Category Archives: expat life

Fighting autumnal nostalgia with American candy from Kingdom of Sweets

I think I’ve been away from the States long enough that very few things make me homesick anymore –  leagues less than the numerous things that did in the past, anyway. However, everything that does make me homesick happens right around this time of year. Autumn comes and I miss the riotous change of leaves in Ohio, the buzzing fun of Halloween, followed by the gorging and relaxing and extra long weekend that comes with Thanksgiving in November.

And of course there’s loads of American stuff I can’t get here, even if I want it. Nothing that it’s impossible to live without (I stock up on Annie’s Mac and Cheese on every visit Stateside, and eat my weight in vegetarian corn dogs, for an example of my frivolous tastes). And some of the things that can be found in the UK are wildly different in taste and flavor than their American counterparts, due to rules and regulations about those tasty tasty additives that American companies are so fond of! Compare British Doritos and American Doritos if you don’t believe me. It’s a THING.

With all that said, I was pleased as punch when Kingdom of Sweets got in touch with me to ask if it would be okay if they sent me a box of American sweets to help me feel a little less homesick this season. I said yes, with gusto, because mama didn’t raise no fool.

My box arrived last week and it was full of stuff I hadn’t seen in ages! Cookie dough bites (these were my childhood treat at the movie theater, and if my mom was feeling extra generous I’d get them with Sour Patch Kids and popcorn because I love to eat). I didn’t even know they still made them!

Nerds, Warheads, Gobstoppers, dum dums, a Butterfinger – I am currently up to my eyeballs in sweet treats and sugary goodness, and I am looking forward to tucking in!  If I am able, maybe I’ll save a bunch of it for Halloween eve and pretend I’ve just gone to a rockin’ costume party and/or gone trick or treating. But that’s several weeks away so let’s not kid ourselves. If you’re also a moderately homesick American – do yourself a solid and get some candy coming your way to combat the mountains of Mister Kiplings and Cadburys going around this time of year 😉

A Quickie in Paris

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Last week my friend Lindsey was in Paris. She’s a French teacher back in Ohio and was leading a group trip to France – a ten day shindig that began in Paris then took them through the beautiful chateaux of the Loire Valley, then back to Paris before flying home. I try to pop across the Channel and see her when she does this every other year (although the last time I couldn’t go because the Home Office had my passport, so the last rendezvous was in 2012). And that is how I found myself on a fancy new Eurostar last Tuesday afternoon, with just my travel bag and a good book to keep me company.

paris in june solo female travel

Getting in on Tuesday and leaving on Thursday was a perfectly okay amount of time. Paris is always wonderful! I spent my time alone, wandering around the city in the sweltering heatwave, and met up with Lindsey and her two friends who were acting as chaperones for the trip in the evenings for wine and catching up.

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One of the best parts of traveling alone is the opportunity to do whatever you want, whenever you want. I had no itinerary, only the vaguest of ideas, and days to fill with whatever I felt like doing. (There was a lot of walking. And also some Pokemon catching, I couldn’t help it!)

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As a huge museum and historic home buff (that exists, right?), I wanted to tick some smaller Parisian museums that I’d never visited off of my list. In this case it meant that I spent my last afternoon at the Musée de Montmartre, a charming little home-turned-museum with beautiful gardens and a small vineyard, just a few quiet blocks behind the Sacre Coeur, where Renoir and many other artists used to live in the heyday of the Moulin Rouge and impressionist movement. While I was sitting in the garden a girl came up and began playing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Miserables on the piano, which got me all verklempt and was also the Frenchiest thing to happen that day, probably.

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The other new-to-me museum was the Musée de l’Orangerie, which is right on the corner of the Jardin des Tuileries and is such an interesting shape! The main rooms are two giant eggs with four walls, each wall containing a huge Monet mural – one room has the waterlilies, the other, willows. The four walls and the paintings represent how the light changes throughout the day. And then there’s essentially another separate museum as well with smaller pieces from the impressionist and post-impressionist movements.

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Besides those two museums, my short stay found me doing my version of the classics – wandering through the Tuileries in search of a cheap baguette sandwich, visiting my favorite museum, the Musée d’Orsay, traipsing through the cobbled streets of Montmartre, and heading with Lindsey & co to the Eiffel Tower after dark to watch it twinkle on the hour (this trek to the Tower is always a pain in the ass and the crowds are horrible, but when it first lights up and the whole crowd just …exhales and giggles with unconcealed pleasure, it really really makes up for any discomfort). She’s a beaut.

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There was also a fair amount of sitting around in front of Notre Dame, one of my favorite things to do, but it was ruined by a guy who wouldn’t leave me alone. No bother. Next time, fair lady!

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I also had the best avocado toast of my life, sat in the coziest little bistro right across from one of the smaller La Durée locations, enjoyed with a glass of rosé. If anyone says travelling alone as a woman is no fun, or dangerous, please point them right….here. To this moment.

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I mean, look at that chevre. Look at it!

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Paris, experienced mostly alone, is a dream. It’s not perfect – I ran into a few tough spots which I don’t think would have happened had I not been a blonde female on my own in the city – but it’s still a wonderful place to be if you are by yourself, male or female. It is a city for wandering and quiet introspection, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into.

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And there’s no shortage of things to do in Paris that don’t need any camaraderie – museums, cafes, gardens galore. On Thursday I was completely alone, with my Eurostar back to London not booked until nearly 7pm and Lindsey’s group leaving first thing to head to the Loire Valley. The day felt long and aimless in the best kind of way. It’s surprising how such a short trip could seem so long. I think it’s a consequence of spending so much time alone, too – time passes more slowly.

