant Lucy

One more year and we’ll (likely) be back home. I’m trying to savor every moment we live in Europe because it’s such an amazing experience (that and Charlie has a little British accent that is too cute—I’ll try to post a video soon). But on long, wet days, I yearn for my own home, my own bed, a hug from a friend, and the comforting smell of Seattle after a long rain.

Next up: a post about the things I love about London. Yes, I promise I do actually enjoy a lot of it!

xoxo

Jen

kefir and chia breakfast parfaits

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Once I turned 30, I began to get a bit more health conscious. Less sugar, more fiber. Small changes. Then at 31, I really pushed the fruits and veggies. But at 32, I found I could no longer eat a slice of chocolate cake and feel decent afterwards. My metabolism slowed and it took more and more effort to maintain my ideal weight. Today I turn 33, and I sometimes feel like my body is just no longer cooperative. I’m on a range of (unavoidable) medications that make me tired, grumpy, and basically feel like a slug. To counteract all those crappy side-effects I need to pour in a really balanced diet to make me feel my best (which still, even on days when my diet is perfect, doesn’t always work). But I’m determined not to feel 33 going on 66, so I push on just trying to eat my best and exercise as much as I can.

For being a “grown up,” I don’t feel very grown up. I would still rather eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast than eggs and avocados. But I know if I do eat that sugary cereal I will crash 1.5 hours later and feel even hungrier. The angel on my shoulder says, “Eat balanced! Protein in the morning!” while the sugar devil calls for “Cinnamon Toast Crunch! Cookie Crisp! Chocolate nom nom nom nom!”  Luckily, I can bop the sugar devil over the head with this healthy concoction that leaves me sated until lunchtime, and just not, you know, purchase the sugary cereals in the first place.

To make my daily breakfast, I start a day ahead. Prepping 3 of these at a time means there are 3 mornings where I don’t have to think about what’s for breakfast or be tempted by the kid’s leftover pancakes. I just grab a chia parfait out of the fridge, a spoon, and dig in before my stomach gets the best of me. Then on day 3, I make 3 more.

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What is kefir? It’s a fermented milk drink, sort of like a liquid yogurt. But unlike sugary yogurt, it packs 10.5 grams of protein per cup without the extra fat and calories. Plus it has more of the good probiotics to aid in digestion (and maintain healthy bowels….yeah I’m talking about that) than yogurt does. If you’re here in the UK, I like Bio-tiful Dairy Kefir that you can purchase on Ocado. In the US there are a ton more choices in the kefir department, from flavors like vanilla to cherry pomegranate. Just watch the sugar on the label–you don’t want to start your morning with a blood sugar blast-off.

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Pour 1 cup of kefir into a glass or resealable container (glass jars work great, too).

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Add some chia seeds. These pack a wallop of protein, Omega-3’s, and a ton of vitamins and minerals. Adding them to the kefir will give you your entire day’s worth of calcium in one serving.

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Next, add oats. Not quick-cook oats that will become mushy, but nice, thick old fashioned oats. Organic and gluten-free, if possible.

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Next, add a little bit of fruit compote or fruit jam for flavoring. You can omit this step, but I find that just a touch of sweetness and flavor really makes this breakfast shine. Look for no-added-sugar jams (if you’re using a flavored kefir omit this step).

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Stir it all together (or shake, if you’re using a lidded container)…

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…until everything is well combined. The mixture will be thin; don’t worry. It will thicken overnight in the fridge as the chia seeds and oats soak up the kefir. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight and up to 3 days.

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In the morning toss on some fresh berries, or if you need to use frozen you can add them before refrigerating the night before.

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See how the chia seeds have expanded? Those will help fill you up and keep you going all morning. The oats, too!

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What a perfect start to the day. Play with different flavors of jam and/or kefir until you find something that suits you just right. My absolute favorite is plain kefir with strawberry rhubarb jam–it tastes like pie!

