In London for Philadelphia Eagles v. Jacksonville Jaguars

One minute you’re stuck in 30-minute backup on the Cross Bronx Expressway, the next your in a post-Brexit, pre-NFL game day London.

After a three-year absence, I’m back on the other side for relative short trip. The main purpose of this journey is to see my beloved Super Bowl-champion Eagles play their first London game. They play against the London Jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars.

Three years ago, I wrote about trying to gauge the popularity of the games here. Yes, they do sell out instanly. I was online at Ticketmaster UK at 5am they day went on sale. Since it’s just me, I’m basically a seat filler in the 200 level. At 170 pounds, it’s a steep price to fill a sit between whoever.

On the flight over from JFK, I counted five Eagles fans and one Jags fan. While out of Philadelphia, they are numerous charter flights filled with fans going over for the game.

I cruised some message boards, where fans are posting meet-ups at pubs and asking what there is to do in London. Yeah, I’m not hanging with these people until game day Sunday.

There are many things I’m curious about, mainly who’s going to these games — the mix between Americans, Londoners, etc. I’ve been during games and the only time you see any sort pomp are the banners on Regent St. or the occasional tube advert. The free papers you get on the tube won’t mention in the sports section. This is a Premiere League town through and through.

They’ll be a bunch of activities for fans at Wembly Stadium, feauting, I kid you not, “American food”. Philly cheese steaks? Yeah, I’ll pass.

Since I’ve been to my share of Eagles game, I’m curious about the enthusiasm during the game or if the “boo birds” come out when they are down. This is 3-4 team coming off a historic Super Bowl run with their returning QB, Carson Wentz, who looks a bit like Prince Harry.

That’s damn scary. Have London embrace the Ginger Jesus over the Ginger Prince. Nope.

Full report to come.

Frozen Pimm’s Cup is a Thing for Wimbleton

Me and my Pimm’s, representing at the The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.

The most British of all cocktails, the Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, is synonymous with one of the great British sporting events, the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament.  There’s only one way to make it better, freeze it in popsicle form.

According to the official website, the original recipe as follows to serve in a highball glass:

  • 50ml PIMM’S No.1
  • 150ml of Lemonade
  • Mint, orange, strawberries
  • Cucumber to garnish and ice

You can also mix lemonade and ginger beer for a little bite.

The evil geniuses at POPS, a London-based boozy cocktail purveyors made them in push pop form to sell at the tournament this year. They rank in at a refreshing 4.3% ABV.

I made a batch myself in ice cube form and they are a delight, although I used the Pimm’s Strawberry & Mint Special Edition bottle I got at London Heathrow Duty Free shopping. I made a basic Pimms cocktail without the fruit, poured into an ice cube tray, froze and made the cocktail with fruit and cucumber. It’s like discovering fire, I was pretty amazed by the results.

In the meantime, Wimbledon continues this week. Strawberries and creme is must for at-home viewing.

 

NYC Transit Uses Technology from 1930s, While London Spending Billions to Modernize

Public transport can make or break your visit to any city. It’s a way for travelers to get a sense of the day to day life in a city. More than anything, it’s cheap and practical.

New York Times shed a light, albeit an antique gas lamp, on the struggling infrastructure of the subways. The headline is that it uses technology that dates back to the 1930s to switch tracks. Scary? Yes. Cool? You know it. It’s amazing that it still works … for now.

The theme of the story is that more dire repairs and upgrades are put off, the more it was cost later on. Any day, a catastrophic breakdown could cripple passengers. Enjoy your stay, travelers!

As a native New York, the subway is by and far the worst I’ve encounter among 30+ countries I’ve visited. If you’re coming from outside, it’s maddeningly confusing trying to figure out what line goes where and which is local or express. Although, the one cost to go everywhere eases the frustration. In actuality, it’s what’s under funding the system.

For locals, constantly trying to swipe your flimsy card to get through the gates is the bane of our existence. Especially considering that touch pads are being used by other transit authorities.

Speaking of which, London’s system is light years ahead in modernizing their system, at a significant cost. While locals have to deal with their struggles on a daily basis during rush hour chaos, I just adore it.

First, it’s simple to figure out. The Oyster card is simple to just lay down on a touchpad, but I still haven’t figure out the pricing scheme between zones. I do know if you ride it long enough during the day, it eventually becomes unlimited.

As the NY Times story points out, London commuters like to be left alone, while New York’s mixture of locals and tourists makes it like a zoo of clashing personalities. And you won’t find a pizza rat in the London system.

In the end, it’s going to take a monumental effort for NY to get to the efficiency of the London system. On the other hand, they shouldn’t be comparable due to size, traffic and timing. London mostly shuts down at 12:30am, while NYC runs all night.

My favorite subway/tube system? Hong Kong. Incredibly cheap (.35 a ride), clean, straightforward, comfortable and fun to ride.

There’s a Crisps Only Cafe in London Because We’ve Given Up On Life

The world likes potatoes. We like them fried, baked, mashed, sauted and boiled. In it’s most convenient form — the fried, salted, artificially flavored — is a wonderful snack or a side dish to a sandwich. Hopefully, we’re all on the same page.

