First of all, I want to thank you all for the kind messages you left me! It is going to take a few days before I pick up the pace and reply to all the comments from the past two weeks, but it will be done. Hopefully new travel posts will be up every week, for those of you who are still reading (苦笑).
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Well, (sh)it happens, and this was not a good day for either of us.
Our fifth day kicked off with a bang, courtesy of my alma mater. While doing my routine email and account checks in the morning, I discovered that my school’s registrar office had made a gross mistake with my records, which affected my request for graduation approval. Because of the time difference between Europe and North America, I could not bombard their office over the phone until later in the afternoon London time. That effectively put me into a foul mood for the rest of the morning.
The first meal of the day took place at another fish ‘n’ chips joint in Covent Garden called the “Rock and Sole Plaice.” We had stumbled upon it on an earlier day and had wanted to try it out because of its charming outdoor seating area. We ordered a serving of fried kalamari and fish ‘n’ chips to share. I couldn’t say whether I liked the fish ‘n’ chips from the other day or this one more: I was panicking over my graduation status the whole time. Justin, still functioning at the time, found the chips from the other place better. Experiencing grease overload, he also decided that he would not be having anymore fried food for the next little while. In retrospect, I wished I had brought along some spicy and citrus salt to cut through the grease.
After brunch we made our way to the British Museum. While the guy was left to do some exploring on his own, I ran off to talk to my academic advisors over the phone. So there I was, at one of the most celebrated museums of the world, stuck in the phone booths next to its gift shop. Good thing I had visited the museum before.
I feel horrible saying this, but I also find the British Museum and the Met very similar. Of the two, I like the New York version better for the design of its Egyptian wing and the sword collection.
Luckily, the problem was solved after a series of pricey long-distance calls. After reuniting with Justin, we carried on with our day. Since he was not interested in the archaeological exhibits (he was probably there for Norman Foster’s glass ceiling), we cut our visit short and headed off to the National Portrait Gallery.
But before arriving at the Portrait Gallery, we had an impromptu stop at a Hong Kong style café in Chinatown for some afternoon snacks. Ever since I was a child, I love going to Hong Kong style cafés. My family frequented the same neighbourhood café for almost a decade before moving to Canada. I still go to that place every time I go back to Hong Kong, and that place has not changed a bit (even the waitress looks the same). Although I am not a particular huge fan of the classic baked goods like egg tarts and “pineapple buns,” I love their breakfasts and other savoury treats. Absolute comfort food for me.
(Justin doesn’t seem to understand why one would pay to eat modified versions of instant noodles in a restaurant; but really, this captures the essence of café culture: cheap, quick, creative, and tasty.)
The Portrait Gallery turned out to be a lot more amusing for the two of us. Although we got there not too long before the closing time, we managed to do a quick scan of the Early Modern rooms. Seeing the different painting styles, compositional arrangements, and fashion styles were fun. So were reading about the escapades and affairs associated with each character: nothing beats gossiping about history! I am sure everyone in the history department has their “insider” story or dirty joke on their favourite dictator… at least I do.
Following Bon Appetit‘s recommendation, we had supper at Great Queen Street, a cozy restaurant near Holborn that specializes in contemporary British cuisine. Try going there with a larger party when you have the chance, so you can sample their big tray of roast lamb or pork. Our first choice, ballotine of English veal with fennel and bacon, was sadly out at the time. Instead, we got a game ragu with semolina gnocchi and a minute steak with young garlic butter. The food was delightful, and our dinner conversation… not so much. Nevertheless, as I always say, if you feel heartbroken but the food still tastes great, then the food must be really, really good. Sad, but true.
Names & Addresses
Great Russell Street
London, WC1B 3DG
Great Queen Street
32 Great Queen Street
London, WC2B 5AA
National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place
London, WC2H 0HE
Rock and Sole Plaice
47 Endell Street
London, WC2H 9AJ