We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the UK. I rediscovered my [other] passport country that I honestly hated during my four undergrad years of university. Let’s face it: I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed until 16 consecutive days of heavy rain welcomed me to the gloomy country. Anyway, images of moldy, outdated, cold student housing and drunk students rolling down hills puking were replaced with images of super helpful people, excellent (albeit pricey) public transportation and some of the most creative advertising you’ll see in the world. Of course, we were in London the whole time – a vibrant international city constantly dancing back and forth, between history and modernity. We also didn’t experience student sub-culture during this visit. After all, we were in London to present Tall Mountain’s documentary film at the British Parliament. It was one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences…
After snapping a quick group picture along with the other thousands of tourists in Westminster, we entered the House of Lords by the ‘peer’s entrance’ where we passed through security and waited for his Lordship to pick us up at the cloakroom. From there, we were whisked back through a labyrinth of long corridors of ancient books and historic rooms with life-size chandeliers and paintings of British royalty, lords and ladies. We at last made it to the majestic ballroom where members of parliament invited their special guests to have tea. There were perhaps 200 people having tea with an MP. Mamie, being British herself, had served TM and I tea “the proper way” to ensure we indeed picked up the saucer under the tea cup, left our pinkies up and God forbid, didn’t lick our spoons. While that was helpful preparation, we had our tea on my parents’ low coffee table, so couldn’t practice British table etiquette. After we had ordered our tea types (Indian for me, please!) and the scones and crumpets came out, I mouthed tes mains! to TM across the table. The hubs caught on right away and promptly placed his hands above the table with a thankful smile. From the ballroom, we were escorted to another room, where about 60 leaders and several MPs attended the private screening. TM was on the discussion panel with the other film-maker, one expert and of course his Lordship. The panel held their own as the most intricate and complex questions were asked on the subject of son preference around the world. I was beaming with pride watching them answer the questions. I was also thankful to be able to participate in conversations following the Q&A when the guests mingled, having been involved in so many details during the making of the docu. I kinda got a high from the interaction. Perhaps I am an extrovert.
The following day, we bummed out at our hotel. We took our sweet time over breakfast talking and talking and talking…”remaking the world” as you’d say in French, realizing that it has been a heck of a long time since we’ve finished any one, full conversation. We watched helicopters land outside (view from our room onto the landing pad, left). Helicopters with rails, with wheels and without wheels. Ambulances and private helis were landing there, on London’s only Heliport. Also at the hotel, we made good use of the gym, the saunas, the steam room, the tropical jungle and ice jets, the foot bath, the pool and its water features. The sauna was a perfect form of relaxation. Imagine taking in the aroma of douglas fir in a peaceful room with gently changing colors as the warm temperature slows your whole body down. Back in our room, I continued to slob out, watching German trash telly (,,Der Trödeltrupp – Das Geld liegt im Keller”) in a foamy and boiling bathtub with my fourth Nespresso (4 out of 5 that day – pump and dump, baby!) and shortbread. Yes, there were Nespresso machines in each room! TM followed up with the film team and with other leads organizing future screenings and then he read a book. We then moseyed out to our most exquisite anniversary dinner.
I don’t want to take up the whole blog post talking about our dinner but let’s just say that for the first course, I ordered crispy frogs’ legs and broccoli purée, braised grelot, black garlic and parmesan and TM chose sea scallops with cauliflower, anchovy and capers with a lemon beurre noisette. For our main, I went for the fillet of sea bream with celery gnocchi, shimeji mushrooms and truffle emulsion and TM chose the loin of Devon lamb, confit breast (cooked for 8 hours), aubergine purée, coco beans and tomato jus. The wine winner of the night was a white burgandy Chassagne Montrachet, Vieilles Vignes (2007 1er cru) to die for. All sorts of amuse-bouches, canapés, petits fours and other surprises punctuated the dinner experience. Think mini homemade ice-cream cone stuffed with passion fruit mousse and pop-rocks at the bottom. The grand finale was dessert, the course that most restaurants skimp on by reheating pre-made sweets. I selected Ramsay’s signature chocolate sphere, which was a homemade milk ice cream with honeycomb, enveloped in a perfect chocolate sphere, resting on a bed of vanilla mousse. The waitress poured hot caramel over the sphere, which made it implode as pictured here. Outrageous. TM’s choice was equally spectacular. He chose the pistachio soufflé with guanaja ice cream, cooked to absolute perfection. Things kept on coming out: branded chocolates, chocolate almonds, white chocolate covered liquor ice-cream balls on a bed of dry ice (left).. phew. After our dinner, we were invited to visit the circular wine cellar and the kitchen. We rolled out of the Michelin starred restaurant and debriefed the whole experience all the way home on our multiple double decker buses. I guess we might be foodies after all, sis? I’m still not sure.
While we had such a wonderful time together in London, we couldn’t wait to get home to Ayo the following day. I couldn’t wait to kiss his neck and his plentiful cheeks and see his gummy grin. TM was dying to hear his little cackle and his precious eyes light up. This time, we rushed our breakfast and took public transportation all the way to Heathrow’s new terminal 5, reading our DEN library books. It was excruciating to find out that our flight was delayed, even if only by a few minutes. At last, we made it to our destination and waited for the familiar sound of my old diesel Honda pull into the arrivals. Mamie welcomed us with a huge smile. Ayo was… sound asleep! I got into the car and his eyes opened upon me closing the car door. He looked at me and gave me the widest grin I have ever seen. He cackled and squawked just like I had imagined. He grabbed my arm and hugged it and smiled and laughed at me some more. Maybe he had missed me? And then, he turned back to Serge, his hanging monkey and went onto chewing his newest toy: mamie’s measuring spoons. He was clearly doing just fine.
The trip was so important for us. Yes, it took so much work to prepare for. It required seemingly endless pumping: before and constantly during the trip (bleh!)…and lugging the metallic, square Medela pump motor (without the case) running on 10 x AA batteries and all the tubing and parts, which looked like the makings of a small bomb at security. (I took the photo on the right as I thought the magazine I placed it on one night was a bit ironic.) It meant making baby food and writing out baby’s schedule much of the day before. It involved drafting a will and putting in place a power of attorney, etc. But, it showed us for three days, how he would do without us and how we would do without him. And, you know, he did just great. He ate like a horse for mamie and even went back to sleeping at night by the time we got back (thank God he got over that terrible baby jetlag after four nights!). We of course missed our little boy, but we lapped up the rare time as carefree lovers (except for rushing back from different places to pump – bleh!). We were reminded of the importance of taking time out like this to invest into one another, knowing that this is the best way we can love Ayo.