Best Sights and Tastes from Spain

After spending three months abroad I am looking forward to relaxing a bit before I head back to school. I have some ideas for the blog in 2013, but for now here are some picture highlights from the last leg of my travels this semester in Spain. Included are some of my favorite sites from the trip as well as my favorite dishes. Can’t explain why, but somehow foie gras will always be more exiting for me on vacation than a cathedral, unless it’s La Sagrada Familia that is. Have a great New Year wherever you are celebrating this year and see you next year!

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Cheers London, Hola España

Yesterday was sadly my last night in London.

It was perhaps the quickest semester yet, I felt like it had only just begun to be honest. While I have been to London before this trip, living in south east London was a completely different experience. I feel like I really traveled around the city, taking in the food, theater, markets and I even went to my first football match. I traveled to Dubai and Italy this semester and though I learned often outside of the classroom, my classes have made me think in different ways from Vassar. It was kind of sad leaving campus this past Friday. Who knows when I will be in New Cross once again, but when I am hopefully I can raise a pint at the Hobgoblin once more.

Now I am all packed up to travel to Spain until Christmas. It will definitely be different from London, and much warmer! My time in London dispelled the stereotype that food in London is drab and boring, but I am looking forward to tapas in Spain. Pan rubbed with tomato, cuttlefish, and perhaps paella too. But for now, I am going to post below a few last memories from London I never got the chance to write about, between packing up and writing essays for the end of the semester. Warning, tons of food pictures below! Hasta luego.

IMG_2885Our last class trip (if you can call them that, they were better than trips, adventures really) was to the Barbican to visit the Rain Room. It is a temporary exhibition that is completely free to enter, though the wait in line can be a deterrent. As a class we arrived early and were able to gain quick access to the space. Gallons upon gallons of water pours down, but as you walk through the path clears. If you were to run through you would get soaked, but with a slow walk you can manipulate the elements. How much do you wish you could actually control the rain around you, right?


In what appears to be an industrial space under a bridge near the Shard is actually the space for some great, unexpected food. Maltby and Druid streets offer a great range in eats, but we came for St John Bakery, and specifically the doughnuts.IMG_2927 IMG_2926You can only pick up a treat from the bakery on Saturdays, and we were glad we went. The space is large, with tables in the front with goodies, and an expansive kitchen behind. They offer fresh bread, which local restauranteurs snatch up by the dozen, but for me it was the vanilla bean custard doughnut that was the must try. I cannot do this doughnut justice, but to say it was the best I have ever had. Coming to London and not stopping by here would be a mistake.

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Also be sure to check out the market on the other side of the bakery. Lots of options there as well, including some impressive pastries and incredibly rich smoked salmon.IMG_2929 IMG_2932As it was our last Saturday in London, it was almost necessary to make a last stop at Broadway market. This was one of my first memories in London, and I do not think I could get tired of it. The street itself is rather gentrified, but the food and shopping available makes this market my favorite in London by far.

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Besides having another tuna sandwich like I tried earlier in the semester, I also dug into a pumpkin whoopie pie from Violet Cakes. While I did not try it, the rose and pistachio whoopie pie I spotted inspired me to tackle making chocolate lavender whoopie pies once I get back to the states. If that works out, I will post the results.IMG_2936If that was enough for one day, we also went to Ottolenghi for dessert after dinner. I have Ottolenghi’s first cookbook, and hopefully will be purchasing his second, Jerusalem, once I get back to the states. Plates full of treats like the ones below are displayed in the window of the shop, and you can pick and choose directly from the display. I chose a lemon and pistachio polenta cake and what I assume was a plum cake of sorts. Even though the polenta cake is prettier, I think I preferred the plum cake. Simple is sometimes best.

IMG_2938 IMG_2939And to finish off the last two nights in London, we had two incredible meals. One was at an incredible tapas restaurant called Fino in Fitzrovia. Along with a pitcher of sangria we shared dishes such as black squid ink risotto, cod fritters, papas bravas, and chipirones. We finished with doughnuts, but were experiencing extreme food comas because we ate so much.


