Cata reclines against her pillows, a steaming cup of tea on her chest and earphones in. I already know from her light chuckles that she’s watching her favorite chilean comedian, one that I’ve grown to fancy as well. Annoyingly, Spotify interrupts my French Bossa Nova playlist with an ad about sneakers. I google “must know italian words”, practicing my buon giorno and ciao, grazie! I’m going to Rome this weekend you see, but I’m going to Paris in two weeks so I have to multi-task. Though I probably should reconsider because the languages are mixing in my mind. Lately, my afternoons have been variations of this scene.
I’ve been calling Glasgow, Scotland my home for exactly 78 days now. It’s flown by but at the same time, it feels like it’s been forever and a half. Who would have thought that I’d feel at home so quickly in this city? Everyday as I watch the leaves fall and the frost blanket Kelvingrove Park, I grow more and more anxious about leaving. When will I ever be back to my weekly Tesco runs or my flat whites at Offshore until closing? Will I ever be back at all? Will I be forever stuck in the land of bikinis, sandy beaches and over-priced pressed juices in California? (admittedly, there are worse things to be stuck with but…) Glasgow’s taken my entire heart and I don’t think I ever want it back.
Wee Restaurant Review
If you go to Scotland and you don’t go to Mother India, did you even go to Scotland? Exactly 0.3 miles away from where I live, Mother India Cafe reels in tourists and locals alike. The smell of cardamom, tumeric and saffron wafts out of the front door as guests wander in and out. Before Mother India, I enjoyed Indian food but didn’t actively crave it. Now, there’s no better idea than having their Aloo Saag Dosa (potato and spinach stuffed in a rice and lentil pancake) or Butter Chicken with a side of Garlic Naan for dinner.
One of the best parts about living in Glasgow is that they are so inclusive for all different types of diets! The vegetarian food is out of this world. At one of my favorite restaurants, Serenity Now, I had a life changing (no joke!) breakfast burrito. I wish I had taken a picture of the cafe itself because I’d never seen turquoise walls look so good.
While walking around Buchanan, the main shopping street in Glasgow, I stumbled upon Cafe Andaluz. It took me a whole three seconds to decide that the leftovers I had at home could be eaten another day. I’d heard about this restaurant before but it’s just so hard to coordinate with friends when everyone is on a different schedule. That’s when I learned that “party of 1” is not so bad (and honestly preferred).
I’ve always been a fan of Spanish tiles so just imagine my excitement when I walked in a bunch of different colors, patterns and shapes adorned the walls. There were also these beautiful lamps hanging and there’s something about deep mahogany colored wood against all the color on the walls that was just amazing. Talking about it makes me quite excited as you can tell. I sat near the window, journal out, sangria half-consumed and the three-plate tapas lunch laid out in front of me. If I’m being quite honest, I think this was probably the best meal I’ve ever had in Glasgow. I went to my 2PM class half drunk (sangria hit me a bit harder than expected), but it was so worth it. Hopefully I get to go back for a dinner because I just know it’ll blow my socks off as well!
Okay, Bread Meats Bread is a solid option, but I don’t get the hype. Admittedly, it’s probably the first place I’ve ever been to where there’s been more than two vegetarian/vegan burger options. There are SIX different types and even vegan poutine fries! We LOVE options! But it doesn’t completely hit the spot. Not like In-N-Out does. There’s just something about having to wait 20 minutes in line, the pickled chilis, the paper wrapping that gets just a little soggy on the bottom – it’s a whole experience. On the short list of things that I miss about America, it’s the burgers.
I’ll be honest, I really did not like Nando’s the first two times that I had it. I ordered a 1/4 chicken with two sides and even choosing different sides both times, I really didn’t get the hype with this either! Compared to Boston Market back home, the chicken was too dry and the sides were lackluster. BUT THEN, I listened to a fleeting recommendation by a friend of a friend and my oh my, I am now the biggest Nando’s fan. The Fino Pitta took me to a whole ‘nother planet. Paired with the peri-peri salted fries? Wow I am shooketh. It’s one of those foods that you can’t converse and eat at the same time because you are not allocating enough attention to retaining all of the flavors. As you can see, I feel incredibly passionate about this pitta.
