Across the Pond

A year in the other Cambridge


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Lent

It’s the last day of Lent because Easter is tomorrow! I (supposedly) gave up desserts, but the fact that I ate 3 waffles for breakfast this morning (and the many pictures of sweets from Paris and Belgium) might give you a clue as to how well I actually kept to that. Whoops…

(but the waffles were DELICIOUS.)

Anyways, happy Easter weekend! 🙂


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Belgium with Anne!

Last weekend I went on my first trip of Easter break to meet up with the lovely Miss Anne in Belgium.

Hi, Anne! :)

Hi, Anne! 🙂

Since I was passing through London on my way to Brussels anyways, I went into the city on Friday afternoon and met my old advisor at London Business School and got dinner with Grace at a pub around the corner. It was Rib Night… and they were delicious.

Then bright dark and early Saturday morning, I went to St. Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Brussels. I was nicely settled in my seat when the guy sitting next to me arrived and insisted that the seat was his because he “always gets the window seat.” I gave it to him because I didn’t want a disgruntled dude sitting next to me for 2 hours, but then I was disgruntled for 2 hours instead.

Anne and I planned to meet at the Brussels train station and then take the train to Bruges together, but that train station is really confusing… good thing Anne had enough foresight to come up with a back-up plan, so I hopped on a train to meet her at the hotel in Bruges instead. It was a short walk from the train station, and I knew I would like this town as soon as I saw it.

Cobblestones, horse-drawn carriages, pedestrian bridges, and puppies!

Cobblestones, horse-drawn carriages, pedestrian bridges, and puppies!

Unfortunately, Anne was waiting for me at the train station… but she found me eventually! And just in time to go to Hertog Jan for what is possibly the best meal of my life to date.

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(I just downloaded a trial version of this AutoCollage thing–pretty fun!)

This was a 5 course meal… preceded by 4 amuse bouche and 4 appetizers, including a trio of desserts, and followed by 5 treats at the end. Whew! Anne and I shared a wine pairing, but I’m pretty sure they gave us more than they should have. The staff were so lovely and friendly and we have photos with the kitchen staff and our waiter!

These wines looked so pretty... and so does Anne!

These wines looked so pretty… and so does Anne!

To walk off our very large meal, we wandered around town, taking advantage of the remaining daylight.

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The townscape is dominated by a few tall towers (like the bell tower in the photo directly above, and the St. Saviour’s Cathedral in the ones earlier), but it’s amazing how around every corner, the view is different but just as beautiful as the one before.

If anything, the town got more beautiful at twilight.

the bell tower in the market square (Markt)

the bell tower in the market square (Markt)

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We were still full from lunch, but given that we only had 2 days in Belgium, skipping a meal just was not an option. So, after a great deal of wandering in the cold trying to find the place, we arrived at Chez Vincent for fries and beer:

double fried and delicious

double fried and delicious

Since the snow was really starting to come down, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for Sunday. In the morning, we found that the snow hadn’t really stuck, so no slipping and sliding!

view from our balcony

Since it was so cold, we planned our route in advance. Stop #1: Find a liege waffle stand close to our hotel.

…or the cheese shop next door. We picked up some local cheeses from Bruges and then set off. But we couldn’t actually find a waffle shop (or they hadn’t opened yet)! So we skipped on to Stop #2: a tea room for lunch.

…okay, fine, we actually stopped at chocolate shops along the way too. But check out these Easter displays:

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And this one had a sign saying it was mentioned by Rick Steves, so it’s not like we could not go in..

also, what a cute little shop!!

also, what a cute little shop!!

But we did finally make it to the tea room and had a delicious lunch!

a full-out afternoon tea

a full-out afternoon tea (minus the scones, they were still baking!)

Stop #3: the Burg, where the City Hall is.

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And also where we finally found a liege waffle truck!

so delicious and yet so painful (because we were so full from lunch!)

so delicious and yet so painful (because we were so full from lunch!)

We then headed across the river towards Vismarkt, where Anne and I picked up some watercolor paintings of Bruges.

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I cannot get over how pretty all these buildings are!

I cannot get over how pretty all these buildings are!

Finally, we arrived at Stop #4: the Dijver Canal, which is in a bunch of postcards.

postcard shot!

postcard shot!

