1. Buildings have names. You might work for Starbucks, but your office will be in Commander House or Senator House or something similar. How lovely.
2. People vape here. A lot. I never understood where the market was for these things since I never really encountered them in Amsterdam or Toronto. Now I know.
3. When I’m coming home from work at 6 pm or whatever, newsboys are handing out the London Evening Standard Post on every busy corner. It’s adorable.
4. Everybody seems to eat porridge for breakfast, and it’s offered as ubiquitously in eateries as donuts in Canada.
5. Hawksmoor has a full fat old fashioned that will make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven
6. You’ll get the best Pakistani meal at Tayyabs and pay so little that you’ll quicken your step on the way out, assuming that they’ve made an error and will getcha
7. Hackney Broadway Market is lovely.
8. The London buses are far superior in every way to the under- and over-ground
9. The Brick Lane Beigel House will feed you for a quid. No joke. You’ll be a little scared of the owner, who’s super no-fuss and will bark for your order and practically whip it at you from across the counter, but you’ll instantly forgive her ‘cuz she’ll call you “Lovey”
10. I reckon only 10% of people in London are British. Everyone is from everywhere.
11. If you want to go to Rennie Scott’s you’d dang better reserve ahead. It’s sold out every single time I try.
It’s been a busy few weeks, and I’ve barely had a chance to sit down, let alone update everyone on the events of the recent past. My employer in Amsterdam held their annual Christmas Party last night at the Amsterdam College Hotel. The Mad Men theme allowed us all to bust out the pearls, suspenders, curlers and mink and channel the energy and style of our grandparents. Everyone looked absolutely fabulous, and danced into the wee hours of the morning. It was a great way to truly get a feel for the holiday season and connect with our coworkers in a laid back setting.
Afterwards, a few of us headed over to a little Blues bar called Maloe Melo, since we couldn’t get our dancing feet to stop jigging. It was fun, and along with the pizzazz of the College Hotel led to the general consensus that the evening was awesome.
This will be the first year that I will spend Christmas away from my family. I did consider flying back to Toronto for the few days that I have off, but it would be madness and costly, and I’m trying to tell myself that, just as BlackBerry commercials have taught me, distance has nothing to do with closeness – I can spend Christmas here and my family can still understand how much I love them. And just when I started to feel sorry for myself and renege on the conviction of my decision, I got an email from Jacqui and Jeff (who now live in England, where Jax is a Post Doc) that they would like to come to Amsterdam and would I like Christmas visitors. Something about coincidences like that freaks me out, and I got a little teary eyed that I will, in fact, be spending the holidays with people that I love and feel at home with. Albert-Heijn-grocery-bag tobogganing at Museumplein, holler.
Now come a few precious weeks to familiarize myself with supermarkets in Amsterdam. No one wants boring ol’ cuisine for Christmas, do they?
The CPS this year was held in the city of Vancouver, and since I have not been back there since 2003 (during the blackout, when I was working at NYGH and told Dr. B that I had to bolt west “‘cuz the Pet Shop Boys said so”) I thought it would be the ideal opportunity to get reacquainted with the city and make good on my 5-year-old promise to visit Jax and Jeff. The bonus, of course, was that John was able to get a few days off of work as well, so adventures awaited.
The big argument was whether or not, when you have 4 days to explore the western coast of Canada, you should spend two of them on a visit to Tofino. When I lived over Kenny’s Produce Store on College I had a neighbour that saved every penny to go there, and before he went he used to sit outside for hours blabbering on about the beauty of the spot and how once he gets there he will never leave. This, of course, left me intrigued. So we decided to go. And, by the way, if you ever go, stay at the Surf’s Inn Cedar Loft Guesthouse and eat at Sobo Restaurant. So lovely.
But not before we got our fill of the city. Many things I remember from my first trip – Gastown, Yaletown, UBC, YVR, Robson, Tanpopo, Stanley Park, English Bay, Canada Place and the VAG. Others, however, I never experienced – the BC Ferries, Cathedral Grove, Goats on the Roof, Vij’s (lamb popsicles were legendary), great grocery food around Granville Island and at the Public Market, Commercial Drive (where Jacqui and Jeff took us for dinner at Havana Theatre and to a gelato place that had us spinning with excitement – we got to try Durian, Garlic, and Spicy Mango gelato, which were insane). It’s a great city, lots of active people, lots of nature lovers, lots of conscious attempts at conservation.