Monday, October 29, 2012

The Many Faces of the Mad Hatter

This weekend was Halloween celebrations here in London. Back in the States, we would have been sitting at home, waiting for trick or treaters all night, and I more than likely would have been complaining about the trashiness of costumes, or lack of costumes.

Here in London, there isn't really much trick or treating. Without stand alone houses or porch lights to turn on and off to alert kids, it is a lost cause.

But that doesn't mean they can't party! We had decided to attend a party thrown by the Texas Exes UK Chapter - since both Paul and I went to UT, we thought it would be a great way to meet other Texans in London.

But, before we could make it to the party, we had to decide on a costume. 2 other girls from work were going too and we decided to do a group ensemble. It's nice because on one hand we're all in it together, on the other hand, ensembles can be tough. Throw in the fact that Halloween is my least favorite holiday (it and Valentine's Day run a close last) and I don't like dressing up and it could have been a recipe for disaster.

Luckily, the rest of the troops rallied around the occasion, picked us out a theme and got me out to the costume shop. And, all in all, I was pleased with our results. It may have been the fact that I was the last costumed of the bunch, or the punch they concocted that reminded me quite a bit of trash can punch from my college days......

Now, for those who haven't already deduced, we went as Alice in Londonland (aka Wonderland). We had myself as Alice, which often confused people when I introduced myself as Alyson which sounds like Alice-son, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts. Yes, we are so clever.

The BEST part of the ensemble by far was Paul with his mad hat. Which we made from scratch. Neither of us are crafty at all, but I wasn't pleased with the cheap top hats found at costume stores and they just weren't mad enough. So we got some poster board, fabric, spray paint and wire and voila! The mad hatter.

This hat was the hit of the party, photographed on many a head that night. So, who wore it best?

a) The hat makers
b) the zombie man
c) the lover of beer

d) the Queen of Hearts

e) Belle

I know my vote - what's yours?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bond is here!

In Turkey, we were always habitually behind on movies. Most things didn't even come out on time in Turkey, much less before the United States. Sometimes you might have to wait a couple months for a movie if it wasn't a major blockbuster like Twilight, Hunger Games, or the Avengers.

So imagine my surprise when I hear that not only does Skyfall (aka the newest James Bond flick) open two weeks before the US in London, but we also get a premiere!

Daniel Craig upclose and personal - at least for whoever
is interviewing him or standing closer to the screen

So, while I was traipsing around Wales for work, I sent Paul off to the Skyfall premiere. It was at the Royal Albert Hall and not only included all the stars, but other A - C list celebrities, such as the X Factor judges and contestants.

The red carpet itself

And while they couldn't get a close up of Daniel Craig who was supposedly veeeerrrry tan, it's still such a fun experience. All the fans, all the paparazzi, all the actors and the huge spectacle of it.

This must have been someone important

After the premiere, which we were so unfortunately not invited too (I'm sure it was just lost in the mail!), we had to wait a few more days until Friday to see the film.

While I do love movies and James Bond, lately action films have all been a bit too actiony for me - yes, I get it, explosions and gun fights are exciting..... but I say to a point. So for me, the whole attraction of this film was that part of it was filmed in Istanbul. Remember, Paul even caught them filming!

It made me so nostalgic to watch Istanbul on the big screen - the crowded streets, the mosques framing the skyline, the call to prayers and the hustle and bustle of it all. Things that perhaps even seemed annoying at the time, now seem charming and make me think fondly of the place I called home for the last year.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Just a Weekend at our Country Castle

While the boys were away golfing, we girls capitalised on our time together for a girls weekend. We went to Harrods, saw Wicked, did some shopping, and oh, you know, stayed at a castle.

I think that castles have to be every girls fantasy. I'll admit I find them incredibly cool and romantic, although I have no idea why. Sure, being a princess would have been great minus a whole lot of things like arranged marriages, those tight corsets, and escorted walks through the garden.

When my friend suggested we splurge and spend a night in a castle close to London, I jumped at the opportunity. That's got to be one of the best parts of being in England, right? Castles galore! At least more galore than in Texas.

Girls at the Castle - photo taken by a nice family from
Wisconsin whose daughter deemed us all nice enough
to get a hug - one for each

So, off to the castle we went. We stayed at Thornbury Castle just outside of Bristol in the cute little town of Thornbury. The town itself was quaint, small, but inviting. And the castle, while I had looked at pictures online, was even better in person. The castle boasts having hosted Henry the VIII and Anne Boleyn, of course only after Henry took the castle from the 3rd Duke of Buckingham and had him executed. Later, the castle fell into ruin but was repaired and turned into a hotel.

The Castle backyard - where we may play some croquet on
a summer afternoon, once I learn to play croquet at least

The Castle gardens - which included a tree that was cut into
a little house shape around a bench. Which did not photograph
as prettily.

