Architecture · Art · Chicago · Kent · Life On The Road · Road Signs · Transportation · Travel · UK · Weather

Tudeley All Saints Church : Inside a Gem

#RochesterKent

A few years ago, I watched a BBC television feature on a little church in Tudeley which housed stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall.  By the end of the program, a visit to All Saints Church Tudeley was in my Bucket List.  So when 3 weeks ago the Hubby had a couple of days’ work with a client down in Rochester (Kent), I grabbed the opportunity to tag along with the goal of striking out to neighboring Tudeley from there.  I planned to go via Tonbridge, about an hour away by train from the Strood station, which was in turn a bus ride and walk from the hotel.  A long-time admirer of Chagall’s works, I have been lucky that 2 of them are within easy viewing for me when in Chicago :  the Four Seasons outdoor mosaic murals (4-sided) at the Chase Plaza entrance to the Dearborn Blue Line station; and of course the America windows at the Art Institute.  All Saints in Tudeley is particularly special because it is the only Church where all (12!) its stained glass windows are works of the Artist.  There is a tragic, heartbreaking story behind the Windows’ commission, but it all turned to good as both Story and Artwork are now immortalized by the collaborative genius of Chagall and glassmaker Charles Marq of Reims.

My trek to All Saints Church Tudeley began with this page, and the “How To Find Us” directions here.  For all the big-time, long-road, open-sky driving that I do in the US, I cannot drive here in the UK (yet). So, from among my available options to get to the Church, I decided to do so by-foot, instead of cab or bus.  That decision came easily enough : The walking directions, which I carefully copied by hand, had described the trek as “delightful”; and I was quickly sold on the lyrical characterization of the landmarks along the way:

“the road rises to the crest of the hills and then descends”

parade of shops”

little black and white lodge” 

green footpath fingerpost”

“charming foot path lane between high sided walls (may be wet underfoot)”

charming wooded dells”

Indeed, a pied it is.  Surely, I thought, there will be a throng of visitors headed the same way from the train station.  That scenic 2.5 mile walk will be dreamy and enjoyable; and it will give me a good 5,000 steps exercise on the walking app (multiplied by 2 if I walked back!).  I also envisioned having interesting exchanges with fellow enthusiasts.  EASY.  Or so I thought.  

I hurled the first of my assumptions out the window as soon as I got off the train.  I should’ve known that a gloomy, chilly, windy Thursday is not exactly the best day for the Chagall Window Enthusiasts sub-set.  Or perhaps any one for that matter.  I found myself walking alone, often bemused if a house or footpath qualifies as “charming” as described in the Directions, and second-guessing what exactly “wooded dells” looked like.  I was a City-Mouse lost in the deep country.  At some point I found myself the only human within sight, often shadowed by that nagging feeling of being followed.  Of course, it turned out that the imagined sound of footsteps or rustling was actually my backpack rubbing against my neoprene jacket.  I walked through lush fields, mountains of molehills, nettles and brambles that whipped at the hems of my jeans.  I wondered where to shelter if the clouds suddenly gave in and poured, and hesitated when a path Y’s out to different paths.  It amuses but doesn’t surprise me, on hindsight, that “The Blair Witch Project” movie was on my mind as I sallied forth.  [Slideshow below to view some of the bits I saw along the way.]:

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By the time I finally managed to get the Destination within sight, the clouds have given way and Sun was out full-blast.  I had sweat running down the small of my back.  My ankles were soft and wobbly.  My pedometer indicated that it took Lost and Flat-footed Me a total of 7.1 miles (2 hours +) to do the 2.5 mile walk. :)  I crossed the dusty road to a little village church that looked outwardly plain and unspectacular, curious to see what lies inside.  [Hover mouse over the bottom of each pics below to see my marginal notes!].

