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It's an Exciting World

The life and times of David Geisert

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London, Week 8

We got back to the kitties after Florence and they were glad to see us. We got a lot of cuddles.

We tried to go out to a comedy club on Wednesday, but they ran out of spots. We got there before the hosts, and didn’t go to sign up until it was too late. I still had a great time chatting with Jon while out drinking. We also got to go to the King Charles 1st, which is the closest pub to our flat. The pub was fine, but not a place we would likely go back to.

Thursday we tried our first Waitrose cooking class. It was pretty fun, and they had a good mix of things to do. We made ramen, including making the pasta from scratch. It wasn’t very hard, we would just have to buy the right ingredients and mix it in the right proportions again.

Saturday we had a full day in South London. We started out heading to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which had great works, and I liked the way they laid out the art and information. They had a special gallery dedicated to an artist that was studying a specific Reuben’s in the adjacent gallery and it was interesting to see the way the artist interpreted it.

Second we grabbed lunch at a place that served Turkish fondu and shakshuka. We got the spicy version of fondu and it was delicious.

Third we went to the Horniman Museum and gardens. The exhibits were well done, but it was a little depressing to see taxidermy so old. Most of the colors had faded and some of the taxidermy was not well done. It was also full of screaming children, and the big stone building amplified the screams. I don’t know why, but children there screamed a lot more than at other museums we’d been to; maybe it was the taxidermy. We had a nice walk through the gardens, even though not much was showing signs of life.

Finally we headed to Ninth Life, which was an amazing bar. They had little scenes that you could peep into through spyholes, including one that was full of rubber duckies. They had lots of cat themed art, and the building facade was painted like a cat had clawed it, but with bright colors. There is a giant cat statue on a sign across the street, and they had pop art takes on the sign.

We were there for the Smoking Caterpillar game, which was fun, but not exactly our kind of experience. It had lots of immersive theater and escape room aspects, but the direct interactions with the characters wasn’t something we were as interested in. I wanted to figure out each puzzle, but since the room was full of people going at the puzzles, it wasn’t even close to possible. The ones we did work on were done decently well. I had a good time, and the bar itself was amazing. If the bar were near us I’d probably want to go back.

Florence

Steph and I took the tube to Victoria and the the Gatwick Express to Gatwick Wednesday evening. We caught the plane to Florence, which left on time, then a quick cab ride to downtown Florence by midnight. It was about six hours of travel total, with almost 2 hours at the airport in a pretty nice lounge. Our AirBnB in Florence was right by the Ponte Vecchio, on the city side of the river. The wifi was down at the AirBnB and the thick stone building blocked cell signal, so it was an interesting week. Especially since I was still working Thursday and Friday evenings.

Thursday morning we went to the Uffizi Gallery. It was huge and had so many amazing works by well known artists. Steph and I got really tired of all the baby Jesus, but the rest of it was really amazing. I especially enjoyed the ceilings in the main hallway on the top floor. They seemed to be a feature many people just glanced at as they walked by, but each panel was unique and referenced a lot of the art in the galleries. I had my meetings along the river next to the Ponte Vecchio, which was really nice.

Friday we had a full day. Early in the morning we climbed up the Duomo and got a view from the roof, as well as from high up inside the dome. It was amazing, and the most definite must do thing while in Florence. We then stopped by the Academy to see the David, and made our way across the Rive to the Pitti Palace. The Palace was just as large as the Uffizi, but the names weren’t quite as impressive. The art there would still have been the prize of any US museum. The tables were especially amazing with the intricate stone inlays. We took a walk through the gardens behind the palace as well, which were extensive and well kept. We found all sorts of mushrooms in the gardens, including lions mane, chanterelles, coral mushrooms, and turkey tails. That evening we went to one of the places we saw on the Stanley Tucci series on Italy for it’s wine window. The window was so cute, and we met some Australians there, who we might show around London if they come in Feb.

Saturday we left the city and went to the Tuscan countryside, specifically in the Chianti region. We were there for the truffle hunting with three adorable dogs, but there was so much more. Walking through the countryside during the truffle hunt was so nice, and then we had the wine and olive oil from the property as well. They make their own truffle oil, which we bought. During the walk we (the dogs) managed to find twenty or so decently sized black truffles, with one tiny white truffle. I was amazed at how well they did. The people that we walked around with were also amazing. We got to hear about the architecture from a professor who comes to Florence each year for several weeks to teach a class on architecture. So amazing, and we have a great list if we are to ever go back to Florence. We also chatted with a Canadian investment banker turned ice cream maker, and someone who works for the same company as me. They served us an amazing multi-course meal and let us shave as much of the truffle onto our food as we wanted. When we got back to the AirBnB I accidentally locked us out, and Steph spent the next hour messaging people to get us back in. I know I should never keep the keys for an automatically locking door, that is one of the reasons I installed keypad entry on our house in Redwood City. We still managed to have a nice dinner, then called it a little early.

