DC Return Trip

I was back in the States last week for the first time since moving to London three months ago.  I was in both DC and St. Paul/Minneapolis for work, and it was really good to be back and see colleagues, take care of work stuff, catch up with friends and enjoy some American/DC things.  It was a really good trip, yet it also cemented for me how happy I am to be living in London.

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It was a little surreal to be back at first, and quickly felt almost like I had never left, as I became immersed in work stuff and returned to my old routines from living in DC for five years.  At times, the fact that I actually live in London seemed almost unreal, like a dream.  I am grateful already for the experiences I’ve had so far living abroad, and already know that it has changed me.

But putting aside the introspective stuff, I had to enjoy some favorite little things while back in the States.  First up was a venti iced coffee (2 pumps classic and soy).  Like heaven.  London does not do iced coffee well, and iced Americanos are not the same.  Enjoyed in Union Station on my way to the office.  I don’t know who Kay is.IMG_6512

Later, a salad as big as my head from Chop’t, sitting in my office.  It was so nice to be back in an office, which may shock people who long to get away from their desks, but I really missed having an office environment to work in.IMG_6515

I went to SoulCycle!  It was amazing.  Hands down the best spin class I have ever attended.  The first class was $20 with free shoe rental.  Everything about this class was awesome: the quality of the instructor, the motivational mantras, the smooth spin cycles, the friendliness of the employees, the music, the rides timed to the beat, the fantastic showers after, fully stocked with great products.  Weirdly, almost no one else showered after the 6am class.  I had forgotten how small DC can be and how easy it is to get around, and I guess most people had time to go home to shower before work.  In London, that never happens.

Anyway, it is worth the hype and I bought into it big time.  Also literally – the second class was $30 plus $3 shoe rental!  So I am glad I don’t live in DC since it would be way to tempting, and I am half-excited, half-dreading Soul coming to London next year.IMG_6518

Pumpkin ale and pizza while catching up with a friend at my absolute favorite pizza and beer place, Pizzeria Paradiso.IMG_6520 IMG_6521

After just two days in DC I was at the airport again to Minnesota, but that felt like nothing after a transatlantic flight.  Three days in Minnesota were work-heavy.  I did get to go for an early run along the Mississippi River, but it was super dark.  Meetings were good and it was good to see people, and I returned to DC late on Friday night.

Saturday morning started with an early yoga class and coffee with friends, followed by a nice walk in the sun around the city, a kombucha (is this in London?  It must be, but I haven’t seen it) and salad from Sweetgreen.

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I also enjoyed other only-in-America things like pumpkin beer and pumpkin ice cream (God I miss Trader Joe’s), tacos and margaritas (sorry London but your Mexican craze doesn’t quite hit the mark) and lots of catching up with friends and more yoga and SoulCycle.  IMG_6538

DC may win on pumpkin and Mexican, but London definitely wins on yoga.  I went to two classes in DC that I used to really enjoy, but they have nothing on The Power Yoga Company in Fulham.  DC wins on being compact and relatively easy to get around, but London absolutely wins on public transport.  I don’t want to get into how long I waited for single-tracking metro lines on the weekend.

I also enjoyed an early morning run around the monuments on Sunday, followed by brunch with friends and more walking around the city.

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And finally, the loot of American goods I brought back, with things for myself, Andy, Leah and Stephanie:IMG_6552It really was a great visit back and I was happy to be in DC, and now that I am back in London, I am so thrilled to be here.  I feel lucky to live and have lived in so many great places.

Paris Weekend

Last week was my birthday.  Another day, another year gone by in a blink!

I celebrated the actual day with yoga, work (err), phone calls/texts/etc with family and friends and dinner with Andy at a local spot in our neighborhood, followed by wine, chocolate, flowers and new wellies.  Fab.IMG_6366 IMG_6367

We continued the celebrations with a weekend in Paris.  Taking the Eurostar from St. Pancras straight into Gare du Nord was so cool.  paris9141

We stayed in western Paris, at a last-minute hotel find when our Airbnb was cancelled on us, and spent Friday evening having wine and crepes near l’Opera.  I had somehow forgotten how beautiful Paris is, how much I love the architecture and the language.

