9/27/14

Bath: Earl Grey Tea and Almond Croissants

The Royal Crescent
Continuing my belated storytelling of England this summer.

It's amazing how food can affect the way you view a place. It can change the entire experience, either for better or worse. I think that happened with me and Bath.

Our third trip took us on a three part, over-night journey. We were taking a bus to Stonehenge, then to Bath, Somerset, where we would spend the night in a hostel. The next morning we would drive to Stourhead House to explore the famous grounds before making it home for supper.

The trip started off on a bad foot, because the bus ride was a pretty miserable experience. This goes back to the position the UK holds on air conditioning (it's unnecessary). The bus was a double decker, carpet-upholstered thing, and did not have AC. Not only did it not have AC, but the heater automatically ran while the bus was on. That, coupled with warm weather and an extra hour of slow traffic made for a suffocating long ride. By the time we got to Stonehenge four hours later, everyone was feeling sick and overheated.
There are very few things that are worth driving in such terrible conditions for, and Stonehenge is one of them.
This was one place in the world I'd never imagined I would see. I still can't believe I was there, standing so close to that famous silhouette.

After taking many selfies, we all piled back into the bus-from-hell and drove another hour to Bath. By this time, my impression of Bath was not the greatest. The city was nestled amongst beautiful green hills, but as the bus navigated around the winding, tight roads toward the Royal Crescent, it was hard not to focus on anything but my desire to get. off. the. bus.
Which is a shame, because the Royal Crescent was pretty cool,  and after we stopped at the hostel, we walked to the baths. I was still feeling crummy, but the Roman baths were absolutely amazing. I studied Latin all four years of high school, and these ruins brought back all kinds of fond memories.  Ecce Romani!



The Bath Cathedral
The next morning dawned rainy and cool- a wonderful break from the heat! After a night of checking out Bath's night life, we all were pretty groggy and not ready to get back on the bus.
But that was when our luck began to turn. After waiting an hour, we discovered that the bus had broken down and a new one would be picking us up in an couple hours. Hallelujah!
We took the extra time to explore the unique book shops, consignment stores, and very damp parks.

When it started pouring, we ducked into a little cafe to escape the heaviest rainfall. 
After feeling particularly ill the entire trip, this was revival in and of itself. The Earl Grey tea warmed up the rainy day, and I'd never had such a delicious crunchy, delicate almond croissant. All in all, Bath was pretty rough, but in that moment none of it seemed to matter. Sounds stupid yeah, but just sitting there, thousands of miles from home, I realized that buses and bad weather really didn't matter. Not for opportunities like this; to just sit, sipping tea, watching the rain fall in Bath. 



9/14/14

Greenwich Market

Continuing my trip through England this summer!
For our second weekend trip we headed to Greenwich, and toured the Queen's House, the Royal Observatory, and viewed the beautiful painted ceilings. We were given time to roam around the streets and ate at the incredible food market in Greenwich. Then we took a boat trip up the Thames into the heart of London, and hopped off right by Parliament and Big Ben!



9/11/14

Sticky Beaks Cafe

Recently instead of food, I've been writing about my trip to England to study in Cambridge.
Alright, so we did have to get some school work done once and a while. The summer courses were all very condensed, so my Lit classes required a pretty substantial amount of reading of novels, essays, and poetry. There was a small library in Christ's College, but sometimes I really needed to get out and find a good spot to study. One of my favorite places was a little cafe right by Christ's, called Sticky Beaks. It was run by a two beautiful vintage-aproned women, with teal Kitchen-aid's resting by the huge stove, and fresh flowers on the tables. There were stands of simple cakes and pastries that were made on-site, plus they offered salads, parfaits, and quiches for lunch. If you stuck around for the lunch or dinner rush, the entire place would be overtaken with the delicious garlicky-spicy smell of stir-fry.
Arugula, Orange, and Mozzarella salad
Simple Chocolate Cake

