May 30, 2013

Rainy Day Activities

The past two days have been accompanied by an on & off drizzle. Being the determined travelers we are we let nothing stop us from our adventures. On Wednesday Mr. C left for meetings while Mrs. C, the kids, & I ventured out to the London Aquarium. Regardless of the rain we stopped to smell the flowers all the way to the bus stop.

C has been keeping a wonderful travel journal that he brings everywhere...& writes in every chance he gets.

The boys love sitting on the top level of our double decker bus!

Once we arrived at Westminster Bridge we discovered it would be a looong wait before seeing any fish.

Goodbye, sun!

What we didn't realize was that all the little London babies are out of school right now. We were convinced every one of them brought their entire extended family to the aquarium that day. Nonetheless we made it inside & managed to see some of the exhibits that weren't swarmed by people.

Watch out for that alligator, H

Later the boys & their parents went to the Ireland vs. England football match at Wembley (lucky ducks!) while H & I had fun of our own watching Dora & eating pizza.

Thursday H & I spent most of our time at the park. The boys went with their parents to a very nice Scottish lunch with friends so the two of us took on London one swing at a time.




On our way home I popped into a little bakery called Paul for lunch. I bought two skinny sandwiches (decision-making is not my forte.) One was on a poppyseed roll with capicola ham, comté cheese, tomaotoes, olive paste, & lettuce the other a combination of smoked salmon, tomato, lemon cream cheese, & lettuce on sesame bread. Both were equally mouthwatering. No pictures of the sandwiches; somehow they disappeared before I could snap a shot. The macaroons, however...

Chocolate, Pistachio, & Vanilla. Drooling yet?

Meanwhile the boys got their swag on at Harrods.

Gucci & Dior, baby!

& Hampton tried on some glasses of her own...

We all had a cozy evening in our flat, happily sipping a wine made near our house in Burgundy. Although I'm thrilled to get there, I am quite content soaking in my current state of being in London.

May 28, 2013

London: Tourists Extraordinaire

Although I've spent lots of time in London it seems there is always something new to be found in the oldest parts of the city. On our second day here we ventured into one of the most popular tourist destinations: Westminster.

H made herself comfortable on the underground...looks like a regular.

A quick bus trip & easy tube ride later I found myself looking up at Big Ben from a dock on the Thames.

As you can see it was another gorgeously sunny day in London so we made the most of it by taking a boat tour on the river. My favorite part about being on board? The unbelievable photo ops...

Amazing, right? Once we were back on shore with rumbling tummies we found a nice little lunch spot on St Katharine dock. (Thought of you, Kat.) We weaved through the yachts to Zizzi, an Italian restaurant, where a friendly host led us to our table on the garden terrace overlooking the water. I ordered my salad & swiftly scooped H up to go for a walk while our food was prepared.

We found a Starbucks & drank some foamy milk, yum!

After our drinks we said hi to all the ducks in the river & by the time we were finished our lunch was ready. My salad was amazing: a mix of butternut squash, pine nuts, goat cheese, green beans, & chicken all on top of a fresh bed of spinach. Deeelicious. Then we made our way down the road to the infamous Tower of London.

The boys went with mum & dad on a guided tour while H & I participated in our own festivities...

Princess H

Sometimes I think we're related...

Somehow Mr. C found us & we got to cut the queue with him to see the best part: the Crown Jewels! No pictures allowed, I'm afraid, but it was a wonderful experience. The day seemed to slip away from us & before we knew it it was time to head home. Mum & dad had a date night so I took the kids to the park to play. The boys tackled an obstacle course while H found more interest in chasing the pigeons...

We found a giant tree!

The boys decided to hide from us when they heard it was time to go, but we caught them eventually. Sneaky little monkeys! We walked home, had a bite to eat for supper, & got all snuggled into bed.

We were all very sleepy after a full day of activities

The next day London showed us who's boss. It rained. Bundled in our raincoats with umbrellas & coffees in hand we set out on the town.

No more sunshine & parks for us...we decided to go to the toy store instead. Hamleys, the self-declared finest toy shop in the world, was our destination of choice. All three little faces lit up upon entering a world of remote cars, finger paint, & tutus. (Five stories of them to be exact.) We spent most of the day wide-eyed & smiling at the various displays of every toy you could imagine.

We ate lunch in Soho at a cute little Hawaiian themed restaurant called Kua 'Aina. We arrived cold from the rain, but were cozily tucked away in a hidden booth in the corner. Mrs. C & I loved our ahi tuna/avocado sandwiches & the boys gulped down juicy burgers. I highly recommend it, especially on a rainy day.

With satisfied stomachs we marched back into the drizzle to shop among the masses in Oxford Circus. I chose to separate & explore TopShop, Zara, & a nice little shoe store while the rest of the family played at NikeWorld. Eventually we were all shopped-out & found our way back home to a nice, warm flat.

I quickly changed, freshened up, & got right back on the bus to treat myself to a delicious dinner in Sloane Square. I found The Botanist at the corner & slipped inside. After a glass of wine at the bar I sat down & enjoyed a succulent steak cooked to perfection.

Somehow every bite disappeared off my plate, I don't know where it went!

I strolled back to the bus stop, admiring London all lit up. I made it home safely feeling proud of myself for navigating the big city, but most of all grateful to be here with my loving second family.

