Archive for the 'London Related' Category

A Weekend in Paris

This past weekend, I travelled over to Paris to spend some time with my cousin and her family, who were staying just south of Montmartre. After the most stressful hour of my life (from 19:00 – 20:00 on Thursday, September 29th, which included sprinting around Holborn carrying a 30 pound non-rolling duffle bag, busting into my about-to-close school building to print out a missing boarding pass, making it to the check-in-point at St. Pancras with 47 seconds to spare, and rushing through security and border control in order to make my 20:02 train), I settled in on the Eurostar and prepared for the great weekend ahead of me.

Waking up on Friday morning was difficult. The previous night, after the hour from hell and its subsequent train ride, I had to wait in a taxi queue for over 45 minutes and then use my limited French skills to explain to a non-English-speaking taxi driver where the relatively unknown, boutique hotel was in a non-central part of town. But once I was up, any tiredness in me was quickly vanquished by an unbelievably delicious apricot croissant from Midoré, the spacious and bright café around the corner from our hotel. Throughout the weekend, Midoré became our go-to breakfast/brunch place; everything we tried (apple-filled pastry, butter-caramel eclair, cappuccino, hot chocolate, strawberry tart) was just so good, and so cheap.

From Midoré, Megan and I walked over to the Eiffel Tower while the rest of her family went to Disneyland Paris (fulfilling the request of my younger cousin Garrett). For the rest of the day, we utilized our hop-on hop-off boat pass and visited different sites along the Seine. Over the course of the day, we saw the Louvre, Notre Dame, le Jardin de Plants, and – at the place where we spent most our day, getting lost deep into the neighborhood’s streets – St. Germain.

While there were countless places we could’ve eaten, we ended up at Paul Maison de Qualité, an international chain that offers freshly-baked breads, pastries, and other lunch goods. Our sandwiches were just fine; mine consisted of ham, lettuce, and hard-boiled egg on a baguette — something light and cheap enough for lunch. The place we spent the most time and money was actually at Un Dimanche à Paris, a sleek and modern dessert shop in the winding alleyways of the left bank. After perusing about the entire store, we ordered a selection of macarons and white chocolate ice cream and sat outside.

The ice cream was fine, but a little too plain. The macarons, though, were amazing – especially the butter-caramel ones. Each bite was spectacular – a heavenly combination of airy macaron and the most intensely-flavored butter caramel filling. The other macarons had this impossibly-good flavor too – the coffee, hazelnut, and pistachio flavors so deeply intense. We walked back to the boat content.

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Chelsea Chow Part I: My Old Dutch & Ca’puccino

Every city has its preconceived images – things you think of without really knowing a city. With London, the average thought is that it is incredibly posh, pretentious, wealthy, and historic. Obviously, these images shatter quickly upon actually living somewhere. As I’ve found out over the last month, London is actually a ridiculously diverse and integrated city, made up of eons of different neighborhoods. Ironically, I’m located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, arguably the most stereotype-fitting neighborhood of London; everything is more expensive and our high streets are filled with stores like Gucci, Louis Vitton, Fendi, Prada (think Kreayshawn ;)), Armani, Chanel, Tiffany’s, Chloé, etc. The restaurants too are expensive, but not necessarily good (or the best). Clearly, we students try to spend as much time as possible outside of K&C, but due to convenience we often end up going to the restaurants and grocery stores around here. Throughout this mini series, I’m going to briefly review each of the restaurants I go to; so far, they’ve ranged from good to great, but – as expected – can be relatively poor on value.

The most convenient place for us to grab dinner when we get back home at night is probably My Old Dutch, a pancake house located within a few meters of our building. Expectedly, the pancakes they serve are more like crêpes than American pancakes – it’s simply a regional (well, international) difference. Aside from a small appetizers, sides, drinks, and desserts menu with both Dutch and typical offerings, the menu revolves around the savory and sweet pancakes. Along with the standard pancake menus, My Old Dutch offers a “create-your-own” option which, although usually more expensive, allows for all sorts of different combinations to be made. Another important fact: on Mondays, all pancakes – regardless of menu price – are offered for £5 at a basically-half-off price.

Naturally, a huge group of us end up there for dinner on Monday nights, unabashedly taking advantage of the discount. Even with the restaurant full, the service is always at least acceptable. And the atmosphere is great: it’s open, bright, clean, and spacious. Based on these factors, plus the quality of the food, My Old Dutch is best seen as a classy, upscale diner. And as for the food? It’s very, very good. Thin, giant-plate-sized pancakes are studded with your ingredients of choice and served with various toppings. While others in the group had bananas, caramel, Nutella, and other sweets in theirs, I opted for a “savory” pancake: the Amsterdammer. Mine was served with sautéed apples, maple syrup, and thick-cut bacon. The salty sweet combo was incredible; each bite was heavenly. And with the portions so huge, no one has ever left the restaurant unsatisfied.

Further down King’s Road, there’s a small quasi-chain cafe and gelateria named Ca’puccino. What initially caught my eye about this cafe – just one of many on our street – was its almost-sprawling outdoor seating and prominent gelato display in the front window. So, a few friends and I walked down one night after dinner and were immediately seated in the small but cozy cafe.

Continue reading ‘Chelsea Chow Part I: My Old Dutch & Ca’puccino’

Fish & Chips in Bath

This past weekend, our group travelled to Bath to do touristy things like sightsee, tour the Roman baths, view Bath Abbey, etc. Even though it seemed like we spent more time on our coach traveling back and forth from London than actually in Somerset, one really great thing came out of the trip: I ate the best fish and chips I’ve had – ever.

Toward the end of our day, a few of us grabbed lunch at a place we’d passed by on our walking tour: Garrick’s Head Pub. On a sign near the outdoor patio, they claimed to have the “best fish and chips in Bath” – a claim we didn’t verify on Urbanspoon, or Yelp, or anywhere – but it was a good thing we took them up on their word. Because it was an overcast day (see: pictures) and was threatening to downpour, we chose to sit inside. The interior of this pub was beautiful and cozy, with dark woods and dim but not-too-dark lighting. After a brief stint at the bar, our group of eight was seated in the main dining room of the pub.

Six of us ordered the fish and chips; the other two selections were simple bread and butter (obviously Ally wasn’t very hungry) and a savory cheese tart with a honey-glazed beet salad. While the bread and butter looked simple, it was impressive on quality: fresh sourdough bread was coupled with good butter and Maldon sea salt. And the tart was equally impressive (albeit in a more grandiose way). Filled with cheddar, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and spinach, it got rave reviews.

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Arriving in London & Oxford Trip

As I’ve alluded to / stated in previous posts, I’m spending my first semester of university in London. Having spent just over a week here, I’m actually pretty well acclimated already! I haven’t really experienced any culture shock, miserableness, homesickness, etc., that sometimes comes with moving to a new country. Part of this is due to the fact that I don’t really have time to fret about it; each school day, I have to wake up , commute (walk to the tube, take the tube, walk to school), have class, commute home, study, commute back, have another class, commute home, etc. Obviously, the commute is the most time consuming part. But it’s worth it.

Before our classes even started, though, we took a trip as a group to Oxford and spent a couple of days there. Aside from a few group seminars and a group dinner, I was able to mostly explore the city on my own.

While there, we stayed at Wadham College (the courtyard of which is pictured in the former photo). And, on the first day, we were given a tour of some of the colleges and buildings; it was amazing to see.

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