Tag Archives: Whole Foods

London, Again

So, I went back to London. I just loved it so very much I couldn’t help myself! Plus, my complete and total obsession with the movie Love Actually has planted enduring dreams of London at Christmastime in my mind, so I jumped at the chance to go the weekend after Thanksgiving, right as November was poised to become December–my very favorite month of the year.

I’m sure no one’s surprised to hear that I went to the Kensington Whole Foods…three times in two days. The very best part was our Friday night dinner, which consisted of American-style Thanksgiving food! This in itself completely made my weekend. It was admittedly a little sad to be away from home on Thanksgiving for the first time, even if I’m away from home in Paris. But nothing else could have possibly been quite as warm and comforting to me that day as mashed sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce from Whole Foods.

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I also enjoyed an abundance of vegetables, which the French do not believe in, over the course of the weekend. Aren’t they beeauuutiful?

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Don’t worry, though, I also took the opportunity to enjoy some real English food. At last, fish and chips!

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I didn’t get any fish and chips in August because I was absolutely reeling from the horrible dollar to pound/euro conversion and the high costs of everything in Europe and was terrified my bank account wouldn’t last throughout the semester. In fact, I barely remember eating at all the first time I went to London…and know for a fact that we had beer for dinner at least once. Insanity! Don’t worry Mom and Dad, you’ll be happy to hear I’ve gotten over my shock at the conversion rates and now spend freely! (God help me when I’m a real person and have to learn about scary things like budgets and responsible spending.)

I actually got to do several things I didn’t get to the first time around, once of which was visiting Borough Market. Even though it was crowded, it completely lived up to my expectations. On my next trip to London, I’ll be back.

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So, now that I’ve gotten the crucial thing–food and everywhere they sell it–out of the way, let’s move on to culture and sight-seeing, shall we?

I insisted upon returning to some of my favorite spots. We wandered through Hyde Park, where I loved seeing all the swans gathered in a pond near Kensington Palace.

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I of course returned to Westminster to visit my favorite building in all of Europe. At least in terms of exteriors. Can I say that? I think I can say that. The Duomo might be a close second. Oh, I mean, the Louvre. That’s pretty impressive. Okay, I can’t pick a favorite. But I really, really, love, love this one. A lot. I mean, it’s been there, just being beautiful, for hundreds of years! Incredible. Incredible.

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I also went to the Tate Modern, but I don’t have any pictures because I accidentally checked my camera with my bag when I walked in. But it was awesome!

Moving right along to my very favorite part of the trip (aside from Kensington Whole Foods, obviously): anything and everything to do with Christmastime!

Starting with the Christmas lights on and around Regent Street…

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And ending, most importantly, with my Christmas dream to end all Christmas dreams: Harrods decked out in all its festive holiday glory. It was a verifiable wonderland.

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Maybe the funniest part of being back in London was noticing not how the city has changed since my trip there in August (not much aside from the Christmas decorations), but rather how I’ve changed. Walks that felt incredibly long on my first trip seemed to pass in an instant this time around. And, shockingly, I was not appreciate of but rather annoyed by our many attentive waiters–somewhere along the way, against all odds, I seem to have adjusted to the Parisian standard of service. I remember landing in London, fresh off the plane from the U.S., and delighting in how European London was. On my recent trip, I was surprised by how very American it seemed. Everything from the way people walked around with Starbucks cups to the presence of Urban Outfitters and Whole Foods to the way parents coddled (and, dare I say, seemed to enjoy the presence of) their children to the many pedestrians on the streets not dressed to the nines (how dare they!) served to remind me of all the things I’ve come to accept as normal in Paris that are not part of my life at home. Throughout the semester, I’ve maintained that both Europe and America do so many things right and so many things wrong. I keep threatening to build an island in the middle of the Atlantic that combines all the things I love best about Europe and all the things I love best about America…but maybe, just maybe, London could be that island?

I just wish they’d appreciate the importance of dressing well to go to the grocery store.

Oh God, they’ve got me.

London, Part Deux

If the spoiler alert in the title didn’t clue you in (it probably didn’t, worst spoiler alert ever), I’m actually writing this from my dorm in Paris! But before I get to that, I have some more glorious times in London to fill you in on. I already miss the place so much it hurts. Seriously, I’m in love. Sorry New York, London just royally knocked you off your favorite-city-besides-New Orleans pedestal…now let’s see if Paris gives London a run for its money. 🙂

Oh, and I thought I should let you know that my last post was actually finished up in a pub. On a Friday night. In London. Yes, if I didn’t make that clear enough, Allison and I spent our Friday Night (caps necessary) in London blogging in a pub. I’m not ashamed. Go ahead…admit it. You wish you were us.

