London

#NomadicNordgrens July + August Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens July + August Travel Update

Happy summer, everyone!

First of all, apologies for this update being so late! Rachel's job was exceptionally busy in July and August, and so by the time she got done with work, she doesn't want to be anywhere near a computer. We're combining the last two months into one newsletter...and spoiler alert, it contains a lot of London!

Allow us to explain the photo above. At our last housesit in London, a certain canine decided to excavate a beehive four minutes before his humans were about to head out for dinner and a walking tour around the City of London. This resulted in said humans, one of whom had actually put on a full face of makeup and an outfit that did not consist of yoga pants and a tank top, having to nurse the histamine-infused canine with lavender essential oil and Benadryl for the rest of the night.

The humans were not amused.

At the end of June, we arrived back in Wellingborough for a return housesit with the sweetest little darling dog named Poppy. We were welcomed back like family by Sarah and Paul (which was such a blessing!) and had fun cheering on England in the World Cup. Other than the two days we went into London, July was a fairly quiet month. We spent a lot of time taking Poppy and Banjo on walks, working, and trying not to melt in the summer heat!

After Wellingborough, we spent a few days in an idyllic little village called Cheveley near Newmarket, the thoroughbred horse-racing capital of the UK. There were gorgeous horses everywhere and Rachel was in heaven. We made our way south to Rotherfield in Sussex, where we enjoyed a week in a beautiful countryside home watching a happy-go-lucky dog (appropriately) named Bumble, and his feline friends Munchkin and Stumpy.

Then, London! We spent just over two weeks in Blackheath near Greenwich, looking after a gentle sweetheart of a lab named Loki. His wonderful humans, Liz and Paul, gave us enough London tips to last a lifetime, and we did our best to get out and see the city when Rachel wasn't working.

Some of our July and August London favorites were...
- The Tower of London
- Strolling across bridges to catch a view of the city
- An "Influential Women of London" bike tour
- Having drinks at a rooftop bar overlooking the Thames
- Getting lost in side streets and bookstores
- Services at St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey
- Seeing a sublime performance of "As You Like It" at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
- The Museum of London
- Wandering around Covent Garden
- A Suffragette exhibition at the Houses of Parliament
- Dishoom: "from Bombay with love"
- Finding picnic provisions at Borough Market
- Biking around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park

On to the photos!

1. Munching on watermelon on a summery afternoon walk!
2. The gorgeous Sky Garden in the City of London
3. A delightful map of London we found at Aqua Shard...it feels like we're really starting to fit together the pieces of this city in our minds!
4. A London pub being annoyingly fabulous
5. Hans having a cuddle with Poppy

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1. Banjo being carried down an escalator in the London Underground. Dogs have to be carried on the escalators because their paws can get stuck in the "moving teeth" otherwise...ouch!
2. The eternally gorgeous Westminster Abbey
3. Oh, look! The Tower of London!
4. A nighttime stroll across London Bridge with Tower Bridge in the background
5. Banjo with his Rushden buddy, Max


Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: I had a really great time picking wild blackberries and making a pie from them when we were in Rotherfield. I also enjoyed an evening Rachel and I spent biking around London and along the Thames. On another night we had a picnic in Greenwich Park with the London skyline with the sunset. I guess the theme here is the slow moments we spent together!

Rachel's favorite: London, London, London. I absolutely loved our time in that amazing city, and it was really rewarding to start to feel like we sort of knew our way around. I really loved going to a theatre performance at the Globe, exploring museums and galleries with Hans, and walking along the Southbank of the Thames at night together.

Mutual favorite: Hans put together a walking tour of the City of London (the oldest part of London) for us. We went after dinner one evening and explored the sites of some of the oldest parts of London...without the crowds! Seeing the Tower lit up at night was stunning, and standing next to a nearly 2,000-year-old bit of the old Roman wall while also being able to see the Shard was especially poignant...two bookends of the amazing history of this city.


Bonus People! And Pie!

London brought a few friends along, too! Rachel got to meet Tsh Oxenreider (the author of one of our mutual favorite books, At Home In The World) when she was in town leading a London trip. A darling friend from Topeka named Amy met up with Rachel at the National Portrait Gallery for brunch and art browsing when she was visiting London with family. Rachel's dear friend and longtime penpal, Kayla, came through London on her way back from an internship in Bosnia, and we crammed as much sightseeing and catching-up as possible into two days.

Also, here's a picture of a very proud Hans with the Blackberry pie he made.

Best in Food

July: We went to the Castle Ashby Gardens near Wellingborough and were totally surprised by a delightful continental market in their old stable yard. There were food stalls with French cheese, Italian cured meats, and stacks of bread and pastries, gelato, an olive bar, and some sort of creamy garlic prawn situation that smelled absolutely divine. We enjoyed a Cumin Gouda and Tome de Chevre with sun-dried tomato bread and crisp, sparkling lemonade. Yum!

August: Dishoom. We ate here twice and could have easily moved in. Their tagline is "from Bombay with love," which is entirely appropriate. It's is family-style Indian food, sweet and savory and spicy and superb, served in a friendly, cosy setting. Dishoom is a culinary celebration of Indian culture and if you go to London and do not eat there, we will never speak to you again.

