Broadstairs Food Festival
I love food. I’m one of those people that lives to eat rather than eats to live. So when week 2 of school rolled around and I heard about a food festival just a bus ride away, I was determined to go. I mean, English coastal town, food, friends…a bus ride…how much more fun could a day get! Answer: not much better!
We left around 10ish on a Saturday morning (we being Anna, Soraya, Mai and myself) and took the bus to city center where we then took the bus to Broadstairs! I thought it was like an hour trip but apparently with the bus we caught, it was more like an hour and a half. Whoops! Oh well. It was a double decker bus and we sat at the top so we had beautiful views of the countryside. I wish I had taken pictures of some of the houses. I swear the words “I wanna live there” came out of my mouth at least a dozen times on this trip. Anyways, by the time we finally reached Broadstairs, it was lunch time so it was perfect; we were starving.
We got off the bus and walked towards the festival. This time, I had made sure I had a map of where we were going as I didn’t really want a repeat of the White Cliffs of Dover. Regardless, it wasn’t too hard to find as everyone was heading that direction. And let me just say, Broadstairs is so quaint. There’s these little streets with sweet-shops, bakeries, and little cafes. And then you hit the beach and you just stop. It’s so pretty. Definitely not a beach like in Southern California, but better in it’s own ways. We all stopped to take pictures.
After a few minutes of staring, we wandered off down the road towards the white tents of the food festival! We were greeted by these table piled high with fresh baked bread and pastries. Little pies, croissants, baguettes, whole loafs of bread…you name it, they had it. We took our time looking at it before deciding that we would look at all the stalls before buying anything. So off we went! There were a few stalls with candy floss (cotton candy), some with crepes, some with freshly ground coffee which we bypassed. And then we got into the center of everything. I lost track of everyone else as I wandered around, sampling fudge and various other treats. There was a cheese stall I particularly enjoyed with cheese made in Kent. I got to sample some Kentish blue and a strong cheddar. Yum! I decided I was going to have to go back to purchase some later. The next stall had these wonderful jams, curds and sauces. I sampled the raspberry, lemon and the lime curd. So good! I could eat it by the spoonfull. By then I found the housemates and we wandered around together, looking for what we all wanted to eat for lunch. Soraya and Anna went for crepes while Mai went for this Pad Thai that smelled amazing and I went for a burger. I know! Sounds so lame compared to everything else that was around but it was so good and nothing like the ones in America. It was on this soft fluffy “bap” which is basically a roll and then it had haloumi cheese (which is this sweetish cheese that is like everywhere), mango chutney, rocket (basicaly arugula and other greens) and then a squeeze of lemon and some mayo. It was savory but had these kicks of sweet from the mango and the cheese that were just amazing. We went down to the beach to eat our food where we watched children run around in the water and tried to avoid the bees. After finishing our food, I decided I wanted to dip my feet in the water! So off I went. It wasn’t as cold as I thought so I stood there for a bit while people stared at me. I’m sure I looked weird in black skinny jeans just standing there as the water rushed over my feet as I laughed. But my feet touched the North Sea! I think…
After doing a few cartwheels, I put my shoes back on and we walked back up towards Charles Dickens’ house. We decided that we were too cheap to pay entrance to the house but we went in the bookstore which was just as cool. They had his novels each for two pound fifty. I bought Great Expectations and the lovely old man did this cool embossing thing with this press that was over 100 years old. Very cool. I’m excited to bring it home. After leaving the bookstore we headed back to the food festival to make our purchases before taking the bus back home. I chose to get a baguette, some Kentish blue, some cheddar as well as some lemon curd and butterscotch toffee sauce. Yum. Mumsy you would have loved the cheese and Nana, the lemon curd was wonderful. Anna bought some rolls and a croissant and then we were off to the bus! Unfortunately, we had timed it wrong so we waited for a good while before it came. But it came and we were soon off! And let me tell you, no matter how many times I ride the bus and look and the landscape of Kent, I am still shocked by how green it is. It’s neverending greenery mixed with some animals and houses. It’s beautiful. It makes you just want to run off into the sunset and frolick in the grass. Alas, we were on a bus and I fell asleep.
When we arrived back in Canterbury bus station, we hopped on the bus back to Parkwood where we found Cristina, Charly and Julia! Well Soraya found them. I walked right past them my mind occupied by the idea of cheese and bread for dinner. Cristina excitedly told me how she bought two new pairs of shoes for 15 pounds each and how they were going to London the next day. They graciously asked if my housemates and I wanted to tag along; I said yes, while they declined.
The next day….
Now I’ve been to London before. I was there for orientation for a few days and I plan to go back a few more times before the term is over. It’s just an awesome city so there’s always something different to do. Cristina and Julia were going to see the Lion King and Charly was going to see his sister and I was going to wander. I love wandering (don’t worry Mumsy, I was safe. I decided what I was going to do before we parted ways and I knew which tube stops to get on and off at.)
