Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir

I have always wanted to read about The Wars of the Roses, but I’ve never been able to find a book on the period locally. I purchased Helen Castor’s Blood and Roses  thinking it was about that period in English history, but it wasn’t (I have since learned to research a book before buying it). I finally found one in the UK (well, duh), in the Westminster Abbey shop (of course). I have read three of Alison Weir’s books before and did not feel strongly about any of them so it was with some reluctance that I picked up Lancaster and York: The Wars of the RosesHowever, the three Weir books I read were either about a figure I already disliked (Mary, Queen of Scots), a group of women I turned out to be indifferent to (Henry VIII’s wives), and a Queen I already had a favorite book on (Elizabeth I). Considering that I was possibly biased in my three prior encounters with Ms. Weir’s writing, I bit the bullet and hoped that fourth time’s the charm.

The Wars of the Roses technically started in 1455 but Weir starts her novel at an earlier point in England’s history. She starts off almost a century back, briefly introducing us to the prolific Edward III, who had five surviving sons. It would be the descendants of these five sons that would comprise the cast of characters of The Wars of the Roses.

At first, I didn’t understand this story-telling decision. But the more I read, the harder it got to remember everyone, the varying strengths of their claims to the English throne, and their shifting (and re-shifting) loyalties. It was helpful to have someone to trace everyone back to, a point of reference that you could always rely on, in Edward III.

Even with Edward III, though, it was still a tall task to keep track of everyone. Cousins married each other, shifting the line of succession. Male lines died out, transferring inheritances (titles and assets) to daughters and their husband’s families, or nephews and nieces. Magnates changed loyalties as they see fit, blurring bloodlines. I had to create my own annotated family tree just to help me keep track of the quarrelsome Plantagenets.

Weir’s surprising and admirable feat with this book is that, despite the dizzying number of people in it, she makes them all fully-formed characters with real motivations, weaknesses, and passions. While the never-ending plotting and occasional murder of one’s kinsmen is hardly relatable (maybe it is to you, I don’t know your life), the reasons behind them are. With Weir’s expert story-telling, I found myself frequently groaning in frustration (I’m looking at you Margaret of Anjou), holding my breath with suspense, or mentally cheering a side on. Considering that these people have been dead for almost six hundred years, that’s quite a feat.

Even more so when I consider that Weir wasn’t able to stir the same intensity of feeling about Henry VIII’s unfortunate spouses. Although I am now inclined to think that was more an issue of the subject matter than the writers. As frustrating and, ultimately, annoying she turned out to be, Margaret of Anjou makes for more fascinating reading than, say, Catherine Howard.

It did take a while for those feelings to stir in me. As noted, the book starts almost a century before open hostilities between the Yorks and Lancasters break out. But Weir carefully builds up to the central conflict, lining up her stories and sub-stories like soldiers on a battlefield, preparing for the moment where everything comes to a head. By the First Battle of St. Albans, all the motivations and tensions painstakingly laid out and explained by Weird come to fore. And with that first battle, I could hardly put down the book.

I didn’t want to put down the book even after I finished, as Weir ends her novel at the (spoiler alert?) the restoration of Edward VI to the throne. The few paragraphs on the events after the restoration was enough to whet my appetite for the rest of the story. Good thing that Weir has a book precisely about that one that I full intend to read now that I’ve come around on Weir’s writing. Fourth time’s the charm, indeed.

Maybe

I thought long and hard about writing this post. Part of me wanted to just let it go. It won’t do me any good to be so riled up by the another article on the internet. If I wrote a reaction post on everything that bothered or angered me online, I would have to quit my job to write and write and write. But as much as I tried to put the matter out of my mind, my thoughts always wandered back to it. Maybe writing about it would be cathartic for me. Maybe publishing this post will make me feel better that at least, there is something out there countering that blog post. Maybe, just maybe, one girl will read this and realize that no one should respect her less because of what she chooses to wear to the beach. Maybe.

This is a reaction to a post that popped up on my Facebook feed. The author listed “3 Main Reasons Why You Must Not Wear A Two-Piece Swimsuit.”

