the meating place

so i mentioned that the highlights of cardiff in my opinion were a quick view of the waterfront and the restaurants. since it's slightly more interesting to talk about food, i'll spare you my "the lovely rolling planes along the lake" talk. for now.

our first night out, my friend laura found a cute little cuban place and invited the lawyer she was working with on the case, tom, to join us. it was sort of like a first date in a "we'll see how cool you are to hang out with tonight, but no guarantees about tomorrow" kind of way. as it turned out, we ended up having fun with tom and agreed to a "second date" the following night. the only stipulation laura provided was that he had to pick the place we went for dinner and it had to be better than her choice. we're not demanding at all.

much to our surprise (and delight) tom succeeded and brought us to a restaurant called the meating place. the meating place is every vegetarian's nightmare, as their specialty is meat kabobs accompanied with pita bread, cous cous, roasted vegetables and your choose of sauce. this isn't just any kabob. the dramatics involved with serving the kabob are why i chose the word "nightmare."

the meating place.

each individual table is affixed with a sort of gothic looking chandelier that hangs from the rafters. the only thing missing from these chandeliers, however, is any form of decorative hangings. this is where the meat comes in. after you order your chicken, beef, or mixed meat kabob, your server returns with a 3 foot log metal skewer that holds the cooked meat, and hangs the skewer from the chandelier in front of you.

exciting meat skewers!

and my much less exciting kebab and quinoa.

it may not sound very exciting, but we were psyched. plus it inspired lots of interesting "what if" conversation like "what if my kabob swings into your kabob, is that considered rude" and "what if i don't know my own strength, pull too hard, and rip down the roof of the restaurant."

great news - the roof was still intact when we left, and no one was harmed during the course of our dinner.



you know how sometimes you meet someone and fall head over heels crazy in love with them so immediately that it's almost too much? well, that's kind of like london and i. i was so infatuated with the city from the get go that every day i woke up early and literally packed as much into my day as i possibly could. i walked miles around the city, and was basically wearing myself into the ground. what can i say? i'm a dedicated girlfriend.

but like most new and obsessive relationships, london and i also had some space issues to work out and we needed time apart. luckily for us (london and i, that is...) my friend who i was staying with in london was assigned to a case in cardiff for a few days and invited me to come along.

still in the habit of "go! go! go!" from london, i woke up early my first day and went for a run along the waterside and into town to see what was happening. well, not a whole lot actually. there was a castle, a few strange statues, beautiful water views, and shopping/restaurants, but really nothing i would have freaked out about if i hadn't seen it.

i took this as some sort of message from the universe telling me to CHILL OUT, and that's exactly what i did. i woke up early and went on leisurely runs along the water, took long hot showers, did a little shopping and had a nice hot meal every night.

it was the perfect little mini break from the big smoke, and i would soon be ready to turn back to my love affair with london more level-headedly.


the magical mystery tour

i mentioned earlier that my step dad had told me about a company called london walks that puts on 30+ different themed walking tours. despite my terrified run to the train station after my first tour, i was really satisfied with my first tour with this company. that's actually putting it mildly since the first tour inspired me to watch a movie, read a book, and scour the internet for hours to learn more. so, i decided to go on another tour. it was actually a tough choice, but i decided i had to go on a tour highlighting the best of landmarks in london that had history with the beatles.

once again, my timing was perfect as it turns out that a few of my friends from college were in town visiting. ok, maybe it was less about my miraculous timing and more about the olympics being in town, but it meant i was able to drag someone else slim for the ride this time. too bad this tour wasn't as scary as jack the ripper to require companionship for sanity reasons, but it was still nice to have a friend to chat with during the walks between places and take a day off from being the weird girl by herself.

our tour guide showed up with a sergeant pepper jacket and an absolutely ridiculous accent. so, all signs pointed to an excellent tour from the beginning. we made several stops along the way, some at buildings i wouldn't have honestly taken a second look at had i not known the history behind the place. some of the stops included places like paul mccartney's current offices (which by the way, he was THERE! i didn't meet him, but just taking this small opportunity to show off..), the gallery where john and yoko first met, the palladium theatre (duh!), the rooftop where the beatles performed their final "live show," and of course ending up at abbey road and abbey road studios.

