The Cheswick Garden Tour + Lunch

The Cheswick Garden Tour + Lunch

This past morning, we went to Cheswick (way to the west of us) for a tour of the Cheswick Gardens. These were an impressive set of grounds. The original owner/designer was nobleman with a great love for the classical style. We wandered the grounds, seeing tons of interesting architecture, statues, and natural features. It was a great way to spend the morning, especially when we followed it with brunch! (Adriyel and Aniela had crepes, whilst I had a breakfast sandwich.) Enjoy the pictures!

My Brunchfest Sandwich

Happy with Her Crepe!

 

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The River Thames Festival: A Night of Good Food, Good Fun, & Good Fireworks

The River Thames Festival: A Night of Good Food, Good Fun, & Good Fireworks

Last night, a large group of we Grinnell-In-Londoners adventured down to the banks of the River Thames for the Lord Mayor's River Thames Festival. It was a wonderful atmosphere, taking place from sunset until late at night. We enjoyed some great food, saw an incredible parade, walked around, and watched one of the most impressive fireworks displays I have ever seen.

 

 

 

 

Of the various options available, the fish and chips called out the most strongly to our group, as both Teddy and I are on quests to find London's greatest fish and chips. The fish and chips we had at the festival were freshly fried and hot, slathered in delicious vinegar, and just the perfect food to eat while watching the sun descend over the River Thames. While delicious, the fish and chips did not stand out in any particular way to win the honor of best fish and chips. We did enjoy our feast, and as the pictures below may indicate, we are already major fans of the iconic British dish.

Teddy, Joe, & Greg Enjoying Food & Fun

Next, we headed back to the streets to watch the parade. The crowds were enormous, but we managed to get a great spot streetside to watch the elaborate floats, incredible dancers, and outrageous costumes go by. Check out the crowd and some choice parade pictures below!

 

 

 

 

Post-parade, we persisted in plodding around until we procured some paella. (Awesome alliteration, eh?) In any case, we found a great Spanish stand selling paella, which Teddy and I split. It was intensely flavorful, the result of cooking in that massive pan for so long, and the chicken practically fell off the bone, infused with flavor and so delicious. Claire opted to get an incredible chorizo and chicken wrap from the same stand, an excellent choice which she so graciously let me try. The chorizo was so powerful and scrumptious, its inherent smokiness leaching into the chicken and giving it a spicy touch as well.

 

Teddy Displays Our Choice

 

Quality Assured

My Half Serving of Paella

Chorizo & Chicken

Happiness and Silliness

After our second snack of the night, we had to kill a little time before the fireworks. A few of us decided to go down a slide attached to the outside of a temporary lighthouse. It was presumably intended for little kids, but the majority of slide-riders were our age or older. We felt incredibly mature and dignified… Kind of.

 

Finally, the forays of fireworks flew into the skies, an incredible sight to behold. Some boats in the river were loaded up with fireworks, and they lit the sky beautifully. They made the riverbank, packed with thousands, glow as if it were day, and left our ears ringing and hearts pounding. It was an amazing sight to behold, and seemed a perfect cap to the atmosphere of happiness and celebration. I managed to get some pretty nice shots of the fireworks, so enjoy them below!

 

 

 

 

Exploring Bricklane Again (Plus Gözleme for lunch)

Exploring Bricklane Again (Plus Gözleme for lunch)

Today, Tracey and I ventured back to Bricklane market and its surrounding streets stuffed full of stands and of shoppers. It was another exhilarating, interesting experience. We explored countless stands, browsed designer sample racks, and ducked into little food halls to check out the best meal. We saw hundreds of stands, and looked over thousands of items. Prize find of the day? Russian Cold War Era medals for extremely cheap prices. I picked up some Olympic themed pins from the '73 Olympics in Moscow, while Tracey opted for some more military oriented pins. We also got a few presents for people back home, but I won't be naming what they are, because I know they read my writing here. We also saw some phenomenal graffiti and antiques, featured after the food descriptions below.

 

For lunch, I had a dish known as Gözleme at a stand inside of one of the markets. It is a Turkish dish that consists of spinach and feta cheese being cooked inside a dough crust and topped with various vegetables and sauces. My Gözleme was accompanied today by cabbage, lettuce, tomato, and hummus, all with a creamy garlic dressing drizzled on top. The hummus was particularly outstanding, with a strong tahini taste that accented the feta cheese in the Gözleme quite well. The Gözleme itself was also incredible. Fresh off of the griddle, it was incredibly hot and filled with tons of fresh spinach and reasonable amount of feta. I feasted in total delight upon the hot Turkish food. It was familiar to me, as it was like the Turkish version of a Salvadoran pupusa, yet totally unique in its combination of flavors by including the incredible hummus and garlic sauce. I love being able to travel the world, eating all its wonderful food, without ever leaving London. It is truly the world within a city.

