Londontown: Where we stayed

The Thames

Dear Cath,

Oooh lala isn’t she beautiful? This pic above is from a few days into our trip but I wanted to give you a nice opener to London: sun, the Thames, standing on the South bank, eying St. Paul’s.

When we first alighted from our train however, she wasn’t so very well behaved. Five minutes after leaving Euston Station, the skies opened up and monsooned (is that not a verb?). Heavy, heavy rain that lasted about 45 minutes and laughed in the face of our water repellent jackets and dashed under everyone’s umbrellas. We took refuge in a doorway and waited it out with our fellow drenched Londoners. The pic below doesn’t do justice to how sodden we felt (duck face is misleading as ducks like water):

London rain

We airbnb-ed it this drip. Not cheap right in the heart of Covent Garden, but totally worth it and best birthday prezie (would have been best ever if you were with us!). In the photo below do you see the dormer widows peaking out on the roof? That’s our wee flat! Just a studio, but with a nice little kitchen and bathroom. Oh and 4 windy flights of stairs to mount every evening when we got back home:

Monmouth Shaftsbury

This is the main room with the stairs/ladder up to the sleeping loft. Just enough room for a table and chairs — no sofa, but lovely windows on all three sides:

Air-bnb

Our views looked right down at Monmouth Street and Shaftsbury Avenue and across to Neal’s Yard and then the Royal Opera House in the not-to-far distance. At night the trees’ sparkly lights would come on — it was so lovely and not at all noisy even with the hustle and bustle below because we were up so high. Our Edinburgh flat is way noisier.

Covent-Garden-flat

Below is a pic of Monmouth: lots of cute shops and coffee places and the best pizza I’ve ever had at al place called Homeslice. We would go to Monmouth Coffee in the morning and sit on the bench and people watch: mustaches, waistcoats, man buns (shaved head except for the top which is bunned), well-dressed cyclists, way more summery clothes than you could ever get away with in Edinburgh:

Monmouth-street

Another perk to our teeny “lofty” flat? We had access to the roof via the kitchen window. The last morning there, we crawled out we ate breakfast perched between the eaves. After posing for numerous selfies and shoveling oatmeal down my gullet, I looked across to the office building next to us and someone was waving. I scurried back in the window after that:

rooftop Lar rooftop

I know you guys are all worried we will run away to London and never come home, but as much as London is my favorite city in all the world (or at least the small bit I’ve been to), it doesn’t have you guys in it. That outweighs Old Smokey by a couple tons.

4 weeks until I see you!!!

Love you infinity more than I love London,

Lar


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Happy Birthday, Cath!!!

31-birthday

 

Dear Cath,

I wish more than anything that we could be together today. You’ll be at work (and then class!) and I’ll be on a train from London to Edinburgh. All is not right with the world, but I feel the world will make amends when we are together in August. Rain check for birthday bash (aka twin time) until then?

Love you like icing loves cake,

Lar


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Exploring Ponce City Market

Dancing Goats Coffee bar

Dearest Lar,

Troy and I took a 1.5 hour break from working on the house yesterday and headed over to Ponce City Market so I could get some photos for a Groupon article I’m writing. The area hasn’t changed too much since you saw it this past winter, but give it another six months and you won’t even recognize it.

Dancing Goats is still the only shop/restaurant open (although a number of restaurants have signed leases to move in this coming year). Troy and I were starving, so we stuffed our faces with ordered a homemade blackberry pop tart (which reminded me of your wedding!) and two mini Duck’s donuts with our coffee.

homemade poptarts

Then we headed over to the Historic Fourth Ward Park, which I think I drove you to in January. It’s a gorgeous city park with lots of winding paths, water features and plenty of seating areas. The Old Fourth Ward Arts festival was just wrapping up as we were walking around. Atlanta might not have one giant amalgam of festivals like Edinburgh, but it does have a festival every weekend.

Birkenstocks at the park

Zara t-shirt • H&M jeans • (really old) Birks • necklace from Sq/Ft boutique • Longchamp Le Pliage
I’ve been dying to dress up since this summer has mostly consisted of me sweating in a tank top and yoga pants with all the packing, moving, unpacking I’ve been doing. Well, dressing up didn’t happen yesterday either – ha! But this outfit is the most pulled together I’ve looked for the past four weekends.

stacked rings

Cross ring from Boutique Karma • black and silver ring from a second hang shop in Athens, GA • silver ring purchased at the Decatur Arts Festival

exploring old fourth ward park

At this very moment you are spending your last day in London on your mini weekend trip. I love seeing all of your Instagram pics of your trip (here, here, here, here, and here) and think it’s hilarious that you drank your first fresh coconut in the rain in London. Did you end up running into Wills & Kate?

