Saturday, October 21, 2006

Victoria and I Visit London - 14th & 15th October : Part 2

If you have not read part 1 yet (and actually want to) click here.

After a great Saturday night in London Sunday started with a bit if a sore head. Thankfully the price of the room included a full English breakfast, the greatest hangover cure ever created.

We had to check out of the hotel at 11am so after breakfast we packed and checked out. Luckily we were able to leave the bag at the hotel so that I didn't have to lug it round London all day.

We headed up The Mall towards Buckingham Palace. This is a nice pleasant walk on a Sunday as it is closed to traffic. When we got to Buckingham palace there was a flag flying, which I believe means the Queen was there. Sadly she could not even be bothered to come down to say hello. I must write to her Maj to complain.

As well as visiting the palace we also wanted to do a bit of shopping so we headed towards Knightsbridge.

The first shop we got to was Harvey Nichols. I was not very impressed really. It was just like any other department store. There was a shop inside selling Jimmy Choo shoes which Victoria was eyeing up (£500 a pair?? I think not), and when you get to the top floor there is quite a nice food floor. Their booze section has a nice selection of Louise Trés cognac at about £1300 a bottle. If that is a bit expensive for you they have a hip-flask sized bottle for only £200.

Anyway, we left after about 20 minutes to head for that Mecca for all London tourist shoppers, Harrods.

The last time I was in Harrods I was about 10, and the first thing that struck us when we entered this time is how tacky it is. Egyptian staircase indeed.

Apart from this 'you can't buy class' look there are some great products on sale. We didn't see it all but our favourite sections were the toy dept and the food halls. The toy department had everything you could ever think of, including a 'toy' Ferrari for £39,995 which I am sure will make some spoilt little shit happy this Christmas.

The food hall was even better. It is about the size of a city block and has everything you can think of.

We hit our stride immediately by entering in the cheese section. There were so many gorgeous looking cheeses on display we were in fromage heaven. We saw a giant gorgonzola on display and they were serving it with a big spoon, just scooping the runny smelly cheese out of the middle. We obviously could not resist and bought a big dollop. We also loaded up on Paté and bought our mum's some special French macaroon's as a gift for looking after Alice.

When we left Harrods we decided to walk to Piccadilly Circus. Along the way we stopped at Starbucks for a refreshing drink. We had to really as every other shop was a Starbucks or a Cafe Nero.

We got to Picadilly circus and I felt a bit disappointed really. It's nowhere near as big as I thought it was going to be. Still, been there, done that.

After that it was time to head back to the hotel to get our bags and then to St Pancras to get the train home.

We had a great time in London. I've never done the tourist bit before or seen a west end play and I can now see the attraction. It is also amazing how many feelings of deja vu I had, especially as we were walking up The Mall. It took me a while to realise that I was actually recognising the places from playing Project Gotham Racing on my Xbox. How sad am I? :-)

Finally, one suggestion to London's council. Put some more bins out. We walked for miles and didn't see one. Where exactly is one supposed to dispose of ones rubbish?

Photo's are here.

Victoria and I Visit London - 14th & 15th October : Part 1

Victoria and I took our long anticipated trip to London this weekend. As it is our fourth wedding anniversary on the 18th we thought this was a good excuse to head darn sarf and stay in a nice hotel/see a show/have a nice meal out.

While we were away Alice was being looked after by mine and Victoria's mum's. Sheila (Victoria's mum) had Alice from about 5pm last Friday night which meant that we could go out for a drink in a pub that evening!!!!! WOW!!! We walked to The Blue Stoopes in Dronfield, had a few pints and then walked home again with a bag of chips. What decadence!!

My mum picked us up the next day at 7am and took us to Chesterfield station to catch the 07:45 train to London. This was a nice trip as we were travelling first class. We booked so early it only cost us £17 each way per person. Bargain.

After we reached our destination it was simply a case of hopping on to the nearest tube to Charring Cross and we were at our hotel. We stayed at the Charring Cross Thistle and as it was offered to us for a reasonable extra fee we upgraded to a suite. It is a lovely hotel, build in the 1800's and still having very high ornate ceilings. All the staff were really nice and the room was fantastic. In fact we had the worlds most giantist bed!!!!

