Day 4 – a handmade Christmas tree
For many years, I’ve had a different theme every Christmas and even though I’ve pretty much had every colour, the next step will be to have different shades and colour combinations. However this year’s theme is handmade.
I’m inspired firstly by Creative Open Workshops who taught me how to sew a tote bag in the summer and then by a birthday visit to Reykjavik where they appear to have a craft shop on every corner – possibly because it’s too cold to ever go outside. Having made the decision, I’m delighted to find when I come back that as well as Cow, Hannah Moreton is running several weekend Christmas decoration workshops.
Hannah’s workshops came along just at the right time as I was at the point of choosing which of the plethora of Martha Stewart Christmas books I was going to buy. It’s a shame we don’t seem to get the Martha Stewart programme over here which would pretty much sew Christmas up. However, here’s how my handmade theme has shaped up.
Michelin star food vs. good food
On my actual birthday, I had the lovely treat of eating in the Tower Restaurant, whilst staying in the Tower Hotel, Lincoln. I’ve already reported the meal was amazing, one of the best I’ve had.
So when it comes to going to Purnells, with all its Michelin star glory, for my official birthday celebration, expectations are high. I’d already been there for my birthday last year and even when I booked it 8 weeks in advance, I had second thoughts as I that it could never eclipse the first experience.
It didn’t. In fact it didn’t match it. There’s nothing wrong with the food or the service this year but somehow it isn’t quite there. There are mutterings of certain foods being not quite perfect around the table, the service seems a touch arrogant compared to last year, I’m not sure if the fact that we were in the private room last year made a difference as we were treated like royalty then. Worst of all though, they didn’t explain that there was a set price for 3 courses so those of us who knew we couldn’t manage 3, opted for 2 but paid the same. I thought that was very presumptuous of them, given the ample opportunities to explain this to us during the ordering process. Why would anyone in their right mind only have 2 courses when they are paying for three – at Michelin star prices?
It’s a lovely meal, with even better company but both The Tower and Edmunds three weeks later easily eclipse Purnells.
Conversely, the next day is my Birthday Tea (coffee) in my regular Urban Coffee Co although last year was in the original Church Street, this year the newer Jewellery Quarter branch won out.
Urban, could not do enough; I walk in to see my ‘table’ laden with little pots of flowers, my favourite Guinness ‘birthday’ cake is on offer (not an Urban staple so bought in especially) and there are already welcoming friends there. Quite an overwhelming but delightful afternoon.
Part 1 of 3 birthday celebrations
This year, despite the big day falling on a Saturday, I’ve managed to stretch the celebrations to 10 days. I’m not a big drinker; my way of celebrating is through travel and fantastic experiences so first up, is a weekend in Lincoln.
My five year old tradition is to visit a new city for my birthday each year; San Francisco, Washington, Montreal, Milan and now Lincoln. Technically, I’m going to Reykjavik for my birthday but practically, it’s not possibly to fly till Monday and this way; I’m still waking up in an interesting new city on the actual day.
Lincoln is cute for a visit and although there are not enough coffee shops to keep me in coffee crawl mode ordinarily, the Tower Hotel is well worth the trip and if this scrumptious hotel at the top of the hill isn’t enough, its restaurant near blew me away.
Birthday meal – Tower Restaurant
Pan Seared Fillet of Silver Mullet, Cauliflower Puree, Parsley Mash, Caper Berry Dressing, Cauliflower and Pine Nut Fritter
Everything about this collection of goodies oozes goodness, how can a dish not be good if it has mash and fritters?! I devour every morsel with my reasonably priced wine (I thought it was a typo) before moving on to one of the things I live for, dessert:
Ricotta and Vanilla Cheesecake Lemon Meringue, Buerre Noisette Crumb, Coffee Puree, Orange and Cinnamon Sorbet
The chefs have clearly placed secret ingredients in this as every intricate part of this dish exploded in my mouth like heavenly volcanoes.
The Coffee Puree tastes so lethal it’s like espresso they may have served in the prohibition era, the cheesecake – already my favourite food on the planet – has its faultlessly crumbly base served in bounders piled next to it, saves having to cut into it and Lemon Meringues are unlike any ever tasted on earth so clearly are from another planet. But this is before the explosive Orange and Cinnamon sorbet which is exactly what they serve in heaven.
The setting is lovely, if not the luxury of a regular fine dining restaurant. It has a busy bar in the next room but we didn’t
hear anything from it and I found our lovely window seat a delight, despite looking out to the car park opposite. It’s brighter than an intimate setting found in Michelin’s but the staff and fellow diners next to us were chatty and friendly, not at all pretentious. I’ve just read through the entire menu and I could eat it all, even the Sunday Lunch which is the one meal I proudly make.
This is one of the best food experiences I’ve ever had and if it was in Birmingham, this will be a monthly treat, or perhaps more often. How is next week’s Michelin star’d Purnells, where I also ate last birthday, going to compete with this flawlessness?
Words I didn’t think I’d say part 54: I learnt to sew.
A few weeks ago, I went to a craft work shop with the lovely ladies from Creative Open Workshops. It’s not that I’m a complete novice to sewing, I can sew a button and hem badly and I grew up with my Mum running up frocks for me on her sewing machine for my every choir performance.
Erin and Francine are in charge for the ‘Make a Tote Bag’ session. Unfortunately for them, they have a nervous but excitable novice to look after, fortunately for me they are patient, encouraging, fun and amazingly. After being allowed to select my own materials (three different ones to make up one bag!) they let me sit at their best sewing machine which can be set at the lowest possible ‘gear’ setting.
My bag created, I came away wanting a sewing machine. Or maybe a food mixer.
I’ve been trying to get back into cooking for the last couple of years. I’ve owned two mixers in the past as I did used to bake once upon a time and have an ology in cooking.
The domestic goddess in me is coming out and the mixer wins for now; I like food more.
It fits that I should start the editing process of my book in the same city I start writing it, 16 months ago. Having said that, these few days are more of a ‘Worliday’ as coined by San Sharma of Enterprise Nation fame. This is a perfect mix of work and play or in my case editing, going on coffee shop crawls and taking in an Edinburgh Fringe show. Even though I go to Scotland for solid writing days, I always come back refreshed and raring to go as if I’ve been on holiday.
It’s the first time I’m going to Scotland in a car so I can delight in the ‘Welcome to Scotland’ sign that I had hoped for by train, not to views of the rolling hillside as we go through the Pennines. You know, the view the Americans think the whole of England sees every day out of their window.
