exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

by Jen at 10:38 am on 5.07.2011 | 1 Comment
filed under: londonlife, mutterings and musings, travelology

oh hello there!

some of you may have noticed (or, y’know, not, as the case may be) that jen’s den was offline for a few weeks. 30 gigs worth of spammy traffic to dead links meant i had to flip the switch for a bit. dunno how that happened, but hopefully it was an aberration.

i woke up this morning next to my husband, back in my own bed in london, jetlag hangover from hell piercing my brain. i’m still feeling very disoriented and fuzzy around the edges – a weird foggy miasma of being neither here not there.

vancouver was a mixed bag. frustratingly was unable to land a job of any sort – sponsoring a work visa is a dealbreaker for most employers, it seems, in spite of my 20 years experience in the field. however i was able to (hopefully) pave a pathway for getting a student visa. if all goes well, we may be able to move over in september – not an ideal scenario, but a means to an end.

as expected, vancouver was overwhelmingly *nice*. nice people, nice city. quiet, clean, efficient. even the riots that happened while i was there? watching it on telly, felt a bit like “riot lite”. a few cars set alight, smash-and-grab looting. opportunistic vandalism on a large scale, more than anything else. but nothing like the venomous, violent clashes that happened between the police and student protesters here in london. the vancouver riots were about frustration and mob mischief run amok. the london riots were about a passionate power struggle between stalwart ideological symbolism and the perceived oppression of the powerless underclasses. if you want any further evidence of the clear differentiation between the two riots, you need look no further than the collective community response and volunteerism that swept vancouver in the days immediately following, when residents by the thousands signed “apology walls”, did cleanups, and went to lengths to emphasise the rioters were “not real vancouverites”.

even in the face of mayhem and chaos, vancouver is unfailingly polite.

(aside: it also needs to be said that from what i saw, and from most reports, the vancouver police went to extraordinary lengths to avoid escalating interactions with the crowd – perhaps, ultimately, to the detriment of getting the situation under control. but they made it quite clear that they wanted first and foremost to allow the massive crowd of rubberneckers, or those just caught up in the situation, to disperse and go home, and gave them ample opportunity to do so before cracking down harder. a refreshing change from the heavy-handed kettling tactics london police resort to by default these days.)

and so my 3 months in vancouver was very pleasant. and “pleasant” may not get the heart racing wildly, but there’s a helluva lot to recommend it. i found myself fantasizing about bicycling around, and having a dog that i can take to the park, and having a little car for weekend camping getaways, and growing tomatoes in a garden. there’s never going to be the edgy excitement of discovering a new underground music scene, or avant-garde experimental art exhibit, or pop-up supper club. but really? i’ve had a combined 16 years of access to those sorts of things in nyc and london, and how often did i ever avail myself of them? almost never. instead, what i find myself wistfully wishing for is a sunny summer saturday when my opportunity for communing with nature is not limited to a postage stamp-sized common heaving with people, a sunday when i don’t have to step over piles of vomit on the pavement, or a monday when i don’t have to endure a commute akin to medieval torture. and these, vancouver has in abundance.

i’ve been trying to think objectively about the downsides to vancouver, and the best i can come up with is this:
– too much pot smoking (seriously too much – and i say that as a proponent of legalisation. i really don’t want a contact high every time i’m in an open-air public place.)
– open container laws and no alcohol sales on sunday. pouring white wine into a tupperware sippy cup so i could drink it in the park made me feel like a 16 year old. boooo!
– too many homeless people. my canadian friend tells me they migrate from elsewhere in canada because of the relatively mild vancouver climate, but i never saw this many homeless, even in new york. it’s (in a general humanitarian sense) terribly sad, and (in a selfish urbanite sense) annoying.
– rain. rains more than london(!), but gets 300 extra hours of sun (!) to balance it out. that’s an extra 5 weeks of daytime sun.

and even with all this pleasantness, i found myself missing london something awful. in fact, missing *britishness* with a fierce ache. missing that bit of myself that so quickly started slipping away once transplanted to another environs.

but that’s a topic for another post.

