london

Cat Cafes

This morning, I awoke to a link in my inbox, from Mal, that made my day: “8 Purrfect Destinations For Any Cat Lover.” (From Buzzfeed, of course!)

It mentions Cat Island; Cat City, Borneo (duly added to my list of places to visit); Belgium’s Kattenstoet Cat Festival (who knew?!) and others.

All those cat-centric places reminded me of Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London’s new cat cafe, which opened earlier this month.

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I’m thrilled to see cat cafes, which started in Japan more than 10 years ago, opening in more countries.

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Um, why couldn’t Lady Dinah’s have opened a few months earlier when I was in London?

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So how long until NYC gets a cat cafe?

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Have a wonderful weekend!

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(Images via Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium)

A Long Weekend of Great Eats in London

Whenever anyone asked me how my trip to London was, my automatic response was: “It was amazing! I ate sooooooooo much!!” Which prompted most people to respond: “Really? I thought the food wasn’t that great over there.”

I can’t speak to how London’s overall dining scene is, since I was there for such a short time. But everything I ate was fabulous. Reen planned an awesome itinerary for my trip, which revolved around two of my favorite activities: eating and wandering around. Each day, we trekked for hours, getting to and from every restaurant.

I couldn’t have asked for a better arrangement. Along the way, I saw tons of the city and walked off a fraction of the calories we consumed. And, best of all, we got to catch up on everything that’s been going on with us on opposite sides of the ocean, for the past year!

Some highlights:

Despite flying in on a red eye, I was still game for a long walk from Reen’s Marylebone apartment to Spitalfields. We had a late lunch at the English Restaurant, a wonderfully old school place. It’s housed in building from the 1670s, and the interior has gorgeous wood floors and dark wood booths. The restaurant has a lovely menu, which includes some refined takes on British standards. We shared a delicious salmon roulade and an omelet.

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Later, we had drinks with some of Reen’s co-workers. I don’t remember either of these two things from my previous trip to London, but I’m convinced we need both, in the States: The ability to stand outside a bar and drink. (As long as you’re in a designated area.) And mulled wine. Seriously, it’s one of the most amazing drinks I’ve ever had. How has it not infiltrated bars on this side of the pond?

The next morning, we embarked on another long walk to Maltby Market. Along the way, Reen led us down Drury Lane, which she knew I’d love for one reason:

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…there are a bunch of ballet shops within a few blocks of each other! Of course, we stopped into a few.

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The Bloch store was my favorite. It was new and pretty with all their shoes displayed on the bottom floor. At Bloch, and the other stores, women and girls were getting fitted for their pointe shoes. It’s funny—and comforting—how ballet rituals are similar, no matter where in the world you are.

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After crossing the Thames and walking along the south bank for a while, we came to what appeared to be a row of garages under a bridge. We’d arrived at Maltby Market.

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On weekends, each of the garages houses a pop-up restaurant or food stall—but they’re only open until they run out of eats, usually between 2 and 4.

Reen had chosen Bea’s of Bloomsbury for brunch. When we arrived at their garage, we were dismayed when we saw their door down—we’d thought we’d missed our window of opportunity!

Then we realized you could walk in through a small door within the door…

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…and into a cute, makeshift restaurant!

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Bea’s has a simple brunch menu with staples like pancakes, french toast and poached eggs. I opted for both the pancakes and a poached egg and a side of smoked salmon.

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Bea’s also has maple bacon, which is the most amazing bacon I’ve ever eaten—sweet, salty and crispy, all at once. Sadly, I was too busy chowing down on it to take a pic!

Afterwards, we stopped into the other pop-up shops. My Cup of Tea had gorgeous-looking blends and elegant accessories.

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A few steps down, Comptoir Gourmand was selling some of the prettiest pastries I’ve ever come across.

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I wished I could have sampled everything, but I was so stuffed, that I just opted for one of their Portuguese egg tarts, which I devoured a few minutes later. So delicious! The filling was thicker and richer, and the crust more flaky than the Chinese ones I’m used to eating.

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On the other side of the bridge is Maltby Market’s Ropewalk—which meant even more amazing-looking food and cocktails!

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Again, I wanted to try everything. Reen highly recommended the Bad Brownie Company, so we got one to go.

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To return to Reen’s place, we walked back along the south bank of the Thames, passing sights like Tower Bridge.