I would just clarify a few things before I actually get into it. I have purposefully tried to keep religion and the Bible out of the discussion because the internet is the scariest place on earth and it doesn’t get any scarier than when religion (and maybe One Direction) is discussed. Second, (because, again, the internet) I will delete any comments that are off-topic or in any way offensive. Disagree with me ALL YOU WANT, but let’s all be civil. Not that I expect a lot or any comments given my tiny readership, but it’s still better to be clear.

For clarity’s sake, I’ll be quoting from the article. And so, *deep breath* here we go.

“You’re so sexy!”, “You’re so da*n hot!”, these two are just some of the phrases, girls really love to hear.

Everyone loves summer so everyone is planning to go to the beach and to make it complete, wearing sexy swimsuits will be the top of the list. Everyone is excited to show their beautiful bodies, take some selfies and post them in (sic) facebook.

If I was complimented on my body and was called “sexy” or “da*n hot” I would, like my mother taught me, smile and say thanks. Well-meaning compliments are always nice. But to imply that compliments about their bodies are what women most want to hear is wrong. To say that to put their bodies on display in swimsuits is the primary reason women go to the beach is judgmental and backwards. And the fact that it’s a woman passing on this judgment on other women is sad and frustrating.

1. To Gain Respect. It is undeniable that when you flaunt your skin, guys can’t take off their eyes from you. Some guys may appreciate you but most guys will be provoked to have a sexual desire on you.

— banksy (@thereaIbanksy) April 8, 2015

If anyone, man or woman, chose not to respect a woman simply because she chose to wear a two-piece swimsuit on the beach, then that person does not know the real meaning of the word “respect.” Their respect is probably not worth having anyway.

2. Your Body Belongs To God. God created us according to His purpose which is to serve Him. Women are not created to be a source of lust, therefore, we must take care of our decency and dignity as a woman.

3. To Help Guys Not To Sin. It should be a win-win situation. As a woman of God, it feels good that guys will not only respect you but at the same time, you are not giving them the reason to fall into temptation or sin.

While the author listed three reasons for not wearing two-piece swimsuits, it actually all boils down to one. She argues that we shouldn’t wear our bikinis to the beach because that would make us objects of lust for men, the reason for them to sin.  I cannot even begin to describe how sad, frustrated, and infuriated this makes me feel.

Are men are so susceptible to lust that the sight of a girl in a bikini results in sexual fantasies and urges? If that were true then no man would be able to properly function on a beach. But somehow, men are walking straight, peddling ice cream/banana boat rides/henna tattoos, playing Frisbee, and having coherent conversation on the shores of Boracay even with all the dozens of ladies in bikinis around them. Maybe they deserve more credit than assuming that exposed abdomen is their undoing.

However, the most damaging implication here, the one that had me literally shaking and teary with rage and sadness, is that women are responsible for ensuring that men do not “fall into temptation or sin.” If a woman who wore a bikini (or, I assume, anything considered “sexy”) is fantasized about, or harassed, or sexually assaulted, it would be her fault as she tempted the men into sin with her exposed legs/tummy/cleavage/back. She is to blame and not the person who catcalled/groped/raped her. A woman wearing revealing clothing is just asking for it.

No wonder there’s a greater tendency to blame rape victims more than victims of robbery. It’s this culture of victim blaming that contributes to the fact that cases of sexual assault and rape go unreported, that victims don’t reach out for much-needed help. As if the turmoil inherent in sexual abuse is not enough, a victim has to live with the thought that somehow, she is to blame, not the person who violated her .

That this line of thinking is, somehow, being linked to the Bible is confusing and hurtful. That Bible verses are being quoted to support the notion that women bring sexual harassment/assault upon themselves is not true to the faith that I know, and it is very, very discouraging to read that so many people share the author’s views. There were, thankfully, a few who didn’t, but the ratios do not bode well.

Maybe the more enlightened ones were better than me at not letting such a misinformed post get to them. Maybe they knew better than to spend their time commenting or, worse, writing a (likely ill-advised) reaction blog post. Maybe they are too busy raising little girls and boys who will respect people, no matter their gender or beach outfits. Maybe they are focused on teaching a class of girls that decency and dignity, in the eyes of God, is more a matter of your actions than your outfits. Maybe they are occupied with empowering women to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse in order to heal.

Maybe there will come a day when women will no longer be blamed for the actions of others against them. Maybe.

