Monday, August 31, 2009


The Notting Hill Carnival was amazing! We started out the day watching an energetic and vibrant parade filled with music, costumes and Caribbean culture. Once the parade ended, the streets turned into a moving dance party with each block hosting a different DJ, or sound system. We moved from Euro Pop, to reggae to individual drummers and rappers on the street.

The streets smelled of spicy-sweet barbeque and produce as tents on the sidewalk became bustling mini-markets selling fried plantains, fresh coconut, sugar cane and authentic Caribbean and Latin meals. I opted for a Brazilian fish croquette for a snack, and Jeff, Rebs and I stopped off at Harlem (which had closed its doors but opened one window to quench the thirst of the masses) for a rum punch. Luckily, our friendly neighborhood bartender from two nights ago was manning the window and let Rebs and I shake our own cocktails. Delicious. We walked from street to street stopping off in front of each DJ both for a couple of songs. People aged six to 66 were at this carnival just rocking out and celebrating different cultures.

For lunch Rebs and I got Jamaican jerk chicken with rice and salad, and Jeff ordered lamb curry with the same. The curry was the best I’ve ever had and the chicken was perfectly crisp and flavorful. We ate sitting on the side of the street listening to a DJ tell everyone to “shake what your mamma gave ya!”

After we ate we showed Notting Hill how to rock a Long Island fist pump and then went on to the next block where we purchased and sucked down sugar cane. After dancing a bit more, we made our way back to our hotel for a nap. We drank some Carling before heading out to walk around again, and made our way to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. The food (stir-fried noodles with vegetables, sweet and sour chicken and beef with black bean sauce) tasted as it would have in the U.S., but was twice the price. We did get a bit of entertainment for our buck, though, when a guy ran into the restaurant screaming, (in a British accent) “Get that girl away from me!” I nearly died thinking that this guy was coming in to shoot someone, but he was soon escorted out by the police, and we continued to eat the sliced oranges that came with our check. After a walk to Kensington Gardens and some ice cream from illy, we picked a spot at a chic Mexican restaurant for a drink before calling it a night. Great day, tomorrow it’s off to Harrods for tea!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Win Sum Dim Sum

It’s a little after 8a.m. here and I am completely 100% wide-awake. What better time to blog? Rebs is snoring in the background and Jeff is uploading pictures from last night onto his laptop (obviously neither of us can sleep but Rebs can). Anyway, for our first night in London we decided to go to this dim sum restaurant called Ping Pong. Will got me this book named something like “Eat in London for Under $25” and this restaurant was both in it and close to our hotel so we were all about it. We get there and the place is just swanky beyond. I ordered some lychee-coconut concoction that was unreal and we decided on eight little dishes for dinner at about 3 pounds each.Each morsel was better than the next. Our conversation at dinner went something like, “Oh my gosh did you try that one yet? This one is amazing. This is amazing. We are coming back here tomorrow.”

After dinner and some much-needed grocery shopping at Marks and Spencer, we were all totally shot and decided to pop in the “Spice World” movie (clearly) and go to sleep.

Over twelve hours later we all woke up, ate breakfast and headed toward Piccadilly Circus. We get off at the stop and it is literally tourist land. We felt a little less lame being only three of the many people who were standing around trying to get a shot of that famous Sanyo advertisement. At this point it was about 5p.m. and we felt it was time for a drink. We headed over to this chain Mexican restaurant named Chiquito (very authentic) right at the corner of Leicester Square. Since we had just eaten breakfast two hours beforehand we decided to ordea plate of nachos and a pitcher of frozen margarita and just hang out. The food was pretty good and our waitress was hilarious. After our snack we walked around a bit and bought some postcards and a shot glass with the Queen’s face on it before heading back. I made friends with this baby (AKA six-year-old) on the tube who was wearing a “Star Wars” shirt. I’m pretty sure his parents were thinking I was some psycho American baby stalker with a weird accent but whatever.

Back at the hotel at around 9:30p.m. I made dinner (whole wheat spaghetti with chicken, baby white mushrooms, spinach and tomato/red pepper sauce) while Rebs and Jeff went out to buy a flat iron since ours won’t work even with the adaptor and converter. We ate and watched Chris Rock on Comedy Central. (After writing the last sentence I got really tired and went back to sleep. It’s now after 12a.m.) Once some of the dishes were clean we got our act together and searched places to go for the night. We were pretty unsuccessful so I suggested we go back to Ping Pong for a few drinks. Ping Pong closed early and we ended up at this really hip underground bar called Harlem right across the street. The people there were definitely not expecting any American tourists to walk in, but the bartenders were super nice and gave us a list of legit clubs and bars to check out… right before Rebs spilled her entire L.I. iced tea on one of the guys…. Anyway, the place was very cool with a small DJ booth in the corner and little couches and tables scattered around the floor. The thing I’ve noticed about London so far is that the bartenders seriously craft their drinks. Each time any of us went to get a drink these guys took so much care into making and shaking them; even the ice cubes were beautiful. We headed back to the hotel a little after 2a.m. and I made grilled cheese sandwiches using Long Island bagels and Gouda cheese. Delicious.

OK so at this point we all fell asleep and all woke up around 6a.m. (that’s when I wrote the first portion of this entry). Rebs quickly fell back asleep but Jeff and I stayed up until around 10a.m. dying over the videos we left on everyone’s Facebook wall from the night before. When we all finally woke up for real we made our way toward Kensington Gardens. We stopped off at this make-shift kabob stand where we got lamb and chicken kabobs wrapped in pita with salad and tzatziki sauce for 3 pounds a piece. The park was beautiful and we took in the views while finishing our lunch.

Part of the park is this children’s playground but the guard wouldn’t let us in because we didn’t have any kids with us. I saw this family walking out as he said this and I was like, “We’re with them!!” Needless to say he didn’t believe me and we didn’t get in. I’m pretty determined to find a little London baby and go back. We then walked toward Kensington Palace and got to walk through the gorgeous, well-kept gardens around the palace. Seriously stunning. After Jeff took a photo shoot of Rebs and I posing with the enormous swans and geese by the pond, we made our way out of the park.

As we headed back to the hotel a few hours later we saw tons and tons of people walking around the now-littered streets. Today started the annual two-day Notting Hill Carnival that includes Caribbean music, food and a parade Monday afternoon.

There were a lot of people out today but tomorrow is sure to be crazy as it is a Bank Holiday in England. I can’t wait to see the parade tomorrow!! Back in the room I made an Asian stir-fry with whole wheat spaghetti; chopped kale, onions, carrots, lettuce and bean sprouts; grilled chicken, a soy-plum sauce from Marks and Spencer and chopped cashews. We’re all just hanging out now to prepare for the crazy Carnival tomorrow.


Friday, August 28, 2009

First Day in London!

I am finally here! After a long day in transit, my friends (Rebs and Jeff) and I are just starting to get ourselves together for our first night in London. We ate an OK lunch at a pub named Bayswater Arms near our hotel. I ordered sliced rump roast on a baguette with chips but practically fell asleep eating it as it was 8a.m. EST. Uy!

Rebs and I tried a British beer called Carlings that sort of tasted like the Corona that Jeff ordered. The beers definitely didn't help our sleep-deprived bodies, but when in Rome... More blogging to come.