Around this time of year, if I was at home, I’d be going to Hakata Ikkousha or Boiling Point on the weekly. I’m not the biggest fan of ramen but I’m a really big believer in the comfort of piping hot broth and noodles on a cold day (so basically everyday in Scotland). Ramen Dayo is a seven table restaurant on Ashton Lane. The walls are plastered with old Japanese comics and Mempo Masks. The beer is good (Asahi is always a staple) and the ramen is full of umami and spice (I highly recommend “Devil” if you can handle the heat!) Love it.
Wee Day in the Life
What I should have done was come over to the UK with empty suitcases because now, I have no idea how I’m going to bring back all of the things that I bought. Books, clothes, gifts – there’s so much. Since Cata did the Camino De Santiago, she’s already perfected minimalism. Her side of the room is made up of perfectly stacked books, neatly hung necklaces and color-coordinated colored pencils. My side of the room looks like a tornado and hurricane decided to simultaneously pay a visit.
There’s just so much that I have to remember to do so I keep everything on my desk. Put on my necklaces in the morning, write the postcards, read 20 more pages in The Salt Path, charge your book light, send that email, don’t forget your gloves or your hands will freeze to death! No joke, that’s my to do list. I call it “kReAtIvE kHaOs”. It’s art!
Since I’m not working, I feel like I have so much time. I try to minimize the time that I spend sitting aimlessly in my room. Honestly, it feels like a waste of time to sleep sometimes. Why sleep! I can sleep when I’m dead! Whenever I’m not in class or on campus, I will always be doing one of three things.
One, shopping. Unfortunately for my wallet, the bane of my existence is simultaneously the light of my life. I find that I’m shopping at least once a week just because I deserve it! I worked my butt off for the past few years and now, without a job, I have so much time that it’s crazy. High street is amazing because there’s so many higher-end shops that I love wandering into, but on Byers Road in the West End, the charity shops are just as fun to explore.
Whenever I am on Buchanan, I reluctantly visit Monki. Not because I don’t like the store, but because each time I’ve been, I’ve bought something. The most expensive item that I’ve bought was my plaid scarf that has saved me these past few weeks. It was 15 pounds. Since then, I’ve bought a jumpsuit, black flare pants and a blue sweater. All of which was under 15 pounds each. The sale section is incredible to say the least.
In an ideal world, I would be able to furnish my entire house with products from the White Company. My aesthetic is all neutrals with small pops of colors; preferably with Turkish rugs or Portuguese ceramic tableware. (Yes, I know. Ambitious…but what’s a gal without a goal?) Lucky for me, there’s a store COMPLETELY dedicated to white and other neutrals. The first time I walked in, my jaw actually dropped. I never thought that I would be so close to heaven so soon. Initially when writing this, I was under the impression that this store was only in the UK. With some quick research, I realized that there is a store exactly 17.7 miles from my home in the US. I was excited for exactly 1.5 minutes until I realized that it’s just a small concession in the Nordstrom. My emotions have never been on such a rollercoaster. If all works out though, I’ll move to the UK, make enough money to afford the drool-worthy homeware, and find a husband who is also crazy into aforementioned drool-worthy homeware. Simple enough plan, no?
Oliver Bonas is the love child between Anthropologie, Madewell and J.Crew. Honestly, a dream come true. I’m the type of person that walks around a store and touches everything she sees. The weight of the necklaces, the softness of delicate cashmere, the durability of the leather – I’m absolutely obsessed. Everything is so beautiful that I find it so hard to pick one item to invest in but I’ll know when I see THE ONE!
