August 2012 Archives

in arts and media |

arisalondon2012

Had dinner with SM and AT at the Bavarian Beerhouse at Tower Hill. Had a few beers, schnitzel and sausage platters. They gave me a fantastic farewell present — this iconic London scene painted by AT herself. So thoughtful, I’m very moved.


in arts and media |



I never read Roald Dahl’s book, but I can guess at its quirkiness. I’ve been wanting to see Matilda the Musical for a while. It’s too popular to be in the special offer in May, and somehow mm and I couldn’t find the time for it when she was here. But nevertheless, I managed to get a ticket for myself. No, it’s not the same, watching a musical on my own, can’t be helped.

I had a good seat, upper circle second row aisle seat. Full house tonight, a good mix of adults and children. Worth the ticket price, doubled and tripled. Absolutely fantastic show — the kids were just naughty enough to be endearing, the adults despicable caricatures, the story moving without the emotional blackmail that goes with this sort of tale. And oh, Lara Wollington as Matilda tonight really shone. Like everyone in the house, I was entranced by her story of the acrobat and the escapologist (kudos to the sound and lighting effect, there was one scary bit when I was scared too). No big huge production number, all the songs were great. The highlights were Naughty and When I Grow Up.

It doesn’t matter that mm hasn’t seen this, it took me years to manage to show her Wicked, I’ll make sure she gets to see Matilda one of these days. It’s one show I won’t mind seeing over and over again. Highly recommended.

in in the news , sports active |



Watched the London 2012 Paralympics Games opening ceremony. It was on Channel 4, so there were differences between that coverage and the BBC’s for the Olympics. Some of the presenters were the same (Clare Balding, yay!) but overall it wasn’t as good, primarily because the commentary was poor and, ugh, there were ad breaks.

The theme of discovery and ideas was thoughtful and beautiful. Highlights for me were: Stephen Hawking’s words, Princess Anne waving her scarf and the countries represented by wild card athletes — the first country in the parade, Afghanistan and the single female athlete representing Syria. It’ll be a great next 10 days.

in how the day went |

18boring

T minus 3 weeks and the start of errands. Today:

  • filed 2011-12 taxes (deadline Jan 2013, so scads ahead of time)
  • typed up address change letters for batch printing
  • sent off shipment forms (got email from shipment company that deposit was received)
  • wine xls for customs — brand name, type, year, % alcohol, volume, price
  • bagged up and labeled cable collection — ziploc bags are the best
  • bought laundry basket
  • bought 2 dinner plates + 2 dessert plates
  • bought more dried goods — couscous, quavers, chocolate turkish delight for AK
  • bought more rosé to try
  • continue working through each room to sort out stuff to keep, for charity, or to chuck away
  • checked at bank on money transfer process and cost

In other news, my amazon order arrived: Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake, Bones season 6 and a set of 3 baking trays with rack at a fantastic price. A prospective new tenant came to see the apartment. Did more cleaning. Getting there.

in being healthy |

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5.25km 37.36min 7.09min/km (11.31min/mi)

In the realm of doing a sport that I haven’t done for a while, it’s back to running, the first time in a month or so. The track has been closed since April and has only just re-opened. The surface has been relaid and is very springy. There are new fences and a shot put area and lots of markings on the lanes. The run itself, blurgh, nothing to write home about. All the eating while mm was here means I probably put on half a stone and all of it has gone to belly fat so I desperately need to get rid of it. At least the run loosened up the sore muscle from yesterday’s tennis.

in being healthy |

The last time I played tennis was over 10 years ago. The last time I played tennis at the park was probably closer to 20 years ago. Booked for 2hrs at the synthetic court and played with CC and Mak. Rusty in the beginning, but got better. Still a little fitness left from running, stamina wasn’t a problem. There will be sore muscles tomorrow though, not used to using those particular muscle groups. Ah, I’m reminded of how much I like racket sports — tennis, squash, badminton, table tennis — I’ll take them all. Problem is, I need other people to play with me.

sad

in on the relationship front |

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Made veal chop for lunch at home, then all too soon it was time to pick up the zipcar, load up mm’s luggage and take her to heathrow. She wanted to claim VAT, and the queue was so damn long! Over 2 hours. By the time we finished, she had to rush to the gate. I had to rush back too, I hadn’t booked the zipcar long enough and couldn’t extend because someone else booked it afterwards. I begged the rep to help me, he called the next person and got me a 30min extension. It was so stressful.

I had no appetite at night. It wasn’t because of the zipcar stress. It’s because mm is on her way home, after such a wonderful 3 weeks with me. All I can hold onto, is the rainbows we saw last year. Blessings.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |

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I took Mum to the ledbury for her birthday this year, and wanted to share the experience with mm. It’s her last full day in London.