I woke early on Saturday and ran down to the Tuileries and along the Seine.  I covered about 4.5 miles and loved every step.  I could have gone on forever, watching the sun rise over the city.

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After returning to the hotel, we ventured out to find cafe and a light breakfast.  I was determined to eat small meals so we could fit a lot in!paris91410

We found a cafe for cafe and croissant, and went into Printemps for the view from the rooftop terrace.

paris91426Along the way I found myself a macaron.  Ladurée is hyped, but I have to say the macaron was fantastic.paris91411 paris91412

We grabbed Vélib’ bikes and cycled through the gardens to the Seine and along the Seine to Pont du Neuf and Île de la Cité.  Such a gorgeous, perfect Parisian day.paris91413

I just finished reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, so I wanted to check out Shakespeare and Co. and other spots along the Left Bank where Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, etc lived and worked.  I know it is overrun with tourists now, but the buildings are still gorgeous and it was fun to wander around there.paris91414

We then stocked up on cheese, fruit, bread and wine for a picnic lunch.  paris91415

We made our way up to Luxembourg Gardens and it was idyllic: a beautiful day, tons of people out, and us relaxing with our picnic lunch.paris91416 paris91417

The fruit especially was amazing.  The grapes and strawberries tasted fresher and riper than anything I’ve had in ages.paris91418

Eventually we moved along, and I stopped for a gelato.paris91419

After wandering around more, stopping to read and take photos and have cafe, we made our way back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner.

Our dinner that night was at Au Passage, and it was outstanding.  I didn’t want to go to a stuffy traditional restaurant, but rather something more modern and hip.  We shared a variety of small plates here, the absolute best being the pumpkin soup.  Fantastic.paris91420

The next day we went out to Père Lachaise Cemetery, one of my favorite spots in Paris.  I love cemeteries of all types, and I love the way this one is like a mini-city (um, of dead people).  Again we had a gorgeous warm fall day, with the leaves already changing.paris91421 paris91422 paris91423

Following lunch at a nearby brasserie, we walked to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, one of the largest parks in Paris, for views over the city and the chance to lay in the grass and read.  Everyone else in Paris was doing the same on this beautiful day.paris91424 paris91425

Later we walked along Canal Saint-Martin, did a bit of shopping, had crepes and cider for dinner, and eventually returned to London via Eurostar late on Sunday night.  This was such a perfect, relaxing, refreshing weekend.  It was fun to practice my French and to get to the Continent for a weekend.  Feel so luck to have this opportunity, and can’t wait to return.

Running Reset

Moving to a new country has meant embracing a lot of newness, a lot of change.  Having to deal with a running injury that happened basically right after I moved here has meant a lot of embracing the newness on the workout front, too.

So here is where I am with things now:

Running

I don’t want to jinx it, but I think my efforts at improving my posture and strengthening my glutes have been helping.  It has been one month now since I’ve starting running again after a several week hiatus and several sessions with the physio.  I have been doing my physical therapy exercises designed to improve my balance, posture and glute strength (nearly) every day, and I’ve followed the physio’s directions to run short distances slowly, to take rest days between run days and to foam roll often.

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I’ve crept up from 2 miles at a time to a high of 5.7 miles today – yay!  Today’s run was one of the first where I started to feel like my old self again.  It has been kind of boring and frustrating to run so slowly and carefully, constantly thinking about my form and my glutes, rather than just RUNNING, for fun, like I used to.  I read something somewhere that said to think of your first 4-6 weeks of running back from injury as not actual “running”, but more an extension of your physical therapy sessions.  That is, not to think about pace or distance but to think of it as exercises to re-teach your body how to run properly.  That has helped a little.  And today I took a different route from my usual path and gradually picked up the pace by the end of the run to the point where I was actually running hard, not just trying to stay in good form.