A Note From Banjo...

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I haz to be karried in da undrgrund toob. Iss embarissing. Not as embarissing as my moom takeen piktures of mee 'nd pooting dem on dee interneets wen i hud six beestungs. i knoow it wuz stoopid to try 'nd moove da beehive, but i reeely wanteed to have a wee dere 'nd eet waz in dey way. Den ma hoomans poot Deen in da wittle face talkie toy 'nd even hee laffed at mee. Eet wuz ookay tho beecuz dey poot me in the bafftub whif sum nice smelly stuff 'nd gave me sleepy pillz 'nd dat made mee happeeeeee.


After we leave Rushden towards the end of September, we're headed back to the Continent. We'll cross the Channel, spend a few days in Amsterdam and then a day or two in Copenhagen, and then head further north to visit some of Hans' extended family in Sweden! We’re not sure what our plans for the rest of the fall will be, but we will keep you posted!

A Day Out In London by Rachel Nordgren

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
— Samuel Johnson, 1777

I can confidently say that I could spend a decade or two exploring London, and still only scratch the surface of this diamond of the first water of cities. Originally settled by the Romans in 47 AD, this sprawling mass of humanity on the banks of Thames is a cultural mecca...an epicenter of art, literature, education, fashion, medicine, research, finance, commerce, cuisine, and history.

There's no way you can see it all in a day (or even fifteen) (or even fifteen hundred), but Hans and I have loved all the bits we've experienced so far. Whether you've never visited before or you're a seasoned city-dweller, I hope our day out can inspire your own London adventure!

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

9:30 - Breakfast at Aqua Shard

The tallest building in London, standing 96 stories tall on the South Bank, is the Shard. Suffice to say, this is where you go if you want a good view of the city! Aqua Shard is situated on the 31st floor, facing north over the Thames with prime views of St Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the HMS Belfast. We enjoyed full English breakfasts, consisting of eggs, streaky bacon, Cumberland sausage, tomatoes, beans, Portobello mushrooms, toasted sourdough, juice, and coffee.

It was thoroughly delicious, and somewhat negated the need for lunch...

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

11:30 - Tour at the National Gallery

One of the most wonderful things about London is that many of the museums and galleries are free to enter. Even better, some offer free guided tours! Such is the case with the National Gallery, the nation's premiere art museum situated in Trafalgar Square. Their sprawling, 2,300-piece collection contains works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Raphael, Monet, Rubens, Renoir, and Van Gogh...and many, many others!

On our tour with a fabulous woman named Helen, we learned about...

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

1:00 - Covent Garden

We dashed over to Covent Garden so I could pop into Deciem's The Ordinary, the Canadian cult (there are two words you hardly expect to see together, eh?) skincare brand. Along the way we stopped at Jo Malone so I could have another whiff of their Velvet Rose and Oud cologne, which is the top contender for my signature scent at the moment.

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

2:00 - Westminster to Vauxhall Walking Tour

If you need a little help finding something unique to do in London, take a peek at AirBnB London Experiences. There are loads of unique adventures to be had...walks and tours for history, food, literature, photography, and dozens of classes and workshops. Hans and I did the "Explore London Backstreets With A Historian" walking tour, and our wonderfully informative and friendly guide Terry took us through some of the quieter bits of this magnificent city.

We started in front of Westminster Abbey, meandered around the Hogwartsian Dean's Yard of Westminster School, and walked through the insufferably adorable Westminster Village, passing by TE Lawrence's (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) house and an old Public Bomb Shelter sign, leftover from the Blitz.

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

We walked past St John's Church, now a concert hall, in Smith Square, along with the old Conservative party headquarters (in a twist of irony, the building is now occupied by the London European Union offices) and the old Labor party offices. The buildings are just across the square from one another, and Terry told us that back in the day they would literally lean out their windows and heckle each other. We also passed the Marquis of Granby, a pub historically frequented by MP's, where a bell used to be rung 10 minutes before a vote to remind them to leave for the Houses of Parliament.

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

Onwards to St John's Gardens in Millbank! The park was once London's cheapest burial grounds, and Terry informed us we were walking over the last remains of the likes of prostitutes, thieves, and other such unsavory characters. The original gate, installed to deter grave robbers, still stands along the Horseferry Road entrance.

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Further along in Pimlico, we came to the old Millbank Prison. The prison blocks have since been transformed into apartment complexes, and the old canal is now inhabited by urban gardens and washing lines. Millbank Prison used to be the holding facility for convicted prisoners before they were transported to Australia. Terry informed us that the term "down under" in reference to Australia actually originated at Millbank, since the prisoners were taken underneath the prison through tunnels leading out to the Thames, where they would board the ships headed for Australia.

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

Finally, we emerged onto the South Bank of the Thames and passed through a little park (where Hans spotted a beautiful sculpture of holding hands entitled "Love" by Lorenzo Quinn) before crossing Vauxhall Bridge, with the imposing MI6 Counter-Terrorism Command Center on our left and the new St George's Wharf Apartments on our right.

