Monday, 31 October 2011

The American Suburbanite goes to Wembley

NFL takes Wembley Stadium
Last week, my husband and I woke up early to catch a train to London.  What were we heading to London for?  Football...American Football that is.  It was the 5th regular season game in the international series of the NFL.  Not a 'friendly' or preseason game this game counts towards the season for both teams.  

Trafalgar Squares Lions at NFL Fan Rally
We arrived in London and to our hotel around 1130.  Our check in time was not until 1500 so we dropped off our luggage with the concierge and headed to Trafalgar Square for the fan rally. The NFL dominated the tourist attraction with a giant bear (inflatable), a pirate ship with a full crew aboard as well as the normal long snap, quarterback toss, and kicking attempts.

When we first arrived things were just warming up.  A band was on stage and people were milling around.  As the band wrapped up, things seemed to take a more football focus. 

Some Buccaneers of Tampa Bay invaded Trafalgar Square to give Lord Nelson a run for his money!

The ever popular Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders took the stage as well as a few of the players themselves.

Followed by the Chicago Bears and their drum line. 

The commissioner and Dan Rooney(complete surprise) even made an appearance!  I bet if you look at Mr. Rooney's pictures you will see me and my black and gold union jack!

Dan Rooney, a true gentleman of the game

Could there be an NFL team in the UK?

Then there was the reason we stayed on Trafalgar Square as long as we did came on stage, Jerome 'The Bus' Bettis.  I made a poster just for his appearance which gathered lots of attention throughout the two days in London.  I was snapped by the event photographers, you can find some of the photos here at Concerts Captured website gallery.  I even got a thumbs up from The Bus himself on Sunday before the game at the tailgate party.  

Proudly showing off his hardware!

After the Superbowl champion left the stage, another band took the stage and we headed back to the Hotel Grange St. Paul.  We took a hot bath in our nice big tub and shower in our lovely multi jet shower!  It was great for warming us up even if it wasn't very good for washing long thick hair. 

We met up with a few friends for dinner at Sartori in Piccadilly.  The menu had plenty of great choices.  As a starter, I had mozzarella and prosciutto and my husband had calamari.  Then we all shared an enormous pizza.  It gave us plenty of energy to prepare for the next day.

We had a leisurely morning with croissants and pan au chocolate with pears for breakfast.  Read the newspaper and watched the weather on TV so we were fully prepared for the evening game.  We set off towards Wembley in the early afternoon.

A girl from the 'Burgh
Steeler Nation UK
It was a fairly easy journey on the tube once we figured out which lines were running.  We even met a Steeler fan on the train who was interested in my husbands English Steeler Fan t-shirt! Once in Wembley, we stopped for the sandwich deal at Tesco (in order to get something healthy instead of fast food). 

When we arrived at the Stadium we made our way to the tailgate party, where we the atmosphere was similar to Trafalgar Square (or even a Superbowl).  Jerome Bettis even donned a jersey (from a fan) and ran the ball in to the 'endzone' of the stage! 

Our seats were absolutely amazing in the Buccaneers end zone, unfortunately we did not see them in there enough times. 

Pre-game festivities: cheerleaders, GooGoo dolls and both US and UK armed forces
Buccaneers take the field proud to be in the UK

A few of the other highlights of the game?

A squirrel not sure where to go once he made it on the field.  After about 15 minutes, he made it under the stands, poor little thing. 

Squirrel, squirrel, squirrel!

And a streaker who had some good moves avoiding a couple of tackles from security.  If you look at the middle photo, a woman is not going to let him get passed if her coleague misses his tackle!

Wish these pictures were a bit closer, they told me I was not allowed to use my camera (a Cannon Rebel eos dSLR), only the press were aloud to use 'those professional cameras' as the man told me.  Now, no one said anything to me as I walked in with it around my neck, searched and patted down multiple times.   I did not put the camera completely away, but I kept the standard lens on it as opposed to switching back up to my 200mm telephoto lens. 

Anyway, we had a great weekend sharing American football in the UK!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

On a down town train...

Ok, so it is not a down town train, but it is a train going to town.  Even though it was a day off for my husband we woke up to our alarms while it was still dark outside to catch a train down to London at 0828 this morning.  We are heading in for the International Series NFL game tomorrow.

When we get into London we are hoping to get into Trafalgar Square to see form Pittsburgh Steeler Champion "The Bus" Jerome Bettis.

