Eurotrip Part IIb: London

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September 1, 2015 – 2nd trip to London4ksjdflskjd
On this day, B apparently had an all day medical simulation class at Epsom Hospital, so I decided to visit the Natural History Museum.  I wrote in my notebook, “just utterly disappointing.  A glorified science class.”  Did I miss something?  The T-Rex exhibit was absolutely NOT worth the long, hot line or the annoying kids stepping on my feet.  Not to mention the T-Rex was a crappy robot…I mean, I wasn’t expecting the real thing but something better, at least!  There were so many screaming children, which is just fine if you own one… but I do not and I didn’t think anything was super MUST SEE.  Then again, I did high-tail it out of there before I, myself, started screaming.5jslkdfjsdI did enjoy seeing the fossils and was trying to figure out how to get back to the lab area where the scientists were working!IMG_9533Next door was the Victoria & Albert Museum.  It was MUCH quieter, with far less children…so more like an actual museum.  I should’ve spent more time here, in actuality.  The facades of both buildings were masterpieces in themselves.  They would be nice to study or sketch, while people watching.

September 7, 2015 – 3rd trip to London
B had his surgery shelf exam in London.  We first went to Piccadilly Circus so B could go to Arcteryx.  He was like a kid in a candy story.IMG_96006jkdfksWhile he was testing, I went back to the Kensington area and walked east along Cromwell Road and found Hyde Park Corner and the gates that led to Buckingham Palace.  I decided to wait on B to go to Buckingham and strolled through Hyde Park instead.  It was gorgeous and peaceful, there were people literally playing with the squirrels and their dogs.  Very much like a scene out of a Disney movie.  Of course this day happened to be nice and sunny.  I wish I hadn’t have had to hurry through.  I tried to find the Diana Memorial Fountain and couldn’t.8F23018F-4539-4777-9F48-95E62921CA77E4115F31-5DB0-4726-B6E8-EAD14376E2EE868809D2-3477-4CAC-BE81-77C5ACCEA5F7There are numerous shops and restaurants along the way on Cromwell Rd., including Harrod’s.  Eventually, you’ll run into Kensington Gardens and The Albert Memorial/Royal Albert Hall.  It must’ve been nice to have someone so devoted to you as Victoria was to Albert.6E5A2A29-53E4-48F7-BC41-2CFF9EC7CD8BA32A5653-48A5-4370-9353-8D49BCEC84649C82A1FF-E975-4F42-BD2C-68E8656DDDC8I met back up with B and we went for lunch at Borough Market.  I believe it was a Tuesday and the market was pretty dead.  As a result, the stall with the wild boar sausages was not open, so we settled for venison burgers at a seafood stall.  It was nothing to write home about.  Afterwards, we went to the Southwark Tavern for drinks.  It was to our amazement that they had a beer named after Rooster Cogburn of True Grit…which was set in Fort Smith…literally, where B and I have lived and worked.  They were £5 a can and tasted like absolute shit – sounds about right!  Also notable was the fact that the bartender gave us cups of ice…for our beer?  I mean, we like ice…but for our beer??? No.315D5EF2-EA1E-4AD3-BF25-8501AB2ABD47Finally, we went to Buckingham Palace.  We were too late for the changing of the guards, so, just looking at the palace was rather anticlimactic.  So much so that I didn’t even know what I was looking at initially.  The Victoria Memorial was nice.  Well deserving of the lady named, the “Grandmother of Europe”.1E177FBF-263A-447C-8246-E7D34706EB1855ED8CB5-7D10-406E-8605-E6515ABEB1FC55775DD6-AF86-4E3C-947E-E4BDFCFFD4EFWe walked through The Mall and also went to the gift shop of the Guards Museum.  Went by the Churchill War rooms, found our way to 10 Downing Street and the Household Cavalry Museum.  At the end of the street (if you continue north and slightly west), you’ll find Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.  The gates to The Mall are nice to check out too.E1686D8E-32E7-48E9-B18A-3006610F8F3AC78961FB-1DA6-4E71-9E65-ACFE563463583BBA068D-94CA-4E4C-9F66-6AF38F18DC0F

