The things that were eaten in Spain

Food in Spain is amazing in general but Barcelona was pretty next level…

The best burger I’ve had in my entire life at http://www.granjapetitbo.com/

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Another delicious burger at http://anaucogourmet.es/

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Root Vegetable crisps + honey & sesame seeds at http://www.negrocarbongrill.com/

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Tempura fried veggies, craft beer and rare steak at http://biercab.com/

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Dreamy pina coladas and guacamole at https://www.facebook.com/Pachucobcn/

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Followed by another on on the beach…

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Followed by mojitos…

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daiquiris…

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Then an exquisite dinner of tapas at http://www.betlem.es/

Steak tartare

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Octopus, artichoke & pea

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Crab ravioli

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Roasted Octopus

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Apparently all I eat is Octopus so I decided to order a whole one roasted in paprika in Figueres.
It was the best thing I ate on the whole trip (next to that legendary burger because it was EPIC)!!

It’s a shame I don’t have anything for scale. Let’s say bigger than a rabbit smaller than a cat. I ate the whole thing. Obvs.

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Lisbon

The next few posts are going to be less wordy and more of a photo dump as I’m so far behind posting anything…x

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My culinary choices consisted mostly of octopus…naturally. ❤

A Cevicheria https://www.facebook.com/ACevicheriaChefKiko/

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BBQ octopus with pork rind

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Salmon & tiger milk ceviche with edamame and peanut

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Tuna ceviche with tapioca and tomato

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Whitefish ceviche with potato lime and seaweed

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Halibut with quinoa, mussel, prawn, seaweed, cockle, oyster foam & kombu

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Banana & peanut butter cake

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Lisbon Timeout Market had an unbelievable selection of eats to choose from…spent a good portion of the day here eating!

Cold Octopus salad

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Roasted octopus stew with potato crisps…

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Salad with goats cheese & honey ice cream

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Chocolate bomb

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Portuguese custard tart

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Seafood hotpot

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Piel Island

Not far from the coast of Barrow-In-Furness lies a curious little island with an rich and interesting history. Earliest records stretch back to the 12th century when King Stephen placed the island under the care of Savignac Monks and the Cistercian order. It was here that for centuries grain, wool, wine and other precious commodities were stored (and smuggled).

What remains of the castle and it’s surrounding fortifications today is mostly a mass of crumbling stone and a pub called ‘The Ship Inn’. This pub has taken care of those that pass through with lunch and a pint of local ale for centuries. Traditionally whomever runs the pub is crowned ‘King of Piel Island’ and the tradition continues to this day. Apparently there is a ceremony that involves you sitting in a 300 year old wooden throne and having beer poured all over you.

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My idea of heaven.

Last July when we visited Cumbria we took a tiny little boat across waters peppered with jellies to explore Piel island and a few pints.

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We made a friend on the ferry over. 😉

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And even more friends once we got there!

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I love a good sheepie cuddle. ❤

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Our tour guide Mr. Chicken was ace.

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Because I can’t seem to do more than one thing at I time, I nearly fell of the side off the island and tumbled into the sea when I was busy framing a shot and not watching my feet. Thankfully my darling father-in-law was there in time to pull me out of the brambles and into safety. You really can’t take me anywhere!

We celebrated my near death experience with a pint!

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A few little jellies…

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That’s it! Piel Island done! x

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels…Part Cinq!!—-Brussels <3

On our last day in Belgium we wandered around Brussels a bit aimlessly. A happy and relaxed last-day-on-holiday sort of aimlessness. Eyeing the shop windows for choccy, stopping in for Moule Frites, exploring some back streets and churches. Blissful wandering.

Camera in hand as always. Enjoy. x

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So many treats…

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels…Part Quatre!! Onward to Bruges!

One of these days I’ll get all of our photos up from our Belgium trip. There are just so many! 😛

Ghent was indeed quite beautiful, but Bruges really stole my heart and I didn’t want to leave. ❤

We lucked out yet again with an amazing Airbnb situation (I know there have been a lot of horror stories floating around lately but we've always had great experiences – do your research!)

I would strongly suggest staying here if you go to Bruges.
Mina stays quite booked up so you may have difficulty securing the reservation because of the amazing stack of reviews and awards she's gotten, but if you can, it's really the most perfect little place.

We were picked up at the train station gratis (amazing)!!

Fed and watered like royalty…

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And the ensuite room was stocked with everything you would need (including a Nespresso machine! DREAMLIFE!)
You can book here directly (if you aren’t into Airbnb) http://www.biminthus.be/index.php?lang=en

Bruges is where I really let my chocoholic flag fly proudly.

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Who doesn’t need a big pair of chocolate boobs?

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No shortage of beer!

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Mmmmmmmmm KWAK!

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Beer bible! The only bible for me!!

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Satan makes delicious beer. No surprises there.

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Food was wonderful as well!

Fondue…

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Vol-au-vent au poulet
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And Bruges, itself…simply stunning.

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Basilica of the Holy Blood

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DALI Museum

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Up next! Brussels & the Atomium…

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …part DEUX – Waffles!

Who’s in the mood for some motherflippin waffles?!

The answer is: ALL Y’ALL.

Because you just can’t say no to waffles.

(Unless you are punishing yourself, coeliac or obnoxious)…then fine.
More waffs for moi!

I did some investigative “wafflesearch” (snort…high-fiving myself) before we left for Belgium!
Although I usually cringe at the thought of doing the same exact touristy things that everyone else does on holiday, there are certain rights of passage when you visit a place for the first time.

No one goes to Florence and says
“Keep me away from all this perfect gnocchi and gorgeous gelato”.

No one “mehs” at a sexy hunk of crusty baguette freshly slathered with salted butter in Paris.

The point I’m making is that no one was going to keep me from my waffle experience. It’s Belgium, we are doing the waffle thing. It’s sorted.

