Friday, September 16, 2011

Bye Bye, Big Trip

It’s been kind of a yucky week for me.  The somberness of 9/11 led into the depressing political shenanigans in my adopted home state, and then I got a case of the Yucks.  One of those not quite bad enough to cancel things, not quite good enough to plan things.


Somehow, though, I magically started to feel normal again this afternoon.  I forgot how good normal can feel!  In celebration, I’m going to finish up the last day’s worth of photos from our trip.  It’s only been two months since we got home; it’s about time I wrapped this up, dontcha think?

Our last day with my brother’s family was a Saturday, and Miss Chef and I wanted to spend one final day in London.  This time we brought along our 12-year old nephew Alex.  During our time in Paris, he and Miss Chef had decided they were going to cook dinner that night, and he wanted to join us in our search for potential ingredients.

Although we were headed to a market of sorts, we had a very specific product in mind: a toasted cheese from Kappacasein.  My obsessive research on TripAdvisor had revealed that these were worth hunting down, even though the vendor had been asked to leave the major Borough Market.  They’ve joined a small group of vendors clustered around warehouse-like areas created under railroad trestles known as the Maltby Street market.  It took a bit of hunting to find the market area, and then Kappacasein was even harder to find!  But find them we did—after Alex started wondering aloud what the heck we were doing wandering around a semi-industrial area that looked kind of sketchy to him.

Until lo, there appeared unto them a vendor of cheeses!

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How’s that for simple, non-industrial food, huh?  Three products available today, and not a centimeter of plastic wrap in sight.

As you can see, it was quite the informal operation.  While the young assistant toasted our sandwiches—two kinds of Kappacasein cheese, with soft leeks for punctuation—the owner invited us back into the cavernous rooms with curved cement ceilings, to show us how the new space was going to be used.  He’s got big plans.  And it’s a great place for his business; the cave-like concrete space will maintain a fairly even temperature and humidity year-round.

Once back up front, we also managed to buy an illicitly-supplied local brew to go with our toasted cheese.  What’s vacation for, if not enjoying a grilled-cheese sandwich and illegal beer before noon!

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Doesn’t that greasy, gooey goodness make you want to break out the frying pan right now?  Alex was not interested in grilled cheese for breakfast…until he saw this.  Then he was happy to ask for seconds.  Unfortunately, even this shared sandwich was too filling for us to attempt to eat their other offering of raclettes.  That’s a specialty from northern France, which involves pouring melted cheese over small steamed potatoes, with some kind of cured pork (bacon, lardons, whatever the local specialty may be).  What’s not to like?

Oh, and for those of you who “complain” about my making you hungry…looking at this picture has made me hungry! Open-mouthed smile

The sandwich gone, Miss Chef and I finished our rapidly-warming beer, while Alex enthusiastically trotted to the neighboring stall to buy some cherries for dinner.  So serious!

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Our last food goal accomplished, we then proceeded on foot back toward central London.  In hindsight, we should have taken a bus or something…but we had walked nearly as far, I thought, earlier in the week.  Well, no, we hadn't; my estimation of distances was rather optimistic.  Fortunately, as we trudged along, Miss Chef and Alex discovered a shared interest in fantasy novels and movies, so they chatted happily while I tried to figure out which of five intersecting roads was the one I was looking for.

But you know of course, this kind of wandering can be rewarding, too.  We stumbled upon Potters Fields Park, with great views of Tower Bridge.

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Once we finally reached the Thames, we headed west along the Millennium Walk.  Our search for a public toilet led us to another, completely different view of the bridge.

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I was beginning to find my photographic feet here in London, so to speak.

We also ran across this moving sculpture in a galleria off the Walk.  Miss Chef and Alex were particularly drawn to it.

Front view:
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Side view:
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That trumpet-like extension at the upper right was a sort of shower head that sprayed water down onto the two sou’wester-clad figures on the er…poop deck?  Once we figured out the whole thing, it was a rather whimsical sculpture.

Here's a tiny video of the thing in action:

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As it turned out, my ultimate goal for our long, long walk was frustrated.  I still wanted to try climbing the dome of St. Paul’s to see the fantastic views of London.  At least…I thought I might still want to climb it.  My feet had taken quite a beating over the previous two weeks, and after climbing the Arc de Triomphe, about a third the height, I wasn’t so sure I was up to this monument.

So, truth be told, I may have been a little relieved when, after an hour of walking, it turned out that St. Paul's was unexpectedly closed, due to an off-schedule service.

