Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day One: Exploring the City of Aberdeen

Actual date of this event: 26 July

On the drive from the airport to our temporary flat (better known as an apartment in America), I quickly realized we were not in America anymore. There were two things I was most nervous about coming over here: driving and understanding the accent. As soon as the cab driver opened his mouth, I discovered that understanding the accent wasn't going to be as difficult as I thought. I also discovered that driving WOULD BE as bad as I thought.

During our cultural orientation, we talked quite a bit about the driving situation. We were told a few things:
1.) In the UK, driving is done on the left side of the road not the right.
2.) There are these things called "round-abouts" and you have to be in a certain lane and cars come in and out and you have to be extremely careful. Uh, what?
3.) The wheel is on the right side of the car.
4.) Gas is expensive and price is calculated in pounds per litre rather than dollars per gallon.
5.) Most people drive a manual/standard and automatics are hard to find. Awesome.
6.) The lanes are very narrow and there are no medians, so there is little room between you and oncoming traffic. Also awesome.
So hearing about all of this, I thought that I would NEVER drive unless I have to. I still think that. So you know how you usually drive more carefully when others are in the car, and by yourself you sometimes can drive like a maniac? Well I felt like this cab driver didnt realize we were in the back of his van. Luke and I tried to pay close attention to the round-abouts and we decided it was best to sight-see rather than figure it out.

A not so busy round-about

Even though I had gotten very little sleep, and my body thought it was still 5am, I was wide awake. There was a major rush of adrenaline going through my body. The buildings in the city are all grey. There are sidewalks on both sides of the street and on every street. There is little grass except in parks. There are tons of people walking on the sidewalks. There are very little skyscrapers. There are stores that looks like the homes. There are no street signs. These are all things I expected, but was in denial that it was actually true. I could not believe that I was actually in Europe, in the United Kingdom, in Scotland, in my new home city.

The cab took us by our realtor's office so we could pick up our keys. While doing this, I realized how strict Aberdeen City is about parking. If you have not paid for parking, you WILL get a ticket. Meter wardens were walking around looking at every single car to make sure their ticket had not expired. Note. To. Self. Don't go over parking time. We were taken to our temporary flat on Claremont Place. We... I mean... The cab driver and Luke... had the joy of taking 6 pieces of luggage up to the second floor. Here are pictures of our temp living space:

Master bedroom
Second bedroom (this is our "changing room")
Hallway (the door in front straight ahead is the front door)
Living room

We took off our shoes and socks since they had been cooped up for 18 hours. Took a look around, unpacked a few things, took a quick shower and then headed out to explore the city. We brought the sun with us since it had been only sunny since we landed. I actually put on some sandals and a short sleeved tee which was soon covered up by a sweater. We walked to the City Centre on one side of the street, and back on the other side of the street. You really cant see what you are walking next to so you have to look at the other side of the road. We made a conscious effort to walk on the left side of the sidewalk since it is a general rule to walk like the cars drive. But no one else seemed to make this effort. We just tried to stay out of the way! We did see a red-headed man in a kilt playing the bagpipes. Yes!

Just outside of our flat
Walking on Queens Rd
In the heart of the City Centre
Piper in City Centre

On the way back to the flat, we stopped at the bank to try to get the last few details settled. By this time, I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was take a nap. That adrenaline from earlier had worn off already. We opened some windows, turned off the heater/furnace/whatever-its-called. Forgot to mention that we no longer get to enjoy A/C. Not that we need it, but it wasnt one of those things we thought about. The windows are constantly cracked open (for now) and there are no blinds on windows. The windows have curtains but they are always wide open. This is new to me since I have already tried to change clothes in the open and Luke has to remind me that since we can see into other people's homes, that they can see into ours. Ooops. So we have dedicated one room as the changing room where the curtains are always shut. ANYWAY... after struggling to open my eyes to avoid not falling asleep that night, I unpacked a few more things and we decided to go get some dinner and go to the grocery store to get a few things.

At least one container of Tony's made it!