Besides the rooms, there's a nice library, dining hall, and a beautiful outdoor garden space, including vineyards which are supposedly more than 500 years old.After checking in, we immediately partook in the only thing more British than castles - afternoon tea. And while I have never been much of a tea drinker, I have learned a bit more of an appreciation of the art of tea drinking during my time in Turkey. But British tea takes the cake (or biscuit perhaps). We had delicious peppermint tea with an assortment of scones, chocolates, tarts, pastries, jam and some delicious kind of creamy buttery goodness.

Tea and crumpets

The castle is within walking distance to the town, which we went to explore and walk off our afternoon tea. What the town lacks in size and dining options, they make up for in hospitality. While playing darts at the local pub, the White Lion, we were befriended by several locals who took us out for a night on the town, including lots of dancing and lots of cider. After which I promptly put my tired self into a giant, tudor style bed.

Gives a new meaning to Queen size bed

I'm thinking I may have some more castle visits in my future!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Harrod's in London

While I anxiously wait for Paul's arrival in London, I have yet to do any real exploring. I've been to London several times for sightseeing, and it seems not quite right to go picking out a favorite restaurant without him.

So, I've been laying low the last few weeks. Easy dinners at home (aka pasta, no real cooking yet!), casual dinners with friends and co-workers, to and from the office.

This weekend though, my friend from Istanbul came into town to visit me and another friend who used to live in Istanbul. A girl's weekend was the perfect excuse to get myself into gear and out of the house.

The very first thing we did on her first night in London was visit Harrod's. This was fine by me, as this was a site I hadn't yet visited! While I'm not much of a shopper and/or spender, I think it's still every girls fantasy land to walk through Harrods with the purses, shoes and tons of other designer goods.

I will say, I was very surprised though. Outside of the shopping, there was so much more to it. There was pastries, chocolates, steaks, chicken and all types of food. Anyone could get lost in there checking out all the amazing eats. My favorite was definitely the chocolate, as friends know I have quite a sweet tooth. This wasn't just your average whooper though; chocolates came in every shape, size, and flavor. While I came out empty handed this time due to extreme self control, I know I won't be so lucky every time.

So many choices! How's a girl to choose?

Mummies can be delicious

Who wouldn't want to eat a skull
in honor of Halloween?

And you thought I was eating healthy! But I only tricked you -
candy (marzipan) fruit

The last thing we checked out was Christmas World. I wasn't sure what we were going to look at when my friend asked if we could stop by.  I think Christmas World describes it just right though. There are plenty of decorations to put you into the holiday spirit, along with the trees, ornaments, wrapping paper, cards and more they sell there.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I wasn't sure what to expect on my first visit to Harrod's, but it exceeded all my expectations. There is a little bit for everyone to enjoy (if not a whole lot to enjoy!) in this iconic London shopping center. Plus, you're just steps away from even more fabulous shopping if you haven't already emptied your wallet.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Across the pond and Jet lag

Until this most recent trip, I had not been back to the States since March. Just enough time to miss Mexican food and cheap goods like all my favorite beauty products.  And apparently just enough time to forget how completely and utterly terrible jet lag is.

I flew in on a Friday afternoon with big plans of shopping and Tex-Mex. Instead, my sister picked me up at 2 pm only for me to promptly fall asleep at 6 pm. Then wake up at 8:30. Then go to bed at 11. Then wake up at 4 am. Then give up at 5:30 am and get out of bed.

Oh yes, I forgot about that.

So, I worked through the week, saw friends and family, enjoyed our friends wedding, and then I had to hit a flight home.

All was well and good until they cancelled my flight and squished me into one of the middle seats on the 9 hour plane ride. The WORST nightmare of someone who a) doesn't sleep on planes and b) is taking a red-eye flight back to London.

But, low and behold, day 2 in London and I am not jet lagged in the least. A 2 hour cat nap on the plane Sunday night, an 11 pm bed time last night and I am rocking to London time already. I swear it is easier to go East than West.

Besides fighting jet lag, what did we do on the other side of the pond? I can honestly say, not much.

The highlight of our trip was our friends Chelsey and Stuart's wedding.

One of the hardest parts of being an expat are missing out on these major life events. Weddings, births, funerals, etc. Without unlimited vacation and cash, it just isn't possible to make it back for every event you would like to. That's what made it so serendipitous about this trip - it happened to coincide exactly with a trip I needed to make for work! So lucky and glad to have been a part of this special day.

We caught the bride on film on the way into the wedding!

Picturesque wedding setting? I think so

We finally got to wear our custom clothes!
Paul got another wear out of his custom suit
and my dress made its debut

And I will wrap up with my apologies for a lack of blogging. Really, I promise more to come as we explore London.