Tag Archives: British

The Party’s Over – My Special Guest Blogger

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My wonderful parents

I love my parents and have an amazing relationship with them – I feel so lucky to call my parents my friends, heroes and role models.

I’ve spoken before about how my parents never really understand social media or “this medium you choose to use” but they completely embrace my blogging – and as I mentioned yesterday, my Dad even joined Twitter ( @DW29660) and my Mum is beginning to realise that Facebook isn’t a tool for people to hunt you down and see into your life unless you actually let them.

My Parents

Mr & Mrs W

After I introduced you all to my Dad (aka Billy) over the past few blogs and informed you of his new title yesterday – his insistence that he is now called the Don…. my Dad – asked me today, if he could guest blog. My first reaction was ‘OF COURSE’ – my second reaction was – ‘wow, my Dad knows what guest blogging is.’

When my Dad sent me his blog this evening he said:

“Read it/change it/scrap it – whatever, it was good fun to try writing it. Dx”

There was absolutely no way I was changing a single thing. It gives me great pride to introduce David ‘The Don’ Williams – in his first ever blog (please feel free to leave your comments here for him – I know he will appreciate them):

My Parents

I love this couple
Photo Credit: David Toms Photography

The First Day of the Rest of the Year

Its Sunday night and just about midnight – it’s been a good weekend but I’m not looking forward to tomorrow morning or indeed the coming week – it’s not that I don’t like Monday’s… it’s just that tomorrow is the first day of the rest of the year!

I live in London and since the end of May, London has been like never before – at least not like I’ve ever known it before and just in case you hadn’t realised, I’ve been around for a while!

First we had the Diamond Jubilee of our Queen… it’s not that I am a huge royalist, but respect where it’s due – QE2 has had the same job for 60 years and has done it well. The country gave her a big party and London celebrated like only it can with all of its history and pageantry… shame about the weather.

Just as we were getting over the ‘Jubly’ it was time for our annual festival of hope, expectation and ultimate disappointment or Wimbledon as it is also known. I live near Wimbledon, I’m involved in a small way with Wimbledon and as a sports fan, there is a real buzz about being at the sporting epicentre of the world for two weeks – this year Andy Murray nearly won it… so near and yet so far!

Suddenly ‘they’ started putting up banners, and signs, and painting the roads with Olympic rings to show where I was not permitted to drive… in my own home town. Remember I’m a sports fan but I really was not looking forward to the Olympics, well not the disruption. Also I had this fear that ‘the Games’ would be well organised but rather dull. There was a feeling that the opening ceremony as a spectacle would be rather unspectacular – I feel bad now, because as a designer I should have had more faith in British creativity – WOW it was good, even if some didn’t understand it! It was ‘smart’ rather than ‘slapstick’ – there was a story to be told and you had to concentrate – ad breaks every few minutes would not have helped!

Anyway ‘the Games’ came and went with plenty of success for the hosts and generally a good time was had by all. The stadiums were full, the trains kept running, the drains didn’t block… even the weather behaved and the World saw London at its best – even us cynical Londoners saw our great city at its best. Then it was the closing… at least as good as the Opening and that was it. The London Olympics, the Greatest Show On Earth as the Olympics are known was over – just the aftershow to come – a two week break then the Paralympics, but really, that wouldn’t be very interesting.. would it, be honest?

Another Opening Ceremony, at least as good as we had seen a few weeks back and the ‘Paras’ started. It was a slow start… fewer well-known names but then OMG! We began to realise what it was all about. Olympians train for years then turn up and compete in the hope they will be winners or at least get a medal.

Paralympics

Be Amazed – The Paralympics

Paralympians train for years, overcome the forms of adversity that the rest of us would rather not talk about, let alone suffer, then they compete, they enjoy and they hope to win or at least get a medal – but best of all, they compete like the rest of us who have good sight, a full set of limbs, mobility and no problems with the ‘internal wiring’. A big difference when paralympians compete is that when they don’t quite reach their best, they don’t blame it on ‘bad winter training’ six months ago – many turn up and don’t know how their body will perform on the day!

In case you didn’t see much of the London 2012 ‘Paras’, let me tell you about just 2 of the 4000 plus competitors. One a swimmer, a Chinese guy, both legs amputated above the knee, just a pair of stumps, and both arms amputated, one above the elbow, the other at the shoulder – that doesn’t leave much to swim with… I think he won a ‘gold’ beating guys with longer stumps, even full limbs. AMAZING!

