Thursday, 10 December 2009

Over a month?

So what's up with Starshine?

Very little to be honest, 90 minutes drive in to work at best at the moment, so when one factors in the nine hour days and the "lunch break" I'm only home for about 10 hours a day, and I like eight hours sleep. Weekends are wasted in catching up :-(

Had a paranoid attack from something that I hopefully misinterpreted, still not fully recovered.

But enough whining!

I have been to Rotterdamn twice since I last posted :-) one of my favourite cities, it has changed a bit since I was last there, but I still sort of felt at home, took a water taxi for the first time, best view of the Erasmusbrug I have ever had. Was invited to a "meet the manager" champagne party at the Hilton, which was nice.

Purchased a new television as the sound on the old one wasn't working, thank heavens for my bonus! 40" Sony Bravia, still haven't used it much, although I had recorded "Last Chance to See" and on a big screen the photography was wonderful.

To Abduls on Saturday, it will be nice to get out and go somewhere different.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Great to hear from you Scarlett! Losing weight, however at a very slow rate, two belt notches in eight months isn't great, starting to walk more, which is good, and forcing myself into 3 portions of F&V a day, not enough, but baby steps.

It was my first visit to Madrid, unfortunately I was working with some Italians who felt that half eight at night was a good time to finish work so I didn't get a lot of ambling time, we tended to go out at about nine thirty, have some Tapas and then a bit of wandering round, it was all very civilised, a couple of nights I was sitting on my balcony at one or two in the morning listening to someone playing the guitar down the street.

The weather was warm, although we did have a couple of days where it rained quite heavily as the Madrilènes said I was very lucky that I saw the city in sun and in rain.

Memories... Bopping to latin beats in a club decorated with red luminous ants, ending the evening with churros and a cup of melted chocolate, sitting on the balcony on a warm early morning listening to the music, watching the Italians go wild over eggs and bacon over sauté potatoes! (Mind you it is one of my quarterly treats, and up there in the things I would have as my last meal.), the taste of proper tomatoes for breakfast.

I shouldn't be feeling hungry after that, after all I had the very wonderful Starshine's three spice chicken (as revealed Over There on the 30th of October) for supper last night, yet for some reason I feel sauté potatoes calling. Only two more days of the chicken to go, I guess I am going to find out if it freezes!

Somehow it was a week of losing things. I forgot to pack my Amex card, so had to pay the bill on my own CC, I remember packing my toothbrush and toothpaste, yet when I arrived in Madrid they were not in the case, and I lost my walkman cable, had to pay £19.50 to replace it at lunchtime today, however I know that definitely started off in Madrid with me, even if it wasn't there any more come Tuesday, and now I cannot find the taxi receipt from Heathrow to home!

I managed to read the new Valdemar book, relatively enjoyable, it was never going to be any more than a fluffy read however it was an enjoyable one.

Over There Books

A while ago I asked peeps for their recommendations for books, now I haven't read all of the recommendations yet, however I thought I would give my thoughts over here rather than start a new thresd.

Subterranean by James Rollins, maybe I have been spoiled by all of the trilogies in fantasy, but the story just rushed around without really bothering with any answers, not really my cup of tea.

Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, Interesting take on pushing people towards the decisions that you want them to take, I am intrigued by the book, but need to read it again to feel more confident in my thoughts on it, currently listening to it in audio form.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, Never having read or seen Pride and Prejudice (OK apart from that brief bit in Red Dwarf) I don't know how closely this stuck to the original, overall I enjoyed it, however I think I may well have enjoyed it a lot more had I read the original.

The First Scarpetta trilogy by Patricia Cornwall, I really cannot cope with horror stories which is why I didn't try Stephen King or Dean Koontz, I cannot even watch Buffy without getting nightmares, so I wasn't sure if I was up for this, however I really enjoyed these stories, well written books, with a good detective story.

The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson, Don't you hate it when the only character you like is killed in the first 50 pages L I'm at the plastic surgery bit, and Basil Exposition is explaining the back plot at the moment. Not sure how it is going to go yet, but it seems OK.

Yes there are a lot more to read, and I have them laid out at the moment for when I start reading properly again..

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Small Thoughts

1/ Two new things I've cooked thanks to Over There. I enjoyed both, however I think the only thing I may redo is the mushroom sauce - However I think I will add some tomato paste and possibly flame some brandy with it.

2. I know it is the start of catholic burning season, but how much money do the people opposite me have? half an hour of fireworks, and not little ones either!

3) Off to Madrid on Monday, looking forward to it, hoping that I manage to get enough time to see the city, as I'm staying in the city centre it should be OK.

4 - The weather has turned cold, I'm happy! I lvoe the shock of stepping out into a crisp morning, it really makes me feel alive.

5\ I am fed up with the Biggest Loser, half an hours TV stretched to 1 hour 23 minutes of show. Although I would have liked more of what they ate on the eat out week.

6. The sound on my TV seems to have gone, wish I hadn't bought a huge widescreen TV, it is going to be interesting getting it out of the flatlet!

7) Think I had the flu t'other week, still feeling a little rough but oh so much better than I was!

8/ Maybe I need to work out how to use my slow cooker.

9\ Purchased some salmon fillets stuffed with crab mousse from M&S, pricy, but very nice.

10. No evening course this year all of the ones I wanted to do were cancelled due to lack of people, ah well, maybe next year!

11) Two bizarre language things - The US pronunciation of buoy (UK - Boy, US Boo-ee), and the US spelling of blue cheese (bleu)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

On the Jukebox today...

Pixie Lott - Boys and Girls
The Kingsmen - Louie Louie
The Bosshoss - Ca plane pour Moi
Taylor Swift - You belong with me
Bobby "Boris" Pickett - Monster Mash
MC Hammer - U can't touch this
Lily Allen - 22
Rolf Harris - Stairway to Heaven

Well you can't say I'm not trendy!

Some damned awful bug last week was supposed to be in Spain but spent the whole week in bed feeling crap.

Ah well, as the saying goes "Life, loathe it or ignore it, you just can't like it"

Monday, 21 September 2009

Wot no cream?

Well... It is going to be another one of those insane weeks at work, but on the positive side my boss has decided that team meetings are better held in Madrid than in the north of England :-)

So I am thinking about OT cooking and had decided that the chicken in a cream and cardamom sauce would be good (just too yummy) when I remember that my Great Aunt who lives somewhere near Washington DC used to smuggle cream back to the US because they couldn't get it there. Must be a family dairy thing, my Mother used to smuggle butter from the Netherlands to Belgium because her Belgian chums parents didn't think the customs officials would search a schoolgirl with a British passport.

So do Merkins have cream? I could do the chicken tomato and olive thingy which is nice, or toad in the hole except I think the sausages are not the same.

English speaking countries roll of dishonour - Sausages

3rd worst - Canada
2nd worst - New Zealand
Worst - USA I mean they don't even have a skin on them.

And with no cream I have no dessert, was going to do Summer Pudding for the temperate people, and it really benefits from being served with cream, or I suppose you could use yoghurt and Bread and butter pudding for those in colder climes, impossible without cream.



Please tell me there is cream out there somewhere!

Oooh! Gammon with a reform club sauce!

No cream how can you live without custard?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A Month!

About a month since I last posted!

I guess I should have a lot to report, but it has all been a little black, oh nothing serious just feeling sorry for myself, and apart from work and food shopping I haven't done a lot.

A huge amount of rain yesterday, I read somewhere that the UK has a mini monsoon season. and after the rain yesterday I am starting to believe it may be true.

I always turn my electric cooker off once I have finished cooking, so a while ago I turned it back on to bake some chicken and put my electric steamer on one of the back rings ready for my veg. However it turned out that I had left the ring on when I turned the power off so I ended up with an half melted steamer!

However that did allow me to buy a new electric steamer, three separate steaming compartments, and it times it so that all of them finish at the same time, it is well cool :-)

Sadly the weight isn't coming off very quickly, however I think it is starting to go, although to be fair it will take a while.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Busy busy Bunny

Been very busy with work, but I am really demotivated at the moment, and there are more redundancies coming :-(

Last Saturday popped to France for the day, it was nice to get away, although the restaurant that we normally go to has decreased in quality although my crab, winkles and whelks were very good. Also the supermarket that we normally go to has changed owners and doesn't have the selection that it did. The patisserie is still fantastic (raspberry religieuse yum), and there is something so refreshing about being somewhere different.

Talking of which working in Rotterdamn on Monday and Tuesday :-) really looking forward to looking round the city again.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Summer Exhibition

Yesterday I went up to London to the RA Summer Exhibition.