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It feels so strange that I can honestly use the phrase “pop over to Paris”. What a crazy life that has brought me from middle America Ohio cornfields to this. My childhood self would be thrilled, believe me. My adult self is also thrilled, actually.  (Although I miss Ohio, always).
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Before catching my train, I hit up the closest Monoprix to stock up on cheap, delicious French wines and cheeses to take home for Jon and I to share. That’s my pro tip : don’t go to a wine shop or even a fromagerie in France, the shops have a wonderful selection and they are much, much cheaper. My other pro tip- go to Paris whenever you can. Paris, after all, is always a good idea!

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2015 happened!

I am not averse to taking the annual trip down memory lane that late December brings. 2015 was a solid year – when looking back at the last couple of years, or maybe even further back, this was the first year where I seemed to really be able to gain my bearings and feel in almost complete control, and where the decisions that kept me up at night were either really dumb and narcissistic, or not really that big and serious in the grand scheme of things.

I kicked off the new year with a solo trip back to the States, my first since 2013. And there was snow! (My friends and family were also there, but I mean, really , it was mostly about the snow). I danced my face off at a music festival in Shoreham on one glorious summer weekend. Jon and I spent 24 hours in Istanbul and nine days in Oman to visit friends and dip a toe into the Middle East and shop in the night market and learn how to really wear a headscarf (that was more me, not Jon). We took a tour of Parliament in London and a tour of the vineyards of Sussex to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. We did our first themed “couples” costume, which was pretty damn awesome. We saw The Decemberists and Chvrches live, separately, and a drag show about Margaret Thatcher getting lost in SoHo in the 80s. I read 33 books and cut my long ass hair off and got obsessed with Snapchat, but not with blogging or taking pictures with my DSLR. It was a year of lots of normalcy and general bougie personal happiness, and it was nice to find contentment in that.

triptych on the train

goodcomps onthebeach2015 brightonarch tourofparliament dranks2 dranks linzmouth wbrucejan15 mtgileadohio schoolbusohio

shorehamsunset jonvineyard colinsbday weddingladies wildlife

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jonistanbul bluemosque hagiasophia bday31 naturalhistorymuseum chvrches

grandmosqueoman shishainoman omanlights coventgardenxmas dudes xmasmornwbruce15

 

Here’s to hoping 2016 is a good one. I know my fingers are crossed!

 

 

It’s been a summer

Well hello. How are you? How’s it going? Long time no see.

I fell off the bloggin’ bandwagon. I probably would have just fallen straight off of the internet bandwagon, but, as it were, my job exists on the internet. “Digital Marketing” and all of that. But it’s been a summer. I’ve been to a wedding and a music festival, read a bunch of books, cried about the mostly crappy weather, and drank a lot of wine (as usual). Took a lot of dog walks too. Wrote a weekly newsletter, but other than that, I’ve mostly avoided the internet outside of work hours for the sake of mental health. And now summer is almost over! Weird how that happens.

I’ve been feeling particularly swallowed up and sunk into my expat-ness this summer. It’s probably due to the fact that the summer weather this year has been the worst since that first year when I officially, permanently moved over. That is to say, summer never fully arrived,  and when the weather never commits to coming fully out of one season and into the next, neither does my mental psyche. This isn’t even to say that the weather is bad! It’s not bad. It’s just not good. And four years later (and 6 English summers under my invisible belt later!) my Ohio-born and bred-self can still not acclimate to a life without at least two distinct seasons. Four seasons would be good. Perfect, really. But right now it seems that winter and not-winter are the two main ones.

I digress. Where have we been?

victoria and albert London museum

cuddley bruce

all of this belongs to you

shoreham wildlife festival

bruce and mama

sunset in shoreham

family

fry up hector's shed shoreham

Shoreham by Sea beach

wedding ladies

brighton beach summer

jon ashley

Brighton Pride

For the most part I’ve just been living, offline. But where is a girl to share and expound upon all of the pictures she takes on her phone if not on her space of the internet?? Answer me that. Answer. Me. That.

Emerging from hibernation

Whether or not it’s been connected to the dreary winter, I have withdrawn into myself these past few months and can feel myself unfolding as the days lengthen and the sun peeps out and as the winds grow warmer and warmer. I have been writing, but not online, or at least not personally and online. But things are changing, spring is coming, and my social calendar is starting to fill up again, which is nice after the dearth of events while everyone hibernates after the Christmas and new year holiday season.  It’s time to start living again. If my phone is to be believed, the last several months have mostly been spent taking pictures of Bruce with a selfie every few weeks just to prove I still exist. Also, the odd vintage fair, pub lunch,  and doggy play group. But it will be nice to start doing more, soon. So much more! Fare thee well winter. No one will miss you.

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Ohio in 2015

Not going home for a solid two years makes a place not feel like home anymore, in a lot of ways.  The varied emotional states of spending extended time with family doesn’t really make me miss living in the same state, if ya know what I mean, nudge nudge. But I miss them! Of course I miss them. The other weird thing about being home is that unlike most children my age  (that would be thirty) who visit their parents for a day by driving to their house in the morning/afternoon and then leaving in the evening, I end up being super infantilized and spending days on end at one of my parents’ houses, sleeping on couches and being cooked for and stuff. It makes me feel young, and dumb, particularly since my last two visits have been without my Jon. But being with friends back in Ohio, checking out places new and old, gives me a weird sense of loss for the life that I’m not living there. The place where I could be living or working or socializing, not just with Jon but with all the other people I love that aren’t living in the UK. A weird parallel life that some other Ashley is living;  a wispy ghost of an existence that could have happened had my life taken a different turn or two, somewhere along the line.

snow in ohio

 

morrow county sentinel

wolf's ridge brewery

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