Back in Texas, Back to School

Henry's first day of school.

It’s been a really long time! And a really busy summer. We (very sadly) said goodbye to London town at the end of June and made our way back to Texas. Following the great American immigration tradition it seemed appropriate to stop in Brooklyn for a few days before making our way west. We also enjoyed a wonderful 4th of July weekend in Liberty, NY with old friends before landing in the Lone Star state. Where we promptly ate Mexican food for almost 12 days straight before we loaded up the car (we have a car again!) and drove to Pensacola, FL to spend two weeks at the beach with Lee’s parents. Henry had a lot of lost grandparent and cousin time to catch up on!

And now we are really back in Austin. Henry’s “school” aka Mother’s Day Out has started and our almost year in London already feels like really vivid dream. It’s hard to believe that this time last year we were anxiously awaiting our visas in the mail and packing for our great adventure. And while it’s nice to be back in our house with all our old friends I’d be lying if I said we aren’t a bit out of sorts and unexpectedly homesick for London even though it wasn’t our home for very long. So get ready for lots of posts all about London and everywhere we traveled. Because I took about one million photos during our 9 month adventure and I want to share everything before I forget too much.

Put Me In Coach

Henry Little Kickers

Henry at Little Kickers, his super adorable footie class

Happy World Cup! We have a confession to make: Henry thinks “football” is soccer. Shhh… don’t tell anyone in Texas. Fret not, we’ll get this all straightened out after the World Cup and just in time for our return to Austin and college football season. In the meantime we’re going to fully embrace the sport the rest of the world loves best.

But while we’re on the topic of kids and sports, I just read this great article in the New York Times. Basically it says we shouldn’t let our kids specialize in sports until they are in high school if we want them to avoid injury and become elite athletes – obviously Henry will play Football for Alabama or Texas. But seriously, hooray for letting kids be kids and not mini-pros!

D-Day Landing Beaches

On this 70th Anniversary of D-Day I want to share some photos of our recent trip to Normandy. It was truly a privilege to witness the D-Day landing beaches and small towns that played such an important role in World War II. If you ever get the chance to visit, please go, it will leave an imprint on your heart. I am forever grateful and in awe of the courage and sacrifice of so many to protect our freedom.

Omaha Beach Monument
D-Day Monument at Omaha Beach

Normandy American Cemetery
Normandy American Cemetery

Omaha Beach_
Omaha Beach, Normandy

Longues-sur-Mer Battery
LonguessurMer battery

Mulberry Arronmanches
Remains of the Mulberry harbour at Arromanches

Pointe du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument
U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc (read Reagan’s 40th D-Day Anniversary Speech)

Monument to paratrooper Private John Steele at the church in Sainte-Mère-Église

Henry Omaha Beach
Henry playing in the sand on Omaha Beach

Watching Henry play on Omaha Beach made my heart ache for all the mamas that lost their boys on this stretch of sand. So today, as I remember the thousands of brave men who landed on those beaches, I’ll also be saying a prayer for peace for our children.

Henry’s Last One

Henry Last One Year

Tomorrow Henry turns 2!! What whirlwind of a year. Where did it go? So tonight, as we were reading Henry his last bedtime story as a one year old, I grabbed our camera to capture the moment. I hope two year old snuggles are as sweet as this!


Barcelona, Part Two: Glorious Gaudí

Guadi tiles in Barcelona
A collection of tiles from Park Güell

To be honest this post has been driving me nuts. You know when you just can’t seem to do something justice with words (or even in pictures)? That’s how I feel about all the Gaudí stuff we visited in Barcelona. So instead of a long narration of all the things we saw, I’m just going to throw it out there with a few captions and comments. I have WAY too many other things I want to blog about and my need for things to be perfect and my ability to procrastinate (they’re related you know) is getting in the way of moving on. So with that disclaimer out of the way, here’s what we saw:

Casa Batlló

Gaudi Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló aka “the building that looks like bones”… sadly we didn’t get to go inside.

I didn’t know much about Antoni Gaudí before we arrived in Barcelona. I vaguely remembered learning about him in an art history course. If you had asked me to name one of Gaudí’s works I would have said, “Didn’t he do that crazy colorful building that looks like bones?”

We were absolutely delighted by what we discovered in Barcelona. Gaudí’s style and influence  is unmistakable throughout the city. Did you know that his works in Barcelona are actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site? All the colors and shapes are just stunning and our photos really don’t do them justice. You absolutely must go and see it for yourself!

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia (1882 – still working on it)

We had intended to visit La Sagrada Familia on our first day in Barcelona but the line to go inside the church was huge and we have an impatient toddler. So we admired the exterior and enjoyed the fantastic playground (I love kid friendly cities) across the street!

You might be surprised to learn that La Sagrada Familia is not a cathedral. It’s actually a basilica. But if I were to try to describe it to anyone I’d say it was a cathedral of light and color. It is truly one of the most ethereal spaces that I have ever experienced. Which is funny because from a distance the outside kind of looks like a hot mess. But don’t be distracted by the cranes and construction. When you get up close and go inside its breathtaking.