Clarification: The Royal Academy ( is the leading art school? Society? in the UK. The summer exhibition is an exhibition where anyone (you , me, anyone) can submit works and RA members decide what should be exhibited.

This year I felt they missed the mark somewhat, there are a number of academicians whose best years are well behind them who still manage to get their works exhibited every year, normally there is at least one work I seriously consider purchasing, this year not so much.

Mater took me to our favourite Dim Sum restaurant before we went to the Academy, simply divine! Ducks feet, prawn dumplings, stuffed mushrooms, paper wrapped prawns, siu mai, cho fun, etc. all served fresh from the trolley, if I could only go to one Chinese restaurant this would be it.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Catch Up.

Haven't posted for ages, been a little blue and unfocused.

Anyway here goes...

A while ago my Mother was perusing the paper and noticed that there was a young company of Opera singers performing excerpts as a matinée in the Covent Garden Opera House, and that the most expensive tickets were only £35! So she booked two tickets and a while later up we went.

I was very tired from working, and we managed to get a little lost on the way there, and I was a little hacked off that I hadn't had Dim-Sum for lunch, still we arrived about three hours before we had to go in and ambled round Covent Garden, have to agree with Kim that it isn't great although some of the street theatre was very enjoyable.

The opera itself was very good, although I have to admit I almost fell asleep a couple of times, don't think I will make a habit of going though. The strangest thing was that the person in the seat in front of me was my Godmothers husband, as they live in Brighton this was very surprising.

Then more life for a while.

And then a fortnight off, first week I spent pretty much in bed recovering, now midway through the second week and am starting to do things, Monday I went to Wisley gardens and have a lovely walk including going through the maize maze. Tuesday popped to the tip with six bags of assorted recyclables. Today flat tidying, tomorrow Dim-sum and the RA summer exhibition, Friday tidying or maybe a visit to Dilek, Saturday popping over to France for a meal and a shop, and Sunday probably more tidying and preparation for a return to work.

Still a little grey though.

We now have an oriental supermarket in town, their dim-sum is a cheapo brand that I had tried before and was unimpressed by, tried it again and sadly it is still unimpressive although the won-ton were very nice, they do the brand of noodles that I usually buy (about 15p more expensive, but then I am not driving to London for them), their squid is very expensive, and the Thai pouches are OK, not as good as the ones I usually get, however not too bad.

Talking of squid I am a little hacked off at Waitrose at the moment, I purchased half a pound of squid from the fresh fish counter, there was a warning that it had been previously frozen, however when they put the squid in a bag for me it was still frozen, so I ended up getting just over a quarter of squid and a quarter of defrosted liquid.

Anyway I must tidy my hall now.

Sunday, 19 July 2009


Should write more, but just headlines:

1/ The grim north is grim

2/ The Chinese in Cove(ish) is very pleasing. Reminded me of the one on the Caledonian road when I was at college. :-)

3/ Justin is still a really nice chap

4/ Kim is unwell, but still great company. Sad that the wedding has been postponed.

5/ Was seriously flattered and unable to think of what to say when Kim said she would have asked me to walk her down the aisle if I had been in Toronto for the wedding.

6/ I am so bad at driving games

7/ But I am quite good at Wii Sports.

8/ Bill and Ted are still Excellent.

9/ Why were there so many pissed youngsters in Cove/Hawley on Saturday?

10/ Why were the police blocking roads? I saw no trouble at all.

11/ That said after I had turned round I managed to find the M3 via Farnborough.

12/ Why did Mater say she knew the way to Covent Garden from Trafalgar Square when she doesn't?

13/ Opera is quite good.

14/ What are the odds of sitting behind my Godmothers husband on my first visit to the opera?

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Work :-(

So as a part of my role I have to travel up to the grim north where my
unit is based, it used to be cosmopolitan Rotterdam, now it is the
grubby end of the Wirral :-(

So we have a simple facility for booking flights, but a stupidly
complicated method of getting authorisation for them so I gave up on
that idea, the local care hire companies only had manual cars, which I
am not really allowed to drive, my own car is starting to feel its age
and driving 500 miles in two days at 70mph didn't really sound like fun,
so the only option I was left with was the train.

Now even in economy it costs three times the cost of a flight, but that
isn't relevant as far as cost control goes... Company policy says I can
travel first class, keeping my head down in case of layoffs means that I
travel economy (so I miss out on a free meal <<>>)

So at six am I am at my local station to catch a train halfway to
London. All in all I caught six trains to get up here, well I should
have caught five but I went a stop too far on one of them, so I caught
another train one stop back and got on the correct train, imagine my
surprise when the first stop on that train was the one that I had turned
around from! They all connected well, the main train actually leaned
into corners which was quite cool.

And five hours later I stumble into the office, have a slightly
successful day, and 7.5 hours later stumble out - I've never been sure
why but there seems to be a rule in the office that visitors are not
allowed lunch, mind you there always seems to be at least one meeting
which covers the lunch period anyway.

To my hotel! A nice mile walk, which is good for me, and the hotel has
been redecorated since I last stayed there! Now it only looks like crap!
Check in, praise the Lord I will get refunded for these exorbitant
charge (mind you a fiver would be too much to pay if I were paying for
it myself), ask for a paper in the morning, and nip outside for a fag.

Up for a bath (actually I suppose the hotel could be worse, I have
stayed at a couple where the room didn't have a bath. I know most people
are different, however personally I never feel clean after a shower only
after a scrub in the bath. And down for supper, now I don't want to
knock the place, but it has two "restaurants" and the speciality of the
posher one is burgers, now a good burger is a thing of beauty, however
they will not cook a burger rare or medium rare, and the recipe appears
to be meat, not even a defined animal. So imagine the meal I had in the
cheaper place, a "club" sandwich, bread that had been toasted, but had
been so stale before toasting that it exploded into crumbs when one put
a fork anywhere near it, Chicken that had been unhappy all its short
life, chips that were incredibly hot and yet undercooked. The bacon was
OK but being in the north there was no salad. And to bed.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Life, the Universe and Everything minus 1

A year older today! A crap week at work! Socks and underwear my only presents!

Why am I feeling happy? Well the bottle of Chablis helps, but overall I was told when I was young that I wouldn't make 40 what with my Asthma/Eczema and general rubbishness and yet here I am, beyond 40, still generally rubbish,. but relatively healthy and doing wonderful things outside of work.

I fell into a job that I used to love, and the two major decisions I have made in my life went really well I can think shall I have a holiday in October? Where to go? - I know I really am a lucky fatherless child!

Anyway it is count your blessings day today, even when things seem bad we are so much luckier than 90% of the world, and personally I do not focus on how lucky I am nearly enough.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Back Home

So where was I?

Ah yes at Toronto Airport, I checked myself in, seat 1A, not my favourite as I don’t like the swing tables (see VIARail) however a window seat which is always my favourite, although to be fair taking off at 23:50 (ish) means that there isn’t a huge amount visible as we fly over the Canadia.

Ambled round the airport, which is a little spread out ending up at gate C32, one news agents, where I finally purchased some maple syrup and biscuits and a couple of “restaurants” anyway I amused myself there for three hours waiting for the flight to board, reading and listening to the walkman (I thought there would be shopping possibilities in the airport).

Boarding time, and there we are, sitting at the front of the plane, still reading (no walkman until the seatbelts sign has been switched off!) and the stewardess comes round offering shampagne which was pleasant, and then we take off into the dark night. I don’t think that suspense will work, as it seems obvious that the plane landed safely!

Supper I refused as I had eaten something that was alleged to be a turkey club sandwich in the airport (it seems that the bird turkey is named after India in most other languages d’inde in French for example, OK I added the apostrophe, the joys of sitting opposite a Turkish lady J in Turkey it is called a hindi) put in my duty free order. Tip: in about 80% of cases it is cheaper on the plane than at the airport, check the brochure on your way out. And tried to get a little sleep.

Didn’t really get sleep, however I did manage to get very relaxed with my eyes closed which is better than I normally manage on an aeroplane, was dragged back to reality by the requirement to pay for the duty free, and then a couple of hours before we landed for breakfast, the options were a) Cheese Omelette, b) Herb Omelette or c) Eggs Benedict. Now this is a trickier question than it may appear, I had attempted to explain to omelette chefs in Canadia that herbs are the best thing to put in an omelette but they never had any to put in.

Digression – I never had an omelette in Canadia, I probably should have done, they looked like they might actually be omelettes, otoh I have had omelettes in the USA and they are … well not omelettes as it is understood in Europe, however I suspect that this is because of the USA “Thou shalt not eat food that has been undercooked” elf n’safety thingy. Funnily enough that sort of omelette would be ideal for herbs, to my mind in a lovely fluffy only just set omelette can tend to overwhelm them a little, for me a wild mushroom omelette is the ideal.

