Sunday, May 29, 2011

UEFA in London

London has been an even more excitable city this past week being the host of the UEFA Championship matches. Hyde Park hosted an 8 day free festival with a variety of events. The most important was getting your picture taken with the cup.

Here I am with the Women's cup.

Then, we turned the corner and saw the men's cup! The line was pretty long and I made a B-line to it. Hubby looked at me and said, "Are you serious? This line must be an hour long! Are you really going to wait?" All I said was, "Yes." So he disappeared for a while and brought me back a bottle of water. I was still only 1/2 way there, so he disappeared again until I texted him that I was next and to rush back over.

I got into position and he went to take my picture. The nice woman there said, "How about both of you. A family picture." Hubby responded with, "No thanks. Just her." I had to laugh! They were honestly surprised that he did not care.

The men's cup!

Tickets for the men's game Saturday were impossible to get. It was reported here that some people paid up to £3,500 for some tickets. That's about $7,700 (approximately). For ONE ticket! I opted for the £5 tickets to the women's game. And they did not disappoint. It was a French team vs. a German team. France one 2-0 and was interesting the entire time. It was hosted in Fulham and lots of locals were disappointed they did not work harder to promote the game. Fulham has a really neat old stadium. I will return for more matches there. I'm sure they will not cost £5 however.

Saturday came around and all I could think about is: Where are we going to watch the men's game? We're walking through The British Museum and I am hardly looking around because I'm too busy searching for pubs that have TV's and Sky Sports. Over two hours before the game even started, I said, "We have to find a place NOW." Once again, hubby thought I'm crazy.

We walked by and stuck our heads in several pubs. We finally settled on one and even got a table! I came prepared with two games in my bag. We ordered 2 pints and started playing card games.

When hubby went to get the 2nd round and order dinner, he came back and said, "I don't know how to tell you this, but the kitchen is closed and all they have are nuts and crisps." I looked at him like he had 3 heads and said, "That won't work. We need food. Let me look for a place." So I looked on my phone and headed out. I came back a bit later with Subway! I haven't had that in so long and it was delicious. Made me think of all my old coworkers back in California. We were obsessed with eating there! Not a bad place to frequent.

So we watched Machester United lose. :( Oh well, we were surrounded by about 30 people in this small room upstairs above the bar and more people down below. What a fun night in the streets - before the match. Pretty much went directly to bed after the match! It was a long day.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Place of Yes...

My Place of Yes - thanks Bethenny, lead me to an amazing adventure on a motor scooter with a private tour of London's best shopping & dining! This is how it all began:

I decided I would try again today to get set up with a SIM only card on my shitty unlocked G1 phone until we can get properly set up with mobile phones and broadband at home. T-mobile & Vodofone don't open on Mondays until 9:30am, however CarPhoneWarehouse opened at 9am. They are like a broker for all the different brands.

While waiting on help there, I bonded with a woman over our love/hate relationship with phones & technology. I advised her to stick with an Android device, but for her sanity on battery life avoid the HTC devices. I absolutely love their overlay and I put up with carrying a charger around with me because I loved it so much, but it's just not practical. I wished her luck and went to Vodofone to get my SIM card.

Upon checking out in Vodofone, there she was again! We started chatting and she clearly knew I'm from America because of my accent. She went to school in the states and I told her I arrived in London 3 weeks ago and I'm here for one year. It's been very difficult getting set up with everything and she felt my pain. Then, Emma, invited me to coffee! I of course said yes, and it was fantastic.

Thank goodness I had my notebook with me today because she gave me the BEST run down of all the fantastic shopping all over London and the most amazing places to eat. I took notes with such passion trying to get all the street names and all the details she rattled off! An hour and a half went by so quickly.

She was so overjoyed about some of these areas, she insisted on showing them to me personally! At that very moment! She did not need to be at work until 2 and her little motor scooter was just nearby!

If you know me at all, the only mode of transportation I have been in besides the usual car, bus, train, plane etc. is my bicycle. My self-powered bicycle. I grew up in the country of Southern Illinois and had many girlfriends that had older brothers with 3 wheelers and 4 wheelers. I turned down countless offers for rides. I just didn't trust any of them and I knew they just wanted to show off. I did not want to end up dead. However, I said yes today and for the next two hours Emma took me ALL OVER London on her motor scooter! It was absolutely fantastic!

