22 July 2014

Paris

We shipped a lot of stuff to the States from London and then headed to Paris with a suitcase we'd just bought at Oxfam for £13. Unfortunately, within a few minutes of leaving our beloved London flat, we realized that the suitcase had issues. The handles wouldn't stay in the plastic encasing on the bottom, meaning they would stick out and make a horrible scraping sound on the sidewalk. We were already late for the bus I'd booked to the airport, so we had a stressful couple of hours.

Fortunately, after we'd dropped off our suitcases at our Paris Airbnb, we went and saw this:


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Arc de Triomphe



Eiffel Tower photo IMG_1610_zpsa5ce4c02.jpg
We also caught the sparkles on the Eiffel Tower.



More French Baked Goods photo IMG_8096_zpscc7ff58c.jpg
The next morning, I was very happy to get a whole bag of French baked goods.



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My almond croissant was amazing.



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Versailles!



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Versailles wasn't as great as I had hoped, mostly because the crowds were overwhelming.



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We watched an interesting video about the restoration of the fountains and how they'd discovered that the plumbing could make different water patterns.



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It was so hot on the grounds that I worried about getting burned.



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Luckily I found some lovely shade, but my feet didn't hold out for long.



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So we picked up our macarons and pizza from the bag check and enjoyed them.



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We didn't end up getting anything at McDonald's, but Michael was really excited about the ordering machines they had.

We went back to our Airbnb to take a nap.


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It turns out that there's a Hakka restaurant by our Airbnb. (Michael's mom is Hakka.)



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Also, Michael had to back into the elevator each day because it was so tiny and he couldn't turn around with his backpack on.



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After our nap, we headed to the Louvre.



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And to the locks of love bridge and Notre Dame.



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The subway was surprisingly dirty and loud, but I suppose it had its charms.



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We were able to meet up with Michael's sister, who introduced us to pretty flower gelato at Amorino.



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I found the biggest eclair I've ever seen.



Michelle, Michael, and Claire at a Bridge photo P1140733_zpse9ae3650.jpg
Claire showed us some fancy bridges and buildings.



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Last French Breakfast at Rue Montorgueil photo P1140762_zps5e5b4d89.jpg
The next morning, we headed to Rue Montorgueil to enjoy one more sweet French breakfast.



Expensive Snacks photo P1140791_zpsad43d625.jpg Michael wanted to try these things, which turned out to be super expensive. I hope they were good.

And then it was to the airport.

21 July 2014

Six Weeks in London

Living in London for six weeks was amazing. I can only imagine what it would be like long-term.


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We got lucky and lived in a recently-renovated, light-filled apartment in Somers Town, meaning we were really close to Camden, Euston Station, King's Cross/St. Pancras Station, Russell Square, and Michael's school. The only difficult thing was the lack of internet. We bought a wifi plan, but it was really pricey and we were always afraid that we'd use all of the data, so we both did a lot of work at Hult.



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After the view from our window in China, this was heavenly.



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Being close to King's Cross meant we had to make a stop at Platform 9 and 3/4.



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We intended to get a gym membership, but that didn't happen. We did, however, discover this outdoor exercise equipment at the park.




One of my favorite things about London was being able to bike again. It was so nice to get places that way and the rentable Barclay's bikes were really convenient. Plus, we didn't mean to cheat the system, but it turned out that since we share a credit card, if Michael rented a bike for 24 hours in the morning, and then I went to rent a bike, the machine thought I was the same person and so we only had to pay once. Unfortunately, this meant that we couldn't ride at the same time unless we'd started out that day with two bikes because it wouldn't let us change the reservation. You only pay £2 per day, plus an extra amount every time the bike goes undocked for over 30 minutes, so we purposely never went over 30 minutes; we'd just put the bike back and take another one five minutes later. On the day I was taking care of my Russian visa, I biked for over 1.5 hours and never went over 30 minutes on any one ride. :)




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Michael, Gunjan, and Fede.



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It turned out that a lot of the enjoyment of London is in food. Here we are with Hult friends and Michael's sister Claire at Urban Food Fest, a gathering of food trucks. I had the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich with feta, walnuts(!), and honey.



