Friday, June 14, 2013

Another Visitor & Another Anniversary

The title says it all, really. This week, we have a visitor staying with us and we celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary. I know; we can't believe it's been three years, either. 

Our friend, Jessica, arrived on Saturday morning, sick and tired. She had spent the previous three days in Dublin and was all busted up from being the tourist that does everything. After returning to the flat, we decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. She caught up on 100+ emails, took some medicine, watched some TV, and relaxed in PJs, remembering that part of vacation is taking it easy. 

Arriving at Liverpool Street Station
We took her over to Brick Lane on Sunday (natch). Jessica's mind was blown at the multitude of thrift shops, hipsters, items for sale, and food. We spent upwards of three hours following her around as she ping-ponged from one nook to another. It was great fun. 

Artist: Peter Drew

Ben & Jerry's was giving out free ice cream. 


 'course, we had lunch there, too...

it was busy

K & J, talking art. Or denim. Or music. Something.

Artist: Hin
Afterward, Kenz returned home for a Sunday nap. I took Jessica into central London for more walking. 

Trying to figure out her coins...
Heading into town turned out to be a good idea. The city was busy, despite the fact that Sundays are usually a bit more laid back. The street performers in Covent Garden drew great crowds, and I got a glimpse of what it's like to be 5' tall by watching Jessica negotiate crowds (she holds her camera up as high as possible to a) get a picture and (I think) b) to watch the screen to see what's happening. She also climbs on anything near her to get a better view). 

We walked for about two hours. Poor Jessica finally spoke up, saying, 'I think I'm ready to go home now.' I'd forgotten she was sick. I'd forgotten she'd spent three of the previous four days walking all over Dublin. 'OK, but let's walk through Trafalgar Square on our way to catch the bus. I want you to know where the National Gallery is.' As we rounded the corner, we found the Hare Krishnas were throwing a massive party right in the middle of the Square. Jessica and I exchanged knowing glances - we were def gonna go hang out with the Hare Krishnas before we returned home. 

As I've mentioned before, I don't like to delve into politics or religion on this blog. It's neither the time nor the place. 


You ain't been to a party till you been to a Hare Krishna party. These folks know how to have a good time. There was singing and dancing and free food and free water for anyone and everyone that showed up. It's really, really hard for me to imagine someone having a bad time hanging out with some Hare Krishnas. Their joy is contagious. There were folks from every corner of the world singing and dancing along. It was fantastic - permagrins all around. 

All vegetarian  

The dance/chant/sing party

Buoyed by the rice, tofu, pudding, pecan crumble, dancing, and chanting, Jessica and I decided to stroll just a bit more - over to The Mall and Horseguards Parade. 

Returning home on Monday, Jessica called for an impromptu bus exit in order to snap some pictures of the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.  

She was in 'SEE ALL THE THINGS' mode again. Feeling healthier and rested, Jessica spent each weekday out of the house, touring around this place and that. The following two pictures effectively represent the frenetic pace with which she'd examine her surroundings, camera in hand. 

The woman never stops.

Jessica's a fantastic tourist. She took over 100 photos on Sunday. At one point, when we were in the food hall at Brick Lane, she just started taking photos of all the different food stalls because she knew she'd only actually get to eat one meal. It's so much fun to watch a guest just go wild in the city, photographing everything and absorbing the experience. It reminds me to see the city from a visitor's eyes. One of her comments later in the week effectively captured a way of thinking about it: she exhaled, exhausted, saying, 'this city's just so big'. 

She hit the nail on the head. It's not that Kenz and I don't necessarily appreciate the sights and sounds of London - we've just gotten used to the magnitude of it. It is a big city. But, now that we've got routines and routes and favorite spots and go-to's for this and that and everything in between, the city has become a town. 

I can remember when I didn't even know how to get to Owen & Celia's flat, much less how to run errands. Those first five months of the move had me seriously reconsidering whether or not I was capable of 'city life', thinking I'd fooled myself all along and wasn't cut out for all this concrete jungle nonsense. Too many people walking too fast. Frustrating, confusing public transportation. Half-mile walks with both hands full of too many bags of groceries. No storage space. Everything cool selling out on the first day. No back yard. Loud noises all the time

I'm reminded of a friend of mine, from NYC, who I hung out with while at Villanova. He was a professor and was telling me why he and his wife had chosen to move to Philadelphia in order to raise their kids:

Philly's just a nice little town. We didn't want our kids growing up in a big city. 

I was aghast. Philadelphia was the biggest city I'd lived near (Villanova's not really in the city, despite the fact that I sometimes say, 'yea, I used to live in Philly') in my entire life. Maryville, Alcoa, or Oak Ridge was a town, not Philadelphia! Knoxville was a city

Not to this guy. Now I think I understand. Now I walk too fast. I read on the bus and haven't looked at a map in over a year. I grocery shop every other day to prevent having to carry too many bags. We don't own as many 'things', so we don't need five closets. I buy tickets months in advance. I hang out in the park instead of pining for a yard. Sirens have become background noise. 

I know I've made this point before. I apologize for being redundant. But, Jessica's comment caused me to revisit it. Now that we know where we live, it's not so big. It's just a series of smaller neighborhoods that we visit for various reasons. (I'm not saying I'm an expert by any stretch - just that we're used to it)

All day, everyday.
Jessica's friend, Anna, arrived last night. Anna lived with Jessica while they were both in high school - Anna was on an exchange program from Germany. They've stayed in touch and visited each other about once every two years over the past decade. It's cool to see old friends reunited. The two of them are taking the city by storm for the next two days. They both leave on Sunday morning. 

Random photo break: 

Breakfast is the best time of day, always. Yes, that's a bowl of chili alongside my full plate of food. Kenz's chili is good enough to eat at any time of the day. It makes for a great 'garnish' to compliment an already big meal. Don't judge. 
Our neighbor decided to work out without closing the blinds. The three of us were enthralled.

"Together time"

Jessica forgot PJ pants; mine were a bit big.

Seen from outside the window. 

Kenz and I saw these two chatting it up after being in the street all day. It was like seeing a unicorn.

The weather's nice enough to stroll home in the evenings. 

As mentioned, Kenz and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary this week. 

Yellow roses are her favorite (I only learned that two weeks ago! Seems I've still got a lot to learn...)

They've opened up nicely in 2 days! 
We booked a table at the always-way-too-busy Vietnamese restaurant Kenz has been trying to go to for a few months. It's never available on the weekends, and we just barely secured a reservation for Wednesday night. Song Que is a perennial in the 'best of London' restaurant reviews. Funny, you wouldn't figure from the appearance of the place:

Small, crowded, loud, but yum & cheap!

Happy; about to get her pho on.

We've started a tradition of swapping the responsibility of planning for the anniversary each year. This year was my turn. Knowing that we'd have a visitor staying with us on 'the day', I secretly planned an out-of-town trip. A way out-of-town Tunisia. We're leaving in two days. I just told her. She's pretty stoked (understatement), because it's a beach trip and the weather forecast is 90 degrees and sunny every day. I'm going to burn my bald-ass head and sweat a lot. But, hey, that's what you do when you're married, right?

We'll return on Friday afternoon. I'll do my best to post next Friday, but, depending on how late we return, it may have to wait till the week after. 

After a few months of visitors, work deadlines, and school deadlines, we're both looking forward to sitting very still and reading a few books.

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