Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
I’m writing this post from seat 41C on BA 285 to
That said, the 7am minicab ride to the airport was killer; it took 2 hours to get to LHR this morning due to the rain and traffic. Next time I will leave on an afternoon flight and take the Piccadilly line to the airport. Aside from this, my last weekend in
Saturday evening Keenan’s Dad arrived from
Well, this is the end of my winter break. Good fun! We hosted four visitors, saw two new cities (
Friday, January 16, 2009
Afterwards, I hustled over to the California House to meet with Matthew Daines and some fellow UC alumni to plan social events for UC alumni residing in Greater London. Many of you know that I am a runner. Each year the California House participates in the British 10K Run as a fundraiser for a scholarship fund to bring UC students to the UK. Expressing my interest in the 10K run, I somehow got wheeled into coordinating the event in July. No big deal. After coordinating the IASTE conference, this sounds like a piece of cake. Anyone interested, please feel contact me! I’m actually excited, as I haven’t ran in a race in two years. Then I tubed over the Waterloo to have drinks with Keenan’s new friends that he met at the annual Thanksgiving Dinner.
New Friends in London:
It also turns out that my friend Howard, whom I met through my college roommate is in town on a month-long business trip. I haven’t seen him in five years; he was living in
On Thursday, Erin made her way to Clapham and we ventured to
Good friends lunching at Bierodrome (Belgian) in Clapham:
Walking near Liverpool Street:
Dinner of "curry" on Brick Lane:
Monday, January 12, 2009
Keenan returned to work on Monday, and to keep myself entertained, I’ve been visiting London’s many splendid museums (which are free by the way). Tuesday I found myself at the impressive National Gallery at Trafalgar Square, home to more than 2,000 Western European paintings starting from the 1500s. Since I recently visited the El Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, I skipped the Renaissance paintings and focused on the 19th-20th century paintings of Monet, Van Gogh, and Renoir, aka the Impressionist Movement. It’s a wonderful museum, so definitely stop by for an afternoon while you are in the area.
National Gallery on a cold London afternoon:
This week my friend Erin from grad school is in town. Since this is her first trip to London, we did some leisurely sightseeing along the South Bank, starting at the Millennium Bridge to the London Eye to Westminister/Big Ben, and then we stopped off at the Tate Modern on our way back to the London Bridge Tube Station. The Tate Modern is housed in a former power station on Bank side of the River Thames. Across the museum is the beautiful St. Paul's Cathedral. For all you modern art lovers, the Tate Modern is a must.
Walk along the Southbank, London Eye, Big Ben, and the River Thames (gorgeous!):
The next day we met up in South Kensington to visit the Victoria & Albert Museum, another excellent museum. Entering through the main entrance, you'll see Chihuly's beautiful chandelier hanging from the V&A's main dome. I missed the Chihuly Exhibition at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco over the summer -- we were tied up with moving, getting married, and classes, but glad to see his art in person. I particularly enjoyed the Cold War Modern Design: 1945 -1970, which War – very interesting! The exhibition closed yesterday – very glad that we explores the developments in art, design, architecture, and film during the Cold were able to see it. One more museum on my hit list, the British Museum, and a return visit to the Tate Modern on the weekend (it's open till 10PM on Friday and Saturday).
Saturday morning Keenan and I went to explore the neighborhood of Notting Hill, a fashionable area with pretty white Victorian rowhouses. Of course, everyone knows Notting Hill as the set location of the 1999 film with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, and home to the famous Portobello Market. It would have been lovely except it was freezing cold!! Keenan and I had to cut our stroll short and hide out at a local pub while our fingers thawed. We’ll be sure to visit Portobello Market when the weather is um…a bit warmer. I have the say, the weather in London is fickle-- it literally changes by the hour. No joke. The other morning, we woke up to snow flurries and then an hour later it was bright and sunny, albeit cold. Later on in the evening, we met up with a group of American ex-pats at Gordon's Wine Bar on the Embankment. Small, underground wine bar, and always packed! Good times!
Lovely Notting Hill and World War II masks on Portobello Rd. for the history buff:
Sunday our friend Jan invited us over for brunch at his flat in Covent Garden. You have to love the Europeans -- they sure know how to enjoy life. We ended up having a 5 hour "brunch" complete with polenta w/sausage, dessert, tea, and lots of wine. It was the perfect Sunday afternoon, and all his friends are wonderful. Many of them just returned from their holiday travels in Australia, Israel, and Switzerland. The Brits and the Europeans travel a lot! They use their 26 vacation days to the fullest, and weekends too! "Hey Keenan, how about a weekend at the Swiss ski-resort Davos in February?" Pleasure to meet everyone!