Having successfully seen that, everything else was just gravy. We figured we could wander around Bruges a bit more before heading to Brussels, so we tried a hot chocolate, which is made by stirring a piece of chocolate into a cup of hot milk;

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visited a frozen fountain in the square where there’s a big market on Saturday mornings;

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saw a quieter side of Bruges;

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had a pint of the only beer brewed in the city;

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and had one more liege waffle.

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Then we were off to Brussels!

Honestly, I didn’t love Brussels… it’s just kind of a big dirty city, and it felt a little creepy walking around at night. Grand Place, the central square, is really beautiful though. Anne says it was even more spectacular the last time she was in Brussels, but I think it already looks pretty cool:

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We then had traditional Belgian food for dinner at Fin de Siecle, and I tried the Mort Subite Kriek beer. The restaurant was really interesting; the menu is written on a blackboard and they don’t accept “plastic money.” We spoke with the bartender and the owner, who were both really friendly and happy to translate things into English for us.

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this may look like sausage and mash, but it's Belgian food, okay?

this may look like sausage and mash, but it’s Belgian food, okay?

meat-filled endive

The next morning, we took our time leaving the hotel room, since we still hadn’t gotten around to eating the cheese and other snacks we had bought in Bruges! However, before we left Belgium, we had to go eat the “simple face” steak at Les Brassins. It was… amazing. The steak is marinated with mustard, shallots, and parsley and then grilled only on one side.

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So yummy, but so filling… I couldn’t manage to finish my steak, or the fries and mashed potatoes that came with it! Anyways, we rushed over to Grand Place to take some photos in the daytime and buy some beer for presents, and luckily the sun came out–but unluckily, so did the cranes.

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Anne and her bread-man stand-in... in the same photo!

Anne and her bread-man stand-in… in the same photo!

And last but not least, Brussels is known for the many murals that you can find on the sides of buildings all over the city. Here’s the TinTin one!

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We did manage to get to Brussels-Zuid train station in time for Anne to hop on the train to CDG, and then I proceeded to while away time drinking coffee and buying more waffles and chocolate from the shops in the train station.

I left Brussels around 6pm and then stayed with Grace on Monday night and wandered around London on Tuesday. This is the only picture I took though, as I then got handed a seafood wrap and it was delicious and the camera didn’t come back out of my bag again…

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Ely

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here, but I’ve wanted to go to Ely for quite some time now. It’s a small town 17 miles north of Cambridge that’s named after eels and famous for its cathedral, nicknamed the “Ship of the Fens.” Also, Oliver Cromwell lived in Ely. But the main attraction is that it’s 10 min away by train (and the ticket only costs 4.30 for a return!) and it’s somewhere to visit.

Well, today my friends and I decided to hop on a train and go visit, since none of us had ever been! It was supposed to be cloudy and rainy today, so we left early to get there before the bad weather did. I woke up at 7:30AM O_O

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“Ship of the Fens”

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A prayer net. I really like the colors!

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Possibly the coolest part of the trip. We found this alcove that had little chairs with cushions that had Cambridge college crests. This is Newnham

As my guidebook says, “Ely is a small, dense town that fails to live up to the high expectations created by its big attraction, its cathedral.” I thought it was cute and I liked seeing the countryside, but yeah, we spent around 2 hours there, about a half hour of which was inside a tea room eating some admittedly pretty darn good scones. We briefly considered (not really) doing the 17-mile trek back, but it was chilly today. Where is spring??

One last shot of the River Cam (17 miles further north than usual)

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I’m off to London tomorrow and Belgium early Saturday morning, so have a good weekend, everyone, and Happy Friday!


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End of Lent Term!

It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but today’s the end of Lent Term! (OK, Lent Term technically ended two days ago, but I had a presentation yesterday and a final exam today, so I’m finally done today!)

I’m looking forward to 5 weeks of no classes and (possibly) sleep, with only my project and two papers to work on! And travel plans!! I’m going to Brussels/Bruges next weekend with Anne, and then spending a week in Barcelona with two of my classmates in April, and possibly another trip or two! Maybe I should stick with the theme and try to visit as many cities as possible that start with a “B.”

In other news, I decided this week that I’m going to go back to my old company in the fall! I’m super excited because I’ve missed being there and all the people!

And since I’ve been a bit of a delinquent recently, some pictures from the past few weeks.

tea-rex! with delicious Taiwan tea :)

tea-rex! with delicious Taiwan tea 🙂

We had the craziest weather this Monday. It was sunny when I woke up, and 30 minutes later, it was like this

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And after 15 minutes, it stopped. And the sun came out again. Repeat. All morning and early afternoon.

