“You must all go to Brighton…”

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I finally made it to the coast! Turns out that medicine was helpful (it just took a looot longer than 15 minutes to be helpful) and I was able to go to Brighton with friends without mouth-breathing like a human leaf blower the whole time. We’d made some plans (pancakes, Royal Pavilion, the pier), but mostly winged it the whole day. We ate at Brighton’s Breakfast Club which was done up on the inside with bright pinks, greens, and blues. It reminded me of a cruise ship (especially the pink, scalloped booth seats). Our waitress told us they were out of OJ (Booo…no Mimosas for us 😦 ), so I went for a Bloody Mary. She asked if I wanted a virgin one. I blinked and said, “Where’s the fun in that?” The one I got was a spicy eye-opener (and yes, full of delicious, nutritious alcohol). Our whole reason for eating at The Breakfast Club was to order pancakes. Mine were unfortunately undercooked, but my friend’s were cooked through and she liked hers, so I guess they were a bit hit-or-miss there that day.

On to the pier!
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We passed waffles on sticks, temporary tattoos, and folks laid out in beach chairs before ending up surrounded by games and rides. I rode three deathtraps with a friend while our other tripmate kept her feet planted safely on the boards.

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The “Horror Hotel” started out pretty hokey, but ended up making both of us scream. I think being in the dark knowing something’s about to jump out at you tenses you up just enough to be scared, even by mannequins with eroded faces and wigs askew if they pop out at the right time. We also rode a coaster called “Turbo” that flung us around like rag dolls. Have you ever ridden the Outer Limits coaster at King’s Dominion? Like that, only flimsier. And the one after that (“The Sizzler”???) spun us around in a wide circle while spinning our car around individually, too. There was a cushion on my side that helped about as much as a sheet of Kleenex while my friend repeatedly slammed into me from her side. Holy f***, carnival rides ain’t no joke. I felt so old afterwards. My friend actually screamed “My back!” at one point. Oh yes, we’re in the Springtime of youth over here…

Our bones thoroughly crushed, we decided to head back towards the shops. Walking around, I kept hearing Lydia Bennet’s voice in my head (the youngest daughter in Pride & Prejudice) saying, “You must all go to Brighton! That is the place to get husbands. I hope you have half of my good luck.” I even saw a red military coat on display in one of the shop windows (or maybe it was at the pier) that made me think of Mr. Wickham and scowl.

The little shop lanes around Market Street are like a maze. Without knowing how, we found ourselves at Choccywoccydoodah!

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All of those “cakes” are made of chocolate. It’s cray in there.

I’d first heard of this place on Amanda’s blog Rhyme & Ribbons, and really wanted to go there. Everything chocolate? Hell yes. And it’s not just a chocolate shop — they have a cafe on the first floor, too. We put our names down. We had an hour to wait, so we headed over to the Royal Pavilion. SO gorgeous, y’all.

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I felt like I was in a fairytale. Or a Rudyard Kipling story. The Royal Pavilion was originally built for King George IV (who at the time construction began was merely Prince of Wales — Ha! “merely”…). He hosted lavish affairs there that lasted for days. Kind of like the regal version of Bonnaroo. It didn’t become a royal residence until Victoria became Queen. She sold the Pavilion in 1845 because she thought it was too public a place for her family to live. We didn’t go inside, but King George apparently demanded the palace be designed in an Indian style on the outside and a Chinese style on the inside, though he’d never been to either country. So really, what we see when we look at the palace is a “Western interpretation” of the East. Here’s a video about the Royal Pavilion if you’re interested!

Back at Choccywoccyfragilisticexpialidocious…

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You better believe I slooshed every piece of my blondie around in this plate of chocolate :D

You better believe I slooshed every piece of my blondie around in this plate of chocolate 😀

I had a praline milkshake and a blondie. Kind of anti-chocolate, I know. But I KNEW there’d be legit chocolate accompaniments to whatever I ordered, so I didn’t feel like too much of a traitor. Our seats were made to look like deer antlers forged into furniture; there was even a little furry cushion to sit on. I felt like Gaston.

