About Brasenose College, University of Oxford

Monday, August 31, 2015

The University of Oxford is made up of a handful of colleges -- actually, maybe two handfuls.  That is to say, a grand total of 44 colleges comprise the university as a whole.  Our college is Brasenose, which means Joe's classes are at Brasenose, we live at Brasenose, we eat at Brasenose, etc.  Brasenose is very beautiful, but then again so are all of Oxford's colleges.  

Brasenose was founded by a lawyer, so maybe that's why we're here?  Who knows.  I do know that at one point, the college had the reputation of being the wealthiest Oxford college and I can say with certainty that that is not why we are here.  There is also a legend about the devil coming to Brasenose to claim souls, so hopefully that is not why we are here, either.  And there's also a well-known story about a young woman being brutally murdered at Brasenose in the 1800s, but I'm not going to get into that.... instead, I will talk about how fun, magical, and safe this place is!  Because it is all of those things.

Oh, but before I get into that, I will mention two noteworthy items about the college's name: (1) I cannot, for the life of me, pronounce it correctly.  I pronounce it like it's a German word.  And it is not a German word.  I have asked Joe 100 times, "How do you pronounce the name of this place?"   and yet, for the life of me, I only see/hear/say it in German.  In any case, the correct pronunciation (I just double-checked with Joe) is Braze-nose.  Braze-nose.  Got it.  (2) The story behind the name is interesting; it's said to have derived from the words "brass" and "nose."  The story that often accompanies this explanation is also interesting; in the 1330s, a group of rebellious Oxford students left Oxford and made it to Stamford in Lincolnshire before the king ordered them to return.  500 years later, a house in Stamford went up for sale -- a house with an ancient door knocker (an animal with a brass nose) that was believed to have been installed in the 1300s.  Convinced that the rebellious young men had stolen the door knocker from Brasenose College in 1330, the college bought the house in Stamford for the sole purpose of removing the door knocker and returning it to its 'rightful owner' (believed to be the college itself).  It has hung in the dining hall above the High Table ever since (where we eat our breakfast and dinners -- I"ll try to remember to get a picture of it).  And now, 'noses' are symbolic to Brasenose students for that very reason.

Now I'm too tired to talk about how fun, magical, and safe this place is, so I will just let these photos speak for themselves.

P.S. I drank yet another cup of coffee today.  What is happening to me??!  Jet lag, that's what.  Although does it count if it's just a chai latte?  (I know nothing.)

Burgers in Oxford

Friday, August 28, 2015

Powering through our jet lag -- and fighting the urge to take a 4-hour nap in the middle of the day -- Joe and I took a good, long walk down High Street for lunch.  The first order of business on our list, though: buying me a sweater!  

I generally have this problem when I pack, and I warn you that it's a really, really stupid problem to have: if I'm hot while I'm packing, I (subconsciously) only pack summery, springtime clothes.  If I'm cold, I tend to mostly throw in sweaters and scarves and other items conducive to layering.  I'm well aware that this method is devoid of things like logic and reasoning.  And yet, I still ended up in Oxford with one hoodie, and one million tank tops.  That is to say, no jackets, raincoats, sweaters, or other reasonably warm articles of clothing made it into my suitcase, despite the fact that Oxford (like the rest of the UK) is known for being chilly and drizzly and gray.

Thus, soon after we arrived in Oxford, we realized a shopping spree of sorts was in order.  The only problem?  THE FREAKING EXCHANGE RATE.  Now is not the time to be traveling Great Britain with a USD bank account, let me tell you.  So, in our quest for something long-sleeved, we surveyed several stores to compare prices before finally settling on a men's XXL cashmere sweater we found on clearance for 13 GBP.  It was super soft, cuddly and cozy, fairly warm, totally oversized, and most importantly: the cheapest thing we found all day. 

We made a mental note of some other souvenirs to eventually buy before we officially leave Oxford (a hoodie here, a tea towel there), but that will require us to actually have any sum of money leftover, so I think it's safe to say this mental note was made in vain.