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the enchantments of paris

by Jen at 8:26 pm on 15.08.2010 | 4 Comments
filed under: photo, travelology

ah paris! it never fails to enchant. the sidewalk cafes, the grandiose buildings, the magnificent art, the impeccable style with which they carry out everything – it all makes me long to spend my days sipping coffee by the seine, smoking galluoises, and waxing poetic.




grand palace




sacre coeur




notre dame




more photos here.

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world cup and world travels

by Jen at 10:03 pm on 22.06.2010 | 3 Comments
filed under: photo, this sporting life, travelology

in spite of the radio silence, i’ve got a lot to write about… but as many of you non-Americans will know, about 2 weeks ago the world cup got underway.

like lots of american kids, i played soccer for several years. and like a lot of american kids, promptly forgot all about most anything soccer-related once i left high school until the spectacular women’s world cup victory in 1999. it was an electrifying and unifying event (i recall people setting up televisions on the sidewalk and watching with all their neighbours) – but that was largely seen as an anomaly. then a few years later, when the mls began to get some attention, my friends and i became enamoured of the new england revolution team, and followed their season all the way to the finals at gillette stadium… where we lost.

but it was only natural then, that when i first moved to the uk, i assumed that i would become immersed and fully fluent in the football culture – after all, i’m a sports fan, i’m a fan of fit men with nice legs, and i understand the basics of the game. i even decided in advance that i would support arsenal as my favoured team. i was prepared to become a full-on footy lover.

imagine my disappointment when i arrived to discover that the english premiership league television rights were exclusively owned by the skysports cable channel – a premium pay channel. unfortunately i didn’t control the cable in my flat (my landlady had the contract in her name) and as a premium channel, it would have been prohibitively expensive even if i did. all my nascent football passions fizzled. without a means to watch regularly, i never really had much opportunity to follow the season fortunes, never really learned who all the teams were, and in general, never really had a chance to get caught up in it the way i do with my other beloved sports.

but the world cup… well, the world cup is different. as an american, i’d had no awareness of it before living in europe. but during the last world cup in 2006, we were travelling through south east asia, watching games with all the other backpackers on outdoor screens in vietnam, gathered in ramshackle cafes in laos, and boozing in backwater bars in cambodia. the fervor and intensity with which both westerners and easterners alike congregated and cheered their teams was amazing to experience. i was hooked. in hindsight, with my love of giant multinational sporting events, and my love of the underdog, it was a natural fit.

so i’ve been a little distracted lately. i’ve been supporting the u.s. team (natch), the south african host team (obvs), and pretty much any underdog team i can find (go cameroon! go honduras! go north korea!) i’ve been calculating probable group winners and twittering about blown ref calls. when even jonno is bored by the less-than-scintillating matchup of slovakia v. paraguay, i’ve been glued to the screen. i’ve got the fever, and if the u.s. manage to win tomorrow (please god let them win tomorrow!) it is unlikely to abate any time in the next few weeks.

in the meantime however, i’ve edited my pictures from our recent holidays in the scottish highlands and venice/croatia. both were incredibly beautiful (why did no one tell me how stunning scotland was!!?) and we were fortunate enough to have fantastic weather for both.

a few favourites below. more of scotland here and venice/croatia here.

go team u.s.a.!!

eilean donan castle

isle of skye

old man rock









bride and speedo guy


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agreeing to disagree

by Jen at 8:27 pm on 28.03.2009 | 2 Comments
filed under: travelology

i’ve had a hard time sitting down to write this.  it’s been difficult to find the words.

the fact is, i’m not really allowed to have an opinion.  i don’t live there.  last time i went to south africa, i wrote about some of the amazing contrasts that made the country so fascinating, so beautiful, so rich.  i was so looking forward to seeing more.

