Maui Trip…

I was fortunate to travel to Maui for work recently. For work, honest!

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It was certainly a LONG trip both ways, with stops on both ends on the East Coast, to see family on the way there and work in DC on the way back to London, and an unplanned overnight layover in San Francisco due to a delayed flight and missed connection (which amounted to four hours at an airport hotel, it’s not like I could enjoy San Francisco at all – in fact, I dreamt I was in Chicago and woke up thinking I was, it was that anonymous).

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Anyway, no one will believe me but I will say anyway that getting to travel to Maui for work was not all fun and games: first, I worked really hard leading up to the trip and once I got there it was 4 solid days of work; the long flights and jet lag (10 hour time difference from London) were real; and the hassles of travel were all there.  I just didn’t take photos of those parts!  So here are more gratuitous palm trees.

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But with that out of the way, I will also say that I know I am really lucky and I’m not complaining, because it was all worth it.  Each morning and evening I saw the sunrise and sunset from my hotel room balcony:

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My work event was at quite a swanky resort, so I enjoyed the views, some fantastic food (lots of fresh fruit and fish) and warm weather, and a luau performance at one of our evening receptions:

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The first two days were way too busy for workouts.  On the third day I made it to the hotel gym before sunrise, and on the final two days I had time for sunrise runs along the beachfront path:

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I was off the clock as of about 1pm on Saturday, and I left for the airport at about 12:30 on Sunday, so I had nearly 24 hours to spend as I wanted. Typically I would want to be active and go exploring, but I really didn’t have enough time or the inclination to rent a car. After long work days, all I had the inclination to do was sit on the beach at this ridiculous resort.

So that is exactly what I did on Saturday afternoon, followed by a drink by the pool with coworkers.

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Maui13I fit in a few more hours on the beach on Sunday morning, and was off for the airport.

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It is really amazing to me that I was basically halfway around the world, on a tiny island in the middle of Pacific Ocean, and now I am back in London.  This life is pretty amazing.

Belgium Weekend

Last month, Andy and I took off for a weekend in Belgium. Neither of us had been before and couldn’t pass up the chance to hop on the Eurostar again. I love the convenience and speed of taking the train to another country – it is just so cool.

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We spent most of the weekend in Bruges, staying at Hotel ter Brughe, located right on a canal in a fantastic huge room literally hanging over the canal. I loved this hotel and they put on an excellent breakfast spread in the morning – highly recommended.

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It was a pretty relaxing weekend; we intended to rent cycles and cycle around and outside of the city, but unfortunately it rained almost all weekend.  We made the most of it, wandering around the impossibly picturesque cobbled lanes, checking out the well-preserved architecture and many canals and bridges.  Bruges was adorable, although happily it wasn’t as ridiculously cute as I expected.  It is still a real place, a functioning city with real people, which I appreciated.

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We had lots of excellent (strong) Belgian beers and food, including plenty of mussels, frites, chocolate and speculoos. Not a trip for the faint of heart.

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On Sunday morning it stopped raining and I managed to fit in a run along the path ringing the city, before we departed for an afternoon in Brussels. Definitely enjoyed ourselves and would love to go back to explore more.

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Our Brussels afternoon was also a little rainy, but we explored some of the main sights downtown and met a quirky pub cat before boarding the train home.  All in all a great weekend.

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Cotswolds Weekend

I have been a bit behind on posts but I am catching up now to round out 2014; this week I plan to post several backlogged posts about some autumn travels I have done.  Here is the first one!

In late October Andy and I took a short weekend getaway out to the Cotswolds. I had never been before and I was struck by how close and easy it was to get to from London, and yet how different and remote-feeling it seemed. The landscapes of rolling country farms, quiet little lanes and well-preserved yellow stone villages was unreal.

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We arrived via train early on Saturday morning and had booked in ahead of time for a cycle hire company to meet us at the station with cycles for the day. That worked out perfectly; we used Cotswolds Cycle Hire and I would highly recommend them.

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We had small overnight bags with us, and first cycled about five miles to our inn for the night, the Lamb Inn in Shipton-under-Wychwood. Since this was a last-minute trip we only booked in a few days ahead of time, and were quite pleased with what we got.

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We spent the day cycling all over, stopping for a cup of tea at an excellent inn in Asthall and then a pub lunch and wander around in the village of Burford. We lucked out with beautiful weather. It was a crisp, clear autumn day with blue skies, green pastures and plenty of crunchy leaves underfoot. Idyllic.

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Around 5pm we arrived back at the Lamb Inn for the evening, where our cycles were collected and we warmed up with a cup of tea before dinner. Our room there, the Provence Room, was spacious and lovely, and really did remind me of when we stayed at Ferme de la Huppe in Provence.

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We retired to the tiny bar for a pre-dinner drink and then tucked into our dinner; the food was fantastic. Super filling though! We spent the night basically lingering over dinner and then went for a short walk outside in the cold, pitch dark night to get some air and see the stars.

The next morning I was up early for a run, which was a great way to explore the quiet country lanes and fields around Shipton. So beautiful and peaceful.

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We had breakfast at the inn, and then my brother came to collect us. It turns out, as a surprise to both of us, that my brother lives closer to the Cotswolds than either of us realized, so when we were chatting the day before we decided to get together on Sunday.  Since he has a car it was easy enough for him to come collect us. So we spent Sunday driving around the area and visiting some more villages and country pubs before catching the train back to London that evening.

This was a beautiful way to spend the weekend and such a refreshing little trip. It amazes me how easy it is to get from London to well-preserved rural places; I am so impressed with how the UK has drawn clear lines around what should be urban and what shouldn’t be. If only the US could be better about that.

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.

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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:

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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?