We're excited that Europe is our backyard -- just a hop, skip, and jump and you can find yourself in Italy, Croatia, Sweden, Russia, Turkey. We love to travel and we love food and wine. So over the weekend, we picked up several Lonely Planet guidebooks and launched into planning weekend excursions and long holidays. I'll be back in London over spring break and we're taking a long weekend to the Moroccan city of Marrakesh and the High Atlas Mts. We couldn't refuse RT between LGA-Marrakesh for GBP80 per person! That doesn't take me from San Francisco to Los Angeles back home.
All in all, it has been a good week exploring new neighborhoods, hosting visitors, and meeting new friends! This is my last full week in London before returning to Berkeley on Monday, and I plan on making the best of it. My father-in-law is stopping through London on his way home from India; it'll be good to see family!
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Here's his latest reviews, taken from his Facebook page:
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
"Basically an allegorical tale of the narrator's tumultuous relationship with
Further to this last point, I don’t think it is a coincidence that Hamid chose the name “Changez” (the Urdu form of Genghis) for our protagonist, as it can also be mispronounced or interpreted as “changes”, reflecting an ongoing process of development and devolution, or perhaps evolution, into another state of mind and frame of reference.
Overall, this is a strong book and was worthy of its consideration for the Man Booker. I would highly recommend it to anyone with a mild curiosity in it."
Gregory David Roberts
"At times self-aggrandizing and unbelievable and with prose and style that isn't anything worth clamouring over, this is a good novel overall, an interesting plot and a quick and easy read, despite coming in at just over 900 pages.
My main criticism is that Roberts demonstrates throughout the novel that he is capable of a higher writing form, but he usually devolved back into a style that I found hurried, untimely, and sometimes sloppy. Too many plot twists were conveniently placed and predictable. Some of the characters were simply flat with more emphasis on their physical descriptions rather than in the development of their personality and human traits.
Also, scattered with references to what I perceived as popular lollipop philosophy, Roberts does not do a great job of building and supporting his characters' philosophical assumptions on life, something the reader is bombarded with again and again. If this was a primary goal of the book then he would have done well to construct a more thorough and well-thought philosophy. Indeed he could have accomplished this as he certainly didn't seem concerned with the length of the book. Further to this last point, even though the read goes quickly, it was too long and redundant with repetitive sub-plots which only added marginal value to the overall work.If there is a modest curiousity in this book then I would recommend it. Rumor has it that this is one of a possible 3 or 4 part series. If this is true then I am not convinced that I could commit myself to reading future installments unless Roberts mixes it up a bit and attempts to challenge his readership a bit more than he has with this first publication."
Monday, January 05, 2009
Location: IKEA Wembley (North London)
Direction: From Clapham Commons, take Northern Line to Elephant & Castle, transfer to Bakerloo Line to Stonebridge Park, then wait for the IKEA shuttle bus.
Travel time: 60 minutes one-way
Items to bring: oversized suitcase, credit card, Ipod, The Economist, lots of patience, muscles to lift 21kg (46lbs), warm clothes, and sturdy walking shoes.
Items purchased: New Dining set (46 lbs), two chairs (8lbs each), rug, misc. items (light bulbs, extension cord, etc.)
Results: New dining set!
The trek to IKEA from Clapham was a pain in the @$$! It wasn't like back home where I would hop in the car and drive to IKEA Emeryville. Imagine: no car, the Tube, at least 4-6 sets of stairs, and then carrying a 45 lbs box home from Clapham Commons (our luck, there was no black cabs out). Not so fun, right? We wanted to get a new dining set and a few rugs for the living room and bedroom, as our flat has hardwood floors. We were tired of eating off the coffee table. We did it back in Berkeley b/c we wanted to watch TV while we ate, but we have no TV here in London. And, honestly, we don't miss the "tellie."
It took almost an hour to get to IKEA Wembley on the Tube. Once you get to Stonebridge Park, a free IKEA shuttle runs every half hour to take you to the warehouse. If you plan on making a trip to IKEA, plan on a good half day, which includes transit time and browsing time. Keenan and I debated whether or not we should rent a car, but neither of us were ready to drive in the U.K. -- they drive on the opposite side. Renting a car would have probably been a huge hassle anyways, plus the IKEA parking lot was madness. We decided to brave it on the Tube and bought along a huge suitcase to carry misc. items. I don't know how we managed, but we made it home okay without breaking our backs!
We re-arranged our living room-- it more cozy now. We moved the love seat over by the window and got a new area rug for the living room.
New dining table - it expands to seat 4. I still have my beloved hutch from my undergraduate days. Look Chi, somehow that bottle of wine (in the blue bottle) made it from your Burlingame apartment, to Berkeley, to London.
