Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A 24 hr snapshot of London: Afternoon Tea's, Southbank Sightseeing and Nightime Cycling!

So last weekend my American friend Charity came to town! She was only going to be in London for less than 24 hours so I knew we had to pack in as much fun stuff as possible! Charity is the most fun and adventurous and enthusiastic person I know! If you don't believe me go check out her blog, her love of life is contagious! and so I knew we were going to have to make our time together count! and man alive (to steal an Eyre family phrase) did we have fun!

First stop was Portobello Rd, and I'm not too sure we paid that much attention to all the cute little stalls because we were SO busy being chatterboxes and catching up on what's been going on in our lives since we last saw each other 2 years ago! but we did have time to snap this pic in front of those lovely coloured buildings!

Next up we headed to Bea's of Bloomsbury at One New Change, St.Pauls.  Here is Charity being ever so English with her pot of blackcurrant tea! Can you believe she had never experienced an Afternoon Tea before so I wanted to introduce her to this British tradition!

There is nowhere else in England I'd rather have afternoon Tea than at Bea's...because the amount of goodies they bring you on your platter is ridunculous!! Typically an afternoon tea consists of sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream and cake.  Here is what we got with ours:
Mini baguettes with goats cheese and ham, and sundried tomatoes
Homemade Scones with lashings of jam and clotted cream
Treats: Carrot cake cupcake, valrhona brownie, belgian blondie, passionfruit meringue, mango marshmallow and my fave of the lot were some giant lime and coconut marshmallows (all homemade to perfection!)

After we were more than sufficiently stuffed, we headed down to the Southbank where we took in this lovely view from the viewing deck at the top of the Oxo tower.

We passed some cute little decorated beach huts along the fake beach front which we thought were rather cool...

and then we found this awesome ride which had to be one of the highlights! I have seen swing rides at fun fairs plenty of times before, but never one that lifts you high into the air and THEN swings you round!! It was really quite an experience!

Especially because of where it was situated!! We were swinging high above the Thames just loving all those sights we were taking in...like the London Eye, and Big Ben that you can see behind Charity in this pic! It even started to go backwards half way round, and let me tell you that was a whole experience in itself!!

We had to take the obligatory shots in front of all the tourist spots!

Luckily for us, the weather actually turned out pretty good and once some of the clouds cleared there was actually some blue sky under there! so that made a nice change from the Irish weather Charity had experienced in the days preceding London!

I loved this shot of all the signs to help the tourists find their way, with the London Eye just peeking into view!

As the sun was setting we wondered over to Buckingham Palace and snapped this pretty pink sky behind this statue just in front of the Palace.

Charity wanted to go check out Hyde Park..so what better way to do it then to hire some of Boris' (our mayor of London) Barclays bikes! It costs £1 to get one out and as long as you just use short journeys and return the bikes to other docks within 30 minute periods it's totally free!

So after cycling around the park for a while we decided to be brave and head down Oxford St!

It was surprisingly less scary than we expected it to be! The buses behaved, and it actually turned out to be alot of fun! Even at gone 9pm London was buzzing and it was so fun to be in the middle of all the hustle and bustle! The pic above is Charity at Oxford Circus.

We finished our bike ride at Picadilly Circus where a nice fellow tourist snapped this pic for us.

We headed to the M&M store to take a few more touristy pics!

Gotta love the M&M guy in his busby!

We returned to the Southbank to take some more shots of Big Ben...this time illuminated!

and here we are with the London Eye in the background, excuse the dodgy pic - I forgot to turn the flash on! Picture taking never runs as smoothly without Byron around!

For our final pic of the night before resting our weary feet, we found a phonebox!

The next morning Byron came and picked us up and we headed south of the river to Borough Market.

It was alot of fun checking out sooo many different food stalls! Charity had never seen such massive meringues before! I took tons more pics but I'm sure you're wondering when this post is going to end so I'll spare you!

We opted for the giant bratwurst, it was seriously delish!

So we bid farewell to Borough Market and to Charity as we dropped her at the station Basingstoke Bound ready for the rest of her U.K tour!