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For our last night in London we ate at Asia de Cuba in Covent Garden. I have eaten here with my family before, and alike the tapas from the night before, the concept is to share large dishes. The food is inspired by both Cuban and Asian cuisine, and it was another incredible meal. We shared Thai beef salad, calamari, pork belly, scallops, seared tuna with wasabi mash, steak marinated in coffee, crispy tofu, and miso black cod. And of course, finished the meal with what else, doughnuts. This place is perfect for the adventurous eater who can never decide on just one dish to order (like me!), but less adventurous eaters will be content as well. I saw my sister attacking her noodle boxes like a champ.

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And that was it. The semester went by too fast, but I realize how lucky I was to have the time I did in London. London is definitely a city in which each person can find their bit of enjoyment. There is a roaring music, theater, shopping, and food scene–and even more. It is not possible to experience London in one trip, but I think I got sure close. IMG_3003

Chelsea, Chelsea!


Last Wednesday I was able to go to a Chelsea match against Nordsjaelland, which was very exciting! We wrapped up in tons of layers and drank hot chocolate to warm up in the cold. We had amazing seats (lower west 7th row!) and everyone around us was incredibly nice which is kind of funny because I think us Americans view football fans as crazy and rowdy, but our crowd was quite the opposite for this game. Chelsea ended up winning the match 6-1, but it was not enough to keep them in the Champions League. So it was a great game to watch, but kind of bittersweet for the fans.

Sorry all of the pictures are literally the same thing, and the lights for the field completely distort each of them, boo!

But like any sports game, it is the coolest to see the players you watch on TV from time to time playing right there in front of you. It was my first live football match and it will probably be a bit until my next, but if you are planning on studying abroad in London in the future you have to get football tickets!




Weekend Edition: Bologna

Contrary to what popular media portrays the American study abroad experience to be like, I have spent most weekends actually chilling out in the London for the weekends. I think a lot of people jump at the opportunity to fly to a different country every weekend when they don’t have class–namely, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris–and while traveling can be fun, I think I’ve realized that when you are studying abroad in London, there is really no reason to leave. Theater, food, shopping, sports, museums, you name it, it is here and that is why it is such an exciting (and expensive!) place to be.

That being said, I did have one weekend trip planned (besides Dubai, of course) which was to go to Bologna in Italy. It is completely random to choose Bologna, but the price was perfect for the flight and I really liked Italy last time I was there, so it was a different city to check out. The flight from London to Bologna is a little under two hours, making it incredibly easy to get to. We were also able to find a hotel in the center of the city that was the same price as a hostel, so we had good and convenient accommodations for an unbelievable price.

I was able to meet up with a good friend from Vassar, eat at some delicious restaurants on recommendation, enjoy gelato multiple times a day, and climb the Due Torri. Bologna has a lot of shopping, but it is not necessarily a huge tourist city, so we basically ate and then walked around in between meals, stopping to take pictures and go into buildings we happened to walk near. It was a lovely detour, but as this weekend is my last in London, I really have to focus on work. Even so, there is plenty of fun planned for the rest of my time here!

Check out some pictures from my trip below!


We literally jumped off the bus and ran straight to a gelato shop. Priorities, yes.


I don’t think you can visit Bologna and not climb the towers. It is quite a climb, but the views are spectacular. I’m a huge fan of this kind of tourist attraction, I like seeing cities from above and taking tons of pictures.



We were starving after traveling and the flight and hopped into a random cafe for a late lunch snack. It was simple and cheap, and kind of hilarious interacting with the staff there that did not speak much english. We were also able to have tagliatelle bolognese, tortellini in brodo, a pizza larger than my head with ricotta, prosciutto and eggplant and one night for dinner we had an appetizer that was basically fried dough with cured meat and soft cheese. There is plenty to eat in Bologna, that’s for sure.

IMG_2841IMG_2820And that’s all folks! It was fun to travel for the weekend (especially to Italy), but I now appreciate living and studying in London so much more. Ciao.

My Week and Thanksgiving

It has started to become more winter-like here in good ole London, the weather is cooling off and the Christmas lights are up on most lampposts. Since I haven’t posted in awhile here is a bit of the highlights from the past week.

On Tuesday a flatmate and I got tickets for Matilda the Musical based on the Roald Dahl’s novel. I never read the book, and I do not have many memories of the movie, so it was pretty sweet to see the musical without too many ideas about what to expect.

