Bubbles & The Royal Ascot, UK

There are many wonderful things I could tell you about my trip to London for the Royal Ascot. I could tell you about my awesome friends Erin and Alex, who rounded up a big crew to experience one of their favorite pastimes. I could tell you about the Queen, the horses, or the amazing dinner we had at the hotel in Kensington the night before the races. And instead, the story I am going to tell you is an honest and sloppy one. Because apparently bubbles and horse racing go hand in hand, almost as tightly as gambling and big, fancy British hats. I’d never been to the races before, and so I didn’t quite know what to expect. My friend Erin, who frequents the races and makes intricate and stunning derby hats, prepped me accordingly. The Royal Ascot is the crème de la crème of horse racing. There is a strict dress code, a rich history behind the event, and even the queen herself is present! I expect a major fashion event, opulence, and spirited gambling. What I did not expect was the sheer amount of champagne consumed before, during, and after the event – to put it politely, it was a royal shit show. Continue reading

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Southend-on-Sea

Nat is one of my awesome UK girlfriends. I’ve told you about her previously, when we popped into Granger & Co and caught up over scrambled eggs and strong coffee. She’s a doll who has been a good a friend since we both worked at a summer camp in Maine, way back in the day! As she now lives in the UK, I wanted to squeeze in some Nat time on my most recent London trip. Turns out, Nat had a rental car for a few days over the long holiday weekend, so we booked in a mini road trip to the seaside.

When I go to London, I rarely escape. I love eating out, fancy cocktail bars, a billion shopping options, and of course soaking up as much friend time as humanly possible. I’ve never really ventured outside of London to see the likes of Windsor or St Albans, both of which are on my bucket list. This time around, Nat suggested we head over to Southend-on-Sea, an adorable seaside town in Essex, England. It’s a short drive east from central London, and boasts of the longest ‘leisure’ pier in the world. IMG_6604The sky was grey, which in my opinion only made the day more beautiful – I LOVE taking photos when the sky is overcast. Also, turns out there was a big motorcycle convention in the Southend that day, which meant lots of big burly men walking around in leather (and women too!) and loud motorbikes screaming in every direction.  Continue reading

Brick Lane Colors and Tacos, London

After the long holiday weekend, most Londoners returned to business. However, I had Tuesday off of work (three days in London is never enough!) and so I decided to roam the streets of East London with my camera, doing some vintage shopping and eating copious amounts of street food along the way.IMG_6660

Brick Lane got its name in the 15th century, when brick and tile were manufactured from local deposits. Today, Brick Lane is populated with a large Bangladeshi community and is THE place to go to in London for a mind blowing curry. The area is also world-famous for its graffiti. It’s clear to see that from the local shops, markets, and colors that Brick Lane is an art and fashion hotspot in London.  Continue reading

Villandry, London

One of the many reasons I love London is because they freakin’ rock the brunch scene. In my opinion, a good brunch menu should have a handful of healthy options (think hearty salad, fresh fruit, homemade muesli, yogurt), the absolute breakfast basics (croissants, jam, fresh bread, porridge), a selection of morning cocktails (especially mimosas), some classics for the mainstream (eggs benny, buttermilk pancakes), and a few ‘wow’ entrees that go above and beyond your average breakfast expectations. Bakers and Roasters and Little Collins tick all the boxes here in Amsterdam, but otherwise, an exceptional breakfast spot is hard to come by in the ‘dam. However, in London, almost every brunch establishment knocks it out of the park – inventive mimosas, flaky croissants, and all.

On my last Sunday in London, Roshni and I popped out to meet up with Emily. The three of us lived together in Leeds, and haven’t all been in the same room since 2010! And what’s the best way to reconnect? Over brunch of course! We set off for Villandry on an ironically wet morning.
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Granger & Co, London

As I did a semester abroad at Lancaster University and later a master’s program in Leeds, I have a great handful of friends who still live in the UK. I mentioned a few of these brilliant women in a previous post, as I was lucky enough to spend the past bank holiday weekend with them in the Big Smoke. Today I’ll introduce you to my huge-hearted friend Nat, along with a tasty little brunch spot in Clerkenwell, London.

Granger & Co is a laid back and delicious foodie establishment that’s popped up in Hawaii, Australia, Japan, and now London. Bill Granger is the mastermind chef behind the chain, and is especially well known for his talented touch with eggs. IMG_2843But before I tell you about the eggs, let me tell you about London . . . .  Continue reading

High Tea, Amsterdam

Have you ever read my first blog post? It was about High Tea. B had borrowed his company’s camera for the weekend, and we took it on a walk across town for an afternoon tea date. We took turns taking photos during our meal, comparing contrast, lighting, and composition. When I got home, I wanted to share the photos with my family and friends back home, but instead of writing one e-mail to my mom, one to my sisters, and another to my girlfriends, I decided to put everything online, in one place. Henceforth, Pressed Words was born.

