Monthly Archives

October 2016

Travel Vlogs

How Not to Vlog in London

October 26, 2016

During our recent trip, I made the mistake of overshooting and not reviewing our footage. Instead of a large recap, I go into two aspects of our trip – our favorite experience and the thing we learned most. Besides, if you’ve been reading along, we’ve clued you in on everything we basically did.

Travel

Wrapping up London

October 25, 2016

Alright guys, we apologize if you’ve gotten sick of all our London talk, but today we’re going to wrap up our time spent across the Pond. Going into the trip, we each had a list of the places/things we had to see/do. After we knocked out all the top touristy spots with our London Passes, we spent our final days checking those final items off our lists. Here are some of the highlights from our remaining time in London.

Arsenal FC – Emirates Stadium

I’ll let Andrew tell you the story about how and why he became a loyal fan of the Premiere League soccer…err football team Arsenal in a later post – but let’s just say, we couldn’t leave London without taking a short tube ride out to Islington to visit Emirates Stadium. We did the full-on stadium tour last year, but this time around  we had a different purpose in mind. We were on a mission to buy a little Arsenal jersey (kit) for our future son, because what’s cuter than a baby in a jersey? Mission accomplished – our baby will have no choice but to be a die-hard Gunner fan!

Abbey Road

My father-in-law was bound and determined to visit the famous Abbey Road and who were we to stop him? Now, let me be honest with you, THIS IS A POPULAR TOURIST DESTINATION even at 2pm on a weekday. I had this whole photoshoot planned out in my head and couldn’t wait to get all these super cool pictures. Ha! Turns out we weren’t the only ones who planned to visit Abbey Road that day. Heads up – the crosswalk is in the middle of a busy road without a stop sign or stop light. Cars are constantly driving through the area and don’t seem to be very sympathetic towards people who want their obligatory Abbey Road picture.  It was STRESSFUL. And not to mention DANGEROUS, especially for the photographer who has to sprint into the road (mind you NOT in a marked crosswalk) and take your awkward picture while 10 strangers walk beside you and ruin your perfect shot! UGH! Miraculously, Andrew was able to get a great photo of his dad and a pretty decent one of me, once we cropped four other girls out of it. Lol.

Notting Hill

It’s not a trip to London until you’ve strolled the affluent streets of Notting Hill. This charming neighborhood located just north of Kensington is a nice escape from the hustle and bustle. Home to the famous Portobello Road Market and darling pastel homes, this area is pure eye candy and the most pleasant way to spend an afternoon. We were in the area when all the little British children were getting out of school, and seeing them in their preppy uniforms about killed me! Also, this place is picture heaven! Make sure you take your camera and leave yourself plenty of time to ooh and ahh.

London Eye

Unfortunately, the London Eye is not an attraction included in the London Pass, but we would HIGHLY recommend a trip on the giant ferris wheel. The Eye is located on the South Bank of the River Thames, just opposite of Big Ben and Parliament and truly provides the best views in town. One full rotation lasts 30 minutes, so you have plenty of time to walk around your capsule and snap stunning pictures for every angle and direction.  Admission will run you around £20-£30 per person but is absolutely worth every penny (pence!).

Changing of the Guard – Buckingham Palace

It seemed fitting to spend our last morning at Buckingham Palace for the centuries-old tradition of the Changing of the Guard. This ceremony takes place daily (or every other day depending on the time of year) and is the official shift change for the Queen’s Guards stationed at Her residence (Buckingham Palace). The experience was definitely a memorable one as we were able witness the grandeur of a royal march and see the guards all dressed up in their iconic red suits and bearskin hats. We recommend you arrive at least an hour early to assure a decent view of the spectacle, and dress comfortably since you’ll be standing for a while.

Night at the Theatre in West End

I was bound and determined to catch a musical in London this year since we missed the opportunity the last time around. It happened to be our 3rd anniversary on our final day in London so we figured a show would be the perfect way to celebrate. We decided on The Lion King and were able to get discounted tickets at one of The London Pass pick-up station on Charing Cross Road. Luckily, it’s easy to find cheap tickets all around London, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting a good deal. London is second only to New York when it comes to broadway shows, so you really can’t go wrong. The Lyceum Theatre has been home to The Lion King since 1999 and every seat in the audience provides a great view of the stage.  All of our expectations were exceeded in the first few minutes and we were mesmerized from beginning to end. Sadly, we weren’t able to get any pictures from the experience, but we would highly encourage a night spent at a London theatre production.

