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When people find out we were lucky enough to spend a year in London, they usually ask “how did you like it?”  My answer is always “We loved it and still miss living there.”  The follow-up question is usually “So, what didn’t you like about it?”  That’s easy ~ doing the laundry. That may sound trivial (and it is) but doing laundry in a washer/dryer combo machine that doesn’t vent is frustrating. Clothes wouldn’t dry for days. Yesterday, while attending a cocktail party, a woman asked me the usual question “how did you like living in London?” but she got a shocked look when I said how much we loved living there and she followed up with “What exactly did you like about it?”  Hmmmmm….let’s see…”EVERYTHING”  

It got me thinking about our upcoming trip back to the UK in July. We’ll only have a week in London and a week in Scotland. There are so many places we want to re-visit. As much as I like to travel by the seat of my pants, I know we’ll regret not going back to see our favorite places and restaurants. A prioritized to-do list is necessary.

DAY TWO: 

Since we’ll be staying in our neighborhood, Marylebone, we’ll want to visit our old haunts. It’ll be easy to spend the whole day in Marylebone. It’s such a vibrant and beautiful part of London.

London: Marylebone High Street

Marylebone High Street ~ so many restaurants and shops all leading to either Regents Park or to Oxford Street

London:Daunt Books Marylebone

Best book store EVER ~ Daunt Books. Loved their author visits (wine served)

London St James Church Marylebone

The beautiful and Gothic St James Catholic Church ~ our “home” church while in London

London St James at night

…and it’s even more stunning at night

Wallace Collection at Night

The Wallace Collection is my favorite museum in London. It’s so cozy and intimate. I can imagine what it must have been like to be invited over as a friend of the owners to see the marvelous collection back in the mid to late 1800s. I visited so many times when we lived there (it was only a few blocks from our flat) and every time I left, I was already figuring out when I could get back to see more of the collection.

London Church alleyway

London Grotto Passage, W1

Lots of alleyways in Marylebone (and all around London). I love walking through them especially at night.

London Friday night at the pub

Local pub just off the High Street

London Royal Academy of Music

I knew two people who attended the Royal Academy of Music and I walked by it nearly everyday but never went to a concert there. Hopefully we can see a performance there.

London Thank goodness they have these as reminders

…and hopefully the directional signs on the road will help keep me from getting run over by aggressive cab drivers.

London Primrose Hill.jpg

A walk up to Primrose Hill in Regents Park to see the great views of London and of course to people-watch. Lots of buff athletes or the occasional one with his pants too low. I was photo-bombed.

London, Regents Park Station Underground

London US Ambassador's residence in Regents Park

Would love to spend a few hours walking around Regents Park

The pressing question is: Do we go back to our favorite restaurants or do we try new ones? Hopefully we can do both. One we’ll go back to is on Marylebone High Street close to Daunt Books ~ Topkapi. YUM! Lots of vegetarian options, meat eaters were happy and it has a lovely wine selection.

London Marylebone Topkapi

Day two will have us venturing out of Marylebone…

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In 2003, we visited London and rode the London Eye. Logan didn’t remember much of it since she was only five years old so she requested we go again before leaving London.

London The Eye

Lucky for us it was a somewhat clear day and we were afforded spectacular views of the city. At 135 meters (or 443 feet for us Americans), the London Eye, located on the South Bank, is the 5th tallest structure in London (after the Shard, BT Tower, Tower 42 and One Canada Square at Canary Wharf). The ride is about 30 minutes. If you’ve got a special occasion (maybe a marriage proposal?) you can rent out a private pod for £350.

A few photos looking at the London Eye from different locations in the city:
London Eye
From Westminster

NZH London Eye and Shard
From the top of the New Zealand Building

London Eye and Horse Statue
From the Horse Guard Parade (Whitehall)

And photos from within the the “EYE POD”:
7-2003, London, UK, London Eye, Logan091
Logan in 2003

7-2003, London, UK, London Eye, Patti & Logan089
Again in 2003

Logan and Patti on the London Eye
What a difference 10 years make

Views from the London Eye:
London Big Ben
Big Ben

London Eye from the inside
Looking straight up…

London Eye View

London Buses (2)
Love seeing all the bright red buses

Although I wasn’t keen on spending £29.50 on the ride, I’m glad we ended up going again. It was worth it!

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Our year in London came to an end much too quickly! I felt like I was just hitting my stride as an expat in London but the real world caught up with us and it was back to the Washington DC area in August.