So in a fit of optimism I ordered the Eggs Benedict, firstly we were given five nice sized strips of fruit, the melon was gorgeous, why can I not buy melon that tastes like that? Then the eggs, well it was some sort of scrambled eggs that had been compressed into a disc on a slice of ham, on half a bit of slightly chewy bread, with some yellow gloop over the top. It was surprisingly pleasant, although I think it would have taken me to guess five to identify it had I not already known!

Then a cup of tea, they say that tea and custard are what you miss most when you are away, and it is very true, we do have the best tea in the world, and no other country really seems to have got the hang of custard yet, the French even serve it cold! Sadly I was still on the plane. A lot of circling around Heathrow, and finally we land, a quick trot through T2, passport control and time for my T2/T3 complaint.

Why is it quicker for someone who comes from a country outside of the EU to clear UK passport control than someone who has lived in the UK all his life? I used to work with a Romanian/Peruvian/Statesian lady who would [i]ALWAYS[/i] beat me through passport control, and it gets a little frustrating.

The plus side of the wait though is that 30 seconds after I arrived at baggage handling my suitcase came out, grabbed it and then through the green channel, and on the dog to get a taxi, and as if to welcome me home it started raining :-) It was lovely being away, but sometimes it is even better to be home.

20 kilo (OK 19.8 according to the airport scales) of suitcase and one rocksack full of laptop, books, maple syrup and biscuits dragged up the stairs to my flatlet, and then a quick refresh, and off to visit the Mater. Cannot remember if I have mentioned this, however I picked up two pieces of fudge in Niagara , one Key Lime, and one raspberry and chocolate. We split the raspberry and chocolate, and I had an heavenly cup of tea. The fudge wasn’t particularly fudgey in consistency, however it did taste very nice.

Then home, and time to try to get some sleep. Pom pom pom, asleep about midnight UK time, another complaint, at the moment UK time is BST, this is [i]not[/i] the same as GMT, in fact it is one hour ahead of GMT. Awoke on Sunday with a very nasty wet cough, now I have had a dry cough for a couple of months, however it wasn’t really anything to worry about, this wet cough was also affecting my breathing. Anyway didn’t do a lot on the Sunday and went to the Doctor on Monday morning.

Not a chest infection, as the one coughing up brightly coloured gunk I begged to differ, however there we go, she didn’t want to prescribe me steroids as I have had so many for my skin (maybe I could swallow some of my creams?) so she just prescribed some asthma tablets. Went home and tried to work from home, quite unsuccessfully.

Tuesday I went into the office, still coughing like a professional, and dropped off the biscuits, and some chocolate covered blueberries that I had bought along with the duty free, did a day of trying to look through my mails, and catch up with what had been happening.

Tuesday night was up until about two coughing and breathing badly, so decided to work from home on Wednesday, had a couple of meetings, and continued trying to catch up.

Thursday and Friday were complete busts, giddy, pained, coughing, and having some issues breathing.

So on Saturday when I was finally starting to feel human again we tried the Key Lime fudge, and both agreed that it wasn’t bad, but not a flavour we would purchase.

Sunday, a little better, I managed to go out shopping, not proper shopping, just a list based type thing, although I did buy three melons and a bag of satsumas for a fiver.

In OT there had been much talk of something called “Chuck” particularly by Tummy, and I had been intrigued, so a few months ago I purchased the DVD box set of the first series, however I had never got around to watching it, I even took it to Canada with me, however I didn’t even take off the plastic wrapper. In fact I only turned on the television once in Canada , and that was to watch a bit of the baseball game before the baseball game I was going to.

Anyway whilst I was lying on my bed with my little receptacle by my side, coughing and breathing I put Chuck on the lappie, and lo, it was good. I’m not going to explain the plot, if you don’t know it then get the DVDs. However what I would say is that it has a superficial similarity to things like Ugly Betty, although it is set in a different milieu, however unlike Ugly Betty the plot strands are kept to a sensible number, and each episode near enough stands on its own merit, although you do need to have seen the first episode or intersects and suchlike wouldn’t make much sense.

In fact I so much enjoyed the first series that I ordered the second from Amazon, and on finding out that it wouldn’t be out until October, watched them on-line. The little chap gets a little less annoying in the second series, the bizarre thing watching it is that the female lead looks like Sarah Alexander, and even plays an almost identical role to Sarah Alexander in the Strangerers (really not worth watching complete tripe).

Monday back to work and suffering, today back to work and suffering less, although I seem to have some sort of bugette, as I am defo not feeling right, just not feeling that wrong.

So Canadia…

The lorries have noses, British ones don’t.

The people (or at least the ones I met) are very pleasant.

The food can be OK, just watch the menus for giveaways that the restaurant don't know what they are doing.

The scenery is gorgeous.

Toronto has big town amenities with a small town feel.

Niagara Falls are seriously amazing.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The last day (part 1)

Day the last

Rewinding a bit to the night before, I dragged myself away from the falls and back to the hotel where I brushed myself and prepared for my third peepmeet! On my way out I went to see the concierge about how I was going to get to the airport, he told me to come back when I wanted to leave and he would arrange a taxi for me to catch a bus from somewhere in Niagara to the airport.

Left the hotel, and walked to the restaurant where we were meeting, as Meemo had said it was a very short walk from the Hilton. One arrived there about five to six and as it was another lovely evening sat out on the patio, when the (very young seeming) waiter arrived I ordered a Margarita which tasted creamy when it came, which was a little strange.

I sat there firstly wishing I had bought a book with me, and then paranoid that there was another Coco’s in the falls area, and that I was in the wrong one, until about a quarter past when a car drove past driven by what looked like Pepe, with someone who looked a lot like Pene waving at me in it.

Having found a parking space they then joined me at the table, and we had a little chatette, Pene was looking exuberant and full of life, although the kick-ass leather jacket didn’t make an appearance, and Pepe seemed cheerful and relaxed, which is more than I would have been after a 45 minute drive.

I remember reading once of an Italian woman who spoke Italian so well that even people who didn’t speak the language were able to understand her, Pene was a lot like that, when she was saying things to me I understood exactly what she was saying although to be fair she didn’t say much, and she and Pepe had quite a bit of trouble persuading the waiter to bring them the dessert menu.

Then Meemo arrived, it really was a great pleasure to meet him as well, he was a lot younger than I was expecting, even after having seen the Niagara Grand Peep Meet photographs, talking of which, the big meal in that meet took place at “Tu Tu Tango” which is a North American chain, but none the worse for that, I always pop there in Orlando, and last time I was there the seared tuna sashimi was one of the best things I have ever had (OK I feel very guilty now, but I didn’t know how close non-skipback tuna was to extinction then). Anyway it appears that it didn’t do that well in Niagara so Meemo tells me it shut down a couple of years ago, our restaurant was literally a hundred feet from where it had been.

And then Seana arrived armed with a pad, alas too late for the dessert menu problems, looking sprightly and spiky, around this time Meemo and I started eating our Pizzas, not sure what his was like, however mine was OK, I have to admit that I really prefer Neapolitan pizza (after all that is where it all started, although to be fair putting a bit of cheese and tomato on a bit of bread and then sticking it in the oven isn’t one of the more complicated recipes) although I don’t mind Roman pizza, I guess I need to go to Chicago to actually find out what American pizza should be like.

Then much chat ensued, and hopefully an enjoyable time was had by all, it was a delight to meet Pene, Pepe, and Meemo, and meeting Seana for a second time just reinforced to me just what a wonderful person she is The party broke up quite early as everyone except me had quite a journey to get home. Meemo’s tip: There was a fudge shop under the Rainbow Bridge which was the best fudge in town, not sure if it is still there though. Seana’s tip: Clifton Hill is tacky but fun.

A good nights sleep, and then another breakfast where it felt that I was over the horseshoe falls as I was eating it, the view was even more amazing than it had seemed the previous day, then completed my packing and sadly left the beautiful suite.

Dropped the suitcase with the bell boy, and then asked for the car to be bought round, I was somewhat worried about taking it between cars parked on either side, however they told me that it would be at least half an hour for the car to be delivered or if I preferred I could have a lift down to the parking area. As it turns out the parking area was a surface car park, and the drive to drop the car off was actually very pleasant, wide roads and very little traffic.

Dropped the car off and got a taxi to the top of Clifton hill, and wended my way down to the secret gardens, a lot of things to do and see, however I didn't really feel like any of it, had a walk round the Secret Gardens which really are rather nice, and then caught the bus down to Table Rock looked aghast again at the falls just in front of me, and then went behind the falls. A lift which meant I had no problems getting there, and it really was spectacular.

