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EngLANGd: Part 4

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Our last full day in London brought us absolutely beautiful weather! Such a lovely send off! We started our day with breakfast and more pictures on our way to Westminster Abbey. We loved walking past the London Eye every day on our way to our adventures.

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Our stroll from our hotel was pretty and quick, so bright and early we got into the already forming line and waited for Westminster Abbey to open for tours.

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Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the Abbey, so you’ll just have to allow me to paint you the scene with my words. Or, you could always just google pictures of the interior. ūüôā Until then my outdoor pictures will have to suffice!

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We used the audio tour to explore the inside of the Abbey. It was…different. Parts of it were as regal and beautiful as I imagined they would be. However, there are SOOO many people buried there. Like, hundreds maybe? Not even kidding. Maybe this is common knowledge, but I was not expecting to be walking next to and on top of graves the entire time we were touring. It was like a giant, indoor cemetery…very odd! The walls and floors were lined with tombstones, memorials, and vaults. It was neat to learn the history of the chapels and people buried there, but I was expecting more of a church feel and less of a mausoleum.

We wandered around admiring the statues, architecture, and stained glass for a couple of hours before we headed¬†outside. The corridors leading out of the Abbey were 100% from Hogwarts, so naturally, we took tons of pictures! You can’t tell me these hallways won’t lead me to the Great Hall.

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The corridors surrounded a beautiful courtyard with more stained glass and photo opportunities.

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Next we found Britain’s oldest door, which dates around 1050! I pretended to knock on it, while fearing it may disintegrate, before we headed into the chapter house.

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This area was a beautiful octagonal room full of stained glass and wall paintings that dated back to the 1200s. I loved the tall, extravagant ceilings! The architecture was stunning in here.

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We explored Westminster Abbey for a little while longer, and took a few more pictures of the lovely exterior.
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By that time we were cold and famished, so we headed to a nearby pub and grabbed some Steak and Ale pies. Nowhere near as good as fish and chips, but it was nice and warm on a chilly day!

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The rest of our day was mostly unplanned, so we decided to go to the Natural History Museum on a whim.

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It was one of the best decisions we made! The museum was jaw-dropping!

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We were floored by the amazing architecture. When you come in, you are greeted by a huge dinosaur skeleton, which inspired us to quickly head into the dinosaur exhibit.

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It was so great! They had so many fossils and skeletons and a huge animatronic tyrannosaurus rex. Louis was so psyched…he’s been a huge dinosaur fan since he was little.

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My personal favorite part was the mineralogy area…in particular The Vault. It housed some of the most beautiful stones! I wish I had taken some pictures, though I doubt they would have done the gems justice. We spent some more time in the main lobby while the sun set. The evening light coming through the cathedral-like ceilings was stunning. If I’m being honest, I think I was more impressed by the architecture at the Natural History Museum than at Westminster Abbey! Even if you aren’t a huge museum fan, this is a must visit when in London.

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The museum was closing, so we strolled next door to the Science Museum. We mostly visited here because they were having an exhibit about 3D printing, which Louis is super interested in. It was neat, and I’m so amazed by all of the things that can be 3D printed! It is creepy and exciting all at once; I feel like we’re totally living in the future. We explored a few more exhibits, but we were pretty exhausted by this point. I’m sure there are a ton of areas that we didn’t even set foot in, so maybe this should be on our list to visit if we ever go back!

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The Steak and Ale pies from earlier hadn’t really held us over, so we headed to find some dinner. We decided on Bella Italia, a place that had been suggested by my friend, Anne. It definitely didn’t disappoint! We were seated at a small table for two upstairs. We enjoyed some delicious Italian food (pepperoni pizza and spaghetti bolognese because we’re so adventurous), and talking about how great our trip had been.

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After dinner, we found the most adorable bakery, Hummingbird Bakery. I got a red velvet cupcake, and Louis got vanilla and carrot cake cupcakes. His carrot cake cupcake was literally the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. I’m so lucky he shared a bite with me. ūüôā I’m happy we got to spend our last night strolling around London and enjoying the ambience of the city and each other’s company.

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When we finally got back to our hotel, we took an Uber car to a hotel by the airport. We had an early flight to catch, so we wanted to be close by. The next day, we loaded up, headed to Heathrow and hopped on a plane back to Texas!

