Tag Archives: cider

Where has all the cider gone?

13 Jul

I ask myself this at every bar and restaurant I go to in America. How can this country not embrace such a delicious beverage?

In London there are ciders galore: Strongbow, Magners, Kopparberg’s, Rekorderlig (Wild Berry is my fave), Bulmer’s, Blackthorn, even Tesco has its own brand.

So where are the ciders here in the good ol’ USA? In the almost three months I’ve been back in the States I have had Magners, usually in a bottle but at a proper Irish bar you can get it on tap and the Stop and Shop near my house sells it in six packs for $9.99. I tried Harpoon’s cider. Never again, it was like drinking half a Strongbow diluted with water.

But where’s the real Strongbow? And, more importantly, where are my berry ciders? My strawberry lime ciders? One cannot live on the occasional apple or pear alone. So I ask you, America, where do I find cider? And by America, I mean google.

According to my beloved search engine, the US does brew its own ciders and certain bars carry a variety of imports… So the hunt continues. And until then, I’m a Magners loyalist.


Life in London Part III: Food and Drink

23 May

Things I’ve fallen in love with while in London…

Food and Drink

Banoffee Pie. The most delicious dessert ever. A graham cracker or shortbread crust followed by a layer of toffee and bananas and topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate or cinnamon. Absolute heaven in your mouth. (this Banoffee Pie is from Balans on Kensington High Street)

Jacket potatoes, also known as a baked potato in the states only a jacket potato is filled with... well... whatever you like. Commonly though, for a super cheap meal, Brits eat theirs with Heinz beans (also a breakfast staple) and a bit of cheddar cheese if feeling fancy.

Naan. A delicious flatbread that is standard with Indian cuisine.

Vindaloo. A very spicy Indian dish. Do not try it unless you can handle extreme spice. It has become a staple in my diet here.

I love nice a glass of white wine. Very sophisticated of me. Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc, please.

In addition to wine, you all know I love cider and this is my favorite…

I am on the hunt for this in the states. Berry cider... Swedish berry cider... That I only found twice in the UK... Someone help me

Windsor Castle and the best cider of my life

8 Mar

One of my favorite experiences that I got to share with my family was going to Windsor Castle. We went on Monday the 21st, catching the bus after a delicious breakfast at Cafe Concerto (where you get your own mini teapot). It’s about an hour outside the city and very easy to get to. Plus, Windsor is a charming town with more to do than I expected.

Sadly, we weren’t allowed to take photographs inside. We did get a free audio tour though… And the Queen herself was home, although she was too busy to come say hello.

Windsor Castle was founded by William the Conqueror at the end of the 11th century. It is the oldest official residence in the UK and Queen Elizabeth II is one of 39 monarchs to have lived there. The Castle’s church, St. George’s Cathedral, is the final resting place of many royals, including the Queen’s father, George VI, and mother, as well as her sister, Princess Margaret. It was also the location of Prince Charles’ wedding to Camilla (Gorilla).

The most recognizable part of the castle, the Round Tower.

The guards don't wear the red uniforms this time of year, which is a shame. But they sure know how to pace while carrying a large weapon regardless of their attire.

St. George's Cathedral, where Henry VIII and other royals are buried.

Interesting architecture with this cathedral; There are no tall spires or giant stained glass windows like most cathedrals. There was no photography inside, unfortunately.

After touring the Castle we went to a pub (of course) for lunch.

The Carpenter's Arms Pub, established in 1518. This is where I had the best drink of my life.

Rekorderlig Berry Cider... If I ever manage to find this again, I just might buy a case. Imagine a Shirley Temple (the drink, not the child actress) and now imagine it to be even more delicious. And you still can't possibly understand how wonderful it is. Seriously, if you find it in the states, please let me know.

We said goodbye to Windsor and headed back to London. We got off the bus at Knightsbridge, also known as Harrod’s.

Mom and I looked around (because really, who can afford anything there anyway?) while Dad and Mark found a pub to pass the time. We all went to Pizza Express (one of my favorite places since going there in St. Andrew’s. Thanks, Charles!) for dinner and a great way to end a wonderful day.

