"Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. - Gustave Flaubert"

Alnwick Castle & Gardens

Posted by on 2015 Jan 27 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

So this has to be the longest hiatus yet! Over a year, uggh. Sorry! I am still determined to finish all my posts from England and Spain, although since then I have upgraded my camera and the quality of my photos is getting a lot better so it makes me want to go back to all the places I have been and retake photos. Of course I would prefer new places though! My excuses for not blogging – finished the last year of my doctoral program, with a trip to Montreal/NY/Boston during that year, graduated/celebrated in Cabo, moved to Seattle, started a new job, and adopted a rescue puppy! I think those are legitimate excuses, right?!

Now that we have finally settled into the Pacific Northwest, I have found more time to work on photography but unfortunately I go crazy about taking photos, just not so good at editing and posting. I feel even more motivated to post though since I will be attending my first photography workshop with Aran Goyoaga aka Cannelle et Vanille this coming weekend. It really has to be one of the best Christmas presents Thomas has ever gotten me!!

Well, onto the real content of this post. I guess I will just start where I left off. Next on my UK bucket list was of course Alnwick Castle and Gardens. If you are familiar with the Harry Potter films, Alnwick Castle was used for the interior and exterior of Hogwarts in the first and second series. Alnwick (pronounced Annick) is a town in Northumberland, England about 30 miles from Thomas’ hometown. It is a quaint market town that has a very old English feel to it. The castle is home of the Duke of Northumberland, and study abroad students from St. Cloud University based in Minnesota. For a nominal fee, you can pay to go into the castle and check out some of the rooms, old artifacts, artwork corridors, the dungeon, and well just about anything else that you would expect in a castle. It does not surprise me that Alnwick Castle was used for one of the Downton Abbey filming locations. I absolutely loved it in Northumberland, although it was not the #1 castle on my list since it felt more like a tourist trap. Still a must see for HP and Downton Abbey fans though.

Alnwick, Northumberland, England

Alnwick Gardens

They really played into the whole Harry Potter craze and even had “Broomstick Training.” Of course I gave in and decided to “fly” on a broomstick! Alright, it did not take any convincing at all. I probably only got up to 2 feet in the air though (haha). I cannot wait to go back because I have a few ideas for photos with the broomstick! Yup, I want to go back just for that!

One of the most magnificent part of the grounds is actually the Gardens. It was absolutely gorgeous, and we were able to catch the “Poisonous Plants Tour.” Did you know Rhubarb leaves were poisonous? Very interesting, considering Rhubarb is amazing in desserts! There was suppose to be a treehouse, but after walking around all over the place we could not find it! Anyhow, here are some photos from around Alnwick Garden. Again, a must see if you are in the north east of the country. You really cannot go wrong anywhere in the North East. Countryside – yes, city life/night life – yes, castles – yes, beaches – yes, close to Scotland – yes, friendliest people – yes!

Well that is it for now! Hopefully the next post will be more exciting. Just need to get back into the rhythm of blogging. Thanks for reading!

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Castle Keep and Bridges of Newcastle

Posted by on 2013 Oct 31 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

On our 5th day in Newcastle, we decided to visit the Castle Keep. We took the Metro from Gosforth right into Central Station. My first train ride in the UK! I love how close everything is and you don’t really need a car to get around the city.

Of course, our first stop after getting out of Central Station – Greggs! Cheese and Onion Pasty..mmmmmm.

Across from Central Station

Since many of our readers may not know much about Newcastle other than the fact that it is where Newcastle Brown Ale is from, I will give a brief history lesson.

During the 2nd-5th century, the land that the Castle Keep is on was actually a roman fort called Pons Aelius. There was a Roman Bridge that crossed the River Tyne which is what the castle keep overlooks. During the 8th century, the land was used as a Christian Cemetery. In 1080, the eldest son of William the Conqueror, Robert Curthose founded the first castle – New Castle (hence the city name – Newcastle Upon Tyne). It was built from 1168-1178 during the reign of King Henry II. Throughout the following centuries, there were additions to the castle, and restorations done in the 1800s and 1900s.

