Euro Trip Part 1: London Life
Off on another adventure!!
This would be a 16 day trip from Columbus -> London -> San Tropez -> Briancon -> Italy -> London -> Columbus, consisting of visiting family members, sight seeing, shopping, tasting new foods, cycling famous mountains, enjoying life, cooking meals, and hanging out with friends.
Things start off in England (London and surroundings with the main purpose of visiting relatives. I had never been tot he area before, so this was all very exciting!
Traveling with bikes is not the easiest of tasks. While my Scicon travel case is pretty legit, it is still a pain to lug in and out of cars, security checks etc. oh and its pricey to fly bikes around. Sigh, hassles aside, all luggage and persons made it on time and in one piece from CMH -> LHR. For long flights, I would suggest bringing the following: healthy snacks (trail mix, grassfed jerky, fruit/veg), moisturizer, water bottle, electrolyte tablets, deodorant, eye mask, ear plugs, headphones, and lots of reading material. For this flight, I packed us big salads to start the trip of on a healthy note. Salads go through security just fine. Keep the dressing separate in a small cup and there will be no issue. After stepping off the plane, there was still the task of collecting loads of luggage and obtaining a rental car (to be driven on the opposite side of the road). Okay, I’m whining. Travel methods typically are not super glamorous or fun, but it is just part of the package.
Getting here to there....
There was no cycling to be done in England. It just didn’t fit into the plans as we would be traveling to too many different locations to be building up and packing up bikes daily. It should be an option to rent cars with good bike racks. While it was tough having our bikes just sitting in their cases in the trunk of an oddly small European mini van, I’m actually glad we didn’t ride. It was nice to just be lazy for a week and rest up the legs for the French torture (I mean awesomeness…) to come. Also, I think I would have died. If you’re concerned about driving on the wrong side of the road, trust me, it is nothing compared to the confusion associated to being a pedestrian on the wrong side of the road. Look right, get hit left. The few jogs that I did in the region were riddled with near collisions and frequent stops due to not being able to recall where the cars where coming from. Car issues aside, the jogging in England was beautiful. It is everything you’d expect it to be, slightly damp, windy and grey. I was coming from weeks of stifling humidity and high heat in Ohio, so this was actually ideal weather. I loved breathing in the chilled air and not being drenched in sweat after an easy few miles. My favorite run was a coastal 4 miler around Alverstoke where I got to run on a rocky trail and take in sights of the new area. Since I had done a 20 miler the morning before flying to London, I did not have plans of serious running or long miles while away. This is the best option for travel: just enough to not get too lazy, worrying about nutrition is less important, and you get to enjoy taking in the new terrain instead of worrying about measuring the effort.
So much to see! From Old English to Countryside to City Wealth
The England portion of the trip was mostly devoted to seeing family members. I was happy to get a local’s perspective for my first trip to the area. Highlights definitely included lots of hugs, story telling, full glasses of beer/wine, and family meals. I was treated to a few special meals during the trip. The first, a family sit down for curry. Curry is the national dish of England. Strange I know. But they do it well. Simple, lots of pickles and rice and lentils and braised meats in spicy, thick sauces… so good. My favorite bit was the lime pickle. I must hunt for this (or make my own) as it added such an element of citrus-sour freshness to cut the thickness of a curry. It will be difficult to return to my local Indian take-out back home (no offense Aab!). Another notable meal was the full English breakfast. Back to back curry dinner to full English breakfast is not for the weight watching crowd, but hey, its vacation! It was worth it. Toast, soft scrambled eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, jams, sausages… Super tasty (and filling!). The next foodie treat was a home cooked meal in a kitchen that introduced me to the induction range. It is more popular overseas than it is in the states. I have an induction burner that I use for cooking demo events, but before this had not used it for normal, full kitchen cooking. Its pretty cool. Boils water super fast and uses very defined temperatures for 1-9 settings. Gas will always be my first choice for stove top cooking, but induction is worth looking into; it definitely beats electric range cooking. The meal also turned me on to the BBC food website. Our wonderful hosts turned to the site for menu ideas and simply searched ‘gluten free, dinner’ to find a plethora of options. They selected a harissa chicken thigh bake with salad. Everyone knows I’m a huge harissa addict so this was a fabulous choice. I also appreciated a salad as the past few days had included some heavy eating. England is also all about cream. Cream on berries, Cream on crumble, Cream cream cream. No complaints there. Cream on anything = delicious. The final meal to mention on this leg of the journey was the English Pub. Now being the kale + tofu lover that I am, I have to say, I was not at all excited to be in pub land. Beer is a no go for this gluten free girl and pub food makes me think of greasy fries, cheesy burgers, and all other things sports bar, poor health related. Silly me. Of course England would not follow the American pub food style. My basic instincts were all wrong (mostly wrong). After spending a day old England style viewing boarding schools, gothic architecture, stunning cathedrals, enjoying ice cream with a flake 99 (chocolate piece), and window shopping quaint stores it was time for a bite and our hosts knew just where to take us: a pub. We pulled up to a charming old building. The inside was dark with a small bar, lots of close tables and walls over filled with old photos and décor. A stark contrast from the outdoor seating of spacious tables in a green grassy setting with flowers all around. The menu was a huge shock to me. There were so many options that seemed ‘unpublike’. I ordered steamed beets with pickled walnuts followed by a large chicken and blue cheese salad. I should have ordered the fish and chips because the fish fry came out looking amazing; light golden batter and not at all drenched in grease. They even had a gluten free menu. Overall our hosts did a wonderful job of pleasing the foodie in me (even tho I doubt this was their intent… I appreciated it anyway!).