Wrapping Up

Like we’ve said before, this blog is a place for us to document our adventures and experiences. We know you’re probably bored of London at this point, but when you love something so much, it’s hard not to share it! If you’re planning a trip to London or have any questions, feel free to ask us anything. Andrew will be posting our London Vlog in the next day or two, and then things will get back to normal around here. Thanks so much for reading along!

Food Travel

Our Favorite Bites of London

October 21, 2016

Eating is the most important aspect of travel to us. Nothing engrains you into a new culture or city than the experience of tasting it’s food.  Here’s a list of some of our favorite bites in London.

Spicy Beef Patty at Jamaica Patty Co.
If Andrew had to name his favorite bite on this list, it’d be the patties from Jamaica Patty Co. These guys are serving up what can only be described as leveled up empanadas. The thin, flaky breading on the outside is like a spiced croissant that envelops their Caribbean seasoned beef. You could argue that even though these are Jamaican patties, these fill you up like traditional English meat pies would. We’ve eaten a lot of bland things in England, but these are anything but. They cram a lot of flavor into a patty twice the size of a regular Hot Pocket. When we visit Covent Garden, grabbing a quick Jamaica Patty is a must. Each patty will run you about £4.

The Boiler House on Brick Lane
Tomas Freriksen is an old friend of Andrew’s and current Londoner. As he tells us, a majority of his free time is spend pub-hopping in the trendy Shoreditch district. Shoreditch boasts an absurd amount of street food and boutique shops and, along with Croydon, is known as a hipster haven similar to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Street food is amazing, especially in this district. Side by side you’ll find English bangers, Colombian arepas, Moroccan tajine and Chinese peking pork. To our understanding, Sundays during brunch hours are a great time to feel the vibrance of Shoreditch at its fullest. As Tomas guided us through the district, he turned us onto Brick Lane which was populated with endless vendors and musicians playing for lively crowds.

Along Brick Lane is the Boiler House which is a food hall open only during the weekends. Here you can taste an incredibly diverse selection of food. Vendors sell cuisines from countries including Poland, Brazil, Japan, Ethiopia, Morocco, Korea, Italy, Malaysia and more. The first time around we settled with some French crepes. This time, we opted for more Asian dishes and enjoyed it in the back patio area. Seats are sparse but you’ll find more people sprawled on the ground than at actual tables. This place was incredibly fun and regardless of which food selection you make, it’s hard to make a bad decision here.

Fitzbillies in Cambridge
Granted, this place is outside of London but it was such a cute place that we had to include it. After an early morning train ride to Cambridge, we walked toward the River Cam and decided on some breakfast to hold us over until lunch. On the corner of Trumpington St. and Mill Ln. we found a small diner with signs for “Chelsea buns.” We walked in, grabbed a seat and took in all of the murmurings from the brilliant Cambridge University students scattered throughout the restaurant.

It was here that Ay-Ay was able to taste his elusive “black pudding.” He’d heard of this English dish long ago and had been on the hunt for it since we landed. “Black pudding” is a blood sausage made from oatmeal, pork fat and pork blood. Needless to say, the idea of a blood sausage makes people cringe but he thoroughly enjoyed it. We opted for a more toned down granola bowl and tried their signature Chelsea buns.

The granola was the most unique granola we’d had. It was heartier and softer than the typical store-bought granola we were accustomed to. They topped it with yogurt and jam which was new to us and gave the dish a slight bitterness. It was pleasant and light but the Chelsea buns really surprised us. Think of Chelsea buns as simplified versions of Cinnabon. It was a delicious little cinnamon bun rolled with currants and drizzled with house-made syrup.

Hot Chocolate at PAUL
PAUL is a little French café and bakery serving up pastries and sandwiches. We thought this was exclusive to London but we actually stumbled across one location in Washington DC a couple of months ago. We’re not going to say the food is incredibly spectacular but we will vouch for their hot chocolate. It was thick and it seemed as if they melted down actual chocolate bars and added a touch of milk. It truly felt like hot chocolate, not that powdered stuff. The temperature they served it at was just hot enough to sip, but not enough burn your tongue. There’s no wait time for it to cool down. It was perfection. If you have a chance, warm up with one of these during a chilly Autumn day.

