Saturday, 30 July 2011

House of Lord's

This afternoon the sun was out and my schedule was clear, so I decided to fulfil a childhood dream and visit Lord's, the home of cricket. Alas, the dream was not quite achieved as I was merely spectating and not in the middle in a black cap, but it was a lovely day nonetheless.

It was day two of the Middlesex v Derbyshire match in Division 2 of the County Championship. The game itself was going through a fairly sedate patch, as my team Middlesex spent all day compiling a large first innings lead, making the most of the conditions against a sun-sapped Derbyshire attack. Our opening bat Sam Robson made 94 for the third time this season, while up-and-comer Dawid Malan hit a career best 143. With the pitch starting to wear we are well placed for a win, which would put us on course for promotion.

Unfortuantely, Jo is away at the moment with our camera, so I had to make do with a couple of snaps on my phone. Here is the view across the ground to the famous old pavillion.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Merry very belated Christmas Post

Okay, so we are literally six months from Christmas and six months to the next one. Oops. But since I'm playing a bit of catch up with the blog I thought I'd share some photos of our first Christmas both together and in the depths of winter - where at least having a giant roast makes a bit more sense than it does in New Zealand.

Firstly, on Christmas Eve I left work slightly early to go and lose my pavlova virginity. Something about a pav that always frightened me. Add to the fact I've been long regaled with stories about the time my Mum tried to impress my Dad's mum making one and failing miserably.I started with lots of eggs. A tip I learnt from lemon meringue pie, chilled eggs are a lot easier to seperate.Egg whites to soft peaks and the rest of the ingredients are introduced.Glossy and stiff means it's ready to be slow cooked in the oven.Nearly two hours later, my first pavlova ever is done.

I was then faced with what to do with the unused egg yolks and so made lemon tarts along the lemon meringue pie recipe with shortcrust pastry and some artistic flair.I thought they were pretty impressive and delicious I might add.It was then off to bed so I could get up bright and early to prepare our massive leg of lamb. Oren was still recovering from a cold so I let him sleep in while doing strange looking things with herbs.Oren finally arose so we could open presents from under our awesome tree. I skyped with my parents, in particular to point out to my own mother that she did not know my actual name.
Then it was lunch time!

All and all, it was a fairly successful day and with our central heating it was easy to ignore it was about -1 degrees outside all day. I still prefer Christmas in summer, being forced to take leave in the middle of winter and use your own heating doesn't seem fair.


In other catch up news - Oren has moved to a new HMV store to work at, which coincidently is even closer to our flat that his previous one...and that was only a twenty minute walk at most. My work's been a bit better too and I'm heading to Milan, Italy next week for a business trip. It's also a year this weekend since we moved into our wee Kiwi flat which now has a token Australian Kim who is lovely.

Now if we could only decide what to do with our summer holidays before it's suddenly winter again.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Beers and Belgium

So, months ago we hopped on the Eurostar and went to Belgium. A last minute decision after we had to cancel our flights to Japan due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

We left on the Friday. The Eurostar gets you into the Gare-du-Bruxelles Midi if you're French and Brussel Zuid if you're Dutch. First things first, we went straight to a living beer museum for Cantillon, a family brewery that specialise in Lambic beers which are then made into Gueuze. They are a very different beer, very sour and very interesting. I'd highly reccommend it, you pay all of 6 euros and get to wander around a historical brewery. I did wonder at times what NZ health and safely laws would think of all this but I loved it and we got to try three different beers at the end.

It was about a 15 minute walk into the centre of Brussels called Grote Markt. There you are surrounded by chocolate shops, beer shops and of course restaurants selling Moules Frites.

Of course, we had to immerse ourselves straight into the culture. For €12 or so we ended up with a 3 course meal including a free beer and a waffle to finish. Mmm. We spent the afternoon drinking a few beers in Delirum, a beer cafe with the world record for stocking the most beers (and you thought the Malthouse menu was overwhelming) before wandering around slightly tipsy pretending to buy chocolate and getting free samples. We then walked it off by heading up to the European Union part of town where our funky hotel was. We had more chips for dinner, the chips in Belgium are definitely as good as you hear.

