Tuesday, January 11, 2011

London Calling

Same Starbucks fix, different city, but doing it right in my fab new Vaute Couture coat! Don't mind my just-arrived-pooped-I-got-no-sleep-on-flight look...
My little sister, SKO is spending her junior year abroad at The London School of Economics, so of course, I had to take grandma to go visit for Christmas. Note to self, never visit another cold weather city in winter, not only was it damp & chilly (not so conducive to sight-seeing)...but winter snowstorms did throw our trip for several loops. Thankfully, it never got to apocalyptic magnitude, let's just say it wasn't the most seamless visit. And I was cranky. A lot. However, now that I am happily back home in NYC, I look back and we had a fabulous time.

London is a beautiful city with needless to say, a whole lot of history. No easy task to pick a handful of the 681 pics I took to put in this post, but I tried- bear with me:

The weather in London is always damp, coupled with the unusual colder weather, made for really cold feet- not so fun for sight-seeing, but one of the many great things about London- all the museums are pay what you want. We went to The British Museum & The National Gallery a few times, which even then, we didn't cover all the galleries filled to the brim with the most fabulous stolen treasures. London as a city is also filled with architectural & historical treasures.
Yes, Big Ben is a whole lot smaller in person.
Just another fabulous typical street in the center of London, replete with super expensive cabs & double deckers. Don't ask how much we spent from the airport to the hotel...
Fountain in Trafalgar Square, yes, fountains run through the London winter- they typically don't have freezing winters. Yep, just our luck- snow.
This was the site of many a beheading at the Tower of London, including Henry VIII's lovely wife number 2, Anne Boleyn. Yes, the Tower visit was at times beautiful & gruesome.
Westminster Abbey

Horse Guard Parade
Changing of the Guards in front of Buckingham Palace. Boo hiss on the bear fur hats- there is no pomp nor circumstance in killing an animal for an accessory. What if there was a vegan guard- would he be able to get a faux fur bear hat?
A street in the lovely neighborhood of fancy Marylebone
A view from St.James Park
A very snuggly squirrel feasting on a nut
Snowstorm at Windsor Castle
And what might this extremely long line be for? what fabulous historical site? Yes, that would be the very celebrated Abercrombie of Fitch. Churchill & Lord Nelson's bespoke tailors are turning in their graves.
Cat mummies at  The British Museum
Let's talk food. There is and there isn't a whole lot for vegans in London. Most of the museum cafes had zero options- as one of the Italian managers at the Tower museum said- "The English cook everything in butter." So seemingly perfect vegan pan-fried mushrooms at my hotel breakfast buffet were sitting in butter. Yuck.

The Wagamama noodle chain was our lunch standby- tons of vegan options & noodle soup was the only way to go to defrost our toes & fingers. The Pho chain was another good one as well.
Wagamama: vegan udon noodle soup
Pho: spicy vegan noodle soup
Another Wagamama yumminess: vegan curry noodle soup- so divine
The neighborhood Tesco or Sainsbury, always carried Alpro soy yogurts, pudding, soymilks and that's what I supplemented my meagre breakfast buffet options with...

Love the soy yogurt & soy puddings

Grandma also loved Tibits on Heddon Street. Tibits is basically a vegetarian buffet with vegan options clearly marked. No faux meats- just vegetables & grains done really well. The atmosphere was cute & the food delicious. They are owned by the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Switzerland- they know their veggies.

One day, we trekked to Camden Locke Market, which turned out to be a bust. Just cheesy, cheapy clothes & accessories- we should have gone to the Portobello Market instead- oh well, now we know. Cold & hungry, we ended up at inSpiral Lounge which I was grateful for their mostly vegan menu but definitely way too much of a hippy dippy vibe for me. The vegan lasgna was good though.

Ah little bird, were you warning me to enter not to this cheesy marketplace?

InSpiral Lounge vegan lasgna
My favorite meal in London was at Mildred's. The place was absolutely packed. It's a vegetarian restaurant with vegan options. Of course, all my pics from the most amazing meal ever were too dark! We started with the most delectably grilled artichoke bruschetta with garlic cream and then I had mixed mushroom ale pie with mashed peas. The pastry was flaky & perfect and the mushroom rich and fragrant. Was simply delicious & the atmosphere totally cute.

For Christmas Eve dinner, we made a last minute reservation at Shanghai Blues which turned out to be perfect because they didn't have a set menu so everyone could order whatever they wanted and for me, a yummy vegan mapo tofu. We had such a great time on Christmas- wearing our Christmas crowns, what a fun British tradition. Might try to my hands on some Christmas crackers for future celebrations.

Christmas Eve dinner with our lovely Christmas crowns from our Christmas crackers. 

Delectable silky spicy mapo tofu from Christmas Eve dinner at Shanghai Blues
Part of my Christmas present to my sister was high tea at The Ritz, yes fancy we were indeed. High tea is so quintessentially English, how could we not partake. Through much research & inquiry, I discovered that The Ritz could accommodate vegans. The room was gorgeous & the table perfectly dressed. Christmas high tea required reservations & we had a lovely time which was well worth the price.

Vegan tea sandwiches
Vegan desserts
Vegan blush from too much champagne
London is a delightful city. My only complaint- they have no resources to deal with the mini- snowstorm that hit the U.K. Heathrow was shut for days with an amount of snow that would have been laughable in NY. Because of that, our Stonehenge/Bath tour was cancelled as was our mini-trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, boo. I would definitely venture back, though not any time soon two weeks in London is more than enough time- we were delayed three days longer than planned because of the snowstorm in NYC. We finally got home via flight to D.C. and then train back to NYC- it much more convoluted than it sounds...

Was wonderful to see the city that my sister has been living in for the year. Am so proud of her & we really enjoyed spending the holidays together. But am thrilled to be home at last. Have had my share of traveling for a bit, but then again this is a new year....


Leinana Two Moons said...

Noodle soup saves the day! Looks like such a fun trip with so many delicious eats. Now I'm wondering how I'm going to get my hands on a recipe for a mushroom ale pie!

M for Short said...

Can't believe I just "peeked" at your blog and found a new post! Same thing happened on Jan 3 but I didn't have a moment to write. been preparing for M's bday (today) and the wild snowmageddon we are experiencing down here. Third snow day tomorrow. At least M had presents to open today and the kids have all sorts of new toys and books to be entertained by. Your trip to London sounds cool. So much travel w/ your grandmother. She must be so pleased to have the meaningful time with her 2 granddaughters. Jon's new company had a Christmas party here at the Ritz, but he only started on Nov 1, so he didn't want to be the token new guy who knew no one. Thanks, buddy. Get me all excited about it and then ditch. :( Well, glad to hear your updates. Keep 'em coming, and Happy New Year!

Theresa said...

On the bright side, the snow made for some really picturesque photos - how gorgeous! The food sounds pretty good, especially high tea :)

VeggieGirl said...

Beautiful photos, dear VKO!!! Sorry about the weather though.

Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day said...

What a awesome time! Hopefully you can go back during the summer and really explore.

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