Archive Page 2

Charleston: A Bit of Britain in the South

It’s a European enclave — plus palm trees. We drove to Charleston, South Carolina last weekend, and felt like the five hour car journey had brought us back to (a much warmer, sunnier version of) Britain.

We decided to go to Charleston after a German friend told us that it was the only city she had visited in the US that felt European: it’s got the history, the walkability, and the abundance of British flags.

The weather (gorgeous) and size (small) made the city fun to walk around. Even with a double stroller and a baby bjorn, we strolled from one end of town to the other, and along the waterfront.

The streets are clean, flanked by colorful houses and shops. And the people are so friendly: strangers say hello, give directions, hold doors open and say, “My, you’ve got your hands full!” when they see you walking with three kids.

Because the weather was so warm (temperatures were set to hit 78 degrees on Sunday), we didn’t visit any indoor attractions. But the opportunity to leave the car behind is a rare treat in the South.

Once we paid the $20 (daily!) valet parking charge at out hotel, we got to visit the outdoor sites on foot: we walked along the Battery, a waterfront park with cannons, surrounded by southern mansions.

And we strolled past art galleries, old churches, and an array of seafood restaurants. Because the weather was so beautiful, we didn’t visit any museums.

Having lived through lots of drizzly days in London, we learned to take advantage of warm weather when we can. You don’t always know when the next one will be (although this seems to be a misplaced fear in the South, where spring/summer days are almost invariably warm and sunny).

We even spent a morning at one of the wide, rustic beaches just outside of Charleston. On Sullivan’s Island, we collected shells, made sand castles, and dipped our toes into the (freezing) water. Our only regret was that we didn’t have more time.

Royal Wedding Dressing

I was pleased to hear that we’re not the only ones who go to Gieve and Hawkes – it looks like the Savile Row tailor will make Prince William’s wedding ensemble.

While I’ve never purchased military attire from the tony tailors, I have bought trousers for my husband when I’ve felt compelled to splurge (they are not cheap).

And the shop, which always seems to have about twenty assistants working the floor, no matter how few customers are there, will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Like Prince WIlliam, my husband went to Gieves and Hawkes to have his wedding suit made (which again, wasn’t cheap, but then, you only get married once — and not just because most people can’t afford two bespoke suits from Savile Row).

I was also impressed by how enterprising and helpful the staffers are. When I went in to buy a jumper (aka sweater) there one winter, my baby daughter started to cry. All of the assembled tailors and shop assistants looked alarmed. I asked if I could feed her in the store, since it was raining hard outside.

While this clearly wasn’t the type of request he was used to accommodating, one morning suit-clad employee told me in his incredibly plummy accent that he would be happy to direct me to a dressing room in the back of the store.

And as Prince William has probably discovered, that was one posh dressing room.

Fall Comes to Atlanta

It finally feels like fall here in Atlanta: the temperature has dropped to the high 80s, from the near-hundred degree days we’ve all grown accustomed to since May; school is back in session; and Starbucks has brought out its line of pumpkin treats (muffins, scone, bread and of course, my personal favorite, the pumpkin spice latte).

There are also leaves withering and falling from the trees, but that could just be because they’re fried from four months of baking in the sun.

It’s still hotter than most summer days in London ever were, so we still need to slather on sunscreen. This seems unnatural in September, but then, so did wearing long sleeves and scarves in London during August.

Susan Boyle Singing for the Pope

I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes Susan Boyle. I can’t think of anyone better suited to perform for the Pope during his first state visit to the UK next month.

I hadn’t realized that Susan Boyle was Catholic. And I wasn’t aware that the Vatican followed pop culture, enough to have taken note of the runner up from last year’s “Britain’s Got Talent” whose debut CD topped the charts last Christmas.

The news confirms my suspicion that I am one of the few people in my age group to appreciate the Scottish singing sensation. But it appears that I am in good company.

Trader Joe’s Exposed

Trader Joe’s always seemed so American to me: from the plentiful free samples, to the friendly and knowledgeable staff (who actually appear happy to be working there) to the free stickers and lollipops for kids.

So I was surprised to read that it is actually owned by German supermarket kingpins.

Even though it’s a chain, Trader Joe’s comes across as a quirky neighborhood shop, thanks to the Hawaiin shirts the employees wear, and the unique items on offer (pumpkin pancakes and low-fat chocolate yogurt come to mind).

I am now eager to take a trip to Germany to visit some other shops owned by the Albrecht family. I can only hope that free lollipops are the international norm.

US Visa Woes

After years of filing visa applications and waiting for work permit papers in the UK, I feel for Piers Morgan, if it’s true that his CNN employment is on hold until his visa comes through.

I’m quite sure that getting legal clearance to work abroad didn’t used to be such a lengthy process. When I moved to the UK in mid-2001, I waited about two months for a work permit to come through.

I wonder if Piers would have better luck if he married an American, and scored a green card…

We have to vote AGAIN?!

Another month, another election here in Georgia. I can’t get over how often we registered voters are expected to cast ballots here. The last election was just a month ago — and this isn’t even a Presidential election year.

As someone with a bad case of voter guilt, I will head to the polls (again!). I almost envy people who blow off election days, without giving it a second thought. My parents were always hard-core voters, so I would really struggle to sleep at night if I missed one.

I can only hope that enough people turn out on Tuesday, so we don’t have another run-off. Three elections in three months would just be too much, even for hard-core voters like me.

A Child’s Choice at Starbucks

In London, when visiting Starbucks with our kids, we always ordered the babyccino — a fancy name for (free!) frothed milk in a mini-coffee cup.

Here in Atlanta, where we’ve been living for a year and a half, we discovered that Starbucks employees have not heard of the free cup of frothed milk for kids. They would gladly pour and froth milk for us, but it would come at a price.

But now, thanks to a friend who is also a mom, and a frequent Starbucks visitor, we have discovered a new drink: water, with a splash of passion fruit tea. The lovely pink color will delight Starbucks fans with daughters.

And sometimes, like the babyccino, it’s free.

If a Tree Falls…

A massive limb fell across our front yard this morning, entrapping our car, which was fortunately empty at the time.

But what was eerie about the collapse wasn’t just the sheer size of the limb. It was the fact that it had looked so sturdy. It snapped out of nowhere on a sunny, windless morning. I thought that tree limbs fell because of storms, or strong winds.

It doesn’t seem to be all that uncommon an occurrence in tree-filled Atlanta. Several neighbors who walked by to observe the carnage said that the same thing had happened to them. They nodded sagely and said that Bradford Pear Trees were usually to blame.

I was impressed by how quickly the City of Atlanta came to saw up and take away the fallen tree. We called them at 8:30 AM, right when they opened for the day, and they arrived within the hour.

After assessing the damage, the foreman of the cutting crew said: “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to take down the entire tree.” His tone implied that I would be dismayed by this diagnosis.

After watching the carnage caused by a tree that did not appear to be damaged, or hit by any lightning or other force of nature, I couldn’t wait to see the tree come down. In fact, I wanted to suggest that they take a few others down too, while they were at it, but they seemed ready to move on.

They suggested that I call an “arborist” from the city to check the health and safety of the other trees. I never thought I would use a word like arborist in a sentence, but I guess that’s what living in a tree-filled city for a year will do to you.

Cameron Flies Commercial

I am impressed that Britain’s new Prime Minister flew commercial on his first trip to the US in his new role.

The question is — which airline?