December 20, 2004

Final Days

Well, Norwood and I have just had our last Indian takeout meal in England. I was so sure that I would start to miss having really good Mexican food part-way through our time here but it never really happened and I think that is because there was so much good Indian and Kashmiri food around here. Since we can't afford to go out much here on campus, we've esp. enjoyed getting Indian takeaway meals at the supermarket or getting a Kashmiri dish called balti, which is especially popular in this part of England and very very good. I think it is one thing that we will really miss about going back to Austin. We've been spending today and tomorrow tying up loose ends, saying goodbye to friends, leaving Christmas cards for those we won't get to see, and cleaning the flat and packing. We will be spending Wednesday in London and fly back to the states on Thursday so I'll try to write about our last day in London when I'm back in CA. I also wanted to mention one esp. fun thing we got to do last week.

My friend Diana came to visit from CA for a few days before going on to Edinburgh to visit another friend. Since she was flying in to nearby Birmingham we took her bags to the left luggage counter and showed her around Brum for awhile. It was especially nice bec. the sun came out temporarily and they have a German Christmas Market set up in the pedestrianised shopping streets. We had been to Brum once before and it was fun, if a bit wet. There is a huge complex of malls and other shops, one of the biggest of its kind in Europe and people come from all over Europe to go shopping there bec. everything is all in one place. The German Christmas Market was set up a few years ago bec. so many German stall owners in Frankfurt couldn't get stall space in the highly competitive and packed traditional market there. Instead they have been coming over to Birmingham and setting up an alternative market that has been very popular. Apparently there are some older German women who married British soldiers after the war and they haven't had many chances to speak their native language so they enjoy going to the market every year and talking to the vendors in German. I was really looking forward to seeing the market bec. it is the biggest of it's kind outside of Germany and Austria and I'd heard so much about them from my Uncle Don. It was a nice market but somewhat limited in what they sold--I was hoping to see more handcrafted ornaments and nativity scenes, there were some but not a lot and some vendors seemed to sell the exact same things just at different ends of the market. Still it was fun to look around and toward the other end of the market were lots of food stalls. I tried the Kirschwein, a sort of mulled wine with a strong black cherry flavor to it--very good. And I insisted on trying one of the German sausages on a roll with mustard. They were grilling regular bratwursts and 'red' bratwursts which were a little spicier and seemed to be a special sausage sold for the British market. I got a red one and after Norwood and Diana tried a taste of mine, they both quickly caved in and got some red sausages too. Norwood liked his so much that we decided to chip in and share a regular Bratwurst which was possibly even a bit better than the red ones. We eventually moved on to the regular shops and malls in the area, but I think going to that Christmas market made Norwood and me just want to go to one of the really big ones in Germany or Austria even more.

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