that was four years ago, and a lot has changed since then.  this time, i was not given the opportunity to be a dispassionate observer, to make up my own mind.  instead i was inundated with your stories about how bad things are, how broken the people, government and environment have become.

i know that violence is an ever-present reality in south africa.  i know people are scared – i have only to look at the barred houses, gated streets, and plethora of guards to see that.  things are getting worse, of that there is no doubt.  i didn’t need to hear the endless litany of murders, carjackings, and armed robberies to corroborate that.  but you’re scared, so you talk about it.  i can sympathise.

i know that the a.n.c. has faltered.  the party once lead by the great nelson mandela has in many ways become a victim of its own success – absolute power corrupts absolutely.  and there is justifiable anger that the coming elections – which will see the installation of jacob zuma (accused of rape, racketeering, and perversion of justice) as president -  are a foregone conclusion.  there is an intense loyalty to the party which brought down apartheid, and people are afraid of changing course, even when they know things are going awry.  i understand the bitter disappointment that comes when you see your countrymen voting counter to their own best interests simply out of fear.

i know that economically, things are difficult for everyone.  the crumbling infrastructure, adaptation to the business reforms and black economic empowerment initiatives, the new minimum wage standards – these are all huge challenges.  for a long time, things were very wrong, and putting them right, sometimes to the frustration of others, is not easy.  people are struggling, you are struggling, and it has hit home for you.  i can see that.

i know that all these myriad growing pains, in what is still a fledgling democracy, are tough to handle.  you don’t have to tell me.

and yet you do – you tell me all the stories of anger and fear and pent up resentment.  i taste the bitterness in your voice and sense the undercurrent of tension as account after account pours forth.  you see the country becoming lawless, corrosive and chaotic – a place you no longer understand or feel comfortable in.  it unsettles you, all this change.  and when i chime in to say that in fact, none of this is new, that these are problems that face many modern countries, that soaring crime and corrupt politicians and urban blight and failing economies are not unique to south africa and certainly have nothing to do with race, you tell me i’m naive.  yours is a version of south africa borne of hard experience and an even harder history.

and i’m not allowed to have one.  i don’t live there.  i can’t know.  which is true.  there is no rejoinder to that.  we must agree to disagree.

but it’s difficult.  i want to learn to love this country, but you make it hard.  i don’t get a chance to draw my own conclusions, to experience it on my own terms.  there is so much more to south africa than just the picture your paint, though all of that is undeniably part of it.  it’s a complex place – let me figure that out for myself.  i’m not saying anything new here -  but for all the frank (and heated) discussion we had, i never got to get that point across.

you live there.  you love your country, in spite of all its flaws. let me love it too.


south africa preview

by Jen at 9:27 pm on 26.03.2009 | 2 Comments
filed under: photo, travelology

back from south africa – i have so much i want to say about the whole experience, but need to spend some time formulating my thoughts.

in the meantime, however, a few photos:



by Jen at 10:40 pm on 29.12.2008 | 6 Comments
filed under: photo, travelology

morocco was fantastic.  i took wayyyy too many pics.  will get some links with all the photos up soon


she’ll be waiting in istanbul

by Jen at 9:16 pm on 8.07.2008 | 3 Comments
filed under: photo, travelology

we had a fantastic time in istanbul – the weather, the people, the culture.

some of the highlights were:
– listening to german opera co-ordinated with a light show on the blue mosque
– hearing the evening call to prayer resounding from all corners of the city, against the backdrop of a magnificent sunset
– sipping thick turkish coffee in a hidden little cay bahcesi (tea garden)
– pounding meze, beer, and raki with the locals in the raucous saturday evening ambiance of the navizade sokak meyhanes (kind of like a rowdy tapas bar)
– walking and wandering aimlessly through the back streets of the bazaars, looking for spices and finding leeches
– walking and wandering some more
– and (believe it or not) watching the wimbledon men’s final!

