The Final Banquet

The Final Banquet

Tonight, we gathered as a group for the last time to celebrate finishing Grinnell in London.

The papers are in, the bags are (nearly) packed, and the last little things are finally being done. The banquet was a nice cap to the semester. It was so nice to get to get together with all of the wonderful people who made this semester what it was. Not only did I get to dine and chat with my fellow Grinnell-in-Londoners as a large group, but I also got to say some final goodbyes and thank yous to the program professors and staff.

It was a wonderful evening filled with great conversation and fantastic food. We dined at the Clerkenwell Kitchen, a little restaurant right by our flat. We each received a three course meal. I started with a delectable English Onion Soup. It was rich, hearty, and wonderfully seasoned. I quickly gobbled it up and eagerly awaited the main course. I had opted for the roasted sirloin served with vegetables, which turned out to be parsnips, potatoes, and sprouts. It was a delicious and quite filling entrée. Finally, for dessert, I opted for the toffee pudding, which was scrumptious and not terribly heavy, a sweet way to top off a fabulous meal.

After the meal, we convened to snag a final group shot. It is somewhat crazy to see how much we've grown together on this semester together. We've bonded over an incredible experience and it's been wonderful to make so many new friends. We said our goodbyes see-you-laters and headed back home to polish off some more packing. All in all, a good day. My final day in London is tomorrow. Pictures below.

Teddy and I

 

Soup!

 

Fresh Sourdough! Yum!

 

The Main Course

 

Delectably Delicious Dessert

 

What a group!

 

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The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

For one of my last evenings in London, I decided to have a little fun and check out a nearby speakeasy, The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town.

Cleverly hidden, the Mayor is quite a find. In fact, it doesn't even have a street entrance. You have to ask to be let in by the restaurant above it, a charming breakfast diner called The Breakfast Club. We entered The Breakfast Club, and when the waiter asked where we'd like to sit, we told him we were looking for the Mayor. He then led us to the 50's era SNEE refrigerator, opened the door, and led us down a staircase hidden inside. That's right. The entrance to the speakeasy is through a REFRIGERATOR. It was pretty phenomenally cool.

We made it down the stairs and got a table. After some consultation with the bartender, I ended up ordering a cocktail called the “King Yellowman's Answer”, which apparently won Rumfest 2012. It seemed like a safe bet, and the description made it sound amazing. It read:

King Yellowman's Answer

Blackwell Rum, roasted pineapple with cinnamon sticks, honey, espresso and freshly pressed pear juice. With a garnish not to be messed with.

It was delicious. The garnish turned out to be a scotch pepper, one of the hottest in the world, filled with rum to be added to the drink to taste. It was lit on fire at our table to infuse the flavor into the rum, then I poured about half in my drink. It was fiery, but so delectable. After enjoying the ambiance of The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town for awhile, we finally headed home to do some homework. All in all, a good day.

 

The Store”front”

 

 

 

 

The Hidden Entrance

 

 

Quirky Ambiance Painting

 

King Yellowman's Answer

 

Bricklane & Family Dinner

Bricklane & Family Dinner

Today was quite a fun day! I enjoyed going to my final Sunday market at Bricklane, and also got to have my cousin and her friends over to my flat for supper.

I began the day at Bricklane, browsing the stands and enjoying lots of delicious food! My favorite treat of the day was a s'mores whooping pie from a bakery stand. It was amazing. The cake was perfect and dipped in dark chocolate, with a tasty toasted marshmallow center. YUM!

Treats!

 

Classic London

After eating a bunch, I made my way to the gym, enjoyed a good workout, hit up the grocery store, and set about making a dinner! I made a caprese salad and a pasta with roasted chorizo and tomatoes in a creamy tomato pesto sauce. It had to be good, because we were having guests tonight!

My cousin Alyssa came over for supper with her boyfriend, Toony Goghavala, and her friend, Maya Tata. It was wonderful. We enjoyed a great dinner and conversation together, as well as the wonderful wine and great little cookies that Alyssa baked for us. (Let's put it this way… That pastry education is WORKING! They were gone in mere minutes!) All in all, a good day, and a great FINAL Sunday.

