London Breakfasts

 

At The Haberdashery, in Crouch End. According to Time Out is one of the 7 Best Breakfasts in North London.  I couldn’t miss it, could I?

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At The Breakfast Club in Angel. I believe the picture says it all.

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And of course, at my place. Black coffee and the unmissable Italian biscuits “Pan di Stelle”.

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A special place to stay

I arrive in Nailsea in the early afternoon of a hot August day.
Only an old woman is walking in front of me out of the station.
I have never been here before, but Google Maps told me where I have to go long before I even arrived.

I walk a few hundred meters and see this.

Immagine

I keep walking.
Nice houses, nice gardens, empty streets.
Cars seldom pass by and go.

I keep walking.
I need to start my research.
A blonde woman walks down the hot pave in a dress.
A push-chair before her.

I hesitate.
Shall I stop her and bother her with my survey?
She’s just having a walk with her baby.
Should I?

But I have many, too many questionnaires to give out.
And they must be completed.
Quickly.
My train back to Leeds is tomorrow.

“Good morning, I am a student from Leeds University Business School. I am doing a research for my dissertation, to complete my Master. Would you like to help me by filling up this survey for me? It will take just a few minutes.”

She is completing the survey.
And I am making funny faces to entertain the baby in the push-chair, who does not look entertained, but suspicious.
The woman completes her survey.
I thank. I move on.

A man in his late twenties, dressed as if he forgot ten years passed since he was 18, walks alone. A long bush keeps him company.
I approach him and repeat my “commercial”, trying to lure him to help me.
Sure. He says.
He completes. I thank. And move on.

The day passes.
I said I am a Leeds University Business School student to way too many people who did not have the least interest in who I was.
But I now have 35 completed questionnaires.
In just few hours.

Nailsea.
Nice houses, nice gardens, nice people.

I am hungry. I look around.
Do not feel like pub.
Do not feel like a sandwich from Tesco.
Neither Waitrose.

There is an Indian restaurant.
I stand at look at the menu on the window.
Behind the menu two big brown eyes look at me.
I do not hesitate. I enter.

I am the only customer. It’s only 6pm. I sit and stare at the corner in the left: Aishwarya Rai, Salman Khan and many others are dancing in a 32″ television screen.

“Are you ready to order?”

Chiken Korma.
Garlic Naan.
Mango Lassi.
Brilliant. Or I shall say, Vah!

I leave.
Full and happy.
The sun is slowly hiding behind the hills and I need to find my B&B for the night.
Google Maps, again, saves me and leads me to my destination.

I climb up a small unpaved road and find it lost in the woods, my roof in Nailsea.
I knock on the door and nothing happens.
I call the owner on the phone and few seconds later the door finally opens.

David shakes my hand and shows me my room.
And I am happy.

Immagine

Immagine

I walk out of the shower, inside the room again.
Through the curtain I see something moving outside.
I can’t stop myself and look out of the window.
There she is, the peak of my day.
Sitting on the bench just under the window of my room.

Immagine

I play with her a bit.
Then she leaves me.
And she leaves me to my data entry task.
After a day of collecting surveys.
And I sleep.
But not before Sandra Bullock has kissed Hugh Grant in Two Weeks Notice.

Breakfast is ready in the kitchen at 8.30.
And so am I.

David prepares tea for me and I help myself to milk and granola, without forgetting to add some fresh strawberries that won’t stop looking at me in such temptation.

I reached the kitchen first, so I pick the best table by the window and stare outside, lost in the trees and the calmness of the place, interrupted only by David that asks me what I would like for breakfast.

I am confused.
I have milk, and granola, and strawberries, and tea, and there’s yogurt waiting for me on the cupboard.
David shows me a menu where I can pick from a list of items and again, David will prepare for me whatever I wish.
I order an omelette with mushroom.

Delicious.

Elm Tree Cottage B&B
http://www.a-specialplacetostay.co.uk

Harewood: a lovely afternoon in West Yorkshire

And then it’s Sunday.
My housemates and I went out for a “family trip” around Leeds, discovering green, sheep and relax.

About 15 minutes drive from Headingley and we are in the middle of West Yorkshire countryside, we end up visiting Harewood.

“Where Turner came to paint,
buddhists chose to build,
penguins found a home
and trees are painted gold”

Yes, it is a beautiful place.