Other mental notes made in vain: the yoga pants I picked out at Sweaty Betty (the UK's version of Lulu Lemon) and a jacket/vest combo I fell in love with at Fat Face.  The old Euro-me would have just charged those items to a credit card and said, "YOLO!" but the new Euro-me understands that the 'YOLO!' way of of life is less fun when you can't afford breakfast, lunch or dinner (a concept I had to reiterate to Joe as he carried a 300 GBP coat around the Barbour store a bit too long for my peace of mind).

And then we stumbled upon All Bar One: a UK burger chain and altogether generic dining choice.  But we were so tired and disoriented and tired and cold (and did I mention we were tired?) that we marched on in, got ourselves a table, and threw all budgetary caution to the win as we dropped 30 pounds on a casual lunch date (30 GBP is just shy of 50 USD, and no, I don't want to talk about that).

Here is why it's okay (post-splurge rationalization coming your way):  the food was so good.  We both ordered burgers; a boring, regular, ordinary, run-of-the-mill burger for Joe (look for it on the menu!) and the ever-original butternut squash burger for me.  Mine came with hummus, carrots, beetroot, chili sauce, avocado, and a gratuitous reminder not to order avocado in the UK (unless you're into perpetually out-of-season fruit).  I also ordered a side of parmesan-and-rosemary fries, which were delicious enough to make up for the tasteless avocado. 

One of our professors later asked us where we'd eaten lunch and when we admitted that we'd eaten at the chainiest restaurant in town, I halfway expected him to judge us.  To our surprise, though, he commented, "Oh yeah, their burgers are great!" and he wasn't even being sarcastic!  We thought they were great, too.

Also worth noting: I drank coffee during this outing.  This is the 4th time in my life this has happened -- a "you win, jet lag" moment if there ever was one.

So in conclusion, we would love to eat at All Bar One again, but we probably won't.

Because 30 GBP is pretty much our budget for the week, not our budget for lunch -- today was just an exception.

OR we'll be back next week, because the 'YOLO!' habit is a hard one to break.

Either way, I'll be sure to keep you advised.

Living at Brasenose College, Oxford

Monday, August 24, 2015

After we said goodbye to dear sweet Geoff, Joe and I checked into Brasenose, the college where we'll be living.  The student assisting us at check-in was very helpful, and even talked me through my most pressing concern: What is the fastest, or best, or cheapest way to get to London from Oxford?

His answer was simple: "The Oxford Tube."

"Oh, there's a tube here?", I asked in amazement.

"No," he smiled rather sheepishly.  "I actually have no idea why they call it that; it's just a bus."

Very well, then.  Tube or no tube, Joe and I have so many travel plans already booked -- all of which require us to depart from London -- so I made a mental note to get acquainted with this non-tube tube as soon as possible.

Once we settled into our room, we noticed there things.  First, the room is slanted.  No, really -- it's as though we live on a hill.  The slope is so drastic that I think you could turn our room into a skate park if you so desired.  Second, the smell.  Oh, the smell.  To say it smells like urine would be putting it mildly.  In reality, it smells like someone peed over every square inch of our floor and then left said pee there to dry for approximately 100 years.  How's that for a visual?  And third, our beds (two twin beds pushed together) are different heights.  So, that's disappointing.  I'm not sure how we can fix that, but the thought of propping a book under each of the lower bed's bedposts has crossed my mind.

You can't tell the beds are different heights from the photos (nor can you see the slope, for some reason), but let me assure you that the height difference is real (my back pain can attest to that).

Other than those three minor issues, we have no complaints.

Wait, we have another complaint: jet lag.

We are so jet lagged.  It's not even funny.  I always forget how much worse it is coming here rather than going home.

Our first night here, we fell asleep at 5:00 AM.  And we've sort of just slumped into this routine every day since: We both fall asleep around 5:00 in the morning, and then Joe wakes up for class at 8:30 (his class starts at 9:00, and they provide breakfast for us in the dining hall).  I keep sleeping, and wake up in a daze around 10:00 when housekeeping comes to "hoover" (vacuum), make our beds, and clean our bathrooms (much to my detriment, the urine smell has withstood the first few cleanings).  Upon entering and seeing me in bed, though, housekeeping inevitably offers up a flustered, "Oh, oh I'm so sorry, I didn't know" apology of sorts, and then returns an hour later at the end of their shift, by which time I'm wide awake (or at least, awake).  Shortly thereafter, Joe returns from class, collapses onto the bed, and falls asleep until dinnertime.