A year and a half later and I’m still doing the same thing. Walking around Amsterdam, taking photos, going on dates with B, and sharing the stories with you. I even still love the occasional high tea, which is what I wanted to tell you about today.

B and I have walked by The London Brasserie in Amsterdam a billion times. It’s on the corner of our neighbourhood, and the British themed menu always catches B’s eye as we pass by. In true UK fashion, they offer a high tea, which I thought would be a nice treat for Valentine’s Day. Leave it to me to spread one day of soppy love out over the whole weekend ;) On Friday night B and I ate ribs and drank wine at Cafe de Pijp, on Saturday night we camped out in the living room and watched movies, and on Sunday, we drank tea. IMG_0205The afternoon started with a walk around town. I wanted to get this photo (do you recognize it?!) of my favorite houses in Amsterdam, to update my blog header – coming soon :)

All of the flowers are slowly creeping out of the ground. It feels oddly early, but at the same time, we didn’t get any snow this winter, and really didn’t have any deep-freeze chills. So I’m not surprised spring is starting early, as we never really had a proper winter. It’s fairly easy for the flowers to pop out of the ground, considering it never froze!IMG_0179We took advantage of the sun’s presence and curved up and around the canals, walking, and counting down the minutes to our high-tea reservation. IMG_0184IMG_0227I know this is not a fashion blog, but aren’t these knee socks the cutest? I did a lot of Topshop-shopping in Edinburgh last week, and I stocked (socked, ha) up on adorable, probably-meant-for-teenager clothing.

* Socks are Top Shop, boots are Frye, jacket is United Colors of Benentton, and bag is Kate Spade*
IMG_0231We arrived for our high tea looking fancy and a tad early. In fact, we were the first ones there!IMG_0232Which was a-ok with us, because we had the whole dinning room and wait staff to ourselves ;) IMG_0247IMG_0240There were red roses and teacups on all the tables, and my date was looking very dapper! IMG_0243To get started, were given a hot pot of water and a box of assorted organic teas. IMG_0241IMG_0235I’m a huge tea junkie, especially on the weekends, so I loved the unlimited tea offered with the meal. I think I tried green tea, darjeeling, organic English breakfast, and earl grey. A very cliche and delicious assortment.IMG_0248And then the goodies started flowing.IMG_0252Sandwiches and scones. . . IMG_0254. . . . homemade whipped butter. And a whole plate of sweets! IMG_0267We took turns, going one for one on the sandwiches and pastries.  IMG_0270And by the end, we had managed to clear three tiers of savouries and sweets :)

There are so many great high tea spots in Amsterdam, and I’ve only just begun to  sample what’s out there. To be honest, I think I preferred Grand Cafe Fossa – my first blog post / Amsterdam high tea experience. Grand Cafe Fossa was located on a huge house boat and the high tea came with a glass of prosecco ;) More my style! That said, the treats and confections at the London Brasserie we’re fantastic, so my sweet-tooth might beg to differ!

I’m going to keep sampling different high tea spots around Amsterdam and will report back. I’m committed to finding just the right high tea, and will not stop sipping, nibbling, and cake eating until I do!

xo Ali

 

Kensington Gardens, Goodbye London

My last day in London was hungover. Very rarely do I go to a club that requires high heels and eye makeup – that’s not really the scene here in Amsterdam. But one of my very favorite ladies in London, Roshni, is a Mayfair princess, and has a habit of treating me to the swankiest nights out when I’m in town. Last year we danced the night away on a table at Jalouse, and this year, she introduced me to Project, another posh night club in London with awesome house music and flowing drinks. The night was amazing and fuzzy. ProjectLondonThe following morning was rough. Admirably, Roshni got up to catch an early train down to Paris. After a strong cup of tea, I set off to meet up with B for our final afternoon in London. The sky was oddly bright, and I was in need of a good dose of fresh air, so we decided to stroll through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens before catching our train. IMG_5701 IMG_5703We met at Marble Arch, picked up yet another coffee, and headed into the park.IMG_5707 IMG_5708 IMG_5710While the sun was scarce, we did get a happy glimpse of blue sky.IMG_5712 IMG_5715We strolled through the length of Hyde Park, and then on to Kensington Gardens. All of the trees and flowers were just on the verge of blooming. The grounds were manicured and fresh – just waiting for spring. IMG_5716 IMG_5718The gardens were beautiful, and the fresh air was delicious – the perfect cure for a fuzzy head!IMG_5719 IMG_5721 IMG_5728 IMG_5729 IMG_5730Even the litter bins were pretty!
IMG_5731 IMG_5735 IMG_5739 IMG_5741 IMG_5742 IMG_5744 IMG_5746 IMG_5749 IMG_5755 IMG_5760After a long stroll we left the park and headed for Kings Cross. IMG_5763We emerged from the park in a beautiful neighborhood, and decided that if we ever live in London, it would be here. IMG_5767IMG_5773 IMG_5776 IMG_5785We arrived at Kings Cross / St. Pancras just as darkness set. The hotel next to the train station is absolutely beautiful, and is quite a sight all lit up at night.IMG_5807 IMG_5810 IMG_5817 IMG_5818 IMG_5821We wandered through the station, and after one final pit stop in M&S, we hopped on our train, just in time. IMG_5824Hello train goodies / hungover dinner! Goodbye London, you were wonderful and we can’t wait to see you again sometime soon!IMG_5827