As it turned out, the church building’s deceptively unsophisticated exterior was the perfect tension before the BIG WOW.  Pushed open, the main wooden door was the rabbit-hole to a wholly different world.  The plain white walls and exposed beams provided the perfect canvas for Chagall’s masterpieces.   That day, within that smallish space, on a gloriously sunny afternoon, I walked into a magnificent crossfire of light from 12 vibrantly colorful sets of windows, — primarily beaming the Blues of night sky and deep sea, and a couple golden Yellows the color of corn and sunlight.  The Windows framed an eclectic collection of Biblical characters, members of the  D’Avignon family, the Moon, fishes and doves, sea creatures, playful donkeys, mythical birds, the whisper of Chagall’s term of endearment for his wife (“Vava”), and a selfie of the artist himself!

I’ve read somewhere that the experience of Tudeley All Saints Church feels like being inside a jewelry box.  That is an understatement — I felt like being inside the jewel itself, — and a perfect, most sparkling one at that.    Slideshow below : — 

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Best of all, I had that wonderful space all to myself for most of the time.  It’s not always like this.  The place gets packed with visitors in the summer apparently.  And so I lingered a bit, savored the quiet and the glow of natural and enhanced lights, and remembered my dad.  How I wish he were still around to hear me blabber about this.  And finally, when it was time to head back, I took the bus.  Exhausted and jelly-legged, thoughtful and happy. :)

VISITING TIPS:

1. Don’t forget to walk into the open Vestry on the west side of the Church (directly opposite the altar).  There is a switch towards the back which lights up the Boscawen Windows (Victorian glass) on the south wall.  These panels were replaced by the last Chagall installations.

IMG_5982

2.  The walking from Tunbridge station is indeed scenic and beautiful.  However if walking through isolated paths is not your thing, make sure you plan ahead and go with a group.  It may not be easy to navigate the Directions on your own.

3.  If you are taking the walk, make sure you pack enough drinking water, your phone is charged or bring back-up power so you can keep in touch if you get lost.  It is quite a long walk, —  with lots of ups and downs and uneven grounds, — and you WILL get lost if it is your first time.  Give yourself enough time allowance, and the cardinal rule:  wear comfortable shoes.

4.  There are interesting and very good publications and postcards on the side of the church.  And a donation box to drop payments and donations.

5.  There is a labyrinth on grounds.  I didn’t see it though.

6.  1.5 miles away is the St. Thomas a Becket Chapel. No longer in active use.  Supposedly has fantastic 13th century painted murals.  It’s still on my list of to-sees.

7.  Bus service to the train station is infrequent — an hour between buses.  And they don’t run late.  The last bus is just past 4:00 p.m., so plan accordingly.  

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.”
― Marc Chagall

France · Life · Life On The Road · Lost In Translation · love · Short Notes

Lost In Translation, Yet Again

Once in a while the strangest blonde moment creeps up — no offense to the blondes, just using it as a cliche — that truly embarrasses me. We were driving along the dusty backroads of the French countryside (Normandie!) when the Hubby looks skywards sharply, points a finger, and says “Hawk!”.

Me (puzzled and looking up): PORK?  (I swear I heard him say “Pawk”, as in the British pronunciation for “Pork”)

Hubby (even more puzzled): HAWK! Big bird. Hawk!

Me (realizing the absurdity of a high-flying piece of meat, and trying to be cool about the sudden drop of IQ): Oh, HAWK, right. ok.

Hubby: Pork?  Why would I say “Pork”?  I was pointing at the sky….

Me: I don’t know.  That’s what I thought I heard.  But hey, you never know. You know what they say —  “when pigs fly….”

Nonstop shaking of head and laughing between us. You’d think by now these lost-in-translation moments would long have banished.  Oy vey.

Wall Art in Nottingham, UK
Wall Art in Nottingham, UK
Accent · British Traits · Expat Dilemmas · Fitting In · Life · Life On The Road · Lost In Translation · Shopping · UK

Snippet on Adjusting to Life in the UK

I realize that I haven’t posted in a while; and I am a little half-hearted about jump-starting it with a grumble.  In particular, it will be about (the virtually non-existent) customer service in the UK…. again.  It’s the one thing about  UK life I can’t quite get my head around, just because it’s a puzzle that in a country where everything is about civility, politeness and niceties, very few stores (or “shops”) seem to be able to get it right.