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sad moment, friends

Let’s see…so, Saturday in London began like Friday did: later than expected. We’ve both been tired in the morning, but if that’s the only little big of jet lag I’m going to experience, I’ll take it happily and stop complaining. Anyway, we headed back to the Whole Foods that is like the place I’ll go to when I die if I’m good for the rest of my life. We took advantage of their free WiFi to obsessively facebook/email some more (I had no idea being without WiFi would feel like dying of thirst…it was rough), and then headed out for the day on the tube!

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We got so proficient at asking, “would you mind taking our picture?”…I can actually say it in five languages now. No I can’t.

Our first stop was Notting Hill. This was…amazing. Like everything in London. Notting Hill was charming and colorful and reminded me of San Francisco. Me matching London boroughs with their American city counterparts became something of a theme on this trip, actually. One of the things I love most about London is that when you go to different parts of the city, you feel like you’re in a brand new place. Everywhere has a very different feel to it, so you almost feel like you’ve gotten to visit several cities in one day. Several perfect cities.

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But anyway, back to Notting Hill. I’m going to give a shoutout to my sister here, both because of our mutual love for the film but also because I knew right away that were she in London with me, it would have been her favorite part of the city. So, for those of you who know Isabel, that might help you get a better idea of what Notting Hill was like. Charming, a little bit eccentric, absolutely beautiful, and very fun. It was super busy because I guess it’s the weekend of Notting Hill Carnival. (I don’t know what this is, but I looked for Mardi Gras floats, and I’m sad to report I saw none). I’ve never minded crowds, though!

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fleur de lis! always puts a smile on my face

The weather was alternating between drizzling rain and bursts of perfect sunshine all day, but luckily, our trip to Notting Hill was sunny and gorgeously lit. In no time at all, we had reached our destination: Portobello Rd. Market!

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Portobello Road Market was such a treat. It’s an antiques market that spreads for blocks and blocks. We had so much fun wandering through the beautiful neighborhood and looking at all the cool trinkets for sale. I didn’t end up buying anything (those of you who know me well will be proud to know I resisted several very pretty scarves), but I was tempted.

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I have a huge obsession with these signs, and this was an authentic WWII-era one…ugh. Should have gotten it.


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For you, Dad!


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I thought Americans were obsessed with the Royal Wedding, but Brits take it to a whole new level. Should have gotten a mug.


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Could have eaten every one.


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The market was so much fun, and I’m so glad we braved the crowds and went to see it. But soon enough, we were headed back to the Underground stop, headed to Knightsbridge…

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home of

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!

Allison and I spent a really long time here. Really long. But it’s hard not to! This place is amazing. It’s like wonderland.The building is gorgeous and feels like some sort of treasure haven…you can easily get lost in what feels like hundreds of rooms. I think I can expand my Whole Foods heaven to include Harrods. They have everything. We started at the Food Halls, which were awesome. Rooms and rooms full of prepared foods of every imaginable variety, restaurants, chocolates, pastries, bread, pantry items, produce, specialty coffees and teas…it was jaw-dropping. And yes, I’m going to subject you to a ridiculous number of photographs of said food halls. Excessive photographs: new theme of the post. Harrods deserves it.

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What’s that? I almost only took pictures of sugary things? Hmm, weird. Not like me at all. And in addition to all this, they also had a Ladurée tea shop (I didn’t go because I now live just a few blocks from the Parisian original :)…hehe) and an authentic old-fashioned ice cream parlor. So cool!

After purchasing a few little chocolates to nibble on, Allison and I headed off to enjoy the rest of the store. We had way too much fun doing so.

From claiming furniture as our own…

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To playing house in some stunning rooms. (Seriously, this floor was like posh Ikea…)

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Yes, I live here…

To taking goofy mirror pictures in said faux-houses.

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We had an especially great time in the kid’s section, where we photographed doll house crime scenes…

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Something bad happened here.

And where Allison played dinosaur.

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So, anyway. Like I said. So much (too much?) fun in Harrods. I could have spent two days there, I think. I’m especially bummed that I didn’t get to see the pet section :(…these precious faces back home are expecting gifts upon my return.

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because stealing my computer isn’t enough

After Harrods, we were off to do some history dork stuff…my favorite thing ever. To Tower Hill!

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Being here gave me goosebumps. It’s incredible to think how much history is behind this and how long it’s been standing on this very spot. That’s one of the things I loved most about London: how the city has just sort of perfectly grown up around all these buildings that are hundreds of years old. It makes for quite the breathtaking effect.