Hopefully next time we see each other it will be on her side of the Atlantic for some California fun!

Friday, 19 August 2011

My future home...Penmaenmawr: full of mountains, a beach...AND an American diner!

So a few weekends ago we returned to Bangor to start our house hunting again.  Around the same time as this last year we went and did the same.  You may remember I was less than enthusiastic about Bangor itself, and the houses we viewed were terrible.  I wondered how I was ever going to live there.  Luckily, my crazy job offer came up in the Caribbean and we managed to put it off for a year! but here we are again nearing September when Byron and I are both going to be back to being students and we needed somewhere to live!

It was an interesting day, pouring with rain...and I'd left behind a very hot and Sunny London! the first two properties we looked at were uninhabitable - literally! Things were not looking good, and then we stumbled upon Penmaenmawr.  It's a cute little seaside town just 10 minutes outside of Bangor.  It has just a handful of shops...but would you believe it, an American diner called Perry Higgins is one of them!!

I believe it was meant to be! It's probably the only American diner in the whole of North Wales and what are the chances of it ending up in the little village where we were going to view our final property! Lucky for us it was an absolute beaut, with sea views out the front and mountain views to the back! I did want to take pictures and share them with you but Byron suggested since our blogging content might be a bit thin on the ground come September, since North Wales isn't the most hip and happening place, that perhaps I should save that for when we actually move! So for now I'll share with you the awesome diner that we ate at!

It was called the lazy dollar and everything was super bright and shiny - I loved it!

Somewhere along the line someone decided serving milkshakes without ice cream would be a good idea! It's not, certainly not for an American diner so that was slightly disappointing! and certainly not for a milkshake enthusiast like myself...

but the food was amazing! We had these chilli bean and cheese paninis.  Again, a rather odd thing about the diner was that it was vegetarian! A rather new concept to me for an American diner, no burgers or hot dogs etc...! but we enjoyed our food all the same!

The highlight of course, as always with me, was dessert! You may or may not know that I'm the biggest Key Lime Pie fan ever, possibly only 2nd to my mom!! and so I was pretty excited when they saw they had this on the menu! It couldn't quite compete with the best key lime pie ever that I had whilst in the Caribbean! but for North Wales it wasn't too bad at all!

I had to snap a patrotic pic with the flag! whilst thinking of my sisters who were enjoying the real deal over in California!

So if you ever happen to find yourself in Penmaenmwar, and you pass this funny little antiqute shop with a diner attached on the side be sure to stop by!

We snapped this awesome view as we were leaving the village, I'm not sure that little ice cream man was going to get too many customers that day, it was kind of chilly! but By liked how funny it looked out there in the middle of nowhere! and we are excited for all the mountain walks/walks on the beach we are going to get involved with!

Less than 4 weeks to go! So I'm making the most of the shops and restaurants in London and I also shared a super fun touristy weekend with my American friend...photos coming soon!

Monday, 15 August 2011

I wish they all could be California...diners!

You may have noticed there's been a break in all the Mexican eating around here.  For the past few weeks I have turned my attention to the other cuisine I love: American - in an attempt to make up for the fact I'm not in California right now with my sisters eating the real deal!

Last week we hit Bodean's for some pulled pork and A&W and also Lucky 7 for some double thick milkshakes.  This week I arranged to meet up with two of my uni friends, Nicola and Leanne, for some diner fun at Ed's.

I haven't been to an Ed's diner since I was about 10 so it's been a while! I feel like so many other slightly 'cooler' diners have popped up in London over the last few years that I sometimes forget about Ed's so it was nice to go back.  If you're looking for the classic red bar stools, red booths and jukeboxes at every table then Ed's is a fun pick...plus I totally LOVED that the majority of songs we heard all night were Beach Boys! However, it is worth noting it would have been even more fun if the individual juke boxes actually worked, rather than just being for aesthetics. 

One of my biggest dilemma's of the night was whether to go for a milkshake or a root beer float as I'm such a fan of both!! Leanne and Nicole are big Oreo lovers so it was a no brainer for them and Oreo milkshakes it was, for me I decided at the last second to go for a root beer float...since you can't find A&W on just any restaurant menu I always feel like it would be wrong not to order it when it presents itself! I made a good choice!It was a very generous helping of ice cream and it brought me that little bit closer to California!

