Satay Vegetable Soup

In summer, I love a good salad. If done right they’re nourishing, filling and down right delicious. If done wrong, they’re boring, not that nutritious and an absolute pain to eat.

But what do you do when winter rolls around? Suddenly, no matter how many pomegranate seeds you pack in or how much avocado you add, a salad just won’t cut it. So how do you get your daily 5+ serves of veggies and still feel warmed and satisfied?

Soup.

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Ok, ok, I know what you’re probably thinking. It’s watery, it’s flavourless, I’m hungry an hour later… well then friends, you’re doing it all wrong. You have to try this satay vegetable soup. Source: Mum’s cookbook. Where nothing is referenced and everything is delicious.

To start off with, you’ll need:

1tsp peanut (or other) oil

1 large onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2tsp mild curry powder

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

2 TAB brown sugar

1/4 cup sweet chili sauce

2 TAB lemon juice

2x 425ml cans light coconut milk

1/2 cup vegetable stock

8 squash, quartered

1 red capsicum, chopped

1 green capsicum, chopped

2 carrots, sliced

1 bunch bok choy, sliced

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Really, you can used whichever vegetables you have handy. Try green beans, broccoli, pumpkin, potato, it’s really up to you!

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Heat your oil in a pan, then add onion, garlic and curry powder, and cook, stirring until onion is soft.

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Add peanut butter, sugar, sweet chili sauce, lemon juice, coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil

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Add your veggies to the pan, starting with the hardest and cooking a little before adding the rest. Reserve the bok choy. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes until all veggies are cooked.

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Turn off the heat and stir through the bok choy. The remaining heat from the soup will wilt it.

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There you go, Satay Vegetable Soup. Warming, nourishing and the perfect soup to get you through the colder months ahead.

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Rustic Pearl

I don’t get people that don’t like breakfast. I could legitimately eat breakfast for every meal of the day. Muesli, eggs, porridge, pancakes, I love them all.

So it goes without saying that when I go out for brekky, I want to do it properly. Enter, Rustic Pearl.

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Set in the people-watchers paradise that is Crown St in Surry Hills, Rustic Pearl does it’s best to stand out in a saturated market.

The menu is long enough to keep fussy eaters satisfied, but also features all the usual suspects.

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Steph went with the muesli: Farmer Joe’s smashed berry bircher muesli with whipped rose water yogurt, honey and seasonal fresh fruit.

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Maria and I plumped for the Eggs Benedict: two poached organic eggs on premium bacon, homemade hollandaise sauce and tomato relish

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Now usually, I’m not a huge fan of hollandaise sauce. I often find it too heavy and creamy and it doesn’t sit well with me, but today I had a good feeling about it.

The tomato relish was enough to cut through the creaminess of the hollandaise and perfectly runny egg yolk, complimented by the saltiness of the bacon.

I’m also a big fan of anything that makes cafes a little different. How cute is this lemon water, stoppered with a lemon?

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We were seated on the footpath, and while this gave great scope for people (and dog!) watching, it did make eating a little tricky. The pathways along Crown St are surprisingly sloped so we all had to be careful we didn’t topple over!

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Would I go back though?

Absolutely!

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Rustic Pearl: 415 Crown Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

Armchair Collective

It’s been a cracker of a summer in Sydney.

One day it’s 22 degrees and raining, the next it’s 35 and brilliantly sunny. Today was one of those hot, sunny days so we decided to take full advantage: brunch, then beach.

And the best place to do this, without joining the masses at Bondi?

Armchair Collective

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Not just content to do excellent coffee, they also do great food and sell an eclectic range of stylish homewares.

You see Armchair Collective is so named because it also sells refurbished, one-of-a-kind, designer armchairs.

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I also LOVE this wallpaper

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But that’s not why we were there.

You pick up menus, seat yourself and order at the counter at Armchair Collective. The staff are really friendly and always up for a laugh, despite usually being run off their feet.

Jus started with an iced green tea, but I wanted more of a kick with an iced coffee

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It was a good thing our drinks were so big, because even though it was a busy, bustly Sunday morning, our meals took an unusually long time to arrive.

You could order literally anything off the menu here and you know it’s going to be good.

