Photo Friday – Cinnamon Tree Bakery

How gorgeous are these jam-filled shortbread cookies from Cinnamon Tree Bakery at the Borough Market in London? I can personally attest that they were not only beautiful, they were absolutely delicious. I’m crazy about chocolate sweets, but every time I step foot in the U.K. my shortbread craving shows up, and these hit the spot.

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My Revisiting London Wish List

The first time I visited London, my mom played tour guide for the weekend and showed me pretty much everything you can squeeze into two days. My parents were living in England at the time, and my mom knew how to hit all of the city’s highlights perfectly and managed to fit in a super fun show at the theatre as well (Mamma Mia!).

Since I had already seen most of the major sights, and since Chris didn’t have any specific wants for this trip (he was just happy to see and do anything in London), I elected to plan a few things on my running wish list this time around. We arrived on a Thursday morning and had plans for Friday afternoon and most of Sunday, so we had about two full days to spend on London things. Here is what we managed to accomplish on the wish list!

Take More Photos

When I visited London in 2003, I photographed everything with my 35mm film SLR. While I cherish those photos and I do love film, I was looking forward to taking more photos of the city with my digital camera. And not to toot my own horn, but my photography skills have maybe gotten a little better over the past 13 years.

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Attend Afternoon Tea

I covered this one already in the previous post, but having proper tea in London ranked quite high on my wish list. Sanderson offered the perfect place to do so and with a cute theme to boot!
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Ride the London Eye

I love any opportunity to get up high where I can enjoy a bird’s eye view of a location, so the London Eye appealed to me for a good photo op. Because we had such a limited amount of time in London with a ton of items on my to-do list, I purchased advanced Ultimate Fast Track tickets from the website with the option to visit any time within 3 months from the date of purchase. It was a little bit of a splurge to buy those tickets over the standard tickets, but in the end we appreciated the convenience of selecting a day based on the weather forecast and then walking right onto the first rotation without waiting in line at all. We arrived at opening time (10am) on a Friday and there was quite a long queue for the standard tickets line. I’m pretty sure if you ask Chris he’ll say the extra cost was worth not having to wait. I tend to get a little whiny in long lines.

Truth be told, I was a little bummed to see the Parliament building covered in scaffolding and tarp, but the Eye was still a fun ride and I’m glad we had a gorgeous day to check this off the list.

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Drink at an English Pub

This one was on the list with Chris in mind, although we both love bars. We stayed in the Covent Garden area and we had plenty of options for pubs – we couldn’t walk a single block without finding one and I had fun photographing the various pub signs. Sitting in a pub with a pint and a steak pie or fish-and-chips this time of year felt especially cozy.

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Shop

My mom and I didn’t fit much shopping into our London weekend because we prioritized seeing the sights and getting to the theatre. This time around I planned to hit Harrods, the Covent Market Garden, Neal’s Yard, and even umbrella shopping at the famous James Smith & Sons store. Note: I wanted so badly to ask if the umbrella shop employees felt it was bad luck to open the brollies indoors, but I resisted. The store has been around since 1830, so I suspect the urban myth does not apply here.

The holiday shopping crowds at Harrods totally overwhelmed me and we didn’t end up staying long, so I’ll probably need to put Harrods back on my wish list for a third trip to London. It was fun to see the beautiful Christmas decorations though! I bought a very sturdy, well-made umbrella at James Smith & Sons, some artwork from the Covent Garden Market, and we had a fantastic lunch at a cute pizza place in Neal’s Yard.

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Eat at Borough Market

I don’t consider Chris and I to be true foodies per se, but we do love food (understatement), so the more I heard about the different food stalls at Borough Market the more I wanted to eat my way through this outdoor marketplace. We went into the market at lunchtime with empty bellies and a specific plan of finding certain vendors that I had read about online. We found gorgeous produce, exotic mushrooms, fresh flowers, sinful baked goods, giftable food items, and so many options for a well-rounded meal.