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We eventually hit the Southbank Christmas market. Unlike Maltby, this place was packed—a complete sea of wall-to-wall people! It had a German theme, so all the booths looked like little wooden chalets. We purchased cups of mulled wine to sip as we walked. Though, thanks to the crowds, I could barely drink it!

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We crossed the river right near Big Ben, which looked gorgeous in the sunset. So much so, that we asked someone to take this touristy photo of us!

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The following morning, we walked to Notting Hill for brunch at Granger & Co. Reen had warned me that we’d have to get there early, because there’s always a line. She wasn’t kidding!

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Luckily, it moved pretty quickly.

I loved the aesthetic of the restaurant—the big windows and wooden ceiling.

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Everything on the menu looked fantastic, as well. Since I was already doing a great job of eating my way through every place we hit up, I opted for the full Aussie breakfast. It was great, especially the eggs—though I wasn’t able to finish it!

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Even though it was drizzling, we walked around Notting Hill. The neighborhood is adorable, with pretty little houses and boutiques.

We stopped into Ottolenghi, the deli/patisserie from the chef/cookbook author of the same name. (He wrote that Jerusalem cookbook, that’s been everywhere!)

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The salads looked so good, but at that point, I was stuffed nearly to the point of self-loathing.

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So Reen and I got a few treats (a cupcake, chocolate-dipped macaroon and lemon tart) to go.

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I was still full on the walk back to Reen’s place, but since I was so hooked on mulled wine, I couldn’t resist the chance to stop for a glass. We ducked into the Swan, one of Reen’s go-to spots. The owners of the pub were super-friendly, and they gave us two very tasty mince pies to go with our drinks. (I think we could use some more mince pies, here in the States, as well!)

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That evening, we went to St. John for dinner. The restaurant features local, seasonal ingredients, and its menu is comprised of small plates for sharing. Reen and I each selected two. I chose the kohlrabi, brown shrimp and cucumber salad. It ended up being my favorite dish of the trip—and that’s saying a lot! The salad was light and refreshing and perfectly dressed. I also chose the whole crab with mayonnaise, which was among the most popular dishes at the restaurant, that night. Nearly all the other diners were eating it, too. I don’t think you can go wrong with whole crab. We ate ours sans the mayo, and were glad we did, a few minutes later.

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Reen’s two picks came out next, and they were probably the two richest plates on the menu. The fois gras and duck liver toast was amazing, but also the heaviest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. After just a few bites, I was stuffed to the point of self-loathing. Reen was, as well. We were nearly in pain when the Jerusalem artichokes came out—covered in a creamy sauce. Yet, we still managed a few bites.

At that point, we were ready to explode. Still, we got two of the puddings, anyway—because we had to try dessert, as well!

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The next morning, Reen had work, so she recommended I get breakfast at the Providores and Tapa Room, a cute restaurant in her neighborhood.

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Even though I was meeting her for lunch just a few hours later, I had to try the Turkish eggs: poached eggs on yogurt with hot chili butter. I would happily eat that for breakfast every day, if I could!

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My last meal in London was at Spuntino, another awesome place Reen knew of. It’s nondescript from the outside; I’m don’t even remember seeing a sign. Inside, it has an underground feel, thanks to the distressed subway tiles, exposed brick and bare lightbulbs.

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We shared a pulled pork slider, the slaw and the mac and cheese—one of the creamiest and most delicious I’ve ever had. It was more than enough to fortify me for my tube ride to the airport and flight back to NYC.

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…I also cannot thank Reen enough for being the best host (and friend!) that I could ask for! Thank you, thank you, Reen for making my trip so wonderful!

Holiday Highlight: The Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker

As you may have noticed, from my lack of posts, this holiday season has been nutty! But as hectic as it’s been, I’ve enjoyed every minute: spending a whirlwind long weekend in London with my best friend. (Highlights coming soon!) Seeing Ailey during their annual City Center run (Wayne McGregor’s “Chroma” was the highlight of the program I saw) and ABT’s Nutcracker. And celebrating Christmas with all my loved ones, yesterday. (Mal and Peter are the best hosts, ever! They plan the menus, do all the cooking and somehow manage to mix and mingle with everyone.)

In a month filled with great times, one experience especially stood out as a highlight: Seeing the Royal Ballet, in London.

Like I’d mentioned, my best friend, Reen, and I both tried to get Royal Ballet Nutcracker tickets weeks ago, but they were sold out. My parents (who I already knew were the world’s most awesome parents), however, surprised me with tickets before my trip.