Sunday we went on a wine tour of the Chianti region which was nice, although the truffle experience the previous day made it a little paler in comparison. We still had a great time, and some really good food and wine. The people were also self selecting for the alcohol instead of the truffles. We still got to see some really pretty estates.

Monday morning we got up at 4:30 to catch the plane back to the UK, and I made it to work by 9:30.

Prague

Steph and I gave the kitties lots of extra food and water, put out an extra litter box, and gave them lots of cuddles. We need to get the extra key fob to leave for a cat sitter, which has been a whole thing.

We caught the ThamesLink train to Luton Airport Parkway without too much issue. The ticket didn’t really say where the train could be caught, and we found it in St. Pancras after scouring the boards at King’s Cross. We hopped the bus to the airport and found out our plane was delayed 2.5 hours. That plus the lounge being closed made the wait a long and bothersome one. I would have just worked, but I didn’t bring the work computer or a headset, since we were travelling light.

We got to Prague with ultimately only 1.5 hours of delay, and Dave met us at the airport. We rode the bus, to get to the subway, then took the tram to the city center. His place is right across the way from our hotel, the Mosaic House. It is an interesting hotel with lots of art outside and in.

We walked through the old town going to a few Christmas markets. We got a mulled wine drink with a piece of fruit in the bottom that was pretty tasty, although I like the British mulled wine better. We walked by some of the historic areas including the church crypt that got shot up after a nazi assassination. We went around to find a decent bar and ended up at Propaganda. It was a small bar with a young rebellious feel, but quiet enough to have a conversation. Dave is an interesting guy, and we talked with him for hours before realizing how late it was and heading back to the hotel.

The next morning Steph and I grabbed a lovely breakfast at a place by the river that Dave recommended, which had some nice french breakfast dishes. We decided to find some of the strange elevators that are continuously running. We found the upside down horse statue and elevator with an observation deck in the middle of the city, but it was closed. Then we went to the main square with the astronomical clock. We walked around there for a bit in the Christmas markets before heading to City Hall, where they have on of the paternosters in the back. We rode those for a bit, including going through the horizontal interchange.

We walked back to the clock and watched it go off, which was neat. It was amazing for the time. We walked to the national museum and met Dave in Wenceslas square.

We ate some Christmas market food, then headed into the museum. We went through the museum for hours, as it has all sorts of amazing exhibits. We didn’t make it through the whole thing, but eventually had to leave from it getting late. Then we had a nice dinner and beers at U Fleků. Their dark beer was amazing, and I got the goulash with dumplings, also amazing.

The next day Steph and I grabbed breakfast at the same spot along the rive, and then we walked the river for a bit up to the Charles Bridge and back. It was a lovely walk and we saw lots of the old city. There were lots of birds out on the water including coots, swans, mallards, and seagulls. We also saw the water rat nutria swimming along the bank and over to some logs; which could easily have been mistaken for a beaver.

We then split up and she went to train martial arts with Dave, while I put on an audio book and walked around the city. I walked the river south for a bit, then went into the city to check out several of the smaller parks. I made my way up to Wenceslas Square and circled it, going through all the shopping arcades, and there were many.

The stores are strange an interesting and have such odd combinations of things they advertise in the windows. Below is my favorite example. They have nutcrackers, bongs, crystal swans, coca cola, lucky cats, steins, snow globes, and nested dolls.

I met back up with the others for dinner at a surprisingly good Mexican restaurant, that is on par with the good ones in the bay area. We had Dave’s wife, Petra, and kid with us. The kid was not having a good day, and the mitigation of buying him one of the light up balloons backfired in that we had him trying to bop us with the balloon all dinner. We headed back to one of the nearby Christmas markets and chatted with Dave a bit. He got us some more of the traditional Czech food and drink. Petra took the kid home and Dave followed an hour later. Steph and I spent the rest of the evening at the hotel bar enjoying our complementary drinks.

The next day Dave gave us a guide for a nice walk around the Castle. We started out with a nice long walk along the river. Then went there and enjoyed one of the museums. There was a balcony at one of the museums there with an amazing view of Prague. The rest of the castle complex was gorgeous, with the cathedral being the most imposing central part. The Gargoyles were drooling as the snow was melting off the top of the cathedral. The royal gardens were closed, and we walked a little ways down the moat. We also got to watch the changing of the guard by chance of being there at noon. We continued down the hill and saw the Lennon Wall, which is a peace monument. The road continued to the waterwheel with the Old Greg type character, and then on to the cute plaza below the Charles bridge.