A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog
A Day Out In London - Rachel Nordgren Blog

We went from some of the oldest bits of London to some of the newest additions, and Terry did an excellent job leading us through all the layers of history. We'd definitely recommend booking the "Explore London Backstreets With A Historian" walking tour with him if you're looking for an interesting way to spend an afternoon!

4:30 - Selfridges & Co.

Just before heading home, we dashed into the iconic Selfridges & Co. store so I could pick up a few things. Selfridges has literally been voted the best department store on the entire planet (twice!) and you could easily spend all day getting lost amongst the gorgeous displays and luxurious brands. Opened in 1909, this Oxford Street stalwart boasts over a dozen in-store restaurants and cafes, a spa and salon, a pharmacy, personal shoppers and stylists, a multi-faith prayer room, and even (randomly) key-cutting services.

Selfridges London

After our high street jaunt we headed home. Our current housesit is a ways north of London, so the transit time was...shall we say...extensive. We're especially grateful for a family member of the folks we are housesitting for who kindly offered to watch the dogs so we could take advantage of a full day out in London!

In August, we have a two-week housesit in Blackheath (located within the Royal Borough of Greenwich) and then a couple days directly in London with a dear friend of mine. Anything in particular YOU think we should see?

You are now
In London, that great sea, whose ebb and flow
At once is deaf and loud, and on the shore
Vomits its wrecks, and still howls on for more. 
Yet in its depth what treasures!
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, from a letter to Maria Gisborne, 1820

Have you ever been to London, or do you want to go to London? What are some of your must-see places?

xoxo,
Rachel

#NomadicNordgrens March Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens March 2018 Travel Update

Hooray, Springtime is (almost!) here!

March was a bustling month! After leaving the farm in France, we dropped Banjo off with our friends Paul and Jenny in Le Vast (because taking a dog into England is rather a pain with paperwork, and we would only be there for a little over a week) and then crossed the channel. We housesat for a lovely woman named Lizzie near Petworth, and had the pleasure of watching her two darling dogs, cuddly cat, and a characterful French hen named Florence.

After leaving Petworth, we spent a night in London before picking up Dean (Rachel's father) and his girlfriend Roxann from the airport. They flew over for a whirlwind week with us...we covered London, Normandy, and Paris! It was so good to spend time with Dean and Roxann. We saw a lot, too! Some of our favorites were Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, the Normandy beaches, and seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night!

(we also ate far more pastries than is dietarily advisable, and we regret nothing)

After they flew back to the USA, we headed North to Leer, Germany. In high school, Hans did a foreign exchange student program with a guy named Thilo from Germany. They’ve kept in touch all these years, and we spent a delightful week in Leer with him and his family. After that, we made our way to Bielefeld to visit some of Hans' extended family. We'll tell you more about them next month!

On to the photos!

1. Hans the Giant
2. Roxann, Rachel, Dean, and our guide Leo on our Parisian bike tour
3. Hans, Rachel, Dean, and Roxann by the Tower Bridge in London
4. During Dean and Roxann's time with us, Banjo got booted out of his normal spot in the car and had to squish at Rachel's feet...and was superbly disgruntled about it
5. The Golden State Coach at the Royal Mews in London

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Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: touring Utah, Omaha, and Gold beach with Dean

Rachel's favorite: basically all of London, but in particular going to a sung Eucharist service at Westminster Abbey and seeing the Crown Jewels (so sparkly!)

Mutual favorite: spending time with Dean and Roxann!

Best in Food

You guys. The French have food figured out. In Paris, we took a "Bike and Bite" tour with a phenomenal guy named Leo. We cycled around the central Arrondissements of Paris and gathered supplies for a (cold!) picnic by the Seine. We visited a fromagerie with hundreds of varieties of cheese, where Leo selected half a dozen types for our picnic and had us sample a bright blue confection with lavender flowers in it.

After that, we picked up charcuterie and baguettes before heading down to the banks of the Seine. It was a history lesson (Leo knows Paris like the back of his hand) and quintessentially Parisian picnic all wrapped into one!


A Note From Banjo...

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I h8 Deen. I had da hole bak of da car 2 myseelf untel he and Roxxann shewed up. I had to be squeeshed ento where my lady hooman puts hir pawz. HIR PAWZ. Iss not comfee down dere, u kno? Im not a cheewahwah. Iss all Deens fawlt. He deednt geev me any of his crisoonts eeder, 'nd he ate lik, a hooondred. I got 2 stay weef my freends Poul, Jeeny, May 'nd Alfee 'nd I got lotz of petz. Dey deednt make mee squeesh ento the pawz spot.

I still have feelings for that cheese shop in Paris, you guys. Take me back!! March was incredibly busy and fun, and we felt like tourists way more than we usually do. While we are generally in favor of slow travel that feels more rooted down to the places we are in, there is something to be said for the excitement of seeing as much as possible in one short week. I think there's space for both kinds of travel, and advantages and disadvantages to each. One thing is for sure, though...I definitely want to spend more time in Paris, preferably when it's warmer!

Have you been to Paris or London? What did you enjoy? Let's chat in the comments!