Brighton Bites.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Whats a mini-holiday without eating too much?

I am in no way, shape or form a decent food blogger, cook, or foodie. My skills lie in eating. I always want to take nice photos but I end up chickening out and whipping out my phone for a quick, blurry snap, looking around to see if anyone is staring at me. If you want gorgeous pictures of food and dreamy recipes, you'll have to head over to my friend KC's blog (bacon salted popcorn, are you kidding me?!)

La Choza in the North Laines and a prime example of my terrible foodography. I spontaneously popped in here in an attempt to defrost and I'm glad I did! For any Texan that goes abroad, the #1 food we miss is always Mexican/Tex-Mex cuisine. I've tried a few "Mexican" restaurants here and there, but they all left me deflated and dreaming of real enchiladas and overstuffing my face with chips and queso. So it's an understatement to say that my expectations for this place were pretty low. Happily, I was pleasantly surprised - my quesadilla with chicken and chorizo had just enough grease and cheese to remind me of home and the salsa had a bit of spice to it and wasn't just a tub of pureed tomatoes. They did throw sour cream inside the actual quesadilla which made it extra gooey - but hey, no complaints from me. The staff were charismatic and the restaurant was small but uber-colorful, and by the time I left it was getting packed. Thumbs up from this hard to please Texan!

My venture to Choccywoccydoodah was part gaping at the window displays and part digging my nose into a mountain of whipped cream atop my hot chocolate. This shop would have no problem fitting in on Diagon Alley. I approached one of the chocolate sculptures on the inside to snap a photo and then saw the tag stating "If you break me, I cost £3,500" so I proceeded to put the lens cap back on and backed away, slowly. I'm clumsy.

Another excellent example of wimping out and taking terrible phone photos, but I couldn't write a post about eating my way through Brighton without a mention of Sugardough's. A recommendation by my Airbnb host that could not have been more spot on. An unsuspecting bakery nestled in Hove, loaves of freshly baked bread and morning pastries line the shelves at the window, drawing in the regulars. Giant mounds of dough are rolled in the open kitchen right in front of you, I was mesmerized by the baker's swift movements between the ovens, to the shelves, to the countertop to create her next product. I munched on an almond croissant and sipped a flat white while watching the locals come in to get their orders. Something I did not try but was clearly a fan favorite were their sausage rolls - I think every other person who came in asked if they were available, one woman cheered when she was told they were about to come out of the oven and a pair of boys ordered twelve. Even the furry customers enjoyed their visit!

Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the lanes and past the pier, towards Kemptown, on a narrow side street lies the eccentric tea shop, The Tea Cosy. It's not hard to see why almost every passerby did a double take when passing the window. Even the menu is crammed with references to British royalty, with names like "Windsor Castle", "The Will and Kate Selection" and "Queen Mother's Cream Tea". While the shop was kitschy and cute, the cream tea was pretty meh. I've become spoiled by living in the West Country, with Cornwall and Devon cream right at my doorstep. Their cream was a fluffy whipped texture which was still tasty but not my favorite for tea.

Lucky Beach is a real treat if gourmet burgers, local beers, and oceanfront views are your thing (*raises hand*). While most people associate Americans and burgers, England just does gourmet burgers right. I actually eat burgers and fries more often here than I ever did across the pond. I went in at an odd hour, too late to call it lunch, too early to call it dinner, so I had my choice of tables. The owner, noticing that I had no idea what I was doing when I walked in "Umm do I sit first? Order first?" (a regular occurrence for me) came over and we started chatting. He was incredibly nice and friendly and we even talked about Texas since he had recently gone to Houston for work. Even funnier, he started laughing when I made my order for the diablo burger, because it's a brand new addition to the menu, inspired by his trip to Texas. You can take the girl out of Texas, but...

Full disclosure here, I heard of this place from a Zoella vlog - major guilty pleasure alert. Slice Sussex was a stone's throw from my home base, and ticked all the boxes for a great way to start the day. The cafe has chalkboard walls with menus, quotes, and drawings everywhere. It's just hard to beat a decent breakfast.

Marroccos is a Brighton & Hove institution - gelato parlor by day, italian restaurant by night. When someone tells me that a place has "The BEST ice cream I've ever had in my life" - I take it as a challenge, near-freezing temperatures outside be damned. Although I couldn't feel my hands after eating this, I was one happy customer.

