Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Restaurant: Texas Steakout

Oh Lordy, it's good to have a break! I need time to recharge, you know? to straighten my head out before it short-circuits. Things are going to be manic when I get back - I need some r&r beforehand.


So, with Christmas over, the focus shifts from family to friends, and tonight I arranged to see an old friend for dinner at the Texas Steakout. On street parking is free in the evenings, and I got a space just down the road a bit. Was a bit early, and walking along O' Connell Street, there were so many businesses that I didn't recognise, I started to worry whether the Texas Steakout would even still be there! No fear - it's hard to see from the side I was approaching from, but it's still there, with the same facade - reassuringly.

I was glad we'd agreed to meet here - it's been absolutely years since I ate here! The same curved steps lead down to the basement restaurant, the same certificates of excellence decorate the walls. Me, I was glad to get in from the freezing cold. The door handles are in the shape of rifles - I don't remember that! They were a bit busy, and we were asked to wait on the couch in the reception / bar area; I can't put my finger on what exactly they've changed, but this part does seem more spacious than before.

It's still a warren of nooks and crannies, as we discovered when we were called after just a few minutes. We were duly seated at a small table, squeezed into one of those corners, and presented with menus - shorter than I remember. The range of food still includes Mexican - unenthused by the other starters, I chose the soup (mushroom). The main course, however, had to be the chicken in honey and mustard sauce, which tops the list and immediately caught my eye. My companion went for Mexican, for a change - as he said; he had a chicken burrito. And I chose my wine based on the name - with two pinot grigios on the menu, and all glasses at the same price, I went for the Dominus. Suitably authoritative, I felt!

The soup here comes without bread, FYI - when my companion requested it, he was assured that some would be brought, but it took the waiter some time to source a few slices, which he presented to us on a wooden platter, with some pats of butter and an apology, this was all he could get! Unusual. Anyway, the bread was piping hot, and we finished it. The wine was ok, if a little weak.. the soup was tasty, if not as hot as the bread.

The chicken had to be the absolute star of the show, though - one of the tastiest dishes I've ever had! The fries I'd chosen with it paled in comparison, and the onion rings I asked for as a side? Blandest I've tasted - avoid. The burrito was a hit, apparently. When the waiter came to collect our dishes, he asked whether I'd like to take the onion rings home. Heh. No. The sauce I'd had with the chicken proved quite filling, so I didn't feel like dessert - had quite a decent hot chocolate instead, topped with mini marshmallows. So, a successful evening overall - and great to see my friend again, first time in years too. I made sure to wrap up before heading out into the freezing night..

Driving down to see my other friend in Cork tomorrow - will stay the night, as usual, it being such a trek! Flying back to London on Tuesday, and next Wednesday I've booked to see Stewart Lee at Leicester Square Theatre. Determinedly not in the front two rows - not for a comedy show! Sometime around that, I must get some packing done - I've booked the movers for the next day!

On the 4th, I'm back with Up in the Cheap Seats (Happy New Year to them!), who are off to see Hanna, at the Arcola. Have booked the move for that day as well - hope it all goes ok!

On the 5th, I thought Time Out threw me a curiously interesting event - so I'm going on this Space Descent VR experience, at the Science Museum. I'll have to leave work early for it - there are timed slots, and it consists of wearing goggles, and living the experience of a descent to earth, with the astronaut Tim Peake narrating in your ears.

On the 6th, Crick Crack is back! Happy New Year to them too. The story of When Time Began is being told at King's Place. Creation myths. And wouldn't you know it, we're being treated to a host of performers - the husband and wife team, Emily and Nick Hennessy, and co-founder of the club, the amazing Ben Haggerty. Accompaniment provided by the wonderful musician, Sheema Mukherjee. Still not advertised on their Meetup group though! Honestly, if I were waiting for notification from them..

On the 7th, another Happy new Year - this time to Let's Do This (LDT), who are off to an art exhibition. Gilbert & George: the Beard Pictures and their Fuckosophy. Sorry, but that is the title. Showing at the White Cube Gallery. Honestly, but for the group that's hosting, I wouldn't bother..

And finally, more art on the 8th, which I'll probably enjoy more. I'm taking the day off to go see Reflections at the National Gallery - an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelites, which, with a free day, I can peruse at my leisure. As inspired by a walk by the excellent London Literary Walks - roll on the summer, and a return of those! Oh, and just lately, LDT advertised another trip to the excellent Vintage Swing Jazz evenings at Wilton's - for the evening of the 8th. And why not, indeed? So I booked that, too..

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Storytelling: Masters of Hex

Friday was my final trip of the year to the Crick Crack Club - Jan Blake was performing Masters of Hex at the British Library. Along with Ben Haggerty and TUUP. Same friend going with me as did on the 29th, and Helen too - and the same lunatic. Who would probably avoid us, and good enough for her.

Working from home, I could meet Helen whenever suited - so we met on Oxford Street, about 2.5 hours before the show. For once, I got there first! so had time to think about eating. It occurred to me that Nando's would be handy, so I researched where there was one on our route - the Brunswick Centre seemed like a good option, so that's where we headed.