Cheers to 33 years, my friends. *Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me…I look like I’m 32 28, but I act like I’m 12.*

xx

Jenny

Kefir and Chia Breakfast Parfaits 

  • 1 cup kefir
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (not quick-cooking)
  • 1 tsp whole chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp no-added-sugar jam for flavor (omit if you’re using a flavored kefir)

Combine all ingredients in a resealable container or small bowl. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days. Top with fresh fruit before devouring!

Old Hags, Buggies on Buses, and Christmas in London

Confession: I’ve started about seven blog posts in the last few months and haven’t finished any of them. Mostly because I’m terribly busy, and then poured a glass of water on my computer, then tried the rice trick and ruined said computer—but also because I feel like my musings don’t fit into any sort of category. They’re not about food, or my kids, or really anything in particular, so I don’t finish them into a polished piece to post. But then it hit me: I don’t have to write about specific things here. I can write about anything I damn well please. So today I’m going to tell you a story about an angry old hag on a double decker bus.

On a freezing December day (last Thursday, when the weather woman told me to put on my gloves because the high would be 6 degrees; somehow celsius is more painful than fahrenheit), the girls and I had to trek across town to visit my doctor. I didn’t have any childcare available, and something was going on with my eye that I had to get checked out, so onto the 13 bus we went. Charlie was in the buggy covered in a blanket, having had terrible sleep the night before (meaning I also had terrible sleep the night before), and I thought a ride in the buggy on the soothing hum of the bus might just let her have a kip. MY GOD I AM TALKING BRITISH.

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Oh my sweet girls. Lucy will turn 6 this year and Charlie will turn 4. Time, as they say, flies.

The bus arrived and I pushed the buggy on and into the open part in the middle. I was in luck: there were two seats open right next to the zone designated for wheelchairs and buggies (wheelchairs always have priority, though, but there were none that day). Two seats open! Next to my buggy! This never happens. But as I’m telling Lucy to squeeze into the seat a shrewd voice from behind me snaps, “You know you take up two seats when you do that!”

I was a little confused. Yes, I had taken two seats: one for me, one for my daughter, and squeezed the buggy against our legs to make room for another buggy that was already there. “Do what?” I asked the shrew, who I identified as a short, white-haired old woman who looked like a Gorg straight out of Fraggle Rock, only evil. A dark Gorg.

“Put your buggy there and leave no room for the rest of us with our trolleys to sit!”

Lucy with one of the 50 Paddington Bear Statues placed all over the city.

By this point the haggard Gorg was sitting down in an empty row across the aisle, with plenty of space for her small shopping trolley. “You’re sitting now, aren’t you?” I asked innocently enough, but with sarcasm lurking behind every word.

“You people with your buggies and your garbled gooka shrw badda ladda ding dong wakka lakka loo…”

By this point I was tuning her out because she was an intolerable old Gorg just trying to make trouble. Old women on buses fall into 3 categories in London: nasty as a witch on her period, sweet as mince pie, or quiet and invisible. You can guess which one the Gorg was. I ignored her, chatting with Lucy about school and her amazing performance in the play Cinderella earlier that day. The old Gorg talked at me all the while, Gorging on about buggies in the “trolley space” and how 50 years ago there would never have been a buggy on a bus and why is there now? Gorg gorg gorg gorg smooka gorg gorg.

Dave's company Christmas party at Abbey Road Studios. Once in a lifetime, man.

Dave’s company Christmas party at Abbey Road Studios. Once in a lifetime, man.

But then a new voice—a beautiful, articulate English voice—piped in. “Why do any of us have children at all? Why don’t we just become insufferable old ladies like you?”That made me turn my head. She was close to my age with long brown hair and glasses, book in hand, just trying to have a peaceful ride on the bus. But then she stuck up for me (the English, as a rule, don’t converse with strangers—this was HUGE). I could have hugged her.