Today I headed into town to run a few errands at the bank and the post office.  Too early for the return train — and yes, I DO have to rush back home as I have a conference call to Chicago by 9:30 Central Time — I decided to go to Debenhams to use up an expiring gift card.  The gift card had a 24-month lifetime, and we got it as a wedding gift 2 years ago.  Hence the urgency to use it before its expiration.  I got a few small things at the home section, and headed up to pay.   Here goes the convo at the till:

Cashier :  Hi, you alright?

Me :  Hi, yes, I’m good how are you (waited for her to scan the 2 items, tell me the total, and then I handed over the gift card)

Cashier :  (peering from the top of her bifocals for some time and swiping it) — Do you know how much money you have on the card?

Me : (slightly surprised why it was up to me to tell her how much was left on the card — she could swipe to find out couldn’t she? — and trying to remember how much I had left on the card).  Hmmmmm…. I’m not too sure.   I think I might have around £120-something on it….

Cashier : (looking back at me)  So, in other words, — you do not know…..

Yup, those were her words  — “so in other words, you do not know….”

I am only slightly amused, but  mostly annoyed at myself, for being thrown off by comments like these, especially when they come with an accent and a nose in the air (literally, as it tried to hold up her bifocals).  I am not too sure whether to react the “American way” of always being right as customer; or to tread the polite line of putting sales staff softly in their place by a slight change in my intonation, the right choice of words, or the just-enough raise of my right eyebrow.  It really is tricky to make that split-second decision to either dare to be yourself and risk awkward attention; or to live as the Romans when in Rome and tone everything way way down.  I just know that each time I come over to the UK, I do not stay long enough to get out of the mode of being the visitor or the outsider, and to know how to deal with situations the way locals do.  But because that is my choice and this is my life, for now all I can do is sigh.  Until I get it right, if they don’t.

British "stuff" · Entertainment · Life On The Road · Photography · York

Bright Lights

We visited beautiful and historic York on Friday night to catch “Illuminating York“, an annual light and sound festival which alternates among landmarks of the city.  I believe this is the 6th year of the festival.  This year’s son et lumiere piece entitled “Rose” was designed by award winning projection artist Ross Ashton and sound artist Karen Monid.   The lights were played against the South transept of the York Minster where the awesome Rose Window is housed.  I truly enjoyed the visual and audio experience — the loudness of it, the brightness of it, just the hugeness of the experience under clear skies with just-right cool, jacket-hugging weather.  Unfortunately, in our rush to head out to the venue before the rush hour traffic, I’d forgottem to bring my (heavy-duty, literally) tripod.   Which makes taking any nighttime photos a bit of a challenge.  To keep my shots as steady as possible under the circumstances, I had either rested the camera on C’s shoulders or head, or at best, lean one corner of the camera on the ground while tilting the lens upwards.  Many shots came out blurred sadly, but hey.

Below is a collage I’ve put together.  Not all that brilliant, given the limitations.  Caveat:  they’re lightyears away from the beauty of the real deal so it is highly recommended that you catch it next year (or later) if you can.  :)

Illuminating York. York Minster. October 2010.

I’ve shamelessly submitted my pictures to the photography competition of the event.   100 GBP in photography vouchers at stake (you amused?).  Nothing really fancy, but think of the bragging rights for an uber-amateur like me:  yup, priceless.  To my pleasant surprise, I received an email from one of the reps asking for high-res copies of my shots.  I complied with 7 shots, gladly and with all the chutzpah that I can muster.  Even better, the organizers have humored me by putting them up in their official Flickr page, along with seriously beautiful captures.  Now THAT has amused me no end.  Please check it out:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/official_illuminating_york/

Trust me.  It will be worth your while to see the photos.  Not (just) mine.  But those of the others. ;)

Illuminating York  Website : http://www.illuminatingyork.org.uk

Twitter handle:  @illuminateyork

Flickr page :  http://www.flickr.com/photos/official_illuminating_york/

British Business · Hotels & Inns · Lawyers Life · Life On The Road · Travel · UK · Work

Charge for Wifi? Why, fie!

