28 June 2009

Taking home the girls...

So at the end of June and beginning of July, Andrew and I had two weddings to attend in Birmingham (Alabama), and since they were two weeks apart, we went home and stayed for 17 days. Because we were going to be home for so long, and because we're going to be travelling so much during our last three and a half months (!!!) in Europe, we decided it would be best to go ahead and take the dogs home with us on this trip and leave them with our parents for the remainder of our stay in Europe. Andrew booked the dogs' and our plane tickets a couple of months ago with Delta. I was in charge of making sure the dogs got all their shots and paperwork needed. I made the necessary veterinarian appointments, got their rabies vaccinations, and spoke with the Assistant Veterinarian of Georgia several times to make sure that their paperwork was okay. The week of the flight I took them to the vet for their final appointment, the one during which the vet looks them over and signs a form saying they're fit to fly. The previous week, our agent with Delta also sent us another form saying the dogs could sustain certain temperatures. The vet wouldn't sign. I cried. She still refused to sign. Andrew started working with the agent to come up with a "Plan B" while I started searching for another vet who would agree to sign the form. We ended up putting the dogs on another flight with Continental (which doesn't require that particular form). They had to fly out the day before we did, TO HOUSTON! They had to spend the night in Houston and then catch another flight the next day to Atlanta. Poor girls. When we dropped them off at the airport, we had to leave them in their crates, and as I was walking away, Hadley let out a terrified, "YELP!" and when I turned around, she put one paw up on the grate of the cage and just looked at me with those big brown eyes, and I totally lost it and cried most of the way back to the flat.

When we picked them up in Atlanta, everything was fine; their paperwork was all good, and the girls were in perfect condition though exhausted and worried. We loaded them in the rental van and drove from Atlanta to Birmingham. Savannah was so jetlagged on the way home! She refused to lay down; she wanted to see where she was going, but she kept falling asleep sitting up. Her head would slowly droop down and down until her nose was touching the seat, and then she'd do the "head bob" and jerk her head up again real fast.

Hadley, on the other hand, just laid out, taking up the entire backseat, and passed out... That is, when she wasn't hanging her head out the window, enjoying the car breeze!

The next day, we took them straight to the vet to get all their unpleasantness overwith in one go. We had them bathed, dipped, shaved and clipped. Hadley looks as though she lost 20 pounds! She now loves the pool. She chased tennis ball after tennis ball into Andrew's parents' pool. She looks positively graceful while she swims - head held so high and not making the slightest splash in the water! Savannah is so happy just laying in the sun, soaking up the rays.

We can't thank our parents enough for keeping our girls while we're away these last few months. Hadley is living it up in Cullman with my parents while Savannah lounges away her days in Birmingham with Andrew's parents...

22 June 2009

Golf pros and tennis... What?

Before (Hole 1)

After (Hole 9)

So our dear friend Kevin arranged a pub crawl for all of us because so many of us are leaving (including Kevin)! I'll let the pictures do most of the talking...


Hole 1
Pub: The White Horse
Name: "Pimpin' aint easy"
Drink: Cider
Men's Tee: 1 pint
Ladies' Tee: 1/2 pint

Hole 2
Pub: Fulham Mitre
Name: "Couch patrol"
Drink: Lager
Men's Tee: 1 pint
Ladies' Tee: 1 small wine

Hole 3
Pub: Malt House (watering hole)
Name: "Down goes Fraser"
Drink: Referee's shot of choice
Men's Tee: 1 shot
Ladies' Tee: 1 shot

For the next few holes, we headed from our neighbourhood up into Central London. Yes, we invaded the tube stations and Central London dressed like idiots.

Hole 4
Pub: Waxy O'Connor's (watering hole)
Name: "Footloose - 17 Mar '08"
Drink: Guinness
Men's Tee: 1 pint
Ladies' Tee: 1 shot Bailey's

Hole 5
Pub: The Salisbury
Name: "Livin' on a prayer..."
Drink: Tequila
Men's Tee: 1 shot
Ladies' Tee: 1 vodka cran

Hole 6
Pub: Lamb & Flag (watering hole)
Name: "My hands do not burrrn... I was a waitrrr"
Drink: English pump ale
Men's Tee: 1 pint
Ladies' Tee: 1/2 pint

Hole 7
Pub: Punch & Judy
Name: "Smack-a-what?"
Drink: Stella
Men's Tee: 1 pint
Ladies' Tee: 1/2 pint

Hole 8
Pub: Not the Porterhouse (denied entry); not the Walkabout (denied entry); but the Maple Leaf (Canadian bar)
Name: "Bringin' sexy back..."
Drink: Caddy Masters' Choice
Men's Tee: 1 pint
Ladies' Tee: 1/2 pint or other

Hole 9
Pub: The Chandos (watering hole)
Name: "Who's comin' wit me?"
Drink: Cider
Men's Tee: 1 bottle
Ladies' Tee: 1 bottle

And now, without further ado, we announce the winners...