That’s why we don’t consider potato crisps as a main dish. It’s not filling, satisfying and not healthy. Not a part of a nutritious meal by any stretch of the imagination.

That didn’t stop some London entrepreneurs from opening up an all crisps and dips cafe on Old Compton Street in Soho called Hipchips. That’s right, you can spend £12 for a big pile of artisans crisps and some dipping sauces. You’ll have to excuse me while I scream into a pillow.

Now that’s done,  let’s look at the menu. You can pick from seven varieties of potatoes like Shetland Black, Highland Burgundy or Salad Blue. These all seem like colors you’d find in the J.Crew catalog. Then you can either go savory or sweet. The savory are veggie ceviche, cheese fondue or katsu curry. The sweet are chocolate, peanut butter & jelly or caramel. Wash it down with a fizzy soda and you can hate yourself for spending a lot of money on upscale, hipster chips.

Now, I need to open a nachos only cafe.

 

BBC Special Explores London’s Hipster Hub Shoreditch

Even if you loathe the term, the culture or the very idea of hipsters, you should watch this program from the BBC. Hosted by management consultant, TV personality and stoggy old British guy straight from central casting Peter York, the Hipster Handbook explores what it means to be a hipster, how they came to be and it’s affect on consumer culture.

He focuses on the once dodgy neighborhoods of Shortditch, Bethnal Green and Hackney in east London. I was hanging in those areas before it was cool, which in itself a hipster idea.

York illustrates the global meaning of hipster culture — artists and entrepreneurs go to run down area for cheap rent, area becomes cool, independent businesses open up, rents rise, gentrification grows, locals get priced out and the backlash begins. This happens in every major city in the world.

Give the show a full watch below because it will point out decent places to visit for shopping, relaxing, grooming, drinking and eating. Here are a few of the places shown in the video that I’ve frequented:

— The Cereal Killer Cafe — this cereal-themed eatery bore the brunt of the backlash against gentrification. The locals armed with paint, pitchforks and torches protested against the cafe located on Brick Lane because … umm … because successful business shouldn’t exist? If you are there on a day without a riot outside, peruse the international selection of fine breakfast cereal paired with your choice of milk.

— The Electric Cinema — this multi-function event spaces shows movies, has a full-cafe, bar and barber shop. I like the cinema because of the comfy recliners which makes it feel like a living room.

Blitz — The main reason I would head straight to Shoreditch when I was in town was for Rough Trade Records, the £1 bagel shop and the vintage clothing stores. While Beyond Retro is my go-to shop in the area, Blitz has a better curated collection, which leads to insane prices on ironic t-shirts (£28).

Murdock — Hipster men must have beards. I couldn’t tell where York visited to see some manscapping being performed, but the place I went to once set me back £90 for a shave, haircut and a glass of scotch. Yes, these were the days where I didn’t care about expenses. Anyway, it was damn a fine treatment I got from one of the barbers who could have doubled as a member of Mumford & Sons.

Redchurch Brewery — As York points out, it seems that most of the craft movement in London takes place under railway arches. Such is the case for the taproom of Redchurch Brewery on Bethnal Green Road. With the beer named after London neighborhoods and tube stations, the head brewer cut his teeth at other well-known local craft breweries, The Kernal and Beavertown.

— Look Mum No Hands! — The finishing touch to the hipster lifestyle is a vintage-looking fixed gear bicycle. Combine that with the quest for a great cup of coffee and that will take you this bike shop and coffee cafe.

 

 

Here’s A Life-size Chocolate Benedict Cumberbatch at a London Mall

As promised, here’s a life-size chocolate Benedict Cumberbatch at Stratford Mall in London. Gaze upon its glory and try not to lick your screen.

It was Easter weekend this time last year. I was staying in London, when I found out that SkyTV was promoting their channel by making Benny into a bunny. I headed over to Stratford Mall at Olympic Park to check it out. Unfortunately, they were not giving out edible mini-Cumberbatches.

What you can’t see in the picture is the security guarding the chocolate making sure no one tackled it. I can imagine how that person felt that day. “Yeah, today I made sure no one broke off a piece chocolate.”

Before Rio’s 2016 Summer Olympics, You Can Visit London’s 2012 Olympic Site

In my quiver of travel accomplishments, I’ve visited 12 Olympic cities … just not DURING the Olympics.

It didn’t seem that long ago that London hosted their Olympics. That Danny Boyle-directed opening ceremony was certainly triumphant and exhilarating. I met a couple of people who were part of the unpaid cast of the ceremony, and both said it was worth their time.

I visited Stratford shortly after the games closed in 2012. I walked around and felt like they were still building the area. There was a still a lot of construction going on. There’s a big mall complex and outdoor eateries similar to the Universal City Walk in Los Angeles and Orlando. I did take advantage of the markdowns at the official Olympic souvenir shop at John Lewis.

In the big scheme, these Olympic parks are a huge money drain for cities and it will take a decade to recoup the costs, if they do at all. There need to be something to sustain the area, thus a mall complex is the answer. I wouldn’t characterize it as a must-see in London as a tourist destination, but the locals keep the area active. Before the Olympics, that Stratford area needed a boost of commerce.

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