I do promise that I ate more than just sugar whilst in Brighton, but desserts are just so photogenic. Victoria sponge is my favorite British cake (I far...) and Angel Food Bakery in the lanes was the perfect place to sit and people watch with a mouthwatering treat.

BRB, going to the gym now.

Brighton Pier & Pebbles.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

In an effort to decompress after my month of mayhem and shake off that last bit of funk, I decided to treat myself to a weekend away. Just me, myself, and I. The thought of solo travel for some people is bizarre - "You're going on a trip, by YOURSELF? Where's the fun in that? Is it safe?" As much as I love traveling with friends, sometimes we need a few days to ourselves to get away from it all and simply have a bit of "me" time.

There is no place in the world where I'm at my happiest that compares to being by the sea. Bristol has a great harbour and is a bus ride away from the coast, but with a few days to spare, I set my sights on some new scenery. Brighton has been on my "to-do" list for months, so I arranged my train journey and Airbnb accommodation, immediately threw some stuff into an oversized bag, made a ballin' new music playlist, and was southeast bound the following morning.

(BTW - this is a straight up tune for any long train journey)

After a 3 and a half hour journey along the English countryside and coast, I arrived to Hove station to the squawks of seagulls and crisp, sunny weather. I was greeted by my host and settled in to my room long enough to FaceTime my mom and show her that I had not in fact been abducted by a serial killer. I had scanned the internet a bit to get an idea of what I shouldn't miss while in Brighton/Hove, but I did my best to not make myself stick to a schedule and just try to relax for once. Sometimes I get so caught up in traveling and wanting to see and do everything I possibly can, that I don't take a minute to enjoy the moment. I'm not a fan of new years resolutions, so I'll just say that it's one of my goals to take a little more time to smell the roses this year.

The flat that I was staying in was a mere 2 minutes walk from the Hove seafront (you could even see the ocean from my window, not to mention the place was a complete bargain), and I don't think I could have been in a better location. I strolled along the promenade, flanked by people walking their dogs and joggers - ocean on my right, colorful beach huts on my left, the infamous pier dead ahead. Pretty ideal if you ask me.

Enough of me babbling, time for some photos!

The West Pier, which burnt down in 2003.

Bohemian charm everywhere.

My first encounter with a classic English pebble beach. It was surprisingly comfortable to sit on and it was nice not have sand stuck to every place imaginable for days.

Brace yourself for a lot of awkward selfies in these posts from Brighton. I just had to prove the rest of me was there too, not just my feet! ;)

January may not be the most popular time to go to the seaside, but without the hoards of kids and teenagers running amok with salty hair and ice cream running down their arms, it was really peaceful and I took my time making a loop around the giant pier. There were still groups and couples walking between the various shops and kiosks, but it was at a completely different pace than what you'd expect in the summertime. Everyone was bundled up in scarves, grinning through watery, windswept eyes. The winter sunset was rolling in and the lights of the boardwalk begun to flash brilliantly against the cotton candy sky.

I was informed that it's currently starling season, and from what I understand this is code for birds swarming together around sunset, like synchronized swimming...but in the air...for birds... Really glad I didn't try to pursue a career in ornithology.

One of my favorite things about my weekend away was simply walking along the promenade and the seaside in the mornings and around sunset. So much so that I opted for walking everywhere in lieu of taking the bus, which is saying something because Brighton & Hove have what is probably the most efficient bus transport system out of every British city I've been to thus far. But who wants to sit on a bus when you can brave the cold and see this?

Ahhhhhhhhh *takes deep breath* - I feel relaxed just looking at my screen.

Out of curiosity (and to add to my growing bucket list), what's your favorite seaside getaway?

What the Brizzle?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bristol is known for lots of things. We're colorful, a bit crowded, street art enthusiasts thanks to hometown hero Banksy (you may have heard of him), and drinking cider on boats accompanied by live music is the norm.

So would you believe me if I told you that this wasn't lining the idillic streets of Stratford-upon-Avon nor torn out of a Hansel and Gretel storybook page?

Nope - it's in Bristol, folks.

20 mins from the city center by car, 40 by bus, lies the suburb of Henbury, which feels like a world all on it's own.