Our first meal was at The Foundry, which is I guess is a pub. This was a new experience. We walked in not knowing whether to seat ourselves or wait for someone. We saw no sign of a hostess so we sat ourselves. Then we saw no sign of servers, so we went to the bar and ordered a few beers. While trying to figure out what to eat, we got super distracted by watching the traffic out the window. We could not take our eyes off of watching how people were driving and figuring out what the markings on the road meant (we still dont know). Luke made me go to the bar to order our food - test of being a big girl. Our meals came with a beer for only 30P extra (thats like 45cents... say wha??)! And they were not small beers... they were the size of what Americans call "big ass beers". I can get used to that!

Top Left: Burger with "spiral fries"
Top Right: Not sure - some sort of flat bread and butter
Center Left: Fish and Chips
Bottom" Chicken Club Sandwich with salad
Hot dogs from a jar, anyone? You know you wanna!

We walked to the express grocery store which was just a block away. It was not the quickest trip especially since mostly everything here has different labels and names. We walked our half mile back to the flat, so we could go to sleep for the night. Both of us fell asleep by about 8:45 that night, and I dont think anyone could have woken us up!

In case you are wondering, we walked about 3 miles during our exploration of the city. Then we walked about 1.25miles during our dinner/grocery run. Walking around the city rather than driving is one thing I have been excited about!

Bathroom light switches are on the outside of the bathroom.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Aisle 13 vs. Aisle 7

Actual date of this event: 25 July

As I was walking on to the airplane at 4:20, I had no idea what to expect. I had only traveled first class once before and that was only because we had no other choice in tickets. This time was different because it was a whole new level of first class. We had a 9 hour flight from Houston to London, so I was slightly nervous about being on a plane for so long and traveling during our new home's sleeping time.

We found our seats at 13A and 13B. Thirteen?! You've got to be kidding me! We were the only two on the one side of the aisle otherwise it would have been awkward. We had seats that faced each other with a little window in between. Basically, I got to either stare at my husband or the TV the whole trip. I got the window seat which meant nothing because it was either dark or the sun was pretty much right in my eyes the whole trip. So the shades stayed down.

Luke's view throughout the flight
My view throughout the flight
I rarely opened the shade. This was probably over Ireland.

So we settled in after the economy class shuffled through. We read the magazine that gave us a list of movies, tv shows, music, etc for us to choose from. I got super excited when I saw The Hunger Games, so we both decided on that. Luke had never seen the movie and I wanted to be in-sync so we had to time our pauses and starts throughout the movie. The 2.5 hr movie took probably 3.5 hrs to watch since we had multiple interruptions. We were served drinks soon after the movie began. We ordered our dinner (mixed veggie appetizer, salad,  rolls, steak, mushrooms, potatoes, spinach, and for dessert either a cheese tray or a mixed berry panda cotta). We of course had some more drinks while finishing the movie. We decided that it was time to try to sleep.

Dinner and a movie
Panna Cotta dessert

Our seats were able to lay all the way down, but not completely like a bed. A foot rest pulled down from the seat in front of us, so it was pretty close to a bed. I was able to lay all the way down, but my feet did graze the seat in front of me. I am not complaining, FYI, just making a note. We grabbed our earplugs, blanket and pillow and attempted to fall asleep. By this point, mostly everyone else around us was already in sleep mode. It was 8:30 at this time and I couldn't believe that 4 hrs of the flight had already passed. And with my high maintenance sleep needs, there was no way I was going to sleep for the next 4 hours. I was right, and dozed on and off for about 3 hours while Luke seemed to be sleeping like a baby. I kept getting hot, then cold, then the seatbelt bothered me, then little kid next to us was loud. Yes, I am high maintenance when it comes to sleeping. Princesses needs a bed and three pillows in a bedroom!