It was an experience of a lifetime. I wish I had photos, but honestly, I was holding on those "oh shit" bars on the side the entire time! I do have the helmet hair to prove it though. We exchanged contact information and I hope to treat her for dinner at one of her fab recommendations soon! It's good to say yes!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A wedding, a move premier & everything fancy - Oh my!

London is amazing in many ways. We've been here 2.5 weeks now and it's a roller coaster ride for sure. I've had the good fortune of being here at one of the most exciting times in my generation: The Royal Wedding of Will & Kate. Or should I now call them the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge!

So last Friday hubby and I head out to meet up with our friends to get a seat along The Mall area somewhere for the parade route. I was skeptical because the crowd they were predicting was massive. I didn't want to get in the middle of a riot. Well, now I know better. Everyone was so polite and nice. Not a lot of shoving or yelling. It was totally foreign to me! And when people in front of us got up on someones shoulders, other people behind us said, "Hey - please get down. We can't see from back here." And they did! No yelling, no complaining, no fights. I was amazed.

Aside from the shock of the tone of the crowd, we were in a pretty good spot and got some OK photos. My friend, on top of her husband's shoulders got some GREAT shots, but mine were just ok.

The Queen!

Then, just by luck, the opened the gates and we got to walk down The Mall and into the circle in front of Buckingham Palace to watch the balcony appearance. I was simply amazed at how close we actually got!

2nd Balcony Kiss

Just when I thought things in London couldn't get any better: the London red carpet & premier of Water for Elephants was yesterday. I messaged two friends about going and neither of them could make it. The thought actually crossed my mind that I would just stay at home. But then I decided to say yes, I will go - alone. Then the thoughts came into my head, what if I can't get in? What if it's full? How long have people been waiting? We stood on our feet for HOURS for the wedding. Was it even worth my going?

Well, I went anyway. It was a long tube ride followed by not having any idea where I was going. I arrived about 2 hours early and one section was already full. But not all of them were and I got in the 2nd row! Oh, and I made some new friends too! At first I stood there with my kindle reading some book. But then I thought to myself, we're all here because we loved the book, or is it because we love Robert Pattinson? Hm. Well, regardless we all have the same opinion on something, so maybe I should put the kindle down and start talking with the other women around me. And it paid off!

Here we are waiting for the red carpet appearances to start:

And my trip was completely worth it. I'll let my photo speak for themselves! Enjoy!

The dashing Robert Pattinson

The beautiful Reese Witherspoon

The brilliant Christoph Waltz

As you can see, I'm glad I listened to myself, got off my sofa and went. It was fantastic and I made some new London friends! I don't think I can top the last 5 days! But I have many weeks to at least try!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A hop, skip & a jump across The Pond

We've been in London just over 1 week now. We really brought the California weather with us - it's been absolutely beautiful so far with only one rain shower and that one had lightning & thunder - something we don't get in California that much. It was delightful, but only because we were at home relaxing and not out and about.

Here are my observations & what I've learned so far:
- Service at restaurants & pubs is very different. You have to know what you want and do most of the legwork. That being said, people don't work for tips here.
- The price is the price. Tax is already included!
- Women dress like they are stuck in the 80's. Sometimes in the worst of the 80's or slutty. I haven't seen a whole lot in between yet.
- I saw 26 flats before selecting the one for us. I am very happy with our selection.
- We can't get the keys to our flat until the landlord has 6 weeks worth of deposit and the first months rent.
- You can't get a bank account until you have a local address. Or at least, that's the easiest way to get one.
- A wire transfer from our US account would take a week to clear because of all the holidays we're celebrating right now.
- You can't get a mobile phone until you have a local bank's debit card.
- You can't get internet without a land line.
- Google Maps on my phone now cashes the tiles, so even though I do not have a mobile here yet, I can cash the maps and still get help to make my way around and feel secure while I'm alone running around.
- UK TV is awesome! Tons of nudity on over the air TV, not cable! Vogue UK even shows nipple!
- Men take their shirts off in the parks here. EW!
- The London tube system is very organized.
- Real Ale beers are amazing!
- Plugging your laptop into the 110v "Shavers only" plug in the bathroom will charge your laptop. Once. And then the plug doesn't work any more.
- You can't blow dry your hair the bathrooms here! With the voltage being 220, it's too dangerous to have something plugged in that could fall into water.
- Instant boiler kettles are my new best friend.