We stopped by the Rubber Ducky store, then joined Dave for lunch at the Globe bookstore and cafe. Petra and the kid also joined us and we walked to the station together and they told us how to get to the airport. The flight was slightly delayed, but nothing too bad, we hit everything just right to make the train back to King’s Cross and the kitties. Lana was hiding and Archer was ready for attention just as expected.

Getting to London

As our time in the Bay Area was winding down we had a few things happen. First I got covid, most likely from Steph’s family in Hawaii. Then Steph got it from me. We also had a lot to get done with the move. We sold our cars. We sold, gave away, or got rid of our furniture and electronics. And we prepared for our house to be rentable. For the last few days I was there, and the last week Steph was there the house was completely empty. We were using camping gear on the floor.

The movers game to get our pile of stuff for the air shipment and the ground shipment, then I was off to Atlanta.

I got to the UK and was able to get all my stuff and onto the underground without issues. I was about an hour late, but the upgrade to business class was nice enough to make me not mind it so much. I got to our new apartment in a building complex called Ice Wharf. I checked in and put my stuff down, but had to get to King’s Cross to meet up with Irene.

We had a nice walk along the canal to where she was staying in Camden. Then we headed to the grocery store and back to my place. She was so kind and made dinner for the two of us while I unpacked and got things ready for Steph and the kitties to arrive.

The next day I did some shopping to get the last few things that were really needed for the kitties and Steph on arrival. I then had a long wait for news of the kitties, but luckily they were doing just fine. Steph showed up shortly before the cats, and we brought them up into the bedroom. They were traumatized, and Lana even sounded horse from meowing so much in transit. Archer hid under the clothes hamper and Lana found a way under the bed. We gave them some time to relax and went to the grocery store again. Irene came over for dinner again, bringing some soup, and we chatted for a while and checked in on the cats often.

Archer and Lana were ready to explore the apartment the next morning and were almost back to their normal selves by the middle of the next day. I was so relieved that they were quick to adjust. They especially like the views from the windows.

Thanksgiving in Atlanta

I was able to stop over in Atlanta as I moved from San Francisco Bay Area to London. I arrived after a red eye at 5am. The large bag pickup didn’t open until 5:30 so I waited around a bit for the guitar my dad had made to show up. My mom came down to the airport to get me. While she is an early rise, that was still very early for her and something I’m thankful for.

We headed to their house and she and I talked for a few hours before my dad got up. Even though I was tired and didn’t sleep well on the plane, I wanted to make sure I was adjusting to the earlier time zone, and then some.

We spent Thanksgiving at my parents house. Jeff, Katie, Elise, Kim, and Grace came over. Grace was cute, and we played some hide and seek. Elise and Grace had a great time together. They put on a little parade with some drunks and a harmonica.

Jeff and Katie brought over most of the food. I was pretty much useless at this point from the lack of sleep so Dad and I played some Gin. He beat me, which was the first time in many years.

Over the rest of the weekend Mom and I went on nice walk, we went to the club for breakfast, and I was able to move some stuff around for them.

We also were able to make it to Birmingham to see Nana. She is doing better than last time I saw her. She followed along with the conversation well and knew who I was. Everyone else seemed to be doing well, too.

They dropped me off at the airport Sunday evening and I was off to London.

Hawaii with the Lees

On Thursday, Steph and I got to the airport pretty early, and were already in the boarding line by the time her parents got there. They were able to board immediately, so we didn’t actually see them until we were in Hawaii. We grabbed the rental car and went to the hotel. Steph and I were ready for a walk after the plane trip, so we headed down to Waikiki and walked along the beach.

A friend of mine, Brian, was staying only a few blocks away for a few months, and we reached out to him, he got back to us that he was finishing up his remote work around 3pm, so we could meet up for a walk and drinks. We had a great conversation with him and planned to see him again on Monday.

That evening we met up with a large group of the Lee family for dinner at a restaurant one of the relatives owned and several others worked at. It was a fantastic Japanese style dinner, with some great curry, amazing sushi, and poke nachos. I met some of the cousins I already knew and was able to meet their boyfriends, who were pretty cool.

The next day we went on a dive out of Island Divers Hawaii. They were a pretty well run operation compared to the previous extremely sketchy place I dove with before, with a large open dive boat. The first dive site we went to was Coco Craters, which seems to be the popular dive site where all the boats take tourists because it’s shallow and there aren’t any delicate coral formations for newbies to accidentally destroy. It looked like a moonscape with just white dead coral everywhere. I still saw a number of fish, but not many. The second dive site was a drift dive called Angler’s Reef, which had a lot more fish and gorgeous coral formations. We saw a school of puffer fish, about 20 of them, on that dive.

The next day we dropped Steph’s parents at the airport, as they were taking a day trip to Maui. Then we went to pick up some mochi in a little shop next to some construction companies. It was a hole in the wall, but delicious. We also stopped by Zippy’s to get a loco moco. It was everything I expected it to be.