Lucky Chip, Camden London

Day two in London was very similar to day one. Exploring neighborhoods, spending time with friends, and eating lots of food!IMG_5595What do you have for breakfast in England? Crumpets, of course. After a delicious breakfast of crumpets with peanut butter and jelly (about as American you can make crumpets!) we headed out to meet up with some friends at Lucky Chip in Camden.
IMG_5598IMG_5601I’ve heard rave reviews about Lucky Chip chicken, and was dying for a big greasy bucket. Lucky Chip is a pop up joint without a super permanent home. I’d heard they’d recently taken residence at the The Grafton Arms in Kentish Town, so we popped on by to see what all the fuss was about.
IMG_5640IMG_5641From the outside, the Gradton looks like any other pub. But inside, you will find colorful Lucky Chip menus and greasy food galore. Sadly, Lucky Chip rotate their chicken pop up location. So while we did manage to stumble upon a Lucky Chip pop-up, we missed out on the chicken and were handed their burger menu instead. Luckily, there were no burger-haters in the group, and in all honesty, Lucky Chip burgers have an even BETTER reputation in London than the chicken. I’ve heard that it’s hands down the best burger in the city. We were happy to judge for ourselves! 
IMG_5605I went for a Kelly Lebrock, the burger of the week. A patty stacked with bacon, onions, cheddar, cream cheese, and aioli. Holy aioli! I also got a ginger beer.IMG_5609 IMG_5611Ohh, and some coleslaw and fries also made their way to our table. IMG_5613 IMG_5614B got his burger first and dug in.IMG_5616Mine came not long after and truly reflected all of the glory promised in the menu. Cheddar. Bacon. More cheese. Burger bliss!!IMG_5618 IMG_5620 IMG_5622We sat downstairs for the ambiance, as it was mid-day and the upstairs was completely empty. However, upstairs is also a cool hang out option and feels even more bit more Lucky Chip themed – worth checking out next time!IMG_5633 IMG_5635 IMG_5637After our burgers, I begged the guys to escort me to the nearest H&M. I was going to Project that night with a girlfriend, and they have a strickt must-wear-heels policy. I needed some tall but comfy dancing booties, and H&M was the easiest place I could think to go to on such short notice. So after a quick google search we headed towards the heart of Camden, in hunt of an H&M. IMG_5644Camden is like Shoreditch, in that the neighborhood makes an impression. It’s not like Central London where the vibe is generally ‘British’. Camden is a blend of culture, art, and people, in a melting pot hodgepodge neighborhood. A lot of the scenery feels like an attraction – as if it were built for a touristy pier or waterfront boardwalk. . . except in Camden the ocean is no where to be seen, and the buildings are brick instead of a summery clapbaord. IMG_5649 IMG_5651 IMG_5652We stumbled upon Camden Lock Village and browsed through the stalls, taking in the market’s sights and smells. IMG_5676IMG_5656 IMG_5661IMG_5657I found a moose shirt and was proud to see a tiny bit of Maine’s finest represented in the UK.IMG_5663 IMG_5667 IMG_5672 IMG_5673We left the market and hit the streets, which proved to be another adventure packed with color and fun. The boys headed off to get a coffee and I went in search of H&M. 
IMG_5678 IMG_5679 IMG_5680The streets were packed with people, and it made me realize how I’ve missed mixing in with an English speaking crowd. In Holland I cannot understand what anyone is saying! I confess, I miss the occasional mindless eavesdrop. In this sense, it’s refreshing to be in London. While in Camden, a little kid ran up to me and smiled. It was a privilege to be able to say “Hi” in English, and not have the child look at me like an alien! 
IMG_5682 IMG_5683After a little pit stop at Snow White’s for dessert, I found H&M, mixed in alongside some truly funky shops!IMG_5686Camden is definitely a neighborhood with a personality, and I definitely recommend a stop, even if you don’t get any further than Lucky Chip! As mentioned, you can find them at The Grafton Arms in Kentish Town. Also, be sure to follow Lucky_Chip on Twitter for updates. x