If I’m not wandering around Buchanan or the West End, find me in a cafe somewhere! Studying in the library is incredibly distracting to me because the slightest noise disrupts my focus, but the low hum of noise in cafes is quite comforting. If I’m in need of coffee, I’ll grab a flat white at Offshore (which thankfully closes at 8PM so I can stay as long as I want), The Steamie Coffee Roasters or Artisan Roast. Sometimes though, I find myself really craving Acai Bowls (Blue Bowl invades my dreams more times that I’d like to admit) and that’s where Tinder Box’s Peach, Passionfruit and Mango smoothie comes in to save the day. It’s not quite Blue Bowl, but the fresh fruit flavor is so refreshing, especially on Mondays or Sundays when I’m likely nursing a hangover…
Last place to look for me – in the kitchen! My favorite part of the week has to be Sunday nights, where I meal plan and grocery shop for the week. Even when I’m stressed and tired, I push myself to cook meals and eat right because I just know that it’s so much worse when I’m stressed and tired but also hungry and sick. I’ve never had to cook much for myself before since I lived at home, so I couldn’t fully appreciate what a blessing it was to always have fresh cooked food. I’m going home with a newfound sense of gratitude that’s for sure.
Oddly enough, living on my own has actually improved my diet. I ate a fair amount of fruits and veggies living at home, but now I’m much more conscious of what I’m putting into my body since I’m grocery shopping and preparing meals on my own. While everyone was getting sick the first few weeks of school, I thankfully avoided all of that! I attribute it all to my biweekly dose of what I’ve dubbed my miracle juice and eating whole foods.
What is miracle juice, you might ask. It’s made up of five ingredients: turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, honey and lemon juice. The list of health benefits goes on and on but I find that this combination doesn’t just help your body but it also tastes pretty darn good! Anti-inflammatory, rich in antioxidants, high levels of medicinal properties – there’s so much goodness in this mixture! This recipe is a very rough estimate of what I do to make my concoction. To be honest, most of my cooking is purely done by smell and what I’m feeling. Especially with this, I like to add in ingredients until I can smell a bit of everything.
Shoo Sickness Shoo! Recipe:
Step 1: Put 2 cups of water on medium heat.
Step 2: Peel and cut ginger into large cubes, then add to water.
Step 3: Add in 1 TBSP of Turmeric and 1 TBSP of Cinnamon.
Step 4: Squeeze in the juice of two slices of lemon.
Step 5: Add in honey according to taste. Stir!
Step 6: Keep on low heat, put a lid on it until it starts to boil (about ten minutes).
Step 7: Stir, pour and enjoy!
NOTE: Enjoy one cup now, refrigerate and enjoy second cup in the morning!
What are whole foods, you might ask. Whole foods are minimally processed before consumption. In my case, I eat as many fresh vegetables and as much of a variety of them as I possibly can. My favorite way to make sure this happens is making sheet pans of veggies and always having some in the fridge to enjoy when it’s late at night and I’m hungry. Another way that I love to make sure I have veggies is by making a soup! See below.
Falling for Fall Recipe: [3 servings]
Step 1: Peel and chop into small cubes: 2 Sweet Potatoes, 3 Carrots, and 1 Butternut Squash.
Step 2: Place onto sheet pan and drizzle with garlic salt, pepper and olive oil.
Step 3: Bake at 200 degrees, or until brown-ish and as soft as possible.
Step 4 [easy way]: Transfer veggies and some hot water to blender to create mashed consistency.
Step 4 [poor college student way]: Transfer veggies and some hot water to pot and use a masher and eat slightly chunky soup (but at least it's made of FRESH veggies and tastes like heaven!)
Step 5: Add coconut milk to taste. (healthier alternative to heavy cream)
Step 6 [optional]: Add 1/2 tsp of turmeric and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. (health benefits!!)
