Spring shoots

Today is the May Day Bank Holiday in the UK and after a basking in some long overdue Spring sunshine yesterday, it’s time for me to keep my word and share my last two months of gadding about (which, with Mum’s 3-week visit smack-bang in the middle, pretty much disappeared before I knew it).

There have been a few highlights of the stage-and-screen variety since February starting with a ‘goosebumps all-over’ moment as Glenn Close filled the London Coliseum with her performance of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. The BBC ran a gripping six-part adaption of John le Carre’s The Night Manager that starred Hugh Laurie – in fine and menacing form – and Tom Hiddleston which had me transfixed on Sunday nights. (For those of you who don’t know Hugh, think House and Black Adder.)

And I saw a couple of really great movies – Spotlight and Eye in the Sky, the latter being a charity screening at my local cinema, The Phoenix. In his pre-film talk, director Gavin Hood explained that the technology featured in Eye in the Sky is real and out there as we speak. Mind-blowing stuff.

There were also some things I expected to love more than I did. The Maids at Trafalgar Studios was edgy and well-acted but a little too crazy for me and Immortal Tango contained patches of thrilling Argentine Tango but was brought low by too much tinkering with the quintessential drama and passion of the dance. Based on how much I loved The Night Manager, I had another stab at reading le Carre’s novel only to remember how convoluted and unwieldy I find his writing. And reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None was spoiled by knowing ‘who dunnit’, having seen it on TV earlier this year (another brilliant adaption from the Beeb).

There have been some firsts as well.

I attended my first political debate on the EU referendum at the London Palladium. It was chockers with people and points of view and while it didn’t really help me to make a more informed decision, I did leave with my view of politics and politicians intact – grandstanding and emotive argument just don’t do it for me.

However what did do it for me was Painting the Modern Garden, an exhibition featuring artists from Monet to Matisse (and many in between) on my first sortie to the Royal Academy.

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I also visited Poole, site of the second largest natural deep-water harbour in the world (after Sydney).

sunny poole

Dorset Quay, Poole

Last but not least, April alone has meant birthdays galore. It started with my two favourite little dudes turning 3 with Mum, Seattle-A celebrating a week later. And on the 30th, my good friend of more than 15 years, Swiss-S, finally turned 40 on the same day that high school friend, Aussie-J, marked her slightly more advanced passage through life (although she’s still younger than yours truly).

And the great Bard himself, Shakespeare celebrated his birthday on April 23rd, the same day as he popped his clogs 52 years later. There’s been much ado about this and for my part, this Bard-themed week has been book-ended by  Shakespeare Live! last weekend and a Shakespeare’s London walking tour on Saturday just gone with the Museum of London.

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Memorial to John Heminge and Henry Condell, the two actors who published Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623 in St Mary Aldermanbury’s Garden.

In other news, I was very excited by the Monopoly-themed loos at Marylebone Station…

monopoly loos

I had to wait for everyone to leave the loos before taking these pics so no-one thought I was being weird or creepy (she says, posting them for all the world to see.)

…my fabulous new shoes…

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…and that fact that Spring finally ‘sprang’…

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Delicate Spring flowers  lined my street for about two weeks before they dropped to leave leafy green boughs behind them.

And I think that’ll do. Just as well that the month ended with a 3-day weekend…but the batteries are recharged and I’m ready to go again…

…come what May.

(Geddit? I just couldn’t resist a play on words.)

A Day At The Fair…

This time last week I was arriving at Heathrow Airport after a 9 day soujourn with Seattle-A and all of her boys.

You see, I’d managed to tack a few flights onto the end of a work trip so after about 7 hours flying (and a rather tight connection dash through Houston Airport en-route) I arrived at Seattle-Tacoma Airport on a warm evening in August to be hailed by a fond Coo-ee! and Seattle-A hug at the luggage belt.

It’d been about 6 months since my last visit so there was loads for us to catch up on over a burrito and a gin and tonic on the way home. There are so many changes happening in both of our lives – she as a second-nation expat and mother of twin boys and me as somewhat of a jetsetter in my new (since last October) job – but the feeling of picking up where we left off last time remained.

It was an unexpectedly busy first few days as a) Grandma-C was enjoying the last few days of her very own Seattle sojourn and b) I was invited to accompany Team-M on a long weekend in Walla Walla in Washington’s wine region under the auspices of celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday. Hmmm more travelling…but made palatable by wine and friends at the end of it. 

Returning from our weekend away, I was left with a few days to hang out at Chez-M, plenty of opportunity for a cuddle top-up with my favourite little dudes and to soak up some Seattle-A time to sustain me until my next visit. 

On my penultimate day, this included a trip to the Evergreen State Fair. 

There was some discussion between Seattle-A and I beforehand as to what format this would take compared with our Aussie experiences – pavilions, rides, shows or lots of livestock to stand around and ‘admire’ outside. As it turned out, it was a bit of everything plus some fair ‘fare’ so here’s a quick scoot around the fairground for your armchair touring pleasure.

