Snow Covered Sheep and Sally Lunn Buns

london, Travel, Uncategorized

We’ve got chilly, dreary weather and it has me reflecting on what might’ve been the coldest day of my life. In early March of 2018, I took part in a day trip through the International Student House in London. They organized the transportation and tickets for a visit to Stonehenge and Bath.

Getting up very very very early on a Sunday morning, we made the trek to ISH and hopped on a small charter bus. One of the toughest things about visiting Stonehenge is simply getting there, so shout out to pre-organized transportation. After a slightly frightening drive thanks to a winter storm hitting the UK, we made it to the stones. The trip was originally scheduled for January and ended up snowed out – the March date was also very close to being snowed out. As you can tell from my pictures, it was snowy all morning, making roads quite treacherous. Fortunately, despite the site closing due to weather, they let us in.

Our tour let us go right up into the inner circle of the stones and a very kind man explained the history of the area and the various theories behind the placement and transportation of the rocks. (My contribution to this part of the day was to regularly nod and say “aliens“.) Stonehenge is admittedly a little overrated and a long way from nothing, but getting to wander this close to the rocks surrounded by a fresh blanket of snow was an amazing experience. You could read where past generations had carved themselves into the stones and stand in awe at how the rocks could possibly be moved to this exact spot.

Once we were ushered away from the stones so they could close the site for the day, we hopped back on our bus. I tried to convince everyone to sneak one of the many snow-covered sheep back with us, but was turned down. It was still relatively early and still not particularly nice out, but we took mostly back roads towards Bath and made it with no accidents. (Our step count for the day was particularly high thanks to the shaking of the bus.)

Our scheduled activity in Bath was a tour of the Roman Baths. Despite it being freezing outside, it was quite steamy in the baths. The tour was interesting and the baths are in great condition despite their age.

After our tour, the plan was to spend the afternoon in Bath exploring. (We had to fight a girl who wasn’t properly dressed and wanted to go home, but we got our afternoon.) Bath is relatively small, and our first stop was lunch.

We wandered our way over to The Salamander, a cute and cozy pub off the main drag and had beer and burgers. Once we warmed up, we wrapped back up and continued our explorations. Bath has plenty of shops if you’re interested, but we found ourselves down by the river and crossed the Pulteney Bridge to the other side for an exploration.

On a warmer day, I’m sure the riverside is packed but we were not there on a warm day. With our time dwindling, we made our way back across the water and popped our heads in Bath Abbey.

Our last stop was possibly the most British thing we did all day (besides regularly commenting on the weather) – we stopped for tea. And not just at any old café, we stopped at Sally Lunn’s Eating House. Older than the United States, Sally Lunn’s tearoom is home to the famous Sally Lunn bun. We had ourselves some tea and some scones and a Sally Lunn bun.

Once we’d eaten our fill, we made our way back to the meeting place, did an accidental loop of the Baths in search of our bus, and headed toward London. And all before it got dark at 5:00 p.m.!

Christmas in London

london, Travel, Uncategorized

Most of my visits to London had been quick trips made in the summer or spring. It wasn’t until I moved there for grad school that I truly experienced their winter. And I learned very quickly that London loves Christmas. And they’re right to… There is something truly magical about London between the months of November and January. The city lights up in the most unexpected and lovely ways despite the dark and dreary weather. It gets cold, but not freezing most days. There’s occasionally snow but only enough for you to appreciate it before it’s gone.

What I love the most is the festive feelings everywhere.

A wander down Oxford Street and Regent Street will show you storefront after storefront with holiday-themed displays perfect for a bit of window shopping, with strings of lights reaching from building to building. Carnaby Street and Covent Garden also get all dressed up for the occasion with giant ornaments, lights, wreaths, and general festive cheer.

Trafalgar Square hosts a massive Christmas tree, while Somerset House and the Natural History Museum fill their courtyards to create skating rinks.

The U.S. has still not adopted the Christmas market to nearly the extent Europe has, which is a bit of a disappointment in my opinion. Hyde Park turns into Winter Wonderland, filled with rides, hot cider and wine, food, games – and entrance to the experience is free. So you can wander the crowds and take in the sights and sounds on the cheap. Leicester Square also hosts a smaller Christmas market with little booths to shop at. It’s much easier to pop in and out of than the Hyde Park situation.

Though it gets dark early and the weather is not ideal, there’s nothing quite like wandering past a pub and seeing everyone wrapped up inside enjoying their evening, or passing by a window display of a man dressed as a tree or only in brussel sprouts, or seeing lights flicker on overhead as you drive by on your double-decker bus.

Winter is a magical time to be in London.

A Broad Abroad

london, Travel

I’ve studied abroad more times than the average human. I travelled to Paris and Nice the summer before high school, encouraging me to better utilize the French skills I thought I had. (Let’s just say the 13-ish years of French classes have made me nowhere near fluent.)

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The summer after my first year of college I went on a short-term study abroad trip with my university’s College of Education. The two weeks were a joke academically, but were a wonderful introduction to being in a foreign country, and I can’t complain about being able to travel from Paris to the South of France to Barcelona, Madrid, and Toledo. The next summer, I did another short-term trip through the CoE, this time to Italy and Greece. I had a blast.

 

 

I learned a few lessons on these trips though: 1. I was too independent to be forced into a group of 20 people who couldn’t figure out the French metro system to save their lives. 2. I wanted to interact with locals, not with Americans. 3. I was so freaking fortunate and privileged to be able to go on these trips.

My junior year was spent abroad: first in Sydney, Australia then in Stockholm, Sweden. My time in Sydney was spent attending Macquarie University, meeting Americans and Australians alike, taking Sociology classes, learning to order drinks at bars, pushing my introvert to its limits, and growing a heck of a lot. (Please send Tim Tams.)13606726_10208327169590741_2939824590994043790_n

Stockholm was a very different experience. I met next to no Swedes, ventured around Stockholm and Europe a heck of a lot, learned to pack a carryon for varying trip lengths, studied very rarely at Södertörns högsköla (in English, let’s be real), discovered the horrors of seasonal depression and the beauty of 22 hours of daylight in the summer. (My love affair with IKEA and Max Burgers continues to this day.)42593388_10217577769095213_5706831081802563584_o

When I was finishing my undergrad, it was only logical that I seize the opportunity to go abroad one last time, so I applied to do a Master’s degree abroad. The financial benefits were there, it was one year compared to two in the US, and it would be a new opportunity to travel and meet new people. In retrospect, it would have been nice to better research my program before I went and I probably could have better selected my courses. But overall, I can’t say I regret going to London.

Would I study abroad again? In a heart beat. Is studying abroad the same as traveling abroad? Absolutely not. Did I meet the best people everywhere I went? 100 percent. Am I so freaking fortunate to have this many once in a lifetime experiences? Heck yes.

 

P.S. If you have ANY questions about studying abroad, please let me know – I’m more than happy to chat about any of my experiences for months.

P.P.S. I did some “research” on the term “broad”, which seems to have originated in the 1930s to refer to women by their “wideness”, which is icky (also it mostly referred to prostitutes which like makes me frustrated by the historical objectification of women in a patriarchal society, but…). I’m going off the Urban Dictionary definitions here to justify my “clever title”: less respectable than a lady, but more respectable than a bitch. I’m not mad at it.

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.