I’m not particularly interested in royalty, but can you really visit London and not see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace? I mostly wanted to see the funny hats enjoy the parade and surrounding architecture, so it was memorable to see it firsthand.
The whole thing lasted a lot longer than I expected, about half an hour from start to finish. It was hard to get a good look over all the crowds, so towards the end of the changing we walked across the street towards St. James Park for a stroll:
It sort of reminded me of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, sans Japanese Tea Garden and nouveau-hippies.
For the second part of our day, we took the Underground to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, also in Westminster:
And there it is.
The Millenium Bridge and London Eye are all in the same neighborhood, so we strolled along the River Thames and took in the view for the rest of the afternoon before heading back to Woking. We had to get back early and prepare for the next part of our journey: Paris.
London is a rainy city. You probably already knew that, and as our luck would have it, it rained during every day of our stay in England. On our second day, it poured incessantly, which was unfortunate, because we had planned to visit the Tower of London.
We decided to brave the weather and go anyway, and arrived over an hour later than expected after some transportational rerouting and traffic jams as a result of the inclement weather. Famished, we took a break at Tower Hill Diner, where I had bangers and mash:
It was one of those dishes where the first couple of bites are good and then it all begins to taste heavy and overly-salty and yet simultaneously bland. I love sausages, but I’m guessing that sampling a British classic in the middle of a tourist zone flanked by Americans may not have been my best bet for authenticity.
We purchased our tickets and walked into the palace, poking in and out of the tower over the course of the next few hours:
My guidebook stated that the famous Kooh-i Noor diamond is housed here among the crown jewels, but much to my dissapointment the closest I got was seeing it in the Jewel House on a theater screen extolling the victories of the British Empire. (At least I got to get up close and personal with the Darya-e Noor diamond in Tehran a few years ago! And by up close and personal, I mean behind an alarm-generating, touch-sensitive, bullet-proof glass case.)
After a quick cup of coffee, my family and I walked across Tower Bridge over the River Thames, to get to the Underground:
Our next destination was Harrod’s, or as far as I’m concerned, Harrod’s Food Hall, also known as The Place Where Mariam Becomes Filled With Awe-Like Contentment And Wonder. Seriously, I was in my natural habitat. From foie gras and caviar to dim sum and South Asian sweets to cured meats and fresh seafood, this place has it all:
Part of me wishes we had something like this in California, and yet another part of me knows that if we did, I’d go broke on limequats and cecina and whatever else I could get my hands on.
Oh, London. So much rain, so little time to spend at your perfectly stocked gourmet foodstuffs.
I’m back! After three weeks in England, France and Turkey, I’ve spent the past week catching up and recovering from an unfortunate bout with pneumonia. (Note to travellers: Don’t ignore that cold.) I have lots of stories, so let’s just jump into things, shall we? (Plus, I have recipe updates I’ve been meaning to write up since, oh, January, and I need to get those too!)
My family and I arrived in London’s Heathrow Airport on a Saturday evening after our long transatlantic flight, marking the first and only time I’ve ever wished I was an East Coaster. I associate Heathrow with long stopovers on the way to Tehran, but this time we were picked up by Mom’s cousin and her husband (the most gracious hosts ever), where we were to stay at their house in Woking for the next few days.
The next morning, we set out to explore London. Woking is only half an hour by rail to London’s Waterloo station, so getting into the city was an easy task, and navigating the Underground was even easier.
Our first stop was the British Museum, which uh, is sort of really impressive, and stuff:
The museum’s ancient Near East and Islamic Middle East galleries are incredibly extensive, with more attention devoted to these cultures than anything I’d seen in the U.S. (Okay, so the Freer and Sackler Galleries at the Smithsonian come really close.)
That’s my peoples.
The Ancient Iran gallery houses none other than the Cyrus Cylinder, the first human rights charter:
Oh hai. I’m in your territories, biting your bottoms.
Afterwards we took the train towards Tower Bridge, where we had lunch at Cafe Rouge before exploring the pier. I had the salmon croquettes with salad, french fries and lime mayonnaise:
It was a little bland, but who can say no to deep-fried fishy goodness and french fries chips?
Later that evening, we drove to Windsor for dinner at Nandos, a restaurant specializing in really, really spicy chicken. You know, the kind where your lips go numb and an hour later you’re sipping hot tea with nabat wishing your stomach ache would subside. I had the chicken wings with Peri Peri sauce, spicy rice and corn on the cob. The chicken and corn hit the spot but the rice was undercooked:
After finishing up, we took a short walk around town and Windsor Castle:
Windsor seemed like a charming town, but we didn’t stay long since the drive back to Woking was almost an hour long and we were tired from jet lag and sightseeing. I’d spent the last several months planning this trip, and you know what? Not bad at all for our first day in England.
I never knew a lounge could have such good food. Until the Anthony Bourdain book release a few months ago, I associated the place with only music. But when I met Poleng Lounge’s Executive Chef Tim Luym at the event, we knew I’d have to visit for dinner. The menu is a nod to his Filipino heritage, and it does not dissapoint.
We began our meal with the Wanu Kinilaw, a Filipino-style ceviche of butterfish cooked in sugarcane vinegar, lime juice and coconut milk, with Thai chiles, toybox tomatoes and cilantro. It could have used a bit more kick for my taste but was otherwise melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
We split the sweet potato fries with banana catsup. If you know me, you know I love fries. I’ve had this dish elsewhere before and maybe it was the ambience of the warm and cozy Asian-inspired interior or my excitement over the menu overall, but I preferred it here:
Our third plate was the Buddha’s Treasures, or pan-fried dumplings with vegetables, dusted with matcha green tea powder, lotus root chips, and a black sesame ponzu sauce. I make lotus root chips at home, so I was thrilled to see them being used on the menu:
The real standout of the meal, however, was the Bo Luc Lac “Shaking Beef,” marinated sirloin stir-fried with nuoc mam, perfectly pickled red onions, and peppercress. If you want to win me over, throw something pickled in a dish and I will swoon:
For dessert we had the coconut bread pudding drizzled with hazelnut caramel, and the ube coconut tapioca, a soup-like tapioca with coconut milk, and Thai basil seeds sprinkled on top. It was reminiscent of bubble tea, but better. Oh, and did I mention I love ube?:
I have to admit that I was initially skeptical about Poleng Lounge serving up artisan teas and Asian street food, especially with all the frou-frou tea lounges popping up all over the city (I’m talking to you, Samovar). But put aside your skeptism and go. These guys know what they’re doing.