United Kingdom

Sunday in the Park

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What could be lovelier on a Sunday afternoon than to stroll in the park, visiting Roman ruins in a historic cathedral town? I bring you St. Albans, a gorgeous village thirty minutes outside of London, named after England’s first Christian martyr, birthplace of John Churchill (the first Duke of Marlborough, and as you may remember my previous post, victor of the Battle of Blenheim) and home to the only existing medieval clocktower in England (which was used as a semaphore tower in the Napoleonic wars). DSC_0712Yet the most epic sight of St. Albans is probably St. Albans Cathedral, a Gothic monolith, legendarily built with stones taken from Roman ruins rolled up the (long) hill from Verulamium Park and completed in 1089. It was here that the first draft of the Magna Carta was written, and it was once the largest cathedral in England! We arrived around 2:00 in the afternoon (Blackfriars to St. Albans is about a 30 minute ride for ~10 pound return fare). It’s a ten minute walk up to the church through the village area, but on the way you pass through the adorable square (where you will find the clocktower). Once there, you follow the signs and slip down a side street, and all the sudden the Cathedral comes out of nowhere! We were surprised we couldn’t see it towering over the horizon. Once you’ve found it, you wonder how you could have missed it! It takes a full five minutes to walk around the whole thing! It sits at the top of a hill which slopes down to the Park. There you can enjoy the company of weeping willows, frantic children and Roman ruins alike—we certainly did.

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New

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Sights inside the Cathedral:
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DSC_0701To Verulamium Park (and a stop for ice cream)!

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Remnants of a Roman Town

What I Wore:

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Hat: antique store find
Fur collar: estate sale gem ($7.00!!)
Blouse: Gap
Cardigan: H&M
Belt: Zara
Pencil Skirt: Zara
Wallet/ Purse: Fossil
Shoes: Stubbs and Wootton

 

Welsh Weekend

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Greetings from Cardiff! I can now happily say that I have been to all the countries in the United Kingdom. Although from all the English people I’ve talked to who haven’t been to Wales, sometimes it doesn’t seem the most united a front. Still, regardless of all the cautionary messages I heard about Wales, I had a wonderful day in Cardiff, tromping around the castle, the old shipping coast (bay), and the market.

Cardiff Castle

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The ceiling of the “Arab” room.

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This building, on the side of the grounds, was added much later to the castle, and was not completed until 1881.

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The symbol of Wales is the dragon. Besides residing in the middle of the Welsh flag, you can spot them at random all around town.DSC_0815DSC_0869DSC_0901

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Half Welsh, Half English: In These Stones Horizons Sing

DSC_0857This red building, known as the Pierhead Building, used to be the home of the administerial efforts of the Welsh coal shipping industry. Until the end of World War II, Wales was one of the most predominant coal shippers in the world (where they mined it in North Wales, and then exported it from Cardiff). However, the 1950s brought with it the decline of coal, and with it, the decline of the backbone of Cardiff’s economy. Thus, the city had to re-invent itself. Today this building features a museum on the Welsh coal industry(especially in regards to Cardiff’s role in it), and Cardiff has worked to become a wider convention and tourist destination. DSC_0834

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DSC_0891      What I wore:
Hat: H&M
Glasses: Primark (1 pound!)
Tambourine Necklace: gift
Shirt: Helmut Lang
Gloves: Vintage find
Jacket: H&M
Leggings: H&M
Boots: Kors Michael Kors
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Moor From the North: Bronte Country

There is a small place in the heart of every 19th-century British literature devotee that longs to walk across a moor. What is a moor? we ask. No one really knows, but we have a vague idea— it’s how Elizabeth won Darcy. If you walk around one for long enough, you might find Heathcliff, or if you’re particularly unlucky, the dread Count Fosco looming around Blackwater. They seem to be common places, but are rumored to have particularly bad weather and a lot of fog through which people trek for miles somewhere between early breakfast and tea time.

I had expressed my long curiosity of these mysterious places to my friend Olivia, who I met during my time at Oxford. It was then that I found out she lived in northern England, near the Lake District. Being a fellow enthusiast of English literature, she graciously invited me to visit, on what was to be rather a pilgrimage to the towns of Great British authors (Wordsworth! The Brontes! Beatrix Potter!). To get ready for our adventure, Liv packed me a care package full of Northern food. I was converted by Rhubarb and Clotted Cream Swirls.

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Yorkshire Tea and Lancashire Cheese!

Our first stop was Bronte Country, or the village of Haworth in Yorkshire to see the Haworth parsonage (where all three sisters lived and in which Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre were written). However, along the way we made a small detour into Rose & Co., and old school apothecary (and the background in the pictures), and a few vintage shops where I procured the navy velvet turban I’m wearing.

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Rose & Co.