 

The Whole Group

 

Our Guests and Me

 

Cousins!

 

Alyssa and Maya

Toony and Alyssa

 

The Best Fish and Chips in London

The Best Fish and Chips in London

The contest is over. Today's combatant blew away the rest of the field. The best overall fish and chips experience in London (by my criteria) is Poppies, an establishment just off of Bricklane. I visited Poppies for lunch today as a study break from writing my paper. Definitely a great decision.

Let's break down the criteria.

1. The Fish: Perfectly fried, brought hot and fresh to the table. Crispy but light breading covers a massive hunk of beautifully white cod. The fish was flaky, and utterly delicious. Also, the homemade tartar sauce was perfect.

2. The Chips: The best traditional chips in London. (Exmouth Arms was a close contender, but Poppies keeps it closer to the traditional steak-cut fry, giving it the edge it needed.) Crisp on the outside, and totally fresh, these fries were a great complement to the fish. They tasted good without vinegar and salt and absolutely phenomenal with the classic two toppers.

3. Mushy peas: Poppies advertised its mushy peas as “homemade.” They certainly taste like it, and it makes a huge difference! The sweet, fresh peas complemented the heaviness of the fried fish and chips nicely. Best mushy peas in London.

4. The atmosphere/overall experience: Poppies is an old-fashioned chippy, and it shows in the best possible way. From the waitstaff wearing 50s era white short sleeve button-ups with a black tie to serving the takeaway fish and chips in newspaper, Poppies captures a lost era. Huge lines and friendly staff, coupled with a cohesively fantastic and classic fish and chips meal, make this one London experience you absolutely cannot miss.

 

It's been an amazing adventure trying the various fish and chips restaurants all around town. Each one had its own twists on the classic meal, so my favorite fish and chips may not be your choice. Either way, with a good batch of fish and chips, everyone's a winner!

 

In any case, even though Poppies won, many restaurants deserve acclaim for a delectable meal as well. I can highly recommend any of the following fish and chips restaurants in London.

1. The Golden Hind

2. The Fryer's Delight

3. Fish!Kitchen

4. Exmouth Arms

 

Check out the winner below:

 

Poppies' Fish and Chips

 

Spectacular Scotland, Day 2

Spectacular Scotland, Day 2

It's been an amazing day full of adventure here in Edinburgh.

In short, I ate a full Scottish breakfast, toured the Bank of Scotland Museum, went on a whiskey distillery tour, visited St. Giles Cathedral, climbed the 250 meter mountain/hill Arthur's Seat, ate a delicious sandwich, and visited the “Birthplace of Harry Potter”, the cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter.

 

I began my day with a hearty breakfast cooked to order at my bed & breakfast. The full Scottish Breakfast included sausages, bacon, eggs, haggis, tomato, beans, toast, porridge, tea, orange juice, and apple juice. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have such a hearty breakfast to start off my day. I ate it all up, and headed down into town.

 

The Scottish Breakfast

 

After that filling breakfast, I rode the bus into town, and swung into the Bank of Scotland Museum. It was incredible, with an impressive display of artifacts, including a display of shiny copper banknote print blocks. I enjoyed browsing through the free-admission museum as my food digested. The staff were also very friendly and knowledgable!

 

 

Old Bank Keys

After the bank, I ventured up the hill to see another of Scotland's treasures, its whiskey. I had the whiskey tour highly recommended by many, so I paid my fee and ventured into the building to explore the world of whiskey. Luckily, my tour group was really small, (only an English couple and myself) so we got a great deal of attention and care from our guide. After a quick introduction to the process of actually making whiskey, we made our way to a tasting room, where she explained the four most important whiskey production regions in Scotland and the various influences geography have on the character of the whiskey. We then were able to try one type of whiskey from a region of our choice. As we enjoyed our selection, we moved into the room housing the extensive collection of whiskey bottles in the museum. It was an astonishing sight, with the beautifully lit shelves filling a massive room from the floor to ceiling with whiskey bottles. The museum bought the collection from a Brazilian whiskey enthusiast. The collection contains over 3384 bottles, of which none have been opened. After touring the collection room, we finished our tour in the tasting room, where we were each given a small portion of each of the four regions' whiskey to try, as well as some still Scottish Water to add to the whiskey to taste. It was an incredible experience.

