52 Hours in Bath

As you may remember from my last post, this week is reading week at King’s. Even though most of our time has been used to catch up on some additional readings and to write a few essays, Cameron and I thought it would be fun and relaxing to take a short trip. We chose Bath because its relatively close, absolutely beautiful, and has a variety of activities from sightseeing to the vibrant restaurant scene.

Looking for a place to stay I began with airbnb since we had such a positive experience when we stayed in London while searching for our flat, but decided to check out some other options just for fun. I’m so glad I did because I found a great little place called Brooks Guest House (there are two more, one in Bristol and in Edinburgh) which was the same price as the airbnb I’d been considering. A bed and breakfast, the rooms are small but nice, and the communal living room and honesty bar made it a feel especially homey. It’s about a five to six minute walk from the  town centre which was great as it allowed for lots of exploring, and is  quite close to the Royal Crescent, a park, and the botanical garden.

After we arrived we dropped off our bags and headed out to do some sightseeing. We decided to tour the Roman Baths first, which turned out to be even more interesting than I’d anticipated. I had no idea that their original footprint was so large, and really enjoyed the way the modern building snaked around and incorporated parts of the Roman ruins.  It was amazing to walk over the same places where the Roman once did, and to see the features unique to the site, like the unusual male gorgon’s head in the pediment, the extensively routed water channels, and the structures added on top of the ruins in the middle ages, and later Victorian era.

On Tuesday we toured the absolutely gorgeous Bath Abbey, which I was amazed to learn contains around 60% of the original stained glass that was blown out by the blitz during the second world war. The Victoria Gallery was interesting and featured a temporary exhibit by a contemporary British artist depicts scenes from around the country, and the Pulteney bridge was definitely worth the trek in the rain, as the banks of the river were lined with trees whose leaves had turned bright yellow and orange making the whole thing even more beautiful.

Wednesday was our last day in Bath, and we had quite a bit of time as our train didn’t leave until the late afternoon. I really wanted to see the Holburne Museum, which houses quite a collection of 17th and 18th century paintings, as well as many different objects collected by Holburne over his lifetime. A temporary exhibit has just opened up featuring gold in religious, ceremonial, and decorative uses which we had to purchase tickets for, but was totally worth it. The objects ranged from illuminated manuscripts, to gilded furniture, and videos of how gold is shaped into wire, and how books and furniture are gilded. The knockout though, was the gold tiger’s head that confronted you as you entered the exhibit.

We hadn’t realised it when we’d booked, but Bath was wrapping up The Great Bath Feast, a celebration of local chefs and produce, and we managed to hit quite a few stops on our few days. My favourite was definitely the dinner Cameron had planned for us on Monday evening. After keeping the location a secret for at least a week and refusing to give me any hints about where we were going, I was absolutely thrilled when we arrived at Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen, especially since we’d walked by earlier in the day and he’d very sneakily said that we should go for lunch the next day. Honestly I could write a full post about how fantastic our meal was– if you find yourself in Bath, this is definitely a must try!

If you have time on your visit  and want a bit of a break from sightseeing, relaxing at the Thermae Bath Spa is a nice change of pace. Since it was mid-week, it wasn’t too crowded, and relaxing in the saunas and mineral baths was the perfect pick-me-up to recharge before we left.

I’ve detailed the rest of our visit in another post about things to do, eat, and see in Bath as this post could be at least three times as long if I’d included everything. In about two days we had plenty of time to see all of the things we’d wanted to, and managed to relax a bit as well– definitely a successful holiday!

Melt-ing for Melt

This week is reading in my MA course, and it arrived just in time. While I may have classes only three days out of five, the rest of my time is by no means free. Reading weeks means a bit of a breather, and lest from attending class, as I have a bit of reading to catch up on, and two essays to finish by next Monday.

While this week isn’t vacation, strictly-speaking, Cameron and I are still going to take a short trip to Bath this week, which has meant this weekend was packed full with essay-writing and errands. As a way to de-stress we wandered over to Melt. Just off of Westbourne Grove, it’s quite close to where we live and I’ve been wanting to go since I first saw it a few weeks ago. Full disclosure- I have a pretty serious sweet tooth, and the prospect of a delicious, chocolate-filled study break was too exciting to pass up.

Walking in,you’re instantly struck by the smell of chocolate as your eyes discover the  amazing range of chocolates–  from chocolate-covered popcorn bark to small chocolate disks and, of course, a gorgeous selection of truffles and chocolate bars (there is a chocolate wall!). Happily for me, there was even dairy-free ginger truffle using coconut cream rather than milk, and featuring a lovely gold brushstroke.

