Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Florida recap in pictures

A fuller round up my trip home and to my friend's wedding will be coming soon, but in the meantime here is an overview of Longboat Key, Florida, in pictures. Enjoy!

The beach outside our hotelLizards were everywhere!

Beautiful flowers

Birds flocking against the storm

Crab that nearly ate my feet!

The happy couple at the rehearsal dinner...

This way...

 Handmade paper pom-poms!

Alls well that ends well.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Heading Home

I apologize to all of you for my lack of posting lately; somehow between work, house-hunting, friends visiting and life in general I found myself neglecting Bloody Brilliant. And now I'm going to do it again as I'm writing this on the Gatwick Express train, on my way to catch a flight back to the US.

I posted earlier in the year about how difficult it can be as an expat trying to fit in all of the things going on in your friends lives while far away in relation to my friend's wedding in Florida. Well that wedding is next weekend, and while The Irishman and I decided it was imperative we be there, we also decided to do it as cheaply as possible: flying to the airport closest to the wedding as it was the least expensive flight (but on USAirways - ick - with a stopover and horrible times) and only going for 4 days and missing some of the festivities.

But about three weeks ago I received an email from a relative that I'm not particularly close to saying he was hosting a 65th birthday brunch this coming Sunday and while he knew I was far away he wanted me to know I was invited and would love it if I could be there. And that got me thinking, well, I would LIKE to be there. And I would like to see my family - especially Mom-Mom - as if I do end up by some miracle actually buy a house this year it's unlikely I'll be able to afford to fly home again anytime soon.

So I called up USAirways and changed my outbound flight to today, instead of next Wednesday, for nearly two-thirds the original cost of the ticket. But it's completely worth it to me to have time with my family, on my own, and to fully relax for a week instead of cramming a transatlantic flight and beach wedding into 5 days. Also to luxuriate in the ability to just flick on the tv to watch Mad Men and Game of Thrones without having to stream it or use some diddly technical apparatus. Go ahead, be jealous.

So my train has arrived - this is me - and I'm off with! (with maybe a teensy weensy stop in Duty Free on the way). Speak to you in 10 days - have a fab time while I'm gone.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Just a quiet Tuesday evening...

So in my last post, I told you what I did for most of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend – Saturday through Monday. But I'm sure you asked yourself "now what did those crazy kids get up to on Friday?!" Well, to answer that, I have to tell you what we did on Thursday after work: basically, we went on a bender.

Because The Irishman works from home, often he gets a bit cooped up and stir crazy. Last Thursday he specifically asked if we could go out that night since he'd been in the house working from home all week. So we celebrated the bank holiday weekend with a little pub crawl, ending up at a pizzeria near us. Then we went on for a few cocktails. Then we had a night cap at home, watching Adele at Royal Albert Hall. And I said to The Irishman "I've never been to Royal Albert Hall, and I really want to! Let's see who is playing soon." So we go online around midnight and find out that Orbital is playing on Tuesday after Easter. So in our joyously drunken state, we bought tickets to Orbital. On a Tuesday night.

Now. Orbital is not exactly my favorite band. In fact, electronic music was last seriously on my radar in around 1999. But for The Irishman, it was the music of his uni and young adult years. He loves Daft Punk, Orbital, all of the big electronic festival bands of the mid-to-late-90s. So when we woke up with hangovers on Friday, he moaned about his headache while I was slightly nauseous about the fact we now had tickets to a rave in Royal Albert Hall.

Part of me didn't really want to go; I was stressed about the mountain of work I knew I'd have to get through this short week, and the idea of having to get out of work early and home late for a band I didn't really know wasn't exactly appealing. But The Irishman was so pumped and I was so curious about what an electronic band would be like in such an amazing setting that I was finally like, whatever, f**k it. 

So Tuesday night The Irishman and I skipped off to South Ken and went to the amazing venue that is Royal Albert Hall; I feel so honored to have been able to go into that building. Amazing - if you ever have an opportunity to see a band play there, I sincerely hope you take it. We got there around 8:30 as the opener was wrapping up and Orbital took the stage promptly at 9pm. We were slightly concerned about the turnout as we were up in the gallery and could look at the entire venue and it wasn't all that full – but just before Orbital took the stage the entire venue was absolutely packed. The Irishman and I giggled because the crowd was definitely characterized by aging ravers – balding, potbellied, pregnant – but all the more excited for it, I think. And then, the music started. I was really surprised how much fun I had at a show of a band I didn't exactly know much about. It was really fun being around all of these people reliving their glory years of festivals, raves, and love. So I leave you with my favorite Orbital track so you can share a little bit of my Tuesday evening education.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter in the depths of Devon and Cornwall

My favorite perk of living in England is the 4-day Easter Bank Holiday. Just as spring has sprung and you're dreaming of distant shores and sunshine, you get a nice big long weekend for free. It's amazing. We always try to take advantage of it, usually tacking on a few extra days of vacation before or after, but this year we decided to keep it simple; the ongoing house-hunt and saving, combined with the fact that we're going to the US next week for a wedding, meant we wanted to just chill out and be a bit frugal.

So we decided to hit up The Irishman's friend whose parents bought a second home in Devon and head down there with him. It sounds a bit cheapskatey but to be fair he's been giving us a hard time about how we haven't gone down to the house with him in the past 2 years since his parents bought it so it was more a case of "no time like the present!" 

Our friend had actually been in Norway the week before, so we met him at Gatwick Airport first thing Saturday morning when he and some other friends were due in and then we all piled into a car and drove to the ends of the earth. Well, not really, but Devon is bloody far away. We ended up at this lovely cottage.

After restorative cups of tea, we all bundled up and went for a short walk around the neighborhood to get the lay of the land.

After our walk, we went home to prep food for dinner which we did on the BBQ. My first BBQ of the year! Too bad it was freezing outside and the grill, predictably, took 2 hours to properly heat up. My contribution were these very exciting vegetable kebabs – the local Waitrose didn't stock wooden skewers so we used rosemary stalks to hold them together! Very good idea for anyone out there with a) a grill, b) a garden, c) no skewers.

Easter Sunday we woke up and headed down into Cornwall to a town called Wadebridge, where we rented bikes and cycled 5ish miles down the Camel Trail to the town of Padstow. Padstow is famous for being the home of celebrity chef Rick Stein's restaurants and other ventures. When we arrived, we headed straight to his posh fish n chips shop to get lunch.

The highlight of our visit to Padstow was my chance to pet the statue of Rick Stein's late, famous dog Chalky. It's infront of his restaurant, in case you want to make a similar pilgrimage.

The village of Padstow was cute and very touristy, but is also on a really lovely beach so we walked around the harbor and out onto the beach as the tide gradually came in.

Then it was back to the bikes and back home to cook Easter supper.

Monday was pretty miserable – cold and rainy – so we leisurely got up and packed up the cottage, and then headed deep into the countryside to find a tiny country pub located and recommended by our friend's parents.

There we shared one final lunch together before departing – we were in separate cars, and with long rides ahead we were all eager to get on the road. We got dropped off at the train station in Exeter for a mere 2 hour journey back to Paddington; only problem was, everyone else got that train and we had to ride sitting on the floor in a vestibule. Sigh. But it didn't take away from the fact that it was an amazing weekend in the Southwest full of good friends, good food, and good views.

If you go:
First Great Western trains depart regularly from Paddington for Exeter and points south in Cornwall. There's even an overnight train! Campsites, house rentals, and B&Bs abound but unless you're in an actual resort town you will definitely need a car to get around.