London Recap #4

This is my fourth post in my London Recap. To view the first post, click here. To view the second post, click here. To view the third post, click here.

On Wednesday, we grabbed a quick breakfast and headed to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. It took us forever to get there– we walked across Hyde Park and got a little bit lost. The changing of the guard itself was pretty overrated, and all I could think off the whole time was the Wizard of Oz– I kept waiting for a lion’s tail to pop out of one of their robes.

We left before it was over to beat the crowds, and went back to King’s Cross for attempt #2 of finding platform 9 and 3/4. We failed yet again, and grabbed lunch at Vx.

I had read about Vx before we went and had heard it was a good place for a light lunch. It’s a tiny little shop with lots of vegan merchandise and refridgerators full of coconut water and vegan products. They also have a few cases in the front with cupcakes and premade sandwiches.

If you are visiting London anytime soon, Vx is one place you can definitely skip. It was convenient since we were already in King’s Cross, but the sandwiches weren’t special. The cupcakes were delicious, but were supplied by another vegan bakery– Ms. Cupcake.

After our late lunch, we headed to Soho and did some shopping. I am absolutely crazy about Topshop. I think that every corner of every street in the world needs to have one. With good sales. Once we were exhausted from shopping, we sat outside in a piazza and had some Chai Tea.

We grabbed pints and chips at a pub around the corner from our hotel and relaxed before heading to dinner at Saf again– this time at their restaurant in Shoreditch. For appetizers, we got the cheese sampler and raw ravioli.

Both were absolutely incredible. Sorry for the lighting in these pictures– the restaurant was so dimly lit!

For dinner, I ordered fettucine– I was really excited about it and had been craving pasta all week. Unfortunately, I failed to notice it was raw, and ended up with what can only be described as a salad. It would have been really delicious, but I was expecting pasta, which it definitely was not.

Mark got a dish called the Buddha Bowl, which was similar to the bowls I make at home but more classy. It had tofu, grains, and veggies. It was really delicious, and I liked it much better than my “fettucine.”

Thursday morning, we grabbed breakfast at Whole Foods and took the tube to the Tower of London. We walked around the outside of it and across the Tower Bridge.

This area of London was probably my favorite that we visited, possibly only because it was a gorgeous sunny day.

The bridge is beautiful and there is a piazza right next to it on the south side of the Thames that was bustling with people, even at 1 pm on a Thursday.

We walked along the water for a while, heading toward the Tate Modern, and stumbled upon the Bourough Markets, which we had heard about but hadn’t planned on visiting. This market was definitely my favorite of the three we visited.

There were tons of free samples and it wasn’t too crowded.

We got a mulled wine and wandered around, looked at produce, bread, infused oil, and beer. Eventually, we headed to the Tate Modern.

The museum itself is really industrial looking– not at all what I expected. The inside is really neat though, and the walls are timelines that list different artists and the movements that were going on during those times.

On the walk back, we bought vegan burgers from the Bourough Markets, and they had this onion jam on them. The burgers weren’t spectacular and the jam was kind of odd, but we were hungry so we inhaled them anyway.

We stopped and sat on the water to have a drink, which was really relaxing. It was such a beautiful day, and sitting on the water looking at the city of London across the river was a perfect culmination of our trip.

We stopped at Harrods again on the way home and grabbed a few gifts for our parents.

Originally, we planned to go to Vantra for dinner, a vegan buffet. However, when we walked in the door, we didn’t like the atmosphere and the food didn’t look all that good, so we headed back to Mildreds, which was only a few blocks away.

We ordered the dumplings again, but also got mock duck spring rolls and tamalles.

I learned my lesson about entrees on this trip– I don’t usually like them. I much prefer to get a few appetizers. So we had three appetizers and ordered a mushroom pot pie as our entree.

Mark liked it a lot more than I did (see? I don’t like entrees!) So I ate most of the tamalle.

