We spent 2 weeks back in Europe for Mark’s mother’s 70th birthday.
And it was fine. Fine. It was all fine. We got to spend time with Mark’s family, go out on very long walks that weren’t actually just long, but felt even longer because of the cold wind, and eat a lot of great vegetarian food and cheese. Maybe too much cheese.
It wasn’t exceptionally relaxing, but I don’t think visiting family can ever be.
We didn’t really do that much while we were there. We went on a few really nice walks along or near the cliffs at Seaford and Eastbourne (this is where the Seven Sisters are), took a few trips to Brighton and London, and basically just ate and shopped.
We went there with a long list of things our coworkers wanted, and a list of students to bring gifts back for (that’s a tradition in Japan). So we did some shopping and brought back mostly food and snacks. We’re officially turning Japanese: ‘what did you enjoy most about your trip to England?‘ response: ‘eating delicious food’! But seriously, cheese. I ate so much cheese that I had to post a blog about that, too.
We went into London to visit our friend Jav, have some lunch, and then meet up with Mark’s sister to go to the Saatchi Gallery. I thought that Jason deCaires Taylor’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (also known as Rising Tide) was still across from the Houses of Parliament, so we walked all the way over there from the Tower Bridge to see them.
And when we got there, we found out that the installation had only been temporary, and was only up for a few weeks back in 2015. I was really sad to have missed it, since most of his work in underwater in countries that are far, far away from me at the moment. I’m really hoping I can get to Cancun (after I learn to speak some Spanish) and get a diving license so I can see the work that is under the water there.
But it wasn’t all bad. Yeah, we walked FOREVER to get there (or so it felt, with the cold wind), but it was a good reminder of the state I was in the last time we were in England, when I could barely walk for 20 minutes. Also, the show at the Saatchi was fine (we’re using ‘fine’ a lot in this one), even if the work we THOUGHT we’d see wasn’t there. It was a day of ‘not there’. But it was great to meet up with Clare and walk around the Saatchi, since I’d never been there before. I was actually in love with a print from Kozyndan, called Seasons of the Bunny (pictured far left), and I think I need to keep it on my list of things to buy… eventually.
In the end, we walked over 7km by the time we were done (I tracked it and wrote about it on my fitness blog, here), and I think that ended up being something of a norm for the trip. We walked similar large amounts around the cliffs, through Würzburg, etc.
Our trip to Germany was quick, but great. We flew into Frankfurt and took the train (which felt wildly overpriced) to Wuerzburg. We dropped in to see our old boss at the Inlingua office, and walked around the city. I had a long list of things I wanted to get in Germany, which included a very specific pesto (seriously the best pesto EVAR), gelatin-free gummy snacks, Afri-Cola (which seems to have disappeared), and some other odds and ends. We got most of that done in the few hours we spent in the city before our friend Jarek came to pick us up and take us to his place.
We also made sure to go to Sumo Sushi, since they have amazing vegetarian options, and we definitely wanted to see them again. I’m not sure if they remembered us or not, but they definitely started to send around the vegetarian rolls once we got in, so… maybe?
On the second day (the full one), I went into the city to spend the day hanging out with my lovely friend Verena. We went to my old favorite, Michel, so I could have the Spinach Strudel I’ve missed so much. It was just as great as I remembered it!
Seeing her and our other friend, Freya on that day was really helpful for me. It was the first time I’d spoken in-depth to people about what’s going on at our job and how I feel about it, and it was great to be reminded of what it is I actually want to do, and enjoy doing. I really appreciate getting the time to talk to them, and their insights.
It was a real breath of fresh air. Like being told by a bad boyfriend that you’re crazy, and then your friends hear the story and totally agree with you. It was like that.
I feel like I should mention, too, that I also appreciate (so much) the fact that we could walk into any restaurant or grocery store in Würzburg and buy vegetarian food. This is such a far cry from our experience in Tokyo so far, and it always seems really strange to me that we’re living in the biggest city in the world and they can’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea that meat doesn’t need to be in every single meal.
It was such a nice change, to be able to eat well, and until I was full, everywhere we went. This on its own is a major selling point for moving back to the Euro zone. It sounds like a small thing, but the ‘list of things I won’t put up with’ for the next place I live is getting longer all the time.
After we got back from Germany, I went shopping with Mark’s mom and sister to find my wedding shoes, and we ended up getting them at just the place I expected to: Irregular Choice. Easily the best shop in the world for amazing shoes. We all agreed on the pair I chose, although we went through a long ‘trying them all on and taking photos of them’ process to see how all of them looked. It was arduous, but fun. I was glad to do it with them, since I couldn’t really take anyone shopping to buy the dress, like most brides do. Except: I totally forgot to bring my back-up dress with me, so they couldn’t see it. I’ll put it on at some point and mail them a photo of it, I guess.
We didn’t have long after the shopping excursion, the rest of our time in England was spent seeing family and friends, tying up loose ends, and packing our bags.
And I packed those bags like a pro, in under 2 hours, and managed to hide (as best I could) all of the fake meat products we were bringing back with us. It wasn’t much, and it wasn’t nearly enough. But everything was well-wrapped and packed when we left the house. I was proud of myself for that.
When we came back across the border at Narita airport, our bags weren’t searched, probably because we’re residents. Now that I know this, I’ll be sure to bring back a LOT more in our next trip overseas. This time, we only brought back a few packs of vegetarian sausage and 2 blocks of cheese. There will be SO MUCH MORE coming back with us from the USA in June!