Hello Harrods!

Hello Harrods!

Today, I adventured around Harrods, London's famous department store.

It was impressive and slightly insane. Four floors of shopping, filled with luxury items in every category. I began at the bottom, starting at the food hall, which was really cool. I saw all sorts of amazing food items and the quality was amazing, particularly for the chocolate craftsmanship. Although it was outside my price range, it was still really enjoyable to see what amazing food a large budget can create. I ventured through the various floors, flitting between being astounded by products and then being astounded by their prices. (This was particularly prevalent in the watches department. They were beautiful masterpieces, but I also saw one that cost £38,785.)

The crowds were also massive, as this is one of the last Sundays before the holidays. I had to sometimes just ride the flow of the crowd to get from room to room. It was a fun way to spend part of the day, and an amazing store to just enjoy the people-watching in. All in all, a good day.

All Lit Up

 

Harry Potter Wands!

Underwater Sea Scooter. Not Even Joking.

 

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.

 

Final Florence Day!

Final Florence Day!

Today was quite an adventure-filled day! (Also, the sun came out for the first time, which felt incredibly nice after long days of rain.)

 

We started out enjoying the leather markets of Florence, which were vast and filled with tons of amazing items. I ended up getting a wallet and a belt, and even managed to get the belt customized to my waist. Another great find? I met an artist who did engravings of the city and picked out a beautiful print similar to the one in the picture set below. He matted and signed the print and even packaged it nicely for me.

 

After the market, we took a bus to the Piazza Michelangelo. It was absolutely breathtaking to see the amazing view. (Dad, you were right. It was one of the best things I've ever seen.) We took tons of photos, admired the view, and relished the sunshine.

 

Post-Piazza, we ventured back to the train station and caught our train to Rome. After a good amount of walking, we finally reached the hotel. We checked in, ate a small dinner at a nearby restaurant, and have crashed back at home. We will see tons of Rome tomorrow!

 

Enjoy the pictures below!

 

The Market

 

The engraving

 

By the Market

 

By the market

 

Piazza Michelangelo

View From the Piazza Michelangelo

Group shot!

 

The Classic Eric Self-Shot

 

Another View From the Piazza Michelangelo

Another View From the Piazza Michelangelo

 

 

Another View From the Piazza Michelangelo

 

Venice with a Touch of Florence

Venice with a Touch of Florence

Today, we began another day of adventure!

We woke up, got ready, and checked out of the hotel. We then made our way to the train station, put our bags in storage, and headed into the main city again.

After a night of rain and a particularly high tide, the streets were flooded! Luckily,pumping efforts were underway and raised platform walkways had been placed out. Unfortunately, San Marco's square was completely underwater by the time we got there, so we had to take a lunch break while the square was drained…

Luckily, a short while later, it was drained and all was well! We adventured through the square, saw gondolas and more glass shops, and even had some more gelato! (I can almost hear the gasps of surprise at that last one…)

Eventually, we made our way back to the train station, had some coffee at a nearby cafe, and boarded the train to Florence. In Florence, we set up base at the hotel, I ate some amazing gnocchi (with Gorgonzola cheese and pine nuts) and sausage pizza, we walked to the riverbank, and I even got a tiny cannoli to sweeten my taste buds.

 

Tomorrow is another day of adventure! Pictures below!

Starting the day

 

The flooded streets

 

 

 

Travel-buddies!

Caitlin on a bridge

 

Myself on a bridge!

 

Venice Canal. Beautiful.

 

Gimme PIZZA.

 

Gorgeous Glass

 

San Marco's Square

 

Me in the Square

 

Gondolas

 

Gondolas

Tracey on the Bridge

Gelato…

 

 

Gnocchi in Florence

 

More P.I.Z.Z.A.! Let's get carried away!

Cute Canoli

 

Florence Bridge

Florence at Night!

 

Touring South Kensington

Touring South Kensington

Today, for my History of London class, we toured the area surrounding South Kensington and the Royal Albert Memorial. It was a beautiful day, and the area is filled with amazing museums and fun architecture. We had just studied the Great Exhibition of 1851, so seeing the area that evolved from that space was really incredible. I really enjoyed getting a closer look at the Memorial and we had an interesting conversation about its meaning and about the legacies of Prince Albert.

 

After class, a few of us meandered through some sections of the Natural History Museum. It is an amazing museum filled with incredible exhibits. I loved getting a close look at the rock formation exhibits and some extinct preserved creatures. The visit was too short to see everything, so I will definitely be returning soon!

 

I spent the rest of the day doing readings, cleaning, and general homework. This monotony was broken by a nice long run to the grocery store for dinner supplies and a relaxing bus ride home. I also finished addressing some postcards and sent them off today! More will be written this weekend, as I am riding a bus for five hours to visit Liverpool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Food

On Food

Food is, as should be evident, one of my chief passions in life. I love exploring different flavors and experimenting with common meals or ingredients to create something totally new. Food is an outlandishly fun medium to work with, as it allows immense freedom and expression, yet time constrains its beauty to such a short period. Thrust into England, a new culinary adventure, I have been exploring two amazing paths, restaurant exploration and home cooking. The first will be addressed at a later point (or search for the Fish and Chips Quest in the sidebar), but doing large amounts of cooking was a new experience for me. At home, usually I am either in my beloved Dining Hall, being spoiled by my parents' or grandparents' cooking, or cooking solely for myself.