The inspirational Chinese Paralympian

The other competitor was in the Dressage… that’s where with perfect control and balance, you ride a horse, making it dance with control and discipline on a one-cent piece – hard enough to control a human like that ( I couldn’t manage it with my children), to control horse is harder and when with Cerebral Palsy you can’t even control yourself, how do you maintain perfect balance to control the horse – our young rider won ‘gold’. AMAZING!

Natasha Baker

Natasha Baker – Wins 2nd Gold Medal
Image from: Daily Mail Online

But now the ParaGames are all over, the performances are over, the medals have all been awarded and (Coldplay, RiRi and JayZ were wonderful at the Closing) tomorrow the athletes go home but if you have an open mind, the thinking is just beginning! Never again will I look at an amputee or a person in a wheelchair, or a person with cerebral palsy and think of what they can’t do – I will think of what they can do or could do. Often after competing, they cried tears of joy and as a country we cried with them – they had shared the same stage as the ‘normal’ athletes and that made them feel ‘normal’, equal, the same.

The Olympics were the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ but the Paralympics were (and please excuse my grammar), the ‘EVEN Greater Show on Earth’, but for now it’s over, London will never be the same again, anyone who watched will never be the same again.

Better go to bed now, work tomorrow, my greatest ever summer is over – hope to see you in Rio in 2016!

Thanks to my very special Guest blogger. Billy, I love you.

American TV networks – you have 4 years to make it happen – Let’s hope by 2016 – we can celebrate and cheer for our fellow men and women. Our #SuperHumans

From Rule Britannia to God Bless America (pt2) – Ordinary Observations

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I have mentioned before that my time in the US has been interesting. Five plus years of American life and living the American dream. There are a few things which really stand out to me – three that won’t get me in trouble with political or religious agendas. Because the major, really major learnings I have had come from hot topics that I don’t feel are right for this blog.

So keeping it clean, I present to you – the London’s girls ordinary observations:


1)      Accents & Sayings – Y’all speak funny.

Every day people ask me about my accent. Frankly, I don’t think I have an accent. I sound pretty darn normal to me. It’s everyone around me who sounds funny. Although England has some incredible changes in accents as you move through the country, America isn’t too far different. When I first moved to Texas, I thought all Southerners sounded the same. Y’all’ing and drawling all over the place, but now I can detect a definite difference between Georgia and Texas and even East Texas and West. What could be more bizarre is that my very Texan fiancé who has only been to England twice can do a very convincing Brummy (Birmingham) or Scouse (Liverpool) accent, having never been anywhere near there.

As a Brit, I have learnt that I can get away with cursing. Which is good, because I am a frequent potty mouth.

My top 3 British curse words:

  • Bollocks
  • Bugger
  • Wanker

(Sorry Mum)

None of my English vocabulary comes anywhere close in comparison to the crazy arse sayings that I have heard since living in the South.

Top 3 Crazy Texan sayings:

  • Ticklin’ my tater
  • Like a goose on a June bug
  • All hat and no cattle.

I am still unsure as to the meaning of some of them. If you are interested in seeing more – here is a fun link

2)      Weather – It’s not normally like this

The stereotype of London is that it’s foggy in London and always raining. To be fair one of the main reasons I always state for leaving England is the weather.  (Although this weekend in England has been in the 80s and the highest recorded temperature in October ever). Where I ended up when I landed in the States wasn’t much better. New York. Cold winters, hot humid summers and a lot of rain, so, I loaded up my truck and I moved to Beverly, Hills, that is. Where it never rains. Or hardly ever. People say that Southern California has no seasons, it’s not true – California has  earthquakes, mud slides, flash floods and wildfires – some very distinct seasons of which I have experienced a few. Taking out the ‘force majeure’ – Southern California is a perfect climate most of the year.

When I first moved to California, I laughed at the people in their wooly hats and gloves and big warm winter coats when it hit below 60. Seriously – 58 degrees and you are walking around like we live in Buffalo during the winter. Then the joke was on me, just two years in to living in LA and I would have the heat on high, and be complaining of being “freezing” when it got to low 60s. I became a soft southerner, a California southerner.

The craziest weather has to be in Dallas though. Summers over 110 degrees, winters with ice storms and snow, hail stones as big as golf balls, electrical storms and of course, tornadoes. I never knew when I moved to Dallas, that I was moving to such a meteorological mess. This place is insane. People in Dallas are STILL trying to tell me “it’s not normally like this” – uh huh, apart from 100% of the time I have lived here.  So forgive me when someone tells me that the weather in England is awful, or how smoggy LA is. I’ve never had to huddle under a sink in an airport bathroom as a tornado touched down in London, or worry about my car being smashed in by weather in LA. Dallas takes the prize for crazy.