But first, on the topic of sweet we had to stop for some gelato at La Gelatiera before the show. The photograph is completely blurry and does not do justice for how awesome this shop is. This time I had the honey, rosemary & orange zest gelato which is definitely a new favorite combination. Not quite sure you can go wrong with any of their flavors, though I am still on the lookout for their mulled wine sorbet. Link’s here for the shop.

Back to the show. Woops, I might have snuck a quick picture of the set, not to spoil it, but to show off how cool it was. It was fairly minimalistic with letters everywhere, and set pieces rolling in and out, and emerging from the ground. The music was incredibly witty, and the young children in the show are over the top adorable. I can’t wait for this to open in New York and see if it is as popular and successful as it is here. I also want to see how they adapt the songs that are at times very British. More info here.

And then the next day London decided to be so stereotypically London and rain, but I was able to go to the National Gallery for a bit. I only had time to see the special exhibition at the time, but it was totally worth it. (But I was able to come back this past weekend again, so hey, no loss after all) The exhibition was called “Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present” and it kind of sounds like how it was, but it related to my independent study perfectly. The gallery space was dark, but there were photographs, paintings, and even videos so there was plenty to see and lots of photography history to learn. Perhaps once I have some time I will write a post about my independent project, we will see!

And then that night, because it was the night before Thanksgiving I decided I would make a chocolate pecan pie for the flat. I know many of us Americans would have loved to be home for the holidays, but baking something sweet definitely made the holiday special. Funny thing about baking in student flats while abroad is that you will most likely not have the proper ingredients nor tools (I didn’t have measuring cups to use, ekk!) to make a dish easily. Oh yeah, and temperature conversations are also fun to deal with. I could not find corn syrup, but I used something called golden syrup instead for the recipe. It looked like honey in the can, and was incredibly sweet! 

But hey, it worked out in the end. I liked the chocolate in the recipe, but I definitely like the classic pecan pie as well. Proud we all ate the whole thing.And then it was Thanksgiving! I had class in the afternoon, but then I was able to enjoy dinner with good friends. Turkey is hidden on that plate somewhere, but we had delicious cranberry sauce, sweet and roasted potatoes, tons of veggies, and even some ravioli. For dessert there was a choice of several pies, I had pumpkin (DUH) and one with fruit. Of course I missed being at home for Thanksgiving, but there were plenty of laughs going around the table so I think I can say we all had fun.

photo cred: e.einstein.

And the weekend involved lots of sightseeing and eating. We took one of those bus tours, which I have done in the past, but I was able to take tons of pictures and relearn some of the facts of London’s history and architecture. We went right around dusk, which I completely recommend because you get to see the city in both the light and in dark, different in their own ways, and it was a good photographic challenge to take pictures in the shifting light.

It’s definitely Christmas time over here!

And we ate, a lot.  

One night we went out for pies at the Newman Arms, which has fantastic pies. I had the beef and Guinness pie which came out hot and was served with veggies and potatoes. Usually I like to add malt vinegar to potatoes, but for this meal we had grainy mustard, which might become a new favorite.

And somehow there was room for sticky toffee pudding. 

We also went to GAIL’s Kitchen, which is a new restaurant from GAIL’S Artisan Bakery which serves tapas style dishes. I did not take many pictures during lunch, but we had a variety of goodies like the steak sandwich, fried herbs, capers, and lemons, and spinach rotolo. Even their bread is delicious. I could probably have every meal here, and be content, but their dessert was literally the best. It was so simple, but they serve freshly baked cookies (you do have to wait for them!) and milk. Made me feel like a youngster, but it was too much fun. And we also had some Indian food over the weekend, which is about time because it has been awhile since I had some good curry. I had a platter which contained all sorts of goodies, but there were tons of potatoes, spinach, lentils, beans, you name it as well as plenty things to dip in like rice and puri.