The last few weeks were truly a whirlwind and I still have many updates to share about our time there. We enjoyed all London had to offer up to the last possible moment. My choice for our family’s “last days in London” to do list was to see the newly erected Hahn/Cock on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. It’s a fun piece of artwork and I’m thrilled I got to see it in person. I love the bold blue color against all the gray buildings in the square.

The plaque on the fourth plinth states:

Hahn/Cock 2013 by Katharina Fitcsh b.1956 in Essen, Germany
Hahn/Cock is a sculpture of a familiar domestic cockerel in ultramarine blue, made from glass fibre reinforced polyester resin and fixed on a stainless-steel supporting structure. It is 4.7 metres high and weighs over 800 kg.

Blue Cock II

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 I can get you tickets to any tournament in the world EXCEPT Wimbledon”  Nick Bollettieri, Tennis Coach

The above quote was made during a conversation I had with Nick Bollettieri in the early 1990s. It made an impression on me because Wimbledon has been on my list of things to do for years but his comment made it more of a challenge and I knew if I ever had the opportunity, I would have to jump at it.

Everyone in my family liked to play tennis so I started when I was young. I think my Dad had visions of the next Chris Evert but that wasn’t meant to be. I’m thankful he got me out on the court though because to this day it’s my favorite form of exercise. Just need to play more often.

As a child, I remember watching the big tournaments on TV with my mom and dad so actually going to Wimbledon has been on my “must do” list for years. One of the first things I did when I moved to London was enter the lottery for tickets to Wimbledon. Sadly, no response from them. BUT we were lucky enough to get tickets through a friend for the Men’s Quarter finals on Centre Court! And, yes I’m bruised from pinching myself to make sure it’s real!

Wimbledon My Golden Ticket

My Golden Ticket. I know how Charlie felt going into the Chocolate Factory! Instead of Candy ~ I got to see fabulous tennis.

Wimbledon view of Centre Court

Wimbledon Centre Court line up

View from our seats ~ my big fear was getting caught on camera blowing my nose or something like that.

Wimbledon medical call

Literally, less than four minutes into the 1st match Del Potro was down with a knee problem. He rallied to come back and win. I was cheering for Ferrer,the Spanish player.

Wimbledon Fernando Verdasco

The second match of the day was Fernando Verdasco against Andy Murray. Verdasco is an incredible tennis player (One of his serves was calculated at 139 mph) and he gave Andy a run for it by winning the first two sets. Andy Murray is lucky the crowd was so encouraging and cheering for him because I don’t think he would have won otherwise ~ he seemed to feed off of the crowd. Hopefully he’ll go on to win his first Wimbledon trophy this weekend and be the first Brit to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. It’s going to be party-time in the UK come Sunday if he wins!

Wimbledon Andy Murray warming up

Wimbledon Andy Murray Backhand

I only took photos during the warm up session. Someone took a photo at eye level right when Andy Murray was serving a crucial point and the flash went off. Oh, my ~ if looks could kill.

Wimbledon Cameraman

Wimbledon Media Coverage

Of course there was media everywhere!

The grounds at Wimbledon are beautiful:
Wimbledon Centre Court

Wimbledon Restaurant area

Wimbledon Linesmen

Wimbledon Club

Wimbleton Flowers

Wimbledon is definitely going down as a top highlight of our time here in London! Now on to the rest of our must do list…only a few weeks to go before we move back to the states.

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Trooping Queen

Trooping the Colour, also known as Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Parade was held this past Saturday, 15 June. Her birthday is actually on April 21 but the celebrations are numerous and culminates with the “official” Birthday Parade. She turned 87 years old this year and seems to be going strong. Tickets for the Parade are given out by lottery which I wrote about a few months ago (click here). Although I did receive lottery tickets for the Colonel’s review practice ceremony the week prior, John was able to get tickets for the Official Birthday Parade. Tickets cost £30 each.

Trooping with Monument

The sheer number of Soldiers and horses was impressive. The parade included 19 officers, 626 soldiers, 225 musicians, 23 mounted officers, 219 mounted soldiers and 245 gorgeous horses.

Trooping two guards on horse back

Trooping white horse

Despite my allergies going crazy from the pollen and other unidentified particles flying through the air (London seems to be at the height of allergy season right now), I was thrilled to witness a British tradition that’s been going on since the reign of King Charles II (1660 -1685). In 1748, it was agreed the parade would be used to mark the official birthday of the Sovereign and it became an annual event as of 1760 during the reign of George III.  I enjoyed seeing the grandeur, the band (so fabulous!), the Soldiers, horses and, of course, seeing the Queen.