Apart from being able to shop at Ness for my beloved tartan flavoured clothes, the highlight is not just being in the city for the Edinburgh Fringe but catching a show too. It’s the last day and we hover at the half price ticket stand just long enough for one of the artist’s to pimp his show to us. We buy. The show was as funny and silly as I had hoped and all I can say is I will never look at a red sofa the same again.
The coffee crawl over two days in the city included two Bean Scenes, Peters Yard, Kilmanjaro and a new one on me, the Wellington – all fantastic experiences.
There are also two great meals in Edinburgh but I am looking forward to lunch at Cup when we hit Glasgow’s West End; same table, same view and two cupcakes to go as always.
Of the three Glasgow Bean Scenes’ I write in, my favourite has gone. It’s still there as a similar independent coffee shop named Rudi’s but it’s slightly smarter, more bar than coffee house. If I wasn’t looking I may not have noticed but despite similar ideas and almost identical menu, it’s not Bean Scene. It’s the reason I discover my favourite vintage shop, more because the lady who runs it – who always remembers me – inspired me to run Birmingham Vintage Festival.
I didn’t make a purchase alas, having already bought Victoriana boots in Glasgow but we did find the men’s paisley shirt I’d been looking for in the shop opposite.
On the long and beautiful detour towards Lake Windermere where I, mentally at least, have bought a cottage on the main road, in ‘Black Moss’ which I run as a boutique bed & breakfast filled with vintage finds as I write my (next) book overlooking the fields at the back of the house. Very Miss Potter.
I rarely eat ice cream but the draw of the 99 cone as we pull up to take in Lake Windermere is too much. As if this isn’t perfect enough, on the way back the planned stop is Westmorland services which everyone I have mentioned to since has been to but a new heavenly discovery for me. A glorious lunch with a view and a week’s shopping money spent in the farm store before we finally return home to Birmingham.
It’s my last day of waking up to this fantastic view, tomorrow I will be waking up to Heathrow airport and then to street level, there is no floor-to-ceiling window at home.
I never do get to have pancakes at the very local Joe’s Grill in Davie Village, upon which the Century Plaza is situated on the end of. Instead, I decide upon a last look at Gastown, the old part of the city on the edge of the water that Vancouver is built around, including the statue of ‘Gassy Jack’, John Leighton, around whose pub the area was built so the nearby mill workers could have a drink. They say Gastown is less touristy and much improved but I remember enjoying this neighbourhood much more last time.
Yesterday, I spent the best part of an hour trying to catch a photo of a bus when the sign flashes up ‘Go Canucks Go!’. The buses have had this all week so why I choose my last day to try and catch a photo I will never know. In any case, when I’m standing at the right spot for a bus to go past me that had the signage (it seemed like they all had it but it’s not the case) I realise I can’t take the shot as I can’t work the zoom on my phone, I gave up on the dodgy camera long ago. (Incidentally, I decided to buy a Canucks supporters item but too late again, I was already at the airport and all they had were shirts, no mugs or pens or anything I would actually use. I do buy the Oprah magazine though!).
I love how the whole town ha ‘Go Canucks Go!’ signs everywhere, from small shops with posters to big stores, train stations and mobile phone shops that have electronic messages posted as large as they can. There’s something to be said for just having one team per city rather than having derby matches.
I’m not allowing myself in any more book stores but have a very long list of books to buy upon my return, particularly coffee table books like ’This is East Vancouver’ and fashion photography by YSL. The case ends up being.7lb over in weight anyway. I also want to buy every home decoration magazine but I figure I can import these later if the addiction holds.
I have noted that in Vancouver my train tickets have not been checked once; do they have electronic monitors that check you are carrying a ticket maybe?!
Today is about walking. After I realise there is indeed nothing doing at Gastown, I race to find the place I went to yesterday, knowing they serve breakfast until 11.30 and I’m so glad to make it. After checking in on-line for tonight’s flight and a little blogging, I tuck into my last pancakes then work my way back through Yaletown, saying goodbye to all the book shops, boutiques and vintage stores on my way back to Davie Village.
So, the neighbourhood where I’m staying at is the perfect one. It wasn’t last I was here but now Davie Village has come out, a fact that is immediate as I turn the corner onto Davie street which is covered in flags to represent Vancouver’s gay village. For the solo woman traveller, this is the best place to stay.
I’ve walked from Yaletown all along the beach so go a little further than I plan, almost into West End and so dive into the first coffee shop I see, (I think Meeches but no amount of searching has found it). Finally I hear John Cougar Mellencamp (Hurts So Good) – my trip is complete! I always say when I turn on the radio in North American I’m guaranteed to hear certain artists within the first hour, usually Bon Jovi, Journey or John Mellancamp. I’d heard the former so this felt very apt for the last day!
I drink my last London Fog and make my way slowly back to the hotel to get changed for travelling and then have a final drink. I reflect I’ve not been to the cinema once, a habit I normally have each night of North American travel. There wasn’t anything on and besides, I was busy!
Century Plaza is the most green hotel I have stayed in. I imagine Vancouver (probably Canada) is more green than most cities as the country customarily looks after it’s environment. Vancouver is also much more social media savvy than the UK; every shop, guide book and even the bus advertises their Twitter name.
Century Plaza give $5 back each day if you say ‘no’ to housekeeping. For them this actually means I don’t have a housekeeper come to the room at all so it means making my own bed and doing the washing up – like I do every other day of my life. I’ve asked for ‘no towels’ before but housekeeping normally still just give you them, despite my hanging them up to dry.
I accumulate $5 vouchers to spend in the hotel so it meant a large chai for me each evening, without leaving the hotel, and now whilst I wait for my bus to the airport.
What a fantastic week; this time the pre-trip excitement is validated and I cannot wait for Calgary next.
When I say I’m going away for a week, people always say, ‘only a week?’, like I am being hard-done by. To me, that’s my maximum, four or five days is adequate but given the distance, a week is perfect. After all, I went to San Francisco for five days! Longer than a week and I will forget my log-in, never mind my name or my alarm code to get back in my home. I prefer to have more adventures then just one big one every year or two.
And of course, keeping it short means I pack in every minute, there are no lie-ins for me. How can you wake up with a view of the Rockies and want to stay inside? Although the aforementioned comfortable suite meant it was hard to leave the hotel but lovely to come back to.
It’s customary for me to find my favourite neighbourhood on the last day, as happened in San Francisco when I discover the adorable Haight neighbourhood next to my own. This is where I first found Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic Store that I have hunted down wherever I have been since.
So on my last full day of the Vancouver Adventure, there is no sky train, no boat or ferry as I stay local in Yaletown. It’s not as preppy as it sounds and having walked through it on a rainy Easter Sunday evening, I already had my bearings.
