Friday, April 30, 2010

Spitalfields - Old or New?

We had a lazy morning as Shaunda got a good start on a paper she had to write and I slept in. We planned to meet my sorority sister, Becky, at the Spitalfields Market for lunch. Shaunda knew that her bus went by Spitalfields so we thought it would be fun to take the bus. However, as soon as the bus dropped us off, we knew something didn't seem right. We followed a sign for Spitalfields and found ourselves in a huge parking lot with a ginormous warehouse that seemed somewhat abandoned. It was definitely NOT the place we had seen last night. We finally found a person and they explained that this was NEW Spitalfields Market and we probably wanted OLD Spitalfields Market. I'm thinking they got those two names mixed up but what do I know? We caught a bus to the tube stop and managed to arrive only an hour late. Thank goodness for cell phones!
Becky was waiting by the ball of pipe - similar to artwork you might see in Kansas City! We had lunch at Carluccio's and I had the Penne Alla Luganica. It was much tastier than it sounds! By the time we finished lunch, the stalls were packing up. I did manage to find a cool hat to replace the one the dogs chewed up. It's not exactly the same but it will suffice. I enjoyed walking around Spitalfields. It would be fun to come back sometime.
We walked down to the Thames and crossed the London Bridge. It was a beautiful day and it's such an amazing city! I absolutely love just walking around because you never know what you will stumble upon. It's almost impossible to get lost because they have signs everywhere. It's a very visitor friendly city. We strolled along the river and through the Borrough market. It had tons of places to eat which looked really good but we were still full from lunch.
We followed the river down to the Founder's Arms pub where we stopped for a pint. It was getting a little chilly and they brought a cart out to the patio full of blankets for customers to use if they get cold. Very cool! We walked back to the north side across the Millenium foot bridge and made our way to the tube stop. Farewell hugs to Becky and we headed home. We were going to grab a burger at the George but there wasn't a table available in the entire place. We decided to head on home and Shaunda ordered pizza while I packed for Edinburgh. We watched Stand by Me and ate Papa John's Pizza - it felt a bit like being back in Kansas City!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tayyabs and Brick Lane

I needed to call the vet at 8am (KC time) so I decided to stick close to home. I slept until noon and then lounged around the house until it was time to call. The news wasn't good. Dakota's liver is smaller than it should be and it's not functioning like it needs to. Basically, it would take a liver transplant to save his life at this point. The doctor wasn't sure how long he could live with this condition but she said we could put him on some meds to see if it can give him a little more time. He doesn't act sick at this point so I decided we would try them and see how he does. I definitely don't want him to suffer but if he needs to be put down, I really want to be the one to be there with him. I am just praying that he can make it until I get home. It was a very hard day! I was glad that I had chosen to stay home. I had a couple of hours to recover before I was supposed to meet Shaunda at the Whitechapel tube stop.

She invited me to join her for a colleagues "going-away" dinner party at a Pakistani restaurant ( I'm not sure I've ever had Pakistani food so I thought it would be a good experience. The place was packed! Her colleagues were very cool and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them. After dinner we walked to The Vibe bar on Brick Lane and had a drink on the patio. Walking down Brick Lane, every restaurant has someone that stands in front and tries to entice you to come in. They offer you a discount or a free glass of wine to get you to choose their restaurant. Shaunda and I decided to explore the rest of Brick Lane and then walked past old Spitalfields market on our way to the Liverpool tube stop. Definitely have to check out Spitalfields tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

London by bicycle

They were calling for a beautiful day in London complete with some sun and about 67 degrees so I decided it was a perfect day for the Fat Tire Royal London Bicycle tour.
I caught the tube to the Queensway tube stop where I met the guide outside on the street with his Fat Tire sign promptly at 11am. Seven of us showed up for the tour and we walked down the street to a warehouse where we were each given a bicycle. I was the only person that opted for a helmet but I wasn't taking any chances so early on in my trip. We started in Hyde Park and hit all the major attractions of London - Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square - where we stopped for lunch at the local pub.
It was my first pub meal so I went with my favorite - bangers and mash! I also had a cider so was even more grateful that I had a helmet. We continued on to see the Cabinet War Room, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. James' Park, Princess Di memorial and the Albert Memorial.
We ended our ride about 4pm. It was absolutely fabulous!! We spent less than 30 minutes on the streets and the pace was relaxed and enjoyable.
After we returned the bikes, I headed up Queensway to Moscow Road which turns in to Pembridge Square. I just wanted to see the old homestead. It's a hotel now with a bright orange door. The school next door where Princes Harry and William attended elementary school when I lived there in 1988 was just letting out and children were everywhere. It was definitely a trip down memory lane.

I continued up Pembridge Gardens to Notting Hill Gate and then walked along Hyde Park on Bayswater Road to Marble Arch. Shaunda met me there and we walked down Oxford Circus checking out all the tourist shops and other stores. I found a Thorntons and bought some toffee to take home. I also bought some of my favorite instant tea from Whittard's on Regent Street. We looked around Desigual - my sister's favorite store. She certainly has expensive tastes! We caught the tube to Snaresbrook and walked to the Nightingale - a pub just down the street from their home.