About an hour and a half before the end of the flight, the lights were turned on so breakfast could be served. We were given breakfast muffins and rolls and a choice of oatmeal or fruit. We also got a smoothie and OJ and very little water. Speaking of water, we got one bottle of water but that does not go far when they don't come around throughout sleeping time to see if you need a drink. I guess we could have ding-ed them, but who wants to be that person? We were dying for water at breakfast time and were disappointed by the amount we got. Also, they never came back to pick up empty glasses after dinner, so our wine glasses sat on the floor for the second half of the flight. Isn't it dangerous to have glasses sitting on the ground under people's feet on an airplane?

We could watch where we were during the flight.

We landed in London around 7:15 (London time) and needed to fly to Aberdeen at 8:55. With the opening ceremony for the Olympics being the next day, both of us were very nervous about going through customs. Amazingly, it was quick and there was barely anyone going through with us. It did take longer than other people since we had Visas to verify but it was fine. We had trouble determining the gate we were flying out of, but everyone else on our flight was in the same boat. We guzzled some water from the British Airways lounge, determined the gate, then headed to the plane.

So after being in business class for 9 hrs, we did NOT fly first class to Aberdeen. It was disappointing, but there was actually no first class on the plane at all. I'm spoiled already! We were given lucky aisle 7 this flight. Phew! Let's hope it isn't opposite day! We got another breakfasts meal, but this one was a bit different. We we given what was said to be scrambled eggs (which looked like grits), bacon (which in the UK is like Canadian bacon), sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, roll, OJ and coffee or tea. It was a quick flight and we landed in Aberdeen at 10:15. Dyce Airport is very small with only one baggage carousel. Three of our bags were first out and the other three came quickly after. What a relief! We found our cab driver easily. And now the fun adventures really begin!

Does it look appetizing?
British silverware


The British call an airplane an "airbus".

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Good Dose of Mexican Food

Today is the day. As I write, I am sitting in my very first executive lounge, in a comfy chair, with free snacks, drinks and alcohol. It's a crazy feeling but that doesn't really compare to the feeling of not knowing when we will see our family again. We know it will come, but not exactly sure when.

Free bar in British Airways Lounge

Last week, I continued to wait for Luke to join me Houston. On Wednesday, Michaela and Lori came over for a playmate with Cooper and Zoey. Zoey had a friend this time and one just about her age. It was super cute seeing her and Frankie being sweet little girls with Cooper being a big boy and Bennett being a baby boy. It was great to get to see each them again and somewhat alone.

Frankie, Cooper and Zoey eating lunch
Zoey, Bennett and Frankie sharing a toy :-)

Luke and I found out that we will be expecting a new nephew in December. We are so sad that we will not be able to see Baby Trahan when he is born :-(

Parker opening blue balloons to reveal he will have a brother soon!

Thursday was dad's 61st birthday. I picked up Luke from Lupe Tortilla and got to eat lunch with MOST of the siblings (no Chase or Austin, booooo). From there Luke got to experience the energy bottled up inside Cooper before dinner. The family went to Joe's Crab Shack. Dad "won a trip" to Hawaii where he did the hula while wearing some awesome Hawaiian gear.

Happy 61st Birthday, Dad!

Friday evening was a joy since we got to eat at the most delicious restaurant, Little Pappasitos, with a person we see way too little, Luke's dad. It always enjoyable drinking some margaritas, eating the best fajita beef and having casual conversation with a special person. Afterward, we met up with a few friends at Cedar Creek for a few drinks. Of course we stayed up way too late, but luckily we got to stay in Houston rather than drive back to Dickinson.

At Big Woodrows in Houston (THE LSU hangout in h-town)
Leah Benoit and me

Saturday morning Luke and I enjoyed some coffee before eating at Yia Yia Mary's for the first time. Pretty good but it is no Albasha. I really like that Orange Odyssey drink though. We hung out at Michaela's for a few hours and then with the Benoit's before a night out with friends. We started at The Tasting Room in the Galleria for a few glasses of wine and some appetizers. After a bit, we made our way to Liberty Station as more people joined us for the night. In the end, we stopped to see what the fuss was about Sawyer Park but got too tired to hang around. After an expensive car ride back to the Calva's home, we finally got into bed around 2:30am. Doesn't seem too late considering in Louisiana we would get into bed at 5am after a big night out.

