From London to Baku

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of travel and activities. For February break, we get a week off of school and Ryan and I decided to use that time as our “just us” trip for the year. And London became the location because of these bad boys.

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When Ryan texted me one day saying he’d found tickets, it was surreal to go from wanting to see Hamilton, to be a ticket holder just waiting for the day of the show. Our entire break’s plans revolved around these golden tickets.

We both love London, this is the 2nd trip we’ve taken there together and I don’t even remember what number visit it is for me, 6, 7? It’s a great city, with so much to do and I have a lot of special memories of time spent visiting friends I met working summers at Camp Horizons. We also traveled there when Q was about 10 months old, so we’ve done the full spectrum of touristy activities, from the aquarium to the eye and most of the museums.

This trip was mostly about theater, food opportunities and some other cultural experiences thrown in. The first things on our agenda when we landed around noon were to find our sunglasses (holy smokes batman, there’s sunshine here!) and to track down the nearest Chipotle.

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The nice lady who made my first burrito bowl on the trip did not understand why I was so damn excited, but she was very happy that I was happy. And I would give the Chipotles of London a solid 8 out of 10. They’re not as good as in the states, mostly a seasoning difference. Apparently, the Brits are not overly excited about spicy food, so I think they tamed the flavor profiles of the meat and salsas. But it was still a solid performance in the burrito category, much better than anything we can get in Moscow, so we were happy.

That first night, Ryan discovered they were doing a free organ recital in Westminster Abbey. We’re both into interesting music, and getting to go into Westminster for free was a huge perk, especially at night.

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There were also a ton of people out and about for Chinese New Year, which we were not expecting at all. We wandered into Leicester Square and it was like bam! Welcome to Chinese New Year town!

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Leicester Square also boasts the largest Lego store in the world. With huge replicas of some of the biggest landmarks of the city. There’s also a 3-d map of the city that we both thought was awesome.

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Our hotel room was absolutely tiny. I didn’t even bother taking a photo because I knew it would be ridiculous to try and find an angle to show more than just part of the bed. To give you some perspective though, in the bathroom it would have been completely doable to sit on the toilet and alternatively lean over the sink or the tub, that’s how tight it was. But the location was great, we were in Kensington, which was a nice little neighborhood, with a tube station and lots of grocery/restaurant options. Plus the price was good, so we were fine with our tiny burrow.

Our tickets to Hamilton were for Thursday afternoon, so we decided to book another show earlier in the week.

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My goodness, I have never laughed so hard at a show in my life, even a live comedy show. This musical is hilarious, and not at all what I was expecting. The lasting song lyric that keeps popping into my head unexpectedly is “I still have maggots in my scrotum.” I’ll just leave that mental image there and let you imagine how that tied into the show.

We spent most of our time in Soho throughout the week, tracking down little-hidden record shops, eating breakfast and drinking lots of tea.

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And then, the moment arrived. The moment I’d been waiting for almost 2 years. Get ready for some Hamilton pictures.

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People keep asking me how was the show? The best answer I can think of is that we left that night to go to dinner, we had one more day in London with no plans and decided to look and see if there were any last minute tickets to another show we might want to see. And we found some!

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That’s right, the very next day we went and saw Hamilton again! It was amazing! The stage and set design bring so much more to the story that I’ve been listening to in the music. There is a large moving circle on the floor and I’ve never seen something like that used to bring such movement and energy to a show before. My only disappointment was that we had the understudy for Aaron Burr both nights, which I found a little disappointing because while he was an excellent actor, his singing left me feeling like something was missing, especially on my favorite song, Wait for it. I knew that having listened to the original cast recording so much was going to make my expectations too high, so I really did try to come to the show just enjoying the performance. And it was an incredible performance, seeing the whole package together gave me goosebumps.

The energy in the theater was great, everyone was really excited, the seats were packed. People were singing with King George and into all the jokes and innuendos. It was a really magical experience, both times. And I feel so lucky that we were able to get tickets, and had the time and means to see it again. What an amazing life I have!

After we arrived home from our London trip, I had about 4 days at home before I was boarding a plane again, this time headed to Baku Azerbaijan for our basketball tournament.

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This trip started with some snafus because 2 of our Russian girls did not have the right documents they needed to leave the country. Russian citizens, if they are underage, have to travel with a special document that shows where they’re going and gives permission from the parents for them to travel by themselves. Our girls both had the document, but Azerbaijan wasn’t on the list of countries. So we got detained at the airport and missed the flight while the rest of the team went on without us. Luckily the school and the girl’s parents were awesome and we were rebooked for that evening, with the correct documents in hand ready to get to the tournament with everyone else.

We got in very late and I didn’t get to see this beautiful thing until about 1:30am, but man was the hotel nice! By the way, our London hotel room would have fit inside this room maybe 3 times.

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This was our year, we smashed the competition and won every single game! That championship trophy was the result of so many sweaty, exhausting practices and games. These girls worked hard, were a true team and really proved that they were the best team at our tournament. I’m so proud to have been their coach. And also a little sad, I’m losing all but 2 of them next year because they’re going to high school. It’s like the end of an era because this was a group of girls I’d been working with for 2-3 years. I never would have guessed how much being a basketball coach would mean to me.

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Baku was an interesting city. Very windy, though we got some beautiful sunshine on our last day there, which was the day we toured the city, so that was nice. It felt like a combination of Turkey, Egypt, and Dubai. The people were friendly and the food was typical Middle Eastern/Mediterranean fare. It was a bit challenging to get around though and it’s almost totally a cash society, which is always something I find frustrating because I hate carrying cash. They’ve had a bit of a boom in their tourist visits lately, and it feels like the infrastructure isn’t quite ready for it yet. So while I might come back, it’s not high on my list of travel opportunities.

What a whirlwind, what an amazing lifestyle we have.

Ryan just got back from his tournament in Georgia and leaves for Iceland for discovery week on Saturday.

It’s a rough life huh? πŸ™‚

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