We have yet to really go sightseeing yet. We're waiting for our friends & family to visit so we can go with you! Up until now, we've been exploring a lot of the neighborhoods to help us get a good frame of reference for a place to live and also understanding when we here about places, what that means in terms of location, look & feel.

It's time to gear up for the Royal Wedding! The decorations & barricades are going up all over the city. It's a fantastic time to be in London. You can feel the excitement in the air.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My sneeze just scared me!

I am sitting on the floor of my living room with my MacBook Air, Kindle, purse and 4 suitcases. Everything else we own is now on a truck to some location for either storage or shipping. And I keep thinking of things I forgot to pull out to take - like my homemade cookbook with all my favorite recipes (sorry, "favourite" recipes), the case for my laptop, the latest issue of Vogue I haven't read yet and I'm sure I'll think of something else.

My butt hurts from sitting on the floor and I just sneezed, which echoed and just scared me that someone was at the door - probably another Jehovah's Witness trying to get me to go to some event next week. No thank you.

I remember this same situation almost 5 years ago, on a different laptop, with no internet or smartphone (I had the Motorola Razor - black!) with a sore butt waiting for the movers to arrive with the very little furniture we moved here.

So much changes in 5 years, yet nothing at all. Life is what you make of it and the next chapter is going to be amazing! I can't wait hubby! Watch out London - here we come!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Esterlinderball no longer has weekends

Yesterday was my last day of work at D2M. It was happy and sad. I worked side by side with Andy for almost 5 years. I decided to leave because my husband was invited to be the next Ambassador on his team to represent the Mountain View office in London for one year. He had similar opportunities in the past, but either the project wasn't interesting or the country wasn't interesting.

One weekend in February we were very absolute in deciding we would no longer pursue these types of opportunities. We love our life here and this is where we should be. The next day I'm going through my usual Monday morning tasks, have lunch with coworkers and then as I'm prepping the last bits for our weekly staff meeting, I get a message, "so someone from the london office just stopped by my desk and asked if i wanted to do 6 months there...starting in joke...but i'm really not sure what to do now." I was in shock.

Hubby and I ran together that night and talked it over the entire run. It all came down to this: we will never regret going, but we will always regret if we stayed. It was finally the right project for him and the right city for us. So we decided then and there we would move to London. The next several weeks were many roller coasters of emotions: excitement, fear, abandonment, nervous etc. and about everything: leaving my amazing boss, moving out of our great Eichler place, not working for 6 months and moving to a new city where I know no one. But then I remember that I've done this all before.

Five years ago Hubby and I moved to California together from St. Louis. All within a few months we moved, got married, made new friends and I got a job. So we own more things now, Ok. So we have a lot of friends here now, Ok. So London is huge compared to Palo Alto, Ok. Well, I've done this before and people do it all the time. I am fortunate that Hubby's work is so amazing that they literally have a team of people that relocate families all the time and all over the globe. I don't need to be an expert in this, I just need to go with the flow and provide the information they need. Excellent!

So 6 months turned into 1 year. It works for a variety of reasons, but we decided we should do the 1 year option because 6 months just doesn't give us enough time. It's not enough time for him to be fully integrated with his team, it doesn't give us enough time to travel all over Europe and it doesn't give us enough time to enjoy the experience at a leisurely pace. We'd be so rushed in 6 months.

April 14th had a special meaning to us in 2006 because that's when we moved to California. Now that same date in 2011 will not be know as our 5 year anniversary in California, but the date we moved to London! It's amazing how things work out when you have the patience to let all the layers unfold. We joked back in February when we thought we were leaving in March and said, "How funny would it be if to get through this process, the move dated changed to April 14th! and then it did. :)

The dream is now a reality and I cannot wait to see where this ride takes us.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Training Update : Half Marathon

It's Cinco de Mayo and we have a BBQ at work. The food is delicious and the margaritas pack a punch! My co-worker, Margaret, is a big supporter of my running.