 

From a little corner table at the hotel cafe, Nottingham

 

Travelling away from home has a funny way of making days pass by quicker.  For the past weeks, C and I have been living our usual pretty itinerant lifestyle, a different part of the UK every week.  C covers his consulting gigs, and I tag along with my own hardcase of paperwork to do while away.  Actually “away” is not quite the word.  Perhaps I should fine-tune that word to “further away”, especially when the conveniences and comforts available while working from our home in Manchester are not available.  My work as an attorney in the US requires me to pass big bulks of work across the Atlantic.  And so when we are on the road, I have to find my nook to do work, and equally importantly, I need to have internet connection to send work across.  Unlike in the US, many UK hotel groups/chains do not offer free internet connection.  Not even when a big chunk of their clientele are business travellers.  For instance, C is a frequent user of another hotel group (Let’s call it “P Hotel” The Premier Inn group) for his business travels.   The said Hotel chain is extensive, and you generally can also find one located outside of city centre and anywhere across the UK — convenient for C as power plants are usually located quite far from them.  I like that P hotels Premier Inns have spankin’ clean rooms, are pretty no-frills (altho very often, I wouldn’t mind some pretty frills), and — they have showers and not just bath tubs (happy me!)!   However, what seriously irks me is that the P hotels they charge for internet.  Their rate?  £5 per hour, or £10 for any time use within a 24 hour period (multiply that by a 4 day stay).  The guest must pay this upfront (front desk), and they give you a “scratch” card with a password.  There have been many times when, just for the principle of it, I want to refuse to pay more than the room rates (which believe me, can go quite high when booked on short notice).  But then I tell myself “what principle are you talking about?  It’s just how they choose to do business”,  knowing that sticking to my guns would go against professionalism.  No choice then but to suck it up and pay for it.  Alternatively I would/could take the bus into town, find a Starbucks, and work there until the Barristas either become my good friends or get annoyed.  Trust me, it is awful to feel that you’ve overstayed your welcome.  So it usually ends up with me spending more money for coffee and cookies.  Bottomline, what I had done in these instances really made no economical sense.  To save £10, I spent more (bus ride to and from, coffee and cookies).  So what do I do but gripe silently to myself in utter frustration?  And outwardly, act nonchalant and bear it.  That’s the British way, and when in Rome.

One of the places we regularly stay in when in Edinburgh is the King’s Manor.   This hotel is managed by the Best Western UK group (Twitter handle:  “BestWesternGB”).  They provide free broadband to guests.  What a relief.  Hotel people who understand that providing internet connection today is the functional equivalent of having bedside and lobby telephones in yesteryears.  A simple, basic feature like this,– and I am less antsy about not being able to take care of my clients overseas.  In the end I enjoy travel and stay that much more.    I hope hotels in the UK realize that the value of providing broadband to guests, and the competitive advantage it provides to their business mark worldwide, are much more than the sum of its actual costs.  No hotel guest wants to feel isolated from contact, or to feel that they have to pay additional for a few hours of de-isolation.  Too much nickel-and-diming your clients. And really, how silly.

So this week, we booked ourselves in another Best Western hotel.  This time, the Westminster in Nottingham.  We will continue to stay in BW hotels and look into them wherever we travel.

Anyway, by way of  FYI, since this is a blog about expat life, here are some of the hotel groups in the UK where guests PAY FOR WIFI:

  • Hilton
  • Travelodge
  • Holiday Inn
  • Marriott
  • Malmaison
  • Premier Inn and
  • Thistle

And those that PROVIDE FREE WIFI TO GUESTS include:

  • DE VERE
  • RADISSON
  • SAS
  • CITY INN and of course,
  • BEST WESTERN

(Source :  “Do Not Disturb” magazine, Issue No. 1)

p.s.:  Best Western GB has come up with the first magazine issue called “Do Not Disturb”.  The magazine is unconventional, fun and interestingly quirky — definitely in line with the company’s byline “Hotels with Personality”.

Cover of "Do Not Disturb"
Art · Asian · Birthday · Cooking & Kitchen · Food · Life On The Road · Photography · Restaurants

Postscript to Post

FYI.

