Since we’d celebrated Jill’s birthday early and she was working on the actual day, we didn’t go out that night but I did get up early and pick up Einstein’s bagels for everyone on Tuesday the 1st. Thursday Sue (Jill’s mom, who had come down the previous weekend) took Jill and I to Dulles, where we flew to London for the weekend as an early 10th anniversary present to ourselves. Sue’s husband Dave was supposed to fly down that night, but weather delayed him until the next morning (we had a 30 minute delay) – Nina had lots of fun with them that weekend.
A long flight later, we arrived at Heathrow in the early morning of the 4th and endured a very long line to get to Customs. After that, we caught the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, then took the Underground to Tower Hill near the DoubleTree we were staying at. Unfortunately it took almost an hour for our room to be ready, and we nearly fell asleep in the lobby waiting (the flight hadn’t been conducive to sleeping). We both napped once we got into our room – too long as we slept through my alarm and were late for dinner. I pushed our reservation back 30 minutes, but it didn’t matter – we were the first people to be eating and not watching tennis at The Banana Store Restaurant. It was pretty good, but we ate fast as we didn’t want to miss the main event.
Monty Python was an early and deep influence on me, but a reunion seemed unlikely. So when one was announced as a live stage show last fall, I knew I wanted to go (and I was still kicking myself over missing the Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin reunions), so I bought tix. Jill wasn’t sold, but between her mom visiting and plane ticket prices dropping we made it work. We arrived at the O2 for the 4th performance of Monty Python Live (Mostly) with about 30 minutes to spare. I bought a shirt and we took our seats in the 3rd row.
The music started right on time, and they did all their greatest hits. All my favorite songs (“Every Sperm Is Sacred”, “The Lumberjack Song”, “Bruces’ Philosophers Song”, and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”) as well as my favorite sketches (“Nudge Nudge”, “Spanish Inquisition”, “Argument Clinic”, and “Dead Parrot”) made appearances. The additional singers and dancers were used to good effect and the old video clips and new material were deftly edited together. A really great show, and they barely showed their age.
I’d bought a VIP package with “Meet and Greet” to get the good seats. I had my doubts about the aftershow, but we went anyway. Once I saw the line that wrapped around the building I knew there would be no one-on-one time. And I was right, a couple free drinks, a bag of swag, and a questions and answer session. Still, I was impressed that they all showed up and were in good spirits, but once it was over we were out of there and back to the hotel for a good night’s rest (not a bad way to spend Independence Day though).
The next morning we had the complimentary breakfast buffet before getting over to the London Bridge station so we could meet up with the Harry Potter walking tour, ironically enough taking us right through the Borough Market past where we’d had dinner the night before. It rained a bit at the end of the tour, but it was a nice walk through London (one tube ride in the middle). Jill went shopping and I went back to the hotel to change before we met up for a delicious late lunch at The Square (very late for me as I walked the wrong way off the tube).
We stopped at Hamleys after lunch to pick up some Peppa Pig toys for Nina (she would have loved it, but we would never have gotten her out of there) before we split up for some shopping. Later we enjoyed a fabulous Neil Gaiman reading and performance of “The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains” with a string quartet and art by Eddie Campbell. He even had a Ben Folds cameo for the encore with their first ever performance of “The Problem With Saints” from 8in8 (that was twice I’d seen Ben in 2 weeks – he might be stalking me). We had a late dinner of sandwiches at the lobby bar and even later drinks in the rooftop lounge.
Sunday morning it was shopping time. I hit CD and book shops while Jill hit yarn shops, and we met up for a tasty late lunch at Lal Qila before walking over to the door next to Speedy’s Cafe, seen on Sherlock as 221B Baker Street. We picked up our luggage and headed out to Heathrow where we stayed the night at the Hilton there (Oscar’s was a decent lobby restaurant).
The flight the next day was long, but I got a lot of reading done. Unfortunately the heat returned – it felt like someone had left the sauna on. Nina was very excited to greet us at the airport, and to get her new Paddington bear I’d picked up in Waterstones (and we had to take a picture with it in the tube station before we left).
Sue and Dave stayed for another week (I brought home Willard’s for everyone on Thursday), and on Saturday the 12th Sue came with Nina and me to see Rocknoceros at Reston Town Center, then later we all went out on the dock boat so Nina could go fishing with Dave (also known as “Pop-Pop”).
Monday the 14th I’d been playing lots of Queen for Nina to get her ready for the upcoming show, and she became obsessed with “We Will Rock You”. After our 6th listen in a row I was glad that at least it’s not The Wiggles. Wednesday I wanted the Polar Vortex to please come and visit us every summer, because the weather was so nice we had a picnic in the backyard.
