aircon on!

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aircon onA couple of months ago I spoke with my landlady about the possibility of installing a split in the living room, rather than using the central aircon/heating system, which costs a fortune (and frankly, I don’t need to be cooling and heating half the apartment that isn’t used most of the day). I offered to go 50/50 with her on the price, but she told me that if I wanted to do this then I’d have to pay for it myself and – I quote – “you can take it with you if you move”. Huh? So I decided to forget about it.

Then a few weeks later water started dripping from the kitchen ceiling (well, false ceiling – the heating/cooling unit is up there) and eventually it was discovered that the old machine was low on gas, but because it was so old the type of gas it used is no longer made. So now the landlady had two choices: replace the entire central system or get a split for the living room. She chose the latter, though not without trying to go for the 50/50 deal again. Too bad for her she didn’t take me up on my original offer at the time.

Anyhow, here is my new split, somewhat oddly placed near the balcony door instead of the centre of the room (landlady wasn’t going to spring for an extra 50€ to install it further inside) and I’m not sure if it’s actually powerful enough for the space (I’m pretty sure she went for the cheapest unit she could find) but hey, it works well enough and should save me a lot on electricity. Also, it’s good to have aircon again. While I was away in London poor Peter had to suffer through 10 days of 40º temps because they weren’t going to install the machine until I got back.

Have to say though that this latest incident with the landlady makes me want to move more than ever. She went on and on about all the “expenses”, how she couldn’t afford to pay for a new split, etc, etc. Give me a break. She and her husband are both lawyers and her family owns this entire building. And when I met with her to talk about this she brought up other “expenses” from 3-4 years ago, as if they were my fault. Meh. Luckily I don’t have to deal with her very often. But if they put the rent up in February then I’m outta here.

london getaway 2016 | day 10

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My last day in London and I’d made plans with Fiona Becket @food_writer to meet her for a last lunch in town at a restaurant she was reviewing. That was before I realised that my flight was at 5.30 (not 6.30 – Spanish time!) which wouldn’t leave enough time. Then I was chatting with Sam at @FoodieHub who said that Vicky @amsterdamfoodie was also in town and we could squeeze in a “quick bite” at Box Park, just around the corner from Liverpool Street Station, where I had to get the train to the airport. Done.
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As you can see, it was more than your usual quick bite (though to be honest, they took more than half of it back to the office). But it was quick. In less than an hour I was back at Liverpool Street Station with ten minutes to spare before my train.

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Stansted check-in and security was a hot and tiresome hour and a half, so I was in need of a Cold Beer after that, while I waited to board my plane home.

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And before I knew it I was flying over Sevilla, almost home. It was an amazing, if exhausting, 10 days. I’m so thankful for all the friends who came together to meet up with me, and also grateful to Jo & Mark who let me stay at their apartment (otherwise 10 days in London would never have been possible). I’ve got so many nice memories, and even more photos. Next stop… Madrid!

london getaway 2016 | day 9

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My next to last day in London was quite eventful. I had plans to meet John @cityjohn at Borough Market and walk along the South Bank, but he got delayed so I started off with a quick lunch at Arabica (recommended by Thane @thaneprince and it was amazing).

london day 9 (1)Happy barman Emanuele working on some colourful cocktails

london day 9 (2)Muhummara: roasted red peppers, harissa, toasted mixed nuts

london day 9 (3)Armenian-style Lahmacun: Levantine flatbread, spiced lamb, tomatoes, peppers, pine nuts, lebneh

John met me half-way through my Lahmacun and helped finish it off and then we made our way over to craft beer bar The Rake which was celebrating their 10th anniversary, and where we knew we would most likely run into beer expert and mutual friend Melissa Cole @melissacole

london day 9 (4)Melissa and John

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Juuso and James at the Wine Pantry

From there John & I made our way over to the Wine Pantry, a spot recommended by my friend Mark, which features English wines. We had a small tasting of three wines before having a full glass of something we both liked. Then John had to meet his cousin at the cinema and I had a bridge to cross (all by myself – check out to photo!) and we said our “hasta luegos”.

london day 9 (6)Have I mentioned I’m slightly obsessed with the Shard?