We had some time to kill before Evita started so we went for a walk. We were eating at a floating restaurant called 'The Hispaniola' so we thought a trip down to the Thames to check it out would be a good idea. It looked great and had a view of the London Eye. More on the Hispaniola later.

After finding the restaurant we walked along the River until we reached the Houses Of Parliament. Although we have both been to London before neither Victoria or I have ever done the tourist bit and been to see all the buildings. We were both very impressed by the architecture and the beauty of the building, especially the Houses Of Parliament which was amazing. Strangly enough though there is a life sized plastic cow in the grounds which is dressed up like a judge. Probably to satisfy some politicians fetish I am guessing!!!

We walked back to the hotel for a quick brush up before heading off to the theatre to see Evita which you can read about below. Once again though, it was amazing!!!!

After the show we chilled out for a while in the hotel room and at about 19:30 we went out the the restaurant. It was weird on the 'Hispaniola'. Neither of us have ever been to a restaurant that rocks before, and I don't mean in a 'You Rock' kind of way. I mean it rocks because it is a boat. When a decently sized craft sails by it also rocks some more. Great fun!!!!

After a quick G & T in the bar we were shown to our table. We were sat about 2 thirds towards the front of the restaurant (boat) and due to the design of the ship our table was tilted slightly to the left and towards the back. Also great fun. Strangly, neither of us ordered the soup!!

Starters first. I had the Venison Terrine and Victoria had the scallops. Both were excellent. For the main courses I had the fillet steak with gorgonzola and Victoria had the wild boar. Once again both were excellent. Strangly enough though when I asked for my steak to be cooked 'Blue' the waiter gave me a look like I had just asked for a shit sandwich!! When he brought the meal he said 'Here is your steak, cooked blue, just like you asked' in a 'you asked for it and there is no turning back now' kind of way. I suppose some people must order steak blue and not know what it is but I love it, and I loved it when I had it last Saturday night.

I was stuffed after my 'A good vet could save it' steak so I didn't have a dessert but Victoria did. She had a Tiramisu with Lemon and from the small taste I had it too was great.

We had a last drink in the bar and paid the bill and decided another G & T on our floating eatery was needed as we were quite settled and were enjoying ourselves. The bill came to £104 including tip and I would really recommend this unusual location for a meal if you are ever in London. I was worried that it would cost a fortune being where it was but the bill was comparable with a good Sheffield restaurant.

We finally managed to get up and leave the bar after our last drink. Getting off the boat was different to getting on as the tide had gone out while we were there. The gang-plank was flat when we arrived but sloping up quite steeply when we left. :-) All adds to the fun if you ask me.

Next we decided a walk across the Hungerford bridge was needed. London was all lit up we wanted to see it from over the Thames. I took some pictures on the bridge but they don't really show the views at their best. You should get the idea though.

Once we reached the other side we walked a little way along Riverside Walk and pretended to be in Spooks. :-) Had to be done!!!

We wanted one final drink and decided to head back to the hotel, where a bottle of Magners and a pint of Stella cost £12!! There was a wedding going on that night and I think the guy behind the bar was a little pissed off with drunk people propping up his nice posh bar. He was very dismissive when I ordered the drinks but when I asked to put them on our room he instantly changed and was all 'Yes sir' and 'I'll bring the drinks to your table sir'. He even brought us a tray of olives and pretzels. All well and good but I would have preferred to have had my ass kissed from the moment we entered the bar. :-)

Anyway, that is the end of part one. After our drink we went to bed exhausted. Sorry this post is so long but we seemed to do so much, and this was only the first day!

I will post part 2 later today and there are photo's here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The idiot strikes again!!!

Now this is scary!!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Evita - London Adelphi - 14th October 2006

The main reason for our visit to London last weekend was to see Evita at the Adelphi Theatre. We both love Evita and always said we would go and see it live if we ever had the opportunity. As it is now running again it was considered an excellent anniversary treat.

The Theatre was about 200 yards from our hotel so we didn't have far to walk. We didn't know what one was supposed to wear to the theatre these days and I didn't believe Victoria when she said that a mourning suit was required so we just wore black, hoping that any social errors on our part would be hidden by the lack of colour. We should not have been worried though as it seems that anything goes these days.

We bought a programme as we walked into the theatre for a reasonable £3.50, only to see a second programme available for £6. I should have known it was too cheap!! Still they are nice souveniers.