 

Here, however, I am the Head Chef of our flat. (My flatmates and I worked out a mutually-beneficial deal: I cook the meals, they do the dishes that ensue.) Learning to cook for four people (and the occasional guest) each night has been a great deal of fun. Although our tools are limited, we have an amazing selection of ingredients between the various open-air markets and a large Sainsburys (grocery store) fairly nearby.

 

We take turns doing the shopping, or go in a large group together, but its always an adventure. One thing we noticed quickly was the lack of preservatives, especially in the produce. This means we have to shop close to daily for some produce, but it does mean we are eating amazingly fresh food all the time. I love doing the shopping, seeing all the fresh and varied food all around, and finding new inspiration for dishes. For example, this week, a major promotion dropped the price of Brie and Spanish chorizo a ton, so we picked up some to add to our garlic basil pesto Mac and Cheese. It was a delicious success, as the picture below may show.

 

I've also found it enjoyable to start writing out weekly menus. It helps us ensure variety and also buy just what we need to avoid wasting food. It also brings back memories of the Dining Hall, and my favorite study break of looking up the week's menu to see what foods I would be able to combine. This is one of our menus from a week ago:

Weekly Menu:

Monday: extra cheesy spinach, pesto, and chicken Mac with sliced oranges, strawberries, and avocado

Tuesday: oven pesto chicken spinach sandwiches with pasta salad(?)

Wednesday: Oven baked Parmesan chicken breast with pilaf and caprese salad (tomato, Mozzerella slices, fresh basil) and fresh bread

Thursday: Pizza! (Sausage with assorted veggies), bruschetta (as appetizer), classy cocktails (vodka sunrise- vodka, orange juice, cranberry juice)

Friday: Fried rice with large fried shrimp

 

Cooking is simultaneously exhilarating and relaxing for me. Though the sizzle of the oil and the ending rush to make sure everything is ready at the same time raise the excitement level, there is something so rhythmic and soothing about the various routines that surround my cooking; the reassuring thunk of the knife on the cutting board, the gentle murmuring of the boiling water on the stove, and the swirls of the soup as I stir put me in a relaxed state of mind. The routine clears away my day, and the meal nourishes my tired body. I'm not just learning to cook on this adventure, I'm learning about myself, and what simple things, like cooking, hold great significance in my life.

At the Store, Buying Chorizo

Buying Italian Cheese from a Market Vendor

 

Making Pizzas (P-I-Z-Z-A!)

 

Making the Mac

 

The Fabled Garlic Basil Pesto Spinach Mac & Cheese with Spanish Chorizo, Fresh Mozzarella, and French Brie

 

London Days (And Welcoming Sara to London!)

London Days (And Welcoming Sara to London!)

Today was a nice recharging day. I slept in a little, made a breakfast with eggs, smoked salmon (extremely cheap here!!!), Leister Red cheese, a baguette, oranges, yogurt and tea, then read some course readings and cleaned a little while my breakfast settled. I then went to the gym, where I got a wonderful workout in. I then dropped into Primark, which is a fashion-centric yet super frugal English clothing shop, as they just opened a new shop down the street from the gym. I snagged a new sweater and an awesome tie for under ten pounds, which is a total steal. After Primark, I grabbed pittas and tomato sauce from the grocery and some amazing pepperoni from a local Italian foodshop down the street from our flat.

I then came home and made pizzas after I skyped my family. Sara, one of my Grinnell swimming buddies, arrived from Sweden just as I was finishing making the pizzas. We had the delicious little pizzas (pepperoni, basil, spinach, and garlic) and then I took Sara out to her first English Pub! I then came home, skyped Emily, and cleaned a little more. We adventure to Kew Gardens tomorrow!

Cooking!

Sara and Me!

London Adventuring!

London Adventuring!

Today was an adventure-filled day!

After class, Grace and I decided to make the most of her last day and see lots of London.

The highlights?

We ate some awesome Indian food, explored a bit of the Tate Modern Art Museum, and climbed the over 300 steps to the top of the Monument to the Great Fire.

We ate Lamb Kalia (lamb and potatoes), Chicken tikka, Stuffed paratha, Papadum, and more at a small restaurant on Bricklane. It was amazing and so delicious! We also picked up some little desserts from a local Indian bakery, and they were another amazing taste of home.

After filling our bellies full of scrumptious food, we proceeded to the Tate Modern to explore a few exhibits. The building was massive and so impressive. It's amazing to see how much art is available to see free in this city. I love just being able to walk ten minutes and see some world-class art for free.

Post-post-modern art experience, we decided to go traditional touristy and climb to the top of the Monument. Over 300 steps later up a spiral staircase, we emerged onto the observation deck and were greeted to an amazing 360 degree view of London. It was absolutely gorgeous and totally worth the arduous climb.

We finally made it home, where I made Parmesan Chicken and some Caprese Salad. Dinner was enjoyed by all. Pictures below, per usual!

 

 

 

 

 

It's a Long Way Up…

…And Down

 

 

 

 

 

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