Soccer Road Trippin’ Through the South

It’s hotter than Hades here in D.C. so it seems like the perfect time to hop in the car and drive many, many hours to even hotter locations, primarily in the South.

Sally and Burt
“Oh, I’m sorry, am I inhibiting your driving? It’s just that this is a couples road trip and what could be more magical and romantic than that?”

But we do it for the love of soccer.

That’s right, my travel-partner-for-life XFE and I are going on a road trip to see our favorite English Premier League team, the Tottenham Hotspurs, play two games in the United States as part of the International Champions Cup. Eight European teams, including the Hotspurs, who you may remember came in second in the Premier League this past May, will be playing at stadiums across the U.S. July 19-30th.

Tottenham Traveling Squad

We’ve got tickets to see Tottenham play Paris Saint-Germain in Orlando and Manchester City in Nashville. And instead of trying to see Tottenham is pay Roma in New Jersey in the middle of the week, we decided to skip it and swing through New Orleans instead (we’ve got some history with ol’New Orleans).

So today, we’re in the car for approximately 8.5 hours heading to a quick overnight stop in Charleston to say “howdy” to the fine folks of “Southern Charm.” (Well, maybe not so much. Although, we are going to try to have drinks at the Gin Joint, which was featured on the show.)

Gin Joint on Southern Charm
Cameran = matchmaking fail.

While we’ve travelled quite a bit, we’ve never actually been on a road trip, per se. I mean, we’ve rented a car and slowly meander our way across northern Italy, but that was only 270 miles. SFE dodged Irish sheep for about 300 miles when we drove the Ring of Kerry and explored the Dingle Peninsula back in 2009. And we once got held up on a highway in Peru on our way from Lima to Paracas by a fishermen’s protest, turning a trip that was only supposed to be 3.5 hours into a multi-hour nailbiter. We’ve even traversed northern Spain (twice!) to get our soccer (and kebab) fix.

Poe at soccer

But we’ve never done such a heavy driving trip. We’ll be covering approximately 2,853 miles in a total estimated time of 42 hours and 18 minutes. Which is a lot of beef jerky and “Despacito” on the radio. Here’s hoping we don’t kill each other.

Couples road trip

In the meantime, here are some past posts explaining our love of the Hotspurs.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Fairytales for Grown-Ass People: London Edition

Once upon a time….o.k, 1981…there was a young girl who lived way out in the dusty fields of West Texas who became infatuated with princesses and castles and royalty.

One day when she was nine years old, the little girl got up very, very early to watch a beautiful blonde maiden in a humongous poofy white dress marry a not-so-fine prince in a gorgeous spectacle in a faraway place called England.

IMG_3965
Princess-in-training. I think this might have been around 9, but honestly, I have no idea. None of the photos have any info on the back of them. Let’s just go with this one, which is embarrassing enough. Also, someday I’ll get unlazy enough to scan my photos in, instead of taking a photo of a photo. (#glare)

Everybody on the television was lining the streets, cheering and wearing jaunty party hats and waving Union Jack flags as very refined-looking people in brightly colored jackets and matching hats and red military uniforms made their way towards a giant, Gothic church in horse-drawn carriages. There were trumpets. And commemorative tea mugs and towels. And a big fancy photo op, complete with a kiss on a palace balcony.

It was nothing short of magical and about as far away from the reality of everyday life in a dusty West Texas trailer park as you could get.

And that was the day that I fell in love with England. Actually, obsessed is probably a more accurate word.

I become obsessed. Completely, singularly focused on all things British with the ultimate goal being to one day live there. And lo and behold, thanks to a student work visa, I did get to go live in London for six months in 1997.

London Poe

And it was freaking awesome. Everything I dreamed it would be. Believe it or not, England totally lived up to all the unrealistic expectations I had created. I embraced it whole-heartedly. I bought a bike and on my days off, I would take it on the train out to small country towns in Essex and Kent and Surrey and would ride around just gawking at the adorable small towns and the patchwork quilt fields. I joined my friends Jill and Gil on their drive through the Lake District to Edinburgh, then rode the train back to London. I went to museums, stately homes, churches, West End matinees for musicals. I sat for hours in pubs, just listening to the accents all around me. I went to Glastonbury and got stuck in the ridiculous mud. I made amazing friends, I made bad decisions, I made so, so, so many memories.

I loved it all.

So when my personal travel planner XFE asked if I wanted to go to London for my birthday, oh, and sorry it’s not as exotic or as exciting as Australia or Japan or any of the other places he’s taken me for my birthday the last several years, I jumped at it. It’s not every day that you get a chance to travel back in time and see a place again with completely different eyes.