Mind you, when we got there, the first thing we saw was a Carluccio's - so that's where we ended up. After a brief photo stop:

 

Right inside the door, they have a shop, which you can browse as you wait to be seated. Which didn't take long - but never fear, they have a retail list along with the menus, on the tables! Along with the a la carte, we had a "Menu Festivo", which we ended up ordering from, mainly - we had garlic bread as a side, along with starters, mains, desserts. They had a two-course price, a three-course price, and a three-course with prosecco and a cracker price. We decided against the prosecco and cracker option - we were having wine anyway - but a table just down from us went for it. And yes, the cracker is of the festive variety.

The garlic bread, unusually, was cold - but tasty enough. My starter was a chicken broth with ravioli - never heard of it before. I had chicken saltimbocca for my main course.. all fine, but nothing to write home about. Honestly, the wine was quite insipid too. Dessert for me was ice cream, which turned out to be topped with a mountain of cream, rather unnecessarily. But hey, we were both fed - although I wouldn't rate it as the best meal ever. And we did have something of a wait for the bill, our server being busy..

Anyway, we then galloped up the road to the library - I was glad I knew exactly where to go, we were so close to time! Helen had printed out both our tickets - I'd asked her, since my printer was in my old place and my laptop in my new, and although my work laptop was in the old place too, it hadn't been introduced to the printer, and I didn't think the relationship would go well! Annoyingly, we had to produce the printed tickets for access - get with the programme, British Library, most places just let you show them on your phone! The place was quite full when we did get in, but we got seats near my other friend, if not quite beside him.

This time, a library employee mc'ed - this event was part of a larger Harry Potter exhibition they've got going. Ben Haggerty started off proceedings, clad shoulders to toes in black, as usual -  he'd left his hat at home. His story, as theatrically told as ever, was familiar to me - a version of a Baba Yaga tale, and as visceral a tale as any of them. TUUP, following, gave a much more lighthearted rendition of a story about a rich man who was taken down a peg by a magician - his story started with a wee musical interlude on the drum he so often has with him, and was punctuated with frequent humour. Finally, Jan Blake upped the musical quotient, getting us all to sing along in a gospel number - before giving us a poignant tale, set in the dark days of slavery on the plantations.

All in all, a good mix - I'm just sorry I couldn't make the last Crick Crack event of the year, the following Monday (advertised after I'd booked my flights). Anyway, that exhibition runs through February, if you want to check it out. On our way out, the lunatic was spotted on the stairs, but was out long before us, as Helen and I stopped to tell my other friend how the break to Germany had gone (he'd been supposed to go, but hadn't been able to get the time off). We eventually decided to leave, passing the storytellers on the way, who were still hanging around with their families, it looked like. We dawdled some more in the lobby before heading down the stairs to leave - and would you believe it, Crazy Lady was still down there, bending the ear of someone who worked there, it looked like! We slipped out past her without incident.

My other friend headed the other way on the main road - I accompanied Helen as far as the Tube, which she caught to the station. She was going to be a bit late with her train, unfortunately - ah well, you're entitled to stay out late for Christmas! Me, I did some work when I got home, as it was my last day of the year - and had a dramatic time next day, as I flew back to Ireland for Christmas.

Unfortunately, with all I had to pack, I couldn't fit everything into my case, so booked a checked bag and took a rucksack as well (and my handbag). Sadly, the checked bag meant I couldn't check in at the self-service kiosk, and there was a queue at the two desks open. And the usual quota of idiots in front of me, who had to have the entire process explained to them - so the checkin deadline passed while I was in the queue! Then the idiot at the desk reacted with complete astonishment to the news that there'd been a queue there at all, claimed the gate had closed earlier than it had, and sent me over to the ticket desk - where the nice man, with at least two brain cells to rub together, asked whether I was ok to take the case on as hand baggage as well, and pooh-pooed the idea that I might have too many bags. And was I relieved to see that boarding pass appear - especially when he told me there was no evening flight, so that was it for the day..

I was lucky - Easyjet no longer use their discretion at Gatwick, once the gate is closed, it's closed. Here, I was one of the last to board, which is fine - a lovely young flight attendant found somewhere down the back for my bags, and also put up the rest of my things when I realised I was in the bloody exit row. And then the lovely chap, seeing my flusteredness, brought me a water - which I really needed - and a free paper. And suggested that I might go sit near my bags, at the back, later in the flight, rather than have to wait forever to get back to them when we were getting off. Which I did. Now, that's what I call service..

Finally catching up with myself. Must give a shout-out to two very good meals I've had since I came back - the first in the Abbey Tavern, where we ate on Sunday, so they had the Sunday menu on, which included the most succulent chicken and ham I've had. The second was the next day, in Nuala's, where we really don't eat often enough - and we do keep forgetting how good it is! Delicious garlic mushrooms to start, and two kinds of curry - korma, and a chip-shop-type curry, which I adore. (Mind you, I'm not mad about their rice, so had chips instead.) My mother also remarked on her very good salmon. And the chocolate fudge cake I had for dessert.. was pure fudge. Approach with caution! Nice to know we shan't starve - just a pity that neither of these is open on Christmas Day..

