May 2012 Archives

in going places |

ork017hotelview

Someone (coughAndicough) was asking about plans for the summer. It’s gonna be very busy for me. Just thinking back to where I’ve been already this year:

  • Islay at Easter, whisky crazy
  • Brighton Marathon 15 April
  • Brussels chip’n’choc walk with A in April
  • Stockholm with Mum in May
  • Brussels again with Mum in May
  • Edinburgh and Orkney with RM and Mum in May

Looking forward:

  • Dublin this weekend with RM
  • Chicago on 10 June, can’t wait to go “home” and see Car and Aunt Nancy
  • GCLS in Minneapolis
  • I have an extra week in the US, I may go to the Bourbon Trail or to New Orleans, or I may just stay home in Chicago
  • 5 musicals booked (bargain tickets) — Les Miz (3rd time), Singin’ in the Rain, Chicago, Sweeney Todd, Wicked
  • my niece will come for her UK summer holiday in June/July so we’ll do something
  • Prague with mm in August
  • Provence and Paris with mm in August
  • Olympics — I have womens’ diving final tickets, both 3m and 10m


in going places |

Provence Lavender Tuscany
images from flickr users johnfromks and boaderhype

Sometimes, too much choice isn’t such a good thing. Been planning mm’s trip here in August and discussing places to travel, musicals to see and restaurants to try. I saw a good deal on ba.com last week of 2 nights in Prague so I already booked it. Then it’s deciding on the second, longer trip. We’ve gone through so many ideas: Scandanavia, Portugal, Geneva and Switzerland, Alsace, Venice, Florence, Iceland, Paris. I went to the library and got travel guides and narrowed it down to two possibilities: Provence plus south of France or Tuscany.

Both in fact very similar: beautiful countryside, wines, food, weather, history and culture. Both highly recommended. Both would be great destinations. Tuscany is even prettier than Provence, but after skyping mm, Provence has the edge. Her favourite lavender, my favourite chateauneuf-du-pape, seafood. Our pragmatic side is also leaning towards Provence: our French is passable vs we don’t know Italian; easier travel (fly to NIce, rent a car, train back via Paris and Eurostar); plus I feel more comfortable driving in France than in Italy.

So, in the fight between Provence and Tuscany, Provence currently has the edge.

in objects of desire |

dysonhotcold argosfan

I will be needing a heater when I leave London, and I’d been lusting after the dyson hot+cold ever since it came out. Not only is it a fan heater, it’s also a fan for use when the weather is hot.

It’s also horribly expensive. John Lewis is doing a promotion where they take 20% off in exchange for a portable fan or fan heater. That’s more than £50 off the RRP of £269.95. I don’t own a fan or fan heater, but I wanted to take advantage of this, so I went to Argos and got a £9.97 fan and exchanged it. All in all I come out more than £40 better off. I’ve done this before, I bought a crappy Sinclair Spectrum and part exchanged it for my Mac LCIII way back when.

I probably could have gone to a junk store or market and gotten a broken fan for £5 or less, but this is already a good enough deal for me. The weather is supposed to turn cooler soon, but in the meantime today I’m enjoying my new fan.


in eating and drinking |

ldnrobuchon031steak ldnrobuchon032souffle

Lunch at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon with Mum. It being a weekday, it wasn’t that busy. We were sat at the counter and ordered the set lunch. I had mine with wine pairing.

Amuse bouche of foie gras with port reduction and parmesan foam. I had white asparagus salad and Mum had salmon carpaccio for starter. For mains we both had the hangar steak which came with polenta and a daikon celeriac side. Mum had passion fruit soufflé for dessert and I just had cheese. For coffee and tea they took us upstairs to the terrace bar. Nice.

in being healthy |

bupa10k021bigben

10k (10.57km on nike+) 1:08:30hr 6:51min/km (11:02min/mi)
overall: 7,522 / 10,512
gender: 2,933 / 5,076
age division: 288 / 485


My 4th race this year, and absolutely no expectations: a) I’d done a grand total of 2x5k runs since the marathon and b) it was an extremely hot day.

