Weekend trip: Brighton

Weekend trip: Brighton

My first trip was scheduled just five days after I moved to London. I wasn’t planning on this originally, but here’s the story: in January, a friend sent me links to a few music videos by Banks, a singer from California. I didn’t listen to them at first, but then I noticed she had a concert scheduled in London. I watched one video, liked it and, just like that, decided to buy a ticket. But the London gig was sold out. What to do? I checked out other places she would perform at, and found Brighton, on a Saturday.

Brighton is fairly close to London and is a summer resort kind of town for Londoners (and the rest of the country). Since bus and train tickets are cheap I decided to make a weekend trip out of it.

Then came the hard part. Accommodation. Hostels were too expensive, so I resorted to Couchsurfing. I had created a profile for myself last year, wanting to host people in Ljubljana, but I never got around to actually doing it. So I had no references and no friends. I found three girls who looked normal and wrote them very personalized requests. I got two replies, one was positive! So, the adventure began.

Trips like this one are not much fun when you’re traveling alone, but I did my best. I walked on the famous Brighton Pier, I did quite a lot of window shopping (and real shopping, because the city is so small and convenient and all my favorite shops are so close together!), walking along the beach, and, in the evening, I went to the Brighton Concorde 2 and had an amazing time watching and listening to Banks… from the front row. YEAH.

After this awesome gig I walked back to the centre of Brighton and called my host with 2% of my phone battery remaining. Luckily, she answered quickly and I managed to find the huge red house she lives in. It was, by far, the weirdest and the most awesome house I had ever been in. You could tell that artists live in it. In fact, the morning after my host told me that if you live in Brighton, you’re either in a band, an actor, or you have a mustache (this only leaves two options for the girls, doesn’t it?). I loved the vibe of the city, which is full of art and artists and buskers and friendly people (it was a Sunday though) and so laid back and amazing. 
It’s also where I had my first fish and chips. I know, right? 23 years old and I’ve never had fish and chips before. Well, Brighton to the rescue. I chose Harry Ramsden’s, which is a world famous restaurant that has been serving fish and chips for more than 75 years. 
Obviously, I had the takeaway option. It was delicious and I’m now in love with fish and chips. I can’t believe I spent 23 years without this delicious dish in my life.
After lunch, it was time to go back to London. Air-conditioned bus, leather seats, what more could you want for five pounds? Plus, a free ride through the city, seeing the London Eye for the first time since I’ve been here… it’s priceless.

By the way, did you know that the London Eye is three times as high as the Brighton Wheel? I sure didn’t! They both look equally humongous when you’re standing below them.

London, week 1: settling in

London, week 1: settling in
Jubilee walkway sign

So, it has started. I live in London.

It’s huge. It’s loud. It’s busy. It has a whole magazine dedicated to the events happening here (I LOVE TimeOut). It’s just what I wanted.

It’s so much different than being here as a tourist, though. I’m exhausted all the time. Normally, I would return home after a week of this kind of life and get some well-needed rest. But this time around, I just have to keep on going. One of the reasons why I’m so tired is because I’m too cheap to pay for the tube, so I take the bus to the university and back every day, eagerly awaiting the day when my student tube card comes in the mail. Don’t judge me. It’s so much cheaper to take the bus and the station is a two minute walk away from home, as opposed to five minutes from the tube station. Plus, money not spent means more money for trips, food… and more food.

Everywhere else, though, I have to walk. I think I have walked more in the past week than in the past three months altogether. No kidding. This is how I find beautiful houses and parks that I never would have seen if I took the tube.

I see interesting fauna too. Yesterday, I saw a squirrel crossing the street, and a goat munching on a tree branch. All that on my way to ”work”.

What am I here for? I’m doing research for my master’s thesis at the UCL School of Pharmacy and using the rest of my time here the best I can. Which, on most days, consists of coming home around 7.30pm and staying in because I’m so tired. But, fear not! I have bought tickets for more than 10 shows – gigs, ballets and musicals that I’m going to in the next few months. That’s a good thing, because right now I have absolutely no time – or desire – to search for cheap tickets. Which is exactly what I had anticipated.

Blue door

So far I’ve only been to places that I was either required to go to (the UCL Portico, for example), or had to go to in order to put myself in a good mood (yes, I’m talking about Oxford Street). Other destinations will have to wait until I get the discounted tube card. Sorry, London. You’re too expensive.

I stumbled upon King’s Cross yesterday while walking to a McDonald’s to have a really quick lunch. I just looked at it and thought: I have no time to deal with this right now. I need to eat.
My priorities have, understandably, changed. It’s really cool to have King’s Cross a five minute walk away from where I work, but it’s not like that means I’ll visit it any more often.

If there’s any readers out there who would like to meet for a, say, cupcake, let me know! I literally don’t know anyone here. Well, except my roommates now, but we live together, so what are the chances we’ll ever go out together as well?

Cheerio, until next time!

Coconut Cake

Coconut Cake
coconut cake side

Whenever I’m in a baking rut, I like to buy an ingredient and start searching for a recipe that uses it. That beats doing it the other way around, because what are the odds that you’ll ever find the perfect recipe for that expensive ingredient and then make a detour from your normal daily routine just to go buy it? Exactly. (That’s how I ended up buying those edible snowflakes, too.)

I’d been looking for an excuse to make a coconut cake for such a long time. Then, I found shredded coconut in a store. What is this perfect and amazing-looking food, I thought. Soon I settled on a recipe that looked adorable enough, while using a very large amount of flaked and grated coconut, which I was looking for in the first place.

After that my cousin conveniently had a baby and this was the most perfect baby-welcoming cake I’d ever seen. So I had another excuse to bake it once more. Success.

It’s very sweet cake, but it keeps a long time when refrigerated. If you’re on a ”diet” (but still baking cakes – why would you do that to yourself?), you can eat small servings every day for about a week and not feel guilty about it. I guess.

Lesson learned: any cake will look a lot better after you throw flaked coconut at it from different angles for about five minutes.

coconut cake front

Coconut Cake (adapted from Taste of Home) – makes one 8-inch cake

3 eggs, separated
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
a pinch of salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup grated coconut

8 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup butter, softened
1-2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup flaked coconut

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Let the egg whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Butter two 8-inch round baking pans.
  2. In a bowl, beat sugar, butter and oil until well blended. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat in the vanilla extract.
  3. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the first bowl, alternating with buttermilk. Stir in grated coconut.
  5. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks. 
  6. Fold one fourth of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the rest.
  7. Transfer to two 8-inch round baking pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  8. Frosting: beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar to taste (I added approximately one cup). Beat until smooth.
  9. Use 1/3 of the frosting to cover the bottom layer of the cake and sprinkle with flaked coconut. Cover with the top layer and frost the whole cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle (generously!) with remaining flaked coconut. 
  10. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
coconut cake top