My First Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

You’ve probably heard of Sketch or at the very least seen photos of the carnation pink velvet chairs in the Gallery (a part of the restaurant). As soon as I knew I would be traveling to London (which was actually only 2-3 weeks prior to going on the trip), I immediately made reservations for afternoon tea at the Gallery. The place is wildly popular thanks to Instagram, so I was pretty lucky to actually find a time open for afternoon tea. The place books up pretty quick!

It was my first afternoon high tea. Though there are plenty of tea rooms in The States, including some great tea rooms close to where I live, I’ve never really made the time to go to one. I’m kind of glad that I got to have my first afternoon tea in London since high tea is an English tradition. In a sense, it was nice to not have another tea experience to compare it to, but I also didn’t really know what to expect. I only knew what to expect based on movies, photos, and friend’s experiences. Afternoon tea isn’t exactly a wild time, but it was fun to finally experience it on my own. 

The afternoon tea isn’t exactly nominally priced (price per person starts at £58), but coming here was a nice “treat yourself” experience for myself. During my entire trip to London, I was pretty mindful about spending, except for when I was at Sketch. It was a bit of a YOLO moment since I was traveling on my own and didn’t really have to take everyone’s travel desires and budgets into consideration–only my own (perks of solo travel, friends!). 

Upon being seated in the Gallery, I was given a menu with a full list of the courses and the selections I could make. My lovely servers (really, the service here is great) kindly let me know that everything other than the initial drink ordered (you can select from non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages) and the caviar + quail egg, is unlimited. I could order as many of my favorite teas, sandwiches, or pastries as I liked. 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

I began my tea with a non-alcoholic rosé drink, which was a nice way to settle in and start. I went with a non-alcoholic drink only because I had many drinks the night before and woke up that morning hungover. Alcohol was one of the last things I wanted at that moment. Had I not been hungover that morning, I probably would have gone with sparkling wine. 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Next, I selected my tea. There were so many teas to pick from, but I went with a white peony tea since it’s flavor is light and gentle and goes with just about any food. 

I hadn’t noticed at this point, but a trio of musicians (all women btw!) had set up in the corner of the Gallery and began playing beautiful music! It was nice to enjoy my tea and rosé drink while listening to the music. 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

The first food that came out was the quail egg + caviar. I became a little nervous at this point. I’m not much of a seafood person, but I was willing to try the caviar. The part that made me nervous was figuring out the proper way to eat everything. Also the table next to me just finished their tea and were waiting for their check, meaning they could stare at me oddly eating my food. My solution was to quickly eat everything and slowly add the caviar to the quail eggs one bite at a time. I hope I did it right, but to be totally honest I’m still not sure! 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Next, the tiered stand of finger sandwiches and pastries made their way to my table. Though it doesn’t look like a lot of food, I was stuffed fully after eating all of it. It’s pretty damn filling. I didn’t place a second order on any of the finger sandwiches or pastries, just so I could stuff myself full with more tea and the scone that came next. I do wish I had some extra room though–I loved all of the finger sandwiches. Again, I’m not a big seafood person, but I still ate the smoked salmon finger sandwich and found it to be quite good. The pastries were all great, too. I’m not big on cheesecake or fruit filled pastries usually but I found all of them to be quite tasty. My line of thinking was to try everything on the tiered stand, even if it wasn’t something I usually liked. Often when food is prepared in a phenomenal way, it doesn’t really matter if you usually like it or not. 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

I ordered another tea, a hibiscus one this time, which had a deeper flavor than the gentle white tea I began with. It was a great tea to pair with the scone I had next. Warm and delicious, I had my scone with the fig and strawberry jam. 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Finally, I was served a traditional Victoria sponge cake. It made my taste buds sing, but my stomach was so full I couldn’t finish the cake. I began to take small bites here and there but at some point I just let go and decided that if I ate anymore I would just get sick. 

After my meal and taking in the posh pink environment, I was soon on my way to some of the stores in the area for a nice-post meal walk. Or as some friends call it, the digestion walk.

Overall, I loved the afternoon tea and definitely think it’s worth the experience. Be ready to pay for the experience (it’ll be about $100 USD/person including the service charge depending on what you order), but also come ready to have a good, relaxing time and enjoy yourself. 

Sketch also has other beautifully decorated rooms and serves more than just afternoon tea. Take a look at their website and their menus for a good idea of what they have to offer. 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco #MOIC

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

On Friday, we made a trip to the Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco. Located inside an old bank building in the middle of downtown, the pink banners and neon lights are a sight for sore eyes!

This pop-up museum is new to the city and has been open for a little over a month now. Previously, the museum was open in Los Angeles and before that, New York City. The attraction has gained so much popularity thanks to Instagram and other social media platforms. No one can resist bright pink walls, gummy bears, and ice cream cones! The museum is so popular that all the tickets sale announcements are made in advance sell out within an hour or two. We purchased our tickets about six weeks in advance, just to ensure we would get a weekend date, even though earlier dates were available.