Colour (yes, I’m spelling it the British way) refers to the regimental flags of the British Infantry. Since the times of Kings of Babylon, the flags have been used as a rallying point for Soldiers. The Colour being trooped was the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and, since the Queen was present, it was Queen’s Colour on parade.  Hope I got that right!

Trooping Queen III

The Queen has attended the parade and taken “the salute” since her accession to the throne ~ 61 years! Until 1986, she rode a horse to take the salute but since then, she’s taken the salute from the dais. Unfortunately, our seats didn’t provide a view of the dais.

Trooping Harry, Camilla, Kate

Trooping Kate, Camilla, Harry

Other Royal Family members participate in the ceremony as well. If you squint, as I did at the ceremony, you can see Kate (Duchess of Cambridge), Camilla (Duchess of Cornwall) and Prince Harry in the open-carriage. My understanding is this was Kate’s last public event until she gives birth.

Trooping Charles, Anne and William

Not a great photo but those mounted officers with the Blue sash(which signifies they are in the Order of the Garter) are as follows: On the far is Anne, The Princess Royal and a Colonel in the Blues and Royals.  In the middle is Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Colonel Irish Guards. On the right is Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Colonel Welsh Guards. They followed directly behind the Queen’s carriage.

Trooping Bunker seating

Trooping Best seats in the house

The Old Admiralty Building with the Bunker Seats and “hanging out the windows” seemed to provide great views.

Trooping Horses

The horses are beautiful and so well behaved. It’s obvious they are a bit spunky since they looked so pleased when they were finally able to do the “quick time” meaning then got to canter rather then walk pass the Queen.

Trooping Band on Horseback

The band sounded fantastic~ both those on foot and mounted. Have to say, I still don’t know how they play while riding horse back. Just riding a horse takes all my concentration!

Troooping Sea of hats and horses

There were hats and horses everywhere. I find it difficult to distinguish the different uniforms but I do know the blue plume on the hat means Irish Guards and the red plume means Coldstream Guards.

Trooping David Cameron

We didn’t have a good view of the Queen but David Cameron (Prime Minister) and other international dignitaries were close by.

Trooping Turning left

Trooping with sword

Wasn’t quite sure what the pointing of the sword meant since it was being pointed directly at David Cameron but John explained it’s like a turn signal. Ah, that explains it…

Trooping Logan

At the end of the ceremony, we couldn’t resist snapping a photo with a foot guard. My favorite quote of the day was Logan stating “They really are the Red Coats”

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Meanwhile back in London (taking a break from John’s India, Nepal, Bangladesh guest posts)…

At a pub quiz this past Sunday night, I mentioned I’m a fan of the “Graham Norton Show” and an expat New Zealander said she’d been to TWO tapings of the show. Needless to say, I pressed her for all the details of how, when and where. Here’s the down and dirty: Tickets can be applied for through SRO Audiences.  Click here for a list of shows and ticket requests).

First thing was to sign up for “The Graham Norton Show” ~ it’s done by a lottery and hopefully I’ll get picked for next week’s show. Fingers crossed!

Since signing up with SRO Audiences, I’ve started getting information about other shows. On Tuesday, I received information about a BBC 4 (radio) taping of a pilot called “Britain vs The Rest of the World” ~ a light-hearted, humorous contest between comedians. I applied for and got four FREE tickets for the following day (last night).

It’s definitely a last-minute sort of thing but if you’re up for a little spontaneity and something to do on a weekday night, it’s a lot of fun. Since I had two extra tickets, I was thrilled my friend Leslie and her husband could make it. Always more fun to go with a group. In the UK corner was Hal Cruttenden and the international representation was Henning Wehn, a comedian from Germany. Isn’t it an oxymoron to be a German Comedian? Just KIDDING! Ed Byrne (often seen on the Graham Norton show) was the “referee” of the contest.

I’ve never been to a taping of any type of show (radio or TV) and here’s what happened. I got an email with my eticket and a detailed list of dos and don’ts. Most important information was doors open at six and there’s a bar while you wait until the show starts. Makes the wait so much more tolerable. When we got there at six, there were already 10 or 15 people waiting to go in. As we walked in, they asked my name and gave each of us a pink wrist band with a number. I later found out pink bands are the “regular” ticket holders. Blue ones were for special/personal guests. After relaxing in the (hot) bar area for about an hour, we were called according to the numbers on our wrist bands. Having gotten there early enough, we were able to sit in the second row. Did I mention hot ~ be sure to wear layers so you can strip down a little. I’m so glad I wore a sleeveless lightweight top.

