D's big 5-0 in Paris!

 

PARIS - DECEMBER 23

 

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My honey-pie turned 50 on Dec 23rd.  As crazy as we are with the move, the morning of his b-day we hopped on the train to Paris for the night.  We came home the next day, which was Christmas Eve.

 

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He did all HIS favorite things on HIS special birthday

 

We visited the Christmas Market:


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We discovered fabulous caramels made by Henri Le Roux.  I love caramels, D is so-so about them.  But after eating an entire bag - he agreed these were delicious and the best he had ever eaten.


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Early evening, we checked out the department stores  “Vitrines de Noël” (holiday windows).  Gallery Lafayette and Printemps are known for their special Christmas windows.

 

 

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Galeries Lafayette’s theme was “Noël Rock ‘n’ Mode” created by New York artist Andrew Yang.  Because they are animated, it is very difficult to get clear photos.


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The miniature puppets were called Kouklistar poupées with names like Brigitte, Imany, and Inna Modja, along with Mademoiselle K, Medi, and Cyril Mokaiesh. Made of soft muslin and hand-painted, they danced away in front of the crowds.

 

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 The musical bus.

 

 

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Inside Galeries Lafayette there is a huge tree in the center of the store that goes up 66 feet, almost reaching the the grand domed ceiling, created in 1912.  It was decked out in  55 neon signs continuing the "Rock in Mode" theme.  The store was so crowded, we only took a quick look at the tree and left.  I must be getting old  :  )

 

 

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Printemps

 

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At Printemps, the windows were created by Karl Lagerfeld. Titled "Christmas Dreams of Far Away", the windows displayed holiday scenes from legendary cities around the world.  The cities were selected by Lagerfeld as sources of inspiration and destinations that have been part of Chanel’s history.

 

 

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His concept was designed to take visitors on a small trip around the world in just a few minutes. It even had an airplane from Los Angles to take you on this magical ride. 

 

 

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Featuring a pilot and a flight attendant embraced in a kiss on the top of the plane.

 

 

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The displays had an enchanting appeal, fused with Lagerfeld’s trademark charisma and flair.  Many were animated, but not all.


A few of the cities included Moscow:


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New York

 

 

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London

 

 

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 Shanghai

 

 

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Tokyo

 


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And I am not sure which country this one is from:

 

 

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My favorite, was Paris - with many tiny Carls dancing around the city....

 

 

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For D's birthday dinner we ate at Le Tir Bouchon, one of our favorite Parisian restaurants in the 2nd arrondissement.  D had baked camembert cheese for a starter, and the beef onglet in a red wine sauce for his main.  I had ravioli des poisson (fish) and the house special of duck confit, foie gras, and mashed potatoes.  We had a lovely bottle of red wine from St Emillion and we shared a chocoalte moelleux for dessert.  It was a delicious meal

 

 

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The next day, to continue doing all of D's favortie things for his B-day weekend, we went to the flea market!  Wasn't he lucky that it was open Christmas Eve Day?


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We ate lunch at another favorite Brasseries just down the street from the flea - La Porte Didot.  It is a very local place where they serve typical French food.  Always good.  We also got to visit Dave and Fatama in their new Paris apartment.  They just moved in on Dec 21 so I did not think it was fair to take any photos.

I had an excellent Birthday trip doing all my favoite things in Paris....I mean.....D had an excellent birthday trip.  Look at him....now that is a happy 50 year old!

 

 

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Farewell Paris - we may not see you again for many years!

 

 

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Don and Donna visit - London

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 Don and Donna, my very special mother and father-in-law, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in March, but the real celebration was in July.......  in London!


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D&D arrived in Brussels and the four of us took the train to London through the Chunnel (31.4 mile undersea rail tunnel linking France to the UK).  Tammy, Allen, Trenton, and Jason joined us and we all stayed in a beautiful penthouse apartment, you have to visit their site and check this place out!  We had the top three floors.


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 Our first night was Allen's b-day so the party group took a bus to a local pub to celebrate with a beer!  I went along as team photographer   :   ). 


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Trenton was excited when he found out the drinking age in England is 16.  Here he is enjoying a beer with his dad and his Uncle D.  Grandpap was at the bar paying the bill!


