Claire and Ava in Gruyeres, Switzerland

Claire and Ava in Gruyeres, Switzerland

October, 2011

October, 2011
Chess in Lausanne, Switzerland

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Since Scotland...

Our arrival home from Scotlandwas uneventful, on time, all that good stuff. Greeting us in the garden was the summer concert. Apparently there is a cadre of good musicians in the neighborhood who gather to throw a nice late afternoon concert in our back yard. We threw open the windows and enjoyed their talent.

I must say I love the garden, despite its limitations (essentially no balls, no bikes, no pets (thank heavens on that one for us non-pet owners) etc. The "no no no" rule isn't limited to our neighborhood garden; many parks here have plenty of restrictions too. I get some of them but there is a point at which I maintain it is just grass and should be used... for the week after our train trip, Ava wrapped up Reception at Abercorn, seemed to have a great year, ended with a long drawn out good-bye, as did Claire at ASL.

Hers began Tuesday with a "dress as you wish" and bring something to share party. So we sent fruit and Belle on her scooter.

I believe she had a great day and a load of sugar.

Meanwhile Claire and I had a lovely time at Hampton Court Palace...

Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in south west London; it has not been lived in by the British royal family since the 18th century. The palace is located 11.7 miles south west of Charing Cross and upstream of Central London on the River Thames. It was originally built for Cardinal Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII, circa 1514; in 1529, as Wolsey fell from favour, the palace was passed to the King, who enlarged it.

The following century, William III's massive rebuilding and expansion project intended to rival Versailles was begun. Work halted in 1694, leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque. While the palace's styles are an accident of fate, a unity exists due to the use of pink bricks and a symmetrical, albeit vague, balancing of successive low wings.

One highlight was a tour of the kitchens wherein we were in the "servant" group (which meant we were informed of how we would have been treated as Henry VIII and his royal entourage blew through and consumed all the food and game in the area for a month before plundering on to the next royal property).

We checked out wings of the palace dedicated to various times of his life (young Henry, for example), saw re-enactments of events leading up to his sixth (and final) wedding, had lunch in the Tiltyard (originally used for jousting) eventually meandered back to retrieve Ava.

The following day she and I were off to Paddington Rec for her 2nd annual Abercorn sports day, which the prior week she informed me she DID NOT want to attend. However, this particular Wed. saw her asking me repeatedly WHEN we were going to leave for sports day. Claire opted out entirely, so I whisked her off to ASL for a one off day at sports camp.

Both kids, I think, enjoyed the day outdoors. After Ava's rousing round of games (which involved bouncing on rubber horses, relays, carrying water through obstacle courses, etc.) we picknicked with Abercorn friends. Later, along with Claire, we capped the day off with ice cream at Gelato Mia.

On Thursday, after Ava finished school early (begs the question: why bother with the 8:30 to 11:10 day...) the kids convinced me that we HAD to go to one of those filthy indoor play places.

I let myself be convinced, given how rarely I let the opportunity crop up.

This time: Bramley's. Which isn't terribly easy to get to, especially with new tube work. But make our way we did, and the kids proceeded to get their socks blackened while having a ball.

Friday found us at the zoo, after having eyes checked. I discovered the fine NHS covers eye exams for kids, and given I wore glasses/contacts forever, I think it wise to check in on the sight business.

Dr. Shuyler (a very thorough German opthomologist with the 3-D eye photo equipment that I quite like) pronounced both kids with good vision, thankfully.

The zoo was good, as usual, and we had a great day for it. A few hours later we opted for the canal boat ride back, happily drifting our way to Little Venice.

Joe and I ended the day with friends at our favorite French restaurant. Love their food. LOVE it.

And for the weekend, low key on all counts.

Then off to Centre Parcs! Apparently this is a wildly popular vacation in various parts of Europe. In the UK there are 5 CP campuses. We met up w/ friends at one near Warminster, known as Longleat.

A short train journey and we were soon checking out bikes. The place is huge, with hundreds of cabins that accomodate up to eight. And biking/walking is how everyone gets around. Our particular Centre Parcs was quite hilly so we decided it best that Ava would be in a trailer behind me.

Thus I had a mountain bike w/ 50+ pounds of Ava plus trailer plus asundry other items throughout the week. Let's just say these legs were tired -- in a good way -- at the end of the day.

