Sunday, 25 November 2012

Straight off the plane

...and straight to:

Pumpkin spice, and relax.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Capitol of the USA

We skipped the 4am Black Friday sales in favour of a lie-in and a trip around the Capitol Building.  This is where Congress meets, in the heart of DC, over the road from the Supreme Court, just along from the White House.  It's all happening around here!

The building is fairly spectacular inside and out, but the tour was slightly less inspiring.  After a movie (where we learnt that the British burnt down the original in 1814 - sorry about that) we were walked around several of the halls and chambers, accompanied by headphones and a guide who interjected such fascinating facts as "these are the drapes.  They're obviously not original".

It was a shame as he obviously knew his stuff, including who was featured on every single statue, but the place was packed with holiday weekend tourists - we don't include ourselves, obviously - so moving around resembled a rugby match.  The tour ended, and we were told that the building closed in nine minutes.  So much for access to democracy.

With the sun setting and the kids at home with their nanny we enjoyed an adult meal at a superb Indian restaurant, where chicken tikka masala was listed as "the national dish of England!"  Our gifts to the USA do not stop at their model for government.

Big, impressive.

Two people who certainly don't need any more emancipation.

Lady Freedom, a copy of the statue that sits on top of the dome.

Ready to tour.

Down in the crypt.

The face looks familiar.

Looking up inside the dome, at "The Apotheosis of Washington".  Heaven's evidently full of Americans.

Me and Ronnie Reagan.  Every state gets to send two statues and he's one of California's.

Under the dome.

Finally a slice of Britain - the Magna Carta.  Not the original.

Those unoriginal drapes.

In the gift shop.

The sun sets on the US government.

Back to civilisation!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Turkey day

I write to you from the usual post-Thanksgiving food coma, a fairly familiar place after a few years of celebrating this holiday.  Like the Native Americans of all those years ago, we brought sustenance and happiness to pilgrims Vince and Christine in Washington DC on our way back to California.

We spent the morning touring the sights of the capital, including the White House and Lincoln Memorial.  This city has far more European-style architecture than most, with plenty of heavy, stone buildings punctuated by statues and memorials.  The day was hot and sunny and we stopped for a little American football in the park, because that's something else you do at Thanksgiving.

Then it was back for the meal.  Cooking began at 2pm and we sat down to eat at 7pm, although we cycled through two rounds of appetisers and various cocktails during that time.  As usual we went around the table saying what we were thankful for.  "Everything," said Claire, and that just about summed it up.

Outside the White House - this is where the King of America lives.

Claire celebrates freedom.

Time for some sports!

Full contact, of course.

Quiet contemplation (for once).

Up at the Lincoln Memorial.

An impressive legacy.

Muckers together.

Not sure what we're doing.

Hannah gets in some boy practice.

First cocktail of the day: a Bloody Mary, expertly mixed by Vince "Creepy Moustache" Mucker.

The rest of the family.

Vince puts together the "cornerstone" of his Thanksgiving meal - stuffing, to an old family recipe.  Christine provides consulting services.

Posing with the turkeys that Claire made everyone.

The real turkey.

Ready and waiting.

I am thankful for Thanksgiving in DC!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Last one out of Britain

We spent the final few days of our brief trip being marinated by the fine weather in the south - first the fog in Weymouth, then the unrelenting drizzle of Colehill, and finally a tour-de-gale-force in Woking. 

Family meals at Hannah's now require furniture moving to accommodate all eaters, as well as an entire fatted calf. Then, because we didn't feel we'd eaten quite enough, we also popped into Gordon Ramsay's restaurant in London, where my highlight was a poached egg inside ravioli! Simple tastes. We also got to see what a three Michelin star kitchen looks like (lots of people) and famous head chef Clare Smyth was in there. No Gordon, to Hannah's disappointment; she wrote her business school admission essay about him, and might have assaulted/proposed to/kidnapped him had he actually been present.

We made our way irresistibly towards Heathrow via Ian, Ellen, and Meg in Woking. Who needs Michelin stars when Ellen serves such great British sausages?  That's the one thing I really miss from the mother country. We even got to do something that we HAD to do in Britain: watch the new Bond film.

And that's it! Thank you to everyone who looked after us so kindly, and sorry not to have seen more people. We'll be back in May when our flight will include a screaming baby. Which airline has the most liberal free drinks policy?

Ah, beautiful Weymouth.

Meal one, at Prezzo's.  We took up most of the restaurant.

Meal two, at Hannah's parents'.

Child and animal labour.

Visiting the parents' new house.

Almost ready.

Civilised morning coffee in Blandford Forum.

Uncivilised reading.

The older generation.

The next generation.

As we won't be home for Christmas we decided to celebrate early.

In a garden centre!

Not a creature was stirring, not even...

Wow, so realistic!  This is actually the culmination of a long quest to see "Santa and his real reindeer".

But Santa is still not in.

Out for dinner in Woking.

Bangers and mash!

Gorgeous Meg, growing up, losing teeth, and off to school.