Anyways, I wake up bright and early at 8 am and head to Cristina’s to meet everyone else. I knock and no one answers. So I text them and still no answer. I stand there for a few minutes before heading around the back to see it they’re in the kitchen. They were and I gave them a scare. We were delayed as there was a bit of a debacle with getting train tickets, then Cristina had to put makeup on (Julia and I napped on her bed) and then we learned the bus didn’t run that frequently on Sundays. So we took a cab. Finally, we made it to the train station where we purchased our tickets and were off!
I love trains. They’re wonderful. It’s like BART but better. You see so much and it’s relaxing. And hour and half later, we were in London! So exciting. We headed to the theatre for Lion King where Julia and Cristina picked up their tickets and then we stopped at a Starbucks for Pumpkin Spice drinks! Well Cristina got a pumpkin spice latte and I got a salted caramel hot chocolate and Julia and Charly sampled ours. I love seasonal drinks. We decided that we would meet up at the theatre after the show and that I would be in charge of keeping in touch with Sophie (our friend from Contiki) who would meet us for dinner. And off we all went! I went off in search of the nearest tube station as I was going to head to Oxford street to get some long sleeve shirts and get a few purchases for Cristina. I ended up spending the next few hours there, wandering in and out of various British department stores and people watching. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. A few hours later, it was time to take the tube back to the theatre to meet up with everyone. Apparently there was some delay in one of the trains so the line I was taking was especially crowded. No matter! I still got there in time.
We briefly met Charly’s sister and boyfriend before they headed off and we found Sophie. Then we wandered up towards the main square to find some food. We ate at this place whose name I don’t recall. It wasn’t my favorite but oh well. Something I’ve learned as I spend time with more European people: they make full use of their knife. In America, we use the side of our fork to cut food if we can and we put our knives down if we aren’t using them. Apparently others don’t do that. So I amused myself by attempting to eat my entire meal of fish and chips and mashed peas like that. It was much harder than it seemed. We finally finished dinner and we said our goodbyes before heading off to the bus station to go to the train station.
We boarded the train pretty uneventfully and found four seats together. Cristina pulled our the blanket that she’d just gotten and everyone but me fell asleep. I had reading to do so I knew I wouldn’t fall asleep and miss our stop. It was rather peaceful, reading while everyone else was dozing. At some point Cristina kicked off her heels so that she was more comfortable. I remember hearing the conductor calling out the names of all the stops and thinking oh, Canterbury must be coming up. No sooner had I thought that than did the voice on the loudspeaker say “Now approaching: Canterbury East”. Literally, the entire car simultaneously woke up and jumped out of their seats in a panic. Looking back, it was hysterical. Julia is putting headphones into her purse, I’m shoving a book in my bag, Cristina is attempting to fold up a blanket, put her iPod away and put her shoes on. We all rush off the train laughing and then we decide to make sure we’ve got everything. I make sure I’ve got my phone and my wallet and call it good. Cristina checks and then says, ever so calmly “Wait, I think I left a shoe on the train”. We snicker and then tell her to go get it. After all, the train hasn’t left even though the doors are shut. Cristina knocks on the door and tries to get on and then the train starts moving. She gets into a panic and starts shouting about her shoe while Charly points through the window to a single shoe sitting so lonely in the now empty car. The train left the station and that was it. We were all dying, laughing like hyenas. Cristina had lost one shoe off the pair of shoes she bought yesterday. Even now, two weeks later, it still cracks me up and I’m laughing as I type this. Granted it probably wouldn’t be as funny if it wasn’t so late but it’s still funny. We headed back to campus, still laughing about the shoe before parting ways to go to sleep before class in the morning.
The next weekend….
Stratford upon Avon
Now Cristina’s dad came to visit and he had a car, so naturally, we decided road trip! Of course that’s easier said than done in a stick shift car, with a driver who is essentially driving on the wrong side of the road, in a country where they have a sick obsession with roundabouts. Regardless, it was decided to head off to Stratford-upon-Avon which is the birthplace of Shakespeare (a love of both Cristina and mine) some two three hours away. We left just after 5 on the Friday, our adventure including Steve, Cristina, Leah, Charly and myself. It was dark soon after we left which meant that most of us passengers slept allowing for some pretty wonderful candid shots of each other sleeping in the car. Trust me, I look stunning when I sleep. We stopped for a snack/meal before heading on the road again. We arrived at our hotel sometime after 8 or 9. It was so cute. I loved it. We lounged in the hotel for a bit (taking advantage of the WiFi) before heading off to the festival we had seen earlier in search for some food. Sadly, the festival was closed by the time we got there but we found some food at this lovely noodle place. The chicken I had was really good. Seriously, I don’t know what they put in it but yum! After eating, we wandered around the town in the dark for a bit. It was beautiful. Al these old structures and some of the shops had Christmas lights up. So pretty!
