Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weekend in London!

E arlier this month we took a weekend to visit some friends in London (and their adorable baby!). We managed to get a decent rate on Lufthansa (I am not interested in flying out of Hahn, plus Lufthansa is so damn pleasant), but they were threatening to strike around the time of our trip. Luckily they didn't (they are still threatening to now, apparently) so everything went pretty smoothly. We didn't even have a typical bad Heathrow experience! Not only that, we had two days of sunshine in London!

London Mar 10

Our friends live in Westminster and on the first afternoon we enjoyed a walk past some cute old buildings near the Abbey then through St. James Park. This was followed by some really incredible Indian food from a place called Hot Stuff. The place only seats 25 people or so and you need a reservation, so we got take out. The owner seemed really personable when we went to pick it up. I don't even remember what we ate, but honestly, I'm not sure it matters - everything we tried was great.

The following day we had Mexican food for lunch at a place called Wahaca near Covent Garden, where I also go to meet up with a friend who recently moved to Oxford and my uncle!! The pork pibil is really excellent, but everything I had was good, especially compared to what we can get here. There was an American sitting at the next table with his (I think) British wife (?). I'm not used to interacting with American strangers so I couldn't believe he was taking an interest in things he was overhearing at our table and striking up a conversation about it. He said he was the head of the Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Oxford, so if you ever meet that guy, you can tell him you know the Americans he was talking to at Wahaca. ;)

After lunch we wandered through CHINATOWN! Always one of my favorite places to end up. My Oxford friend is Chinese and helped us order some bubble tea at a really chaotic little bakery. I haven't had that in ages and it was so good. I kind of wish we had an appetite for some more food in Chinatown, but there are only so many mealtimes! We then proceeded to a pub that my uncle found and liked called Waxy O'Connor's. Unfortunately, when we got there we discovered that children are not allowed even in the dead mid-afternoon hours, so our hosts couldn't bring in their baby. :( Kind of a lame rule, but I guess I'm used to Germany where kids seem to be allowed just about anywhere. So, we split up for a few hours and we checked out the pub and caught up with my uncle and friend. The pub is really cool - it's on at least four levels and kind of on a hill, with entrances near the top and bottom! It's like a cave or maze and definitely worth walking through (if you are without children).

The next day we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum. (If you like quilting there is some seriously cute fabric for sale in their online gift shop right now!!) I love that the London museums are free (donations encouraged!) so there is no pressure to see everything at once. They have a really pretty room at their cafe, too. My favorite area (of what we saw) featured a lot of modern design and reminded me of some of the design areas in the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. We followed it up with a walk around Harrod's department store's food area, which has a Krispy Kreme!! They weren't making fresh donuts at the time but we got a couple anyway.

In the evenings we ate in and hung out at our friends' lovely apartment, which used to be council housing. Apparently the buildings still have a little stigma about them because of this past, which is great for my friends since the apartment is great with two bathrooms and a really nice kitchen and they were able to get it!

For our last lunch in London we walked through Covent Garden and ate at an Indian food chain that I have sadly forgotten the name of. The food wasn't as good as Hot Stuff but it was much better than in Germany, and they served a nice variety of things for a single meal, which is a nice touch.

I can't wait for my next trip there!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Want to see Mannheim?

W hen we first arrived in Heidelberg, we had the distinct impression that Mannheim got no love. People told us it was ugly, that there was nothing worthwhile there, the people have horrible accents, and maybe it was even dangerous. One person told us his wife gave birth in Heidelberg even though they lived in Mannheim, because they didn't want the kid to be marked with Mannheim as his birthplace for the rest of his life. Later, people started to say different things - Mannheim is cheaper than Heidelberg, it's better for shopping than Heidelberg, it has better/more restaurants/clubs/events. I wonder now if at first, people were treating us as tourists when they told us not to go there. As we settled in, they admitted that Mannheim can be pretty important in the life of anyone living in Heidelberg!

Even for a tourist, I think Mannheim has a bit to offer. I guess by German standards it's considered ugly or sketchy or at the very least, not very special. If it were in the US, though, I think we'd call it one of our finer cities. It has a castle - not the most exciting one ever, but of some interest nonetheless, and HUGE! It has pretty churches and nice parks and a few cool landmarks. We've been there many times for various things, but we finally took a weekend last month to actually walk around and play tourist a little bit.