Once over the bridge I walked straight up from London Bridge to Spitalfields Market, stopping to have a final dinner at Taberna do Mercado.

london day 9 (9)green beans in tempura with a mussel and coriander broth
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Bifana: bísaro presa pork, yeast mayo, fennel

Then home to start packing…

london getaway 2016 | day 8

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london day 8This was the second BIG EVENT in terms of friends meeting up for a special meal in the evening, but first I was meeting my friend Thane @thaneprince for a quick bite at Calcutta Street, a new place that has been getting rave reviews.
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Unfortnately we found nothing to rave about, the food was plain at best, mediocre at worst. Nothing horrible, just not tasty. And we were served some cloudy Italian “natural” white wine, which didn’t help. Apparently the dinner menu is more extensive – at lunch we only had the choice between 4 wraps. Meh.

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Undaunted, Thane took me to a pub just around the corner, built on the grounds of the old Middlesex Hospital. Nothing remains of the hospital other than the church, which is now a freestanding bulding (before it was enclosed within the hospital) and you can see the church from inside Percy & Founders, which is where we went for a restorative glass of “unnatural” wine.

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After that I did a bit more shopping and general roaming around, looking for some gifts to take home. And once again I GOT LOST and only just made it in time for dinner at one of London’s newest spots – Pidgin – which offers a set menu (just the one) that changes weekly. On this occasion there were eight of us…

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london day 8 (2)John @cityjohn Robin @HERMANOPRIMERO Mark @marcooth Oli @cotedupy (Hugh – not on twitter) Phoebe @plemess Nicola @shedlikesfood

london day 8 (3)Delicious tasting menu, though with cocktails and several glasses of wine we certainly drank more than we ate. We finished the evening at a pub around the corner, which is where things go a bit fuzzy for me, other than the boys putting me into an Uber after the pub closed.

london getaway 2016 | day 7

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I started off Monday morning in London by taking a dive down the stairs of a double-decker bus (duh!) and quite likely spraining my pinkie. But there was nothing for it, had to continue on because I was determined to do a bit of sightseeing before dinner, which was to be my only homecooked meal of my trip. So off I went to Covent Garden, kind of because I knew how to get there…london day 7 (4)

As usual I arrived at a time when I should be having some sort of lunchy snack so ended up at Polpo (because I happened to be walking by) and had a couple of their “small plates”. london day 7 (1) london day 7 (2)Arancini… give them a miss, devoid of flavour and 2 pounds EACH (srsly?)london day 7 (3)tasty and spicy pork meatballs

After a stroll through Covent Garden I took a friend’s advice and headed over to Marylebone high street. Apparently there wae cute shops and what not to be seen there. Well, it was quite a hike over there from Covent Garden, and I enjoyed the walk, but actually found the shops in Marylebone a bit… well, let’s just say they were nothing I could relate to. But I did find a nice pub and had a glass of wine there before making my way to Peckham Grove for dinner.

It was actually Oli’s @CoteduPy spontaneous invitation for dinner at his place with girlfriend Phoebe @plemess that sealed the deal on my booking this London trip. Before that I was wondering if I should really do this, in spite of the generous offer from @inkjockey & @missbishopsgate of a place to stay while I was there (their place!). But Oli said we had to do this and also invited other mutual friends @andrewfriedhoff @vinoveroleigh and supplied the wine, while Phoebe cooked dinner for us.  A done deal.

london day 7 (5)view of MY SHARD from Oli’s apartmentlondon day 7 (6)rooftop dinner london day 7 (7)

It was a great evening and after eating out on the terrace we got cosy inside and, well, had a few wines… nothing like enjoying good food and wine with kindred spirits.