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The next day D and I ventured out to a flower market and funky neighborhood, Columbia Road, that I had read about.  D was quite amused with the candy store, Suck and Chew.  Note the little bag of candy in his hand.


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I had read about a very cool vintage altered art  store, Jessie Chorley and Buddug - the shop.  The store was fabulous as well as the neighborhood.  Independently owned artsy stores.  Most were only open on Saturdays and Sundays.


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To see more photos on this store, visit my art blog Ma Vie Trouvee.

 

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 That afternoon Allen's sister Sherri, her husband Nick, and sweet daughter Eleanor came by for a visit.  They live two hours outside of London.  We had a very enjoyable afternoon chatting.  Other visitors were our Euro buddies D & A.  The family finally got to meet them in person.  Not sure why....but I did not take photos of either event :  (


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Even with eight people all wanting to go in different directions we had a GREAT visit and spent most days together!  Here are the highlights of our adventures.

The London Eye


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Originally called the Millennium Wheel, built to celebrate the year 2000, it is the most visited site in London with over 3.5 million visitors a year.  There are 32 capsules and each carries 25 people.


 
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Tammy took some great panoramic photos from the capsule of Parliament and Big Ben......of course I could not go up due to my many idiosyncrasies :  ). 


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Don and D stayed on the ground to keep me company.  We had fun people watching. 


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Big Ben


 

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Did you know that the real name of this structure is the clock tower and that only the bell is called Big Ben. 


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Big Ben just celebrated it's 150th birthday.


 

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Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the Queen's official residence.  The current structure was built in 1703.  The men are not just ceremonial guards, they are active soldiers.

 

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On another day, we watched the Horse Guards daily change.  I found this to be much more interesting than the change at Buckingham Palace because it was more intimate.


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Time for a break.  Our favorite Pub drink for the summer was a pitcher of Pimms!  It is a light fruity alcoholic drink mixed with lemonade.  Ahhhhh so refreshing.


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As you can see here, Allen was in need of his afternoon Pimms!


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Westminster Abbey


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An Abbey was first built on this site in 1050 AD. 


 

 

 

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Tammy and I had toured it on earlier visits so we relaxed on the lawn and got caught up on things.  Please note:  the ice cream cone is in Tammy's hand.  I did not have one as I was on a diet that hour  :  )


 

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Don, Donna, D and I did the Hop on Hop off bus tour.  Originally I just went along for the ride.....but this ended up being my favorite event.  We went one afternoon and then again the next morning.  I have been to London 5 or 6 time but this is the first time I did a tour. 


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Tower of London

The Tower of London is Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress and was built in 1066.  The tower has played a prominent role in England's history, but today is only used as a museum and houses the Crown Jewels.  Many of which date back to 1200.


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It was the home to kings and queens of England up until 1837.   Buckingham Palace is now the official residence.   


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The Tower is still guarded by Yeoman Wardens or Beef-eaters, so called because they use to have to taste the Kings food to make sure it was  not poisoned.  They also give the tours of the castle and are quite humorous.


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It has many interesting events in its history including the execution spot for two of King Henry's wives - Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.  Sir Walter Raleigh was also imprisoned there for 13 years.  


  

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 Tower Bridge

Tammy captured this lovely shot of the Bridge.  It is an iconic symbol of London. officially opened in 1894.  It is often mistaken as the London Bridge.


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One day we all ventured into China town for lunch. 

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And enjoyed a street performer...


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He was so good he was able to make Jason smile!   


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Allen too!


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My attempt at a "we" shot - the girls enjoying an ice cream.


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I was disappointed as we never got a group shot...This is as close as we got....the team waiting for a bus.


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The funniest story of the trip was when we were all dining on the famous British Fish and Chips.  Don was working the bottle of ketchup to get out the last drop.  D and I were both getting ready to tell him to calm down......when it exploded from too much pressure.....


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And it shot all over Donna's WHITE shirt!  Donald started to wiped it off as you can see at the top....Donna did not flinch.  She just kept eating her fish and chips.


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Maybe Donna did not think this was the funniest story of the trip  :  )

The last day we broke into two groups.  D, Donna and I opted for lunch at a Polish restaurant and some shopping.  