Over lunch Margaret asks if anyone would like to join her this fall for the San Jose Rock 'n Role Half Marathon. I respond yes! At this time, I was running about 2.5 - 3 miles about 3 times a week. I also didn't believe her when she said, "If you can run 1 mile, you can run 2. If you can run 3 miles, you can run 6." But my runs were getting stale and I wanted to push my mileage and try and be a real runner! So I convinced hubby to sign up with me. This gives us a good challenge and we have plenty of time to get up our mileage.

I had a great routes planned that were 6.67 miles, 8 miles, 10 miles and 12 miles. I thought this was nuts! I was amazed at how well my body and my mind responded to adding mileage. It took time, but I made a running calendar and I carried it around with me everywhere I went. Nutrition was also big on my mind. What will maximize my fuel for tomorrow and then help me recover after the run.

We did our long runs on Saturday mornings. Most of the time we ran in the evenings after work, but the race starts at 8am and we need to be mentally, physically and nutritionally prepared for that. I could wake up and run 6.67 miles on an empty stomach no problem. However, things changed for me at 8 miles. I now had to set my alarm clock for 6am on a Saturday just to wake up early enough to eat something to then let it settle for 2 hours and THEN run! That was just the strangest thing for me.

My mom came in town the weekend of the race to be our cheerleader! It was really super to have her around. Hubby and I set two very simple goals for this race: finish & have fun!

Let me tell you, the finishing part was simpler than the fun part. We decided to run 12 miles together and then duke it out in the last mile. All of the practice runs went very well for me. I had descent times and felt great. Race day was different. Call it nerves or excitement, but I lost track of my breathing. I had side stitches by the 2nd mile and around mile 5 my shoulders started to hurt. It took all my focus in the world to breath out the side stitches and lower my shoulders. I did not stop!

By mile 9, the bottom of my feet started to hurt. Never change your shoes 3 weeks before the race - no matter how many miles you put on them before hand. Hubby kissed me goodbye at mile marker 12 and said, I'll see you at the finish and took off! I was doing my best just to keep pace. Well, splitting up only lasted 30 seconds before we joined up again. Hubby said, "We did all of this training together, how could we not finish together?" And we did. My secret goal for time was 2 hours and 30 minutes...

We crossed the finish line together at 2:30:18.

Margaret was unable to do this half marathon with us, however she did the Silicon Valley half marathon two weeks later and she had a finish time of 2:30!

Training Update : Skyline to Sea hike

Yes, it's been a while since I wrote anything. 2010 had some overwhelming moments and when life goes into super drive, I sometimes just need to take it easy on what I can. However, I committed to training for the Skyline to Sea backpack trip and to run the San Jose half marathon. I completed both and surprised myself with the results.

Turns out, I love backpacking! I was totally afraid at first of carrying 25lbs on my back for 3 days, hiking 30 miles in total, but I was not going to back down! Hubby and I prepared the food for the team.

The car shuffle took a while longer than expected, so we got a late start and were only allowed to go 2.5 miles in at Castle Rock State Park to the first camp site. This now changes everything we planned. Instead of breaking up the mileage in descent sized chunks, we now needed to this:

Day 1: 2 miles
Day 2: 17 miles
Day 3: 10 miles

I thought it was going to be horrible. Especially doing 17 miles the 2nd day! That's about the same distance as Half Dome we did last year and I couldn't hardly walk the next day, let alone put a backpack on! I'm worried. Turns out I'm in much better shape than I was when we did Half Dome. Plus, this was a totally different hike. Don't be fooled: this hike is NOT all downhill.

The best part about the 17 miles is when you arrive at Big Basin. We are sweaty and disgusting and dirty. Everyone else just drove there and did a tiny day hike around. We did evil laughs and went into their amazing convenient store and got ice cream & beer!!!! I remember being so giddy after 1 beer. Hubby looked at me and said, "Oh hell no! You need to drink more water!"

Day 3 was easy! I was in "Mission Mode". I wanted to get my feet in that Pacific Ocean so fast our team mates actually called me a "Machine"! ME? I couldn't believe it. What was I so afraid of in the beginning? Whatever it was, those fears I no longer carry with me.