So there’s this place called “MAX” http://www.etablissementmax.be/en/ in Ghent.
It’s this incredible little art nouveau cafe that specialises in waffles and apple fritters – even claims to have invented them in 1839! Here’s a little video about it:

After an afternoon spent schlepping around looking at beautiful churches, swans swimming in canals, drinking beer and other magical things – we plopped ourselves down in the wicker chairs and planned our* waffle attack.

(*I should note that S only ordered a beer. I am a lone waffle warrior.)

Isn’t it a beautiful building?

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The inside is just as gorgeous. Who doesn’t love art nouveau??

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So what did I order? Well…obviously I ordered a waffle.

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A big, fluffy, light-as-air, splendid and amazing waffle. Crispy. Slightly Sweet. Yum.

And a fancy coffee… REAL fancy.

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And then I thought…well if they really invented the apple fritter, I should probably order one…you know…since i’m here…

So I did! Eeeeee!

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Then I made this face because GLUTONY.

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S just sat and sipped his Chimay in a state of loving, and non-judgemental supervision as I tucked into my mountain of treats.

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I did my best, but living a mostly carb free existence and eating (and drinking) carbs non-stop for 2 days was catching up to me by this point.
Since I was receiving no help from my (I don’t have a sweet-tooth) better half, I really only made a slight dent in my sugar feast. He always says I’m really talented at eating all the desserts and I appreciate the support.

I’m thrilled to report that everything was absolutely spot-on perfection!

When in Ghent, go to MAX!
Order the waffle.
Die of happy!

Next up – LIGHTOPIA!!!!

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …part one

Ahhhhhh Belgium! So many reasons to visit this beautiful country.

Picturesque cottages. Quirky Cobblestone streets. Beer. (REALLY AMAZING BEER) Art. Chocolate. (REALLY AMAZING CHOCOLATE) Swans. Misty canals. Moules Frites. Medieval churches. Waterzooi. More beer. More beer. More beer.

And rain. If you like and/or can tolerate rain, then yes. Visit.

I read a travel blog before my recent trip to Belgium where the author said the one thing she was able to determine by her visit to Belgium, was that it is always raining.
I would like to add to that statement by offering up my observation that if it is not raining, it has either just stopped raining or is about to start raining again.

BUT we went in February – which is really us begging to be rained upon. I promise I’m not complaining!

As you may know if you’ve followed my blog or are actually my real life friend, a year and half ago S and I bought a nice big house in a gorgeous leafy area of London. It is lovely and we are much happier and have loads more spaces than in the flat in Stockwell, TRUST.
But the “semi-constant” home improvements to said dwelling have definitely limited our ability to travel as often as we would like. We would travel every weekend if we could. But wouldn’t everyone?

Eventually the daily grinding commute and bustle of such a enormous and unforgiving city, creates a time bomb situation where you must get the hell out of Dodge. This happened last year around this time when we went to Slovenia. Like clockwork, by January of this year I was again up to my neck with boiling hatred for London.

So, it was time to GIT!

And this is where being in London has its advantages. One 25 minute train journey to St. Pancras Station, hop aboard The Eurostar, put in your heaphones, sip on your latte and in a few short hours you can be wining and dining in a myriad of amazing European cities. It’s the bees pyjamas.

So we chose Belgium for OPERATION: DECOMPRESS VIA ALL OF THE BEER.

We love Airbnb! It has always served us well. Both places we stayed in Belgium were probably the luckiest we’ve gotten with Airbnb accommodation thus far. The old Monastery conversion we stayed at in Ghent was absolutely stunning!

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Skip the fees and book directly through them here: http://bbmariereine.be/recensies.html

And the historic town centre itself is incredible.

Sint-Michielskerk glowing at night…

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Graffiti tunnel…

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We had a beautiful dinner at De Graslei http://www.restaurantdegraslei.be/en where I ordered the very traditional Flanders dish “Waterzooi”

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It was SO YUMMY.

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As was my dinner date. ❤

All the walking around in the freezing rain made us VERY thirsty. So we spent a lovely evening sampling (pouring beers directly into our faces) a few of the 250 beers on offer at Pub ‘de Dulle Griet’ http://www.dedullegriet.be/en/

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If you want to drink the gigantic “Max” beer, you must hand over one of your shoes. It goes in the basket, the bell is rung, your shoe is lifted high to the ceiling and here comes your beer!

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And then you drink the rest of the beers…

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ALL THE BEER! Up next…The Design Museum Exhibit Lightopia and WAFFLES!

Paris, FINALLY! Part Two. AND Three.

Annnnd we’re back! I decided to cram the rest of the photos into one last post so this is your warning that it’s a LONG one!

So picking up from where we left off with part one of our Paris trip, after a sweet little breakfast at Maison Lacombe we made our way toward Notre Dame and the Centre Georges Pompidou.

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Centre Georges Pompidou!!! Amazing!!!

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The walk to Notre Dame…

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Lunch at Aux Arts Etc Cafe’ Galerie

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The experience and food in this quaint little cafe was beyond wonderful and the staff/owner was very welcoming and lovely!

Off to the Pantheon…

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The Eiffel Tower!

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Collectively sharing our feelings about Selfie sticks…

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The sweetest older lady and dog duo there ever was…

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We were completely destroyed from all the walking and had a simple charcuterie and cheese feast for dinner…

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Nommmmmmmmm.

The next morning we took a boat cruise on the Seine from The Eiffel Tower…

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Then a quick little pit stop in Bistro De Montemartre…

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http://en.bistromontmartre.com/

Followed by a walk through the beautiful and somber Montmartre Cemetery…

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Our journey to Sacré-Coeur began with more walking around Montmartre…

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SACRE-COEUR!!!

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Our last dinner was at a tiny neighbourhood restaurant in Ternes called Le Petit Acacia.