a few photos below, more photos here



aya sofya

basilica cistern


harem windows


whirling dervish

blue mosque



cat at aya sofya

they might be giants – istanbul (not constantinople)

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vancouver photos

by Jen at 9:55 pm on 14.02.2008 | 2 Comments
filed under: photo, travelology

so in an effort to stay awake, i’ve gone through most all the photos… which are now here. beware – lots and lots of mountain pics.

a few faves:









back to reality

by Jen at 2:43 pm on | 6 Comments
filed under: travelology

we’re back!

a few random thoughts:

clean. vancouver is so incredibly clean.

it also has a shocking number of homeless people.

we went to vancouver island for the day. we explored fraser valley. we found our prospective neighbourhood. we considered going to seattle for the day. we bought ridiculously cheap ski stuff on sale. we spent 3 days snowboarding at whistler mountain.

it’s been a long time since *J* was the one who stood out with the weird accent, and not me.

i *miss* being able to go for a simple tasty meal out every once in a while! here I always feel like i’m getting ripped off, shitty food and even worse service.

i forgot how everything in n. america comes with fries. i love fries.

i may have put on about 5 pounds in fries.

i finally feel like a proper snowboarder – shussing down the slopes at speed, riding in that almost casual leaning way, even managing a few baby bumps. it felt fantastic. i no longer look like the newbie falling down the mountain ass over teakettle.

the entire trip was incredibly… smooth. everything went like clockwork, without a hitch. it was smooth, smooth, smooth. no hangups or annoyances or delays. we got upgraded on the gatwick express (for whatever *that’s* worth), got good seats on the flight, had nice service (actually really super nice – go zoom! no frills, but perfectly fine and really nice staff!), got through immigration in about 3 minutes flat. all the reservations went smoothly, we didn’t get lost once, the weather cut us a few nice breaks, we had a brilliantly smooth journey home, landed on time at 9:45, made it home at noon.

lots and lots of photos to come – this weekend probably.

oh yeah – happy valentine’s day! we’re not really ones for celebrating, so we kind of forgot – but it’s a nice sentiment to have a day where you celebrate the ones you love )


in case you were wondering

by Jen at 4:56 am on 5.02.2008 | 8 Comments
filed under: travelology

so here’s some snippets of what we’ve done so far:

- arrived, checked in, wandered around, had malaysian seafood curry for dinner.

- walked around nearly the entirety of downtown vancouver in the rain, did some shopping, went to canada place and gastown, walked around some more, went to a fancy bar for drinks.

- went for a hike in snowy lynn canyon, went to lonsdale quay for lunch, did some more shopping, had thick juicy diner burgers and beer for dinner.

- went to granville island for saturday brunch, drove around ubc campus, had a long beach stroll, went to a fancy tapas place for dinner and drinks. drank some yummy yummy local wines.

- went for a long brisk walk around the whole circumfrence of stanley park. had yummy coffee while reading the paper. went to the pub to watch the superbowl – ate lots of nachos and drank lots of beer. was very upset with the ending. went to bed early with suspicions of cold coming on.

- went snowshoeing at the mountain for a few hours. played in the snow. drove out to lighthouse park and did some trails. had some more yummy coffe and banana bread. i’m officially sick with a cold, so went for a big steaming spicy bowl of veitnamese noodle pho to try to knock it on the head.

this place kicks ass. it kicks london ass any day of the week.


more notes from vancouver.

by Jen at 3:38 pm on 3.02.2008Comments Off
filed under: travelology

so some more observations thus far:

- i am always astounded that one can get on a plane and a few hours later be half a world away. it feels like it should require bending the space-time continuum, not routine airtravel.

- i am going to get very fat here. the food is incredible… and so cheap! malaysian, japanese, greek, spanish all within a few blocks. it beats london hands down. and when was the last time you had a full meal for two with appetizers and drinks for under 30 pounds?