Yummy Yogurt Granola Parfait
Unfortunately, Sticky Beaks lacked in two things: AC and price. Like most places in Cambridge/England, air conditioning was pretty unnecessary for 90% of the year, and I just happened to be there for the other 10%. So it got pretty stuffy in the little cafe, but by the end of the summer I was getting pretty used to it. And as far as price, it really wasn't that bad, but when you pay two pounds for a cup of coffee*, that's a pretty pricey cup when you think about it. It was a bummer, but unavoidable.
One of the things I really liked about cafes in England, is the expectation of eating in. The "to-go" mentality is not impulsive. When you order, the barista will ask you where you'll be seated so they can bring you your coffee in a cup and saucer, and bring out your food on a plate. These things occur so naturally, they must think we're weird to be surprised by it. As someone who spends half her life working in cafes, I really appreciated it!
*A note on Coffee: It's a really American thing. The "drip" coffee" that I love doesn't really exist in Europe. The closest equivalent is an Americano.

9/10/14

First London Trip

The first weekend trip we took brought us to the capital. London baby!
It was my first time visiting London (not counting Heathrow) and I was pretty excited, to say the least.
On this trip we divided up by the classes we were taking.  I was studying English literature, so my  group went on a literary walking tour around the river. It was a cool, grey July day, and we were dropped off besides a very choppy-looking Thames. We started our tour at Shakespeare's Globe Theater. 
Which was amazing.
Like I could do an entire post on the Globe. But I am a Shakespeare fangirl and would probably embarrass myself, so anyway...
After a quick lunch we walked across the Thames and down the Strand to visit Dr. Johnson's House, which we toured as well. 
While in England, I realized that the English are much better at giving tours than Americans. Instead of guiding you through the house or museum, watching you carefully to make sure you don't touch anything, they just let you roam about and assume you aren't an idiot. It's quite refreshing. And then of course they also provide you with things you are allowed to play with...
















After a full day of walking, the entire group was pretty tired by the time we hit Covenant Gardens. Everyone was given free-time to shop and look around, so we all scattered to find benches or coffee shops to sit down in.
Although the entire walk through the West End was fabulous, the food so far had been a little underwhelming. For lunch we had stopped at places like Pret a Manger to quickly grab sandwiches (the British are a lot like Americans in that respect). 
But dinner was to be a special three-course affair. All the classes came together at a place near the theater (we took up almost the entire basement) for a meal that was specially prepared for us. We had picked out the food weeks ahead, so of course I really couldn't remember what I'd ordered.
Apparently, I had chosen the Roasted Tomato and Basil soup.
For my entree, The Veggie Pot Pie. 
This had a lot of sweet potatoes, carrots, and moroccan spices that were really unusual (but good!) and I really liked the flakey top crust.
And finally, what I was most excited about, because I actually did remember what I ordered: The Spotted Dick. The classic English dish was on my list of things I Had To Try while abroad.
It was alright. The custard was creamy, but there was hardly any raisins: where are the spots, I say? 

So for my first time in London, I'd have to say, the food didn't impress. But the company well made up for it really.  And like any big city, you can never take it all in in one day. I knew I would have more chances to see London, and so I couldn't wait to come back.

9/9/14

West Cornwall Pasties


Ah, the pasty.
These little beauties are another treat I had one afternoon in Cambridge. Among the many store windows in town, there was always a particularly delicious aroma wafting from this small shop, called the West Cornwall Pasty Company. Along the window sat rows of all different kinds of mouth-watering, golden triangles.
So what exactly is a pasty? It's hard to describe. In fact, there was so much contention on this issue within our party that people were breaking out into arguments about it. A pasty is a baked pastry with beef, potatoes, vegetables (usually onion and turnips), and gravy, all nestled in a golden, flakey crust. They hail from Cornwall, and they actually have a PGI status in Europe, a Protected Geographical Indication, which means official pasties can only be made in England. The closest equivalent I could think of in America is a pot pie crossed with a hot pocket, only much, much better. The WCPC had all kinds of versions of the pasty; from the classic beef, to a Mediterranean version (which I had), to ham and cheese. They make a scrumptious snack or lunch, and I can see how they'd warm you right up on dreary winter days.
Living in Cambridge in July makes you forget that most of students spend term in chillier, darker months. It would be such a different experience in fall and winter!

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