 

The Tour Whiskeys

 

One Portion of the Collection

 

 

Nice “Books”

 

Expensive Bottle Decorated With Real Silver

 

Each Chess Piece Contains Whiskey… Checkmate?

 

 

My Tasting Set

Next, I walked down the Royal Mile to St. Giles Cathedral. It was a glorious Gothic-style building with amazing stained glass and interiors. Absolutely stunning, inside and out!

St. Giles

Interior of St. Giles

 

Impressive Organ

 

Exquisite Celtic Cross

 

Next, I made my way down to the corner of the town and began my ascent of Arthur's Seat, a massive hill/tiny mountain that towers over the city. I took a semi-unconventional route up, which was quicker, had fewer people, but was more vertical (read difficult) and unpaved for most of it. It was awesome, and I enjoyed taking pictures along the way. The view when I finally clambered up over the last few rocks to make it to the peak (at 250 meters above sea level) was absolutely breathtaking! I took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed soaking in the amazing view. The day was amazingly clear and I could see for miles, making the climb all the more worth it.

 

Early Shot, the High Point is Arthur's Seat

 

Not Sure If I'll Make It

 

Ice on the Path Looked Like a River Stopped in Time

 

Nearly Halfway

 

View From the Seat

Another View

 

Success

 

See For Miles

 

Edinburgh Far Below

 

 

After all of that climbing, I needed some refreshment. Luckily, a sandwich store on my way into town vanquished my hunger, with an amazing Cajun Chicken Panini, tomato basil soup, and crisps. Now that my stomach stopped its whining, I could move onto finding the “Birthplace of Harry Potter”, the Elephant House. JK Rowling wrote much of the first book here, where she famously could barely afford one cup of coffee. (She doesn't have that problem anymore.) It was wonderful, and while the place didn't play up its famous importance besides a few articles and postcards, the bathrooms were a shrine to Rowling. Graffiti from fans covered the walls. Some were funny, some were strange, but some were deeply moving. It's amazing how that one series has connected a generation worldwide. It was so great to see where it all started. Finally, I went home to my B&B, exhausted but happy with an amazing day.

 

 

Sandwich

The

The Elephant House

 

Magically Delicious Cocoa

 

The Deathly Hallows

 

Touching Quote.

 

Spectacular Scotland, Day 1

Spectacular Scotland, Day 1

After a nice, long bus journey from London (nine hours!), I arrived in Edinburgh! I had a few hours to kill before I could check into my hotel, so I began wandering around the city as the sun began rising. Edinburgh is absolutely picturesque and very walkable. So began my day's adventures!

 

I started by making my way down the main road towards the castle on a craggy patch of rock that dominates the city. As I climbed the hill, I began to realize just how excellently strategically placed the castle was. In other words, it was a steep, arduous climb, especially with a backpack and duffel bag on my back.

Eventually, I made it to the top and was greeted by a spectacular view. The castle was simply magnificent. I made my way into the castle, paid for a ticket and audio guide, and explored every nook and cranny in the castle. I saw the views from the various embankments, the old cannons, the famous one o'clock gun, the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, old prison keeps, a war museum, a small chapel, and tons (quite literally, I suppose…) of incredible stone architecture. I also learned a great deal of Scottish history from the audio guide, including the stories of the Scottish/English wars and truces, and the castle's varioussieges and rebuildings. It was fascinating, and the history major in me was in pure heaven. The photographer in me was also thrilled, as the high vantage point gave me a ton of great shooting opportunities.