In the morning we headed back into the city and hopped on a train to Bruges/Brugge. I had decided to spend two nights here as everyone says it's much nicer than Brussels. We went to the chocolate museum before trying to find Du Garre, a beer place I had read about on the internet beforehand. I'm glad I did as this was my favourite place on the whole trip. It was packed being a Saturday and we were sat on two seats by the window which acted as our table. We got free cheese with every beer we ordered which was especially excellent for me since Oren won't eat it. We drunk a lot of beer. The house beer is definitely worth it.

Oren in the small entrance to the Du Garre alley. Bruges is just lovely to wander around and we took a tipsy boatride on the canals which was absolutely lovely.

Walking by the canals lit up at night was very romantic. They call it a mini Venice afterall. There was more waffles to be had too.
In the morning we had a healthy breakfast of Milka mallowpuffs! Milka is an awesome alpine chocolate which is creamy like NZ chocolate.
After that breakfast of champions, we followed it up with a tour of Bruges only remaining brewery Du Halve Maan. It's obviously never too early for beer and I loved their beer that was made only for the US market.

I loved in Bruges that there was the constant sound of horse hooves clopping on the cobblestones. Oren never wants to go on the horseys though. :( Our second day was again spent with a lot of time in Du Garre enjoying lots of beers. What? It's Belgium.
Next morning, we hopped on another train to Antwerp. Unfortunately I should have read that literally most things are closed on a Monday! The station itself on arrival was impressive.
And Antwerp has the most amazing architecture.
We walked down to the river, posed with a castle and then crossed the river through a pedestrian tunnel that is 572 metres long. The thing I loved most about it was that they had the original wooden escalators. I never thought in my life that I would see ones in action and I was mighty impressed. Too bad about all the schoolchildren on the way through that were amplified 100x by the small space.
We followed the night up with some Belgian Italian. Mmm. We had eaten Indian the first night in Bruges and Chinese the second haha.
It was a train back to Brussels for another day on the Tuesday before a 7pm train back to London. We bought chocolates this time, some chocolate ducks for me and some cinnamon and cocoa truffles for the both of us. We headed back to Delirium to add to our beer count (I believe at the end it was 22 different beers we tried), first the underground one then the one on the other side on the square.
I loved Belgium so much I booked trains with three of my close friends for a girlie weekend at the end of July to celebrate turning 27. I imagine there will be more beer, chips and waffles enjoyed. It amazed me how many people were tri-lingual in the city and people were always so happy to speak English to us even if we tried to do otherwise.

Definitely put Belgium on your to do list.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Feeling Brand New

So it turns out I don't actually have that much to write for New York part 2 and should probably have done it all at once. Oh well.

On Sunday, our third day there it rained a lot so we made it museum day, and visited the Guggenheim and the Natural History Museum. Is two museums enough to label it museum day? I say yes.

The Guggenheim is a really impressive building, both outside:

and inside:

Hello, Rex

We walked through Central Park to get to the Nat. His. Mus., and posed with bears along the way.

I don't really take photos in museums and galleries, so there isn't really much to show here I'm afraid.

Later in the afternoon we hopped on the subway out to Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Brewery and do the mandatory brewery tour for our trip. They have a nice little operation going out there, and afterwards we had a couple of beers in their bar. The IPA is very nice if you ever get the chance to try it.

Yup, it's a cup of beer.

For dinner we went to Public, a Michelin-starred restaurant back in Manhattan. On Sunday evenings there they have a set dinner menu where you are served 5 'experimental' courses, where the chef tries out new ideas. Everything we got was really tasty, and the best thing about menus like that is you are made to try things you wouldn't normally order.

Our final day revolved around a trip on the ferry out to Liberty and Ellis Islands.

Manhattan from the harbour.

Thar she is.

Thar she is, with zoom.

Thar I am.

Quite big when you get up close.

There's an immigration museum on Ellis Island, which isn't that interesting but is in a cool building, where all the immigrants to the US used to go through upon arrival.