Day one: we zipped our collective children -- 4 total -- off to a quick lunch then art program, some biking, settling in and dinner at Strada (Italian chain). Good food, mediocre service. Portions were great other than for the 3 girls who all ordered pasta no sauce. Somehow their pasta seemed to be a plate for one split 3 ways?

Day two found us dividing and conquering, Kathy with the big kids off to their trail ride, Ava off to a creative clown workshop. She had a lovely painted face and various clown crafts at the end of her session.

While Kathy got pampered at the spa in the afternoon, I took the kids to the mega pool complex and a couple hours later we re-surfaced, crashed at our cabin for a bit and headed off to dinner at a Spanish tapas place. Good food, better service.

Wed.: my turn for the spa. Can I just say I could live in a spa. Who couldn't?!? Peaceful, warm atmostphere, big fluffy robes, nice spa music and someone who doesn't talk while massaging well. My back LOVES every minute of it.

In the afternoon Ava had another craft program, Claire and the other kids and Kathy attempted to do laser tag but were thwarted. First, not enough participants, then rain and wasps attacked their contenders. Happily they didn't attack our group.

So we hit the playground before convincing Cafe Rouge to seat us for dinner...the pancake joint thwarted us. Hmph!

Thursday was my favorite -- we played a round of miniature golf in the morning and in the afternoon did some tree trekking. This involved climbing up a tree onto a series of rope courses which got progressively higher and more challenging. All of them wobbled; the most challenging was a single thin rope we inched across while hanging onto ropes hanging loosely from above.

At one point we had to leap between two platforms, and the grand finale was free fall jump.

Yes, we were attached to harnesses the entire time.

Definitely an adrenalin adventure. And very cool (once complete of course).

From the tree tops the kids tried their hand at roller skating, and then it was time for our last dinner, this time at Grand Cafe. Great space, food was fine, kids enjoyed the live music.

And Friday we were off after a quick dip! Not a bad way to spend the week, and as close to camping as I need to get. My how I've removed myself from those early 20's days when I camped in a tent for several days on end. Highlights there included really good red meat over the grill and beer cooled in the creek. Same creek I hauled my bar of Ivory into for the most rapid baths I've ever had. Yes, I was the only one willing to turn blue for the sake of cleanliness.

Today we enjoyed an outing to the Banqueting House, where Charles I was executed. Built in the 1600's, it's still used today for state functions. The ceiling, painted by Peter Paul Rubens, is fabulous.

From there we stopped at Claire and my favorite book store -- London's oldest.

And tomorrow we'll get ready for Berlin and the Hilton. Much as the cabin experience is a nice diversion, I'll be delighted to enjoy the city break and the hotel. It won't be long before the coyotes will be howling in Montana...

Friday, July 9, 2010


Happy Belated Fourth of July!!!

It’s slight anticlimactic here. Given we woke up in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the Radisson Blu and spent a few hours traveling back to London, there wasn’t much opportunity for burgers on the Barbie. Experiencing the fireworks vicariously.
Suffice it to say we had a great day, though! Anytime you can wake up in on vacation Scotland and the weather is warm, it’s a happy time.

The girls and I left London Thursday morning via the fine East Coast trainline. Shortly before 2 we were checking into our hotel (8 minutes late due to a freight train in front of us. We were reminded of this apparent infraction several times en route. Hence I’ll pass on the 8 minute debacle. X%@ freight train!

Joe rolled in shortly thereafter; actually we ran into him by the bus mecca as we were gathering our tickets for sight seeing. He was on the airport charter (doesn’t that sound more glamorous than bus), having just landed from London. Prior to that Charlotte. Long day for the J-O-E.

Once settled into the Radisson we headed for the Castle. It’s on one end of Edinbrough’s Royal Mile, the palace is at the other. Lovely walk up to the Castle as the weather was warm, breezy and sunny. (I expected chilly wind and rain; what a pleasant surprise.)

About the castle…

Edinburgh’s Castle rock has been a stronghold for over 3000 years.

Archaeologists found evidence for human occupation of the Castle Rock reaching back to 900 BC, the late Bronze Age. During the Roman occupation of Scotland in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, it was a thriving settlement. In those far-off days they called the place Din Eidyn, ‘the stronghold of Eidyn’. Then came the invading Angles, around AD 638, and ever since then the rock has been known by its English name - Edinburgh.

