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UK trip: London, Brighton, and Lewes

Just arrived home yesterday from a business trip to the UK.  Normally, I grumble when work travel comes up.  But…going to England and hanging out with utterly cool people is a far cry from a typical work trip. I had a really great time!

A few observations. 
First, I wanted to stuff every garden I had the opportunity to see in my suitcase to take home with me.  English gardens are inspirational and have a beauty all their own, taking on characteristics of both formal and cottage-style.

Next, though England seems like the antithesis of vegetarianism (just try a proper English breakfast or look up blood pudding and you’ll know what I mean), I was surprised to find that it wasn’t that hard to find vegetarian food.  Plus (as you’ll read below), there are great veggie restaurants.

Last, English people have a better balance than we do in the US.  I’m sure I’m oversimplifying, but it all of my experiences traveling to the UK, this statement seems to have some truth. They take lunch breaks.  They leave work at a relatively decent hour.  They take their vacations seriously.  They have lengthy maternity and paternity leaves to help new families start out.  It is really eye-opening and something I wish Americans could learn from (including myself).

The trip
Normally, my camera is an extra limb attached to my body.  This time, I couldn’t bear the thought of lugging my SLR around with different lenses and I also didn’t want to annoy work colleagues by being too much of a tourist, so the best I can offer you are some iPhone pictures.

I arrived first at Heathrow.  Two trains plus the Underground later, I arrived in sunny Brighton, which is on the south shore.

the words “mind the gap” will be imprinted in my mind for quite a while, as they say this over and over while in the London Underground

Each trip I’ve previously taken to the UK has always been in the middle of the country (London, Oxford, Hook Norton, Birmingham), so this was a real treat.  Brighton is a lively city that is still old by US standards, but has white and cream colored buildings that have a newer seaside look about them.  My colleagues took me to the Brighton Pavilion, which is this really wild looking building built for the stylish King George IV in the late 1700s.

April and Emily

the Pavilion garden had the tallest hollyhocks I’ve ever seen

After the day in Brighton, I went back on the train for a short ride to Lewes, where I stayed for a few days.  Lewes might be the most charming town I’ve ever been in.  I stayed at a place called The Pelham House.  My favorite spot was out back in the garden, where I had a glass of wine in solitude each night.

my view at The Pelham House

There were lavender hedges in the garden here, and I do mean hedges! They were so beautiful and fragrant.

my view at breakfast

I really wish I had taken photos right in the town of Lewes, including near the fabulous Harveys Brewery .

My last night in Lewes, a whole group of us went to dinner at Terre a Terre, back in Brighton.  It was impressive, to say the least!  I had a fizzy berry drink (Prosecco with Chambord) first.

Then we shared Smashed Dashimaki (tofu, red peppers, basil, bean sprout, and miso mayonnaise in an egg roll), Raw Maki Sushi Roll (parsnip and pine nut rice, avocado, radish pickle and orange ponzu dipping sauce), and Mai Fun Salad (black rice noodles, raw vegetable spaghetti, shoots and leaves, umboshi plum white miso and served with toasted cured tofu, roasted sesame oil and pomegranate beads).

My main dish was amazing.  Rosti Raj was a crazy combination of onion and garlic rosti (what Americans would call “hashed browns”) topped with griddled tandoori halloumi, salsa with spring onion bulbs, chillies, mustard seeds and coriander served with curry leaf, coconut and lime sauce.

The next day, my lovely colleague, Adam, and I boarded the train to London to meet with an author in Notting Hill.

Notting Hill Underground

Afterwards, we took the Underground to Westminster, where I of course got to see the Clock Tower at the Palace of Westminster (what we foreigners call Big Ben in general).

I learned some interesting trivia. Big Ben is only just the bell inside of the clock, not the entire clock tower.

We just missed the big labor protest.  You can read more about it here.

I got to have a few pints of ale near Westminster and Covent Gardens.

The following morning, I hopped on a plane and went home.

When I arrived home, I didn’t unpack or even shower first.  Instead, I weeded the garden voraciously. I think those beautiful English gardens made me feel a bit self conscious.