Once I had sated myself with that I went back up the railway and popped into Applebees for lunch, I had a triple thingy there, the baby burgers were very poor, the popcorn type prawns were OK, and the buffalo wings were OK (who knew Buffalo had wings!) Then went back to the hotel. retrieved my case and spoke to the concierge who told me I would have to get a taxi to the airport for about $130, when I pressed him on the bus option I had been told of the day before he said I could get a greyhound to Toronto city but not the airport, and that it cost about $100 from Toronto city to the airport. By now I knew he was bulls***ing me and was presumably on a kickback from the taxi firm in Niagara.

So I sat down in the bar pulled out the lappie and discovered that there is a bus company that picks up from hotels in Niagara and booked myself on the 16:30 bus. It didn't save me much money, but I felt much better because I knew nothing went to the conman concierge. Drank a Niagara Blonde beer and an hour or so later the minibus turned up outside the hotel only a quarter of an hour late. We then drove through town picking up some other people, made our way to a cetral point where a few more people got on and then set off for the airport.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Niagara Falls - Day 2 - wimping day

Ah dear, I seem to have come over all pathetic.

Let me continue last night, I went down to Romano's Macaroni which is in the hotel, neither the hostess or waitress seemed to believe that I had never been to one before, however not only had I never been to one, I had never even heard of the chain. I was seated, and the waitress asked me if I wanted bread, I answered yes, and lo a bill for bread appeared on my bill, I was a little disappointed by the sheer mercenaryness of that. However I ordered some Lobster ravioli which came with prawns and asparagus, which was very toothsome and a glass of "white zinfandel" which turned out to be rose, but none the less pleasing.

Then had a couple of cigarettes, and went to my room, then about eight the power went out, I called up, and they told me that someone would be with me soon, I then called up an hour and an half later, to be told that it wasn't just me, but a large portion of the hotel had no power, however it would be back soon.

When I woke up this morning at about six there was still no power, have to admit I woke not right, I really have problems when I am not surrounded by noise, I get sort of nervous, so there I was at far too early o'clock feeling iffy and having to go outside for a fag. So I went out, and on my way back asked reception a) when would my leclec be back on? . if I could access the internet somewhere? and where is my free breakfast? <33rd>. Oh probably forgot to say that I am on the 21st floor of the North tower with a lovely view of the American falls.

So I went to breakfast, there is an EMTs of Canadia convention going on, so I seemed to be almost the only person in the restaurant not in uniform! My seat was by the window with a gorgeous view of both sets of falls, it was absolutely lovely, and for some reason I was not nervous at all. Persuaded the omlette chef to give me one fried egg, which I had with sausages, that were the best I have had this trip, but still weren't fantastic, just a little over flavoured, and a little bit of bacon (still not the Canadian bacon I used to enjoy so much). And then on a second trip round melon, very pleasant breakfast, waitress was a little pushy on the tip front though.

Then I went and picked up the lappie and managed to find a plug, so that I could check what I was up to this evening, fantastic news, I am going to meet Pepe, Meemo, and get to see Seana again :-) Sadly a "witty" comment I made to Meemo about meeting up last night went down like a lead balloon.

Then packed up and set off for the falls, from where I am using the ascendor railway is the easiest way to get down to the falls, so I walked down there, only to learn that it doesn't open until 10, so I sat on a bench, looked over the falls, and tried to chill it was very relaxing.

Then on the railway, and a walk around getting wet from the falls and lvoeing every minute of it, and then caught the people mover heading up to the floral clock, in fact going up to the floral clock, the countryside around here is lovely, however I found that I had to sit on the left of the bus as I was too nervous to sit on the right, in fact by the power station I found myself perspiring despite the air conditioning on the bus :-(

The floral clock was quite pretty, I'm not sure what I expect from a floral clock, the only thing I can come up with is one as was described by Terry Pratchett, where the opening of the flowers tells the time. Anyway this was a clock under some flowers, pretty, however I am not sure what more I could say.

Then back on the bus and down to the Butterfly Conservatory, well all I can say is that MaroonClown will never lead one wrong (maybe astray, but never wrong ;-) ) it was incredible, so many different types of butterflys, and so many wonderful plants, I could never do it justice, I really cannot paint pictures with words, all I can say is that if you happen to be in Niagara Falls, then I would really recommend the Butterfly Conservatory, the gardens around it are wonderful too, unless you like looking at gardens don't expect much more than 45 minutes, however it is a fantastic 45 minutes.

Then caught the bus back to the secret garden, and popped in to the Hard Rock Cafe for a light bite, except as it happens their nachos are more on the family sized than I actually wanted, and to be honest a lot more salty than I would really have liked, I left half, as I am eating this evening. Purchased a t-shirt, hope it fits! Pepe, Seana and Meemo will be the first to know if it does! And ambled up to the Maid of the Mist, handed over my ticket, and almost had a panic attack as I was trying to walk down to get on the boat, closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing, relaxed a bit, opened my eyes and realised that there was no way I was going to be able to make it, and that even if I did coming up would be even more of a problem, so I walked back and out. I'm sure it would have been wonderful, however sadly I just cannot cope with it at the moment.

Slowly wended my way back to the hotel, got back at about four, was nervous on the railway, but survived it, then had a cup of tea at Starbucks on the way back. Anyway when I arrived back at the hotel I called Avis to arrange to drop the car off in Niagara, actually I asked them to pick it up, but they only have a small office here, so I will have to try to drive it to them, just really couldn't do the drive tomorrow, it has been weighing on my mind, and I really think this is the best solution. Spoke to the concierge, and apparently there is a bus that I will be able to get to Toronto airport tomorrow. Although I will have to get a taxi to the bus station.

Have had a spot of jellybotty and taken some tablets for it, however am now feeling a little bloated, hoping that I remember to have something light for supper!

So on my last night in Canada (well my flight leaves at 23:50 tomorrow night), I had a peep meet, cannot think of a better way to end this excursion, met up with Pepe, Pene, Meemo, and Seana, all of whom are really nice people, I had a lovely evening, and an interesting pizza.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Niagara Falls - Day 1 - Terrifying day

Woke up at not long after six this morning, bathed, brushed my teeth twice! and generally pootled until eight thirtyish, then popped up for a couple of baby croissants for breakfast, checked out and got a taxi to the airport. I asked him to drop me at the arrivals terminal, however he for some reason of his own decided to drop me at the car pick-up point. Managed to persuade them to do the paperwork though instead of having to get into the terminals. I had asked for the smallest type of car, as that is what I am used to driving, and turned them down when they told me it would only be $5 to upgrade to the next level of car, unfortunately they then did it for free.

I don't even want to think of that drive, it was the single most frightening experience of my life, completely terrifying, when I arrived at the hotel drenched in sweat and pale as a ghost the chappie told me to drive the car through cars either side of the road, I refused, I know I would have hit at least one of them. And I have to do it again on Friday. I am thinking about phoning Avis, and telling them that they can pick up the car here, and getting a bus or train or something to the airport, that would be the sensible thing to do anyway.

Once I had arrived and had a couple of restorative cigarettes, I tried to check in, unfortunately it was only 11:50 (doesn't time go slowly when adrenaline kicks in) and my room was not ready. So I left my bag with the boots, and ambled around town, or at least I got as far as the Incline railway, and then went down on that. The horseshoe falls looked most impressive and you could really see the spume rising from the whirlpool. Ambled around outside, not sure if it was raining, or if it was the spume from the waterfall being blown around. It certainly comes up higher than the falls and one can see the wind blowing it around.

Did an experience called Niagara's Fury, which really isn't worth the effort, there is a cute little animated film which is supposed to explain the formation of the falls, but doesn't. And then there is a film with various water effects in it snow blowing at you, water being blown at you etc. and all in all it was a little dull. Then ambled out to look at the falls again, and then decided it was time for lunch. Now in the building I was in there was a restaurant called "Elements" which served a bison burger, which is something I have wanted to try, so I went in there, and had a seat right by the window overlooking the horseshoe falls, simply a stunning view, sadly the burger seemed to be a mass produced one, even more mass produced than the ones I used to flog, but the chips were nice, the margarita was OK, and as I say the view was simply stunning!