- the hotel suite is bigger than our flat – no joke. nothing fancy, but clean and comfortable. so why do i have a case of the psychosomatic bed bugs? jonno (lying next to me in his underwear) feels nothing, and i have no welts of any kind, yet every night i lie there itching from imaginary bites. very peculiar.

- my friend kim had tried to warn me, but i still wasn’t prepared for how jaw-droppingly nice everyone is. not polite in that pleasant-but-perfunctory way that distinguishes most of north america. not in that “the customer is always right” way that defines good service. not in that “be kind to the tourist” way so common to tourism-based cities, just genuinely, heart-warmingly, unfailingly nice. stopping for pedestrians. offering assistance. exchanging pleasantries. meaning it when they say, ‘You’re welcome’. smiling like they actually enjoy it.

- there is a huge northern asian population – japanese, korean, chinese. but outside of that cultural influence, vancouver appears to be very, very white. which is (in and of itself) neither bad nor good. just strikingly different from everyplace i’ve lived so far. it feels a little weird.

- the other day we went for a hike in a canyon. amongst tress. in the snow. yesterday we went for a bracing walk along the beach. in spite of the cold, there were people out enjoying the sun. playing with their dogs. biking. jogging. i’ve seen more people running in 5 days here than in nearly 5 years in london.

- but more than the outdoor pursuits and natural beauty, more than the great food and coffee, more than the feeling of breathing space and laidback flow… people seem happy. i have a hunch it’s connected to the niceness thing somehow. and i want some of that.

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notes from vancouver

by Jen at 12:38 am on | 2 Comments
filed under: travelology

i’m in vancouver. and i’m in love.

who in their right mind wouldn’t want to live here?? i may not make it back…


i tried to make it fit

by Jen at 8:48 pm on 29.01.2008 | 7 Comments
filed under: travelology

and so tomorrow, we are off! the vistas of vancouver and adjacent whistler mountain beckon. someone at work was asking me if i was excited, and i have to admit, i’ve been downplaying this all in my head – mostly, i think because we have so many future plans pinned on loving vancouver that if i don’t, i’ll be devastated. i’ve wanted to go for so long, that i can’t stand to be disillusioned. so instead, i am pretending i don’t care, as a way of staving off a failure of hope.

in telling my colleague this, she said, “but jen! that’s so sad! you’re talking yourself out of being excited when the anticipation is one of the best parts!”

and she’s right, of course. i’m cheating myself out of the full experience. as they say: expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed.

but the rub in that, is that it’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy.

so from tonight, i am officially excited. i’m cramming ski clothes into an overstuffed suitcase, finally reading the guidebook, and loading up the ipod.

vancouver, here we come! blogging may be light for the next fortnight.

the main drag – a jagged gorgeous winter

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go figure

by Jen at 12:10 am on 12.11.2007 | 1 Comment
filed under: blurblets, world tour

“mr. and mrs. smith”, the barely passable action comedy starring angelina jolie and brad pitt, is on television – and i’m watching it for nostalgia’s sake.

you see, i’ve seen this movie already, no fewer than four times. in spanish. it was on a continuous loop (along with 2 episodes of “seinfeld”, and the horrific remake of “guess who’s coming to dinner?” starring ashton kutcher) on a 24 hour bus journey from santiago to san pedro de atacama in chile.

i swore after that journey i’d never want to see either angelina or brad’s face ever again. who knew i’d be so wrong?

then again, who knew i’d be revisiting a hellacious 24 hour bus ride as a fond trip down memory lane?

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it’s a small world after all

by Jen at 5:50 pm on 22.01.2007 | 1 Comment
filed under: mutterings and musings, photo, world tour

i am sitting on the train, reading the paper on the way home, engrossed in the latest jade goody saga.


i look up, and across from me is a thin blond woman who seems oddly familiar, but is not ringing any bells as I try to place her face.