Inside the Adelphi looks like any self respecting theatre should look. Stalls plus two tiers and some boxes at each side. In fact we mentioned that it could have been the Muppet Show theatre and were wondering where Stattler and Waldorf were.

The show started at 14:30. We had decided on an afternoon show so that we could go for a meal in the evening. It began with a recorded message informing us all of the death of Eva Peron, followed by a film of her funeral projected on the stage curtain. After this the curtain was raised and the show began properly.

Wow, is all I can really say. It was amazing.

Evita was played by Elena Roger, who is actually Argentinian herself and was fantastic in the role. She has an amazing voice and really belted out the songs, each sung with a slight accent that kind of added to the authenticity. She is also tiny, looking about 5 foot. This is a good thing I imagine as she is literally flung from one side of the stage to the other while she is dancing.

Other parts were played by one of the giant heads from TFI Friday and someone who once played a bit part in Holby City.

OK, so we didn't know anyone but it didn't matter, they were all such talented actors/dancers/singers that we were completely engrossed from the start.

The singing was amazing, with most of the cast not even using microphones.

The music was also provided by a proper orchestra rather than a recording. I can remember ever hearing an orchestra live before and it sounded amazing.

Even the sets were excellent, with large parts of it moving around to create the different buildings for various scenes.

If you get the chance you should see this show. It is amazing. Victoria and I both loved it.

Wedding Anniversary Number 4!!

It only seems like a few weeks ago since I was posting about it being our third wedding anniversary and here we are again at number four.

Four years ago we got married at Hassop Hall. Time is still flying past but this is probably because I am amazingly happy with my life so it's all good!!!

Last weekend we went to London for our anniversary and saw Evita then went out for a posh meal on a boat. That was my gift to Victoria and there is a post and photo's coming in the next day or so telling you all about that.

Victoria gave me her gift this morning. Two tickets to see Jools Holland at the City Hall in December!!!! Fantastic!!!! We have always wanted to see him live. I wonder who I will take. ;-)

Anyway, I love you Victoria.

Happy anniversary.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Victoria's Cooking

My wife is a fantastic cook. She regularly amazes me with her culinary expertise and last Saturday night she excelled once again.

Rob and Lucy were coming round for a meal but due to circumstances beyond their control they were unable to attend. Victoria and I decided that this was no reason to cancel the evening and had a nice romantic meal for two instead.

For starters we had Parmesan Polenta with Gorgonzola. Polenta is (apparently) an Italian cornmeal dish that is a substitite for pasta or potatoes. You get it in granuels and whisk it up until it looks like mashed potato. You then add flavourings and whisk it some more. It is then placed in a tray and left to set to a slightly rubbery texture. When you want to eat it you heat it in the oven for 5 minutes and then melt the Gorgonzola on the top under the grill. It is really nice and cheesey, if not a little filling for a starter.

The main course was genius. We had Pork Belly in a chilli marinade painted with chocolate and chilli. The pork was marinated and then cooked in the oven. After this it was sliced and Victoria melted some chocolate, mixed in some diced chilli and painted the slices of pork with it. It then went into the oven for another 10 minutes. We had it with roast potatoes and a Thai salad. It was delicious. I don't think I have ever had any meat with so many different and yet complimentary flavours. This is the second time I have had a chocolate and chilli dish and they are turning out to be real winners. If you don't like the sound of it then give it a try anyway as I was not too keen to try it initially either. Trust me, it's a great combination!

For dessert we had a chocolate Pavlova with cream and rasberries. You can see a picture of it above.

This is a Nigella Lawson recipe and it is amazing. The sourness of the fruit balances the sweetness of the Pavlova and cream perfectly. It also looks really impressive, as you can see from the pictures.

All in all we had a really good night. We listened to some great music and drank a little too much wine. A most excellent evening indeed.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Baby Apples

Alice has an apple tree. It was kindly bought by Tracy as a gift for Alice's Christening.

It took me hours to plant it in the garden due to there being nothing but stones from about 2 inches down under the lawn, but after much wailing and gnashing of teeth I managed it.

This was about 18 months ago and we have never seen any fruit from the tree, though I seem to remember it having some flowers at some point. That was until now.

I was mowing the lawn last Saturday when I noticed about a dozen little apples. Not so many that you could make an apple pie with but enough for me to be pleased and to take some pictures. :-)

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