After devouring two eggs (over easy) and three pancakes (plain with maple syrup) – a first for me, whilst poring over a new addiction, ‘Traditional Home’ magazine, I hit the home wares shops.
Rachel Ashwell has spawned a plethora of shabby chic shops around the world and Yaletown has it’s fair share, headed up by the shabby chic Mecca that is, The Cross. As tempting as it was, it’s horrendously over priced and I spent my whole time there making notes on what I’m at my Birmingham Vintage Fair stall, at a fifth of the cost. I loved every second though.
It was a very stimulating visit and I come away with an armful of ideas for my vintage event. In fact the day turned out to be dry and sunny rather than the forecast showers and I’m full of inspiration to bring back home.
Talking of inspiration, I whiled away a happy lunch period in book shops, where I bought two too many books and then on to the much flaunted Vancouver Library. A piece of heaven which made me look forward to the unveiling of the soon to be opened Birmingham Library. Vancouver is great but I think this will be better.
Later, I stay even more local by going to the West End, where the English Bay is and do some blogging in a cafe whilst watching the end of the Montreal game. They lost.
Tweets from the game
The website says the game’s on at 6pm, I get back to my room at 5.45 with Mac & Cheese for the game from IAG across the road. The show starts at 6pm, the game starts at 6.10. This is how to show live sport British TV, not an hour of pre-game build up listening to presenters who like hearing their own voices!!!
I’m guessing the goalie is tiny under that Michelin man get up
It feels odd to be sitting inside watching ice hockey when it’s such a sunny evening. I’ve moved the arm chair closer to the TV and the skyscraper outside is towering over my right side now, like it’s going to enter the room any moment and sit next to me to watch the game.
I will never get used to American sports having advert breaks; they literally stop playing ice hockey for them. When I used to watch the New York Rangers, I learnt a red light comes on in Madison Square Garden when the adverts are on!
I’m wondering if I can get this on British TV? Although the games will be on in the middle of the night. I won’t get sports channels for my sport, football, because it will mean I never leave the house, read or do other things, but I’m considering it for NHL?!
There were 3 minutes to go in first period; I’ve heated the mac & cheese, made salad and ate it. The period is still in play.
End of first period, I’m off to start packing for homeward journey.
Three big events on the news over here in BC; the Stanley Cup Play offs, the election on May 3rd and a big wedding. The news guys are praying for no overtime in this game as the wedding coverage starts at 1am!
15 minute break and all I have done is empty the suitcase, gone through my receipts(binned all) and packed some of my purchases. Still 1-1.
Yes, Vancouver score! There is a delayed celebration as officials double checked the goal. 12.14 in second period.
I can’t remember what Power Plays are.
Wow, one of the Nashville players has just somersaulted into the air. Another has just broken his stick on the ice.
Second period ended, usual big fight on the ice before they go into their dressing rooms.
The case is as packed as it can be now.
Third period, nervous now, Nashville just had a near miss.
Ad break: I don’t have anything to do now, nothing to pack, not hungry, not thirsty, don’t need the bathroom.
Oh gosh, Mr Spock on TV advert, advertising a TV product that interacts with Facebook.
I have no idea who’s playing better anyway, it’s all so fast moving for me.
Ad break, 5 minutes to go, meaning half hour in Canadian TV ice hockey time. Off to get some chips.
Torn between watching my last sunset in Vancouver and the game. Cherish both moments.
Soundtrack to the game has included the Beach Boys, the inevitable Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC and now best of all, a little bit of the Cult! I can only imagine the atmosphere just around the corner in Rogers Arena right now.
Is the NHL run by Canada or America or jointly or someone else? How many teams are there? I’m guessing more American than Canadian, despite ice hockey being Canada’s sport.
“One – nothing tonight on hockey night in Canada” Ad break.
21 seconds to go and the game re-starts. The crowd are going crazy.
Final whistle, 1-0 to Vancouver, 1 down, up to 6 to go.
No idea why it’s best of 7, I suspect advertising revenue. We’d be so bored of that in football don’t you think?
Today is all about the Sky Train. It’s pretty much what it says, an over ground train service that sometimes is a little like a rollercoaster, except it doesn’t go round in circles or unnecessarily fast and you don’t have to be belted up. Actually it’s just like a normal train that happens to run on some high rails. It is a good way to see the city, as the concierge at Century Plaza said but today, I just plan to go to Commercial Drive to tick East Vancouver of the list.
The Drive, as it’s called hear is easy to find and is choc full of vintage shops. In short it’s hippydom and so far, it’s top of my fantasy places to live if I was to live in Vancouver. IT helps that I saw it on a dry morning and my plans to ‘Sky train it’ to two other places today are thwarted as the rain is a coming.
I come back and head out deep into the West End, my neighbourhood in search of an internet coffee shop and buy another cupcake. Mission accomplished, today’s it’s Red Velvet cake. Still no cheesecake though although there has been a couple of near misses, I’ve not see actual plain New York Cheesecake anywhere. It will probably be at the airport upon my return.
The only disappointment is that Montreal lose their ‘must win’ game. I feel bad as they were in over time when I stood up to go and they promptly lost with sudden death. Still ‘Go Canucks Go!’
I pop into another Safeway’s on the way back for a late (for me) dinner. It turns out to be one of the most unwittingly perfect meals; meat balls, Mac & cheese (as they say), salad pic-a-mix which I love – they compartmentalise everything so you can choose how you want it served – genius!
There is still no sign of a Martha Stewart magazine in Vancouver, Canada is clearly not Stewart country, even the UK has the magazines!
I take it back to the hotel, starving after an evening’s blogging, just in time to switch for the end of the Jimmy Fallon show with Twister Sister playing live. Somehow it just all added up as I watched yet another sunset, my favourite time in the hotel.
Victoria not at all like England; no-ones drunk, they don’t complain about the weather & the workmen politely say hello.
What’s London Fog? A bit like chai but not.
On the way back to the bus I notice a sign offering 2 things: sightseeing tour around Victoria or a trip to IKEA. I feel that sums up Victoria perfectly.
My believe is that Victoria is filled with more mature people, confounded by the fact that my pink argyle socks worn under cropped jeans caused quite and unexpected stir. I was dressed for comfort and indeed we had 2 drops of rain and 10 seconds of nippiness, the rest of the day is perfect.
The day is topped by being on the boat back in time for the big game, Vancouver vs. Boston in a must win game to get to the next round of the Stanley Cup. I go without the burger and fries I’d promised myself as the pre-game line was too long.
I start seeing the game in Victoria and see the last touch back at the hotel in Vancouver some 3.5 hours later. The game is not that long; it’s just all the advert breaks that they stop for.
Canucks win – Vancouver has a street party into the early hours, I fall asleep to the noise of car horns. Blissfully happy.