Running errands this week. Will be heading back to Bowes Ryan on Saturday, where my birth mother will be buying me lunch.. and seeing a couple of friends next week, once the madness of Christmas is over. Flying back to London on the 2nd of January, and on the 3rd I've booked to see Stewart Lee at Leicester Square Theatre. Determinedly not in the front two rows - not for a comedy show!

On the 4th of January, I'm back with Up in the Cheap Seats (Happy New Year to them!), who are off to see Hanna, at the Arcola.

On the 5th of January, I thought Time Out threw me a curiously interesting event - so I'm going on this Space Descent VR experience, at the Science Museum. I'll have to leave work early for it - there are timed slots, and it consists of wearing goggles, and living the experience of a descent to earth, with the astronaut Tim Peake narrating in your ears.

On the 6th of January, Crick Crack is back! Happy New Year to them too. The story of When Time Began is being told at King's Place. Creation myths. And wouldn't you know it, we're being treated to a host of performers - the husband and wife team, Emily and Nick Hennessy, and co-founder of the club, the amazing Ben Haggerty. Accompaniment provided by the wonderful musician, Sheema Mukherjee.

On the 7th of January, another Happy new Year - this time to Let's Do This (LDT), who are off to an art exhibition. Gilbert & George: the Beard Pictures and their Fuckosophy. Sorry, but that is the title. Showing at the White Cube Gallery. Honestly, but for the group that's hosting, I wouldn't bother..

And finally, more art on the 8th of January, which I'll probably enjoy more. I'm taking the day off to go see Reflections at the National Gallery - an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelites, which, with a free day, I can peruse at my leisure. As inspired by a walk by the excellent London Literary Walks - roll on the summer, and a return of those! Oh, and just lately, LDT advertised another trip to the excellent Vintage Swing Jazz evenings at Wilton's - for the evening of the 8th. And why not, indeed? So I booked that, too..

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Play: The Box of Delights

On Thursday, my friends who came to Soho a while ago were headed to Wilton's Music Hall, for something called The Box of Delights. And for once, I let them decide for me, and went myself too. Another one that's handier from my new place - so, having got back to London, I spent three nights there. Moved the bed to the other wall, to avoid the noise from the blocked-up chimney - and my comfort level was greatly increased when I hawked my pillows, under my arm, on the bus, from the old place to the new, that afternoon. Managed to bring my table lamp too, and the extension lead that I hadn't thought I'd necessarily need, because there were two sockets - but that was where the bed used to be, and from the other side, I'd need the lead. Yep, the place is looking and feeling more homey now! Just wait till it gets jammed with the rest of my stuff..

Well, after I'd done all that, I needed to hustle to get to Wilton's in time. I took the Tube, to be as early as possible; Google Maps needs to get more accurate for this side of town - it predicted a 25-minute journey for me, but it turned out to be more like 40 minutes, and I was only just in time! Panted my way to the box office, and upstairs - didn't need to print out a ticket for this: thankfully, given that my printer is still in the old place. My seat was in the front of the two rows in the gallery, and faced the stage - I hadn't been upstairs before, and this gave me a perfect view of the peeling ceiling and walls, as well as of the stage. An enthusiastic young chap beside me asked whether this was the oldest venue in London - I don't know, but said I didn't think so. Anyway, he thought it was very atmospheric - I recommended him to the jazz evenings, downstairs. He was taking notes throughout the performance - I wonder whether he was press?

The Box of Delights, which is, apparently, based on a children's book, turns out to be a terribly traditional, English, children's adventure story, set around Christmas. (And this is its first stage adaptation - as a play, anyway.) So, a young boy, heading home for the holidays, runs into some mysterious folk, and ends up in possession of a magical box (the Box of Delights of the title), which he has to keep safe from the bad guys. The box confers the ability to shrink, to travel quickly, and to time travel.

It's an utterly charming production, well acted and with some truly impressive special effects - everyone pitches in on all sides, and various cast members can be seen from time to time, tugging on various bits of scenery. The sound effects are particularly effective, and could be scary for younger folk. Anyway, it's the perfect time of year for it, and although it does seem dated, it does wholeheartedly embrace the Christmas spirit. So, recommended for a blast of the same - runs until the 6th.

My friends were sat in the very front row - I spotted them after a while, but it would have been tricky to find them at the interval, and I was out too late afterwards, and didn't see them. A cold wait for the bus ensued, for me - and I was still suffering from exhaustion, which was probably mostly mental by this stage. So, still no blogging..

On Friday, my final trip of the year to the Crick Crack ClubJan Blake was performing Masters of Hex at the British Library. Along with Ben Haggerty and TUUP. Same friend going with me as did on the 29th, and Helen too - and the same lunatic. Who would probably avoid us, and good enough for her. On Saturday, I flew back to Ireland for Christmas - a good chance to get my head together, with everything that's going on!

Flying back to London on the 2nd of January, and on the 3rd I've booked to see Stewart Lee at Leicester Square Theatre. Determinedly not in the front two rows - not for a comedy show!

On the 4th of January, I'm back with Up in the Cheap Seats (Happy New Year to them!), who are off to see Hanna, at the Arcola.