After the castle, I made my way down to a Christmas festival and enjoyed a brunch of a burger and a small piece of dark chocolate covered marzipan for dessert. There were a bunch of fun stands, and it was great to browse and see the attractions set up for the festival, including a Ferris wheel!

Eventually, I made my way to my lodgings, a little bed and breakfast (NB's Bed & Breakfast) twenty-five minutes by walking from the city center. I made it there, and was greeted by the incredibly friendly and helpful staff. They made sure that I was settled nicely into the room and then helped advise me on a bunch of various things to do. (The staff and this B&B are phenomenal. If you are ever in Edinburgh, I highly recommend it. They even upgraded my room for free! Also, funnily enough, another one of the Eric Mistry's of the world has stayed here before. I guess it's just where Eric Mistry's like to stay when they come to Scotland.)

I showered, got cleaned up, and headed (on the staff's advice) to the local coffee shop, Piece Box, for coffee and a supper. It was a phenomenally cute, really friendly place with great staff, excellent coffee, and delicious food! I got myself a mocha and the goat cheese and chorizo sandwich with red pepper relish on wheat bread, served with potato salad. It was a great way to cap off my day! I then retired to my room, relaxed and planned out my day for tomorrow! Stay tuned! All in all, a good day. Pictures galore below.

 

The Castle on the hill.

 

Up at the Top

 

Self-Portrait

 

King and Guardian

 

 

The Famed Edinburgh “One O'Clock Gun”

A gun has been fired from the northern ramparts at 1 PM every day except for Sundays and Christmas since the mid 1800's to provide an audio signal of the time to the ships in the harbor. Why one o'clock and not noon? According to the audio guide, “The Scots, being frugal, decided that one shot per day was cheaper than twelve.”

The Northern View

 

 

Pistols and Surgical Tools inside the War Museum

 

Display of Prosthetics Through the Years at the War Museum

 

The Southern View

 

Box Made By French Prisoner of War.

Prisoners of war contained in the castle could make various items from the meager everyday items in their cells to sell to townspeople every week in exchange for food, tobacco, and stationary to write home on. This particular example is made out of STRAW!

 

Incredible Stained Glass in the Chapel

 

View From the Top of the Castle

 

Christmas Market

 

Ferris Wheel and Scott Monument

 

My Cozy Room

 

My Supper!

 

Markets Galore!

Markets Galore!

Though the name implies a vast amount of shopping, I actually only bought a little bit of food at the markets today. It was more of an exploration/window-shopping day! (If one can window-shop without windows…)

 

I started my day at the Old Spitalfields Market, a pretty massive covered market right by the Liverpool Street Station. There were some pretty nice stands there with some especially cool clothing designs, but nothing that really could justify the London-style prices. Looking was really enjoyable, and I also picked up some interesting ideas for jewelry designs after seeing some of the metal manipulation by some of the artists selling their works.

Next, I made my way to Bricklane Market, my personal favorite market. After checking out some of the vintage clothing stands, I decided to treat myself to some spring rolls from one of the Thai food stands. They were excellent! Wrapped in rice paper, they were filled with cabbage, vermicelli (thin rice noodles), carrots, and other veggies. I topped them with some HOT chili oil and ate them right up! Totally delicious and actually pretty healthy. I was pleased.

I continued to browse around for a little bit, then finally made my way back to the tube station, which took me to the gym. One long workout later, I swung by the grocery store for some sausage and cherry tomatoes to make into dinner tonight. I ended up using them in a pasta with a creamy tomato pesto sauce. It turned out pretty scrumptious and disappeared rather rapidly. All in all, a good day. Picture below!

 

The Street Outside Old Spitalfields

 

Rosie the Riveter?

 

Old Spitalfields

 

Spring Rolls!

 

 

Southbank Christmas Market and More!

Southbank Christmas Market and More!

Today was a wonderfully fun-filled day!