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I’d have liked to go inside, but 1. we were too late for the tour, and 2. the tour was a fortune. Well, that’s an exaggeration. (Shocking, coming from me.) It was pricey. I was happy just to see the outside!

We walked over to Tower Bridge, which was looking seriously stunning. (There aren’t enough enthusiastic adjectives about beauty to describe London. I might have to resort to French in a minute here.) It was raining when we’d left Harrods but had stopped by the time we got to London Tower, and it was just as beautiful as Westminster after the rain the day before. I’d put up with constant rain to see London sights under post-rain skies…très jolie!

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i love the rain the most when it stops (name that lyric)
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We walked across the bridge, which offered up more incredible views of the sunset on the Thames.

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Once across, I dragged Allison around what I guess is the Southwark/Borough Area on an endless quest to find the Globe Theatre. I have a major love for Billy Shakespeare, so I really wanted to see this one. But it took forever. I’m pretty sure Allison wanted to kill me. But luckily, the first bit of the walk was on the river, so views were breathtaking as usual. I don’t think Allison and I were even talking…just walking around with our mouths gaping open, staring with wide eyes and taking as many photographs as possible. I loved this part of London. There were lots of cool little restaurants on the river that I’d love to eat at sometime, and even though some of the buildings were very modern here (not my thing), they were beautifully constructed and looked incredible by the river. Another of the things I loved most about London was seeing the very modern right next to the deeply historical…so cool.

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We walked past London Bridge…

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through the location for Borough Market (where I will most definitely be going on a return trip)

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past some cool little restaurants and streets…

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…and finally, about the time when Allison was trying to figure out how to push me into the Thames and run off, we found the Globe.

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Success!

Then it was across the Millenium Bridge at twilight, which was also so pretty I’ve run out of words to describe how pretty it was. Allison said it made the whole Globe quest totally worth it. Unfortunately, most of my photos are a little blurry, as I haven’t yet quite figured out how to take good night pictures on my camera.

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St. Paul’s at the end


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Then we got back on the train to go to King’s Cross/St. Pancras. Bet you know what I was doing there. No, seriously, I probably don’t even have to tell any of you. But I will. PLATFORM 9 3/4!

In full disclosure, I did get a picture, and I will show it to you (if anyone’s still reading at this point). But first I need to honor Allison by at least mentioning how much of an insane task it was to try to find this place. First of all, there are like a million different variations of King’s Cross and St. Pancras listed on Google maps. We weren’t sure which one we were looking for. I was so frantic that I was basically running around trying to find the platform. (They couldn’t seal it before I got on the Hogwarts Express, obviously!) And Allison deserves the friend of the decade award for not murdering me after I put her through not one, but TWO mad goose chases for things I needed to see merely because they had a lot of sentimental value for me. Plus, we were both getting more exhausted, hungry, and cold by the second. It was…an adventure. But it was all worth it because…

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Can you see the glee on my face? And the “this was SO not worth it” on Allison’s? Allison, I owe you.


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I WANT IN

Once this was finally taken care of, we headed to the Rocket, a pub that had been recommended to me.

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It was awesome, but sadly, we only stayed for a bit, as we were both starving and they weren’t serving food.

Off to Pizza Express! Which sounds lame, but was actually fairly cool.

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Another goobery mirror shot for you!


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That’s better.

The pizza was delicious, and we were exhausted. So after dinner, we headed home. This post has been extremely long…if you stuck with it, I love you. I think that I’ll start giving out prizes to people who make it to the end of these. I’ll post about today…tomorrow, I guess. Until then!

Tess

hopped the pond

Greetings from Londontown!

I put together a little video of me discovering London, just for you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQcewTb94ag

Okay, just kidding. If you watched that…it’s obviously not me. (I just wished it was circa 1998.) But that’s pretty much how I’ve felt the whole time I’ve been here. London is amazing.

I arrived at Heathrow around 3:00 yesterday afternoon, five hours behind schedule due to maintenance issues with the plane in Dallas. Frustrating. Poor Allison had to wait for me in the airport for four hours, but it was such a relief to find her in baggage claim (with my luggage already on the cart, no less) once I cleared customs! In no time at all, we were on the Piccadilly line headed into London. I thought it was incredibly charming that the automated voice on the train warned us to “mind the gap between the train and the platform”…it sounded so nice.


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on the train

It turns out that navigating through London’s public transportation with approximately 100 pounds of luggage each is no joke. Luckily, we quickly learned that Londoners are incredibly helpful. People were helping us carry our bags up huge flights of steps, lift them onto trains, and maneuver them through bustlingcrowds. Needless to say, we were incredibly grateful. 10 Points for London.

