Well my friends, the time has come to share the final chapter of my November Euro trip. I get it – you’re disappointed. I’ve essentially used this blog as a biweekly forum to brag about my trip of a lifetime while mostly posting food pictures, confusing my mom when I write about mysterious hickeys, and to reminisce about one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It’s the end of an era and frankly we’ll just need to mourn this together.
I’m writing this as I’m en route to Nashville for a mini end of year trip. I’m really milking the travel this year and despite my abhorrence for country music, I love a southern accent and I’m excited to drunkenly try mine out, get embarrassed, and maybe cry around some locals. Vacation!
We’ve been sitting on the Tarmac for 2.5+ hours so tbd on whether I actually make it to Nashville. This might end up being a very long post that starts as a rundown of London and ends with a list of “Tips for Consuming Your Neighbor on an Airplane You’ve Been Trapped on for 24 Hours.” Only time will tell.
We got to London on a Wednesday. As it was our last stop on the trip and mostly an excuse to squeeze in one more city while avoiding a layover, we only spent 48 hours in London-town (as the locals call it. Oh they don’t? Oh ok, sorry.) A pro-tip for London travel: if you feel so inclined to take public transportation from the airport: don’t. It took us the same amount of time to get from Prague to London as it took us to get from Heathrow to Shoreditch. Add in a poster tube that Angela graciously dragged across Europe for me, two pretty tired 20-somethings, and my unbelievably heavy luggage, and that’s a recipe for a lot of angry muttering and accidentally tripping British people as you try to squeeze by them during rush hour. Struggle city.
We stayed in an adorable flat on Brick Lane that came complete with non-stop construction next door. We woke up to the melodies of hammers and power-saws both days. A luxury, really. Luckily Shoreditch is awesome and as both Angela and I had already been to London, we didn’t feel pressured to hit every tourist spot in three quick days. My main goal was to erase the memory of a college Euro trip in London where I was forced to spend time with awful humans on the same day as a citywide tube strike. It ended in a very uncomfortable train ride spent crouched under a sweaty armpit and as I have now created new, amazing memories of London, I will never think of that experience again. Good riddance.
Angela’s main goal was to eat, drink, and walk over the Tower Bridge. (Check, check, and check.) Have I mentioned how much I like traveling with her? Cheers!
We needed some sustenance after our travel and after wandering around Shoreditch for a while, we stumbled into a little market near our flat. It’s a cool outdoor space packed with picnic tables, food vendors, and a bar. Here is where I would tell you the name of the market but I can’t remember it and forgot to write it down so you’ll just need to figure it out yourself. Sorry. While the bartender was mostly incompetent we did have a couple great falafels which we inhaled in about 30 seconds. Paired with a couple negronis and general exhaustion we grabbed some bottles of water and candy and headed home.
Per tradition we grabbed two bags of candy: a bag of chocolate Cadbury eyeballs and some table mints. It turned out that despite there being no language barrier (I am mostly competent in English despite what you’ve read on this blog), the chocolate eyeballs were actually just chocolate disks and the mints were pretty hard but in true form we found a way to consume both.
We kicked off the next morning with some cappuccinos from Allpress Espresso in Shoreditch. I paired it with some nuts – an almond croissant – for health and fuel for the day.
For our last dinner of the trip we headed to Dishoom per the recommendation of one of my friends. We had actually tried to eat here for second dinner the previous night but for once our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we left after a few drinks. We returned prepared and while the wait is insanely long, the bar is filled with interesting people to watch and delicious drinks to consume. The food is served quickly and is insanely good. We pounded black dahl, biryana, naan, and a massive cutting board covered in lamb before rolling ourselves home.
On our last morning we had our traditional coffee and pastry breakfast at Brooklyn Coffee. Remember when I was sugar free? Ha. At least I can say I practiced a little portion control. Also the mega babe American barista here was enough to make us sit here for a while. If you go here grab some of the peanut butter cups. We were kicking ourselves for not grabbing more. Truly the breakfast of champions.
The drinks at Dishoom are seriously amazing. Plus the crowd there allows for some A+ people watching at night. Try the Bombay Colada and the Hunterwali’s Julep. They also have one of those fancy drinks they set on fire but ever since I read the story about the girl who drank a still-on-fire drink and lost her entire stomach – I’m good.
The Queen of Hoxton is so. Bloody. Cool. (Betcha read that with a British accent.) They have a pretty standard bar downstairs but once you drag yourself up 90 or so flights of stairs*, they have the coolest rooftop. In the winter it’s transformed into a cozy teepee covered in twinkle lights and wooden seats draped in furs. The drinks are expensive and the waitstaff leaves a little to be desired but it smells like a campfire and helps you forget that everything you’re wearing is a little damp from the London rain. Also they have a hidden tree house seat in the middle of the teepee which is maybe the coolest thing of all time. Best first date ever, right? Anyone out there?