Everything screams deliciousness. From muesli to eggs to pancakes, every meal that we saw come out looked incredible. The tables are packed in tightly, too, so it’s really easy to have a sneaky peak at what your neighbours are eating.

Jus had the vanilla pancakes with banana brulee, fresh fruit and maple syrup

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She loved them! And the bite I managed to steal told me why. Light and fluffy but still with that signature pancake weight, I was really tempted to steal another. The pureed berries around the outside was a surprise, and there was no sign of banana brulee but worked really well with the syrup.

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I had the sweetcorn fritters with avocado and cherry tomato salsa, poached eggs and bacon.

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And dived right in.

I’m shocking in the morning when I’m hungry.

Although the fritters themselves were a little salty, the avocado and cherry tomato salsa was chunky enough to drown it out. The poached egg was deliciously runny and also worked really well with the saltier fritters and bacon.

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Although I’m glad there was only one egg, I can see someone with a larger appetite querying why the menu said “poached eggs” but it only comes with one.

We were seated quite close to the kitchen, but would have had no idea if we hadn’t been greedily drinking in the sight of all these wonderful homewares.

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It’s cleverly hidden, and the display also cuts out most of the noise.

Armchair Collective also sells fresh cut, market flowers for a very reasonable price. If we weren’t about to hit the sand I would have been very tempted!

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Bookings are not an option, but if you have to wait for a table, it’s well worth it. They also do lunch and dinner. Check them out here.

Craft Beer Fight Club

Can you keep a secret? The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club. Well if I tell you the secret, but you keep the secret, then there’s really no harm done, right?

I’ve found the perfect fusion of quirky and secrecy: Craft Beer Fight Club held every few months at the Dove & Olive.

If I unexpectedly go missing in the middle night, it’s probably because I’ve spilled the beans.

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When I find a good venue I find it hard to keep my mouth shut, and the Dove & Oliver definitely fits the bill.

A friendly, but stylish venue that knows exactly what it is and exactly where it’s going. I find a lot of spots don’t know if they’re trying to be funky and fresh, or tiny and hipster. And we all know that trying to be hipster just isn’t hipster.

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Unashamedly quirky, the Dove and Olive was supporting the Craft Beer Craze even before it became a craze. Every few months, D&O invites two local breweries down to showcase their best brews and fight it out to be crowned champion.

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It’s a great excuse to get together with a few beverage-keen friends for a relaxed night of great pub food and (hopefully) excellent brews.

Starting with a lighter beer and getting progressively heavier, each participant will get 2 middies of beer from each brewery. The Brewers are on hand to tell you about the individual processes and really get your mouth in the right spot.

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And while you’re there, you better get some excellent pub grub to compliment your beers. Self-described as “delicious, quirky and innovative pub grub” chances are you’re going to find something here fore everyone.

I plonked for the Wild Mushroom pizza: wild mushrooms, caramelised onions, goat’s curd, basil, lemon zest and mozzarella. Delicious!

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Something I might have to try to recreate at home!

Mikaela tackled the Monster Chicken Parmigania. Don’t be fooled by her appearance. She may look delightful and tiny, but girl had a feast! I’d love to know what her secret is….

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The rest of our crew couldn’t resist the lean cut Rump Steak, served with fries and salad. Incidentally, you can pick this little baby up from $9.90 on Wednesdays!

Served on a wooden board with an impressive (and vicious) looking knife, everyone was suitably impressed with their choice.

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And if there is a person alive who can resist Sweet Potato Wedges I haven’t met them!

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Fear not though, if (like me), you’re not such a fan of IPA/lager/beer in general. For those of you with a creative side, there is also a competition for the best Beer Label design.

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There are some fun prizes up for grabs, including jugs of beer, t-shirts and sometimes even free tickets to the next event!

For all the info, check out the Dove & Olive’s What’s On page here. Tickets are so available for the first Craft Beer Fight Club 1 of 2015 tomorrow night! Available here.

Once you’ve booked your tickets and been along, tell me, how would you suggest this cider-lover bridges the gap and makes the jump to the malty-stuff? Or would you say leave it and stick to what you know?

High Tea at the QVB

I must apologise for my absence! It’s been a crazy couple of months since I got home from Europe! I’ve graduated, started a new job and suddenly it’s nearly Christmas! Don’t worry though, I’ve been collecting lots of little nuggets and adventures to blog about and I can happily say that I am back!

