Been There, Done That

london, Travel

Both of my parents had been to London before, so the simple entertainment of crossing off all the classic sites wasn’t available. We had plans to see a show or two, and obviously a graduation to attend, but there was still plenty of day light to fill. I had to think of little surprises to prove to them that I had in fact seen more of London in my year living there than the average tourist sees in a week-long trip. So here’s a few of the bits and bobs that entertained three folks who’d been there, done that:

Leave London

I know it’s an absolute shocker of an idea, but there’s more to the UK than London. Bonus points: the UK has a great train system that’ll get you to plenty of exciting sites in an hour or so for relatively cheap. We went to Salisbury and eventually Stonehenge via train, but other options include Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton, Birmingham, Windsor, 

and Bath. If you’ve been to London before, you should spend a day of your vacation outside the city.50970752_2298766570359956_570854711880581120_n

For the History Buffs

We tried to see one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral, but only got to view a replica because of bad timing. For my father, who carries around historical biographical tomes for light reading, we were gonna find some old dusty important stuff.

So we went underground: if you haven’t already visited them, the Churchill War Rooms are incredible. London was right in the middle of the action for World War II (which is a strange thought for Americans who visit a modern and constantly under construction city). The War Rooms take you back, fill a morning with history, and pop you out right next to the classic history of Parliament and Westminster. (Another historical spot worth visiting is St. Dunstan’s in the East, where the remains of a bombed out church have been turned into a community garden.)50985910_391025211632427_4581915461205098496_n

For the Artists

If you can’t find art in London, you’re not looking hard enough. A personal favorite gallery is the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House, but if you’re looking for something quick and cheap, you can pop in and out of the Queen’s House in Greenwich, the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, or the Tate museums.

It was on a trip to the Tate Modern, crossing the wibbly-wobbly bridge (properly known as the Millenium Bridge), that my mother stopped to look at the tiny designs drawn onto the gum dried between the ridges of the bridge. Fortunately, it’s a pedestrian bridge so no cars could take her out, but there was a whole new batch of mini art pieces created since our last visit in August. As we reached the end, we noticed a man laying on the ground with a tiny paint brush in hand. A fantastic conversation later, Ben Wilson, the Chewing Gum Man, may be my mother’s new favorite artist.51464800_341016886744046_5651513002541711360_n

View from the Top

When the view from the ground gets dull, go high. To beat the jet lag, I took my parents on a meandering walk to Primrose Hill, but the views from the Greenwich Observatory are pretty good too. If you’re looking for some history on your way up: St. Paul’s Cathedral (you’ll also get the added bonus of traumatizing your child while you’re at it, thanks mom and dad). We had nice views from the top of the Tate Modern, as well, to make up for the weird art inside.51176038_295319167723476_8234029172079460352_n

Eat

When in doubt, sit down and enjoy yourself with a nice pint and some chips. You’ve been here before, there’s no need to rush. Take the time to see the folks around you and chit chat. As much as I love a quick Pret for the road, you have time to eat a long meal, like my personal happy place Dishoom. (I mentioned some of my favorite places to eat around the world in a previous post here.) Other recommendations: Have a cup of tea at Fortnum and Mason. Eat like a local at Nando’s or Byron Burger. Grab a pint at Temple Brew House or Marquis Cornwallis or the Sugar Loaf. (Other mentions include the best pizza at Pizza Sophia, the post-show meal at Angus Steakhouse, and the off-the-main-road-surprise at Mike’s Cafe near the Portobello Road Market.) Does this make me a food blogger? Or am I just ready for lunch?

Honey, I’m Coming Home!

london

In September, I packed my bags and locked the door on my time in London. I knew there was a chance I’d return as a tourist or for a job or even for a layover, but I thought it’d be a while before I returned.

A few months later, I’ve got my packing list ready. I’m heading back!

Though I submitted my dissertation in August and got my final result in November, my grad school graduation is in the middle of January (UK schools just keeping me confused). And because my (retired) parents are kindly encouraging the opportunity for a vacation, the three of us will hop a plane this week, escaping the cold and snow of Washington, DC for the (probably just as cold) lights of London.49948022_2057821814517992_3371426869252456448_n

From the second we booked our tickets, I started plotting. Both of my parents have been to London before so we could skip the boring (but required for first timers!) tourist spots and focus on the things we genuinely love. And being me, I’ve started a list:

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First up – DISHOOM! I’ve been dreaming about the egg naan rolls and endless cups of chai from Dishoom. I’ve discussed my love for their breakfast before. So we’ll definitely be making a stop (or three) at one of their restaurants.