On Wednesdays, whoever wants to gathers in the corner and they jam on Irish music. About a dozen musicians were there this particular night and they were fabulous! We had dinner but it was the first pub meal that I really didn't like. The shepherd's pie had a very strange flavor and was WAY too salty! Shaunda and David ran in to someone they knew which made them feel like they were starting to settle in there in Wanstead. It was an awesome day and I was completely wiped out by the time we got home.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

and on the 7th day...

I decided it would be in my best interest to have a day of rest after the craziness of the past few weeks. I slept until about noon and discovered when I got up that Gray had stayed home sick today. I think it had more to do with too little sleep after a late night at the theatre but I was grateful for the company. We took a long walk through town to give Rayne some exercise and to help me get my bearings. It's an adorable community!

They live between the South Woodford, Snaresbrook and Wanstead tube stations. The easiest walk is to Wanstead. We walked down Wanstead High Street (a.k.a. Main Street) and checked out the various shops. I bought us a snack at Gregg's which is a local pastry chain. It was quite delicious. I felt like I had a fairly good idea how to get where I needed to go by the time we headed back to the house.
By the time we got home, Zane had returned from school. Soon we heard a familiar sound of bells. The ICE CREAM MAN! I had a lemon ice thing that was quite refreshing!

Shaunda called after work and we met at the pub "The George" on the corner across from the Wanstead tube station. It's a Wetherspoon's pub which is a chain and it has the Kopperberg Pear Cider which is my absolute favorite!

It was a beautiful evening so we sat out on the patio. It is so good to be back in London but it was particularly fabulous to be hanging out at a pub with such a wonderful friend! It brought back memories of a many similar experiences when we spent a semester in London 22 years ago. My how time flies! I'm sure the next three weeks will go by in an instant but I'm looking forward to enjoying every second!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Thank you, London!

They must have made up some time in-flight because we arrived only about half hour late. I breezed my way through customs and border security and found Shaunda waiting on the other side. We took a cab to the Pet Pick-up location and soon discovered that Shaunda had to have an "agent" to get the pets through customs. Could they possibly make this any more complicated? Shaunda made a few calls and finally found someone that would come. We ended up waiting about three hours before the pets were cleared to leave and we crammed the three adults, a german shepherd, a cat and two crates into a mini-cab and headed home. The ride was about an hour and a half and he took us through the heart of London. It was fabulous!! I felt like I was home and I was so glad that I had decided to go ahead and come. We barely had time to grab a snack and dump the stuff before we made our way to the theatre. Shaunda had surprised me with tickets to Billy Elliott. We caught the W12 bus on Elmcroft Avenue which dropped us off at the South Woodford Station, changed tubes at and made it to the theatre only 10 minutes late. I was afraid they wouldn't seat us, but they did. Our seats were way up top so we weren't too much of a disruption. The show was fantatic!! I loved all the dancing! It was the perfect beginning to my time in London.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

London bound...finally!

Hard to believe the day had actually arrived and our flight was still on schedule! Lesa fixed my hair for me so I wouldn't have to worry about it for a few days and then we picked up Rayne (the German Shepherd) and Shelby (the cat) and headed to the airport. Checking them in at cargo was actually easier than I expected. Once the animals were good to go, Lesa slowed down in front of ticketing and pushed me out of the car! My bag weighed 51 pounds so I threw one of the bags of chocolate chips into my carry-on and all was well with the world. The flight to Minneapolis was uneventful and I had allowed several hours to take care of the pet duty once I got there. I grabbed a cab outside the airport to go to Delta cargo. He dropped me off at what looked like the right door but I soon discovered it was locked - and the cab was gone. I felt like I was in the lot of a deserted warehouse. Mmmm...I finally managed to find someone that would come to a door and he said he would call the cargo door so head back that way. This time they opened up. Apparently, they aren't supposed to be open on Sundays but whoever rebooked my ticket screwed up. I was so grateful they were there! I gave Rayne a good walk in the parking lot but couldn't figure out how to walk a cat so she just stayed in her kennel. Unfortunately, Rayne's kennel was too small for international travel but fortunately, they had a used XL kennel that he was willing to trade out. Yay! The staff on this end were also extra helpful - which was exactly what I needed after the last 48 hours. I'm sure if I had had too much difficulty, I would have had a complete breakdown and they would have called my brother-in-law for a mental health evaluation! Once they were all checked in, I caught the shuttle back to the airport and waited for my flight. At first it was delayed two hours but then they changed it to one hour. I'm glad I never left the gate! Once I was finally settled in for the 8 hour flight to London, I finally began to believe that it was actually going to happen. London....Here I Come!

