How is it November?! Sincere apologies to our loyal readers -- if we blogged everything we said we should blog, you'd probably stop reading, unless you've already stopped reading because we haven't updated in three weeks! :)
I love fall (always "autumn" in British). Always have. Maybe it's because my birthday is in October, or maybe it's because nothing lifts my spirits like crisp air and brightly colored trees and falling leaves. I am also a sucker for a festival, so put the two together, and I'm there! On a mid-October Saturday, we hopped on our bikes and rode 3.5 miles to Burwash Manor in the village of Barton for Apple Day. The manor is an old farm whose outbuildings have been converted to shops. The big draw for many was the promise that you could bring apples from your yard and they would press them into juice for you. First they threw the apples into what looked like a chipper, then dumped them by the bucketful into a hand press. We had no apples to offer, but I did get to try a glass of the juice -- taken directly from the press. Mmm, delicious. We tried about nine different varieties of apples and went home with three kinds -- Pippin, Cox, and Blenheim. We enjoyed watching a cooking demonstration by the Cambridge Cookery School (I'm planning to make the apple-scented chicken this week), checked in on a "ploughing" competition, and saw baby piglets and other animals. We will definitely go back to Burwash Manor.
On that Sunday, we headed out to Ickworth House, where we've been before, for their annual Wood Fair (where we've also been before). It was much bigger this year, which was nice to see. they sell wood from trees on the grounds, and there are furniture builders, carvers, and all kinds of craftsmen and women there, too. We bought beer from one of our favorite British breweries, St. Peter's, and sat and drank it and ate a hog roast sandwich while listening to lovely folk music performed by the Floozies. We took advantage of the nice weather to walk the grounds for about an hour. It's a gorgeous estate, and I'd love to go back and walk the 7-mile loop around the entire grounds.
On the 17th, we left for a 10-day trip to Washington, DC. I (kt) haven't been back to DC since last June, and, well, that was hard. So, I was braced for it to be hard again -- but it wasn't. Instead, it was remarkably easy -- almost eerily so. In fact, it was almost like we hadn't been gone, and I found that a bit scary. But, we had a fantastic -- if hectic -- time. The weekends were the most relaxing -- hanging out with friends in the suburbs, doing a little shopping and football watching (I'll let you guess who did what), and hosting a brunch at our old condo. (Big Shout Out to Julia here -- aren't we great houseguests? "Hi! We're coming to stay for a week, and oh, by the way, can we take over the place and invite 10 people over?" Thanks again, J. You're awesome!)
During the week, we both worked at our employer's headquarters. This was weird for me, since I didn't work for The Company until moving to the U.K. It was weird for John, because he was in his old office, which had been taken over when he left for England but is now vacant. We both had tons of meetings and piles of work to do, which we tried to cram into a normal workday before racing off for evening meet-ups with friends and work colleagues. It was well worth the trip work-wise.
We managed to squeeze in meals at places we'd missed -- Vace, Bertucci's, and Chipotle -- and wound down the week with an amazing meal with friends A&C at a new-to-us place, Mendicino Grill in Georgetown. We also managed a trip to Ray's Hell Burger, the newest of the Ray's restaurants, with friends A&J, with whom we've dined at every single Ray's restaurant. We ran out of days before we could hit all our favorites, though!
The day after our return to the U.K. was my birthday, and JT had given me one of my presents months ago: Tickets to a new Annie Liebowitz exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The original plan was to spend the entire week in London. However, our trip to DC changed those plans into just a few hours. No matter -- we made the most of it. We headed down in the morning, went to the exhibit, then had an exquisite lunch in the gallery's restaurant, which has a fabulous view. (The exhibit was great -- but I always, always want to know more about her shots.)
We were asked often while in DC how much longer we'll be here. It's a question to which we only have a general answer. "The work permit expires in February 2010." Nevermind that work permits can be extended, or that we've technically fulfilled our minimum required stay. I worried when I felt so at home in DC, walking around our old neighborhood, strolling through the zoo, riding the Red Line, visiting old haunts, seeing good friends. Would I be able to go back to Cambridge and feel at home there? Shortly after returning, I went for a walk -- nothing special, just the same walk I always take when I need 30 minutes of fresh air. I smiled as I remembered that the low-hanging sun was already at its peak for the day, making even high noon look like dusk. I stopped to admire the firey orange and yellow leaves on the bright green grass of Jesus Green. I took the long way around to catch the 500-year-old skyline formed by Kings College and its Chapel -- a view I've seen 100 times yet never tire of it. I am, for now, home. That's my answer.