Dear readers – I’d like to think of you as an exclusive group of VIPs, but in truth I know there just aren’t very many of you. So as I continue to grow my online presence I’m turning to you for some advice, some feedback, some input.
What do you like to read? I don’t mean book wise, though I’m always up for a recommendation, but blog post wise?
Do you like coming to my blog and seeing loads of recipes and delicious meals you can make at home yourself?
Do you like advice posts – where I drop my $.02 in the ocean of opinions? If that’s what you like what do you want to know my opinion on?
Are you into the travel posts – not just photos when we get back from a trip but about traveling in general – what to pack, where to go?
Do you want to read more about wedding planning or my thoughts on trends and crazy wedding stuff?
Or are you a fan of expat life stories? Comparing the UK to the US in different ways?
Please let me know, dear readers, because my writers block is back with a vengeance!
Our tans have long faded, the snorkle masks are put away and I still haven’t seen any of the pictures Steve got on the GoPro. Our trip to Egypt was 2 months+ ago, though it feels like a lifetime! August has been super rainy here in the UK and I am over it! I need to be back in the sunshine, drinking colorful drinks and swimming in the lagoon!
Unfortunately I have to wait another 5 weeks until I’m back in the sun again. In the meantime I figured it was high time I told my readers about our trip – where we stayed and what we did.
We booked our trip just 9 days before leaving because a) we’re crazy and we needed to wait till payday to book it and b) we we’re hoping to snag the trip super cheap (which we did). In the end with Thomas Cook, we paid about £750($973)for a week at an all inclusive hotel for the both of us, not too bad. If you can be flexible with travel locations etc I suggest booking late.
This was our first packaged holiday, flights and hotel all booked with one company so we didn’t know what to expect. We treated ourselves and bought some extra luggage weight, meals on the flights and picking our seats ahead of time. That set us back about £75 but after the flights we had I’m glad we at least had seats we wanted. The check in counter at Gatwick for Thomas Cook was a mad house! Long lines, not enough employees and no smiles. Since we primarily fly BA or Delta/Virgin this was a very different experience. Once we boarded the plane we saw what a “budget airline” was all about. The seats were like stadium seats with a bit of cloth over – no cushion. The flight attendants were nice but looked tired and overworked. After taking our seats the pilot came on and told us there has been a computer issue so they were going to be handling the flight paperwork manually for the flight. Way to make us feel safe!
Our 5.5 hour flight took 7 hours – and when you add an obnoxious 5 year old a few seats in front of you – it was one of the worst in my life.
Once we landed we found out just how careful and a little overboard the Egyptian government is when it comes to airports. We bought our visas in one line, got in another to fill out boarding cards, had our passports checked and stamped and then someone made sure our passports had been stamped. It was a lot of deja vu.
After getting our bags we were directed to a coach that would take us to the hotel. We had to wait on the bus for 45+ min for 1 guest. When she finally showed up she said her husband had walked away from her in the airport so she just sat and waited for him to come back. This was about 11.45pm local time, so it took a lot for me not to lose it at her.
Our hotel was the closest to the airport but we were the last to be dropped off so the ride took an hour. To say we were hungry and unhappy campers when we finally arrived would be a massive understatement. Thankfully the rest of the trip went much better!
One of our main reasons for visiting Prague when we did was it was the annual Czech beer festival and being “beeries” (foodies but for beer) we couldn’t pass up the chance. The Cesky Pivni Festival was held every day for about a month in May in a massive red and white striped tent just outside Praha 1, the main neighborhood in Prague.
Steve and I were worried the tent would be super crowded on a Monday so we booked VIP tickets at the festival – meaning lovely waitresses got our beer and food for us as opposed to us getting it. Needless to say when we walked into the tent at 1pm on the monday we were surprised. It was empty. The VIP section had at least 50 long tables and only 3 people were seated in the area.
We could hear their american accents so we said hi and sat down at the next table over and of course we started chatting. What else do beer drinkers who are at a festival do when drinking pints of beer just after noon? Lucky they turned out to be really fun guys to chat with and they made our evening.
This is the only shot of our friends. Notice the Michigan shirt! Go Blue!
We stayed until about 10pm at which point Steve and I had both had approx 14 pints (almost 2 gallons) of beer each as well as a few local dishes (all our money couldn’t go to booze). The details on how we made it back to our hotel are a little fuzzy but I’m sure if I pull up my uber account I will see a $4 ride back to the hotel.
Unfortunately I didn’t get many snaps from the festival
and the ones I have are blurry and make no sense but were probably funny at the time. I did get a snap of some of the yummy food we had.
Two kinds of goulash
Unfortunately I dont remember the names of the different beers we had or the breweries they were from but I do know if we find a cheap BA holiday we’ll be going back next year for more fun!