We were incredibly lucky to yet again, have a stellar meal.

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The parents look pretty darn happy and relaxed! 😉

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The FOOD!

Roasted Bone Marrow

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Suckling Pig

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Confit Duck

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Creme Brulee

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On our last day in Paris we toured the Musee D’Orsay (simply wondrous and astounding!) then we dined at another fantastic restaurant Le Recrutement Cafe for one final Parisan feast.

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They still look happy! Success!

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Lovingly threatening my darling with my Escargot tongs…

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Which was short lived because then there was escargot! YUM.

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Beef stew

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Salad with duck gizzards and foie gras

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Cheesecake (my mother says this was the best she’s had)

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Cheeky Cheese Plate

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Apple Tart with salted butter ice cream

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And creme brulee #2 for moi.

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One final look before heading to Gare Du Norde…

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So that’s it. Sadly!

Thank you for taking the time to scroll through all the photographs!

And goodbye beautiful Paris, thank you for not disappointing! See you again soon! x

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Paris, FINALLY! Part One

I was supposed to go to Paris about a year and a half ago with my friend Nikki and her mother and sister-in-law, but I royally screwed that up by misplacing my passport on my flight home from Nashville and missed the trip altogether.
I WAS GUTTED. So very very sad.

Since then, I’ve been to cities in Slovenia, Austria, Croatia and Italy…but Paris remained an elusive destination forever taunting me for being irresponsible with my travel documents.

I’m thrilled to report that Paris is officially conquered!

My folks flew over for 10 days (they are still here actually!) and we took the Eurostar over for a little Parisian city break!

We rented a beautiful flat in Ternes for 3 nights and had the dreamiest time exploring Paris!
This might be the fastest gimmeyummy photo-taking to blog posting turnaround ever. Split up into two posts – Enjoy!

Our lovely apartment!

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A beautiful first meal near the flat at L’ANNEX.

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I enjoyed a few well deserved glasses of crisp grassy Sancerre…

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Followed by the most gorgeous Escargot…

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Rare Rib of beef…

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And SWEETS!

Apple Tart…

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Panna Cotta with Raspberry…

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http://annexdumarche.wix.com/lannexe

Then a night walk to the Arc du Triomphe…

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…and many many stairs to the top!

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We awoke the next day to gorgeous electric blue skies and had a beautiful little breakfast at Maison Lacombe.

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I had read that people travel all over for their croissants and I completely understand why as I was unable to get a photograph after shovelling the croissant into my face in record speed.

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I shall leave you with these and pick up at Notre Dame and all the rest tomorrow! Stay tuned! xx

My Brother Arrives!

Hooray for visitors! My big brother recently flew from Nashville to London to visit me (first time travelling outside of the US mind you). This consisted of us basically dragging him around to anything and everything historically notable we could cram into his short stay! We made sure to keep him calm in the face of public transport by plying him with lots of craft beer! Please forgive the combination of bad iphone photos and proper photographs! 😉

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The boys ready for the 49ers game!

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Climbing at Trafalgar Square…

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Imperial War Museum!

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British Museum!

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Boat taxi home on the Thames…

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The obligatory phone booth shot!

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The Emirates Air Line!

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Deep thoughts on the Thames with Dan…

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Off to the Tower of London!

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A little afternoon stroll…

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I already miss ya bro! Come back soon! xx
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Another Glorious Green Park Pug Meet + Being A Tourist…

I’m about 2 weeks late with this – better late than never.

Prepare yourself for a big dose of HAPPY.

Because PUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGSSSSSS!!!!

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NOODLES is convinced that he is their leader…

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I even brought some friends this time to share in my crazy.

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Who’s pug is this? DOESN’T MATTER – I just had to HUG him.

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Pepper is such a little tart…

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Once Sir Noodles felt that all of the pugs had been conquered, we headed to the pub for a bite to eat with Stu-pot.
He’s been visiting us from China where is a fancy pants tea ambassador! ❤
Stu has an amazing Tea blog by the way, check it – http://teaearlgreyhotblog.tumblr.com/

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Then off to Tower Bridge for a stroll along the Thames.

ACK!!! Tourists!

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My dog has been more places than you.

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If you live in London you should check out the poppy installation currently at the Tower.

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/remembrance/ww1-centenary/poppies-in-the-moat

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We ended with pints and grub at Southwark Tavern…

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Fish and Chips!! Yummmmmm.

This is Stu showing me how to take an appropriately obnoxious selfie because apparently my attempts at selfie taking were not obnoxious enough. 😉

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It was a brilliant pug & London event-filled day! And then it was bedtime for all! Cheers! x

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Four Countries In Four Days – Part 3

It was brought to my attention that I completely forgot to mention the epic meat feast Uros treated us to in Ljubljana at CAD http://www.gostilna-cad.si/gb/index.html This was the day we walked around in the rain and watched the Rugby in the pub!

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This was my first experience with Serbian/Bosnian cuisine and it reminded me of Thanksgiving because the food was so delicious and plentiful but my stomach started waving the white flag of defeat shortly after we started!

So there you go! Homage has been paid Uros! All was not forgotten!

So let’s wrap up this colossally amazing trip with more photos of things we saw, ate and drank! 😉

The last full day/night in Ljubljana we met up with Uros and Jani and drove to Lake Bled, easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

The boys!

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The castle!

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The church in the middle of Lake Bled!

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Uros!

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Jani!

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Me trying to express how hungry I was with very lady-like hand gestures…

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They took the hint and we went immediately for Slovenian Pizza and beer!

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Which, was UNBELIEVABLE.

Afterwards we took a stroll down to the bottom of the hill to get a good view of the castle…

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Then we piled into the car for a scenic drive…

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And did some frolicking in the snow…

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The men were quite triumphant after navigating the deep snow banks…

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Which kicked off an obligatory snowball fight!