Lunch again, it’s the best value. Amuse bouche, quail & fig salad, for mains we had brill with seafood, edible flowers, foam and beef and for dessert mille feuille and blackcurrant tart.

Borough market in the afternoon, plus vinopolis and the whisky exchange. To end a gastro day, dinner at Hawksmoor. I have a suspicion she prefers Hawksmoor, the food at the Ledbury probably too fancy and too high expectations after how I sang its praises.


in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |

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Third day in a row, mm went to piano practice. Wow, such diligence. She had lunch plans with her school friends so I stayed home for lunch. Met up with her at Brixton to show her the market. For some reason, none of the restaurants appealled. We stopped at seven for a brief drink before heading to Oxford Street HMV so she can look at classical CDs.

I had a sudden inspiration for dinner, took her to the tagine place. So yummy.

in how the day went , on the relationship front |

Stayed home while mm went to piano in the morning. Met up at Edgware Road police station to report the loss of my camera for insurance. Went over to the Abbey near Church Street (ack, it’s Santander now) to close our accounts. Short hop to Knightsbridge to walk around Harrods and M&S, bought some coffee for her.

in on the relationship front , outside interests |

2012ldn004piano

She’s been going to piano practice very diligently while she is in London, getting up in the morning and taking the bus to Edgware Road. Mostly, I stay home and meet her afterwards or she comes home and we cook. I’m so glad I found this place, it’s not expensive, £12 for a grand piano and £20 for the Fazioli.

Drumstick, ribs and brie for lunch. Soup and salmon for dinner.

in how the day went |

A shopping day.

Picked up a rental car at Avis (£32.55, plus £30 petrol) and drove out to Swindon outlet mall. Had fish and chips for lunch and explored John Lewis and other outlets. She ended up having to spend a lot of time on the phone with the office because some crisis just popped up.

After Swindon we went to Bicester. Tod’s and L’Occitane were her targets. Tesco finally, it was late when we got home.

in all about people , on the relationship front |

2012ldn002straws Took the bus to Golders Green to meet up with CC and M for lunch. CC picked a family-styled Korean place at the roundabout. Afterwards we went back to their house for wine and snacks.

Rested a bit then headed off to Parkside at Enfield for strawberry picking. Also got some really nice beans and spinach.

in on the relationship front |

I took the zipcar out and we went to Brent Cross. Most of our shopping was done at Lakeland and Tesco. No surprise. Had chicken drumstick and mm made pork ribs soup.


in how the day went , on the relationship front |

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While mm woke up early to go practice piano, i went to the library to return the library books. Met up at Khan’s at Bayswater. Ah, memories. It’s less crowded than before, and the food wasn’t quite what we remembered. There’s a buffet at lunchtime, and it satisfied our craving for Indian food.

Took a walk in hyde park to the other end, coming out at high st ken to go to whole foods. Nice. There was a small wine tasting too, tried a white, shiraz rosé, shiraz and a dessert wine. The winery is called Monsoon Valley. It’s okay, didn’t make us feel like we had to buy any of their wines, considering the stash we have at home from provence.

Big shop at Tesco, almost £50. We even shared a toilet paper 2-for-1 offer with a nice lady, a total stranger. Dinner at home, cheese, wine, salad, soup. I wish all our days were like this.

in arts and media |

ldn130wicked

I saw Wicked in Chicago in 2005. When mm came to visit me, the show had already ended so I couldn’t take her. It’s always been my wish to introduce her to one of the best musicals I’ve ever seen, so I took advantage of the get into london theatre offers and got us some tickets early. £40 for stalls, good price.

Spent most of the day resting at home, only ventured out at dinner time. Had dinner at the café rouge at victoria station, trying to retain some of the french holiday spirit.

Our seats were good, and I hope she liked the show. I think she did.

in going places , on the relationship front |

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Breakfast at Mcdonalds, which is of better quality here than in the US or UK. Then it was off to find markets. We have great memories of going to markets in Paris, but weren’t able to remember where. Went back to the one we tried going to yesterday, at Place Monge. Lots of fresh fruits and veg, but not many stalls. When we asked the stallholders, it turned out that it was a holiday so not as big a turnout. Ah well, still some good stuff. There’s a cheese shop nearby that is open, so we bought some cheeses as well.

The market at Rue Cler was also mostly closed, but we did find a patisserie and some stalls selling fruit. Ended up going to Carrefour to pick up pâté and stuff. Then back to hotel to drop off our shopping.