Next up on the list – West End shows. DC has pretty good theatre (and the Kennedy Center recently hosted Hamilton, which we flipping loved), but it’s nowhere near as fantastic as London’s shows. I’ve been scouring TodayTix for shows. My family is pretty casual about our travels, preferring to make last minute decisions instead of pre-scheduling the entire trip, so I’m not too worried about pre-booking shows.

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No matter what show(s) we end up at, it’ll be sure to be entertaining.

It wouldn’t be a trip to London without stopping at a few museums. We’ll most likely end up taking my dad on a trip to my old digs, as he didn’t get to visit while I lived in London, so we might just have to stop by the British Museum. Of course, the Courtauld, my mother’s favorite, is right next to my university and worth the visit every time we go (even if I was incredibly hungover the last time I went :/).

We’ve also discussed venturing out of the city (gasp – a real game changer, I know!). I, personally, have a special place in my heart for Brighton. Requests have been received for a trip up to Stonehenge, which I visited last year around this time in the middle of a snowstorm. Heck, even a day trip up to Windsor or Cambridge would be nice.50192552_353470892171567_2823966689614364672_n.jpg

Of course, the whole trip is supposed to focus on the big day: graduation. I’ve already been in contact with some friends who I haven’t seen since August. It’ll be lovely to catch up, grab a pint, and reflect on the horrors of writing a dissertation in the middle of a heatwave. And of course, receiving a diploma wouldn’t be too horrible a way to spend a morning.

Nom Nom Noms

Five Favorites, london

Food is something that brings people together, tests your comfort zone, and can instantly remind you of times when you were safe and happy and loved.

In honor of the copious amounts of food I’m sure all of my American friends are about to consume this Thursday, I thought I would reminisce on the foods that remind me of home. And when I say home, I mean Stockholm, Indianapolis, London, Sydney, and DC. (Yes, this accidentally turned into a five favorites list, as well as a “travel the world through my favorite meals” kinda post.)

Stockholm

When I studied abroad in Stockholm, I remember being so flipping nervous about having to eat herring or some strange Swedish food for my six months there. But fortunately, Swedish grocery stores provided all the foods I could dream of. It was actually the first place where I had to cook for myself (and yes, I did have to google some very basic skills.)

46492677_177417226545719_7472823128842829824_nMy list of Swedish foods is six-months-worth-of-freezing-cold-and-dark-weather long. To start, I could rave about fika, the Swedish tradition of a daily (or thrice daily) coffee and pastry break. Or alternatively, I could chat your ear off about their kanelbullar, the yummiest treats equivalent to a cinnamon roll. Or hell, IKEA meatballs.

But instead I’ll talk about what I genuinely miss on a weekly basis: Max. Max is a Swedish fast food burger chain, like McDonald’s, etc. but better (and it’s more popular in Sweden than McDonalds and Burger King). Their food is fresh, their restaurants are clean, their staff is efficient. I’ve considered making a trip to Sweden just for their burgers and constantly think back fondly on my visits to the Max off of Kungsträdgården.

Fun fact: the first food my parents ate in Sweden was Max, which I fed them in the Arlanda Airport arrivals area.

Indianapolis

No one has ever said that the Midwest has the most delectable diet, what with the corn and the casseroles. But Indianapolis has plenty of really good spots for food, many of which I made trips to over my three years in the city.

Breadsticks fans should head to Hotbox Pizza (yes, that’s really its name…) or to Kilroy’s for their stuffed breadsticks. They’re the best drunk food, tried and tested. Fans of mediterranean food should head to Canal Bistro in Broad Ripple, while fans of Mexican food should head to La Piedad or grab a marg at Luciana’s.

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One place has a special spot in my heart: Patachou. It’s a little bit of a hipster’s dream and it’s a huge brunch spot for Butler students, but it’s so dang good. I have many a fond memory of breakfasts are Patachou with friends after a late night out or as a reunion after a service trip. With fresh, local ingredients and a mission to give back to the Indy community, it’s worth a trip.

P.S. everyone hypes up their coffee, but I’d also recommend you get the hot chocolate.

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London

I think I tried every (cheap) place on the must eat London list. I scarfed down waffles on the 40th floor of a skyscraper at Duck and Waffle. I pretended I was posh before splashing berry syrup all over myself, at Balthazar. I devoured a Crosstown Donut in Camden Markets. I explored a chain I saw all over London at Bill’s. I discovered disco fries at the Breakfast Club.

And a lot of it is delicious, but nothing gets close to my one true love: Dishoom. It’s Indian food with a twist. The bottomless chai helped me survive a dissertation and the naan rolls are making my mouth water at the thought. The restaurants have the best vibe and are filled with tiny touches that make it a memorable experience. It’s a really nice environment for working meals or catching up with friends.46508793_312174566047896_6370496265968418816_n

Pro tip: go for breakfast. It’s much cheaper and much less crowded than the lunch rush (plus, I’ve heard it’s much yummier).