And the next day is the same.

We have to break this cycle.  And I know we will, soon, but it's just so hard to beat it.

That is my last complaint, I swear!

Although if Joe were writing this, he might complain that he can't really fit in the shower, but as the saying goes: not my giant man-body, not my problem.

The best (or, at least, cheapest) way to get from London Stansted to Oxford: Introducing Geoff

Friday, August 21, 2015

When we didn't see Geoff, our driver, waiting for us with a sign bearing our names (as promised), we weren't quite sure what to do.  The Stansted arrival terminal is fairly small.  And yet, there was a whole crowd of drivers with signs bearing other people's names awaiting us, but none with ours.  We sat and waited for 15 minutes, believing that Geoff would arrive.  

After those minutes passed, we took turns wandering through the airport, carefully double-checking each sign to make sure it didn't say our names.  

Nope, our names -- and Geoff himself -- were still nowhere to be found. 

I gathered up a few pounds and some pence I had in my wallet from the last time I was in the UK, and headed over to a pay phone.  I had saved Geoff's phone number from the confirmation email.  I called him once, then twice.  I was hesitant to leave a message since he couldn't call us back, but at the same time, I wanted him to know we were waiting.  On my third attempt at reaching him, I left a message that said: "Hi Geoff, this is Jennifer and Joseph, and we are waiting for you at the Stansted airport.  We hired you to take us to Oxford but we can't find you.  We're calling from a pay phone so don't call us back, just come pick us up if you can.  Otherwise....."  I then trailed off as there really wasn't an "otherwise."  I think I ended the convo by saying, "Just please pick us up, thank you."

We waited until half an hour had passed.  We hadn't paid for our driver in advance, so really, there would be no harm in hiring another driver, we decided.  In fact, it would be entirely reasonable to hire another driver since we had to get to Oxford in time for our formal dinner that night, and obviously couldn't wait around all day.  I decided to head back to the pay phones to call Geoff one last time and let him know we were making other arrangements.  Before I did so, Joe casually approached the crowd of other private drivers to ask how much they would charge for a ride to Oxford.  He came back to me, shaking his head, suggesting, "Yeah, let's just wait for Geoff."  

Turns out, it would cost us 220 GBP to hire a driver on the spot to drive us to Oxford.

Back to waiting for Geoff it was. 

By that point, over 45 minutes had passed since we landed, and we were growing increasingly impatient.  So we did something we had promised ourselves we would not do not, ever, except in cases of emergency: we turned Joe's phone off of airplane mode.

Had we had wifi, this wouldn't have been a problem, but without wifi, we had to find a way to email the minicab company, and turning Joe's phone off of airplane mode was the only way to do it.

I am cringing as I type this.  Why?  Because even turning on your data for a few minutes while abroad can add hundreds of dollars in roaming charges to your cell phone bill.

I know from experience.

My fingers moving furiously, I logged into my email and saw that the minicab company had actually emailed us to let us know Geoff was on his way, but running late. They informed us he'd pick us up outside on the curb (with no signs bearing our names, though; our #firstworldproblem of the day), and even provided us with his license plate number to verify we found the right Black Mercedes.

We grabbed our bags and scrambled out the door (but not before switching Joe's phone back on to airplane mode!).  Joe and I split up -- he went to the left, I went to the right -- as we scoured the line of cars for Geoff's Black Mercedes.  I immediately saw one -- with a man in the driver's seat! -- and without bothering to verify the license plate (because this had to be Geoff), I opened the back door and threw my bag in the backseat.  The most dapper, charming, handsome, British-looking thirty-something Englishman turned his head from the driver's seat and offered me a friendly -- but surprised -- smile.  

"Hi!", I sighed with relief, preparing to jump inside. We've finally found Geoff!, I said to myself victoriously.  But then I noticed Geoff staring at me curiously, and I felt compelled to ask him, "Are you..... Geoff?"

"No", he answered politely.  "I'm afraid not."

Geoff was not Geoff, after all.

I quickly excused myself from not-Geoff's car, briefly apologized, and carried on, shamelessly undeterred.  That's when I glanced behind me and saw Joe waving me down from the other side of the street.  "I found him!", he called out to me, pointing to another Black Mercedes, this time with the real Geoff inside. 