The BUPA10k is one of London’s top races and prides itself on organisation. This year there’s the added bonus that the course is run on the Olympic marathon route this summer. May be we’re getting a taste of what the weather will be like too. Okay, 26°C is not a big deal for somewhere like New York or California or Spain, but that’s hot for here. Add on the race started at 10am and it was pretty tough going. Everyone assembled in Green Park, and the corrals were really very very well organised. Just over 10,000 people in 9 corrals. I was in #6 and it took about 8 minutes to the start line.

It is a great route. Start on the Mall, with Buckingham Palace as backdrop. Through to Trafalgar Square, the Embankment, St Paul’s and Bank before coming back, passing the Eye, hitting Big Ben, Horseguards and finishing on the Mall again. My only complaint is that there didn’t seem to be enough water stations and the promised water misters were nowhere to be found. Not a lot of shade either so I had to pace myself and drink constantly. It was a relief to turn left to see the 200m to go sign.

Time was respectable. I wonder if one of these days I’ll take a race much more seriously and leave my camera behind and not stop for pictures along the route. Or I’d train properly. Or not go into a race with only 2 5k runs over the previous 5 weeks. I always talk about goals like sub-30 for 5k; sub-60 for 10k and breaking 5hr for the marathon. The flipside is that if I get too competitive and race races, where’s the fun?

I didn’t check any bags so I just collected my goodie bag and made my way to the bus stop. Somehow ended up outside Buckingham Palace and some nice Italian people took my picture for me. The Race for Life was also taking place at Hyde Park, I watched it for about 10mins, a few participants noticed my medal and waved.

in evidence of my insanity |

5

Slightly better, went to Borough market.

in evidence of my insanity |

6

Today was torture.

in evidence of my insanity |

7

This is going to be excruciating.

in eating and drinking , going places |

ork00hpdistillery

After visiting Islay, I got interested in several of the other good whiskies — Talisker, Balvenie, Old Pulteney and Highland Park. Then I started getting obsessed with Highland Park, and naturally my obsession turned into a desire to visit. And this is why RM and I dragged Mum to Kirkwall this past weekend. The purpose (not sole, but certainly top) of our trip was to the Highland Park distillery, where we’d pre-booked the Magnus Eunson premium tour. It promises a tour with a senior guide, a souvenir book, souvenir glass and full range tasting. Considering a miniature of the 40yr is £77, at £75 it was something I’d looked forward to since we made the reservation.

They picked us up from the hotel and dropped us back, which is much needed service. We were there 10mins early, and joined the regular tour group for the introductory video. Then we separated and went with our guide, James, a retired banker, who took us more slowly around the distillery. The floor maltings, mill, mash tun, washbacks and stills were familiar by now, it was great to have a refresher. The stillman even showed us his computer that monitors the alcohol % at the safe.

ork00hp50yr

Before the tasting got underway, we looked around the tasting room and all got a chance to hold a bottle of 50 year. At £10,000, we were all extremely careful not to drop it. I made notes as we tasted.

  1. new mix spirit — this is the clear liquid that comes from the still before it gets into the cask. At 69.8% it’s strong on the nose. Tasted surprising sweet
  2. oloroso sherry — mainly to nose, this is the sherry which occupied the casks before being filled with whisky. Rich in colour, it was quite dry
  3. 12 year 40% — the standard expression, to me the nose was chemical and medicinal, not terribly nice. Pleasant enough to drink
  4. 15 year 40% — richer, fruitier, sweeter, spicier, more of everything compared with the 12
  5. 18 year 43% — spicy but less than the 15, sweet, lots of complexity, methinks one should always have a bottle of this on one’s shelf
  6. 25 year 48.1% — lots of sherry, dark, sweeter again, rich almost like wine, has a kick and tons of body; not everyone liked this but it was my favourite so far
  7. 30 year 48/1% — not spicy on nose but stronger alcohol, rounded almost delicate, flowery, can definitely feel its warmth travelling down me
  8. 40 year 48.3% — smells like 25, lots of sherry, big, big smell; big, big body, so sweet! With a little salty and bags of finish, sigh sigh sigh
  9. Thor 16year special edition 52.1% — first of a series of 4, big hit and really sweet and fruity

Sometimes the instinct is to go for the most aged, most expensive expression. The question becomes, “is it worth the premium?” The 40yr is almost £1,000; the 25 £130-ish. Is the 40yr 7.5 times better than the 25yr? Not really. In terms of value for money, the 18yr at around £60 hits that sweet spot, and I think that’s the one I’ll have as standby at home. I would like to buy the Thor (£120) because it’s the one that appeals to my palate and wallet most, I’m just afraid that I won’t be able to get the other 3 in the series when they come out.