“Yes!” I replied in my most sarcastic tone. “Wouldn’t that be fun? Gosh, why did I have children at all?” Then I quickly turned to the kids and told them they are my everything and Mommy was just having an argument with a wicked old Gorg with warts covering her nose. Not to worry.

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I got to sit in the studio where more than 190 Beatles songs were recorded. Even though I’m a Stones girl through and through, it took my breath away.

I’m not old, you’re old,” the Gorg retorted. Nice try, but she was grasping at straws. Now it was two against one.

“The sign says ‘wheelchairs and buggies’. It doesn’t say anything about trolleys. So just leave her alone,” my savior spit.

“Did I ask for your opinion? Because I don’t remember asking you for anything. Why don’t you just shut up!” Gorg was getting super gorgy, the warts swelling on her nose and threatening to burst.

“I didn’t know I had to answer to you,” Savior quipped. “I can say anything I like. I’m expressing my opinion and don’t tell me to shut up.”

“I’ll tell you anything I damn well please,” the bitch snarled. “Gorg gorg gorg gorg gorg gooooga gorg gorg!”

Our living room and pint-sized tree decked out for the holiday.

Our living room and pint-sized tree decked out for the holiday.

“Excuse me,” a new, lovely, brilliant voice piped in, “but this lady has a right to ride on the bus with her buggy and her children without being harassed. And now you’re harassing other passengers as well.” She was a middle-aged Indian woman, who at first I dismissed as the meek seat companion to my Savior. But whoa, she was not meek. She couldn’t take it anymore. “You need to calm—“

The Gorg snapped at her before she could finish. “I’m not harassing her. You people are harassing me! This woman called me old. She called me an old woman. I’m going to have you all thrown off the bus! Gorga gorge wakka wakka ding dong lolo gorg gorg*!”

*If you haven’t noticed by now I use Gorg Gibberish whenever I can’t recall the specific phrasing or the Gorg said something explicit.

At this point most of the back of the bus had moved as far away from the Gorg as they could (this is totally English—stay far away from conflict). My Savior and her seat companion were now sitting behind me (Savior was chatting with Lucy and I, making light of the situation and helping us all tune out the Gorg), and the rest of the passengers were all sitting on our side leaving the Gorg alone on the left. She probably didn’t notice. If you can’t tell by now, the Gorg is a little self-centered.

Lucy at the London Chocolate Festival beside--you guessed it--a solid dark Belgian chocolate dalek from Doctor Who!

Lucy at the London Chocolate Festival beside–you guessed it–a solid dark Belgian chocolate dalek from Doctor Who!

The trip went on like this for what seemed like hours. Through Queen’s Grove, St. John’s Wood Station, Lord’s Cricket Ground…the Gorg just chattered on and on, blasting us for this and blaming us for that. Finally at Park Road she rose to exit the bus. And—what luck!—she had a friend also exiting the bus who had come down from the upper deck. “Well hello, darling!” she greeted. She transformed into a totally different person. A non-Gorg. An almost civilized human being, even.

Exiting the bus with her trolley and her old fart friend, I heard her explaining (incorrectly) the situation on the bus. “This rude woman cut me off with her buggy and left me with no room for my trolley—“ The bus doors closed and I could her nothing but a round of applause rising from behind me—everyone who had endured the Gorg’s wrath for 6 long stops, in traffic. But my eyes were still fixed on the Gorg, and when her eyes met mine, I thew her the bird. I stretched my middle finger as high as it would reach and mouthed “F#@% YOU!” Her eyes widened. Her friend’s mouth dropped. And the applause was deafening, now with people laughing and cheering as well. I was just glad it was over.

I never got those ladies’ names or emails or anything, though I should have. It takes a very special person to stand up for another in this country. Mostly it’s turn your head and look the other way. If they hadn’t have spoken up for me it probably would have ruined my day. But because I had allies, it morphed the Gorg into just that—a Gorg. A nobody. Someone so unhappy that she tried to bring other people down to her level. But that day she couldn’t catch me. Or the girls. Or the lovely women who stood by my side. So thanks, whomever and wherever you are.