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They’d purchased them via Stubhub. And in an additional surprise, the seller included this beautiful note when she mailed the tickets. (I’ve also transcribed it, below, since it’s a little hard to read.)

nutcracker ticket note

Dear ‘Kevin,’ [my stepdad]

I see that you have my tickets and I just hoped that if they are for you that you have a wonderful time and if not then someone else enjoys them.

Just so you know, I am not a [illegible] and this is a special show for me and it is years since I have managed to get tickets to the Opera House—where I saw the Nutcracker with my divine late husband—also called Kevin!

This year, I had a later opportunity to visit a goddaughter in Jersey, one thing the past, one the future. Decisions, decisions, rather than do my usual toss a coin, I costed the Jersey trip and put the tickets up for sale. If they sold, Jersey, if not the Opera.

You know the rest.

Merry Christmas.

Anison (really quite sane!)

…I nearly cried after reading that! (And, to be honest, got a little teary while typing it up, just now!)

Dressing up and going to the Royal Opera House was so exciting. For such a renowned theater, it’s surprisingly nondescript from the outside.

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I was also shocked at how small it was, in the inside! I suppose I’ve become accustomed to the massive proportions of the Koch Theatre and the Met Opera at Lincoln Center.

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Our seats were in the center of the balcony, but it felt super-close to the stage. Since the theater is so intimate, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

The performance, itself, was great—I really enjoyed watching a production that was new to me.

Elizabeth Harrod as Clara in The Nutcracker © Johan Persson/ROH 2009

Unlike in Balanchine’s Nutcracker, the version I’ve seen the most, Clara is a company member, rather than a child. She dances en pointe through most of the performance, and is featured in most numbers.

Francesca Hayward as Clara with Artists of The Royal Ballet in The Nutcracker © ROH / Tristram Kenton 2013

Plus, it was interesting to see how the company still keeps the tradition of putting most dancers in wigs. I can’t recall a U.S. company that does the same!

Laura Morera as The Sugar Plum Fairy and Federico Bonelli as The Prince in The Nutcracker © ROH / Tristram Kenton 2013

One particularly special moment, for me, came at the end of Act I, during the “Waltz of the Snowflakes”—my favorite part of the ballet. I’d forgotten that the version of “Snow” that I’d performed last year was partially based on the Royal Ballet’s choreography. So when the snowflakes came out and started dancing, I remembered that I had done many of those steps, myself. I felt truly lucky to see the Royal Ballet perform it live. I’d watched this low-quality YouTube version many times in the past. It majorly pales in comparison to seeing it in person!

During intermission and after the performance, Reen and I went to the Opera House’s Paul Hamlyn Hall Champagne Bar, which is in a gorgeous glass atrium.

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At the bar, you can pre-order food that would be set out for you during intermission. So Reen treated us to champagne and plates of smoked salmon and charcuterie, which we ate between acts. (Thanks Reen!)

I can’t thank my parents (and Reen!) enough for such an awesome night. You can just tell, from this photo here, how thrilled/thankful/happy I was. And still am.

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(Royal Ballet photos via the Royal Opera House)

Off to London!

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As we speak! I’m sitting in the plane on a runway at JFK, waiting to take off.

The past few weeks have been nutty—hence, the lack of posts! But don’t worry; life has been crazy, though with all good things.

Considering how little I’ve been sleeping, a mellow beach vacation would seem more in order. But I’m so energized for this quick jaunt to London. In fact, having it to look forward to kept me feeling upbeat and optimistic for the past several months.

I’ll be visiting my best friend, who moved to London about a year ago. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see her! She’s planned a fabulous weekend: lots of Christmas markets, hearty brunches, mulled wine. I told her that I want to see her London, and I’m so excited to see the city from her local perspective.

My stepdad also surprised me with tickets to see the Royal Ballet perform The Nutcracker—he procured then long after it had sold out and I’d deemed it a lost cause. As you can imagine, I was over the moon when he told me.

I’m a lucky girl. 🙂

And if you have any London recs, please let me know!

Photo via Pinterest

End-of-Year Trip Booked: London

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For weeks—months, actually—I’d been debating whether I could squeeze in a London trip before the end of the year. It’s an expensive flight for a relatively short distance. And I’d only have a few days there.