And if all of that was not enough we also made a day trip out to Kew Gardens, a botanic garden founded in 1759 which today serves as a popular attraction as well as education site for learning about plants, the environment, and conservation. We were able to walk on the grounds, go into the greenhouses, and even took the trolly around the entire property to see the whole thing. There were spiral staircases in the Palm House, so we were able to look down on all of the plants. We even saw some peacocks, which run incredibly fast. Who knew. While you can eat at Kew, we ate in the town near the tube stop which is quite adorable and relaxing compared to central London.
Before returning back to my flat we took advantage of the free river cruise included with the price of the bus tour tickets. I went on a river cruise earlier in the semester, but it is always nice to be on the boats. Plus it was a good excuse to pass by some of my favorite places, like the Tate Modern and the Shard building. Definitely recommend the boat tour, especially if you want to visit the Tower of London or Westminster Abbey/Big Ben/London Eye, which would be ever tourist.

This might go down as my longest post yet, but it was certainly a packed week full of activities. The next few weeks are going to be a bit more boring, with papers to write and projects to complete, but I am going on a short trip this weekend, which I am sure to post about when I get the chance. Ciao.



At the Ballet/Urban Farm

Last night I was able to go to the Royal Opera House to see The Royal Ballet perform a mixed program.   I have been waiting to buy tickets, and finally there were cheap tickets available for a night I was completely free.

And by cheap tickets, I mean really cheap. They were only five pounds and understandably so. I was in the second to last row all the way on the side and I could only see half of the stage. Even so, you cannot beat that price for the value of seeing a Royal Ballet performance.

There were three different pieces. Viscera, choreographed by Liam Scarlett (A 26 year old!), Infra, choreographed by Wayne McGregor, and Fool’s Paradise by Christopher Wheeldon. It was a contemporary program and it was incredibly inspiring to go to especially while I am not able to dance while abroad. I honestly wish I could go to the ballet much more often than I do.

I don’t share enough information about classes on this blog, mostly because lectures are not the most interesting unless you have to write a paper about those lectures, but my Vassar class is pretty cool.

For class today we went to FARM:shop, a mixed use space in London run by Something & Son, an eco-social design practice. The space is in an old derelict building that is now used as a cafe and workspace as well as an experiential urban farm in east London.

We were able to learn about the space, which was probably the most unique I have been in, as well as eat there. There are several different systems for growing plants at FARM:shop, including a small greenhouse in the back and a hydroponics system on the first floor complete with tilapia tanks that provide the nutrients for the lettuce and herbs grown through the system. There was even a chicken coop on the roof with three chickens that lay eggs everyday. FARM:shop does outsource ingredients to fully run the cafe, but whatever is grown goes into the food they prepare or is sold to fund the space. The project is nonprofit and was definitely worth the visit for someone interested in food and sustainable farming. I even had an egg sandwich, which is pictured below, but covered in their lettuce! Visit here for more information about FARM:shop.

Art & Veg.

The best part about living in London is realizing the diversity this city has to give. With one more month left here I am definitely trying to take advantage of as much as possible. A trip to the ballet, a West End show, afternoon tea, a concert, and countless museums are in the works for the next few weeks.

For my final project I am writing about photography, but if all goes well, I am also going to publish a mini e-book of some of my work along with analysis, insights, and all of those lovely things. I am incredibly excited to work on this because at Vassar I will not have the opportunity to study art (unless I want to drive myself absolutely insane senior year).

Part of my independent project is to visit to a few galleries around the city, one those being The Photographers’ Gallery pictured above. The building is a sleek modern structure on a quiet street just off of busy Oxford Street. The Photographers’ Gallery was the first gallery in Britain to dedicate its space to photography. I went this week in order to see their temporary exhibit “Shoot! Existential Photography”. The exhibit featured different artists, but all involved photography and guns, putting into question the similar vocabulary that photography and gunnery shares. Did you know that fairgrounds used to have an attraction in which you had to shoot a target and if you were successful you would receive a picture of yourself shooting the target? One of the coolest parts of the exhibit were the walls filled with images of a woman who has these pictures of herself from 1936 at these fairs. It was very unique! For more information on the gallery visit their website here.

And now for something completely different, fruits and vegetables. Since I am back from Dubai I can flood the fridge with fresh food again. This week I received tons of goodies from my box: cavolo nero, a head of broccoli and cauliflower, two parsnips, a yellow pepper, an eggplant, a fennel bulb, and a bunch of oranges, apples, and plums! I ate basically half of this fruit already. Time to buy a water bottle.



