Monday, September 05, 2011


When I returned back from my Euro-trip in late August, I began an internship and three classes in my marketing research program. I went from Mr. Freetime to candidate for busiest man in the world overnight. That's my current life update, and also my excuse for being so slow posting everything. This trip was completely awesome and I will properly document it if it kills me.

I don't think I even realized Plymouth was in the area until we drove past it. Even then it didn't interest me until Mike explained it was that Plymouth. The one the Mayflower left from and then named a rock after. Then I was very much excited to check it out. I think Mike instantly regretted telling me. He was initially interested in doing outdoorsy things like surfing and camping. Well it was chilly and rainy a good portion of the time and we ended up doing touristy things and having a good time on the town instead. It all worked out in the end.

Our morning began at Mike's parents' lovely home. Their neighborhood was really idyllic, little streets with little shops. A really old stone church. A couple of old timey pubs. If I was rich I would have seasonal homes in the coolest places ever. This is the view from their back porch.

And then we drove to Plymouth. While Mike lives in Cornwall county, Plymouth lies just over the border in the county of Devon. I think Devonshire tea is the only instance I've heard this name before, but it was a really scenic place with a lot of fun history.

Plymouth Barbican on the waterfront was where our journey began.

The Mayflower Steps is the traditional leaving point of the Pilgrims on their most excellent voyage. The English are not a people in fear of misnomers, though, as this is likely not really the true historical spot they left from nor are there any steps. Good story anyway.

This area really identifies with its dairy products, so when I saw the classic ice cream truck I was already in. Then I saw that a little twist was available: for an additional 30p I could have my ice cream topped with clotted cream. As I mentioned a couple posts earlier, clotted cream is a butter like spread. So I'm conversing with Mike about whether getting butter smeared all over ice cream is something a human should really do, when a nearby person overhears our conversation and interjects. That nearby person just so happened to be Spangles the Clown! Spangles removes his bright red nose and begins what is hands down the most serious conversation anyone has ever had with a clown. He explains all about the ice cream, even going as far as asking the storekeep what brand of clotted cream they are serving. Talk about random.

Yes I am a weirdo, and yes I googled Spangles, and yes he has a website. It's right here. Don't judge me. His homepage informs that he possesses £10 million Public Liability Insurance. If I was a terminally ill child and had to make a wish, it would be: to be involved in some sort of incident with a British clown that causes £10 million worth of damage. That is all.

At this point I am pretty much committed. So against my better judgement I purchase a good sized ice cream cone with butter all over it.

The butter and the ice cream were nearly the same color, making each bite a surprise. It was actually quite good.

We did plenty of walking in this nice little area. There were lots of little bakeries and shops. That little smokestack looking guy in the middle is the Plymouth Gin Distillery. Heck yes I went in there.

The distillery had a tour of the facility available but it cost some forgotten amount more than free, which I disapproved of highly. It's interesting to me how decisions are made in different places about pricing. In the US a tour of a factory, brewery, or any other place where they make things you can buy is always always free in my experience. The place is going to be one big advertisement for whatever it is they are selling. Not a complaint by any means, but an observation. They did have a cool little area in the store where they talked about the history of Plymouth Gin. A couple of the stories were pretty damn awesome.
New Drinks were invented for this new style gin, notably by the British in India who created the Gin and Tonic when they mixed their daily dose of quinine, given to prevent malaria, with soda, ice, and gin. When the servants of the Raj came home they brought the taste for this exotic combination with them.

Plymouth Gin is still made at Naval Strength - 57% abv or 100 English Proof; as such because if gin is spilt on gunpowder at this strength, the powder would still light, a throwback to the days when the gin and gunpowder were stored side by side. Proof is a system of measuring alcohol invented by the Royal Navy originating from testing sailor's daily rations. A mixture of gunpowder and alcohol would be placed on deck and lit. If it burnt with a clear blue flame this was 'proof' that no water had been added. Eventually 'proof' was defined as 100 degrees.

I had no choice to but to buy some combustible Naval Strength gin. And that's the story of why you don't charge for tours.