Last trip to London
Of course we had to go back to Borough Market for those dang wild boar sausages.  I opted for something I’ve never had before – Ethiopian food!  I was not disappointed!  For £6, I got the large (I was so hungry, though) beef combo.  This included delicious, curry flavored meat, stewed butternut squash, cabbage/carrot side, rice, and spongy Ethiopian bread (not a fan of the bread).  IMG_0279We spent the rest of the day shopping for souvenirs around Oxford Circus/Regent St. and wrapping up our time in London.  We found that Primark is the best (and cheapest) place to get UK themed gifts.  I bought several Union Jack canvas totes for friends for about £1 and Harry Potter socks for my sisters.  It was very similar to an H&M…which was everywhere!  IMG_0288We had dinner at Chipotle because we thought it would be cheap.  It was not.  It was very expensive for fast food.  We paid about £30 for 2 burritos, chips & guac, and no drinks.  Currently, £30 is about $43…for fast food.  Yikes.  From there, we briefly walked down Baker St. and then headed to our last stop of the night.  King’s Cross Station!  I HAD to get a photo at Platform 9 3/4!

Eurotrip Part IIa: London

londonmapWe spent a lot of time going back and forth from Epsom to London, as it was only about a 30 minute train ride.  It’s been awhile since then and I couldn’t be more glad that I remembered to document what we did!

August 27, 2015 – My first trip to London.  
“Took the National Rail from Epsom to London Waterloo, then took the tube to London Bridge Station.”  I remember stepping into the main area of Waterloo Station and thinking, “wow, I feel like Harry Potter” at the Ministry of Magic.  Very overwhelming and fast paced, not the best place to rubberneck, like I was doing.5A6EF480-AAC5-4270-A816-0675D29495F61dflksdjfFrom London Bridge Station, we walked to London Bridge, stopped by the HMS Belfast, then made our way towards the iconic Tower Bridge.  From the Tower Bridge, you could see the Tower of London from across the way.  I don’t know why, but whenever I think of the Tower of London, I always think about poor Anne Boleyn, even though there were quite a few other famous people killed at the Tower (some of the other wives of King Henry VIII).B44E8E24-77D3-4C0E-B018-EF655509EB8BWe stopped at a little bar under the Tower Bridge which overlooked the river called The Vault.  B had a pint and I tried my first Pimm’s Cup.  LOVED IT.85C1D1CA-9887-4451-90A1-A8022425D36A0D3DC80C-6E5F-4D0D-8475-5FF524084019From the Thames, we walked to Borough Market.  “LOVE this place” was the first thing I wrote about it!  It was sensory overload-didn’t know where to start, couldn’t decide what to get…in a good way.  Items available at the Market ranged from prepared foods, charcuterie, cheese, fresh meat and seafood from local vendors, veggies, cider and honey mead (I approve), and desserts!  B and I ate a huge subpar lunch in Epsom prior to our trip, so we weren’t hungry; instead we got drinks at a stall called New Forest Cider.  B had medium dry cider and I tried the honey mead.  It was very medieval and delicious.  I also had fresh juice (apple + pomegranate), which you can find at multiple stalls.2kjdklfjdF43532B6-341E-457A-8496-491BE354CB9C2DDE8979-6F11-4B14-9061-2BD77293B6C8A24AA0AF-A9B3-4AC9-893D-79CA863C0E30Our next stop was back towards the River to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (because I love literature) and the Millennium Bridge (because Harry Potter).  I was waiting for a Death Eater to come find me, but that was a no-go.  Across the way was St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Unfortunately, I never made it there.  Sadface.C233C5A7-8589-4255-B79E-F89C20F13BD52897B146-3144-4E67-9EAC-6BE763A1BD12We had dinner at Gourmet Burger Kitchen.  It was very good, we both had blue cheese burgers – one with sauce and one with melted gorgonzola.  I think we preferred the melted sauce over straight melted gorgonzola.  We also had the sweet potato fries, which were very good.  They were served with a sauce that we liked very much.  I recall B saying that he thought “it tastes like something,” but he could never put his finger on it.  Now that I’m reviewing the menu, I see that it is BACONNAISE.  BACONNAISE.  I once spent something like 4 whole dollars on a tub of this stuff and hated it, yet somehow I manage to like it when it’s served with a gourmet burger and essentially, a $6 order of fries (£3.95).  Sigh.IMG_9426154295E2-B606-4599-85F1-E1622865CD5CAfter dinner, we took the tube to Piccadilly Circus – London’s teensier version of Time’s Square.  It started to rain, so we didn’t stay long.  There’s an overwhelming amount of shopping here – B was disappointed the Arcteryx store had not opened.  It was also very hard to get a decent photo amongst the hustle and bustle.F51A3E82-33C8-4F33-A2D9-50794E146F99F962B1B1-F2BA-4E85-AA41-AEF2651711E7The last stop of this trip was to the London Eye, Westminster Palace, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.  The London Aquarium was also nearby; I love that the building was so not obviously an aquarium!  The sun was setting and it all seemed rather surreal to be looking at Big Ben and the Parliament building.  Up til that point, I don’t I’ve ever seen anything that ornate.  The Abbey’s facade was undergoing construction, it was very disappointing and a result, underwhelming.  I think it was also closed at that point, though I had really wanted to see the old guys buried there!
*FUN FACT:  Anyone who isn’t a UK citizen cannot go up to Big Ben…big bummer more like!17212365-E535-49A7-AE0E-01F7B3F5F62A