“it’s lucy. from laos.”

we were on the slow boat down the mekong river in Laos, from Huay Xia to Luang Prabang – a two day journey, with an overnight stopover in the tiny flyspot village of pak beng. pak beng has exactly 3 rustic “hostels”, limited running water, and electricity only between the hours of 7-11. still, after 9 very long hours on an uncomfortable cargo boat, we were eager to explore, so we walked down to the dirt path by the river as light began to fall. as we walked past a brightly lit house with blaring, thumping american music, we saw a few other tourists from the boat inside, beckoning us in. turns out the party was actually a wedding reception for two young laos newlyweds in their late teens, and we spent the rest of the evening dancing to rap music, drinking the local moonshine, and chatting with a group of australian girls who were on their way to england after their holidays. in particular i spent some time talking to this girl lucy, who was a qualified occupational therapist, about the nhs and her tentative plans to move to london, giving her my email and telling her she should get in touch. we bonded in that way you do when you are travelers thrown together in a strange environment, and you’ve been drinking too much homemade grain alcohol, and the whole world is your friend.

and now here she was in front of me – holy shit. i am really bad with recognising people out of context, but as soon as she said “laos” it all came flooding back to me. turns out she lives just in clapham, of all places. so she filled me in on her experiences since moving here, and i told her about the rest of our travels. we engaged in small talk until we reached her tube stop. and then, she was gone. there was a brief moment where i thought about exchanging phone numbers… but then it passed. i think sometimes travel bonds don’t always survive the real world – and maybe that’s the way it’s meant to be.

the train pulled out of the station.

i went back to reading my paper.


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pretty paris

by Jen at 9:36 pm on 16.01.2007 | 3 Comments
filed under: travelology

So Paris was lovely – if very tiring. I was last there back in 2003, when my work permit application was denied and I was ill-advised by someone in the Home Office to leave the country and re-enter as a tourist – advice which lead to me being summarily escorted through Heathrow Airport and put onto a plane bound for the States a few days later. Not fun, and didn’t leave me with the best memories of an otherwise beautiful city. So when our friends Kerryn and Tracey invited us for an impromptu road trip to the City of Lights, I just *had* to go. And so midnight Friday (or Saturday, really) we all piled into the petite Vauxhall for a journey through the night. We pulled into Paris around 7 am, found our hotel and jumped on the Metro headed for the Champs Elysee in search of breakfast.

We wandered somewhat aimlessly in the direction of the Arc de Triumph, keeping an eye out for food, and ended up popping into a delightful bakery for some sandwiches. And what did I spy winking at me from behind the glass? Macarons, french macaroons, the delights of which I’d only heretofore read about via Anglofille. I *had* to try one, even at that highly indecorous hour for sweets (though when has that ever stopped me before?) I tried a pistachio flavoured one, and after the first bite I was sold. Both light and dense, the sweetness of the macaron is balanced out by the delicate cream in the middle. Yumm-o.

Sated, we walked up to the Arc, (via a detour into the Peugot concept store – after all, we *were* with two boys), goggled at that for a bit, then took the roundabout route back over the river to the catacombs, where the remains of 6 million people were interred. Walls and walls of bones and skulls stretching endlessly in the dank dark tunnels of subterranean Paris – truly creepy.

After a big (and very late) lunch and coffees, we headed towards the Tour Eiffel, and commenced to queue for the lift to the top. We’d wanted to get there for dusk to see the lights of the city at night, but it seems we were not alone in that idea. We waited more than 2 hours in the cold and dark with feet tender and achy after a long day’s walking. When we finally made it up, though, the view was absolutely spectacular. Like a glittering web the city spread out below. And just as after we got down, the tower lit up like a giant fizzing sparkler, bouncing light into the trees and clouds and river.

We headed back to check into the hotel, and, energy sorely flagging after 12 hours en foot, only just barely managed to drag ourselves back out to the street for a dinner of Chinese food which satisfied the two primary criteria of being tasty and near to the hotel.