Breakfast: French Toast at Moodyville Cafe, North Vancouver
Today the rain is forecast but I decide to take the jaunt over to North Vancouver. I’ve promised myself I’ll explore BC so that’s what I’m doing. On landing over the water, there is another Public Market, an indoors market almost identical to Granville Island. I manage to find French Toast for breakfast at Moodyville’s before the rain takes hold and spot the Cafe of Contemporary Art as recommended by for shelter later. The shops recommended in the wonderful Vancouver book in the hotel elude me; they just seem not enough to bother with in the rain so I console myself with just the gorgeous view of Vancouver and a look round the few local shops. Then I sit and have a read in the aforementioned cafe – these Sunday Times magazines are not going to read themselves! – before catching the boat back. It’s an effortless journey although no-one seems to check tickets in Vancouver, is there an invisible electronic checker?!
Back on dry land, I plan to treat myself to the shops in the very much drier Pacific Centre, home of Bath and Body Works. Yes I did check this shop was in Vancouver before I planned my trip. It’s my absolute favourite toiletries haunt has been for way more than a decade and I’ve always bought my favourites each time I’ve visited America. Now it’s Canada’s turn to be supplier. $80 well spent for a year’s worth of bubble bath & body lotions and two lots of my favourite hand scrub.
Vancouver Day Two: Easter Sunday
Well commerce may be closed but the shops are open. It remains dry and sunny whilst I walk all the way to through the West End, through Davie Village to the English Bay to walk on some sand, buy my first cupcake (Vanilla of course) even though the shop is barely open at 10am and I’m ready for my first pancakes, at Joe’s Grill. A walk back to the hotel meant accidently coming across a gorgeous Safeway store and a very successful food shop including the maple syrup to bring back, although I realise now why it’s so much cheaper here than in UK, it’s not maple syrup, it’s pretend but it’s done the job for the last year so I pick up two.
It’s right after finding these that Jackson Brown’s ’Running on Empty’ and I almost burst with excitement. Can’t imagine this scenario in Tesco at Five Ways.
On the way back I also discover an IGA, the supermarket I frequented a lot in Montreal that I can’t help calling AIG, so get even more supplies, all the things I used to eat in New York and just as huge quantities; box of savoury scones and a box of cookies – the Easter variety and a lasagne, exactly what I fancied.
Later I cover one more neighbourhood that I can walk to, despite the rain that has now returned, Yaletown. The area is full of boutiques and arts stores, mostly closed this late on a Sunday but it gave me a flavour of the area. Then onto the first of my ‘sitting in coffee shops, looking out the window and reading out of date Sunday Times magazines (January). First up, a chai in Benz ‘Canada’s coffee shops’.
Things I love about Canadian (and North American) coffee shops;
Still not been to a Tim Horton’s coffee shop yet, I think of them as being ‘Canada’s coffee place’ but they are not as prevalent here as they are in Montreal.
For once, there wasn’t a film I wanted to see. There’s usually one that I missed at the cinema or one I’d see again but this time I had to look through the one’s I’d never heard of:
Croupier (not bad Clive Owen flick 7/10), Somewhere (not as bad as worst film ever, Lost in Translation but still dull. I liked the premise, hot shot Hollywood actor gets to know his young daughter again but still dull 3/10) and Me You and Everyone We Know (pretty good find 7½ /10).
It’s a long flight so in between the three films I tried to get 40 winks and adjust to Vancouver time. Upon landing, I was through customs and luggage collection within 30 minutes but still missed my shuttle by a few minutes. It didn’t help that I wasn’t sure where to pick it p from and wasted 5 minutes walking right past the spot right outside the airport door.
This didn’t matter to the man looking after the limo shuttle service, who radioed in to find out about it and they asked the driver to turn around and come and collect me. In the few minutes this took, I’d had a lovely chat with a waiting limo driver and couldn’t help but quantify my belief in how friendly Canadians are.
It turns out I was the only passenger on the shuttle, strange on a holiday Saturday but it meant a short ride to the hotel. Worth every cent of $25 return trip.
Floor to ceiling views
All is going wonderfully on an unexpected sunny day, I packed for early spring weather so I plan to change into the one summer outfit I bought the minute I’ve checked in. However, there’s a surprise waiting for me in the hotel I’d previously stayed on my first visit in 1998, I’ve been upgraded! That’s the first time that’s happened in all these years of hotel stays. It’s already a suite with floor to ceiling views of the Rockies so how can they improve it? By giving me a huge lounge in a corner suite, with French doors going to the bedroom and three windows pointing in different directions. I can see all the way downtown and to the West End. Absolutely perfect.
This prompts many tweets whilst I frantically unpack, meaning get everything out of the case and spread out on the bed to prevent further creasing, and then get changed. I want to make the most of the only sunny day planned for the week and the concierge suggests Granville Island, accessible as the name suggests by a water bus.
Within two hours of the plane landing, I am on Granville Island, tiny with fantastic views of the city and all around. It has a beautiful harbour where they appear to have built something in between a boat and a house – not a boat house but a floating house. I decide on a salmon burger and fries in one of the pubs that looks out to the harbour which means it cost twice as much but worth it; I even celebrated my arrival with a bottle of Molson, a rare drop of alcohol for me. I ask for the lime pickle mayonnaise on the side; I don’t like pickle and I don’t like mayonnaise but somehow, lime pickle mayonnaise with salmon is fantastic.
After a good wonder around the arts shops and galleries and picking up some irresistible photography the minute I walked into the fabulous Public Market (the photographer was once married to a Brummie (“I imported him in then I imported him out”) and then bought some celebratory crazy looking tulips, another celebratory purchase.
I come back into the city, relax a bit in the hotel before heading down Davie Village, the gay neighbourhood starting right by the hotel, which I suspect wasn’t in existence 13 years ago as I would have noticed. There’s something comforting about being in a gay neighbourhood when I travel alone. The plan was to grab a coffee and start the first in a long series of ‘watching the world go by’ but I start feeling very tired and realise it’s best to keep walking. I do this, whilst picking up supplies at the nearest supermarket. I managed to stay awake until 9.30, which is great considering the 5am start and the eight hour difference.
Song of the day: Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind
The aim is to get people dating.
Dating the old fashioned way, meeting in a bar, a coffee shop, a museum or at the cinema. All we need to do is get you all in a room together More info
NYC merging with UK
Really, it’s a small thing but on Saturday I put on my pale blue, long fleecy robe for the first time in 2 years, (it’s as good as new) and made my weekend pancakes. If I was in New York, I would have watched at least one premiership match before I’d got out of bed and another one whilst getting ready for the weekend spent upstate.
