Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: cake

London in a weekend

When I was living in Bordeaux, Paris was easily within reach. 3 hours by high-speed train and you’re there – and it would cost as low as 20€ one way! Even if I wasn’t able to get a hold of the cheap ticket, being a student and under 27, I was still entitled to reduced rates, so visiting Paris was like taking a stroll in the backyard. In the UK, the equivalent to Paris is obviously London. However, visiting London from Glasgow isn’t as straightforward. The most direct way – by train – isn’t necessarily the fastest, as it takes at least 4.5 hours to get to London. If I choose to fly, the flight itself is a little over an hour, but fussing with airports here and there would easily add another 2 or 3 hours to the trip. The biggest issue is cost. A one-way flight would set me back around 10£ (if I’m super lucky) to 25£ (approximately 13-33€), whereas the train…anywhere from 40-100£, as I don’t qualify for student discounts anymore.

So what I’m trying to say is (1) take advantage of being young and travel with your discounts and (2) it is not so easy getting to London 😦 As a result, London hasn’t really been “a stroll in the backyard”, and I didn’t get as many chances as I wanted to visit the British capital ever since settling down in Glasgow. The first “real” chance came two weeks ago, when I decided to spend a weekend in London and explore the city casually. I had done all the major tourist attractions 5 years ago and so this time around, all I wanted to do was wander, take the red double-deck buses to random places, people-watch, and hopefully like this metropolis more than I liked Paris 😛

The weekend was quite rainy but I had a stroke of good luck as the morning of my arrival was still relatively rain-free. My first destination was Hyde Park, which had a beautiful rose garden where I could sit down and enjoy the presence of flower, the sun (gasp), and people.

Summer? While the weather wasn’t very convincing, the flowers in the rose garden certain did scream, “Summer!” It happened to be the day where the celebrations for the Queen’s 90th birthday was taking place at the nearby Buckingham Palace, and while I did pass by the huge crowds, I opted to spend my time more tranquilly rather than join in the festivities. I’m sorry, Queen. I respect you, but I think seeing your bright neon green hat for one split second was good enough for me. Please excuse me while I enjoy Hyde Park instead of going to your party 🙂

Located at Hyde Park Corner is the New Zealand War memorial, which was established to commemorate the loss of New Zealand’s lives during the two world wars.

The one place I really wanted to visit was what was known to me as “an area around Hyde Park”. I remember passing by on a bus and seeing some very interesting sculptures along one large avenue, and thinking…I must go and see them up close! I didn’t end up going to the actual avenue – and I WILL get there next time! – but I did see cool sculptures here and there. Sculptures, along with murals, are my favourite types of city-wide public art. I’m sure there are so many more to discover around London!

As I was supposed to pick up some friends from Euston station in the afternoon, I stopped by King’s Cross, which was right next to Euston. This is where Harry took the train to Hogwarts! Quite an impressive structure, inside and out.

While wandering around the King’s Cross area, I passed by this very colourful corner, which is located at Belgrove Street and Euston Road, and I liked it! It seems like London is full of surprises and awaits more exploration!

One of my missions during this stay was to take a trip to Lanka, a cake shop run by Japanese pastry chefs. This little place was recommended by a friend, and while it took a bit of travelling to reach as it wasn’t centrally located, it was definitely worth the trip! With my companion, we ordered a green tea panna cotta and a yuzu mousse. I think the panna cotta had the strongest green tea flavour I’ve ever tasted out of any green tea flavoured food – good stuff! The cakes were rich in texture but not overwhelmingly heavy, and the best thing was that they were not too sweet. Truly a perfect balance of taste, texture, and aesthetics! If we weren’t already full from having lots of snacks and street food before hand, we would have certainly ordered other ones :O

That was the end of the first day and the rest of the time was spent with some of my buddies catching up and wandering. As a result I didn’t take many photos on the second day. I will say, though, that while London is crowded, has terrible traffic, and is super expensive, I don’t dislike it nearly as much as I dislike Paris. In fact, I might even go as far as to say I quite like London, just like I did 5 years ago. For some reason London intrigues me more so than other huge cities, and I will gladly go back for a truly solo trip where I could get to know more of the city and its secrets. I’ll have to have another long weekend though, and hopefully score some plane/train tickets that won’t empty my wallet. Oh, and a train trip back to Glasgow that doesn’t experience a 5-hour delay (longer than the actual trip, which was only supposed to be 4.5 hours) would be nice, but that’s another tale for another day…

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Vienna part 2 – Let her eat cake

Before visiting Vienna, I thought of three things regarding Viennese food: lots of meat, lots of cakes, and lots of coffee. Meat – great, I love meat, give me more! Cakes – I’m not a fan of sweet food or desserts in general, but why not? Coffee – must have!

Compared to Switzerland, my previous destination, let’s just say…food in Vienna was much cheaper, much bigger in portion size, and much more delicious! Sorry Switzerland, you may have the mountains and the lakes (which Austria also has, in fact) but you are nowhere as attractive as Vienna to a foodie 😉 Apple strudel + schnitzel beats fondue + chocolate any day, would you agree with me?

In Vienna, you can’t avoid having schnitzel. The Figlmüller restaurant has their own famous variation of the traditional Wiener Schnitzel (made with veal) – it’s made with pork instead. Thin, crispy, warm, flavourful…so good that I might even say that it’s better than the original veal version! And it was huge! What a fulfilling lunch!

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And I thought the strike was over

Today, Sunday, December 19, 2010, is the third consecutive day of the public transit strike in the city of Bordeaux. Now, I wouldn’t mind if the strike reduced tram and bus frequencies; we’d just be waiting a bit longer and have trams that are more packed than usual. But no. Our dear French friends decided that it would be a good idea to paralyse the public transit system by shutting down 2 of the 3 tram lines. The operating line would have one tram every 15 to 20 minutes. In addition, only about 5 bus lines out of 100 were running. This lasted two days and is continuing today.

Not cool, man, not cool.

The consequence was that I had to walk to work on Friday, which actually wasn’t all that bad. Normally it took 12 minutes or so via tram, so walking only took 35 minutes. However, walking over to Pessac from downtown Bordeaux on Saturday for my Christian fellowship meeting and Christmas gathering rehearsal wasn’t such a great idea. It takes 25 minutes by tram, and it would have taken an hour and a half or more if I were to walk. Uh oh.

Well, a friend came up with the unusual yet brilliant idea of taking the train. Not tram train – the REAL train. It didn’t occur me that there would be trains running from downtown Bordeaux to Pessac, but alas, there were…and it would only take 5 minutes to get there. I still had to do a bit of walking though, as getting to the train station on foot from my house took half an hour, and walking to the meeting place from the Pessac train station took another 15 minutes. Still better than walking for an hour and a half.

So the trip consisted of the shortest train ride I have ever been on, literally 5 minutes from origin to destination. At least SNCF wasn’t on strike at the same time…thank you for being considerate, my French friends.

The week in review: it snowed again, although only for a very short period of time, which didn’t allow the snow to accumulate. Friday at work was the lab Christmas lunch, where a potluck was held. My contribution was, of course, the cheesecake that had been successful last week. There was also a fun gifts exchange, elaborated below. On Saturday we had our weekly fellowship meeting, which took place smoothly despite the traffic interruptions. I brought tea cake to the gathering (pics to follow) – yes, tea cake actually exists, Andrew.

First snow of the year, about a month ago, when I was still staying in Talence. This was enough to halt the the public transit system. It was apparent that Bordeaux is not designed to handle any snow beyond what is shown here – a very delicate city, indeed. Lots of trouble that day…

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