Archive for December, 2009

Tightie Dynamities

I thought the shoe bomber was diabolical, but this goes beyond twisted: explosives in underwear?! Does that mean we’re going to have to take off our panties when we go through security, as we now remove our shoes in post-Richard Reid aviation?!

Flying Scared

I shudder to think what the new security restrictions inspired by the would-be Christmas plane bomber will mean for parents changing their kids on planes.

I once had a flight attendant and two passengers knock on the bathroom door, asking if I was OK, after I had been in the there changing my infant daughter for about five minutes.

I yelled back that I was OK, just changing a diaper, but they didn’t hear me — or, they chose to ignore me, and continued to bang on the door.

I couldn’t operate the lock and lean out of the door without causing my daughter to tumble off the changing table, so I just let the ruckus outside the door continue.

But now, it sounds like paranoia among passengers will arise if anyone is in the bathroom for longer than a few minutes. That could spawn some embarrassing situations.

Atlanta has gone to the dogs

I don’t think I have ever seen so many dogs in one city as I have here in Atlanta. Every morning, there is a parade of people with their pets: from the tall, curly haired woman with the massive wolf dog to the mild-mannered man with two tiny dachshunds.

And we see them wherever we go. When we bought our Christmas tree, this friendly yellow labrador greeted us.

In London, dogs would appear en masse in parks on warm, rainless days, which were few and far between. Occasionally, you would come across them in pubs.

One of the charming aspects of British pubs was that many allowed owners to bring their dogs. There would be a bowl of water on the floor for the four-legged patrons.

Here, I have yet to see a dog in any drinking or dining establishment. But they seem to be everywhere else: on Christmas hayrides, school runs, Halloween trick or treating expeditions, and jogs in Piedmont Park.

I have never owned a dog, which some of my neighbors are seeking to rectify. One sends me pictures of orphaned and abused dogs who are looking for homes.

They are adorable, but I worry about my kids: my daughter screams and cries whenever she sees one (I am therefore keenly aware of dogs’ omnipresence in this town); and I wonder how the dog would amuse his or herself while we’re all at work/preschool.

One friend sends her two rescue dogs to doggie daycare while she’s at work during the week. I’m glad to know that such a service exists, but feel that we already spend a lot of money on human daycare.

Maybe when the kids are a bit older, we’ll join the masses of Atlantans with dogs.

Big Fun in Brum

Most of the time I’ve spent in the UK has been in London. But when I visited Birmingham with my husband and kids a few weeks ago, I was impressed by how much there is to do in “Brum” — the slang term the locals use for the country’s second largest city.

We walked alongside a network of canals (Birmingham has more than Venice — who knew?!) on a windy day in late November. When it started to rain, we dashed into the Central Library, where a story hour for kids was just starting.

At first, we tried to sneak in (difficult to do with two toddlers and a double buggy). Our local library in London required tickets for story time entry. They were free, but they disappeared within an hour. I never managed to obtain one.

But in Birmingham, no tickets were required. The woman reading the story stopped, smiled, and told us to come on in. We stayed till the end (just 15 minutes, but enough time to miss the bulk of the rain shower), colored a bit, then went to Nando’s, one of my favorite pseudo-fast food joints. They have great barbeque chicken, and a kids menu!

When we emerged, we went to the Frankfurt Christmas Market. I had actually been to the Christmas Market in Frankfurt, and it was incredibly similar to the one in Birmingham: we drank gluhwein (aka mulled wine), bought a wooden toy, and rode a carousel.

And we topped it all off with a tour of the aquarium. All in all, it was a festive way to spend a late November day in the UK.

Eurostar’s ill-timed email

I received an email from Eurostar today, suggesting I spend £69 on a Eurostar gift card, enabling my nearest and dearest to travel to Paris or Brussels by train from London.

If I worked for Eurostar’s marketing department, I would have perhaps waited to send that email until after memories fade of the two thousand people who were trapped for hours in the tunnel overnight.

I can only hope that none of those passengers received that gift suggestion from Eurostar…

Give a continental gift this Christmas
Fri, December 18, 2009 9:22:25 PM

A Christmas present to remember from £69

Don’t traipse around the shops for days to find that perfect gift. Treat your special someone to an escape with these wonderful winter offers to the continent. Whether it’s a stylish start to 2010 à Paris or a post-Christmas break en Brussels, Eurostar has the perfect present for your nearest and dearest – an experience they’ll never forget. Find out when you can book for £69.

Paris without paying a packet
In the January gloom the city of lights is still a hive of activity, with Parisians emerging from hibernation to reunite with friends and hit the winter sales. Join them with a stay in the heart of the city at the chic Novotel Paris Vaugirard Montparnasse.

A little Parisian luxury
The lavish Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel helps you see Paris without even leaving your luxurious room. Most rooms have a balcony with stunning views of the Eiffel Tower, River Seine or the gardens of the Champs de Mars.

An affordable escape to Brussels
Satisfy your inner explorer with the many hidden gems in and around the city’s famous Grand Place, before retiring to the warmth of the fabulous four-star Radisson Blu EU Hotel.

A little extra style in the city
When you’ve revelled in the city’s delights, relax in sumptuous style at the iconic Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Brussels, with its stunning glass-domed roof and Art Deco façade. Book today and you’ll get two free tickets to the Magritte Museum, where you’ll find a fabulous showcase of the work of the city’s most famous painter.

All prices are subject to availability. Conditions of Carriage apply Packages are supplied by Travelscape Inc. trading as Eurostar Planet and their terms and conditions apply.

Snow mess in Paris

After all the concern about disrupted flights, Eurostar services are cancelled because of the snow. What a nightmare.

Snow mess

What a mess — roads closed, flights disrupted….
I am impressed that Heathrow is still open.

London Snowing

London looks pristine in the snow — for about ten minutes. Then, the parade of pedestrians and barrage of buses turn it into a sloppy grey mess.

So when Londoners wake up tomorrow, I imagine they’ll see a scene like the one I photographed here on High Street Kensington nearly three years ago. It will look wintry and charming, until a slippery walk through slush to the tube will scupper any cozy and pleasant sentiment towards the snow — especially when the traveler discovers that the tube line they want has been driven out of service by the sloppy weather, regardless of whether or not the snow has completely melted.

From a distance, though, when I read forecasts calling for “a heavy blanket of snow,” I get nostalgic for the undisturbed, pristine fluff. I didn’t see it often during my seven and a half years living there.

In fact, it feels as though more snow has fallen on London in the year since I left than the whole time I lived there. That makes it easy to romanticize what will be an epic and potentially dangerous commute for Londoners.

God Jul

While shopping at a Swedish Christmas Fair here in Atlanta today, I was very flattered when a woman started speaking Swedish to me.

To be confused with a Swede made my day. Swedish women always seem to be stunning, like Tiger Woods’ wife.

I am baffled by his philandering. None of his alleged mistresses are anywhere near as attractive as she is. But I suppose it’s the thrill of the deception, rather than the level of attractiveness, that makes certain men stray.

I was so pleased to be mistaken for one of Elin Nordegren’s countrywomen that I purchased two traditional Swedish Christmas tree ornaments, along with a t-shirt.

Pebbles takes fame in her stride

I’m glad to know that Susan Boyle’s cat hasn’t let her Scottish owner’s record success go to her head.

I hope that Comcast carries the TV Guide Network, so we can watch “I Dreamed a Dream: The Susan Boyle Story.”