This was one of the best tastings I’ve been so far and my first vertical tasting. Expensive, and we were rushed at the end — the tour started at 4pm and we weren’t even halfway through the tasting at 7pm. I think instead of having the driver wait around, a deal with a local cab company would have put less pressure on us. It’s not the most value for money tasting, that would go to Ardbeg; nor is it the most fun and informative, that would be Laphroaig. Is it worth coming all the way out to Orkney? Yes, it was well worth the long trip out.

in going places |

ork00italianchapel

Our flight was at 2.40pm but we still managed to fit in quite a lot for one morning. Drove east to Deerness and to Mull Head nature reserve. It’s a nice, short walk to the coast to see The Gloop, a cave / hole in the cliffs that together with the spectacular cliffs gave a great view. Drove back to the south islands to go to the Italian Chapel, which we missed on Sunday. It was built by Italian prisoners during WW2, and is the only building remaining of the site. Very postcard-y and I can see why it’s one of the most visited spots in Orkney.

Final stop was at Highland Park again. Three times in 3 days. No tasting, just some accessories shopping. I got a small lapel pin to go with the tasting glass and polo shirt I bought the other day. Filled up the car and parked back at Kirkwall town centre for quick walkaround and fish and chips lunch. They also had white and red pudding, that tasted somewhere between black pudding and sausages.

Uneventful flights home, connected at Aberdeen. Both flights from Kirkwall and Aberdeen were almost completely full, luckily they were short flights so not too uncomfortable. Picked up the whisky purchases from Saturday at Heathrow. My bounty this trip, from Heathrow and Aberdeen airports as well as Edinburgh and Highland Park distillery:

  • Highland Park St Magnus
  • Highland Park miniatures — 21, 25, 30yr
  • Laphroaig PX cask
  • Bunnahabhain Cruach-Mhona
  • Scapa 16yr
  • Old Pulteney 17yr
  • Mortlach 16yr
  • Dalwhinnie 15yr
  • Glengoyne 21yr


in going places |

ork00birsay

Two cruise ships came into Kirkwall today, all the locals were talking about it. One of them, the Caribbean Princess, had 3,500 people so if all of them came on shore, it would double Kirkwall’s population. We watched them come via their small orange boats, and them they got on coaches or taxis. We were warned, and expected to see them all over the island at the popular tourist spots.

Nevertheless, we had a plan to follow. The first few stops were Maes Howe and the standing circles at Stenness. We did come across some of the cruisemates, but never intrusive. We didn’t join the tour at Maes Howe, just looked at the shop. We did however spend a lot of time at the stones. Fantastic, beautiful site. Then onwards to Skara Brae (shop only again) and the rock stacks at Yesnaby followed by the scenic coast at Birsay. A stop at Earl’s Palace and a short walk around the area. We had a quick lunch from the snack van of burgers and soft drinks, facing the wild bule sea. What a beautiful island.

Back at the hotel at around 3pm for a little rest before the car from Highland Park came to pick us up. We’re booked on the top end £75 Magnus Eunson tour at the distillery, which promises us tastings from all of: 12, 15, 18, 25, 30 and 40 year expressions. That is worth another post on its own. Dinner reservation at the hotel restaurant, we plan to have seafood and cheesecake tonight.

in going places |

stromness harbour

Early start, free buffet breakfast at hotel. Then to the bus station for the short ride to the airport. Flight at 10.40am to Kirkwall was short, on one of those piddly flybe propeller planes. Car hire company picked us up from the airport and I drove the car to their office for paperwork. We got a Vauxhall Vectra, I’d wanted group B but they didn’t have any available so it’s a bigger car.

Staying at the Kirkwall hotel, right on the harbour of Kirkwall. I was able to book a family room which is a double with an adjoining single sharing a bathroom. It’s quite an old hotel but the rooms are large and comfortable enough. Quick lunch at the hotel of toasties and baked potato. Not a lot was open around, so the safest bet was the hotel.

We drove around, couldn’t resist stopping off at the Highland Park distillery even though we have our tour booked for tomorrow. Fabulous chat with one of the staff there and we ended up buying the St Magnus limited edition 55% natural strength that was so fragrant and rich that I could feel it flowing down my body. Yum.

Drove all the way down south, marvelling at the Churchill barriers through the islands of Burray and South Ronaldsay. The Tomb of the Eagles weren’t attractive enough for us to pay the entrance fee and walk around the windy cliffs towards archeological sites. Pretty scenery though, different from Islay or the Highlands.

Back to the mainland and west towards Stromness, the second largest town on Orkney. Very picturesque harbour. It being Sunday everything was closed, with the exception of a chippie. We shared one haddock and chips plus a single portion of scampi, a bit like appetiser. Dinner was at the hotel again. It was very crowded and we had to wait about an hour before they had a table for us. Not a problem, we rested up in our room. I had a lovely seafood salad, vanilla & orange ice cream / sorbet. Afterwards Mum went back up and RM and I sipped a selection of Scapas — 12, 16 and 25 years. Surprisingly, or rather not, the 16 yr was the best. Oh, we also went by Scapa distillery but they don’t open for visitors.

It’s now very late, but it’s still not quite dark out, we are so far north. More sightseeing and tasting tomorrow.

in going places |

edinburgh00

Me, Mum and RM are in Edinburgh, on our way to Orkney. We decided to stopover for one night, firstly because of the flights and secondly because it’s an interesting place to visit. Flying out of Terminal 5 means a huge duty free selection. With the discounts and travel retail only selection, we ended up buying a lot even before we got on the plane. They have a collect when home service so we’ll get our purchases when we return to London.

Flight was short, drinks and snacks and we landed already. Got the bus to Waverley station, £6 return, it’s only 10-15mins walk to the Holiday Express, our hotel for the night. Checked in, and came back out again. Walked back into town, had a very late lunch at Whiski bar, which has 300, yes 300, whiskies. We didn’t have any, Mum had fish & chips, RM had mussels and I had venison liver with side salad.

Walked towards the royal mile and then the castle. It was a nice day and a very pleasant walk around. Had dinner at this restaurant called Steak which is literally next to the hotel. We all had mixed grill — sirloin steak, sausages, pigeon breast, black pudding, bone marrow, mushroom and tomato. The practice of having a dram with a meal continued, when we ordered the Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye whiskey. Wow, very nice drink.

in eating and drinking |

blantons

Met A for steak whilst she is visiting London at, where else, Hawksmoor. That’s twice in a week for me, and still I’m not tired of it.

I was wandering around Covent Garden beforehand but it started drizzling so I went there early and sat at the bar. Wasn’t tempted by the cocktails today, I was perusing the whisky shelf behind the bartender and saw a couple of intriguing looking bottles. Upon enquiry, it turned out that they were Blanton’s straight from the barrel unfiltered bourbon. Cask strength means anything from 60-70% alcohol, but it was so sweet and smooth I didn’t feel any of the ethanol at all. I also declined wine during the meal, and sipped that glass of bourbon.

Ah, the meal. Sometimes I have to cast my mind back to my first time there with RM, and how it felt. I hope A wasn’t too overwhelmed with the sheer size of the steaks on offer on the board. They were large today, mostly almost 1kg (except the filets and they had one 600g rib-eye). We decided on a 900g (32oz) porterhouse, which came rare and sliced. Broccolini and bone marrow for sides. For dessert A had sticky toffee pudding and I had sticky orange pudding. They were slow getting them out, the server told us that they missed the order, so it was comped. Wow, I hadn’t expected that, smart of them. All in all it’s as close to a perfect meal as I can imagine.

While A had earl grey tea, I went for a second bourbon, an Elijh Craig 12yr. It smelled wonderful — sweet, woody, caramel, everything that suggests a great bourbon. Taste, for me, it couldn’t compare with the Blanton’s. Blander and harder to drink. Didn’t detract from a perfect meal though.

in going places |

brus395hotchoc

Breakfast at the hotel was EUR23, so we just had the croissants we brought with us. We didn’t wake up till 9am, so it was past 10am when we left. First stop was to go to St Catherine area, where I thought there was a food market. But we were disappointed, there was nothing, and for a weekday morning, no one around either. We visited a Carrefour Express and got some waffles. Remember this.