This is not what I was planning to write my newest post on – but in lieu of what happened monday night I think its an important to talk about it.
As I am sure you are all aware – there was a terrible attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Monday night where a suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured countless more. For additional details I would encourage you to look at BBC News or CNN as they have the most accurate and up to date information.
Thankfully Steve and I were home safe in our beds when we first heard about the attack. Manchester is about 3.5 hours north of us, and it being so late there weren’t a lot of details. Like the most of the UK, we awoke Tuesday morning to learn of the horror and extent of the attack. Information flooded our phone, the morning news and the radio. The information was arriving thick and fast – the number of bodies, who did it, how the city and country was reacting.
Not being english and being here for such a tragic event is a feeling that is hard to explain. A part of you feels totally disconnected from the events – maybe because we knew we didn’t know anyone there. Another part of you feels guilty for not being british because you know the fingers will likely be pointed at outsiders like yourself and you feel like you can’t relate to the tragedy. Relief and guilt are among the mixed feelings – relief the bomber wasn’t from my country, relief it happened here and not in the US where our friends or family could have been hurt but also guilt for feeling those things. Feeling scared – this was a terror attack and now the county you live in is on high alert because something else might happen.
But overall, beyond all the emotions and the mixed weird feeling, you feel sad. Sad that it happened, sad you can’t do more, sad for those who lost their lives, sad for the families who have a huge hole in their lives. You feel sad because you can close your eyes and remember back to September 11th 2001 – you remember exactly where you were and who told you and every tiny detail from that day. You know what it feels like to be a part of a nation in mourning. And so today – at 11 BST, I took a moment of silence for the victims and their families. I stood in solidarity, not with my countrymen, but with my fellow human beings to remember and pray for the victims.
I ask – if you’re reading this blog, take a moment out of your day to remember these wonderful people who lost their lives so tragically. And if you want to do more take a look at somethings you can do to help here.
One of the many things Steve and I have discovered since moving to the UK is the greek cheese – Halloumi. Its commonly known as squeaky cheese because you can hear it squeak when you chew it – I promise it’s not as weird as it sounds.
It not very expensive and it makes a great appetizer when you’re grilling out – also it can be used to make a burger for a vegetarian. You can fry it – I don’t though. I like the grill marks and the crunch it gives. It’s not a melty cheese, it keeps its shape and firmness even when cooked.
We got this brand from Aldi – not sure if it’s available in the US but keep an eye out for it. I imagine places like Whole Foods or stores with cheese counters would carry it – or if you know of a local greek or mediterranean place.
Now get out there and get your grill on!
This bank holiday weekend Steve and I went to the annual Reading Beer Festival which is walking distance from our new house! This is the 3rd year we’ve gone. It was the first thing we ever did when we first moved here.
Pictures from our first Reading Beer Festival
Last year we went with some of Steve’s coworkers which was really fun. It was the first time we went on Saturday which meant it was crazy busy!
This year we stuck to Sunday drinking – less busy, and just as much fun. We had pretty good weather aka it didn’t pour rain. I found a beer called Schiller which is my last name for any readers who don’t know. It was pretty good – but unfortunately even after showing my ID I didn’t get it for free. Lame!
Schiller with Schiller
I got more photos of Steve and I at the festival as well as our friends Ed & Jess but unfortunately they’re on the GoPro and I haven’t gotten them off the SD card. I promise to add them later.
I’m really excited to tell all you lovely readers that Steve and I are headed to another amazing beer festival in just 12 days!
2017 Prague Beer Festival
Are any of my readers beer people?
Im sure most of you are familiar with the friendship song – the one you sang in girl scouts when you were little – make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold. A circle goes round, it has no end, thats how long I want to be your friend.
I doubt any adult will tell you differently – making friends as an adult is hard. like H A R D hard. Add being in a different, new country & a lack of hobbies – making friends as an adult might as well be impossible.
For some reason its not socially acceptable to go up to someone in the grocery store and say “You like that cheese? me too! Lets go for drinks on Friday”. Wouldn’t that be awesome? A friendship formed on the mutual basis of loving cheese? Sign me up! But in all seriousness – I’ve tried to make small talk in all the normal places – book stores, pharmacy, check out lines at the grocery store, with the table next to be at Starbucks and even at the bar when ordering drinks. Almost every time I get weird looks (brits do not like small talk!) So whats a girl to do?
Unfortunately after 2 years here I can count my local friends on 1 hand. It used to be two, but thats a long story I don’t want to get into.
What makes making friends even harder is a lack of “fun money” as Steve and I call it. Between saving for the wedding, saving for travel plans and the gym membership (hello wedding diet that isn’t working) I find myself with not much extra cash to spend on nights out or trying new hobbies.