london getaway 2016 | day 6

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It was Sunday and, as I had a whole lotta nuthin planned, I decided to do one of my favourite things… check out a local market. I’d been hearing great things about the Maltby Street Market, so decided to check it out (even though it meant walking over bridges – twice!). Ever since my surprise panic attack on Friday I was feeling especially vulnerable – right okay, terrified – of going out on my own, but decided to bite the bullet. In this case Tower Bridge wasn’t as “threatening” as I’d feared and catching a glimpse of my Shard also helped me forget I was supposed to be afraid, and I made it across without incident.

london day 6 (12)The Maltby Street Market is an offshoot of the now super popular and upscale Borough Street market, created by people who used to belong to Borough Street but became disillusioned by the direction it has taken. It is open Saturdays and Sundays and is a short walk off Tower Bridge, in Ropewalk lane. I fell in love with it immediately. Also… note to market organisers. Make sure you have your Wine Guy situated just past the main entrance. This was how I met Philip…

london day 6 (2)Philip Morton runs M-wines and focuses on specialty wineries with a production of 1000 bottles a year. And as soon as I started talking with Philip I knew I’d found a special place. He was not only very keen on telling me about his wines but, upon finding out I was hoping to try various foods throughout the market, warned me that the portions sizes were usually massive. Then he popped across the way to Lahpet and asked if they could do a couple of sample sized portions for me…

london day 6 (3)Brothers Dan Anton and Jono serving up fab Burmese street food.

london day 6 (13)Tealeaf salad and prawn curry. Burmese street by Lahpet

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Next I couldn’t resist Bar Tozino… six jamones on offer, sherry galore. I don’t usually opt for Spanish food when I’m in London but I was feeling homesick so I poked my head inside and was immediately welcomed by Juan, who commenced to offer me slices of Ibérico to go with my perfectly chilled manzanilla.

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Feeling pretty much stuffed at this point but still curious I made my way over to the Hoxton Beach falafel stall and Moody was happy to make up a “half order” for me, just so I could try it out.

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Then I saw these beauties… scotch eggs by Finest Fayre. So I bought a chorizo one to take home for supper (it was not likely I’d be going out again that day).

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And then I met Mark, the Gay Farmer. Mark produces a unique 50/50 blend (picual and arbequina) extra virgen olive oil from his family’s groves in Murcia. Such a lovely and passionate man, clearly in love with what he is doing. I can’t wait to try the bottle I took home with me.

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Then THESE. Is it a cake? Is it a waffle? Is it a donut? Irene @dhan_waffle is creating one of the most unique desserts in town. You really want to try these Taiwanses eggy delights with tasty toppings.

london day 6 (7)By now the market was beginning to shut down so I had a last glass of wine with Philip and made my way back towards Tower Bridge… and then I saw a sign for something called the Doodle Bar. Intrigued (and still a bit thirsty) I turned the corner into Druid street and found this wonderful new bar, just opened here the day before, from their previous location in Battersea.

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So I sat at the bar for “la penúltima” before heading home and totally loved the ambiance, the friendly staff, and especially that I could recharge my iphone at the bar using one of the many USB chargers.

london day 6 (8)Finally it was time to head home and I made my way back over Tower Bridge. This was my one “totally on my own day” without meeting up with any friends. But the whole experience at Maltby made me feel so at home, so much in my element (chatting away with everybody) that I never felt like I was on my own. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon, followed by a cosy Sunday evening in.