And this visit to London was equally, if not more, awesome than my first stay. Because this time, I had a co-conspirator to share it all with. I got to introduce XFE to all my old friends and favorite places. We went to see a show and we didn’t have to line up for the cheap seats. We visited new places and sat in pubs–and also, really, really nice restaurants–for hours on end listening to the accents around us. And I got to make a ton of new memories with my beloved, ever-patient schmoops, who had to hear me wax nostalgic and tell the same damn stories over and over again, all of which started with, “When I lived here 19 years ago….”

Not pictured: my schmoopies, XFE, who prefers not to be on the blog. And no, that’s not him sleeping at the theater on the bottom right. That’s a grumpy old man who scolded me for having my coat sleeve hanging over his seat arm. 

Even if I have (technically) outgrown princesses and fairytales, and I no longer fantasize about living in England, I still pinch myself every day that I have my own super-fine prince–with a very nice mini-castle here in Northern Virginia–who has created this wonderful fairytale life for both of us to share and enjoy.

How Not to Do Date Night

My super significant other and I had one of those so-called “date nights” the other night. Well, I guess you could call it a “date night.” We put on real clothes and left the house for a pre-planned activity.

This is one of those things you have to do when you’ve been together for seven years to remind yourselves that you have a life together outside of the confines of your own house and things to talk about besides what TV show to watch that night.

However, this date night was missing a particular ingredient that I am quite sure is necessary for a true “date night” – wine.

A few months ago, when XFE’s family was coming into town for Christmas, I was looking around for activities to keep people happy and occupied. That’s when I stumbled across Sur La Table’s cooking classes. While I didn’t find anything for that particular timeframe, I did see that they had an upcoming January class called “Date Night: Exquisite Spain.” Since we had just been to Spain, I thought it might be fun for us to learn how to make some Spanish foods.

slt kitchen

(Not that we—supreme smugglers of chorizo and paprika—don’t know how to make any Spanish foods, by the way. But work with me here. I was trying to do something cute.)

We went a bit early to swing by DSW and buy some terrible ugly but knubby shoes for hiking in Peru. Of course, being fully dedicated to “date night,” we bought matching shoes. That should help solidify our “taken” status on Machu Picchu. Pretty sure these shoes guarantee no one’s going to try to steal either of us away from the other.

shoes
Please note the Petunia photobomb

With time still to kill before our cooking class (ugly-practical shoe shopping took less time than we had allotted), we stopped at an Irish-themed bar for a drink and a small snack. While tucking into some mediocre calamari, we talked about the last time we’d taken a private cooking class at an Italian restaurant – which had included wine – and wondered whether tonight’s Spanish cooking class would include any of the wines we had had in the Rioja region.

“They might not serve any wine at all since they (a) aren’t a restaurant and (b) don’t sell wine,” XFE pondered.

“Pshaw. Of course there’d be wine at a cooking class. How absurd!” I scoffed.

“But what if they don’t,” XFE queried.

“Well then, we should just leave immediately,” I countered hotly.

Then we made our way over to Sur La Table.

This particular Sur La Table cooking school is apparently the most busy in the franchise. Our kitchen contained two steel prep tables, with space for approximately 8 people at each table. In front of us were name tags, an apron, some utensils, including a chopping knife and board, and our recipes for the evening.

slt recipes

Our instructor, Chef Anna, invited us to grab some water or make ourselves a coffee from their very fancy coffee machine. And those, dear reader, were of course the only two beverage options to part Chef Anna’s lips.

“Excuse me. Where’s the wine?,” I asked.

“Oh, we unfortunately don’t serve wine. We don’t have a liquor license,” Chef Anna said.

slt coffee
Probably the only time I was not excited to see coffee.

At which point, I wish I could say we made good on our earlier pledge to abort the whole fiasco. However, as XFE pointed out, we’d already paid our $79 per person, might as well suck it up and stick it out.

Things pretty much went downhill from there. Not because of the lack of wine, mind you. Well, not entirely. But primarily because of the complete skills gap between us (fairly proficient kitchen masters) and the other students, who apparently, did not know how to chop garlic, heat oil in a pan, and were puzzled by the term “brown the chicken.”

slt apps

slt work
10 pieces of chicken prepared by 8 ‘chefs’

Each step of the very simple recipe confounded our cohorts. And, let me remind you, we had very simple recipes printed out for consultation right in front of us AND a kitchen staff who were on hand to answer any questions and clear away used utensils and even finished off cooking our desserts for us.

slt main

Since there was literally not enough work for all eight of us at the table (two garlic cloves and two onions to chop, two burners/skillets to oversee), XFE wandered over to a bookcase near the door and began perusing the ginormous, six-volume Modernist Cuisine set gleaming away in it’s acrylic cube.