Then ambled a little more, then tried to find a t-shirt in my size, no dice sadly, oh I did forget to mention that I did the same thing yesterday in the St. Lawrence market, there was one t-shirt that took my eye, it said "Give me my Timmies, and no-one gets hurt" anyway again there I was ambling round in Calvin Klein (a little tight, but liveable) and I cannot find a t-shirt to fit :-(

Managed to resist buying sweets, however if I can catch up with Meemo I will find out where all the good fudge places are, talking of which I finally remembered to mail Meemo, I kept remembering that I had to do that, but kept forgetting when I was at my computer :-(

Caught the railway back up and purchased a combo ticket, which will allow me to do the people mover for two days, the maid of the mist, the white water walk, the journey behind the falls, Niagara's fury (hurrah /sarcastic) and will give me cheap entry to the butterfly conservatory, plus a free bear claw! No idea what a bear claw is, unless it is something that has been ripped from a bear which seems unlikely, however it doesn't matter, because it is free!

Haven't heard from Pepe yet, although I know he has been speaking to Seana. Side note, I use the term "talked to" about e-mail, is that correct? How does one converse in a letter, is that talking to someone?

Anyway arrived at the hotel at about 16:15 and eventually managed to check in, not a smoking room this time, but a most impressive suite, with a gorgeous view of the American falls, from the level they look good, but not that impressive, however looking at them from the window in the bedroom, they are really most impressive. There seems to be a walkway down to the bottom of them from Goat Island, not sure if that was there last time I came, however I really cannot be bothered with the US Immigration service, so I don't think I will be popping over.

Thinking of going to Niagara on the Lake this evening, where MC tells me I must try the wings at the Anchorage, taxi there and back though!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Toronto 2 Day 5 - Last day :-(

Woke at six, still it is just getting me into practise for work, back next week :-( Abluted and played on the computer, although I forgot to do the quizzes!

To breakfast at half past eight, still a lovely view, still only croissants and fruit, set out from the hotel at nine walking down York Street, and I went the correct way! Arrived at the coach pickup point, only me and the Italian-Canadian guide on this route at the start! As I said it is quite interesting because you get to talk about all sorts of different things. Today I did the east-west route which was more concentrated on the various neighbourhoods instead of the specifically touristy things.

So we set off, past the St. Lawrence market and along Front street and Lakeshore East, seeing the beaches and the boardwalk made me regret that I didn't spend any time there, then through the India Bazaar District, for some reason South Asians are referred to as East Indians over here, it seems that this is to differentiate them from West Indians, it seemed a little odd to me, after all why not use the current PC term, but there we go! Up through Greektown, somewhere around here was the only (legal) bookmaker in Toronto, again it seems very different, after all there is at least one bookmaker on almost every shopping street in the UK, although fewer may well be better. Some of the areas seemed a little run down, however one thing that I think is most impressive about Toronto is that it has such a low crime rate.

Through East China town, which was apparently where the Chinese first settled, although there are a few remnants it seems that most of them have now moved elsewhere, possibly to one of the confusingly named Chinatown, Chinatown, Chinatown, or Chinatown. I was going to get off here, however it was only about 11, so a little early for lunch, then back via Dundas square (where some other people finally joined us) to a much larger Chinatown, Portugal village, Little Italy, Korea Town, and Honest Ed's, then back down to City hall, I eventually got off the bus at St. Lawrence market.

Had a good look round the market, which would be wonderful if one were self catering, however as I'm not it was a little disappointing, not quite as good as Covent Garden in London (Ontario) I felt, although I think even Weltek would have been impressed by the number of different cheeses on display! Although thinking back I should have had a peameal bacon roll.

So I popped out of the market and went almost next door to a place called "Spring Roll" which did various oriental foods, I had some Ha Gow which were good, and some prawns wrapped in noodles and deep fried, which were different from the Thai ones I have had before, but were still very pleasant, and beef in black bean sauce which came with boiled rice, I didn't realise that I needed to ask for fried, anyway it was very nice, I liked the addition of Bok Choi, although the courgette and broccoli were a surprise they were also quite nice.

After that it was still an hour to go until the East west bus came along again, so I decided to catch the North south one again, sadly the guide was the young sprog without a clue from yesterday, and even more sadly the headphones for my walkman died five minutes into the journey, stayed on the bus until Yorktown, as I was thinking of making myself a little picnic from the delicatessen that people speak so highly of there. Purchased some chocolates from somewhere called Simone Marie, which thought it was all that, but was, in UK terms, dirt cheap, the chocolates are not bad, but certainly not top drawer.

Then to Hemmingways, where I had one pint of Rickards weissbier and one pint of Hoegaarden after they ran out of the Rickards, very restful, then I went to Sassafraz and had a couple of pomegranate margaritas which were gorgeous, and watched the girls go by :-D

Then set off up Bay, somehow not spotting the deli I was looking for, although I did spot the Indigo on Bloor that was converted from a cinema, although I didn't pop in, which I really should have done, caught the tube back to Osgoode and am back at the hotel, not going to bother going to the clubroom tonight, may just have an early night, I'm not feeling peckish (eight chocolates later!) and have to try to pick up the car manana, so I need to be alert.

MC has mentioned some butterflies and gardens at Niagara, so what with (hopefully) meeting Pepe, Seana, and (maybe separately) Meemo, going to the Niagara on the Lake, and doing a tour of the wineries I think I am going to be busy :-)

Monday, 1 June 2009

Toronto 2 Day 4

Another pleasing day.

Awoke at about seven :-)

Bathed, dressed and popped up to the 32nd floor for breakfast, nowt hot except porridge, so I decided to break my fast with fruit (and a croissant), then another amble past Osgoode hall and to the city hall. Picked up the tour bus, the guide this time was originally from Russia, and was very good, very interesting. This morning was again a little nippy and when it started to rain I decided to pop down from the top deck of the bus, discovered a new fear today, I seem to be frightened of going under bridges with no roof above me which seems a little bizarre, although I still cannot work out why I am petrified of lifts where one can see out, and yet have no fear of enclosed lifts, surely the risk is exactly the same, it just doesn't feel like it.

There were some more people on the bus today, which was quite pleasant, also a new route opened up, I had forgotten, or not really registered the fact that it is now June, even after the cards issue, and on the 1st of June the Grey line buses start running an east-west bus route which seems to go through a number of the ethnic areas, unfortunately I never managed to catch it today, the plan is to catch it tomorrow.

Got off the bus at Casa Loma, which was an impressive castle, built more along German/French lines than the brutal lumps that are English castles (I'm sure that cannot be right? French and German castles must have had at least as much defense to do as the English ones, but I always think of them as more light and airy) anyway, he didn't need to defend himself against anyone (except the authorities as it turned out) Whilst it was partially laid out as he would have lived in it to a great extent it has been converted into a "venue", and sadly it really shows. The bedrooms were still laid out as they would have been in his day, and were quite nice, I'm glad I live now though, the beds looked very small to me!

There was a garden room, reminiscent of the one in the Atrium in the Frick in New York, very refreshing, like an outdoor space indoors, the gardens were also very nice, if quite small, being built on an hill probably made it quite hard to lay them out. There were a couple of secret passages which I would have quite liked to have been hidden and then opened by a guide so that one could tell how well hidden they were, I am one of those people who always think they can spot the priests hole, so it would have been interesting to see if I would have been correct.

There was also an underground passage leading from the house and under the road to the garages and stables, well cool! The shop was a little twee, having marked a t-shirt yesterday and having had to change I am now running a little low, in a CK shirt today which had a button pop open twice :-( I was looking for some more clothes, however that shop didn't really fulfill any of my needs.

Then discovered that the bus would be by in about five minutes, so I left the house, and the bus arrived, as it was still raining, and I have no hood I sat downstairs again, the guide this time was quite young, and it was his first day, however as I am still paying his company for the experience I will not mince words, he was useless, fortunately the driver was also assisting with the commentary and he was quite good. Thinking about it, in some cities you have an automated commentary instead of a guide, well the only city I can remember that from is Brussels (in Hamburg a whole bus of Germans had to listen to the guide speaking English because of me! On the other hand the cruise of the harbour was only in German, with English bits when the guide remembered, I spent the time listening to Roxy music and loving every minute) and that was a little iffy as the guide was based on time, so when we had got stuck in traffic we were learning about things we were going to see in about five minutes! I think I prefer the person giving a guide because you get their view of the city as well as the tourist bits.

Anyway I got off that bus near the CN tower (no way, not in a million years) and popped into somewhere called "Lone Star Texas Grill" not sure what Texans would say about it, however I had two frozen margaritas and a combo of beef fajitas, and ribs. The ribs (an half if that portion) were just dropping off the bone, and were probably the best I have ever had, the soft tortillas were definitely the best I have ever had, the beef was good, and the sides were guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, and chopped tomato (instead of salsa presumably) along with a small pot of beans and another of rice, wasn't sure what to do with those two so I mixed them together ala rice and peas and they were pleasant as well.