Our hotel is near St. Paul's Cathedral and the protesters for occupy London have been moved out of the financial district and wound up there.  Hopefully they won't be too much problem in their tent city.

Oh well, thought I would be able to capture picture from my web cam for the blog, but no such luck... pictures soon to follow :)

Monday, 17 October 2011

The American Suburbanite in Paris

La Tour Eiffel
During our summer holiday we spent several days in Paris.  I studied French for 6 years in high shool and college and always had the fairytale view of Paris.  we caught the Eurostar from ebbsfleet train station and made it across the channel quite easily.  I was really surprised by how laid back customs and security are on the trains.  I suppose it is no less relaxed than interstate travel in the States, just seemed strange between countries. 

The State of a Nation

My fantasy view of Paris was quickly changed once arriving at Gare du Nord in Paris.  First, it was not very well signed to find the metro system into Paris.  Another very disturbing trend found throughout the city were the number of homeless and begging.  Most of these were not people who were native to France, but seemed prolific.  Groups of young women (girls really) were gathered at metro stations and tourist attractions throughout the city with clip boards.  They were so insistent upon getting you to cooperate with them that when you refused, their English skills were shown in the profanity that they would shout at you.  There seemed to be one man with each group of women, and he would hurry them along to a new spot if the police were seen  coming around.  Thankfully, they were easy to spot and avoid through out most of the city. 

After checking in at our hotel, we took in a bit of the city and headed towards La Tour Eiffel.  Our hotel was near the Catacombs, the opposite side of the city!  We thought the TomTom sat nav would help make our walk a bit easier, but it was more hassle than it was worth. In and amongst the tall buildings I think we were walking faster than the directions were coming through.  After several stops to get my bearings and pulling out my reading glasses to read the map, we were headed in the right direction, sans TomTom. 

Along the way, we stopped at a cafe.  The sun was warm and lovely, though my husband had to drink his very large beer rather quickly! 
Our first sighting!

We continued along our way, I again needed to pull out my glasses several times to head in the right direction.  It is quite frustrating how an object so large can hide behind trees and buildings so well!  When we finally made it we found a place on the lawn in the park and relaxed in the shadow of the tower.  We had tickets to go up the tower on Sunday (our final day) so we headed across the Seine (camera snapping away the whole time). 

going up?

view from across the Seine

Walked to l'arc de triomphe

Down the Champs Elysees

In front of the Louvre

Finally took the metro back to our room.  I'll talk about our experience in the hotel another time!  At least we did not have a 3am fire alarm like we did on my first visit to London!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Indian Summer

Glorious sunset over the fields
So I have an excuse for not writing much this week... Indian Summer!  This will probably be one of my only posts where I am not complaining about the English weather!

Last week my husband had a meeting in Edinburgh, so I went up with him.  I spent the day walking Princess Street and the Royal Mile bundled up in a wool sweater, suede jacket, and scarf.  I even pulled out my rain hat for a little while and put on my fingerless gloves in the morning.  I knew we were miles further north, but had resigned to the fact summer was long gone.  I would catch a fleeting glimpse in November while we were in Florida, but should start gearing up for winter.  I have even called the chimney sweep and am making plans for another wood delivery.

intermittent rain and chilly at Edinburgh castle

Monday we went down to visit a friend in Mildenhal and the weather was lovely, polar opposite of Edinburgh.  Granted we were probably equally further south as we were north just a few days prior, but gorgeous weather.  We stopped at Cambridge on the way home and we were both warm enough for a nice ice cream just across from Kings College.  

Kings College, Cambridge

Punt boats, Camridge

We thought we would leave the nice weather behind in the south, but it came back to North Yorkshire with us.  Wednesday was warm enough for a skirt and short sleeve top as we walked around York.  

Our al fresco candle light dinner

The gorgeous weather has stayed with us all week, and should do for a bit of October as well.  My husband had to work late last night but this warm weather had me up for grilling and al fresco dining, so I got out some candles and Christmas lights, and we had dinner on the deck.  Grilled salmon, carrots and cauliflower.  We even had fresh local raspberries and cream for dessert.  My husband enjoyed the little escape from reality and I enjoyed setting it up.  I figure as a stay at home wife, why not!  I can always do laundry tomorrow... and dishes, now i have to clean up this mess!

Reports are for the warmest October on record (can only hope!), followed by a snowy end.  Ah well, it is England, I can't expect balmy weather through the year!  That will come when we move back to Florida!