Later I use my egg ring to make perfect size eggs for the muffin, in my super duper mini frying pan – all my pans have been returned to me from NYC bent out of shape but that just makes me smile; my life has been bent out of shape for a couple of years.
I have coffee in my ’weekend’ Shabby Chic mug that reminds me of having eggnog in my coffee pretty much all the way between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s day. I bought this pretty china thing to celebrate after viewing the apartment that I then moved into and then going round the corner to discover that the Shabby Chic store had come to New York.
Today I feel like my New York has merged into what I have now and it feels kind of nice.
On Monday I once again make perfect, fluffy scrambled eggs with my very expensive whisk and mini pan. I also delighted in the first time I wore my brown, brogue shoe boots teamed with my pink and caramel knee high argyle socks and cropped jeans. Oh I have missed you! I bought them from my new shoe shop discovery Aerosoles that was across the street from my daily NYC coffee shop. The novelty of having my really good black boots is wearing off but just being able to wear different jewellery every day to go with what I’m wearing is a joy each morning
The day I bought the Aerosoles
Again it’s the small things but each time I use something I haven’t seen for a couple of years it feels brand new. Obviously I have had to buy and/or acquire lots of new things but a lot has been trashed, taken to charity or is ready for selling.
I’m going to be like this for a few weeks yet and then again when my new bedroom and lounge storage furniture arrives. Then I will see everything back in place.
It’s a long, sad story but just to say after two years, I have just had my worldly belongings delivered back to me from New York.
Having spent the best part of two decades travelling to the USA and to New York in particular, I’ve known for a year or two now that my transatlantic life is over, at least for a good few years. Again, I don’t want to dwell on that, more the odd feeling I have now that I have all my CDs, books, clothes, photos, family keepsakes and toiletries back.
Yes, I now have enough shampoo and conditioner for the rest of my life – seriously I do – and certainly enough toiletries for next 2-3 years. If you know me, you’ll know I don’t buy any old rubbish. Feel free to knock on my door if you run out of shampoo but your hands are not going on any of my ‘can only purchase in North America’ Bath & Body Works luxuries.
Some of my belongings I haven’t seen for well over two years and I’ve been asked what I was looking forward to most. The answer is everything! However, what I unpacked first were my CDs (Whitesnake then CherryGhost came to hand first, yes I have eclectic taste), my really good black boots I’ve had for over a decade, ALL MY CLOTHES but particularly all my boots and my toiletries. Some people are hooked on shoes, I like things that smell nice, feel nice and make me feel good first thing in the morning. And they’re a lot cheaper, take up less space and I can replace when I run out.
I’m relieved when I see all the photos and family memories plus my Dior jewellery collection and my ‘real’ jewels as I forgot to add them to the insurance itinerary. The Audrey book came out a little battered and I haven’t attempted to unpack my twenty year old Villeroy & Bosch china as I heard it clinking – never a good sound at £20 a plate but it’s had a good run and the broken plates are more tolerable than a broken heart.
Quite frankly, I’ve had enough of international heartbreak and the feeling I have now that everything is around me again is indescribable; it goes way beyond elated, a marathon past ecstatic and a world beyond relief.
Imagine having a lifetime’s worth of collections and memories you’ve carefully chosen or had given to you with love and then you are without everything. Whatsmore, I’m not able to go back to pack and transport it myself so I’ve had to rely on strangers handling all my worldly goods. Five nail biting, hair twisting, lip biting months later (4 months organising, 1 month in transit) and 18 very large, some humungous, boxes arrive. Within five minutes, two helpful gentlemen have unloaded everything into my welcoming home.
It turns out I didn’t need to move the furniture out of the way; it’s a lot easier with just boxes that stack up rather than when moving a whole house of odd shaped furniture.
So back to the odd feeling; I thought I would feel a little sadder seeing my home being ‘New Yorked’ but it just feels super good. I bought the boxes from my NYC storage company so my lounge is piled high with cartons that state ’Manhattan Mini Storage’ in huge blue letters but I don’t mind at all.
My clothes are piled up on the dining table and in the bedroom awaiting new furniture and I don’t mind at all.
I’m actually enjoying waking up and seeing that I’m surrounded by it all.
If I’d packed myself, certain things like chai tea bags (still in date!) and laundry liquid wouldn’t have been worth transporting but I have done about a dozen washes so it came in handy. My house has smelt wonderfully like a Chinese laundry for a few days as after being in storage, almost everything needed washing, even the clothes with tags still on.
It’s odd having things like horrid American loo roll; honestly, no matter what how many dollars I spent, the quality was never as good as the UK – and I didn’t get the pretty patterned one I get from M&S.
I have all my New York coffee table books on my coffee table and it doesn’t make me feel at all gloomy, maybe a little nostalgic even.
I’ve come a long, long way in two years.
Anyway, I have lots of Canadian trips to look forward to this year; a whole new country to fall in love with. (although I kind of already have).
My home is New York’d.
Ok it’s not Gratitude for December this month mainly as I was uncharacteristically ill over Christmas and while I was in one of my top three favourite countries, Italy. Hey ho.
So let’s give some love to all of 2010 instead.
I finished my very first draft of my very first book. I have lots to do now but I have adored working on it and look forward to organising it and rewriting it, possibly into two books.
For this I’m grateful to my school English teachers, Mr Thomas and Ms French, Rosa Guy, Kimmi, my writing tutor in New York, AA Gill, India Knight, Jeremy Clarkson and lately Matt Rudd of the Sunday Times and loads of authors, brilliant ones and ones I haven’t enjoyed for inspiring me one way or another. Finally I’m grateful to Marsha Moore for her advice and encouragement.
Mostly, I’m grateful to Zoe Heller who inspired me to write articles when she was a Sunday Times columnist based in New York, way before she became a novelist.
A few highlights of 2010
Birmingham Jazz Festival. I fully embraced and loved every second of it and can’t wait for this year. I think I’ll be taking a few days of during that week.
Brumnotes Christmas Party
Tom Peel. I saw twice for which I‘m grateful to Lyle Bignon for the heads up. I still owe this man a drink.
And the absolute highlight, seeing my favourite band of the last few years not once but twice, Cherry Ghost. A massive bonus was that on one of the occasions they supported the rather excellent, The Coral.
I didn’t get my three trips abroad this year just because I was so busy but this will be rectified in 2011 with at least two trips to Canada. I did get to see Scotland for the first time for a few book writing jaunts so I appreciate Bean Scene in Glasgow and Peters Yard in Edinburgh. Thanks for the coffee.
I did make a return trip to Milan and Verona at Christmas. I was ill to start with but definitely perked up when I got to Verona, prettier than I remember it from 11 years ago.
