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A tale of two cities.

April 2, 2009

***Quick technical update – I’m aware that some of these pictures did not transfer. I’ll go back and check them tonight.***

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So I’m sitting on my sofa, digesting a truly delicious meal of bratwurst, chili and popcorn (for those of you gourmets, I hope I haven’t ruined you forever – it’s a staple in my home-comfort-food diet) and listening to the rain fall, I am struck with the desire to put a few notes together from my recent trip to the UK cities of Brighton and Oxford. While I went to the UK to present a paper at the CSAE 2009 conference, I did also manage to squeeze a bit of tourism into the program.

First up was a visit with my dear old (but in fact quite young) Fellows mentor, Laurence, who was working in London. I arrived around 11AM but we weren’t meeting til 2:30 or so. As I had some time to kill, of course I took the time to visit King’s Cross station, home of the infamous Harry Potter Platform 9 and 3/4, complete with disappearing trolley.

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Fun having been had in London, it was time to move along to Brighton, home to the University of Sussex, and more importantly, my old friend Josh from my undergraduate days in the MSC L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness. Josh, I must say, was the most fantastic tour guide. He showed me the best local pubs, and gave the best local flavor for the area. If you’re traveling to Brighton anytime in the near future, I highly recommend you meet up with him so he can take you to an adorable teahouse:

Tea House

Tea House

And show you the breathtaking Brighton coastline:

Beach

Beach

And, lest I forget the most IMPORTANT thing about Brighton, they have a cupcake shop! Nestled in one of the little alleyways known as the Lanes in Brighton’s cultural center, Angel Food bakery wafts delicious smells of baked goodness into the happy noses of shoppers looking for vintage weaponry (true) or clothes made of hemp (questionably true). Shining like a beacon above our heads, their simple sign says it all:

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Cupcake sign

Being the cupcake FIEND that I am, I obviously had to just jump in and try one! The shop is set up really well – customers waiting in line can see both the tiny cupcake counter (with tempting selections of both mini- and full-sized-cupcakes) and through a giant window into the kitchen itself, which is a surprisingly humble affair. The busy bakers were whipping up a brand new batch of cream cheese frosting while we watched – in the exact same Kitchen Aid mixer my Expert Baker of a grandmother gave me for (my first) graduation! It made me smile to feel the home-baked nature of the place, and the carrot cake cupcakes Josh and I shared were quite tasty, if a bit on the dense, muffiny side (he claims that’s how he likes them – I prefer airy to close-packed, but I nitpick).

So, saying goodbye to Brighton was tough, for sure:

View from the Pier

View from the Pier

But it was onward and upward to Oxford for the conference and to see A&M’s resident Rhodes Scholar, Nick.

There were about 8,000 famous and important things to see in Oxford, not the least of which were the pub where Bill Clinton “did not inhale” (the first picture below shows the alleyway outside the pub), the music hall where Handel played (among other famous people – second down), and All Soul’s College (third), which is known for its exclusivity and the fact that they do not actually have any students.

The route to the Turf, the pub where Clinton "did not inhale."

The route to the Turf, the pub where Clinton "did not inhale."

Where Handel played.

Where Handel played.

All Soul's College

All Soul's College

Another particularly interesting (to me) part of Oxford was the Covered Market. There were a number of cool boutique stalls (see the link in the “Tip of the Day” segment) but the absolute coolest was this cake maker. Presented below is a picture of the Radcliffe Camera, one of the most well-known pieces of architecture in Oxford, and a picture of a cake in the shape of the Radcliffe Camera, made by the cake shop in the covered market. The detail is astonishing, and even moreso when I reveal that the cake is actually only 1.5 feet tall – those details are TINY.

The Radcliffe Camera

The Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera...the cake!

Radcliffe Camera...the cake!

To round off my day of sightseeing, I visited the Rose teashop and had the most delicious cream tea, pictured below.

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The key ingredients to this very traditional tea are

1. The tea, usually black, with milk and/or sugar.

2. Scones. These come in plain and wheat, of which I prefer the traditional white, but which are both tasty to try.

3. Jam, strawberry.

4. Clotted cream, which is basically a very very very thick whipped cream with no sugar, and

5. Butter.

You take each of the toppings, load them up on the scone, which has the consistency of a fluffy buttermilk biscuit and tastes very similar, pour yourself a cuppa tea, replace the cute strainer in its specially made little metal bowl (to catch the drips!), top your tea up with a good dose of milk, and enjoy your mid-afternoon snack. Delicious!

All in all, an excellent trip which I hope to repeat in the future. I’m even being persuaded by Josh to think about getting my PhD in Brighton, so if that happens, I’ll have a great new perspective to offer.

Tip of the day (well…technically the second tip for today): Places to see in Oxford.

The Oxford covered market. The number of merchants is astounding and the boutique stalls in this market boast a variety of specialties ranging from antique model airplanes to handmade scarves to fresh selections of meats and cheeses.

The Radcliffe Camera. This one’s for Tripp – it’s one of the most readily recognizable buildings in Oxford, and there’s a very nice courtyard surrounding it. While you’re there, take a look at Brasenose, St. Mary’s church and All Soul’s college.

Better yet, take one (or all three) of these self-guided walking tours. I did the first two, and rather than follow the third, I met up with a friend and walked to Wolvercote, a tiny little village to the northwest of Oxford. If you’re going to make the trek along Port Meadow, crossing the Thames as we did, be sure to end your hefty hike with a beer at the Trout Inn. They have friendly peacocks in their garden who will be sure to entertain the other slightly…enlightened…guests. Kudos to Nick for his excellent skills as a tour guide!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Robert permalink
    April 2, 2009 1:59 pm

    Well done, I see a future in tour guiding to all the specail cupcake palaces of the world.

  2. April 2, 2009 2:26 pm

    It looks like the blog’s off to a great start. I must say, though, I’m scandalized that you didn’t mention your tour of Lincoln College or all of the FAMOUS people I told you about associated with that particular institution. Absolutely scandalized.

    Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed Oxford!

    • lisamoorman permalink
      April 2, 2009 1:19 pm

      Limited space, man, limited space. Although Dr. Seuss should definitely have made the cut – a thousand apologies.

  3. April 2, 2009 10:32 am

    Awesome! I love the tip o’the day! And what a great idea to travel and write reviews of the bakeries of the world! I sense a new travel channel show idea already!

    • lisamoorman permalink
      April 2, 2009 10:39 am

      Thanks! I like the plug for Resakkss. 🙂

      …which is apparently located in the part of your profile that only I can see, so the rest of you can ignore that part.

  4. Paul O permalink
    April 2, 2009 10:52 am

    Nice article!

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