I don’t know why I always end up going to them. During my first month or so in London, I even had a museum-and-cake buddy – we made a pact to visit a new museum every weekend and have a cake afterwards. I secretly only looked forward to the cake, but I didn’t know my friend too well back then to admit that most museums bored me to no end.
(I suspected he realised that pretty soon, and our museum-and-cake meetups transformed into anything-but-museum meetups after a few weeks. Which suited me very well and we became much better friends after that.)
I think it boils down to the fact that I don’t understand much of art and history. Later on, I realised that having the right company – one who appreciated the artefacts way more than I did and were willing to explain the history patiently to me, would make all the difference to these museum visits.
I have been to the British Museum several times, but I remember enjoying my last visit the most. During the first few visits, I mostly just admired the structure of the building and the immensity of the place.
The world is a terrible place at the moment, and most of the time I feel helpless about it.
When there is nothing that I can do about a situation, I normally turn to my good old trustworthy friend – food. During my thesis writing period where I felt mostly helpless about not panicking as much as other people thought I should, I consumed some scary amount of chocolate that could make anyone rethink their friendship with me for fear of contracting diabetes by proximity.
But now that I have no more excuse to lead a sugar-clad lifestyle, I stopped doing irrational eating and started consuming healthy stuff again. As I’m writing this, a tray of grilled courgettes are in the making in the oven, drizzled with some conservative amount of olive oil and salt plus a generous dash of black pepper and cayenne pepper.
I know, I almost can’t recognise my own reflection in the oven glass sometimes.
(Nevermind that I gobbled down a big cup of frozen yoghurt after lunch earlier today because that is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT to this story.)
So what I’m trying to say is, because I can’t consume irresponsible food for the time being to pacify myself about the world crumbling down, I try to do the next best thing, i.e. recalling some of the delicious food that I had and writing about them. The first guilty pleasure that comes to mind is the pork belly muffin from the Muffin Man & Co. at the Primrose Hill Market.
During my second visit to the market, I vowed not to have breakfast before visiting so I could taste one or two of the stalls piled with delicious looking delicacy.
I just met a good friend for dinner, and we realised something.
The last time we met more than a year ago, life could not have been more different for both of us. Especially for her.
The last time we saw each other was in October last year in Copenhagen. At the time, I was wide-eyed with fascination after moving 10,000 km up north, while she had felt trapped living in Singapore and wanted to move somewhere else. That was what compelled her to go on a solo trip to Europe, and I was lucky enough to have her visit me while I was still studying in Denmark.
Fast forward a year later, she is living half a world away in San Francisco, a whole new world of opportunities right in front of her. While what brought her there might not be a job like how she had planned, she did break free in the end and is in the midst of her own kind of adventures.
Whereas for me, I am situated slightly less up north than last year. While I knew that I had signed up for a life of uncertainties when I decided to drop everything back home and enroll into my Master’s programme, it still did not prepare me for just how different and unexpected things could be in a year’s time.
Exactly this day last year, my sister would be arriving at the Central Station in Aarhus and we were about to embark on an exciting adventure in Norway. I would have broken down the night before because my computer had crashed 10 minutes before my exam deadline, forcing me to submit an incomplete paper without the bibliography. I would have feared that I might get expelled for accidental plagiarism and might have called my programme coordinator crying and begging her to still allow me to go to Berkeley even if I were to fail that exam (I passed). I would also have barely recovered from the shock of having my room broken into in the midst of my exam period.
This year, I am having a quiet night in my cosy room in London (theft-free, hopefully) on a Saturday, my legs sore from standing for 7 hours a day for the past 5 days working in a shop in Camden Market. Instead of going further up north for my winter break, I am flying home to see my family and friends again after having been away for only 4 months.
And as I am sitting on my bed overlooking the misty night pondering about this, I realised something else about myself.
That I truly am a procastinator.
It has been exactly a year ago since I went to Tromsø. Whilst I did manage to scrape something up about my successful Northern Lights chase, I have completely ignored writing about another major nature wonder that we did in the lovely city (and had spent equally a lot of money on): the whale watching.
Being a great travel planner that I am, I did not even know that whale watching is a highly recommended activity in Tromsø. It was not until a random guy who came to teach us fishing in the freezing cold on our first night there told us about it that we came to know about such expeditions.
At first we brushed the idea aside as some kind of tours that tourists get cheated into. However, when we failed to see the Northern Lights on our first attempt, my sister and I resolved that we would not leave Tromsø until we saw something else other than some snow and the all-day darkness.
When a Londoner friend once told me that he would avoid Oxford Street at all cost, I remember looking at him slightly perplexed.
