Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities, Part 1: Great Expectations

     To the very small part of the world that does not know, I have been saving up my money for almost a year in order to go to London, England. I planned where I wanted to go, paid for my ticket, and chose my travel partner: my mom. She paid for hotels and her own ticket, and we both split the costs of restaurants and souvenirs. I made an itinerary for the sites and restaurants I wanted to attend, and my mom contributed her ideas and revisions. We decided to stay in the city, since we would only be gone for about six days. I had been dreaming about this trip for a year, and I finally got to go last week. I enjoyed every minute of it (scratching maybe the pressure in my ears during the flight) and I loved spending it with my mom!

     We took a red-eye flight to Heathrow airport, in London. Groggily we, or most likely me, shuffled our way through all the checkpoints of flying internationally. It was all very interesting to me, since this was my first time leaving US boarders. I could have managed without the clogging of my ears as the plane landed, but otherwise it was a pleasant journey. My first reaction when I spotted a Coco-cola machine was, "They're everywhere!" It was a bit ethnocentric of me to assume that Coco-cola was mostly an American franchise. I later realized that Starbucks and petticabs also appeared in places other than the US. Luckily, I did not dwell too much on this fact since there was so much more to see, and six days was not enough time to experience everything. We did try very hard, though.
     Our first stop was to drop everything at the hotel. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not the biggest fan of carrying around all my luggage with me everywhere I go. Everyone we met was really friendly, which was another thing that surprised me. In New York, I feel that a lot of people take on a fend-for-yourself type of attitude towards strangers, and I assumed that in other cites people would act the same way. It was also interesting how many different languages were spoken. I expected to hear the typical british accent, but I also heard Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, and many other languages that I couldn't identify. When I got back I learned that London is one of the most multi-lingual cities in the world. That explains a lot.
     Mom and I walked a couple short blocks to Piccadilly Circle, along the way passing the Ritz and also Laduree, which is a macaroon shop. In New York City, the Laduree has a forty-five minute line leading outside, but in London there was no line and even less space inside. The store was about the size of a closet, with a couple of tables outside. Mom and I bought three different macaroons with our pounds. I was able to pick up the different types of currency (one pence, two pence, a pound, etc.) more quickly than Mom was, so I was dubbed the official cash-treasurer.
     Outside, we tried our three macaroons: chocolate banana, cherry blossom, and almond marshmallow. The chocolate banana was thicker than other macaroons, which sometimes just use almond butter for filling. Our favorite was the cherry blossom. Wow, it was incredible. It was like eating an actual blossom in  crunchy cookie form, fantastic. Thirdly we tried the almond marshmallow. This one wasn't my favorite, because the marshmallow could have been played up more into maybe a paste instead of sticking gelatin in between two macaroon cookies. I have to give major credit to Laduree, though. I can see why there was is such a long line. Or as the Britts say, a queue.
From left: cherry blossom, almond marshmallow, chocolate banana.

     The next part of our adventurous first day was to go to the London Eye. Yes, I'm aware that it is a bit tourist-y and the queue is really long, but it was a fantastic way to see London. It's a giant ferris wheel, basically. You have to jump a gap into a little egg-shaped bubble with a lot of people, and then slowly rotate around the wheel to see the views. If your vertigo isn't too bad, it's amazing. You can buy a kind of map that points out everything that can be seen from the Eye: Buckingham palace, the London Bridge, Houses of Parliament, and a lot more. It's like speed sight seeing, omitting the long line.
     For dinner, we went to a hole of a hole in the wall pub, (recommended by a friend) called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. The restaurant opened promptly at six, and was managed by the sole waitress. Benches took the place of seats and a curtain closed around our little booth, making the environment very cosy.
This is the sign on the street, but not the actual building.

This is the actual Ye Olde cheshire Cheese.


     To me, this is where comfort food all started. We got bubble and squeak, which is, in fact, not a drink but mashed potatoes with peas and asparagus. Mom got steak and kidney pie, and I got a roasted lamb shank. My dad would have appreciated it, especially since the leg was just lopped off, cooked, and served with gravy. I had to pick off some pieces of fat, but in a way I was reminded of home. The list of desserts was interesting to me. There was a separate section for savory and sweet desserts. Under the sweet, there was a type of pudding called "spotted dick." Of course, I absolutely had to see what that was. Just to be safe, we split cheese and biscuits and tried pudding with custard. I especially liked the latter, because the pudding was more like bread that was molded and dipped in gelatin, and it wasn't as sweet. It paired really nicely with the custard, which was sweet, hot, and thick.
     I liked knowing that comfort food is the same in all places. At the end of the day I was able to reflect, thinking about how being in London felt almost surreal, but in a happy way. I felt happy as I slept that night, ready to start the next day.


Here's to first days and finding things in common,
Yours,
Kate


P.S. Here are the websites for Ladree and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese:


Ladree: www.ladree.fr


Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese: www.cheshirecheeseinn.co.uk


Also, my London Trip will be written in parts, one post for each day. Get ready for more stories to come!

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