Tuesday, June 30, 2015

London Times

Finally - blogging about the vacation portion of my trip in London!

First thing's first after a week on mission...gotta catch up on everything! Simon joined too

Dinner on the first night at The Fire Stables for a proper Sunday Roast 

Dinner by candlelight...and the herb garden out back

To start...

A Scotch Egg with black pudding in the breading - soooooo tasty

I've been waiting a couple of years for this :)

Monday - a walk around the grounds and Richmond Park 

My first Piccadilly Whip in *ages* (basically hadn't had one since my first time in London!) 

Sprawling, gorgeous Richmond Park

And a herd of deer!

Loved these old trees

After walking all the way through the park, we headed into Richmond town for a peek around

I couldn't get over the good weather and all the green! I'd never been to London when it was so nice

Half the buildings were covered in ivy or flowers

A posh tattoo parlor (everything in Richmond is posh) - they had a stuffed peacock in the window

Monkey Faces 

The Brits are so polite about everything - they had this little poem up on the bus reminding people not to eat smelly food on public transport

At the end of the day, we met up with Craig and Hallie at Brasserie Zedel for dinner and then walked around. I liked the lighting here

Tuesday - I headed out on my own (for the first time!) and went to the Victoria & Albert Museum first

Had to...

The first exhibit inside was one on Luxury and what it means. This installation caught my eye


I'll be the first to admit that I know basically zilch when it comes to fashion. It's not that I can't appreciate it, it's just one of those things that never 'hooked' me like food did. Well, the Alexander McQueen exhibit changed that for me.

His designs were absolutely breathtaking. I never thought that fashion - or a designer - could make that much of an impact on me.

The layout of the exhibit itself was perfect. Viewers were moved from one room to the next that each had a theme from one of A's shows with descriptions of each outfit next to the mannequin. 

When I'd heard of Alexander McQueen or seen any of his designs in the past, I had always though that they were kooky and 'out there,' but his direct quotes (posted along the walls) gave great insight into his creative process.


My favorite dress out of the entire collection

(nearly) 360 mirror 

A had an obsession with birds...

...which could be seen in many of his creations.

One of the final installments - a huge, 360, room that showcased outfits, accessories, and videos of his runway shows with a rotating mannequin featuring one of his 'live' creations in the very middle. I could have stayed in that room for hours watching all of the footage and inspecting each of the pieces on display.

Parting shot...When I have more free time, I think learning more about Alexander McQueen and his life will become a hobby. I doubt I'll ever be a fashionista, but this is one fascinating designer I'd love to know more about.

Another piece I enjoyed

(description...and price)

The inner courtyard

After the V&A I popped over to the Natural History Museum just to say I'd been there (art calls to me more than fossils do). The building architecture made it worth it.  

Worth a visit (especially if you're traveling with kiddos)


Dinner by Heston Blumenthal has been one of my number one bucket-list restaurants to try and Simon surprised me with reservations Tuesday night! The whole menu is inspired by historic British dishes that have been researched, refined, and given a modern twist by Heston.

Menu - Starters

Menu - Mains

Menu - Desserts 

First up - a must-try.

Meat Fruit (c.1500)
Mandarin, chicken liver parfait & grilled bread 


Want to get an idea of the time and effort that goes into creating this masterpiece (and you really, really do) - check out this [recipe].

We got a seat by the window overlooking Hyde Park.

For my main, I tried pigeon for the first time

(there are an awful lot of firsts on this trip, eh?)

My dessert

Sambocade (c.1390)
Goats milk cheese cake, elderflower & apple, roast figs

To finish...

Wine pairings all night (this did us in)

You can see quite clearly into the kitchen - here are the roasted pineapples used in the Tipsy Cake. Simon got this and I tried a bite - it's one of THE most heavenly things I've ever eaten in my entire life. And I've had more than my fair share of heavenly things...

To round out the night, we went to Salvatore's for a digestif

It boasts one of the most extensive - and expensive - alcohol collections in the world. 

(case in point)

It also holds the Guinness World Record for most expensive cocktail - topping out at around 5000 GBP per glass (anywhere from $7,500-$8,000 depending on the exchange rate)

This night is another culinary dream to go down in my personal history books!

And to contrast the extreme level of fine dining I had the night before, the next morning I woke up on a mission to eat a pasty. Some people don't understand my obsession with these savory, flaky, buttery delights, but if you had one, ooooooh how you would!

I set out for dessert after that - to Cocomaya!

The neighborhood was gorgeous - my cab driver was complaining about the prime ministers who had lived in the area...

Delicious treats...


...so I came home with a box chock full of them!

After such a luxurious meal out, we had a simple meal in...

...of duck confit, garlic herb potatoes, and lemon asparagus ;-)

Thursday was quite the touristy day for me - St. Paul's Cathedral was up first

Though I had popped in for a moment when I was in London 6 years ago, I wanted to go again and get the full effect.

Freshly mowed (the smell of fresh-cut grass is lovely...and universal)

The front - so large, I can barely capture the whole thing! 