What fits in a PS1 Large Chain Wallet

I am, for the most part, a big bag kind of girl. Apart from the fact that I carry so many bits and bobs with me, I also try to refuse plastic/paper bags as much as possible when shopping. So it’s convenient to have a bag that would hold not just my stuff, but my reasonably-sized purchases, too.

So I surprised myself when I found myself drawn to the PS1 Large Chain Wallet by Proenza Schouler. It was tiny compared to the other bags I owned and would obviously never fit all the stuff I carry around on a daily basis.

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But the bag is a lot more functional than its size would make you think. First, the gunmetal chain is removable (or you can slip it inside the bag if you can’t be bothered), converting the bag into a clutch. Second, it  has enough pockets and compartments to meet even a neat freak’s needs. It has an outer front panel pocket, a zipped compartment, an inner pocket behind that, six card slots, a panel for bills, and an outer zipped back pocket. It also has a small mirror behind the front flap.

DSC00977But of course, the real test is not in the number of pockets a bag has. It’s how much I can actually carry in it without overstuffing it to its physical and aesthetic ruin.

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The surprising answer is, quite a lot. Sure, it can’t fit any of the grocery items I abuse my larger bags with, but the PS1 Large Chain Wallet can definitely carry everything I need for a night out.

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The card and bill panels eliminate the need to bring a bulky wallet. So I can bring cash, IDs, and credit cards without taking up barely any space. That leaves room for (clockwise, from top left) lip balm, hand sanitizer, lipstick, an iPhone, wipes, a power bank, a phone cord, and a set of keys.

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Even with all that stuff, the zipped panels inside and outside the bag were still unused. And as with the photo above, the bag still has a relatively flat profile. So there’s definitely still some room for one or two small items and change.

My PS1 Large Chain Wallet is my go-to bag for things like concerts or any place that’s crowded, like a bar. Its size, the fact the it hugs close to the body, and is convertible into a clutch makes it an easy bag to carry for a night out. It looks great, too, with that same cool, downtown vibe as its larger sibling, the PS1 satchel.

It’s a great bag, and I actually should carry mine more than I do. Now if I could only train myself to carry less with me on a regular basis…

city.ballet: Addictive for all the right reasons

When someone says that they are addicted to a reality show, there’s almost always a hint of guilt or embarrassment in the statement. Being obsessed with Keeping Up With the Karashians or Duck Dynasty is not something to be proud of. I even get laughed at for watching Say Yes to the Dress whenever I can. There’s a silliness, a triviality to these shows that make them guilty pleasures, rather than just outright pleasures to partake in.

There is no such silliness or guilt in city.ballet, the web series by AOL, produced by Sarah Jessica Parker. It gives us a behind the scenes look into the world of the New York City Ballet. Each episode, running between six to eight minutes, gives us an in-depth look into a certain aspect of the ballet company, from its hierarchy of dancers in its first episode,

to how grueling and difficult dancing Swan Lake really is (not so spoiler: it’s really, really, really, hard, you guys), to the pros and cons of having your significant other your partner in a pas de deux.

I devoured the two seasons, including the two to three minute bonuses, in a span of about three hours. In those short hours, I was in turn nervous, thrilled, fascinated, and horrified (very serious injuries are discussed). However, I was always, always amazed by the sheer talent, commitment, determination, grace, and spirit of all the dancers featured. Because while the series does touch on the dazzling costumes and the all-important shoes, it’s the dancers’ stories that make the series so compelling. Whether it be soloists wondering if they’ll ever be promoted to principals, dancers preparing for life after they hang up the point shoes, or working their way back physically and emotionally after an injury, the men and women of the NYCB will make you feel more in six minutes than the Kardashians have in seven (eight? nine?) seasons.

And of course, there’s all that amazing, wonderful, jaw-dropping dancing, too.

6 Things We Can Do To Help the Traffic Situation

I don’t really need to go into detail about how bad traffic has gotten in Manila, do I? From the state of my Twitter and Facebook feed, everyone knows how awful it is. And that’s before it even rains. With just the briefest of downpours the metropolis’ main arteries become parking lots, with five-hour journeys home becoming maddeningly commonplace. With Christmas season fast approaching, the situation is going to become even worse. Really, it’s enough to make you never ever want to leave the house.