Me and Michaela at The Tasting Room

Me and Jorie next the giant Jenga at Liberty Station in Houston
Me, Lori, Jorie and Michaela
Luke and Michaela

Sunday came quickly even though we woke up at 10:30am. We visited with the Calva's for a few hours procrasting the decision on what to do for the day. We tooled around Houston in the parts we haven't really seen before and parts that have changed since our departure 4 years ago. In the evening, we ended up at Aunt Maria's and Uncle Mickey's to have some Escalante's for dinner. From here, we said our good-byes some family members.

We love us some Parker!

Monday, we played with the kids, did some laundry and took care of the dreaded cell phone business. The decision: I have kept my cell phone only to keep the number. I cannot use the service without getting charged international fees, but I can still use wifi while on airplane mode. I will use it when visiting back in the states. There. It's finalized!

On Tuesday, Luke was super duper nice and spent over 3 hours scrubbing the car clean. Our baby has a new owner named Julie Berry. It was a difficult thing to let go of, but again, we do have new and shiny things coming our way soon. We will always love you Lucy!

This was our baby for two and a half years.

On Wednesday, I was fairly stressed getting the luggage organized. After figuring it out, we were able to have one last meal in the states. Where do you think we ate? If you did not answer Pappasitos, you obviously don't know the best food in Houston! Mom, Julie, Becca, Cooper, Zoey, Betsy and Caroline gave us a great last meal!

Pappasitos one last time!
Sweet hugs from Zoey

We headed to the airport in rain... as if we won't get enough of that in Scotland... I could do without the heat though. We unloaded the car of our 6 giant bags plus a few carry-ons, made our way easily thru security and here I am in this lovely lounge. Only a hour before our flight.

Good-byes at the airport. "Now switch it up this time!"

Closing my current chapter in the states. I will miss everyone but it won't be long before we are back. Good bye Mexican food. Good bye heat. Good bye dollars. See you in a few years!

H-town skyline


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Crawfish: One Last Time

Last time I wrote, I had said I was spending time with the family and playing with the kids. Not much has changed. When I talk to Luke each night, he asks what I have done that day. My answer is "play". Although it sounds like not a whole lot, it certainly is. I have to keep up with Cooper's 4 year old imaginatio of being a momma and baby whale eating fish, and then not even two minutes later we are using brooms to dig out dirt because we are trapped in a secret room. I hope that Skype can keep me up to date on these little things you don't see when living far away from your niece and nephew.

Special treat from Auntie Debbie :-)
They LOVE Nala!
Zoey is pretty good at doing the splits. Gymnast? I think so!

Zoey shares the rocking horse with me.
Playing on the treadmill.

Doing the chicken dance.

When Becca and Eric came to New Orleans, we gave them most of our freezer and refrigerator food to take back with them. One thing they received was crawfish that Luke and I saved for whatever. On Sunday, I was put in charge of cooking lunch after the rest of the family went to church. I was debating between Crawfish Étouffée and Crawfish Fettuccini. I went with the Fettuccini ( so the kids would be able to eat some. I did not add in the spices so it wouldn't be too powerful which worked out nice since the crawfish already had an excellent flavor (thanks to my hubby for his delicious boil). Cooper liked the noodles but "said" he didn't like the crawfish. I am not sure I believe him... there wasn't too much whining about it being yucky. Zoey on the other hand could not get enough! She loved the noodles and finally we gave her some crawfish and she thought it was heavenly! She kept asking for more. That little girl is an eater!

Yesterday, I invited Michaela, Tammy and their baby boys over to Becca's to have a play date. The weather was perfect so we got to swim for the first time in over a week. I hadn't seen any friends since I arrived in Houston, so it was nice to have some fresh faces. I had not seen Tammy since her wedding two years ago, so it was great to see her. Bennett and Landon are close in age but two completely different little boys. Both of them are so sweet and precious. I am thankful they came to see me since I usually drive all over Houston to see my friends each time I am in town. Thank you ladies!

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