I hesitate to call it a cookbook. It’s more like an amazingly photographed encyclopedia of contemporary cooking. We’d only heard about it (it was a prize on an episode of Top Chef several seasons ago), but we’d never seen a set in person (at least, I hadn’t. XFE probably had.)

He was absorbed the whole class, which was fine by me since I was feeling so apologetic about the whole enterprise at this point. We spoke to Chef Anna during our much-deserved (HA) break, and she told us they actually sold the set at Sur La Table. A quick conversation with the store manager confirmed they had just one set left, and that it was on sale, and we also had a 10% coupon, thanks to our cooking class.

The behemoth set came home with us and is now occupying a large amount of space on our kitchen counters. We celebrated the purchase with a well-earned bottle of wine, and a vow to avoid “date nights” for a while. I guess the evening wasn’t such a bust after all.

modernist

Thanks for the Days Off, Sandy

As you all know, thanks to the amazingly overblown non-stop SuperStormActionTeam coverage, Hurricane Sandy blew through the Eastern seaboard and gave us all a couple of days off. Which is all well and good. I mean, I’m not one to turn down a few days off from work, but it did promote a sort of forced closeness with your loved ones.

(By the way, am I the only one who kept thinking about Pecan Sandies every time this hurricane was mentioned? I love those things. I don’t know how I resisted the urge to buy some. Oh, wait….I didn’t do the hurricane prep.)

A little advance warning would have been nice. Of course, I knew a hurricane was coming, but I’d like to know ahead of time that the government, and by extension my office, would be closed. Then we could maybe plan a vacation, a sort of long weekend somewhere much warmer and less rainy.

As it was, my FEMA-partner-for-life XFE and I were up each other’s behinds for four days. I gave him Friday night off to go see my favorite band of all time, the Old 97s. I’ve basically known those guys since they played weekly gigs at the Barley House in Dallas. Rhett looked like this back then.

He’s aged nicely.

XFE, meanwhile, did the adult-responsible-couple thing and actually went out and stocked up on provisions to get us through the weekend, including the makings for “Sandy” crab pot pies and bacon, avocado and tomato sandwiches on sourdough bread. Yeah, we eat rull, rull good around here.

My contribution to our weather preparations was the stash of ridiculously overpriced candles that I hoard in cabinets throughout the house. It’s……a problem. I really can’t help it. And I light them all the time….summer, winter, it really doesn’t matter. To the point that the house is a haze of smoke, but I don’t care. I love me some candles.

The forced couples time also allowed us to do some Spain planning, which is going along swimmingly. We’ve locked down a route, an itinerary, a couple of wineries, and a few restaurant reservations.

Look how happy this couple is! Enjoying a shared activity and matching head wear! (We will not be shooting in Spain, by the way)

When couples time and trip planning got old, I went upstairs, dragged out all my stored winter wear, and put away my summer gear. This project was a mixed success – I got to spend the entire afternoon buried in my closet, organizing and reorganizing my clothes, which is one of my favorite activities ever. Should I organize by sweater type or color? Let’s try both! However, I also had to try on a bunch of last year’s clothes and that was a bummer. Of my five winter skirts, four had to go; and of my six winter pants, three are barely allowed to stick around. They’re actually on probation.

Weak from sucking in my breath and trying on clothes, I somehow allowed XFE to drag me to my first BodyPump class at the gym this long weekend. Normally, there’s no way I can get home in time to make it to that class in the early evenings. XFE has a bit more flexibility, so he goes a couple of times a week. Since we were home on Tuesday, we went to the 12:15 class. I literally used the lowest weights available, so I thought it was an ok class. It was challenging, but I wasn’t dying afterwards or anything. I guess a whopping 5 pounds of weights isn’t really going to knock anyone out.

Honestly, the whole time I was thinking about how as soon as we were done, I could go back to drinking wine on the couch and watching the marathon of “Million Dollar Decorators” with total immunity, smug in my fitness. Plus, I was so busy looking at all the see-through yoga pants in the class. With every squat, I was treated to a peep show suitable for adult-access cable. And there were a lot of squats. And the class was packed with these wanna-be exhibitionists. Just tortured lycra and ass crack everywhere I looked. Very disturbing.

So that’s how we rode out the storm. Looking at booties, drinking lots of wine and champagne, making fun of the poor weather people trying to be professional while getting their legs swept out from under them by incoming waves. Pretty good times.

Oh, and we had no storm damage. No leaking windows or doors, no wind strewn lawn chairs or trash cans, no power outages.