As soon as we arrive we get to visit the Terrace gardens. They are splendidly kept and the view is just stunning. It’s a shame that it was freezing, but some sun was trying to show up between clouds to warm us up a bit and give shiny impressions all over the valley.Immagine

The house is more than 250 years old; I did not get too much into the history though, so if you want to know more about it I suggest you visit the website.Immagine

Then we moved to the Brid Gardens. I must admit I was a bit surprised to find out most of the birds there come from Africa, South America, Australia and Java, I assumed they must have been freezing in the snow in the past days as well as all over the year. The only one who seemed to enjoy the freezing weather were the penguins who actually gave us quite a lot of entertainment as they started fornicating as soon as we got there. At some point there was also a fight between two females who were probably fighting for the same man. Oh, we are so similar! Immagine

After the Bird Gardens we walked along the lake, half frozen, and we ended up in the Himalayan gardens. Unfortunately they were closed but I got the chance to take a snapshot of the Stupa, apparently the only one in the UK! Immagine

At the end of our walk we visited an Orchard, where they grow all sorts of vegetables, from artichokes to pumpkins and squash; then we head back to the very beginning, where we sat for a relaxing snack at the café.Immagine

There is also a shop, which we did not have time to visit, but apparently they sell local products as well as culinary specialties like pasta imported from Italy (maybe not very sustainable, but what can I say, I am proud to see products of my country are always appreciated), as well as decorations of different kinds: I spot a pillows as I passed by, I assume they have much more than food and pillows though.

I was a bit sad at the very beginning when we got to pay £5 each to get inside, as I thought it was just a normal park; but after I saw all the beautiful gardens, birds and secrets of it I shall say the price is more than worth.
You can eventually pay £5.50, thus giving a small donation.

Thank you Tom for the nice trip in such a lovely place!

The curious case of the girl who became a burger addict

“I will never, ever, work as a waitress. I don’t wanna serve people, I don’t like having to work with food. I wanna eat food! I don’t wanna prepare it for other and I don’t want people to ask me to do things for them. ‘Can I have some water?’, ‘Can you bring me the salt?’, no way! I am not gonna do that. I would just hate it. I barely pour water for myself! I rather not have an apple if I have to clean and cut it, how can I stand to do this for others?”

Then I moved to London.
My English wasn’t that bad when I arrived. That’s why I wanted a nice office job. But honestly, how was I supposed to look for an office job when even English people have a hard time finding one? Besides, I needed to work asap. I had a rent to pay, food to buy and possibly I had to save money for my not-so-far-even-if-still-unknown-master.

After spending a few days in the hostel trying to figure out how to find a job quickly I realised what I had to do: wear comfy shoes, print loads of CVs and find a nice way to ask: “Hello, do you have any vacancy at the moment?” without appearing too depressed or desperate or hungry or tired. Well, no, I wasn’t that bad. But certainly I was anything but motivated. When I moved here in March the whether was horrible (honestly, it still kinda is). I didn’t even have my own room, but I was sharing with sometimes 5, sometimes 25 boys and girls. Snoring all together.
In January I injured my foot jumping like a stupid kid. After one week of crutches and a couple of weeks walking like Dr. House, still feeling the pain I asked my Doctor: “Just avoid any effort, do walk the minimum and slowly it’ll get better”.
It wasn’t even a week after his severe suggestion that I was walking up and down the streets of London, the pain as big as ever, but knowing I had no choice – or else, back home.

I choose I wouldn’t have looked for a house until I had a job. What if I found a place where to live and then a job on the opposite part of the city? Nonsense. I kept the room in the hostel and went around begging for a job. Recruiting agencies, shops, restaurants. As a first job anything would have been good. I have to admit I even wondered about McDonald for like half an hour before deciding that if Mc was the only choice I would have gone back home for real.
Poor, but spotless.

One night I was going back to my hostel, without much hope, nor will. I happened to stop at Baker Street Station to look for some nice place where to have dinner. I found Nando’s and I had my moment of food happiness.
I guess just those who know me understand what I actually mean by food happiness.
Anyway, going back to the station after my meal I noticed, right at the corner between Marylebone and Baker St, an office advertising some office kind of job. Simple things. Personal Assistant, Data Entry. I made a mental note to pass by the day after and leave my CV just in case they might help me find something 9 to 5, well paid and possibly in which I could have dressed like a real secretary. Whoa!

There I was, the day after, all scared and performing my worst English trying to convince them I was exactly the girl they were looking for, even though I didn’t even know what I wanted myself. I left the recruiting agency less than 5 minutes later I got in, without any hope to keep me going and kept walking randomly on Baker St. As I walked I turned my head anywhere hoping to find some staff vacancy ad, then I saw it: “Grill Chef Required”.