Went back to the hotel to dump our shopping and walked to Le Grand Sablon, where the chocolate shops are. We’d already done some chocolate shopping at the Grand Place vicinity, so it wasn’t as much of a wow factor as before. We did sit outside at Wittamer and had a leisurely 2 hour lunch. That’s the life! We had a couple of nice quiches — lorraine for me and saumon for Mum. There was an odd marching interlude, where a group of about 100 people dressed as officials marched through the street in front of us. The people at the front wore costumes and some had flags. Some of the people had medals or chains that suggested that they are mayors or council members. May be the beginning of the local council or parliament? The people at the back weren’t in costume but were still in business attire and looked official.

Too full after the quiches for dessert, even though the selection looked delicious. I couldn’t let Mum leave Brussels without tasting the hot chocolate though, so we had that. Yes, it was as heavenly and smooth and chocolatey as I remembered. Everyone who visits Brussels must try hot chocolate, preferably at Wittamer, at least once.

I was a bit full but couldn’t resist the frite stall behind La Chapelle. Last time it was closed (too early) so I insisted on getting a small portion. Freshly fried and still piping hot. Nice.

Still some time to spare, so we headed back to Grand Place and behind, near the Bourse. There was a talented busker singing guitar classics, and his tip box was full of euros. We then found a supermarket and went shopping crazy. Mainly white asparagus (3 bunches) and more waffles. I think Mum bought something like 4-5 packets of different sized waffles altogether. I have no idea whether we can finish them all, or she is going to take them home with her. Anyway, our overnight trolley bags are full of waffles.

Uneventful Eurostar trip home. No silly delays like last time, we were home by 8pm.

in going places |

brus335brewery

I was just there, but since Mum was interested, we went to Brussels for a quick overnight trip. Eurostar and Novotel 1 night total £300 for 2 people.

I had to remember how to navigate. Last time, there was a lot of walking so I wasn’t as familiar with the metro. There were stations where both sides of train doors opened and we got off at the wrong side and had to get out of the station and re-enter to change. Weird. Once settled at the hotel, we walked to the Grand Place and looked around. Got duped to having lunch at one of those supremely touristy place — I had waterzooi and Mum had moules, both were mediocre. Never say yes to smooth talking people lurking outside restaurants!

Since we had the day pass, we decided to fully utilise it. Took the metro to near Gare Midi to visit the Cantillon brewery, which apparently is the brewery to visit if you were to visit any brewery. The problem was, the staff there were few and overloaded so we got almost no attention or instructions. At least it was a self-guided tour and I had some understanding of the process after visiting so many whisky distilleries. The tasting was 2 glasses of their product, we had (or rather, I had and Mum took a small taste) gueuze, framboise kriek and faro. The raspberry kriek was just like cough syrup but I liked the caramel faro, which tasted like sherry.

brus350atomium

After the brewery tour, we took the metro all the way out to the NW to visit the Atomium. This was probably the only memory we had of our first visit to Brussels, when I was still at school. It was a nice day and a nice enough visit. We didn’t go up to the top.

Dinner was frites at the place opposite the hotel. We bought some of the skewers and sausages, plus one carton of frites each. Took it back to the hotel to enjoy in the comfort of our room, together with the TV. Nice.

in workstuff |

islay700main

The end of an era. It’s been an interesting road.

in eating and drinking |

ldnhawks042drump

Took Mum to Hawksmoor. Had Porterhouse 900g / 30oz and D-rump 200g / 8oz between 3 people (went with RM, who else?). The best thing about Hawksmoor on a Monday is that it’s BYO wine for only £5 corkage. Got a nice bottle of £30 Mendoza from the shop near the office, I’m liking the idea of Argentinian wine with steak.

in how the day went |

camdencar

US Mother’s Day and a gorgeous sunny day. Mum and I went to Camden market, not to walk around but to the street food stalls. This time we had chicken & mushroom pie, seafood paella and chorizo tortilla. Then we walked around some of the main street shops, and I saw some creepers that were pretty dope.

