Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Tiny UK Holiday - Day 2

I woke up early to catch a train from London down to Plymouth, England where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the New World from in 1620. This lighthouse stood out in my research (since you know I love lighthouses) as something not to miss but it was so foggy and drizzly, I was worried I wouldn't see it at all. 
Since I hadn't eaten since my cold muesli breakfast at 5:30am, I hunted down a latte and some lunch. The falafel burger at Dutton's was just what I needed - fresh, healthy and filling.   
As you can see, the dreariness did not let up. I walked around town taking in the sights, and trying not to take out anything breakable with my bags that I was carrying (the downside of Airbnb sometimes). This view across Sutton Harbor in Plymouth, although muted from the lack of sun, was still quite beautiful. Hearty sailors were out in boats and the pink of the rocks in the foreground made for a lovely sight.
And finally, I had wasted enough time to get to the main event of my train travels - the Plymouth Gin Distillery Master Distiller's Tour. If you know me, you know that I LOVE gin. If I am ever presented with a cocktail menu, my eyes immediately scan to see what gin offering is available. It's just so tasty and interesting as a spirit. A while back, I was trying to figure the oldest gin distillery still in operation and came up with Plymouth Gin. To be honest, I couldn't recall having tried it before but I was game. 
After learning about the history of the building and the gin itself, we learned that all Plymouth Gin is made in this room (pictured through the glass), and has been made here since 1793. It isn't made by anyone else, anywhere else. Because they utilize a heating method for distilling, they are able to make gin quickly (it doesn't need to soak or sit). Since they were making gin during the tour, we could be in the room but our cell phones needed to be off so we didn't create a spark with notifications or calls coming in.
Part of our entry fee for the tour went towards a complimentary gin and tonic. I arrived early, so I had mine before the tour started. Yummy!
After our tour, we headed into the "gin palace" - this amazing room filled with more than 300 bottles of gin from all over the world. We learned how to sip and sample five popular types of gin, diluted with water. I was surprised to learn that I liked Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire the best (of the ones we tried) and Hendrick's the least, which is usually one of my favorites.
After the tasting came the best part, which was a surprise to me, I had missed it on the website. We got to make our own gin! We got to pick out our own flavors and recipe based on what we'd learned we liked in the tasting. We had amazing ingredients to choose from and got to distill 250 ml of our individual blend, complete with custom label. You can see the ingredients along the top and a close-up photo of the juniper berries and the orange peel in the right-hand grid of pictures. My full dry blend is in the plastic scoop to the left and my final 80% gin is in the bottle to the left next to my custom label.
After the process was over, the guide cut our creations down with distilled water so it was a more respectable 40% ABV and could safely leave the premises. The air bubbles quickly disappeared as the chemical reaction between the water, the alcohol and the oils from the herbs took place (and subsequently heated up the bottle). It was an awesome way to spend two and a half hours and I would highly recommend it if you're in the area. Cheers!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Tiny UK Holiday - Day 1

Hello!!! I know, I know, it's been a minute since we last spoke here, or maybe even in person. Sorry! I have been traveling, mostly for work and haven't had too many not-to-miss moments that I wanted to share with you. That, however, ends now! I arrived in London yesterday for a couple of bonus days before work stuff starts later on this week.

I arrived around 11am and after dropping my bags at my hotel near Paddington Station (they are so strict about check-in times here), I took the underground to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Having just watched Season 1 of Victoria on Masterpiece and seeing the movie Victoria and Abdul, I was definitely in the mood for some royalty. The museum, which boasts over 4.5 million objects, including this amazing ceramic tiled fireplace from Istanbul, circa 1731. 

There were so many amazing jewels (although the glass cases obscured my chances of getting a good photo) and furniture and silver and gold ornaments of every shape and size. This massive silver wine chiller was large enough to be a bathtub. I literally couldn't get my arms to span wide enough to match it. So much opulence! 

After wandering about the museum for a couple of hours I was starting to feel the effects of not having much sleep the night before on the place ride over the pond. I took the train back to my hotel's neighborhood and found a fish & chips shop. They actually had a reasonable portion for a good price, so I had dinner at Micky's Fish and Chips.

After I ate, I headed back to my hotel to entertain myself until a respectable bedtime of 8:30pm, which is my standard rule when I am traveling to a timezone greater than four hours from my own. I managed to do that and fell asleep right away, only to be wide awake at 12am until about 3:45am. Oh well, there's always tomorrow!