Blaise Hamlet is a tiny plot of land with 9 fairytale-worthy cottages plopped right in between typical suburban streets. Designed by John Nash, the mastermind behind multiple UK icons including the Brighton Pavilion and Buckingham Palace, this hamlet is over 200 years old and one of the earliest examples of a planned community. It was created for retired workers of Blaise Castle (more on that below) to live in, and still functions as real homes today. We did giggle at the fact that none of the residents we saw were younger than 70 years old, but it made it all the more adorable.

Small enough to do several laps around, you are able to quietly roam between cottage to cottage, taking in the towering chimneys and gape at the picturesque thatched roofs. I'm sure it's even more beautiful in the spring and summertime, as each cottage is accompanied by a generously sized garden, awaiting their time to bloom.

Up the road lies acres and acres of greenery, with two very prominent historical structures.

A playground!

I kid, I kid.

Next to the playground, is this.

Sitting on 650 acres (!!!) is Blaise Castle and Estate. Scattered around the forest and greenery are caves, hiking trails, ponds, footprints from the Bristol giants, and a cafe of course! It wasn't too crowded when we went, although there were plenty of pups running around and loving life in the open fields, so I can only imagine how packed this place gets on a sunny summer weekend.

It was still pretty great on a sunny winter day though.

Peeking out behind the trees, you can see the grey towers of a castle in the distance from the house.

After a bit of a hike through mud, rock, and woods, we arrived at the top. Overlooking the gorge as well as bits of South Wales on a good day, Blaise Castle is small enough to walk around as many times as you please. I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out the difference between a castle and a tower (shhh....I still think this looks like a tower).

Both the house and the castle have very specific opening times and dates, so if you are wanting a peek inside either, I would plan according to the websites: House/museum here, castle here.

As much as I love hopping on a train to somewhere new, it was just as fun exploring a hidden gem on the outskirts of home - I had to keep reminding myself that this was actually in Bristol..."But where's the graffiti?"

A Breath of Fresh Air.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ya know when you wake up in the morning after a funny night's sleep? Your eyes are all puffy and you feel disoriented, the light cracking in through the window makes you feel fuzzy and the thought of moving from your bed feels like a chore.

That's how I felt after turning in my term papers. After weeks of writing accompanied by a horrible bout of illness and jet lag, I pushed the submit button and celebrated with a weekend comprised of pizza in bed and a Skins marathon.

And then I just became stir-crazy. The days flicked by, the nights came quicker, and conversations felt like white noise. I had wrapped up what is bar-none one of the busiest months of my entire life, and suddenly my room felt more like a cave with a big boulder blocking the door. I built up a grudge with my surroundings during my weeks of trudging from the library, to Nandos, to sleep, up again in the morning to do it all again. It became a bit lather, rinse, repeat - if you will.

I desperately needed to re-charge my batteries and re-fall in love with my city.

In true British fashion, it began with a pot of tea.

After weeks of being apart, I met with Sara at our spot like the little old grannies we are to catch up on life and discuss a plan of action for a local adventure during the following days. We may be able to venture to an island for a daycation or bus-hop around the English countryside like it's no big, but exploring new sights of Bristol took some effort (okay, some Google-ing). Wanting to go beyond the city center and harbourside, we scanned the pages of Pinterest in search of something new within Bristol city limits.

After getting our fill of the best cream tea around and mapping out our plan for the following day, we strolled up to Brandon Hill to catch the sunset and walk off about half a bite of a scone. The crisp air and golden light instantly made me feel a little lighter. I had been up to Brandon Hill and Cabot Tower countless times when I first moved to Bristol - it's a great place for a run or to take in the skyline. When winter rolled in, I stopped going because my gym was a lot warmer and I felt like I had seen all that it offered. Something about returning here with all the weight off my shoulders and the deadlines gone made me see it through a whole new set of lenses. The grass was greener, the skyline was more colorful, the people walking their dogs more cheerful. "Has that building always been there?"

It's funny how we let stress cloud up happy, everyday things that are right in front of us. Rub your eyes, splash some water on your face, and get out there.

Has anyone else been in a funk lately? How do you work on pulling yourself out? Is it just the wintertime/post-holiday blues?

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