London: Day 13

The final day! We wrapped up our U.K. journey by starting the day with a long walk through London. The main purpose was to find a good coffee shop (for caffeine, but also for Cory’s coffee beans) and to maybe see a bit more than we had the previous day, since we were mostly relegated to East London and Hyde Park.

The morning was crisp, the air pleasant the sun shining. It was the perfect way to start our Saturday. Following we packed and tidied up the AirBnb.

Around lunchtime we headed to the SOHO area, and grabbed a quick lunch at a poke bowl restaurant. It was not nearly as good as Poke Works in Boston (or anything in Hawaii), but it was nice to eat something familiar and fresh.

At 1 pm, we headed to the Palace theater for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Part 1. Essentially, anyone who sees the show is supposed to “keep the secrets,” so I won’t say much, but it was enchanting and magical and the special effects they used were SO cool.

For dinner, we headed to a Peruvian restaurant called Ceviche Soho (thanks Kaori for the recommendation!) which was a short walk from the theater. The meal was delicious – and nothing like the food we’d been eating for the last two weeks. We welcomed the spice and heat! And again, a great place for those with food allergies!

Part 2 started at 7:30, and so we headed back after dinner to take our seats and enjoy the remainder of the show. Again, I won’t say much, but I really enjoyed it, and I can’t believe it’s already over.

We returned to the flat around 10:30, quickly packed our remaining belongings, showered and hit the pillows for an early morning flight.

Thanks U.K. for an amazing time.

London: Day 12

We woke up and I debated whether or not I was up for everything I had planned. I went back and forth on this, and then decided to just give it a go and see how far I could make it.

First up was a Street Art walking tour through East London. Our tour guide, a graffiti artist, showed us numerous pieces of work throughout the city, and explained why people “tag” and what those bubble letters are all about (it’s a progression of art…. And also to learn how to control the spray paint can!). We saw some really cool stuff. Eventually the pouring rain put an end to the walk and we headed back through the neighborhood for lunch.

During the tour, we spotted a taco place, so we backed track. We shared a tray of tacos and chips and guacamole. Definitely not as good as our beloved Lone Star at home, but it hit the spot and it was indoors and out of the rain.

After lunch we headed to Kensington Palace. This a bite size museum – and I’m so glad it was! We wandered through rooms built in the 17th and 18th centuries, and heard the other side of the Protestant vs. Catholic monarchy from the English. At the end of the palace tour, you have the opportunity to go through an exhibit of Princess Diana’s clothing. Definitely recommend. It was interesting to read about everything she wore, how her fashion evolved over time and the designers she worked with.

By the time we finished, it was around 3 pm, and so we decided to head back to our AirBnb to rest up a bit before dinner. I made reservations at the Kitchen Table – because how could I pass up the opportunity to go again?! This was one of the restaurants we went to during our honeymoon three years ago. The concept is simple: the chef and his team picks and forages everything, buys meat fresh, etc. and the menu changes daily. It is at minimum a 12 course menu. We had 15 last night.

I tried to capture everything down that they told us about each course, but I definitely missed some ingredients. That being said… you’ll get the idea!

Shrimp – served raw with slightly dried tomatoes that were marinated in brains of shrimp and shisho
Radish – potato puff servied with puréed yeast, dill and homemade ketchup, thinly sliced radishes, confit lemon zest and fresh dill
Kale – young kale dressed in salted anchovies dressing, sourdough bread crumbs and confit lemon zest
Chicken – chicken skin cracker with rosemary mascarpone and bacon jam (the only repeat from three years ago – it’s a pretty popular item!)
Parker house – rolls served with beef fat onion butter and shaved summer truffle
Green beans – cut and chargrilled served on top of peppered yogurt and salad of unripe strawberries and a granita made from vinegar marinated with lemon
Scallop – hand dived scallop brushed with teriyaki and torched served with pickled rhubarb and pickled rhubarb juice, fig leaf oil, cucumber and sesame seeds
Squid – served with roasted shellfish sauce, sweet corn, zucchini and tarragon butter
Lobster – Cornish lobster cooked with oil made from lobster head and seared and smoked with juniper branch; served on top of grapefruit confit, roasted beets and raw ginger
BONUS Duck – liver parfait with garlic ketchup, duck leg tartar, mushrooms and raw chestnuts
Duck – aged four weeks and browned in its own fat served with sauce made from bones, fresh elderberries and shallots and grilled spring onion
Fønix – a Norwegian blue cheese shaved on top of a red onion tartlet
Beetroot – cooked into a marmalade served on top of sweet woodroof ice cream, a syrup infused with sweet woodruff and sweet woodruff granita
Raspberry – meringue seasoned with peppercorn and charred, milk ice cream and fresh tarragon leaf oil served with fresh raspberries and a raspberry vinegar sauce
Blackberry – take on a trifle with blackberry jelly, raw blackberry with cream infused with blackberry alcohol, white chocolate shavings and ice cream
Canele – the famous French dessert, but I had caramel ice cream
Herbal tea with herbs from the garden

Green beans
Green beans

As always, highly recommend. It’s pricey, but it’s an amazingly unique experience. They also do a fabulous job with food allergies!