The real Geoff was a bit older than the fake Geoff, and reminded me a lot of my mom's older cousin who we affectionately refer to as "the Monopoly man."  Geoff apologized profusely for his delay, and that point, we were just so happy to be in the real Geoff's company, that we didn't care in the slightest.    And honestly, the delay would have been no problem had we been able to check our email.  Regardless, we hopped in the backseat and it was on to Oxford we were!  

I experienced a bit of flashback-to-DC-deja-vu, watching Joe and Geoff bond.  Becoming fast friends, they talked about everything: soccer (of course), Geoff's children and grandchildren, French work ethic (???), other political matters, and Uber (which has come to London, we learned).  My main role in the conversation entailed my interjecting, "Excuse me!?", when Geoff mentioned that there was yet another tube strike in London.

But then we arrived in Oxford: our new home!  And who cared about London tube strikes then?  Not me.

If you want to hire a private driver of your own to travel from Stansted to Oxford, you can do so here.  Or, if you'd like to book through Geoff specifically, shoot me an email at: contact at jenniaustriagermany dot com and I will provide you with his personal contact information.  Thanks!

From DC to Dublin, from Dublin to London, from London to Oxford: Part 2

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

As we rounded the corner into the 'real' part of Dublin airport, I spotted an internet station.  I had some Euro coins leftover in my wallet from who-knows-when, so I pulled out a 2-euro piece and purchased 10 minutes of internet.  Mostly, I just wanted to check my email to make sure that the minicab company had received our request.  

When I opened my inbox, I saw that they had indeed received my request, and had emailed me to confirm that we'd be collected at the airport by a driver named Geoff, who'd greet us at the arrivals gate with a sign bearing our names, before driving us to Oxford in his shiny black Mercedes.  "Okay, this is the only way we travel from now on," I announced to Joe, before emailing our moms to let them know we'd landed, and emailing our professor to let him know we may be a little bit late, depending on how fast our personal driver named Geoff drives us there in his brand new, shiny Black Mercedes.  

The email didn't say anything about Geoff's car other than that it was a Mercedes, and that it was black, but I could only assume it was both shiny and brand new.

Realizing there was really no one else left to email about Geoff, we ventured on to get this so-called visa stamp in our passports, per the trusty custom agent's advice.  

Still wheeling around our bags on the miracle luggage trolley, I left Joe at the Ryan Air counter and found an airport employee to double check that this was, in fact, where we needed to get our visa stamps.  In the most charming, adorable, chirpy Irish accent, this lovely woman confirmed that we were in the right place, and she did so with the friendliest of smiles.  I smiled back, thanked her, and returned to Joe, exclaiming, "I love this place!  This airport is the best!  Everyone who works here is so nice!  Everyone loves me!  We're never leaving this country!  Except that I really can't wait to meet Geoff, so let's go!"

We then received our visa stamps, checked our bags at the counter, and printed our new boarding passes, still talking (and dreaming) about Geoff.

We had a couple of hours until our flight, so we headed upstairs to survey the dining options.  I'm no stranger to airport-celebrity-run-ins in the UK, so I advised Joe to mentally prepare himself for who or what we might see in the food court.  

Earlier in the flight, when delivering my "Lessons I Learned in Europe From Which You Might Benefit" speech, I had also advised Joe that (1) It's not uncommon to see a group of teenagers (or older) (and usually boys) congregated in public places, blaring music from their cell phones and (2) it's not uncommon for said music to be a song that is at least 3-5 years old.

As we entered the food court, we saw zero celebrities.  What we did see, however, was a group of twenty-somethings (all boys) decked out in head-to-toe Abercrombie and Fitch, crowded around a table at Burger King, blasting the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started" from a cell phone propped up against a large Coke.

I turned to Joe.

"And another thing: you will see a lot of Abercrombie and Fitch."

I'd like to say that we scoffed at the sight, rolled our eyes, and headed straight for the pseudo-sophisticated 'Garden Terrace' restaurant opposite of Burger King.  But of course, drawn to the sound of Fergie, we stepped right up to that Burger King counter and ordered my first European fast food meal in years and Joe's first European fast food meal of all time.  The veggie burger was just as good as I remembered it (I watched at the counter as it took them over 10 whole minutes to prepare, which is always comforting) and Joe ordered a breakfast sandwich that had real tomatoes on it -- real everything, to be exact.  