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The other group did the Winston Churchill War Museum and the Globe Theater.  And Tammy got to walk across the Millennium Bridge!

For a few more fun photos - check out the album in the upper right hand corner at the top of this page.


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A very Happy Anniversary indeed!
 

 





 





Holidays - London, Cologne, Rome, Brussels

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

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Grand Place, Brussels

 

Our holidays were very busy, starting off with a trip to Horsham and London for Thanksgiving.  Dave & Allison invited us to celebrate Thanksgiving with them.  We were making our plans when D got the word he had to be in London England on Dec 2nd for a meeting.  Perfect timing!

Allison made a wonderful feast for the four of us.  A very traditional Thanksgiving meal, with turkey (had to be special ordered), stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry and lots more.

 

 

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D2's upcoming holiday party was a costume party, so we all went to the "fancy dress" store to help him pick out a costume.  Little did we know how much fun this outing would be!

 

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What we call costume parties, in the UK they call them fancy dress parties.  D jumped right in to help D2 find his fancy dress.

 

 

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How about these shoes?  This may be a new look for D.

 

 

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Quite the dapper Sir Walter Raleigh......

 

 

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A gladiator....

 

 

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and we are not quite sure what this is.....rocker dude?

 

 

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a few friends......

 

 

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Sir Walter and Austin Powers....."yeah baby"

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and last but not least.....rocker dude finds a date -  cat women!

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D had to help me take off my boots as I could not bend over in this outfit    :   )

We decided that D2 & A should add the Fancy Dress store to the "must see" list for guests who visit them in the UK!

Now for some traditional British food, fish and chips.  Greasy and good!

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and Father Christmas cookies

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The best news we heard this weekend is that D2 and A have extended for two more years!  Yeah!!

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On to London and their Winter Wonderland to see Father Christmas.

 

Santa

and the toy soldier

 

 

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I do believe in Santa Claus!


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Harrod's, the famous department store in London, had a Wizard of Oz holiday theme with giant ruby red slippers coming out the side of their building.

 

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London had beautiful holiday lights in the main shopping district.  Umbrellas - how appropriate for London!

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Cologne Germany

I took a one day bus trip with a group of women I do things with in Brussels to Cologne Germany to visit the Christmas market.  We had a crisp sunny day for our outing.  As with most European cities, Cologne has a beautiful old cathedral.  Construction of the cathedral started in 1248, and with interruptions, was completed in 1880 - over 600 years later!  It is one of the world's largest churches and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Cologne has seven Christmas markets spread throughout the city.  One of them was the Gnome market.
 

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The German markets have beautiful ornaments.

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All hand blown.

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 and a few very interesting characters!

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Rome

Early the next morning, we hopped on a plane and headed to Rome for a five day business trip.  There were several of D's co-workers from the states on this trip.  Ahmad and I are standing in front of the beautiful and famous Trevi fountain.

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I think this is a funny photo, the Trevi fountain looking like one of the junk trinkets for sale.

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Roman Ruins with a colorful blue backdrop. 

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There are Steelers fans around the world.  D is standing in front of the one and only Steelers bar in Rome.  The owner plays all the games live, and if it is a late night game, that means it would be on at 3 am!

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One night we were in a restaurant (not the steelers bar) and we noticed the waiters watch.

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Turns out he was a huge Steelers fan!  Here I am with Donald's co worker Mike, also a huge Steelers fan, the waiter in white, and Mike's wife Pam.  We had a fun night talking about football with the Italian waiter!

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They do not decorate in Rome like they do in other European cities for Christmas.  I did see a few glass balls hung in the street.
 
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but these looked as if they might stay up all year long.

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They did have a Christmas market with interesting street performers.
 

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We dropped some money in his can and we became fast friends!

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She was very graceful.  We think we saw her last time we were in Rome where she was a ballerina.

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They stay completely still until you drop money in their cup and then they preform.

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Rome is predominately Catholic so there were many religious decorations at the market.

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It was a rainy night which made for an interesting sky.

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I love this photo of D - shopping bags in hand, cool old car passing by.

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One thing you can not skip in Rome is the Gelato!!!!

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BRUSSELS
   

And a visit to our very own Brussels market which has the most fascinating carousel round I have ever seen.