Okay, we're ready for dinner guests!
Sunday, January 04, 2009
This weekend Keenan and I enjoyed some excellent, or rather "brilliant”, food on the cheap. Friday evening I met up with Keenan at his work in
Then we headed over Whitechapel (
New Tayaab, 83 Fieldgate, Whitechapel
This restaurant often wins accolades under the “Cheap Eats”. For £17.50, we got an order of Chicken Tikka Kebab, 2 Sheikh Kebabs, Mutton Biryani, and Chicken Kirahi. Very tasty and, boy were we stuffed! It was good -- definitely worth the trip out to the
Saturday morning, we were up bright and early (more like dark and early) to welcome our friends Bharvi and Pratish to
Oh, for all you expats, warning: do not bring electronics to the U.K. Seriously, we destroyed our I-Home, Cuisineart coffeemaker, and our new aerobed (even with the damn converter!). Best to leave your electronics at home in the States (this goes to you too Howard!). I think we might be able to salvage the coffeemaker by replacing the fuse. As for the rest, oh well, live and learn.
With all the visitors coming in the next few weeks and burnt-out aerobed, Keenan and I made a trip to Brixton, a colourful Afro-Caribbean neighborhood about 20 minutes by bus (#35) from Clapham Commons, to pick up a few things at
Franco Manca, 4 Market Row, Brixton
I’ve read some excellent reviews about this Brixton establishment on Harrden’s and other London-based foodie blogs. When we arrived, the line at Franco Manca was out the door and around the corner -- needless to say, this is a popular pizza joint. It did not disappoint – it’s as authentic as it gets for pizza outside of
My next quest is to find a good Vietnamese pho place – the perfect meal for cold
Hope all is well back home. I know many of you are traveling around Central America,
Friday, January 02, 2009
I know many of you have plans to visit
Let’s start with a bit of logistics:
The cheapest way to get to our home is via Tube: Take the Piccadilly Line (dark blue) to
- Travel light, if all possible. Seriously, you don’t want to be lugging heavy suitcases up and down the Tube stations.
- Bring warm clothes to layer. Do not forget scarves, hats, gloves, tights, warm coat and boots! Of course, do bring an umbrella, although it hasn’t rained much since I arrived (knock on wood). It's very cold right now -- around 40F high; and 30F low. Brrrrrr. Dress accordingly.
- Do get an Oyster Card as your major source of transportation is the Tube. When you first get your Oyster card, you will need to pay a refundable £3 deposit if you are only adding cash to pay as you go. Single rides on the Tube within Zone 1-2 is £1.50 (there’s a daily price cap, meaning you'll spend no more than £6 on any given day regardless of how many times you hope on the Tube.)
A pint of Heinken at All Bar One is £2.50; M&S sandwiches are between £2.00 – 3.50; dinner for two at our local Thai restaurant is £35.00 (includes appetizer, three dishes, and a bottle of house wine + tip). It’s not so bad!
- While in the
- Be prepared to walk, walk, walk. Lots of walking in
Some things not to miss while in
- Tate Modern
- Borough Market
- Big Ben + House of Parliament + Abbey
- Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden,
- Oxford Street (shopping, shopping, shopping)
- Shakespeare Globe
Check out some guides for other useful information:
If this is your first trip to
Foodie friends and wine lover should do a trip to
Traveling around Europe from
Okay, I think this is all for now. Please feel free to email us if you have questions or comments. We look forward to hosting you all in
Happy Travels, Lily
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Wishing you peace and happiness for 2009!
Last year Keenan and I spent NYE in Mumbai at the Gate of India, and I remember him saying that 2008 was going to be a great year. Indeed, it was an awesome year for both of us, professionally and personally. We met new friends, reconnected with old friends; got married in October in a beautiful intimate civil ceremony at San Francisco City Hall; and moved across the pond to London. We're looking forward to a new year!
To ring in the new year, (armed with a bottle of Cava) we headed out to Waterloo (south of the River Thames) for a spectacular firework show hosted by the Mayor of London. At the stroke of midnight the Big Ben chimed, followed by 10 minutes of fireworks fired from the iconic London Eye with Parliament and Big Ben as a backdrop. There were a ton of people out despite freezing temperature. We were lucky enough to find seats at the nearby All Bar One at Waterloo station and met a nice Indian/Polish couple.
Rushing through the crowds on the Tube, which was opened until 4:00 am, we made it back to Clapham Common around to 3:00am. We spent a lazy day at home sleeping, eating, and uploading photos from Madrid. It's cold and most Londoners are still recovering from the festivities of last night.
Hope everyone had a fantastic and safe new years celebration. See you all very soon!