In the Middle Ages Edinburgh became Scotland’s chief royal castle - seat of royalty, headquarters of the sheriff of Edinburgh, military garrison and storehouse of the royal gun train, and repository of the nation’s crown jewels and state records.
Impressive buildings were constructed, including the 12th-century St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh, David’s Tower, built for David II, Robert the Bruce’s son, in the 1370s, and the monumental great hall of James IV, opened in 1511. But the long and bitter Wars of Independence with the ‘auld enemy’, England, took their toll, and the castle endured siege upon siege; Edward I, Edward III and Henry VIII all did their utmost to batter down the walls.

In 1566 Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI in the royal palace within the castle. The tiny bed-closet still survives, a room that has a special significance for Great Britain, for in 1603 James VI became also James I of England - the ‘Union of the Crowns’. The departure of the Scottish court for London saw much of the royal ‘glitter’ go from the castle. Thereafter the stronghold became little more than a garrison fortress and arsenal. The last sovereign to sleep there was Charles I in 1633, prior to his coronation as king of Scots.

The Jacobite siege of 1745, during which Bonnie Prince Charlie held court at Holyrood Palace but could not wrest the castle from the Hanoverian King George II, proved to be the last. Since that time, the ancient fortress has continued to serve as an active army base, but has since found new roles - as a major visitor attraction, as home of the Scottish National War Memorial and two proud Scottish regiments (the Royal Scots and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards), and as host of the world-famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

In 1996 the Stone of Destiny, Scotland’s coronation stone, was placed in the Crown Room alongside the nation’s Crown Jewels (the Honours of Scotland), following its return from Westminster after a space of 800 years. In 1995 the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh were inscribed as a World Heritage Site, and the castle remains its most important building.

The most laughable part of our castle tour was when one of the guards blew into the 12th century chapel with a big bright red umbrella, plonked it down on the altar and poked through a nearby closet.

Following our two-hour audio-led guide through the castle, we meandered through town, regrouped a bit and headed off to dinner. Destination: La Favorita. One of those restaurants that looked pretty close on the map…anyway, after a good long walk we found ourselves at a bustling Italian restaurant with friendly staff and AMAZING pizza. AMAZING. The kids of course signed up for pasta. We all highly recommend La Favorita. With a cab back.


I started the day out with a walk around town, managed to get lost and found. Great town to wander as the architecture is very stately, bridges and green spaces abound, lots of viewpoints of the surrounding hills and waterways.

We then hit the fine Radisson breakfast buffet, well liked by all. Hashbrowns and bacon: right up Claire’s alley. Very good sausages, I must say.
From the Rad we headed off to catch the first tour bus out to the Royal Yacht Brittania:

Plans to build a new Royal Yacht to replace Victoria and Albert III began during the reign of King George VI. But The King died in 1952, four months before the keel of the Yacht was laid. His daughter, Princess Elizabeth succeeded him to the throne and the new Queen together with her husband, Prince Philip, took a guiding hand in the design of the Yacht, personally approving plans prepared by Sir Hugh Casson, Consultant Architect, and selecting furniture, fabrics and paintings.

No matter where Britannia was in the world, however exotic or remote a location, stepping on to the deck of the Royal Yacht was always a home-coming for The Queen. Furnished to her personal taste, each room was filled with photographs of her children, treasured family heirlooms, much-loved personal possessions and gifts from across the globe. This was the ship that, even with its full complement of around 300 Royal Yachtsmen and Royal Household staff, The Queen named as the one place where she could truly relax.
The Royal Yacht Britannia has helped to make The Queen the most travelled monarch the world has ever known. Not only has The Queen and her family travelled the world on Britannia, the world - its statesmen and leaders - has visited them on board. From Sydney to Samoa, The Queen's guests have been entertained just as they would be at a royal palace on British soil.
For a state visit some five tonnes of luggage, including everything from The Queen's jewels to the famous bottles of Malvern water for Her Majesty's tea, would be brought on board. With The Queen came up to 45 members of the Royal Household, who together with Britannia's Officers and Yachtsmen ensured that each visit ran like clockwork and that no detail was overlooked.
As well as hosting royal banquets and receptions, Britannia was an ambassador for British business, promoting trade and industry around the globe. Indeed the Overseas Trade Board estimates that £3 billion has been made for the Exchequer as a result of commercial days on Britannia between 1991 and 1995.
For four royal couples, Britannia was to provide a honeymoon sanctuary before the onset of married life in the world's most photographed family. Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones were the first royal honeymooners to enjoy Britannia's inimitable star treatment when, in 1960, the Yacht took them on a 6,000 mile voyage to the Caribbean. Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips were next to honeymoon on Britannia cruising the West Indies in 1973. In 1981 the Prince and Princess of Wales flew to Gibraltar to meet Britannia at the start of their sixteen-day honeymoon voyage in the Mediterranean. Five years later Britannia hosted her final honeymoon for the Duke and Duchess of York who spent five days aboard the Yacht cruising around the Azores.