 

3)      Fashion – Style, trends and flaunting it

Clothing and fashion is really the main thing I miss about living in Europe (after family and friends of course). I miss being able to shop in TopShop or Kurt Geiger and spending Saturdays browsing Selfridges– a shoppers mecca (quick time out to mention how much I want some Miu Miu heels this season).

Miu Miu Curbed Heel pumps

Black suede and glitter - curved heel Miu Miu pumps

I miss the people watching on the streets of London, wishing I could pull off the latest styles. The more and more I live in America, the more I have become average in my dress sense. My weekender wear is simple and boring, my office attire – not a stitch on my old style. It’s not because America doesn’t have style or a sense of fashion. It’s because, unless you have the disposable income of a celebrity, or are young enough to shop in Forever 21, there aren’t really any cool stores to go to. In Dallas especially, I miss H&M and Bloomingdales. So, lately I have taken it upon myself to spice myself up a little. The crazy boot wedges, the bright green brocade mini skirt or the mustard yellow heels. Im bringing myself back. I have learnt that I don’t need to be a skinny Minnie to look good. I am embracing my curves and flaunting my God given assets…one European clothing item at a time.

The Queen’s English, a gruff New York accent or a Southern Drawl. Come rain or come shine, Gucci, Pucci, Escada or Prada,  my main observation is that I have learnt that you can recreate your life, reinvent yourself, and be whoever you want to be. Live the American Dream. There is opportunity everywhere.

From Rule Britannia to God Bless America (pt1)

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Being English in the US has its pros and cons.  I flit between “Rule Britannia” and “God Bless America”.

I certainly don’t feel one land is greater than the other, although Americans have no qualms in sharing their beliefs with me, it is no bad thing – are you lucky enough to say you are proud of your country?
Anglo-American flag           

I have never experienced such pride in the armed forces. I get chills when I walk in to DFW airport on occasion to a plane load of soldiers walking through the terminal. Everyone stops what they are doing and everyone in the terminal either salutes or applauds the soldier, the marine, the sailor, or the airman. You can’t help but be moved by the incredible admiration and respect that the people of America have for their armed forces.US Troops arriving at DFW

I remember sitting in a restaurant and a uniformed soldier walks in. He sits down at the bar and a couple on a table next to me send a beer over to the soldier and thanks him for all he does for the country. I had never seen it before. It doesn’t happen in the UK, or if it does, not often enough and no one I mention this to has ever seen such a thing. I loved what that couple did and I continue to see it all over America.

I may not be American, but I appreciate those men serving, fighting and protecting the country I live in and countries I have never and will never travel to. Not for themselves, but to help those that cannot help themselves, a selfless act one I respect, and hell yeah we should applaud them, salute them and buy them a drink.  God Bless America

My Life in Travel – An Interview With Myself

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My flight last weekend had me reading  The Independent – Travel Section – I enjoyed reading the article so much, I thought I would make my own ‘My Life in Travel

First Holiday Memory?

Meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney Land, when I was 3. I remember standing on Main St, waiting for the parade. The Flying Dumbos my first ever ‘roller coaster’ and getting ice cream in Vegas with my parents.

Havana

Best Holiday?

My feelings have always been split between Cape Town and Havana. I’ve blogged before about how incredible my experiences were in both cities. I’ve made the connection that both Cape Town and Havana have similarities: extreme poverty and governments that either were, or still are troubled but beyond those issues, are two cities and countries that are beautiful. Cape Town has it’s beautiful coast, vineyards and such motivational history that empowers you to do great things and to think beyond your four walls – you can do anything you set your heart and mind to. Cuba’s people show such generosity, honesty and warmth. The decaying architecture has a charm that I don’t think I will ever find again and I cannot begin to recount the incredible evening I spent in the presence of members of the Buena Vista Social Club, sipping Havana Club daiquiris and enjoying a Cohiba.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Britain has some beautiful scenery and wonderful sites and things to experience, but hand on heart, my favourite place in the UK, has to be London – my home town. London has so much culture. I discover something new every time I’m in the city. The architecture is so diverse – from 500 yearBig Ben old structures to incredible new buildings such as the Shard. London continues to impress me – and I feel that I love it more and more with each trip home that I make. One of my favourite things to do when I am in London is to enjoy the fashion. Although shopping is a lot more economical in the US, I don’t think you can beat the variety and selection of style and fashion that London has to offer. If you are thinking of a city holiday in Europe, London has to be on your list, from history and culture, to fashion and food – London has everything you need in a vacation.

