Archive for the ‘Ross in the UK’ Category

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Ross: Marmite, eww…

May 8, 2009

People often label British food as worse than it actually is. Something I’ve learned is that this is not true at all. London is an absolutely massive city that offers up cuisine from around the world and finding a decent meal is really not all that difficult especially if you’re living in the city.

So here are just a few of my favorite places to eat in the U.K. capital just in case you ever find yourself over here.

  • Hummus Bros – A rather different concept, this small cafe offers meals based entirely on hummus spread. This isn’t your cold grocery aisle pasty peas hummus, this place offers a warm plate of well-seasoned hummus, olive oil, pita and your choice of chicken, beef or pork to top it off. It’s simple, filling and making me way to hungry just thinking about it.
  • The Hawksmoor – Feeling a little spendy? Want to try London’s juiciest steaks and self-proclaimed “best chips (french fries)?” Then the Hawksmoor is for you. I’ve only been here once, but this posh but quaint steakhouse delivers piping hot cuts of meat, generous salads and some of the oddest desserts I’ve ever encountered.
  • Cafe Rouge – This is a French chain of restarants all over London. A bit pricey, but a good selection of fish and meats in generous portions an wonderful side dishes.
  • Brick Lane – This is not a restarant, rather a street filled with Indian restarants that I can’t say differ that much from eachother. So gather some friends, head down the street, negotiate a dinner deal with the doorman and enjoy. Did you know Chicken Tikka Masala is widely thought of as Britian’s national dish??
  • TortillaSo you miss chipotle? Go to Tortilla.
  • The Greenwich UnionHands down my favorite pub. They brew their own beer, and serve a delicious assortment of gastropub dishes.
  • 24 Hour Beigal Bake – On Brick Lane, this 24/7 bagel shop serves up some some wonderful sandwiches and the best corn beef in London (referred to as “salt beef”). Make sure you go to the one with the white sign, it’s the original beigal bake the yellow beigal bake is a knock-off. Wash it all down right nextdoor at Brick Lane Coffee. They get all their wonderful coffee roasts from Papua New Guinea.

One last thing, if you’re looking for something more… traditional, do not I repeat DO NOT try Marmite (also known as vegemite). It’s disgusting. Stay away from this tar like substance.

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Ross: The British Sense of Humor

April 15, 2009

I’m scoping out the Orangrie at Kensigton palace to see if it’s a good place to have afternoon tea. There’s a line to get in and a well dressed host walks out to an American family at the front of the line and asks “How many today?” The father replies “five please” Host frowns ever so slightly, looks down at his table list on the podium for a moment and looks back at the family while his glasses are perched ever so snobbingly at the tip of his nose and says in a cold tone “now, would that be a high five or a low five?” The father looks confused and nervous as he has no idea how to reply and genuinly thinks if he doesn’t answer the question correctly he won’t get a table. After a 5 second awkward pause, the man’s 10 year old daughter sprouts a grin, raises her arm and eagerly says “HIGH FIVE!” The host and the girl slap hands and he then proceeds to seat the family. Perfect example of the British sense of humor!

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Ross: Vroom Vroom Italia

April 8, 2009

Every now and then life surprises you with something unforgettable. Sometimes it’s that crazy night out on the town, a teacher that inspires you beyond your expectations, or even a word of profound advice from your folks that really sticks with you. My trip to Italy was one of those moments in time I will always look back at as a “wow” experience. It was one of those times when everything that could have gone wrong DIDN’T, and any expectation you had was so greatly exceeded you forgot you ever had it. It was one of those moments where everything just worked. From leaving my flat in East London (without forgetting ANYTHING) to leaving the Ciampino airport, the journey was pure enjoyment. Surrounded by quality people, an outstanding travel itinerary , comfortable accommodation, an aggressive new travel challenge and not to mention a “cool it” I almost wish the trip didn’t end…

Alexander Abrams, Michael Kaplan and I rented a car in Milan and journeyed South to Florence. On the way we stopped off in a lakeside town to grab a bite. Taking a car through this area is like the scene in the original Blues Brothers where they drive the car through a shopping mall. I actually took the car over a moat bridge and through a castle entrance. My first Italian meal was splendid, cheese and mushroom stuffed ravioli with a side of insalata mista. From there we made our way down to Florence, along the way I began to understand the principles of Italian drivers:

  1. There are no driving rules, only suggestions
  2. The speed limit is at least double whatever the sign says.
  3. ALWAYS flash your brights before passing someone
  4. NEVER trust any other car, just assume everyone else has no idea what they’re doing on the road.
  5. Parking is one big game of who can find the weirdest spot to put their car and “no parking” signs are almost always disregarded.
  6. Know how to brake with your engine on the down slopes, otherwise you could burn out your brakes.
  7. If you ever need to yell at a another car from your window, make sure everyone in your car rolls down their window and participates.