21 June 2009

Hidden Gems Around the Corner

So this past weekend, Andrew and I had nothing going on Friday night; the next morning we were gearing up for a fancy dress (ie, costume) pub crawl, so we wanted to do something low key. We walked over to Blockbuster and rented a couple of movies and dropped them off the house. We decided to explore our neighbourhood and walk up to Munster Road. When I’ve run in the area, I’ve noticed lots of cute restaurants up that way, but we never think to go there because we’re so accustomed to heading toward the tube station rather than away from it. So we found an adorable little Italian restaurant that had the strangest basil and cracked black pepper margaritas. I had one, and it was actually really good! After dinner, we went into a wine shop and bought a bottle to take home, and we decided to walk home the long way since it was a nice evening. As we were walking along, we saw an adorable little pub and decided to pop in for a pint on the way home. When we opened the door, we were blasted with very bad karaoke music. It was a pub that obviously didn’t see many people other than the locals who were there every weekend (or possibly every day). We thought it was hysterical, and Andrew ordered drinks while I ran to the loo. When I came out, we had a problem. Andrew had already started sipping his beer while the bartender poured mine, and when he started to pay her with his debit card, she told him it’s cash only. Well we had zero cash. One of us was going to have to go get money while the other stayed behind.

“Sadly,” Andrew told me, “I feel better about sending you out there to get cash than leaving you in here by yourself.” It was still light outside, so I ran out. Every cash machine I saw was dead. I ended up having to run about a half mile away (in heals!) before I finally found one that worked. Then, on the way back, I was going to try and just see if a cab would take me back to the pub, but none of them had their vacant lights on. I leaned in to one whose light was off, though, and asked if he could just take me down Dawes Road a little bit, and he looked at me strangely and said, “Lady, I have a passenger already.” I glanced in the back and realised there was, indeed, a man in the back seat wearing a dark suit! I was so embarrassed! So I walked on and a moment later, when the light turned, the cab pulled over and the cabbie said that the passenger had said he was going down Dawes Road anyway and wouldn’t mind if the cabbie dropped me off where I needed to go! So I hopped in (it was, after all, a registered black cap – not dangerous or anything) and thanked the man in the suit who was very awkward about the whole thing, and I hopped out again at the pub and ran inside to pay the bartender.

Andrew and I ended up meeting all the locals quickly since we were the outsiders. One of the roughest looking guys came up and told me that I was going to sing a song with him. It was a song I’d never heard, but that didn’t matter to him. Andrew was just dieing in fits of laughter about it, but I ended up getting up and singing. Later the same guy grabbed me and made me dance with him, and then he made Andrew get up and sing with him, too! He brought over more of his friends to meet us, and they all sat with us. I think we scared everyone when Andrew and I got up and sang “Chattahoochee”…

We had so much fun, though, just being goofy and singing and dancing and meeting new people. We found a real hidden gem on our own street that night, and we look forward to taking all our friends there some other night and overrunning the place with Americans!

16 June 2009

The Brocks visit London!

Thursday, 11 June
Shortly after my parents left, Andrew’s parents finally came to London, too! They stayed up near Gloucester Road tube station, near the Hereford Arms, one of our favourite pubs. It was the area where Andrew and I spent our first month in London, when we were in PwC corporate housing. The first day they arrived, there was (yet another) tube strike happening, our third in our three years in London. Andrew took the StreetCar and picked them up at the airport. We dropped off their luggage at our flat because it was still too early for them to check in to their hotel, and we gave them the dime tour of our flat before heading out for the day.

Because of the tube strike, it was going to be awful trying to get around, so we decided to get out of London see Windsor Castle for the day instead. I took the day off work that day so that I could go, too. When we got to Windsor, we met our dear friend Nigel for lunch. He lives nearby and is a walking encyclopaedia of British history. After lunch at the pub, we sauntered up to the castle and wandered around, taking our time looking at the State Rooms and the grounds.