We got off the tube at Gloucester Station, where we proceeded to catch a bus (a bright red double decker!) to get closer to the hotel. Unfortunately, I had us get off too soon, so we ended up having to drag our bags through the London streets. This was…hmm, not quite impossible, but the closest thing. And made all the more difficult by the fact that a wheel had broken off my suitcase at some point. So, I was basically lugging a fifty pound box through cobblestone London streets. But on the bright side, there was some seriously breathtaking architecture to distract me. Kensington, the part of London where we’re staying, is really great–it sort of reminds me of Georgetown. But British.


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our first view of London!


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After we got settled into the hotel, we set off to find a place to eat and ended up at the Price of Wales, a charming pub that was perfect and pretty much exactly what you’d imagine a British Pub to look like.


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We each ordered a Red Speckled Hen ale. (Side note: I learned the difference between beer and ale here. Apparently ale is warmer and less bubbly?) I also had a “Mature Cheddar and Pickle” sandwich…vegetarian pickings were slim, folks. When I told our bartender that I liked it, he seemed shocked. (I didn’t really like it. I just wanted to be nice. It was…okay. Interesting.)


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After we finished dinner, we headed off to Piccadilly Circus on the train. It was cool to see this part of the city all lit up at night. I suppose it’s sort of like the Times Square of London? It was sort of rainy and cold and we were sort of dazed, though, so we decided to find another pub and sit and observe.


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Off to the St. James Tavern…

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Which was also charming and perfectly British. Allison and I were talking about how nice the vibe of a pub is–there’s music playing and it feels lively, but it’s so nice to just sit down and actually be able to talk to the people you’re with. We were both getting progressively sleepier, though, so once we’d finished our ales, we headed back to our hotel and went to bed.

We were off to a late start this morning–Allison and I were both exhausted. Our first stop of the day was the Kensington Whole Foods, which is just right around the corner from where we’re staying. Okay, y’all. This place is my mothership. It’s the second largest Whole Foods in the world, and I love every bit of it. I actually took around thirty pictures while I was there, but I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say that this place is incredible. It has it’s own bakery, cheese section, huge wine store, several restaurants, chocolate shop, and a gorgeous selection of produce to boot. Allison basically had to pry me away.


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But I’m glad she did, because we headed off towards Kensington Palace! Unfortunately, it was under construction, so I imagine we didn’t really get to see it at its best, but it was still cool to have seen it in person. I didn’t realize how huge it is! (This is only one wing of the house.) I decided if I had to live there, I’d live in the guest house.


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From there, we walked through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park…

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Hyde Park

…to Buckingham Palace. Pleasant surprise: the fleur de lis motif on the fence surrounding it. Disappointment: there were no guards outside the gate, so I couldn’t try to make them laugh, a la Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen in Winning London. At least I think that’s the movie I’m thinking of.

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uploading this despite the fact that the wind chose this moment to blow my top in a very unflattering way

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so far away…

After that, we headed further into Westminster! I guess this is sort of a touristy spot to visit, but it took my breath away. The House of Parliament is pretty much the number one stunna of buildings, in my opinion. This might have a little something to do with a certain scene in a certain movie…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy02K6x04N8&NR=1

Don’t know why I’m uploading all these movie clips. It’s a passing phase, I promise.


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We walked across Westminster Bridge, where we quickly got in line for the London Eye.

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This was the main touristy thing I wanted to do, and I’m so glad we did. The views were stunning. Apparently you can get married in one of these little cars…I’m considering it. The only bad thing was that it was raining, so all my photographs are sort of speckled. But oh well. You get the idea.


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My mom told me to find a way to get to the highest point in every city I visit to admire the view…mission accomplished, I think. 🙂

We wanted to sit down and get out of the rain when we got off, so we found a little coffee shop and ordered tea and crumpets. Perfect afternoon snack!


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Once we’d regained our strength, we headed back across Westminster bridge, and I took a few dozen more photos of the House of Parliament. I’m in love with a building. And generally just the view of London from the Thames. Oh my god. I was practically drooling.


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Big Ben!

From there, we walked past Westminster Abbey…I could get married there, too. I guess.

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And then to back to the Underground. We headed back to the hotel and rested there for a bit before headed back to Whole Foods (sigh, such happiness), where I’m currently blogging. Free Wifi has been tricky to find!

Sorry this post was so long. I’ll work on being a bit more concise in the future. If you’re reading this, I probably miss you bunches!

Tess

P.S. If you’ve made it this far, you’re a champ. I was going to add tons of my cool pictures, but this website is super slow. I’m working on downloading some program that’s supposed to make uploading photos faster, so future posts, I promise, will have more photos and less words! In any case, pictures will soon be on facebook, if you’re interested. 🙂

Edited to add pictures!