Side note... this is a sporty/health/nutrition blog... so I'm trying to keep things focused here. This portion of the trip was truly wonderful even without much athletic activity. Spending time with loved ones is always unbeatable and worth taking a few days off for. Also, the sights and history was so much fun to take in. Jane Austen's place of death, details in church pew carvings, meanings of type of wood and stone used for different structures, etc... Somethings are worth forgetting about eating salads and logging miles for.
England was a fast paced 5 days. We hit 5 different areas in 5 days which is an exhausting task. Luckily there was coffee to keep me motivated. I was a bit worried about England be so tea centric… and to an extent this was true. There were many coffee cars, but in homes, coffee making was definitely second to tea drinking. Not that there is anything wrong with tea. Everyone knows there are many health benefits associated with tea drinking populations, however in England the tea is typically black varieties served with milk and sugar and I’m not sure how that stands up to health benefits. I love a cup of tea, but found that I definitely prefer waking up to coffee (preferably a cappuccino) to morning tea. Around London, the flat white is a thing. I know Starbucks tried to bring it state side, but I’m sure it is a thing of the past now that its PSL season. A flat white is essentially a midpoint of a cappuccino and latte. It is delicious. To please my Instagram obsession, curiosity, and personal beverage addiction, it was a goal to try as many coffee shops as possible on this trip.
How many pics of coffee can a girl take? ...
Our day spent in London provided a slightly different take on food. I was anxious to check out what this city had to offer! There was a large amount of variety. Kebab shops seemed to be what taco shops are in the states. Quick, bites with lots of trendy options. That being said, I did not see any taco shops in London. I did see many Peruvian and curry options along with several southern style BBQ joints. Think it’s a lame idea to get southern bbq while in London? Well you’re wrong. After some serious bar hoping I gave into a take-out of burnt ends and that little box of pork was better than anything I’d tasted stateside. London has a pretty classic meats garage band style. Grunge is in, but only if its paired with a Chanel bag. That vibe is carried throughout the food as well. Understated, but delicious offerings in ‘I don’t give a F’ decorated establishments. For example, they best cocktail menu was discovered in a pretty empty (furniture wise), crowded, and dark venue. I’d expect to order rum and cokes in a place like this in back home, but here it was a crafty cocktail heaven with drinks served in glass milk boxes with paper straws and other oddly avant garde options. Coffee bars doubled as juice bars with a minimal menu that amazed in perfectionism. Health did not seem like an overwhelming concern. Everyone smokes and drinks are common midday. That is balanced with plenty of walking (we traveled 17 miles by foot in the city!) and lots of portion control. Some portioning is due to the high cost of food in London. I swear a cappuccino cost $7. But mostly England valued single serving style food. Real single servings, not American servings. Pret a Manger is a superb example. Smoothies, sandwiches, soups, salads, yogurts, sweets all packaged in tasty, just enough sizes. Check out my version of a breakfast ‘pre pot’ HERE.
Grocery shopping wasn’t too different here. Mainly there were more options for produce varieties and grab-n-go meals. Less juices, smoothies, and other beverages. More Heinz product than you’d find in the states, even though Heinz is an American company… figure that one out… and Marmite… is not that bad. I did find the nutrition labels a bit difficult to read. They are written out for portions 100grams and then grams of what a serving is. But you have to really know your food weight to figure out what this means.
Overall exploring London’s food scene was a fun task.
After a full 5 days of taste testing what England had to offer, I was surely well fueled (over fed) enough to prepare me for the next leg of the trip: CYCLING FRANCE.
Post coming as soon as jet lag wears off…