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It also helped to do a race!  I was getting a little bored of my usual two to four mile river loop in Fulham, so I jumped at the chance to grab a bib for the Teach First 5K along the Thames in central London last week.  I ran with Leah and met up with several other TNR girls for an easy, chatty 5K across Tower Bridge and by the Tower of London.  It was so much fun to do something different, meet some new people, run with a friend and run past iconic London sites.  Just what I needed.

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Stolen from Leah‘s instagram

Also, I signed up for the Paris Marathon in April!  So there’s that to look forward to.  I really hope this injury issue has been resolved.  I need to figure out how to be diligent about keeping my form in good shape, doing cross-training and strengthening exercises to ensure this does not happen again.

Spin

I wrote earlier about my experience at Psycle, and that I wasn’t a fan really.  I went for my second class which was a little better than my first, mainly because I liked the instructor a bit better and possibly I was more prepared for the dance moves.  But I still just wasn’t that into it, and for the cost it’s definitely not worth me returning.

So next I tried Edge Cycle in Holborn based on some rave reviews online, but this also wasn’t my thing.  I liked the concept of spin + bootcamp, but the bootcamp portion was just doing some pushups and stuff on the ground, and overall the class and instructor just wasn’t my thing.  They do let you book the first class free so there is that.  There is shower gel, a hair dryer and towels for the partially-open showers, but the changing area is pretty crowded and overall there’s not a lot in the way of amenities.

Third time must be the charm, because I’ve now tried BOOM Cycle and that is definitely my favorite.  I went with my friend Steph to a class in Holborn this week and it was a fantastic class.  No hand weights or fancy moves, but that was fine with me: just a traditional spin class with lots of in and out of the seat, changes in resistance levels, good music (2005-2010 era hip hop) and a friendly, encouraging, normal instructor who didn’t pretend we were in da club and also didn’t pretend to be a drill sergeant.  All the staff there was very friendly and the showers were fab: you get your own little shower room complete with REN shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, lotion and towels, and there are hair dryers and straighteners for after.  Win.  I will absolutely be returning there.

Yoga

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been going to yoga more than ever lately, consistently going three times a week.  Something about this studio just clicks for me.  I have a regular Friday date with Leah for yoga and coffee, and Steph when she can make it.  I can feel myself getting stronger and deeper into the poses, but unlike with running, it’s not necessarily about working towards a goal there.  I would like to get stronger and be able to go deeper in certain poses, would like to be more consistent with executing crow and wheel for longer periods of time, and harbor a fantasy about doing unassisted headstands and handstands one day, but that’s not why I go.  I simply enjoy it and feel good about myself, mentally and physically, during and after class.  Leah and I had a conversation about how running and racing for PBs naturally sets itself up for goals, but other sports/activities aren’t like that for me – why is that?  Another post for another time.

What other spin/fitness studios should I check out in London?  I want to try Heartcore and Bootcamp Pilates next!

London via Coffeeshops, Vol. 2: Fulham Edition

I’m back with another review of coffeeshops that I have been working in, this time focusing on my neighborhood, Fulham.IMG_6235

I will say that you can really notice the difference in the clientele in London neighborhoods when you are there in the middle of the day working in a coffeeshop.  While Fulham has lots of moms and toddlers and people meeting for casual little coffee dates (what do these people do for work?), Holborn and the City has people working on laptops or doing work-related coffee dates and Shoreditch is chockfull of people like me, working alone on laptops or in small groups.  I prefer to go to those neighborhoods, but some days it is easier to be closer to home if I have a lot of phone calls and meetings to call into, which is easiest to do from my flat.

So, Fulham.  My favorite place so far is Chairs and Coffee, probably because I have never seen the mother/tot combination there and is primarily people working independently.  The coffee is great (Americano for 2.20), I once got an excellent plate of avocado on toast, the wifi is free and reliable and the toilet is clean.  The only problem is the music is hit or miss and they tend to really get into something and play it over and over.  One time it was lots of Radiohead on repeat (win), another time lots of Aerosmith (er…).IMG_6247IMG_6168

Proceeding along the Fulham High Street, I am a fan of both Local Hero and the Hive.  Local Hero can get a bit overrun with the family crowd, but there are a good number of tables and also a back garden, although I am not sure if the wifi works back there.  The Hive has reliable wifi, a European crowd, good Americano and good breakfast and lunch options.  They also don’t seem to care if you linger awhile in the back room.