The large-scale, long-term solution to the problem (unfortunately) lies in the hands of our inept, short-sighted government. That doesn’t mean, though, that there isn’t anything we can do to improve the situation. Will my suggestions below miraculously make EDSA free-flowing? Hell to the no. But maybe, if we all do our part, there could be the tiniest bit of improvement, if not in seemingly God-forsaken EDSA, then at least in the minor roads we spend so much of our time in. Because when the situation is as bad as it is, every little bit helps.

1 – Get on/off or drop off/pick up at authorized stops only
I get it. I really do. I commuted to work for five years, so I know how convenient it is to ask the bus/taxi/jeepney stop right in front of your office building, even if it means abruptly stopping traffic for dozens of cars behind you. It’s fine, it’s just one quick stop, everyone would be on the go in less then a minute, right? But multiply that stop by maybe ten thousand, and you’d get a better idea how much that stop-and-go contributes to traffic. It’s that lack of discipline and consideration from passengers that’s partly to blame for the bus segregation scheme on EDSA being ineffective. So do everyone a favor and wait for the bus at the bus stop, don’t stop the jeep in the middle of the road, and just walk the extra hundred meters. It’s good for you, it’s safer, it’s one less unauthorized stop the jeep/bus and the dozens of cars behind them have to make. If you’re the driver, say no to your passenger who is stupidly asking to be let off at the corner of a busy intersection when the light is green. They can’t get out of the car if you don’t stop.

2 – Cross the street at pedestrian lanes only
Don’t you hate it when someone presses all the buttons on the elevator on your way to the topmost floor? Having to slow down to accommodate jaywalking pedestrians is the same thing with the added risk of bodily harm/death to spice things up. Sure, it’s so much easier to not walk the extra 200 meters to the pedestrian crossing and leave it to the 1.5 tonnes of metal to avoid hitting you and your milk tea. But if a car has to slow down/swerve to avoid you, then the car behind it has to do the same, and so on and so forth. Worst case scenario is that you set off a dangerous chain reaction of abrupt deceleration with your laziness. Best case scenario is that you caused a chain of cars to unnecessarily slow down.

3 – Don’t stand park at corners and narrow and/or busy streets
You are driving down EDSA on the rightmost lane, as you’re about to take a right to Shaw/Guadix/wherever. Then the asshat in front of you suddenly flashes his hazard lights and inexplicably stops. You wait, it out for maybe 15 seconds, but said asshat has no intention to budge despite your incessant honking because the MRT passenger he’s picking up from the station hasn’t shown up yet. You have no choice but to overtake him, disrupting the flow of traffic of the next lane, causing other cars to slow down ad infinitum, while the asshat waits and waits and waits like he was waiting at the quiet street of some gated village. Don’t do this on EDSA. Don’t do this on the tiny streets of Manila, or the backstreets of Makati at rush hour. Don’t do this. Don’t be a f*cking asshat.

4 – Stay the f*ck in line
I’m not talking about simple lane switching. I’m talking about the a**holes who ignore long lanes of cars waiting to exit a highway/turn a corner/enter a gate and cut to the front by counterflowing/creating their own lane. I’m talking about the a**holes who block entire lanes to the Shaw underpass or the Fort-Buendia flyover because they somehow think they deserve to get where they want to go faster than the hundreds of other drivers and passengers on the road. If you are one of these people (and you are not driving an ambulance), please for the love of all that is good and fair, stay the f*ck in line. You are not only being a nuisance to everyone else who dutifully did not wait until the concrete barrier to switch to the outer lane, but you are also making it harder for everyone else who wants to go straight ahead. Those people have to slow down and switch lanes to avoid you and your douchey-ness, making the cars on the next lane slow down as well, and so on and so forth. You think you’re being smart, flying past the goody-two-shoes, but what you are is a f*cking a**hole causing a bottleneck that will eventually stretch kilometers behind you.