I promise to include more photos of the house once I get some more artwork up on the walls.

Can’t wait to see more pics from your trip!

xoxo, Cath

yonks

 

 


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Yes, Naw, Mibbe

edinburgh-castle-spring

pink-skirt

yes-scotland

no-scotland

Dear Cath,

Scottish independence. Matt and I can’t vote, but we do feel lucky to be here during such a momentous decision for the country (“How many countries are in this country?”). We’ve both waffled back and forth over the issue. I do think Scotland needs much more equitable representation than it currently has in Westminster, but I wholly understand the economic fears people have of becoming independent.

And a much more superficial mibbe? These fuglies I’m wearing in the two top photos. I needed another pair of flats to wear around town as heels still kind of tug on my surgery sites (weirdest explanation for wearing flats ever? “I can’t, it hurts my left ovary.” Sure.). I came upon these buckled, pointy soles and thought Yes. Yes, I must have those. I’m not sure if they really work, but I still enjoy pairing them with girly things (i.e. pink, lace skirts — do you still have your navy version?). What do you say? Yes, naw, mibbe?

Love you more than JK loves togetherness,

Lar


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Shopbop Haul

Dear Cath,

Hauling (a la YouTube terminology) seems like a very anti-ethical shopping activity: buying lots of stuff and then showing it to you, so that you want to buy lots of stuff. So maybe this is more of an anti-haul: only three items and all consciously chosen because they are made in the US and not bought on a whim. (Maybe most hauling is well-thought purchases and am just being judge-y. Tell me if so. Also, maybe being a hypocrite because still buying things I like rather than absolutely need isn’t height of ethical consumerism).

Without further ado (i.e. ramblings):

The item I’m most excited about is this Vera Wang mini dress from the Born Free line that supports the end of mother-to-child HIV transmission by December 2015. I feel so uneducated about HIV transmission — I didn’t realise 1 pill a day is all that was needed to provide a child with a life without HIV. It seems woeful that if that’s the case, mother to child transmission isn’t eradicated already.

born-free-vera-wang

(Note: poor reviews owing to fact that dress is more like tunic rather than dress. Plan to wear with black skirt in order to avoid undesirable bum exposure).

The next two purchases aren’t nearly as philanthropic but still made in the U.S.

I needed a going-out top (have worn pleather dress to ever night-out for past two years), but I really dislike anything too clingy or that requires body tape or specific bra selection. I think the lower backs of men and women lovely/handsome  and more seductive than cleavage (she says because she has none) and this shirt makes me and Ingres happy:

oak-top

(Unlike Ingres’ lady, I will not be showing side-boob just bare lumbar. Will not attempt turban).

Lastly, a long gold-plated necklace by Kristen Elspeth:

kristen-elspeth-necklace

It’s hard to tell but the long metal bar is actually a gold porcupine quill. Much of Elspeth’s designs are influenced by Native American art: hence the quill which represents trust, innocence, invincibility, intelligence, and are symbols of protection from dark spirits. I’ll take it!

So that was a bit haul-like after all, wasn’t it? I really am still trying to be less of an avaricious consumer — more of a nibbler. To prepare for abundance of items purchased, I packed off a few things to Salvation Army yesterday. Must commence nibbling.

What about you? Are you house hauling? Can’t wait to hear all your decorating/nesting plans. I promise it won’t make me feel the need to buy more things for my flat — we have no where to put anything: all 500 sq ft accounted for.

Love you like Ingres loves vertebrae,

Lar

p.s. Readers, Shopbop is one of our blog affiliates, but this is in no way a sponsored posts, just a way for Cath to keep up with what I bought. We usually share with each other over email, but I thought I’d try it by post this time.


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Catching Up

Dearest Lar,

It’s been waaaay too long since I’ve posted. You’ve kept me up to date with everything going on in your life with your wonderful posts – cheese! a perfect Sunday, trams, and Calton Hill - but I haven’t done the same.

However, in between starting classes for the summer, closing on a house, packing and moving, I still managed to take some pics over the past few weeks. I owe you lots of posts, so I figured I start with one with lots of photos!