Then caught the bus again, back with the ex-Russian guide :-) and did the entire route at least as far as the city hall, it was very interesting just how into Toronto she was and how much she enjoys the vibrancy and multiculturalism, I do have to admit it hasn't got the bustle that London UK has, at least in the centre of town. From there I popped into a Starbucks and had a spiced cider, it's one of those cultural things, but in North America apple juice is called cider, and cider is called hard cider, anyway it was really quite pleasant.

From there I popped into a seven-eleven to purchase my daily bottle of water, and on the off chance since they sold lighters I asked for some cigarettes, another culture moment, they don't display cigarettes in shops over here, mind you I have heard talk of it happening in the UK. Then avoiding the temptation of Timmies doughnuts I returned to the hotel and have booked a car, I only have the photo bit of my driving license, so I am hoping that I will actually be allowed to drive it. If not I'm sure I can get a bus from the airport to Niagara.

Duck poutine, in the whine bar in the hotel tonight, very nice, very fatty, tomorrow the east west bus route, and hopefully dim sum for lunch!

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Toronto 2 Day 3 - Spiffing Day

What a simply spiffing day :-D

Woke up at about a quarter to seven, abluted, played on the computer a bit, and completed the quizzes, went down for breakfast and had a couple of slices of bread which were a sort of cross between a baguette and ciabatta, and simply lovely with butter, and a cup of coffee, I know I shouldn't really have had that since I was having brunch however I had a voucher for a free breakfast and I like using freebies!

Then set out, me and my new Indigo bag to the city halls, I think it is a lovely place for Kim and Abdul to get married, just wish I had come in a couple of months so I could see it! Actually I am on holiday that week...

Anyway I then purchased a three day ticket for a double decker bus tour, one had perused the leaflet t'other day and it passed right by the brunch location, and after the crappy tour I had on my first full day I really wanted to get a bit more of the history of the town and see things like Casa Loma. As it turns out this three day tour was slightly cheaper than the three hour one.

I then looked at Moby to see what time it was, unfortunately his battery is a little rubbish now, so he had completely discharged in a couple of days. Anyway I leapt on the first bus, there was only me and the guide on there, so I got personnal service until we reached the CN tower, the chappie was very pleasant and informative, then some other people got on, and he was still pleasant and informative, however over a loudspeaker.

The bus dropped me just outside the Hot House where we were having brunch, so I ambled around the car boot sale that was being held, tried a second cup coffee place, which was sort of a cross between Timmies and Starbucks, then I took some money out of the bank so that I could see what time it was, five minutes till brunchtime! So sauntered back to the Hot House, and joined the queue, just in front of me was a beautiful blonde with someone who could have played prop forward, they said that their table was called Skye, as it happened that was the name of my table as well! So when they were called forward I introduced myself, and apparently became the first OTer that Skye had met

:-) (sorry Mr. Yoffer).

So we went and sat down, and were joined almost immediately by Bullzeye, again it wasn't weird at all, just really nice to chat with these people, Mr. Skye was Dean, and whilst he was a little quiet (possibly overwhelmed by the serial killers) he seemed really nice. Then we were joined by Mr. Yoffer himself, he could only stay for an hour or so, but it was really nice to see him, then I get a little lost, I think Seana was next (yes I have met Seana, the person who hooked me on RTVW, I felt a little like a fanboy) she gave me some Canadian Tire money, which is well cool. Then we received news from Maroonclown who was running a little late but would like a Bloody Mary when she arrived!

We chatted for ages, it was really nice, although I was a little quiet, that is the way that I am, at least until some sort of dam breaks and then you cannot shut me up! The conversation was really nice and friendly, everyone seemed to get on really well, when MC and Mr. MC joined us that just ratched up the chatting a little, and I ordered a "breakfast Martini" which was a martini with a little marmelade in it! Actually it was really nice, eventually someone realised that although we were there for brunch we hadn't started on the food yet!

A very impressive spread, many types of bread and cakes (Seana remembered that I have a nut allergy ), roast salmon, and beef and ham carved off the bone, fruit, an omlette station, salads (although the couscous was a little larger than I have seen before) two types of sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, potato wedges, chicken in blackbean sauce with noodles, chicken in a dark sauce, oh oodles of things. So I took some crab salad, prawn salad, olives, and some of the chicken, not sure what the dark sauce was, but it was very nice, and a couple of sausages.

More chatting, and another martini then Seana and BYoffer had to leave, the six of us remaining chatted on, and went for a second plate (well MC didn't, although I'm not sure why she certainly doesn't need to watch her figure) where I had some carved ham, potato wedges, and another piece of the chicken, I might have had something else but I cannot remember. More chatting, and then eventually the party broke up. I had a really nice time, if anyone is reading this and is worried about meeting people from the internet, a) make sure that you meet them in a public place, and b) don't worry if they are anything like the people I have met they are really going to be worth meeting.

Having parted from MC, Mr MC, Skye, Mr Skye, and Bullzeye :-( I popped into a chemists to get some water, over here Chemists are the equivalent of supermarkets in the UK, it must be confusing for them when they come over and try to buy a loaf of bread in Boots! And then stood waiting for the bus to come round, after a few minutes of standing out in the sun (I don't think I have mentioned that the weather today was glorious, it was a little nippy first thing, but even then sitting in the sun was lovely), the bus pulled up, it was the same one as this morning, and again I was the only tourist on it! So had a personal tour on the bus until we arrived at Casa Loma where four more people got on.

Casa Loma, I didn't get off today, that is the plan for tomorrow, however even over the trees it looks like a small castle, very pretty, but a sad story, apparently the matey who had it built owned the leclec, I think in Canadia, but it may have only been Ontario, anyway when it was nationalised he got not a penny out of it, and was evicted when he couldn't pay his rates.

A very interesting tour of Toronto, the chap on the bus suggested that the ferry to the island would probably be a better bet for me than the tour of the islands, so the plan is to see what time Casa Loma opens, and if it is in the morning to go there, and then to the island for lunchtime, otherwise the island in the morning (and maybe for lunch) and then to Casa Loma for the afternoon, I am determined to have a paddle though! And at some time I must find one of the Chinatowns.

Left the bus at city hall, and walked up to the Atrium centre (a different one!) where I popped into a bar because I needed to use the facilities, and had a Martini. Then popped next door to a sushi bar, where I purchased some sushi for supper this evening (flying fish roe! Not sure if that or fatty tuna is my fave), and ambled back to the hotel via a Tim Hortons.

Booked in for another night at reception, was thinking of going to Kingston, however I have decided that I would like to go to the St. Lawrence market, and possibly the zoo (or the science park) so I think staying on Tuesday seemed like a good idea, still not sure how to get to Niagara, however I am veering towards hiring a car from the airport, although the bus station is not too far away from me, and I have seen something about a shuttle from the Falls to Niagara on the Lake, so I am still not sure.

Popped back to my room, and then was called back to reception as the card that they had on file expires today, gave them my new card, and then returned to the room, did a touch of typing, and then popped up to the clubroom, it is on the 32nd floor, so I made sure that I was not in a scenic lift! It was very large, with wonderful views over the city (although I didn't get closer than six feet to the windows, niceish snacks, although not up to London ON standards, let alone Rotterdamn and one had to pay for alcoholic drinks :-| Stayed there for a while looking at the view, and now back to base.

All in all a very nice day, the weather was beautiful, I met some very nice people (who probably think I am dull), had a very enjoyable meal with then, had a super tour of the city, saw the city from the 32nd floor, and now sushi and a boston cream doughnut for supper!

BTW there is a series on the BBC wireless at the moment called ElvenQuest, which is most amusing. It is a humerous take on fantasy, but none the worse for that.

Toronto 2 Day 2

Awoke at about seven this morning, washed and brushed, I'm on the 18th floor, so I am still a little nervous going near the window! Played on the computer for a bit, going well on Arkie and Snidgets quizzes, and on Triviapalooza, not so well in the others. Also enjoying Farkle which Asrai introduced me to.

Then went down to breakfast, Eggs Benedict on the buffet :-), really very pleasant, much better than yesterdays I really really enjoyed them. Read the paper as I was dining, highlight of the paper for me today was that one of the questions asked of Canadians in reference to their possible next Prime Minister was "does he drink coffee from Timmies?" fantastic question, I cannot think what they would ask that would be the same in the UK. I used to hear Michael Ignatieff quite a bit on the radio in the UK, and he has always struck me as very intelligent, not sure if that is a good thing in politics though.