Scotland: Day 10 + 11

Scotland: Day 10

Still sick but determined to do all we had planned today. We set out to tour Edinburgh’s castle. Everyone we met has told us we have to see the castle. That it is something special. Maybe it was the number of castles we’d been to before, or the audio tour (definitely the audio tour), but Edinburgh Castle just didn’t light a spark for us. It’s definitely cool – built into rock formed by volcano, but the audio tour is 90% focused on military activity and war. In fact, the castle is filled with little museums within, and these are almost exclusively related to war and military. Some history is good, but hours and hours worth? We weren’t having it.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

There were two sections that we both thought were cool. The prison, which had been housing prisoners since 1100 AD (and maybe before), including some Americans from the Revolutionary War. There is a carving on one of the prison doors from the 1700s that depicts our stars and stripes flag.

The other section is Mary Queen of Scots’ chambers, which also house the Scottish crone jewels and stone of destiny (which we heard about way back during our visit to Scone Palace).

Needless to say, we didn’t dawdle too much. And so we headed off to Loudon café for lunch. Loudon is known for it’s gluten free fare – and so I had an eggs benedict with avocado and bacon on a gluten free English muffins and a piece of gluten free Victoria sponge cake. James had a lamb burger and cheesecake (but his were gluten filled).

We were supposed to go on a Harry Potter walking tour at 3 pm, and so with two hours to kill, we walked around the city, popping into shops and making a journey to Harvey Nichols so I could pick up prosecco glitter (it’s a real thing! And it only exists in the UK!).

We headed to the Benny the dog statue at around 3 pm to meet up for the tour. There must have been 100 people there. The tour guide showed up a little late and we soon realized that about 60 – 70 of the people were on this tour – with one guide. I love Harry Potter. But I don’t love crowds, and I don’t love having to fight to hear, especially when I’m under the weather. So we made the decision to head back to the apartment – and this was definitely needed. We packed, finished laundry and I even took another nap.

Since this was our third anniversary, I had made reservations at The Kitchin, a Michelin star Scottish restaurant. They were absolutely amazing with accommodating my diet, and we opted for the surprise tasting menu.

Tasting menu
Tasting menu

Part of this menu included grouse. I made fun of James for his reaction to grouse three years ago when he ordered it during our honeymoon. He hated it. He was so sad. I didn’t know I was being served grouse and suddenly this little bird looking meal was put in front of me and I knew it had to be… grouse is bitter, smelly and disgusting. I don’t recommend it to anyone. Otherwise, the rest of the meal was fabulous!

James and his grouse.
James and his grouse.

This took almost three hours, and we even cut it short since I was really starting to lag at the end.

Scotland > London: Day 11

This was mostly a travel day. Note to self – next time you take a short flight in Europe, do it in the morning or at night so you don’t lose a whole day.

Our flight was at 1:45 pm, so we left our AirBnb early and headed to Glencraig, which is the town that James’ great grandparents lived in. Today, the town is known as a failed mining town and one of the street signs in Glencraig literally says: the town that died. Not morbid at all!

We drove along to Loch Gerry and Meadows park, which now boasts a significant number of offroad bike trails. That’s literally what is left. We walked around the trails a bit, then headed to the airport.

James and his muses.
James and his muses.

Our flight was uneventful. British Airways wants you to pay seven pounds (seven!!) if you want to switch your seat. Stuck in a window, and James in the middle, I went up to the check in counter and told the woman I had a knee injury and couldn’t sit where I was placed. She moved us for free.

We figured we would take the Tube to the next AirBnb we were staying at since this is cheaper, and generally takes the same amount of time as driving. What a mistake! There were signal line problems, and by the time we were on our way, after picking up our bags and getting out of the airport, it was rush hour. It took a hour and a half. The entire time I was standing, crammed in with tons of people. So much for an easy rest day. I was pretty wrecked by the time I got to the apartment, but we still had to get groceries and dinner. We opted to walk over to Whole Foods in Picadilly Circus since it’s a short walk, and we knew what to expect from there. (It also meant I could pick up the savory biscuits I love that I can only find in the UK).

We got back to the flat around 8 pm. I crawled into bed and not even the sounds of neighbors talking and dogs barking could keep me awake.