Even though it was not the biggest castle we visited, it was probably our most favourite. There is so much history in this castle and a great learning experience when you walk around the inside. You even see some models of old towns in Newcastle, and how the streets looked many many years ago. It only costs £4 (free if you’re under 18) to tour the castle, so definitely put that on the to do list if you are visiting Newcastle.

Bridge Hotel near the Castle Keep

Me inside a small space in the castle

Looking down a well inside the castle

Location of old dining hall

Thom kept this part as a surprise for me – if you go to the very top of the castle, you can step out onto the roof and get a beautiful view of the city – on one side you can see all of the bridges, and on the other the trains coming into Central Station. It is truly a beautiful city with historical buildings all around you.

Swing Bridge (possibly same location as the old Roman Bridge)

Tyne Bridge with the Olympic Rings for the 2012 Summer Olympics

Millenium Bridge with the Baltic arts centre in the back

Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge (in Blue)

Train tracks near Central Station

Looking down on the street from the castle keep

Beautiful Building with Cathedral Church of St Nicholas on the left

Well, that’s all for now! Sorry it has been a long time since I last posted. It was a busy summer and now that 4th year clinical rotations have started I barely have anytime in the day to spend blogging. I will try to catch up on our trip to England and Spain.

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Louis in Jesmond – Newcastle, England Part 4

Posted by on 2013 Mar 17 in British Cuisine, Europe, Featured, Food, Newcastle, Travel, United Kingdom | 0 comments

Louis in Jesmond is the place to go If you are looking for fine dining in Newcastle and a great place to have Sunday Dinner. It is a classy yet contemporary restaurant on Osborne Rd in the beautiful and affluent Jesmond.
They offer a three course meal for £19.95. Just looking at their menu and photos again has me craving for their Sunday dinner.

For starters, Thomas decided on the Chicory and Smoked Chicken Salad with Perry Dressing and I went with the Prawn Salad with Marie Rose Dressing.

For our mains, Thomas had the Slow Roast Pork Shoulder, Roast Potatoes, Yorkshire Pudding, and Apple Sauce. I love my beef so I ordered the Roast Topside of Hadrian Heritage Beef (medium rare) and Yorkshire Pudding.

At this point I wasn’t sure if I could eat anymore but there is always room for dessert! It was the Peach Melba for Thomas and because I loved the sound of it and was curious to see it I had the Chocolate Marbled Cup and Mascarpone Ice Cream (it even came with a tiny tuile spoon). We also had a bite of Thomas’ mam’s Strawberry Cheesecake with Forest Fruit Compote. All lovely desserts with my favourite being what I ordered and the Peach Melba.

After our Sunday dinner (aka Sunday lunch for non-English readers) we went to Osbournes next to Louis. This was my first experience at a pub/bar in England and it was definitely different from the bars you see here in LA or even Pasadena. I would compare it to a few of the fancy lounges or bars in Vegas minus the loud music. Nearly all of the bars we went to in Newcastle were very clean and comfortable. Most of them had nice booths or big lounge chairs and tables where you could have a nice chat (or banter) with family and/or friends. It was usually a dim atmosphere with a nice ambience. The pubs in England are nowhere near most of the English or Irish pubs we have been to in America (except for maybe Todd English P.U.B at Aria Las Vegas which may come close although being in a casino already makes it very different).

What I found very exciting about Osbournes was their happy hour pricing. The bartender brings over a red button for you to push on and it is linked to the television screen over the bar. You can win a free drink, half off drinks, 2 for 1, and other choices. Sometimes the bartenders are nice enough to give you the half off if you cannot drink 2 drinks at once or I suppose in a reasonable time for your drinks to stay cold. It was here where I discovered Kopparberg cider which unfortunately I have only been able to find in Europe. If you like a sweet cider Kopparberg is the one to try and they have many flavours.

After Osbornes we headed back towards Gosforth to the Three Mile Inn bar which is also connected to Scalini’s Italian Restaurant. The owners of Osbournes and the Three Mile Inn were the same so they also offered the happy hour button. The Three Mile Inn had a more local bar feel to it than Osbournes but it was still good fun. I can’t recall which cider I got here since it has been a few months but I believe it was Bulmers which is also really good. Unfortunately I do not have any photos of the bars and pubs in Newcastle. They are not the easiest places to carry around an SLR camera and calls for the need of a high end point and shoot.