La Sagrada Nativity Facade
The Nativity Facade at La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Passion Facade
Detail from The Passion Facade at La Sagrada Familia

After admiring the outside the day before we were really excited to actually go inside the next day. With our advanced tickets purchased online the night before (highly recommended) we practically waltzed right in. The interior honestly took my breath away. I couldn’t believe how light and airy it felt compared to the formidable exterior. The colors and shapes were so different than anything else I had ever seen in a church. It is a truly mesmerizing space and really these photos are just a tiny glimpse of what’s inside.

La Sagrada Stained Glass
Colorful stained glass at La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Ceiling and Glass
Light dancing off the ceiling and glass

La Sagrada Light
The columns and walls awash with color from the stained glass

Parc Güell

Parc Güell wasn’t actually intended to be a park. It was originally conceived as a posh subdivision in the Gracia neighborhood of Barcelona but finances got in the way. Which is lucky for the rest of us because it is much too beautiful to not be enjoyed by all.

Park Guell
Gorgeous mosaic tiles

Parc Guell Rachel and Henry
Hanging out on the Serpentine Bench

Parc Guell View
The view of Barcelona from the Serpentine Bench

After a very long and uphill walk to Parc Güell we were rewarded with breathtaking views of Barcelona. Walking all the way to the park with 25lb. stroller and 33lb. toddler is probably not something I would do again. Tip: Take public transportation unless you really like walking. All that walking made us mighty thirsty.


So we had to get a mini pitcher of sangria. It wasn’t that good, but that’s not the point.

Looking north from the terrace at Park Güell, where you can have a sangria under the palm trees!

Don’t you just love seeing palm trees in February. It’s like an instant mood booster.

And this is what’s below you, supporting the terrace!

The whole park almost feels like it’s been carved out of the hillside.

Even the fences are beautiful at Park Güell

Henry Guell
Henry thought Parc Guell was pretty great too!


Buenos Dias Barcelona

Back in February we bought last minute tickets to Barcelona and crossed our fingers for blue skies and sunshine. Neither of us had been before and we had no idea what to expect. We arrived late on a Friday night and promptly went to bed. Cheers to traveling with a toddler! We woke up on Saturday well-rested (relatively) and bright eyed – ready to discover the city.

Barcelona Owl

                                           El búho on the Avinguda Diagonal

We knew Barcelona had a beach, a big crazy unfinished church, sangria, paella, cava and tapas. Oh my Gaudí! We were blown away by the whole city. So much so that I can’t do our long weekend justice in just one post. So consider this part one! I’m saving all the Gaudí bits for part two.

Barcelona Arch

                                  Walking through Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf

While Paris might have a more well know Arc, Barcelona has really impressive one as well. And the rows of palm trees lining the Passeig de Lluís Companys could not have been a more welcome sight for these Londoners. The lovely pedestrian boulevard leads to the beautiful Parc de la Ciutadella. Which is where we discovered a large and very colorful Latin dance festival was taking place. I couldn’t help but stop and take a picture of this trio.

Barcelona Dancers

From the Parc we made our way down to the beach in search of paella and sangria. It was pretty touristy and most foodies would probably disapprove but we couldn’t help ourselves. So we grabbed at table at Xup Xup and indulged. The sun was so bright we actually felt hot – in February!

Paela Barcelona

                                   Paella and cava for mama. No coats or sweaters needed.

Barceloneta Boats

After our sunny lunch we walked along the boardwalk of La Barceloneta and enjoyed the sea.

Henry's first mediterranean

And we all touched the Mediterranean Sea for the first time. Hopefully not the last.

Henry headstand beach

                                                      Henry loves the sand

After the beach we headed back into the older medieval parts of Barcelona, El Born and the Barri Gòtic. We loved going from the bright sunny beach to the old narrow cobblestone streets in just a block or two. Barcelona really does have the best of both worlds.

Barcelona Catedral

                                                    Barcelona Catedral at Twilight

Barcelona Catedral Inside

                                              Inside the medieval Catedral

El Born Flags

                                             Colorful flags and laundry in El Born

Water Faces Barcelona_

                                            Old water fountains in El Born

But the best thing about visiting Barcelona with a toddler were all the playgrounds. You can find them everywhere, tucked away in little squares and along the boulevards.

Henry Playground Barcelona

We absolutely loved this city and I hope we get to go back again soon!

So much to see, so little time and so little blogging

Astronomical Clock Hampton Court Palace

So it turns out I’m awful at blogging. Not that I don’t enjoy it, I just can’t seem to find the time to keep up with it. I realized today that it’s been over a month since my last post!

But I have a really good excuse… kind of. We’ve been traveling and trying to see everything we can in London before we head back to the states in July. So expect posts about Barcelona, Bath, Florence, Amsterdam and London as soon as I find time to finish editing photos. Or more accurately, as soon as I stop procrastinating and use my time to edit photos instead of reading about what Kate wore in Australia.

