October saw a 2-week trip to Europe, one of my longer times away from home. The reason for the trip was the organization's annual meeting, held this year in Lyon, France. In order to avoid extra trans-atlantic travel and exploit a paid-for trip to Europe, I scheduled long-overdue visits to Glasgow to visit Marc and Erin, and London to visit Colin and Anthony. Although I have tried to schedule annual UK visits, this one was delayed due to other travel plus financial prudence.
Glasgow was first. We didn't make many specific plans for the visit, as I only had a couple days and the point was to catch up. Erin now works at the University of Glasgow, and we met her at the office at one point after a seminar. Marc continues to work for BBC Scotland as well as personal projects such as the graphic novel House without Windows of which I took a copy. We took a run in Queen's Park, across the street from where they live, a good way to recover from jet lag. At one point in the wandering I wanted to try a deep fried Mars bar in its city of origin - sweet, runny, and chewy, worth a try but doesn't need to be part of the regular diet. The wanderings also included a stop at BrewDog, an independent brewery that is becoming an institution in Scotland. The beers are nice though sometimes a bit too creative, but I made sure to grab their book to try making some at home. On Saturday evening Erin and Mark arranged us to participate in a gin tasting at The Good Spirits Co. It was fun to taste the variety of flavours and hear some of the history in more detail than I previously knew.
Lyon was almost entirely work. In order to avoid becoming overtired during the long and intense week I avoided evening activities, which meant I didn't have any of those fabulous French meals for which Lyon is famous. Most of the meals were actually pretty ordinary and disappointing, so even a gastronomic capital has "everyday fare". I didn't end up with a recipe that I just have to add to my personal lexicon as I try to do on each trip; my Praline Tart recipe from a previous trip remains my biggest culinary souvenir of Lyon. I did manage to take two runs, one in the Park of the Golden Head, and a second along the banks of the Rhône river. I was impressed by the number of runners in the park and I just had to join a flow, obviously Lyon is one of the better runners' cities I've been in.
After my Saturday morning run I went on to London. I experienced the long immigration wait time at Heathrow airport that's been in the news all year, in this case I spent 1 hour 40 minutes in the line, longer than my flight time from France. By the time I got through they were no longer announcing where to find bags from my flight and I had to go to baggage services to find out where it was. On Sunday we went to the Ski and Snowboard Festival at Battersea Park. Skiing isn't much my thing, but it fun to see the snowboard jumps on the artificial slope, and wander around at all the exhibitors hawking wares (many of which had no relationship to the theme). We went there and back by bicycle, which was a fun new way to experience London even though the bike I borrowed from them was too small for me. It was good to see that my running made it fairly possible to handle the 100 metre elevation rise of the return trip. Battersea Power Station is under serious redevelopment and the sheer number of construction cranes positioned side by side was impressive. On Monday Anthony and I did a walkabout in central London, with concrete goals to visit the Crumbs and Doilies cupcake shop which I know from its YouTube channel, and the high-end store Fortnum & Mason to see the general holiday wares. I have to say the cupcakes are more impressive on YouTube than in person, and Fortnum and Mason seemed to be mainly stocked with cheap-looking and impractical kitsch, so these visits were more about the experience than the find. We finished the day with dinner at Smoke and Salt located in Pop Brixton, where a bunch of shipping containers have been assembled into usable space. Both the experience and the food were very interesting, so it was a nice cap to the trip.
I can't finish a trip report without a heartfelt thanks to Andrea and Jonathan who looked after the cat for two weeks, with twice-daily visits to give him his pill in addition to food and company. It was a big ask and they really helped out. The cat is healthy and happy, though also quite glad to see me home, which is a nice welcome.