It’s been so hot here that all I want to wear is summer dresses. I’m tempted to buy a handful of cheap dresses for this season, but I can’t spend any money this summer on clothes (all my money and then some will be spent on house stuff). So a few weeks ago I wore this oldie but goodie:

HM summer dress
 H&M zebra dress • Marc by Marc Jacobs sunniesAsh wedges • Sole Society clutch

Neon clutch copy

A week before the move, Troy and I took a break from packing and spent the afternoon in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood (future home of the Atlanta streetcar coming soon!):

Old Fourth Ward

street art

We had lunch at Illegal Food located in Joystick Gamebar and look what was on the wall (nerd alert):

Illegal Food

I haven’t had much downtime, but I’ve been trying to squeeze some time in to read The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby. It’s a fictionalization of the seamstress that made Jackie Kennedy’s famous suit and it’s been the perfect summer read. Kelby goes into detail about the different fabrics and types of seams the main character uses – which I love to read about even though I hate sewing.

The Pink Suit

Right before we moved, Troy made a batch of the most delicious watermelon mojitos: fresh watermelon juice, simple syrup, mint, Four Roses bourbon, and gin. Yum!

watermelon kentucky mojito

Ali has her wedding photos up online by Once Like a Spark that you can check out since you couldn’t spend a couple thousand and fly back home for it ;) Here’s one of me and Troy (and Greg off to the left) dancing. I wish you had been there!

wedding

Now on to photos of my house! The move probably took us around 4 days with mom and dad, and all of our amazing friends helping. Seriously, if it was just up to me and Troy, the 2 mile move would have taken us weeks! In addition to moving all of our furniture (including a ridiculously heavy music studio console), in the past few days we (Troy and I, family and friends – and some hired help) have unpacked more than half of our stuff, cleared out the overgrown backyard, scrubbed the house from top to bottom, installed my new Ikea chandelier, caulked both showers, reinforced the crawl space door, sold the ridiculously heavy music studio console, and replaced a toilet seat.

I’m desperate to decorate, but there’s still so much unpacking that has to be done! Here’s what the house looks like so far:

The living room – it’s so much bigger than my last living room. I don’t know what to do with so much space! I think it might be the size of your whole flat.

moving_living room

The second bedroom doesn’t have a closet (it was converted into the master bathroom) so for the time being, this bedroom is going to be my closet! Ideally I’d like to streamline my clothes enough where I won’t need a whole room to house all of my clothes. Plus, eventually I want to use this room as our guest bedroom, but I don’t have an extra bed at the moment, so until that changes, it’ll be my walk -in closet.

moving_closet

I threw a bunch of things on this table – so it’s not properly styled – in my closet and then realized that it looks kind of cool. I’ll fix it up a bit, but I love the wire of the hat stand (which I think is yours) and the vintage fan.

moving_vintage fan

Our bedroom – this is probably the neatest it’ll ever look. Pretty soon my side table/lamp thingy will be piled high with mags and books – and dog fur. I’d love to put a great piece of artwork over the bed, but I don’t have one that will work. Maybe I can convince my amazingly talented twinie to paint me something (hint, hint).

moving_bedroom

Mom brought over her label maker the other day and I went a little crazy with it:

moving_labels

I can’t wait for you to see the house in person in a few months. I hope it’ll look much better by then and the third bedroom won’t be piled high with boxes. Who knows, maybe I’ll even have a guest bed :)

I promise my next post will be in a few days and not so hodge-podge as this one.

I miss you so much and wish you could be with me in person during this crazy house-buying/moving process, but getting to see you in August is almost as good!

xoxo, Cath


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Cheese, Grommit, cheese!

cheese

Dear Cath,

I received a lovely hamper from Harrod’s last week* — a cheese gift set hamper! Really, this should be your hamper because you are cheese and I am chocolate, but I will do my best to share it with you via the blogisphere.

The hamper is everything you need for fancy cheese eating (or cheddar-only cheese eating ;)): olive oil crackers, two different types of olives, an onion relish, a cheese scoop (I didn’t even know such a thing existed!) and three serious-business (technical fromage terminology) cheese knives:

harrods-cheese-gift-set

The past couple of years I’ve mostly cut dairy out of my diet, but I thought getting this hamper was a perfect excuse to be momentarily adventurous with my cheese eating. A fromagey treat that would make me less scared of wooly looking cheese rounds that smell of feet.