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There’s something incredibly decadent about high tea. The origins date back to the 1700s when working men would take a quick break between 3 and 4 o’clock to refuel. Gradually the practice found it’s way onto the social calendars of the upper class, and a long, lavish occasion was born, where the gossip was just as important as the food.

Kait and I first discovered our mutual love for tea together in Norwich where we were both on exchange. Since coming home, we’ve tried to catch up as often as we can and this time she treated me to High Tea at the Queen Victoria building.

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It was a cold and dreary day, but the muted sunshine creeping through the clouds really made the stained glass dome of the QVB look spectacular!

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We were greeted on arrival by dignified but friendly staff. After being seated we were quickly given a glass each of champagne while we perused the tea menu. We were both having the Sparkling Afternoon Tea: A set selection of finger sandwiches, petit fours, sweet and savoury pastries, scones with preserve and clotted cream, tea or coffee and a glass of Australian sparkling wine.

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I went for Madagascan Vanilla, Kait for Gunpowder Green. Fortunately we didn’t have to wait long for our to tea to be served as the weather outside deteriorated!

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And no sooner had our tea come to drinking temperature than two of these little beauties were brought to our table.

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It really was a thing of artistry. I had a cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwich and an egg and cress sandwich, both on white bread. Kait had the same but on gluten-free.

Where I had a puff pastry disk with avocado creme and cherry tomato, Kait had the same but with a rice cracker disk. Both were clearly house-made which really added to the experience!

The joy of what we were about to experience made Kait go like this:

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The petit fours were as scrumptious as they were cute! We both had a raspberry macaroon, a mini fruit flan, a strawberry and basil opera slice and a chocolate layer mousse. Mine was topped with an almond praline which was simply divine! Chocolate and nuts is my favourite combination!

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My biggest surprise was how well the strawberry and basil opera slice worked! To my delight, the basil cut through the sweetness of the strawberry and it held its form really well!

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Finally, we came to what is clearly the highlight of any high tea: the scone with jam and clotted cream.

I have a confession to make. Can you keep a secret? I find scones surprisingly difficult to perfect. I’ve tried recipes with lemonade, recipes with bicarb (cheating, I know!), starting the oven high then turning it down, leaving them to cool covered, uncovered, whisking, folding and finally giving up on the whole thing and just buying them from our local Bakery. It tears me apart every time.

Clearly, the bakers at the QVB do not share my frustrations. These scones were little pieces of heaven!

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They were perfectly doughy without being too heavy. The outside was crunchy without feeling like you were going to break your teeth and the inside was light enough but still with that signature dense crumb.

Perfection!

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If you’re looking for a Christmas present for your mum, sister, grandmother, girlfriend, aunt or favourite blogger, then I cannot recommend the Tea Room at the QVB enough!

You can also purchase gift cards online. Perfect for that Christmas Eve panic! Find online gift cards here.

Tell me, what simple task do you struggle with? And do you have any scone baking tips for me?

Edinburgh Escapades

I’ve always had a bit of a think for folktales and happy endings, so I’ve always thought there’s something mystical about Scotland. It could be the number of wars they’ve fought in, or the enduring tale of the Loch Ness Monster, or it could be that J.K. Rowling wrote much of the Harry Potter series while sitting in Edinburgh’s Elephant Cafe.

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Either way I was super stoked to be heading to Edinburgh. I’ve been to the Scottish capital before, which you can read about here, but I was thiiiiis excited to go back.

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Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Lucy, who was heading back to Australia after her months-long European Escapades, but we all knew we’d being seeing each other again soon.

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We landed in Edinburgh rather early and quickly checked in. I’d stayed at the Edinburgh Budget Backpackers before and cannot recommend them enough. There’s a really friendly atmosphere to the place and the bathrooms are impeccable. It’s also been renovated so recently that you can almost smell fresh paint!

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Edinburgh is split into sections by the Royal Mile, a long stretch of cobblestone with Edinburgh Castle at one end and Holyrood Palace at the other.

Both are now tourist attractions, but Holyrood Palace is also fully-functional and houses members of the royal family when they visit the Scottish Capital. Holyrood Palace is in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, and this was where we headed first.