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Lunch back at Dame Tartine, where they recognised us. Lovely steak and (I think) swordfish tartare. Walked over to Notre Dame, queued up to get inside. Crowded and we had to hush a lot of noisy tourists. There was an exhibit of St Theresa, which pleased mm a great deal. More walking all the way to louvre, tea at Mcdonalds, then it was back to the hotel to pick up our luggage.

Metro to Gare du Nord was pretty tough. First, we had a total of 7 bottles of wine between us. Then there were so many stairs and not enough escalators. Finally it was a very kind, and strong, soul who helped us with the final steps to the platform. Once to Gare du Nord it was fine. We even had time for a rosé at the station before boarding. It was late when we got back to St Pancras so we took a taxi home.

flickr set, again mm’s pics. Not as annoyed as losing the Provence pics, we’ve been to Paris many times and she took over photography the last couple of days.

in going places , on the relationship front |

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Tried going to the market at Place Monge but it wasn’t open (tomorrow apparently). Headed to Sacre Coueur and Montmatre area, bought some magnets at a souvenir shop while sheltering from the rain. At the bottom of the hill, bought pastries at a Carrefour supermarket to enjoy at a small park.

Metro to Opera. Lunch of moules frites at Leon. Yes, it’s a chain but it’s still pretty good. Shopping at Lafayette where mm indulged her love of brand name handbags — Longchamp, BV, Maison. Big crowds, especially of rude Chinese tourists, I wasn’t happy.

Off to rue cler to look for another market. Even more unhappiness. This was the point where I lost my camera. My beloved s90. With all our provence pics in the memory card not downloaded because I didn’t bring the mba. Next trip, bring the damn mba. We traced our steps back to Leon but no luck.

Pretty dejected. Went back to hotel, ate some melon. Went out to Pompidou area and found a restaurant called Dame Tartine that served wonderful steak and salmon tartare. Cheered me up a little.

in going places , on the relationship front |

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Easy metro trip from Gare de Lyon to Châtelet, although there weren’t any escalators and we had to haul our bags up the stairs to street level. We were staying at hotel louvre rivoli at Châtelet, within walking distance to the river and pompidou.

Late lunch at the bistrot near the hotel, salad and wine again. Took the metro to champs to visit LV, and then to the office where mm met with some of her colleagues. Shopping at Le Printemps near Opera.

Dinner at another bistrot near Le Printemps. Moules and steak. Although a touristy place, the standard was still high. Back to hotel area, walked around Pont Neuf, Notre Dame and back to the hotel.

in going places , on the relationship front |

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Very early start, checked out at 7.30am. On the way, we stopped at Gordes for another view of the gorgeous village and valleys of Provence. Stopped at Auchen at Avignon for petrol and supplies. Returned the car and onto the TGV to Paris.

Au revoir, Provence. Lovely region. We’ll miss it and will want to come back. Base at Avignon next time. Or Aix.

flickr set, all mm’s pictures. I lost my camera in Paris. Don’t care about the camera as much as the memory card that had all our trip pictures.

in going places , on the relationship front |

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Sunday market at L’Isle sur la Sorgue. It seemed to be the norm to park on the pavement, so that’s what we did. If possible, the market is even larger than the one in Apt yesterday. More crowded and touristy, stalls selling souvenirs, herbs, soap and honey. We stopped at a café to have tea and a rest, then set about exploring the vast market. Bought dried sausages, lavender, jam, bread, melon and pizza.

Returned to Avignon for a late lunch (salad and a cold meat platter). Bought lavender oil and wine at that shop near the Papal Palace we spotted on Friday. Time was getting short and we were somewhat in a rush.

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The next destination was Abbaye de Sénanque, which is where that notable picture of a church and rows upon rows of lavender comes from. It’s too late in the season, we’d missed the lavender. It was still nice to walk in the grounds and visit the souvenir shop. Too late in the day to go inside the abbaye.

From the abbaye, we headed back towards central Provence, to Gordes and Rousillon. Great scenery on the way. We got to Rousillon very late in the day, thank goodness for it being summer and long days. Lovely sunset pictures in the village on top of a hill and the sun hitting the clay cliffs. Time for more souvenir shopping and exploring the narrow streets on foot. We had dinner at a restaurant there. I had veal, mm had lamb and we had wine of course.

A delay leaving, an ambulance blocked the street for a long time. The streets were cobblestoned and narrow and the way back to the hotel was via that street where the ambulance was. At the end we couldn’t wait and used our instinct to drive the other way out of the village and double-backing back to our hotel.

in going places , on the relationship front |

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Breakfast at the hotel, croissants, ham, bread. The hotel has a small book that describes the markets in the Provence region. In French, but we were able to read it. So following its advice we headed to Apt for the market. It was very busy, and we had a hard time finding parking. At the end, I had to reverse down a steep unpaved slope to a narrow space between other cars. Heh, Mum taught me well.