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Downtown Haworth

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Pasture behind the Bronte’s House

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Bronte’s Creepy Parson-side Graveyard (which most likely poisoned their water source, and served as the fountain of Gothic writing)

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What I’m Wearing:
Hat: Vintage
Dress: Le Cremieux (available at Dillards)
Blazer: Pendelton Wool
Bonjour Bag: Zara
Tights: Wolford
Boots: Hunter

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I had a wonderful trip, and I can’t thank Olivia enough for the wonderful experience. Further, a warm shout-out to Simon (I didn’t forget you) for driving us all around the Lake District (and everywhere else) for a glimpse of Wordsworth’s house.

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Worth it.

Upscale Autumn: Palatial Pairings

DSC_0512In all my time at Oxford two years ago, somehow I never got out to nearby Woodstock to visit Blenheim Palace. Honestly, I think it was because I got the idea that it was a big picnic area next to a house in the middle of nowhere (ergo, not worth the bus ride and 18 pound entry fee). I was, in a word, incorrect. While there are ample grounds one might fancy picnic-ing on and while it is in the middle of nowhere, even the most understated could hardly call Blenheim a house.

DSC_0526Granted by Queen Anne to the Duke of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace was built to memorialize (wait for it) the Battle of Blenheim (the Duke’s famous victory in the War of Spanish Succession. Over the next hundred years, its interiors were gradually stripped as subsequent heirs squandered the fortune, and it looked quite different (on the inside) from its former standing when a young Winston Churchill came to reside there (on his holidays from boarding school).

While I was surprised to learn of Churchill’s aristocratic roots (even though a John Churchill was the name of the Duke of Marlborough, so it probably should have been more intuitive), I was not particularly surprised that such a big personality would be raised somewhere so grand in scale– it also gave new meaning to the background behind his tomes on English military history (since he was virtually living in their mausoleum). Judging by the grounds and gardens, he also had plenty of absolutely stunning places to sit back and write. There are a few more pictures than usual in this collection, but it was all so stunning, I didn’t want to omit anything!

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The adjoining chapel, which catered to the town.

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Upon planning our palace visit, I wanted to make sure that I really felt the part. Conveniently, I had also never tried Laduree macaroons. In a thoroughly undignified manner, I proceeded to tote no less than 10 macaroons to Blenhiem (don’t worry, I shared). It was so lovely eating the height of French patisserie while casually lounging in the gardens. Did a few of the stray garbled crumbs intermingle the tastes? Sure (but that’s just more macaroon). This leads me to a little unsolicited travel advice: if you want for something to feel a certain way and you have a certain idea in your head, create that ambiance, and your memories are more likely to reflect the intent of your efforts. This is not to say you should go crazy with the Breton stripe in Paris, but if everything is better with ice cream, give yourself the ice cream (or macaroon, or truffle, or eclair, insert sweet thing here)!DSC_0569

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Outfit Details:

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These are not very helpful at all, but I’ll include them, nevertheless.
Scarf (shown in first picture): Estate Sale Treasure ($1.00)
Blazer: Estate Sale ($9.00)
Blouse: Talbots (hand-me-down)
Necklace: gift
Green Suit Separate Pants: Antonio Melani
Satchel: Fossil (ebay)
Boots: Tommy Hilfiger (S/S: 2014)
I go into this detail as a reminder that it’s not how much you pay, but how you wear it that determines whether or not you look palatial!

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Growling Around Borough

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I live in an area called Southwark. For those of us who aren’t British, it is counter-intuitively pronounced “Suth-uck,” rather than “South-wark.” Historically, it was the theatre, gambling, and prostitution epicenter of Central London. While such activity wasn’t permitted under the Queen’s watchful eye, her visual impairment kicked in right around the bank of the Thames, making anything that went on South of its shore virtually unchecked (this is also because Southwark was not part of London proper, making it a separate jurisdiction). The City of London was particularly suspicious and subsequently, unkind, to theatrical groups within its limits, leading to a large theatrical community in Southwark, where they claimed to “practice” in order to perform for the Queen. Today, it’s where you will find the rebuilt Globe Theater, although the gambling and prostitutes have relocated (hopefully). Between the Globe and the installation of the Tate Modern Art Museum, its become a popular area that hosts lovely walks down the Southbank, and scenic views of St. Pauls.

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This man is pointing at Southwark from the Millenium Bridge.

However, before you get to St. Pauls, you have to cross over London Bridge (possibly one of the most boring bridges in London, despite its widespread musical acclaim). And before you reach London Bridge, you encounter a sudden wall of delicious smells cascading from the left side of the street. That pantheon of flavors is none other than Borough Market. Borough Market is the next step up from a farmers market, selling all sorts of fresh produce, meats, and cheeses, in addition to a delicious selection of tempting takeaways.

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I sampled the salt pork, which I was informed was an “American dish” via Boston.