We had a pretty relaxed end to the holiday, getting a slice of pizza each for lunch and a few beers at the Heartland Brewery bar in Union Square, before catching the long flight home. Great times!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Concrete Jungle

Hi, it's me Oren! Long time no post etc.

So we went to New York last week. Here is the city in all its glory, from up on the Empire State Building.

Northwest - Skyscrapers; Hudson River with Jersey City, NJ on the far shore.

South - Downtown and Financial District

East - East River, Brooklyn on the other side with Long Island stretching to the horizon.

North - More skyscrapers incl. Rockefeller Centre; Central Park; Uptown, Harlem, The Bronx etc. in the distance.

Our trip started with a nice early flight out of Heathrow, by far the most convenient of London's airports, and seven hours later we touched down in JFK. We had no real plan for what to do once we got in, and decided to get the train into Manhattan and make Times Square our first stop. It's a pretty cool place, but that's hard to capture in a picture without seeing all the crazy big video advertising screens in motion and everything.

We then wandered around the midtown area for a while, visiting the Rockefeller Plaza and Grand Central Station, before setting off on the long walk to our hotel on the Upper West Side, some 60 blocks away. It took a long time but it was nice to take in the atmosphere of the city, which you don't get by taking the subway. We looked in a bunch of cool shops along the way and ate hotdogs from one of the many streetside carts.

M&M dispensers, M&M store, Times Square.

Build-A-Bear, a create-your-own stuffed toy store, dinosaur department.

We were fairly exhausted by the time we got to the hotel, and with evening upon us we chose to get dinner somewhere nearby and call it an early night. While searching for somewhere to eat we passed Tom's Restaurant, which we were later informed was the diner which was used for the outside shots of Monk's Cafe in Seinfeld. Even as a fan of the show I would never have recognised it in the dark.

We settled on a Cuban restaurant and, as is the American way, our table was soon buried under a mountain of food - massive pot of paella, three-tier pork selection, black beans and rice, fried plantains and, since we were fortunate enough to be there in happy hour, several mojitos and margaritas. We were also treated to typically amazing American service from our nice waiter - fast, attentive and very friendly, all in the name of getting a big tip at the end of course.

The next morning we made our first visit to the nearby Metro Diner, which would be our breakfast destination every day for the remainder of the trip. They sure know how to do a serious breakfast over there, and I feasted on pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, ham, bacon, eggs and coffee.

I totally covered the whole thing in maple syrup too.

Well-fed, we went back into the city on the subway. An aside: the New York subway is kind of confusing, and we got messed over a couple of times by line closures that weren't very well advertised. Pretty dirty as well. Not as good as the London tube anyway.

Our destination, anyway, was the Empire State Building. There we bought city passes - a handy booklet that gets you entry to most of the city's major tourist attractions while saving money on admissions and skipping the biggest queues. A good investment I reckon.

You've seen the photos of the view from the top, and here we are getting bossed about by the wind (cf: Eiffel Tower photos).

Chrysler Building kind of visible in the background here, Ma!

We then visited the Museum of Modern Art. Didn't take any photos there but it was really good. The biggest name in their collection is Van Gogh's Starry Night, which was cool to see in person. We also went to St Paul's cathedral, the oldest in the city built by the Irish settlers. It's in stark contrast to the buildings around it but a nice piece of architecture.

In the afternoon we wandered around in Chinatown before settling in for dinner at a nice restaurant in Little Italy. We had some pretty great pizza and pesto gnocchi, but both of those were in my opinion overshadowed by the amazing bread and olive oil for appetiser. Incredible.

On the way back to the hotel we decided to stop again in Times Square to see it all lit up. It is a fairly surreal place at night with all the bright lights and screens at full effect and hundreds of people swarming around. Again, photos don't really do it justice, it's definitely something to experience yourself if you can.

We also discovered the huge Toys 'R' Us store there, which didn't actually have many interesting toys (am I growing up?) but did have some cool displays and statues.

Giant animatronic T-Rex

Superman w/ truck

New York's finest, the Spider-Man

More to follow...