Dubai: Part 4

For our last two days in Dubai we did a little sightseeing, but tons of relaxing before flying back to London.

On our second to last day we went on one of those double decker bus tours (who knew they had those in Dubai?), so we were able to sightsee and jump on and off the bus wherever we wanted to. We stopped at several souks, but while it was cool to walk through, the experience was a bit overwhelming. All of the merchants try to strike deals and show off their products, but in a sort of harassing way. The bus rode along the canal, so there were nice views of the water and a different, and older, side of Dubai.

Once we finished with the bus tour, we were able to take a boat ride back across the canal.

That evening we went to the beach club for a swim, it was a very lovely place to hang out in the hot weather. For dinner we ate at a asian restaurant at the Ibn Battuta Mall, which was actually a really cool mall. Each section of the mall is designed after a place Ibn Battuta explored. The ceilings could have been in a museum or a mosque they were so large and detailed–but no, they were just in a mall. Oh, Dubai…

On our last day in Dubai we decided to keep it as simple as possible, and just hang out on the beach. Lazy, but it was quite wonderful. The beach club was right next to the Burj Al Arab, definitely my favorite building in Dubai–so the sights were lovely.

After swimming in the clear water we decided to go to Wild Wadi, a huge waterpark which was right next to the beach. I don’t have proper pictures for this because everything was stored into a locker when we arrived, but trust me it was so much fun. There was a giant pool to swim in, but the rides are definitely what you have to do. The craziest was the Jumeirah Sceirah which was a 120 meter slide in which you can reach speeds of 80 km/h in just a few seconds. It was kind of intense, but there was a calmer ride which was basically like a water rollercoaster where all you had to do was sit in a tube and be pushed along by water jets. We went on each ride at least once, going on a couple multiple times. The park was definitely a lot of fun, with lots of laughs and thrills, and a perfect end to our trip.

That night we ate a fantastic meal prepared by my friend’s mom and played with this little guy.

Overall Dubai was a fabulous place to visit–we were able to relax and enjoy reading week, but we also saw tons of sights, ate delicious food, and hung out with good friends. I would suggest visiting Dubai if you want a unique resort trip alternative to the Caribbean, but it was definitely the best traveling with someone who lives there. I’m glad I took the time to write down some of the memories, but back to London it is! I will definitely miss Dubai.






Dubai: Part 3

On our third day in Dubai we went dune bashing, an activity in which you drive into the desert for the evening. But you don’t just drive into the desert, you basically buckle up, hold on, and go sliding up and down the dunes. It was quite thrilling, but it was definitely not for the faint of heart. Along the way we spotted some wild camels and donkeys, very cool!

Once you finish the drive you arrive at a camp in which you are allowed to walk about and engage in different activities. While some cost extra money, we were able to ride camels and have henna painted on our hands for no charge. We also arrived just in time to watch the sun set in the desert.

We then settled into the camp which was surrounded by simple huts for a show and dinner. All around the stage were tables and pillows to sit on.

I think the coolest bit of the day was being in a desert as it transitioned by daytime to nighttime. We were incredibly dehydrated as the sun beat down, but once the sun went away it actually became quite chilly.


And with sunset brought two performances. First, a belly dancer. Second, err, I’m not quite sure how to explain the second performance, though I thought it was much better than the belly dancer. He sort of spun around and around for several minutes, glowing at certain points. He must have been incredibly dizzy by the end of it.

Then it was dinnertime! There was a large buffet featuring some familiar items (and some questionable ones for the desert–like penne Alfredo?) but I had plenty of rice, pita bread, veggies, and meat.

And that was the end of our desert dune bashing adventure. While I wish we could have rode those camels for longer, it wasn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon in Dubai. Dubai is a city built on a desert after all, so it was interesting to take part in an alternative experience of Dubai.

After a sleepy ride back out of the desert we had the munchies and stopped at Al Reef Lebanese Bakery in Jumeirah. This place is open 24 hours a day serving up manakish of all different kinds. You can get it with meat, but we had classic cheese and cheese with za’atar. We ate ours in the car by the beach at night, which I would highly recommend, but watch out, as they are oily and the grease will drip down your arms. But they were so delicious, definitely making this snack a highlight of the trip!