Matteo and I headed to our local cheese monger (do you remember I.J. Mellis on Victoria St?) so that we could choose some cheeses that would show proper respect to the Harrods’ hamper.

i-j-mellis-cheese

It’s a lovely cool, bitty shop stacked full of cheese wheels. If I were a mouse, this is what heaven would look like:

edinburgh-cheese

From a previous stop to the cheese monger (I love that people still monger here!), we know we aren’t up to the task for enjoying kick-in-the-teeth pungent cheese. We looked for smoked cheeses or cheddars and kept it all Scottish. I wish I were brave enough to say we tried this Dorstone, but it’s the stuff of (cheese) nightmares in my book:

dorstone-cheese   

harrods-cheese

Instead we ended up with four wedges of fairly safe but incredibly tasty cheeses: a Scottish brie, Auld Reekie (yes, named for Edinburgh and indeed reekie), Orkney Grimbister that was a bit like Wensleydale (cheese, Grommit, cheese!) and my favourite, a smokey mature yellow cheese called Old Lochnagar.

Matt and I packed up our hamper and fancy cheese and headed to the Meadows for a wee picnic with friends:

picnic-meadoes

I felt rather unsophisticated as I didn’t know which knife to use for what and I ended up using the cheese scoop for our onion relish, but in the end it was all delicious.

cheese-knives

Might I recommend the Ornkey Grimbister and red onion relish on top of a dense olive oil cracker? Deeelicious!

cheese-pickle

We also had these olives to go with our cheese chomping. They are the closest thing that I’ve tasted since those beautiful olives we had in Italy last year (my, that does sound pretentious doesn’t it? I feel the cheese knives would approve).

harrods-olives

Because we won’t be eating much cheese here in the future (back to no dairy again once I finish that Old Lochnagar wedge sitting in the fridge), the cheese knives are coming home with me in August to be christened by you and Troy in your new house!

I’ve also googled cheese knives and can now instruct you that the cheese cleaver will be best for your mature cheddar predilections. So be ready in August with a mound of cheese. I can’t wait to eat some olives and cheddar with you on YOUR deck in YOUR house! Please, please, please take lots of pics — yes even ones full of moving boxes. I feel heart broken not being there with you — and not all the fancy cheese in the world can make up for that!

Love you like onion relish loves Wenslydale,

Lar

*p.s. Dear readers, this is not a sponsored post, but I was gifted the lovely hamper basket by a PR firm that works with Harrods. If you do like these hamper posts, I received a girly non-cheese hamper last year which you can read about here.


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Short and Sweet Sunday

marys-milk-bar

Dear Cath,

Some weekends in Edinburgh are perfect. The sun shines for some of the day and the clouds scuttle across the sky fast enough to catch glimpses of blue. And some days I don’t have to wear a jacket the entire day, and it even gets warm enough to eat raspberry and strawberry black pepper sorbet outside (with jacket back on, of course)!

Those are the days for strolling around leisurely and gazing up at trees like this one which looks like someone has festooned teeny yellow lanterns all over it’s elegant boughs:

yellow-tree

long-grey-dress

The only thing missing on these glorious weekend days, is you, of course (that’s my looking-for-Cath face in the photo above)!

Love you like strawberry and pepper,

Lar


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Edinburgh Trams

edinburgh-trams-ticket

Dear Cath,

At this moment it is cold and rainy and gray gray gray in Scotland. Not a shocker, I know, but somehow I’m always a bit scandalized at how audaciously un-springlike Edinburgh can be. People were walking around in wellies and thick jackets today. I bet you guys were in skirts (with bare legs! Kilts don’t count) and sleeveless blouses. I can’t imagine Scotland ever encouraging bare legs and bare arms At The Same Time!

And because Matteo is away, and my mug o tea isn’t being chatty, I’m writing you a blog post/letter. Twice in one week! And as promised: TRAMS.

edinburgh-tram-westend

When was it that we first got so excited about public transport? Was it growing up in Maryland and taking the Metro into D.C. — the place that meant free, cavernous museums and dim sum in China Town? Or was it moving to Atlanta and being able to hop on MARTA a few minutes after getting off a flight (or maybe the way it garbled voice announces “Agnes Scott College” when you pull into the Decatur station)?

I feel like I remember the subterranean transport of NYC, Barcelona and Paris more than any of the major land marks. And still one of my favorite memories from Atlanta is going on the Beltline tour so many years ago (remember this post?).

