Thursday, May 31, 2012

Celebrating her HRH, The Queen of England;s 60 Years on the Throne and HRH, The Queen of Idaho's Royal Arrival!!

The Spirit of Chartwell
The Spirit of Chartwell
We are officially on the countdown to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebration this weekend. England is bursting with patriotism...towns are sprucing up their flower borders with red, white and blue, Union Jack flags and bunting are being hung all over towns, homes and neighborhoods, and every pub is advertising for HUGE Jubilee parties all weekend long. Monday and Tuesday are bank holidays and half term break for the kids, so no school at all next week. On Sunday we are going to attempt to go watch the BIGGEST flotilla of boats, barges, punts, skiffs, and other marine vessels make their way down the River Thames as they follow the Queen's new Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell. There hasn't been a flotilla this large ever on the Thames (1,000+ vessels) in over 300 years. Pete's cousin Sandy is town with her husband Don (aka Uncle What What) and daughter Dakota, so we are going to hook up with them and celebrate a job WELL DONE by the Her Royal Highness, the Queen! On Monday and Tuesday the celebration continues with a huge concert in Hyde park and local celebrations all over England. In Twyford there are several community events that we will hit up as well as several pubs we want to take Sandy, Don and Kota to visit.

Tower Bridge has gone red, white and blue in preparation for its starring role in the Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics
London Bridge aglow with England's colors

After that hectic weekend, the other Queen, the Queen of Idaho is due to arrive on Thursday for a 12 day visit! We ALL are so excited to see my MUM, HRH Queen Gay of Idaho! Finishing up last efforts of unpacking, hanging photos and getting the house officially organized to ensure a royal welcome! It will be a busy 12 days as we try to cram in top London highlights, a trip to the Cotswolds, a visit to Windsor Castle, whilst (British word) all along showing her where we live, our day to day routine, the surrounding area, the kid's school and our hood highlights. I think Queen Gay is a little scared to come since we have so much to do...she thinks I am trying to kill her!

Immediately after the Queen's departure, Henry leaves for 5 days to attend his school's "residential" camp on Hayling Island. He wasn't able to go due to our late arrival in the year, but this week there was an opening and he is so excited, especially since he missed Sunny Hill's 5th grade camp a couple of weeks ago! So while my mum is here, we will be busy getting him organized to be gone for 5 days!
The last two weeks of June will be BUSY with Royal Ascot and the Royal Henley Regatta on consecutive weekends. The Royal Ascot is the BIG week-long horse races that the Queen attends daily. Think fancy dress and HATS GALORE! We are going to go on a Saturday with the Grimsteads and we will take the kids! Pictures of course will be posted of all of us in our fine and posh attire! The next weekend is the Royal Regatta in Henley, which is right next door to us. Similar to Ascot but think rowing, cute teams of rowers, preppy, stripey ties, Top-Siders, more HATS, and dress hemlines must be past the knee. This is an adults only day as I believe the champagne and Pimms will be flowing.

A quick recap of the month of May! We have stuck around and explored the area of where we are living outside of London. This past weekend was gloriously sunny and hot so on Saturday we hit the River Thames with a walkabout in Henley on the Thames. It is only a 10 minute drive and I go there quite a bit during the week to walk with a group of gals, grocery shop and explore. The kids scootered and we walked along the river, watching the rowers and all the beautiful wooden boats. They are setting up for the Regatta and all the crew boats were out practicing!

On Sunday, we went to the cute little village of Hurley on my friend Suzanne's recommendation. Suzanne was the previous tenant in our house and has been soooo helpful with everything! We stopped in at the Ye Olde Bell pub...quaint old pub with a big grassy area and gardens. You plop on the grass or at a picnic bench and they bring you a picnic basket with supplies and you order your Sunday lunch. Delightful newspaper reading, Frisbee and some American football goes well with a pint (Pete) and a Pimms (Jen). After lunch we walked down to the Hurley lock to check out all the boating action and white Brits (well now all sunburned actually) picnicking. Luckily we found an ice cream boat...that guy has a great job. Shirt off and serving ice cream on the river!

Practice boys-they were young!
Great trail for the kids to scooter on!

