Sunday, May 12, 2013

Just can't get enough: London Trip #4 (with friends)

Author's note:  Yes, I'm about 3 weeks behind publishing posts at the moment.  It's going to take a while to get back on track.  That's life, it's too much to stop to write about it sometimes.  It's a good thing.

We headed down to London last weekend with our friends Doug and Tara (of Brussels trip fame) in seek of a good time, and a good time was found easily.  London is truly a great city.

Fleet Street on a sunny day - London at it's finest
But first, as usual, I missed another weekend update from April 20.  It was a relaxing weekend and didn't quite warrant it's own post.  However there are some newsworthy items worth mentioning.

Firstly, CrossFit Nottingham qualified a team for the Europe regional!  If you don't know what I'm talking about that's understandable.  But trust me, this is a huge deal, as it is very difficult to achieve.  Out of 150 teams in Europe, only 5 UK teams qualified in the top 30 with most other teams representing Scandinavia.  The Regional is coming up in just a few weeks in Copenhagen, and Kerry and I are honored to represent Nottingham.  We're training hard, but we had already planned a lot of weekend getaways, so it's been a challenge to keep the pace up.  

We did take an "active rest" day on the 21st, where we broke out our bikes and rode to the Attenborough Nature Preserve on the south east side of Nottingham, about 4 miles from the bungalow.  There was a nice trail most of the way following the canal near our house, but we did have to ride in some traffic.  Kerry, who has never driven in the UK wasn't too keen on that.  So when I shouted "Stay behind me!" and proceeded to make a right turn in a roundabout (that's a clockwise 270 degree right turn) she had nothing to do with it, pulled over and crossed like a pedestrian.  I don't blame her, I was freaking out myself!

We took a short 3 mile walk around the preserve.  It's nothing too spectacular, but I snapped a few pics for posterity...

Kerry near the visitor center - plenty of waterfowl which reminded us of the Rutland Water from a few months back, only with better weather
You can see the full carpark ("parking lot" will be received with blank stares around here)...really happy we rode!

These gates were everywhere on the trails; I'm not sure why.  It was tough to thread the needle on a bike. Maybe they're meant for pear-shaped people? 

Locks in action on the ride home by the canal!  Lucky folks took advantage taking their boat out on a sunny day, but it does seem like a lot of work - there are about 3 of them on the trail.

I'll be damned if this Fiat isn't the ugliest car in the world.  This guy lives in my neighborhood but I doubt we could be friends.  I didn't bother blurring the plate.
OK enough, onward and upward!!!  The main event for this post is the weekend in London with fellow expats.  We got in early enough on Friday to have the whole evening in the city.  We timed it just a bit too early, as the free weekend parking near our flat didn't start until 6 pm, so we had to give up 4 pounds to the meter (yeah that's 1 pound per 30 minutes, stings!).    But still - 4 pounds on parking for the entire weekend only 800m from a zone 1 tube stop? Well done!

We hit up the Lord Nelson, a pub known for it's tongue-in-cheek horsemeat hamburgers, but came up empty on this day.  They were grilling out however and had a nice alternative selection of minced mammal flesh to choose from.  The grillmaster was an American from Houston working on his music degree.  The grill was charcoal, and there were no chopped onions in the burger patties, so it passed muster and we put in our order.

Trying to fit in with the after-work Londoners outside on the patio

Did you know ciders have nearly twice the alcohol per unit volume of a typical English pub ale?  It's popular with the ladies...
Doug's bonus boar burger - first one was burnt, but he talked the cook into giving it to him anyway.  Turns out it was fine. Nicely done - if you weren't sure, this is what a true winner looks like.  Own it.
Afterward we made our way to the museum of natural history - it was open late tonight

Beautiful architecture with mixed rows of grey and sandy colored stones.

A grand entry 
Really impressive main atrium

The best part about the late night opening was the beer and wine service!

This pliosaur fossilized skeleton was found in Whitby!
Quaffing my wine whilst learning about dung beetle faecal attraction to find food sources. That's not a trail I'd follow.

Full scale model of a blue whale - super impressive!
Taxidermy for museums is mostly gone, but I still enjoy the hundreds of bird species on display (a lot easier than finding them alive!).

An impressive exhibit of hummingbirds, likely an homage to famous British ornithologist John Gould who had a hummingbird obsession.  Gould helped Darwin identify the birds from his Galapagos trip which was critical in the development of his theory about natural selection.

Tyrannosaur musculoskeletal detail of the leg , reminds me of the lamb legs I buy on sale at Sainsburys

The museum has an excellent dinosaur wing; good for children and adults (or maybe just me?).  The tyrannosaur robot was very lifelike.  We filed out around 10:30 as things were wrapping up and made our way back to the flat anticipating a full day tomorrow.  We did have to make a kebab stop as those burgers just didn't do the trick...

The next morning we made our way to one of my favorite places in the world:  the Borough Market.  Kerry and I discovered this place in London Trip #2, so we were excited to return.  As a fan of culinary arts and traditional food preparation, I could quite happily spend my entire weekend budget here and bypass any tourism.  The quality and variety can't be beat, and it's just a pleasure to stroll up and down the stalls. 

That pile of brownies beckoned, so we had to shared one.    I also grabbed a very large loaf of sourdough bread (not pictured)

Presentation is everything - but at 1.40 each, a bit too pricy for today.

Shopping for vegetables for tonight's dinner

Quite a mushroom selection, and not the ones you'd easily find at the grocery store. 