A view inside

I attended a lunchtime service (only 30 minutes)

It was amazing to recite liturgy I hadn't gone through in *years* (I grew up going to an Episcopal church, so many of these passages were very familiar)

After the service, I headed across the bridge (view of the Shard)

Looking back on Millennium Bridge at St. Paul's

I had always wanted to go to Borough Market and never quite made it...but did this time!

This was MY. HEAVEN. Vendors left and right with the freshest of ingredients, loveliest cheeses, gorgeous produce, freshly-made goodies!

Stall after stall after stall - as far as the eye could see!

Of *course* I got one of these!

So many spices...

And gorgeous mushrooms...

I got a sliver of Gruyere from this stand...

A tub of olives from here...

Nothing here (since it's raw)...

...but I had to try the paella!

Soooooooooo yummy! 


I got a few other goodies from other stalls and took my little picnic to the church yard around the corner. You couldn't have found a happier girl in London if you'd tried!

The Shard (again)

My friend Titi (from the mission trip!) recommended I stop in for a pint at The George - one of the oldest pubs in London

I felt like I had stepped back in time as I headed down the little alleyway

...like I'd just hopped off a stagecoach...

...to stretch...

...and grab a refreshing pint.

Up next - the Tate Modern (right around the corner from the market)

Modern art isn't typically my favorite, but I found a few pieces I enjoyed

(description for piece above)

And it was nice to be indoors for a wee bit

I really...


...'get' it. 

But some of the art was still fun and whimsical!

Much open space

Reminded me of an installation I saw at the MFA in Boston years ago

Four stories up

A view of the Thames/Millennium Bridge/St. Paul's

Stuffed crow.

(if you care to know why their are stuffed crows)

The spaces is massive.

Next up - a walk and a bus ride to....

Bullhorn's London office!

Though I don't work there anymore, I had always wanted to see how work was done in the UK branch, so I met up with old coworker for a tour of the office...

...and a pint afterwards. Emily and Petra showed me where actual Londoners go (though neither of them are from the UK haha)

Revisited the Commercial Tavern with Petra

 Two years since I'd last been and nothing had changed :)

Afterwards we went to The Breakfast Club for dinner


With a 'secret' speakeasy in the back! (Must enter through fridge)

The name of the place - The Mayor of Scaredy-Cat Town. (You should hear Simon say it - his accent made it impossible for me to figure out what he was saying.)

The bar. I had something out of a mug. And it was strong.

Why can't Boston trains be this nice?

One of the cooler lines - you can see completely from one end of the train to the other 

Friday - I ventured out again on my own in search of a marketing and branding museum I'd read about online. Food came first.

A nice pizza at one of Jamie Oliver's restaurants, Reciplease.

I found the museum!

But it was absolutely *nothing* like I expected. Just cases and cases of old product packaging

It was interesting to see...

(Marmite - still a favorite)

But I was definitely expecting something more along the lines of the other museums I had visited (in regards to aesthetics, layout, and information presented). Glad I went, but wouldn't go again.

That night - dinner at a pub with Hallie and Craig

The (British) gents 

The (American) ladies

Tee-hee. Craig's a bit cheeky!

Another night on the town...view of the Tower Bridge (not to be confused with the London Bridge)

After a lazy morning in, we went to the Shard to take in the view. The weather was *perfect* - clear skies for miles!  

So, so happy

The observation deck offers a 360 view of the city 

Kind of obsessed with this shot :)

Lighting - option a

Lighting - option b

The view up - totally open! The wind was blowing! My legs were shaking! (I've never been a fan of heights)

Another favorite shot

This tickled me - the two options in the elevator. Nothing in between.

The bar inside - we didn't stay, but I liked being able to look out at the patrons.

Bye bye bridge...

And hello dinner at Launceston Place! Another fine choice by Simon...

Amuse bouche 

Simon doing Simon-y things


I never thought that I would be a fan of dark walls, but I really liked the contrast between the walls and the art (and the natural light that flooded the dining room)

Too many courses to remember, too many lovely things to describe...you can refer back to the menu, or just follow along with the photos...




Loved these glasses

I can't even.

Unique texture

Can't get enough/good to the last drop


~le sigh~

How did I get to be this lucky???

Another thing in my personal heaven? Cheese. All the cheese.

Every. Single. Last. Slice.

Palette cleanser

And dessert

El fin. 

I don't know why I thought this was funny. Or why I took a picture of it (still don't).

I made breakfast :)

Simon showed me his chickens. They produce a few eggs a day that go to a cafe on campus.

Trying to catch one...and failing miserably.

I think I took this because I liked the red. The color contrast. I have no idea - it's a British post box.

A quick walk through an estate/hotel I can't remember the name of 

I sure would like to stay there one day...

Because the grounds (and interior) were gorgeous!

We walked through to Wimbledon and grabbed a Pimm's at the Crooked Billet

Very British 

A lovely evening to lounge outside

And then over to the Rose & Crown for dinner

...which of course was another Sunday Roast


Last day in London

Couldn't have a trip there without being a *little touristy* 

...and catching a glimpse of Big Ben


Last meal there...

...before boarding my flight home.

I love London. I love Marseille. I love Paris. I love Florence. I love Amsterdam. I love Bath. I love SO MUCH of Europe! One day I will live there....

One day :)

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