Friday, May 31, 2013

Portsmouth & more dinner dates

We're in the eye of the visitor season.

Last week, we had dinner with my cousin, Sarah, on Wednesday night. Then dinner with another set of cousins, Ed & Kathy, on Friday night. On Monday night, we dined with Randall & Deb Maupin, parents of our high school friend, Emily.

That brings the total to 12 visitors in the past 4 months (I think).

Ed & Kathy had found a terrific restaurant in the Notting Hill area online. None of us had been there before. The website claimed Mediterranean, but, after dinner, none of us could find a strong Mediterranean influence on anything we'd eaten. That didn't mean it wasn't yummy, though.

An early dinner meant we almost had the place to ourselves
This was the second time Ed & Kathy took us out to dinner since our move. The last time, however, was about a month after we'd arrived. The recent riots were still on our mind, along with a multitude 'new in town' fears. The tone of Friday's conversation was much different, now that London is home. Even travelling to the restaurant was different; last time, we got lost - this time, we knew exactly where the restaurant was and enjoyed a stroll around Notting Hill on our way. Instead of telling them everything that's new, different, and scary, we got to update them on Kenz's school, my work, and get an update on what they'd done on vacation. It was a delightful evening.

Ed never met a stranger. He befriended the maitre d before we'd even shown up.

None of us expected a 'white tablecloth' restaurant, either. 
We must've spent three hours at the table - a testament to the quality of food and company.

I tried to get a picture of Ed's hat, but the lighting was horrible... I snuck this pic in the taxi back to their hotel. 

We met up with the Maupins at their hotel - the Hotel Russell, near Euston Station, on Monday. Whenever I travel past the hotel on a bus, I'm always sure to look out the window. The hotel reminds me of my favorite building in London: St. Pancras Station. I'm not much of an architecture guy, so for me to point out how cool a building is must mean something. They said the inside of the hotel was just as cool as the outside.

Randall & Deb had been on an 18-day semi-retirement vacation. They told us all about it as we strolled down to a Byron burger place (I'd assumed they would be ready for something other than fish'n'chips by the time they got to London; I was right). Their trip had taken them all over the place; I don't think they stayed in one town for more than two nights. It was cool to hear stories of the warmhearted Irish, their visits with in-laws, and a few recommendations of places for us to visit along the way.

It was a shame that Emily couldn't join us for dinner - she's busy teaching English in Taiwan. Kenz and I did note, though, how similar Emily and her mother are in mannerisms and speech (which is a compliment to both of them).

Yet another 3 hours of visiting that felt like 30 minutes! 

I've had several people email me, astounded, at the amount of visitors we've had. The common thread is that having so many visitors would wear us out. I've maintained that it isn't the case - having people visit is a fun way to stay connected as well as show people our new city.


Kenz and I had an experience this weekend that may have given me some insight as to what everyone has been saying:

I'd been invited to Portsmouth for a speaking engagement on this past Sunday. Kenz and I hadn't really visited Portsmouth before, so we decided to make a weekend of it. Monday was a holiday in the UK as well, so we assumed it'd be good to be out of London and away from all the tourists. I booked us a room in a little hotel that had a 'garden' in the back (the hotel was an old, converted house). We hopped on the train early Saturday morning.

Luckily, we left from Waterloo Station, which is only 15 minutes from our place.

Kenz wasn't really 'up' yet.

Kenz was pretty interested in the hovercraft, but we didn't do it.
We dropped our bags at the hotel and headed out to stroll around town. We hadn't done much research on the best things to do in town, but we'd gotten some recommendations from locals on where to walk. Our hotel was, luckily, less than a ten minute walk from the 'beach'.

We walked along the shore for about an hour. We stopped and toured Southsea Castle for a bit, eventually finding a place to eat right beside the water.

Kenz over ordered, as per usual
We must've sat outside for an hour, reading, soaking up the sun, and, of course, eating. I got a farmer's tan on my arms - it was the first time I'd worn a short-sleeve shirt outside since August.

The Portsmouth Coat of Arms is everywhere around the city. 
On our walk, we'd seen a sign marking the 'Naked Cycle Route', and noted that it was happening that day - and not long after lunch. We decided to read in the park while we waited...

By the time we'd forgotten why we were waiting, we heard the horns. Then saw the police escorts. And then the string of 30-40 or so naked cyclists, the youngest of which was probably 45. A heavily sausaged train of bicyclers rode past us carrying flags and signs representing various causes, none of which I was all that familiar with. There were air horns and cheers, but the overall effect was pretty underwhelming. We did appreciate the novelty of it.

I'd taken lots of pictures on a real camera while we were down there, but I forgot to upload them to my computer this morning. As a result, I'll have to add some of those pictures at a later date. Allow this statue of Henry VIII (from Southsea Castle) to substitute for the time being:

Portsmouth is steeped in WWII history. I could write 10K words on that topic alone. I'll save you in order to get back to my original point:

As I mentioned, we had planned on spending these two days in Portsmouth really doing the city - visiting museums, taking lots of walks, possibly laying out on the 'beach' (the beach is just a bunch of rocks), etc.

But, when we got back to check into our hotel room at about 4pm, Kenz and I had one of those moments: neither of us knew that the other was thinking the same thing - both of us were willing to go back out and tour the town, but both of us really preferred to just sit and veg out in the back garden of the hotel room. We looked at each other, sheepishly, in the same moment, saying, 'ok, so what do you want to do, because...I mean...I could'

It was a relief for both of us to find out we were on the same page. We spent the rest of the weekend sitting, reading, eating, and sleeping. Between work, end-of-the-semester school, and visitors, neither of us had taken a breath to realize just how tired we were. On Sunday night, I went to sleep at 7:30 and slept for 12 hours. I can't remember the last time I did that.

So - to those of you who have said that you'd be drained with our lifestyle - maybe you're right! Maybe we just haven't been paying attention. It doesn't mean we're going to stop any time soon - we've got yet another visitor showing up next Friday - but, your point has been taken.

Luckily, there was a restaurant in the hotel itself - we literally didn't leave the hotel for the rest of the weekend.

And it had good food to boot (even though we'd've probably eaten there either way).

This was Kenz's spot all day Sunday. She didn't move. And she finished an entire book. 
Random photo break:

All the kids wear uniforms; this shop is just around the corner from our house - I'd never noticed the sign before.

I saw the fox this morning! 

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend.