Category: Out & About

A Night Full of Cider and Laughs at La Soiree & Southbank Winter Festival

My favorite thing about Christmas in London has got to be all the fairs and festivals, which sprout up in practically every borough with an array of crafts, gifts, and spiced drinks at the ready.

My second favorite thing is the Maltesers Merryteaser Advent Calendar.

For my birthday a couple of weeks ago, Matt bought tickets to La Soiree, a traveling circus-cum-burlesque show that has set up camp in London’s Southbank Centre for the winter season. I knew nothing about the show other than that 1) Matt’s roommate (who recommended it to us) nearly peed himself laughing in some parts, and 2) front row tickets came with a warning: “ringside seat holders beware”.

Since both of us would rather feign sudden unconsciousness than be called out for audience participation, he played it safe and got us seats just behind ringside. Other than that, I had no idea what to expect.

But before that.

La Soiree is part of Southbank Winter Festival which is a festive wonderland featuring winter-weather dishes, mulled wine, pop-up Alpine cider lounges with bona-fide fire pits, a Christmas tree maze, and handmade goodies. The setup is really cozy and intimate: the kiosks are tucked beneath trees strung with Christmas lights, which light the pathway from one stall to the next.

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I got to Southbank earlier than Matt and decided to wait at the Rekorderlig Cider Lounge, which had been decorated to look like a ski lodge. Rekorderlig is a popular brand of cider, but the lodge afforded the opportunity to try their hot cider. This is likely the closest I’ll get to being in an Alpine ski lodge for a long time, but you take what you can get.

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Peeking out of the corner of that picture is the London Eye, which everyone assures is a ripoff. It does make for a pretty view though.

The view from the second floor of the lounge. Beneath the Eye is the Winter Festival’s Christmas Maze, which sounds like what it is.

It wasn’t a terribly cold day so I waited outside with some food from the Scandi cafe outside the cider lounge.

These Swedish meatballs covered in creamy gravy were just the warm, savory dish I needed. Underneath was a potato fritter, and the pickled beetroot that accompanied it added a crispness that cut through the mushy texture.

Naturally, this is the time Matt decided to show up and eat all my food. Here is a wonderful selfie to commemorate our time at the lodge.

I wish I’d gone around and taken more pictures of the different activities and kiosks available, but then again it’s better that I didn’t. Sometimes I feel if you become too focused on taking nice pictures of an event, you disassociate yourself from the experience a little. Like, by opting to extensively share your experience with a wider audience, you give up some of your personal connection to that experience. It’s not a criticism by any means: I just think finding a balance between sharing some experiences and keeping others private is the healthiest blogging choice for me.

Anyway, tangent over. After meatballs I got some waffles! These are from a place called Waffle On which does the market rounds.

They specialize in breakfast waffles, but after those meatballs I was craving something sweet.

This was supposed to be a waffle with goat cheese, a blueberry compote, figs and possibly strawberries. However, they were running out of ingredients so I just requested grapes and a dollop of the vanilla-flavored cream that was available on other waffles.

southbank-winter-festival-2014

Waffle On was just a few steps away from the entrance to the La Soiree circus tent. We went in right as the doors opened, primarily because it was super warm and toasty in the tent and it was starting to get chilly. Bonus points: a full-service bar and a generous amount of stalls in the ladies’ toilet.

Matt got a bottle of champagne to nurse before the show started. We drank it while watching a guy and his girlfriend dry hump in front of us. It was fascinating in the way watching a snake molt is fascinating; a certain disgustingness that compels you to keep watching. We had a popcorn.gif moment. Literally, there was a popcorn machine so we got some popcorn to snack on.

[EDIT: I think karma must have disapproved of my judgmental comments because after I hit “Publish” on this post, it wiped out everything that came after this. Aaargh.]

Onto the show!

The performance area is set up much like a circus tent, with seats arranged in a circle around a tiny platform that features one set at a time. We actually could have sat closer to the stage as the “ringside seat” price applied to the first 6 or 7 rows, but were quite happy with our boardwalk seats since we were in the first row of that section and slightly elevated from the ringside.

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However, the warnings about front row seats were true: the opening act featured Puddles Pity Party, a giant somber clown who wailed love ballads while wringing his hands through an audience member’s hair.

Meet Puddles:

A photo posted by Matt Derrick (@mjderrick) on

I described La Soiree as “Cirque du Solei meets burlesque”, and while that gives you an idea of what to expect, it’s not entirely accurate. La Soiree is its own special thing. Part circus act featuring physical feats only achievable by people who are part pretzel, part naughty striptease, part variety show comedy, and part plain strange as hell, La Soiree drew out a variety of reactions from an appreciative crowd, from awed gasps to “I’m-laughing-so-hard-it-looks-like-I’m-crying-help-me”.

While I loved all the acts, my favorites in no particular order are:

  • Marcus Monroe, whose deadpan juggling act was a cut above the rest (not that I’m an expert on juggling acts…)
  • Asher Treleaven, whose dramatic reading of a Mills & Boon novel had me weeping and clapping like a seal
  • Jonathan Burns, whose contortionist act right after Asher’s made me gasp for breath, I was laughing so hard
  • Ursula Martinez, who had the naughtiest sets but also the most hilarious (impressive considering one was entirely in filthy Spanish)
  • The English Gents, because feats of strength in nothing but briefs must always deserve some love

Our night also featured the debut performance of Saulo & Anna, touted as the “world’s first flying pole duo.” It’s hard enough doing a split on a stationery pole, so imagine a split on a pole swinging through the air, whilst holding onto a person who is doing the same thing. A beautiful and breathtaking performance.

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La Soiree is among the top 5 shows I’ve ever seen. If you’re in London, I strongly recommend you go catch it!

It will be at Southbank until January 11 2015. Tickets start at £15 for standing room (but it’s closest to the bar, so it’s quite a good spot to be) and go up to £67.50 for posh seats. I think our boardwalk seats (£37.50) give the most bang for your buck, but go early so you can get the first row in that section. If you want front row seats, be extra early and prepared to cough up £47.50. However, keep an eye out for deals as they’re bound to have them for certain dates!

Brixton Village / Market Row

brixton village market row

If you’re coming to visit London, the south east area is not something you would typically budget time for – besides Greenwich, of course. There’s a running joke among those who live in or north of the city that anything south of the river might as well be as far as Siberia, especially when planning your nights out. Yeah, sometimes you rely entirely on trains or buses: when one cancels on you (as my 8:13 train always does!), you’ve got to find an alternate route into the city.

It’s not that far from city central, though – my station is 2 stops away from Victoria and 5 stops to school, and there’s plenty to do around the area. There’s a huge park in which I gasp through a 15-minute run while trying not to loudly pass gas – the abundance of delicious dairy in this country has led to some untoward side effects, the details of which my insomniac boyfriend helpfully recaps every morning. Once I’ve reached a respectable deficit in my calorie count, there’s a Sunday market where purveyors of handmade food (free range, organic, etc etc) and robust produce gather.

Then there’s Brixton Village.

I feel slightly fraudulent for attempting to explain Brixton. I would say its spirit is much like that of Shoreditch – an increasingly gentrified haunt that’s still rough around the edges – but Brixtoners might slay me for even suggesting such a thing. It’s not quite Williamsburg, the hipster capital of Brooklyn (and the world), but then again it’s perhaps disqualified from droll artisanal glory by its High Street, which has a Boots, H&M, Marks & Spencer and the like.

Beyond that, however, Brixton has a fierce and almost defensive pride in its independent businesses. Its main department store is among the oldest in Britain. Its main theater is the Ritzy. Its produce, meat, and fish markets have occupied the same few blocks for decades, serving generations.

I get the sense that locals have grudgingly accepted the sweep of new cafes, restaurants, and cocktail bars that have taken over their closed-down shops, but stand their ground when it comes to frou-frou chains who wear their marketing budgets like a laminate. Wahaca, a popular chain that is about as Mexican as Olive Garden is Italian, opened recently and attempted to blend in by having their walls pre-graffiti’d. That didn’t stop the windows on their front door from getting smashed.

For the most concentrated block of some the places actually worth your time, walk a block or two from the station to Brixton Village: a bright indoor arcade that is known for being one of London’s best food haunts. It’s called Brixton Village/Brixton Market interchangeably, though most listings refer to it as Brixton Village (as that is actually the name in the building).

brixton village market row

Brixton Village has the bustle and fare of Borough Market without the insane crowds, and the comfort of an actual chair with your meal, though I’m afraid the place is not much warmer inside than sitting out in the winter chill. Some places will have heated lamps or blankets on chairs, and if you sit inside the restaurant, the steam rising up from the tiny kitchen – which sometimes takes up half the room – might suffice to keep you warm.

Sunlight pours from the ceiling onto the rows of flags and banners strung from up high, as if the market is forever in festival mode. On weekends, the high traffic of footsteps and chatter ring and echo. Vintage shops and specialists in antique oddities share walls with rustic bistros, dumpling shops, and the last vestiges of the market’s original occupants: produce, dry goods, and fish stalls. Meat is a thing, a very big thing, and you’ll catch glimpses of great grills upon which fatty meat sears. One of London’s best coffeeshops, Federation Coffee, also makes its home here.

I’ve never come out of Brixton Village disappointed, except that I don’t have the time and extra stomach to try all the things I want. Nevertheless, here’s a sample of what I’ve tried so far — and where.

Okan

okan okonomiyaki at brixton village

This might be the Okan Special.

Okan serves Japanese comfort food, specializing in okonomiyaki. What is okonomiyaki? It’s a Japanese savory pancake made with shredded cabbage, scallions, generous drizzles of Japanese mayonnaise if you’re lucky, and an optional meat or seafood.

They claim to serve Osaka-style okonomiyaki, which is essentially the most common kind that is served in festivals and with beer. Do not interpret “common kind” for boring, because okonomiyaki is fucking delicious — and extremely fun to type over and over again. I found the pieces in their okonomiyaki a bit chunkier than what I typically prefer, and too light on the mayonnaise, but still quite tasty.

Okonomiyaki from Okan at Brixton Village

The menu is short but sweet – variations of okonomiyaki and yakisoba (fried noodles), along with a few light starters to share. Of course, they have beer, sake, and plum wine to pair with your dinner, so definitely bring a couple friends — not too many though, as seating is a bit limited.

Unit 39, Brixton Village Market

French & Grace

French & Grace lunch at Brixton Village

Lamb stew of the gods

French & Grace began as a blog between two friends, then a fortnightly supper club, then pop up restaurants, and finally a permanent space right next to Mama Lan’s dumpling restaurant. Their food has a Middle Eastern bent, but inspired by British ingredients – a fact that my next point will clearly demonstrate.

I was in need of a late lunch one afternoon but wasn’t craving anything in particular, until I saw a sign that said “PORK BELLY HASH” and that was it. I was sold. I ducked inside and tried to warm myself up with some Lebanese ale, was told the last of the pork belly hash had just been ordered by the guys next to me, and offered their seasonal lamb stew instead.

God, it was delicious. A perfectly portioned lunch that was rich, hearty, and full of flavor. Tender charred lamb, chickpeas that still had a bit of a bite to them for texture, potatoes that had soaked up the goodness of the slightly spicy broth, and the occasional refreshing cut of pomegranate seeds. That wasn’t even a full sentence, but I don’t care.

French & Grace at Brixton Village

This is the average size of the kitchens of most places in Brixton Village. Proof that you don’t need a lot to serve a great meal. You can see that the place is very intimate – as if this meal was being prepared right in your living room. Except you’re colder. And paying for it.

Prices at French & Grace do run a bit higher – my lamb stew was about £10 and the beer £4, but their mainstay wraps run a more reasonable £6.50-£7.50. I’d definitely go back for more, but not a place for a big pack of friends; unless you want to rent the whole place out, which they do offer.

Unit 19, Brixton Village

Federation Coffee

Federation Coffee at Brixton Village

Federation Coffee is one of the more well known places as it consistently ranks high in must-try coffeeshop lists in London. If you can find a spot (plenty on weekdays; good luck on weekends) it’s a good place to sit and people watch. I’m the wrong person to ask about coffee so I won’t even bother; basically, I can tell if coffee is burnt, not burnt, or delicious because it’s actually 99.9% steamed milk.

Ooooh, look at me, I’m a WRITER!

I had a tea and a latte here and both did the job, and the lack of a crowd meant that I could linger. Federation does have a rewards card where you get a stamp per cup of coffee, so coffee addicts get a free one every now and then. The only thing I thought was strange was that they have open canisters of sugar on each table – which is fine, but it’s such a small space that accidents are bound to happen and you spill sugar everywhere. Which didn’t happen to me, definitely not.

Unit 77-78, Brixton Village

Champagne + Fromage

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Sorry for the crap photo – this is actually from last January. Before I get to anything else, I want to be fair and say that I really enjoyed my light dinner here with Matt. Though it was a tight fit, they had warm blankets for every seat and did their best to get everyone accommodated. I was reunited with my favorite cheese (mimolette), though our criteria for champagne (“whatever’s cheapest!”) did not bode well for extraordinary drinking. It’s the kind of place you go with a group of friends and nosh and nibble and talk earnestly about this guy you know who’s so out of touch with reality because his parents got him a house in Richmond, and like, he doesn’t even care.

I find Champagne + Fromage to be an interesting case study. It targets the same sort of market as most of the other places in Brixton Village – up and coming yuppies who view food as an experience – and yet their opening was marked with protest and resistance from a few local residents. First of all, the restaurant’s first branch was in Covent Garden, aka within ground zero of frou frou tourist traps. Second, the name says everything: champagne and fromage?

It just sort of solidified and affirmed what all the other places hinted at with their organic sustainable food and repurposed shabby chic decor: Brixton was changing, and so were its tastes.

Now, embedded within that statement are all sorts of suggestions about the effects of gentrification in Brixton: the declining spending power of original inhabitants against the young, hip new migrants; the decline in minorities in this “new vision” of Brixton; a class and cultural tension that plays out every day as the old guard and newcomers try to make peace with the fact that everyone’s just trying to get by in their own way. So when a place called Champagne + Cheese comes around with glasses of bubbly (a horrible nickname but slightly better than champers) and a selection of charcuterie…I can see why its presence could cause a reaction. Though nothing stopped the crowds.

I’ve sort of sounded off on the issues here in a broad and super uninformed way, but beyond that I don’t really have a concrete or substantial opinion about what’s happening. I am very much out of the know, though it’s impossible to not at least think of these things when you enjoy what Brixton has to offer, unless you’re totally daft. Or part of the problem.

But, you know, the meat and cheese were really good. And fairly priced for a taste of la-di-da.

Unit 10-11, Brixton Village

So it’s evident that there are still plenty of places I need to check out. I don’t know where I’ll be living in late January, but I hope Brixton won’t be too far away so I can return and try something new.

12/30 NaBloPoMo

The Sunday Currently Vol.3

Regent Street Christmas Lights

This week and weekend were particularly busy – a sharp contrast from the week prior. Classes resumed again but this time with a sense of urgency – we realized there were only 3 weeks until our first major presentation. The deadlines loomed, the reading piled up, and on top of all that, our murmurs of dissent about certain things started to swell and tumble over themselves, rolling faster  and gathering momentum until they became more shouts than murmurs. But all of that feedback was gathered up by our class representatives (who must be commended for extracting and translating diplomatic versions from what must have resembled a textual bloodbath). We’ll find out what happens next.

On Wednesday my creative writing piece was workshopped, and I was terrified about how my story, which was a bit experimental, would go down. It actually went pretty well, and I’m thankful that they gave me insight into the reading experience – what was acceptably confusing, what was not, what needed improvement. I’m slowly discovering that realistic fiction is not my forte: I need to at least dip my toes in the mythical and fantastical world for it to be decent in any way. Perhaps to strengthen this skill I need to be more observant of the world around me, and track the little details that make a scene fit into place.

Later in the week a childhood friend came to visit from Singapore. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw her, except for a chance encounter at a birthday party in New York three years ago which barely counted…so besides that, maybe eight years? We tried a restaurant in Hoxton called Beagle, and the next morning she took us on a tour of the Google UK office.

It’s easy to see why, once you’ve seen their offices, people would deem you crazy for leaving Google. Their building is in Holborn, and the offices have fantastic views of South Bank and most of central London. More cafeterias than I have fingers, each table bearing a mixed fruit bowl and pitcher of cucumber-mint-strawberry water, fully stocked with every snack you can imagine and an extensive menu of global cuisine — all free, obviously. There’s a machine just for squeezing fresh orange juice, or a juice bar if you need something more elaborate. Then: a library done up in soft mushroom shades, wallpapered with tiny reading nooks. The library also hosts the UK office’s nap pod, a machine that slowly encloses half your reclining body in soundproof slumber, eliminating all distractions from your 30-minute power nap. They also have a full gym (with a view, of course). The perks are unfathomable, but at the end of the day what matters is that you are content with where you are and what you have.

Though I wouldn’t mind more of those falafel snacks.

On Saturday, Matt and I went to the Hyper Japan Christmas Market. I recapped this extensively so I will spare you any repetition. But I didn’t get to take a picture of my “haul” yesterday, so here it is:

Hyper Japan Christmas Fair 2014 Haul

Today I met up with classmates in Chinatown for dimsum and sightseeing. We wandered around Soho and dropped into Muriel’s Kitchen for afternoon tea and pastries, then followed the crowds to Regent Street to watch the Christmas lights that were strung across the buildings flicker to life for the first time (this year, at least). The event was co-hosted by Emma Bunton (Baby Spice of the Spice Girls for you younguns!) who is now a DJ at a radio station, and though we were too far from the stage to see her, I realized this was the closest I had ever been to a Spice Girl and enjoyed a few feels.

The lighting itself was a bit anticlimactic: I expected the Christmas lights to come on piece by piece, like a wave of magic sweeping over the entire Regent Street, and then a gentle layer of fake snow to fall gently from the sky. Instead they all lit up from a single switch, and we didn’t get snow but there was a fireworks display. British people love fireworks and use any excuse to light them (but I have still never seen a spectacle that rivals the Manila sky on New Year’s Eve). After the event it started to drizzle, and by the time I got home an hour later it had grown into soft, steady rain.

I know this is basically a journal entry and not at all in line with The Sunday Currently format, but I had other things on my mind I suppose. To keep true to the series, here are some select currentlies:

Reading

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I never realized that I had this free on my epub reader, and it’s a book I’ve been meaning to read. It’s one of the most masterful uses of language I’ve read in recent memory. The ending truly deserves its title as one of the best endings in literature.

Cooking

This week: cheese-stuffed meatballs; a baked egg with mushrooms, pepper, and onions; creamy tomato pasta bake with chicken (okay, I used a mix for the sauce.

Needing

To stop being so negative and focus on being more positive. Honest to god, I was a much more positive person a couple of years ago and a bit more laissez-faire about life. Now I fear that I’ve become a bit more…hateful. It’s not at all who I want to be. And I think a big part of being more positive isn’t to just imagine positive things, but to practice a more accepting and kind attitude towards others.

Wanting/Wishing

For my brain to be calm and centered and focused and not want to write 100 different things. I made a list of all the things I had more than a marginal interest of writing (aka things that represented works in progress): YA fantasy, experimental fiction, creative nonfiction, and narrative nonfiction. What the hell?! I yearn to be one of those people who knows what they want to write, and aren’t distracted by other forms. Those tend to be the kind of people that get shit done.

 

11/30 NaBloPoMo

Saturday Shenanigans at Hyper Japan Christmas Market

‘Tis the season for Christmas fairs, and in London there are more fairs than there are people to shop for. I’ve been promised winter wonderlands, warm mugs brimming with mulled wine, and kiosks upon kiosks lined with the perfect gifts framed in fairy lights. And possibly ungodly levels of cold and some 5-year old slicing my shin open on the ice rink.

This weekend marked my first fair of the season, and its theme focused more on someplace no less cold, but a little closer to home: Japan. The Hyper Japan Christmas Market is, as the name suggests, a Japanese-themed Christmas market featuring food, fashion, music, culture, gifts, and cosplay. Because of course, any reason to cosplay.

Basically if you love Japan or know people who are obsessed with Japanese culture (so obsessed you can practically hear that word being mangled with the intensity of emotion: UHB-sessed), then this fair was a perfect way to drop £10 and be around your people for 6 or so blissful hours.

