24 Hours In: Bristol & Bath

When the opportunity to catch a coach to Bristol and spend the weekend attending the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta arose, I couldn’t say no. Plus I’d be staying with my old roommate from Madrid and it would be great to catch up and brush up on my Spanish. As I clicked “buy” and confirmed my ticket, a day dream of a sunny weekend at a carnival, indulging in fair food and watching hot air balloons dot the sky played in my mind. It looked something like this:

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What actually happened? The one weekend I book an impromptu trip to a festival of course happens to be the weekend of the most miserable weather since I’ve arrived in London. As soon as my coach dropped me in the center of Bristol in the late afternoon, we bought a few ciders and took off towards the festival. After two hours of exploring, drinking, and finally settling on a grassy patch to wait, the dreaded rain began. Rain is actually an understatement. We got caught in a full-on downpour and hid under a tree until it lightened up enough for us to dash to the fudge tent. As much as I love chocolate (and I LOVE chocolate), this treat did little to the disappointment that washed over me as they announced the 6pm launch was officially canceled and the 9:30pm launch would be weather permitting. The thick, black clouds weren’t promising. As we trekked the two and a half miles home in our soggy shoes, all I could think was, “nothing says Bristol International Balloon Fiesta like a downpour and no hot air balloons.”

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Well, there were hot air balloons. As soon as we made it back to my old roommate’s house, the skies parted and the howling winds turned to mere whispers. So what did they do at 9:30? They launched the hot air balloons! And where were we? Eating mediocre Mexican food at My Burrito.

Luckily I live in San Diego and grew up in an area where we saw hot air balloons on an almost nightly basis every summer. What we don’t have in San Diego are ancient cities, so off to Bath we went on Sunday morning. We had to duck into a restaurant for coffee at one point when the rain decided to make a reappearance. But for the most part, the clouds rolled over this tiny town to do their damage elsewhere and allowed me to be a tourist and take all these photos:

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Sure, the weather wasn’t ideal. But I suppose a summer in England with almost no rain was pushing my luck. The forecast is predicting rain day in and day out until I leave next Wednesday… maybe this is England’s way of telling me it really is time to start packing up for sunny San Diego?

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High Tea: A Very English Afternoon

What would a summer in London be without a proper afternoon high tea? Incomplete, that’s what. So when it came to my attention that there was a popular tea room and bakery that served up a cake stand filled with gluten free goodies, I was sold! Enter Bake-a-boo, a darling destination tucked away in West Hampstead. With about 20 brews to choose from, I took advantage of the endless tea by ordering first a pot of vanilla and then a pot of almond, both of which were delicious!

IMG_6389And of course there were the treats! I started by nibbling on the finger sandwiches before digging into the scones. I layered on the cream and jam quite generously… to the point of needing to take a break before diving into the cupcakes and chocolate covered strawberries. Laura and I killed some time by chatting and sipping on tea… but it didn’t last long because the blueberry and vanilla cupcake was calling screaming my name. As were the chocolate covered strawberries immediately after. But that’s where I had to admit defeat. I couldn’t stomach the last raspberry cupcake, so that will have to be my dessert with lunch tomorrow!

Bake-a-boo is the perfect place for anyone looking for an amazing afternoon tea, but especially fantastic for those of us with food sensitivities! In addition to their gluten free spread, they have a dairy free and sugar free option! And the entire café is adorable… right down to the bathroom adorned with a wall collage of hilarious and clever canvases. Ok, all of this reminiscing is making me crave that last cupcake. Maybe it won’t last until lunch tomorrow after all…

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Throwback Thursday: A Day In Oxford

It’s been almost two weeks since two of my fellow travelers and I hopped on a bus to Oxford for a quick day trip. Part of my delay in blogging about the adventure is due to the fact that I packed the wrong camera lens with me during my hectic attempt to stuff everything I needed for three months in Europe all into one bag way back in May. I have my little f/1.8 50mm lens which is what I use for food photography and is awesome… but not ideal for travel due to zero versatility as it’s a prime lens. Ok, enough techy camera details. Moral of the story is I was bouncing between my iPhone and camera, all while trying to not spill tea on myself or my various equipment (there were multiple close calls). But I’ve finally uploaded all the photos and sorted through everything. This is the result:

Oxford 1  Oxford-5628Oxford 12  Oxford 11Oxford 2Oxford 23  Oxford 14  Oxford 10Oxford 8  Oxford 24Oxford 13  Oxford 22Oxford-5647  Oxford-5665  Oxford 9Oxford 19ccOxford 21Oxford 3Oxford-5652  Oxford-5658Oxford 7Oxford-5645  Oxford 6Oxford 17  Oxford 15Oxford 16  Oxford-5632Oxford-5637  Oxford 18Oxford-5639  Oxford-5636Oxford 4

We had an incredible trip despite multiple main attractions being closed and getting caught in a downpour. Oxford is a charming, tiny town with endless history, gorgeous architecture, and home to one of the most prestigious universities in the world. And there was a gluten free crepe cart! (Is it terrible that was just as memorable as the university tour?)

Some Oxford fun facts:
– Oxford University is the oldest university of the English speaking world
– The city is the birthplace of the Oxford English Dictionary and is where the recent debate to add “twerk” as an official word was located (unfortunately, it’s now a permanent part of the English language)
– The university was established by monks, for monks and subjects besides theology were introduced relatively recently
Oxford 5– From 1878 through the 1920’s women were allowed to study at Oxford, but they were only allowed to be part-time students which meant they didn’t take exams (awesome) but also never received a degree (not cool)
– The Oxford dining hall was the inspiration for Harry Potter
Blackwell is the largest book store in the UK and has over 5 miles worth of shelving and a basement that runs under multiple buildings in the city

If you find yourself in London for an extended period of time, be sure to schedule in a day trip to Oxford! But, an insider tip: book the Bodleian Library in advance – space is VERY limited and is almost impossible to score a spot same-day! We unfortunately missed it! Maybe I’ll go back one day…