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Brighton is super cool. I’ll definitely be back to see more of it!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Two of my flatmates (one from Brazil, the other from Puerto Rico) and I had Thanksgiving dinner at The Breakfast Club’s Battersea Rise location. I initially booked us at Honky Tonk, but their T-day menu was more a variation on traditional Thanksgiving dinner with some non-traditional things thrown in (i.e. turkey burgers, quesadillas, buffalo wings, etc.) My Brazilian flatmate was anxious to have an authentic Thanksgiving experience being that this would be his first ever, so I cancelled our Honky Tonk reservation and searched (the night before Thanksgiving) for a restaurant with availability serving turkey without a bun around it. We settled on The Breakfast Club. None of us left disappointed — the food was delicious.

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They served a 3-course dinner, with seatings at 6:30PM & 9:30PM. We opted for the 6:30 seating. For our starter, we had “spiced winter pumpkin soup with Parmesan cornbread,” and they gave us some diced bacon & crème fraîche as optional toppings (which were not optional for any of us *NOM*). The soup had a great flavor. The cornbread was savory, not sweet, which is a departure for me, but it was so. good.

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For our mains, we had a choice of “chilli and beer buttered Norfolk turkey roasted with shallots” (which we all ordered) or “roasted acorn squash filled with macaroni & cheese and topped with parsley and panko breadcrumbs.” Both were served with “honey and rosemary glazed carrots, maple sweet potato mash, and roasted brussell sprouts with cranberries.” My Brazilian flatmate finished his food, then ate the carrots left on my plate that I was too full to eat. I wish I’d taken a picture of his plate in the end. The only thing left for him to do was lick it clean.

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A Lemongrass Collins? Hit me.

A Lemongrass Collins? Hit me.

For puds, we could choose either pecan pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (flatmates both ordered this), or cinnamon cheesecake (which was supposed to come with raspberry coulis, but came with fresh berries instead). When I was done, my plate looked like there’d never been anything on it to begin with.

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In addition to food, glorious food, the atmosphere was perfect. American oldies played on the speakers, the lighting was festive and low, and despite all the people, each table felt like its own little world.

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We were all pleased with the experience, but none more than my Brazilian flatmate, who was so excited and happy to share the holiday with us that he asked the waiter if he could keep the menu as a memento. He told us that celebrating Thanksgiving with us was what he was thankful for 🙂 My Puerto Rican flatmate and I got a little misty after that, not gonna lie.

I may not be spending the holidays with family and old friends this year, but I’m incredibly thankful to have new friends in my new home — a place I’ve wanted to call home for ages — and to be doing what I love with the support of the loved ones I’ve left behind. I’m also thankful for everyone who reads this blog. It’s nice to be part of a community, even when you can’t see the people who comprise it.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Back in the Saddle

Hey, y’all!

It feels like I’ve been away from the blogosphere for decades. I have a lot of blog-reading to catch up on, and a lot to catch you all up on!

Firstly, I went on my first flat hunt last Thursday in North London. I saw three apartments, one of which I loved (683 sq ft, pet-friendly, a small terrace, a huge kitchen, and a crab-shaped doorknocker :D), but couldn’t start the leasing arrangements because I need the second half of my loan to do so — that or a UK guarantor which, after only having been here since the end of September, is an unlikely find. I’m happy I went a-viewing though because 1) I found an estate agent I really enjoy working with, and 2) I have a better idea of what I can get in certain areas with X amount of money. I also learned a valuable thing or two about flat hunting, for instance, that landlords are more willing to be flexible in November and December because people are far less likely to move anywhere during those times. The flat I loved best on my search was a great deal for all I would’ve gotten, but alas — bad timing. I plan to resume my search in January when I have all my money gathered. It’ll be more expensive and more of a challenge to find a place willing to accept pets, but I know I’ll find something that suits me (and the fuzz-butts).

My agent was available for viewings on the perfect day because that same evening, I was slated to see this guy:

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You know how some artists sound terrible without the benefit of studio enhancement? Yeah… not this one. His voice is just as gorgeous live as it is recorded. Between numbers, Sam gave us a bit of background on each song and chatted to us about how wonderful it’s been for him in the last year. He is so clearly grateful for the (well-deserved) success he’s had thus far, and I was happy to be one of many in a crowd of his supporters.

