Monday, March 31, 2008

The Boat Race!

Our trip to London on Saturday was fun, minus the extreme wind all day and torrential downpour in the afternoon. We rode on the famous "London Eye," which was fun but I'm not sure worth the $30/person or hour-long line. We wanted to take in a show, but most matinées started at 3:00, which was too late to see the race. What a shame because we could have gotten half-price tickets to see Chicago, Cabaret, or Les Miserables. Instead we took another tour of Kensington (not nearly as pretty in the rain), mostly because we knew there was food and potentially less of a crowd, and we were hungry, wet, and freezing. Then we took the tube to Putney Bridge, where the start line of the boat race is located. Turns out this is definitely the place to watch the race if you plan on getting obscenely drunk and obnoxious. After fighting a huge crowd, we finally realized there were much fewer people (and more calm) on the other side of the river, so we made our way across the bridge. After another hour of standing around in the cold and rain, the race finally began. Although we could only see the first 30 seconds, it was very exciting! I was impressed with how quickly the boats lined up at the stakes given the weather. And the size of these men--woah Nelly. Not the kind of people you could piss off and live to tell the tale. It was great to be part of a crowd this enthusiastic about the sport so dear to our hearts, not to mention that it's usually completely ignored by everyone around us! After the race, we went home to watch the tape we had made. They had live coverage on one of our main TV stations, which included an hour of pre-race back story and speculation--the first ever sportscast I've been engrossed in. If you haven't heard yet, Oxford won by at least 5 lengths of open water! You can see results and video here:
This weekend is our big trip to Paris, and I can't wait. I'm praying they have better weather--I don't care if it's low 50's as long as the incessant wind is gone. We'll be gone Saturday to Tuesday, and I promise to have the full story and pictures upon return.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Snow on Easter

We had a nice Easter. It was snowing when we woke up, so we walked to town to see what it looked like blanketed in white. To our surprise, everyone around us was in a wonderful mood. They even said "Good Morning!" to us without being prompted. I wonder if this cheeriness has something to do with snow bringing back happy memories from their youth. It apparently snows here much less than in the past, according to my weatherman hubby.
We spent much of the rest of the day preparing for our dinner party. It was a great success, and it was very nice to fill the house with people. We can't wait to have our parents here--and the baby! Our friends threw us a surprise baby shower after dinner, and then we played some Apples to Apples before saying goodbye and doing the dishes.
On Saturday we're off to London to see the boat race, and we're thinking of trying to catch a show at the Globe Theatre. We got the official word that Nate's transfer was accepted, so we're definitely moving back to DC in late June. We hope to see you all soon! Moving back has made me nostalgic already about living here. I walked to town today to soak up some sun and socialize. A woman in the co-op grocery started up a chat with me about how "the price of crisps is absurdly high," and I smiled and nodded, both amused and proud to be included in the group of English ladies who squawk about the price of potato chips or how teenagers get away with too much these days.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lyveden New Bield

We had a quiet weekend at home, with our one adventure being a trip with some friends to a nearby mansion. We spent about an hour walking the grounds, but the annoying British wind, chilly weather, and light rain moved us indoors to Oundle's coffee shop for "tea time." English tea happens at about 4:00 and can include anything from tea to a piece of cake to a sandwich and chips. This weekend we will stay home again and have friends over for Easter dinner. The following weekend is the big Cambridge v. Oxford boat race in London, which of course we wouldn't miss for the world. Then our big trip happens the weekend of April 5-6, when we go to Paris! I'm so excited because it will be my last trip before the baby arrives (and for some time afterward I imagine). The couple we've become closest friends with are coming with us; one of them speaks French and the other has been to Paris 3 times before, so we're happy to have them to take us around.
With just 6 weeks to go before the birth, we are beyond ready and excited. In our second childbirth class we toured the delivery suite and had the lovely experience of hearing a woman in labor screaming and crying. It wasn't like you see in the was worse! Somehow my brain still doesn't allow me to be afraid, and I'm still feeling just positive anticipation. We'll see what I think after the experience is over!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Touring the countryside

Can you tell how freezing I am? The wind was insane!

Our first stop this weekend was to see Stonehenge. We were prepared for the oddity to come as we drove up to it and could see it very plainly from the highway. $25 later, we were able to walk under the highway to the inside of the fence and stand with a million other tourists, enduring the incredible wind as we tried to figure out how long was an appropriate time to get our money's worth. Apparently there are steps being taken to make this World Heritage site more peaceful and less touristy, such as moving the highway underground. How they came to the decision to put it there in the first place is beyond me. One of the many decisions made here that I don't understand--which is not to say there aren't an equal number of these in the states!