the abbey road stop actually presented some photographic issues for me. it felt like the kind of place you need to take a photo in, but what kind of photo was i going to take? getting my friend to take a photo of me solo walking across the crosswalk felt lame, and a picture of a simple crosswalk felt even lamer. so i took photos of the studio and left the crosswalk unphotographed. i know, shocking.

will i regret this decision? maybe, but probably not as much as i regret not going to kings cross and getting someone to take my photo at platform 9 and 3/4. let's be real about where my true fandom lies...


reigniting the flame

i'm willing to bet that given the context, i've actually tricked you here with this title. this is not another post about the olympics. this isn't even a post about me getting back together with an ex lover. this is a post about my rediscovery of my love for cupcakes.

yeah, ok. i'd be lying if i said i haven't had a cupcake since leaving new york, but cupcakes aren't quite the staple in NZ. there are a couple shops that i can think of that make cupcakes, but, no offense to any kiwis reading this, the cupcakes are so far from the quality you get in new york that it wasn't even much of a temptation for me to go. so, i guess we CAN say i haven't had a GOOD cupcake since i left new york. until i arrived in london.

the first cupcake stop i made was completely spontaneous. there i was, walking around in soho minding my own business, when i stumbled upon hummingbird bakery. i tried not to go in. i really did, but the magnetic force of red velvet was too strong to resist. i went in and ordered one cupcake to go.

trying to err on the healthier side, i did manage to choose a "free from" version, which was gluten and egg free. i'm not sure how they did it, but tasting that cream cheese frosting made it pretty hard to believe it was free from anything that might be calorie ridden. if i had to compare, i'd say hummingbird is like a cross between billie's bakery and buttercup bakery. there weren't any major queues (i.e. magnolia) and the taste also wasn't overwhelmingly buttery (also i.e. magnolia).

as it turns out, the expression "it's all downhill from there" applies in this situation. not that the other cupcake places i visited were terrible by any means. they were great, but hummingbird was definitely my personal favorite.

the next place i ventured to was called lola's. lola's was enticing not just because it was named after my dog, but because of the many different favors they offered. it reminded me of crumbs, but a little more interesting. maybe that's only because it was new to me, but sticky toffee pudding and tiramisu cupcakes put m&ms and oreo cupcakes to shame in my opinion. despite the crazy flavors, and living up to its new york comparison, lola's was ok. not world changing. to be fair, i did get banana, which anyone who knows me knows i'm addicted to banana bread, so i did have high expectations going in.

the final place i went to was another spur of the moment decision. walking around before the play we went to see, sarah and i literally bumped into a shop called candy cakes. when i say literally, i basically walked into the store window. they had several cupcakes with candy baked in and on top of them, as you probably guessed. we had candy to eat during the show, but they were too cute to pass up so we each got a baby cupcake. i mean mine was lemon and had edible glitter on it. and it matched my top. i had to.

again, it was just ok. good, but y ranking still stands as follows:
1) hummingbird
2) lola's
3) candy cakes

so obviously i went back to hummingbird again to indulge before i left london. oh cupcakes, you've gotten me again!!


team gb '12

it would be pretty strange if i went to london during the 2012 summer olympics and didn't even mention that this was going on. yeah, so here it goes...

being that i wasn't very planned out and wasn't even sure how long i was planning to stay in london when i arrived (haha, take THAT passport control!), i had not prebooked tickets to any of the events that were happening throughout the city. being that the olympics is a pretty large event, my natural assumption was that i'd be able to work out some tickets while i was there. unfortunately, there was a glitch in this plan, as tickets were nearly impossible to come by.

well, i shouldn't say impossible, because it seemed to be pretty possible exclusively for uk citizens. as if i needed another reason to lust after citizenship. apparently, while many event tickets sold out prior to the games, there ended up being several "no shows" and there were reports in the paper over concern of showing the world only half filled stadiums. so to solve this problem, they decided to release more tickets during the event. the only problem is the genius who decided to do this didn't explain how to get said tickets. also, in order to get these tickets, apparently you had to be a uk citizen. which makes TOTAL sense for an event that represents the coming together of people from all over the world, right?!?