5 – As much as it pains me to say this, give way to the f*ckers who don’t stay in line
Like I said, I would love nothing more than to not let any line-cutters through. I will admit to almost hitting the car in front of me because I didn’t want to give way to the car who chose to join our lane at the point of the concrete barrier. I also admit to taking my sweet, sweet time to inch forward just so the car behind me can follow closely and not let the singit through. But the truth of the matter is, the longer the they don’t merge with your lane, the longer they are blocking traffic for people behind them. So while it will give you sweet satisfaction to not let the jerk through, think about the times you just wished the the jerk in front of you was let through so that you could go your way down the Shaw underpass. Let him pass. Sure, you can flip him the bird, honk your horn until his ears bleed out, and curse him to oblivion, but let him pass.

6 – Educate your drivers
If you are fortunate enough to have someone drive you around, great. But as the employer of Manong Boy it is your responsibility to make sure that he drives responsibly, safely, and doesn’t cause a traffic jam while waiting for you (hazards on, of course) to buy your cronuts from Wildflour. He most likely wants to do a good job of getting you and your family where you want to go as quickly and conveniently as possible, but let him know that he shouldn’t counterflow down a busy street just because your daughter is late for her yoga class, or make an illegal u-turn because your son forgot his basketball shoes at home.

Like I said, these are teeny, tiny things that will probably be a drop in the despairing ocean that is Manila traffic. But until the government comes to its senses then we need to do what we can, no matter how little, and stop being lazy, undisciplined, selfish, entitled asshats on the road.

Another one off the bucket list: An El Clásico in the Santiago Bernabéu

I honestly still can’t believe it. It really still feels like I dreamed it all up. I was in Madrid. I went to the Santiago Bernabeu. I watched an El Clásico.

So, yes, I am writing about this here partly to convince myself that I was there. It happened. One of my wildest dreams came true.

When I found out I was going to be sent to the UK for three months for work, one of the first things I did was to check the La Liga calendar. My heart started racing at the realization that I will be in Europe for the second El Clásico of the season. And it was going to be in Madrid. I was all in a tizzy, and that was maybe four or five months before I even left for the UK, before I even made the final decision to go.

There was no question of me wanting to go, of course. But the El Clásico is arguably the biggest league match in Europe, if not the world, and tickets are hard to come by. Even if any become available, the prices are enough to make even the most ardent fans balk. It was not an easy decision to make, but as my friends pointed out, it was a golden opportunity. I was in Europe at the same time as an El Clásico! When else will that ever happen again (without even more expense on my part, that is)? And so after some considerable stress with the Real Madrid website (why is there no confirmation page when you purchase via the English site, huh, Madrid?) and some Google Translate, I was the tearful, hysterical owner of a pitch-side ticket to the match of my dreams.

And the tears came flowing again as the stadium slowly loomed large while we were driving down Av. de Concha Espina, on the way out of the city for some sightseeing. I couldn’t help myself to request my hosts that we drop by the stadium for some photos, even if I was going to be back for the match that evening and for the stadium tour the following afternoon.

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I guess it goes without saying that there were more tears.

Fortunately, I managed to get a hold of myself for the match. I did not tear up, although my stomach was in knots and my hands were clammy. I was surprised I did not lose my shit as I took my seat. Everything about the Bernabeu, the scale of it, the noise, the fans, was overwhelming. It was bigger, louder, and crazier than anything I imagined. It was perfect.

We are going to the #ChampionsLeague final!!! #halamadrid! So so proud and happy!!

A video posted by Kat (@tightsarntpants) on

I have photos of the team’s warm-up and during the pre-match ceremonies. When the match got started, however, it was hard managing a camera and trying to keep up with what was going on across the pitch. I finally decided to give up and focus on the game, to watch it through my own eyes and not through my camera’s tiny screen.

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It was thrilling to watch the team I have watched so many times on television live, in the flesh. It’s unbelievable how much quicker everyone is in person versus on TV, Gareth Bale in particular (fine, ok, Messi was great, too).

 

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We didn’t win the three points, but the match was fantastic. Ending 3-4, it has been called by pundits as the best Clásico in recent memory. And I was grateful to have been there for it.

That wasn’t the end of my Real Madrid experience, though. The next afternoon, I went on the Real Madrid stadium tour. I was awed by the size of the Bernabeu the night before, when it was filled to the rafters with fans. But it looks even bigger when it’s empty in the daylight.