Walked off more of our lunch at Primrose Hill. I’d never walked up to the top of the hill, and was impressed with the view up there. After walking back down, we took the bus to Waitrose at Finchley Road and bought more food.

in eating and drinking |

finlaggan

Dinner with friends tonight and a bottle of Finlaggan whisky was produced. The smell and taste identified it immediately as an Islay whisky, but hey! I’ve been to all the distilleries on Islay and there is not one called Finlaggan. Apparently it’s from a mystery distillery whose identity is a secret that the bottler will jealously guard. Probably more to create marketing buzz. Pretty reasonably priced, starting at £22 and the cask strength is under £40.

in eating and drinking |

ledbury010asparagus ledbury015toast

It’s Mum’s birthday, and I’d booked lunch at The Ledbury, one of the best restaurants in London. Two Michelin stars. And only a few bus stops away on Ledbury Road, near Portabello market.

We opted for the lunch menu at £35 for 3 courses. The meal ended up being 7 courses, more on that later. The restaurant is on a corner, a black building but once inside it was nice and bright. A large mirror at the back wall gave the effect of a bigger space. There are about 18 tables, we were one of the first to arrive and by the time we left the place was full.

I ordered a half bottle of valpolicella for myself, having declined the offer of champagne. Even the bread and butter were cute. As is normal nowadays, we got an amuse bouche of foie gras and kumquat jelly on crunchy biscuit. We both started with the white & green asparagus cooked in earl grey with a crisp pheasant egg. The asparagus was fabulously sweet and the egg perfectly soft boiled.

We got an extra starter, buffalo milk curd with truffle toast and grilled onion broth. The milk curd was just like custard and the toast smelled and tasted of truffle. Very nice.

ledbury020turbot ledbury023pork

For main course, Mum had turbot with radishes, barley and a cream of white beer sauce. I had pork cheek & jowl with pear, celeriac and dandelion. They brought the roasted pork as it came out of the oven for me to “inspect” before sending it back to the kitchen for plating. Mum’s fish was super fresh, love turbot. I had a lot going on my plate, the crunchy skin, the fatty meat of the cheek and then the melt-in-your-mouth softness of the jowl which had been slow cooked. Lovely sauce too.

ledbury026cococream ledbury031souffle

Mum had blueberry, mango & pear sorbet for dessert and I opted for coconut cream in milk chocolate and sea buckthorn bed. I’d told them that it’s Mum’s birthday so they gave us an extra dessert — lemon soufflé with sauternes ice cream. Everything was perfect. We ended with petit fours. Mum had a peppermint tea and I had a glass of Hedonism, an unusual blended grain whisky from Compass Box. I think, yes, 7 courses:

  1. amuse bouche
  2. asparagus starter
  3. milk curd and truffle toast second started
  4. fish and pork mains
  5. sorbet and coconum cream dessert
  6. extra dessert lemon soufflé
  7. petit fours, tea

The bill came to £120 which I think is good value. The extras were the wine, whisky, bottled water, tea and service charge. There was no skimping on portions, textures or flavours. Everything was perfectly cooked and presented. The service was friendly and helpful. When bookings for August opens on 1 June, I’ll be on their website to make a reservation for mm’s visit.

in going places , outside interests |

09library

I first did it when I went to Prague with Mum last year. I most recently did it just this past weekend when we went to Stockholm. I’m sure I’ll continue doing it going forward.

Do what?

Borrow travel guides from the local library. The books are up to date, and the DK guides have plenty of pictures and maps. Perfect for travelling. I can take the books out for 3 weeks at a time. What a great resource.

in in the news |

abbeyroadcam01

abbeyroadcam02

Spotted via bb, the Abbey Road live webcam. I live down the road from there, and I try to avoid that area especially when driving. It’s a residential area with no facilities for tourists and yet they keep coming.

Looking at some of the static screen grabs, the top one shows the classic 4 people crossing mode, just like the Beatles. The second one shows what it feels like for us locals, of hoards of tourists around trying to cross and recross the zebra crossing. Basically the stupid tourists stop traffic from moving along or congregate on the pavement not allowing pedestrians to walk. So annoying.

in eating and drinking |

asparaguswhitegreen

Cooked the white and green asparagus we bought yesterday in Stockholm. There are recipes that say serve white asparagus with hollandaise, viniagrette or other sauces. Since we eat plainly at home, I just steamed them. Steamed the green asparagus and broccolini first, then kept warm before steaming the white asparagus by themselves for about 15mins. Mum bought beef kebab skewers and pork sausages so we had those with the vegetables. Last time I had white asparagus I found them a bit tasteless, this time was such a huge difference — they are sweeter and have a more delicate flavour. Yes they are expensive (8 spears each cost almost £20) and the season is short, all the more reason to savour them and treat them right.

