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Cats, Cathedrals and Ciders: The South of England: Day 17

06 Jul

Sat. May 28, 2016:
London

Brent had to wake me up, it was time to get ready to head back out. We transited to Oxford Circus. Our first stop was Crosstown Donuts. I had seen it on Buzzfeed and now I needed to eat one of their fancy donuts. The crème brulee was pretty good and the Lambington chocolate donut with coconut glaze and jam was only ok. Neither donut was outstanding though. That was ok, we were headed to breakfast at Sketch anyways. This one I had seen on Instagram, I knew that the interior was wacky and fantastical and that the bathrooms were a must-see apparently. We walked in and found ourselves in a forest full of flowers, it had been decorated for the Chelsea Flower show I guessed. The menus on the table were partly underneath books. It was nice to drink a cappuccino out of a fancy porcelain cup while gawking at all the wacky décor around us. I had ordered the scrambled eggs with chorizo and peppers. The chorizo and peppers were amazing, the eggs were good but after a while it was too much. I can only eat so many eggs! We did not trade halfway, as the pancakes Brent had ordered were topped with grapefruit jelly. I did try a bite, but I just hate grapefruit so much. When I asked where the bathroom was, I was first directed to the basement, then she corrected herself and told me to go up one floor. I climbed the red velvet stairs, lit in black light. I was looking for a red door. The bathroom did not disappoint. The toilet paper hung on a crystal trapeze, Alice in Wonderland style music was playing, and everything was glittery and reflecting in the dimly lit room. Every surface was mirrored or sparkly.

Now that we had eaten donuts and a full breakfast we were ready for the big one: the British Museum. It killed my legs, but we saw all the free exhibits. All of them. We started out in the room that showed what the museum would have looked like when it was first founded, with everything in cabinets. It reminded me of a library. Apparently I had walked right by the Elgin Marbles, looked at them, and not even recognized them. Why was there no sign explaining the significance? Is the British Museum still so embarrassed? The mummies were pretty cool but way too popular, it was hard to get a good look. The one unwrapped mummy chilled me to my core. I had always wondered what it looked like under there, thinking it’d be cool to see one. Turns out I was very wrong. By far the coolest was the Syrian relief sculptures. The amount of detail and craftsmanship was incredible. There were more than a few irritating moments, watching people touch stuff as if they had no idea how to behave in a museum. It was great to see one kid get yelled at by his mom. The collection was great, but it was also plunder. The only part that aggravated me was the porcelain, I am so sick of looking at porcelain. Towards the end I needed a break. We sat down at the upstairs café for 5 minutes and I recharged with a lemonade. We got it all done in about four and a half hours.

Now it was on to the National Gallery. First we stopped at a convenience store. I was getting hangry and in need of snacks fast. It was a 30 minute walk to the gallery, therefore I needed Jelly Babies, a cherry Coke and a strawberry Cornetto (this time it was fresh). We sat outside the gallery on the steps, looking onto the crowded plaza and drinking the Coke and eating Jelly Babies. Our peace was short-lived, an annoying busker behind us ruined it all by trying to draw a crowd. The National Gallery was amazing. They had an incredible collection ranging from Reubens and Michelangelo to Monet, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec. We saw the famous painting The Ambassadors. I had expected the perspective-shifted skull effect to be much more pronounced but it was still cool to see the actual painting. We only missed seeing the early Renaissance room because we ran out of time. My love of Impressionism was only further solidified.

I could not find the email that confirmed our reservation at The Lamb Pub but we decided to walk there anyways. If it was too busy we could go elsewhere. On the way we stopped in at Craft Beer Co., a pub Brent had looked up. It was super busy and we were about to leave but we found two stools by the wall. Thankfully I stayed back and held the chairs while Brent went and ordered. I just knew I would screw up ordering a half pint of the Pheasant Plucker and would mix up the name. It was delicious. As we drank we looked at the menu and saw that they also sold bottles to go. And they had our beloved Cantillon! We would be fools not to get a bottle of Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus! Only when Brent ordered it, she did not hear him say to go and she opened it. It was a big bottle, of course I had to help by drinking half of it.

The Lamb Pub was not busy at all so it did not matter if I had a reservation or not. We ordered the “banger’s plate” to split, we had three sausages each and fries. It was the perfect dinner. The half pint of Henry Weston’s Still Country pear cider tasted like juice and I downed it in no time. Brent was still working on his pint, so I ordered a half pint of Flat Tyre, which was a cloudy rhubarb cider, further confirming how wrong I had been about rhubarb. We had just eaten a greasy meal, we were already at pub number 2 and there were plenty more pubs from my list nearby- so began the “last night in England pub crawl.”

We got to the Cittie of York pub and found out that it was owned by the Samuel Smith brewing company and that it was on the list of heritage pubs. It had a nice interior and we sat in a secluded booth. Everything on tap was brewed by the company, lucky for me this was not limited to beer. They had Cider Reserve on tap, a nice refreshing cider. I had to try a sip of the beer Brent had ordered. The S.S. Bitter was brewed using oak casks and water from a well that had been tapped in 1758. It tasted a little nutty.

Walking to The Ship Tavern we passed Bar Polski. I made a note of it, as we would be passing it on the way to the subway if we were still up for it. Alas, The Ship Tavern did not appear to have any ciders on tap. Instead I tried a third flavour of Old Mout, apple and passionfruit. There was an adorable mutt of a dog in the bar, he was so well behaved. It was here that Brent had switched to half pints, which worked out great because we were able to make it to Bar Polski as the final stop of the night. Brent had a half pint of Żywiec meanwhile I had switched to doing shots of cherry liqueur (Soplica Wisniowka). The bar tender was Polish and very nice. As I was trying to decide on my second shot, he gave me a list of everything he had available. The list was huge, I had never seen that many different Polish liquors and liqueurs. I settled on the UV Siedlice Raspberry vodka just because it was bright blue. Migawd it was smooth and went down easily. We were in a Polish bar, with so many Polish alcohols available, on our last night of vacation… why not have one last shot I thought? I had the Valentine honey and berry liqueur on its own not over ice this time, partly because this one was only 29% whereas the others were 40%.

We had a great night of barhopping but we had killed Brent’s phone battery. Thankfully I knew the way back to the subway and to the nearby McDonald’s (it was the same one from two nights ago) and so I led the way. There were some drunk people across the street clapping, so Brent clapped back and they all cheered. We were complaining about how expensive England was and a guy ahead of us chimed in and said we were right. He then told us that Coquitlam in British Columbia is gorgeous and we should go see the forests there. We walked in and it was the same manager, except as soon as he saw us he went on break. Odd, I thought. The Crunchie McFlurry was just what I needed, it had little bite-sized pieces of chocolate covered toffee. Inside the station we stopped to grab a bag of sour Haribo gummies. At the hotel I realized I had been given a chicken bacon wrap, not the chicken snack wrap. Brent went downstairs to the bar to get a corkscrew, the Cantillon he had bought a few days ago had a pop off bottle cap and a cork underneath. On the way back he reported that it sounded like our hotel neighbours were watching a dirty movie. I stuck my head out into the hallway, indeed it did seem so.

It was tough to catch up writing in my notebook after being out at museums all day and then doing an evening of barhopping. We had been way too tired to visit the Tate Modern after dinner at The Lamb Pub. My only regret was not ordering the custard dessert at the Lamb. I had assumed another bar on our hop would also be serving a custard dessert.

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