I went to my first and only book signing, Dara O’Briain to sign one of favourite books of the year, ’Tickling the English’.
Grateful to Springboard for giving me lots of lovely projects to work on (and some horrid ones but makes me appreciate the lovely ones more).
On that note, I’m grateful to Kiss Me CupCakes who lent me spare car to run events across the country.
I’m grateful to have the friends I have known for 5, 10, 15, 20 + years but also to MeetUp for all the new ones I have made this year with whom I’ve had so much fun, frolics and shared new experiences.
Of course I’m grateful for Urban, for the friendliness and particularly for opening a long awaited second coffee shop 10 minutes walk in the other direction from my house.
It’s been lovely to visit some new to me restaurants this year, the gorgeous Opus from which I have developed a serious risotto addiction, the friendly and value for money Syriana and of course the luxurious Purnells for the birthday dinner. I am indeed truly blessed.
The World Cup; I love World Cup years and I’m contented with Spain winning.
Pretty in Pink (the girlie stuff)
Grateful for India Knight for introducing me to the Babyliss hot brush. I had a hot brush years ago and was not impressed and have only thrown it out a couple of years ago but on her say so, I buy this new one. It’s the ceramic coating that makes 100% difference. I don’t compare washing my hair to the nightmare of being locked in a room with Cheryl Cole and/or Robbie Williams now. In fact, I quite look forward to ‘doing my hair’.
For my hairdresser of two decades (even when I was in New York) Franco Russo in Bedford for introducing me to the wonder product that is Argan oil; sounds horrid but is a dream. Between these two introductions, no more bad hair days
I’m truly grateful for another year on this fine planet and to celebrate by visiting another new city; Milan.
Birmingham daters, which do you prefer?
♥ You’ll know that the people coming to LuvDrop are single; the rest is all there to be discovered
♥ With face to face meetings, you meet the true personality with no place to hide
♥ At LuvDrop events, you may find yourself liking someone who on paper would have been on you ‘no’ list
More about Luvdrop
I’m grateful for seeing the season change during my favourite month
I’m grateful for celebrating yet another year of this wonderful life
I’m grateful for having my birthday dinner in Purnells which if memory serves me right, is only the second Michelin starred restaurant I’ve eaten in
I’m grateful to share my birthday with many of my new Birmingham friends mixed with a couple of old ones
I’m mightily grateful to add yet another travel adventure to the many I have already experienced. A break in Milan was also just what I needed to refresh mind, body and soul.
Internet dating may be all rainbows in the adverts, says Rhodri Marsden. But the truth is that many more hearts are broken than matches made
In 1966, The Supremes explained to us that you can’t hurry love. Sixteen years later Phil Collins concurred: “You just have to wait,” he sang, additionally noting that love don’t come easy. Those words of wisdom still apply, and particularly so if you’re one of those participating in the seemingly eternal worry-go-round of internet dating.
The adverts for such services, featuring blissfully happy couples pushing each other on swings, would have us believe otherwise. eHarmony likes to stress how many members get married as a result of being matched via the service (236 every day, according to data gathered in the US in 2008.) Match.com did a survey last year indicating that an impressive 58,500 people found a partner on the site over a 12-month period – and they still offer a six-month guarantee of “finding love”, albeit underlined (understandably) by a 500-word list of conditions.
And we’re suckers for all this. When Time Out magazine recently ran a cover story offering free online dating for every reader, it was dangling a huge metaphorical carrot. We all want to be loved, after all.
But you rarely hear from those who, having failed to find a partner online, back away from the computer shaking their heads at the way the process distorts social conventions and leaves you slightly shell-shocked. Those 58,500 lucky members of match.com were vastly outnumbered by the 286,000 unlucky ones. Yes, anecdotes of hair-raising internet dates have become dinner-party staples – you know, like “he turned up wearing a toolbelt and immediately burst into tears” – and many were collected in a book published earlier this year. But what about the mental strain? The plunge in self-esteem when your ideal partner remains as elusive as a taxi on New Year’s Eve?
A quick disclosure: I have a couple of dating profiles online. It’s not going that well. But this isn’t therapy masquerading as a self-pitying article by some bloke in his late-thirties – well, not much, anyway. I’ve got a number of friends and acquaintances who share my feelings about the way online dating plays fast and loose with your emotions.
These people are relatively undamaged and sane, without many skeletons in their cupboards. Some of them are model-like in their beauty, rapier-like in their wit or both. All of them have approached internet dating with the most honourable of intentions: they’re lured by the promise of romance, be it jazz and croissants on Sunday morning, or leaping out of a plane strapped to someone nice. Whatever.
They’d just like somebody, but somebody hasn’t shown up.The search for love in any context is a lottery, of course. The odds are stacked Jenga-like against us. What are the chances of two compatible people turning up in the same place at the same time? Internet dating is meant to tip those odds in our favour – and it can work, of course it can. But the people I’ve spoken to who’ve been bruised by it are unanimous as to why that happened. They believe it’s a problem inherent to the process. So if you’re doing it, and you’re feeling down, don’t worry. It’s not you.
Well, it might be. But it most likely isn’t.Adam: “It’s blackly comic: we all say we’re fun-loving, up for a laugh, just seeing how things go – when everyone knows that we’re all on a dating site because, to varying extents, we’re lonely.”Internet dating pivots around profiles; lists of attributes, paragraphs where you attempt to make yourself sound appealing, a handful of flattering photographs. But there’s already a problem. Dozens of books and websites offer advice on how to write profiles; third-party services even charge 40 quid to save you the bother.
As a result, the uniformity is hilarious. Everyone loves travelling, particularly to Machu Picchu – which, if the profiles are to be believed, is an Inca site swarming with thousands of backpacking singletons. Men are singularly obsessed with skiing. All of us love to curl up on the sofa with a bottle of wine and a DVD (or a VD, as one unfortunately misspelled profile said).The vernacular of online dating makes everyone sound the same. Rather than reflecting what we’re like, it reflects what we think other people want – because we’re trying to appeal to as many people as possible. Men will lie about their height, men and women will lie about their age, some people even upload photos of other people and pretend it’s them. It doesn’t correlate with real life.
And once you realise this, internet dating suddenly feels as random as approaching strangers in a car park and asking them if they fancy you. Which, believe me, is never a good idea.