We headed back to the hotel where we went to our respective rooms and crashed. The next morning: Shakespeare’s birthplace!
First on the agenda was breakfast! We ate at this little place called Anne Hathaway’s. I opted for the traditional English breakfast – eggs, toast, beans, tomato, mushroom, sausage and black pudding. After two bites, I’ve learned that black pudding is not my thing. But the rest was tasty! After eating our fill, we headed off to explore the town.
We opted not to do the Shakespeare pass as it was really pricey so we decided to visit all the sites and just look at the outside and visit the shops. That was fun. We saw Shakespeare’s house and got to poke around the shops. Lots of Shakespeare trinkets and such. I doubt anyone besides Cristina and I were much amused by it. And then we went a little ways down the street to this cute little Christmas shop. It was so precious! All decked out with ornaments and trees with a sign saying how many “sleeps till Christmas”. So cute. Much to my despair, we trekked off in the direction of more Shakespeare sites including the theatre and his grave. On the way there Leah tried to look over a wall which proved easier said than done. At least we got a good picture out of it though.
We decided that a mile there and back was too far to walk to see Anne Hathaway’s house so we decided just to head back to the car and drive to our next hotel. Off to Warwick (pronounced War-ick).
We arrived in Warwick in under an hour. It’s very close to Stratford-upon-Avon. We managed to get two rooms in this little place called the Black Horse or something like that. Upon arrival, everyone but me decided to nap. I decided to explore. So I told Charly that I was going on a walk and then went on my own adventure. I liked Warwick. There’s this beautiful cathedral and these cute little houses and shops.
After about an hour I walked back to the hotel and woke everyone up for dinner. Apparently they all wanted to sleep more so I did some reading for American History. And then it was finally dinner time. Cristina was cold so she put tights under her jeans. I guess I’m lucky because I haven’t felt extremely cold yet. Granted it’s only October but I’ve been fine with trousers, a jacket and a scarf. We met some people in the pub who told us where we should get dinner and since I had wandered the town earlier, I though I could lead the way. Yeah, bad idea. Now it was dark so it confused me. Still, we got to the main part of town and managed to find food at this one Italian place where it took seriously, hours to get our food. But food is food so yay for that! On the way back we got lost and I would just like to say, it was not my fault. I thought we were going the wrong way but of course, no one trusts me so we walked the wrong way for a good ten minutes. But we made it back all in one piece. We amused ourselves for the next hour or so with YouTube videos while Steve watched a scary movie in the other room. Unanimously we decided we wanted ice cream so I put a jacket on and ran down to the corner kebab shop to buy some. It was this wonderful Haagen Dazs belgian chocolate ice cream. We shared two pints of it. So wonderful. We finished off the evening by watching Lion King (Charly had never seen it. The horror.). Cristina and I got yelled at within the first five minutes for reciting all the words so we forced ourselves to sit quietly. After the end credits, it was time for bed as we had to wake up early for breakfast and Steve wanted to Warwick castle the next day.
The next day I woke up bright and early (it was more grey rather than bright) showered, dressed, and headed downstairs for breakfast (English breakfast for the win!). I’m learning to love tea. Especially in the mornings. Wonderful. I was joined shortly by the rest of the adventurers who ordered their respective breakfasts (no one else is as big a fan of the English breakfast as I am, sadly). I headed back up to the room early to pack and do some reading before heading off to the castle!
The castle….I didn’t go in. I decided that I’d already seen Leeds Castle and that 22 pounds (nearly 30 dollars) was a steep price for something that I wasn’t super interested in seeing. So Charly, Leah and I sat in the cafe and did our homework. Well I did my homework. Leah and Charly listened to music and slept. We did make a list of 31 things we would do if we were going to die. Our ideas varied greatly. But I’ve decided that I want to go sky diving. It’s on my list. A few hours later I had finished my readings and we were all bored. So we decided to take bets on when Cristina and Steve would be back. Naturally, no sooner had we placed our bets did they return. Humbug. They ate a quick lunch and then we were off to Oxford before heading back home to Canterbury.
Now I wasn’t super keen to visit Oxford University. I mean it’s old but eh, did I need to see it? The answer is yes. Once I stepped out of the car, I was excited. It was so cool. We don’t have universities like that in the US. Probably because we don’t have anything as old as it. It is stunning. I wish that I had more than an hour there. The architecture was breathtaking and the atmosphere amazing. If I had to go to grad school, I don’t care what for, I wish I could go there. We saw this exhibit about some great British authors (Tolkein and Lewis among them) which was awesome. And then we ran around the streets looking at the church, taking pictures of anything and everything before buying Oxford merchandise. As usual, Cristina took forever to find something. Finally we headed back into the car, leaving wonderful Oxford behind. Like I said, I wish I had more than an hour there.
On a final note; I picked a beautiful country to study abroad in. Just look at that view on the drive home.