There was not one but two ferris wheels…


…and there were rides and games and plenty of vittels…


…although the Snohomish Pie Company (above bottom right) sold only sweet pies much to our disappointment. This turned into an important cultural lesson as the locals in our group laughed at our ‘uniquely Australian’ expectation of a savoury Snohomish slice.

We soon got our own back.

                       

Seattle-A and I were rather curious about this apparently Australian delicacy, a large onion peeled, flowered and floured before being deep-fried. Upon interrogating the purveyor of said goods, we learnt that there was no Down Under connection at all. Nor did we find out who ‘Aussie’ was.

After a quick reconnaissance we were soon tucking in to some local vittels of our own…
                         

The top right photo shows bacon on a stick. Yes that’s right – bacon – on a stick. 

Those enormous deep fried things bottom right are onions rings (as distinct from the onion burst discovered earlier).

To the left is my lunch: a bottle of root beer (seriously I could not get enough of this stuff – anyone who can tell me where I can buy this in the UK will earn my eternal gratitude) and an all-American Russian piroshky. The lady was making these by hand when I approached the van so it was a salmon and cream cheese one for me and a meatier version for Seattle-A – delicious!

Soon it was time for a little more wandering and while we were searching for the petting zoo (the main agenda for our visit), our little group was waylaid, this time by ice-cream. Seattle-A was delighted with her Chocolate-Almond choice and was looking forward to devouring the whole lot…


…but the little dudes, particularly R,  had other ideas.

And I can’t say I blame them – the couple of bites I had were divine!

More meandering followed with the little dudes practicing their new-found walking skills…

…and before long we found ourselves near our destination, these wooden creatures greeting us as we approached the location of said petting zoo.


With bears in the Chez-M area – neighbours report ursine visitors ransacking garbage bins under cover of darkness – we thought the ones below would look great scattered through the trees surrounding Chez-M but were unsure as to whether they would attract, repel or even ‘upset’ the real thing.


Speaking of locals, we were also treated to a display of indigenous colour and rhythm here so the little ‘uns in our party did a bit of tribal foot-stamping to the beat of a native drum.


Finally, we made it to the zoo.

Hooray I hear you say.

O (left) was not entirely sure of the competition for Mum’s attention…


….but R (right) was fascinated by these real-life creatures previously only seen in picture books.

So that was our big day at the fair. A hot, blue-sky day filled with new experiences for the young…


…and the young at heart.

And so the following day I packed my Day at the Fair alongside my new stash of Seattle memories in my suitcase, said some emotional good-byes and flew home.

But I’m already thinking about the next trip. 

You see Seattle-A turns 40 next year…and you know how I love a birthday!

The Month That Disappeared….

It’s the last day of June. The longest day here has passed and we are halfway through the year already. The last time I looked I was blogging ad infinitum about my Paris city break and looking forward to seeing Seattle-A for the first time in about 7 months.

What happened to the last 4 weeks?

Well it’s been a busy month jam packed with travel near and far. As regular readers of this blog will know, I spent a week in the Emerald City with Seattle-A at the beginning of the month. I then returned to Gidday HQ for four days – during which time I squeezed in a hen day (yes a whole day) – before travelling to Sweden for our mid year Sales Conference. Back again for 2 nights before packing yet another bag and heading to Oxford for previously said hen’s nuptials. Add to that some long hours at work last week and I literally dragged myself into this weekend, grateful for a little decompression time (and a well-earned mani-pedi).


At the same time, the busy-ness has been wonderful. It feels a bit like a whole lot of great things crammed themselves into the month as a reminder of all of the amazing people that give richness and colour to my life.

The wedding was a case in point: a French woman marrying her Russian paramour and surrounded by a veritable league of nations as the intimate reception of thirty played host to French, Russian, English, American, German, Turkish, Italian, Kyrgyzs (I had to look up what to call someone from Kyrgyzstan) and Australian (that would’ve been me) well-wishers. And working for the European division of a global company meant that the sales conference was attended by a cross-section of my extremely awesome colleagues from across the continent (and indeed the world by virtue of us having an American boss).

But maybe the biggest cultural exchange was in Seattle. 

Pre-trip it is safe to say that a mild sense of apprehension prevailed as to how my life-long, self-imposed baby-free zone would work when confronted with 9 week old twins. Seattle-A and I had discussed several contingency plans – including fleeing across the nearby border to Vancouver (me that is) – if it all got a bit much. But those two little dudes manage to melt Aunty Kym’s heart in the space of just one week.

This is Rockin’ R. Many a cosy chat was held with Aunty Kym during burping, cuddling and even sleeping…although he was a little perturbed as to why the bumps on my chest, so similar to Mummy’s, didn’t emerge at feeding time in the same way…

And this is DJ O, named for his penchant for playing tunes on the interactive baby bouncer. He’s attached to Mummy in a very possessive and singular fashion so this was a short lull in his squirming wriggly-ness where he wasn’t letting the whole world know how life was sucking in Aunty Kym’s embrace…not so many close encounters but still adorable.