TIPS:

  • For travel within London, we purchased a Day Travelcard at the rail station, which included trips on the National Rail and within certain zones within London.  We always tried to buy them during Off-peak hours (as in, not rush hour – I believe after 9:30am) as they were cheaper.  Plus, trying to get on/off the rail during rush hour is hellacious, especially, if you have luggage.  *Sometimes people are nice and will give you their Day Travelcard once they’re done using them.
  • Most of London’s top museums are free–so research and check them out!
  • Use google.com/mymaps to map out each destination within a city and calculate time/distance on your laptop or computer to make your trip more efficient.
  • London is very walkable and it’s sort of fun trying to figure out the Tube system, but bring comfy shoes.  I keep telling myself this and in lieu of comfy shoes, I go for the “cute” ones…always a bad idea. ALWAYS.
  • APPS
    • If you’re walking within London, use the app maps.me to get around- it’s offline [doesn’t use data] as long as you download the map for the region you need when you have wifi.  It’s also pretty detailed and allows you to pin drop locations and get directions to and fro.  I would have literally been lost without this app in Europe.
    • Citymapper app to help with the navigation on the Rail/Tube.  You can also view the time of the next train/bus/rail etc., in addition to calculating the easiest/fastest route from one destination to the other.  This app was extremely helpful when trying to figure out the best way to get from Epsom to London’s airports.  Mostly, we used it to get from place to place via the Tube.

Odds & Ends

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fried pickles

hot and spicy fried chicken

Gus’s Fried Chicken – Little Rock, AR
Fried pickles. Fried chicken.
Hot & Spicy. Made-to-order.  Sign me up!

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Visit Post Winery ,in Altus, for a delicious wine tasting.
Favorites included the Pinot Grigio, Cynthiana, & Strawberry Fields.

judge parker's court

Fort Smith National Historic Site.
Site of Judge Parker’s Courthouse & Hell on the Border jail.

IMG_6440bomb Blackberry margarita at Chuy’s in Little Rock

Mount Bethel Winery

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Arkansas isn’t exactly known for wine, but that is not to say there are not good local wines to be found.  In fact, I am rather surprised at the quality [and the mmmm, deliciousness] of the wine that can be found in Altus–Arkansas’ wine country!  Albeit, a very small wine “country.”  My favorite winery in Altus is Mount Bethel, founded in the 1800s.  To say Mt. Bethel is “family-oriented” would be an understatement.  The first time we went for a tasting, the proprietor’s son [and 5th generation family member] was helping his mom with cleaning the cellar, where the tastings are conducted.  He was also so good as to help his mother bottle some fine blueberry wine earlier that day!  Those are family memories I wouldn’t hesitate to get on board with!