Bloomsbury: an African adventure and good company

31 Jan

On Saturday I travelled to Russell Square to meet up with Jack (unionjackinlondon.wordpress.com) for a lovely afternoon of strolling, museum exhibitioning, pub fooding, and conversing. Russell Square is in the Bloomsbury area of London. It’s different from Kensington in that it is older and more urban feeling but still classic.

One of the first things that caught my eye was a hotel, the Hotel Russell, because of the beautiful architecture.

The details in the archways and the columns, the red brick, the Gothic peaks... A truly majestic building.

Jack and I walked through the Russell Square garden and even though it was cold, we were able to admire the grounds and the locals.

A fountain in Russell Square; I made a joke to Jack about running through it, but we both just cringed and said, "Too cold!"

From the garden we walked towards the British Museum. Along the way we stopped to admire a few things…

Another street name for me to fall in love with, this time because it is a Shakespearean reference (from Romeo and Juliet). Jack joked about finding Capulet Street and asking if they don't like each other. We had a nice intellectual guffaw and embraced our nerdiness.

The Scotch Shop

It's All Greek... more on this store later.

We found a photo opportunity. I am a small child. And that's okay.

Because I made Jack do it too!

We ventured inside It’s All Greek, which was essentially a museum artifact store, and we found this fabulous awkward statue…

This statue replica was called the Frisky Satyr. A satyr is half man, half goat. They were thought to be lustful creatures who chased after wood nymphs and played reed pipes. The god of shepherds and the wild, Pan, was a satyr.

After laughing at it for several minutes, we admired the rest of the shop and chatted about Greek myth before heading across the street to the museum.

This is just the front of the museum. It is seriously the biggest museum I have ever been to. And I have been to a lot of museums.

Because Jack had already been to the museum (twice) and still hadn’t seen all the exhibits, we decided to limit our trip to the Enlightenment wing and the Africa exhibits. If you have been reading my blog, you know that I love museums for many reasons. Specifically, you know that I am a bit immature at times and I enjoy awkward statues and sculptures and I like to pick out new boyfriends among the busts of men. The best exhibits to look at for these games are usually the sculpture halls or any that showcase Greek myth or famous poets, scholars, doctors, lords, etc. The Africa wing didn’t offer too much in terms of satisfying my immaturity but the Enlightenment wing provided enough to make me happy.

Here is a small sample of artwork from the Africa wing:

If you look closely, you will notice the image of a man hidden among the symbols.

A fabulous beaded hat

A variety of cloths

I love beadwork as much as the next girl, but my patience would not carry through something this intricate.

Wooden panels, each depicting a person or family.

A stylish dress, perfect for a breezy summer day.

A giant, woven creature word during parades. I thought it looked like a Dr. Seuss creature.

Another hat, this one worn for parades and shaped like a flying fish. (Speaking of Dr. Seuss: One fish, two fish...)

Another parade costume, this one is a hippo. According to the info card, the hippo-costumed paraders can attack spectators. Hippos are the most dangerous creatures in Africa.

The Throne of Weapons. This was made in a sort of commemoration to the one million plus people who died during war in the Congo.

A tapestry that is almost like The Last Supper but with animals, which is always good fun.

The Tree of Life, made entirely of forged metal. This was my favorite piece in the Africa galleries.

This bird reminded me of Kevin from "Up"

Need a vase?

Throwing knives

And here is a small sample of artwork from the Enlightenment wing:

The entire Enlightenment wing was set up as a giant library; bookcases filled with artifacts, almost like a private collection. If I were a billionaire, I would construct my house to look like this wing. And then I would have fabulous awkward statues constructed for my personal enjoyment.

The winged feet of Hermes, the messenger god.

Love the feathers, girl!

A dazzling model of the solar system

Minerva in full battlements; I wouldn't mess with this chick.

What are you lookin' at?

Greek Coins

I can't wait to see the Egyptian artifacts. Right now the Book of the Dead is on display in a special exhibit.

We did go into one room of Greek sculpture. I couldn’t help it.

Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and Strategy. Looking coyly over her shoulder... She knew how to work it.

Dionyssus, God of Wine (among other things). Thanks for the Pinot Grigio (among other things)!

This guard looks so bored, even though he has just impaled a snake. I guess it's just a day in the life...

This woman appears to be saying, "May I take your coat?"

We left the museum at closing and went back to Jack’s apartment where we watched a bit of a Manchester United game (yes, I watched sport! They call it sport and not sports here. And it’s not math, it’s maths. Yeah. Two of my favorite things.) before heading out to a pub called Night and Day for dinner.

Jack and I have been friends for so long that we have our own language of sorts. We will be talking, say one word and immediately start spewing out movie quotes or tv references or private jokes. To a third party, we sound like we have terrets or some sort of social hiccup, but to us, it’s normal conversation. We chatted about a variety of topics while I enjoyed fish and chips and a half pint of Strongbow, Jack had a traditional English Pasty (meat, potatoes and gravy in a flaky pie crust) and a pint of Carlsburg.

Mrs. Doubtfire quotes ensued.

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match! Find me a find, catch me a catch!

Oh sir! I saw him, it was a disgruntled member of the kitchen staff! Did you not tip them? It was a run-by fruiting!

Clue references were made.

Mrs. White, looking pale and tragic.

What is it you do, Wadsworth? --I butle, sir.

And I went home warm with the comfort of good food and great company.

The Tower of London: executioners have more fun

30 Jan

Friday was freezing. I preface this post with an alliterative comment about the weather because it truly was a bitter, Jack Frost’s revenge kind of cold day. I wouldn’t recommend going to a 75% outdoors museum during such temperatures.

It so happens that Friday we went to the Tower of London. By we, I mean Sam and Gabriella from my program, my very good friend Jack (http://unionjackinlondon.wordpress.com/) and his friend Caroline who are here with their home institution, and myself. Obviously.

We took the Tube out to Tower Hill and ventured forth to one of the most haunted places in Britain, the Tower of London. The Tower is located right on the River Thames (pronounced Tems, the Brits are tricky) which provides views of…

City Hall, also known as the Erotic Onion

Tower Bridge, peeking behind the trees

To get a better idea of what the Tower is like, here is an aerial shot (thank you, Google) and a few from me:

The large structure in the center is the White Tower, which was started in the 1070s and completed by 1100. The exact date of completion isn't known. The set-up of the Tower now is as it was in 1547.


The exterior wall of the Tower

and more of the exterior...

The Tower isn’t just one tower as the name implies. It is a fortress consisting of a castle (the White Tower) and several smaller towers and buildings (The Bloody Tower, Wakefield Tower, etc.) and a moat and outer wall.

The best part about going to the Tower is getting to tour the grounds with a Beefeater. What is a Beefeater, you ask? Well, a Beefeater is a guard at the tower. Why are they called Beefeaters? No one knows. Simple as that. Another name for them is a Yeoman. In order to work at the Tower of London a Beefeater must serve in one of her majesty’s armed forces for at least 22 years. Our Beefeater guide, George, served in the Royal Air Force for 28 years!

George stood about five foot seven, and that was with the hat. He spoke with a thick accent but his diction and projection made him an excellent tour guide.

One thing that George did throughout our tour was add emphasis to the word “executioner” by sounding out each syllable. He followed this by facing the group and raising his hands so that the crowd exclaimed, “Oooooooh!” This carried on throughout the tour and even though our group was frozen solid, we managed to maintain high spirits thanks to George’s enthusiasm.

A few highlights from the tour…

A catapult; I always think of Monty Python and the Holy Grail when I see these...

St. Thomas's Tower. What a great name, Thomas...

I loved the blue doors on some of the Yeoman's quarters. On the right is the chapel where Anne Boleyn and a few other wives were buried.

The Waterloo Barracks, home to the crown jewels. Unfortunately, you can't photograph them. Notice how bundled up everyone is, it was frigid!

The White Tower. The largest structure in the Tower of London, it houses the main museum pieces but it was once a royal palace.

