Friday, April 18, 2014

The Market Porter: Good Food And Even Better Company

It's no secret that my favorite place to eat in London is Borough Market. I tell everyone to go, and to make sure they arrive with an empty stomach - it's that good. But what if you happen to find yourself in the area, tummy rumbling, on a day that the market's closed - wherever will you eat? Over a month ago {I'm that behind on blogging} a few friends and I found ourselves in this exact predicament and decided on The Market Porter for lunch, but I assure you, we were not settling in the least bit. This traditional English pub has it all - excellent location, a delicious menu, and a welcoming atmosphere to boot!

The Market Porter: A Traditional English Pub In London

The Market Porter: A Traditional English Pub In London

The Market Porter: A Traditional English Pub In London

Located on Stoney Street directly next to Borough Market, The Market Porter is lovely on both the outside and the inside. Apparently the directors of Harry Potter thought so, too, because this place was turned into the 'Third Hand Book Emporium', for the third movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. {This was my second time to see a place from this particular movie. The first was the geometric staircase inside St. Paul's Cathedral. I'm still mad that they wouldn't let me take a picture.}  

The Market Porter encompasses two floors - you'll find a large pub with a few tables, but mostly standing room on the ground floor, and a bar and restaurant on the first floor above. It was in the restaurant overlooking the market below that we were seated for our lunch. We were eating at a bit of an off-time of day {2pm} and so had no trouble finding a table, even though we were a group of 10+, but the longer we sat around and chatted, the more the place filled up so we were awfully glad we arrived when we did.

The Market Porter: A Traditional English Pub In London

The Market Porter: A Traditional English Pub In London

Besides the friendly atmosphere, what I really loved about this place was the quality of the food. You never really know what you're going to get when you order food in a pub - sometimes it'll blow you away, and other times it's just sort of...meh. The Market Porter's food absolutely belongs in the former category. I ordered the Wild Mushroom and Spinach Risotto for lunch and although it arrived in a somewhat awkward bowl, I barely noticed because the flavors...oh, the flavors. Delicious! Up until this year, I would shy away from any dishes that advertised mushrooms as one of its ingredients, but something has come over me recently and I can't get enough of them! {As long as they're cooked correctly, of course. No rubbery textures, please!} 

The portion sizes here were enormous, so I couldn't even finish my meal, much less order a dessert, but my friend Cindy was kind enough to let me photograph her Sticky Toffee Pudding and Custard. It had such a lovely presentation that if I hadn't been so stuffed, I would have ordered my own. {And indeed I did later that day when I joined another set of friends for dinner, but the one I ordered wasn't nearly as scrumptious as I suspect this one was!}

The Market Porter's menu changes weekly, so the dish you fall in love with one day may not be there the next, but there seems to be enough choices that even the pickiest eaters will find something to eat. Prices are mid-range - around £8 to £15 for a meal. My risotto was £9, a bit more than I usually spend on lunch, but given the quality I was more than happy to make an exception.

The Market Porter: A Traditional English Pub In London

A good meal is always best enjoyed in the company of friends, and I had the good fortune of being surrounded by both new and old ones for this meal. {Clockwise from left: Me, Cindy, Tammy, Gina, Selena, Lizzy, and Tina.} We are a group of ladies of all different ages and nationalities, but we have at least a few things in common -  we all love London, traveling, and writing about it! I'd be hardpressed to find a better group of girls to dine with!


9 Stoney Street, London SE1 9AA
Open: Daily, Check Here For Times

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring In London: My Favorite Season

Spring has always been my favorite season, especially when we lived in Tennessee where the signs of fresh, new beginnings were much more noticeable than those in Florida and Singapore. I've been anxiously awaiting the vernal equinox for some time now, even though our winter has been rather mild, because I was curious to see how London would measure up. She had big shoes to fill, after all. But after enjoying this beautiful season for almost a month now, I can say with complete certainty - she wears them very well.