May 27, 2013

London Arrival & First Adventures

After a long day of packing & goodbyes I headed off to the airport with my extended "family" to board our 6 o'clock flight to Heathrow. The three little ones & I started together while their mum & dad enjoyed their much-deserved first class time together.

Needless to say, things got a little silly after eight hours on a plane together.

We played musical seats so everyone got to preview first class for a portion of the flight. After a very smooth landing we were all thrilled to have finally arrived to our little cobblestone street in London.

Spring is in bloom in London right now. Our pretty blue door is beautifully framed by lavender wisteria. Almost every window is accompanied by some sort of plant. Gardens are fully dressed up with rose bushes, potted flowers, & white wicker tables. It's just lovely. (The pink door just made me smile.)

Once we were settled in to our home for the week we were eager to explore. Our first stop was Battersea Park.

We North Carolinians must have brought the sunshine to London because the weather couldn't have been better. We strolled through the fields, explored the playgrounds, & decided we could use a bite to eat.

We hopped on the bus to Chelsea & found one of my favorite casual restaurants in London: Pizza Express. This particular Pizza Express had a beautiful terrace for us to sit on while we sipped red wine & orange Fanta. (Guess who drank what...) H was very pleased with her Pizza Express hat.

While waiting for food, little miss H & I went for a walk down King's Road.

After a scrumptious margherita pizza I indulged myself with some unbelievable coconut & pistachio gelato from Amorino. Luckily we were able to walk it off on our way home, watching the sunset all the while...

Regardless of our lingering jet-lag it really was a perfect first day. I am thrilled to be back in London & am remembering why I thought about living here the last time I visited. But for now I am off to bed, enjoying the time I do have in this wonderful city.

May 25, 2013

The Cowfish

Before departing for two months my sister, parents, & I enjoyed one last family supper together. After much deliberation over our restaurant of choice we decided to venture outside our usuals & try something new: Cowfish.

To be honest I didn't think I would be doing much restaurant reviewing on here, but this place is just too great not to rave about. The curiously named sushi/burger bar just popped up in our ever-expanding metropolis. Seeing as sushi & burgers are my two favorite foods this seemed like an appropriate choice for my final night in the US.

You walk in to find an incredible 8-foot cylinder tank (apparently featured on Animal Planet's "Tanked") filled with many vibrant, exquisite fish including the restaurant's own namesake: the cowfish. (Turns out it's a real type of fish!)

Note the soy sauce & burger decor

Funny looking little guy, isn't he?

We sat at the bar admiring our new aquatic friends whilst sipping wine & waiting for a table. Not a bad start... After a short wait, we were escorted to a comfortable booth where we could admire the creative artwork flooding the walls. Our handsome waiter was extremely helpful with suggestions (while my sister & I giggled like school girls.) With empty stomachs & full trust in our server we took his advice & started with the Blackened Ahi Tuna Nachos. Yeah guys, tuna nachos.

Complete with fresh guacamole & greens

Beautifully presented & equally as delicious we were all eager to order our mains. Dad went for the full experience & got the "Ultimate Bento Box" which include a mini burger of the week, four rolls of your choice, edamame, cucumber salad, & sweet potato fries *yum*.

Mom enjoyed the "North Hills" roll, a creative combination of coconut tempura shrimp, avocado, cilantro, & cashews. Anna decided on the tuna nigiri, & I had to stay true to my favorite fish: salmon. Double salmon roll, baby! Smoked salmon with avocado topped with sinfully delicious melt-in-your-mouth Scottish salmon. I added tempura flakes plus a side of sweet eel sauce & I was one happy girl...scratch that, I was in sushi heaven.

Maybe it was the two glasses of Malbec, the cute waiter, or the fun environment, but either way this was some of the best sushi I have ever eaten! *Please note, I eat a LOT of sushi people.*

If you're ever in Raleigh & want to find your own little sushi/burger happy place you can check them out here. They do not take same-day reservations so I would recommend planning your trip in advance, especially on weekends.

It was a deliciously wonderful end to my time at home this summer. Tomorrow is the beginning of my European adventures, our flight leaves at six, & I am ready to see what's in store.

May 18, 2013

Those Who Wait

With just one week left until I take off to Europe for the summer it is all starting to seem more real. I slept late on this rainy Saturday morning & met my best friend Caroline for brunch at one of our favorite spots: Whole Foods. It only just popped up outside our neighborhoods a little over a year ago & we can't get enough. Whole Foods is a happy place that satisfies a wide variety of customers from down-to-earth "granola" folks to sporty moms dressed head-to-toe in Lululemon.

As we scavenged the salad bar with eco-friendly plates in hand it struck me that this was the last time we would be doing this for a while. You see Caroline, a recent graduate, is following her dreams of acting to New York City. I couldn't be more proud & excited, but after almost a decade of knowing one another everything we've talked about for so long is actually happening. After finding a table I opened my Sweet Leaf Lemonade Tea to find an appropriate saying on the bottom of the bottle: "Good things come to those who wait."

Unfortunately, I can be somewhat impatient... Good news is I only have to wait seven days until I land in London. (Did I mention how excited I am?) I know good things will come to Caroline as she moves her life up north this summer just as GREAT things are about to happen to me. These next three months will bring many changes & incredible experiences into my life & I can't wait to share it all with you.