18We had such an amazing time on our trip across the pond! It definitely made me want to travel more with Louis because I realized how much there is to see in the world! I feel so thankful and blessed that we were able to make such fun memories together.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for following along with my recaps of our EngLANGd adventures! I loved reminiscing about our trip and sifting through my hundreds of pictures to share. I’m so proud of my recap title, I guess our next trip will have to¬†be somewhere else ending in ‘land’…ScotLANGd, IreLANGd, ThaiLANGd, SwitzerLANGd…we should be good to go! ūüėČ

DottedSiggy

 

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EngLANGd: Part 3

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When I last left off, we were getting a good night’s sleep for another busy day. We woke up well rested and excited to explore!¬†The rough part was the weather; it was definitely the coldest, rainiest day we experienced in England EngLANGd. Naturally, we decided that meant it was the best day to experience an almost entirely outdoor attraction, The Tower of London. Obviously, a great decision.

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We took the tube across the city and arrived to the dreary looking palace. Even though the weather wasn’t very enjoyable, I think it did add to the ambience of the Tower. Since this was a site where many beheadings, imprisonments, and acts of torture took place, the overcast, rainy day definitely aided in setting the mood.

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We stayed protected under the umbrella taking selfies and snapshots throughout the spacious¬†grounds. Much of our tour included hiking up several of the towers to see and read about what they had been used for during¬†the Tower’s 1000-year history.

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Throughout the Tower there were several chicken wire sculptures of various animals. They were such amazing sculptures, and they represented many of the species that lived in the Royal Menagerie in the past. Over the years, they had monkeys, elephants, tigers, lions, kangaroos, and more! There was even a polar bear that was tied to a long rope and allowed to go fishing in the Thames in 1252. Can you imagine floating by on a boat and seeing that? Bizarre.

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My favorite part of the Tower of London was FOR SURE The Crown Jewels exhibit. The exhibit had scepters, Coronation spoons, tons of regalia, and crowns, crowns, crowns! I wish I could have taken pictures in this exhibit because all of the pieces they had were so elaborate and beautiful! One scepter alone held a diamond that is 530.2 carats. Insane. Everything was exquisite and so uniquely designed. One of the most bizarre things was a stunning crown that was only worn ONCE when the Queen traveled out of the country because none of the crown jewels are allowed to leave the United Kingdom. I thought since they were never planning to use it again, I could have it, but no dice.

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After a ton of time in The Crown Jewels exhibit, we braved the rain again. We took a bizarrely happy picture in the torture chamber (below, left), and a quick shot in front of the iconic London Tower Bridge.

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I took a spin back around to the Crown Jewels to possibly swipe a few, but upon passing another torture chamber I chickened out.

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Another favorite part of ours was the Tower of London Remembers exhibit which featured the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red art installation. 888,246 handmade, ceramic poppies were placed around, under, and over the Tower of London to represent all of the British fatalities in World War I. The visual impact was stunning and a touching tribute. 

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The Tower of London was a really amazing place to visit, and I wish we had gone when the weather was more cooperative.

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The rain finally did us in, so we snapped a few more selfies, and began the stroll back to the underground to head over to the British Museum.

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We decided to mix it up a bit for lunch, and eat fish and chips. (…It’s a joke guys, because we had already eaten so many fish and chips.) Once again, it didn’t disappoint, and once again, we¬†didn’t eat a single pea.

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We trekked through the rain a bit further (seriously, it didn’t let up all day), and finally arrived at the British Museum.

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Oh my gosh. This place was NOT messing around. Before even considering the amazing collections housed in its walls, the museum stopped us in our tracks with its beautiful architecture. We admired the glass domed ceiling for quite awhile before heading into the Egyptian exhibit.

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The sheer size of the museum blew us away the entire time we explored. There was room after room packed wall-t0-wall with priceless artifacts spanning thousands of years.

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Plus, all of the pieces were so accessible. We were able to get up close to so many different sculptures and statues.

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The overwhelming amount of areas and objects to see made me realize how little of the world I have explored and how little I know of history. It was inspiring and humbling all at once.

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I think one of Louis’s favorite parts was the original Michelangelo sketch framed below. As someone who has always been interested in art, I’m sure that was so exciting to see in person. We spent several hours at the museum, but I know we barely scratched the surface of all the things to explore. I’m sure you could visit there daily and still not see all the museum has to offer.

