Category Archives: England

My trip to England in June, 2015

London (Day 1 Part 2; Day 2)

I think that perhaps when we are very tired, we are drawn to what we consider to be more restorative. Thus, after hours on an airplane, and many more hours since quality sleep, I was drawn to gardens. Each time I tried to direct myself toward a museum or some other edifice of marble, concrete, or stone…I found my internal compass reoriented me toward green. Too tired to fight instinct, I obliged! I spent most of the afternoon in St. James Park, which is just east of Buckingham Palace, and in Hyde Park, originally created as a hunting ground for his majesty King Henry VIII.

StJamesParkCollageSt. James Park

Hyde Park CollageHyde Park

After a good night’s sleep, I went to Kew Royal Botanic Gardens on Monday. I arrived just before the gates opened at 10 AM, and spent about 4 hours touring the area. I visited glass houses from Victorian times, King George III’s Kew Palace, and a beautiful water lily house.

Kew Gardens Collage

Monday night I traveled to Guildford for the working part of my trip at University of Surrey.


England: Food Edition Part 2

Think of England and food, and what comes to mind? Fish and chips? Boiled vegetables? Tea and scones? All these were certainly available, but I don’t think I had any of them. The food was quite satisfactory, if a little on the expensive side.

IMG_1526I saw quite a few of these coffee machines in England. I did not try them as they reminded me of Sheetz, but maybe they are better here!

IMG_1572 IMG_1573Sandwiches are very popular in the UK. Any coffee shop, cafe, grocery, or stand has a wide display of sandwiches packaged as “take-aways.” Of particular popularity seem to be sandwiches in baguettes – these were advertised prominently! Since wheat is not my friend, I can only guess that they must be good.

IMG_1519Nandos is a chain restaurant in the UK that serves marinated chicken (Puri-Puri, they call it) and sides. The seasoning was nice…I am not a huge chicken fan, but can see why it’s so popular if you do like chicken.

IMG_1527I never brought myself to try mushy peas, but my colleagues and I stopped by a place called “Bills” in Guildford for lunch, and I had the creamy pea and mint soup. It was delicious!

IMG_1529 This kale salad with quinoa was my second course at Bills. Tasty, and provided much-longed-for vegetables.

IMG_1525Dinner in London Wednesday night was at EV, a Turkish restaurant near Waterloo. This vegetable stew of aubergine, corgettes, carrots, tomato was vaguely reminiscent of ratatouille. Very tasty, and the restaurant had a really cool industrial but refined vibe. It was located under the train tracks. That really was not as unpleasant as it sounds.

IMG_1550IMG_1551This was the main (only) offender of my trip – in a hurry in Kings Cross Station to catch my train to York, I needed something quick. These pasties looked so good, and warm, and crispy that I threw wheat caution to the wind and got one filled with veggies. YUM! Regrettably, I paid for it for the rest of the day!

IMG_1568A vegan and gluten-free restaurant in York called El Piano beckoned on Saturday. The morning had been cold and misty, and soup sounded perfect. This Thai-inspired sweet potato soup was the best thing I’d eaten since arriving in the UK. The bread and cornbread were pretty decent, for not having wheat in them.

IMG_1569El Piano’s menu also feature several different kinds of fritters.  I chose the “tinas” and the felafels. The tinas were really, really good little fried bits of vegetable heaven. The felafels were not the best I’ve had. They were the first I’ve had with whole chickpeas inside.

IMG_1571For brunch Sunday in York, I opted for an omlette filled with mushrooms and aubergines. And the ever-present British potatoes.

There are things I wish I’d tried in the UK, but did not. I do wish I’d had fish and chips and a cider at a pub, but I can’t imagine the fish and chips could beat what I had a couple of years ago fresh off a boat in Gloucester, MA. I also wish I’d had some curry – it is supposedly excellent there.

And, if I did not have to avoid certain things, the pastries all looked amazing – scones, croissants, filled pastries, “biscuits.” Very tempting. It was nice to find lots of fresh vegetables and the same focus, at least in many places on sourcing locally and using natural ingredients.

England: Food Edition Part 1

My first purchased meal was lunch in England. It was 57F out and misting, and I was cold and hungry, having eated just airplane food (not much of that!) and trail mix since my dinner of sushi before leaving Raleigh Saturday night.
(For those of you who know I prefer to eat vegetarian, that is still true, but figuring out how to do that while traveling and also avoiding wheat and dairy is  pretty impossible. I choose feeling OK over eating vegetarian.)

Check out the verbage on the napkin. I just love how wordy it is. A tag line that is three lines long. Jeesh.

During my first, jet-lagged (or really just sleep-deprived day) I ate the above soup and trail mix. I was ready for breakfast Monday morning.

IMG_1504Note: Blurry pictures happen when you feel a little like a dork for photographing your food so you do it quickly.