On the 5th of January, I thought Time Out threw me a curiously interesting event - so I'm going on this Space Descent VR experience, at the Science Museum. I'll have to leave work early for it - there are timed slots, and it consists of wearing goggles, and living the experience of a descent to earth, with the astronaut Tim Peake narrating in your ears.

On the 6th of January, Crick Crack is back! Happy New Year to them too. The story of When Time Began is being told at King's Place. Creation myths. And wouldn't you know it, we're being treated to a host of performers - the husband and wife team, Emily and Nick Hennessy, and co-founder of the club, the amazing Ben Haggerty. Accompaniment provided by the wonderful musician, Sheema Mukherjee.

On the 7th of January, another Happy new Year - this time to Let's Do This (LDT), who are off to an art exhibition. Gilbert & George: the Beard Pictures and their Fuckosophy. Sorry, but that is the title. Showing at the White Cube Gallery. Honestly, but for the group that's hosting, I wouldn't bother..

And finally, more art on the 8th of January, which I'll probably enjoy more. I'm taking the day off to go see Reflections at the National Gallery - an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelites, which, with a free day, I can peruse at my leisure. As inspired by a walk by the excellent London Literary Walks - roll on the summer, and a return of those! Oh, and just lately, LDT advertised another trip to the excellent Vintage Swing Jazz evenings at Wilton's - for the evening of the 8th. And why not, indeed? So I booked that, too..

Concert: Plastikes Karekles

Safely back in London, but too exhausted to blog that night. Thank goodness I was working from home for the rest of the week, with the office move - and thank goodness for the free WiFi in my new place! On Wednesday, I was busy catching up with things - and that night, I had my last visit of the year to Sands Films - finally advertised on Meetup, through the World Music MeetupTunedIn London had a concert by Plastikes Karekles, a Greek group. The friend I've been persuading to go to the Crick Crack events had suggested that night for a nostalgic trip, by some of us, to Top Secret - I would rather do that, but unfortunately he couldn't get anyone else to agree, so we postponed the idea.

I thought it'd be handier to get to Sands Films from the new place, and it is - still two buses, though. Mercifully, the first one flew through town, the driver one of those who revved at the red lights and tore through orange lights. The important thing was not to miss the C10 - this is very handy, dropping me just down from the venue: but is notoriously slow, always caught in traffic, with long gaps between buses. Happily, I was in good time for it - and I have to give a shout out to the Bus Countdown app, which gives really accurate timings for what buses are due next at your stop, and how long they'll take! V reassuring.

Still n all, it was pretty tight, and I arrived slightly late, and panting - the guy at the door told me to chill! They hadn't started yet, of course. The organiser was getting ready to make her speech as I headed in, and told me that there were some other members in the room - honestly though, I was still wrecked, and in no mood to be sociable. I took a seat at the side.

The group consists of three guys and a lady - she spent the first number elegantly clicking castanets, and I mused whether that would be all she'd do for the evening! I needn't have worried - later numbers saw her break into song, and it was a lovely addition. And, predictably, the whole set, a kind of Greek-jazz fusion, was a beautiful blast of sunshine, in the depths of winter. Quite a contrast to where I'd just been - I really enjoyed it, despite nearly falling asleep several times with Christmas Market-lag. And, ironically, the one time I had cash - they'd forgotten to bring cds!

Too tired, still, to contemplate blogging about Germany. On Thursday, my friends who came to Soho a while ago were headed to Wilton's Music Hall, for something called The Box of Delights. And for once, I let them decide for me, and went myself too.

On Friday, my final trip of the year to the Crick Crack Club - Jan Blake was performing Masters of Hex at the British Library. Along with Ben Haggerty and TUUP. Same friend going with me as did on the 29th, and Helen too - and the same lunatic. Who would probably avoid us, and good enough for her. On Saturday, I flew back to Ireland for Christmas - a good chance to get my head together, with everything that's going on!

Flying back to London on the 2nd of January, and on the 3rd I've booked to see Stewart Lee at Leicester Square Theatre. Determinedly not in the front two rows - not for a comedy show!

On the 4th of January, I'm back with Up in the Cheap Seats (Happy New Year to them!), who are off to see Hanna, at the Arcola.

On the 5th of January, I thought Time Out threw me a curiously interesting event - so I'm going on this Space Descent VR experience, at the Science Museum. I'll have to leave work early for it - there are timed slots, and it consists of wearing goggles, and living the experience of a descent to earth, with the astronaut Tim Peake narrating in your ears.

On the 6th of January, Crick Crack is back! Happy New Year to them too. The story of When Time Began is being told at King's Place. Creation myths. And wouldn't you know it, we're being treated to a host of performers - the husband and wife team, Emily and Nick Hennessy, and co-founder of the club, the amazing Ben Haggerty. Accompaniment provided by the wonderful musician, Sheema Mukherjee.

On the 7th of January, another Happy new Year - this time to Let's Do This (LDT), who are off to an art exhibition. Gilbert & George: the Beard Pictures and their Fuckosophy. Sorry, but that is the title. Showing at the White Cube Gallery. Honestly, but for the group that's hosting, I wouldn't bother..