Ruth: “I don’t want someone like me. Why on earth would I want someone like me?”Searching for a partner online has inevitable similarities to searching for a product. Computer algorithms have the herculean task of returning a perfect match from its database based on our own vaguely truthful submissions, and such copper-bottomed compatibility guarantees as whether both parties are fond of cats.Our natural impulse, encouraged by the way these websites work, is to seek people who like the same things as us. But while I wouldn’t want to date someone who gets a kick out of attending far-right political rallies, it’s certainly true that opposites can attract. I went out with a wonderful woman for seven years who loved Barbra Streisand. I can’t stand Babs. In a relationship these kind of things aren’t an issue, but internet dating makes them into one. After all, when I meet someone in real life that I like, I tend not to say, “Hi, I’m Rhodri, and here’s a list of food I don’t like eating.” The rules of attraction are just too complex to be held in a database and analysed by a computer.
Thomas: “The idea that someone likes to spend weekends mountain biking or, I dunno, shaving lions – that’s the kind of thing that would send me up the nearest bell tower with a sniper rifle.”But we’re forced to filter the mass of potential datees, and we do it savagely. We start to adopt a power-shopping mentality, disregarding people for arbitrary reasons; as my friend Sam put it, we cruise past people’s pictures as if they’re caravans in Daltons Weekly. “Yeah, no, no, yeah – ooh, yes! – no, no, ugh.” It’s a compelling, but ultimately exhausting, process that these services have adapted, refined and streamlined because it’s a brilliant way for them to make money. While a service might lure you with a strapline saying “Meet sexy singles in your area”, the truth is more like, “Reject perfectly decent singles in your area while waiting for the maddeningly elusive sexy ones.” Everyone is trading off current opportunities against future possibilities. In a thoughtful moment, you might even realise there are people you’ve had relationships with in the past who, if they appeared as an online match, you might reject. And when you’re the one being rejected, it can hurt.
Charlotte: “It’s a brutalising process. You join thinking you’ll be nice and civilised and honest with people, but once people don’t reply to your emails, you start doing the same to other people.”Rejection may be a strong word to use. It doesn’t approach the horror of being told by a partner that they don’t love you any more. But despite our inclination to present ourselves as optimistic – verging on an almost deranged bubbliness, in some cases – we enter the process on the back foot. We’re not part of a couple, and we may have hang-ups about our attractiveness. Suddenly, every unreciprocated gesture hurts way more than it should. Unreplied-to messages sit in the “sent” folder as a grim reminder of your failure to connect with someone, almost prompting you to fire off another message saying “What’s the problem? What’s wrong with me?” So we have to develop a thick skin. But, you know, having a thick skin is overrated. Thin skin is just fine. It’s just that thin skin isn’t compatible with internet dating.
Francesca: “It’s also a horrible feeling knowing that there are potentially a lot of other people in competition with you. It’s like being in a deck of Top Trumps cards – what are my stats? What is it about me that might or might not trump someone else?”If you live in a city, the seemingly inexhaustible array of potential beaus strewn across these websites is part of the appeal. But that very abundance is also why the rapid cycle of rejection can feel so disheartening.
“Plenty more fish in the sea” isn’t just a well-meaning phrase uttered by a kindly relative after you’ve been dumped. Internet dating presents you with rock-solid evidence. Thousands of them, right there, smiling at you. (Except me. I’m kind of glumly staring at you, which may be one of the reasons why I haven’t done so well.)Long-term internet dating participants know only too well, however, the cycle of knock-back followed by a speedy return to the site in search of someone else. You start seeing the same faces across multiple sites, and some people (especially men) will start to play the percentage game, firing off multiple cut-and-paste emails in the hope that someone will reply. One friend of mine was even sent a cheery message of introduction from a man who she had already had a disastrous date with via another dating website.
Richard: “But you getthat thrill when someone responds. For a short time you’re on top of the world – and that’s followed by a low point. It’s like a fast-working drug with a terrible come-down.” It’s an addictive process, there’s no doubt about it. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is the burst of elation associated with a stranger suddenly deciding that you’re attractive, amusing, a good prospect. New members on these sites receive a flood of attention that can be exhilarating. As one friend said to me, there was a time when she felt like the most popular woman in the country. After a while, though, you develop a more realistic view of the thing. You realise that, for example, the match.com “guarantee” isn’t so much a guarantee as a hard-headed business decision based on probability and likely cost. But the knowledge that it’s working out for some 17 per cent of members brings hope, and makes you loath to pack it in.The other undeniable reason: with options dwindling as you get older and friends start families, giving up on internet dating feels like giving up on love altogether. But sticking at it can seem to reinforce your single status.
Sarah: “Internet dating is essentially a lot of single people, of varying degrees of loneliness, blundering around with their arms out hoping to bump into someone.” Sarah’s right. In that sense, it’s not much different to real life. It’s the usual random process of love-seeking, but cleverly tarted up with psychometric testing and percentage matching and with a monthly fee slapped on it. I suppose it works out cheaper than going out every night and keeping your fingers crossed. But if it’s not working for you, do take heart from me – and from Thomas, Pip, Catherine, Charlotte, Matthew, Steph, Sian, Francesca, Sam, Vanessa, Richard, another Richard, Jane, Adam, Juliet, Tim, Michelle, Sarah, Courtney, Michael, Helen, Vicki, Claire, Saj, Juliet, Stuart and Ruth, all of whom contacted me to get their feelings off their chests.We’re not bitter. If anything, recognising the improbability of finding the perfect internet date makes participating a lot easier. In fact, we’re all magnificently well-adjusted. Maybe I should start trying to match us all up…
Before the birthday trip to Milan came two celebrations with friends:
Sunday afternoon tea
I invited my local friends to join me at Urban Coffee Co for coffee & cake, drinks & snacks and fun & frolics to kick start my birthday celebrations. What I didn’t expect was for Urban to go beyond the call of duty; decorating my reserved table with confetti and balloons and getting in Guinness cake although they just managed to save me a slice as it was snapped up before we got there! (my traditional birthday drink is Black Velvet; Guinness and champagne).
There was the birthday cupcake personalised with my name (Courtesy of Kiss Me Cupcakes) and best surprise of all there was Rich the pianist, my favourite (so far) of all the Urban entertainers. He was meant to be away and I was told there was no way he would make it. Now that’s the type of surprise that puts a smile on a birthday girl’s face.
Kiss Me Cupcakes pulled out the stops too by providing me with canapé size cupcakes decorated with my requested dolly mixtures and love hearts.
We had the most perfect, completely chilled afternoon.
How lucky am to know Kiss Me Cupcakes and to have the honour of Rich playing for my birthday. Big thanks to the ever wonderful host, Becks and Alan and all at Urban. “Where everybody knows your name” ♫♪
One Michelin star ♥♥♥♥♥
Two days later a select group of us head into Purnells for a birthday dinner. We have the private room so feel more like royalty than perhaps we normally would, although I wouldn’t know as I’ve saved my first visit to Purnells for a special occasion.