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The tour starts almost from the very top of the stadium, and you work your way down. It includes the the team museum. And while the museum is a little too self-important and self-congratulatory even as team museums go, there are little gems to be found, like the shoes on the left: Zinedine Zidane’s boots from the La Novena final, no longer our LAST Champions League title . How wonderful it is to be able to say that.

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From the museum, you make your way down the stands to pitch-side level. Then it’s up again to the President’s box, from where this shot was taken:

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I didn’t realize that the tour included the team’s locker rooms. Imagine my shock when I entered a door found myself facing a row of toilets, followed by these:

 

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Any fan could imagine what kind of thoughts were buzzing around in my head at the sight of the team showers and sauna. It was fascinating to me that these facilities were part of the tour. Apart from the icky thought that hundreds, probably thousands, of visitors walk through what is basically someone’s bathroom and closet… well, let’s just say there were other thoughts.

However, my favorite part of the tour were the lockers. It blows my mind that I was standing there, in the same room where the likes of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti give their half-time talks/sermons, where titles were drunkenly celebrated, or losses mourned. This was only a place I read about where Sergio Ramos played his (probably questionable) music,

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and where the incomparable Xabi Alonso used to hang (sob!) his impeccable clothes,

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and where Cristiano hangs his awful Gucci belts.

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After spending as much time as one reasonably can staring at lockers, I was off down the tunnel. It was surreal walking up and down the same steps the players do before and after each match.

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The stairs bring you right to the player benches and the centerline of the pitch. I am a little ashamed to say how much time I spent just standing there, taking it all in, and also waiting for the Real Madrid TV crew who were doing an interview in the middle of the pitch to clear out so that I can take my photos with a near-empty pitch:

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I am still in awe of the entire experience, and part of me still can’t believe it, even when I have pictures to prove that one of my wildest dreams has come true. I was there, amidst the Madridistas, cheering my team on against our greatest rivals. I was there, where some of the greatest players of the world have walked through and bathed, where history has been made, where dreams have been fulfilled, where hearts have been broken. I was there. And in a way, I always will be.

Hala Madrid!

My London Food Diary

I have already documented what I consumed in Paris for Pepper, and now it’s time to show London some love.

Burger and Lobster – Knightsbridge (multiple branches)

As the name of the restaurant suggests, Burger and Lobster serves only two things. The lobster, however, they serve either whole or in a lobster roll. I chose the latter partly because my first encounter with it went so well, and partly because I didn’t want to deal with the mess of a full lobster.

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For 20 GBP, you get the lobster roll, fries, a small salad, and bottomless lemon butter sauce. The lobster roll seems to be a cross between a Connecticut and a Maine roll. There’s mayo, of course, but there’s also a lot of buttery and lemony flavor. I love Maine-style lobster rolls, so I would’ve preferred a touch more mayonnaise. Or, judging from how good the lemon butter sauce was, going full-on Connecticut might’ve been a good idea, too. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this. The lobster meat was delicious, sweet, and tender. The brioche “bun”, generously buttered, was particularly good. Even the side salad of peppery arugula and onions helped balance everything out. It’s a little pricey, but it was worth two visits from me.

The Knightsbridge branch doesn’t accept reservations, but their other branches do so try to get one if you can. Or you might end up waiting a very long time.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack is obviously not original to London, but I could not, could not miss an opportunity to eat at the Shack and finally get to try the famous Shack Stack.

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I was worried the breaded mushroom would be overpower the beef patty, but it didn’t. The mushroom patty was done perfectly, the crust crispy and not greasy at all. I liked how the crunch contrasted with all the other textures in the burger. There were some consistency issues, however. The beef from my Stack from my second visit was a little bland and did get lost in everything that was going on. The other two times, however, I was quite satisfied with my burger.

I finally also had one of Shake Shack’s famed milkshakes. I ordered a strawberry milkshake and paid a little extra to get it malted. It was the thickest, creamiest milkshake I have ever had but it was too sweet and too rich for my taste.

Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant – Gerrard Street (multiple branches, reservations a must)

One of the disadvantages of traveling and eating alone is that you don’t get to try  a lot of what a restaurant has to offer. Hence, my friends and I took advantage of the time we had together to eat family style at Four Seasons in Chinatown.