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Michael was glad that we still had some of the papadum he'd bought in India, but one night he forgot it was in the oven and this is what he ended up with.



 Electric Diner Eggs Benedict photo IMG_7786_zpsf3a1d161.jpg
The Electric Diner convinced me that I need to learn how to make eggs benedict. Wow.



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Hult had so much food all the time and Claire, the woman in charge of Hult events, told me I was always welcome. We had pizza, afternoon tea, quiche, sandwiches, World Cup cupcakes, hot chocolate, and more.



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This is us on the deck at Hult. Isn't it lovely? I spent a lot of time at Hult's campus working on the ChiShenMa app and even got to be friends with the security guards, kind of. One of them gave us Hult pens because I complimented the pen when I was signing out.



Michael's Drawing Skills photo 2014-05-25121555_zpsc485bd7f.jpg
Michael made some great art on the whiteboards at Hult. Do you like his £8 haircut?



Women Who Code JavaScript Study Group photo 2014-06-11185939_zps69e98b0a.jpg
I organized a weekly JavaScript meetup for Women Who Code. It was kind of tough because people seemed to want an organized lesson, but we couldn't really build on each lesson because different people showed up each time. Also, I had hoped to learn a lot myself but I ended up just using the time to help others. Oh well, I didn't mind because it was great to meet others interested in tech and I've always wanted to pass on the love I've gotten. I was also able to put together a technical interview practice session at Hult.



Cosmic Hackathon photo 2014-05-31194210-3_zps2f79dec7.jpg
I attended a hackathon to make a game that would help kids have more fun giving feedback about their hospital stay. Here's a screenshot of the game "Hospital Rush" that my team came up with:


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Stonehenge photo IMG_1433_1_zpsfb6f861b.jpg
I wanted to visit the Viners in Manchester, but it turned out that the cheapest way for us to get there would be via rental car. I decided that if we were going to rent a car anyway, we may as well do a bit of sightseeing. So we went to Stonehenge. I felt so curious about life here centuries ago, but there wasn't much I could learn. I did take note of the fact that only males were allowed to be buried near here. It's always sad to me that women have been put down in so many ways throughout history.


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We also swung by Bath. It was so beautiful there that we stopped in awe as we drove down the hill into the city.



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Since we didn't have enough time to really enjoy Bath, we decided we will have to go back some day.



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I felt bad that we were so late getting to the Viners' house, but they were great about it. We had a wonderful Mediterranean dinner with Marie and Simon. It was hard for us to leave, which ended up making our rental return a bit complicated, but we didn't regret going.

I was also able to meet up with Alana, the friend I stayed with last time I was in London, and to meet some online friends.



James Bond's Store photo 2014-06-25103108_zps22cee8cb.jpg
This store was close to our flat and we really loved the variety of groceries. I even bought falafel powder and made our own falafel. I introduced Michael to halloumi and I think he liked it nearly as much as I do. There was one guy who worked there who was really friendly, and Michael thought he looked like James Bond, so we stared calling the store "The James Bond Store." One time, Michael was trying to convince me that we should buy a whole box of cherries, and when I asked if we would be able to eat all of them, James Bond walked by and said, "He's a big boy; he can handle it." Ha. We bought the cherries and ate them within two days. Yum!



Dinner at Dishoom photo IMG_1518_zps7168f10e.jpg
Our last night in London, Gunjan, Fede, Michael, and I splurged at Dishoom, an Indian restaurant with high ratings (Gunjan told me that "dishoom" is the word said to accompany punches being thrown, ha). Even Gunjan agreed that the food was amazing, so that's saying something.

We liked London so much that we debated staying. However, Michael feels like since he's already changing his career's function and industry, changing location as well would be really difficult. I also feel like the network I have in San Francisco is really good for this early stage of my career. Maybe in a couple of years we'll move there, who knows?

18 July 2014

Scotland and England's Lake District

Our six weeks in the UK were heavenly and started off with a trip to Scotland and England's Lake District. We flew from Shanghai straight to London.