even though i wasn't quite able to score tickets, i didn't let missing olympic beach volleyball matches affect my experience. only enough to make slightly snide remarks on my blog, anyway. the city was covered with people from all over the world. i'm sure this isn't such a far departure from london during the summer normally, but it was a lot more obvious when all these people were wearing body paint and flags as capes. there were italians, french, germans, koreans, australians, and even the odd american here and there.

it was really great to be around, particularly when i would bump into the olympics unexpectedly. one day when trying to take a shortcut through st. james park, i walked right into crowds heading into a beach volleyball match. another day, on my way to topshop to drool over things i couldn't fit in my backpack, i was held up by a cycling race. the best, however, was the random cheering. i'd literally be walking around trying to find a sandwich or something boring and out of nowhere there would be the large cheer of a crowd. it always came out of nowhere and was gone about as quickly as it happened, but it added a little something special to my london experience. especially the time i heard a cheer just as i successfully navigated myself to a train station to make the last train home. pretty sure THAT cheer was for me...


masterpiece thee-ay-tore

one of the things i actually missed about new york, was the ability to see amazing live musicals and plays. this is of course a completely ridiculous thing to miss, since it actually wasn't something i did all that often (usually only with out of town guests) and most of the time i think i complained about going (it's so expensive, the line at tkts, etc). when i arrived in london and friends who lived there were asking what was on my list of things i wanted to do, however, nostalgia crept in and i was reminded of the pleasantries accompanying a night at the theatre.

my friend who i was staying with was out of town for my second week in london, leaving me up to my own devices to entertain myself. this meant i highjacked her friendship with another kiwi living in london, sarah, and forced her to do touristy things with me. ok, maybe it wasn't that forced. she actually had the idea of going to a show and when i clasped my hands together and "yay'd" at her suggestion, the deal was sealed.

we decided to look into getting tickets to matilda (based off the roald dahl book), which was really her looking into tickets and me awaiting the information. it was one of my first times playing tourist, so i was allowed to enjoy a little irresponsibility right? as it turns out, matilda was quite popular, expensive, and sold out until september, so we decided to go see a play called mousetrap based on a recommendation from her co-worker.

mousetrap is a play that has been running in for the past 60 years, and is a sort of old timey, who-done-it type of murder mystery. it was adorable and good fun, but of course i have to keep the promise the murderer requested at the end of the show and keep the secret of what happens "forever locked in my heart." (see, how CUTE!)

not only was sarah kind enough to organize tickets to a show, she also organized dinner for us at a well known spot in chinatown called wong kei's. i'm a huge fan of ethnic food and an even larger fan of the cheap/authentic variety, so i was so excited to go. of course being authentic also meant it was very quick - get in, get out. immediately when you sit, the waiter or waitress hands you a menu and at the same time asks what you'd like to eat. this was clearly a very stressful situation which i needed to eat 4 spring rolls to calm myself down...oh, wong kei's was amazing. thank you, sarah!

wong kei's was so good in fact, that i secretly returned on my own one sunday for a quiet little dinner for one. mostly because this dinner turned into a small feast, and no one should have to see one girl consume that much food in one sitting. at least if it were the nathan's hot dog eating contest, you'd know what you were in for...



it's no secret that harrod's is an amazing store and one of the many highlights of london. for those of you who haven't yet had the absolute pleasure of visiting, harrod's is one of the better known upscale department stores in london. they sell everything from designer bags and clothes, tea, cigars, gourmet foods, cupcakes, pet accessories, actual live pets, toys, and even an entire line of harrod's branded goods. basically, this store is literally my budget traveling nightmare.

seriously, it's like a magical harrod's fairy crawled into my head at night, stole everything i've ever dreamed of wanting, and put it all in a very premium priced store. ok maybe it's just a great store filled with anything anyone could possibly want, but the point is that harrod's for me was yet another hard lesson in self control.

