shopping

r & d

Just about all of my husband’s purchases are highly planned. He does his homework. Take our camcorder for example. He researched what sort of options he’d want and what sort of tapes he’d need, if it would be compatible with our DVD recorder, and so on. With a model in hand, he then researched prices until he found the very lowest one. The result: a camcorder that works just right for us.

So when Brendan heard that Iron City, a Pittsburgh beer, was starting to be distributed in Maryland and Virginia, he was on it. He was searching and searching for a way to get it. He had his mom look at Thanksgiving when she was in Sharon (an hour or so west of Pittsburgh); and he did a full web search. Until he found out that there’s a beer and wine store in Vienna, called Norm’s that was carrying it. So he and Glen would take a drive out to Vienna and pick up a couple cases when we ran out, and we’d have it for game day.

You have to understand, specialty beer is a little hard to come by sometimes in Virginia. Since beer and wine are available for purchase at the grocery store (which is nice), there’s only so much variety. Norm’s is nice because they have domestics that I like — Prankster, Magic Hat — and imports like Young’s.

So yesterday when we were at Costco, we were a little caught off-guard to see a stack of cases of Iron City for sale*! There’s no telling if they will have it next time we need it; there’s still a case and a half left (because we had to be prepared in case we needed to have a Superbowl party, but we’re not talking about that), but it’s a hell of a lot closer…

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*And also Smithwicks’ which is another favorite of mine.

London: New Year’s Eve and Day

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We are totally exhausted. It’s only 17:23 and both of us could certainly fall asleep right now. We’ve been walking a lot the past few days.

DSCF0172Yesterday, we started at St. Paul’s. After we saw the crypt and the church, we climbed almost 600 steps to the top of the dome. My legs still burn.

The views were worth it,

though.

I forgot my little schedule, so we missed going to the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square as I had planned. After St. Paul’s we went to Covent Garden for shopping (20-quid for a pair of fab pants at Monsoon) and wandering in Soho and the West End/Picadilly. We ate at an organic grocery store with a disorganized staff. It was crazy. No one was in any hurry. The food was good, though.

Then we made our way to Buckingham Palace. Evidently, the state rooms are only open of tours in August and September, but we did see an exhibit on King George III and Queen Charlotte at the Queen’s Gallery.

After that we did more walking in Picadilly and came across a Waterford store that was haveing a sale on the Lismore patters — so we got 8 claret glasses. Nice. At 30% off, too. Then we came back to the room and decided to try and get a head start on the crowds and head down to Trafalgar Square a little on the early side.

We got lucky and snagged a table at a small Italian Ristorante (where the staff were actually Italian). Afterwards, we went on a quest to find a bar where we could get just one dring. After a lot more walking, we found a random, same as all the others pub, where we had just one drink and then split. It was then to Trafalgar Square to stand and wait for the New Year.

All-in-all, it was completely anti-clamactic. The fireworks were actually on the Thames, but there were hundreds, dare I say thousands, of people at the square watching music videos on two massive screens. Once 11:00 or so rolled around, the coverage on the BBC started. It was no celebration. Instead, it was 40 minutes of tsunami coverage. Granted, a lot of Europeans take vacations to Asia or have family there, but 40 minutes of devastation and death and sad story after sad story was just not fun. I found myself wishing for some Ashlee/Lindsay/Brittney pop princess crap instead!

Then, when the countdown started at Big Ben, the BBC showed the countdown which was projected onto a building. At about 20 seconds, they cut away! Eventually, in the distance, bells rang and people cheered. Um, OK. There could have been some sort of countdown from 10 or something.

And then the fireworks started. The did show those on TW and some of them were visible over the buildings between the square and the waterfront. Since there were so many people there (the Tube was free), Bren and I decided to make our way out — towards any Tube station, anywhere. The coppers were everywhere and they had everyone corralled in — with maybe a few places where we could get through. there were some semi-scary moment were there was a whole lot of pushing, a lot of people, and nowhere to go. But we made it. And after a while, we found ourselves at an Underground station. We managed to be in bed at around 1:30 or 1:45.

This morning it was difficult to get up, but we managed to be out the door before 10:000. Today, we had a quick bite at the local McDonalds. Our price at the hotel didn’t include breakfast. We found that out yesterday morning. The food there was OK, nothing special, and it takes awhile; hence, McDonalds. However, they seem to have a more varied and healthy breakfast menu. I had coffee (which was actually good) and a bagel with jam and Brendan had porridge.

Our first stop was the Tate Modern. They have some good stuff. It wasn’t terribly crowded until after 12:30 as we were leaving. I know Brendan didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, though. They did have this one sort of interactive piece that consisted of a huge cabinet full of things that were found on the banks of the Thames. They were all organized by object and color. There was a drawer full of soda bottle caps, and glass bottles and what not. Everything was meticulously labelled. I wanted to take it home with me. We did end up missing the parade (oops) but weren’t too disappointed.