1.  For good measure, to ensure that I tidy up the ends and not leave my glorious readership of 4 (one of whom is married to me) hanging on the identity of Mystery Man, the answer to the “Who Is It?” of my previous post is (as stated in the tag):  Bill Turnbull, who apparently is also a busy beekeeper.

2.  The place where we had dinner at was:

Sapporo Teppanyaki
91-93 Liverpool Road
Castlefield
Manchester
M3 4JN
T: 0161 831 9888
F: 0161 839 4030
E: manchester@sapporo.co.uk
M: Location Map

If there’s one thing I cannot be too modest about, it is that I know my Asian food, from the many years living and growing up there,  and a lot of travelling around the Continent.  I may not be a good cook, but I love to eat, and I eat a lot (although that applies to any cuisine, but Asian foremost).  This place is very good — quality and generous meat cuts, and an array of seasoning/sauces as you would find in the teppanyaki houses in Asia.  The place would be especially fun for groups, given all that razzmatazz the chefs put into preparation and presentation.  You get your show before your food, in other words.

The website encourages Friday and Saturday night bookings to be done 3 weeks in advance.  — If that gives you an indication how busy they get.  So book in advance.  Caveat:  the place is not inexpensive.  The sushi and noodle bar menu is pretty reasonable; the teppanyaki table could easily cost at least £25 per person for a starter and a main course.  But for those special occasions or business meetings — good place.  One more note — branches in Liverpool and Glasgow.

3.  Finally, an unrelated update.  I received an unexpected email on my Flickr account from the Art Director of Philbrook Museum in Tulsa OK.  A friend and I had driven down there in the summer to take pictures of the garden — to test drive my Canon Rebel T2i.  What sticks to my memory was the sweltering heat that day.  106°F, thank you.  This is the text of the email:

Hello Miss Chicago,
I was wondering if I could use any of your images you took at Philbrook in Tulsa. I’m the Art Director here and always in need of different perspectives and photos for our website.
Thanks so much,
-Kim O’Meilia
komeilia@philbrook.org
Art Director
Philbrook Museum of Art
www.philbrook.org
9188103905

I am still getting to know the tricks of my camera.  So the email is a boost, and such an encouragement.  And yes, I replied immediately with the permission.  :)

Philbrook Museum of Art:  2727 South Rockford Road · Tulsa OK 74114 · 918 749-7941
View of the House
View of the house, pond and part of the gardens
The Art Gallery inside. They have a pretty extensive First Nation and Native American Indian collection.
The resident cat who sleeps in the gazebo as if she owned it.
"Britishisms" · British "stuff" · Canterbury · Life On The Road · Lost In Translation · Road Signs · Travel · UK

Sign Language

A couple of days ago, while walking down the streets of Canterbury (Kent) towards the center, I found this little sign by the under-serious-renovation St. Mildred’s Church:

Yeah, I too always thought signs best served their purpose when they are very simple notices.  If possible even understandable by older kids.  In the US, this same sign would probably read “Watch Out (or Keep Out).  Falling Debris.”  But this one looked, amusingly, more like a legal document.  “Falling Masonry”?  and “Inclement Weather Conditions”??  As I often tell the hubby, …. “seriously, who talks like that in daily conversation?”  :)

British fashion · Life On The Road · Scotland

A Scottish Wedding

Falkirk, Scotland.

I am right now in the lobby of the Falkirk Park Hotel, waiting for the hubby to come back from work. This is all part of my crazy, unconventional life. When I am here in the UK, I often come along with the hubby when he has out-of-town projects (he has projects in Inverness all the way down to Tilbury) that requires him to be away for a few days. During daytime, while the hubby is off to work, I either go out to discover wherever area we’d be in (experience the food, take pictures, do a bit of window shopping, visit museums, ….) after I’ve sent work electronically to my assistant in the US. This way, my assistant can do his part of the work when his day in the US starts. We coordinate over skype at some point, usually the afternoon, and the assistant leaves the work he has done in my email inbox for review when his day is done. Complicated? It’s just another way of “time-shifting” in real life I guess. And effectively, we stretch the day longer by the time difference across the pond.