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I got home after midnight Friday morning, and still had to pack for the trip to Barcelona I’d be taking in a few hours. I got about 4 hours of sleep, got up again at 6, realized no buses came to the stop I was at until after 7AM (when my flight was at 7:50AM), and called a cab. After paying £40 for a taxi to Gatwick and getting all the way up to the check-in desk, I realized I didn’t have my passport. I wanted to bang my head against concrete. Hard. I paid to change my flight (with the warning that if I wasn’t back in time, I’d have to pay for another flight change haunting my every step), then bought a return train ticket to Guildford. I got my passport and luckily made it back to the airport in plenty of time to have lunch at Jamie’s Italian before taking off to Barcelona.

The view from the back balcony of my Barcelona flat

The view from the back balcony of my Barcelona flat

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

The "eyeball building"

The “eyeball building”

The most unusual doorknockers I've ever seen

The most unusual doorknockers I’ve ever seen

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Fountain and light show

Fountain and light show

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia (interior)

La Sagrada Familia (interior)

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Organ pipes in the basilica

Organ pipes in the basilica

The church's nature doors

The church’s nature doors

La Sagrada Familia (detail)

La Sagrada Familia (detail)

Casa Milà aka "La Pedrera"

Casa Milà aka “La Pedrera”

Park Guell

Park Guell

The view from the central terrace at Park Guell

The view from the top of the central staircase at Park Guell

Barcelona from above

Barcelona from above

The architecture in Barcelona is incredible. My particular favorites are the buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi. That man was a genius — whose work (surprise, surprise) wasn’t well-liked during his time. We saw the Casa Batlló (which looks like it belongs in Atlantis), Casa Milà (aka “La Pedrera” or “The Quarry”), and Park Guell — a giant garden property on which Gaudi and his best friend & benefactor, Eusebi Guell, each lived in their own home. The two had originally intended the place to be a luxury garden neighborhood for the wealthy, but no one was interested in building a home so far from the city centre (and as I mentioned, people weren’t huge fans of Gaudi’s architecture anyway). So eventually, tired of having the property to themselves, Gaudi and Guell agreed to make it public. Today, the Park is visited by hundreds daily, and visitors can tour the homes that once belonged to the visionary architect and his business partner. 

As amazing as those places are, La Sagrada Familia (The Church of the Holy Family) blew them all out of the water. Construction of this Roman Catholic church began in 1882 and continues even now. The vision for this structure — which is meant to have three facades dedicated (one each) to the Nativity, the Passion, and the Glory — is sprawling, and intentionally so. Gaudi intended for the construction of the building to be taken over by forthcoming generations, which is in-keeping with the all-encompassing nature of the church itself, which is meant to welcome people of all backgrounds to worship. I’m not a religious person, but the magnificent beauty of this place was overwhelming nonetheless. It looks straight out of an Icelandic fairytale or Lord of the Rings inside, with its columns like trees (that branch out as they reach the ceiling), the intricate stone and iron work, the statues, the door made to look covered in ivy & insects… it’s breathtaking.

In addition to the insane architecture, my friends and I saw a Flamenco show at the Palau de la Música. I didn’t include any pictures of the concert hall because they all came out blurry. Just trust me when I say the place is beautiful and it’s well worth catching a show there. The performance we saw was quite low-key, though there were costume changes into beautiful clothes; there were a handful of musicians, a trio of singers, and a quartet of dancers (3 female, 1 male). The dancers were wonderful. Their feet moved so quickly, their hands wound about the air, and they watched each other intently. It was thrilling. I felt like I was spying on a semi-formal gathering of friends.

After a looooong day of traveling, I made it home last night and apparently brought a cold back with me. I squeaked and honked all through the night and now I’m polishing up my pages before sending them to my supervisor in preparation for our meeting on Thursday. I’m attending another seminar tomorrow, seeing a musical version of The Addams Family Thursday night, and (finally) visiting the Tate Modern on Friday. Here’s hoping this cold runs its course sooner rather than later 😛