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After leaving the museum we were feeling very cultured and full of¬†desire to explore and experience new things…so we ate McDonald’s for dinner.

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After dinner, we strolled along the Thames and enjoyed London all lit up for the evening. It truly is a beautiful city.

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Louis took the panoramic picture below to show the proximity of our hotel to Big Ben. You could literally see it from the lobby! It was the perfect location for our trip.

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On that note, another long, day had come to an end in London Town. We curled up in our cozy bed, watched a bit of British television, and drifted off.

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DottedSiggy

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EngLANGd: Part 2

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As, I mentioned in EngLANGd: Part 1, the second half of our trip included time together in London, which was amazing! After Louis finished working the last day, we took the train back into Padington Station and took the tube to our hotel. In London, we stayed at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel, which I cannot recommend enough! We received a complimentary upgrade, the hotel and room were beautiful, and the location was so convenient.

Once we got settled in our room, we decided to head out for some dinner. While crossing Westminster Bridge we were accosted by some creepy swindlers insisting we take pictures with them. After politely declining several attempts, we obliged their requests. Once we did, they demanded we pay them. Um, thanks, but we didn’t really want bad Fiona and Charlie Chaplin impersonators in our pictures. We didn’t pay them obviously, but we saw them (along with many other) scammers¬†every time we crossed the bridge bothering tourists and being generally sketchy. Just a word to the wise to avoid them if you ever cross Westminster Bridge. ūüôā Also, if you’re going to barge into my picture, at least smile. Geez. “Fiona” looks so annoyed.

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London was seriously beautiful at night. The uplighting on Big Ben, The Palace of Westminster, and The London Eye, gave the entire city a very magical look.

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We finally arrived to the underground and took the tube to Piccadilly Circus. The tube was so easy to use, and we got Oyster Cards to make the experience even simpler. The underground is totally the way to travel around London.

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Piccadilly Circus was described to me as the Times Square of London. It had several restaurants, pubs, clubs, and shops along with some beautiful Christmas decor.

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We settled on dinner at another pub and ordered, what else, fish and chips. After dinner, we were pretty tired from another day of travel, so we climbed into our comfy beds and rested up for a busy day ahead!

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We awoke bright and early and ready to explore! First up was more pictures in front of Big Ben. Guys, I’m not even sorry to say we took probably close to 100 pictures in front of Big Ben. The fact that we had a perfect view of it every time we left our hotel was just too tempting.

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We decided to get tickets to tour The Palace of Westminster, where Parliament resides.

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We took more pictures of the beautiful surroundings until our tour time.

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The inner grounds of the Palace of Westminster offered more great views of Big Ben, so we happily snapped some more shots before heading inside.

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The oldest parts of the palace were built in 1097, so there was a long, rich history to explore. Inside there were countless statues, paintings, mosaics, and stained glass windows portraying several of the people and events that impacted and shaped England.

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We put on our headphones to start the guided audio tour and enjoyed strolling through the giant and magnificent building.

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I had to high five the statue below for being so great. I also seem to remember Louis making me pose extra long for this picture to ensure maximum embarrassment. Oh and the green sparkles around my eye in the left picture? Probably just more proof of wizards in London.

11One of our favorite things we learned about on the tour was the Black Rod. He is a speaker for the Queen, and one of his main duties is summoning the House of Commons to meet with the House of Lords. Per tradition, when he comes to call on them (in ceremonial clothes no less), they slam the door in his face. Hah. Silly, English traditions. I am sure this is a very desirable and distinguished position, but the image of a man dressed in a costume purposefully having a door slammed in his face just cracked us up.

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We were only able to take pictures for the first third of the tour, but we more than made up for it back outside with more Big Ben selfies. The picture on the left was actually used for the front of our Christmas card! (Along with the phrase, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”, which I thought was a great, discreet clock reference ūüėČ )

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After a million selfies, the crowds thinned out, and we decided it was the perfect time for some solo Big Ben shots. I snapped this perfect picture of handsome Louis. Then it was my turn.

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This unsuspecting man strolled past, so Louis was waiting for him to keep walking to take my coveted Big Ben picture. Lucky for us though, he decided to stop and stand just to my left FOREVER. I started laughing of course, we gave up, and continued on to more adventures.

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We walked down Whitehall to The Household Calvary Museum. There were some beautiful horses and fancy guards with snazzy ponytail helmets. We strolled around for a bit before heading to St. James Park.