A couple weeks ago, we woke up on a Saturday morning to blue skies and sunshine and decided to take full advantage of them. Cory and I took a long walk through Chiswick, just the two of us, from Turnham Green Park to the quiet, tree-lined residential streets off the high road and all the way to the Thames, and of course I took my camera with me because I knew I'd want to document the changes occurring in my little part of London. {I'm still kicking myself for failing to do that in the fall.} 

London In The Spring

London In The Spring

London In The Spring

London In The Spring

London In The Spring

London In The Spring

London In The Spring

London In The Spring

London In The Spring

London In The Spring

London In The Spring

I love where we live - it's quite far from the city center, not in terms of distance so much as how long it takes to get there, but that's something I've actually grown to appreciate. It's quieter here, and many of the streets still look and feel authentically English. I suppose if I could only use one word to describe Chiswick, I'd call her charming. And charming she looked on that lovely spring Saturday as we meandered along her uneven paths, stopping here and there to rest or take pictures. It was the sort of day I hope to have many more of over the next few months. 

Life has been awfully busy since we arrived here, so much so that I feel my days are slipping away from me. I need to make some changes somewhere, and soon. I'm just not sure what form those changes are going to take quite yet, but it is safe to say I'll be doing a good bit of thinking about how much of myself I want to be giving to this blog and all the work that comes with maintaining it. In the meantime, as I muddle through a bit of life spring cleaning, my posting schedule may become a bit unpredictable. Bear with me, I'll eventually get it all sorted out! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Historical Monuments Walk In Innsbruck, Austria

What do we do more than anything else when we travel? It's not eating, although we do more than our fair share of that. We also do and see a lot when we travel, but there's still something that monopolizes our time even more than these two things put together, and it's walking. We walk a lot. I'm talking at least 5-10 miles every day we're on vacation. Sometimes more. We do this for a couple reasons, the first and most obvious being that it's cheaper than taking public transportation, but we also spend so much time on foot because it is, without a doubt, the best way to see a city up close and personal.

Sometimes we walk just to explore, more often than not getting lost in the process. Then there are other times that we're walking with a purpose, either to get from point A to point B, or maybe we've decided to join an organized city walk like we did in Bath, England. While visiting Innsbruck, we had the opportunity to both wander aimlessly around town and take a planned walk visiting some of Innsbruck's most famous historical monuments. This wasn't a group walk, just something we did on our own, which, in some ways, was better because it meant we were able to linger at places as long as we liked and pop into bakeries along the way when the delicious aromas became too overwhelming!

While we personally didn't take the most efficient route to see all of these monuments, I've organized them here a bit more logically. From the first monument to the last pictured here, it's about a one mile walk. Easy peasy! 


Triumphpforte

Triumphal Arch | Historical Monuments Walk In Innsbruck, Austria

Triumphal Arch | Historical Monuments Walk In Innsbruck, Austria

Standing tall at the intersection of Salurner Straße and Maria-Theresien-Straße is Innsbruck's Triumphal Arch. It was built in 1765 to mark the wedding of Emperor Leopold II to Maria Ludovica. Sadly, Leopold's father, Emperor Francis I, died during the wedding celebrations, so the plans for the arch were altered a bit to memorialize his death. One side of the arch now symbolizes the joyful occasion of the wedding, and the other side represents the grief at the loss of the emperor.

It's not nearly as grand as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but it's still beautiful nonetheless, especially being that it's surrounded by many colorful shops and businesses, and of course, the mountains that rise majestically at its back. {It would be much lovelier in pictures without the intersecting cable wires for the trolley getting in the way. They were unavoidable from this direction.}


Annasäule

St. Anne's Column | Historical Monuments Walk In Innsbruck, Austria

St. Anne's Column | Historical Monuments Walk In Innsbruck, Austria

Walking down Maria-Theresien-Straße, about midway between the Triumphal Arch and the Golden Roof, is St. Anne's Column, commemorating the successful resistance to and the withdrawal of the Bavarian armies during the Spanish Wars of Succession on St. Anne's Day in 1703. At the top of the red marble column, a statue of the Virgin Mary stands on a crescent moon. Representations of St. Anne and the Tyroleon patron saints, George, Virgilius, and Cassianus, surround the base of the column. St. Anne's Column stands in a very popular part of Maria-Theresien-Straße. Many shops and cafes line the street, and it's a great place to stop and people watch if you've got the time!