I find that I really like the pace of my days here in Glasgow. Of course, I have no responsibilities, minimum classwork, and quite a sum of money saved up so I’m in an ideal situation to really have a good time but I’m excited to bring this motivation back to California. I want to look forward to everyday that I wake up, like I do here. I never know where my two feet will bring me, but I do know that if let myself enjoy things instead of being so intense all the time, life’s going to continue to be pretty awesome.
You know that you’re living a very privileged life when you have to choose between spending your time in one European city or another. Each weekend that I’ve been here, I’ve had to decide whether to spend it traveling around Europe or getting to know Glasgow. 2/3 of my weekends in Europe are spent outside of Glasgow. That’s more time outside then in. Of course, my weekends have been spent partying in Budapest or on a canal boat tour in Amsterdam, amongst other things that I can’t complain about, but I do wish that I did not feel so pressured by my four month time frame. I would love to spend more weekends having late morning brunches and walking around the park if I could.
I keep telling myself that I have so much time ahead of me after my study abroad to go back to Europe but it still feels wasteful to stay in Glasgow when I could be exploring a city I’ve never even heard of in Europe. It’s quite the dilemma for me, because as you can probably tell – I LOVE GLASGOW SO MUCH. Perhaps in the future, I’ll be able to return to this wonderful city and really take my time. I genuinely could see myself back here. Complaining about my 1.80 pound oat milk being too expensive, spending my Fridays off sucked into the buy 1, 50% off book sale at Waterstones, drinking my elderflower gin and tonic at Oran Mor with my work friends – I can see it in the future and my desire to make it happen is as scary as it is exciting.
One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t bring my DSLR. Instead, I brought four pairs of shorts that I have yet to wear and never will wear because I live in Scotland where they have to throw salt on the streets in the middle of November because it’s dangerously icy. I’m quite upset at myself for being so irrational. Starting this blog, which has become more of a personal journal at this point, has been stretching the bounds of my creativity. I love writing and I enjoy taking pictures but I never thought it would feel like such a task to combine the two. It takes a lot of time and work to write these posts and it only gives me a greater appreciation for those that do it for a living. It would have been awesome to practice my photography skills with a DSLR but I guess I’m just going to have to come to Europe again to take pictures!
One of my proudest moments so far was when I was packing for Rome and I only used half of my carryon. With my first trip to Amsterdam, I used my whole carryon and an additional personal bag to fit all of my stuff. I’m by no means an expert traveler now but with each trip that I pack for, I find that I’m increasingly practical. I have to keep telling myself “No, I won’t need those two extra pairs of pants just in case it rains, or the extra pair of shoes. I’ll be okay!” Eventually, maybe I’ll be able to backpack around Europe or Asia! (Wishful thinking but again, what’s a girl without a dream?)
In the past month and a half or so, I realize that I missed home the most when I saw the kids. When I came to the UK, I broke my heart into four pieces and gave a piece to each of the girls I left at home. When I was facetiming my mom the other day, one of the girls, said my name more clearly than she had ever said it before, then she asked me out of the blue “Chi Thao, are you sad?” She could barely say I love you before I came to the UK. Now, she’s asking me how I feel because she knows that I am far from them and from home. I told her I wasn’t sad but I just missed them so much. I think about how much of their growth I don’t get to see but then I can’t imagine missing out on everything that I’ve done so far. It makes me feel slightly better to think about how I can show them this blog when they get to my age and they’ll groan about how I’ve already told them about Glasgow a million times but maybe they’ll look at the pictures of the delicious foods or perhaps it’ll be my list of destinations that’ll get them to follow in my footsteps. Hopefully this blog will solidify my cool cousin/aunt status too.
There are exactly 24 days until I leave Glasgow without a known return date. But I know that someday I’ll be back. I’ll bring my family here and show them all the places that I’ve written about. Maybe I’ll come back here for my Masters. Maybe I’ll even move here! I don’t know what will happen but I’m learning to be okay with that. Next time though – gotta bring my DSLR.