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I decided on a ginger truffle, and chocolate-dipped candied orange peel, which is one of my absolute favourites. Part of me wanted to devour them right there, but I though tit would be better to wait at least until we got back home. The ginger truffle was absolutely amazing- dense, flavourful, and velvety smooth inside. The orange slice, which I saved as a bit of an incentive to finish one of my rough drafts, was equally delicious and decadent. Cameron picked up a piece of popcorn bark as well and reported that it too was amazing.

A trip to Melt will definitely be something that remains a treat, but I’m already looking forward to my next trip. Maybe during finals week? It would also be a fantastic place to pick up a gift for a friend.

Friday Cocktail: The Artillery

It’s reading week for me this next week, which is certainly not a vacation as I have two essays due at the end, but Cameron and I are still going to have some fun and take a trip to Bath early next week. I’m quite excited as I’ve never been, but it should be quite a nice breather from schoolwork!

The weather in London is definitely getting cooler, which is fine with me as it means there are some absolutely beautiful changing leaves, more sweaters to be worn, and even more opportunities to relax with a book and a cup of tea (or perhaps this cocktail). It’s also a whole lot easier to motivate myself to do schoolwork when the weather isn’t quite as nice and staying indoors is a bit more appealing.

Adapted from the Savoy Cocktail Book, this intense-sounding cocktail is actually quite a smooth drink. The cinnamon in the Fee Brother’s bitters is a lovely with the sweet vermouth, and makes a well rounded, slightly spiced cocktail that practically screams autumn. Another bonus is that its relatively few ingredients make it quite simple to put together with a limited bar, and easy to scale up for more people.

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Ingredients:

• 2 oz dry gin

• 1 oz sweet vermouth

optional 1-2 dashes bitters

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with some ice
  2. Stir well, then strain into a glass.

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While Fee Brothers bitters may not be as great at multitasking as Angostura, they are great in this cocktail

If you do end up adding the bitters, which I think is a really nice touch, definitely go for some that have a hint of cinnamon, or experiment with a different kind and let me know how it worked out in the comments! Another thing to mention is that the quality of the gin especially will make or break this drink. This doesn’t mean you need to use top shelf, but something other than the bottom is probably a good idea.

Enjoy!

Three Art Fairs, Two Days, One Rather Long Weekend

This past week and weekend were loaded with different art things, and it was absolutely wonderful. On Friday we visited the Frieze Masters art fair, then headed to East London for an evening at The Other Art Fair, and finished on Saturday with a trip to the Frieze London. It was definitely a bit hectic, but there were a lot of really interesting and lovely pieces that I’m glad I got to see.

Heading in to the Frieze Masters on Friday I didn’t quite know what to expect. I knew there would be art ranging from Ancient Egyptian to Andy Warhol, but I was unprepared of the sheer scale of it. There were over a hundred galleries from around the world, interspersed with a few pop up restaurants and media spaces. It was oddly hushed as people moved through the spaces, looking at sculptures, oil paintings, and photographs. After taking a few minutes to get the lay of the land we stopped for lunch at the pop up restaurant Umu, and planned our route for the rest of the day. I think we ended up spending about five hours wandering through the galleries before heading over to the Other Art Fair.

The Other Art Fair was almost the exact opposite in feeling than the Frieze Masters. Rather than hushed conversations, the Other Art Fair featured music, lots of people talking between themselves and with the artists, and a conveniently located bar. Before entering we were asked if we wanted to participate in an interactive audio artwork which would lead un into the far itself. Of course I volunteered us to go, which turned out to be quite a bit of fun. I spoke with one of the artists for bit before I began, who said that they’d been commissioned by the Fair to make this work for the tenth anniversary.

Waiting at the bottom of a rather lengthy flight of stairs while blindfolded, wearing a set of headphones that were about to begin giving instruction was a bit unnerving, and I began to think I’d made a huge mistake. As other visitors walked normally up the steps, I listened to two disembodied voices tell me a bit about the fair, and give me a mission for once I was inside- to mark a piece of artwork, already purchased, with the pen that had been clipped to the top of the headphones. By the time I reached the top of the stairs and removed the blindfold I was unsure whether I would mark the work or not, but I was glad I’d participated in the work- it was like being in on a secret, and became a bit of a game between Cameron and I to imagine the different ways we could mark the work with no one noticing.

It was a lot of fun wandering through the different stations, talking to different artists about their work. There were many pieces we fell in love with (On of them is inserted below!) but settled on three which we purchased, and which I’m excited to find homes for on our walls.

One of our artworks!

“This is Awkward…” By Elena Garcia de la Fuente

Saturday was a bit more relaxed, although not once we arrived to the final fair of the weekend, the Frieze London. It was considerably more crowded that the Masters had been the day before. It was almost as if you’d melded the two art fairs from the previous day into one. We spend only a few hours at the Frieze, long enough to see almost all of it, but not quite enough to spend as long as I would’ve liked investigating a few of the artworks.

