This is the second post detailing my recent holiday to Europe. Click here for Part I: the Netherlands.
Although I love Portland and living in the US in general, if I had to pick somewhere else to live, it would definitely be a city in England. There’s something about England that I feel a natural affinity towards. I can’t quite place my finger on it, but I love almost everything about it: the dry, self-deprecating nature of the British sense of humor; the gloomy, rainy weather; and how almost all the major cities in the country are just a train ride away.
I often wonder what my life would have been like if I’d had more self-awareness in high school and applied to universities in England. I was lucky enough to attend an international school that offered the International Baccalaureate curriculum; that is, if I’d studied for the I.B. tests, I could have very well ended up going to college abroad. If I had attended college in England, would that mean I would be living in London now? Probably. Oh well. If I ever do go back to grad school, I’ve resolved to go somewhere in England — I have such a strong network of friends there that I rarely ever get to see.
I spent the majority of my time in England with Kiron, one of my best friends. He and I met during my last year in my college when he was studying abroad at Reed. During our year together, we got up to many shenanigans involving (but not limited to) one terribly-made short for our film class and many drunken nights at the local student pub. Despite only a year of friendship in the same place, Kiron and I have maintained strong ties — although we only see each other about every 2 years, we text frequently and every time I see him, it’s as if the time and geography that separates us doesn’t exist.
When my mom asked me where I was staying in England, I explained that I would be spending the first few days in Brighton since Kiron had recently started his PhD at the University of Sussex. My mom wrinkled her nose. “What’s there to do in Brighton?”
As it turns out, a lot. I was pleasantly surprised by the city — every meal that Kiron and I had there was great, and although the weather didn’t exactly work out in our favor (as you can tell from the stormy pictures), I was still charmed by the city:
- The Troll’s Pantry at the Hobgoblin pub makes a pretty mean burger. I mean, coming from the US where gourmet burgers are all the rage, let me tell you — the burgers that Kiron and I had were pretty par with the best burgers I’ve had in America. I’m also really into the vibe of the place: you order your burgers from a food stand tucked away in the back patio, which is large, filled with flowers and heat lamps and enclosed by an ivy covered wall. San Franciscans — think of it as a cleaner, nicer Zeitgeist.
- Kiron spotted Pompoko as we were hurrying back from the boardwalk in the rain; we ran in for a respite from the storm and were pleasantly surprised by our meal of traditional Japanese rice bowls and noodles, all for less than £5 a bowl. The menu was extensive and made it really difficult to choose, and, despite initially experiencing buyer’s remorse (I couldn’t decide between tonkatsu curry and a rice bowl), I was really into my spicy honey chicken.
- Angel Food Bakery in the Lanes was an adorable little cupcakery with a variety of tasty looking cupcake flavors. Unfortunately I played it safe and went for a white chocolate cupcake (which was delicious and I have nothing to complain about), but Kiron opted for a chocolate orange cupcake that was out of this world. Think: Terry’s Chocolate Orange, in a cupcake form.
Having visited (and, at one point, lived) in London several times before, I didn’t really feel the urge to do anything touristy. I skipped the usual suspects (Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, etc) and instead just did the things I imagine I would do on a frequent basis if I actually lived in the city. That is, lots of wandering around markets to check out food and do some aimless shopping.
My first stop was probably the most conventionally touristy thing I did, which was to explore Notting Hill’s famous Portobello Market:
My experience was somewhat surprising. Although I thought the food was delicious, the execution was unexpected. Most of the food is pre-prepared and on display in the waiting area, salad bar style. You give your order to the water, who then goes to the salad bar and creates the plate for you. Hm. Would I go back? Yes, definitely, but I recommend going for dinner and see what the food is like made from scratch.
- The Hummingbird Bakery, of course.
- Dessert lovers: check out St. John’s Bakery, Bad Brownie, and Poppy & Sebastian at Maltby Street Fair in South London. For those looking for savory food, African Volcano Peri Peri had some killer looking sliders (but a long, long line to boot — apparently the chef behind the stall is famous?).