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Then we drove into Austria! Because why not?

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We got there just in time for a sunset stroll in Klagenfurt…

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We stopped for a coffee and ice cream and cake! MMMMMmmmmmm.

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More Dragons!

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SCHMUCK JEWELLERS. AMAZING. At least they are upfront about it right??

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The boys steering the ship to nowhere…

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Thank you Jani for the beautiful tiny dusk tour of Klagenfurt! xx

The next morning Uros took us out for a scrumptious breakfast in a gorgeous little French cafe in Ljubljana.

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Then we packed our bags and headed to Italy for one last stroll around the coast in Trieste.

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And that’s it! Four countries! Four days! All of the funtimes!

Thank you to Uros and Jani for being such incredible hosts and tour guides for us. We were absolutely desperate for a few days out of London and you gave us the most relaxing and gorgeous holiday. We are forever grateful and you are always welcome to stay with us at Westcombe Manor! We miss “Lah jub jub” already!!! xx

Four Countries in Four Days – Part TWO!

Where did we leave off? Breakfast in England. Quick afternoon flight to Italy. Seaside dinner in Piran. Cheeky drinks in Croatia. This clearly is a great way to start a holiday.
As our eventful first night was nearing a close, I suppose we were well within our rights to pass out when we got to Uros’ flat in Ljubljana, but noooooo. HOLIDAY!!

We freshened up and high-tailed it to Zlata Ladjica – The Golden Ship, to drink more beers and meet more friends.

This is where I fell in love with Bevog Tak:

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One of the most beautiful beers I’ve ever had. And the artwork is amazing as well.

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I’m not sure how easy is is to get your hands on Bevog, but if you see it in your local specialty beer shop, snatch it up. It’s excellent.

http://www.bevog.at/#beers

Here is a very blurry and VERY MERRY snap of us after a few drinks:

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On the way home I noticed a little vigil in support of Ukraine…heavy times…

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On that note, we grabbed some street food and made our way back the flat for a well-deserved sleep.

I was lucky enough to wake up to beautiful Slovenian donuts filled with peach jam and super thick dark coffee.

Yum. Thank you to Uros’ brother Niko!!!

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We ventured out in the rain to roam around the city…

Dragons!

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Translation: Tits

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The sculptures around Ljubljana are like something out of a Tool video. Which obviously makes me love it all the more.

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Nightmarish pope related Church doors!

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Yes, that is a turd sculpture. Bronze turds with faces. Spectacular.

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We met up with Ajda and her wee little pup Laika (like the dog the Soviets sent to space!)

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We stopped at an adorable coffee shop for a spell…

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I realised that I was so enamoured with her Boston Terrier that I never got a photo of Adja for the blog! EEEE!!!
So I’ve snatched one from her facebook!

This is Ajda, she’s great!

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The sun came out eventually…

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Dragon in the sun!!!

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We spent the rest of the day in an Irish pub watching Six Nations and took an early night to prepare for the next day’s events.

Next up…Lake Bled, the best pizza I’ve ever eaten and an evening stroll in Austria. xx

Four Countries in Four Days – Part ONE!

It was officially time for a Holiday. My stress meter was reaching high voltage levels. My usual (and very British) way of passively despising those around me was not doing the trick anymore. My ever growing habit of glaring with seething rage at fellow commuters as they noisily shovelled smelly snack products into their mouths INCHES FROM MY FACE had turned into a call for action. I realised that all of London was at risk if I did not get the hell out of Dodge ASAP.

It was time for a Holiday.

So we booked it in. And off we went. To the land of beer and Dragons! SLOVENIA! FTW!

Our good friend (and the best host we’ve ever had) Uros, drove an hour from Ljubljana and picked us up from the airport in Trieste, Italy because he is awesome and generous. We then drove into Piran for a little evening stroll through the tiny medieval town followed by one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had.

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Dinner was unbelievable.

Aside from the beautiful bearded men…

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We dined by the sea…

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Cuttlefish salad…

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Squid ink Risotto of my dreams…

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Spaghetti with Clams…

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Jesus Christ. So delicious. It’s painful to look at these photo now.

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Prosciutto & Cheese Stuffed Squid.

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After a few Slovenian beers and finishing the delicious seafood feast, we decided to drive into Croatia to up the country count. We stopped at a very out of the way pub full of local fisherman in Umag and had a cheeky beer. We were sat outside despite the wintry evening temperatures and every 5 minutes the electricity went out and all you could see was a vast black sky full of stars. It was really neat.

This is the only proof of me being in Croatia!

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First day, so far sooooooooooo good! More from this trip to come soon! x

Going Home…

After one whole year away from all the beautiful people I love dearly and have MISSED EVERY SINGLE DAY(like you wouldn’t even understand) I simply had to go home.

My life would of course be much easier if all of my friends and family were located in the same city, but like most families, they are strewn out around the United States.

It’s always going to be challenging to see all of the folks that I would like to when I visit. It’s simply not possible. I will also miss weddings, births, and killer dinner parties whilst I’m abroad.

This is just a sad reality of my spectacularly fun new life. ;(

We flew into Cleveland first because that’s where a big chunk of my family live.

My beautiful Aunts did their best to make our stay the most relaxing and fun few days imaginable…

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I even got to spend some quality time with the family pets!

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And no trip to CLE is complete without stopping by Cedar Point.

We rodes some epic and terrifying coasters…

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Ate some massive BBQ turkey legs…

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Then we passed out from jet lag exhaustion!

Followed by a quick flight to Nashville!!

I immediately had a bar party and invited everyone to come out and give me a year’s worth of hugs.

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They complied!

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Toasts were made…

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I was so excited to spend time with some of my besties…

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And baby!

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OOooohhh baby!