We then met with Krista and Daniel and drop out to Sunset Beach. There we met with Travis, who is quite the spearfisher and freediver. We went out with him and did a little free diving, but I had only brought my mask for scuba diving, and so didn’t have a snorkle. I was able to participate, but didn’t get a great dive as I couldn’t really fully catch my breath. We found a small arch and each of us swam through it. It was about 15ft down and only 4 to 5 feet across with 2 foot clearance. While out diving with Travis, we had a massive military cargo plane fly over at maybe 100ft off the water.

Marissa and Sterling showed up with an absurd amount of food, especially considering Travis had also brought enough to feed all of us. Daniel stayed on the beach for the most part. When he did finally try to come down to the water he found the only rock on the beach and tripped over it, face planting into the sand. His dog, Belle was adorable, and a ton of fun to play with as she chased after a coconut, and then ripped it up when she got it.

Travis headed out to catch some fish, and managed to get 5 of them, including 2 big ones.

We headed back and spent the night in. With the next morning being pretty lazy. We decided Sunday was the day for malassadas at Leonard’s. Malassadas are a fried dough originally from the Portuguese islands. We grabbed the malassadas and headed to the Kuliouou Ridge trail. We got up to the halfway point and had a rest with some malassadas. We climbed the stairs up the rest of the way and had some great views and some more malassadas. Then we rushed down and had the last one at the bottom.

We got back to the hotel in time, but needed a restful afternoon before the big family dinner. We went to the dinner and I got to meet many of Steph’s cousins. I showed some of them the VR headset and they seemed to like it. Travis showed us his trophy fish prints, which were amazing. He had caught some massive fish, and the prints themselves were masterfully done.

The next day we tried to find a place that would do mochi waffles, and we found one in a hotel a little ways away. We got there and it was a fancy hotel, but the waffles weren’t nearly as good as the ones Tina makes. The view was great and we got to watch some wing foils doing tricks during breakfast. After that we hung out at the hotel and on the beach until it was time to meet up with Brian. We did a nice dinner at the Highway Inn for some real Hawaiian food, with his first time having poi. He thought much the same as I did, that it is bland and not good on its own. The rest of the food was amazing.

I tried to see the eclipse that evening, but it could only get a blurry glimpse through the clouds.

The next morning we were informed that Chu Chu got Covid, and the Lees tested before we got on the flight. I tested once we got back, all negatives. The flight wasn’t too bad, but the guy sitting next to Steph had some bad BO.

We got home and the kitties were so happy to see us. It was a good trip, and it was nice to see Steph’s family before moving.

Beat Saber Dance Group

Ever since Tina and I played Beat Saber together in the Tahoe cabin, I wanted to get a group of Expert+ players together to get a video of us all moving in sync.  I put the call out at work and was able to get a few together for it. 

Napa with Ricardo and Irene

Irene and Ricardo had us over to their new place in Fairfield.  They had gotten the place a few months ago as part of going to MBA programs in Berkeley and Davis.  They were mostly able to work remotely, but going to classes and taking tests required them to actually show up in person at the Universities.  We got there and they showed us their still empty house.  They didn’t have much furniture yet, but they had some really nice art pieces and a place for both of them to work.  They had a mattress on the floor and a plan for how they would fill up the rest of the house.

They took us to breakfast at a really nice restaurant that was in one of the nicer Napa hotels.  It was a great atmosphere and delicious food.  We then went to the first winery that had a fantastic garden patio where we were able to try some delightful wines.  They had a pretty good range, and the 2020 was clearly a smoky vintage from all the fires.  It was one of the first times I could really connect the land and my knowledge of what happened there to the taste of a wine.  Even though those vineyards didn’t burn, the ash that coated the grapes must have contributed to the flavor.

The second winery was a modern geometric construction at the top of a hill.  It had a pretty lawn and phenomenal view.  We got the sparkling wine and it went great with the view.  We had some great conversations and made plans to see each other in Europe.  Dinner was in Downtown Napa at a nice Mexican restaurant.  We said our goodbyes as it was getting pretty late for Steph and I with an hour and a half drive back home for the evening.

Moving to London

Steph and I have decided to move to London.  This has been a crazy process of hoping for Portugal, maybe settling for Spain, and then firmly committing to London.  We will be moving with the support of my employer, and have been helped along the way by all sorts of family and friends.  We will be living right next to King’s Cross Station in Islington.  The neighborhood looks nice, and our block is tucked up next to the canal.  I’m hoping we can spend a few years there, travelling Europe and figuring out where we want to be long term.  This will hopefully be a stepping stone to our future, and give us an idea of where we would really like to be, and what we would like to do, long term.

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