And finally, more art on the 8th of January, which I'll probably enjoy more. I'm taking the day off to go see Reflections at the National Gallery - an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelites, which, with a free day, I can peruse at my leisure. As inspired by a walk by the excellent London Literary Walks - roll on the summer, and a return of those! Oh, and just lately, LDT advertised another trip to the excellent Vintage Swing Jazz evenings at Wilton's - for the evening of the 8th. And why not, indeed? So I booked that, too..

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Nürnberg Christmas Market - Day VI

On Tuesday, I had booked a Funzing talk - Interviews With a Serial Killer, courtesy of London Speaks Sessions and LDN Talks @ Night. For which, with their new loyalty scheme, I earned £10 credit! Not so shabby.. But it wasn't very Christmassy, all the same, and I subsequently booked an evening at Keats House, with London Social Detours. Where they explored Christmas in the Romantic era - ahh! Sadly, not now possible, as our flight back from Nürnberg was cancelled, owing to snowstorms in Stansted, and we were now booked on a flight on Tuesday night. Pity that London Social Detours doesn't offer refunds, as Funzing does - but at least it cost less. (FYI The event itself was free - the group imposed the charge, and I felt I wouldn't be able to avoid them in that venue, which was why I paid.)

Anyway, here we were on our last day in Nürnberg. The fun continued for the guys on the bus, who sent an interesting stream of WhatsApp messages all day:

07:32 Still in Calais.. Trying to get onto the ferry now, after waiting for about 6-7 hours for a tunnel slot..
07.33 Convinced we will be home by Christmas 2017
08.20 Now missed our ferry due to one of our fellow passengers getting lost.
10.03 we just boarded the ferry a couple of minutes ago


As for us, the guidebooks suggested the National Museum, so that was where we started, getting directions on the way from the helpful guide for the City Train, a mini sightseeing train that runs a roughly circular route through the Altstadt. A fascinating sculpture leading to the entrance sees 27 white pillars line the route, each engraved with a separate article from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in German and one other language. Of course, this hearkens back to Nürnberg's history as the centre of the post-war Nazi trials.


(Lots) more photos here. Picking up a free plan to the building, we noticed that it was a bit tricky to make our way around to all the sections - this is because it's spread over a number of buildings, including a former church. But hey, we did our damnedest, climbing the stairs all the way to the top - and it was worth it, with a terrific exhibition up there of early 19th Century romantic German art. And, by the way, a guillotine - after all, it hadn't been that long since they were in vogue..


Further down, a really detailed exhibit on underwear (some of which was quite unusual) was punctuated by updates from the group, who did finally make it to London - only 22 hours late. I believe they got compensatory vouchers. As for us, we were ooh-ing and aah-ing over elaborate musical instruments:


My personal favourite section, predictably, was the medieval art - paintings and scultures - centred on the old church. I just adore this stuff, and was delighted with it:

 

Mind you, was I ever sick of looking at Madonnas - as popular a topic, back in the day, as the Kardashians now. And as we were strolling through here, we were getting jolly photos of the bus, safely landing in the UK..

A trip to the prehistoric / ancient history section, where we discovered that this was the site of a Roman fort - possibly one of their easiest conquests, as no-one had been living here before that - and we were ready for lunch, in the museum cafe. Which was a revelation, as I had quite honestly the best steak I've had in years.. unusually, served on a tray. Friendly, English-speaking service too - and a case full of cake that you can choose for dessert.

The same ticket does you for the small toy museum, just down the road - requiring a small deposit for the locker in which you have to leave any bags. Floors of ornate dolls' houses and paper theatres enthralled us - but there is actually a larger toy museum in town, as we subsequently discovered.

To save our feet, we took the City Train shortly after - it was just about to leave. And we were on our own in the last carriage, where they put on an English-language commentary for us. Highly recommended, it's a great way to see both sights you knew about, and some you didn't - Helen was delighted to find a cat cafe en route, and of course that was where we made a beeline for when we got off. Katzentempel is a cosy, vegan cafe, with a cow's milk option - I had a hot chocolate, Helen an herbal tea while we tried to catch glimpses of cats that, as usual, studiously ignored us.

Back to the hotel to charge our phones, then to drag our things to the airport. An easy journey though, just seven stops from the railway station to the airport, on the underground. And the lovely lady at check-in agreed to check us in and take our cases, even though we were early! Not, mind you, that there was much advantage in being on the other side of security - it turned out that there is no proper eatery, and we were forced to take our choice from a case of sandwiches, rolls, and pretzels.

Ultimately, our flight was delayed - the incoming plane was late - and while we were waiting, we got chatting to the one remaining group member, who was on the same flight. Ryanair did its famous half-hour turnaround, and we were soon airborne - unfortunately, none of my food choices were available. This was not a happy food evening for me. At the other end, I knew there was a choice of two trains - 11.59pm and 12.30am.. the way to the platform is so quick and easy that I made the 11.59 in no time flat. I'd forgotten that, it'd been so long! Not a pleasant walk home from Liverpool Street though, in the constant drizzle, and with the drunks around the station, and a weird, intermittent howling sound in the near distance.. Think I might take the bus back in future, especially with all the road works I had to make my way around.