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This one made me want one of my own…

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Even with fussy scrunched up sad baby face…

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There were lots of babies being made whilst I was away…

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Big fat squooshy pretty babies!!!

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And some of the babies I knew a year ago weren’t babies anymore, but little tiny people…

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Simon made some new friends as well…Of the furry variety…

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And the wacky-conspiracy-theory-Jesus-loving-rocker-chick variety…

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Crazy girls are the hottest. Always. That is a fact.

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LOVE YOU LALA. Forevs. PS. Her Dad MIGHT be Ziggy Stardust. FYI.

Moving on…

My mom was as pretty as I remember her being…

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My brother was still a massive fantasy football dweeb…

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Gorgeous sunny Murphmurph was just as gorgeous and sunny as ever…

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Becca was still awesome and smart and sharing her love of great food…

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She and her fantastic fiance took us out to Dinner at Silo http://www.silotn.com

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Exceptional and elevated Southern cuisine welcoming me home proved to be JUST what I needed…

Especially deviled eggs three ways…

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Deep fried greenbeans…

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And pork belly…

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We even visited my beloved Bombay Palace http://www.bombaypalacetn.com/

They were all super excited to see me too! Awwwwww!

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Actually, we did a lot of eating.

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And of course, we had to work some of it off…

No better place than Edwin Warner Park…

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So that was our trip back to Nashville via Cleveland. A ton of photos I know, but some super wonderful days with friends and family! Hopefully I’ll be back sooner than later and can see more of my loved ones this time! See ya soon Nashville xx

One last Spain post for my foodies…

I just wanted to share some of the food I DEVOURED in Spain for those of you who live to eat…

I promise I’ll be quick!

A simple lunch…

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Followed by a decadent dinner…

Tomato and goat cheese salad

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Beef carpaccio with sheep’s-milk cheese

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Tuna carpaccio with pink peppercorn and dill

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Filet mignon with foie

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Vanilla bean panna cotta with black currants…

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Me pre-FACESTUFF

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Me in action!

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Grilled calamari for another yummy lunch…

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A little scampi party…

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Tasty tapas…

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That is all! I hope you salivated at least a little!

Next up: LONG overdue Nashville Trip posts!!!

Christmas in Spain…

Hi Friends. Sorry it takes me forever and ever to post lately.
I’m a busy little worker bee in hustle-y bustle-y ole Londontown. You must forgive me!

Needless to say, spending Christmas in Spain was exceptionally cool (as you have probably surmised from my last few posts).

I don’t celebrate Christmas for religious reasons (because I’m not a religious lady) but to be honest, I LOVE the aesthetic of Christmas.

Big fat glittery Christmas trees and shiny foil wrapping paper get me all swoony inside.

Eggnog, chocolate truffles, and roasted meat? Yes please.

To get to do, see, and experience all of these things in fancy pants Spain with my beautiful and FUN Spanish family was simply the best.

There was so much food. So many presents. It was quite simply the loveliest and merriest of Christmases I could imagine ever having.

I present it to you with limited comment!

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The boys worked hard to prepare Christmas dinner…

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They even served everyone!

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My paleo plate!

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The wine began to flow and so did the laughter!

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And then the machetes?

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And of course…dishes were tackled…

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Snuggles were had…

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Feliz Navidad!!!!! xx

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Becca’s visit!

Leaving Nashville a year ago was a mixed bag.
I was super sad to leave my friends and family, but extremely excited to marry my sweetheart and stoked to be starting a new life in London.

I worried that no one would ever come visit me.

I mean, I did move 4,000 miles away and across the Atlantic Ocean.
Tickets are expensive and taking time off work is tough(especially for Americans).

But lo and behold, this has not stopped people from continuing to make the journey.

Which, makes me feel REALLY LOVED.

I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that I happen live in one of the coolest city’s in the world, but I like to think that it’s only a tiny part of why people have made the trip.

Becca is one of my GIRLS!
We worked together for years and she is probably the most reliable and trustworthy person I know.
She also threw my bachelorette brunch and has generally just always been an incredibly great friend to me.

When I found out she was going to come visit me I literally jumped up and down in my bedroom screaming “BECCA’S GONNA COME SEEEEEE MEEEEEEE!!!!!” at the top of my lungs while my dog looked at me with distinct disapproval of my volume level.

We had a REALLY good time and saw ALL OF THE THINGS.

We were out and about every single day walking (and shopping) our butts off.

I have photographic evidence of all the funtimes.
Most of the photos are of Becca because she’s just really super pretty.

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A day exploring Greenwich…

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The Prime Meridian Line-where time begins!

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Becca is also a MAJOR Harry Potter fan.
She took a bus one of the days she was visiting and went on a 3 hour superfan tour the Studio where they filmed all of the HP movies.

All by herself. Awwwww..

Bearing this in mind, it was simply imperative that she visit the Millenium Bridge as it is apparently featured in a scene of one of the films where some scary smoke monster thing flies over it or destroys it or something?

Clearly I haven’t seen the films.

She was a little excited.

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Simply adorable.

Here we are slurping down a few beautiful craft cocktails at Bar Social…

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And then snarfing down some gorgeously sinful pizza in Shoreditch…

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And beer…

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And the prettiest little butter lettuce & avocado salad…

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Did I mention that Sir Noodles fell in love with Becca during her stay?

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(she’s totally channeling some ultra hot Uma Thurman in this shot)

Exploring Salisbury + Salisbury Cathedral with the hubbs and the Noodz.

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Sunday Roast…

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Let’s all just take a moment of silence for how breathtaking my friend is.

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Unfortunately she couldn’t stay forever and had to go home. SADFACE.

Til next time!

xxoo

The things we ate in Italy…

After much purposeful procrastination I shall begin sharing my plentiful Italy photographs, starting with FOOD!

(FYI, some of these are cheeky iPhone shots and obviously not as great as my Olympus ones)

The Italy party started in the Airport lounge. As it should!
Red wine and mimosas!