But anyway, today I am feeling seriously unwell. I will spare you the details but give you the general picture in 2 words: “food poisoning”. Thanks to La Banca, the Spanish tapas place. I’m thinking the paella mariscos was the cause, not so much because was cooked badly ( in fact, it was good, and the hubby ate the same thing and he is alright). The only thing though is that my stomach has always been a little strange with soggy-rice and seafood combos. So today, although I had planned to going around Edinburgh, I had to stay in at the hotel and just do work. Now if only my stomach would hurt less and bloat less. So far, I’m managing …. but the pain is irritating really.

Now to the point of this blog entry. There is an ongoing wedding reception. Of course I only find out when droves of guests suddenly walk in : Men in skirts, women in funny hats, you get the picture. Perfect — I am etched here, with luggages lying around, and in sloppy fitflops, — I’VE BECOME THE WEIRDO SITTING OUTSIDE THE WEDDING RECEPTION AREA WHO PEOPLE CAN’T WAIT TO GET RID OF. It also doesn’t help that I do not in any way look remotely Scottish. I am getting (polite but un-hideable) stolen glances, as I shield my laptop screen so nobody finds out I am writing about him/her/them. Meanwhile, bagpipes are playing and it is such a beautiful sound : sad, soulful, dignified, very present but very restrained. Interesting, they’re playing an old song my dad used to sing for my mom. Now I am feeling sad remembering. But enough for now. This is the first Scottish wedding I am observing up close (even though I am not among guests, or the attending staff). And …. oh, there is a girl in a gold dress with a gold feathers headband, and another lady in red, with red shoes, and a red purse. Yet another one in blue and white, a shawl and …. is that another headdress of feathers?… this time matching blue. They’re big on feathers on the hair it seems. Very interesting ….. I will try to post pictures later. Meanwhile, I am turning my spy report off. :)

Life · Life On The Road · love · UK · Wedding

Home Finally

Threat of more Icelandic ashes notwithstanding, I arrived in Manchester early this morning, UK time.  The 2 months that I’ve been in the US while C is in the UK is the longest we’ve been apart since we got married a year ago.  The length of time apart is part collective decision, but it also had to do with a seeming series of unfortunate events that sprouted one after the other in this trip:  A key client’s file/records room and accounting room (i.e., yup the one in CowTown) burned down requiring tedious reconstitution of lost documents.  The volcanic eruption in Iceland that closed the skies from air transport, and the skyrocketing of ticket prices once flight resumed.  A settlement proposal that went awry in an admin case now headed the direction of a heated trial, among other things = which of course translates to even more heated preps.  Admittedly, after Dad passed away, I suddenly left everything behind in the US for a month.  Imagine the backlog of work I came back to. And that’s just MY side of the situation.  But all’s well and ended.  Nothing beats the priceless feeling of gratefulness and happiness running into those welcoming arms at the airport.

I’ve often been asked how C and I manage our marriage where we often have to be apart.   I can give the sacchariferous, syrupy answer that others may tend to give about how Love having no bounds in time or space.  But in reality, I know it’s not all about Love.  At least, not solely.  It’s only that we are aware and accepting that our married life together defies convention.  We married in our 40’s — both our first, and none of us having kids previously.  Each of us having ongoing busy careers (both professions, actually) which we are passionate about.  C having projects (power plant projects) tied up for the next coming years.  My own expat life extending even before the US.  My transitioning to practicing law in the UK requiring yet another Bar exam to hurdle; and in the meanwhile a US client willing to shoulder all costs relating to travel and stay in the US for work every 2 months.  For now, maintaining the best of both options on either side of the Atlantic seems the prudent way to go.  Particularly given our plans that at some point in the future we will be moving back to the US.  It also seems in C’s nature from the start to be encouraging of my practice as an attorney.  He has always said that my personal and professional growth works to my happiness, and that that happiness translates to a happier relationship altogether.  Makes sense, I must admit.  Even if it may sound more scientific and rational than romantic.  :)  So being determined and committed to make the unconventional circumstances work is really key.

