Spring Break: London (Day 1)

If you travel by Ryan Air, you’ll find yourself arriving in STN, which is an hour outside of London. If you arrive at midnight, like I did, you may opt to stay the night at one of the airport hotels and head to London in the morning. In addition to the benefit of going to sleep sooner, the hotels by the airport are also cheaper than the ones in London. I chose the Radisson Blu, because hotels.com had a room with free wifi and breakfast.

After chatting with a local on the airport escalator and determining that Londoners don’t drink the tap water, my first purchase upon arriving to the UK was a bottle of water from the hotel bar that cost the equivalent of $7.50. It was bottled on an organic farm in Wales, but for $7.50, I’m picturing it being bottled by baby lambs, which makes me feel okay about the cost.

Normally, I assume that I’ll be lucky to find an apple, some orange juice, and a bowl of oatmeal when American hotels offer free breakfast, but this was more like dining with a royal family compared to that. They had a ridiculous buffet of every breakfast item you could imagine, but even more because it was a traditional english breakfast (so, add fried tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, baked beans, etc.) There were a surprising number of vegan options, and they even had raw sugar and soy milk for the cereal and coffee.

After a 45 minute train ride with a beautiful view of the countryside along the way, the next stop was to check in to our new hotel (The Wesley) and head to Camden Town. There may have been 2 unsuccessful attempts to rent bikes (Sheep seemed to have zero problems doing it last time) before deciding to walk. I feel so lucky that the weather is gorgeous and sunny with no rain during my stay. Last time I visited, I remembering it being much colder and somewhat wetter.

The only vegan restaurant I could find that served a traditional english breakfast on a Thursday was inSpiral Lounge, but I do not recommend it. They were out of sausage and told us they would sub bacon, but instead they subbed eggplant. The tofu scramble and sauteed mushrooms were good, but the rest wasn’t worth a damn…especially not for $15. The baked beans tasted like they mixed a can of navy beans with a can of tomato sauce.

In addition to the mediocre food, a number of other factors turned me against inSpiral Lounge which include, but are not limited to their inability to run my credit card, their non-existent wifi that they claim to have, and an extremely difficult secret password (written in invisible ink?) process of using the loo.

After leaving inSpiral, I knew only one thing could make me feel better…Cookies and Scream.

Last time I was in London (2 years ago), I tried to go here for an espresso milkshake, but they were closing by the time I got there, so I had to order something else. I’ve been waiting this entire time for the espresso shake, and it did not disappoint!

We may have also ordered a mint brownie to take back to the hotel for later. Can you blame us? Just look at them!

You’d think after all of that, the pigginess would end, but nooooo. We stopped at the Holland & Barret health food store in Camden Town to check out their vegan section.

I wish our hotel room had a fridge, so I could have bought one of everything, but instead I only bought some cheezly to eat with crackers in the hotel. I’ll have to eat it all really fast since there’s no fridge…life is so hard. I wanted to get the cheddar, but David is more of a risk taker than I am, so he talked me into trying the edam kind. I don’t even know what it is, so I’ll report back once I taste it.

Also, what’s up with Tofutti playing favourites??? They don’t make these flavors of cream cheese for us! Nor do they make cute little single serving sized packages for us! I don’t know about you, but I never manage to get through an entire package of cream cheese, so these little baby sized ones would be perfect for me. I could take them to work, travel with them, hide them for easter (would that be weird?), the list goes on. Who wants to help me write some letters to Tofutti?

Manna was my favorite vegan restaurant in London. They claim to be the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the city, so it must be their years of experience that has made them so awesome! I ordered the bangers and mash since it’s supposed to be London’s specialty (like ordering curryworst when you’re in Berlin). It consisted of a layer of mashed potatoes, topped with a layer of gravy-marinated kale, topped with 2 delicious house-made sausages, and to my surprise and happiness, was topped with onion rings! All of this floated in a sea of gravy. I loved it! The mashed potatoes were made with dill, which gave them a potato-salad-like taste that was quite refreshing. The coating on the onion rings was much lighter than the veggie grill onion rings, making them seem a bit closer to a tempura onion ring. The sausage was divine. The flavor was perfect, with just the right amount of sage and the consistency didn’t taste like meat, so it was great for someone who doesn’t like eating mock sausage that has that gristly substance to it.

David ordered the polenta, which looked so pretty on the plate due to the addition of beets and kale.

For dessert, I was excited to see petite fours on the menu. I’ve only had vegan petite fours once before which is when Jessica and Pamela made them for my birthday tea party. I’ve seen them often when having tea with non-vegans, so I’ve come to have an expectation of what they should look like. I will admit that I was slightly disappointed when the petite fours arrived to our table and looked like this.

However, they were still delicious the next day when we ate them with tea in our hotel room. The other aspect of Manna that made it so awesome (other than the amazing food) was the decor. They had this really cute wallpaper with birdies hanging out in trees, and the ceiling lights were made to look like tree branches.

Day 1 came to a close with one last tube ride back to the hotel. I felt like I spent 25% of Day 1 on the underground. My synopsis of the tube is that it smells better than the metro in NYC, but it still has a weird underground basement smell that I’m not fond of.

We decided that for the rest of the London vegan adventure, we would try to stay above ground as much as possible.

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