Posts Tagged ‘sushi’

Since it’s only 15 pounds by train down to London and back, we staked out a Saturday to tour some of the major museums in the Kensington district.

The walkway over the tracks between the platforms at the St. Neots station

Happy Bear with his beverage and his window seat

We got there a good bit earlier than anything would open, so we walked over to St. Pancras and got the lay of the train station since we’ll be taking the Eurostar from there to go to Brussels in about 6 weeks. It’s much more like an airport than a train station and there are the usual book shops, cafes and other stores to let you pick up what you need for the journey.

After that, we took the Underground over and walked around the Kensington district, admiring the buildings. Mostly though Bear kept looking at all the extremely expensive cars. He didn’t call out their names though (Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche). Instead he would yell the sticker price, which is probably an extremely crass and American thing to do but it seemed to be his honest gut reaction.

Bear had picked out a creperie for brunch which I appreciated a lot since I like breakfast foods like crepes so much.

I picked hazelnut because Bear hates hazelnut. It’s honestly the only way I can protect my food from him. It’s also why I usually get salt and vinegar potato chips

Our first museum stop was at the National History Museum which featured some very nice dinosaur exhibits.

Tail end of Dippy the Diplodocus in the main hall of the National History Museum

The main hall

The mammal area (whale for scale)

Sculpture of a monkey made out of bullet casings — a good use for them I think.

An illustrated (practically illuminated) spread from a botanist’s field notebook.

All of the stonework trim in the different galleries ties in to the theme of the area (in this case, snakeheads for the reptile area)

Then we spotted my very favorite display and what I had been most excited to see. Mary Anning, a paleontologist from the first half of the 1800s had made many significant discoveries along the Jurassic Coast, the lower southwestern stretch of English coastline, including the first skeletons on record of an ichthyosaur and a plesiosaur. Unfortunately, her lower class status and her gender made it very difficult for her to be accepted in English scientific society but the value of her discoveries was indisputable even though she wasn’t accepted into their societies or published as she should have been. After her death, Charles Darwin wrote: “The carpenter’s daughter has won a name for herself, and has deserved to win it.”

Icthyosaur skeleton discovered by Mary Anning and brother Joseph when she was just 12

Mary Anning with her dog Tray who accompanied her on her fossil hunting expeditions. Sadly, he was lost in a landslide that nearly claimed Anning’s life also–I’d like to think that perhaps he warned her in some way so she was able to escape.

One end of the main hall–it was so beautiful, it was like an exhibit in and of itself.

An honest to God dodo bird

An entire tree of tiny taxidermied hummingbirds, and based on my moderate experience with taxidermy, those little guys would be pretty challenging to mount.

We went back to a sushi spot Bear had found that featured a very authentic little conveyor belt. We’re still not sure exactly what we had (mine had tofu in it) because we just kept grabbing anything that looked good as it went by.

Sushi-o-rama

The Victoria and Albert museum was across the street from NHM (very convenient in my opinion) and I confess that I had very little idea going into it what the collection would be like. I’m still not certain exactly what the governing principle was, except to say that everything there was really beautiful and impressive.

Something, I have no idea what, in the Victoria and Albert museum

A reliquary, possibly for a fingerbone, with tiny windows visible to see the relic inside.

Again, no idea

A cast replica of Trajan’s column in Rome which ironically I visited in early June. Yep, pretty much looks just like it.

In the central quad lawn of the V&A was a shallow wading pond where kids were playing and families picknicked around, which was really cool but it also made me sad because Bear is not a picknicker and gets antsy when I want to bring food along in place of going to a restaurant. There’s something really deeply embedded in his past that has to do with restaurants and I’ve never gotten the whole story out of him — I’m not certain he really knows for himself. The closest I ever got was talking about lunchboxes once and how I had a Hardy Boys lunchbox in 2nd grade (so did another friend of mine in Mrs. Grace B. Fitz’s class) and I was getting nostalgic when Bear had some kind of Tourettes-like outburst about lunchboxes and how he had one as a kid and the milk got left in the thermos and it all rotted and it was disgusting. If this was an episode of Criminal Minds, there would be some kind of flashback (shaded in browns so you know it’s a flashback) where some evil wizened female relative then made him drink it and eat the green rotting sandwiches and that’s why he hates packing food. But he says that’s not true and I admit that I can have a vivid imagination. Still, it’s a tiny bit abnormal to say I can’t bring food in the car to a church covered dish because it might spill and rot.

Happy picknicking families. No Munk or Bear.

We also headed over to the Science Museum also on Exhibition Road which was geared much more towards kids but it was definitely a great museum. One thing I really liked was a demonstration of Foucault’s Pendulum, which is also the name of a novel by Umberto Eco. I read it on a very long flight back from Latvia about 20 years ago (and it uses the word “sclerotic” somewhere around page 375 in the paperback version, which is a whole other story). During the time I was rooming with my friend Laura at UGA, it became a running joke that she had never gotten around to finishing the book but she always had a copy in the trunk of her car. I think I told her it would be good in case she got snowed in sometime. Anyway, imagine my surprise to find it out of her trunk and there in the museum.

Foucault’s Pendulum

We walked all the way back across Hyde Park then, wandering towards a metro station that would take us back to King’s Cross.

A monument to Albert, I think, that’s visible from the path before you get to the Serpentine River (which I’m not sure should really count as a river)

Hyde Park

When we, and our moderately aching feet, made it back to a metro station and up to King’s Cross we ducked into the very conveniently located Nandos there by the station for dinner before taking the train back to St. Neots. Definitely a great day down in London and we’ll go back again to explore other museums and try out some restaurants that we can’t get anywhere else–more sushi, please!

