Exams

10/16/2011

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I have exams this week, starting Monday, -- like, *the* exams, the ones which I need to pass to begin my dissertation. Kind of a big deal. And, I had company all last week, so I've been a little busy, which is why the blog has suffered.

I opted to come down to St. Ives, Cornwall on the south coast of England to have a relaxing, distraction-free place to take my exams.  Plus, I love, love, love the ocean -- so it might have also been an excuse for some beach time...maybe. I rented a tiny cottage on the beach and the Canadian joined me this weekend after spending the last week in Canada with friends and family and also work.

As a side note - The Canadian's tinerary:
London to Toronto. Drive an hour to Waterloo, Ontario.  Make a presentation. Sleep. Interview all day. Drive to Niagara Falls to see parents. Sleep. Go to Ottawa to see sister, brother-in-law, cousins and nephew. Sleep for 2 days. Fly to Thunder Bay to see Aunt, Uncle, friends and Grandparents. Sleep for 2 days. Fly to Toronto. Fly to London to see wife. Get on a train 2 hours later and take a 5 hour train ride to St. Ives.  (He went from Thunder Bay, Ontario to St. Ives in 21 hours.  That was one tired Canadian!!)

So, we've been stuffing ourselves full of seafood this weekend (and maybe some scones and Cornish clotted cream and tea...), and wandering the crooked and hilly streets of St. Ives.  The water here is mindblowingly beautiful and actually, in some places it's even warm (and I am a total wus about cold water).  I'll post some pics later when I can get them off my phone.  And, I love how the restaurants here try and locally/seasonally source everything -- it's inspiring.

I'm also learning, by being here in St. Ives (and the other places in England I've traveled), that some of the discontent I experience as an expat is endemic to London, not England. I can't put my finger on it entirely, but, London is just a difficult place to live -- even though there are many individual things I love about it, it's just not for me -- at least not long term.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to live in England, so I'm not really knocking London, but being so happy in St. Ives for the last two days kind of underscores my some of the minor depression I experience in London.  That said, I've learned some 'discontent management' tactics in London -- going to parks, meeting friends, cocktails at this AWESOME cocktail bar in my 'hood called 'The Shop' -- because I refuse to sit around being sad and waste this incredible opportunity either.

I think I would love to, someday, live the smaller village life in England -- particularly here in Cornwall.  I was here back in 2004 and was completely fell in love with it.  Now that I'm here again, I remember why.  Plus the clotted cream!!!  It's like crack.  For real.


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Click the photo for a blog post on Cream Tea complete with scone recipe!
 
I barely know where to begin....
But I don't have time to tell you EVERYTHING, so here's a few items of interest:

1) It was GLORIOUS weather in London this weekend.  82 degrees.  Hottest October 1st and 2nd EVER.  I'm not saying it's because I'm here, but, I'm just saying -- it's never happened before, and I've never been here in October before so, you do the math...

On Sunday the Canadian and I along with our pals Melizza and her husband G (her blog is here) went on a hike through Hampstead Heath to celebrate the incredible day.  Hampstead Heath is one of my FAVORITE things about London.  As I've said before, I love the parks here...love them - and the Heath is a park on steroids.  It's almost wilderness surrounded by the city.  Rather than being manicured like the other parks, the Heath is allowed to grow wild with the exception of maintenance of trails and some grassy areas. 

After our walk, the four of us had a proper Sunday roast (well mine was veggie) as is the tradition in London, at a 700 year old pub, the Spaniard.  I've had better roasts, but, you can't beat sitting in the sunshine, drinking a Pimm's (more on this in a minute) with friends on a gorgeous day.  You just can't. 

After that, we wandered over to Kenwood House, a gorgeous manor house and museum in Hampstead Heath.  As it turns out, it was also in the movie Notting Hill (the scene where they film the Henry James movie).

Then the Canadian and I decided to walk back through the Heath and I took some pictures, so you can see how beautiful it is...

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I was taking a pic of the funky vines hanging down...
2) I have discovered Pimm's.  This is not a joke people.  This is like the day I discovered the Intuition razor with the shaving cream built in, or when I figured out how to use tampons properly (long story...only for in person), or when I first tasted PB&J WITH Cheetos.  This is a game changer, folks.

Pimm's is a liqueur that is mixed with gin in a glass, and then the glass is filled with fruit and ice and topped off with gingerale or sprite.  The first time I tasted it, I said "holy shit".  And now, on Facebook, I'm listed as 'in a relationship with Pimm's" AND it's not even complicated.  Why we don't have this in Texas, I do not understand.  But, I WILL be bringing it back...oh yes, I will.

Here are some photos of my Pimm's adventures across London
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3) I caught the most beautiful sunset the other day...which, honestly, is rare in London.  I really miss the big skies of Texas and the incredible sunrises and sunsets.  Not here -- too many buildings blocking the sky and generally too much light pollution.  But I was grinning when I snapped this photo -- it was the perfect evening to walk home.
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4) I've met some amazing people.  I have to say, this blog has truly connected me some of the most wonderful people in the world.  One friend emailed me through the blog and we found out we have a LOT in common.  We kept in touch by email for some time and then her work brought her to London.  We met up in a pub (along with the Canadian) and had so much fun chatting about our lives (she used to live in England, but she's Canadian and now she's expatted to the US AND she has the same degree I'm getting right now).  I had so much that evening just drinking my Pimm's (see above) and talking about what it's like to live somewhere slightly uncomfortable but also good. 

Then, another expat, M from Not from Around Here, and I met up in Cambridge, which I'd seen in the 90's but had forgotten how pretty it was.  We had a great afternoon drinking coffee, eating lunch (which was MEXICAN!!!), soaking up the sunshine in the parks and talking about our lives, which also have some interesting intersections as well.  I guess when you're an expat, there's a reason you move across the globe...

And of course I've been running around London with Melizza and also her pal Emm, who writes this blog (which is a GREAT blog about travel around London and abroad).  I also met up one evening with Betsy over at Betsytransatlantically for a Pimm's and some lovely conversation

I've met a few locals too, courtesy of some 'friends of friends' who introduced me and we had a terrific afternoon the other day, drinking and eating Colombian food (score).  And of course my pals in France...!  Love those girls.

All of these folks have helped me to feel not quite so isolated and alone here and for that I'm incredibly grateful.

Theres so much more to tell, but, I have COMPREHENSIVE exams coming up AND a visitor coming in town.  Remember Sonia? From the coconut bowling incident? Yeah, she's coming on Sunday!!!

More later....

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