Bibimbap at Lingo
Last year, we could not escape baguettes and sandwiches. We ate semi-bland foods at a lot of English pubs. London has an incredible selection of cuisines, but for whatever reason, we had a difficult time landing the right restaurants during our first trip. Which leads us to Lingo. We were cold, tired, famished, and wanted a taste of something a little more familiar. While wandering a side alley off of Regent Street, we saw red paper lanterns hanging with Japanese characters on it. A nice Asian dish was exactly what we wanted.

When we say this place is cozy, we don’t just mean it’s tiny (it’s super tiny), we mean it’s literally cozy. Granted we’ve only ever come here during the fall, but when you walk in, you’re greeted by such kind staff while soft music from the 50’s plays in the background. We each ordered the Beef and Chicken Teriyaki Don. It came with a small salad and miso soup before they brought out the main dishes. It was a simple dish but it was a meal that was enjoyed in a warm and inviting place. That’s what made that meal complete. Not to undermine the food in any way – it was exceptional.

This time round, we had to return to this little spot for Ay-Ay to try. Plus we felt it was a fitting spot to spend a quiet anniversary dinner since we enjoyed this gem so much. On this visit, we tried the “bibimbap” which is a dish of Korean origin. Beef and vegetables sit on a bed of white rice and it’s all topped with an egg sunny-side-up. It’s served in a hot stone bowl which makes the rice distinctly crispy on the sides. It was to die for.

Homeslice at Neal’s Yard
Was it the best pizza we’ve ever had? No. Andrew is from New York after all. We were more infatuated with Neal’s Yard and it’s colorful assortment of buildings which seem tucked away in a little corner of London. We’re sure there were better food options in the yard, but we opted for a simple slice of pizza at Homeslice. What we’ve come to love about London is the design and branding taste everyone seems to have. Even mom-n-pop shops have great branding and storefronts. This fave is more about aesthetic and company than taste.

Cronuts at Dum Dum Donutterie
We’ve got to give another shoutout to Tomas Freriksen for this one. As he was guiding us through Shoreditch, we passed several shops at the Boxpark. It was a cool sight since it was just a bunch of shipping containers stacked and converted into stores. Among them is Dum Dum Donuts where we had our first legit cronut. We’ve tried looking for cronuts in Dallas, but the ones we ate were gimmicky and major letdowns. These, on the other hand, hit the spot. The Zebra cronut was Katie’s favorite bite in London.

Beijing Dumpling in Chinatown
If Ay-Ay was on the hunt for anything other than “black pudding” it was good Chinese food. Despite London’s Chinatown occupying only one block adjacent to the Leicester Square tube station, there was a pretty wide selection of restaurants to choose from. After doing a lap, we settled on a little shop called Beijing Dumpling.

From the storefront window you can see cooks diligently making dumplings by hand as well as a sticker touting the establishment as a Michelin recommended spot. All we have to say about this place is “GO.” The dumplings are delicious. Maybe avoid the “Vegetable Dumplings in Soup” dish (not our favorite), but get any of the others – you’ll love them. We paired the dumplings with an order of “Chicken Dry Fried Noodles” which we thoroughly enjoyed. I guess we lost our picture of the dumplings we ate, but here’s a different Chinatown shot we took that is more generic.

Macarons at Ladurée
Typical, we know. How many bloggers have touted pretty pictures with Ladurée boxes? We get it, but Ay-Ay had never had these before. I think the flavors are what really set this brand apart. Unfortunately, Google wasn’t able to help us track down the exact flavors we ordered. They must have been seasonal, non-regular flavors but regardless of your taste preference, Ladurée offers very vibrant, floral flavors that we love.

Honorable Mentions
Let’s wrap this up by giving a shoutout to a couple of places. Nandos is a popular South African chicken chain that dishes out some savory proteins. Their Peri-Peri chicken is an easy choice if you’re looking for something quick, filling and flavorful. We also need to give a nod to Ben’s Cookies in Covent Garden. Their cookies aren’t overly rich or sweet. They’re large, semi-sweet and baked with chocolate chucks instead of chips. They don’t sell milk with the cookies so stop by Sainbury’s or Tesco to grab a pint before heading home.