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One of my favorite things about Mt. Bethel is that they carry fruit wines!!!  My absolute favorite is blueberry, a semi-sweet.  I buy it every time I see it.  Because it is the best blueberry wine and liquor stores and the Walmarts tend to run out.  That is not okay.  Their blueberry wine is especially amazeballs in my Berry Sangria, which I may perhaps have to post so you all can attest to it’s amazeball-ness.  In addition to blueberry, Mt. Bethel also offers blackberry, elderberry, strawberry, and plum.  Most of which is produced on site!  Gotta love it.  This year, I tried some new wines–the Merlot, Cynthiana, Chardonnay, and another dry white whose name I do not recall.  Um, I really LOVED the Chardonnay.  It was, in my opinion, the perfect Chardonnay.  Crisp and light.  I don’t know why I didn’t buy any.  Probably because I’m dumb.  I did happen to purchase Merlot, because I’m a red wine snob now, obvs.  B’s selection included his favorite, Cab Sauv, Cynthiana, and the Blackberry.  Cynthiana is a Native American grape and Mt. Bethel is one of the only growers around this area.  It was interesting–had spicy notes and organoleptically, reminded me of roasted garlic…in a good way.

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So did I mention that everyone at Mt. Bethel is overly family-oriented, in a warm and inviting way?  I mean, their house is RIGHT now to the tasting cellar.  How lucky are they!? Well, as we were wondering around the winery, we met 2 family members.  One of which, was a tiny widdle baby girl.  The nice man, I believe his name was Bob, showed us the thoroughbreds the family was raising.  Wow.  These horsies were so majestic and curious and now I want one!  Maybe not for racing, but for taking photos, as they are so photogenic.  He also happened to hint at an up-and-coming baby horse we should probably bet money on–the Duke of Altus.  You’re welcome.

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Fun Fact:  Altus, AR is the location of the first season of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s reality show, the Simple Life!  In fact, I had never even heard of Altus until the show!

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Some photo cred to My Boyfriend, the Talented.

Arkansas Pecan Milk

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For me, pecans are synonymous with the fall season, pumpkin, cinnamon-ey things, and the color orange.  Pecans trees are as good as gold, considering how much they cost at the grocery store!  Last year, The Boyfriend’s parents harvested a couple hundred pounds easy.  Shelled pecans, candied pecans, desserts with pecans in them.  GREAT gifts, not so great for my diet.

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Since we have so many pecans, and nut milks are so on trend right now, I thought I’d try my hand at making pecan milk.  Some folks were hesitant, as they are, but once they tried it, they were on board!  I was pleasantly surprised, as well.  And, as I have been neglecting my Recipes section, here is a nice fall recipe for you!  Suggestions:  heating up the pecan milk with cinnamon for a nice fall drink or adding to coffee!  You may also try to whip up a batch of Chocolate Chip & Cookie Butter cookies.  Amaze.  Not sure how long it keeps, but surely longer than any animal milks.

Arkansas Pecan Milk

1 cup pecans from any State
water
2-3 dates
1-2 tbsp local honey
4 cups filtered water

In a medium bowl, add pecans and cover with water by 2 inches.  Soak overnight.

Drain pecans.

In another bowl (I used a rather deep one), add pecans, dates (I used 3), and honey (I used 1 tbsp).  To this, add 4 cups of hot filtered water.

I used an immersion blender to blend for 2-3 minutes on high.

I set a cheese cloth over a colander over a bowl and poured my mixture over it.  I used a spoon to move the mixture around and to push the liquid through.

After it stopped yielding liquid, I took the pecan meal and let it dry out.  You may want to taste the milk and add more honey, if necessary.  I poured the liquid in a larger mason jar and allowed it to get to room temperature before refrigerating.  For the pecan meal, after it was completely dry (took about an entire day) I threw it into the Magic Bullet to make it more like flour.  Then I put it in a freezer bag and in the freezer for later!