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I cannot find any information on the artist who created this creation.

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Children can sit in the back of this crazy lizard.

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I was very disappointed when I found out the merry-go-round was for children only!

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Goodbye 2009!

 

 



 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


London: the Super Bowl bet and the BIG snow!

D was asked to speak at a conference in London on Tuesday, February 2.

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How quintessentially British (and cute!) is this doorman?


We had to stop by and visit our favorite Londoners - Dave and Allison for the weekend.  It was the Super Bowl weekend, a perfect time to visit since the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl!  As everyone knows, the Steelers BEAT the Ravens in the playoffs. 

Purple copy Dave and Allison are HUGE Ravens fans.    Since we were going to be together for the Super Bowl we made a bet prior to that playoff game.  Who ever's team won the playoffs and advanced to the SB, the losing couple had to wear the winner's team logo gear all day on Super Bowl Sunday.  Did I mention Dave and Allison are HUGE Raven's fans and they particularly dislike the Steelers?

 

We arrived to find Arizona logos throughout the house NOT Steelers - where is the love?

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We didn't care....they had to wear our Steelers Shirts!  A big shout out to Don SR who mailed us two Steelers jerseys from his private collection as we did not have anything here.  Thanks Don!

Well......At first Dave refused to wear the Steelers gear (note his "I'm getting sick look")

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as soon as he put it on...here is what happened........


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Don't worry Don, we made sure nothing got on the shirt.

Allison & Emma were good sports.  Look how good (and comfortable) Allison looks in our colors!

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After Dave cried in Allison's arms, she consoled him.....

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and I gave him some Steelers cheers.....

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he then gave in and gave us a BIG smile (sort of).

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We hit the Boar's Head pub for lunch Sunday afternoon.

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And a BET IS A BET - they had to wear the Steeler's gear to the pub.  Friends of D&A - did you EVER think you would see this photo?   

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okay so that wasn't the real photo.......but we will have him converted by the end of the night!

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We enjoyed the traditional pub food, fish and chips with mushy peas. 

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and cottage pie sometimes called steak and ale pie. 

Similar to what we call Shepard's pie.  All was very yummy.

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but the beer?  D is not convinced of the British beer, too weak and warm.  He likes his Belgium beer!

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As we left the pub, the snow started.  We headed back to the house to prepare for the Super Bowl.......only 10 hours away!  Remember - England is a 5 hour difference from the US, so the game did not start until 11:30 PM ending at 4 AM!

D had to have his game wings - they bring the Steelers luck you know.  Allison, being the gracious hostess that she is, made the famous Pittsburgh Primanti Brothers sandwich with french fries, coleslaw and more to help bring in the Steelers spirit.  And we had Chex mix thanks to Aunt Martha!

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Yes, we all made it to 4 am to see that incredible catch!  What a game!  D's joy that his boys brought home one for the other thumb!

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Tessa even woke up for a cheer.

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One last photo at 4 am!  Even in the wee hours Dave remembered to cover up the Logo.   And then something happened.....

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I call this Dave's Happy moment...when he converted to being a Steelers fan.  Quote from Dave, " man, that was one incredible catch - I can see why they truly are the Best.  I am even going to join their fan club!" 

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With the "big" snow, there were no trains running within the city or into the city so we had to stay another day with D&A.  Dave took off work and we had a fun day playing.  We took a long walk in the morning.  The boys had fun building their snow friend (we were not sure exactly what it was).

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  There is a beautiful old cemetery near the town center.

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D & D were inspired to create the RIP snowman.....our creative husbands  :  )

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One thing we do not get in Brussels in grilled food.  Dave was so sweet to grill dinner in the snow!

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We had to get a very early start the next day for London to get D to his conference on time.  He got there at 10:30 and he spoke at 11:00.

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I had a lovey day shopping the first day and then a fun visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum the next day. 

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D had fun too!

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Colorful Chinatown

China town

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With the driver on the lefthand side, traffic runs opposite for us.   Thank goodness for the constant reminders on the ground at all crosswalks.

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We had some really good food as always, but this one - Polish & Mexican?  We'll have to try this combo on our next visit.

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and my favorite London icon - the red telephone booths.

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We love London!