But while we’re on the subject of so little time, how is Henry turning two in 27 days!?!? How did we leave New York three years ago? And how are we about to celebrate our five year wedding anniversary in July? Time is flying by faster than I ever it imagined it could.

And so it seems timely that I include this photo of The Astronomical Clock at Hampton Court Palace in this long overdue post. I think it’s pretty amazing that I can tell time from the same clock that Henry VIII once used. In fact it’s so old (constructed between 1540 -1542) that the pre-Copernican and pre-Galilean clock depicts the sun rotating around the earth! If you interested here’s a bit more about the clock.

Time to go edit photos now!

Hung Out to Dry

Lest you imagine us to be living a glamorous jet set life in London, let me give you a little glimpse into our laundry. No, we don’t have a dryer.

Hanging laundry to dry

We hang dry ALL of our laundry.

When we went flat hunting we somehow overlooked the fact that the one we picked didn’t have a dryer. We thought it came with one of those fancy European washer/dryer combos that so many people have across the pond. Turns out it is just a washer. I discovered this little oversight on day two of our expat adventure. I spent the next couple of weeks grieving:

Denial – “There must be a dry button on this thing somewhere, I just need to re-read the manual one more time.”

Anger – “I hate London.”

Bargaining – “I promise to only use non-toxic, plant based, fair trade detergent for the rest of my life if someone will just add a dry button to this machine.”

Depression – “I have nothing to wear (sob), everything is STILL drying (sob), we will NEVER EVER be able to leave the flat because NOTHING will ever be dry and we will starve (sob), and someone will find us three weeks later half-eaten by Alsatians.”

Acceptance – “At least my skinny jeans won’t shrink anymore.”

The funny thing is I’m completely used to it now. Yes, we ALWAYS have drying racks hanging in our room. And sometimes we have sheets draped down the staircase and over tables and chairs. But they make great forts and think of all the savings on our electric bill. Besides, if we’re really in a pinch, there is a pub across the street from the neighborhood launderette so we can always have a pint while we watch our sheets dry!

A Love-ly Weekend

Grand Place Brussels

                                                   The Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

I’ve always thought February was longest month even though it’s the shortest. You’re stuck in the middle of winter, Christmas has long passed, and you have two more months (at least) until you can pull-off flip flops. So right around mid-February I usually start going a bit nuts. To be honest, London’s not actually that bad this winter, nothing like NY ever was. But it’s still rather gray and cold. And so in the midst of my woe is me winter whining I impulsively booked train tickets to Brussels for Valentine’s weekend. Because there’s nothing more romantic and uplifting than chocolate and beer, right?


                                                      Belgian Chocolate + Beer = Love

You can’t travel to Belgium without the obligatory waffle (or two, in my case). I prefer mine with strawberries and crème Chantilly. And in case you are curious, crème Chantilly is French for whipped cream sweetened and flavored, usually with vanilla.

Belgian Waffles

                                                             Breakfast of Tourists

The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

                  The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert aka where to buy fancy chocolate

Chocolate Shop

                                                    The sweetest window displays

And after all those sweets we took a very long walk and eventually the metro (because the walk was too far) to the Parc du Cinquantenaire. It was a sunny day with just the hint of Spring approaching. The park was full of young families enjoying the afternoon sun. And there were so many different languages being spoken at the playground. Can you imagine your local playground being in the shadows of this amazing arch?

Parc du Cinquantenaire Triumphal Arch

                                                  Parc du Cinquantenaire Triumphal Arch

I was completely taken with the Triumphal Arch. It was absolutely huge and gorgeous. Don’t you wish we still built things like this, especially in the U.S? The arch itself is actually relatively new, finished in 1905.

Parc du Cinquantenaire Triumphal Arch

Love Bug Parade

                                                              Love Bug Parade

Parc du Cinquantenaire is also home to the Autoworld museum. We didn’t make it inside but there was a great parade of Volkswagen Love Bugs outside. There were literally hundreds of bugs in all different colors. Of course I gravitated to the aqua ones.

After a long of day of walking it’s always nice to take a break. So we made our way back to the Grand Place just as Henry fell asleep in his buggy. Luckily it was just warm enough to sit out on the square and enjoy a very large beer.

Enjoying a beer on the Grand Place

Sleeping baby in buggy + beautiful European square + beer = living the dream

Lee Beer

We could really get used to this lifestyle… but then…

Grand Place Beer

Henry woke up! And we had to be responsible parents again. So we took him to the most culturally significant thing we could find in Brussels. The statue that represents the spirit of Brussels.

Le Manneken Pis

                                                                   Le Manneken Pis

Henry really seemed to enjoy the little guy. Since he had just recently started to say “pee pee” it was a great talking point. Did you know that Le Manneken Pis has over 800 outfits? Too bad we aren’t quite ready for potty training, I think it could have been a real teachable moment!

We finished our weekend with moules frites, more beer, and of course another waffle for the walk back to the hotel! It was truly a lovely weekend.