Now, I’m going to detail our experience going through the whole museum. If you plan on visiting the museum beware of SPOILERS. 

*Spoiler Alert* 

Even before entering the museum, we lined up alongside the building with a glitter pink velvet rope blocking our line from the rest of the foot traffic on the sidewalk. The security guard kindly offered us Dove chocolate to eat while we waited, which wasn’t a very long wait anyway. 

Soon, we entered the museum but were told to wait at the top of the stairs. They like to send in groups of about 10-12 people at a time. As the rules we explained to us, we were told to come up with a team name and name a team captain. We ended up with the team name “Ice Cream Hippo” and our captain was “Captain Chocolate”. 

We all went down the stairs and went into the first room which was bright pink and had a timeline of the history of ice cream on the wall. I learned that it was Tom Carvel (yeah, THAT Carvel) who created soft serve ice cream by accident, that ice cream bars on a stick became a thing in the 20s, and that Ronald Reagan is the dude who came up with National Ice Cream Month (July) and National Ice Cream Day (the third Sunday of every July). 

After answering some trivia questions on the history of ice cream, a guide explained a few more rules to us and pumped our group before sending us off into the ice cream vault. 

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Everyone in our group played a game of ring toss where we had to try to get at least 3 rings to land on top of whipped cream canisters. I totally lost two of my rings (they’re much lighter than you think), but my other three at least landed in between the whipped cream canisters. I’m not sure if there is even a prize for winning but hey, it was fun. 

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Next, we ventured to the next room which looked like a 50s diner. We were each served a scoop of ice cream from Salt & Straw, which is an ice creamery new to the city (locations in Portland and Los Angeles though!). Their salted caramel is some of the best ice cream I’ve had in a long time. I couldn’t stop talking about it! We enjoyed our ice cream while watching some kids trying to change the songs on the jukebox. On the walls are silver vinyls with ice cream puns. A favorite was “Scoops I Did It Again…” by “Britney Pears”. 

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

After we finished our ice cream, we went into the magnet room with all the plastic pink letters. The whole room is a little chaotic with everyone scrambling to come up with a message and take a selfie with it, but still pretty fun. I felt like a kid again, playing with letter magnets on the fridge. We also basically split from our original group/team at this point. Everyone proceeds through the museum at their own pace at this point. In the magnet room, we were served a half serving of mochi, picking between three flavors–Double Chocolate, Cookies, and Cream, and Strawberry. 

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Right after eating our mochi, we went to a small room where we got to have pink cotton candy. YUM. 

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Then we walked into a room full of cherries! There were clouds hanging high and low throughout the room and the walls were wallpapered with a shiny reflective pink print with cherries. In one corner of the room was a huge cherry display. Lots of people were taking photos with them. 

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Next to the cherry room was the gummy bear room. This room made me feel like I was in Disneyland or something–there were large gummy bears, lollipops, gumballs, and other candies on display everywhere. Everyone loved taking photos in this room and just taking in everything. 

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Right after this room, we went into a room with popsicles sticking out of the wall but with the coolest wallpaper. Seriously, I would want this wallpaper in my house in a bathroom or something. It was a bunch of ice creams you can get from an ice cream truck and their old school prices. 18 cents, 20 cents, etc. I really liked the way it looked. 

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

We walked down a cool rainbow hallway and had some soft serve ice cream. We took some photos of a white unicorn in the room and waiting to go into the “freezer” which was a small, short room, where you have to crawl in. It’s is filled with shiny mirrors and bright light, making it a really cool spot to take photos. There is a wait for this one and people tend to like opening the doors while people are in there, so be prepared to get out there quickly. Also, that room is HOT so you might break a sweat. 

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Then we walked into a room with a mini rock climbing wall (which we skipped), and went into a room with a rock candy display. We got some PopRocks for doing a few dance moves, then moved on to wait in line for the Sprinkle Pool.

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

We quickly took our shoes off and put our coats away in the lockers, then went toward the Sprinkle Pool! It’s pretty small, so be ready to share your space with everyone else, too. It’s a bit tough to take photos without anyone else in them, and you may not get to use all the props you want. Still, it’s really fun! It’s like playing in a rainbow sandbox.

You don’t get much time in the Sprinkle Pool, so make the most of your time when you’re in there. The plastic sprinkles get everywhere so be careful to not drag plastic sprinkles around the rest of the museum.

Right after the Sprinkle Pool, there’s a hallway with swings. There’s the swing with the bananas on the roof, the double swing, and the swing with the whipped cream cans. All are fun but there will be a bit of a wait for the swings. You can also purchase more ice cream to eat in this area if you’d like, or you can walk to the gift shop and look at some of the MOIC goodies available. 

As we all know, the gift shop is almost always the last stop! So as soon as we finished browsing the gift shop, we headed on out of the museum. 

For $38/ticket, we had a really fun experience. I thought it was worthwhile and we actually spent more time in the museum than we anticipated. We thought we would be there for about 45 min, but we were there for at least an hour an a half. 