Quick tip: Make sure you tour London by night – it’s incredible.

What have you learnt from your travels?

  1. Always budget for more than you think you will need
  2. If you can, don’t scrimp (point #1 helps with this) – it’s usually a once in a life time experience, and you don’t want to regret what you didn’t do, so you could save a few bucks.
  3. Remain respectful at all times. Always leave somewhere in the same or better condition that you found it in.
  4. Lastly – If the locals do it, it must be good – enjoy the local cuisine and embrace the culture that you have chosen to experience.

Ideal travelling companion?

Some travels call for your best girl friends (weekend shopping in NY or a girls trip to Vegas), others call for some Mother-Daughter or Parents-daughter time (I adore my time with my parents – especially, since we live so far apart) and for the rest of the time I can’t think of a better travel partner than my incredible fiancé. We always manage to laugh through the stressful times (delayed flights, dragging heavy suit cases across airports, parking lots and hotels and hairy flights) and enjoy the good times together. I cannot wait for our honeymoon together.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Yes, yes and ehhhh not so much.

I love the beach and seeing the ocean, but I need more than just catching rays to make my vacation time count. I love experiencing new cultures and learning all that I can behind the local area or region.  However, saying that…if my time is limited – I’m all about lazing by the pool, enjoying the spa and taking in the views. Nothing is more calming and relaxing to me that hearing the waves crash against the beach, or surrounding myself with gorgeous scents and flowers, mountains and peaceful environments.

As far as the adrenalin junkie goes – I will leave that to others.

Hilton Los Cabos, Mexico

Greatest travel luxury?

Time! Since I have moved to the States, I have really learnt to appreciate my time off. It has become a luxury that I adore.

Holiday reading

I have good intentions when I go on holiday. I pack 2 or 3 books, but unless I have no other distractions the reading just doesn’t happen. I have now started to use the Kindle app on my iPad to avoid lugging around heavy hardbacks that I won’t actually read unless I am on the plane. I actually read a lot more at home than I do on holiday now.

Currently reading: The Thank You Economy’, by Gary Vaynerchuk

Where has seduced you?

Marbella, Spain. It’s stunning. Mountains, palm trees, ocean, fresh food and beauty every which way you look.

Better to travel or arrive?

Unless I am fortunate to fly first class, then it’s always better to arrive. I have so rarely been on a flight in the last year that has been on time, if it hasn’t been cancelled – so I’m all about ‘just get me there’.

Worst travel experience?

I think the worst travel I have ever experienced was as a teenager – travelling around Eastern Europe. As a student the history that I got to walk through and places I explored were fantastic and so crucial to my learnings, we went to Belgium, Luxembourg, Prague where we stayed in a haunted, converted prison, Berlin and on to Krakow to visit Auschwitz. An experience I can never forget.

What made it my worst experience was that we travelled all across Europe by coach – sometimes over night, cramped in to a coach with 30 other girls for hours upon hours upon hours. Definitely not the luxury standards I had become accustomed to. 😉

Best hotel? La Quinta Resort & Spa

I have been very lucky, at a young age, with my parents and as an adult now, with my work, to be able to stay in some incredible hotels in some wonderful locations. My all time favourite hotel is one that I discovered outside of my parents and work and I make it a goal to make sure I get there at least once a year, although I wish it was every weekend.

Which hotel, you ask…. my all time hotel destination of choice is La Quinta Resort & Club. The resort has everything I love about Spain and California rolled in to one. 5* luxury, Waldorf Astoria name tag and old world Spanish charm with golden era Hollywood history. Adobe inspired casitas, in-room fire places, small swimming pools dotted around the resort, on property restaurants & bars and an incredible spa.

I should probably insert here, that I work for Hilton Worldwide, yet my opinions about the resort are my own and I am not taking any kick backs for waxing lyrical about how heavenly I find the hotel. (same goes for my image of the Hilton Los Cabos – above)

Favourite drive?

Pacific Coast Highway, California. Nothing beats driving along the coast in California. It’s iconic and far from a letdown from Northern California and the 17 mile drive all the way down to San Diego.

Dream trip?

Good question – we are working on that right now as we discuss where to go on our Honeymoon. Koh Samui, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Greek Islands, Bora Bora, Maldives or Fiji – I’m dreaming big.

Favourite city?  Chicago

I have a passion for Los Angeles. I feel like it’s my home away from home. Scrap that – it’s my adopted home. I never feel more like I belong than when I am in LA. The ocean, the sushi, the wide, palm tree lined boulevards, full of world class people watching.