We had a very cool audio guide tour (is there a theme here) of the yacht, parked alongside a mall (auspicious to be nestled up next to Debenham’s). From there we trooped through said Debenham’s and back to the double decker tour bus. Great day for that (the bus) I might add – we got some sun, wind and a little Scottish humor on the tour round the city.

Back in town we opted for a quick pasta lunch at a local joint; kids got the royal pasta w/ cheese sauce treatment from the chef/owner and we then made our way to Camera Obscura, a very cool 5-level attraction.

The Camera Obscura show is a fascinating and highly amusing way to see the city and learn about its history. This unique experience has delighted and intrigued people for over 150 years. From inside this mysterious Victorian rooftop chamber, you see live moving images of Edinburgh projected onto a viewing table through a giant periscope. Pick people up on your hands, squash them to a pulp and even make the traffic climb over paper bridges.

Our friendly guide will entertain you while telling stories of Edinburgh, past and present, in an engaging and informative way. Our visitors are truly amazed at how, in this age of high technology, a simple array of mirror, lenses and daylight can produce this incredible panorama.

The kids loved the place, particularly the “photo” shadows they made on the wall. Oh and superimposing their eyes and smiles on a monkey, a baby, etc.

From Camera Obscura we were off to the other end of the Royal Mile and the Palace. Another lovely site, complete w/ audio guide.

Founded in 1498 by James IV, Holyrood Palace has witnessed some of the most dramatic episodes in Scottish History. One famous face linked to Holyrood Palace is that of Mary Queen of Scots.

Mary Queen of Scots married the Dauphin of France (heir to the throne) at 15 and became a widow at 19. She returned to Scotland and was crowned at Holyrood Palace as the Queen of Scots. Dramatic events unfolded within the walls of Holyrood including the stabbing of her Italian secretary David Rizzio.

The apartments of Mary Queen of Scots at Holyrood, including the spot where Rizzio was stabbed 57 times, are open to visitors. The Palace at Holyrood is of elegant design. In the main court there is a copy of the ornamental stone fountain in Linlithgow Palace.

Holyrood Palace has known some distressful times after the Union of England and Scotland. Reconstruction had to be carried out several times and court hadn't been held at the Palace by a monarch for some 170 years before George IV had finally done so.

Holyrood Abbey

Holyrood Abbey is now a ruin with a history that spans 800 years. The Abbey witnessed many royal events -- weddings, births, crown ceremonies and funerals. Restored in 1758, Holyrood Abbey became a ruin once more when the stone roof collapsed due to a hurricane and has been like that ever since.

Palaced out, we then meandered back to the Radisson for a quick dip and were soon off to dinner, this time at Creeler’s. Just around the corner. Phew.

Very nice, quiet candlelit space with an amazing crayfish appetizer that all four of us enjoyed. I had a delicious scallop/smoked fish entrée that makes my mouth water as I think about it.

Claire did a great job on her halibut and I think Joe and Ava enjoyed the Aberdeen angus beef. Fish and angus in Scotland. Pass on the haggis. Oh and the warm chocolate cake dessert was to die for.


This morning we moved a little faster after another round at the Rad buffet. Off to catch a small coach to St. Andrews. And en route: a stop at the Forth bridge, a railway bridge that crosses the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh. Say that five times fast. The Firth of Forth.