If you’ve already got tickets and are planning to go, be sure to note there is NOT a coat check and the museum runs pretty hot, so dress appropriately. And wear pink because it’s fun! 

As far as I know, the Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco has sold out tickets through early 2018 but might extend their run! If you’re interested in tickets, I recommend following them on Instagram so you’ll be the first to know when tickets are on sale. Their ticket sales page is also pretty fair. There’s a waiting system that keeps your place in line based on when you get to the site, and when it’s your turn to order tickets, you’ll be taken to the right page automatically. No refreshing. I thought it worked well, though I did wait a long time (close to an hour). 

Museum of Ice Cream might also go to other cities so be on the lookout! If you’re not in the Bay Area or planning to visit, they might be the ones to come to you. 

The Not-As-Touristy Guide to Santa Cruz, CA: Parks, Beaches, and Sightseeing

Santa Cruz Beaches / The Not As Touristy Guide to Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz has a little mix of everything when it comes to the outdoors. There’s no shortage of fun activities to do outside like hiking, surfing, sailing, and ziplining. I’m not toooo adventurous, so I can’t personally speak to the surfing, sailing, and ziplining in the area but I can definitely speak to the beaches, hikes, and sightseeing!

Beaches

Seabright State Beach 

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a very common destination for beach-going families. With amusement park rides, ice cream, arcade, and beach all in one place, it becomes really realllly crowded. You’ll be packed like sardines on the beach. If you’re just looking to lay out in the sand, head to close-by Seabright Beach instead. The beach is actually quite large, so it never feels too crowded. There’s also a lot of waterfront area, not just sand, so feel free to walk along the water for a nice stroll. One of my favorite things about this beach is that you can have bonfires here–so bring some s’mores materials!

Wilder Ranch State Park

Up north from Santa Cruz on Highway 1, the beach is a bit hidden in this state park and actually tough to get down to. If you’re able to make it down though, you’ll see some beautiful blue water, tan sandy beaches, and plenty of wildflowers. This beach has become more popular over the years and Highway 1 can be a bit out of cell phone range, so plan your navigation before you venture to the beach. Also, be prepared to park in the dirt off Highway 1. 

Coastal Dairies State Park

Farther north than Wilder Ranch State Park is Coastal Dairies State Park. Beautiful and very similar to Wilder Ranch State Park. 

Natural Bridges State Beach

A small and cute beach often full of college students, this beach has some beautiful “natural bridges” to look at while you sit on the beach. If you walk along the beach a little further, you can see some tidepools! It can be crowded on the weekends at peak times but weekdays are usually just fine. 

Capitola Beach

Capitola’s beach is a bit small for all the crowds, but the area around it is amazing! The colorful buildings and carefree beach vibes make the area very fun. Have fun walking around the area and grab some saltwater taffy. If you’re hungry, it’s fun to get some pizza from the original Pizza My Heart location! This is definitely an area to check out if you want to go on a nice walk or grab some lunch or dinner. 

Hiking

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

A bit north of Santa Cruz in Felton, CA is where you’ll find Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. You can hike, bike, and camp in this state park, but one of the best parts of this state park is the Garden of Eden. 

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Another state park filled with redwoods, this one has waterfalls. Yep, waterfalls. There’s also more wildlife here, so this park is pretty strict about not leaving any food out in the open. Check out their policies before you head out. 

Old Landing Cove Trail

Part of Wilder Ranch State Park, this loop trail gives you beautiful views of the water and takes you to the beach. Rated as a moderate trail on AllTrails, come prepared if you want to hike this one. 

University of California, Santa Cruz Upper Campus (UCSC Upper Campus)

The University of California, Santa Cruz campus is nestled in between tall redwood trees. In the upper campus, there are beautiful trails that lead hikers through the meadows. You can start at the College Ten Trailhead and hike through the beautiful forest. It’s best hike anywhere on the UCSC campus on the weekends, when parking is free/reduced. 

Sightseeing

Stroll Along West Cliff Drive for views of the water

Close to The Boardwalk and downtown Santa Cruz, scenic West Cliff Drive borders the ocean and beaches. You’ll see a lighthouse and dog beach along the sidewalk/trail here. Head to this area for a really nice and easy walk along the water. The views are so worth it. 

Santa Cruz Wharf

Not that many people venture out to the wharf, which is a little surprising because there is some excellent clam chowder waiting for you there. With a few restaurants, boutiques, and activities, it’s surprising more people don’t come out this way! It’s also a great spot to see whales, sea lions, and dolphins. 

Mystery Spot

I don’t know if I should list the Mystery Spot here but it’s one of the most common tourist destinations in Santa Cruz. It’s common to see bright yellow Mystery Spot Santa Cruz, California bumper stickers adorning sedans all across the Bay Area. TripAdvisor describes the Mystery Spot as a “gravitational anomaly” where the laws physics and gravity just don’t make sense. Many visitors either end up leaving the Mystery Spot as a skeptic, but it’s all in good fun. Admission is $8/person and $5/car for parking. 

That’s my list for now! What would you add to the list?