One thing I didn’t realize upon visiting Borough Market is that unlike the farmer’s markets I’m used to back home, people don’t really shops here for their groceries. That isn’t to say no one does, but Borough Market today is a bit of a tourist destination, which has driven prices from the mom and pop tomato stand fares you’d expect to those recognizable in the rest of central London. If you decide to take a visit yourself out-valuing Tesco will not be on the schedule. However, it’s fun to just walk around, and take in the selection, of well, everything.

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Verdant Inner-City Seating

As should be no surprise to those who know me, with a universe of food staring me in the face, while there, I decided to splurge on a coffee. However, this coffee had a recommendation, namely a line spanning out the door (and I’m told, on weekends, well around the block). The brand is Monmouth. Founded in 1978 in Covent Garden (on Monmouth Street), they have grown into three stores that seem to have a cult following. A yuppie playground, Monmouth is not coffee for the weak; if you are prone to headaches, this is not your brew. If you want to stay up half the night doing work to the background of warm, rich flavour this is where to get your beans.

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Just in from The Clothesline: A Real British Queue.

To the sartorial: have you ever seen something that was so crazy that you secretly wanted it (for no rational reason), but told yourself you could never pull it off? That was my relationship with my lion skirt. When I saw it in H&M, it’s combination of quilting and lion heads, I demurely put it back on the rack where it belonged. Undaunted, I returned to best this beast, and here is my interpretation, if you can think of a better way to sport it, let me know below. I’m definitely up for suggestions.

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Outfit Details:
Choker: H&M
Leather Jacket: H&M
Skirt: H&M
Belt: Thrifted
Satchel: Fossil (this is the only purse I brought over, but be on the lookout soon for some diversity, and the newest addition to my closet!)

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London Calling!! Chelsea boots in Chelsea.

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This post marks the first of my new European, though decidedly British, adventures (rather pathetic, I know considering, as of today I’ve been in school an entire month). Nevertheless, worse things happen at sea. And from here on out, I promise not to ruin any more National Gallery side shots. The week I arrived, I was lucky enough to share my “holiday” with my father and sister. We quickly found that we particularly enjoyed the Notting Hill and Kensington area. Of course, whether or not this sentiment revolves around a certain literary figure’s rendering, it is not a very profound one, as the price tags in the area suggest. Daddy found it particularly peaceful walking through the lines of white houses (each accompanied by well-placed trees).

DSC_0286Though everyone seemed to warn us otherwise, I can’t help but love Portabello Road. It’s the source of my tea kettle, opera glasses, meerschaum pipe, crochet parasol, and tweed deerstalker. It was on this road of all places, Daddy discovered the wonder of Tesco (a British value-chain grocery store), and had a minor Baptist revival in the drink aisle when he saw prices listed in pence. All the sudden, his generosity was unbounded: “Girls, you can have anything you want for lunch from this store.”

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However, I made us trek onwards to the fabulously eccentric and oh-so-endearing, sinus threat of the century: The Churchill Arms. Covert Thai restaurant extrordinaire. The decor in this place ranges from walls coated with the royal family to bunting and lanyards (and bunting as lanyards) across the ceiling. While I am hardly a Thai food connoisseur, I have always enjoyed theirs and would definitely recommend it if you’re hungry and in the area.

From there, we walked to Kensington Gardens (and subsequently through Green Park and St. James Park, which are connected) in hopes of “walking off our lunch.” While we may not have been successful on that account, we did manage to secure some gorgeous weather (at first). This being Britain, the mere dawning of a new hour brought with it several poignant changes in the moisture level.

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The Albert Memorial

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The Italian Gardens

The area around South Kensington backs up to another area called “Chelsea,” named such because it is next to the Chelsea Bridge (or so wikipedia says). The Chelsea area encompasses a little bus stop named Sloane Square, and if you walk there, you will find nearly any upscale clothier you may hope to peruse. Chelsea is touched on its other side by Knightsbridge, probably most noted by foreigners for being the home of Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Between Kate living in the area and the Queen shopping there, you can guess it’s pretty nice.

The sidewalks are nice; the stores are nice. The people dress nice (though they are mostly sheathed in black), but there’s an unusually high number of inhabitants that wear flat ankle boots. I couldn’t tell you why this is la mode. Still, accepting that it is, these sort of boots are colloquially known as “Chelsea boots.” Before I found out this sliver of information, I fell in love with the Tommy Hilfiger ones I’m wearing in the picture below. Say hello to my shiny new Christmas gift y’all!

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The Boots. The Boy.

Besides the boots, I’m wearing:

Sunglasses: Chloe (you’ve seen before)
Necklace: Native American Gallery here
Shirt/ Dress: American Apparel
Trench: Tommy Hilfiger
“Trousers”: The Row
Satchel: Fossil

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It was so fun having my Dad and sister along! It really made for a joyous and entertaining vacation.

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