Then at Falkland, a quaint little village w/ another palace that was used by the Mary Queen of Scots royalty and others. Apparently when each palace got a little too tainted by lack of hygiene the royal party just up and moved to a different palace to let the smells diffuse. Of note: the Palace has the world’s oldest tennis court still in use.

On to St. Andrews, where we had time to explore, have lunch etc. About the town:
St. Andrews is a university town and former royal burgh on the east coast of Fife in Scotland. The town is named after Saint Andrew the Apostle and has a population of 16,596 making it the fifth largest settlement in Fife.
There has been an important church in St Andrews since at least the 8th century, and a bishopric since at least the 11th century. The burgh became the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland, a position which was held until the Scottish Reformation. The famous cathedral, the largest in Scotland, now lies in ruins.

Today St Andrews is known worldwide as the "home of golf". This is in part because the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, founded in 1754, exercises legislative authority over the game worldwide (except in the United States and Mexico), and also because the famous links (acquired by the town in 1894) is the most frequent venue for The Open Championship, the oldest of golf's four major championships.

The town is also home to the University of St Andrews, the third oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of the UK's most prestigious. The University is an integral part of the burgh, and during term time students make up approximately one third of the town's population.

We checked out the course, which was being readied for the upcoming Open and of course wandered down to the water, where Ava plucked her toes into the North Sea. We also wandered through the university, cathedral ruins and cemetery and downtown area. Lovely little city.

After hopping back on our bus (and sitting behind two very loaded Asian people who looked to be in their late 50’s/early 60’s), we motored on to a quick stop at a pagan temple. Whenever I hear the word “pagan” I think of that silly American comedy about the police guy saving the virgin from sacrifice. Name escapes me.

Anyway, this “temple” was a hole in the ground w/ a footprint nearby, overlooking a cliff and in the vicinity of a church. Apparently a common feature: Christianity plopping itself in place of paganism.

Our last stop of the day was East Neuk, a fishing village with lovely views of the sea. And reputedly the best fish and chips in the world. Given we’d had lunch we opted for Anstruther’s homemade ice cream instead, which was fabulous.

Upon return Claire and I hiked the 120 steps up to the High Street (same road as our hotel and yes, there is a more gradual way up but we were on a mission to Camera Obscura for the infamous souvenir). Ava found hers – a lovely jeweled ring – at a shop in Falkland.

With invisible ink pens in hand we were then off to the hotel for another quick swim; this time even I got in and was pleasantly surprised: it was warm. My kind of pool.

We then mobilized and headed to Bijou, a French bistro, for dinner. In another part of town, we cabbed it there and were thrilled with the food in this little restaurant, worked by a two-man band: chef and waiter.

Great food, service and prices…I had a delightful asparagus/huloumi salad, Joe had tomato chili soup, the olives alone were amazing.

The kids shared fish and chips, I had lamb chops with amazing potato wedges and Joe had a pork dish.

For dessert he and I shared a rhubarb pudding that was delicious. Kids got some more ice cream. Think of the calcium benefits.


And this morning we rolled out slowly, rolled down to breakfast slowly and hit the pool. And then made off like bandits for our train. What a great first experience in Scotland!

June re-cap

Written June 30, 2010

Despite my best intentions, poor blog suffers…alas it probably won’t be the last time.

Since early June Claire and I have had the opportunity to view London from the infamous London Eye! We had a good day for it – warm and breezy, a few clouds, thin lines.

The best part, we both decided, was the 4-minute 4-D (yes 4-D) film clip before the ride. It sets a nice stage for the view with a seagull up close and personal.

About the Eye:

Since opening in March 2000 The Merlin Entertainments London Eye has become an iconic landmark and a symbol of modern Britain. The London Eye is the UK’s most popular paid for visitor attraction, visited by over 3.5 million people a year.

A breathtaking feat of design and engineering, passengers in the London Eye's capsules can see up to 40 kilometres in all directions.