Gözleme

 

Graffiti 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Play: London Road

Play: London Road

Tonight we saw the play London Road, a verbatim-style play based on interviews with residents of a neighborhood following a series of murders. The victims, all prostitutes, were rather looked down upon by the citizens of the area. The play was incredibly interesting for a variety of reasons. First, the author of the play had to take apart recorded conversations and pick out the important or recurring themes to help craft the story in verbatim. Second, the actors had to reproduce the interviews literally verbatim, with every stutter, pause, and um. Finally, because this was a musical, they also had to sing the lines while not trivializing the subject of the material. It was quite well done, with some intentionally dissonant singing at times helping to emphasize the lack of agreement among the neighbors.

 

In all, it was a very well done play by some extremely talented actors. I do not expect to ever see anything quite like it again due to its uniqueness and creative approach to the subject. I am still in awe that not only do I get to see such incredible performances, but Grinnell-In-London pays for us to see them.

Flat Group Shot Before the Play

 

Poster for London Road

Ending Set of London Road, with Flowerpots Abounding

 

Indian Food and More at the Bricklane Market

Indian Food and More at the Bricklane Market

We went to Bricklane Market today and it was an amazing experience. (Read more about it in the previous post!) One of the tougher choices of the day was what to eat… There were about twenty different food stands, with each one serving mouth-wateringly good food. In the end, I chose to get a steamed pork bun and some Indian food. It was a great choice. I started with the steamed bun.

 

 

It was one of the most interesting eating experiences of my life. It wasn't complex, it wasn't served on a fancy plate, but this simple steamed bun was one of the best things I had ever eaten. Fresh from a woven basket into a napkin, it was still extremely hot to the touch. I waited a minute to dig in, and was greeted by the amazing taste and smell of the pork as the the air pocket inside was pierced, and the pork-infused steam rolled out from within. I added some sweet chili sauce and some soy sauce to the now-open bun, and let the flavors soak into the pork and bun a little. It was a delightful treat to eat it. The pork was juicy and deeply flavorful and almost melted with the bun with every bite. It was so very simple, but so utterly delicious.

 

Next came the Indian food. I opted for a variety plate, which included two curries, a dish with chickpeas, some mint and yogurt sauce, and rice. Chutneys were on the side for added flavor. (Or, if you prefer, flavour.) The dishes were so hot and intensely flavorful, delivering the tastes and culinary experience that only Indian food can. They all melded together and released the most fantastic smells into the air. Eating this dish of Indian food, surrounded by the noise and chaos of the busting market, I felt oddly calm and at home. These dishes are the same as the ones my family makes, and the strange little bit of comfort and home each bite delivered made the dish all the more satisfying. Food is about more than just taste, it is about experiences, memories, the stuff of life itself. It's a universal factor of the human race. We all have our own foods that, no matter where we are in the world, will always bring us home. Enjoy the pictures below.

 

 

 

 

 

Bricklane Market

Bricklane Market

Today my flatmates and I ventured over to the area known as Bricklane to visit the Bricklane market. It's open on Sundays only, so this was our first real chance to visit it. We reached the market by taking the tube to Aldgate East station, and then walked about five minutes through an Indian and Bengali neighborhood lined with incredibly-smelling restaurants and little sweet shops. (Both of which I will be returning to soon to try!) It still blows my mind how a quick tube ride and walk can completely transport you to a new world of sights, smells, and sounds. The people that define a neighborhood change from block to block, and the level of diversity is truly astounding.

 

In any case, we reached one of the indoor markets, and were immediately overwhelmed with a blast of heat and delicious smells. The market reminded me of the Des Moines Downtown Farmer's Market, but placed inside an old warehouse and with Indian/Thai/Chinese food dominating the scene.) There were some great clothing booths and lots of amazing little art stands.

 

At the market, I managed to accomplish three of my London goals in a matter of minutes.

  1. Buy some quality loose tea. (Great chai from a tea vendor who shared his favorite teashops)
  2. Eat delicious Indian food. (Yum! See next post!)
  3. Find a brown leather bomber jacket. (Not only did I find one, but it fit me like it was made for me, and the vendor gave me a twenty percent discount when I bargained. #winning?)