After dinner, we decided to go out for a while since it was our last night. We went to a really upscale sushi bar and I got a drink called a Cormorant that was really sweet and had grenadine in it, which always reminds me of shirley temples. Mark had the bar’s twist on a mojito– it had plum wine in it, and it was surprisingly good. After sipping our drinks there, we headed to a club where we got to dance a little and have a few more drinks before going home.

Mark had to leave early the next morning, and saying goodbye to him again was so hard– but easier than the first time.

I had a few hours to myself in the hotel before I checked out. One of my best friends, Sophy, is currently studying in London, so I headed to her flat for Friday night.

We walked around the city and she took me to Piccadilly, which is sort of like a mini Times Square. We also walked around Leicester Square before stopping at a food store and picking up food for dinner.

After relaxing for a few hours, we headed out to two of her favorite clubs. Getting to go out to bars with her was great– Mark and I didn’t do much of the club scene, and it was cool to see the kinds of places she’s been going to.

Sophy and I are very similar in that sometimes (most of the time…) we just like to sit at home and watch a movie instead of going out. So, after an hour and a half, we headed back to her flat and watched The Parent Trap before I crashed on the couch.

The next morning, I headed to the airport and said my goodbyes to Sophy and London.

I miss London so much already, and I can’t wait to go back.

London Recap #3

This is the third post in my London Recap. To view the first post, click here. To view the second post, click here.

Monday was the first day that we had cloudy and cool weather. We put on our jackets and headed to Whole Foods for breakfast and some internet access.

We found Tamarillos in the produce section– neither of us had heard of them and we figured we’d get one and give it a try. Tamarillos are also known as tree tomatoes, and are full of nutrients– vitamins A and C, and Iron, Calcium, and Magnesium. I think maybe if we had known anything about the fruit before tasting it, we might have liked it, but we were expecting a sweet, peach-like fruit and got what seemed like a rotten tomato. So that didn’t work out as planned.

After breakfast, we headed to Knightsbridge.

If there is one defining thing about me that you absolutely should know, it’s that I am obsessed with The Parent Trap. Not the weird old one. The new, Lindsay Lohan, “I have class and you don’t”, wonderful Parent Trap. Before leaving for London, I spent a couple of hours hunting down an address for Elizabeth James’ London flat from the movie (for those of you who have not been enlightened as of yet, Elizabeth James is the mother of the two main characters). My one must-see in London was not Big Ben or the Changing of the Guard. It was 7 Pembroke Lane, residence of Annie and Elizabeth James, Martin the butler, and Grandfather. And I found it.

Hallelujah.

So after crossing this major life event off my bucket list, we headed to Harrods. If I had to choose one word to describe Harrods, it would be “overwhelming.” It’s enormous. There is so much going on. Bags, clothes, jewelry, perfume, furniture, cookware, restaurants, an enormous food court with produce and specialty items, an entire store devoted to Harrods merchandise, and last (but not least) a gigantic room full with the most luxurious and expensive wines, grappas, cognacs, and various other spirits available.

After finally finding our way out of Harrods, we stopped for lunch at a Lebanese Restaurant. We got a beautiful plate of hummus and pita, a side of fries, and two sandwiches.

Mark opted for falafel, but I got a veggie pita– it was incredible– filled with roasted cauliflower, potato, tahini, and other various veggies. The combination was unexpected but delicious. You’ll definitely be getting my spin on this combo soon!

Once we were no longer dying of hunger, we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. One great thing about London is that all of the museums have free admission. This museum was amazing– full of ancient sculptures and columns. My favorite part of this museum was having Mark tell me about a lot of the things we saw– it made me really happy to see him so interested in all of it, first of all, but also seeing that he’s learning a lot in his classes in Rome and is taking interest in it.

Later, we headed to Whole Foods and got a few drinks and a little tub of cashew based chocolate ice cream. I can’t wait for cashew based ice cream to get to America. It is the perfect ice cream consistency, and it doesn’t have any soy or coconut after taste– or a cashew aftertaste for that matter.

