Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Olympic Torch Relay - Or, Should I Get Off This Bus or Not?

This morning, as I turned the key in my door to leave for work, I froze: it was my brother's birthday. Too late for a card, not too late for a Facebook message. I didn't feel *too* guilty - after all, we'd gone shopping together when I was back recently and I bought him a jacket he wanted. Not too shabby for an otherwise absent sister.

But then as I got settled on the bus, I saw this:

Hmm ... a red bus with arms, popping out of Upper Street, and tons of people with cameras at the ready lined up on the meridian ... was I forgetting something? Oh yes, the Olympic Torch Relay, which I missed last weekend when it was going through Hackney.

'The Olympic Torch is coming through my old neighborhood!!!! OMG!!' I typed excited to my mom via my Blackberry. 'Really?' she replied. 'Didn't think that place was a big deal.' No love for Islington from my mom, then. Sheesh.

So then I had this inner argument with myself as the bus sailed down past Angel station, then Sadler's Wells: should I get off or not? On one hand, I envied the Islington-set, clutching their paper flags and coffees, but on the other, I desperately needed to get to work early to sort out some emails. 'That's a lame excuse,' I said aloud. 'This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!' (I think I was still on a high from yesterday's performance)

My decision was kind of made for me when I spotted Alice and her boyfriend, Matt, near Exmouth Market. "I see you," I said in a stalker's voice, after dialing her number. "I think you should get off and meet us on the corner," she replied, as if she had been expecting me to call all along. "Then we can walk to work together."

So this was the scene when I got off the bus:

You know it's serious when the po-po arrive on their sparkly bikes.

But what I didn't know was that the relay would feature some "pre-show" entertainment from all the Olympics sponsors, including Coke:

And Lloyds, which - in my books - won the award for the most awkward/random float/car/van-thingy and "street performers" ever. Check out the girl in the middle. Can you imagine what her brief was? "Hi, yeah, we'd like you to do some acrobatics, periodically, just ahead of the Olympic Torch. You'll be accompanied by a guy jumping on those ... bouncing ... things. Guy on the bouncing thing? Yeah. We're gonna to need you to blow this whistle. At random intervals."

Then the "official" bus came along, which was kind of cool:

And then there were whispers in the crowd of who'd be carrying the torch. "I heard it was David Walliams!" someone said, jostling at my shoulder. (I don't expect any Americans to know who that is ... unless you're a fan of Little Britain. No? Me neither.)

He showed up a few minutes later, all bronzed and fit. David Walliams is neither tan nor fit (though he did swim 140-miles in the Thames for charity). "WHO'S THAAAT?" I screeched, as only an American can, when he passed. "Seriously," I said to Alice. "Who the hell was that?" (I still don't know. Anyone?)

In the end, I still made it to work early and scored myself a little flag that I can wave on Saturday at the Gymnastics. The moral of the story? Always get off the bus.


London 2012 Opening Ceremony Preview: No Spoilers, Just Fabulous Nail Art

Last night, I was lucky enough to attend the final technical rehearsal for the Olympics Opening Ceremony, thanks to Lauren (who's performing in it). I'm not going to post any spoilers here, obvs, but check out the nails on the lady I sat next to:

Aren't they faboosh? I don't even use words like "faboosh", but these nails totally warrant it. She's an Olympics volunteer, working at the Excel center (where events like boxing, weightlifting, and gymnastics are taking place). After I complimented her, she told me that she had them done especially today, so that they'd match her volunteer uniform of purple and orange. "I might be handling a ticket scanner on Saturday," she explained. "So, you know, I thought my nails had better look good!" She's got my vote.

So I won't post any more photos from last night until the big day has passed (big screens were plastered with the hashtag, #savethesurprise, appropriately), but I will say that it was one of the most jaw-dropping, mind-blowing experiences I have ever had in my life. And that I was very thankful to be there.

2 days and counting.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Taking Advantage of 20 Minutes of Sun at Towpath Cafe

I'm trying to be positive about the summer we're having in London this year (and the year before that, and the year before that), but it's really, really hard. Particularly as it's absolutely pouring outside as I write this and I'm wearing black opaque tights out of necessity, rather than as a fashion statement. In July.

Nevertheless, when a spot of sun appears, I'm the first one to seize the day. Yesterday, John and I wandered to one of our favorite haunts for breakfast, Towpath Cafe, which is situated on the canal smack dab between where we used to live in Angel and where we are now in Dalston. So, essentially, it's in Haggerston/Hoxton.