I tried meetup.com – it was going really well, met some fab people, but every events was a £20 spend minimum, between food and a few drinks. Thats got pricy quick and I didn’t really find anyone I connected with beyond meeting up as part of the group.
I’ve tried coworkers, but my old office was small (9 employees) and the fact that 6 of them hated Americans and made that a known fact didnt lead to friendships. My current office is bigger and much more friendly – so Im working on building a friendships there. Not as easy as I’d like. Ive also signed up to take a photoshop class at the local technical college – so hopefully Ill meet some fellow photography nerds there and build some bonds.
Steve and I like beer.
A more accurate statement would be that we love beer. Good beer. No more Natty Light or BudLite for us. We appreciate beer like people appreciate wine. We collect it, we drink it and we brew it. So it makes sense our holidays often revolve around beer.
Here in the UK there is something called a Booze Cruise where folks in the UK go over to mainland europe to stock up on good alcohol (buy from the source saves money). We take this concept a little further – we make a holiday out of it.
This last trip we did some shopping in Germany & Belgium for our favorite liquid gold.
In Aachen we hit our favorite liquor store to stock up on the basics, with a few fun mixed crates of samples. This last trip we filled 2 shopping carts with beer!
Steve with our first cart of beer in Germany
We also go to a discounted grocery store in Belgium to get some every day beer and well as some specialty items – along with some snacks for me because I love belgian food!
After all this shopping our car looks and drives more like a van then an SUV, but it’s so worth it.
Now that we’re home all our beer is in our dining room (hello crate decor) while we sort out the house, get some in the fridge and move the rest out to the shed.
We don’t really buy souvenirs, because all we need is good beer!
Prost to all of you – raise a glass of the good stuff tonight!
Steve and I just recently got back from Aachen, Germany. It was a super awesome trip as always but there were a few things had I been better prepared I would have done differently.
As an american I think we take some things for granted – like what the term 3rd floor means. In the US it means 2 flights of stairs. 3rd floor. In Europe some evil (super fit person) decided the floor where the main door is is called the ground floor and the next one up is the 1st.
So when your airbnb listing says 3rd floor, it means 4th. It also means don’t bother going us unless you bring your bags. Trust me, after being in the car for 4 hours & getting up at 5am, an extra 4 flights of stairs is killer.
Also – check and see what kind of bed the room/apartment has. If they don’t have photos – ask! Steve and I spent 4 nights sleeping on a double/full size mattress on a pallet on the floor. To say it was a rough sleeping holiday is an understatement.
In hindsight I should have
- Ask for pictures of the bed
- Verified 3rd vs 4th floor
- Packed an air mattress
- Brought less clothes / packed more strategically
It was still a fab trip but I’ll know better for next time!
If you’re curious here’s the airbnb we stayed in.
Living in the UK means a real lack of sunshine and vitamin D. Living in Atlanta means you get plenty of the above even if you work 60+ hours a week and aren’t super active.
I spent the last 2 years here in England wearing sweaters in the summer yet keeping my summer clothes at the ready in case the sun poked through (it rarely happens). So when I get the opportunity to be somewhere where the sun shines a lot and it’s warm enough to not to need a scarf – I get pretty excited.
That’s what happened to me this past weekend. Steve and I were on an extended beer run to Aachen, Germany. My iphone weather app told me it was going to be 65 and sunny – aka the warmest I have been since August last year. So to say I was excited was an understatement.
We spent Thursday at our favorite spot in Aachen, aside from the beer store. I packed sunscreen and even put it on in the morning before leaving our airbnb. I was prepared for this sunshine! The entire time we were there I would swim to the sunny spots, I laid out in the sun for a bit, I even insisted we eat outside to catch the last few rays.
The next few days we spent the day tooling around – eating and drinking and shopping. All in the sunshine, all with my arms and face towards the sun any time they could be. Heck I even stuck my arms out the window of the car. I was a full fledged sunflower the entire time we were there.
Fast forward to sunday night – we drove 6 hours back to Reading (including 2 on the ferry) and by the time we got home I was so itchy. My arms, hands and tops of my feet were covered in little blister like bumps. Not cool.
After 3 days of itching like a chicken-pox victim I headed to the pharmacy for some relief to be told I have heat rash. HEAT RASH?! I wore sunscreen in the partly cloudy weather of northern Germany on a day where the high was 70! How can I, an Atlanta girl, have heat rash?!
Well I do – I’m using an antihistamine cream to keep the discomfort at bay, but I think it’s time for me to admit that I can no longer handle sunshine like I used to. Hello 45 spf, long sleeves and a sun hat. I guess this is what the english call “english rose skin” – pale. Thank goodness for irish freckles.