The London Eye is the vision of David Marks and Julia Barfield, a husband and wife architect team. The wheel design was used as a metaphor for the end of the 20th century, and time turning into the new millennium. It’s the tallest cantilevered observation wheel in the world, rising high above the London skyline at 135 metres.
The London eye has 32 capsules, representing the 32 boroughs of London.
It took seven years and the skills of hundreds of people from five countries to make the London Eye a reality.
The London Eye can carry 800 passengers per revolution - equivalent to 11 London red doubled-decker buses.
Each rotation takes about 30 minutes, meaning a capsule travels at a stately 26cm per second, or 0.9km (0.6 miles) per hour - twice as fast as a tortoise sprinting; allowing passengers to step on and off without the wheel having to stop.

After our Eye experience we had a picnic lunch, hit the playground and library and retrieved Ava.

The next day wasn’t quite so lovely; I caught a short-lived but mean virus, was able to get kids off to school and then hugged the couch as fever raged. Great reminder of how nice it is to be healthy.

A few days later found me and a number of other ladies at Sofra (great middle Eastern food) for our first St Johns Wood Women’s Club board meeting. (Say that 3 times fast.) Lovely group and I look forward to being part of the board in 2010-11.

Later in the day I had the opportunity to hear Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, speak. She came to ASL for a brief discussion of her book. Lovely woman who had 62 rejection letters before being’s that for persistence. Well-timed as our book group met to discuss The Help the following day.

Following Kathryn’s brief appearance, a few of us collected at a nearby pub for pimm’s while kids enjoyed pizza and playtime at Szerina’s house. She and I then rolled into dinner at Vineria, our local Italian favorite.

Friday: more Italian with our friends the Sloans, who will soon be off to the U.S. This time we hit a lovely Italian restaurant in Primrose Hill, their neck of the woods. Great food and a great outdoor dining space.

Saturday began the First Holy Communion weekend. Claire and I went down to Marylebone – gorgeous old church – Church of Our Lady – for the Sporre kids’ First Holy Communion. Very nice ceremony. Claire and I also went to the Sporre celebration at their home afterward, first getting our nails painted in preparation for Claire’s big event! (This was her first nail salon experience, just a nice polish.)

Sunday found us at St. Thomas More, our parish, for noon Mass, wherein Claire and 14 others made their First Holy Communion. Miss Ewa, our babysitter, joined us. It was truly a lovely ceremony, with Father Gerard gearing his homily perfectly for the kids. Afterward we had a barrage of photos, treats with members of the Congregation, then were off to Cafe Med, Claire’s choice, for lunch.

June 14 was zoo day! Claire’s school wrapped up that week and celebrated end of school at the zoo. I served as chaperone so followed her and two classmates as they navigated their way via map to the exhibits each had chosen to visit. The weather was lovely, we picnicked outside, everyone seemed to enjoy the day and no children were lost!

The following day I got to hit the Italian Renaissance drawings exhibit at the British Museum w/ some of my Italian group. We enjoyed it very much, had a quick Thai lunch afterward. Wednesday was the last official school day for Claire; classes broke at noon so we met a bunch of ASL families at Violet Hill for such a nice picnic! Again the weather ended up being fantastic after a threatening morning. Eventually I peeled myself off my sunny spot on the lawn and we retrieved Ava and hit Gelato Mio per her request.

Later in the week Claire and I checked out London’s oldest book store (fabulous place that goes up and up and up – kids’ books on top floor), had a lovely Italian lunch out in Mayfair, hit Fortnum and Mason for tea gifts, picked up some other bits and had an all around lovely day out!

I also got to meet with Ava’s teacher for our final parent/teacher conference. I’m pleased to say she got great accolades, has been a good student, interacts well with others and, from Miss Waters’ perspective, seems to enjoy school very much. She’ll continue with Abercorn in the fall as a year one student (aka Kindergarten).

From the conference I went to “Tap Dogs,” a “global dance phenomenon.” Essentially 5 or 6 really fit, really talented men in casual clothes (jeans/t-shirts) and tap boots in an industrial setting dancing for 90 minutes. Loud, fun, high energy and amusing. Similar feel to “Stomp” but not quite as engaging.

To finish out the week, some friends and Claire and I went to Holland Park for playtime and a picnic. What started out as a cloudy/unpredictable day ended up being perfect! FYI…Holland Park is a district and a public park in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It has a reputation as an affluent and fashionable area, known for attractive large Victorian townhouses, and high-class shopping and restaurants.