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According to Scottish mythology, Arthur’s Seat was one of the possible locations of Camelot Castle. It also offers supreme panoramic views of Edinburgh and an excellent opportunity to stretch one’s legs after a long flight.

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The hike was a little harder than I had anticipated, but we were super happy to make it to the top! Just look how tiny it made Holyrood Palace look!

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We were pretty stoked to make it to the top though

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We had planned on visiting Holyrood Palace after our hike but found it was closed because the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay were in attendance. After a fair bit of grumbling from me, wondering who these Royals I had never heard of were, we started wandering back up the Royal Mile.

We were just about in the centre of town when we were stopped by a mass of people and the sound of sirens. Intrigued, but unable to move, we waited as the sirens grew closer and louder.

I craned my neck to see who or what was coming, when a police escort flashed past, flanking a heavy looking car. I only glimpsed who was in the back seat, but yells from the crowd confirmed that Prince Charles and Camilla had just driven past!

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I was (and I’ve always wanted to use this word) flabbergasted! In my excitement, a rather helpful Scottish gentleman informed me that in Scotland, the heir apparent and his wife are styled differently to the rest of the UK, as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay.

These titles were taken on because their primary titles, the Prince and Princess of Wales, are so strongly associated with Prince Charles’ first wife Lady Diana.

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Thankfully, Charles and Camilla didn’t stick around too long, and we were able to visit Holyrood Palace another day, but I’m afraid that’s another story!

Lucy, Adam and Gem and the Butterfly Adventure

There is one thing that I simply HAD to do before I left London. And it wasn’t visit Buckingham Palace and it wasn’t see the changing of the guards. Hyde Park is exquisite, Trafalgar Sqaure a dream and Big Ben has no comparison.

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The one thing I HAD to do?

This.

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And I must say it was everything I have always wanted and more. The photographer obviously loved his job and was great at getting everyone their best possible photo.

He didn’t hand me my Hogwarts letter though…

Lucy was desperate for hers too!

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Adam gave it a fair crack too, despite having never read the books (but we won’t hold it against him).

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But what to do once you have ticked off the biggest item on your bucket list? Hit the Blogosphere for inspiration, of course!

About a year ago, my favourite blogger, The Londoner, wrote about a butterfly tent outside the Natural History Museum, and I was surprised and excited to find that it was back this year!

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After buying our tickets and carefully reading the rules, we set off into the hot, humid wonderland of the butterfly tent.

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Real, live butterflies float around your head and drift up and up until they find a tasty morsel. The tent is set to butterfly’s preferred temperature, so they’re really active and there are literally hundreds of them!

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The whole life cycle is displayed, from cocoons to what they eat to gorgeously fully-fledged!

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They’re tricky little blighters to photograph, but there’s lots of fun facts scattered around the place to distract you.

 

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Just the thing to calm you down and take you out of the hustle and bustle of London!

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Beatlemania

London is such an active city! There is so much to do, so much to see and so much to eat! By a happy coincidence we had some friends who were in London at the same time as us and we arranged to meet up.

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One of the great things about the Tube is it comes so frequently! We jumped on and made one of the most iconic of London treks: the Pilgrimage to Abbey Road.

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It must take a certain amount of patience to live in St John’s Wood! Of the heap of photos we took, this one was the best!

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Not too far off the real thing, right?

The walls surrounding the studio where the Beatles recorded their Abbey Album are repainted every year because legitimately thousands of fans leave their own tributes to the Fab Four.

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Having risked our lives playing chicken with cars, we’d certainly built up an appetite. But where to go for lunch? Why, back to Borough Markets, of course!

Via the Millennium Bridge, which you may recognise from the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie. If you look closely, you can see just how excited Moya is…

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I also couldn’t resist another photo of the Globe.

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Having had our fangirl fill and with the rumbling in our tummies driving us on, we made our way back to Borough Markets.

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I couldn’t leave London without having a pie and mushy peas, it wouldn’t seem right! And I definitely wasn’t disappoint by Pie Minister, just look at how delicious and creamy that filling is! All their meat is 100% British and 100% free range, so you can have your pie without the side of guilt!

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Topped off with some fresh cherries, we willed away the afternoon in the shade, eating, drinking and being merry!

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Working up an appetite for Borough Markets

What happens when two Aussie and one Brit are in London, and the Brit finds she needs to go home? Epic tourist moments, that’s what!