ITALIA!

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Let’s talk about the food! It was all about the food.
Eating the food. And then eating more of said food.
Rinse, Repeat. You dig?

Our first meal in Rome…

Tomato Bruschetta…

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Caco e Pepe…

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Great little spot near our flat…mostly cold items, salads and such.

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Rocket with white bean, cherry tomato, mozzarella, and tuna.
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One of my MANY glasses of white wine…

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Caprese salad…

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Gelato and I became best friends! OBVIOUSLY.

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Wine and cicchetti…

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Mountains of sweets…

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And a chocolate festival for Valentine’s Day!

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Homemade Caprese…

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Spoils from the market…

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Let there be PASTA!

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And grilled vegetables…

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At all times you must have your eating face on!

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Ristorante La Spada in Florence…

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Chicken Liver Pate…

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Mushroom Ravioli…

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Happiest little carb loading face you ever did see!

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VALENTINE’S DAY FEAST!
Antica Trattoria “da Tito” dal 1913…AKA BEST STEAK EVER CONSUMED. EVER.

Swordfish, pomegranate, and grapefruit Carpaccio…

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Raw Artichoke and Parmesan Salad…

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The biggest Florentine Steak ever. Served Rare.

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Chocolate cake of happiness…

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WE DIED that night. We were reborn. I found god. God is a steak in Florence.

Did I mention that I used to be mostly vegetarian?

Look at this gorgeous charcuterie platter!

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I even ate TRIPE Gnocchi…that is COW STOMACH.

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More Wine!

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Stuffed Squid, potatoes, and pesto.

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Grilled vegetables and fried seafood yummies…FRITO MISTO!

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Fluffy Ravioli with magic thyme butter.

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Another outstanding charcuterie!

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On our last night in Florence we ordered another breath taking Florentine steak.

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We died again. Seriously. DIED. DEAD.

In Venice, the seafood is outstanding and plentiful.
You pick it, they cook it…

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Birthday Dinner…

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Frito Misto…

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And Bellinis!

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We found ourselves thoroughly exhausted in Murano, so we ate more Frito Misto!!

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I think I ate squid, octopus, or cuttlefish at least twice per day in Venice…mmmmmmm.

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I managed to crow bar in as many veggies as I could…

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I leave you with our most strenuous feast.
(MY most epic act of sheer Miss. Piggy style gluttony really…)

The night of 5 desserts.

We dined at Piccalo Arancio (The Little Orange)

We ate everything in sight.

I grabbed Gelato ON THE WAY TO THE RESTAURANT like a fat girl.

This counts as Dessert #1.

Then ordered a charcuterie platter, fried artichokes and stuffed zucchini blossoms.

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Followed by Orange Ravioli…

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Swordfish in a Neapolitan sauce…

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Dessert #2 Creme Caramel…

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Dessert #3 Tiramisu…

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I am a fat happy piggy.

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OH NO ALL MY SWEETS ARE GONE!

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MOOAARR!!!!!!!!

Dessert #4 Panna Cotta with berries…

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I’m starting to feel light headed at this point…

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So I ordered Dessert #5 Espresso and cookies thus completing my sinful evening of mostly sugar.

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No one can ever say that I’m not a dessert person.

Stay tuned for MANY more Italy postings! xxoo

Grouse House Bed and Breakfast Edinburgh

How have I lived this long and not ONLY stayed in bed & breakfasts when I travel?

Somehow I had it in my head that they were these weird old musty houses with green shag carpeting stocked with uber creepy victorian doll collections.
I don’t need some demon doll glaring at me in its crocheted doily dress as I chow down on my cornflakes the next morning.

Not my idea of R&R.

Are they not strictly for couples going away to have a zen weekend to fix some personal issues and sleep in all day?

Apparently you can just stay in them like regular hotels, except for the fact that they are adorable and cozy and don’t charge you for every little thing.

WHO KNEW? AND WHY DID YOU KEEP THIS FROM ME?

Grouse House is sort of the champion of the B&B. No really. It is.

The ideal that all other B&B’s should model themselves after.

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Pretty much every little detail you could dream up, the owner Dean has already got sorted out for you.

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And he’s actually a NICE person.
He’ll talk to you and give you sound advice on where to go and what to avoid while you are visiting and really mean it!

And the rooms are decorated with charm and modern style.
No crappy wallpaper, no pink carpeting from 1983.

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Warm and inviting with tons of character and whimsy. Without being cutesy.
Just clean and calm and CHILL.

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Dean was nice enough to let me poke around and take photos the morning that we checked out.

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(After the biggest most spectacular breakfast accompanied by awesome tunes and candles glowing on the hearth!)

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EVERY Bathroom should have room spray. Period. End of discussion. Dean knows!

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The dining room is incredibly beautiful and peaceful.
Grab a seat, have a cup of coffee.
R-E-L-A-X.

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If you ever find yourself in need of the best sleep of your life, the friendliest B&B host, the heartiest breakfast, and the hottest shower you have ever taken…look no further my friends…mystery solved!

http://www.edinburghsgrousehouse.co.uk/index.html

Til we meet again Grouse House! Keep making people happy! xx

EDINBURGH IN 24 HOURS…

It’s a shame when you only have a short amount of time in a spectacularly cool and ancient city like Edinburgh.

I suppose it’s not that ancient.

Wait, wait…prior to the 7th century is pretty damn old… don’t you think?

Welllll…honestly everything is pretty ancient in comparison to Nashville.

It doesn’t matter, I’m not here to get into a history argument.

And as much as I’m sure everyone would appreciate me being the consumate tour guide and explaining by every little detail is in my photos, I’d rather just post them and if you have a question, please ask me in the comments.

EXAMPLE:

YOU “Where was that cool graveyard photo taken?”