The day started with a fun trip to the Southbank Christmas Market, a fun menagerie of food and craft stands of the bank of the Thames. Although the weather was the London specialty of breezy, drizzly, and grey, we had quite a fun time exploring the various stands and seeing the entertainment. I picked up some roasted peanuts and cashews, which were scrumptious. I also couldn't resist the amazing cheese from one of the vendors. I had to get this spectacular cheddar with hot peppers embedded into it.

After the Christmas Market, I went to the Southbank Centre to check out an awesome exhibit on photojournalism. There were some absolutely stunning pictures on display, and it really made me reflect on all of the major events of 2012. There were some breathtaking shots from the anti-Gaddafi protests that I couldn't stop staring at. It was an excellent exhibit. Another exhibit at the nearby national theatre featured stunning landscape pictures from the United Kingdom, which were some of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen in my life.

After all of that, I came home, went to the gym, visited my favorite pub with my flatmates, then cooked myself a fun dinner. It consisted of a batch of quinoa, a dish of fried shrimp with egg, some wilted spinach in balsamic vinegar, a garlic cheddar roll, and a small portion of my newly-acquired cheese! All in all, a delectable meal to top off a busy day!

 

Why, yes, that man is playing a tuba/flamethrower combination!

 

Absolutely Delicious

 

Cheese? Please!

 

Happy to see the exhibit!

One of the many displays.

 

Dinner, Mistry-Style.

 

Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving!

What a day! Some good, some bad, but overall, a day to be thankful!

The good: Thanksgiving with my Grinnell-In-London friends hosted by Professor Vinter and Family and chatting with my family around the world!

The bad: My cousin, Alyssa, had her apartment broken into and she lost a lot of valuables. Luckily, she wasn't home or hurt, and is being extremely brave about it.

 

I'll begin with Alyssa's apartment. Apparently someone had gotten into her building during the day, kicked down the door to her apartment, and made off with the visible small electronics. As soon as I heard, I rushed to her apartment, spoke with her, her friends, the police, and the locksmith. The police were very thorough and the locksmith promised he'd bring some materials to augment the door to prevent this from happening again. Luckily, no one was hurt and nothing totally irreplaceable was taken.

After the burglary was all sorted out, I made my way to Professor Vinter's home for the Thanksgiving Party! Everyone had made a dish, so we had a broad range of delicious foods to fill up with! Professor Vinter and her family made a phenomenal turkey as well, which really brought the holiday spirit to the party. I made my special Mac and Cheese, filled with sautéed garlic and four types of cheese, including pieces of Brie atop the noodles. Some of my apartment-mate soffered to take it for me when I told them about Alyssa's incident, so it made it to the party safely. I arrived to a wonderful spread of food and filled up promptly. It was all so delicious and it was wonderful to get together as a full group to really enjoy the holiday. After the food settled, we set out another spread of desserts! Luckily, the second-stomach (the one reserved for desserts) was available, as we had a ton of delicious options to choose from. We laughed, shared great food and conversation, and enjoyed an awesome Thanksgiving!

It was a good day to remember and be thankful for the bonds of friendship and family. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Alyssa's front door

 

A closer look

 

The Spread

 

Desserts!

 

Group Shot!

 

Baby Grace, Adorable as Usual.

 

How many plates, Teddy?

 

Sharing Conversations

 

Sharing Dessert

 

Lorraine and Aniela

 

Greg and Vilma

 

Lunch at Bibibam Cafe

Lunch at Bibibam Cafe

Today, as a special treat, I decided to pick up some Korean food for lunch at a little place I had passed whilst on my way to the British Museum.

My classmate Evan had also recommended this place, the Bibibam Cafe. I decided to stop in and grab a little takeaway for lunch. I got the Korean pork and a little potato hash brown thing as a side, all atop a bed of rice. The pork was delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, and exploding with flavor. It was extremely rich, and the sauce soaked into the rice, leading to even more deliciousness as the pork was slowly depleted. The potato cake helped mop things up and was a pleasant and simple complement to the intense flavors of the pork. I will definitely be exploring the other delicious options the Bibibam Cafe has to offer. Cheap, convenient, and delicious? Count me in.

The Cafe

My Meal