Tag Archives: London

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.

A food tale of 3 cities

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I hear time and time again about how food in England is terrible…well yes it is terrible if you eat in the tourist traps, just like with any major city. As a New Yorker, would you eat at in Times Square given a choice? As an Angeleno, would you eat at pizza spot on the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Blvd?

London in particular has some incredible places to eat. From mid range to out of my price range. Great food can be found all over the place. None of my friends or colleagues have ever been disappointed with my suggestions while they were in town. I have given them my top 3, so I will share my favourite places with you as well:

The Wolseley – A stone’s throw from The Ritz this restaurant is classy, sophisticated yet very understated. My number one recommendation while in London.  Great for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner. Excellent service, great atmosphere and the food is exquisite.

The Wolseley

Pizza Express – A pizza joint, but not the average pizza joint. Don’t let the name fool you. This isn’t a fast food kind of place. I may be biased as I have grown up eating (and working) at this pizza chain. This is hands down the best pizza I have ever eaten and it is the pizza I compare all pizza to. Neapolitan style thin crust, individual size, no funky new world toppings – i.e. no pineapple. This pizza place is the type of place you could take a date and has been around for over 40 years. The pizza won’t let you down. (But, the service might)

Gaucho Grill – Argentinean steak house – with steak that is actually from Argentina (go figure). Ambience is sultry and sexy. Great for a date or romantic meal. Service and knowledge about the menu is strong to match the flavours of the food.

Everyone knows Los Angeles is my favourite place to be. Living in California it’s all about great sushi, trend setting cuisine and fresh healthy food.

Some of my favourite spots to dine in LA:

Sugar Fish Sushi– INCREDIBLE – melt in your mouth, you have never had better , amazing sushi. Order the Trust Me menu from Chef Nozawa. You won’t go wrong….trust me! 😉

CiCi’s café– If you can dare to trek in to the valley you are in for a big surprise. A delicious surprise. This is THE breakfast spot of all breakfast spots. Be warned – portions are huge and incredibly rich.Forget Me Not Waffles

RH (at Andaz)  Housed in the Andaz hotel on Sunset Blvd. I wouldn’t normally frequent a hotel restaurant unless I expected mediocre food for overpriced menu items but things have changed in the last few years and RH definitely hits the spot – that spot being heavenly. The restaurant has an open kitchen, so you can watch the chef create your meal, even see through to the fridge to see sous chefs’ selecting your vegetables. Food is modern French inspired and beautiful fresh flavours. With a seasonal menu that has never disappointed – I make this one of my must-do’s whenever I am in town.

My current State of residence – Texas

Now food in Texas is a whole other story. My experiences are that you can get good food here. Just don’t bank on it being healthy. Dallas people await the Texas Fair each year to see what fried food is the culinary delight of the year. Since living here, I have heard about fried oreos, fried oysters, chicken fried bacon, fried butter (don’t even ask) and  fried beer. Not exactly good for your cholesterol or  items that get my mouth watering. But this is the South. Since living in Dallas I have tried my hand, or more, tried my palate at:Chicken fried bacon

  • Fried green tomatoes
  • Fried pickles
  • Fried ice cream
  • Chicken fried chicken
  • And the most weird to say – chicken fried steak.

As you can see – frying things, is kind of a thing here.

Aside from the love affair with deep fat fryers Dallas does have some good dining spots. Some of my favourites:

Cane Rosso – Great flavours, fresh ingredients and the best pizza I have had since living in America. Get there early and grab a seat at the bar to watch the masters in action.

Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck – The revolving restaurant at the top of  Reunion tower – it sounds super 1970s but I was very pleasantly surprised. Service  is great and the sushi is easily the best in Dallas not to mention, I  can actually say their black cod with miso is in fact better than, dare I say it…Nobu. Wolfgang Puck's Five Sixty

Marquee Grill – Highland Park’s new hotspot in Dallas. Yes it’s pricey, and has a celebrity chef (Tre Wilcox) and the name is being dropped in all Dallas’ luxe magazines and websites, which pretty much would usually turn me off, but, I have to give it to them..Marquee Grill is excellent. The menu has a definite Southern flare and a spicy kick to get your motor running. Wait staff are attentive and informative about the menu and the cocktails aren’t shy of flavor or alcohol.  Chocolate Box

From  London to LA and the land of Southern Hospitality great food can be found everywhere. Fortunately a de-tox, a diet and a workout can be found a few short steps away from the dining table.

Bon appetit

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.

First Day On The Job

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As with any first day on the job, I am a little apprehensive about putting my thoughts out there. Granted, yes, I do it all the time. I’m a social media addict. I’m represented on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and of course, the newest trend – Google+ I do NOT have a problem over sharing my life. This is just a little different. I get more than 140 characters – and will be judged by more than just my Mum…so, lets just say, I’m suffering a little stage fright.

If you don’t know me here are some details to digest while I get my thoughts together for my second day:

I have  British, New York, California and Texas drivers licenses and an accent blended from all of the above!

My work and my life allow me to explore new places, experience great hotels, try out new restaurants and deal with the silliness that comes with all of that. So this is where my insight and tid bits will be coming from. The good, the bad, the wonderful and the down right ugly (which typically involves my frequent faux pas as a stranger in a strange land)

Feel free to help me out with tips and criticism for the new girl in the office.