Pete was in love with this gem of a boat

Getting ready for the Royal Henley Regatta

Henley on the Thames

Ye Olde Belle

Very old tractor/steam roller thing

Large estate on the river in Hurley
Wearing Hurley in Hurley

Ice Cream boat

Chaos at the Hurley Lock on a hot summer day

The Old Vicarage-reminds me of Pete's costume at the British themed going away party at Jess and Andrew's house!

Waiting for the car...feet were not flip flop ready apparently

 A couple of weekends ago, Pete and Henry went to the Red Bull Champions of Dirt in London. It was the World Champions of BMX was right up Pete's alley being a past BMXer himself-bet ya didn't know THAT! Pete got some amazing pictures-these are just a couple.

 As far as the kids go, they are doing so great. I  have said this before, but will say it again... I am so proud of them. They both have adapted so well here and are really taking it all in with grace. Of course, we have had some sad, teary moments of missing family and friends, but they get over it pretty quick. Luckily, with email, Xbox and Skype they are able to connect with their friends quite easily. I am hoping to get the kids to write the blog next week when they are on break so they can give you their point of view on school, the people and England in general.
Henry has jumped head first into the world known as Cricket. His mates, Jamie and Tommy, convinced him to play the "thinking man's baseball". Pete and I plunked ourselves down at the first match, looked at each other and had no idea what was happening. But some of the siblings and mums were able to explain it in bits and pieces so we get a general idea of what is happening on the pitch. Henry seems to know what is going on and we hope he knows what to do should the ball come to him-you throw it at the wicket. We need Cricket for Dummies stat!
First practice

Henry and Jamie after cricket practice at the pub in Sonning
After some agonizing nights of decision making, May has decided to continue on with her gymnastics. It was a tough decision...we all knew that if she quit now, the likely hood of her doing gymnastics in the future would be slim. I think what we all wanted was her to be able to keep her skills up and continue to compete so she had the option when we return home to compete in high school. Ultimately it was up to her. She was enjoying some time off from the intensity of  3-4 day a week practices and weekend meets, but in the end, she missed it. So we found a competitive club that was willing to accommodate our potential crazy travel schedule and cut her workout hours down to only 10 hours a week (they wanted 15 hrs at first and I said no way-5 days a week? yikes!). The coach is great and really knows his stuff. There are only about 8 girls so she is getting more one on one attention and they seem to practice much harder skills than in the States. May is enjoying it and is really progressing well.
Ready for swimming at Polehampton pool!

Summer uniforms-love the gingham!
With both kids at sports on Friday evenings, it has given Pete and I time to have a semi-date night while we ferry them around to their various practices. We have been very successful in finding some darling pubs, have met some great people in the pubs and have many quaint places to take visitors now! Check out the pics below!
After gymnastics at the Crown-new fav pub in Playhatch

The Crown at Playhatch

Gorgeous wisteria

The French Horn-lovely spot for a cocktail in Sonning on the River Thames

German Shepard eating crisps at the Bird in Hand pub

Pint and chips at the Great House in Sonning

May mirroring the dog portraits

I continue to be Becky-Home-Ecky (as Amy would call me) during the week. No cleaning lady anymore-I am the cleaning lady! Keeping track of all household duties! Go me! I continue to walk/run/explore my new hood and the surrounding area. Below are some pics on some of my runs. I have met with a group of gals who do fitness walking in Henley so that has been nice to have someone to talk to while I walk and learn new places to go! Having the time to actually enjoy my run and not being worried about being back in time is nice...if I want to explore one more little foot path I can. And with our jam packed June coming up, it has been great to have the time to plan for all these royal events, plan a great itinerary for my mom's visit and get ready for the upcoming Olympics in July/August. Although, I did just apply for a part time job at the Polehampton Infant School (feeds into H & M's school and is for 4-7 year old) as a temporary Teaching Assistant. Morning only, 16 hrs a week and just from September thru December.
Fitness walk view