Because they want to fill all seats, they do “overbook” to make up for those who don’t show up. All seats were filled last night and I noticed a few people who didn’t make it past the bar area. My advice if you go is to get there early. If I get the Graham Norton tickets, I may go there at lunchtime and camp out…just to make sure I get a seat.

Since this was a pilot show, I’m not sure if it will be picked up and become a hit but I enjoyed it a lot. Ed Byrne was VERY funny as the moderator. He’s quick and witty. I also really liked Henning, the German ~ very dry humor.  His sidekick on the team was a Canadian who announced she really sounded American because she lived so close to the border. Hmmm…NOT! She sounded very Canadian to me and she should be proud of it. She had a deadpan sense of humor as well.

Bonus for me, the studio happened to be in Soho and was only a 15 minute walk from our flat. Another reason (I think I’m up to reason number 1,438) why I’m going to miss London so much.

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If music be the food of love, play on.” William Shakespeare

I wasn’t exposed to musical instruments as a child. OK, maybe I strummed a Ukulele once or twice as a little kid but none of the schools I attended in Hawaii or Puerto Rico offered music classes.  But not having learned to play an instrument makes me no less inspired and in awe of those who can.

Having moved 20 times, or on the average of every 2.5 years, I’ve learned to hit the ground running. Logan’s London school doesn’t have an orchestra and I didn’t want her viola skills to get rusty. Within the first week in London, I started my search for a viola tutor. I didn’t know any one in the area yet, so I used (gasp) Google. The Tutor Pages website popped up with lists of tutors and their information. I was impressed with Maja Wegrzynowska’s information and made an appointment to meet with her the next week.

Since safety is my first priority, I did a basic background search (again Google) and made sure John was aware of where we were going. Can’t be too careful these days ( for all I knew it could have been a bogus listing) but any worries I had were set aside when I met Maja. She’s been a fabulous tutor for Logan. Because she is a performing artist, the practice schedule is fluid ~ we make arrangements each week. Works out well for her and for Logan. We’re thrilled she makes time to tutor when she has such a busy schedule performing.

For the last few months, I’ve wanted to take Logan to see Maja in concert. I’m a firm believer that you can learn a lot by watching the experts live. Until now, we’ve had conflicting schedules but finally, this past Wednesday, we were able to attend Maja’s performance at the 35th Anniversary Concert of Live Music Now. It took place in Hall One at Kings Place (near Kings Cross Station) and featured performances by current musicians and distinguished alumni. Maja has worked with them in the past.

Live Music Now is a UK-based charity. Over the last three decades, it has conducted 50,000 participatory performances thus reaching over two million people with disabilities, the elderly and children with special needs. The charity hires young professional musicians out of music school, pays them a salary (one they can live on) and teaches them to use their talents for the benefit of those who are otherwise excluded from access to experiencing live music. In the states, I’ve heard of volunteers who do similar events but this charity takes it to another level with PAID professionals. We saw a short film showing the musicians in a classroom setting and one in an elderly home. It was heartwarming to see the smiles brought about by the fabulous music brought to their lives ~ even for a short while.

The concert was FABULOUS. It began and ended with the toe tapping harmonica/banjo duo of “Walsh and Pound” and all kinds of wonderful music in between. There was jazz, Spanish guitar, an opera singer, etc. Maja played in a trio called “La Mer Trio” ~ it consists of the viola, harp and flute. An interesting combination and they sounded so beautiful together.

La Mer Trio (Maja Wegrzynowska (Viola), Renate Sokolovska (Flute) and Hannah Stone (Harp)  Photographer: Grzegorz Golebiowski.

La Mer Trio: Maja Wegrzynowska (Viola), Renate Sokolovska (Flute) and Hannah Stone (Harp) (Photographer: Grzegorz Golebiowski)

Hall One at Kings Place (Photo Courtesy of Kings Place)

Hall One at Kings Place (Photo Courtesy of Kings Place)

Hall One at Kings Place was a pleasant surprise. I was a little worried since our seats were towards the back but there’s not a bad seat in the hall and the acoustics are wonderful. It’s attending events such as this remind me that I’m going to miss the heck out of London. If you get a chance to go to the 36th Anniversary concert next year, do so. It only cost £14.50 which was so worth it!

If you want to see La Mer Trio in concert, click here.

For more info on:

Kings Place upcoming events, click here.

Live Music Now charity, click here.

The Tutor Pages, click here. 

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