Many people told us we were crazy for renting a car and driving with all those crazy Italians. Now I completely understand why, and would agree most Americans probably shouldn’t do this, but if you’ve got the right people with you to navigate, and you’re confident driving a stick then by all means do it. Driving through Italy is one of the best ways to see the country.

This was my second visit to Florence so I took some time to explore some alternative destinations. The Boboli gardens, the Museum of Science (which is awful), and Michaelangelo’s look out. All in all it was a great day, with some exceptional food, great company and of course Gelato.

The Duomo in Siena

The drive to Rome was truly fantastic. We headed to Rome on a small mountainous road stopping at any interesting down we saw along the way. We even ran into a nice Israeli couple at one of the lookout points (what are the odds of that??). On our way to Rome, we decided to stop in Siena. Siena was one of those cities you just know is authentic. One of our oddest experiences occurred in this town. In the areas central park two cars rolled up and eight guys dressed in suits and large blue feathered caps got out and walked around the park singing songs and chatting amongst themselves. Before they returned to their vehicles one of the guys retrieves the largest bottle of vodka I’ve ever seen and they each take shots out of the “lotion bottle” style nozzle and they drive off. If anyone can explain this please do, it was one of the oddest scenes I’ve witnessed and the funniest part of it was no one else in the park seemed to care.

My time in Rome was filled with the usual tourist destinations. The whole city is one big museum. I had great time seeing the sights and my only complaint was the touristy restaurants that are difficult to avoid. I saw the pope speaking at the Vatican—Funny side story, while I’m making my way through the crowd a giant dog tried to jump at me and let out a mean bark. Prob smelled the Jew on me.

If you every find yourself in Rome, a MUST SEE is the Jewish museum. It’s an absolutely stunning temple and the restaurants in the Jewish Ghetto are some the best in the city.

So that’s my post for Italy, as always I try to keep it brief so I’ll leave you with the Italy hot list:

  • Go to Siena, it’s lovely.
  • Driving in Italy is a great idea, but bring a GPS and trust no-one on the road (see rules of the road).
  • “Snack bars” are everywhere and serve some of the best espresso.
  • GELATO, need I say more?
  • When in Italy, talk with your hands.
  • McDonald’s has an amazing sandwich called the Napoli, I know you shouldn’t visit Italy for fast food but believe me it’s worth it.
  • DO NOT try to eat at a restaurant with more than four people if you intend on splitting up the bill.
  • Restaurants in Rome will tell you anything to get you in the door, and their food normally sucks.

That’s all folks,
Ciao.


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Ross: Rainy Days in London

March 29, 2009

So it’s a rainy Saturday in London town and like the true Minnesotan I am instead of stomping puddles in the street, settling down to a game of monopoly or renting a movie I set out to London’s answer to the American shopping centre.

Opened in October of 2008 Westfield London Shopping Centre is Europe’s largest mall. So how does it compare with our beloved Mall of America? It may not be bigger, but it is no doubt better. Sure it only has 255 stores compared to MOA’s 520, there’s no amusement park or massive food cafeteria. Rather it’s what this mall lacks that makes it better, I didn’t see a single gothed-out emo girl with her pathetic teenage bad-ass skateboarding boyfriend waltzing through a hot topic to pick out the most ripped up, silver studded rags that cost $80 so they can show everyone else just how unique their personal style is.

Westfield shopping center was one classy establishment, good brands decent prices, some unique food choices (I had a mock Chipotle that wasn’t nearly as good as the real thing). I honestly think if Isaac Adler visited this mall he may just renounce his U.S. citizenship.

This mall even featured a special section reserved for the top brands. “The Village” featured Dior, Prada, Gucci, Movado, etc. Naturally I picked out a few Mothers day gifts and birthday presents to bring home (NOT!). Below is a picture of me below 1 of 3 crystal chandeliers in the classier part of the mall. So if you’re in London on a rainy day (which can be quite often) give the Westfield center a shot. It’s right across the street from the BBC headquarters which offers free tours so you can make a day of it.