in going places |

stk00sodermalm

We purposely went easy on breakfast because we were going to visit the food market later so wanted to save space. Before that, and after checking out / depositing our bags, we had time so we hopped on the #2 bus to the end on the island of Södermalm south of the city. Residential areas, with blocks of flats that reminded me of Switzerland. And on the water too, so pretty. I bet it’s great to live there. Took the #55 bus back to the city, stopping off at Slussen, immediately across Gamla Stan. The views back towards the city were, as usual, stunning. Fresh air and a bright blue sky day, wonderful.

stk00saluhall

Time for lunch at Saluhall, just behind our hotel. From the moment we entered, we knew it was great. Historic building, and stalls selling great, great food — fruit & veg, meat, cheese, jam, fish, chocolate — all of the highest quality. There were restaurants inside too, serving fish, smorgasbord, and hot food. The hot food stalls had counters, which were way more attractive than sitting at tables at the small restaurants. There weren’t many counter seats, we lucked out in spotting someone just about to pay so we queued up behind him. Basically it’s choosing the dishes displayed at the counter, which are also on the menu. Mum had meatballs and I had raggmunk, a potato pancake with salted pork dish. We helped ourselves to ligonberry sauce and pickled cucumber, as well as the complimentary lemonade. 110kr per dish (about £10), it’s the best value food we’ve had this trip.

Went back to the central area to buy chocolate, then it was time to head back to the hotel to pick up our bags, repack and head for the airport. There was time to spare so we sat at the coffee shop near the gate. I spent some of our remaining kr on pickled herrings, reindeer pate and chocolate wafers.

in going places |

stk00waterside stk00vasa

Breakfast is included in our hotel room, and served in the lounge. Who says continential breakfast is not filling? Delicious ham, pate, cheese, salmon and salad, and I discovered 2 jars of wonderful pickled herring, so yummy. They also have hot food — bacon, sausage and eggs. Thus satisfied, we set out for a full day of exploration.

First stop, the bus #2 then tram #7 to Djurgarden, the large island to the right of the city centre. What I wanted to visit was Vasamuseet, the museum that houses the Vasa, the only remaining 17th century boat in the world. It sank on its maiden voyage and was salvaged in the 1950s. The ship remains pretty intact, and the work that went into restoration has been impressive. There’s lots to see, we’re able to view the ship on different levels. It’s not the most visited museum in Scandanavia for nothing.

We managed to catch one of the vintage trams back to the city, and then we were off to Gamla Stan, or the Old Town. Didn’t go inside the palace, but did catch the changing of the guard, which was more a display show for 45 mins. There were marching soldiers, stomping running soldiers, horses, military bands on horses, lots of shouting and a bit of flag waving.

stk00church stk00salmon

Lunch was at one of the restaurangs on Stortorget, a square at the heart of Gamla Stan. The salmon Mum had was as beautiful as the one yesterday; and I had a moose burger that came with a huge bowl of the sweetest grilled new potatoes. Gamla Stan has pretty houses and narrow streets, we didn’t spend as much time as I’d like exploring. Took the metro to hard rock café to get my souvenir shirt, then back to Djurgarden, this time right to the end of the tram line to Waldemarsudde, a place of peace, beauty and crisp air; and then a brief stop at Skansen, an outdoor museum with historical significance. We didn’t go in, just visited the shop.

We made full use of our 3-day pass, took the tram/ bus combination back to the hotel. We weren’t very hungry so stopped at the supermarket at the station to get yogurt and drinks, that was it for dinner.


in going places |

stk00centralbadet stk00market

Taking Mum to Stockholm for the long weekend. She’s always wanted to go to Niagara Falls and Scandanavia, so I’ve managed to take her to two of her dream destinations. I’ve never been to Stockholm myself so I’m looking forward to this trip too.

Flight was very early, 7.40am, so a very early start. T5 going out is never a problem and we were sitting down at Giraffe having breakfast just after 6am. Even had time to wander around the duty free before getting on the shuttle to the departure gate. 2 hr short hop flight. The walk inside Arlanda airport from the plane to baggage reclaim was very long, I guess it gives the airport staff time to bring our bags out. I’d pre-booked the train to city centre, only 20mins, very efficient.