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ME: “WHY THANK YOU FOR NOTICING HOW COOL IT IS! THAT WAS TAKEN AT ST. ANDREWS ABBEY. OR WHAT’S LEFT OF IT! HAR HAR.”

YOU: “OH YOU ARE SO FUNNY! AND I LOVE YOUR BLOG. CAN I SMELL YOUR HAIR AND BE YOUR FRIEND?”

ME: “YOU HAVE TO PAY THE MEMBERSHIP FEE.”

YOU: “OKAY SURE! WHAT IS IT?”

ME: “TWO LAVENDER PONIES WITH SPARKLY HOOVES, A UNICORN THAT SMELLS LIKE BUBBLEGUM AND SUNSHINE, AN OCTOPUS THAT CAN LIVE SAFELY IN MY WARDROBE, AND FRONT ROW TICKETS TO BJORK.”

YOU: “UMMMMMMM…I DON’T THINK I CAN GET THOSE THINGS FOR YOU.”

ME: “I DON’T THINK WE CAN BE FRIENDS.”

Something like that.

This isn’t to say that at times I won’t find myself feeling extraordinarily poetic and explanatory.
It’s very likely.

Sometimes I just don’t FEEL like it.

I’m sure you have days like that too.

Often, I just want you to look at my photos (or not look at them…I really don’t care) and be inspired to travel your pants off.

So, without further babbling…checked out the gray and marvelous city of EDINBURGH!!!!!!!!!!

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Sidenote for above photo: Okay, I’m being totally honest here. I’ve had a dream with this in it since I was a little girl. This exact photograph. Serious as a heart attack. I’d never seen it before I took this photo. Except in my repeat dream. No idea what that means, but there it is.
Freaked me out pretty good.

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BY THE WAY, APPARENTLY THERE ARE NO FAST WALKING MEN IN 70’S LEISURE SUITS ALLOWED IN EDINBURGH CASTLE. JUSTSOYOUKNOW.

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I’m not going to lie. This ain’t no Hampton Court y’all. (Don’t I sound snobby!)

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I think most of the things in the castle were on loan from London museums. Which, is sort of messed up.

Hey London, Give Scotland back it’s stuff.

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THIS IS THE EDINBURGH SCHOOL OF UNICORNS

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FANCY PANTS TEA TIME FOR ME!! IN SCOTLAND! WITH MY HUSBAND!

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ACTION SHOTS!

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The days winds down…

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One more Unicorn for the road…

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Next up…the AMAZING B&B where we stayed in Edinburgh!!

Scotland O Scotland

I have always wanted to go to Scotland.
More than most people…and I’m not exactly sure why.
I probably watched too much Braveheart growing up.

Oh wait, maybe it’s the accent. I LOVE that accent.

Or the sheep.

Or these MASSIVELY ADORABLE HIGHLAND COWS.

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(BTW, Rob Manningham took this great shot, not moi)

UGH. WANT ONE. Soooooo bad.

No matter!

The point is, I have ALWAYS wanted to visit Scotland and I finally got my wish!

HOORAY!

First Stop, St. Andrews!

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Lunch was at Mitchell Deli…http://www.mitchellsdeli.co.uk/#

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The Decor reminded me very much of Marche and Margot from Nashville…

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And the food was AMAZING.

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NEXT UP, EDINBURGH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hampton Court

It is becoming more and more evident that I should have been born a princess.

I am absolutely and utterly obsessed with castles and the sordid history of royals past…it is all consuming.

I am bewitched by the tales of King Henry VIII and the saga of his SIX wives.

I watched the Showtime series “The Tudors” like it was my job, and have also read several books about Ann Boleyn and Henry VIII… never tiring of the story.

A few weeks ago, I actually got to visit Hampton Court.

My eyes were operating on overdrive and my tiny little heart just fluttered away inside my chest as we strolled around the Palace.

Hampton Court is infinitely beautiful.

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I have this fixation with windows.

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It is difficult to comprehend fully that Catherine of Aragon looked out of these very same windows.

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Unaware of the turmoil she faced…

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That her King would lust after Anne Boleyn so much…going to the most desperate of lengths to possess her.

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And that this beguiling woman would become his new Queen, only to be cast aside and sentenced to death when she could not provide an heir and gossip prevailed…

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The sheer scale of Hampton Court…

The soaring ceilings….

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The exquisite frescos, super-saturated with color…

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What hands have opened these doors? To what end?

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Grandiose rooms…

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Ghosts that have left their mark…

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Crystal chandeliers and marble staircases…

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Massive kitchens…

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What horrors have been seen by these mirrors? What secrets?

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How can we process all of this beauty?

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Gardens that bring tears to your eyes…or MY eyes at least…

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Bask in the majesty…

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The tiny details…

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I really should be sauntering around in a mammoth gown right now…dripping in gems…

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Surrounded by so much magic…

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The air is electrified…

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There is this immense feeling that you are being watched…

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And I’ve never been happier…

Bachelorette Babes

I was just about to FINALLY post some of the photos from our actual wedding this past September when I realized that I have yet to even post the shots from my Bachelorette Brunch.

Jeez.

My blog is starting to turn into Memento.

In my defense, I have been all sorts of busy and sometimes I just get so excited about a set of photographs that I just can’t wait to post them.

So pretty much the last 6 months of posts are totally out of whack.

Honestly it’s probably a pretty accurate representation of how hectic my life has been these last few months. So whatever.

Anyhoooo…I’m from Nashville. Home of Southern hospitality, crazy natural disasters, and smoking hot women. I’m lucky to be well acquainted with a handful of these gorgeous creatures, and they happen to make excellent friends.

This one, in particular, was magnificent enough to throw me a fabulous Bachelorette Brunch…which turned into a full-on day of Mimosa’s, sunshine, and ended in a drag club.

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Pretty much the best.