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Ross: Thinking of you…

March 24, 2009

Dear U.S.A.,
I’m sorry we haven’t stayed in touch in the past few weeks. How is has everything been going? I want you to know that everything is just peachy over across the pond. The weather has been fantastic, which has lead me to do some more in-depth exploring of the city. My lectures and seminars will be over this week and then I’m off for all of April to study and fill my craving for some much-needed travel adventures. Next week I’m off to a whirlwind tour of Italia, I will be visiting Milan, Florence and of course ROMA! The last leg of my April holiday will be a short trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia. This should be interesting, I signed up for this trip with London International Student House so I’m sure to meet a wide range of people from all over the world.

Well USA what else can I tell you? Things are good here, and I wish I had more to say… but instead I’ll just leave you with some pictures.

The Gherkin Building (apparently gherkin is a type of cucumber, I guess if the building were seaside it would be a pickle)

Canary Wharf from the Queen Mary campus


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Ross: The Luck of the Irish

February 23, 2009

The clock tower in Trinity College. This historically protestant college still has a policy that condones the killing of a catholic with a bow and arrow from the window of a school building on Tuesdays... of course no one has actually done this in recent years.

The Liffy River in the center of Dublin.

At the brisk hour of 3:30 a.m. last Tuesday I took off from my apartment in London, met the cab at the gate outside my school and headed to Victoria station to catch a bus to the airport and eventually board my 6:25 am flight. Why was I flying at 6:25am? well the price was right (10 pounds!!) I touched down in Dublin at around 8 am and headed to the city center to drop my bags at Abigail hostel.

After a quick breakfast, my buddy Michael and I headed to Dublin castle (which actually is not much of a castle) for a three hour in-depth free walking tour. Our guide was a sharp witted, fast talking 21 year-old Irish-German who knew Dublin well. The city was absolutely charming, and has a interesting history. Historically Ireland is consistent with two things, Guinness Beer and revolting against the British (6 attempted revolutions before they finally got it right).

The next day was outstanding. Michael and I signed up for a mini-bus coach tour through the WicklowGlendalough. If you ever do book a day trip outside of Dublin, visit Day Tours Unplugged and you’re guaranteed a great experience. Our tour guide was a semi-retired former army civil engineer that was as entertaining as he was informative. This was far from your “typical” bus driver. The mountains were breathtaking, but half the time it was too foggy to see much of anything. Before Glendalough we stopped of for lunch, where I had the chance to sample Beef Stew with Guinness, quite tasty! Glendalough was essentially an ancient cemetery and town built around two glacial lakes. Interesting artifacts and some really old monasteries. Mountains and

Glacial lake in the Wicklow mountains.

On the tour, Michael and I befriended three Americans traveling from Barcelona. That night we met up with them at our hostel and eventually made it over to Porterhouse to listen to some live music with them.

Overall, Dublin was an amazing place to visit. It’s big enough to keep you busy for a few days and the people are charming. Great mix of touristy things, genuine Irish pubs and if you take a day out of town the natural side of Ireland is breathtaking.

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Ross: UK Update

February 13, 2009

So I wish I could say a lot has happened since my last blog post, but truthfully I don’t have much to report. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there just comes a point in studying abroad when everything “new” eventually develops into what’s familiar. In other words, I’ve adapted and feeling rather comfortable out here.

Classes are going o.k… this isn’t an attack on the British education system or even Queen Mary University but I have to say my classes are not quite the challenge I had hoped for. It’s not necessarily the lecturers or the facilities, rather many (not all) of the students in my courses don’t have the same energy in class as back home. For the first time since high school, I’ve been in classes where there are literally students having full conversations while the professor is talking, and in a couple of cases I’ve even spotted paper planes on the floors as I left. Now it’s not all negative of course. I will admit my Managerial accounting professor is spectacular and really does a stellar job with his courses.

As the situation in Israel cooled down so did my campus. The unauthorized “occupation” of Francis Bancroft Lecture Theatre came to an end and the Palestinian flag hanging from the Management building was removed promptly by school administrators. Finally the Gaza Appeal bake sale ended has also ceased.

For my social life things are doing well. I have become closer with my flat mates and have managed to meet a lot of cool people in my courses. Last Sunday I went to a club night organized by the London Union of Jewish Students. I left a few pictures courtesy of my friend Chani Unger (I forgot to bring my own camera).

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