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We took full advantage of the opportunity, as you can see. The highlight of the meal was the roast duck. I’m no expert on the fowl, but my friend who sees Donald Duck and thinks “yum!” thinks very highly of Four Seasons’. Everything was good, though, and it was a little embarrassing of how little was left of the food above after the four of us (yes, there were only four of us) were done eating.

The Breakfast Club – Soho (multiple branches)

My first try at eating at The Breakfast Club’s Soho branch was a failure. The line and the wait was too long and I was too hungry to wait. There was still a line on my second attempt, but it was a much more manageable one, and within twenty minutes, I was in.

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The line is not because is the food is life-changingly good. There’s a wait to get in because the menu of breakfast classics is well done, cheap, and served in generous portions. There was nothing groundbreaking about my plate of French toast with bacon and bananas. It tasted exactly as I expected it to taste, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

The Riding House Cafe

Another lovely spot for breakfast in Soho was The Riding House Cafe. I chose their buttermilk pancakes mainly because it came with vanilla clotted cream. I was a little wary when it was served to me because the top of the pancakes looked tough, reminding me of English muffins.

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One slice in, however, and all my fears were allayed. The pancakes were tender, light, and fluffy despite their crusty-looking exteriors. The berry compote was wonderfully lumpy and refreshingly tart, it cut through the richness of the clotted cream beautifully. The English sausages I ordered on the side for some saltiness in my meal were also excellent, garlicky and herb-y.

The Diner

My friend and I ended up at Camden after leaving that long Breakfast Club line. I was still in the mood for breakfast food, so I suggested The Diner when we passed it. I vaguely remember reading about it while researching brunch spots in London.

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I ordered the Mexican Breakfast Pan loaded with chorizo, sauteed potatoes, baked eggs, salsa, beans, guacamole, jalapenos, and cheese. It was a lot, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. There was so much going on, that each mouthful was different, and that’s a good thing. My favorite part of the plate was the salsa and the jalapenos, since they brightened everything else on the plate. They contrasted the creaminess of the guac, the richness of the eggs, and the starchiness of the potatoes. I maybe would’ve loved a squeeze of lime or lemon juice over the entire thing just for the citrus-y kick, but then I say that about a lot of things.

The Diner is also known for their milkshakes. While I didn’t have one, my friend did. The staff kindly customized a peanut butter-hazelnut one for her and the sounds she made while slurping it were… well, let’s just say I knew it was amazing, even without tasting it.

Duck and Waffle (reservations a must)

I guessed Duck and Waffle was a popular restaurant even before my friend and I called for a reservation. Our 10:30pm slot for dinner confirmed that. One of the reasons for its popularity is the fact that it is on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, offering spectacular views of Central London.

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We were seated right across from The Gherkin, with a view of the Thames and Tower Bridge. While the views took my breath away, I started to worry if that was all the restaurant was about. That Duck and Waffle was popular and a tad pricey mainly because of its location and its touristic value.

Hence, I was a little wary digging into my plate of, naturally, Duck and Waffle. It was half a waffle, duck leg confit, a fried duck egg, and mustard maple syrup. The waffle was nothing remarkable, not that I expected the world from a waffle. The star of dish was the confit, crispy, juicy, savory. With the runny yolk, some waffle and the sweet syrup, it made for quite a bite. I’d come back for this, even if the restaurant was in the basement of the building.

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My apologies for the poor shot, but the lighting was very dim.

There were several other places and things that I tried that didn’t make it here mostly because I didn’t get to photograph them (my excellent takeaway burger from Five Guys comes to mind). There were some things that weren’t bad at all, but weren’t really worth writing home about. But overall, my experience with London food was great, and there really is no reason everyone’s shouldn’t be. If you’re going to London, forget about what’s been said about how bad the food there is, do your research, go beyond fish and chips, and London will surprise you.

 

Burger and Lobster – Knightsbridge
Fifth Floor Harvey Nichols,

109 – 125 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RJ

Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant
12 Gerrard St,
London W1D 5PR

Shake Shack
24, Market Building, The Piazza,

Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RD

The Breakfast Club – Soho
33 D’Arblay St,
London W1F 8EU

The Riding House Cafe
43-51 Great Titchfield St,
London W1W 7PQ

The Diner
2 Jamestown Road,
London NW1 7BY

Duck & Waffle
Heron Tower
110 Bishopgate, London EC2N 4AY