At the end of the day, we took the train back to London and grabbed the luggage from our flat and took a cab to their hotel where they got checked in and dropped their luggage, then we walked over to the Hereford Arms for dinner and drinks. By the time we finished dinner, the tube strike thankfully had ended, and Andrew and I were able to get home easily!

Friday, 12 June
The next day, I had to work, but Andrew took off to wander around London with his parents. He took them up to the Tower of London and on over to Tower Bridge. They found a pub called the Hung, Drawn and Quartered nearby where they had lunch before heading over to Fleet Street and my old stomping grounds, the Royal Courts of Justice and the grand entrance to the City of London Square Mile. From there, they went to Covent Garden and saw the market before meeting me for drinks at the Windsor Castle pub before heading to dinner at the Churchill Arms (mmmm… Thai food…).

Saturday, 13 June
Saturday morning we got up early and met Andrew’s parents and took them to Portobello Road Market. We wandered around the market for a while; Andrew’s parents bought an antique clock, and Andrew and I bought some silver candlesticks we’d been eyeing for two years. After we made our purchases, we went to the White Horse in Parson’s Green for lunch. We had Bloody Marys and pints of beer with fresh burgers hot off the grill, and then hopped on a bus down the King’s Road, stopping at a couple of stores along the way. We showed the Brocks Sloane Square, our old tube stop, and then went and had drinks at the Oriole, a brasserie in Sloane Square. After drinks, we wandered up Sloane Street and went into Hackett and a couple of other stores before parting ways to go back to our respective places and nap before meeting for dinner later. We took them to dinner on Brick Lane; we went to my favourite Indian restaurant, the name of which I can never remember but instantly recognise by the gigantic mural of Princess Diana. After dinner, we went on a wild search for the best bagel place so that I could a bagel for the morning before heading back home.

Sunday, 14 June
Sunday morning we took another day trip outside of London. We took a train to the city of Dover, where the white cliffs loom over the sea. It was a beautiful, warm sunny day, and we really enjoyed wandering around the city before heading up to the cliffs.

The views from the cliffs were amazing…

When we were getting ready to head back down, we passed through a gate, and attached to the gate was piece of wood on which someone had written with chalk “France” and an arrow pointing to the sea, and “Fulham” with an arrow pointing the opposite direction. Andrew and I got a kick out of it since we live in Fulham.

We took a cab back to the train station, and realised that we had missed the train we wanted to catch and would have a bit of a wait before the next one, so we asked the cabbie if he could recommend a pub in which we could maybe have some lunch or just a pint. “No,” he answered. “Most of the pubs around these parts won’t be to your liking; I imagine,” he continued. We all sat in a bit of an uncomfortable silence then and giggled about it later. Despite his advice, we decided to try our luck at the sketchy looking pub directly across the street from the station. There were several men and a couple of women standing around outside, and loud music pouring out the front door. Many of the men were shirtless and had tattoos covering their arms, chests and backs. We walked quietly past them, into the pub, and Frank, Suzanne and Andrew ordered drinks for us, while I walked out the side door (away from the shady characters out front) and claimed a large picnic table for us while I reapplied some sunscreen. Apparently, while I was outside, Suzanne asked the bartender, who it turned out was the owner, if she could buy a Kronenburg 1664 pint glass from him. He told her she could just have her glass, and she introduced herself to him, and they became fast friends. Later, after they joined me at the picnic table, the owner, who was a toothless Irishman named Phinn, came out with a clean Kronenburg 1664 pint glass for Suzanne, all wrapped up. He chatted with us outside for a minute telling us all about his sister who lives in the States and how he was a boxer growing up. We finished our pints and then got on the train to head to Canterbury, our second destination of the day.

When we got to Canterbury, the first order of business was to find some lunch, and we had lunch in this adorable little square near the cathedral. Afterward, we walked over to the cathedral and all got lost in the sheer beauty of it. Andrew and I had been to the cathedral two years prior with Brad and Jill Beard, but we’d forgotten just how beautiful it was.

Later, we wandered around the city for bit and then headed back to London. When we arrived back at London Victoria station, we all bought Cornish pasties and had them for an early dinner while sitting in the station before Andrew and I headed back home to Fulham, and the Brocks went back to their hotel in Gloucester Road.

Monday, 15 June
On Monday, Andrew and I both had to head back to work, so the Brocks were on their own. They went to Buckingham Palace and saw Big Ben and Parliament and Westminster Abbey. When Andrew and I got off work, we met them at the Hereford Arms again for one last dinner and drinks. We had such a wonderful time with them while they were here, and were sorry to see them leave the next morning to head back home.