Story Deli, Shoreditch London

I’ve had a running London bucket list for the past few months . . . places to eat, things to see, photos to snap. On the very tippidy-top of the London list was a visit to Story Deli in Shoreditch. Rumor has it, the pizzas are deliciously out of this world. So on Thursday afternoon, B and I set off for Shoreditch, ready to gorge ourselves on pizza and explore London’s hipster mecca.

bounds green londonWe were staying with a friend in a cute residential neighbourhood in Bounds Green. To get from here to there, we took the underground in true Londoner-style. I am now the proud owner of an Oyster card!Keep Lefttube londonAfter a short ride on the tube, we emerged at our destination. Shoreditch is urban and trendy. The cobblestone streets are lined with art and murals that sing, and all of the shops have a unique, retro vibe. We strolled up and down the narrow lanes, people watching and admiring the various.

shoreditch london art1Love LocksLove Locks LondonLocksmith Londonshoreditch london art6shoreditch london artI think B most accurately described Shoreditch when he exclaimed, ‘This neighbourhood is like, sponsored by Instagram!’ Shoreditch is a living, breathing pop culture museum.

shoreditch london art4“Clear!”

Resuscitating or annihilating?

london sneakers shoreditch london art2B Shadow TunnelWe had to do a bit of roaming before we found Story Deli. They’ve recently moved and we had the wrong address, and once we did find the right address, we could not find the store front!Story Deli Shoreditch LondonThis little sign was the only indication that Story Deli was hiding out around the corner. When we did finally find the restaurant, we were greeted by two big locked black doors. We again doubted our location, but our hunger-lust for pizza gave us the courage to call the number listed on the the doors. A friendly voice answered the phone, and immediately the big black doors swung open, and we entered an airy, white pizza heaven!Story Deli Shoreditch London1 Story Deli Shoreditch London3The restaurant is filled with beautiful furniture pieces, telling a wholesome, well crafted and articulate Story.
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The menu only consists of pizza, all of which sound divine. Story Deli Shoreditch London4As we were ordering, the owner came over and asked if we wanted a pizza on the house. They were having a little competition to design the prettiest pizza for the window, and the runner up was up for grabs!
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Although it looked heavenly, we passed, as some of the other menu items looked even more tempting.
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Odd aside: I highly recommend the soda at Story Deli. Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but I’ve never seen Whole Earth cola before! It had a delicious, wholesome nutty taste, but was still reminiscent of a good ‘ole Coca-cola. I’m going to be on the hunt for this soda in Amsterdam! Story Deli Shoreditch London10When the main event arrived, we couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear. The pizzas were well worth the hunt, and looked absolutely exquisite. Story Deli Shoreditch London11B got the Charlie Jones, which was piled high with spicy sausage, tomato passata, taleggio, parmesan, roasted red peppers, garlic, toasted spices, birds eye chillies and sweet chilli. I went for the Fico, a goat’s cheese pizza with fig, olive tapenade, fresh red onion, capers & thyme with parma ham all served on a heap of fresh salad leaves.

Story Deli Shoreditch London9 Story Deli Shoreditch London8We dug in and absolutely demolished our pizzas! I think Ben crunched through his in less than 5 minutes flat. They were cooked to perfection – the kind of pizzas that aren’t all soggy and oily, and taste more of the delicious ingredients than soppy, oily cheese.Story Deli Shoreditch London12We easily cleared our plates (OK, so maybe B helped clear some of mine), said a sad goodbye to Story Deli (but not so sad, because we WILL be back!!), and then popped back out into Shoreditch to finish our stroll. Story Deli Shoreditch London13shoreditch london art 8shoreditch london art 7LondonThe day was frosty, so we stopped for a hipster drink at Brick Lane Coffee. Brick Lane CoffeeBrick Lane Coffee3 Brick Lane Coffee2shoreditch london art 6Cool-cat photo opp!shoreditch london art 3After a fun afternoon of pizza and adventure, B took off to meet up with friends, and I, for the first time, ventured out on my own in London! Where did I go? B-line for Oxford street!!! London2Shopping, more food, friends and fun updates to come! x