Ok, the only thing I can cook is Carbonara, and not even properly. But I was confident. Few steps and I was inside the restaurant.
I walked further in and a blond girl came lazily towards me. She barely had the time to say “Hi” when I began “Hello, I’m sorry, I just wanted to ask you if you have any vacancy”. As I spoke I was mentally checking if I was saying everything properly. I didn’t want it to come out as it did in a restaurant in Soho where I said: “Do you have any vacation?” and they had been kind enough not to send me to a travel agency. I had my CV at hand and I gave it to her while she said: “You can speak to the manager”.
The manager? Already? No! No! I just wanna leave my CV, you can have a look, I’m sure you will find out I am not good for it, I have no experience, there’s no way I am gonna speak to the manager.
As I had all this mess in my mind a girl with black skin walked in my direction and  introduced herself. I didn’t get her name. She asked me to sit with her and as she spoke I didn’t understand pretty much anything of what she was saying but I managed to say something. I explained I saw the ad for a Grill chef, but I was looking for a waitress position. She asked me many questions, she also told me that the blond girl was Italian but didn’t realised I was Italian too. I said I didn’t realise she was Italian either. I was just to lost in my thoughts to care about her accent.
Then the manager asked me to come back the day after for a trial shift.
God! I came here this morning to leave some CVs hoping to spend my months in London wearing nice dresses and uncomfortable high shoes and tomorrow I’m having a trial in a restaurant I don’t even know? What do they do? GB..what?? Never heard about it before. I didn’t even read the name of the place while coming in.  
“OK, tomorrow is perfect. What time?”

Your Server is Elena

Your Server is Elena

Today, August 26, its my last day at GBK. I have been working here for 5 months.

I loved it, I hated it.

It made me laugh, a lot.
It also made me cry, just once. - at least that I can recall.

I met wonderful people, and some assholes.
But most of the assholes were, in fact, customers.
Oh!
And the blond girl who gave my CV to the manager became the closest thing I have had to a best friend in these months in London. And even if I tell her every single day that she is stupid, she manages to stand and accept my bad behaviour.
I am gonna miss Arianna and I am so glad I met her.

Leaving London

It’s just when I leave one place that I actually realise how much I will miss it.
Isn’t it such a cliché?
I started writing about New York just one month before moving back and now I feel I haven’t said much about London while I was living here.
In few days I’ll wake up in Leeds with so many memories of The City – and so much left unsaid.

I didn’t write about the Globe and when I have been there for free for Shakespeare’s Birthday.
I didn’t mention being to Battersea Park, walking in Regent’s Park during my breaks and getting my first 2012 tan in Hyde Park, by the Serpentine.
I didn’t say anything, anything about the Olympics, the biggest event in 2012, not only for London, but for the whole United Kingdom and well, for the whole world.
I didn’t write about Brighton and its attractions.
I didn’t tell you about my job, my colleagues, my friends.

The worst is that I still have so much to say about New York as well, not just London.
So many things I probably never tell.

I often think about my dream post.
I want to tell you about New York and London, together.
What do these two cities have in common? Which are the differences?
No news, how many people wrote about this?
But I want this post to be my own, mine only.

And now I tell you I am going to Leeds, without introduction, nor explanation.

I just keep hoping I’ll find the time,
the will,
the words,
to explain what’s going on.

Until then.

I saw Her

At half past twelve I am still in my bed wondering what to do whit my day. I specifically asked to have the day off to go in town and see the Queen but then I feel too lazy to get out of bed. I’m just chilling on Facebook and checking some emails. Then something happen. I just get out of my duvet, start dressing quickly and at 1pm I am on the Jubilee Line, heading for Hyde Park, hoping – at least – to see Her in the maxi screen and enjoy the show with thousands of people instead of waiting to see the BBC report by myself in my 13″ MacBook screen.

I sit on the train and I log on Facebook on my mobile. I happen to follow something that posts: “The Queen has just arrived at Westminster Hall”. I move my eyes from the screen of my phone to the map of the train. Exactly, the Jubilee line stops at Westminster. Change of plans. No Hyde Park and no big screens.
I jump off the train at Westminster, people everywhere. Too many even for such a touristic spot. The exit for the Big Ben is closed so everybody moves towards the river and the first thing I can see is the London eye. I start walking faster, not sure of where I am going and then I just start following everyone else. I arrive under the Big Ben, but on the other side of the road. Usually it takes just few minutes from the Big Ben to Westminster Abbey, but it’s too crowded. I’m stuck and can’t move on, nor get back. After a while I manage to turn right on Whitehall, where it’s easier to walk but still I can’t find a good place where to stop and watch. Too many people block the view to the street where the Queen is gonna pass on her carriage and Im simply too short. I keep walking, not losing hope. And then I see it. There are few steps leading to a door in a building. There are about 20 people standing on those steps but there’s a tiny empty place. I move close, I look at one of the girl on the steps and shyly ask if I can fit. She smile and step aside. I finally have my view.