Dave and I at the Southbank Christmas Festival.

I also promised a little about London at Christmas: it’s magical. Really. That’s a word that’s thrown around this time of year, but London does Christmas so big and so bright that it’s hard to imagine, being from the States. We have holidays that build up to Christmas—Halloween, Thanksgiving, then Santa comes. But here they don’t celebrate either of the latter so it’s just Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, three times as big and three times as long. Gifts and decor have been out since October. Seriously.

A lot of people have asked if it’s hard being away from my family and friends during the holidays. YES. It’s harder than I ever imagined it would be. Every gift, every light, every song—I think of them. I’m such a Momma’s girl that I’ve never spent Christmas away from my parents so this year is particularly hard. But I cling to my girls and remember that we’re giving them a magical Christmas, even if it’s a bit hard for me. We had a “pretend Christmas” this morning to open the gifts from family and friends, then we’re going to visit my sister-in-law in Germany and spend the actual holiday there. I’m told Germany is pretty fantastic at Christmas, too.

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Whatever you celebrate, count your blessings. I have so many, including my upturning health, which I’ll update you on next time.

Love to you and yours. xx

Jenny

we live in london?

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been living here for two months. The time has gone by so fast and we’ve done so much, and yet we’ve only put a tiny dent in what this city has to offer. But we’ve been so damn busy in this enormous place that I’m exhausted.

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London is massive. You don’t realize it until going a small distance on the tube takes a half hour, and a long distance takes an hour, and when you pop back above ground you’re still well in the city limits. For how huge it is, it’s also massively efficient. Tubes, buses and trains can take you anywhere you want to go. Sure there’s walking involved. Sometimes a lot of walking. But your legs get used to it to the point where they just go on autopilot and you hardly notice anymore. Until you wear your new Boden plimsoles and your little toe starts to blister. Then you goddamn notice.

Nose pickin' and hair braidin' on the overground.

Nose pickin’ and hair braidin’ on the overground.

These two have been troopers. They have learned to walk miles and miles with only a little bit of whining and the slightest bit of carrying. They have scooters now, like true London tots, and glide all over the city like it’s their own. I have had several heart attacks when Charlie brakes too close to the street (those black cabs don’t stop for anything), but she’s getting better at staying close to me. Other than that time when she was still learning to brake and went gliding down the longest hill on earth. I went running after her like a screaming lunatic, yelling to people on the street, “stop her!” They looked at me like I was nuts, and Charlie found her brake, stopped, and turned around and gave me a thumbs up. Heart attack #26 living in London. Little bugger.

Lucy in her proper school uniform.

Lucy in her proper school uniform.

This big girl–my how she’s grown!–is in “Year 1″ at school, and boy that’s different than kindergarten back home. She’s learning to read, spell, write in cursive, add, subtract, play sports, swim, and has joined the school choir all while navigating a new world of friends and culture. She’s done brilliantly. Her teachers are helping us to help her at home since her class learned to read and write last year. We’re catching her up and she’s learning quickly. And by “we’re catching her up” I mean getting super frustrated doing homework with a 5 year-old who has already been in school for 6 hours while all she wants to do is play with her mermaid Barbie.

Charlie on her first  day of school. No uniform required for her...yet.

Charlie on her first day of school. No uniform required for her…yet.

And my baby…is not a baby anymore. She’s in the “Nursery” class at the same school, but how grown up she is with her book bag and lunch, marching right into class hardly saying goodbye. She loves school, has made friends, and I’m sure will be the same Charles in Charge there as she is at home. She just needs to get a bit more comfortable first before she can take over the class.

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And me? When I’m not Mom and Homemaker (i.e. unpacker and cleaner) I wander around in awe of this city. Just simple things like this pretty little pub and its flowers make me smile. At 5:30 it will be swarming with people, inside and out, having their after work pints.