The next day, even more tired than we thought possible, we headed out early again. It was a beautiful crisp sunny day, and after making the obigatory stop for a picture of Moulin Rouge, we climbed up to Montmartre, navigating the crooked streets strewn with artists, quaint boutique shops, whitewashed houses and cobblestones. At the very peak of the city, looking out over the haze, stood Sacre Coeur – a blindingly white cathedral full of turrets and minarets with a distinctly Mediterranean flair reminiscent of a mosque.

Then it was back on the Metro to Ile de la Cite, to see that *other* famous church, Notre Dame. I’ve seen it before, but the splendor and grandeur of it still takes the breath away. Awe inspiring.

And what else is left, then, but to stroll along the Seine in the sunshine and spend the waning afternoon hours surrounded by the masterpieces of the Louvre? The scale of the Louvre is both daunting and mind boggling. Where any respectable museum would give its proverbial eyeteeth to have just *one* truly great work of art, the Louvre is stuffed chock-a-block with them, crammed into every nook. Botticellis line the passageways, da Vincis hide in a dark corner. We just had enough time to race around like mad to all the “big” works, then explore the quiet African art corridors and the Napoleon Apartments.

And then, after stocking up on more macaroons, it was time to get back on the road. Kerryn, being the trooper he is, drove all the way home, and after an extra long delay waiting on the ferry, we finally made it to our beds at 2:30 am, visions of Paris dancing in our heads.

And I’ve not stopped thinking about it since. I love that it’s just so pretty. I love that it’s so unapologetically European, in a way that London is not. I love the layout of the city, and the Metro system – god, I love the Metro system. J and I could not stop marvelling at how it’s cheap and easy and it just *works* (which would not be such a novelty if we didn’t spend hours every week suffering through the Tube tunnels). I love that the French aren’t afraid of indulgence and luxury and sophistication. That’s it, really – Paris is just so sophisticated. And that sophistication is very alluring. I can picture myself on the balcony of a little garret apartment, drinking a cappucino and smoking a Galuoise.

Can’t you?

Many many more photos here

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more on the world’s most dangerous road

by Jen at 4:56 pm on 12.11.2006Comments Off
filed under: blurblets, world tour

i’ve written about this before here, but yesterday’s article on the bbc website just underscores what i was trying to say:

It seemed at first that they had got off to stretch their legs, while their driver argued with another vehicle coming in the other direction about who should give way. (Reversing is not something you undertake lightly on a cliff edge.)

It transpired instead though, that the bus driver was dying. Blinded by the dust, he had run into the back of a truck. The bus’s steering column had gone through him – severing his legs.

There was nothing anyone could do. Mobile phones do not work here. In any case, who would you call? There are no emergency services.

And no way of getting help through, even if any were to be found. The bus driver bled to death.

High in the Andes, they are building a new road. A by-pass, to replace the old one. But this is Bolivia, and already it has been 20 years in the making.

so much in bolivia goes unnoticed by the rest of the world, and it’s just so tragic that lives continue to be lost at an alarming rate – if only there were something more that could be done.

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moving out, moving on

by Jen at 10:23 am on 3.11.2006 | 1 Comment
filed under: mundane mayhem, world tour

so i have an apartment… that i don’t want to move into.

i don’t know why i am suddenly so reluctant to move – it makes no logical sense, for sure. i have been wanting an apartment of our own for so long – since j and i got together. i haven’t had a flat that i didn’t share since my ex and i split up more than 5 years ago. ever since, i’ve had a flatmate – some better, some worse. there was johnny, my close friend’s brother back when i still lived in boston, who was funny and cool. there was angela, from my first move to london, who was lovely. there was arlene, who was a ditz and annoying, but kindhearted. there was alex, who was a depressed unemployed slob – not so good. and always, there were our friends next door – kerryn and tracey, who are really just family in the form of neighbours.

i was never alone. i’ve been surrounded by friends and family wherever i went.