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As sad as we were that it was time for Bec to go home, Lucy and I decided to pull ourselves together and explore one of the most famous cities in the world.

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And because London is such a famous, touristy city, it is remarkably easy to get around. We jumped on the Tube and headed for London Tower.

Thankfully, there’s heaps to look at in London, because London Tower takes quite some committing to get to. But we wound up near Saint Paul’s Cathedral and took a few typical tourist photos on our wandering.

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Once inside, Lucy and I began our rambling around the outside, along the Tower Walls. We explored former royal chambers and had a crash-course in English history.

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The stained-glass windows were out of this world!

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The line to see the Crown Jewels was ridiculous, but being the committed tourists that we are, we stuck it out and were not disappointed. I’m almost glad you’re not allowed to take photos inside, because they really are something that you must see for yourself. And I’m not just talking diadems and tiaras, there is a huge amount of finery and history surrounding them.

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When we emerged from the cool of the depths of the Tower of London, blinking in the sunlight and starting to feel the familiar growl of hungry tummies, Lucy suggested we make our way to Borough Markets.

I’d somehow never heard of them, but Lucy and I both love food so set out with incredible enthusiasm.

Lucy’s recommendation did not disappoint.

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There was food everywhere! We soon acquired ourselves some iced tea and bravely plunged into the foodie mecca, desperate to see every square inch!

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From multicoloured Turkish Delight and dried fruit, to fresh produce, pies, cheeses, seafood and iced Pimms, there was so much to see! Fudgestalls and bakeries were interspersed with fruit shops and butchers, and the crowd was phenomenal!

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I told one stall-holder to look cheesey, but sadly he did not enjoy my humor.

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But Lucy cheered me up considerably when she found round zucchinis!

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Having walked ourselves silly through our foodie mecca, we decided we needed a time out. I plonked for a slice of Banoffee Pie (two forks, please!) and Lucy somehow waded through the huge selection of fudge.

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Just look at how delicious that pie looks!

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For good reason, it didn’t last long around us! It is now my mission in life to develop the best Banoffee Pie recipe! Lucy very kindly agreed to help me taste test.

She’s quite skilled in the art of selection.

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Full fit to burst, we waddled back to the Tube. Although we both would have happily enjoyed a good food coma, we were brave tourist pioneers and had to fit as much into our days as possible!

Also, we’d been told that Primrose Hill was not to be missed.

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Clearly we weren’t disappointed!

Located in the middle of Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill gives spectacular views of London, and the walk there isn’t half bad either.

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Taking inspiration from some of the locals, we whiled away the afternoon, enjoying the full depths of our food coma.

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Someone was beautifully serenading their sweetheart with a ukulele, giving us some very pleasing background music. Who said romance was dead?

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A Most Delightful Afternoon

Having shopped ourselves silly and marveled at the beauty of how the other half of London live, Bec, Lucy and I made our way to Hyde Park for a bit of a picnic.

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I love that in the middle of the hustle and bustle of London, Hyde Park looms as an expansive oasis. And in a city where you can almost always find wifi, it was great to find that Hyde Park is completely tech-free!

We made a quick stop off at Sainsbury’s to collect some supplies, before wandering into this green wonderland. We walked past half-naked people in rented deck chairs, whiling away the afternoon in the sun and working on their tans. A few locals had started up soccer, sorry, football matches, and lots more were playing volleyball with amazing skill!

But something drew us ever closer to the middle.

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Right in the middle of Hyde Park is a huge lake! We plonked ourselves down next to it in the shade, and dove into our picnic.

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Silence ensured for a few minutes as we all took in the serenity.

Bec had cleverly picked up some bread the day before and after our lunch, we indulged our inner children by feeding the ducks and swans.

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This guy was obviously smarter than the average duck and took quite a shine to Lucy! She’d drop bits of bread above his head and he’d catch it midair in his beak.

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Bec also soon found herself with lots of feathered friends.

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There was no other way to describe it than delightful!

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Sadly we eventually ran out of bread and made our way back to the hostel. We quickly bought tickets to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and stopped off for dinner at Camden Markets.

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A good dose of veggies was just what I needed!

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Before jumping on the tube and heading to Covent Garden for the show.

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