Hyper Japan Christmas Fair 2014

Fair layout from the stage side – wonder what everyone was looking at?

Today the fair was divided into a morning/afternoon and afternoon/evening session, most likely to accommodate the traffic. The venue — National Hall in Kensington Olympia – was more than enough for all the exhibits, stages, and crowds. Matt and I had tickets to the 9AM – 3PM session, and when we got there around noon the place was comfortably full. In fact, perhaps the hall felt like it could have accommodated a few more exhibits, but I think they designed it so that people could have a really pleasant experience. Though there were lots of people, we never felt like the crowds were overwhelming.

Warning: these pictures seem to disproportionately feature plushies more than any other item. I am predictable and ruled by my feelings.

First Stop: SquareEnix

Hyper Japan Christmas Fair 2014

I was never a gamer girl but I did love my Final Fantasies. You can’t see Cactuar very well down on the far right but he and mister Tonberry (the green guy) were responsible for some the most maddening battles I ever encountered. Except for Ozma in FF9, who decimated me so quickly I wondered why the hell I even bothered with the chocobo side quest. ANYWAY I DIGRESS.

Hyper Japan Christmas Fair 2014

Did I need these? No way. Did I want them? Not as much as I wanted the full-sized FFVII posters hanging on the walls, but those were like £100 so much easier to pass up, if infinitely more beautiful. I found the SquareEnix booth cute but wished they had more merchandise available, like art books or prints or something.

Walking through the fair

Walking through the fair

Siro-A

Actually, we were lucky in that SIRO-A was starting their performance just as we arrived.

SIRO-A

SIRO-A

This picture doesn’t do SIRO-A justice. SIRO-A is a performance group touted as Japan’s next Blue Man Group. They work projector lights and blank screens into their performances to really clever, amusing effect. Because the hall was quite bright some of the effects of the light show were lost but they still managed to entertain and give a good show. I think they have a proper theatrical show in London – I’ve seen their posters, but this definitely makes me want to see their show properly.

Food and Drink

Yoinks, sorry, guys. I wasn’t terribly focused on taking good pictures as I was losing my mind at all the cute. This sake stall had a unique way of giving out sake samples – with a smoked sprat fish submerged in one of the glasses. While perusing Twitter, I learned that you’re supposed to drink half the sake, eat the fish, then drink the other half. Sounds good to me.

Though this chicken karaage stall is not the best example, several other food stalls were sort of done up like traditional Japanese festival kiosks. I wish they’d gone the full shebang, with gigantic cloth banners spelling out the kiosk’s specialty in big, fat Japanese characters. In Japan each kiosk usually has a specialty and sells only one thing very well, but here most food stalls were serving the same sort of dishes – takoyaki (grilled octopus balls), prawn tempura, chicken katsu curry, yakisoba, etc.

It’s probably for the best, actually — I noticed that because most items were the same, people would just pick the shortest line and thus everyone was served quite quickly.

A set of 6 takoyaki and a can of Asahi dry will run you about £8. Meal sets ran about £8.

Matt getting into the Christmas spirit with his shirt. Was a bit upset that he didn’t want to wear the Adventure Time T-shirt I got him (it’s got Jake peeking out of the shirt pocket, come on), but was mollified after he asked me to try some cat ears on and I declined. I ain’t here to peddle some Ariana Grande basic fantasy. (Though the cat ears were sort of cute — they clipped right onto your hair).

Tofu Cute x Hyper Japan Candy Festival

This was a really cute concept and a great way to get people trying Japanese snacks. The kawaii central of the UK, Tofu Cute, hosted a mini candy festival. You know that Japanese snacks can look quite frightening on the outside: like, why does a candy called “COLLON” look like a cylinder stuffed with brown cream? Was that intentional? What exactly is inside that seemingly innocuous biscuit with a perplexed koala stamped across the front? Why is this KitKat dark purple?

How it works: you go up to a booth and purchase Tofukens (£1 pound for 1 token, minimum spend £3). Then you go up to the candy masters and exchanged your token for one of six candy groups: biscuits, Kitkat, Pocky, chocolate, chewy Hi-Chew style candies, and regular candy. The candy masters will then select an assortment of samples from those groups and give you a handy chart so you can rate the samples.