After the Tate, we went shopping (again) in Kensignton. I got the cutest purse. And it started raining. Today is the first day we’ve had with rain and wind. We made our way from Kensington High Street to Holland Park and onto the edge of Notting Hill to Portabello Road. It was just about closing time for the shops that were open, though. Still, there were loads of people.

After we walked the length of the street it had gotten dark (at only 4:00, 4:15 or so) and we were completely spent, so we found the closest Tube station and came back. We’ll stay close by for dinner and go to bed early. In fact, Brendan is asleep right now.

There isn’t a whole lot on the schedule for tomorrow: St. James’ Park in the morning, changing of the guard at 11:30 and the British Museum, maybe to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.

London: room and packing in sights

The room is reminescent of our first night in Zurich. The suitcase needs to be standing up if we’re both going to be walking and/or moving about. The heat in here is cranking, too. We’ve got no control — it’s either on or off. They’ve been sending someone to turn it off for 10 minutes now. That’s service. It’s a bed, a toilet, a shower and a roof. It’s all we need. What do you expect for $70 a night. We packed in a whole lot of stuff today. The plan* was a little disrupted when we got in at about 7 and we couldn’t get into the room. There was a place for us to store our bags and have a quick change. Then we were off.

DSCF0013
Took the tube all over. First to Westminster Abbey where we beat the majority of the crowds — there was just a small line, er, queue… No photos allowed inside, though.

DSCF0009We took some around Parliament and Big Ben

DSCF0020and then we walked across the Thames to the Eye.
DSCF0026We were way early for our noon reservation, so we grabbed some food and got our tickets printed… and got in line early. No big deal. Don’t imagine it would be unless there were lots of crowds.


So we went around in little pods — they don’t stop them unless there is someone with a wheelchair or something — so you board and disembark while they are very slowly moving. It takes half an hour to go all the way around. After that it was off to lunch.

DSCF0089I didn’t have us “slotted”* to start through the Tower of London until 2:00 — so we had plenty of time to have a good lunch, wait in a slow line for tickets and walk and walk and walk. We saw the jewels, and the White Tower. Good stuff.

Then, since we had loads of time, we took the Tube to Knightsbridge, headed into Zara (odd that I’ve been to the store in Montreal and London, but not in Georgetown) and got a cute dark emerald/hunter knit turtleneck.

DSCF0092And then it was across the street to Harrod’s. What a zoo. It was completely insane. couldn’t stay in there for terribly long. And now, we’re in the room until about seven when we’re going to dinner. Going to try and stay up until nine or so. I got a few hours of sleep on the plane. Bren didn’t get any… Tomorrow’s plan is for St. Paul’s, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square.

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*We don’t normally plan much of our trips. We just go with the flow and do what we feel like, when we feel like it, and take it pretty easy. But since this time we had a little time and so much we wanted to do, plus it was a holiday weekend; I had to make sure we knew what was open when, so that we could see everything.

Italy, June 2003, Day 8 Part 1

I’m splitting day 8 into two posts since there’s two separate stories to tell. What happened before we left Praiano, and then our afternoon in Rome.

It’s just about time to leave Praiano. Take one last look of those views…

While Keith and Brendan pack the car, Geoff, Gail and I go to the market for one last time to get some water and snacks for the ride to Rome. The old man at the market makes sure to say goodbye. In retrospect, he is very thurough in his check that we are really leaving town for good.

Then once I get back to the car, I realize that I forgot the lemoncello. We cannot leave without that. So I go back to the store (alone) to pick up a few bottles. “Bella,” the old man says. “You’re back!”

“Lemoncello,” I say.

“Come,” he says looking at me waving his arms, like he wants to give me a hug. No big deal I think, we was a helpful guy this week. He was nice to all of us. So I go over, bottles in hand to give him a little hug. Next thing I know I’m getting kissed on the mouth, he’s got one hand on my ass and the other on my right boob. Blech. I still get grossed out and can still feel it, in all it’s whiskery hideousness every single time I tell the story. He was such a sweet old man, and now, forever in my memory he’s a stereotypical Italian perv.

As I pushed him off of me I realize, the whole town is in the store seeing all of this happen. And then, I’ve got to wait in line to pay for the lemoncello, because I’ll be damned if this stops me from taking some home. So I stand in line for what seems like and eternity to pay old man’s wife. She gives me this mean look like I was the one who did something wrong. I just wanted to yell at her and say, “Listen, it was your husband who did that, not me!”

So when I got back to the car I said, “Don’t ever make me go back there. Ever.” Then I proceeded to tell everyone what just happened and they laughed and laughed. I just kept drinking water and occasionally getting disgusted…

Blech.

Italy, June 2003, Day 7

Drove to Sorrento and took a ferry across the Bay of Naples to Capri. Once we got to the island, it became clear that we were going to have to hire a car to take us around. The main cities, Capri Town and Anacapri, are way up a hill. You can see the harbor where we arrived in this picture. We did start to walk, but we just couldn’t do it. Our exhaustion coupled with the short amount of time we had on the island meant we had to hire a car. It turned out to be the best thing we could have done. Someone (Keith?) bargained us a good deal.