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london getaway 2016 | day 5

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Saturday was amazing. First of all it started off with me discovering that the number 100 bus took me directly to Waitrose and back again! No more 45 minute Death Marches. So I popped over there in the morning to stock up on a few things. Then got ready to meet very old and very dear friends Sara & Steve – can you imagine that I met them online even before Twitter! In fact, they don’t even have Twitter accounts (though Sara was convinced/forced to open an Instagram account during dinner – but I’m getting ahead of myself). The plan was to meet up at Liverpool Street Station, which by now was a piece of cake for me to get to. From there we went over to Spitalfields Market and had a wander around…

london day 5 (1)This Turkish food stall smelled amazing, but we were saving ourselves…

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We ended up stopping at Taberna do Mercado for a bottle (okay, two) of lovely crisp and fresh Portuguese white wine. We were there between services and got to witness the staff meal, which looked so cosy and convivial that we wanted to join them. Afterwards we went to Vertigo 42 for cocktails with a SERIOUS VIEW…

london day 5 (3)Outrageously expensive, and not something I’d probably do again, but it was fun and I got to see my Shard from a whole other perspective (yes, I am slightly obsessed with the Shard…)

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Then it was off to the main event of the day – dinner at Quality Chop House. I’d been here before (last year during the Foodie Hub awards) but it was the first time for Sara & Steve and we all loved it. Hard to pick a favourite dish but THOSE confit potatoes (a signature dish) are crazy good.

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After dinner we waddled back over to Liverpool Street and I caught my bus home, feeling happy and full, and also full of love for these two guys. We’ve been through a lot together, and I hope we’ll keep going through and sharing all our life stuff. Good people, good friends. xx

london getaway 2016 | day 4

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london day 4

Friday was SHOPPING DAY, as I had a few places I wanted to check out in the Regent & Oxford street area. I hopped on my trusty number 15 bus, which took me directly to Trafalgar Square, just around the corner from Regent Street (not the shortest route, but saved me from having to take the Tube). I got off the bus and immediately lost my 4G connection, so Maps stopped working too. Then I started crossing the square and – who knows why? – just after taking this photo I was overcome by one of the worst panic attacks I’d had in years. In fact, since the whole cancer thing I’d pretty much stopped having attacks, but suddenly there I was terrified in the middle of Trafalgar Square. Somehow I got to the other side and saw two women talking in the street, so I went over and asked them for directions to Regent Street. This calmed me down a bit (distraction therapy) and I was able to carry on, but then realised the time (going on 2 pm) and decided to stop somewhere for lunch first. A nearby-ish recommendation from my Twitter pal Robin @HERMANOPRIMERO proved to be the perfect spot for solo dining.

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I got a place at the bar and ordered a couple of tasty dishes, had a couple of glasses of wine, and thus fortified I was suddenly much less “panicked” and able to head out shopping…

london day 4 (1)hot butter devilled shrimps

london day 4 (2)black pork Kari Dosa with chutneys: coriander, tomato, coconut

What followed was a four-hour shopping expedition, mostly fruitful. I got some new clothes – Sevilla has very little “fat lady” clothes that aren’t awful polyester numbers better suited to grandmothers and maiden aunts. But man, it was hell walking in totally packed Oxford street, with many people staring at their phones as they walked, so bumping into everyone else. At some point I heard back from my friend Lizzie @hollowlegs who said she was able to get away from work early after all and would meet me at Noble Rot Wine Bar for their famous slip sole (apparently one of the trendiest dishes in London atm). Yes! But that meant getting there. From Oxford Street it looked a straighforward walk, but once again I got lost and – once again – Peter came to the rescue, directing via WhatsApp messages. And I finally arrived…

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london day 4 (4)slip sole with smoked pimentón butter

london day 4 (5)roast saddleback chop, coco de paimpol beans and salsa verde

london day 4 (3)Lizzie chewing on a bone

It was great to catch up with Lizzie and hear all about her new job. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to join the couple of group dinners I’d arranged so I was really happy she made the extra effort to join me here for a quick bite, even though she had to get up at 5.30 the next morning. We called it quits around 9.30 and Lizzie also helped me order my first Uber! I got home exhausted and happy, and wondering how I was going to fit my new stuff into my already over-stuffed suitcase. There was only one solution – I’d have to buy another bag.

london getaway 2016 | day 3

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london day 3 (1)One issue with my otherwise fabulous apartment in Wapping is that the WIFI is dodgy, to say the least, making it impossible to work. And although not ideal, Mark suggested I pop over to the nearby Yurt Café to take advantage of their WIFI. Turned out to be an unusual and interesting venue, a massive yurt with a small patio basically under the rail lines. So I was able to get some work done and it was a nice place to spend the morning.