My new hotel is just around the corner from the city hal, so I ambled round there in the morning, and then to... the Eaton Centre! Purchased a book, and bag from Indigo (not carrying the rocksack today), looked at buying Fade, however as it is only available in hardback, and I have a copy at home I decided against. Then I tried to take some money out, no joy as the system was unavailable!

Then ambled round a little more, and tried to get some money out again, this time I was told that my bank had refused me :-( So I gave them a call to ask for an explanation, apparently it was a fraud risk, they did the same when I was in Rome, but they have never done it apart from those two times. All those months in countries all over Europe and no problems, I think they plan it to refuse the card when I am on holiday! Anyway the card is now working in Canada.

Now that I had a little more cash I went to Baskin Robbins in memory of Pepe, had a nice Rum and Raisin, why is that so rarely available in the UK?

And then caught the tube to Union station, and took the Skythingy to the Rogers stadium, a lot of people heading that way, which reminds me the hotel is supposed to be on the PATH (Underground city in Toronto) however I haven't worked out how it works yet, as I can get lost in a small city like London even with landmarks I suspect that I should only go down in the PATH when I can afford to amble around with nothing particular to do.

Anyway arrived at the Rogers, quite large crowds, but getting in was very easy, purchased a pint of beer, however they only seemed to have Budweiser (I still cannot believe that they were allowed to purchase the original Budweiser brewery so they could still continue to use a name not really their own). As we all know in the UK the reason American beer is served so cold is because it tastes like gnats piss when it warms up. Anyway I chugged it down, which was not actually that pleasing an experience, and went to my seat.

A very good seat, Aisle 117, Row 15, and seat 11. I was actually about eight rows from the field, and nearly level with the pitchers mound (why do pitchers need mounds?) the view was really very good, There were about 20 seats between aisles, so I was in the middle of a row. Before the game there was a skipping rope performance by a group of eight to twelve year old girls, very village fetey, but somehow touching.

Then the national anthems, performed by the leads in "The Sound of Music" here in Toronto. National anthems at non-national sporting events always seem a little strange to me, I guess it is what you grow up with though, although the strangest use of a National Anthem to me is still the fact that they play it before opening Seaworld in Orlando.

And on to the Ball game, Firstly the crown: Toronto won yesterday having lost nine games in a row, and thrown away a convincing lead in their division prior to that, so the crowd were perhaps less het up than they might have been. In fact I have been in libraries that were noisier, I have certainly never been at a sports event with less atmosphere, even Barnet vs Aldershot when Aldershot were in administration and the players couldn't be bothered was more tingling. To be fair the stadium tried to get everyone more excited with strange hammond organ type music, however there was no chanting, no singing, no repartee, it just seemed very restrained to me. Maybe it was where I was sitting, in an expensive area, whilst the real fans were elsewhere? I hope so.

The stadium itself was very impressive, on my level there were concessions all around the ring, inside were selling Blue Jays merchandise outside were all sorts of food and drink concessions, mainly sausages in a bun and panini, although I didn't go all the way round. It was a lovely day in Toronto, so the roof was open, although luckily enough it got a little dark later, so I got to see the roof closing which was most impressive. After the second innings I tracked out and purchased a hot dog with all the trimmings (which were fried peppers), I was surprised there was none of that strange liquid cheese or chilli, however I did manage to find mustard, tomato ketchup, raw onion and cucumber relish to anoint it with, difficult to eat, however I managed!

The game itself, well the Toronto bowler was a little rough at first, he "walked" about three players in the first two innings, it looked as if Toronto were in for a tonking, however after the third innings they took control, and won.

Ambled back to Union station and caught the tube to Bay, I only have three tokens left at the moment, and I want to go and see Runnymede, just because I live at the original. Went to Hemmingways had a poor Margarita, two pints of Rickards weissbier which was nice, and some calamari, when I say some there were actually an awful lot of them however they were most pleasant as well.

Then on to the tube again, and down to Osgoode, sat around a little outside the opera and saw a young chap in white jacket taking girl to opera in one of those stupidly long limousines, I'm really not sure if they were as old as sixteen. She looked most elegant, he really hadn't thought out his wardrobe, however thinking back I'm not sure that many teen boys ever do. A roll of thunder and I walked back to the hotel.

Really looking forward to meeting up with everyone tomorrow, now for a happy night in the arms of Morpheus.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Toronto 2 Day 1

Better night last night, I think I am finally acclimatising to the time change.

Anyway woke up at about seven, bathed, and went for breakfast, Eggs Benedict! Not great, but the yolks were lovely and runny, have to admit I am still looking for Canadian bacon, I guess I will see it in the market if it is ever open when I am here! I'm guessing that I will not be able to make it after the baseball tomorrow, and it is shut on Sunday and Monday, still considering staying in Toronto for one more night though, in which case I could go there on Thursday.

Rewind! It was a beautiful morning in London, so I had a small walk around town before completing my packing and walking to the station, very civilised in the lounge sipping at orange juice reading the paper, then on to the train, again a very comfortable seat, however I did not partake of lunch this time, as to be honest I was still very full from yesterday, and breakfast this morning, however I did enjoy a couple of lovely glasses of wine.

Thoughts on the train were a little different this time, looking at all of the forest as we were moving along I was struck by how brave the first explorers were, going through these woods, not knowing what they would see, there could be dinosaurs, panthers, quicksands, who knows? And yet still they went on, under appreciated I think.

Arrived at Union station and got in a taxi, arrived at the hotel, and checked in quite happily, then to the room, as it turns out I will not be going to the CN tower, two of the lifts at the hotel are "scenic" or to use the vernacular glass, I did not enjoy the experience at all. Very nice hotel room though, although paying for the internet is a little off! The clubroom is shut at weekends :-( however I do have two full breakfast vouchers for the weekend :-) And a $25 voucher for the hotel restaurant.

Then a walk around, ending up at the Eaton Centre (again!) where I had a bowl of poutine, and felt full up all over again, more ambling and now back at hotel, the plan is for another early night, maybe watching the baseball.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

London Day 3

Still waking early, and mucking about on facebook before bathing.

Fruit, Bagels and Cheese for breakfast again, I think tomorrow I will pay and have Eggs Benedict which I really like.

Anyway, it was pissing it down today, so I rushed over to the Citimall and ambled around a bit, the library was quite big and seemed well stocked. However most things didn't open until ten, so there wasn't a lot to do. Thence to Covent Garden, where I was like a drowned rat when I arrived, had a cup of coffee and tried to start drying out, then walked round the market looking in detail at what was available, a lot of interesting and nice stuff, if I was able to cook I could have purchased a lot of very nice things, I was tempted to some Borek, but the portions were huge!

After a couple of hours I went into "Waldo's on King" for lunch, on the table were balsamic vinegar and olive oil in which to dip the simply divine filo breadsticks, I have never had them so light and moreish, a Martini to drink that was very pleasant then Crab, Scallop, and Prawn bisque, normally I don't like the taste of dill, other aniseeds I don't mind, but I have always found dill to taste mediciney, however this bisque was simply divine the dill enhanced the flavours wonderfully. Then Perch in a butter sauce with mangetout and mixed basmati and wild rice, sadly the front of my t-shirt now has butter all over it, again it was perfectly cooked, however I didn't overly care for the fish itself. No pudding! Best meal foodwise since I got over here, highly recommended if anyone is ever in London.

As I was sauntering around I looked at the menu of a place called "Only on King" which looks very nice, so I will try to go there this evening, although I don't know if I will get in.

Anyway ambled around London a little more looking for a bookshop or computer games shop, found a role playing games shop where the chap was extremely disinterested in customer service, I was going to purchase a couple of magazines, haven't seen the Dragon for ages, but he put me off. Was back in the Citimall again when the rain started to fall seriously heavily again, strangely for Canada there is no coffee shop there, so I ordered a little Arbies which was very nice for fast food, and a mountain dew, the first one on this trip.

Then walked back to the hotel for a little afternoon nap.

OK so I ended up going to "The Only on King" at least partially because I liked the name (for the same reason I may end up going to "Bite Me" in Toronto), although I now discover that it was the sixth best new restaurant in Canada in 2008.

Something that has occurred to me though, Canadians do seem to eat quite early, I arrived at the restaurant at about seven and it was almost full, a few people came in after me but not many, I quite like that as an idea, when I go out in the UK it seems that people don't start eating until eight at the earliest, and this means that I don't get to bed until very late, whereas this way I actually get back to bed at a reasonable hour.

They do a "Tasting Menu" that isn't really a tasting menu, but four courses, Appetiser, Salad, Fish, and Meat for a set price, however they will not tell you what is on the menu until it arrives! I ordered that along with the accompanying wines. Then came the bread, it was very bad indeed and I began to fear for the meal.