All the while I got to hang out with my gorgeous friend, absorbing as much us-time as I possibly could to sustain me until the next visit. We had a few excursions with the little dudes in tow with varying degrees of success (especially our last day lunch, which DJ O was having none of!) Thanks to Hubby, we also got a glorious Sunday afternoon together for coffee, manicures, pedicures, wine tasting and a rather pleasant lunch lolling about in the sunshine at the J. Bookwalter Tasting Studio before heading home to BBQ a whole Copper River salmon (Seattle-A is that kind of girl!)

There was even a touch of drama when G the wonder-dog gave spirited chase to a coyote who’d wandered by to check things out on my penultimate day.

It was such a wonderful week. There’s is something so soothing about being with the people who know and love you best. And I never thought I would become so attached to my awesome little dudes so I hope it’s not too long before I can manage another trip to see them all. Who knew that Aunty Kym would survive baby bootcamp (albeit sans nappy-changing) so well? And that my cuppa-making skills would be quite so in demand?

In any case, it was an emotional hug in the drop off lane at the airport on the Tuesday evening.

So that was June. Gone in the blink of an eye and yet leaving a montage of special memories impressed firmly upon my heart.

I wonder what July will bring?

Salutations From Seattle…

Salutations from Seattle peeps!

While we’ve been managing to get out and about each day during my Seattle sojourn, this has been somewhat limited to shorter outings that we can manage with the babies in tow, who by the way, have been rather busy melting Aunty Kym’s heart. And needless to say blogging has taken a back seat while I soak up as much Seattle-A time as possible while I’m here. 

But as the boys had a hot date with the paediatrition last Thursday (and Mummy and Daddy had the whole deal covered more than adequately), I decided to make myself scarce and get into Seattle for a day of sightseeing and shopping.

Seattle is a relatively ‘new’ town having been founded in 1851. That’s more than 70 years after the First Fleet sailed into Australia’s Sydney Cove, so this is an unusual position for an Aussie, used to being the youngster in the global village, to be in. It is also reasonably compact and very walkable, the streets are wide and tree-lined and there are coffee shops absolutely everywhere where you can rejuvenate. And despite my general aversion to Starbucks, the coffee, service and free wi-fi were both excellent and eminently helpful.

All up I spent six hours and only covered the Downtown area. Arriving at Westlake on the express bus from Overlake Transit Centre (near Husband of Seattle-A’s work and a bargain at only $2.50 for a single 20min trip), I picked a few choice morsels from the guide book and just wandered around in between (more on that in another post). 

And the highlights? Well the weather was absolutely glorious but I have a feeling that was more good luck than good planning and quite frankly there’s not much anyone can do about that. But for spectacular views no matter the weather, take the express lift up to the Chinese Room on the 35th floor of the Smith Tower just around the corner from Pioneer Square.


The 36-42nd floors are occupied by a penthouse (yes, just one penthouse) but the 360 degree observation deck around the 35th floor is fantastic. Let me show you what I mean.

Here’s a shot of the ‘other’ observation deck, the Space Needle. According to my Frommer’s guide, you get to pay about $17.50 for the privilege of being rotated (versus walking around the 35th floor of the Smith Tower for $7.50).

The Mountain is out! Mt Rainier looms through the clouds, an apparently unusual occurrence so I was thrilled to get this ‘on film’.  

A glorious view over Elliott Bay to the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.

After you’ve had your fill of amazing views, it’s just a couple of blocks down the hill to Pioneer Square and into Doc Maynard’s to take the 90 minute Underground Tour of Seattle ($17.50 per person). Filled with historic sound bites, this unique tour takes you beneath the streets of Downtown Seattle to explore this outpost of the Pacific Northwest’s seamy past. And me being, well me, I bought the book that forms the basis for the tour, Sons of the Profits by Bill Speidel. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

School buses lined up in Pioneer Square.
 
Doc Maynard’s: your underground tour starts here!
 
Heading underground…

 …to see the city from another perspective.


And a visit to Seattle wouldn’t be complete without a wander through Pike Place Market.

There’s plenty of fish to buy (among other things)…
 
 …but don’t forget to give a nod to the original Starbucks. These happy buskers were playing a few tunes when I wandered by.

Speaking of nods, being back in the States reminds me just how wonderful it is to be served. From the locals in the street to the staff in the stores and restaurants, people cannot do enough to help and want to make sure you have an amazing time in their city. Something that the rest of the world could take a few notes on.

And finally it was time for a spot of shopping at Macy’s who were having a sale – God Bless America I say!


And after finding some great bargains and nothing less than exceptional service, I only had a short block to walk to take my tired feet and satisfied smile back to the bus for the ride ‘home’.

ps…You may have noticed that I didn’t race around to try and squeeze everything in (as I am usually wont to do). Well I figure this might just be the first of many visits – presuming Team-M will have me – so I thought I’d leave some stuff for next time!