Nonetheless, I am not taking from the important underlying ingredients:  trust, and love, and faithfulness should be there.  But more than words is action.  And a man who immediately puts a new kitchen together for me while I am away in the US, and takes all the heat (oooh, a pun!) so that I do not have to worry about “joiners” (English for “carpenters”), sawdust everywhere, and hanging electrical guts; and who happily announces my return home in his Facebook (which I secretly peeked today — No, we are not each other’s “friends”) — yeah there’s substance to the unspoken there.

And so I am “home” now, where he is, in a truly meaningful way than a mere cliche.  And happy.  Here is to more adventurous in Little England in the coming days. :)

Chicago · Cooking & Kitchen · Family · Food · Friends · Holidays · Life On The Road

Thanksgiving Post-Op

This is largely a stub post, so I don’t forget what happened this year on Thanksgiving with me on this side of the Atlantic, and the hubby on the other.  I returned to Chicago from CowTown the day before Thanksgiving.  Did the usual 9 hours straight, with multi-purpose stops…. gas, use the restroom, and grab a quick drink or cookie.  At the end of the drive, where all I ate was a  cheap hotdog and lots of blueberries (let those antioxidants at work while I drive), I was, well, tired and hungry,– surprise surprise.   The nice coincidence is that my best buddies who are based in Kansas City were in Chicagoland area — for a totally different reason other than to visit me.  They took the time out to drag me out of my apartment for food.  We went to the new Sun Wah.  “New” because it  moved from its former home of 20 odd years on Argyle  a few steps east, on Broadway.  Sun Wah is one of the  hubby’s favorite Chinese restaurants in Chicago.  Well, actually, one of many.  He loves Chinese food (I wonder why?  :)), and agrees that the Chinese food in Britain does not compare to the ones in the US.  Notwithstanding the sizeable mainlander Chinese and Hongky population in the UK.  We ordered a white fish in black bean sauce, a large portion of honey pork belly and char-shiew (see below….)

bittermelon in beef,  ma po tofu, and soup (their “small” fed all 3 of us a bowl each plus spare); we also had 3 portions of rice, 3 rootbeers and a coke.   Burp.  I was a piglet, and we had a ton of leftovers to box up to bring home.  The bill came to a grand figure 51 dollars which included a 10.25% tax.  That means, pre-tax the bill was around 46 dollars or roughly under 28 British pounds.  Best of all, it all tasted delicious.  I don’t know that you could get a deal like that in the UK.  I went home stuffed, exhausted from the long-drive, and too happy to be back in my own bed.  I had the perfect sleep.  

Next day, … Thanksgiving, great….  What do we do? I had totally made no plans, having hit the ground running and kept going since I flew into the States 2 weeks earlier.  Carla and Rose (my Spanish teacher) were supposed to come over to my place for dinner.  But Carla has a new apartment, and this time, we agreed to use her kitchen.  As expected, Rose was late (to be fair, she had to work, even on Thanksgiving, …. ay pobrecita!), and Carla could only make the salad (following everything in the recipe book to the letter).  We had no turkey, … so I whipped up what best I could manage.  Anyway, in the end it’s all about having good wine and wonderful conversation and bonding time.   Never mind that I was half-groggy most of the time. :)  

Around 8:30 I had to go home over Carla’s insistence that I just sleep over.  I still wanted my own, familiar bed.  We were planning on our Black Friday activities just as I headed off.  I promised Carla I would look into the coupons I could use the next day and would call so that we can plan which stores hit the next day.  That call didn’t happen.  I intended to wink, but woke up the next morning.  But no one took it against me.  Carla let me sleep in heavenly peace without calling to follow up. 

I still woke up at 7:30 the next day, and yes, we did the post-Thanksgiving American tradition of shopping like it was an Olympic sport, although we played like a Third-World team.  Never mind, we saved more money that way. :p

Yeah, Thanksgiving was alright.  Wish you were here, hub. ;)

The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.  ~H.U. Westermayer