Sunday, November 30, 2008

So Much to Be Thankful For

Thanks again to Nicholas Kristoff's 2 latest columns on women in Pakistan who suffer unspeakable acts of gang rape, honor killings carried out by siblings and acid incidents in which their faces are purposefully disfigured by their husbands, I'm able to put the Thanksgiving holiday -- and so much to be thankful for -- into proper global perspective. Of course, I'm thankful for Brad, Abby, Nathaniel and the little one to be (as some of you know -- still no name), but I'm even more thankful for a system, no matter how flawed, that neither would allow or fail to prosecute these types of crimes.

We can't change these societies overnight, but we can continue to support the international development work taking place there and the work of groups like Mercy Corps, CARE, World Vision and so many others which are working to empower women and reform justice systems which incredibly allow these acts to go unpunished. Or contribute directly to local groups like the Progressive Women's Association of Pakistan or the Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organization which are bravely fighting this injustice and working to protect women.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Those French Do It Again

First it was the election of a handsome President. Then came the Presidential marriage to a hot Italian heiress/model/chanteuse. Never mind that French women seem to be able to eat and drink with abandon and always look stylish. Or that French food is a foodie's fantasy. Now comes more insult to injury -- regarding French maternity leave -- a system which apparently allows those French femmes to not have to choose between work and family. I must admit I'm envious. A bit peeved. And yes, ready to move to Paris, as I've always wanted to do. As I contemplate my 12 weeks of essentially unpaid leave, I'm reading to board the plane for Charles de Gaulle.

Friday, November 21, 2008

London -- Christmas There and Everywhere

Perhaps there was no better example of the glitz surrounding Christmas in London than the windows at Harrod's -- only rivaled by Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC. London was awash in tinsel, Christmas trees and lights, an unexpected display of commercialization of the holiday -- even well in advance of what we do here in the States due to Thanksgiving. Tho, I must admit these windows are fabu!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Eating, London Style

So I had heard all about the bad English food and was prepared to not be impressed....but fortunately things turned out a bit differently in London.

Zaika -Funky purple and pinks hues over the bar and a dimly lit dining room set off the Indian food in this place on High Street in Kensington.

Livebait - Just next to the Lyceum Theater...not bad for pre-theater (Lion King) fare and a very decent creme brulee.

Babylon at the Roof Garden - Trendy High Street crowd of 20 somethings...but very kid friendly. Amazing mushroom and pumpkin risotto followed by cranberry and walnut tart. Can you say yummy with a British accent?

Gail's - Scrumptious brownies, tarts and muffins to be found as we strolled through Portobello Street in Notting Hill. Indulgence unnecessary but darn it was good.

Memories of India - Comfort food on a rainy day of biryani and lamb curry. Definitely a neighborhood haunt if we lived in Kensington.

Orangery at Kensington Palace - Tiny salmon sandwiches, pastries galore and tea, of course, in the former conservatory of Kensington Palace.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

London Day 4

Our first four days in London -- only one to go -- have been filled with traditional tourist visits and venues (just had to visit a palace or two), food, walking, and window shopping. Here are some highlights:

Day 1 -- we step into Hyde Park after a 1 minute walk from our hotel, the Kensington House Hotel and are at the gates of Kensington Palace within seconds. After a tour, including the room where Queen Victoria was informed of her ascension to the throne, we take a long, leisurely stroll to Harrod's, where we dine in the Food Hall on fish and chips (of course) and smoked salmon. Can you say foodie's paradise? Jams, teas, chocolates and all at severely elevated prices. Off to the 4th floor to rub elbows with Paddington Bear and every toy known to mankind. The windows are a tribue to the newest 007 movie -- over the top -- as is most of the entire Harrod's experience. Dinner at Zaika, a cool Indian/French place in colors of purple and pink (more on food later).

Day 2 - Grey London lives up to its name. Rainy and cold. We hop on a double-decker tour bus which takes us past all the famous sights -- Westminster Abby, the Royal Mews, the Parliament, Big Ben and finally end at the Tower of London for a 1 1/2 hour visit through the Crown Jewel exhibit and to the White Tower. For history buffs, this place has it all -- torture devices, a chopping block, royal armours, cannons, swords. Poor Anne Bolyne.

Day 3 -- Off to Westminister Pier to take a cruise along the Thames, a great way to see the Tate Modern from that vintage point, as well as London Bridge. We find a great, hole in the wall Turkish place, Troia, for lunch just behind the British Airways Eye, a monstrosity of a ferris wheel built for the millennium which takes you on a 30-minute high-in-the-sky ride over London. No thanks. Abby opts for the nearby playground. We make our way back past St. James to gawk at Buckingham Palace, where the Queen is in residence, according to the flag flying overhead. By the way, happy 60th, Prince Charles. Yesterday was his big day. Dinner at the Roof Garden on High Street in Kensington a trendy 7th floor restaurant that has the best kids menu to date, salmon with mashed potatos or organic pork with brussel sprouts!

Day 4 --Up Church Street past quaint antique shops to Portobello Road, a mass of vintage shops and stalls selling everything from sterling silverware, to teacups, to the usual assortment of British bric-brac. We wander back into the neighborhood, with stellar facades, and find a few quaint kids shops and even one for me, Bumpsville. Back down the hill to the Orangery at Kensington Palace for an afternoon tea of smoked salmon and dill sandwiches, crumpets with heavy cream...and tea, of course.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Visiting the Queen

So in a few days, we'll be off to London. Frankly, I'd rather be heading to Paris or a developing country but it's a work thing so I'm going to combine one last hurrah with work. Tonight, I was reminiscing about our great trip to Jordan in June -- an overnight in the desert, visit to the Red Sea, amazing day spent at Petra and fabbbbb-u-lous Middle Eastern fare. Not sure I ever posted these photos so thought I'd share them.

Monday, November 3, 2008

London Hotels

We're headed to London in a week -- and it's been a challenge finding a hotel that is under $350 and will accomodate a 4 year-old (and is up to my standards). Here's where I'd like to stay -- the Convent Gardens hotel -- a charming hotel that is everything British one imagines. Paneled library complete with fireplace. Canopied bed. Cozy dining room. It's all booked and a bit over my price range but is one to keep in the file.