Today was a very busy day.
I got up and headed down to the station, as I had a masterclass in Macaron baking taking place in Greenwich. Things were going swimmingly until I reached Canada Water station. At this point, an announcement on the overhead came across that due to a security problem at Canary Wharf (which was where my change was), Canary Wharf Station was shut down and all trains were not stopping in either direction.
Well, shit. This meant I had to backtrack and go a different route, using the London Overground to get to the DLR so I could get off at Cutty Sark.
The Overground was full, and once I made the change and touched out at Cutty Sark, (which I think I made a mistake and forgot to touch in before the DLR, because when I went to top up my Oyster again, I was in the negative) I was out on the street with less than 6 minutes to get to my destination.
I managed to find it, just on time, mind you, on a small side street tucked away near the Thames. There were 12 other ladies, all set up at various mixers. We had a nice chef instructor named Fabricio, who was Peruvian and assisting him was a lady named Wendy. I had a very nice co-baker named Anujha, who took a few photos of me so I could prove to work I was at the class. (Work is actually paying for the class, and I have to provide proof I attended.) They gave me a nice cup of tea and we all got started.
We each made our own batch of macaron shells, which I’m utterly shocked that it seemed infinitely easier than it’s always made out to be online! We used a powdered colouring to colour our macarons and I now know that powdered colour makes all your colours brighter and vibrant. (Professionally, I’ll have to get my hands on some of this!)
We made three recipes of fillings for our macarons, a salted caramel, a lemon buttercream, and a pistachio filling. Again, all of which process was simple and very foolproof.
Once the macarons cooled, we piped the fillings into them, sealed them and all the students in the class went round taking a selection of the various fillings and coloured shells, boxing them up to take along.
The lady running the workshop typed up a certificate for me so I could present it to work so they’d know I was really there.
After class, I wandered down to the Cutty Sark and snapped a few photos. Last year, it was under refurbishment so I couldn’t get any decent photos of it.
I took a walk over to Greenwich Market. What a fascinating and lovely place. There are so many craft vendors, food vendors, and unique booths all in one location. I purchased a hair bow for a friend, and gazed at these really unique paintings done by a fellow. He takes the image of a Dalek from Doctor Who, and paints them to look like major iconic symbols/buildings of London. It’s really neatly done!
There were loads of other vendors I could have easily spent £100 or more at their stands including the lady who had a fascinator made up of a small Union flag beret.
Needing lunch, I stopped at a vendor inside the market who was selling Italian rice balls filled with any number of fillings from pesto, to spinach, to ham. I chose a bolognese (tomato sauce, ground beef), mozzarella, and parmesan. These are breaded rice balls with a center of tastiness. I enjoyed it, though realised I probably should have opted for the pesto instead.
On my way back into Central London, I was headed for Chocolate Unwrapped. It’s a 2 day event full of chocolatey goodness. This year, it was moved to a location in Covent Garden away from its’ previous location on the South Bank, Vinopolis.
As soon as I got in, and went downstairs, I was blown away by how many more vendors there were. The place was mobbed with people shopping and crowding the vendors to buy all different types of chocolates. I felt overwhelmed actually. I kind of wandered round surveying who was there, and I noticed the Indian mother and son who made the uniquely flavoured truffles filled with water ganaches were there. However, they didn’t have their baked bean truffle, sadly.
After I thought I looked at every vendor, I decided to swoop in and make some purchases. My rule of thumb when buying at a chocolate event like this is only buy things that will last long enough for me to get back to the States, like prepackaged bars. And, my other major rule is only buy unique flavours.
I picked up a packet of Munchy Seeds (which are basically sunflower seeds with a few things mixed in), 2 Earl Grey bars from Rococo Chocolates, a Toffee Apple bar from Creighton’s Chocolates, an Olives and Bread bar from Rózsavölgyi Csokolade, a Vanilla Chocolate bar from Donna Elvira, a ‘Blonde’ chocolate bar from Valhrona(which is a brand new type of chocolate in between milk and white, with a lovely toasty flavour), and a set of 12 ganache truffles with colourful transfers on top from Lauden Chocolates.
I also purchased one solitary chocolate truffle from Paul A Young. It was peanut butter and raspberry jam. It was very tasty, but not worth the £2 I paid for it. Paul A Young is really unusual because they have very odd flavours. Last year, they had a Worcestershire Sauce truffle. This year, they had Bakewell Tart, Ginger Pig Black Pudding, and Marmite. I really wanted to give those 3 a go, but not at those prices per piece.
I like good chocolate, but I can be a cheapskate about it.
I sat in on a tasting session from various companies that won prestigious awards in the International Chocolate Awards.
I will NEVER turn down free chocolate. EVER. EVER. Did I mention EVER?
I wanted to buy a Dark Milk bar by maker Friis Holm, but when I saw he was charging £10 for one bar, I declined.
I left Chocolate Unwrapped with my delectable goodies and wandered down Covent Garden down towards the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square. I was hoping to spend some time in the Gallery, but it was closed.
So I traipsed off to Piccadilly Circus, past the Odeon Leicester Square, which had a red carpet rolled out and people standing round waiting. I didn’t think there was any major film premiere on tonight, so who knows.
I went into M&M World. What a clusterfuck that place is! Hugely overrun with people, and 4 floors of merchandise and candy. And, being paid a visit by Michael Jackson out of the Thriller video, and one of his dancing corpse chums. Goodness gracious. I did snap a photo of a rather gruesome M&M. He was lifting off the top of his candy shell head to expose his soft chocolatey brain. What kind of message are we sending children? Go ahead, eat brains! Preparing them for zombiehood early, I suppose?
I spent the rest of my early evening wandering up Regent Street, partly looking for food, and partly just wandering.
I might add at this point, I was laden down with huge bags of shi-, stuff I bought, mostly for myself. I bought a carry bag for my cricket gear, so I can get it on the plane, and a few other items, one of which I’m hugely proud of! It’s a small cushion covered in the brand new fabric (moquette) being rolled out on the new Underground train seats. I would have got a different sort of item in this pattern, but the cushion, a pillow and storage cube was all they had. The cushion was the cheapest option.
So, between my two big bags, and my golf umbrella I bought for storage in Mr. Perkins, it was a chore carrying these bags everywhere. On the underground it was awful.
And, I was on my way to see The Ceremony of The Keys at the Tower of London. Every night, they have to lock it up. This ceremony has been happening for more than 700 years, so I felt privileged to have an invitation to see it happen.
The Yeoman Warder who was handling it reminded me of Kenneth Branagh. He informed us we were not allowed to take any snapshots and explained how the whole process worked.
A group of 50 of us stood in brisk cold, watching Tower Guards and Yeoman Warders locking and securing the Tower. The actual ceremony lasted maybe 10 minutes. It was very solemn and very serious.
Afterwards we were invited to ask questions. I asked if the people living on the premises of the Tower had a curfew since they lock it up completely (including pedestrian gates). He informed me there was no curfew and if you were leaving AFTER midnight, you had to get it cleared through other senior Yeomen.
Yes, 150 people LIVE at the Tower of London, as unusual as it sounds.
I have to say that whenever I look at the Tower, it finally really sets in that I’m in London, and that wells my eyes up with tears. It means THAT much to me.
Also, the Tower of London is the one thing I always use to talk up England to others. No where I’ve ever travelled do you have such a diversity in architecture in such a short area. I mean, the Tower, there since the 13th century, is flanked by all glass buildings built in the last 10 years. Such a dichotomy!
Tomorrow is a train ride to Bournville/Birmingham to visit the Cadbury factory and later in the evening, tickets to see Sean Lock do a preview for a future stand up tour.