fresh flowers. you know, to make the hostel feel like home...

but i totally NEED a tin decorated as a bear guard...

always a shopper at heart, it wasn't as difficult as i anticipated passing up on the luxury designer clothes. i did stare at/pick up/clutch to my chest a beautiful celine bag for awhile, but it was easy to say "you can get that when you're employed again." what wasn't as easy to pass up was the food hall.

really, it's food hallS, with each room separated into different categories of food - chocolates and confectionaries, tea, meat, baking and pastries, and even a room with a caviar bar. can you guess which was the most difficult to resist? if you guessed caviar bar, you're wrong...

despite the torture i endured preventing myself from maxing out my credit card in this shop, i visited several times and eventually treated myself to an enormous almond croissant. i had to. i was still coming down from france...


a walk with jack the ripper

like most 20 somethings, very rarely do i take advice from my parents. given that i had only been in london previously for about 48 hours and my parents have been several times, i decided that i would make an exception in the case of things to do in london. just this once! (don't get any ideas, mom...)

my step dad had recommended a tour company called london walks, who host about 30+ different walking tours featuring different themes throughout the city. walking tours are one of my favorite things to do in a new city. i'm one of those crazy people who would prefer to walk for 45 minutes than take the tube for fear of "missing something," so london walks was right up my alley.

at a price of 9£ per tour (7£ if you're like me and still riding the coat tails of your student ID), it was easy to squeeze in a few of the tours they offered over the time that i was in town. the first tour that jumped out at me and one of the more interesting ones i took, however, was the jack the ripper tour.

ok so now you get that this blog post is slightly deceiving and i didn't actually teleport back in time for a one on one interview with the real jack the ripper. c'mon, i've got to do SOMETHING to draw in you readers! besides i'm pretty sure jack the ripper's first posthumous interview is reserved for the likes of barbara walters.

so i'm sort of a sucker for mysteries, and since no one actually knows who jack the ripper was to this day, this was an obvious choice for me. i'm always getting sucked into things like cold case and i even read a novel about the case details of the lindburgh baby kidnapping. it's like maybe i think i can solve the case if i pay enough attention. what really grabbed my attention about this tour, however, was the description of our tour guide. donald was described as being "internationally recognized as the leading authority on jack the ripper" and wrote a "best selling" book on the topic.

sure, lots of tours over exaggerate the accreditation of their guides, but this guy definitely lived up to every word of praise. NBC even showed up to film the tour i was on. so, if you're watching the office and any specials are coming up next about london walking tours, stay tuned!

the tour was amazing and i was captivated the whole time. it took everything out of me not to bust out a notebook harriet the spy style and demand further details. the only mistake i made was going on a walking tour about murder that ended at 9:30pm by myself. completely forgot about that whole walk-back-through-where-jack-killed-people-in-the-dark-by-myself bit, which actually turned into more of a sprint for the nearest train station.


afternoon(s) at the tate(s)

well i am certainly using a lot of parenthesis for london posts. honestly, i kept trying for something funny for this blog title, but i couldn't think of anything. tate seems like it should be such an easy word to manipulate. something to do with tater tots? anyway...

one of the things topping most people's list of things to see in london are the infamous tate museums. yes, there are two - the tate modern and the tate britain. this little fact is often glazed over when people poshly refer to "the tate," so before i set foot in london i thought "the tate" was only the tate modern. two tates in my head meant two 10-15€ admission fees. how was i ever going to make up my mind on which to visit?!? as it turns out, i was wrong yet again. admission to both museums was "donation based," which we all know really means "free."

at that point i had no reason not to visit just one tate museum, but both. so i decided to make my first stop at the one i had actually heard of - the tate modern. i should tell you upfront that i'm not really a huge fan of modern art. i'm never going to be the person who "gets" a light fixture on a blank canvas and understands that as a meaningful work of art. so i don't really know what i was expecting to gain from visiting a modern art museum when i don't really completely appreciate that form of art.