See that selection of jam there? It's divine. Truly. If I could, I would have smuggled the strawberry and peach (?) underneath my holey Gap sweater and taken them home with me. John had the porridge and apricots, which I was told between mouthfuls was equally delicious.

On a sunny day, Towpath is bustling. Paul Simon is blaring and Bob Marley is wailing. Sausages are on the grill and the coffee orders are non-stop. Joggers stop for a slug of water from the numerous pitchers available and then order a coffee. You're lucky if you can grab a seat mid-morning on the weekends. Otherwise, you can grab a blanket and set yourself down on the nearby planter.

On a rainy day? Not so much. I spoke to the American owner, Lori De Mori, as she took my order. Originally from LA (this is her fourth year in London), she's much happier here, though she cited the bad weather as bad for her business - which isn't surprising, since not many people would want to sit in the rain, sipping a latte, with no shelter.

I love the simple, honest food and coffee at this cafe, plus Lori's and her staff's incredibly charming and friendly demeanor. I overheard a lycra-clad jogger order a "skinny latte", only to be answered by an apologetic Lori, "Sorry, we only do full-fat here." "Full-fat is fine, then," the customer conceded. Although I am prone to ordering a soy vanilla latte at chains, I appreciate the no-nonsense approach Towpath takes.

And that's why Lori's customers are so loyal - that and for the scenic view of the canal (when it's not raining, of course).

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hot Diggity Dog

Aside from obsessing over American-worthy pickles in burger joints, I've got a real thing for hot dogs (which, I've already blogged about before, I know) - anything but the British kind (blech! bleurgh! yuck! spittoo, spittoo!). I like mine in a white bun (non-toasted), with ketchup, mustard, LOTS of relish (the kind you pump out of a vat of green stuff), and a sprinkling of white onions. Like tacos, I could probably eat two. Or three.

Below are some of my faves. What are yours?

1. The Costco Dog - I can't remember how much it is now. A dollar something? And that includes a drink. The part I enjoy the most is going around the corner and pumping out the sauces from the large, disgusting vats. And the fact that it's wrapped in foil. This is important. I don't know why.

2. The Copenhagen Dog - So, this is a new discovery. While everyone else in the wedding party last weekend was bragging (yes, really) about dining in the Michelin-starred restaurant, Noma, where the tasting menu begins at £150, John and I were happily consuming some of the tastiest (but probably still the most expensive, since Copenhagen is pricey) hot dogs we'd ever had. The secret? Crispy, finely chopped, fried onions and a secret, tangy sauce, topped with generous slices of pickles, of course. Yum, yum, YUM.

3. The New York Dog - I mean, I probably had one ... once ... at some point. When I was in college or something. Or maybe aged nine, when I was on the Chinese tour bus. Oh wait, did I just admit to being on a Chinese tour? With a tour guide who used her umbrella to herd us in and out of the Statue of Liberty? Anyway, I just feel like if I don't put this on here, I'll have NYCers jumping up and down going, "YOU HAVEN'T EVER HAD A HOT DOG UNTIL YOU'VE TRIED A NEW YORK DOG." Okay, okay, here it is. Grumble, grumble.

4. The IKEA Dog - This one only tastes really good after you've walked through the seven levels of hell that is IKEA. You know, you've jealously/critically eyed their perfectly constructed "rooms" (which NEVER turn out like that in real life, btw, NEVER), bought Swedish plastic thing-a-ma-bobs you'll never use, only because they're Swedish and therefore, cool, and cheap, and almost broken your back trying to heft a bed frame off the top shelf in the warehouse. Because there's no one around to help you. What's the reward at the end of this soul-destroying tunnel? A hot dog. Or four. For £1.

Apparently, there's a new place that's just opened up in Soho called Bubbledogs, which does champagne and hot dogs. I'm eager to try it out, but not so much with the champagne. I'd like to swig mine down with an ice-cold bottle of brewski, thanks, or Coke. I don't need to dress up my dog.

Culture Shock: Not Bagging My Own Groceries

I've lived in the UK for nearly six years now. Six! That's a long time. It's no surprise, then, that every time I go "home" to the US, I experience, well, a little culture shock.

"How can that be?" I've been asked. "That's where you grew up!" Yes, but trust me: once you spend a few years adapting and adjusting to a new/different way of life, you start getting used to it.