Look how the wind has molded this tree. I loved this spot.
After Stonehenge we drove on to Salisbury, stopping along the way at Old Sarum, a hilly area where Salisbury used to be located nearly a millennium ago before they moved it to the valley below. Similar to other areas in England, we were surprised at how modern and hip Salisbury was. Next we checked in to our bed & breakfast in Avebury. I arranged the room over the phone with the owner of the house, an older woman with a thick rural accent. It was a slightly awkward but amusing conversation in which I said "Pardon?" several times, and she called me "Luv" at least twice. It was just as quaint and fun as we had hoped. They gave us our own key and said we could return whenever we liked. So we went to town and settled in by the fireplace at a local pub for a few hours, Nate watching the football game and me reading snippets aloud from the London Daily Mail (juicy tabloid akin to the New York Post).

See my belly?

Sunday morning we awoke to a full English breakfast, which included bacon, sausage, fried eggs, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, and toast with jam, as well as coffee, tea, and juice. We enjoyed our stay so much that I would highly recommend anyone traveling to the UK take part in the B&B experience at least once. We took in the sights in Avebury, which included several relics from thousands of years ago. The first, the stone circle, is 16 times the size of the circle in Stonehenge, yet almost unheard of by the average person. We think this has something to do with the stones being spread out over the town, as well as the fact that it lacks the stones stacked on top of each other, which admittedly is quite impressive and mysterious. But we still enjoyed Avebury's henge very much and think it's very underrated. The second stop was to the West Kennet Long Barrow, an ancient burial mound. Once again, we felt like the only people around for miles, so it was a very different experience than Stonehenge.

We continued on toward Oxford, stopping along the way at Blenheim Palace, an incredibly huge home owned by the Duke of Marlborough. The gardens were our favorite by far.

We traveled on to Oxford, taking in Christ Church college as well as Broad Street and Blackwell's, one of the world's largest bookstores. Nate liked Oxford better than Cambridge because he enjoyed the urban feel. I prefer the rural aspect of Cambridge because I love the abundance of grassy knolls. We feel so lucky to have traveled around so much while here, and I don't think we'll have any regrets when we move back home. We're still hoping to see Ireland and Paris/Barcelona, so I'm spending some time researching the various ways we can travel and whether it can be done with a huge belly or tiny infant. Fingers crossed!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Spring in England! (...sort of)

Our big news of last week was that we had an earthquake! It happened in the middle of the night, and we were quite shocked because neither of us had felt anything like that. The first thought we both had was "Oh my God! They've bombed London"...but being 3am, we promptly fell back to sleep. I'm told the 5.2 magnitude is pretty strong, but luckily no one was seriously injured, and there was no damage in our area.
Last weekend was VERY windy and cold. We started with the Willingham auction, but most items were out of our price range. We went on to Cambridge for lunch but were so uncomfortably wind-blown and chilled that we went home early. On Sunday we spent some time getting ready for our upcoming little bundle. At less than 8 weeks to go, we're both excited and READY!
This week we've had intermittently sunny days, despite the fact that it snowed a few mornings ago. The daffodils, crocuses, and cherry blossoms are out, so it is positively springy in Oundle! The cloud cover can be very frustrating, but I learned to keep a close eye and sprint to the back yard with my book at the moment the sun burst through. And of course, the weather here is constantly changing (and almost always extraordinarily windy!), so it's supposed to be dark and rainy again this weekend. We won't let that stop us though--our plan is to see Oxford and Stonehenge and spend Saturday night in Salisbury.
Recent social encounter with Brits: last night was our first of two childbirth classes at the hospital, or "at hospital" as they would say. The class had approximately 8 couples, all about our age. It was a unique experience...almost like being taught in another language in which you're not quite fluent. So we could usually pick up the meaning of every sentence, but there were frequently times we'd look at each other, shrug and shake our heads, and laugh. There was no way to blend in, and I quickly became the American girl who knows nothing about Brit-speak. For example, when talking about pain meds, she said "And of course there's the gas 'n air." I raised my hand and said "Can you describe that? We don't have it in the states," to which she replied "Really? That's quite strange, isn't it?" Ummm, I dunno, you tell me! Our biggest laugh came when she said if I got tense, I should try "to relax and have a little pot." She meant a pot of tea, but out of context that would be quite confusing to an American!


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