Saving the best for last, a friend of mine from college surprised me with flowers! They brightened up my week and my room 🙂

To fully appreciate, know that this was taken at 4am.

To fully appreciate, know that this was taken at 4am.

 


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A weekend in Paris

Last weekend, Grace, Changy, and I went to Paris! Grace and I caught a Friday evening Eurostar out of London, so by the time we got to Paris, it was really late dinner time. Then we went back to the apartment to rest up for an exciting weekend… and promptly locked the dead bolt. Not in the closed position.

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So… we spent the night with the door ajar. But we set up a foolproof security system.

There. We fixed it.

There. We fixed it.

Despite this alarming start to the trip, the owner of the apartment was actually really great and came to fix it first thing in the morning. And the apartment was actually pretty nice.

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With the door again securely locked, we set off to explore Paris. First stop: coffee.

Don't mind the look on Grace's face. The coffee was amazing.

Don’t mind the look on Grace’s face. The coffee was amazing. Seriously.

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Then we meandered our way over a bridge…

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…to Notre Dame, where we did the touristy thing.

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…No, not wait in line. Who do you think we are? We just took the requisite pictures and continued on to lunch. Where we had a glorious three-course lunch. It was difficult to move (and stay awake) afterwards.

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I possibly took too many pictures of the restaurant...

I possibly took too many pictures of the restaurant…

...but it was so pretty!!

…but it was so pretty!!

zucchini soup

zucchini soup

braised beef cheek

braised beef cheek

blue cheese and plum (prune?)

blue cheese and plum (prune?)

mandarin orange panna cotta

mandarin orange panna cotta

We stumbled our way back to the Notre Dame island and caught a Seine river cruise to see everything the lazy way

can't have a Paris post without the Eiffel!

can’t have a Paris post without the Eiffel!

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I want to live here.

I want to live here.

And I really like these locks that we saw on our way back

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Changy went back to the apartment to rest while Grace and I went shopping for goodies! Like pastries and cheese and caramels. Jacques Genin’s caramels blow my mind.

these praline breads are so tasty...

these praline breads are so tasty…

I miss these already, and I still have a few left.

I miss these already, and I still have a few left.

His store was beautiful too.

His store was beautiful too.

Okay, and the chocolates too.

Okay, and the chocolates too.

(If you happened to see Changy in that photo… it’s true, we went back on Sunday.)

For dinner, we went to Au Passage for small plates. Highlights include: a singing Australian chef, an attempt (and fail) at eating sea urchin, and leeks.

I guess we’re all old now, because we just went back to the apartment afterward and went to sleep, with the intention of waking up early to go to Versailles.

Key word: intention. Since we actually woke up way too late to go to Versailles, we had a baguette and cheese breakfast.

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(not pictured) More cheese.

 

And then just went to the Louvre instead.

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we liked this courtyard :)

we liked this courtyard 🙂

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first AC photo in three years!

first AC photo in three years!

i like the reflection on the pyramid

i like the reflection on the pyramid

Then we hopped down to check out the Tuileries Garden, Place de la Concorde, and Arc de Triomphe.

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A nice lady took this for us. I like that she thought we were more important than the Arc.

A nice lady took this for us. I like that she thought we were more important than the Arc.

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Then we rushed over to Rue du Montorgueil, which David Lebovitz had highly recommended. Unfortunately, 4:30 on a Sunday does not appear to be a good time to visit a market. Most everything was closed 😦 So we had a truly terrible cup of coffee and then walked back toward the apartment, possibly stopping by Jacques Genin again on our way…

For dinner, we went to Breizh Cafe, a creperie! The crepes were delicious and they specialize in cider, so naturally, we split a bottle.

yummy cider! in little bowl cups

yummy cider! in little bowl cups

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salted caramel, pear, and chantilly cream dessert crepe. mmm!

salted caramel, pear, and chantilly cream dessert crepe. mmm!

The next morning, I caught a train back to London then Cambridge for class in the afternoon, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet… it was cold last weekend. And constantly flurrying, like we were in the snowglobe version of Paris:

cold but happy!

cold but happy!

night version

night version

So that’s it for my first vacation this year! Can’t wait for more to come! 🙂