I chose the KitKat, Pocky, and biscuit categories. For the KitKat we selected the hot wasabi flavor (insert freakout emoticon here). It’s still sitting on the desk but we’re definitely going to try it soon. I honestly did not know so many flavors of Pocky existed, and it was a great way to try them as I would never purchase them on my own.

Based on the handy dandy chart we got with our sample tray and Tofukens, we tried:

  • Matcha Powder Pocky
  • Choco Banana Pocky
  • Berry Carnival Pocky
  • Strawberry Pocky (nooo)
  • Tsubu Tsubu Blueberry Pocky
  • Chocolate Pejoy Pocky (like a reverse Pocky!)
  • I’m not sure….maybe the Gokuboso Super Thin Pocky
  • Hello Panda Strawberry (noo)
  • Hello Panda Chocolate
  • Collon Rich Matcha
  • Saku Saku Panda
  • Pucca Pretzel Chocolate (my favorite!)
  • Pucca Strawyberry (nooo)
  • …mystery biscuit? The cone-shaped chocolate one

I should have mentioned that I don’t like strawberry T.T. Anyway there were lots of flavors to try so you could easily spend a bit of time and cash in that stall alone. And of course, if you really liked a candy you could buy it right there too.

Arts, Crafts & Gifts

Let’s look at more plushies (and Matt modelling them)!

Sailor Moon Tribute Hyper Japan Christmas Market

This Sailor Moon collaborative art tribute on the second floor was quite lovely. Lots and lots of Sailor Moon cosplayers and merchandise. I really like the Luna emoticon chart (I think the cat is Luna?).

Of course, traditional Japanese products were out in full force. We bought two lucky cat figurines, and I bought two pairs of socks so I could be warm while wearing flipflops hah.

For the Cosplayers

Aaaaaagh, blurriness! When we were on the second floor they had a group of female cosplayers on stage — I think this was the shounen vs shoujo cosplay competition? Quite cool that this attracted a large crowd as I know lots of cosplayers work so hard to make their costumes look good. I wish we’d had a bit more time to sit and enjoy the cosplay shows, and the Sunday people are in for a treat as the final winners will be announced.

Lots of merchandise for anime and gaming fans. Many people were selling toys, props, costumes, cards, movie posters, and anime-themed bric-a-brac. This “weapons shop” sold replicas of your favorite weapons – the ones on the wall averaged £90-£100, but they had some in glass cases at the bottom going for upwards of £300.

I almost wavered on a Totoro cheeseboard (proof that Christmas fairs make you lose your mind a little), but stayed strong till the end.

Final Stop

We ended our time at the market with some free sake tasting. We went home with a small bottle of umeshu (plum wine – my favorite way to drink is mixed with sparkling water) and a large bottle of Kubota sake. I’m no sake expert but I liked this one for its mild and somewhat refined flavor.Matt brought over a tiny sample of Japanese whiskey that was 51% alcohol, and it basically hadouken-ed its way down right through my stomach lining.

I also got to try a delicious sparkling sake, and the merchant told us that sparkling sake was a relatively new thing, started 4-5 years old. Now that I think about it I wish I’d gotten a bottle. Oh well!

Of course, there’s a lot I couldn’t capture with my hasty attempts at photographing. There were tables where you could get Japanese gel manicures, Japanese-style fashion, try out Capcom’s latest games, drink bubble tea…and there were so many exhibits to see in a short amount of time that I didn’t really get to sit down for the events.

Loot Tally

Two beautifully-designed bars of Matcha chocolate from Les Gourmandises de Miyuko, which is apparently a Japanese cafe in Zurich…I don’t know, the site is in German but the chocolate is good.

Tekka don made from a giant piece of tuna they had brought over for a carving demonstration.

A tiny anime keychain for whoever really likes Saito Hajime from Rurouni Kenshin

More sets of twos: two lucky cats; two socks; two bottles of sake.

And a hell of a lot of food in my belly.

All in all, I’m really happy that this fair introduced me to new things to eat and wear and love, while reuniting me with familiar sights. If I’m around next year I’d definitely go again – and budget more time than just 3 hours!