A very pretty display of olives - just begging to be purchased

My selection included some free-range chicken, green beans, and peppers for the evening's meal, and for myself I bought some very delicious elk and boar sausages, and some raw, grass-fed cream and butter.  The raw butter had a subtle difference to the flavor that was nice, I could taste the quality.  We went back home and dropped off our groceries, then headed out for some good ol' walking tours courtesy of Mr. Rick Steves.  What else would we do on a trip with Doug and Tara?

The tour started on London Bridge and weaved past the financial district, highlighting the area that was destroyed in the great 1600's fire that ruined the city.  Then we walked into the true heart of London down Fleet Street, and then ended over in Westminster.  Surprisingly, this core area of London is an area we had neglected to visit on our previous trips.

The Shard is complete!  Time for a requisite dunce cap photo

Panorama of important financial buildings like the Bank of London and the stock exchange

Looks like maybe one building survived the fire of London!

A wedding in the 12th century Temple church today - this is where some Knights Templar are buried.  I only caught a quick glimpse of the effigies before I was kicked out

Not sure how William Gladstone got his name, scowling like that all the time. He did serve nearly 14 years as Prime Minister (not consecutively), so he was still pretty popular.

After our tour, Doug and Tara wanted to go pop some tags, so we split up and Kerry and I headed to the Hunterian Medical Museum.  

Not much from the outside, but well worth a visit!

Kerry had wanted to visit this museum on the grounds of the Royal College of Surgeons of England for some time.  It is not one of the most popular, but wow, very well done if you are interested in medical or surgery history.  There are thousands of specimens of anatomy and examples of surgical tools dating back hundreds of years.  John Hunter was a seminal 18th century surgeon who stressed a scientific method be applied to surgery - moving away from the medieval barber surgeon practices such as blood-letting.  He employed comparative anatomy - say, look at a human femur and compare that with another animal side by side, to help give insight to what made things work and why.  This kind of thinking (in addition to the discovery of germs) have resulted in our modern surgical practices.  

Some of the displays were a bit much for a mechanical engineer, but I held my own looking at the pathology examples - some of the things you might find in a Ripley's Believe it or Not book.  Also, we watched a full video of a brain tumor removal - that will stay with me for a while.

Anyway, after that, we had some extra time, so we stopped off in Covent Gardens to wander among the crowds of tourists.  

A massive plate of pallea - a perfect snack!

How British pubs work for Americans to reference (I wish I had this when I was trying to figure it out)

One of the largest gaps I've minded so far off the central line, on the way home

We met up again with Doug and Tara and we had a bit of fun with dinner - via coin flip they ended up having to make the starter and dessert, while Kerry and I made the main course.  To make it even more fun, we had to buy [most] ingredients from the Borough market, and we even included an Iron Chef-esqe secret ingredient: basil!

Doug and Tara hard at work on the starter
I was really pleased with my Pad Kra Prow - a nod to an excellent dish we often order from a Thai restaurant in north Indy, Jasmine Thai.  

Kerry's foot photo-bomb

The challenge was fun, and Tara did a great job employing basil into the dessert by combining it with a balsamic reduction, ricotta, and strawberries.

Our final day in the city we decided to do another long walk.  Doug and Tara had not been to the Tower of London yet, so we split was again and Kerry and I made our way to the shopping district of New Oxford and Regent, to see what there was to see.  Meandering about down Regent, we found ourselves at the Whole Foods Market.  You all in the US area aware of this trendy market in the US, but there are only 7 oin the UK, with 5 being in London.  We had a good time having a look around for some compare/contrast.
The Picadilly Circus location
I ended up buying some Mexican dried chilies and kombucha.  I have had a terrible time finding these here - usually I would just get them at the Mexican grocery store.  Really excited to incorporate them into some good ol' chili or posole.  With the kombucha I can use the scoby as a starter to kick off my own batch - a healthful drink which is kind of a fermented, probiotic tea. 

After that, we kept walking west through Mayfair toward Hyde Park.  Holy cats is this place fancy!  We did some window shopping and just took in the sights.

The store is closed so the merchandise was removed, but it appears from this display that these watches are worth more than my house.
How the 1% dresses

Kerry sitting with Churchill and FDR, watch those hands!
Faberge egg store - not sure the entry is gaudy enough

Loved the architecture in Mayfair

LOL - she was asking for it!

Just doing a bit of remodeling, I think we'll keep the facade. I assume there is a rule about that.  Everything else I'm sure will be brand new, extravagant, and expensive

Weekday parking only about $65 per day...

The Dorchester hotel, $700/night.

The valet lot at the Dorchester, not a car show

Enough of the displays of wealth, Hyde park is blooming and natural.  I take a lot of pictures of gardens to help give me ideas on how to landscape my yard at home when we return.

Nice use of shrubs and bushes at various heights, trees are starting to bud (finally)!

We met up again with Doug and Tara and found the multi-player Foosball table at Nike town.  This was a blast running up and down the field, hilarious.

I didn't map out the route we took on this day, but we must have walked over 6 miles, and boy were my dogs barking.

Seeing how behind I am at this blog I'm going to end it here.    We headed back to the flat after this and packed up to fight the 5 pm Sunday traffic out of London to head home.

Football traffic is caused by pedestrians in the UK

Bonus pic - we played a card game the night before with some cards Doug and Tara picked up from their recent trip to Monte Carlo, and there were no numbers.  Made the game interesting...


  1. Holy Cats! Nice post. Any weekend where there is horse, wagu, wild boar, ostrich, kangaroo, kebab, chicken, pork, and beef is a success in my book.

  2. Nice pics of the houses. We didn't walk down London Boardwalk or do the medical museum but those would have been a couple of worthy places to check out - kudos for finding them. I suppose we have to wait another three weeks to read about your Paris trip now? Quit spending so much time sleeping and get on them!