Saturday, 6 September 2008

200th Post!! - A Special Day Out

I wanted my 200th post to be about something cheerful, meaningful and special (so I'll catch up with the stories of my tomato troubles later!) and what could be more fitting than a little report on my day out in London with my Nan.
There must be something about when i meet Nan in London that causes bad weather. When i took her to a recording of Ready Steady Cook in January 2007 there were severe gales, so severe that roofs were lifted off and trees blown down in London which of course meant trains very badly delayed back to the south coast. But that wasn't all bad i guess as it meant we had dinner together at Yo Sushi too at Victoria Station while we were waiting for them to start running the trains again. Then when Mum and I met with her and we went to see a musical, i think it was The Sound of Music, earlier this year, it snowed, hailed etc etc and when Nan got back down south she didn't recognise Grandpa's car due the snow that was covering it!!
So of course we almost weren't surprised by the forecast that started appearing at the beginning of the week. By the time i got on at the end of the Central Line the rain had started.
However one on the tube i knew that i wouldn't be seeing daylight for a while, as when i got to Victoria it was straight into the National Rail area and from there we went back down onto the tube and didn't resurface until we reached London Bridge. First stop? Borough Market!!

(I had a little play in photo shop!)

I spotted some yellow and purple carrots, which were £3.20 per kilo. I'd actually brought some of mine for Nan to take home with her - but seeing that price made me wonder how much I've saved by growing my own, perhaps i should do what grandpa used to do and weight every single carrot i get out of the garden to get a total weight (he used to do it with tomatoes and count his cucumbers apparently!).
A few other wonderful sights included some Indian Fresh Water Prawns, although no doubt it's a bit like crayfish - all you get is a little meat out then tail!

And a huge Puffball which had been cut in half and into more chunks.

We reached the market just after 12 so although it had just opened it was quite busy as the first wave of office workers on lunch breaks had descended to get their lunch. But we wondered around for about 45 minutes before heading out in the rain and across the road to Slug and Lettuce for lunch. After a noisy (again due to lunch break office workers i think) lunch of a tomato and mozzarella salad each we headed back to finish looking around the market. I also too Nan into Neal's Yard Dairy. She loved seeing all the cheeses and found some Strathdon Blue that she thought Grandpa would like (wow, it was strong!) and half a small round of Childwickbury which i took home half of and she took the other half (a quarter of a round each basically).

From there we headed to Covent Garden, as that's also the nearest tube to where the restaurant is. I was also hoping that the string quartet that often busk down in the lower section outside The Crusting Pipe. We had a wander around the market then headed downstairs for a drink. when we got there i passed a girl going in the opposite direction with a cello case on her back - bad sign! We got a table outside anyway and it gave us a chance to chat and for me to show her some photos and tell her about the Countess of Warwick show etc.

By the time we'd finished our drinks there was still an hour to go before the table was booked for at Belgo and i knew it would only take us 10 minutes max to get there. So as it wasn't raining i suggested just taking a wander up round Covent Garden, showing her the other branch or Neal's Yard Dairy and the colourful Neal's Yard itself. Before i realised it we were at Shaftsbury Avenue and when i looked down the road i could see the lanterns of the entrance to China Town. So we walked on down and took a stroll through there, stopping at Loon Fung, one of the biggest shops there where i spotted a Thai Mango, something i hadn't tried (which tasted completely different to a normal, more common Mango and wasn't to my taste!) and as we were walking through to pay, Nan spotted some pig's hearts. I think that's kind of a generational thing and meal but she said she'd stuff them with a sage stuffing for dinner on the next night. Each to their own - offal is certainly not my thing!

By this time it was about time to start heading to the restaurant and we were only about 10 minutes early in the end. To my amusement and Nan's too i think, we were taken downstairs in the lift! I didn't even know they had a lift!! I told Nan what i was planning to orderand she said that sounded nice so we ordered to portions of Mussels Provencale, requesting bread instead of chips.

I think alot of the way a meal taste has to do with the atmosphere, the company you're in as well as the cooking of the food and the produce used. The mussels tasted even better than they norally do there, they were large, plump and cooked to perfection, in a lovely tomato, onion and garlic sauce, with a touch of paprika or something slightly spicy, which although was stronger than normal did not detract from the dish at all.

After a bit (ok, a lot) more talking it was time to head back to Victoria to put Nan on a train home. We were going to be pushed to get the 8.06pm but thought we'd try (her train goes every half hour) anyway - she was the last person on and the doors literally closed behind her! But she made it and i felt happy knowing she wouldn't be home too late, and grandpa wouldn't be too late in collecting her from the station. From the message she left on the home phone, she got back at about 9.30pm, by which time i had reached Epping and was walking the 10 minute walk up the hill, back to the car in the steady rain. But driving home the rain was torrential! I was comtemplating just pulling over until it eased off, however its a good job i didn't otherwise i could have been stopped there for a long time! After a long day i made it home at 10pm and despite the weather i wouldn't have changed anything about it at all, and it made me realise i've go to get over my intimidation of my grandfather and see them more often.

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