Crossing over to Parsons Green, I visited Hally’s on the New Kings Road.  The wifi is free and toilet is downstairs, and it is a bright, inviting space with comfortable tables and benches, and the staff was very nice.  However, I got the feeling that this is really more of a restaurant than a coffeeshop.  Most other people were there for brunch/lunch dates and I felt awkward sipping a coffee and working on my laptop; however, I only went once so maybe it was just me.  The food did look excellent so I would like to return for brunch one day.IMG_6167

Another favorite of mine is Tinto’s, on Fulham Palace Road across from Bishops Park.  Come to think of it, I haven’t been in awhile but when I first arrived in London this summer and the weather was quite warm, it was lovely to sit out on the patio there (where the wifi worked) and the staff was very friendly.  Lots of kids and dogs though, so that’s probably why I haven’t gone back lately.

Any suggestions for places I have missed?

London Things

I’m going to try to regularly post about various explorations of London, big and small.  Perhaps this will be a once-weekly round-up, depending on what I am up to.

Last week we went to the BCC Proms one night.  If you’re not familiar (I wasn’t), Londonist has a good guide here, and there are lots of others online as well.  It is the world’s largest classical music festival (although there are other types of music as well), lasting eight weeks, with concerts every night at Royal Albert Hall.  You can book seats ahead of time, or queue up the night of for £5 tickets to stand on the floor or in the gallery.

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Our evenings have been really full this summer, with both of us working late, so unfortunately we haven’t “prommed” (queued up for the standing tickets).  But we booked in for seats for a performance last week.  Being inside Royal Albert Hall was amazing; the space is beautiful and so historic. I like classical music but I know very little about it, and I had never been to a performance like this.  Being there in person was amazing; the music sounded so much richer and yet softer in person.  Highly recommend doing this.

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We have also had family visiting so it has been a good excuse to do more explorations around this city on the past two weekends.  We checked out the Notting Hill Carnivale one day and explored Fulham Palace and the V&A Museum on the rainy bank holiday.

This past weekend we had better weather and walked all over.  We walked along the Regents Canal:IMG_6252

And ventured up to Hampstead.  I love this quaint little village-like neighborhood in north London.

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We had an excellent Sunday roast at the Holly Bush in Hampstead (fish for me):

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And walked across Hampstead Heath to Highgate, for a wander through Highgate Cemetery.  I love cemeteries and explore them every chance I get.IMG_6255   IMG_6263

It’s looking like the next few days will be full of nice, clear, sunny days so I’m looking forward to more London explorations at the weekend!

Review of Psycle

Since I’m on a running break right now and I’m new to London, this seems like the perfect time to try out some intro offers at various fitness studios around town.  My physio gave me the green light to go to a spin class, so I signed up for the two classes for £20 intro special at Psycle.  This spin studio opened recently in Fitzrovia and is meant to be London’s answer to Flywheel, SoulCycle, etc in the States.  I had only ever been to Off Road in DC (which I really liked), so I am no expert, but I heard from a few people that Psycle isn’t as good as SoulCycle.  For £20 per class I know this won’t be a regular thing, but I thought I would try it out this week while I’m on my running break.

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First, the studio.  It is definitely posh.  When you book in online you reserve your cycle and your shoes (clip-in shoes only, which they supply) and once you learn your cycle settings, it will be pre-set for you.  The changing room has lockers that lock and is fitted out with plenty of amenities (more on that later).  I was given my shoes and directed to the studio downstairs (no photos because they discourage phones on the bike, but if you google you will find plenty).

There was an assistant going around adjusting cycles and he was very nice about helping me set mine up and showing me how to clip in my shoes.  Towels and small hand weights are provided, and I brought my own water.