After LA which is a given, I do love Chicago. Having never been there until a few years ago, I have been making annual trips since 2008. A real city with a buzz about it that warrants a mention. My top hotel for style, views and rooftop dining and drinking is The Wit, A DoubleTree Hotel (another obligatory disclaimer that this is my personal opinion and I am a Hilton Worldwide employee). If you happen to be in the Windy City the rooftop is a must.  With my sushi obsession, I have to add in here that Sunda is incredible for sushi and cocktails. I hear that brunch there is good enough to write home about.

Where next?PCH - Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, of course!

My Personal Ryder Cup – US vs Europe

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Having spent 10 days back home in Europe I have things to be grateful for in both home land and my chosen land of residency so I thought I would do a quick comparison. If I was savvy enough or just less lazy I’d make it in to a snazzy little infographic but I’m not so I won’t.

Bottle of Diet Coke in Europe  1. Soda vs Fizzy drinks – of course they’re the same thing with a few vital differences: a) In most places in Europe a diet coke comes in a beautiful glass bottle – the real deal, no soda gun syrupy mess here. A sparkling iced bottle of….wait, scratch that…. A Luke warm bottle of soda served with, if you’re lucky 2 ice cubes and a slither of lemon. Which brings me to point b) If you dare to ask for more ice like I do, (you get the famous scene in Oliver Twist: The boy asked for MORE…the boy will be hung) you are lucky to get an extra cube. And c) In most places you will pay $4 approx for each bottle of diet coke. No free refills here. On yer bike son.

2. Air Conditioning – Stepping off the plane in the UK was a thing of beauty. having left Dallas in a haze of 30 something consecutive days above 100f the wall of crisp 60f was so refreshing that my thoughts of lame British summer’s washed away as I wrapped myself up in my pashmina and appreciated all that is London in August.  That was until we got to Spain. Gorgeous beautiful Spain. Picturesque. Stunning at every turn.

Amanhavis

Hotel Amanhavis, Benahavis

Beach - San Pedro, Marbella

San Pedro Beach, Marbella

It’s great until the summer sun has taken a toll for the day and you want to cool down….and nowhere has the AC cranked. I’m sure the Spaniards think that a drop in temperature from 90 outside to 85 inside is a relief from the heat but this AC spoilt brat needs 70. I then wondered, did the Spanish have it right. Is it better to dress like it’s summer and galavant in cheek hugging shorts and bikini tops and embrace the heat or live like we do in Texas with the air somewhere between a constant 60 – 70 and jaunt in to work in our trousers and long sleeve shirts pretending summer doesn’t exist until we step outside and sizzle in the heat of our long sleeves and wool trousers. I know one thing for sure: My bikini definitely won’t ring up the bill at the dry cleaners.

3. To tip or not to tip – In the UK I was always used to the 10% tip if service was excellent, in the US it’s 15% if the service was mediocre. If you’re in Spain 5% is the expected tip. The Mr. Was quite appalled to start with. But where Europe tips less – they make up for it in solid wages for employees and there is, of course the benefit of free healthcare, education, etc.

4. – It’s taboo to talk toilet but just this one small note in Europe vs US bathrooms/loos  America – what’s the deal with the toilet stall door having the gaps between the door and the door frame? I don’t like the idea of people poking their nose in my business, literally. UK – why no seat covers? Even my trip to the Harrods ‘luxury bathrooms’ complete with the “room” attendant had me frustrated with lack of people’s cleanliness. Even the room attendant was blaspheming under her breath about people’s obvious inexperience and inability to aim straight. A simple toilet seat cover would resolve most of these problems. I’m glad they don’t charge you £1 anymore.

5. My daily work out – when I lived in London I never needed the gym, why? Well when you work and spend time in the city you walk, skipping the tube and just walking for 30 mins instead of sitting in the traffic or crowding yourself in to the tube was actually a peasant experience at the end of the day. Living now in the States for 5 years I’ve lost that. Everywhere is a drive. Even if you could walk you still drive. Why would you walk when you have a car? Admittedly NY or Chicago is different to Texas or LA but I can’t walk anywhere in Texas to actually get somewhere. I’d be walking for hours. Not to mention walking in the heat? No thank you. I do miss city life. I enjoyed walking around London for a few days. You miss so much in the car. And who wants to miss out on things while you’re in your car cursing at the guy who just cut you off.

So who wins? Team USA (I hear chants of “we’re number one”) or Europe…. I’ll let you decide.