On Wednesday, my last visit of the year to Sands Films - finally advertised on Meetup, through the World Music MeetupTunedIn London had a concert by Plastikes Karekles, a Greek group. The friend I've been persuading to go to the Crick Crack events had suggested that night for a nostalgic trip, by some of us, to Top Secret - I would rather do that, but unfortunately he couldn't get anyone else to agree, so we postponed the idea.

On Thursday, my friends who came to Soho a while ago were headed to Wilton's Music Hall, for something called The Box of Delights. And for once, I let them decide for me, and went myself too.

On Friday, my final trip of the year to the Crick Crack Club - Jan Blake was performing Masters of Hex at the British Library. Along with Ben Haggerty and TUUP. Same friend going with me as did on the 29th, and Helen too - and the same lunatic. Who would probably avoid us, and good enough for her. On Saturday, I flew back to Ireland for Christmas - a good chance to get my head together, with everything that's going on!

Flying back to London on the 2nd of January, and on the 3rd I've booked to see Stewart Lee at Leicester Square Theatre. Determinedly not in the front two rows - not for a comedy show!

On the 4th of January, I'm back with Up in the Cheap Seats (Happy New Year to them!), who are off to see Hanna, at the Arcola.

On the 5th of January, I thought Time Out threw me a curiously interesting event - so I'm going on this Space Descent VR experience, at the Science Museum. I'll have to leave work early for it - there are timed slots, and it consists of wearing goggles, and living the experience of a descent to earth, with the astronaut Tim Peake narrating in your ears.

On the 6th of January, Crick Crack is back! Happy New Year to them too. The story of When Time Began is being told at King's Place. Creation myths. And wouldn't you know it, we're being treated to a host of performers - the husband and wife team, Emily and Nick Hennessy, and co-founder of the club, the amazing Ben Haggerty. Accompaniment provided by the wonderful musician, Sheema Mukherjee.

On the 7th of January, another Happy new Year - this time to Let's Do This (LDT), who are off to an art exhibition. Gilbert & George: the Beard Pictures and their Fuckosophy. Sorry, but that is the title. Showing at the White Cube Gallery. Honestly, but for the group that's hosting, I wouldn't bother..

And finally, more art on the 8th of January, which I'll probably enjoy more. I'm taking the day off to go see Reflections at the National Gallery - an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelites, which, with a free day, I can peruse at my leisure. As inspired by a walk by the excellent London Literary Walks - roll on the summer, and a return of those! Oh, and just yesterday, LDT advertised another trip to the excellent Vintage Swing Jazz evenings at Wilton's - for the evening of the 8th. And why not, indeed? So I booked that, too..

Monday, 18 December 2017

Nürnberg Christmas Market - Day V

Well, last Monday - having taken the day off work - I was booked for the Barbershop Chronicles. At the National. But of course, my flight back from Nürnberg was cancelled because of snowstorms in Stansted, and we couldn't get seats on a replacement flight until Tuesday. So, another couple of days in Nürnberg beckoned - which was just fine with us, as we hadn't seen everything yet!

Our day started with some light entertainment on WhatsApp, from the people who'd taken the bus at 9pm the previous day - which, as it turned out, wasn't without its problems:

07:27 Guys @ Paris, our bus is delayed and new departure is at 10.00.

..but they did, apparently, have a nice breakfast while they were waiting. On our side, after a stop at the rather excellent tourist information office - good for buying souvenirs, as well as gleaning information, for local cultural events as well as sights - we started church-hopping again, with the church of St. Klara:


(Lots) more photos here. We swung by a police station:


..and finally made it into the Frauenkirche, the church overlooking the Christkindlesmarkt:


Seeking lunch, we headed for the attractive building we'd already passed several times, which turned out to be the Goldenes Posthorn, and quite touristy:


..where the schnitzel was recommended to us by an American lady at the next table, and did turn out to be quite palatable. Afterwards, we wandered for a bit, and returned to the hotel to chill. While, of course, keeping up with the news:

16.01 Are you home now?

(They should have been, half an hour before.)

16.07 No. Now stuck 60km from Calais with the motorway shut due to the snow. Unlikely to move until 10.00pm and home in the early hours of the morning.

Jeez.. and it was to continue:

22.02 We might be moving in 20 minutes.

And for us, dinner in Maestro, which is cheap and cheerful, but the pasta could be tastier. Then to bed. On Tuesday, I booked a Funzing talk - Interviews With a Serial Killer, courtesy of London Speaks Sessions and LDN Talks @ Night. For which, with their new loyalty scheme, I earned £10 credit! Not so shabby.. But it wasn't very Christmassy, all the same, and I subsequently booked an evening at Keats House, with London Social Detours. Where they explored Christmas in the Romantic era - ahh! Sadly, not now possible.

Back at last, and on Wednesday, my last visit of the year to Sands Films - finally advertised on Meetup, through the World Music MeetupTunedIn London had a concert by Plastikes Karekles, a Greek group. The friend I've been persuading to go to the Crick Crack events had suggested that night for a nostalgic trip, by some of us, to Top Secret - I would rather do that, but unfortunately he couldn't get anyone else to agree, so we postponed the idea.