For the main course I ordered a chilli dog with fries.  It was pretty good, but not the best I've ever had...but all in all the root beer float made up for it! and a great night was had by all!I'd probably be more inclined to go back to places like The Diner, Lucky 7 or Eagle Bar Diner in the future over Ed's especially since we went to the one by the Trocadero in Picadilly Circus and The Diner and Eagle Bar are both within walking distance from there.

Also, last week I spotted the Big Easy while on a bus going down the Kings Road.  It definitely looks like somewhere I want to try very soon!

Monday, 8 August 2011

London loving: the perfect weekend

Last weekend Byron and I shared a perfect weekend in London...and of course it had to start with some A&W!! Poor By is stuck in Milton Keynes all week long whilst I 'live it up in London' and he is left to just hear of all the yummy places I've visited and see the pictures on this blog which isn't so fun for him!! so this weekend it was his turn to join in on some of the action!

I knew for my rib loving husband there was no better option for dinner than a night at Bodean's.  His tray arrived piled high with slaw, fries and a half rack of ribs - yes that's right, that is a half!! how anyone could eat a whole is beyond me!

I had to go for pulled pork, I was intending to try something different from the menu but you just can't beat it and I certainly wasn't going to risk missing out on my pulled pork fix!

Root beer makes me insanely happy!

I snapped this little shot as we were leaving, it really is a tasty and happening place to be on a Friday night!

We decided to be tourists for the night and it was quite a warm evening (until we got down next to the Thames and the breeze made it rather chilly!) so we decided to take a stroll down by the river.  We loved seeing everything lit up (check out Big Ben in the background!)

I love the lights of the London Eye from this angle!

By was messing around with a long exposure, I like the effect it creates on all the lit up buildings in the background!

Here I am, pondering how awesome London living is whilst on the bridge!

and you've gotta do the London Eye pose.

How awesome is this picture!!! The South Bank was buzzing with tourists and excitement the night we were there, we even saw a wedding! and it made me so happy to be there and to be a part of it...I love London!

So as you know...last weekend was our british Summer, we're probably not going to get another sunny weekend like it! so we definitely wanted to make the most of it! We cycled up to Hampstead Heath...if you ever want to get fit fast I recommend this bike ride, the beastly hills just kept on coming!

but when you get to see views like this it's all worth it! remember I told you I'm obsessed with the Gherkin? I got a little over excited when I realised I could spot it in the distance here!

and we brought a little picnic along complete with yummy treats from Gail's deli and homemade cheesecake brownies!

Our little polka dot picnic rug from Dunelm Mill has come in quite handy this summer!

Yes I'm wearing jeans, it was cloudy when we woke up!! but inappropriate clothing aside we had an amazing afternoon basking in the sunshine!

Next up, we headed to Brick Lane for a bit of East End action. I have been wanting to check out Kooky Bakes forever, they have an amazing array of delicious looking goodies!

From bounty and tropicana whoopie pies to peanut butter cupcakes...these guys know how to pack some calories!

I had a peanut butter whoopie and By had the chocolate and coconut one, they were sooo yummy !

We also browsed around Spitalfields and By was loving snapping all the quirky people we saw along the way!

The food markets on Brick Lane are completely incredible! From Ethiopian to Brazilian to Thai to Mexican to Caribbean to Malaysian to Chinese...they really have it all!  It was more than tough to make a decision!

but By went for the old classic Pad Thai, and I got a duck wrap with hoi sin sauce which was amazing!!

I love how fun everything seems in the sunshine! Ice cream vans on every corner...

shirtless riders taking advantage of the barclays bikes!

and oh yes we found our street!! which was fun...

and I leave you with more squeals of excitement...as we turned the corner from Braithwaite Street and got this amazing view of the Gherkin! I love how full circle we had come since seeing it as a spot in the distance from Hampstead Heath to being right on it's doorstep!

London...how will I ever bring myself to leave you!