the experience i left with is what i would call "creeped out." it was a bit strange to have such an anxious feeling as i did walking through that museum, and maybe i'm bring dramatic, but i totally had the feeling i normally get walking down a quiet dark alley by myself late at night. ok, it was light out and there were plenty of people around so i wasn't concerned about being mugged so much as i was about what weird art form was lurking around the corner, waiting to freak me out. maybe it wasn't a good idea to kick off my visit watching a movie about an asian guy who basically stalked this asian movie star.

after that experience, i was sure it would only be uphill from there with the tate britain. since "modern" wasn't in the title, i thought the other tate might house some of the more classical pieces i enjoy visiting. well, it was less modern, but still had a few little strange bits. i did spend more time in the tate britain and i definitely felt less anxious. it was even pretty interesting to see a few pieces from the revolutionary war period, where a few british artists depicted feelings at the time that it was going to be an "easy defeat" of america.

my afternoon at the tate britain was actually a nice one, and not just because i picked up a giant brownie from the food fair going on nearby. the only part that somewhat dampens the experience was one video installation i stumbled across of a tight rope walker. it was a movie of a man walking on a tight rope between two very tall buildings. before you guess that he falls or something actually gruesome, the reason this was unenjoyable for me was the camera angle. the movie had one that showed the man from a distance walking, but then another angle randomly would pan in that was clearly a view from his helmet looking down. it was so real, i felt like i was walking the rope. which of course meant i was panic stricken in my seat until the camera changed views again. man, i am SUCH a museum drama queen!

despite the only slightly positive experiences i had, i did manage to venture back to both tate museums during my trip. but mostly for the clean restrooms and free wifi...


london town (do people actually say that?)

this is actually the first time, with the exception of my NZ posts of course, that i am writing about a location while still being in that location. that's right ladies and gentleman, i'm writing this post during a seated break during my second trip to the V&A museum. thought i'd do a quick post before i head to chinatown to indulge in my second time eating at wong kei. ok, i'm into seconds. i'm so into seconds, in fact that while i originally planned to be in london for only 2 weeks, i fell so in love with it that i've stayed for 4.

4 weeks in one location during this trip is a big deal for me. for all you math nerds out there, that makes it a little under 20% of my currently planned total travel time. i couldn't help it though. i fell in love (with the city).

this was completely unplanned of course. i wanted to make a stop on london for the olympics just to check it out, and since my friend who i was in spain with now lives in london, i had asked whether i might be able to stay with her for a couple of weeks until i sorted out my next destination.

note: if you don't like cheese, skip this paragraph. thought i'd just forewarn you, since being single means that's you end up romanticizing other parts in your life like where you work, what you eat (we've seen that theme enough), and where you might live. i can remember visiting new york before i moved there and feeling this excited sort of desperation to pick up my life and just get there already. granted some of this might be blamed on a slight case of senioritis in college, but it made me so deliriously happy to think up all the details of how i pictured my new life in new york. i'm not kidding myself and i know it hasn't been that long, but i haven't felt that way about another city i've been to since i arrived in london.

i've given this speech a few times via what's app, skype, postcards, and even in person, so forgive me if you've already heard this monologue, but my impression of london is that it is everything i loved about new york and nothing i hated about new york. ts a beautiful city to walk around in, you don't need a car, the public transport is very easy to handle, and there is always something fun as interesting to do. in the grocery stores, they have all my favorite products from home as well as from europe and even NZ. the people are also amazingly nice and polite. men here abide by the rule of "ladies first," apologize if they bump into you, help you with bags, and basically make you feel like you're either a supermodel or have been time warped back to the 1950s. trust me, i'm not looking particularly good after living out of a backpack for the past two months, so this is not any sort f special attention.

so anyone that knows anyone who lives in london or any potential employment opportunities coming up, please feel free to pass them along. and i mean ANY opportunities. i'm so hopelessly in love, i'd even consider janitorial work if it meant my moving here.

piccadilly circus.

buckingham palace.
westminster abbey.

tower of london.


the bridge.

the globe theater.

the big guy.