For those of you who know anything about the way Natalie and I travel, you know that food forms a huge part of our experience. Our lists of “attractions” to visit in new places often contain as many restaurants, cafes, cheese shops, ice cream stands, and markets as it does museums, monuments, and churches. In fact, we often lament that one of the great problems we have when traveling is not that we don’t have enough time to try all the foods we’d like, but that we simply don’t have enough space in our stomachs to eat everything. London, being one of the great international cities of the world, is a food lover’s paradise, containing everything under the sun. Spain, on the other hand, is full of delicious Spanish food, but the pickings are a bit thin if you want anything else. Therefore, when we wanted lunch the first day we headed straight to Chinatown for dim sum followed by bubble tea and a trip to the Asian grocery store to pick up snacks. We then followed this up by partaking in the national dish of England for dinner with Ron and Betty. I am, of course, speaking of curry, which we enjoyed while watching the first few episodes of Downton Abbey (if you like period pieces and Maggie Smith being sassy you should definitely tune in; it airs on PBS in the States). Continue reading
It’s impossible to visit London without seeing a museum or two or five, and one of the great things about London is that many of its museums are free. Even better, Ron and Betty possess memberships for many of the attractions that charged an entry fee, so when we weren’t going to free museums, we got into places incognito, masquerading as Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence. Our first stop was the Victoria and Albert museum, where we saw a fascinating exhibit about political cartoons from Punch Magazine and unfortunately not much else because we got there right before closing. Next, we went to the British Museum (all plunder treasures of the British Empire collected under one roof) home of the Rosetta Stone and the much disputed Parthenon Marbles. We spent three and a half hours there and still only saw half the museum (a pattern emerges), but I’m glad we took our time and explored the parts we did see quite thoroughly, rather than trying to race through the entire place. Finally, we saw the Tate Modern with Elizabeth and as with most modern art museums I’ve been to, I found it equal parts edifying and mystifying (edifying: John Heartfield’s anti-Nazi photomontages which forced him to flee Germany into exile in the 30’s [by jumping out a window to escape the SS, this guy is a serious badass]; mystifying: the film being projected in the Turbine Hall; mind blowing: eight million handmade porcelain sunflower seeds).
NB: Gentle reader, in order to keep this post to a reasonable not wholly absurd length, I’ve split it in two three. Part 1 will recount our arrival in London and who met us there, Part 2 will tell of the many sights we were able to see, and Part 3 will tantalize you with accounts of our culinary escapades.
It’s David here, Natalie’s oft-mentioned but until now absent-from-this-blog boyfriend. I’m sure you were expecting another post from Natalie detailing more of our many Christmas adventures (which are now many months past), but finding the number of adventures too great for any one person to recount, even one of her prodigious talents, she has enlisted me to tell you of a few of them. You’ve already heard about Scotland and Ireland from her, so without further delay, let me tell you a bit about London. Continue reading
On New Years Eve, we caught a flight at the crack of dawn and hopped across the water to Edinburgh. We were met dark and early by Gordon and Alistair Grant, my cousins who I hadn’t seen since 2005. Gordon used to travel frequently to Houston for his job, so I got to know him when I was much younger, but he’s since stopped traveling so much, and hasn’t been to Houston in a while. My dad and I got to meet up with all the Scottish cousins (Gordon, Sue, Alistair, and Jamie, and also Gordon’s parents, Kenneth and Ena) when my children’s choir went to Edinburgh on tour in 2003, but that was almost ten years ago now. So the chance to spend time with their family was something I was really looking forward to. Continue reading
Better late than never, right?
As I you may have figured out from my picture-heavy post a couple of weeks ago, David and I spent our christmas break in non-continental Europe. For just over two weeks, we traveled around Ireland, Scotland, and England, exploring, visiting family, and generally having grand adventures. Continue reading
Several months ago, I was catching up on the latest updates on David Lebovitz’ blog, which I read fairly regularly. An expat living in Paris, he’s the author of several cookbooks and/or food memoirs, and his blog is a combination of recipes, travel recommendations, and musings on life in Paris. I’ve liked his writing for a while, and since moving to another country myself, I’ve come to appreciate his perspective even more. When I read this post, I immediately wanted to try this incredible-sounding pairing of meringues with La Gruyere double cream. When I mentioned it to David, he matter-of-factly asked, “Ok, so when do you want to go to Switzerland?” That’s one of the craziest things about living in Europe–everything is relatively close! We can go to Switzerland for a weekend! So we booked flights to Geneva for our long weekend in early December, and I prepared myself by reading and re-reading Lebovitz’s description of the crunch of the sweet meringues combined with the cool richness of the double cream. Continue reading
David and I realized a few weeks ago that we have been slacking. We’ve been here since September, but until the end of November, we hadn’t been to any of the many charming little towns in either Castilla y León or Cantabria that are all easily accessible by bus. So when I went up to Santander for Thanksgiving, we hopped on a bus on Saturday morning and went to Santillana del Mar. It’s known as “el pueblo de las tres mentiras, porque ni es santo, ni llano, ni tiene mar.” (The town of the three lies, because it is neither santo (holy), llano (flat), nor near the mar (ocean).) But the town is fairly well-known within the north of Spain, and the name really comes from Santa Juliana, or Santa Iuliana, who is buried in the Colegiata, a church and monastery built in the twelfth century. It’s an incredibly well-preserved medieval town, with very strict laws intended to help maintain the historical nature of the place. For example, only residents and tourists staying in a hotel with a garage may bring a car into the city. It’s a charming place, and I really liked the Colegiata, but after we walked up and around all three streets, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. We also had the misfortune of arriving too late to visit both the monastery and the art museum (the other draw, according to the guidebooks) before they closed for the siesta, and decided to leave on an earlier bus before the museum reopened rather than try and find something to do for an extra three hours while waiting for the bus.