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The park was gorgeous. It was beautifully landscaped and full of couples strolling hand-in-hand, locals walking their dogs, and families enjoying the day. We stopped for lunch at Inn the Park (clever, I agree), and enjoyed views of St. James Park Lake.

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We continued our walk through the park until we reached Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, we were unable to tour the palace due to the time of year. We simply had to admire it from the outside, which, I’ll admit, was a little underwhelming. After seeing so many other grand buildings¬†around the city, the palace seemed a bit lacking. I’m sure my opinion would change completely if we got to tour the inside, so perhaps we can head back to do that someday.

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I also had a quick conversation with the Queen and one of her guards.

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We walked back through the park sharing some delicious ice cream and snapped a few more iconic pictures.

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Another ride on the tube took us over to Covent Garden, which was amazing! It was full of shops and restaurants and TONS of people. I wish it had been less crowded, so we could explore more. With all of the crowds we decided to just grab what we could for dinner, which meant we ended up at Shake Shack. It was totally delicious. No regrets here.

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From Covent Garden, we walked back to our hotel (another mile-long journey), putting us around walking 10 miles that day. By the time we made it home, we fell into bed! We still had more days to explore though! See you soon with EngLANGd: Part 3!

DottedSiggy

 

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EngLANGd: Part 1

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Hey y’all! Happy 2015! ¬†The end of 2014 was quite a whirlwind for us…between the end of November and the end of December, we only spent 10 out of 43 nights in our own bed. Crazy. The start of our adventures was November when we traveled to England! We were there for almost two weeks, and it was such a memorable experience! It was my first time out of the country and both of our first times to Europe, so we were ready to explore together!

As you can see below, I was overly excited about everything…the 10-hour flight, my new passport, and British pounds! A bit ridiculous, I know. ūüôā

0To try and get on England time, Louis and I barely slept at all the night before our flight and tried to sleep on the flight over. Even with the aid of Melatonin, I think I got a combined two hours total, so I knew we were off to an interesting start. After finally arriving at Heathrow, we went on a crazy drive through London and wound up at The Table, a quaint cafe in the center of town. We feasted on delicious Belgian waffles, and I enjoyed a yummy pot of Earl Gray for a much needed caffeine boost.

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After brunch, we strolled over to the Tate Modern, which was, um…interesting? To be fair, perhaps I just didn’t get it? If you’re into “art” that looks like literal piles of poop or elementary school craft projects, this is the place for you. There were a couple of neat things, but mostly it was just weird, depressing, or confusing. To each their own, I suppose.¬†I’ll just leave off with the note that I’m happy it was free.

2We snapped a quick picture overlooking the Thames, St. Paul’s, and the Millennium Bridge before heading to Paddington Station through some crazy¬†London traffic.

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At this point in the day we completed the planes, trains, and automobiles trifecta and boarded a train out of Paddington. We spent about two hours on the train traveling to a small town outside of London. By the time we arrived, we had been traveling for about 24 hours, so we were ready to crash in our comfy hotel room. We grabbed some dinner at a local free house before heading back to unpack and unwind. Unbeknownst to us, our hotel was a few HUNDRED years old (New by Europe’s standards, I suppose?), which meant we were greeted with radiators, slanting windowsills, and no lift (elevator, for you Americans). After hauling our bags up three flights of stairs and taking a hot shower, exhaustion overcame us and we tucked in for a night of sleep.

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The next day was uneventful aside from attempting to adjust to the new time zone. The highlight of the day was dinner when we went to Zizzi Ristorante, an 1800s church turned Italian restaurant.

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The food was okay, but the atmosphere was unbeatable. I must admit, it did feel a little blasphemous to see¬†a pizza oven operating on the church’s altar. However, we enjoyed the ambience and each other’s company as always.

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The following days, Louis had some things to do for work, so I was left to explore the town on my own. My favorite discovery was an adorable cafe, The Boston Tea Party. It was a quaint tea room, with a delicious menu and the cutest atmosphere. I enjoyed their Scotch pancakes and bacon more than once during our short trip! It was the perfect place to sit and pass some time with a pot of tea.

