South Kensington

The South Kensington area of London houses several museums and the famous Harrods department store.

Since I only had a few hours, I spent all my time at the Victoria & Albert Museum, which houses a variety of collections of artifacts and paintings and just everything from medieval times until today.  The museum is massive and I couldn’t finish it, but had a wonderful time just perusing around the museum, learning about Christian art, looking at stone and metal work, and even seeing some of Queen Victoria’s personal belongings.

V&A Museum Courtyard

We then walked over to Harrod’s, on Brompton Road.  The store is over a block long and is just HUGE!

Harrod’s

Famous for their high end retail along with their food halls and such, Harrod’s is a tourist attraction in and of itself.  The foodhalls especially had us mesmerized, as four large rooms sold just food, from prepared sandwiches and salads to a room dedicated to chocolate and tea, to bakeries to meat to produce to stalls for dim sum and sushi.

Food Hall

I’m not going to lie, I love the place.  The store is so much fun to walk around and peruse, and to find a quick bite to eat!

Brick Lane

The Brick Lane area, also known as Banglatown, is home to the Bangladeshi population in London.  Curry houses line the streets while graffiti art lights up the walls.

Streets of Brick Lane on a rainy afternoon

Although lined with curry houses galore, after much reading, Indian food elsewhere in London is supposed to be better.  However, we were hungry and wet, so we went into a random restaurant to eat.  I ordered garlic naan and butter chicken.  The naan was so warm and delicious, but the butter chicken became too heavy after a few bites.

Garlic Naan

Butter Chicken

Wandering around the streets of Brick Lane you will notice all the graffiti art that lights up the neighborhood.  It makes you wonder who did it, its significance, how the community feels about it, etc.

The Brick Lane “beigels” are a must.  Two stores sit next to each other, but the one on the left is supposedly the better of the two.  Since I only had room in my stomach for one (SHOCKER!), a trip back is a must in order to really test which one should be crowned king.

I am so in love with this city.  So much so that I’ve been slacking on updates and going out to explore instead.  It’s my final week here (even though I’m still writing about week one… oops) and I’m definitely going to live it up! 🙂

Camden Market

One of the most eclectic and unique areas of London is Camden Town.  This area houses several different markets and a bunch of little botiques.  It was super reminiscent of Mong Kok in Hong Kong, with stalls selling basically the same merchandise (all from China by the way) but with a few unique and special stores sprinkled throughout.

The weekends are the best, but busiest, times to go because of all the food stalls around.  I love London markets because they are food havens, with everything and anything you could want.  Special to Camden is Chin Chin Labs, London’s first nitrogen ice cream shop.  Three flavors are featured, Valrhona chocolate, Madagascar vanilla, and a special flavor.  You then choose a sauce and topping to go along with your ice cream.

How to order
The pouring of liquid nitrogen
Valrhona chocolate with raspberry sauce and hazlenut crunch

The ice cream is so smooth and creamy, and the chocolate especially rich.  The raspberry sauce complemented the chocolate perfectly and I cannot wait to go back and eat more!

For lunch I had some Turkish wrap, that was filled with chicken, spinach, and mozzarella.  It was grilled and surprisingly super flavorful.

Food seating area

Camden is full of quirkiness and fun, and is a must for any tourist or local!

Getting Lost in London

The theme over the past two weeks has been getting lost in London.  Not that that’s a bad thing.  By no means.  And the second day, we most definitely found ourselves getting lost all over.  We took the long route to find the British Museum and chilled there before wandering over to Covent Garden and just walking around the streets.

British Museum
Reading Room

The British Museum houses artifacts from all eras, from Ancient Egypt to Medieval times to modern day.  The collection is too vast to cover within a day, so be picky and choosy to make sure you cover what you want to see!

Rosetta Stone

We stumbled upon Naru nearby, a cute little Korean restaurant.  A 5.90 lunch deal didn’t sound too bad, so I ordered bibimbap with chicken, and it was light and refreshing yet super flavorful!

Bibimbap!

We wandered to Covent Garden, which is a large shopping area with both large chain stores as well as small boutiques and loads of restaurants and cafes.  The area is also known for its street performers and magicians, which line the streets and side roads, bringing entertainment to large tourist audiences.

Covent Garden

Lauderee has opened a shop there, and since it was the first Lauderee I found, I just had to try to macaron of course!  I can’t wait to go to France to try them all day everyday!  But this macaron was so light and airy and fresh.  I can’t say if it was the best yet, but I’ll let you know in a couple more weeks!

Lauderee macaron case

 The Icecreamists is also located in Covent Garden, so I just had to try it.  Asking the server his favorite, I got the espresso and chocolate sorbet.  Man, is the chocolate sorbet to DIE for.  So creamy and good and messy, I would go back there and wait in line just for that.  It may be a little pricey, but totally worth it.  The espresso no, but chocolate sorbet, yes.