On Thursday, my friends who came to Soho a while ago were headed to Wilton's Music Hall, for something called The Box of Delights. And for once, I let them decide for me, and went myself too.

On Friday, my final trip of the year to the Crick Crack Club - Jan Blake was performing Masters of Hex at the British Library. Along with Ben Haggerty and TUUP. Same friend going with me as did on the 29th, and Helen too - and the same lunatic. Who would probably avoid us, and good enough for her. On Saturday, I flew back to Ireland for Christmas - a good chance to get my head together, with everything that's going on!

Flying back to London on the 2nd of January, and on the 3rd I've booked to see Stewart Lee at Leicester Square Theatre. Determinedly not in the front two rows - not for a comedy show!

On the 4th of January, I'm back with Up in the Cheap Seats (Happy New Year to them!), who are off to see Hanna, at the Arcola.

On the 5th of January, I thought Time Out threw me a curiously interesting event - so I'm going on this Space Descent VR experience, at the Science Museum. I'll have to leave work early for it - there are timed slots, and it consists of wearing goggles, and living the experience of a descent to earth, with the astronaut Tim Peake narrating in your ears.

On the 6th of January, Crick Crack is back! Happy New Year to them too. The story of When Time Began is being told at King's Place. Creation myths. And wouldn't you know it, we're being treated to a host of performers - the husband and wife team, Emily and Nick Hennessy, and co-founder of the club, the amazing Ben Haggerty. Accompaniment provided by the wonderful musician, Sheema Mukherjee.

On the 7th of January, another Happy new Year - this time to Let's Do This (LDT), who are off to an art exhibition. Gilbert & George: the Beard Pictures and their Fuckosophy. Sorry, but that is the title. Showing at the White Cube Gallery. Honestly, but for the group that's hosting, I wouldn't bother..

And finally, more art on the 8th of January, which I'll probably enjoy more. I'm taking the day off to go see Reflections at the National Gallery - an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelites, which, with a free day, I can peruse at my leisure. As inspired by a walk by the excellent London Literary Walks - roll on the summer, and a return of those! Oh, and just today, LDT advertised another trip to the excellent Vintage Swing Jazz evenings at Wilton's - for the evening of the 8th. And why not, indeed? So I booked that, too..

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Nürnberg Christmas Market - Day IV (Regensburg)

Happily, our organiser was well enough for our trip to Regensburg on Sunday. And just as well, since he had to buy our train tickets! (again, included in the price of the trip). See, he'd got regional tickets for us to go to Bamberg - but, as he explained, Regensburg is in a different region, and we'd be headed on the ICE. And with our seats reserved, we needed him to steer us to them, too!

A perplexed train conductor was pointed to him when he came to check tickets - yes, that guy at the end had them all. But, passing through snowy landscapes, we arrived safely at Regensburg station. Where he set off at a fair pace into town, accompanied by a large chunk of the group. However, he'd whetted Helen's and my appetites with talk of a "romantic Christmas market", so that's where we headed. I was also interested in talk of the Thurn & Taxis palace, which seemed to be nearby - well, wouldn't you know it, the market is in the palace grounds! Awesome - and we were just in time for the opening time of 12. In the queue, we got talking to a couple of Americans behind us.

Several kiosks were open when they did let us in, so it didn't take long to process us. Cheaper during the week, but Sundays the standard entrance fee is €10. A pathway of burning torches - which must look amazing in the dark - leads to the market, which lines the outside of the palace and fills the central courtyard. Stalls here are covered in branches - and in bitter cold (it surely felt several degrees colder here than it had in Nürnberg), braziers and open fires stave off the cold. Never too far from a glühwein stall, of course!


(Lots) more photos here. Handmade crafts abound - and while they're not generally cheap, the whole looks absolutely gorgeous. Also, the entrance fee deters some, so it's not too crowded. We did the full tour - and, frozen, repaired to the courtyard for lunch, which was burgers with sausages in 'em. I do prefer the tradition hereabouts of making them with crusty buns - they don't fall apart, like they do in regular, soft buns. Some creatures weren't so bothered by the cold - beside the alpaca stall, we met the source material!


When we finally tore ourselves away from this market, a couple of hours had passed. Highly recommended - runs till the 23rd. We didn't have far to go for our next attraction - the Basilica St. Emmeram, right next door, is the palace church, and is free. It was part of the original monastery that became the palace. And it is simply stunning:


There is so much artistic detail here that we spent ages, just gaping at the side chapels, the artwork - whatever we could find. When we finally dragged ourselves away, you'll never guess; it was snowing! And it just got heavier - as we wended our way to the cathedral, it became really dense, really cold. Finally, barely able to see where we were going, we decided to church-hop our way back to the station, stopping in at churches as we went, to get warm!

Once we finally, gratefully, made it to the station, I needed the loo. Now, the station is attached to a shopping centre, but, it being a Sunday, it was closed. So I had to go in the station cafe - which had a key system that turned out unnecessarily complicated. You had to ask at the counter for the key - which cost €1 - which is ok, except that people didn't always bring them back, and I got into a confused argument with a little old lady who'd gone in before me, and ended up with two, after someone had left one behind! How that was my problem is a mystery to me..