Then came the first of the courses roast fennel and "new season" asparagus soup with creme fraiche, it was very nice, not quite up to the bisque earlier today, but very nice. It was served with a very nice white wine (whilst I remember all of the wines were Canadian :-) ). Then the salad, crispy pork jowl (Which was like a deep fried bacon, but cut a little thicker than bacon), with white and green asparagus, some baby fern (whos name I have forgotten, but it was good) and a poached egg, with a vinaigrette, which was very very nice indeed. The wine that accompanied it was called Noble something and was slightly petillante but smelt of paint which put me off.

Next up a rose wine, and to accompany it, two scallops, one very nice prawn, on spinach and a carrot curry sauce, I think the carrot only really added a little sweetness to the curry sauce. I was a little concerned about this, as quite often when people attempt a cuisine not their own they fail miserably, however in this case it was very nice, I even enjoyed the spinach! Next up the meat course, crispy skinned chicken thigh, on three oxtail ravoili with wild mushrooms in a redwine jus, seriously very very nice.

Didn't have a dessert or coffee, as to be honest I didn't have room, however I am very glad that I did drag myself out as it was a very nice meal.

London Day 2

Awoke at four again :-( And generally hung around until about seven when I had a too warm bath, which was actually very nice, and then to breakfast, ah there is nothing like a free breakfast! Loads of fruit and a bagel with cheese, reading the paper, there are a couple of stories that I am finding interesting at the moment, one on if fascist parents (the authorities version) should be allowed to keep their children although they appear to have been indoctrinating them (a very difficult one, if it sets a precedent then who starts to decide what the acceptable beliefs are?) and one on workers being sacked for belonging to the wrong political party (PEI, quite interesting on the patronage front).

And then I started walking round London, ambled through a shopping centre (btw where on earth do Canadians buy computer games? In the UK you cannot throw a stone on any high street, except Egham of course, without hitting a computer games shop, yet in Canada I have spotted not one), purchased some postcards and stamps and ambled on, arriving at Covent Garden Market! Actually I really liked it, a lot nicer than the one in, erm, my normal London, loads of small stalls selling all sorts of things (although mainly food related), wrote my postcards over a cup of coffee, and then started ambling again aiming for the London museum, however I turned the wrong way, spent a lot of time walking through a very tired looking area of town until I got myself reorientated, then set off towards the museum again, by this stage it was getting towards lunch time, so I popped into a restaurant called "The Tasting Room" where they do various "flights" of four glasses of 2oz of wine and appetisers as well as normal(ish) fare. Strangely for a wine bar in Canada they didn't do Canadian wine at all! So I had a glass of an American wine which was described as dry, but was a little sweet for me, and a beef and cheese melt, which was chilli in a roll with a bit of cheese on top.

Having enjoyed that I oriented myself and walked up to Victoria Park and had a bit of a sit down, and watched the black squirrels frolicking around, then it started to rain, so I started rushing along Dufferin avenue to get to the museum quickly, after a mile or so I was getting confused (and very wet) then Dufferin ended, so I turned up the road, in what I thought was the correct direction, now I had drunk two cups of coffee for breakfast, and another one whilst I was writing the postcards, and (as I should remember, particularly after running around Boston) coffee is a diuretic so I was busting for the loo. Eventually I found a not too bad looking bar and popped in where I had a pint of beer, extracted the micus, and tried to work out where the heck I was with no joy, the barmaid then pointed me out on the map. I had gone completely the wrong way when the rain started, so I had walked for about an hour in the pissing rain in the wrong direction.

So instead I went to "The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum" which was interesting, when I came out the day had turned nice again lovely and sunny, however by now it was about half past three and I had been walking almost all day, so I walked back to the hotel, I was supposed to go by "The Eldon House" some chappie who did something for Insulin, however despite the fact that it has a flame outside that will not be allowed to go out until diabetes has been cured (well Sharons was cured, but I think that transplants are a bit far as a general cure) I didn't see it. Again I passed through a very tired area of town, a lot of boarded up houses, and all the shops had metal grilles across the windows, well those windows that weren't boarded up anyway. However eventually I ended up at the hotel, my first bit of correct navigation of the day!

Back to the room to lie down for a bit, then down to the bar to watch the last two minutes of the Champions league final and enjoy a martini, then up to the clubroom for snacks, I have real trouble resisting sausage rolls! Although I resisted the free drink temptation. Thence to the managers reception, more sausage rolls, and a couple of glasses of Canadian wine! A bit of a chat with the manager and various members of the team, and now to bed. No supper tonight as I have canape'd myself out!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

London Day 1 (no not that London, another one)

Awoke early again, 04:30, popped out for a crafty cigarette, and on my return packed, then I managed to fall asleep again for another couple of hours! I feel more rested now than I have done.

Really fancied eggs Benedict for breakfast (my best freebie ever was when I was staying at the Hilton in Boston, and had free eggs Benedict for breakfast every day!) however the hotel didn't do them and I couldn't find anywhere particularly local that did, so I forwent that pleasure, which is probably no bad thing. I hung around the hotel until about 10 and then caught a taxi to the main train station, I was expecting something like one of the big London stations with shops, cafes and restaurants, and was surprised that it was very much a functional building with just one fast food emporium and a couple of shops selling prepared food. So I went into Harveys, a very formicalike place and had a cup of coffee, which was actually very nice, I was tempted to poutine, however I think that would be a little too much for breakfast.

Arrived at my gate about fifty minutes before the train was due to depart as there is a half hour boarding time, and hung around for about a quarter of an hour in the queue then some chappie came along to write on the tickets (not sure why) and he told me to go to the "first class lounge" as there would be 10-15 minutes before we boarded. I acquired an orange juice and sat back with the Toronto Star, only to have my train called a couple of minutes later! Ambled up onto the platform and on to the train, seating was not bad, a window seat which was nice, however I think they need a lesson from the European trains on placing the tables, for some reason it was in the armrest, and not pulldownable from the seat in front, which is a lot more user friendly.

Oh I was reading "The Grand Tour" by Wrede and Stevermer, not as good as "The Enchanted Chocolate Pot" but still very enjoyable, I finished Wake yesterday, overall I enjoyed it, but I would have liked a little more depth on the characters, I didn't feel that I knew Caleb or Janie that well at the end, let alone the other characters. However I am still really looking forward to reading Fade when I get home.

So the train set off it was interesting, I was sort of expecting wild countryside and sweeping plains, but of course it is only a small journey in the scheme of things, so instead the scenery was either forested in a not wild sort of way, rolling like the west country back home, or, and it seemed mainly, towns and industry. Of course it is like this Canada is a real country, not some 1850's theme park for me to enjoy with my modern amenities, although if I did ever make it to Edmonton I suppose I could be proved wrong (winks at Quertypie).

But why am I worried about the table on the train I hear you ask, well I was planning on rat-tat-tatting this away as I was thundering through the countryside with the train pushing cows off the track every ten minutes, however they wanted to charge me for that, so I decided I would do it later. However as I was travelling first class I got a "free" meal. The menu was a bit like than on an aeroplane, starter and dessert set and a choice of main (why do Americans, damn I'm not sure about Canadians, Why do Statsians call main courses entrees when the word obviously means the entry or start of a meal?) The starter was a "Neptune" salad (crabstick in a marie rose sauce) served with English cucumber (I don't know I've never heard of English cucumber, the stewardess wasn't sure either) followed by either pasta, fish, or chicken, I ordered chicken and regretted it almost immediately chicken breast goes so dry when it is overcooked, however it was gorgeous, I think it may have been reconstituted, but I don't care because it tasted so nice, and a Maple, Walnut, Apple, Spice, cake (how many ingredients can you fit in one dish) which I didn't eat. Along with this I drank some Ontario white wine, which is also most palatable.

Arrived in London, which is a little smaller than its namesake! And walked down to the hotel, ah it felt good to be in a nice hotel again, checked in, and didn't get upgraded :-( ah the hazards of being downgraded to gold, although I am allowed in the club room, which has a two drink rule! There would have been riots in Rotterdamn if they had tried that! Anyway I only felt like one glass of wine, and then ordered room service, PRE mussels (waves at MCM) which were very good indeed, although I could have done with some bread on the side. It is just luxurious to be in an hotel room where I can smoke though.

Tomorrow the Labatts brewery tour (if I can arrange that) and the Eldon house, as well as a happy walk round town, I was thinking of catching the train to Windsor they day afterwards, however it appears that this may take longer than I would care to take, so probably not, although I am still thinking of going to Kingston next week, not sure if I want to do a day trip or stay a night there though.

Yawn, time for bobblies.