 

It was an overwhelming, awesome experience. We didn't manage to make it all around the market areas, but will return soon! As we explored the area, we also found some great street art. Enjoy the pictures below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch Munch at Home

Lunch Munch at Home

I got home from class today and decided to treat myself to a nice, healthy little lunch after a good class, some long walks, and another morning of working out intensely. The special treat of the day was market-fresh strawberries I got at a nearby market. They were ripe, red, and totally delicious.

Strawberries, Utterly Delicious Strawberries

The lunch was rounded out with some low-fat yogurt, some pita strips I warmed up, celery, Brie cheese (surprisingly inexpensive here), a few tea biscuits, some pepper hummus, and of course, a nice cup of Assam tea, with two toffees for dessert. It was delicious and quite enjoyable. The simple food was a nice change of habit from the rather more extravagant flavors of late.

My Mini-Feast

Tea, Glorious Tea.

 

The first Tube ride and more!

The first Tube ride and more!

We survived (actually thrived) with another beautiful day in London. Temperatures were in the 60s-70s Fahrenheit, with a slight breeze rolling around the city. We did not have any school plans, but had a fair amount of goals to accomplish throughout the day.

  1. Find a wok/frying pan and knife
  2. Find hangers and a set of doorstops
  3. Get Oyster Cards (London Public Transport pre-pay cards)
  4. Eat somewhere cool for lunch
  5. Explore the city a bit

 

Not only did we manage to do all that, but we also accomplished some other awesome (baby-steps, but awesome) tasks on our third day in London.

We also:

  1. Successfully took the Underground, even changing lines!
  2. Adventured all over SoHo and Chinatown
  3. Found a delightful costume shop that amused us and was the source of our new proud Union Jack dining room decoration.
  4. Had some phenomenal bubble-tea!
  5. Navigated to a open-air market on a local's “English-language” instructions… (left, right, left, right, right, down an alleyway…)
  6. Purchased mangos, kiwis, asparagus, and more at the aforementioned market.
  7. Cooked an awesome dinner of stir-fried garlic chicken and veggies with rice noodles.

We are having an amazing time adventuring together, and are heading to orientation tomorrow! Enjoy the pictures below!

Awesome Building in SoHo

My Delightful Flatmates

Tracey's Rainbow Hat

Adriyel's Fierce Viking Look

Tracey and Claire Being English

Captain Mistry

Flat Dinner! (With Flag!)

The Stir-Fry

 

 

Fresh Kiwis and Mango

 

Lunch at The Curved Angel Cafe

Lunch at The Curved Angel Cafe

Lunch today was at The Curved Angel Cafe. My flatmates and I stumbled upon it as we walked around Clerkenwell Green, an area just a few minutes walk to the south of our flat. We were looking for a fairly cheap lunch adventure, and the prices listed on a sidewalk billboard fit the price range we were seeking.

 

We ordered our food at the counter and went out to our table to wait. The staff and proprietor were incredibly friendly and helpful, and were kind enough to even pose for a photo for me.

The Staff at The Curved Angel

I ordered The Curved Angel Wrap for £5.95. My flatmates also ordered wraps, but of different varieties. I was expecting something pretty small for that price in the city. Instead, we each received a substantial wrap accompanied by some coleslaw and a great little salad, artfully arranged on a clean white plate.

 

We were blown away by the humble cafe's presentation even before we took a single bite. However, as the eating commenced, we became so immersed in our respective wraps and sides that the conversation stopped. My wrap had chicken, halloumi cheese, roasted peppers, and greens in it. The chicken was nice a smokey, freshly grilled, and hot; the halloumi cheese worked as perfect complement, with the natural saltiness of the cheese pulling out and accenting the chicken's flavor. The vegetables were also quite fresh and springy, giving the wrap a crisper bite. All of this was held inside a fresh tortilla that was piping hot on service. The food came fresh from the cooktop, and I opted to actually start with the sides. The slaw and salad, like the greens in the wrap, were very obviously fresh and tasted so refreshing. The dressing on the salad, a house blend, was like a creamy italian with a touch more vinegar and very tasty.

 

To top off the great food and friendly service, we had some wonderful atmosphere. The area were we sitting was right by Clerkenwell Green (the actual park) and a church. We were in the fresh air, with very little traffic, and a great view. With the delectable dining experience, excellent company, and the view you see below, all combined with the excitement of really BEING in London, our flat's first experience at The Curved Angel Cafe could best be described as… heavenly.