Loved the market. Lots of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, crafts, just fantastic. Bought sun-dried tomatoes, honey, olive wood board, grapes. We could go crazy at these markets, everything so fresh and so tempting. No wonder people want to come live in this region.

In the middle of the market is St Anne’s Chapel. Very small, quiet and peaceful. We walked around, prayed and made a donation. Made friends with one of the volunteer ladies there. Didn’t quite know what each party was talking — our French wasn’t good enough and she didn’t speak English. However, the warmth and friendship shared with fellow catholics didn’t need language.

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Bought a big slice of watermelon, which we took back to the hotel to enjoy, as well as offloading our purchases. Next stop, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Lunch in the car was apricots and peaches we bought yesterday. Parked at the tourist office, and had a late lunch of salad and the châteauneuf wine. Perfect food and drink for an extremely hot day, the temperature gauge in the car read over 40°C.

Visited a few caves for wine tasting, learned about the traditional 13 grape varieties allowed in a châteauneuf wine. Also found out they had whites and rosés. Walked up to the top of the chaâteau for the amazing views. There were weddings galore in town; a wedding party was taking pictures at the top of the château, and we stumbled across a wedding in a church while exploring. It could be the same wedding party, dunno.

Visited one of the wineries at the bottom of the steps and bought a bunch of wines. Red and white. They are able to ship overseas too, and it was soooo tempting to get a couple of cases. Such a lovely, wine-focused town. Beautiful Provencal architecture, great food, wonderful wine. We visited another winery on the way out of town, and we can safely declare our love for this region. Dinner was back at Avignon. Moules frites, dorade and we’re becoming addicted to rosé. Quite a long, dark drive back to the hotel which mm did, I’d finished most of our wine.


in going places , on the relationship front |

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We took a minicab to St Pancras and were on the Eurostar in no time. I was a bit concerned looking at the timing that timing may be a little tight. We had to get from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon with our luggage, via the RER. But it turned out to be quite straightforward although we didn’t breathe a sigh of relief until we were well and truly on the TGV to Avignon. It was hot in Avignon when we arrived, took us a few minutes to find the rental car area. I’d already prebooked and prepaid our car so it was just a matter of getting the keys. It’s a small Citroen C3, good enough for us.

We made our way to Avignon city centre, parked our car in the car park near the papal palace and went in search of food. There were a row of outdoor restaurants in what looks like the main square, so we settled into one. Lots of shops in the pedestrianised district, had ice cream, hit a small Spar for soft drinks and supply. There are more shops and things to see than expected, so nice. Found a small wine shop that looked interesting, saving it for later.

The drive to Rousillon was about 1-1.5hr. Our hotel is supposed to be near Rousillon, but we got to the town and couldn’t find our way round. Had to use our basic french to ask directions. Turns out, the hotel is pretty much in the middle of nowhere on a tiny D-road. We finally found the entrance, drove up the hill and there it was. Very well decorated, rustic yet modern. Our room led out to a small patio, and the whole place screamed style and coolness and Provence.

We opted for dinner at the hotel, which was served outside by the pool. A few other guests were also enjoying dinner. Proscuitto & melon, roast veal and vegetables, rhum baba and fig tart for dessert.

in on the relationship front , sports active |

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I had 4 tickets for the women’s 10m diving final, so we met up with CC and M at Olympic Park. Our second visit, so we know the drill now. The seats were a little better, less obscured by the roof, important because this is the 10m platform. The diving, wow. Very close competition, and M was especially pleased the Malaysian competitor got bronze.


in going places |

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After breakfast at the hotel, we went to the market to pick up honey wine. Checked out, left our luggage and went to the Paladium mall behind the hotel. Visited a glassware shop and ended up buying a really nice set of Schott decanter and wine glass set. Also got some tumblers.

Had a last piece of roast ham, some sausage and beer then headed to the airport. Had a bit of problem claiming VAT off the glassware, bought sausage for mum, had a piece of honey cake with our last coins then finally we were on our way home.

in going places , on the relationship front |

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Breakfast at the hotel was included, a buffet with the usual. Quite crowded too. Revisited the market at the square. Tried blackcurrent wine and honey wine, very nice. Bought some tomatoes for the day. Walked through the main square and onto Charles Bridge. The river is as beautiful as ever. Continued towards the castle, stopping for ice cream and cake at the foot of the hill.