After that, we fancied a snack and a sit-down, so headed across the bridge to the shopping centre, at the edge of which a cafe was open. We sat at the edge of the seating area, in the dark, where we ordered cake, hot chocolate, and coffee. Which was really nice. And we might have had a second round of drinks, except that they never came back with our order. Never mind, we had a distraction..

Someone in the group had found out that our flight, due to leave that night, had been cancelled! She posted it to our WhatsApp group - it took Ryanair some more hours to notify us. Cue much confusion, as people tried to figure out what was happening, and what was best to do next. It didn't help that we couldn't get decent internet reception on the train back to Nürnberg - cue more confusion, then, back in the hotel lobby. Helen's car was back in Stansted, so she needed to fly back; a few others had flights booked to other destinations, and were fine - it was only Stansted, which had had snow showers, that was affected. The earliest flights we could get were on Tuesday, though. Our organiser stayed with his aunt and uncle, locally, that night, and took the train next day. The most epic journey, however, was to be taken by those who decided to take the bus, all the way back to London! Leaving at 9 that night, it was to arrive at 4.30 the following afternoon..

Well, once that was sorted, we who were flying on Tuesday turned our minds to accommodation - the Ibis had rooms for that night, but not Monday. A quick search of booking.com got Helen and me a room in the Hampton by Hilton, just up the road, at a very reasonable price. We might have stayed a little closer, at the Novotel, but they didn't have twin rooms available. And so, up the road we trudged, in the slush. Some of the remaining group - those who weren't heading off - were off to Barfüßer again, but I hadn't been greatly impressed with it, and anyway, we were tired after all that, and didn't want to go far for dinner. Without much choice in the Hampton, we headed down to the Novotel's Italian restaurant - and then back for a very peaceful night's sleep. A lovely, quiet room, I must say - and a greater choice of electrical sockets that we'd had in the Ibis!

And so, we got an extra couple of days in Nürnberg - not to be sneezed at. More to follow..

Of course, as a result, I missed a couple of things I'd booked; on Monday - having taken the day off work - I was booked for the Barbershop Chronicles. At the National. And on Tuesday, I booked a Funzing talk - Interviews With a Serial Killer, courtesy of London Speaks Sessions and LDN Talks @ Night. For which, with their new loyalty scheme, I earned £10 credit! Not so shabby.. But it wasn't very Christmassy, all the same, and I subsequently booked an evening at Keats House, with London Social Detours. Where they explored Christmas in the Romantic era - ahh! Sadly, neither was now possible.

Back at last, and on Wednesday, my last visit of the year to Sands Films - finally advertised on Meetup, through the World Music MeetupTunedIn London had a concert by Plastikes Karekles, a Greek group. The friend I've been persuading to go to the Crick Crack events had suggested that night for a nostalgic trip, by some of us, to Top Secret - I would rather do that, but unfortunately he couldn't get anyone else to agree, so we postponed the idea.

On Thursday, my friends who came to Soho a while ago were headed to Wilton's Music Hall, for something called The Box of Delights. And for once, I let them decide for me, and went myself too.

On Friday, my final trip of the year to the Crick Crack Club - Jan Blake was performing Masters of Hex at the British Library. Along with Ben Haggerty and TUUP. Same friend going with me as did on the 29th, and Helen too - and the same lunatic. Who would probably avoid us, and good enough for her. Yesterday, I flew back to Ireland for Christmas - a good chance to get my head together, with everything that's going on!

Flying back to London on the 2nd of January, and on the 3rd I've booked to see Stewart Lee at Leicester Square Theatre. Determinedly not in the front two rows - not for a comedy show!

On the 4th of January, I'm back with Up in the Cheap Seats (Happy New Year to them!), who are off to see Hanna, at the Arcola.

On the 5th of January, I thought Time Out threw me a curiously interesting event - so I'm going on this Space Descent VR experience, at the Science Museum. I'll have to leave work early for it - there are timed slots, and it consists of wearing goggles, and living the experience of a descent to earth, with the astronaut Tim Peake narrating in your ears.

On the 6th of January, Crick Crack is back! Happy New Year to them too. The story of When Time Began is being told at King's Place. Creation myths. And wouldn't you know it, we're being treated to a host of performers - the husband and wife team, Emily and Nick Hennessy, and co-founder of the club, the amazing Ben Haggerty. Accompaniment provided by the wonderful musician, Sheema Mukherjee.

On the 7th of January, another Happy new Year - this time to Let's Do This, who are off to an art exhibition. Gilbert & George: the Beard Pictures and their Fuckosophy. Sorry, but that is the title. Showing at the White Cube Gallery. Honestly, but for the group that's hosting, I wouldn't bother..

And finally, more art on the 8th of January, which I'll probably enjoy more. I'm taking the day off to go see Reflections at the National Gallery - an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelites, which, with a free day, I can peruse at my leisure. As inspired by a walk by the excellent London Literary Walks - roll on the summer, and a return of those!