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Lesson from a Sushi Master Chef – Newcastle, England Part 3

Posted by on 2013 Mar 16 in Featured, Filipino, Food, Japanese, Newcastle, Travel, United Kingdom | 0 comments

On the Friday of our first week, Shaun (Thom’s brother) told us we were going to be meeting someone on Saturday morning and that we needed to be dressed up nicely. I honestly had no clue what was going to be happening and I thought we were going to be meeting Hairy Bikers since Shaun got us an autographed book, or maybe even Gordon Ramsay! Thomas knew his brother well though and the next morning he put on jeans and a polo shirt. I was thinking, “I can’t be meeting Gordon Ramsay looking like I’m going out for a stroll!” So what did I do, I put on a nice dress even though Thomas remained completely underdressed…or so I thought.

Around 8 am, we arrive at Shaun’s house and a few minutes later there is a knock at the door and it looked like to me like a Filipino man. Well sure enough it was and I was quite excited to see a Filipino-English man. His name was Leslie and he worked at one of the sushi restaurants in the Toon that we actually walked past when we first went there. Leslie actually turned out to be a Filipino-Japanese Master Sushi Chef. He is from Bacolod Philippines and went to learn the art of sushi making from a Master Chef in Japan. Well….what is a sushi chef doing here? To give us cooking lessons! That’s right! So it turns out I was the one overdressed, but hey all you need to do is put on an apron and you’re good to go.

What was on Chef Leslie’s menu that day? Sushi (of course), Beef Tataki with Coriander Pesto, Aubergine Salad with Harusame sauce, Prawns wrapped in Kataifa Pastry with Kewpie mayonnaise, Udon, Teriyaki Chicken (for the kids) and some filipino dishes such as Atsara (Filipino Pickled Vegetable dish) and Lechon Manok (Roast Chicken).

We spent nearly the whole day prepping and cooking, and learning how to cut the different parts of the fish to make sushi. It was a wonderful learning experience that got the whole family involved. We even got some of them to eat dishes they would never eat otherwise.

Check out the gallery of our Japanese/Filipino Cooking Session here –

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Down at the Club – Newcastle, England Part 2

Posted by on 2013 Mar 15 in Europe, Newcastle, Travel, United Kingdom | 0 comments

One of the things that I love the most about British culture is the Social Club. This is my quick explanation of a social club (per Thomas and things I’ve read online) – Social clubs started out as a working mens clubs. They started out as a place for recreational pursuits and soon turned into a combination of a public house and music hall. Most working mens clubs did not accept women and some clubs required membership. Nowadays, most clubs in England probably accept women.

My first experience at a social club (well my only experience) was with Thomas and his family at the South Gosforth Social Club. I was really surprised that the club had so much to offer – in one night we played Bingo, Pool, the lottery, watched a band perform (played some classic hits!), and had a few drinks. The drinks are a lot cheaper than the bars or pubs you find on the high street or in the toon. There are members of the club and the committee that set up the gigs and run the activities of the club. I was just expecting a game of pool and some drinks from the bar, but this social club actually has quite a bit going on. I’m sure there is more to it than what I have mentioned here but my experience with the social club scene definitely has me wishing we had more of these in America. (Downside is that I don’t think they serve food except for maybe a packet of crisps, and you know me and food! Thank goodness Domino’s Pizza was down the street – by the way get the garlic pizza bread in the UK because you will not find that at any Domino’s Pizza in the US. Perfect cure after a night out.

I wish I had taken more photos of the social club, but these will have to do for now until I get to go back to the beautiful city of Newcastle. I did not win Bingo the first night, but when I did go back to the club a couple weeks later  after the horse races I won £70 in one night and £10 the next. I don’t think the members of the club were too happy that I won considering I was an outsider, but it’s all in the family right? (As Humphrey Bogart would say to Audrey Hepburn aka Sabrina).

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