Sydney

I’ll admit I didn’t go out to eat much in Sydney. My dorm had catering and when we did go out to eat, it was usually McDonald’s or Domino’s. The one food that still holds a special spot in my memory were the milkshakes.

Around the time I went to Sydney, decadent milkshakes were on the rise. One of my first Instagrams from my time abroad in Australia was of one of these sugar overloads at the Vogue Cafe. The Vogue Cafe and its counterpart, the Missing Piece, were both located in a shopping mall just next door to Macquarie University and my residence hall. So while I pushed past my introvert ways to befriend new people, we were able to bond over the sugar highs.

Later, we ended up making a pilgrimage to Erskineville for TellaBall Shakes at Foodcraft. We learned quickly that there is no clean way to drink a milkshake and then eat a Nutella donut.

The extravagant milkshake phase seems to have moved on, but those milkshakes left an impact.

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Washington, D.C.

Last, but not least, we’re heading home to DC.

If I was a good daughter, I’d say my favorite food in DC was my mother’s cooking. Nothing against her cooking, but I think it’d be rude of me to applaud her ability to perfectly cook Bagel Bites, keeping me from publicly praising her culinary skills.

The DC area has plenty of restaurants. In Old Town, there’s the classic chili of Hard Times Cafe, where my parents have been visiting for 20 something years, or for the hockey fans, there’s the Chicago-style pizza of Bugsy’s. If you’re in Woodley Park, you can hit up my Wisconsin Avenue high school haunts of 2Amys for pizza or Cactus Cantina for Mexican.

If you’re feeling fancy, you can stop by the White House on your way to Old Ebbitt Grill. For those pretending to adult, they can head to Ted’s Bulletin for homemade PopTarts. You can join the fight between Baked & Wired and Georgetown Cupcake (although everyone in DC knows that Baked & Wired wins every time.) I’m currently working near Dupont Circle, where I’m munching on Happy Hours at Front Page, and enjoying lunches at Zorba’s Cafe, and experiencing all that is the Big Hunt.

If we’re honest, I don’t know if I have a favorite in DC. Maybe, I’ll just have to continue my searchAll recommendations are much appreciated. Though they are subject to ignorance in favor of Chipotle or Moby Dick’s.

King’s Cross to Primrose Hill

london, Travel

In between pretending to write my dissertation and my last few work shifts, I’ve given myself the mission to actually cross all that stuff off my London to-do list. I recently wandered Regent’s Canal for the first time since moving here and realized just how much of this city I’ve been missing my last ten months.

It started off with a long breakfast at my favorite spot in London. If you haven’t been to Dishoom, specifically for breakfast, you are missing out. A couple of friends and I munched on some Naan Rolls and drank copious amounts of Chai at the Dishoom in Granary Square. It was nice enough, despite the current heatwave, to sit outside and get a nice breeze.

Quick Tip: If you want to enjoy Dishoom without waiting in line, visit them for breakfast on a weekday. Especially at the Granary Square location, it’s no problem to get a seat for breakfast before 11 on any given Tuesday. Weekends are another deal and lunch or dinner is a whole new ball game. (Breakfast is best, and cheaper, anyways!).37807650_10214756228113186_3594843788020809728_n

Once hyped up on chai, we wandered through Granary Square, down the stairs to the canal. Our first stop was the precious Word on the Water. A floating bookshop on the canal, Word on the Water has a decent sized collection, though its ceilings are low and may not be suitable for tall folks or weak knees.

After a wander through the stacks, we avoided the swans and started down the canal. As we walked the canal, avoiding tourists and bikers, we keep catching quick breezes and little patches of shade, a nice refreshment in the middle of an endless heatwave. A nice spot for a walk, not so nice on a bike. The architecture from the canal is also worth a look as you wander, getting a different perspective than one might from the road.

37779873_10214756229593223_5733534005878325248_nThe canal path led us straight to Camden Markets, stopping first at KERB, as well as the old Stables Market and the food stalls. I grabbed a donut from Crosstown Donuts, which was yummy, but nothing too exciting. We also had some fish and chips (aka my friend ate the fish and I stole his chips) while we walked the stalls.

Once we’d grabbed some lemonade and orange juice, we made our way away from the canals, which are currently under construction, and up the hill towards Primrose Hill. We lingered for a bit on the top of the hill, soaking up some sun and enjoying the perfect view of London.37803602_10214756230473245_9193812607339855872_n

With plans for the evening, we made our way slowly down the hill, passing all the pups enjoying the park, and down to Regent’s Park. To get back home, we made the walk through Regent’s Park, which is always a lovely end to the day.