Dubai: Part 2

When we first arrived in Dubai we were super tired and hungry, which was frustrating because I ate and slept on the plane which is incredibly rare for me. I even tried the egg salad salmon sandwich. Why they would make such a concoction for breakfast on an overnight flight is beyond me. But basically we landed, drove to the house, and passed out on the bed for a nap.

For some reason I do not have enough pictures from the first day to write a proper post about it, but if I remember correctly we went to the beach (which was right next to the Burj al Arab–probably my favorite building from the trip), ate some food (I think I had a mozzarella, tomato and arugula salad), had dinner at the Arabian Court (tons of hot and cold dishes to try–hummus, pita bread, grilled meat, tabbouleh, vegetables, the works), and finished with Pinkberry (passionfruit with tons of pomegranate and sliced almonds) at the Mall of the Emirates (MOE). I feel the need to write these blog posts because  memory does not always remember the random details and thoughts–like I cannot remember if it was our first day or second that we went on the Palm, but for those that don’t know, the Palm is a manmade island shaped like a palm tree, filled with apartments and homes along its trunk and the fronds. The tip of the the palm is the Atlantis Resort which is incredibly nice, but I thought the coolest part was how clear the surrounding water was, as well as how white the sand was.

Our first night we stayed up ridiculously late because of jet lag, but still managed to wake up the next day for a day of tourism.

We started the day by visiting the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The building houses offices and homes, even a hotel–but a minute long elevator ride takes you to the 124th level, which is very high, but not even to the very top! We made it just in time because there was no line until after we were finished. The observation deck experience allows for amazing views of the city, but you are also able to learn about the construction and history of Dubai as well. They had these awesome viewfinders that let you view the landscape live, but also historically. It is amazing to see everything from above, but also to imagine how the land was once entirely desert!

And there it is, a quick shot of the building from the car. It’s like a tiered cake, but a lot taller!

The following are a couple shots from above. You can start to get a sense of the geography of Dubai: the desert, the roads, the skyscrapers (which look tiny from the Burj Khalifa!), and the Gulf.

Below you can faintly see the World Islands, a set of manmade islands which make up the shape of the world and continents.

And here is a shot of the base of the building–it is very, very large!

The Burj is connected to the Dubai Mall, another impressive space. It is the largest shopping mall with over 1,000 retailers. There are plenty of places to eat and shop, but you can also visit the aquarium or skate on the olympic sized rink.

I could not imagine trying to shop there, as it was just so darn huge, but for lunch it was perfect. We went to Ping Pong for dim sum. We had some veggie and chicken buns, duck spring rolls, dumplings with crab and veggies, and sticky rice steamed in lotus leaf. The drink menu was entirely nonalcoholic, so everyone could easily find something perfect. While a tough decision, I had a peach and lime drink with lychee and guava as well.

The Dubai Mall seriously has everything, because on our way out I spotted a Ladurée. Going to this sweets shop in Paris was seriously the highlight of my time there, but I promised myself I would not go to the one in NY because if it is not Paris it is not the real deal. Well, they must have psychology experiments about this, because once I saw it, I had to have it. The macaroons are that good! I do not remember all the flavors exactly, but I believe I had a pistachio, rose, and chocolate macaroon for sure, and there was also one with marshmallow filling in the center.

Then we drove around a bit, saw the campus of my friend’s old high school which was lovely. We also saw plenty of mosques around, some grander than others–the picture below is of one in the process of being built. At specific times of the day you are most likely going to hear calls for prayer. Even though Dubai can be seen as westernized, eastern traditions are ever present in the culture.

And then we spent sunset on the beach, it was quite lovely. We arrived just in time, and there was barely anyone on the beach. A great moment of peace with the mosques calling for prayer in the background.

And to end the night we had dinner at Nobu at the Atlantis resort. We had all different types of sushi, spicy tuna and crispy rice, pumpkin chips with foie gras, black miso cod, rock shrimp tempura as well as cheesecake and chocolate fondant cake for dessert. Nobu himself was seated at the table next to us and he came over and shook all of our hands! It was certainly a treat, and I am very thankful I was able to have such a great meal with great company.