Information on exhibits and events at Hyper Japan available on their website. The Sunday event is totally sold out unfortunately, but if you’re reading this and you have time, there are still a limited selection of tickets available at the door!

 

10/30 NaBloPoMo

The Sunday Currently Vol. 2

As Sundays go, this was largely uneventful. We stayed in and made last-ditch attempts at various obligations: him cleaning, me reading for school. I gave up mid-afternoon to make “easy” scones, then Addams Family Values came on, then I needed a snack, then we had to make dinner, then I thought I should probably start up again but now I’m feeling a bit sleepy and what the hell, it’s 8:40PM?!

Though today is not the best example, I’m quite happy with how this Reading Week went. I have found a sense of structure where I was floundering before, and if I did not accomplish much for school necessarily, I fixed up other areas that badly needed attention.

Reading

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir/essay collection by Haruki Murakami. I just finished it tonight. He reflects on his experiences in life via his journey as a runner, and how his writing intersects with running. Basically, have a sense of discipline and do things because you want to, not because anyone tells you too.

It’s very good and a fairly easy read (unlike most of his other works). I’m a latecomer to Murakami – I’m a latecomer to most of what you would deem “great English literature” — my secret shame as an English literature major. I suspect this book, which I started months ago, has played a quiet influence on my decision to start running around the park. But I was more influenced by my frequent need to literally run for trains and buses, and to not collapse in a sweaty expired heap afterwards.

Writing

A tentative schedule for my major project. I decided that I wasn’t going to do the creative writing option that I think most of my classmates are doing. Instead, I may attempt to self-publish my #romanceclass novella and evaluate the process. We shall see. If you’re interested in what I happen to be writing it with (great transition, Bea), I wrote a post earlier today about my fountain pen collection.

Listening

Lorde’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” It was featured in the new Assassin’s Creed trailer.

Cooking

Pat suggested adding a Cooking/Eating portion, and I wholeheartedly agree. I baked scones! I used this recipe, and it is the first time I have made scones where they actually look and taste like scones. Not sweet enough though, despite what The Guardian says – I think next time I will add an extra tablespoon of sugar. That might be my downfall, as tinkering with precise measurements in baking is not recommended, but oh what a sweet downfall it will be.

Okay, the sweet issue is probably my fault. It calls for caster sugar, which is finer granulated sugar, so my measurements were off to begin with. I also didn’t have any chocolate on hand, so I chopped up some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Malteser Teasers (which are amazing, guys, like Maltesers but like smashed with a hammer and melded into a chocolate bar with more chocolate).

For dinner, we made sausages and mash with an onion gravy. Sssshhh: Along with some heated milk, butter, and sauteed leeks, I added a dollop of clotted cream into the mashed potatoes. It made it extra tasty, but extra bad for you. YOLO.

Thinking

That I ate way too much today.

Smelling

Myself and regretting it. Really, really need a shower.

Wishing & Hoping

That combining these two isn’t considered cheating. I’m drawing a blank for the more touchy-feeling portions of this Sunday Currently. But I am wishing and hoping that whatever is causing my skin to go bonkers goes away soon — unless it’s my delayed puberty, finally here to make recompense. In which case, come on in, have a seat. But you better have brought the boobs, too.

Wearing

Yoga pants because I thought I was going to run today LOL.

Wanting

To have a neat desk free of clutter, but two seconds after I sit down it immediately looks like a disaster. A quick survey of the scene before me: stacks of notebooks, pens strewn everywhere, 2 bags of potato chips — one opened, one new. An empty glass of water. A Burberry lipstick. An iPad and a camera. Three dying stalks of lucky bamboo. More notebooks. Keys, his and hers. Kleenex: used and new in box. A flyer for Zumba lessons around Brixton.

To add insult to injury, somewhere at the bottom of this haphazard stack of notebooks is Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. It apparently has some great tips; I wish I could find out what they were!

Needing

To go to sleep so I can wake up at 6:30 tomorrow.

Feeling

The pressure of finals assignments lurking around the corner of November. And also the pressures of NaBloPoMo — I’m already behind!!!

 

7/30 NaBloPoMo