Every part of our BK experience seemed almost like a foregone conclusion, considering that Joe's crash course in Europe 101 had also included the pearls of wisdom: (3) 90% of the ingredients you find in American fast food are illegal in Europe, so get ready to reap the culinary benefits of an FDA that cares and (4) Be prepared to make one packet of ketchup go a very long way.

Both anecdotes rang true that day at Burger King and I reveled in my credibility as Teacher of All Things Europe.

My luck ran out, though, when my next two fun facts -- (5) You will spend all the minutes of all the Ryan Air flights daydreaming about all the non-economy airlines you'll fly one day when you have just a little more money and (6) At the end of every Ryan Air flight, the passengers will collectively offer up a round of applause upon landing, because they're just so happy that this plane actually landed in one piece and that the pilot really did know how to fly, after all -- proved themselves to be in no way true.  For example, our Ryan Air flight to London wasn't even that bad, and when the plane landed, not a single clap was heard.

Regardless, when we immediately found our luggage at baggage claim and painlessly breezed on through customs, I turned to Joe and said, "I know we thought the Dublin airport was magical, but London Stansted is really giving it a run for its money" before launching into a story about how the last time I was here, Pierce and I were about to attend a Jay-Z concert in Hyde Park.

My story was cut short, though, when we entered the Arrivals corridor realized that Geoff -- our person driver with the brand new, shiny Black Mercedes stretch limo -- was nowhere to be found.  He was nowhere in the airport, nowhere outside the airport in the taxi line, and definitely not answering his phone or emails.  

Thus, the Jay-Z story would have to wait (as will the rest of this post because it's after midnight here and I'm going to bed!).

So........See you tomorrow!

Until then, you can scratch your heads at the fact that this (see above photo) is what my hair looks like after an overnight, international flight.  Can I get a #Medusa, anyone?

From DC to Dublin, from Dublin to London, from London to Oxford: Part 1

Monday, August 10, 2015

Joe’s and my flight from DC to Dublin left in the middle of the afternoon, around 3:00.  This was a luxury of sorts; it seems that every international flight I’ve ever taken has departed sometime between 5:00 and 5:01 in the morning.  We Lyft-ed (see, it can be a verb, too) to DCA, checked our enormous backpacks, and hustled to our gate.  There we sat, in somewhat of an anxious, last-minute frenzy, knowing that these were our last precious minutes on our iPhones before we switch them into airplane mode forevermore.  Or something like that. 

In other words, this was our time to Google everything we needed to know about bus timetables!  This was our time to download the University of Oxford documents to present at customs (I wanted to have these handy, having learned my lesson last time...)!  This was our time to figure out exactly where we were going once we landed in the UK!  Because why would we have done that before sitting at the gate, ready to board our international flight?

We knew we were landing in Dublin, where we would then board a separate, Ryan Air fight from Dublin to Stanstead (this was by far the cheapest way to fly from the US to London; in fact, the collective total of all our flights were so cheap that I wondered if we’d somehow been scammed), and we knew we’d have to then make our way from Stanstead to Oxford.  As we were sitting at the gate, I had Joe open up the manila envelope containing his Oxford ‘acceptance letter’ and other related documents, and that’s when I noticed a piece of paper, at the top of which warned in big, bold letters: DO NOT FLY TO LONDON STANSTED.  WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT DO IT.  My eyes widened in horror.  I kept reading.  Basically, this document purported to outline all the reasons why it’s easier to fly into LHR or LGW; those airports run connecting buses from the terminals to Oxford High Street – the bus stop nearest to our school – and taking a taxi would be ridiculously expensive.  I had planned on our taking the Stansted Express – a rail service with which I’m very familiar – and then a connecting bus from London to Oxford.  But the more I researched this (again, researching this at our gate moments before our departure, mind you), I began to realize that because the Express journey was not direct, it was going to be really, really long (nearly 5 hours, when Stansted is only 90-120 minutes away from Oxford, and Joe had just informed me that there was a formal welcome dinner we had to attend that night in Oxford).  

We needed a new plan. 