It was definitely a busy weekend, and Sunday was spent doing some much needed relaxing.

Tuesday Night Out at the Opera

I knew before moving to London that there were various theatres that offers tickets for students at fantastic rates, but I wasn’t sure if they were mainly in one genre, or covered many different areas. After a bit of googling, I found that a student discount is available at all sorts of performances and exhibitions. In fact, I was able to use it to get discounted tickets for the Goya Exhibition I went to last week, and for Frieze this coming weekend.

A few weeks ago Cameron and I were able to get £10 tickets to go see a contemporary dance presentation of Romeo and Juliette at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre. Since we had such a good experience at our first event, we were excited to see a performance in the main opera house. When we saw tickets available to see Ariadne Auf Naxos at the student rate, we decided to snap them up. I think the student rate offered is an absolutely fantastic idea to get a wider range of audience into the theatre, especially for those who may be a bit hesitant.

Our £10 tickets!

Our £10 tickets!

The interior of the Royal Opera House is absolutely stunning. Waiting for the opera to begin, all you want to do is look around at all of the details on the different level, ceiling, and around the stage. I think a tour is definitely in the plan at some point in the future.

Ariadne Auf Naxos is apparently a rarely staged opera, which makes sense after seeing the fairly complex staging, and somewhat unusual plot line. The premise is that a nobleman has commissioned two groups of entertainment, an opera and a comedy troupe, and then decides that the two must combine their performance in the interest of time. I was a bit apprehensive going in as I don’t speak a word German, and I’d never been to an opera, but we looked it up and found that there would be subtitles. Not sure how this would actually happen, we decided to give it a go anyway and hope for the best. Luckily as the performance began a small screen appeared at the upper part of the stage and the English translation was projected.

Waiting for the performance to begin. We had awesome seats!

Waiting for the performance to begin. We had awesome seats!

The performance was wonderful, both fun and full of drama, and the performers amazing. As the piece progresses, marrying the comic and tragic, the beautiful arias and stunning set design transport you and you become swept up in the emotion and drama that unfurls onstage. The projected English was definitely helpful, but much of the emotion needed no translation.

It was a beautiful performance, and a wonderful evening I can’t wait to repeat again soon!

Afternoon Out- Visiting the Goya Exhibit at the National Gallery

Last week the National Gallery opened an exhibition on Goya’s portraiture, which features works from both public and private collections. I have an unexpected love of eighteenth and nineteenth century portraiture, and of Spanish painting, so naturally I had to visit.

I’ve been wanting to go to the National Gallery since we arrived in London, both for the artwork, and to see the controversial architecture of the Sainsbury Wing (where the Goya Exhibition is being held). I first saw the wing in an architecture class shortly after we’d read a book by Venturi and Scott Brown, the building’s architects,  and loved the way the building acts in a sort of dialogue with the space around it, referencing the old while remaining rooted in the modern. To me it seems to represent a way forward in a city full of history.

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The Goya exhibition features works of both public and private portraiture spanning the artists long career. Featuring 70 different works in a few different mediums it was fascinating to see how his portraiture evolved, and the differences between his portraits of friends and family in conversation with his works commissioned for aristocrats and the royal family. One of my favourite parts of Goya’s paintings, seen specially in his  in commissions for aristocratic portraits, is his handling of paint in the garments. His brushwork, oven somewhat loose and quick, makes the silks and satins shimmer from within with an incredible feeling of life. This, combined with his powerfully captured expressions make his sitters almost photographic, which I think is especially true of some of his smaller, quarter or half length portraits.

Walking through the exhibition was a really lovely study break, and allowed me to do a bit of reconnecting with my art history degree, which was nice as my Masters is much more focussed on contemporary issues. This next weekend should be even busier, as I’m set to go to both the Frieze Masters, and the Frieze art fairs, and am planning to try to squeeze in a few others before the end of the weekend.

Friday Cocktail: The Gin-Gin Mule

This week’s drink is a fun twist on one of my favorites, the Moscow Mule, featuring gin instead of vodka. You may be thinking that the spices in the gin will do some very strange things with the ginger, and you would be correct- it is strangely delicious.

This past week we picked up a new type of gin, Sipsmith, that’s made in the UK, and is super smooth and pleasantly juniper-y. It’s great in this cocktail, and in the classic gin and tonic which I posted a few weeks ago.

The recipe does require a small amount of prep as it calls for simple syrup. To make your own (which I definitely recommend as its super simple and take very little time) combine equal amounts of sugar and water in a small pan, then what over a low flame until the sugar is completely dissolved. For the longest time I would always make far too much simple syrup to use, even allowing for the few days it will last in the fridge. I’ve started using 1/3c water and 1/3 c sugar and have found this amount is pretty manageable, especially instead of the 1c water to 1c sugar I used to make.