Stadtturm

City Tower | Historical Monuments Walk In Innsbruck, Austria

Making our way into Old Town, the first monument we stopped to see was the Stadtturm, or City Tower in English, on Herzog-Friedrich-Straße. It rises high above the city, so it can be seen in the distance well before you actually reach it. Built in the 1440's and once a prison, the tower is now open to visitors who are game to climb the many steps to the top to enjoy beautiful, panoramic views of the city and surrounding mountains. Below the green cupola at the top of the tower is where the tower guards lived throughout the years up until the 1960's. I think I'd take that job for the views alone!


Helblinghaus

Helbling House | Historical Monuments Walk In Innsbruck, Austria

On the same portion of the street as the City Tower, is the decorative Helblinghaus, named after the building's owner in the early 1800's, Sebastian Helbling. Originally a Gothic townhouse built in the 15th century, over the years the exterior has changed quite a bit, most notably in 1730 when the front was adorned with the many bows, ribbons, and other ornamental Rococo stuccos seen on it today by artists from the Wessobrunn School giving it a bit of a doll house look. The building is now made up of residences and businesses, but the outside still remains a piece of art.


Goldenes Dachl

Golden Roof | Historical Monuments Walk In Innsbruck, Austria

It wouldn't be a proper historical monuments walk if I left out the most important monument Innsbruck has claim to - the Golden Roof, located at the end of Herzog-Friedrich-Straße. I wrote a whole article about Innsbruck's Golden Roof, so if you'd like to see this landmark a bit more in depth, just click on the link. Long story short - this building was once the residence of the Tyrolean sovereigns, but it got its name and landmark status when Emperor Maximilian I added frescoes, reliefs, and a balcony with a roof made up of 2,657 copper tiles to the front of the building. Today, the Golden Roof is Innsbruck's most visited monument containing a museum inside chronicling the life of Emperor Maximilian and showcasing some of his treasures.


Leopoldsbrunnen

Leopold's Fountain | Historical Monuments Walk In Innsbruck, Austria

Leopold's Fountain | Historical Monuments Walk In Innsbruck, Austria

Leopold's Fountain | Historical Monuments Walk In Innsbruck, Austria

Leopold's Fountain | Historical Monuments Walk In Innsbruck, Austria

And last but not least, in my opinion the most interesting monument in Innsbruck - Leopold's Fountain. Located across the street from the Imperial Palace and right next to the Tyrolean State Theater, it's a bit more tucked away than the others, but not too difficult to find. This is one of the strangest fountains I've ever seen. Drunk-looking elves {maybe?} with leaf mustaches are carved into the base, and goddesses and sea deities line the edges of the fountain's bowl. It's not the gods and goddesses themselves that are weird, it's what they're doing - one goddess is using a, quite possibly dead, ox's head to prop herself up, and another appears to be strangling a duck, while yet another attacks a fish with some sort of weapon. The only normal feature on this fountain is the depiction at the top of Archduke Leopold V, ruler of Tyrol from 1618-1632, astride a rearing horse. What Leopold V has to do with violent sea deities, I don't know. I tried to find more information about the significance of the sculptures on this fountain, but I turned up nothing. Still, it's an interesting spot to go visit, and while you're there you can pop across the street to the Imperial Palace - that's definitely worth a stop!

There may be organized group walks you can secure a place in - those are always great if you don't know much of the history surrounding a place, but if not, it's pretty easy to take one by yourself. Innsbruck is not a large town and it's fairly simple to find your way around. Our hotel provided us with a map denoting some of the major sites in Innsbruck, but if yours doesn't, you can pick one up for a couple euros at any tourist shop. That'll make it much easier for you to pick and choose the places you'd like to see! Happy travels!
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