Over the weekend we relaxed, with me running my first 10 K in years on Sunday. It was the McMillan race, a fundraiser for cancer, held in Regent’s Park. I was thrilled w/ my time – 52 minutes. (I stink at keeping track of distances, times etc. so was pleasantly surprised at my finish.)

We also spent part of Father’s Day at Ava’s summer fair, where I was recruited to work the cake table. The kids managed to go through plenty of coins for the activities and food, and we left empty-handed from the raffle. Good afternoon activity, though.

This all brings us to last week, wherein Claire enjoyed camp at ASL. She came home tired and sun-kissed; highlights were the swim and water fight, it seems.
While she was camping and Ava was at school, I got to check out the Grace Kelly exhibit at the V&A.

Certain to be a big hit with any fashionistas or fans of the films, the wardrobe on show in the Grace Kelly exhibition London event includes over 50 of the actresses outfits, along with hats, jewellery and the original Hermes Kelly bag that has been coveted by so many for several decades. Also on show are some of her favourite designer dresses, with gowns by Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent among them.

Actress, princess, star
Renowned for her effortless elegance and starring in some of the most popular films of the 50s, Grace Kelly became Princess Grace of Monaco in 1965 when she married Prince Rainier. Alongside several garments from her films, her lace wedding gown which she wore in the civil ceremony, features in the Grace Kelly exhibition at Victoria and Albert Museum.

High Society
Famed for her role in the musical High Society in which she starred alongside Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong, Grace Kelly was one of the most famous screen actors of her day. With a style admired and copied by many, the Grace Kelly exhibition gives you an insight into her glamorous Hollywood lifestyle with dresses from several films, posters, film clips and her Oscar statuette all on display. The dress she wore to collect her Oscar for the film Country Girl also features in the exhibition, which is certain to excite fans of her movies as well as fashion fanatics.

I also got to celebrate a friend’s retirement with a very elegant French lunch at Oslo Court restaurant. The establishment is located in a lovely mansion block in St. Johns Wood; the décor very British – think the kind of place you’d take grandmother for tea.

We had lovely food, and copious amounts of it, as tables of elegantly dressed ladies and gents came in. Mixed crowd; apparently it’s a favorite of cabbies. Who knew. Alice was well celebrated, I think.

Also on my calendar for the week – aside from the mundane – was an evening out to a chick flick…”Letters from Juliet.” Lovely views of Italy; it will make you want to go (to Italy, that is. The film is just ok, in my opinion).

Wed. evening Joe and I met a friend of his for dinner – he was in town briefly on business. Very nice meal at Café du Marche, one of our favorite restaurants.

Friday evening saw us at “Enron,” after meeting up w/ our friends Richard and Tim at Joe Allen’s for a wonderful meal. Good American food –organic mushroom burgers as opposed to greasy nachos. Very tasty, great “jazz room” feel to the place. The production was very well done and we all enjoyed it.

Saturday we caught our breath and on Sunday Joe flew out early and the kids and I enjoyed “Brazil Brazil” at the Udder Belly.

The venue: a 400 seat theatre inside an enormous purple cow, staged alongside the Thames.

The show:

Witness capoeira – the rare and beautiful Brazilian fusion of dance and martial
arts, as its masters leap, flip and spin at breathtaking speed. Feel the carnival beats and be swept away on this incredible journey to the pulsating heart of Brazilian passion. Unstoppable rhythm, indescribable feats of acrobatics and a breathless display of football magic from the world champions of the beautiful game.

Great show and nearby was a free onscreen viewing of the World Cup so lots of energy in the area. We capped our Brazil Brazil experience off with ice cream and headed home to enjoy the quiet of the garden.

Last week Claire I went to the Natural History Museum for “The Deep” exhibit and lunch. Nice outing/exhibition:

Plunge into the abyss at The Deep exhibition. Enter a weird and wonderful world, 11,000 metres down in the ocean, less explored than the moon's surface. See bizarre creatures, astonishing images and real specimens, some on display for the first time.

Tuesday we linked up w/ friends for pony day at the London Equestrian Centre. All three kids enjoyed it and we were impressed with the level of organization/instruction provided. (Poor old Westway stables just can’t get it together.)

And next adventure: Scotland!

Jama Masjid, Old Delhi

Jama Masjid, Old Delhi
Largest mosque in India