Finally, I decided to go for it. I caved and booked a flight to London, a week and a half before Christmas. The pros were just too strong:

  • I’ll get to see my best friend, Reen—whom I haven’t seen in nearly a year, since she moved to London! That, alone, is reason enough. 
  • I’ll get to experience the city as a local. On my previous trip to London, I hit up all the must-dos: Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the Globe Theatre, the Tate, the V&A, the Portrait Gallery, Harrod’s—and dozens more. Now that I’ve already seen those places, I’m interested in having Reen take me to her favorite haunts: cute restaurants, local pubs, favorite markets and the like.
  • Even though I hate winter, I love the idea of London at Christmas time. I’m picturing the streets adorned with pretty lights and decorations. And we’re planning to see the Royal Ballet perform the Nutcracker. Of course. 😉
  • I wanted to pre-empt my post-vacation blues. As I’ve learned, I tend to get pretty bummed after a great trip—and the best cure is to book another one! I knew I’d be blue coming back from spring in Buenos Aires to winter in NYC. I figured that booking another getaway would be an investment in my sanity.
  • YOLO. Seriously. And embarrassingly, I actually did think this as I typed in my credit card information for my ridiculously pricey flight to London. I’m halfway through my first year in my 30s, and I’ve felt like I’ve reached that tipping point where everyone around me seems to be settling down and getting married and having kids. And while I still plan to do all those things, myself, I’m not anywhere close, at the moment. And I figure I should take advantage of this time to live it up.

…even though “living it up” also means that I’m being super-careful with money so I can pay off my two trips. (Hello, homemade huevos rancheros for dinner, every night! Not happening: shopping for cute fall sweaters.) But I’m already thrilled with my decision. Instead of being down about the end of summer, I feel nothing but excitement for the fall and winter.

(Photo via Pinterest)

Runners for Boston

I still can’t believe what happened last week in Boston. The attack on the marathon was so pointless, shocking and sad, and the subsequent lockdown of the city was terrifying. I can’t help but get upset any time I’m reminded of it. And I haven’t lived in Boston in years.

But I do know the city well, and one thing I’m 100% sure of is that Boston, and everyone who lives there, will get through this tough time. I know the marathon will be back next year, and thousands of people will be out in the streets to support the runners and the city, and show that they’re stronger than this year’s tragedy.

I’ve also been heartened to see all the support the worldwide running community has shown Boston, in the aftermath. And it’s not a wonder—anyone who has the drive and dedication to train for these races certainly feels camaraderie with others who do the same. (Back when I lived in Boston, and running, not dancing, was my singular focus, I’d trade grim smiles with other crazies who’d be running through the snowy paths along the Charles in the dead of winter!)

At yesterday’s Salt Lake City Marathon, runners, were given bracelets with Boston Marathon colors
Salt Lake City Hosts Marathon Under Stepped Up Security Measures
…and a several runners from the Boston Marathon, dubbed the “4:09 Group” crossed the Salt Lake City finish line at that time—when the first bomb went off in Boston—in honor of those who were killed, injured or unable to finish the race. Thousands of Salt Lake City runners signed a giant banner to show their support.
Salt Lake City Hosts Marathon Under Stepped Up Security Measures
At today’s London Marathon, runners observed a moment of silence before the race…
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…and, in various places across the country, this weekend, runners ran for Boston.

I’ll be doing the same, in a few weeks. On Friday, the New Jersey Marathon posted this message on its Facebook page:

In solidarity with the Boston running community we are encouraging every one to wear blue and yellow on race day – shorts, hat, socks, etc. Whatever works for you! Let’s show our support with a sea of blue and yellow on the Jersey Shore.

If you’d like to make a monetary contribution, The One Fund has been set up to help the people most affected by these tragic events. http://www.onefundboston.org/

I am so excited to do so. It’s just a small gesture, but one that sends a strong message.

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Have you come across other ways runners are showing their support?

(Salt Lake City photos by George Fray/Getty via the San Jose Mercury News; London Marathon photo by Luke Macgregor/Reuters via the NY Times; bottom photo via the NJ Marathon Facebook page)

Would You Live in a Water Tower?

I’m going to answer my own question: Yes. Absolutely. But only if said water tower looked like this:

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Tom Dixon, a British design and manufacturing company, converted a 60-foot water tower, in North Kensington, London, into a gorgeous apartment. It has three floors complete with a kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and (sigh of envy) a roof terrace. It’s going for $3,900 a month–which, scarily, isn’t too bad if you compare it to NYC prices for similarly sized digs.

I love how the big windows lets lots of light into the space:

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There are tons of water towers in NYC. I’m wondering when someone will convert one into a luxury apartment here on this side of the pond!

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(Photos via Gizmag, via Architizer; thanks to Shawn for introducing me to the link)