We make the effort to dress for the occasion, the occasion being my birthday rather than a Tuesday evening at Purnells.
The staff for their part give the 100% perfect service we have come to expect. Truly amazing
Two days later, I’m on a flight to Milan.
Now, what shall I do next year……….any ideas?
I sit under the outside heater with my laptop and wonder why the rest of the patrons are not at work at 9am. It’s still raining but I decide I have the time and inclination to get soaked whilst having a last walk through Milan.
I really want to go up and down those side streets that I spotted last night when we were looking for an open restaurant at 7.45pm. So I do.
45 minutes of walking up and down cobbled, almost empty streets peering into the windows of closed designer show rooms and it’s time to walk back to the hotel. As I come out onto the main street, I realise I’m only a few minutes away from the hotel and 30 minutes away from the taxi to take us on our journey back home.
It’s been ten years since I was last in Italy although not in Milan. I did fly back from Milan last time and as the plane took off, I noticed the biggest ever advert which simply stated ‘Giorgio Armani’ like the designer was the airport’s sponsor.
That and a lifelong study made me think that Milan, more than Florence, Rome, Venice and even gorgeous Verona will have row upon row of designer stores.
I’d expected them to be scattered across the city like McDonalds. I certainly expect there to be flagship homage to the great and good of Italian fashion. But no, they are mostly tucked away in a little area known as the ‘Fashion District’ and these are not for the average consumer; no these are for serious collectors, fashion buyers and editors. They certainly don’t look open. None of that spoilt my enjoyment of spotting each and every delectable store of course.
My favourite thing about visiting Italy is that I know every coffee will be great, no matter where I buy it from. The first day in the hotel was suspect but much improved when they made a fresh pot; they were replicating ‘American’ coffee for the tourist and I guess because it‘s lot easier for them if we can help ourselves rather than employing someone to make each cup.
However, ten years later, I’ve forgotten that big coffees don’t exist here so I cannot linger with a book or indeed my net book. I’ve yet to see what the world calls ‘Italian coffee’, I call sickly milky stuff and you will probably call latte in Italy.
On the other hand, I so rarely have it in the UK it’s lovely to spend a few mornings filled with cappuccinos.
Discoveries: McDonalds’ McCafe, complete with above average coffee – i.e. better than most UK coffee shops (I said ‘most’) and I had no trouble finishing of the Tiramisu too. In regular cafes, coffee ranged from €2.80 to €4 and that’s just when I noticed the price so the €1.10 for a decent cup in McCafe is refreshing (excuse the pun).
Old discoveries that thankfully still hold true; fabulous coffee, pizzeria on every street, pasta at every cafe and everyone speaks English when they shouldn’t have to!
I love Italy!
Adventures in Milan – Day 4Sunday Best
Today has always had rain forecast so ‘they’ did not disappoint us. However, I’m one step ahead as I keep the Cathedral, the main tourist attraction (apart from the sport that is Versace shop spotting) for today.
We get to the part where the lift takes us up to the roof. This part costs €8 to see and there are no lines so we are easily outside and on the roof to see the magnificent detail of the Duomo in seconds. After our descent, by stairs – I’m feeling energetic – it’s still raining but my plan for us to spend an hour or two inside the dry cathedral is thwarted. There isn’t the line of people as there was yesterday because they are not letting anyone in. We decide to try again towards the end of the afternoon rather than try to get a translation as to why.
In the meantime I’ve come to realise that unlike any other city in the world that relies partly on the billions €€€ spent by tourists every year to survive and flourish, Milan doesn’t. There is barely a sign to point out places of interest for us to spend our hard earned pounds in. It does feel like there are Milanese secrets and us the tourists are not invited in.
The shrine to Versace is still not evident and whilst I know there will be at least one Versace store in Milan, just like in every other major shopping city in the world, my point is that they don’t make the most of their fashion heritage. I’m gobsmacked that D&G, Armani and especially Versace are not more prominent. By now surely we have walked nearly every street around the ‘fashion district’ and I’d have expected to see a handful of each spread around the city.
And no, I don’t see the point of searching on my rubbish internet connection to find out where they are; I don’t need to shop there, the point is I expect all these designers to have a high profile here.
Back at the cathedral there is a line waiting formed with a multitude of umbrellas but we still get inside within a few minutes. It’s worth the effort to see inside what has now become a magical place, one that I seem to be able to spot from whatever neighbourhood I’m in.
Whilst thinking on where to eat on the last night (we never did find anywhere ‘dressy’ to eat) I recall the two recommendations I’d received from a fashion editor via Twitter. With the lack of reliable internet access, we only found the street name for one and duly set out for Sunday evening dinner.
The last supper
As we turn into Via Montenapoleone, I realise this is where I’d noticed the sign pointing to the Four Seasons this morning but we’d decided to turn on the next one. Of course it’s where all the fashionistas would come, its where are all the designer show rooms and offices are. Sure enough there is the predicted Versace (we’d seen most of the others by now) but just a little Versace ‘blue’, not a big shrine in ‘gold’. Disappointing.
In the dark rain, we don’t find the restaurant – it must have been on a side street- so we carry on to two more. Both times, we step inside; put our wet umbrellas down only to be told they are closing. It’s not yet 8pm. On the second one we even check the closing time first, 10pm. They still tell us they are closed, after we have shaken brollies, stepped right inside the place and started taking hats and coats off. The shops are closed now so I guess the market is not there but it’s still odd.
We find something to eat in what looks like a family chain, Brek and go back to the hotel. Later in the evening, it’s just a small crema ice cream for me on the last night in Milan.
Final part to follow.
Today I met with my friend and the we hit the tourist trail; the church that has ‘The Last Supper’ in it, that we discover we can only book to see by phone, before hand, the castle that has a nice photo exhibition of before and after photos and entertainment in the back yard and the famous La Scala which is so tiny, blink I we won’t see the theatre. Then we move onto the real culture of Milan, the shopping district.
Prada is here, along with Gucci bag shop and a few others but that’s it under the gorgeous covered domes. My friend is quite taken with the fact that people are still smoking although we’re technically undercover but not as much as she is with the little Gucci coffee shop.
We both agree that the McCafe here with a view of Louis Vuitton does have acceptable coffee in addition to very agreeable pastries.
By now I am shocked that that I still have not seen any Versace or Armani in 3 days of walking the streets of Milan. By now and especially here in the shopping district I expect to see a shrine to Versace at the very least. I don’t know about every other tourist in the world but I expect to see the big Italian fashion names in the heart of Milan. It’s just odd that they don’t maximise on their heritage.
Still the restraining order that they appear to have put on Starbucks more than makes up for not seeing a Versace I’m not buying anything in.