It’s already been a good start to my food adventures in Europe and I just can’t wait for more!  I feel like in 2 weeks, I’ve gained like 30 pounds with the way I’ve been eating!  I have at least one treat a day.  Oh man, I don’t want to look at the scale when I get home!

Just touched down in Londontown!

So I’ve been in London for about a week now… and I must say, I’m LOVING it!  The city itself is sooooo amazing!  It’s so big and there’s so much to do and see, it’s almost ridiculous.  It’s overwhelming at times and it’s so easy to get lost, but thankfully everything’s in English and most of the time we’ve been going around with our TA Alex (who knows the place like the back of his hand).  THe first two days, I was on my own with another girl from my program and we just walked around and explored parts of the city.

Traveling from the airport to our hotel was a struggle.  The instructions on the hotel’s website wasn’t clear and being dumb, I forgot to print out the map… so we ended up walking around for like an hour lugging our suitcases (mine was like 53 pounds!) and found out it was like around the block from the Tube (subway) station….. I would do that.  We finally found our hotel though!  It looked like just a regular house on the block so it was hard to find!

After settling in for a little, we decided to head over to Oxford Circus, London’s busiest shopping area.  It was crazy packed on a Friday afternoon and reminded me so much of Hong Kong’s TST area and Causeway Bay.  I loved it!  I’ve really missed all the hustle and bustle of a big city, so this was perfect for me!

Oxford Circus

We walked around a bit, just window shopping before popping into a random restaurant to eat dinner.  I had a caprese panini, and it was good, but food in London is SUPER expensive!  Take the price in the USA and just put a pound sign in front and that’s how much it is.  Almost twice the cost!  Oh how I wish I could afford to live here!

We then walked over to Leicester Square, where many theaters are held and large electronic billboards light up the area.  Kinda Times Squares-esque, but with old London buildings as the backdrop.

We then walked over to the very close Trafalgar Square.  One of these days, I WILL climb the lions.  But not when I’m super tired and jetlagged.  Or in a skirt.  But it’s a must before I leave!

Trafalgar Square

Since we were just wandering anyways, we made our way to the Embankment area, which follows along the Thames River.  We found the Charing Cross bridge, which holds magnificent views of the London Eye and the Big Ben.  For a while, we were like, hey, there’s a big clock, but I wasn’t sure if it was the Big Ben.  Until I realized that it was.  Fail.

Charing Cross Bridge

LONDONNNNN

I have definitely fallen in love with this city in a matter of days.  I can’t wait to explore some more and just see what else this city has to offer!

Simpatica Dining Hall – Portland

This past weekend, I traveled back home to celebrate the sister’s birthday.  As brunch is our favorite meal of all time (okay, mine is probably dessert, but brunch is most definitely a close second), and Portland is the brunch mecca, my family has been sampling various brunch hotspots almost every week (usually without me!).  Simpatica Catering and Dining Hall located in SE Portland serves a prefixed dinner on Friday and Saturday nights and serves brunch on Sundays.  Since the menu changes weekly, you never know what will be featured for brunch the day you go in.  All you know is that it will be delicious beyond measure!

Famous for their chicken and waffles, this week featured a belgian waffle with cherry syrup.  The waffle was crisp and light, and the cherry syrup complemented the waffle.

Fried Chicken and Waffles

The sister, being a lover of anything smoked salmon, got the smoked salmon hash, which featured summer squash and a corn relish.  Claiming it’s the best smoked salmon scramble she’s had to date, I’ll believe her!

Since I love my sweets, I always order pancakes or french toast for brunch.  The special of pancakes with a mixed berry syrup instantly caught my attention and I immediately knew that was the dish for me.  The pancakes were perfectly light and airy, and the chantilly cream was just the cherry on top.  And the side of house-cured bacon was perfection.

Simpatica is definitely a new favorite of ours and I know it’ll probably become a regular soon enough (after we, or they, finish sampling all the other Portland brunches).  It’s always an adventure finding out what’s on the menu when you’re seated, and I can’t wait to try more of their dishes!

Roaming Ballard

Two weeks ago, my happy hour girls and I went on to roam around Ballard.  We started with happy hour at Matador, where their dishes are $5 each, and MASSIVE.  The nachos were overwhelming and the calamari and quesadilla were also on par.  Especially for $5!  What a steal!

After filling our bellies full of good food, we ventured right across the street to BalMar for drinks.  We were hoping that they had their sangria in, but sadly, it was not.  Sarah calls it the best sangria she has ever had… I hope I’ll have the chance to try it!

We finally ended the night with dessert.  Because like I always say, dessert is a totally separate stomach.  We walked a few blocks over to D’Ambrosio, a quaint little gelato shop in the heart of Ballard.  The pistachio and tiramisu flavors are to die for.  Just thinking about it is making my mouth water!  Not the best in Seattle (go to Bottega Italiana for that), but it is certainly up there!

I love being 21!  Going out to happy hour, drinks, and dessert are all perks… and I love just spending some quality time with a few of my favorite people in Seattle!

P.S. FIVE DAYS TILL LONDON!