Not all was lost however; as we made our way back toward the train station, we happened upon a cool little candy shop, which Alex deemed worthy of crossing the street to visit.  And right outside the door, I noticed this view:

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So that was it, our last day on the town.  The day wasn’t quite over yet, as we still had dinner to put together.  Duck was on the menu, but we hadn’t happened across any stores upscale enough to carry it.  So once on the train for home, we called the house to ask about driving to the local store.  They were hosting neighbor kids for the afternoon, so in order to get to the store, we were going to have to drive!

On the left side of the road.  Hey-oh!

Since Miss Chef isn’t comfortable driving in strange areas even on the usual side of the road, it fell to me.  I’d been to the store once with my sister-in-law, and with the help of directions programmed into the GPS, I felt reasonably sure we could make it.  Amazingly, both Miss Chef and Alex were willing to let me drive them!

I was feeling surprisingly confident as we headed out, and other than missing a turn, I did pretty well.  However, on the way back, I wasn't at all comfortable on those narrow, twisty roads!  Don’t worry, we made it back in once piece, but trying to “feel” where the left side of this strange car was, all the way over there…well, I may have popped over a curb or two when approached by large vehicles.  Still, I never pulled into the wrong lane when making a turn, so I call it a successful foray.

No, I do not have pictures.

Oh, well, of dinner, yes, I may have a picture of that…

Duck breast w/cherry sauce, broccoli rabe, sautéed zucchini and risotto

So that was it; the grande finale of our stay.  The rest of the family had eaten early, since kids' stomachs don't understand "late dinner."  However, the duck was good enough to lure my brother back to the table for another plate.

We wrapped up our evening by packing four suitcases, and deciding to just pay the extra fees to check everything through.  Amazingly, we had plenty of room for all of our food, wine, souvenirs, gifts and memorabilia.  I even McGuyvered a poster tube to protect the poster Miss Chef had made me carry all the way from bought at Giverny.

The next morning we said our goodbyes in the driveway, wondering when we might see each other again.  It was hard to believe it was all over, that there weren’t more adventures awaiting us.  Well, unless you count the sprint from customs to luggage transfer to gate at JFK…but we don’t want to talk about that. 

No, I’d prefer to leave this post with my head in the clouds.

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If you ever want to revisit this trip, just click on the “Big Trip” label, and they’ll be lined up for your reading pleasure.  I know I’ll be doing that quite a bit this winter.


Update: Thanks to Garret's pointing out of one small flaw in that delicious picture of dinner, here's a 'shopped version for anyone who may have been offended by Alex' attempt to be responsible with his retainer:

10 comments:

  1. Great posting - loved the tales and photos of FOOD! Also pleased to see that you had a taste of driving on the right side of the road. As in the left. If you get my drift. :-)

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  2. I couldn't concentrate past the grilled cheese sandwich. I think I gotta go get me one...

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  3. Is it totally sad that my favorite cheese is American which, yeah, isn't really cheese. Cheddar is a close second.

    Uhhhhh, are those retainers in the duck dinner photo? Ewwwww. :-)

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  4. OK.... toasted cheese for breakfast it is! Yum!
    Love the Jules Vernesque sculpture.

    Glad you are feeling a bit better!

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  5. It was a grand trip - I loved every minute of it.

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  6. Heading downstairs now to fix a quesadilla and grab a beer for brunch....

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  7. Flartus, my green thumbed friend, can I ask you about my herbs? I successfully grew chives, rosemary and sage out here on the prairie this summer. The rosemary is coming in for the winter. I want to harvest the sage and chives, but I'm not very handy as far as drying things, etc goes. Can I just wash and dry them and stick them in plastic bags in the freezer? No laughing, please.

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  8. I started drooling over the grilled cheese sandwich and then you hit me with the duck-- OMGosh that looks positively heavenly.

    Thanks for sharing your trip with us. It's been a long time since I traveled to Europe and your pics made me smile.

    Have a great week, jj

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  9. Great post! I love hearing and seeing the sights of your trip. That picture of the cheese sandwich was just mean though...I am SO in the mood for grilled cheese right now. Wasn't even on my mind before...hehe :)

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  10. "What’s vacation for, if not enjoying a grilled-cheese sandwich and illegal beer before noon!"

    That should totally become a famous quote! lol!

    Thanks for sharing the final chapter of your trip. What a whirlwind of fun and adventures. Yeah...I would have liked to have seen a photo of your driving. I admire you for doing that. When we were in London, we just took public transportation because the navigating the crowded, narrow roads and driving on the opposite side of the car seemed o daunting. You are brave!

    Very cool Steam Punk fountain sculpture. I would love to see that one in person!

    That duck looks delish! And I never even noticed the retainer until you mentioned it. I like it better than the unicorn sticker. lol!

    I wouldn't blame you for going back over and enjoying your vacation posts during the winter. Each time you can just close your eyes and relive all those awesome memories!

    ~Lisa

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