We bought a short visit ticket that allowed us to visit St Vitus Cathedral, the old palace, St George’s basilica and Golden Lane. Quite worthwhile. The cathedral is very imposing, with lots of historical saintly statues. The old palace was pretty old and empty. By the time we reached the small basilica it was raining so we took shelter. The rows of colourful houses at Golden Lane were either sealed off as a museum piece or converted to shops, quite a commercial feel and not so quaint.

Walked the back way down, had kolbasa hotdog at the stall at the bottom. Walked back to town and rested at hotel. Lots of walking today.

Prague is full of advertisements for concerts. We decided on one at the Clementium church near Charles Bridge. It was okay, quite student-y, sort of amateurish.


in going places |

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Had breakfast of halloumi toastie at LHR, and ham & cheese sub on plane. Uneventful flight, we got the shuttlebus to republic square as before. This time I booked the Hilton instead of the Marriott I stayed with mum last year.

There was a market at the square, yay! Bread, fruit, veg, wine, beer, honey and sausages. Proceeded to the main square to see the astronomical clock and the lanes. Shared a ham from the spit, sausage and a potato chip stick. I hope mm is liking the city. We went from shop to shop, lots of glassware to be seen.

Dinner at the restaurant at the square: beef goulash, dumplings and red wine. Went back to the supermarket to get water, coke, cheese. Had a drink at the bar.


in sports active |

ldnoly00aquatic ldnoly00diving3m

The day has finally come. The tickets I originally won during the lottery process, that meant mm could come to London. Women’s 3m springboard final. Lots of anticipation. We rested at home, watching tv for most of the morning, then left around 3pm knowing that it will take us over 1hr on the tube, plus walking, security and walking around the Olympic Park. Our estimate was right, althought there was no delay going through security. We had plenty of time to explore around the Olympic Park. It was crowded, it being super sunday and all, we managed to go to the shops, took lots of pictures of the venues too.

The diving started at 7pm, we climbed the very long staircase to almost the top. It’s a short contest, compared with, say, football or even the archery I went to last week. 12 competitors each with 5 dives. By the end of the first 2 rounds it was obvious that the 2 Chinese divers are the ones to beat. By the 5th round it was a competition for bronze medal and at the end the Mexican diver won against the Italian diver. It was an very impressive competition, so much athleticism, precision and bravery in these divers.

We stayed for the medal ceremony, and was out of the stadium at after just around 1.5hrs. Tube home. Fantastic day out.

in on the relationship front |

It’s going to be a busy. Olympics, Prague, Provence, Paris. So glad we’re well planned.

in eating and drinking |

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Woke up extremely early to pick up mm from heathrow. Dropped off her luggage, took a bit of a rest then headed out for lunch at Maze Grill, one of the restaurants in the Gordon Ramsay group. It’s a grill, so the speciality is steak. There’s a set lunch menu, 3 courses for £24, but we opted for the special steak — 25oz bone-in rib to share worked out to he £65. We had it medium rare, it came a little bit overdone. The flavour was really nice and we enjoyed it. Only shared a spinach side, didn’t have dessert. I had a glass of malbec. Walked it off the rest of the day, all the day to Covent Garden and back.

in eating and drinking |

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Having defrosted the freezer, and with mm coming on Friday, I needed to replenish my food supply. Went to Whole Foods to get balsamic vinegar and veal rib roast, then saw bavette steak on special. 350g for only £3-ish. I’d never cooked bavette steak before, and a little online research reveals that it’s also known as flank or flap steak. Marinated it overnight with soy sauce, worcestershire sauce and garlic. Fast grilling to ensure it stays medium rare, rested for 10mins. Nice flavour. Even at this doneness, it’s not exactly soft and a tiny bit tough, but I’d definitely buy it again.

in sports active |

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I went to olympic archery competition at Lord’s yesterday. It’s nice to have an event so close to home. It normally takes me about 10mins to run there on my way to Regent’s Park, and walking it’s about 20mins. I was quite early so no delays with going through security and looking at the shops. There’s a small area where spectators could try out archery, and they just opened so no wait. My first 2 shots were inside the yellow zone, then I got distracted and my last 2 were outside in the red and blue zones.

My seat was very high up (3rd from top of stand) and right at the shooting line. It was wet and rainy and the seats were wet. It was a long session, with 10 matches in the first and second rounds. The course is 70m long and we could hear the shots, but like on TV had to rely on the screen to see where it hit the target. There were various competitors in both men’s and women’s competition from a great mix of countries including Norway, USA, India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia and 2 from Team GB. Interesting morning.

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