mercredi 31 mars 2010

South Bank

You wouldn't know it by today's weather, but we've been having some lovely spring days here. The nice weather made us want to leave our little neighborhood, though not so much that we actually crossed north of the river!

We stopped off by a kids' playground and had a grand old time on the swings:

The street entertainment included Metallic Man and the Most Pierced Woman Alive.

And best of all, at the end we serendipitously happened on the Chocolate Festival. Yum!

mardi 16 février 2010

Happy Pancake Day!

When I saw the signs at my local supermarket stating that today is Pancake Day, I thought that either this must be a great country indeed, or that the supermarket is trying a new marketing ploy to get consumers to buy more baked goods. On further research, though, it turns out that Pancake Day is really a holiday here, though sadly, you don’t get a day off work to stay at home and eat pancakes.

Pancake Day is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It is common to eat sweet pancakes with a little lemon as a way to live it up before Lent begins. Pancakes are considered an indulgence on this day because they contain ingredients like eggs, sugar and butter, which some people do not eat during Lent.

Some cultures celebrate Fat Tuesday with a big carnival full of rowdy, bawdy fun, but I guess the celebrations are just a bit more subdued here. While I do not really follow Lent, I still plan on having pancakes for breakfast! It’s a great way to start this rainy Tuesday on a positive note.

mercredi 10 février 2010

Putting Down Roots

For those of you that know us in real life, it might surprise you to hear us say that we are thinking of settling down in London. When we first moved here, we thought we wanted to just do our time in London to establish ourselves career-wise and then hurry back to France (or jet off to some new, unexplored land). Maybe it’s because of the baby, the sunny skies, the gourmet fare, or plain old age, but neither of us really wants to think about moving out of here.

Sure, Paris has many things going for it: it’s a very walkable city, the food is generally pretty good, and it feels very continental. London is expensive, sprawling, and a bit grayer.

So why do we like it here so much? First, compared to Paris, we have a lot of friends here, including English friends. It Paris, I went to the same bakery for months before the owner said more than a cursory greeting. And while we had some French friends, the majority of our friends were other expats.

London also feels a lot more cosmopolitan, mainly because of the mix of people that live here. In the mood for some Uighur food? Try the place down the road. Want some fufu? We have that nearby too. As Diego likes to say, London is really an airport with a city around it. For cultural mutts like us, living in a place with such a mixed identity has meant that we don’t feel like outsiders. Ultimately, too, finding a place to call home is about finding a place where you belong and that accepts you just as you are. And for now, at least, London is home.

vendredi 11 décembre 2009

Jet Lag & Babies

It's the start of the holiday season, and the cacahuète and I are now on our second trip to the US. Much like last time, jet lag has wreaked havoc on our sleep schedule. I say "our" because when the peanut wants to play at 2 am in the morning, I have to be there to amuse him. Such is the price we must pay for our wandering lifestyle, I suppose.

On the whole, I cannot complain, I suppose, as our little cacahuète is a seasoned little traveller by now. He is not at all fazed by the airport security routine, and gets very flirty and happy when security personnel hold him while I gather our things. And somehow he manages to make friends with the people seated around us on the airplane.

For those of you who may be flying internationally with a baby, I highly recommend Virgin Atlantic. They have new cots for babies that are bigger and more comfortable than the traditional skycots, and they have jars of baby food on board. It was reassuring to know that even if the food I had prepared for the trip was confiscated at security, the peanut would still be able to eat. Not to mention that the flight attendants gave us a big bottle of water so I would not have to get up in the middle of the flight with the baby if I got thirsty or if I had a problem with the water I had brought on board for formula.

My only gripe is that our pram was not available when we deplaned, and I had to go through immigration and to wait for the luggage (and the pram) holding a 21-pound baby. Not fun, but at least I know that nex time I will have to make doubly sure that the pram is properly gate-checked.

Our next international flight is to Uruguay in a couple of weeks. Thankfully, Diego will be joining us for that one. And I'm less concerned about the peanut not behaving on this flight because the Christmas flights to South America are full of families with screaming babies. What better way to get into the holiday spirit than to be in a small, confined space with crying babies for 10 hours? Happy Holidays!

mardi 15 septembre 2009

Frequent Vacationers

We just got back from our first family vacation. With a new baby to cart along and the weak pound, we decided to stay in the UK and took the train to St. Ives in Cornwall. I know that a lot of Brits like to go abroad because they believe the food and weather are better just about everywhere else. But on the whole, we heartily recommend St. Ives.