Marsh Meadow Lock below Henley

Huge oak tree outside Shiplake lock
River Thames near the Sonning Lock

Sonning Lock

Running along the Thames

Lastly we were able to have a special dinner with our dear friend Gloria while she was traveling through London on her way to Istanbul and the Ukraine. Gloria is our good friend Paula's mother who graciously opened her home to Pete and I when Henry was born in Florida. My mom and I stayed there a week before Henry was born and then Pete, Henry and I stayed there for 10 days after he was born! Although Gloria travels frequently to Seattle to see Paula, we never saw her! So almost 11 years later, Gloria and Henry were reunited in Eton! We had a lovely dinner at Gilbeys in Eton and were fortunate to see the Eton boys coming out of Sunday dinner in their tuxedos and tails.
I also wanted to remind all the non-Facebookers or infrequent Facebooks out there: if you want to get an email of when I post a new blog post, enter in your email on the upper right side of the Good Old Chinwag and it will sign you up to recieve an email whenever I post something. That way you don't have to wait, with bated breath I'm sure, until I post something.
Cheers and raise a glass to the Queen this weekend!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ahhh...Paris in the Spring

The last time I was in Paris was over 15 years ago when my folks house swapped their house for a house in Normandy. It was a lovely trip and fun to go to Europe with Pete (newly engaged) and my family (Will's first and last time). Will, Pete and I flew over together and we stayed in Paris a couple of nights. Exploring Normandy was incredibly historic and we will do it again with our kids.

So when my friend Laura emailed me and said she was going to be in Paris for business, I said I will be right down. After all, it was Mother's Day (US) weekend so what better way to treat ourselves! Travelling from London to Paris is a breeze on the Eurostar - 186 mph, through the chunnel and in Paris in 2 hr 15 min.

I left Friday morning after dropping the kids at school and was in Paris by 1:30. I will admit I was a little nervous traveling by myself...had to train from our house to Paddington, jump on the tube to the Eurostar station, then the Metro in Paris to our hotel stop. But I did it, didn't get lost and didn't ask for help! Confidence restored! Although I did pop my diamond earring off on the Eurostar but a nice woman saw it and alerted me...that could have been a bad start to the weekend!

St Pancras International

Laura's hotel was a block away from the Tour Eiffel...great location! I checked my bag and went to meet my old volleyball teammate, Paige Bradley for a glass of wine and a crepe at a nearby cafe. It was fun to catch up after 20+ years of not seeing each other. Paige is living in Paris (again) with her husband and small kids. It was fun to get her perspective on living abroad and she is my go to person on all things France now!

Laura and I had dinner in the Latin Quarter Friday night---I had the classic steak with pepper sauce and delicious frites! After dinner we strolled though the St. Germain and Sorbonne areas-bustling with people! We ended up walking all the way back to our hotel along the river-it was lovely and about 4km! We walked off our dinner!
 Notre Dame

On Saturday we power shopped! It was a beautiful sunny, spring day. I knew I would come back to Paris so it was nice not to feel pressured to see every museum and touristy attraction. We shopped the Rue du Passy for hours...bought shoes, scarves and clothes! We stopped and had a lovely lunch at a cafe and some great people watching. Laura and I decided that every young French family is ridiculously good looking and charming. And style is effortless and funky. Lucky for me, Laura is fluent in French (French major actually) and knew her way around like an expert. She also is a french history buff and was able to give me all sorts of facts!

 Spring in Paris

 Ahh cheese!

That evening we strolled the Champs Elysees on our way to a new restaurant Laura had read about in Bon Appetit. We were on the very posh street with Gucci, Prada, YSL, etc...people watching at its finest! We popped in to a chic cafe and had a couple of glasses of wine before our dinner at Le Bal. Le Bal was very good but had a limited menu. 3 entrees to choose from so you better like one of them. It was very contemporary and off the beaten path, down a little side street. The area (don't remember what is was called) was up and coming and turning from a transvestite haven to a trendy neighborhood. We had the best asparagus with a hard boiled egg that was ah-maz-ing!

 I wish I could say we drank this bottle of Dom...but I just LOVE the color of the bottle...note the hair...this is after the hair debacle of 2012 (another blog post!)

Laura left early the next morning back to Seattle so I strolled along the Seine and tried to walk my way back to the Gare du Nord. It was a long walk, with my heavy bag filled with new purchases, so I ended up jumping on the Metro to catch my train home.

All in all it was a lovely weekend. Paris has a new friend in me...I will be back. Can't wait to go with Pete (alone) and take the kids!