The room started off very dark and at various times throughout the 45-minute class neon lights came on and off, like a nightclub.  The music was clubby too, all brand new stuff.  The instructor was high-energy and basically danced on the bike the whole time.  It is definitely a full-body workout.  We did lots of fast-pace spinning on the bike, lots of getting out of the bike and bouncing, lots of arm movements in the bike but only one small segment with the hand weights; I would have liked more time with the weights.  It was definitely a tough workout and I got what I wanted—45 minutes of cardio and sweating—but I would have liked more focus on the spinning and less on the dance choreography.  I’m not much of a dancer to begin with, so it’s really just me – the class was a good class, just not quite my style.  I was trying to keep up with the various arm movements and directions so much that at times I forgot I was spinning and I know I wasn’t really focused on that or pushing my legs as much as I could have because I was so distracted.  But I am sure that as you go more regularly, you get used to it and get better at the coordination.

After class there was a rush to the locker rooms.  Like I said, these are nice.  There are only 12 showers so a queue formed for showers (about 45 people were in the class, mostly women), but it moved fast.  They supply towels, Bumble and Bumble shampoo and conditioners, and ila body wash, face wash and body/hand lotion, which is all really nice.  There are also hair dryers, hair straighteners and other miscellaneous items to use after, which is also nice.  It was a bit crowded but workable.  All you really need to bring with you is your clothes, brush/comb and any specific hair products, lotions or makeup that you use, which makes it easy to get ready and go to work after.

I will definitely go back for my second class next week and try a different instructor.  I’m glad to have this to do during my running break, but I can’t imagine it becoming a regular thing.

Country Walk in Sussex

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Last Friday night, Andy and I decided somewhat last minute to get out of London for the day and do a country walk on Saturday.

30 walksWe used Time Out’s guide to 30 Country Walks Near London, which is excellent.  Every walk featured is accessible from central London by train.  Most of the walks listed seem to start with about a 1 to 2 hour train journey, all originating in London, and when you arrive at the destination, you do a walk of anywhere from about 5 to 12 miles, all doable in one day.  It seems that all of the walks have various options for shorter or longer distances, include recommendations for pub lunches and tea stops, and bring you back to where you started to board the train back to London at the end of the day.  Perfect.

Stonegate Circular walk - 05So we chose a walk somewhat at random, deciding to do a shorter walk for our first attempt.  We took the train from Charing Cross and one hour later, there we were at a rural train station in Stonegate, in Sussex, which basically felt like the middle of nowhere.  The book offers extremely detailed directions (and provides a map, but the map is not very helpful).  We set off on a country road, and proceeding to ramble over fields, past cows and sheep, over streams, through woods.

Stonegate Circular walk - 04The first half of our walk was about three to four miles of rolling terrain and we didn’t see a single person the entire time, just cows and sheep.

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It was glorious: stereotypical rolling English countryside with green fields, blue skies and fluffy clouds.  The book’s directions were extremely detailed and pretty accurate and easy to follow, with just a few moments where we had to stop and guess on a few turns.  For future walks, especially longer ones, I think I want to get some copies of Ordnance Survey maps just in case.

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Stonegate Circular walk - 07After about two hours we emerged into a churchyard in the small village of Burwash.

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We ambled down the short high street to the lunch destination, the Rose and Crown pub.

Stonegate Circular walk - 13This was the most adorable little country pub, complete with old fellows at the bar, low timbered ceilings, fish and chips on the menu and pints of bitter on cask.  We had a pint and lunch and soaked up the atmosphere.  I didn’t take photos inside because I was trying not to be overly touristy.

After lunch, we continued on the high street and set off for the second half of the walk, through hops fields and along more country walking paths.

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The walk looped us back to the train station where we began.  We only had to wait about 20 minutes, then boarded a train and an hour later we were back in central London.  Unreal.

I loved the the rural countryside and outdoorsy things like this are so easy to get to from the city.  It was a perfect day and I can’t wait to work our way through more of the walks in this book!

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