Later on that evening came one of the week’s BIG EVENTS. Dinner at Som Saa…

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london day 3 (2)Mark @marcooth, John @cityjohn, Thane @thaneprince and “look no hands!” Bob

london day 3 (3)whole fried sea bass – spectacular presentation but didn’t quite deliver on taste

london day 3 (4)star dish of the evening – pork neck with “nahm jim” sauce

While the food was mostly good (though nothing spectacular other than that one pork dish imho) it was a terrible shame that a gathering of witty and wonderful people ended up in a shouting match across a rather narrow table because the FUCKING MUSIC WAS TURNED UP TO MAX. Seriously… why? It’s a small venue, and it’s a restaurant (with a small bar area as you come in). Ironically the bar is quieter than the restaurant. So what’s with the fucking ear-splitting music, unless it’s to make clients eat up and leave fast so they can turn more tables? Som Saa started off as a pop up and, after the owners went off to do research in Thailand, they opened this very new restaurant in Commercial Street. I’m told they didn’t actually change their pop-up menu much after their research and to me it all felt a bit contrived. Staff didn’t seem well-trained… overall not an experience I’d repeat.

london day 3 (5)all the Som Saa dishes we tried

london day 3 (6)just to show I wasn’t exaggerating about noise level – we measured it

Afterwards us diehards (John, Mark and me) headed to a wine bar in nearby Spitalfields Market as Thane & Bob headed home (they had an early morning next day). Can’t remember the name of the wine bar but Mark ordered for us and we enjoyed a couple of lovely wines – always a treat for me to try non-Spanish wines. Afterwards I got on one of my trusty 3 buses that seemed to take me almost everywhere and got home to find messages from the boys asking me to check in. Nice. Nice friends, great evening out.

london getaway 2016 | day 2

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Woke up and had no idea where I was. All I knew was that I was still tired and that I was hungry (having just had crisps for dinner the night before). Luckily I’d had the foresight to bring some Nespresso capsules with me, so I was able to make myself a cup of coffee. But by late morning I realised there was nothing for it but to embark on the WAITROSE DEATHMARCH to stock up on a few basics (a 40 minute walk from the apartment). Not so bad going there as it was a pleasant day and I took the river walk. And I was rewarded by this unexpected view of the Shard when I turned a corner.
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But the way back (carrying the shopping) was long and, well, long. So once I got back I was barely hungry anymore and made do with some cheese and crackers I’d bought. About an hour later (maybe 3.30?) I was feeling quite drowsy so decided to lie down for half an hour before meeting my friends Julie & Steve at Vivat Bacchus at 5.45 (dinner at 28º-50º was booked for 7.45).

So imagine my shock when, after lying down and closing my eyes “for a few minutes” I opened them again at exactly 5.45! WTF! I flew out of bed, texted them immediately, had fast shower, threw on some clothes and flew out the door, eventually arriving at Vivat Bacchus 7.00 ish. I felt bad because Julie & Steve had just come in for the afternoon/evening (their train home was booked for 11.30) and I’d lost two precious hours with them.

london day 2 (2)But oh well… as usual we had a wonderful time together. And there was just enough time to enjoy a gorgeous bottle of South African chardonnay (not usually a favourite but this one was amazing) at Vivat Bacchus before heading out for dinner. Julie had even booked our food ahead for us at 28º-50º – the massive ribeye daily special – which was delicious. It was also nice to have everything taken care of and not have to think about what to order, for a change. So we could just relax and enjoy each others company. Next time dinner is on me as J & S will be coming to Sevilla for Christmas and I’ll be in charge of Christmas Eve dinner. Can’t wait.

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