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My girls are so sweet.

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And so pretty.

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And so missed!

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They gave us a table big enough to hold a press conference on…

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And then we ate!

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Group photo time!

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My day would not have been complete without some outdoor Nashville day drinking!

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What a perfect sunny day!!!!

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I even got serenaded!

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Boy crasher!

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Boys who do the Sturgeon face with me can crash my Bachelorette party.

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Seriously my friends are just gorgeous…le sigh…

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The night ended with dancing and dragqueens…which is so epic and perfect.

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Successful Bachelorette day if I don’t say so myself!
Now I miss my friends something fierce. I love you ladies!
Thank you for making my day so special!

xxoo

Hereford Cathedral

I have seen more cathedrals in the last 6 months than I have in my entire life.
All of the towns I have visited thus far have had at least one massively gorgeous cathedral for me to poke around in while my husband is off in boring meetings.
(I think I’m getting the better end of the bargain)

Anyway, business meetings were arranged in lovely Hereford and I cheerfully tagged along.

I was grateful to be accompanied by the best tour guide ever, the Hereford Cathedral cat.

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Despite my lack of religious belief, I always light a candle for my Grandfathers who have passed.

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An hour inside the cathedral and the weather has already gone cloudy!

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Goodbye Hereford! xx

TEA. A Love Affair.

I have always loved tea.

Growing up in the South, iced tea is generally part of daily existence.

Iced Sweet tea, Iced Green Tea, Iced Peach Tea, Iced Passionfruit Tea…the varieties are endless.

I’ve never really gotten into hot tea as much (aside from wintry days where my throat is highly unhappy).

A few years ago I stumbled upon Teavana in the Green Hills Mall and developed a very serious crush with the place.

http://www.teavana.com

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But they are SO EXPENSIVE. And they try to up-sell you to death.
It got to the point where I didn’t even want to make eye contact with the sales associates when I went into the store.
They also don’t tell you that the canisters they put the tea in cost extra (or at least failed to mention that to me any of the 50 times I bought tea).
And some of the “teas” don’t even contain tea at all. Just sweetened dried fruit & flowers…but they still call it “TEA”.
(Is there not a rule against this)?

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Anyway, I still love tea.

To be more accurate, I’m pretty much obsessed with hot tea since I moved to the UK.
Specifically Earl Grey.

At first, it’s a little weird that everyone is always going on and on about having a “cuppa” tea all the damn time.
But I quickly realized that I had never had Earl Grey tea with milk & sugar before.

MY BRAIN——-> WAIT A MINUTE! THIS IS EFFING STELLAR!

A hot cup of tea can fix your soul.

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Part of the joy of tea is the ceremony…

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And adorable china…

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And having a hot tea date…

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I can’t stop drinking it. I crave it!
I have even been using agave syrup and soy milk to be healthier.
It has fully replaced coffee in my life.
I know…THAT’S CRAZY TALK!

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I order it everywhere we go.
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I just can’t help myself.

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And people here even drink it alongside their meals. Even with cheeseburgers!
(By the way, I ate a cheeseburger the other day and it was phenomenally delicious).

See? DELICIOUS!

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So, long story short, tea is important. Drink it and feel better.

Now, how about I leave you with some spectacular street art from my travels around Brick Lane in London?

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And of course, lest you forget…The Beginning is Nigh!

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Adventures with Duck

Although my status as a carnivore has for the most part, been on a down trend, every so often I break away and indulge in some good old-fashioned meat-eating.
My favorite animal to eat is duck.
The deliciously tasty and most excellent duck.
The skin especially, is just down right decadent.

Guh.

How can one commit to a life of complete vegetarianism after tasting duck skin?

Tell me this!

My spectacular trip to London this Summer involved my first ever Peking Duck experience, which I shall never forget, no matter how many more brain injuries I sustain in my life.

The started out with no plans of a duck feast in sight.
We did a little sight-seeing…

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Hung out in the park and acted like annoyingly adorable teenagers…

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Met up with QT and consumed some wine on a boat bar on the Thames River…

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Before you know it we were on a tipsy mission, wandering the streets of London in search of the duck feast to end all duck feasts…

Soon enough we were seated in a fabulously elegant Chinese restaurant ordering a duck and a half, and even more wine…

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Moi, patiently awaiting the duck feast!

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Snacks!

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THE DUCK!!!

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MMMMmmmmmmm…

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Duck Skin…

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The spread…

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So here is what you do to make your taste buds have the biggest most fantastical explosive party in your mouth ever…

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You take a pancake, you spread some plum sauce on it, you add cucumber and spring onions…

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You grab a nice tender chunk of duck meat and top it with a crispy crunchy lacquered duck skin crackling and you roll it up as quickly as possible; inhaling it like you are in a prison camp.

Because it disappears fast!

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QT tries to hide the shame of shoveling duck into his mouth…

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Oh! And they clean the rest of the duck and stir fry it with bean sprouts!

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There is no shame! Only joy!

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Wow. That was an awesome day.

So the other night, I attempted to make my first duck and roasties using the UK fan oven.

DUCK!

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Check out those taters atop my new Acacia chopping block…

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And the finished product!

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MAGNIFICENT! CRISPY SKIN, TENDER DUCK!

Super easy to make!

Simply sear the duck legs for a few moments on a hot skillet til the skin gets nice and brown and transfer to the oven with raw sliced potatoes for 1.25 hours on 190 degrees Celcius
(for UK fan ovens).

You can season the potatoes however you wish, although I just opted for simple salt & pepper.
As the duck legs cook, the fat seeps out of the duck and cooks the potatoes to the most gorgeous crispy golden brown, while also enriching it with a truly sinful flavour.

Here is the US equivalent…375 F for 1.25 hours
(Remember, I’m all British now)

Okay y’all…more later! Back to veggies and soymilk for me!