It's hard to look tough while sipping tea and eating scones, but I did my very best. I once again had to borrow a jacket. I have some sort of mental block preventing me from packing anything other than short sleeved shirts when I travel.

Chips were an often talked about part of our collective diet. The funny part is Mike is deathly scared of eating fish, so we only ever got the chips. These were small, limp, and wet, exactly how Mike liked them. They tasted fine but an emergency trip to the restroom never seemed long afterward. Mike lamented that American style "fries" were infringing on the chip's rightful place in English society.

Said emergency "toilets". They really were "clean". I feel that in this "situation" that quotation marks are "unnecessary".

We met the parents later that evening for dinner. When I heard we were going to have Mexican food my first thoughts were not pleasant ones. It ended up being great though. I hope I'm not turning into a snob.

The local specialty drink was scrumpy. Once that word hit my lips I could not stop saying it. Scrumpy. Magical. Scrumping means to forage or steal fruit from the countryside. Mike's stepdad mentioned that he used to do it back in the day.

A sign for another local cider made by the same company.

Mike's fam has a British Bulldog. It was a great dog but the poor thing was dumb as a post. It spent so much time up at night barking at shadows and potted plants that they had to fit it with a shock collar. I don't remember his name, I alternated between calling him Scrumpy, Scrum, or the more respectful Mr. Scrumperton.

Friday, September 02, 2011


Mike was kind enough to use a couple of his vacation days while I was in country, and we took the opportunity to drive to his hometown, Callington. He even had a work related meeting in the area, so his employer was covering the gas. Can't hardly beat that. He is a solicitor, which I humorously assumed meant that he was some kind of salesman. The only time we use that word in the US is usually the "No Soliciting" signs in the parking lots of businesses. Well there it means lawyer of some type. It's really complicated, but the practice of law there is divided between solicitors and barristers. I'm not going to go further into it here, but the solicitor wikipedia page explains it in detail.

Anyway, back on topic. Callington is in Cornwall county, and it was a nice change from the noise of London.

View Larger Map
The clothing company Lands' End is named after the western most point of the English mainland, where... the land ends. It happens to be located in Cornwall.

So we packed up the car and hit the road. Just getting out of London seemed to take forever.

St. Pancras railway station

When I told Mike our signs simply read "yield" he thought that sounded too bossy.

The traffic on the highway ground to a halt, and we were a bit hungry by this point, so we decided to take a country road detour and rustle up some food while we were at it. It was at this point I learned that people in these parts had really strict eating schedules. It was around 3, and we likely tried four restaurants and tea houses. All of them were open, and not one of them would serve us hot food. Mike kept calling it "the lacuna" which I assumed meant Twilight Zone, but it means "the gap". Like the hungry, hungry few hours that occur between lunch and dinner. So we had an elegant meal procured from a gas station.

Rarely does a untried flavor of candy bar escape my grasp.

England seems to have completely ditched the old magnetic strip type of credit card in favor of cards with a chip in them that have a matching pin code. At first I was annoyed by my lack of this type of card, but I began to enjoy confounding the locals with my ancient credit card. Most stores had the hardware to accept standard credit cards but on several occasions the staff didn't know how to use it! While trying to buy a sandwich and a candy bar at this gas station I signed my receipt, waited while the attendant compared the signature to that on the back of my card, asked for picture ID, then called her manager over to confirm. "It looks enough like him, he's just shaved his head." OK.

I really enjoyed the scenery on the drive. Cities are one thing, but the country is where real culture is hiding. We stayed on the back roads so long that this trip took longer than flying from Chicago to London.

I was rewarded for my endurance with a delicious Cornish Pasty. It's basically a hot pocket that doesn't make your stomach sad. The traditional ones have steak and potatoes, but there were tons of other flavors. It's hard to say if the pasty has won out over my love of Australian meat pies, but they were damn good anyway.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Seoul Taco Food Truck

I had my first food truck lunch yesterday! It's a big life milestone indeed. The Seoul Taco truck(website) was at 8th and Market, but it moves all around town bringing Korean cheer. You can keep abreast of this delicious mobile restaurant on twitter here.

I went for the Bulgolgi tacos @ $2.50 a piece. They had a lot of flavor.