Yes, a lot of things about this city irk me, like bagging your own groceries as the checker stares at you, willing you to get your ass out of there. There’s no customer service–that’s a foreign term. People don’t pick up their dog’s poop. There’s litter everywhere. Out of nowhere you’ll walk into a pocket of the most abhorring stench; that deep, damp fetor that is London’s core. Either that, or someone had sardines for tea and the bin has been sitting uncollected for weeks. Both are equally possible, and probable.

Lucy painted her interpretation of Monet's "Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies" last year in preschool. I sent this photo to her old school: Lucy in front of the painting itself at London's National Gallery.

Lucy painted her interpretation of Monet’s “Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies” last year in preschool. I sent this photo to her old school: Lucy in front of the painting itself at London’s National Gallery.

But then a lot of things I love. You can go see some of the world’s greatest museums, art, and artifacts for free. There is history everywhere you look, even in the house in which we live–it began as a coach house and once hosted the Beatles for a party. People are generally helpful with children, offering seats in the tube and assisting them with the gap (“Mind the Gap” is real, and scary for little feet).

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At Buckingham Palace in the Royal Mews, squatting for a photo (thanks, Sadie!) in front of the Queen’s coach.

I love how people speak. My grocery delivery man calls me “sweethaaart,” the old woman on the street calls me “love,” and though people keep to themselves there is a general sense of taking care of one another. If you drop something, a stranger will pick it up for you with a smile even if they’re in a hurry.

One quick story before I go about our trip to Buckingham Palace. We toured through the Royal Muse and stables, and Lucy got to see the diamond jubilee carriage and meet the royal horses. Highlight of her London life so far, save for the Crown Jewels. After lunch we waited in the queue to tour the Palace itself. Charlie was a little sleepy, and I knew it might be a bit of a challenge. She was wearing her favorite red dress-up dress, to be fancy for the Queen, that’s too big and too long. Our rule about the dress is that we tie it up for tubes, trains, buses, and especially stairs.

A horse fit for a Queen.

A horse fit for a Queen.

We passed the headset booth and grabbed one for each of us. The sea of people started flowing through the palace quietly, attuned to the guided tour on their headphones. As we approached the stairs I had the usual talk with her about tying up her dress and made a knot…and that’s when the screaming started.  “I DON’T WANT YOU TO TIE UP MY RED DRESS!”, over and over again. The Queen could have heard her from Balmoral.

The quiet crowd stopped and stared. I tried to calm her down. I tried untying her red dress. But it only got worse. It turned into a high pitched scream, “IIIIII DON’T WANT YOU TIE UP MY RED DREEESSSSSS!” I could quickly see that it was not going to stop. I picked her up and swooped us over to the nearest guard.

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee carriage, plated in real gold. Oy yoy yoy.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee carriage, plated in real gold. Oy yoy yoy.

“Can we get out of here?”

“No, Mum. I’m afraid you’ll have to go through the Palace.”

“This,” I pointed to the red-faced wailing Charlie in my arms, “is not going to stop.”

“Is there something wrong with her we can fix?”

Oh, man, I though. Let me count the ways. “No. We need to get out.”

He radioed for another guard who took us through the velvet ropes and out the back entrance into the garden. Charlie calmed down outside breathing the fresh air and having her dress free-flowing down past her toes. And I had a migraine. But that, my dears, is the story of how we were escorted out of Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace from the gardens, the only real view of the damn palace that I got to see.

And onto the next adventures we go.

xoxo Jenny

a weekend in paris

After having just settled down to life in a new country, getting used to a new culture, new food, new customs and a new sort of “language,” what do you do? Travel to a different country, of course.

Dave surprised me with a trip to Paris for our 6th wedding anniversary. How lovely is that? I had never been to Paris. Or London. And the truth is, it wasn’t so much of a surprise as a, “Hey, I have this in the wings. Are you settled enough to take off and leave the kids for a weekend?”