* It’s probably 4 flights of stairs but I’m tired. I’m always tired.
Just a quick observation here. I bought a lot of bottled water on this trip. Like, a lot. And I left EVERY SINGLE ONE half consumed in various places around Europe. Like a little trail of breadcrumbs but instead of carbs I left overpriced water everywhere. For shame.
Though we were only in London for two nights, we managed to squeeze in over 20 miles of walking. Also we averaged about 10 trips, slips, and falls a day. Not sure if I’ve mentioned how clumsy we were but towards the end of the trip it was almost laughable how often we were falling off of curbs and tripping into flustered British people, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the day drinking. Ok, maybe it had a little to do with the day drinking.
Queen of health, Angela, also forced me to do another Kayla workout on our last day in London. I spent a solid amount of the workout dry heaving until I realized I could open the window and dry heave while waving at the previously mentioned construction workers.
Special Edition: The Good, The Bad, The Questionable, London Edition
Our experience at Sketch London can not be summed up in any of the above categories. As Stefon would say, this place has it all: pink velvet chairs, a waitstaff in silly uniforms, a bathroom straight out of The Jetsons, hilarious David Shrigley illustrations covering the walls, and maybe drugs in the food because we were tripping.
We decided to indulge a little on our last day and check out high tea. For the first time in my life I was drawn to a place solely because of pictures of their bathroom that I saw on Instagram. (Edit: except that Ryan Gosling bathroom in San Diego. But a $20 cover? No thank you. I can print out my own pictures of Ryan Gosling to look at while I pee. Wait.) It turns out they’re pretty well known for a Michelin starred restaurant, a cafe, and the high tea we went to.
Basically you pay a set rate and a waitress in a pink dress brings you unlimited finger sandwiches, pastries, puddings, biscuits, and tea. As you’ve probably noticed, I have a slight problem with consumption. I hear “unlimited” and my body starts humming. It’s like I’m in a food eating contest with myself and if I don’t win, who will? In this situation both Angela and I lost. I don’t know if it was the weird lighting, the bathroom selfies, the fact that I had to wear a beanie indoors because my hair was destroyed by the rain, or the excitement of the whole situation but we got a little loopy. Also it could be because we ate our body weight in clotted cream and curry chicken sandwiches but honestly who knows?
As we were inhaling our second round of salmon and caviar sandwiches, we noticed the two trendy girls next to us. To give you some perspective on the monsters we had become, these girls sat down three minutes after us. They ordered at the same time and got their food right after us. While we had polished off 95% of our tower of goods and already started on round two, they had barely finished the bottom tier of their tray. To be fair they stopped to selfie every three minutes but still – we may have a problem. They looked so camera ready and carefree. Meanwhile I had already undone the top button on my jeans and Angela was maybe taking a nap sitting up.
Lesson learned: STOP EATING WHEN YOU’RE FULL. Also, London is magic even if you do find yourself hallucinating in Piccadilly Circus at 3 pm on a Thursday. Pro tip: mind the gap.
While this trip started as an experiment in trying to stay healthy (and sugar free – remember that? Ha) while traveling, I realized quickly into it that cutting out all of the foods I love was not going to happen. This was the first trip I’ve ever been on where I actually worked out and was fully aware of my miles walked and water consumed. I actually ended up losing weight despite the sometimes obscene amounts of food I was consuming. Not too shabby for a 2 week luxury food trip around Europe. I say food trip because let’s be serious, the museums and cities were wonderful but ya girl likes to eat. And eat I did.
It was definitely a new experience for me to workout while vacationing. Actually it was really a new experience for me to workout period but I’m really trying to change that. Traveling with a friend who prioritizes health but keeps eating at a close second was incredibly helpful. She was like a much nicer, younger Jillian Michaels who let me eat whatever I wanted but forced me to do more pushups in Europe than I thought was physically possible. I recommend bringing an Angela everywhere to be honest.
So while I’m definitely not an authority on healthy travel, I do consider myself an authority on both luxuriating and treating yourself. Would I do it all again? Hell yeah. Hike to a hidden waterfall, try puffin and reindeer, hang in an outdoor hot tub while watching the Northern Lights? Yep. Get caught in a downpour on bikes, get lost in a Yayoi Kusama exhibit, accidentally go to a Michelin starred Thai restaurant and eat and drink for four hours? No question. Hike up to a castle after eating a nutella stuffed pastry, stay in a constantly swaying house boat, and wash down fried cheese blocks with 10 beers a night? In a fucking second.
I wouldn’t change a thing. Except for that damn iceberg. Fuck you iceberg. I still have nightmares.
But I wouldn’t change anything else. That’s for sure. Thanks for the memories and thanks for the calories, Europe. I love you.