I was a tourist then, and while I wouldn’t describe Oxford Street as my favourite place in London, I didn’t detest it. After all, the area is practically a one-stop shop/street of every brand imaginable. Whenever I travelled to London, I could delay all my shopping until the last minute (as I do with everything else in life) and just head there to buy everything that I don’t need and shop for souvenirs for friends.
But now that I have lived in the city for two months, I began to understand why Londoners have such negative sentiments towards Oxford Street. The place is always overcrowded, big brands seem to be haphazardly put next to each other and in between them tacky cafes try to rip you off with their substandard food – a tourist trap in short, which is why you can hardly find a single local person shopping there.
Perhaps it is some kind of a rite of passage for living in London, but I find myself disliking Oxford Street more with every visit (plus it always rained whenever I was there).
But in the midst of this chaos, there is a gem hidden just 5-minute walk away from the main street. At Manchester Square stood the Hertford House, a beautiful mansion which houses the national museum for the Wallace Collection, an art collection by the Wallace family.
The art collectors of the Wallace family consist of four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the 4th Marquess. I don’t mean this to be rude, but after visiting the museum, I concluded that art collectors are practically hoarders with a lot of money.
(I hoard things too, but I don’t have that much money. You should have seen the thrash that I accumulated when I was moving house.)
These five guys, for example, have accumulated a whole mansion of art, paintings, sculpture, china, armoury, arms and everything else you can think of that can be classified as art work. It was only when Richard Wallace had the sense to realise that their family’s collection could be a museum that he decided to work on leaving the collections to the Nation. The administrative process was so long that after he died, his widow Lady Wallace had to finish off the job and eventually made ‘the single biggest bequest of art treasures to a Nation.’
My friend and I visited the place spontaneously on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and it was quiet, a stark contrast to the bustle and elbowing at Oxford Street. It was as if I was magically transported to a different era of civilisation, to the time when women’s fashion was about covering your body with as many layers as possible and there were literal knights in shining armour.
One that was recommended to me by a Bostonian was the lobster roll at Neptune Oyster. I first encountered the name of the place through Yelp, but I was highly suspicious that it could have just been a tourist trap. Seriously, what could be more cheesy and touristy than having lobster in Boston? But when my friend, who was born and raised in Boston, recommended it, I just knew that I had to try it.
And boy, I sure was glad I did.
Normally I would let the picture speak for itself, but I will try to be helpful and give you some heads up and tips in your pursuit for one of the best lobster rolls there is.
On my last trip in NYC, my friend and I decided to be a bit more cultured after practically eating our way through Manhattan and Brooklyn for a few days in a row. We decided to splurge some money and get tickets for Sleep No More, an interactive theatrical experience based on the tragic story of Macbeth by William Shakespeare.
The play is located at the McKittrick Hotel. Don’t be misled by the name though – the McKittrick Hotel is no hotel. It is an old warehouse which has been converted into five-storey sets that mimic the structure of a hotel. It’s got a bedroom, a ballroom, a bar, etc, very much like a hotel, except you can’t stay in there, and trust me, you wouldn’t want to.
I did not do much research before going to the play, apart from reading up on the story of Macbeth. The upside of this was that I went in not knowing what to expect and was pretty blown away by the whole experience by the end of it. The downside of this was that I was not mentally prepared of what was to come. Macbeth storyline isn’t the most cheerful in the first place, and when being put in a contemporary setting, it could get rather creepy.
Plus, you are not allowed to talk throughout the whole thing, which probably explained why I could hear all my thoughts very clearly. So clearly that I decided to share some of them with you which could possibly be useful in case you are still deciding whether to go for it or not.
Before we went for our trip to Taiwan, my friend and I made a pact. We would each pick a city in Taiwan that we were going to visit and book an accommodation there without consulting each other.
Naturally, we both got slightly nervous, mainly because we did not want to disappoint each other with our surprises. To be honest, I am generally pretty easy with where I spend the night while travelling, as long as there are no cockroaches, demons or poltergeist present. But I have to say, not only was I fine with the hostel my friend chose in the end, I was actually very pleased with our accommodation at Sun Moon Lake.
Once she had established that I did not mind staying in dorms, she decided to research into a few places and found this new undiscovered gem called perBED Hostel. It sounded very backpacker-ish, and it did live up to its name, only with an interesting twist. Instead of having the backpackers sleep on normal bunk beds in separate rooms, the hostel has decided to convert cargo boxes and other industrial things into beds and put them all in one big room. Continue reading “perBED Hostel, Sun Moon Lake.”→