Particularly, we needed a plan that would take us directly from Stansted to Oxford, but there was no such bus or rail service available.  The clock ticking away before we boarded our plane, I began to Google.

I Googled “cheapest way to get from London Stansted to Oxford” and came across a minicab site.  I filled out our information and got an instant quote: 120 GBP for the both of us.  I Googled some more alternatives and realized that the 120 GBP option was actually the cheapest alternative to the Stansted Express.  Plus, our Express tickets would have cost us close to 120 GBP, anyway. 

I decided to go for it.  Sitting at the airport gate, I booked our minicab (thank goodness I hadn't actually booked our Express tickets yet!).  And when I got to the final step and the website asked me, “Would you like your driver to greet you at arrivals with a sign bearing your name for only 10 extra GBP?” I caved and said, “Of course I would like that.”

Our flight from the US to the UK was so much better than our last flight.  We played cards, ate the airplane food, and played cards some more.  When Joe started to fall asleep, I opened my laptop and started writing my first post in three years.  Writing about something non-legal for once felt hopelessly foreign and strangely familiar all at the same time.  It made me wonder why I ever stopped.  And then I remembered, oh yeah – law school.

When we landed in Dublin, I did that thing where I curse myself for leaving my contacts in overnight (overnight-contact-eyes is one of my least favorite feelings in the world).  But glasses are expensive, and I no longer have vision insurance, and I was too lazy to get up and grab my contacts case from the overhead compartment to take them out for the plane ride, so I had only myself to blame, I suppose.

When Joe finally woke up (as the plane touched down), I was downright giddy.  “We’re in Dublin!!!!!!!!” I cried, ever so gleefully.  Joe has never been to Europe before and Europe is kind of my thing, if you haven’t noticed, so this was just such a big deal. 

As we de-boarded the plane and walked through the terminal toward customs, the sky was overcast with light rain.  Looking out the giant, floor-to-ceiling airport windows, Joe quickly declared his love for Ireland.  “We have to come back here; this place is awesome.  Promise me we’ll come back here soon.” 

[Due to Joe's persistent requests, I’m already planning a trip there for us this winter, and I’m thinking we’ll have to pay Mrs. Doyle a visit.... he would really get a kick out of that.]

Going through customs was a breeze, shockingly enough.  There was virtually no line, so we hastily scribbled through our declaration cards and made our way to the custom’s window.  We were prepared to show Joe’s letter of acceptance, but never needed to.  Glancing at our cards, the agent noticed that we had a connecting flight to London.  “Ryan Air?” he asked me.  I nodded.  “Take your passports and your boarding passes around the corner, out the door, and down the hall on your first left.  You’ll need to get your boarding passes stamped with a visa stamp.  Ryan Air can do it for you at check-in, but they’ll charge you a fee for it”, he helpfully explained.  “Of course they will,” I responded with a healthy dose of sarcasm.  He chuckled in agreement.  And that was it!  No more questions, we were done!  My elation increasing by the minute, I squeezed Joe’s arm as we headed out of customs and remarked, “Did you notice me and the custom’s agent joking about Ryan Air?  It’s like I never left; they love me here.”  Joe was kind enough to concur, “Yeah!  That’s exactly what that meant.”

Onward to baggage claim!

Our good luck continued as we made it to baggage claim and I found an empty luggage trolley just sitting near an empty carousel.  I freaked.  “Joe!!  It’s just sitting here!!  That means we don’t have to pay for it!!”  When he asked me why we’d have to pay for it, I told him, “Because usually they’re connected to other carts and the only way you can get one is in exchange for a coin – usually 1 or 2 euro.  It's a miracle!!!!” 

This would be the beginning of a long series of freak-outs-over-things-that-are-free, except in this case, the freak-out wasn’t even valid; I later discovered that the pay-for-your-trolley thing is pretty much exclusive to non-UK countries, so all of the trolleys at the Dublin airport (and London airports) are free.  Oh, well.  In the moment, I was ecstatic (manic?), and that is all that matters.

More of my mania in Part 2, tomorrow.  And if you thought thought Part 1 was good, Part 2 involves my reunion with the European Burger King (to be outdone only bye the European McDonald’s), so.... it’s gonna be good.  