One of eight ravens kept at the Tower due to superstition. I did think of Poe yet again when I saw the birds, which live like kings by the way.

Henry VIII’s riding armor

A close up of the last image. The detail on a lot of the armor is unbelievably intricate.

Henry VIII's armor... This was when the gluttony kicked in, and the pride apparently.

More armor, not Henry's though. Again, notice that detail? As the saying goes, they just don't make things like they used to.

Banners of kings

The Chapel inside the White Tower; gorgeous natural light and columns.

Because it was so cold out we didn’t go into all of the buildings; there will be a future post about the rest of the Tower once it is warm enough to enjoy it in its entirety.

After we finished the exhibits in the White Tower (armor, canons, weaponry) we headed to a pub for a late lunch. A cheese and tomato panini called my name. I also had a pint of cider, Strongbow to be more specific. It’s the most popular cider in the UK and I certainly enjoyed it.

Looks like beer, tastes sweeter and cleaner.

A flamboyant tour guide

15 Jan

I’m sorry the dates on these don’t match the actual days I am talking about, I’ve been playing catch-up all week.

Wednesday was a lovely, drizzly day in London that started with an orientation for the internship portion of the program. Our internship coordinator is very Scottish. I’m thinking that when I visit Scotland I will just nod in agreement to what people say and smile sheepishly.

After the self-explanatory reading of our handbooks, we trekked back to the dorm to meet for a bus tour of the city. We were led to a large, purple coach and our tour guide, Stewart, greeted us as we boarded.

Stewart was very well-dressed. He wore a white shirt with purple stripes, a tie, and a sweater vest. His jacket was sleek and tan. He carried a black umbrella. And a man purse. Not a satchel-style, Indiana Jones, Alan from The Hangover man purse, one that looked a lot like my own black bag.

And he rocked it. It was still manly in style, I will say. Here are a few observations I made about Stewart, specifically things he said throughout our tour:

  • “We’ve given you (Americans) Amy Winehouse. Do you know Amy? She speaks to me. Rehab. We’re kindred souls.”
  • “This is where Charles first dined publicly with Gorilla. Excuse me, Camilla.”
  • “On a sunny day, you will see ungodly sights in all of London’s parks.”
  • “Sarah Ferguson, now what has she actually done? That saying, ‘famous for being famous,’ certainly applies.”
  • Any time we passed construction workers he said something along the lines of, “Now here is a prime example of British workmanship. What are they actually doing? They’re all trained to stand there and have a cigarette.”
  • And perhaps the most important thing Stewart pointed out on the tour was the prime shopping streets (Oxford, Sloane) and the number of shoe stores in the area. If memory serves, it was something like 74.

A few photos from the bus tour…

A typical street in London. Notice the helpful "Look Right" on the pavement. These are everywhere and without them, there would be a lot more pedestrian casualties.

Doors in London have the knob in the center of the door. And they are often ornate, like this one here.

The Queen's "office," as she calls it. A bit small for office work if you ask me. There is only one flag waving in this photo, the Union Jack, which is the flag of the UK. This means that Her Majesty is not in. When she is at "the office," a second flag, that of England, waves.

St. Paul's Cathedral, where Charles and Diana were married. They were the first royal couple to marry there in over 500 years. The reason? Westminster wouldn't have held enough guests.

Yes, I would take a picture of the two naked men wrestling statue simply because I think it's awkward and hilarious.

Along the way we had a few stops to take pictures (Buckingham and St. Paul’s) so I popped into a grocer, (Marks and Spencer) and found these:

If only Annalisa were here to enjoy them with me

To finish off the day, Sam and I went out to a place called Byron’s, which the sign proclaims is home to “a proper burger.” Being a vegetarian, I was initially prepared to scarf down a plate of chips (french fries) and be done with it. Lucky for me, they make an amazing portobello mushroom sandwich. I also ordered my first London drink:

Cider, which is kind of like beer only not as beer-flavory. Hard to describe, but being a lady who doesn't enjoy beer, I liked the cider. And the quirky label certainly adds to the experience.