- The Thames - The area around the Thames, particularly the Southbank, is just incredible. My sister and her husband were in town for two weeks and stayed down south across the river. When I'd visit them I'd take the tube to the Embankment station and walk across the river to Royal Festival Hall. Walking across the river is just extraordinary -- the boats, the lights, the interactions you see between other humans (holding hands etc.). One night I walked across right at sunset (note: Sunsets are VERY rare here) and it was just magical.
- Traveling - I love living in a city that makes it easy to get anywhere I want to go. It's so easy for getting around the UK (especially because we live right on the direct line to some of London's biggest train stations. I can take one tube/train and be at Euston, Paddington, Marylebone, Waterloo, Clapham Junction, and Charing Cross without ever having to change. And the other ones are either a quick change or a 10 minute walk which makes traveling all around the UK and getting to France super easy. In fact, just yesterday I popped over to Oxford to meet a friend for lunch -- now that's cool.
- Whole Foods - I realize that this is an American chain, born in my hometown of Austin, Texas, but the fact that there are several in London makes my heart sing. I couldn't live anywhere else in the United Kingdom (or Europe for that matter) and have access to a WF. I don't shop there often (because it's kind of a pain to get to) but when I need chips and salsa, proper bbq sauce, and brands from back home, it's there for me. It has saved my sanity on numerous occasions.
- The British Library - in case you were wondering, yes, I have been working on my dissertation. I found a writing group and we meet at the British Library which is just so cool. I wouldn't say the outside is anything awesome, but the inside is just extraordinary. It makes me feel like a serious scholar, rather than one who is just playing pretend. One day I actually want to go into the Map Room and look at maps -- all day.
- The Food - long ago are the days when the Brits had crappy food. London is a food mecca, and I couldn't live here my entire life and eat at all of the amazing restaurants here. I love that when I have friends in town who want a gourmet food experience, I can take them to Michelin restaurants or to the Indian restaurant around the corner and it will all be fabulous.
- Escalators - Damn if I don't LOVE the way the English stay on the right hand side of the escalator when standing so that people who need to move fast can go on the left. There are even signs "stand on the right" to remind you. I just adore it -- so efficient. And, if I might also say, I only went to one Olympic event (at Wembley stadium which is just gorgeous) but the efficiency at which the entire process was handled -- from picking up the tickets, to attending the event, to getting back to the tube -- was absolutely phenomenal. Organized, professional, quiet, and perfectly executed. Well done GB. I am CERTAIN it will not be anywhere near that amazing in Rio.
...and here's what drives me insane
- Dog Poop - honestly, I step over so much dog shit every day. It's disgusting. I just can't imagine why people here let their dogs crap on the sidewalk and then leave it for people to step in. I hope their karma catches up to them and they fall into an ocean of dog crap. All of them. Together.
- The Internet - is really rare here. Most businesses and coffee shops have not caught on to the fact that people will stay, drink and eat more if you give them a place to work with free Wi-Fi. It's a little better now than it was a year ago, but it's nowhere near what it is in the States -- and I get tired of working at home just so I can have access to good internet.
- Breakfast/Brunch -- Breakfast here is one thing: fried eggs, fried sausage, fried bacon, fried toast, broiled mushrooms and tomatoes and baked beans. It's fine for once in a blue moon but honestly, it's not all that good...it tastes like greasy diner food. I miss the concept of brunch. I miss poached eggs sitting in a bed of spinach on top of a crabcake. I miss beautiful crepes stuffed with brie and roasted vegetables. I miss delicate quiches with gorgeous salads. And mimosas. And blueberry pancakes. And bloody marys. The concept of brunch just doesn't really exist here and it's kind of a bummer.
- Music -- I've lived in two of the most musical cities in the world (Austin and New Orleans) and I miss people who play music everywhere. Londoners just aren't really a musical bunch. There's never music in restaurants or pubs or in the street. It's just not a culture of live music -- and it was just fabulous the two times I've been to Ireland and been surrounded by music. Love it!
And now, to end on a good note -- the Canadian and I are off to Turkey, Greece and Italy for a few weeks of R&R and sunshine (although the weather this last week has been just gorgeous!). So I doubt I'll update much until we return home.