and being on the road for 6 months, the one thing you get truly homesick for are your friends. it’s friends you wish were there to have beers at sunset in fiji. friends you wish were there to go snowboarding in nz with. friends you wish were there when you’re at a sidewalk cafe in santiago, or dazzled by the salt plains of bolivia, or sucking down pad thai on khao san road in bangkok. it’s friends you can’t wait to share stories with when you get back. of all the things you leave behind, it’s friends you miss the most.

so since we’ve been back it’s been so wonderful – we’ve been staying with kim and andy at their place, who’ve been so generous and warm. and honestly, like a parched plant, i’ve just been soaking it in. it is so nice to be surrounded by friends again. to have people to talk to, to have the luxury of familar faces and comfortable companions. i am sad to leave this cocoon of embrace.

finally moving means the trip is genuinely over. finally moving means being truly on our own, and facing london again. finally moving means losing our built in circle of family and friends and flatmates that i’ve taken for granted for so long. more than anything else, that’s what i don’t want to let go of.

i know it’s time. i know we’ve worked hard for this. i know our flat is still close by. so it makes no sense, this reluctance.

but if you had the friends i do, you’d feel it too.

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the only good thing about being home

by Jen at 12:40 pm on 22.10.2006Comments Off
filed under: mutterings and musings, world tour

i no longer have to fear for my life everytime we get on a bus. given the two horrible accidents we witnessed and yesterday’s recent tragedy, my fears were hardly unfounded. it tied my stomach in knots of anxiety every single time.

but what galls me is that shitloads of tourists pay crazy money to bike down “the world’s most dangerous road” (with over 100 fatalities a year). we originally intended to do it as well – it was only because we were shaken up from the accident only days before that we decided not to. yet none of that money pouring in goes toward improving the road safety. probably because they’d lose the tourism dollars.

one life lost every three days is far too high a price to pay.

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urban edge

by Jen at 1:05 pm on 19.10.2006 | 1 Comment
filed under: londonlife, world tour

four days and it still feels kinda like christmas – discovering clothes i’d forgotten i owned (including, miracle of miracles, underwear which is *not* one of the 8 black pairs i’ve been wearing for 6 months straight!), friends cooking us lovely dinners, emails saying “welcome home”, and blissfully reloading the ipod with all my faves.

i know this is all too good too last. like the tan, it will fade. is already fading.

what is starting to creep in already is that “edge” to daily life in a big city. the permanent undercurrent of tension through the shoulders. the tinge of cynicism that pervades thought. the weight of annoyance with inept transportation, shrill television, and overpriced goods. i’ve had minimal contact with the “outside world” thus far, but even this limited interaction has caused my forehead to wrinkle again, my mouth to set in a pressed line.

after living without this cloud for six months, it’s disheartening to be aware of this damper pressing down on my spirit.

it’s not that there are no annoyances or irritations when travelling. but this is a different kind of mindset – a subtle hardening of the arteries which seems to be necessary to urban living. it is so omnipresent that it’s only noticable by its absence. a toughening of the skin that protects, but also numbs feeling.

i wish i could leave this shell behind, but i know i’d never survive long without it. it’s just been so nice to feel truly free for all this time. and that’s probably what i will miss most.

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by Jen at 10:08 pm on 12.04.2006 | 2 Comments
filed under: world tour

gentle reader –

Well, given that we’re off on our world tour in 2 days, pretty much anything I have to write about at this point is going to be about our trip! we continue to make the rounds of “goodbyes”, which is a little sad.

so, “jen’s den” will officially be on hiatus for the next 6 months. (

but – please come read about our adventures, check out our travel pictures, and send your well-wishes over at our travelog blog, “postcards from the edge”.

take bets on who gets the most exotic disease, where we’ll get lost, and which of us will be the first to file for divorce!

until then, surf the archives, be nice, and play fair.

see you in 24 weeks!

lots of love,

Postcards From the Edge

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