Bought a 3 day travel pass (metro, bus, tram) so even though it’s only one stop to the hotel, we took the metro. We’re staying at the hotel stureplan, situated in an old building that still has one of those tiny caged lift. Our room wasn’t ready so we parked our bags and set off on foot to explore the city. Walked along pedestrianised streets to the waterside, it turned out to be a sunny if windy day. From the waterside, we walked back up through one of the main shopping streets. On the way we bought chocolate, visited a wine supermarket I thought was a regular supermarket and generally window shopped.

It was almost 2pm and we were starting to feel hungry. The cafés along the touristy street didn’t appeal. And then, as if by magic, we turned into a pretty, tranquil, green courtyard that housed the central badet spa and a few bars and restaurants. It was nice enough to sit outside at the restaurant Hubertus. Mum had a lovely grilled salmon with potato, courgette, mix veg and salad (lots of accompaniments) and I had a seafood pasta and a Falcon Export beer. We stopped by the Hötorget market on the way back to the hotel and bought a punnet of strawberry.

After checking in, I crashed on the bed for 20mins. Needed that nap, been up since 4.30am. When we were ready to leave again it was almost 5pm and we realised that most shops are closed. And a lot of them don’t seem to open on sunday either. Took a short walk then took the bus to Sergels Torg, the central traffic roundabout with a large scupture and fountains. Next doors is the Kulturhuset (Cultural Centre) with museums, small galleries and theatres. Not much to eat in terms of restaurants, we found a Turkish festival at Kungstradgarden and had shish kebab. It was beginning to get windy and cold so we took the bus back to the hotel.

in about me , habitat |

ldn101greenpark

Been suffering from dull ear for a week, and today I finally couldn’t stand it any longer. Made an appointment with the nurse to have it syringed. She said that they don’t use syringes anymore because of the danger of perforation so she used modern probe-like equipment. The end result is the same, I can hear. The problem is, I didn’t realise the world was so loud! Just ambient sounds: the neighbours, the washing machine, Mum walking around the flat, the tv, birds outside, even the sound of my typing now, is annoying me. I live too much on my own, I take my peace and quiet too much for granted.

in eating and drinking |

ldngaucho001steaks ldngaugho003choc

Gaucho was supposed to have the best steak in London until usurped by Goodman and Hawksmoor, so RM and I were keen to try it out. Since Mum is here, I thought it’d be a good place to introduce her to London steakhouse. For convenience I booked the branch at Piccadilly, under an arch off Regent’s Street. Our table was in the basement and we had to walk through the cowhide decorated front entrance and bar. It was very, very dark.

We had a bottle of Lagarde 2009 malbec. I don’t usually order malbec, but this was a good choice — an argentinian wine in an argentinian steak restaurant. We ordered 3 different steaks to share: their signature picana, a marinated rump and a sirloin. I thought the rump had lots of beef flavour although they were a bit tougher than I would have liked. The sirloin was grilled to medium rare perfection and also very good. For dessert they had chocolate & macadamia tart with vanilla ice cream and I had an ice cream.

Bill came to £150, which is okay because of the wine. The verdict? Nice enough, and there are a couple more dishes I’d like to try — the “cheaper” cuts of skirt and flank which aren’t as readily available but can be really fantastic. One more to add to the list, as a reserve.


in family first |

brixton034seven

So far (well, it’s only been a couple of days) I’ve had to go to work so Mum had to fend for herself. She’s been to Oxford and Regent Streets, her free bus pass giving her the freedom to go shopping to her heart’s content. I’ve done the cooking when I got home from work — I don’t like people messing in my kitchen and I’m the better cook. Things I’m planning to do with her:

  • Stockholm this coming long weekend
  • Edinburgh and Orkney with RM weekend of the 19th
  • Borough and Brixton markets
  • steak restaurants
  • I have a reservation at The Ledbury next week
  • she wants to go on the Eurostar, so Paris or Brussels (again for me)
  • may be the WB Harry Potter tour, not sure


mum

in family first |

2012hkmuseum010

Woke up at 4am, got the zipcar, drove to heathrow, picked up my mum. She’s visiting me for a month. Yay!

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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