And if you thought Part 1 was not at all good but actually completely unexciting and fairly pointless, then.... you are probably not alone.

Either way, see ya tomorrow!

5 Restaurants to Try (or Not to Try) in D.C.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Here are some places I do and do not recommend when looking for the best restaurants in DC.  Because, believe it or not, we did branch out and try some restaurants that were not Amsterdam Falafel.

Doi Moi, in theory, is a place I would normally love.  However, my experience here was subpar due entirely to the service (think: the type of wait staff who talks you out of what you really want to order, talks you into ordering a totally different meal, and then gets that order wrong).  Food has to be really good in order to trump bad service in my book...  The friends we were with made the evening an enjoyable one, but I’d pass on Doi Moi if I were you.  Thus, I have no photos of the restaurant or food to share, but here’s a pic of us with one of the aforementioned friends, notable only because the person on the far right looks nothing at all like my husband, yet is, in fact, my husband.

Ted’s Bulletin gets all the thumbs up, so much so that just typing this is making me hungry.  Talk about good service; this place was the opposite of Doi Moi, service-wise (and, everything-else-wise).   But let me back up: when I walked in, I immediately felt a bout of anxiety just looking at the menu.  Do you know that feeling, where you walk into a restaurant and everything looks so good that having to decide what to order stresses you out to the point you just want to leave?  I ultimately settled on ordering a blueberry pop-tart (all their pop-tarts are homemade and yes, they’re just as amazing as that sounds).  When I asked if I could get it served warm, with a glass of whole milk, 2 amazing things happened: (1) the woman serving me accidentally broke my pop-tart in half when she picked it up, causing the manager to instruct her to give me two pop-tarts instead of one and (2) the woman serving me told me they didn’t have whole milk listed on the menu, causing the manager to say, “But we have whole milk here, so just pour her a glass.”  I ate both pop-tarts and most of Joe’s brownie (sorry, Joe) (but I’m also not sorry because that brownie was incredible).  Not only do I recommend Ted’s Bulletin, but I recommend that you take me with you when you go.

I've heard that Pop's Ice Cream Company in Alexandria is an Old Town favorite, and the long lines and crowded dining area suggest just as much.  I’d been there once before, and hadn’t loved it, but I decided to try it again.  I think it’s pretty average as far as ice cream goes, but most people come for the old-timey d├ęcor and overall nostalgic vibe, which I get.  There’s an ice cream shop directly across the street from Pop's, though, and next time I’m in Old Town, I'll try it out instead.  

Joe and I walked into 2 Amy’s at 2:00 on a weekday and it was insanely crowded.  We almost turned around, but they were able to seat us immediately and the service was fast.  We decided to share an appetizer (the asparagus dipped in balsamic reduction),  a pizza (the Neopolitan), and an order of the arancini.  The appetizer and pizza were fine (nothing spectacular) but don’t get me started on the arancini (especially when dipped in the leftover balsamic reduction).  I would move to DC for that arancini alone, so yes – 2 Amy’s is recommended indeed, so much so that it even gets its own photo collage!

GoodStuff Eatery, I love you.  I’d been here once before and it only took one trip to get me hooked; the toasted marshmallow shake?  Oh, come on – that can’t be real.  I’ve never actually eaten a meal here because the shake is all I care about, but this time I upgraded to a shake and a chocolate chip cookie and I did not regret it.  Nope, I did not regret that one bit.  Joe and I walked to Good Stuff and were sweating from the heat, so we sat upstairs, watching tennis on the restaurant TV, just basking in the air conditioning and all our sugary glory.  My mouth is watering just typing this; it was that good.  So while I have no experience with any of the actual food, I can recommend the dessert menu, and I do so highly.

On our last morning in DC, we had brunch reservations at the ever-popular LeDiplomat.  Sadly, I ended up cancelling them so we could pack and get more organized for our flight later that day, but that just means we have even more reason to come back to DC (as if Amsterdam Falafel, Ted’s Bulletin, and Good Stuff’s toasted marshmallow shake weren’t reason enough).

Surprisingly, Monday’s post is not actually called ‘The Intervention: Joining Sugar Addicts Anonymous.’  On the contrary, in Monday’s post, we finally board our plane to the UK!  

Have a good weekend!