For dinner, we headed to West Brompton for dinner at 222 Veggie Vegan. It’s not the most creative or beautiful name for a restaurant, but we had heard rave reviews about it. For an appetizer, we split a Bean and Tofu Pancake– it was like a filled crepe, and delicious.

I ordered a vegan burger for dinner, and Mark got a seitan roast– both were less than spectacular.

We were both most impressed with the appetizer, and left slightly disappointed.

The next morning, we headed back to Camden for brunch. Inspiral was a quirky place on the canal with huge windows and alice-in-wonderland-esque decor.

We grabbed a banana smoothie from a fridge and placed our orders, then sat by the windows that looked out over the canal.

After a few minutes, our food came– I had ordered the vegan bagel. It was full of avocado, tomato, pesto, sprouts, and cashew cream.

It was really delicious.

Mark ordered the vegan brunch. It came with tofu scramble, beans, a veggie sausage, a potato pancake, toast, and a roasted tomato. Everything was incredible, and we left full and ready for a long day.

We set out to find Platform 9 and 3/4. Big problem though– we got to Kings Cross, walked through the entire station, around the entire station, and even through St. Pancras, and couldn’t find it.

After almost an hour, we gave up and decided to walk through Kings Cross. The neighborhood was not what I expected. It’s where a lot of young people live, and for some reason I expected it to be a lot nicer than it was. After a few blocks, we turned around and headed to Westminster instead.

We walked up the steps from the tube station and Big Ben was right in front of us. Fun fact: Big Ben isn’t the name of the clock or the tower– it’s the bell inside. It’s actually not as big as I expected, but still beautiful nevertheless.

Right across the Thames was the London Eye, and we snapped a few pictures in front of it before heading over to Parliament.

The Parliament building is absolutely astounding. The architecture is unreal. Being in Westminster was our first view of The Thames, and being near the water always puts me in a great mood.

We walked down to the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square and grabbed pints and chips at a pub named after Sherlock Holmes. We got to sit outside on this tiny side street while we relaxed, and sitting there it really hit me that I was in London with Mark.

Once we finished up our beers, we headed back to the National Gallery. The collection is fantastic, and the view from the top of the steps is worth the trip in itself.

For dinner, we went to what ended up being our favorite restaurant from the trip (correct me if I’m wrong, Mark), Mildred’s. The restaurant isn’t vegan– just vegetarian, but about half the menu items are vegan and the food is out of this world. They don’t take reservations, so there was a 45 minute wait when we arrived. We stood by the bar and had a few drinks, and before we knew it we were seated.

For an appetizer, I ordered the dumplings. They were perfect– they came with a unique dipping sauce that was similar to other dumpling sauces but definitely had more fruit in it.

Mark ordered a tomato curry soup, and he wasn’t crazy about it as he doesn’t love curry, but I thought it was incredible.

After they cleared our appetizers, we waited forever. Eventually, a server came over and explained that they had forgotten to place our order, but brought us free wine to apologize– good enough for me!

For dinner, I had another curry dish. The next morning, Mark and I woke up wreaking of curry. Curry overload! But it was also delicious.

Mark got a vegan version of “Bangers and Mash”, or sausage with mashed potatoes.

For dessert, we got a raw banana coconut cheesecake. I made the mistake on this trip several times of not checking if food I ordered was raw or not. I don’t mind raw food, and I think it’s absolutely amazing that so many places serve raw food in London, but when I’m expected my food to be cooked and it comes out raw, I’m not prepared for it.

I think I would have really loved this cake if I had appreciated it for what it was, but I wanted melt-in-your-mouth vegan cheesecake, which this was not.

London Recap #2

This is the second post in my London Recap. To view the first post, click here.

We woke up on Saturday morning to beautiful weather and headed to a natural foods store for breakfast, where we got a raw banana flax smoothie and a vegan banana nut muffin.

The little store was perfect for us– lots of options and vegan cheesecakes and bars. We also grabbed a juice from the lebanese juice bar down the street– Apple Kiwi Celery.