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My answer? Oh hell yes. Because after traveling across the world with 2 small children, switching our body clocks 8 hours ahead, handling the tantrums and the “this [insert British food here] is yucky!” and the endless walking (sometimes carrying), I was ready for a break.

As I mentioned in the last post, our lovely friend and nanny Beki came with us out of sheer luck and happenstance. She moved into our apartment for the weekend and off we went. The girls were fine. Happy, in fact. A whole weekend with Beki? Hooray!

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Notre Dame from across the River Seine

One bag, one tube, one train and we were there. I’m still amazed at how easy travel is in this little (big) place we call Europe.

What did we do in Paris? Tried the local cuisine. Tried the local cuisine again. And again. And again. There is a reason Paris is famous for its food. We had the best meal of our lives (for serious) at a small spot called Rossi & Co. We stumbled upon it on a Saturday night, having no reservation to speak of, and perusing Open Table or whatever the French equivalent is. I have no photos because the whole meal was spent with my eyes shut, savoring each bite, trying to remember it forever.

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I drank coffee. Lots and lots of delicious coffee, because I have yet to find a spot in London that will make me an Americano. They either stare at me blankly or say, “No, but we can make you a latte or an espresso.” Because apparently they don’t have water behind the counter. Sometimes I stare right back at them until they notice what idiots they are, and sometimes I just ask for an iced espresso and then ask for some water to pour into it. Then I ask for a little milk. Then I ask for a little sugar. Then they kick me out of the coffee shop.

I forgot more and more about London coffee shop quarrels with each café a lait in Paris. Because that’s what you drink in Paris. I still dream about it.

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“Lovelocks” bridge which spans the River Seine. No, we didn’t put our own lock on and toss the key in the river. But it was entertaining to watch others!

We crossed the “lovelocks” bridge and wandered around Notre Dame. When it got hot we’d take a break at a cafe or hop back to our apartment for a siesta.

Now I’m just totally culture-crossed. Maybe I need to re-visit Spain to have a nice long siesta.

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Paris is just as beautiful as everyone says. The streets, though dirty, unkempt, and littered with cigarette butts, are lined with the most quaint buildings and lovely shops. The French, we found, are hilarious. They look like they are fighting every time they speak with their hand gestures and rapid river of words gushing out of their mouths. It’s entertainment in itself to watch them and figure out whether they’re talking about the weather or arguing over who gets Grandpa’s estate.

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A fromage vendor at Bastille Market.

We found the beautiful Bastille Market and perused its tents full of cheeses, meats, fruits, fabrics, and everything in between. We sampled the fromage and the melon, laughed at the random vendors selling €1 tube socks, and sat by a fountain to catch any mist that we could. It mixed with the sweat on our faces and we sat there, happy and hot, delighted just to be sitting in a market in the middle of Paris.

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When we had seen all there was to see at the market, we followed a stream of locals, not really knowing where we were going but knowing it was in the general direction of our train. Turns out they were going here: Boulangerie 28. They were coming to pick up baguettes to complete their shopping. We scooped up some sandwiches for the train home (delicious) and an eclair caramel that I will never forget.

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At the base of the Eiffel Tower we asked a stranger to take a photo of us. He got down low to the ground and quickly snapped one shot, indicating to us in his native language (Czech?) that it was good. I doubted him, naturally, since I usually take multiple shots and choose the very best one. But it turns out it was perfect. It’s now my favorite picture of us.

Now we’re back to day-to-day life in London. Entering week three I’m starting to know my way around. The girls know exactly how to “mind the gap,” however large or small it may be. We signed a lease on a house and can move in later on in the month. I’ll share more about London later, but for now, I’ll leave you with thoughts of Paris: the most perfect pain au chocolat, sipping a cafe au lait, and sitting outside a little boulangerie on a hot summer morning.

Ta for now,

Jenny