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One really nice thing about being so far north in the summer is that it’s light all the time. Seriously, all the time–from about 4:30 a.m. until well after 9 (glimmers until 10). It was a little surreal to be running around, packing the car trunk around 5:30 a.m. and it’s full blazing daylight, but no one else is stirring on the block. We had completely packed the night before for our two week trek to Sardinia and back, so we practically had it down to a science.

We had taken Juliet to the cattery the night before so we were able to leave doors open while carrying bags out which was simultaneously convenient and really disorienting. I’d given anything to have been able to kiss her goodbye again this morning but we were halfway around London before I knew it, zipping to the ferry in Dover.

Guess who popped up in the back seat, ready for adventure?

I really like ferries. I may have mentioned that before. They’re civilized little cruise ships which is fun on a small scale. You drive up, get in your lane, get packed into the decks like mall parking, then hop off and wander around, checking out the food court, the gift shop, the lounge area, get a nice hot tea and watch the water. Note: crossing the English Channel is *nothing* compared to the Pentland Firth to get to Orkney. It’s like a sheet of glass by comparison.

The white cliffs of Dover in the background–the last time I’d see them for 2 weeks.

We landed in Calais about an hour later and made it to Reims by lunch, or what we thought would be lunch. As it turns out, you lose an hour in the crossing and it was now 2:30 and guess what? They don’t serve lunch then. Give it up. You can ask, you can have researched and found a nice, reasonable, highly rated cafe and there may be tons of people sitting there eating food, but you will not get a table. They don’t serve lunch then. We walked up and down and finally found a bar that took pity on us and made us a sandwich with brie, lettuce, tomato…and ham. I really specifically remember saying “cheese” and shaking my head to the ham, but they were so nice about it that I managed to sneak the ham out and into my napkin and smuggle it out to throw it away at a motor services plaza a few hours later.

While at the motor service, we encountered a Lamborghini MurciĆ©lago that everyone was very interested in, and the driver seemed to be very pleased with this. (I’m basing this on how he had the car angled in the parking lot and kept revving the engine. I have no idea why some drivers seem to feel this will make me attracted to them. Nothing could be further from the case.)

It looked painful for him to get in the car.

Bear was listening to the new Stephen King book, The Wind Through the Keyhole, that I got for him for the trip. We’re both big fans of the Dark Tower series and it was an important part of the time when we first met and started dating. He had bought the first 4 books on audio cassette and was listening to them when we first met. He came by the office where I worked to ask if I wanted to borrow them, which was both very nice and yet extremely inconvenient because I was trying to avoid him like the plague at the time. It wasn’t working though because as it turned out, unbeknownst to me, he was very much in love with me (“smitten” was the word he used) and was trying to figure out if I liked him. It was a long story after that, but all’s well that ends well and 11 years later here we are.

We made it to Lyon and drove up and down the river front there by the Rhone which was very pretty and reminded me of the Seine in Paris, then found great parking about 20 yards from the sushi place Bear had picked out for dinner. We hadn’t had sushi since leaving the States and were very ready for a nice roll or two. Things took a turn at first when I tried to order the vegetarian menu and was told by a very nice Japanese waiter that you have to call a day ahead for that. At least I think that’s what he said because I don’t speak French or Japanese and he didn’t really speak English, but somewhere in the universal traveller’s sign language we got that established.

At that point I had a choice — to stick to my ethical guns and crush Bear who had worked so hard to pick this place out and get me here, or I could go pescetarian for the night and have a little fish. I went with option #2. I blindly ordered a platter which turned out to be some excellent sashimi, so overlooking the fact that I hate fish and sashimi, it was really good.

Even the salad had fish in it

What made the whole thing worth the price of admission though was what happened when the dinners were delivered. Bear always puts the pickled ginger in his soy sauce and crushes it with chopsticks to release the flavor, then dips the sushi in it. He did this for the little appetizer first course pieces. Then the main head chef came out to deliver the dinner and explain each piece. He must’ve heard there were two clueless Americans in the house because he took his time and might have even looked up a few words first. Then he looked in Bear’s dish of soy sauce and blurted out, in English:

“What is this?”

“Uh, ginger?” Bear said hesitantly. “I put the ginger, um, in the…”

“Never,” he muttered. “Never,” then began flicking the ginger out with Bear’s chopsticks while shooting me glances that seemed to say, “And you let him do this?”

The chef then decided that we were in danger of ruining basically everything so he decided to give us a lesson in how to eat the sashimi in particular, how to either dip the roll fish side down or to take the fish off to dip and then replace on the rice roll with the skill of a surgeon.

“On tongue!” he said, showing us how to flip the roll and eat it fish side down. “Never rice.”

We repeated everything he said as soon as he said it while nodding at each other — yes, yes, never rice.

I guess we weren’t convincing enough because the chef then picked up one of the rolls and actually fed it to Bear to make sure he did it the right way. I was prepared for him to come and do the same to me, but Bear was his favorite so the chef actually did it *again* just to be sure. Bear was in heaven — all that had been missing in his life was his own personal sushi chef to come feed him so now he wouldn’t even have to lift a chopstick. I was trying not to giggle at the whole thing and I think a grain of rice tried to lodge itself in my sinus cavity in the process.

Interior of Wasabi in Lyon, France

That said, it was an excellent dinner (for all that I never liked sashimi even back in my carnivore days of eating full sushi) and we topped it off by finding the hotel on the first try. I even got a great Internet connection and was able to log in and work for a few hours to help off-set being out for travel. That let me sleep a lot better knowing that I was able to still help out even while on the road.

Tomorrow — Southern France and the ferry to Corsica

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