Saturday the 19th we all walked around Lake Thoreau – Nina’s first time walking all by herself that far. A nice nap for her, and later that night I took in the first of three concerts in a row with emmet swimming at The Birchmere (solo, Mom the babysitter was away). Thanks to the drunk guys at the table next to me plus the mosh pit they started at the end, it felt like a TT Reynolds show. Bonus points for the first time I’ve seen them do “Gangsta” (original version of “Sunblock”).
The next night was Queen + Adam Lambert at Merriweather Post Pavilion, this time with both Jill and Nina. We drove up in the afternoon, intending to have dinner at the mall next door, not thinking they’d close at 6 like the rest of the mall. But thanks to 9:30 Club Friends with Benefits, we had access to the VIP Deck Pass (after we entered from the mall side in a long but fast moving line). A nice secluded grassy area with a special bonus that night: José Andrés’ Pepe food truck (very tasty sandwiches). The concert was great and Nina was a trooper, lasted through six songs (with ear protection) before moving from dancing on the seats to dancing at top of the stairs. Turns the best way to keep a toddler occupied is to find a broken pinball machine where she can keep putting a quarter in and getting it out. We made it 2/3s through, which was longer than I thought we’d go. The show was really good – Adam’s stage presence was ok, but his voice was incredible, totally nailed “Somebody To Love”. Pro photos here. I could’ve dealt without her throwing up 5 minutes from home – no more Peppa Pig videos on the Beltway.
The next evening Jill took a paddling class on Lake Anne I’d gotten her as a birthday present. Nina and I watched and played in the water (and she got completely soaked), then headed over to Lake Anne Plaza. My third concert in a row was Veruca Salt at The Black Cat that night. They were tight like they’d never stopped playing together. And how is it Queen had no kids shirts while they did? Ok, I know the answer – Nina and Louise from the band both have young kids.
On Friday the 25th, Nina had some milestones: a little over a month shy of her 3rd birthday she was 3 feet tall and 28.5 pounds, and could read me Blue Hat, Green Hat. The next night I was glad the Dave Matthews Band had the same relaxed attitude towards start time that we did, because after dropping Illa off at the kennel, ordering Thai takeout, fighting traffic to the Lube and eating said takeout, by the time we walked in at 7:30 they were just getting started. And it was a great show – I was considering skipping this year, but the acoustic set/electric set concept drew me back, and it was a great show – got our two favorite songs in the acoustic set (“Two Step” and “Ants Marching”) and “Minarets” in the electric set.
Sunday the 27th we got a somewhat early start on our annual drive up north on summer vacation. We learned some important things: Jill’s sister Robin eloped that morning, Pilot has stolen Sonic’s ice making technique, and Nina can now scale a seven foot rock wall by herself (back to Lincoln Elementary School).
Monday we went to Community Field again where Nina had a blast (she’s mastered the playground disc traverse after 2 days), then had sandwiches for a picnic lunch before visiting Jill’s grandfather with her dad at the nearby Soldiers’ Home (the veterans love Nina). I went to my favorite Northampton destinations Provisions and Turn It Up while Nina napped, then Sue made us a tasty dinner of bacon wrapped chicken breast, corn on the cob, green beans, and fruit salad, plus chocolate cake from Aunt Vicky (and it was great to see Auntie Kelley).
Tuesday it was another day on the road to Old Orchard Beach in Maine, where Robin’s new husband Mike’s parents owned a pair of cottages. Nina has learned how to game the road trip – if she wants to get out of her car seat, she just tells us she needs to go potty. She also learned that waves from the Atlantic Ocean are freezing and terrifying if they go up past her ankles, while we learned Robin and Mike are excellent hosts for newlyweds (ask Mike for his surf n’ turf sandwiches for lunch). In the afternoon she played with Blake, the son of friends that were also staying there, while dinner was at Los Tapatios in Biddeford, decent Mexican (but meh service).
With a day to get used to it, Nina thought that the ocean was the best thing ever Wednesday morning. We walked down to Hoss and Mary’s to get takeout for lunch (fried lobster sandwiches are delicious) and later we drove with Robin and Mike to nearby Portland, Maine (which is also kinda weird). We got a reservation at Flatbread Company and shopped in a nearby gift shop before our table was ready and we all had some delicious wood-fired pizza.
Thursday we packed up, but headed north instead of south so we could visit L.L. Bean’s flagship store. It’s ginormous (Nina quite liked it, even when she scraped up her knee in the parking lot) and we got her some winter gear. We drove over to Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster which was delicious and also meant I got to have lobster for lunch all 3 days we were in Maine (we smuggled in some McNuggets for Nina). Later we managed a short visit with the Cannons and their girls for dinner before returning to Holyoke, and Jill arranged a late night hot tub and massage for us (seriously late, we started at 11PM) that would have been more fun if I hadn’t sunburned my feet at the beach.