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Saturday (April 24) took a sharp turn for the worse as I was driving home from camp and received a phone call that Dakota (my six year old lab) was extremely bloated. I immediately took him to the Mission Med Vet since they have 24 hour service and spent the next five hours waiting to hear from the doctor. Thankfully, I had my laptop and was able to chat with my mom so I didn't go completely stir crazy. The news was not good. They were able to rule out heartworm and heart disease but they needed to do an ultrasound to check his liver function which could not be done until Monday. Suddenly, the joyous trip that I had been anticipating for so very long seemed very unimportant. Despite the fact that Shaunda and David were kind enough to tell me to do what I needed to do, I didn't feel like I could change our schedule. There were so many hurdles to jump to get their pets ready to fly and I didn't want to have to do it all again - for a third time! My two roomies and my best friend, Lesa, were willing to help me out so I left Dakota in their hands. It was really hard to leave. I prayed for a miracle but on Monday we found out that he did indeed have liver disease. It's just a matter of time but since he isn't acting sick, we decided to try some meds to see if we could keep him feeling good at least until I get home. If my dear baby has to be put down, I want to be the one to hold him until he takes his very last breath. On May 5, I received word that his energy is up and he seems to be acting like his old self. It was the best day I have had so far!


One of the positive things about having my trip postponed a second time was being able to participate in TLC for HPC. It's the annual work day for the Heartland Presbyterian Center which I thoroughly enjoy. We only had a few from Pine Ridge come out in support of the camp which was a little disappointing but those that came managed to get the work done. Our team was assigned to put the hogan covers and doors on the wilderness sites. We managed to get done by noon when we stopped for lunch and then put up the cots before calling it a day. The "youth" found a very cool climbing tree and spent some time recuperating from the challenging tasks of the day. It was another successful TLC for HPC!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Grounded by a volcano in Iceland

Who would have believed that my trip to London would be postponed by a volcano in Iceland???

On April 15, I woke up EARLY to finalize my packing for my trip to London. I was soooooo excited!! I sat down to check my email & facebook and discovered my friend/cousin had posted a comment saying that only I (not literally) could be grounded by a volcano in Iceland. I had no clue what she was talking about - so I quickly googled it and discovered that sure enough - my flight had been cancelled. BUMMER! I spent several hours on the phone - either on hold or talking to Delta or my London friends or work - to try to rearrange my schedule. They booked me on a flight the following Monday (4/19) and my wonderful friend, Lesa, told me to come over anyway and she styled my hair - just to make me feel better. Just being with Lesa always makes me feel better but it didn't hurt to look good - even if I didn't have anywhere to go! :) I spent the next few days working and hoping that the air would clear. It was looking good for Monday but when I woke up Monday morning, my flight had been cancelled again! AGH! I went back to bed. Delta didn't have a flight available until April 25 - my birthday. I guess that would be appropriate. Luckily, I was able to extend it on the other end, as well, so no London time lost. The hardest part was making sure that the dog & cat that I was transporting to London for my friends were still able to go. Unfortunately, they wouldn't accept a health certificate that was over 10 days old which it would be by the time we flew. Shaunda (my friend in London) made an appointment with the vet on Friday at 2pm to redo their health check and medications which are required to travel. I picked up the dog (German Shepherd) in my little Honda Civic and then headed to Lesa's to trade cars and pick up the cat. On the way there, my car overheated and by driving it to the next exit on the highway, I completely melted the engine. Why don't we teach Automotive 101 to ALL STUDENTS??? Oh well - can't worry about the car right now. AAA came and took it away and Christelle and the cat came to get us. We quickly loaded into Lesa's car and I took off like a bat out of you-know-what. I arrived at our appointment in Leavenworth at 2:03. Whew!! The doctor asked when we were flying and I said "Sunday." He said, "No, you're not. These certificates have to be signed in Topeka and they only do that between 11 and 2." Oh hell no!! I asked him to call Topeka and beg or bribe (slip $100 under the table) them to sign them today! He came back and said if I can be there by 3:30, they will sign them. It was 2:25, I was driving on fumes and the vet wasn't finished. Did I mention Topeka was an hour away? He worked as quickly as he could and I tore out of there again! Praying I would not pass a cop, I drove as fast as I ever have to get to Topeka in under an hour. I arrived at 3:31 and they were still there!! Paperwork signed - and we are all ready to fly!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lunch with cool Mizzou students

On Monday, Mich & Paula invited me to join them on Wed for a roadtrip to Mizzou to have lunch with our college "kids". I only had three that were on facebook so I sent them a last-minute invitation. Unfortunately, with such short notice, I didn't have any that were able to attend. However, I really enjoyed visiting with Mich & Paula's students. They were awesome!

Kristina (one of Mich's girls) offered to let me claim her as one of my own - which I was very glad to do! We dined on pizza and drinks at Shakespeare's Pizza just on the edge of the MU campus and about 12-15 students dropped by throughout the two hours that we were there. We even talked about doing the same type of trip to other nearby colleges. It's a great way to catch up with our college students and gives them a chance to find out who else comes from a Presbyterian church in the Kansas City area!