As I’ve mentioned before in my post about Dark and Stormies, using a good ginger beer here is key. I actually made two versions of this one- one with a grocery brand ginger beer, and one with fever tree to see if it would make a noticeable difference, and it really did! The drink with the generic brand of ginger beer tasted to strongly of ginger flavour and artificial sweetener that it completely overpowered the other flavour sin the drink. The Fever Tree ginger beer however, was absolutely lovely!

I found the original version of this recipe over at Saveur, but played around with the proportions a bit to create this version.

Ingredients:

• 1/2oz simple syrup

• 5-10 mint leaves (adjust according to taste)

• Juice from 1/2 of a lime (about 1 oz)

• 2 oz gin

• Fever Tree ginger beer

Directions: 

• Combine simple syrup, mint leaves, and lime juice into a shaker, and muddle until well combined.

• Top with gin and ice, then shake vigorously

• Strain gin mixture into a glass with ice, then top with ginger beer to taste. Garnish with a sprig of mint or a lime wedge if desired.

I definitely recommend playing around with how much mint you want in your drink. It seems like an odd flavour to add to an already herbal drink, but just try it with a bit more mint that you think you need- it works surprisingly well!

Friday Cocktail: The Manhattan

As last weeks post was a bit of an homage to my new home in the UK, this week features one that recalls, at least in name, the states. Maybe I’m feeling a bit homesick, or perhaps it’s getting cooler here and I love a Manhattan when there’s a bit of a chill in the air. Either way, I was excited to get to work on this post.

Moving abroad has required us to build, rather slowly, our home bar. So far it’s been fairly easy, as all we’ve added were gin and whiskey, but for this cocktail we had to do a bi throe searching. Looking in a few shops I was unable to find Angostura bitters, so finally asked and was presented with these instead. The person at the counter said that they were quite similar to Angostura bitters, but after getting them home I found them to be quite different, mostly because of strong cinnamon flavour, which isn’t bad, but definitely different.

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Fortunately we were crazy enough to pack out cocktail shaker (and a few other kitchen things), so we didn’t need to pick up a new one. Beside the basic equipment, the actual cocktail requires just three ingredients, each of which are quite versatile.

Ingredients: 

• 2oz whiskey

• 3/4oz sweet vermouth

• a few dashes bitters ( Angostura if you have them, but I also ready like Peychaud’s)

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Directions: 

  1. Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice
  2. Shake vigorously, string into a cocktail glass
  3. You can garnish with a cherry, or just enjoy as is

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I don’t know what it is about cooler temperatures that makes a whiskey cocktail so much more inviting, but I suppose I will just have to do a bit more research as the winter gets nearer– what a shame!

Not So Effortless

We’ve been in London almost a month, which is unbelievable! Sometimes it feels like I’ve lived here for so much longer, and sometimes it feels like I just got off the plane. Every day I discover something new I want to see, or do, or try- its both wonderful and slightly overwhelming.

Going to class, and doing the massive amount of reading definitely takes up quite a bit of time, but fortunately there are still enough hours in the day to explore, go to museums, and galleries, and to meet up with friends (more on that in a minute). A friend of mine I’ve known since middle school is also is London going for her master’s, which is really nice as it gives me another person (besides Cameron) who I have a bit of history with.

Making friends as an adult is hard. Yes, I know just about everyone says this, but I always seem to underestimate just how hard until I’m right in the middl of it. You’d think that once you’ve grown up a bit and are comfortable and confident with who you are it should be easy. Unfortunately this is not this case (at least for me). I read something that said making adult friends is so hard exactly because you’re meant to be confident and ‘together’ and not admit that you’re a bit lonely, a bit vulnerable. It’s a bit silly when you think about it, but it makes sense. Don’t we all want to appear at least somewhat ‘together’? To admit that we are a little bit awkward, a bit intimidated is to be the exact opposite of the totally in-control adult we like to project. Then again, maybe its just me.

Fortunately, I know I am not alone in this. At the very least I can commiserate with Cameron, and my friend Manda (the one from earlier) and I spoke about this over coffee the other day. There is hope!

Compared to making friends (or at least trying to), adjusting to my masters programme has been fairly easy. The structure is quite different than my undergraduate courses, and there is about triple the amount of reading, but I’m enjoying my classes so far. Yes, I may have between fifteen and twenty hours of outside reading per week, but it isn’t so bad as I find (just about) all of it interesting. Because the course is set up in such a way that my grade is based on a final paper, or a mix of two papers, presentations are far less stressful, and the one I’ve done so far almost bordered on fun.

Feedback from my presentation

Feedback from my presentation

Despite the stress and moments of frustration (and one near-miss panic attack), London is an exciting place to be, and I’m happy to be here. I would also be happy to hear any words of wisdom, on making new friends, or even past experiences when moving- let me know it the comments!