Getting to know a city’s public transport system(s) has got to be one of the best ways to get to know a city. It’s not a dainty, whimpy how d’ya do handshake, it’s a bear hug that sometimes smells of stale air and looks a little dingy in corners and rumpled around the edges. But the bear hug means you are more than passing acquaintances. You’re free to learn the ins and outs of a place, not just skim the touristy surface. You get to see the good, the bad and the interesting.

edinburgh-transport

Edinburgh is such a compact city and has a pretty darned good public bus system. The bus I take to work across town practically drops me door to door and comes by every 8-11 minutes. The buses are usually clean and drivers friendly. After figuring out the bus system when we first moved here, I was surprised that the city wanted to put in trams. But too much public transport is like too much chocolate cake, so I thought huzzah!

Lucky for Matt and I, we moved to Edinburgh just at the tale-end of all the hullabaloo about the tram works that were incredibly disruptive to local businesses/storefronts. And to add insult to injury, the project is massively over budget, two years over due and only goes to about a third of the locations promised. Trams are a touchy subject in these parts, to say the least.

(There’s a clever public transport prankster going around and changing all the official tram logos to be more “honest”).

But even with all that, there was a palpable (palpable, I tell ya) excitement in the air this past Saturday when the trams officially opened to the public. I woke Matt up early so we could go ride them (I dangled the promise of cups of strong coffee to get him out of the house — though I think he’s quite a public transport fanatic himself, just more of an afternoon fanatic than a first-thing-in-the-morning fanatic).

The trams were smooth. They were quiet. They were heavenly!

Edinburgh-trams-first-day

Edinburgh-trams-inside

I’m not sure if I ever held double-decker buses in any sort of romantic light (I must have done, being an anglophile and whatnot) — but I so wish I could swap my bus ride to work every day with a tram ride. As the trams don’t go all the way down to the Shore like they were supposed to, it’s not worth switching up my route. Oh but that it were!

edinburgh-trams

I can’t wait to hear about the Atlanta street car! I have a romantic view of street cars too (not so much Tennessee Williams, but Judy Garland).

I know you are so busy (you’re buying a house, you’re buying a house, YOU’RE BUYING A HOUSE!!!) so don’t worry about writing back. I just will pepper you with mildly tedious photos of my going-ons so you feel like you are in Edinburgh with me. And I will imagine myself packing boxes and nesting with you!

Love you like cities and public transport,

Lar


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Calton Hill

calton-hill-1

little-white-dress

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calton-hill-2

calton-hill-observatory edinburgh-calton-hill

Dear Cath,

It was sunny yesterday! And it was warm enough to not wear a jacket (some of the time). And it was a Saturday so we got to wiggle our toes in the sun instead of wiggling our fingers by the glow of the computer. AND it was the first day of the Edinburgh trams (public transport post to come soon — exciting!). It was almost too much for one day: like eating an entire cake and washing it down with a milk shake with a side of french fries.

Do you know what the icing was to my chocolate cake? A new dress. I’ve never been one for wearing white — at least I can’t usually do it confidently without flenching at all foods on the way from plate to mouth or sit on anything convenient like a bench or stone wall. But a little white dress is so tempting when the blossoms are nodding their head in encouragement and the sun is beaming down at you. A little black dress just doesn’t feel like it does justice to such supportive spring-time offerings. So I bucked up the courage, bought this mini from H&M (sadly, not the Conscious Collection) and even sat on some outdoor stone steps … with impunity.

——-

Have you ever been up Calton Hill? I don’t remember ever going as students. Matt and I rarely go as it’s across town for us, but what a lovely place. Gorgeous views of town after just five minutes of huffing and puffing up a hill (rather than the 30 up Arthur’s Seat). There was an artist up there doing watercolours and tourists taking selfies. And the most exciting thing of all, the Collective. It’s an art collective that is turning all the observatory space into exhibition space that’s free and open to the public.

Art for all, gorgeous views, a wee snack bar that sells home made goodies: Calton Hill is my new favourite daytime Edinburgh haunt.

Oh also, apologies for the rough scribbles on the photos. I’m trying out the drawing tablet Chris got me for Christmas. It’s way harder than Garance Doré makes it look.

This week will be a long one because Matt’s away for a conference. Want to skype during the week?! I’ll probably blog more too so I can distract myself from missing him (while he eats his way through all of the chocolate in Belgium-nomnomnom). More importantly, as a dedicated public administrator of urban spaces, I feel it’s my duty to give you a more detailed account of Edinburgh’s trams.

Love you like lace loves white,

Lar

 


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