So, one of the things I always forget when running to Fred Meyer or Albertson's to pick something up for my parents back in Puyallup, is the fact that check-out cashiers always bag your groceries for you - that or some high school kid on his/her summer vacay is bagging it for you. And yes, more often than not, in a brown paper bag.

John makes fun of me because I sometimes carry my groceries here as if it's in a brown paper bag - i.e. hefted up on my hip, close to my body, kind of like a baby. John: "Why are you holding your shopping [they don't say "groceries" here] like a baby?" Me: "Because it's heavy, closer to my center of gravity, and makes my arms hurt less." John: "Fair enough."

But back in the States, I watch helplessly as the cashier seamlessly scans and bags my items at the same time. I can't even reach over to help because it's literally on the other side of the counter, inaccessible. I feel almost ... bad.

Here, I fumble for about 40 seconds in Tesco (when I'm not shopping with my own environmentally friendly fabric bags), trying to rip a plastic bag from the dispenser, which always results in me being forced to lick my finger, try about 10 times to open the damn thing, while the cashier has scanned all my items and my eggs, bananas, 5-pack of mini Diet Cokes, asparagus spears, and whatnot have piled up at the end of the counter thingy and the impatient customers behind me take turns breathing down my neck. 'Incompetent fool,' they're all thinking.

Back to the US: I don't know if people are just less green in Puyallup (probably), but I don't think very many people bring their own bags with them. There was the time I bought a carton of juice and said I didn't need a bag. The guy looked at me like I was crazy. "Are you sure?" he asked. "Um, yep," I said. "It's a carton of orange juice ... I'm just walking to ... my car. Which is not more than a few feet from the front door." "Not even, like, just, a small one?" he pressed. "Really, I'm fine," I assured. 'Freak of nature,' he's thinking.

Photo source

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is Copenhagen The Coolest City In the World?

Last weekend, John and I flew to Denmark for a friend's wedding. En route to Nyborg, where the wedding was taking place, we stopped off in Copenhagen ('natch), where John had been before but I hadn't. I think it might be the coolest city in the world - without even trying.

After an early morning flight via Sleazyjet Easyjet, we checked into our hotel, fell asleep in the spa's jacuzzi, and dozed off again on the plush bed of our room. Upon waking, we yawned and staggered a few blocks down the road to this market (above); its highly attractive glass design and clean, paved floors made us rub our sleepy eyes with wonder.

We marveled at the fresh fish counter and settled for an antipasti tray, garlic bread (with cloves baked directly into the loaf), and glass of cold house white for each of us to munch on outside, while we people watched the rest of the afternoon away. Trust me, there are some gorgeous and very stylish Danes on the street, who could easily pass for The Sartorialist's and Facehunter's muses. Two words: silk jumpsuits. Drool.

I'm pretty sure the presence of bikes - lovely ones with baskets and children piled on top of one another in attached, canopied carts - significantly boosts Copenhagen's cool factor. I mean, look at the storefront above. So chic, no? And everywhere you look are Scandinavian furniture shops that feature impossibly cool lights, cool chairs - cool everything. Those blankets in the shop window above? Do want. All of them.

Despite our laziness and dragging feet, we even fit in a (highly enjoyable) trip to the historic Round Tower, or Rundetarn - Christian IV's 17th-century architectural dream. Walking into the gallery space above (halfway up the tower, which, btw, is nearly almost completely paved i.e. no stairs so that Christian IV could apparently ride his horse-drawn carriage to the very top - diva, no?) was like walking into a really lovely, pleasant dream. Featuring ceramics, pillow cushions, and even knitted couture inspired by the sea, the gallery also served as a nice little break from the Tower tour.

I loved the laid-back, chilled-out vibe of Copenhagen. Everyone was friendly, but not overly friendly. Everyone was stylish but not try-hard. Did I mention that everything is also VERY EXPENSIVE? Yikes. That's my main gripe. Otherwise, I'd be popping over every other weekend.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

What's Your Most Prized Possession?

What do you own that you're most proud of?

For me, it's my passport - specifically, the one I currently hold.

Let me start with the cover: John gives me a hard time about it because it's not the most flattering color, but I bought it as a present to myself when I finished my finals at the end of my junior year at Mount Holyoke. There was a store in Northampton that sold amazing museum-quality jewellery, scarves and other accessories; I had my eye on the leather passport holders in their glass case for quite some time. I still love the smell of it and the grosgrain ribbon interior. I don't think I'll ever give it up.