On that very rainy Saturday, it felt like everyone else in London had the same idea to visit the market. We expected the market to be busy, but perhaps not quite that packed! The massive crowds meant we had some challenges navigating the market and finding things, so we ended up just going with the flow of the crowd and trying whatever we stumbled upon and that was fun, too. We tried a fantastic sausage bap from Northfield Farm, a warm, gooey cheese toastie from Kappacasein, cookies of all kinds at Cinnamon Tree Bakery, and as much fudge as we could manage to carry from Whirld. It’s worth mentioning that the fudge was so good none of it even made it onto the plane ride home.

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Try a New Food

In addition to all the goodies from Borough Market, we ate at some really fantastic restaurants in London. We were spoiled for choices in the Soho/Covent Garden area. One of my goals for each of our trips is always to try a new food, and I ended up doing just that while having breakfast at Bill’s in Covent Garden. I spotted “bubble and squeak” on a menu in my trip research and after Googling the definition (shallow-fried leftover vegetables and potatoes), I wanted to make sure I tried it. I absolutely loved it! One of these days I’m going to have to try to replicate it at home.

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See (Another) Show/Musical

I didn’t technically have this on my London wish list, but I always want to go to the show. Always. I adore the theatre and will pretty much see anything, so on Friday when the weather forecast predicted a very rainy Saturday evening, Chris suggested we see a show and I pounced at the idea. Our hotel was literally less than one hundred feet from Cambridge Theatre where Matilda was playing, so we decided to give it a try. We were able to get great seats online, and the show was tons of fun. I’ve had the songs in my head since we returned home!

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Photograph London at Night

Lastly, I love seeing a city lit up at night, and I welcome the challenge of low-light photography. I didn’t end up doing any nighttime photography on my last visit, so I figured this time we could carve some time out to see parts of the city well past sunset. The Tower Bridge looks particularly lovely at night and I think this photo turned out nicely. (Low-light selfies are tricky, though I like how that one turned out, too.)

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Looking back, we managed to pack so many things into a short almost-four-day trip considering we also visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London and saw another super fun show at the theatre (posts coming up), but I still have a running wish list for London. I have yet to tour the Tower of London or the National Gallery. I’ve seen St. Paul’s Cathedral, but I haven’t been inside. And Chris didn’t get to see Buckingham Palace because we ran out of time. I guess we’ll have get to go back!

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  • AdrienneDecember 2, 2016 - 2:43 pm

    Ah, you have written a lot of blog posts I need to catch up on :) I love all these photos, but especially that one of the man walking by the telephone box…so quintessentially British! This looks like such a fun trip!

A Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea in London

Chris and I snuck off to London for a few days a couple of weeks ago with the main purpose of attending a very exciting event (hint/spoiler). But first, we spent a few days in one of my favorite cities doing a few things I had yet to cross off of my London bucket list.

Attending afternoon tea ranked high on that list, and I discovered the perfect place to do exactly that. Sanderson in West End offers just about the cutest afternoon tea I could have imagined with a Mad Hatter theme to make us feel like we stepped right into the beloved Alice in Wonderland fantasy world.

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We arrived in London on a bit of a cold and dreary day, in fact we were nearly drenched walking to Sanderson in the pouring rain, so I was happy to see that the courtyard garden provided a lovely spot to warm up not only with hot tea, but with cozy blankets and plenty of heaters. Our reservation at 2:45pm meant we were seated right away, and the service was welcoming and quite friendly.

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Of the wonderfully fragrant teas to choose from, I selected the tea party’s namesake, Mad Hatter, and Chris tried Alice. Both were delicious, and I regret not purchasing one of each to bring back home! The loose leaf teas are available to take for £12-15 each.