Mannheim Feb 10

We got a perfect, sunny day! Check out the photos to see a few Mannheim landmarks in the sun. I'm not a big shopper but we did take advantage of Mannheim's other big draw: food! I read on Toytown that there is dim sum in Mannheim at a place called Pavillon, so we went to check it out. It wasn't the best dim sum you could have, but it's the only thing I've seen nearby other than in the frozen section at the Asian shop, and it works in a pinch! Which we are in!
Then we went to the Turkish area and had treats at Taksim (see photos). So delicious. We wanted to save room for one of the awesome doener you can get over there, too, but in the end we had already eaten too much! So, just another excuse to go back to Mannheim soon. (Maybe tomorrow?) We also have been told there's a pretty wicked sunset along the Rhine, with the giant industrial complex of BASF in the foreground, and want to check that out!

Coming soon: We also went to London recently! (And again food was a highlight!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Düsseldorf and Yeasayer

L ast month a friend of mine needed to make a trip to Düsseldorf to get a UK visa. It's three hours by train, which is a bit of a drag, so I took a day off to go with her and check out the town. (City. I guess it's kind of big.) I love that I have enough vacation time that it's possible to just do something like this! We didn't really have a lot of time there, and it was Ash Wednesday, right after the biggest party of the year - so it was very quiet and a bit messy. But, it was still nice to have a look at a town I might not otherwise get around to seeing.
Duesseldorf Feb 17
We walked by the canal-lined shopping street and to the center of town, marked by one block with an old Rathaus and tower and the riverfront. It looked like there was a huge Wiese on the other side of the Rhine which would be so nice in the summer! I was also impressed by how many Korean restaurants I saw. Heidelberg only has one, but I saw four or five just in a short walk around central Düsseldorf. We ate at one called Shilla. It was not bad, but the funniest part was that my friend ordered bibimbap, which you are supposed to stir after you get it. She didn't want to stir it and started eating it as it was. This so disturbed one of the older ladies working there that she came over to our table, took my friend's dish from her, and stirred it up herself!! The culinary adventure continued later when we discovered a Dunkin Donuts while waiting for the train. For some reason, they only seem to have branches in the northern parts of Germany. Our former home, Boston, has a Dunkin on every block, so I brought some home for my husband. I noticed they had a lot of really bizarre new flavors I never heard of, with ginger, peppercorns sprinkled on them, etc. Is this Germany only or in the US too?


Unrelatedly, I finally got my hands on the new Yeasayer album. (No thanks to EMusic Europe and Secretly Canadian, who apparently are not friends. So few labels are giving EMusic any love over here... come on guys, how about making it easy for me to pay for your music?) I am really amazed at how different it is from their previous album. Both sound like things I would listen to, but for completely different reasons. Even more oddly, the new album sounds more like how the band described themselves in old interviews from the time of the first album, so maybe this is closer to where they actually wanted to be in the first place. Do these sound like the same band to you?

Old Yeasayer:

#87.1 - YEASAYER - No need to worry / Redcave
Hochgeladen von lablogotheque. - Entdecke weitere Musik Videos.

New Yeasayer:

"O.N.E." by Yeasayer from Secretly Jag on Vimeo.

Also, I have googled all over to try to find out what is up with the big game on the Sephiroth thing that is going on in the second video. Maybe nothing is up with it and the directors just thought it looked cool. Anyway, I couldn't find anyone talking about it. So if you googled your way here because you're also wondering that, let me know if you figure it out. ;)


Wednesday, March 03, 2010



I found this draft that I forgot to finish up last month. It posted with a backdate, so I don't know if anyone will see it! So, here's the link.

It's sunny here today!!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Weave the fancy

A friend of mine visited Japan recently for a conference. She asked me what I wanted her to bring back and I asked for something with some goofy English on it. I got a little wrapped cake which says:

"The spirit of OKASHI. It is what gives a peaceful and pleasant mind to the human race. All the time, man seeks romance in the OKASHI. We have been working hard and carefully, and work on. To weave the romance and the fancy into each OKASHI. This, at last, we have made up "The HAKATA SEIYO-WAGASHI." If you taste the feeling and the spirit of the OKASHI which value tradition and living in the times, there is no pleasure better than it."

I love the drama. (Okashi is a word for snack, according to a Google search.) I'm disappointed to say the snack didn't change my life as I expected from the buildup, but it was pretty alright.