Grand Royale London Hyde Park photo 2014-05-12124641_zpsf3ce3571.jpg
We stayed in the Grand Royale London Hyde Park Hotel for a couple of days so we could drop our suitcases off at our place, check out Michael's school, and get our cell phones working.



Scottish Train Toilet Sticker photo 2014-05-16171633_zps26aad79c.jpg
To our surprise, train tickets to Edinburgh were pricey. We probably should have just flown. At least I was amused by this sticker on the train toilets. It says, "Please don't flush Nappies, sanitary towels, paper towels, gum, old phones, unpaid bills, junk mail, your ex's sweater, hopes, dreams or goldfish down this toilet."



Edinburgh Castle photo 2014-05-131730_zps6a58fe56.jpg
Edinburgh was pretty soggy and the castle was about to close, but we opted to go through anyway. I loved imagining people in the different rooms centuries ago. It must be cold in there during the winter.

Michael was so happy to use his fancy camera, and when he stepped just one step back into the castle grounds to take one more picture of the castle and was allowed to by a castle employee, another employee said something like, "Oh, I've heard about these Asians before" in a condescending way. If I had heard that (Michael told me about it), I might have asked her to apologize to my husband. Grr.


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Besides that, Edinburgh was a charming city.

I did some reading about William Wallace and the history of Scotland that evening after we'd had some fish and chips.


Morning View from Edinburgh Hill photo 2014-05-14920_zps83159fc2.jpg
We climbed to the top of Calton Hill in the morning and enjoyed the views.



Driving on the Left photo 2014-05-14134508_zpsa50cb731.jpg
After taking the train to Glasgow, we rented a car. It turns out that adjusting to driving on the left side of the road isn't that difficult.



Michelle and Michael at Lake Balloch in Scotland photo 2014-05-151545_zps097e788d.jpg
Our first stop included a lovely lakeside walk at Loch Lomond in Balloch.



Beach in Fairlie, Scotland photo 2014-05-142000_zps6bab7eb8.jpg
Then we headed to a bed and breakfast down the Scottish coast that I booked purely because I liked the name of the town—Fairlie. Our host was a wonderfully feisty woman in her 70s who sent us out to find dinner at the one pub in town via the muddy beach.



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Michael and I kept asking, "What do the people who live here do for a living?" It was nice and quiet.



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House Near Beach in Fairlie, Scotland photo 2014-05-142005_zps30312189.jpg


Night View of Water in Fairlie, Scotland photo 2014-05-142200_zpsb62f421d.jpg
While my stomach was busy trying to get used to Western food again, Michael took some lovely pictures from our window.



Ivy Guesthouse in Hawkshead, Lake District photo 2014-05-151710_zpsd5e2ee85.jpg
The next day, we drove south. We stopped at Moffat, Scotland, along the way, and I thought about the Moffat family I know. Our destination was Hawkshead, England, a part of the famously beautiful Lake District. Michael enjoyed whipping the car around the narrow, winding country lanes that led to the charming Ivy Guest House, a place recommended by my sister.



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Then we went on a walk through Tarn Hows, where fluffy cows and sheep roamed the green hills.



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The light was perfectly magical.



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Michael was scared of the sheep until he realized that they were more scared of him. I've never seen such fluffy sheep.



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I couldn't stop saying, "Wow, this is amazing. It's so beautiful." Now I understand those Lake District poets a little better. When we saw some cottages, we had to look up how much they cost—it's not that long of a drive from London, so it would be quite a lovely place to have a summer house.



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Of course, Michael and I had to have our fun with gifs.



Mario Michael in Lake District, England photo MichaelLakeDistrict45MB_zps8a5c38ec.gif
Mario Michael.



Hawkshead, England photo 2014-05-151945_zps4ec0f0c5.jpg
After we enjoyed a dinner of mashed potatoes and lamb, Michael took this picture of Hawkshead.

The next morning, we walked to the Beatrix Potter museum (Hawkshead is where she lived), only to find out it was closed that day of the week, so we picked up a turkey pie and headed out instead.


Lovely trip it was.

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