As stated in my previous post, Luke and I spent the weekend at Neil and Nic's house near Milton Keynes (about forty minutes outside of London). It was a lovely weekend with a few disappoints: USA was knocked out of the World Cup on Saturday in their match with Ghana and England on Sunday in a crushing defeat against Germany, 4-1. Alas, there goes England's hopes for a victory for another four years. Football has been turned off in most households now, except for the die hard fans. No matter, like I said it was a lovely weekend and one should not focus on the negative.
On Friday, Luke received his results for his degree - he received a 2.1! I know this must not mean much of anything to the Yanks out there, but it's a very good result. It is similar to scoring a high GPA. Luke was convinced he wasn't going to receive a 2.1, but I always believed he had it in him. Very proud of him, and we will head back to Manchester next Wednesday to celebrate his achievement and watch him graduate. (Don't worry Grandma, I promise to get pictures of him in his cap and gown and send them to you!)
After we arrived at Neil's and said hello to the boys (Oliver and Doogal, their two Basset Hounds) we walked down to this Pan Asian restaurant (it serves both Thai and Indian cuisine). Neil and Nic were disappointed, apparently it was not as good as it usually is. I don't mind, Luke and I both enjoyed our meals very much. I personally think mine was the best, an Indian duck curry with caramelized onions and apricots -gorgeous!
The following day we went shopping at T.K. Maxx, the exact same store as America's T.J. Maxx but the name has been changed for the English market. Apparently there is already a store called T.J.'s, therefore the company changed it so no one would confuse the two. Luke found a number of nice shirts to get. Nicola and I ransacked the women's department, but I found nothing, alas it was just one of those days.
We went to Stony Stratford for lunch, a little market town which is where the phrase "a cock and bull story" was created. The Cock and The Bull are the two pubs in town, and during the coaching era people would travel from one pub to the other telling stories. Often, these stories would change between the pubs and thus the saying was invented. (See http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/cock%20and%20bull%20story.html for more information)
The pubs are still there and working, which isn't surprising considering this is England where they like to keep cultural treasures and not Las Vegas which tears down anything that is over 50 years old. We had lunch at Neil and Nicola's favourite shop in Stony Stratford - the Stony Wine Emporium. We had a bottle of rose and two anti pasti platters, an English one with local English cheese and meats and a French one with some pates and two of my favourite cheeses: Roquefort and Port Salut.
At the wine store, Neil and Nicola were also able to order a case Jurancon Sec, a local white wine from the area around Pau. It is Luke's and my absolute favourite white wine, I don't like many whites, and next to impossible to get outside the region. Luke and I are dogsitting for Neil and Nic the end of next week, so hopefully the wine will come in by then and we can have some!
Got all dressed up on Saturday night, because Neil and Nic were taking us out to celebrate both of our degrees. We went to Brasserie Blanc, a nice French restaurant owned by the famous chef Raymond Blanc. Started the night off with a bottle of Champagne, followed by two bottles of Rioja (a lovely Spanish red) and ending the dinner with a nice Port. I had escargots for starters and moules marineres (mussels) for my main, then Nic and I split Baked Alaska for dessert. It was an excellent meal with even better company. After dinner we sat in the back garden listening to music and drinking a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape (an incredibly nice red) until the wee small hours of the morning.
Sunday morning was a little rough for some people, not to point fingers but LUKE. It was the hottest day of the year so far in England. We took Oli and Doogal for a walk around the park and then chased them around the back garden trying to give them bathes, which they did not want in the slightest.
The England match was to begin at 3 o'clock, so we had a late lunch comprising of a barbecue before watching the match, which I will speak no more of, the memory of the loss is still too painful. After the match, Neil drove Luke and I back to Southam.
Luke and I had another lovely barbecue waiting for us back in Southam courtesy of Lindsay and Ian, this one was with a Greek twist and I stuffed myself on Lindsay's homemade Greek salads (one with grilled vegetables and the other more traditional) and Tzatziki sauce.
Ended the weekend with a bottle of pink Champagne, a very satisfactory end indeed!