A word about the coffee:  when the restauranteur delivered my coffee, I took one look and thought, “Oh shoot…I told him black. Clearly this has milk in it.” I took a sip to confirm, and it was so rich that I was convinced. As time went on and the froth on top dissipated, I realized that it was actually black, but so rich that it had me fooled. I think the coffee that came with the meal was actually an Americano (espresso and hot water). It was delicious.

Two poached eggs, Canadian bacon, sausuage, roasted to-mah-toes, mushrooms, and baked beans. Apparently, this is pretty standard ingredients for the Full English Breakfast, as the same order at Heart and Soul, a little restaurant near my accommodations at the University of Surrey, was much the same (although not quite as tasty):

This time, I watched the server make me an Americano and charge just £1. The same coffee drink in America will set you back at least $2.50, and even filter coffee in America costs more than this.

My other meals so far:

Dinner at the same little restaurant near my accommodation at University of Surrey. They were out of everything except burgers, but luckily did have a veggie burger. The chips were great; the burger was OK.

Dinner at Olivios, an Italian place in Guildford. And who says that English food is boring? The to-mah-toes were so fresh, and the dressing was delicious. The salmon was poached…not my favorite style, but maybe it was really good for poached salmon. I just kind of thought it tasted like canned tuna? It was really pretty, though.

I wish I had taken a picture of my lunch, which was at a nicer restaurant on campus called Lakeside. Hospitality is a really big thing to study here (is anyone surprised) and the students from Hospitality Mangement School run this restaurant. My dish was sea bass over mashed potatoes, green beans, and a creamed spinach, with a starter of beetroot mousse and something else I forgot right after I ordered it, served in a cocktail glass on a long stem. It was quite beautiful, and very very good. I felt too dorkish in that place to photograph it.

On another food note, with a little bit of extra time and curiosity, I walked to the grocery store just 1/2 mile from where I am staying on University of Surrey campus. I just wondered how different things would be from a US supermarket. Lots of things I expected…large shelf real estate for biscuits (i.e. cookies) and tea, things like scotch eggs, lots of beer and cider. Here are a few things of note:

Eggs are not refrigerated. This makes total sense. I wonder if Brits put them in the fridge when they get home with them?

This is just something I don’t understand. I see this on menus as well. I am not sure I even want to know what they taste like. Surely not like the canned LeSeur peas of my childhood? I will be fine if I die not knowing.

I just thought this was funny because when one of my daughters was younger (honestly can’t remember who it was), she could not keep from calling popsicles “Lollilpops.” Apparently others do the same!

And that’s a wrap for now…more to come! Have yet to visit a pub, or have a cider…

London (Day 1 Part I)


This is what it looks like at 3:30 AM local time south of Greenland over the Atlantic Ocean. This was the shortest night ever! It was great fun to finally see land about 7 or 7:30 local time: Ireland! I could see the cliffs on the western coast clearly. It felt surreal to know that I was looking at Ireland…this southern girl from Lee County, NC who had never been overseas.

Small biographical aside: twenty-one years ago, on my 21st birthday, I had my first plane ride and my first trip west of the Mississippi. Now, almost exactly 21 years later, I am making my first overseas plane ride and my first trip to a foreign country (if you don’t count the Toronto band trip and high school, and you really shouldn’t). Both trips were solo…and I remember feeling pretty similar feelings that time, looking down at Arizona, which felt like a foreign country to my 21-year-old eyes.

The other feature, aside from the cliffs, which stood out to me about Ireland were the incredible number of windmills (see the photo below – top right corner). I know these things are massive, but was still suprised to be able to see the blades moving from 39,000 feet. Ireland has a beautiful countryside, yet they are clearly full on with renewable energy. Oh, America. Let’s get a move on!

Heathrow seemed like any other big airport, and the Tube seemed like any other subway in a major city, but emerging from the tube, I had my camera poised and ready to capture my first real glimpse of London:

Not what was I was expecting. When they said it was the “Green Park” subway stop, they weren’t kidding. Little did I know that this picture and view held much portent for my day.

First stop: Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace was just a short walk across Green Park from the Tube Station. Thousands of people. The gilded palace gates were pretty over the top; the flag holders that looks like giant ship masts were pretty cool, the flowers were very nice. I was not really sure what to expect or where to be looking for the changing of the guard (and could not see much or get very close due to the crowds). Often in these situations, I clue in by hearing others’ conversations. Despite being in London, everyone I walked past or near was speaking German or French.

Eventually, we heard band music, and a troop of Bobbies (is that even what they are called?) marched in playing instruments. They came down the flag-flanked “mall” and marched around half the circle in front of the palace, and into the gates where they disappeared from view. About ten minutes later, music again. Now, from a road in a different direction, another troup marched in, playing instruments, and disappeared into the gates. Everyone kept standing around, but I finally gave up being able to see more and departed.

I walked off, schelpping all my luggage for the week on my back, with a list of things I was planning to see: Traflagar Square, the British Museum, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, Hyde Park, Notting Hill before checking into the hostel at around 8 PM.
My next entry will tell what really happened the rest of the day. Best laid plans, and all that…