My passport photo itself was taken at a camera shop at the South Hill Mall in Puyallup, Washington that's no longer there. In the photo, I'm 17 but look like a 40-something mom. I've got short, curled mom hair and quite a lot of makeup on, for some reason. A TSA official told me a few years ago that she couldn't believe it was the same person as the one standing in front of her: "It's like you've aged backwards," she said, astonished. "Like ... Benjamin Button." I know, I know. I look like a 15-year-old now that I'm in my late 20s.

Then there are the visas: 6 of them in total. The first was my student visa to Oxford, where I'm smiling the smile of a smug, thinks-she-knows-it-all college student. In between that and my second student visa to the UK is the one I was issued for Russia, where I visited with my mother shortly after graduating from Mount Holyoke. It's so cool and mysterious because it's entirely in Russian and I have no idea what it says. My third visa is for the University of York, and the photo was taken at the Walgreens in Edgewood, Washington. My hair is very long and I'm smiling the happy, exhilarated smile of a recent college grad excited for her grad school adventure. A pashmina is stylishly tucked under my chin, a nod to the chic European look I picked up from studying abroad. Next is my first working permit in the UK, after I accepted my first job at Penguin Books. I'm positively glowing here and have the trendy, blunt bangs that were so-in-season at the time. This photo was taken at a Boots photo booth on the Strand. Finally is my second UK work visa. I look like an axe murderer. This photo was the result of 8 unsuccessful tries at a photo booth at Marylebone train station and a wasted £25. I had also come straight from the gym. I was not allowed to smile, due to application regulations and therefore, evidently felt that this meant I had to put on the most pissed-off expression I could muster (I was also pissed off that I had just thrown away £25 to a stupid machine that couldn't take pictures correctly). Unfortunately, the look of fury in my eyes in this photo would foretell the annoyance to come during the whole in-person application process (which had a happy ending, clearly).

As for my stamps, I'm not particularly well-traveled, since my friends have been to far more far-flung places. But still, my passport tells the story of visits to 13 different countries. Each stamp bears a lovely, warm memory of travels to locations such as sun-drenched Santorini, sangria-sipping Seville, and all the pad thai I could possibly eat in Koh Samui. It shows the three places of importance in my life as the most visited: the United States (where I'm from), Hong Kong (where my family is from), and the United Kingdom (where I'd like to be from). It shows that I have, on occasion, literally traveled "around the world" - flying from London to Hong Kong to Seattle and back to London.

My passport makes me feel like a globetrotter; it makes me feel jet set. I love the fact that it was running out of room for stamps and required an insert. I'll be sad when it comes up for renewal soon, as this particular passport has accompanied me on some eye-opening, life-changing, home-returning trips around the world. It's my most prized possession.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Links of London's "Team GB" Bracelets

My favorite British jewellery designer (or what I deem to be London's answer to New York's Tiffany & Co.), Links of London, has released new colors for its London 2012 bracelets in its Team GB range. As the creators of the "Official Jewellery Collection of London 2012", Links has come up with some rather ... erm, unimpressive (and quite frankly, tacky) charms so far. But I'm warming towards these bracelets, especially as they now come in pink/grey, blue/grey, and black/grey - not just the previous red, white and blue variety. I kind of like them, as the friendship bracelet trend comes and goes (it's on its way out, btw), and am considering getting one as a souvenir since £20 isn't really a big push. I didn't get any Royal Wedding or Diamond Jubilee souvenirs and am now over-compensating in terms of the Olympics. Before John and I got tickets to the Athletics event we're going to later this summer, I was all "bah humbug" over the Olympics - citing overcrowding, transport issues, price hikes and the like as reasons I wanted to get out of London. But since John received that fateful email that told us his ticket purchase was successful and we had the opportunity to run a 5-mile race in the Olympic Park and stadium (which I really need to blog about, I know), I've kind of been half embracing the whole "spirit of London" thing. I'm hoping to get up to Tower Bridge next weekend to take a picture of the Olympic rings. But when it comes to which team I'll be cheering for, I'm half Team GB and half Team USA.

Tell me, are you going to any Olympic events?
© angloyankophile

This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services - Click here for information.

Blogger Template Created by pipdig