After breakfast, we headed over to Portobello Road, a market that is held every Saturday a few blocks from our hotel. The streets were packed before we even got to the market, and cars kept trying to drive through the massive crowds of people. The market itself is fun, but probably my least favorite of all the markets Mark and I went to in London. There are tons of antiques and lots of fruit and vegetable stands with beautiful produce. We spent a few hours walking up and down Portobello Road, and I grabbed a ring as a little souvenir.

For lunch, we headed to Whole Foods, where we got a quinoa tomato cashew-cheese wrap and carrot cake that were pre-made by Saf, a vegan restaurant inside of Whole Foods, and a fruit and nut bread with hummus. We ate lunch on a little hill in Hyde Park in the sun.

Later in the day, we found a little Chinese Market near our hotel and grabbed a couple of drinks before going to dinner. If you’ve never had Crabbies ginger alcoholic beer, you need to go to England right now to try it. It’s so gingery– almost spicy, and full of flavor. It makes me so sad to know I won’t get to have it again anytime soon 😦

For dinner, we went to Saf Kensington, the vegan restaurant inside of Whole Foods. As an appetizer, we got the Macadamia Caprese. Macadamia nut cheese, dehydrated tomato, and seedy crackers with date spread made up this amazing raw dish. It was beautiful and delicious– I would go here just for the caprese.

For dinner, Mark and I split a Baked Tofu Salad with rocket, tomato, sunflower seeds, and a ginger- miso dressing and pumpkin risotto. The risotto had lots of nutritional yeast in it and was creamy and delicious. The salad was killer- and Mark and I are not salad people. The warm and marinated tofu paired perfectly with the dressing and veggies.

For dessert, we split a raw white chocolate jasmine tart. Delicious. 

After dinner, we stopped at a pub on our way back to the hotel. Mark got a pint of beer, and I had a strawberry cider. I am not a fan of most cider– I think it has a nasty smell to it, but this strawberry cider was really delicious. It was really nice to just sit with him and chat– most of the day we had been caught up in the excitement of being in London, but having a moment to decompress and hear all about his time in Rome and all of the people he’s met was great.

On Sunday, we realized that there was free internet at Whole Foods– a cause for serious celebration. Our hotel charged an exorbitant amount for internet and we had been searching for some free wifi since we got to London. So, for breakfast, we headed to Whole Foods, laptop in hand.

I grabbed an orange carrot apple ginger juice, and Mark and I picked up blood oranges, soy yogurts, bread, and some vegan cream cheese spread and headed to the park. The blood oranges melt in your mouth.

They are incredible. I had a lemon yogurt, and Mark had blueberry– both were incredible– much better than the soy yogurt I’ve had in America.

After fueling up, we hopped on the tube for the first time and headed to Camden. The underground system in London is spectacular. I was overwhelmed by the size of it when I was planning for the trip, but no planning is necessary for the tube. Everything is so easy to figure out, and there are clear labels and signs for every possible option you could imagine. I joked with Mark that I’m going to have forgotten how to use the Philly subway since there aren’t any signs telling me how to get out or which direction to go.

Camden is really cool. If you’ve ever been to South Street in Philly, it’s like a bigger, cooler South Street. I read a few articles saying that the Camden Markets have become a parody of themselves, which I can definitely see, but it’s still a great place to go in London.

Camden sits on a canal, and with the weather so beautiful, Mark and I grabbed some drinks and sat by the water after we had walked around a little.

For lunch, we found a veggie burger stand, where “everything’s vegan except the cheese”. Naturally, we asked if the mayo was vegan even after reading this disclaimer.

I ordered an avocado burger and Mark got falafel. The falafel wasn’t fried, which I hadn’t tried before, but it was really good.

Later, we grabbed a few drinks (crabbies!) again and headed to South Kensington for dinner.

South Kensington is not a happening place, and not much was open at nine on a Sunday night. We found a Japanese place that was open and headed in for dinner. We got sake (because Mark hadn’t had warm sake before), miso soup, ramen, and two tofu dishes.

The food was decent, but the tofu was really delicious.