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My favorite part of the town was definitely the architecture. As you can see from the photos below, every turn presented another scenic view. I’m convinced the top left picture is a wing of Hogwarts. The precious¬†church is something I spotted from the local art museum. See that beauty on the bottom left? That is their LIBRARY. What?! Crazy. The bottom right is just your average government building. Seriously, I felt like I was on a movie set.

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My days mostly consisted of strolling around and exploring while Louis worked. There were several fun, little shops, but my favorite purchase was the new edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I mean, how could I go to England and NOT buy a copy of Harry Potter?

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The evenings were my favorite parts of the day because Louis was done working. One night, we ate dinner at a local restaurant called The Tavern. We both enjoyed steaks and the hip feeling of the establishment. It was definitely one of my favorite meals while we were there.

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Several days into the trip, we finally enjoyed our first pints! Granted, Louis got a pint of Pepsi, and I had a pint of water, but we were in a pub! Does that count? ūüôā We also had our first fish and chips (and peas which we never consumed…yuck). First of MANY, might I add. It was so fun strolling around town and having date nights with Louis in another country. I just kept saying, “I can’t believe we’re in England just walking around by ourselves!” Obviously, I still don’t feel like an adult most of the time. ūüôā

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While the town we were staying in was cute and welcoming, I’ll admit, it didn’t have a huge amount of entertainment to offer. We were more than okay with that because we got to go see some movies we had been highly anticipating! The Imitation Game for Louis and Mockingjay: Part 1 for me! I’m sure you’re thinking we’re crazy for going all the way to England and spending two nights seeing movies, but hey, get over it. Side note: movie snacks are not as satisfying in England as they are here. That slush Louis was drinking tasted just like medicine. Barf.

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The first part of our trip was definitely fun, but there was much more to see and do in London! Don’t worry, in my next recap, we hop back on the train and travel back to London Tooooooown.

DottedSiggy

**I’m sorry if you think my recap title of “EngLANGd” is atrocious, I just couldn’t pass it up.

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Healthy Baked Fish & Chips

Baked Fish and Chips 0

A little over a year ago, Louis and I visited England (you can read about our¬†trip here), and while there, we ate fish and chips for basically every meal. No regrets. However, with our 2016 goal of becoming healthier, I can’t exactly fry up fish and french fries anytime we crave it. My solution? Bake it!

Baked Fish and Chips 1

For the fish, you will need:

  • 1/2 lb of cod (cut into 2 equal portions)
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (I typically use Ragin’ Cajun, but feel free to use your favorite!)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites, beaten
  • 2 cups cornflakes, crushed

For the “chips,” I use my Simple Homemade Baked Fries recipe. You can find that here. I bake my fish and chips together in the¬†oven at 425 degrees. I put the potatoes in first, prep my fish, and put the fish in for the last 20 minutes.

Baked Fish and Chips 2

To prepare your fish, crack two eggs and beat the egg whites. Next, use a blender or food processor to crush¬†2 cups of cornflakes. These don’t need to be extremely fine, but definitely make sure there are no large chunks. Finally, thoroughly mix together your flour, Cajun seasoning, and salt. Place the egg whites, flour mixture, and cornflakes each on a separate dinner plate or shallow dish.

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Dip the fish into the egg white, then dredge it in the flour mixture, dip into the egg white again, and finally coat all sides with the ground corn flakes. Don’t be discouraged if the flour or cornflakes aren’t sticking all over your fish. Feel free to use your fingers to press the coating on to help it stay¬†better.

I bake our fish on a wire rack on a foil-lined baking sheet. This helps prevent the fish from getting soggy on the bottom and allows it to bake evenly all over. Make sure to spray the wire wrack with nonstick cooking spray as well. You don’t want to lose any of that delicious crunchy coating when you take it off!

Baked Fish and Chips 4

As I mentioned above, the potatoes need to be baked for 30 minutes, and the fish needs to be baked for 20 minutes, both at 425 degrees. I typically put the potatoes in, prep my fish, and pop it in the for the last 20 minutes. I’ve cooked several filets of cod for 20 minutes at 425 degrees, and they’ve all been totally cooked at that point! You want your fish to be white and flaky and have an internal temperature of at least 135 degrees.Baked Fish and Chips 5

I think a delicious dinner of fish and chips can’t get much easier than this! Everything can cook at once in the oven, and you don’t have to deal with the mess and extra calories of frying anything! I hope you enjoy this tasty, healthy meal as much as we do!

Siggy paint

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