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We had yet to eat breakfast or lunch after stepping off the plane, so we were both ravenous and all too excited to head down the rabbit hole and try each of the goodies in the savory selection. Classic cucumber sandwiches, goat cheese croque-monsieurs, crab and herb eclairs, and smoked salmon and caviar Scotch eggs filled our bellies. We were even offered additional savory rounds (the savory plates are unlimited!) before the sweets portion of the menu.
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I could have eaten quite a few of those croque-monsieurs, but I knew I needed to save room for the massive tower of confections up next. The multi-tiered serving dish offered sweets of every color, shape, and size. I felt like a kid (in a candy store!) every time I selected a different candy caterpillar, marshmallow mushroom, or drink me potion.

My absolute favorite ended up being the rich chocolate Queen of Hearts cookie soldiers, but I also loved the banana bread-and-butterfly. And the scones. And the White Rabbit’s pocket watch macaron.

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And just when we thought we couldn’t possibly eat or drink another thing, we received a surprise ending – ice cream served in a tiny flower pot with cookie crumble topping, bits of honeycomb, and an edible flower.

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Sanderson definitely nailed the Mad Hatter theme, and afternoon tea couldn’t have felt more whimsical unless the Cheshire Cat himself was grinning at me from a corner in the room. At £48 per person, afternoon tea at Sanderson is perhaps a bit of a splurge, but it’s perfect for a special occasion though fancy dress is not required. We noticed a pair of friends at the table next to us celebrating a birthday (or maybe an unbirthday?) and they received some special birthday treats. Occasion or not, I definitely recommend this experience!

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  • AdrienneDecember 2, 2016 - 2:50 pm

    Ok, this is amazing. The tiny flower pots!? I’m dying. I’ve been to London before but somehow I’ve never managed to have high tea. It’s on my list for next time for sure. (And you’re really making me want to book a trip there ASAP!)

Crossing the Charles Bridge to Malá Strana

While we did spend considerably more time on the Old Town side of Prague, Chris and I crossed the Charles Bridge over to Malá Strana to get a feel for the area otherwise known as Lesser Town. And the bridge is a destination in itself, so on the way we spent time exploring the surrounding statues, shopping the artists’ stands, and listening to a talented busker or two.

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As soon as we crossed over, the first thing we tackled was the climb up the Lesser Town Bridge Tower to survey the bridge from up high. Admission was 90 CZK each (about $3.50 USD), and we considered it an inexpensive workout for the day. I lost count of how many steps take you to the top, but it’s several flights. The 360-degree view is totally worth it!

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From the east side of the tower you can watch people milling about on the bridge, and front the west side you have a rooftop view of Malá Strana and the Prague Castle. We visited the tower on a Friday just after lunch and we had the lookout almost completely to ourselves.

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After we took as many photos as our hearts desired, we walked over to see a quirky attraction (I love those) – the narrowest street in Prague. Traffic lights regulate passage through the narrow walkway, though we noticed not everyone obeyed the stop/walk rules. I wonder if someone could be issued a ticket for running the stop light! (I patiently waited my turn and followed the signal.)

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Another fun sight in Malá Strana, the Lennon wall has been continually graffitied since 1980 with Beatles song lyrics, John Lennon portraits, anti-Communist messages of peace, and other random tags. As a stop on walking tours and a perfectly Instagrammable backdrop, we shared the wall with at least fifty other people that day.

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In addition to charming cobblestone streets and pastel-painted Baroque buildings, I was surprised to discover a small series of lovely waterway canals on this side of the city. River tours are offered, though we didn’t end up taking one. I did, however, buy a watercolor painting of the paddle wheel in the photo below.
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As we planned it, our next stop in Lesser Town would have been to see Prague Castle. Sadly, I came down with a cold on this last day of our two-week trip, and at this moment I completely ran out of steam. We decided not to tour the castle and to give ourselves the perfect excuse to return to Prague in the future.

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We crossed back over the Karlův most, spotting more details along the bridge, and returned to our flat to pack for the trip back home. Prague turned out to win the title of favorite city on this trip and I can’t wait to return again someday!

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  • AdrienneDecember 2, 2016 - 6:19 pm

    I don’t understand why this area is called Lesser Town – it’s absolutely charming! Your photos are stunning. I especially love the one of the bridge taken from the tower and the ones of the canals and the paddle wheel.