I check the time, it’s 14. I still have some time before the Queen is gonna pass, which should be at 14.20. And being the Queen of England I don’t think she’s gonna be late.

I wait, people around me are getting excited. They discuss about which side of the carriage she is supposed to sit. I feel some drops on my head. Oh no! It’s raining. But no one seems to care. Everyone keeps waiting. It’s just too exciting a moment to really worry about the rain. I wonder if the carriage will be open or close. Will we actually be able to see Her? I am pretty close and I can see very well the people on the other side of the road, if the carriage is open I’ll definitely see her. I’m getting excited myself.

A gun shot. People start to scream. Not of fear but of joy. It’s the sign. She’ll be here soon. I prepare my camera. I want to take a video. Another shot. Then another. After few seconds guards on black horses pass in front of us. Then others. Then others. And finally I can see two red guards on white horses. Then a carriage. People are screaming. I can see a beautiful hat. It’s the Queen’s hat. In front of her, Charles. On her side a woman that I can’t place immediately. Must be Camilla.

Queen Elizabeth II and Camilla

Queen Elizabeth II and Camilla

Other guards on black horses. My camera risks to fall from my fingers. My hands are trembling and I can’t understand why. Another carriage. People are now screaming louder. Louder than for the Queen. I can see another lovely hat. It’s Kate. On her left William. In front of them Harry. I lose my concentration and for a moment I forget I am taking a video. I am staring at Prince Harry. He’s cute! And then the second carriage is gone.

Kate and William

Kate and William

Prince Harry

Prince Harry

People are smiling.
They are happy.

I leave my step – my point of view above the crowd – and start walking in no direction.
And I can’t get rid of a stupid smile on my face.
I grab my phone and call: “Mom, I saw the Queen.”

God save the Queen. And Starbucks, please.

Finally it’s here, one of the most awaited event of 2012: the Queen’s Jubilee.
Many events are happening in London, but since I spend most of my time working – and restaurants do not know what Bank Holidays means – I’m not exactly enjoying the big party. Not yet anyway.

The only thing I was able to enjoy was the special Frappuccino Starbucks made to celebrate the occasion. It’s called Royal Mint and it’s a mix of chocolate and peppermint. As a Starbucks addicted I couldn’t possibly imagine not to try it, so as soon as I finished my shift at the restaurant I headed for Oxford street to my favourite Starbucks store. There wasn’t the usual incredibly long queue I am now used to wait for. I just ordered my Royal Mint Frappuccino and – surprise! – got a gold foiled chocolate medal for free, apparently it comes with the drink. I really should make a note to thank the Queen as soon as I get the chance.

Golden Chocolate Medal

Golden Chocolate Medal

It was a bit chilly outside so I chose to have my Frappuccino inside, reading my book and relaxing after a boring day at work. It probably wasn’t the best drink I had in Starbucks as to me the peppermint flavour was a bit too strong and covered the chocolate ones.
But I guess this is the problem of a chocoholic like me. In fact, my favourite Starbucks drink is – and probably will always be – my beloved Caramel Hot Chocolate, cream on top, of course. And not the salted one I tried in New York. That was disgusting. Just traditional Caramel Syrup please!
My second favourite is the Banana Chocolate I had in New York when I went the first time in September 2008. That was my first time to Starbucks at all and I definitely fell in love for it back then. Shame it was just a special for that summer. I never found it again in any other Starbucks.

Royal Mint Frappuccino - Starbucks Jubillee Special Edition

Royal Mint Frappuccino – Starbucks Jubillee Special Edition

So here’s my first Jubilee impression. I hope the Queen might forgive me if the only thing I could appreciate of the first Jubilee day was only a matter of food. After all, when it comes to me, it is always about food.

PS. Don’t forget that till the 5th of June you can still enjoy the Happy Hour! From 3 to 5pm you can enjoy any Frappuccino you like for half of its price. As Starbucks smartly suggest it means you can go with a friend and it’s just gonna be like 2-4-1!