We ate amazing food:

Well, we have no pics of our food, but can assure you that the seafood, especially the local mussels, scallops and crab were delicious. The mussels, in particular, reminded us of the type they have in Uruguay: soft and not at all grainy.

We had a lot of tasty local wines:

I know you are thinking “English wine??!!” because we thought that too. But, we plucked up our courage and decided to follow the advice of the old advertisement that stated “The best golfer in the world is black, the best rapper in the world is white, and the best sailors in the world are Swiss. Now is the time to try English wine.”

The verdict? The wine was actually drinkable. Better than drinkable, in fact. It was good! The wine above reminded me of German Rieslings and was fruity but not sweet. We also had a sparkling wine by the same maker, which was crisp and clean. Overall, English wines (at least the whites) are definitely worth trying, if only for the adventure factor.

Last, we also spent some time on the local beaches. The weather was not warm enough to really spend time in the ocean, but Diego could not resist taking a dip in the balmy 14°C water:

Were it not for the occasional rainstorm, it almost didn't feel like England at all!

In typical Maki et Diego fashion, our first family vacation is over, but we won’t be staying put for long. The cacahuète and I are flying to Miami to visit the grandparents.

I’m excited that we will be spending quality time with our families, but I am also nervous about dealing with the hassle of the airport and the 9-hour flight with a small baby in tow. Not to mention that the effect of jet lag on a 5-month old who has only recently started sleeping through the night...somehow, I knew he’d start to sleep through the night shortly before we were due to start crossing time zones. But, hey, at least he has beat the family record for youngest frequent flyer.

lundi 31 août 2009

NHS Hospital Delivers Baby Safely

I know, I know, we have been very much out of touch. I promise that we have a good reason, though: our little globe-trotting cacahuète was born in mid-April. In the months following the birth, it felt like we were running a hotel, as grandparents, aunts, and cousins from near and far came to meet the newest family member. I have also gotten very involved in the local baby circuit, hanging out with other new mums in the local area parks. Bring on the power-pramming!

You might remember that when I was pregnant, I blogged that I was concerned about having a baby in the NHS. I really needn't have worried as the hospital staff was very knowledgeable and efficient. Even when things got a bit dicey right before the peanut's grand appearance, the midwives, doctors and nurses were in control of the situation. And for a couple of weeks after the birth, I had midwives and health visitors coming to my living room to check on us both. It was great to have medical professionals visit us at home, since it took me a few weeks to feel like I could venture outside the house with the always-hungry and insatiable peanut.

While Joe the Plumber might be surprised to hear of my positive experience having a baby in the NHS, Stephen Hawking would find nothing unusual in it. Indeed, like most Brits, he would likely be amused at my amazement that health care here is free. I understand that it is our tax pound that pays for nationalized health care, but taxes here are not much higher than they were in the US, which makes me think that we are getting a good deal overall.

Additionally, supposing that I was utterly distrustful of the NHS, I still have the option of seeing doctors and specialists on a private basis. In short, if I want to pay for extra service, I am free to do so. But if I - like most of the uninsured Americans - cannot afford to pay for private health care, I can use the national medical system. As a new parent, it is comforting to know that no matter what happens to us job-wise, the peanut can still see a doctor. And politics aside, fundamentally, it's all about taking care of peanuts, isn't it?

That said, it does feel a bit like I'm missing out on all the fun of the health care debate back in the US. Maybe I can say we've been too busy dealing with all the death panels, health rationing and socialism. But, like Stephen Hawking, the cacahuète and I are alive and healthy in spite of it all, so there you go.

dimanche 5 avril 2009

Just Divine

Last weekend we saw the following advert for a company that rents IT equipment:

Yes, that's a picture of Hugh Grant after he was arrested in 1995 for asking Hollywood prostitute Divine Brown for oral sex. My favorite part of the advert? The caption at the bottom that states the company provides "service that will blow you away."