The main square in Capri Town, the Piazza Umberto, is quite nice. There are all sorts of fancy shops around. If only we could shop at them! Cartier. Chanel. Everyone is so fashionable. It’s too hot for me to really care too much.

I end up preferring Anacapri. It’s quieter and less pretentious. If I had to live on the island (which is terribly expensive), I’d live here. We don’t really have too much time to explore, though. Our driver is just running us around before we have to go back to the boat. We did have enough time to go shopping. Bren and I picked up some souvenirs for the family, I got a new purse since mine got trashed on the plane to Heathrow and Keith found himself a nice Italian magazine.

Of course we had to see these, the Faraglioni. Then it was back to the boat.

Later on that night, we went back to L’Africana. This time, we went a little bit later, but it really wasn’t too much better. It could have been so cool! Apparently, we were too early in the summer season for it to be packed (with tourists of course). There were some Aussies who were also on the coast for a wedding. They got naked and went for a swim — so it was at least more interesting than the night before. Plus, we had money for the poor parking attendant, so we tipped him extra well. He seemed a little bewildered. I don’t know that he remembered us.

Switzerland, Luzern Day 2

September 11, 2001

The next day we did a little driving around the city and generally fared better with the signs. Did a little window shopping on the Bahnhofstrasse.

Then it was off to Luzern. About half an hour away.

lucern2
I can’t recall if we checked in at our second place before or after we hit town. Regardless, it was a much nicer place than the night before.

The strange thing about Europe is that they push two twin beds together to make a Queen/King. We had separate comforters, too. This was not such a bad thing, because as Brendan will tell you, I’m a big sheet hog.

This place was in the country-side. Rolling green hills with mountains off in the distance. I can’t get over how huge they are. I’ve only seen small, east coast mountains. These are amazing.

It is today that we decide to save money by going to the grocery store and buying cheese and bread. We discover some really good cheese, and some really strange curry butter, this way.

Luzern is a great place. I absolutely fall in love with it. The day we were there was a Tuesday, which is market day. They were just shutting down when we got there (so it must have been afternoon). I love the brightly painted buildings. I love the fountains. I love the Picasso museum. I love the old town center. I love the lake in the middle of town. I love the Kapellbrücke.

The Kapellbrücke is this wonderful covered bridge and tower built in 1333. The bridge has these triangular paintings in the eaves above that tell a story. You’ve got to walk across it and back to see them all (although some were damaged in a fire). The tower was once a prison/torture chamber but now it’s a gift shop.

Brendan has this theory that only old Southern Americans travel to Europe. He wasn’t proven wrong this day. There was this old man buying something in the gift-shop while we were there. The girls who worked there, as well as most of the thirty-somethings and younger, spoke English with no problem, but they started off in German. As the designated speaker, I would just ask if they spoke English and go from there. Anyway, this old man wants to buy something. He talks LOUDLY and S L O W L Y to the girl, pointing to the one he wants. Then, she tells him (in English) how much said item costs. He holds out his handful of Swiss Francs and makes her take the right amount. How hard is it to count? The numerical system doesn’t change. 20 means 20. Seriously. I was embarrassed to be from the same country as this guy. I hope the girl took herself a good tip!

I could go on an on about this city. But we come back on our last day, so I can say more then.

We drive back to our room to relax. I turn on the TV and watch Felicity dubbed in German. (We get no stations in English here, just German and Portuguese.) There’s this message that scrolls across the screen about New York. I figure they are speaking on the show about some landmark or New York specific thing, and they are just explaining it to the Swiss viewers. But the message keeps repeating itself. I remember the word for airplane, but that’s about it.

As it happens, it’s my little brother’s birthday. Turns out this place has an internet terminal (of all the places, this place in the tiny village has one!) so we head down to send him an email and to send a note to our parents. That doesn’t take too long, so since we’ve got money to burn, we head to the Drudge Report. Well, you can guess what happens now — we find out what exactly that little message was scrolling across the screen.

Back upstairs we put on German CNN and watch the whole thing happen. I’ve got the volume turned up so that I can hear the English underneath the translators. Doesn’t help much.

[It’s only after we get back home that Brendan remembers a man passing us on the street in the city saying “You are very lucky.” Creepy.]

At dinner in the restaurant downstairs, the chef comes out and introduces himself. He looks at me and asks if I like fish. I do, I answer. Great, he says, we have some caught today from the lake. He looks at Bren and knows immediately that he is a beef man. We both have incredibly delicious dinners. (Sense a theme?)

Disclaimer.

Brendan joined the party on January 2, 2004. He's cool now.

Jessica has never been cool. She is OK with that.

And just so everyone is clear, what we say here is not endorsed by either of our employers.