How we rock a pub crawl in Tooting

We start at Chennai Dosa with a gorgeous Indian buffet, plus masala dosa’s and steaming poori’s.
We have our first drink at the Wheatsheaf – a lovely pub that recently went through a big renovation. 
We meet friends at Tooting Broadway jumping on a bus for a short 3 stop journey to By The Horns, a small brewery that this year celebrates its 5 year anniversary.  And that’s where we stay for a few hours sampling plenty of delicious beers.
We decide it’s time to move on so another bus trip back to a Tooting Broadway and in to Tooting Market. With a brand new Franco Manca right at the heart of the market we stop for very tasty sourdough pizzas. Fantastic staff, fantastic food.
So didn’t I say this was a pub crawl?  We move to We Bought Beer – a tiny craft beer shop where unfortunately one of their fridges was on the blink – yes it was a deliciously hot day!! So a quick beer there then on to The Castle which has the most fantastic outdoor space that was fantastically full! However nice comfy couches inside invited us to sit down…
What next? Time to sit outside and enjoy the amazing weather and that was done at the Graveney and Meadow – no beers on tap though, too hot!  I’ve been to some hot countries and never heard that happening – we don’t deal with extreme weather very well here….
The pub crawl ended at Sainsburys for drinks and snacks to take back to our house – with everyone but me rocking away till 4am! I went to bed at 1am.
And that’s how it’s done Tooting style ☺

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Enjoying what London has to offer

I’ve been a bit useless at getting my posts up lately. Not sure where the time goes.  Anyway wanted to highlight a couple of highlights from the last few days.

Firstly, Mayfair – specifically the area off Piccadilly, opposite Green Park. Turn down White Horse Street to find it. It’s a little sanctuary of bars and dining, a lot of it alfresco. I’d been here years ago and don’t remember it being this good! It was with a girls night with work colleagues and we had a fab meal at Al Sultan to start – Lebanese cuisine.  Yum. And then on to Kitty Fisher’s to sit outside (yes it was warm enough! ) to enjoy a bottle of bubbly. Lots of fun!

On Saturday it was Das and my cultural day. So we started with a visit to ‘Painter’s Paintings’ a really brilliant exhibition at the National Gallery. It was interesting to see what paintings the likes of Degas, Matisse, Van Dyk had bought or traded their own work for.  And whether what they owned had influence over what they painted. It was beautifully curated.

And a trip to town of course means choosing somewhere for lunch. I recommended an old favourite that I first went to 16 years ago – Taro. It’s a great little Japanese eatery on Brewer Street. The food was as fabulous as ever, my veggie bento box so good I had to eat it all even though I was stuffed!

Looking forward to the next cultural day out – next weekends is a vegan beerfest!

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Instead of bread you get veggies at Al Sultan!
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View from Kitty Fisher's
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View from Kitty Fisher's
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Delicious meal at Taro

Charming Porto

The end of last week wasn’t one to be proud of. A vote to leave the EU came as such a shock, maybe even more to the Brexiters than to those of us who voted to remain. Working for a bank I’d been reading the research on what the analysts thought would happen if an out vote won and they were spot on. Now we just have to somehow pick up the pieces and move forward. And who knows where that forward step might be.
So in a sombre mood on Friday we headed out to Gatwick to catch our flight to Porto. It was so nice to get away and escape the craziness.
Accommodation appeared to be very cheap in Porto although I’d chosen to spend a little more on a lovely one bedroom apartment with a small terrace. I still thought 340 euros for 3 nights fairly conservative especially given the space.  Well it didn’t disappoint, I can highly recommend, click here for more info.  Felipe met us at the door although must admit I’d missed this bit of information. Thankfully a lovely Italian couple were also waiting so that was perfect timing. The apartment (3B) was modern, clean, spacious and well equipped and after finding that the Euro2016 fanzone was right out front, it was surprisingly quiet (our apartment was at the back of the building)
After a quick change we headed to a vegan restaurant called Cultura Dos Sabores. We had a delicious buffet and some Portuguese beer. Then on to an area well known for bars and nightlife.  What we hadn’t realised is that the 23rd June, the day before, is the celebration of St John (João in Portuguese) and people had partied hard all night… so Friday was a little disappointing.  However we found a place for a  glass of port and then moved to another bar to sit outside and enjoy the people watching. We weren’t late as I think we were emotionally drained after a day we would never forget.
Saturday morning dawned beautifully sunny and beautifully warm. We had an awesome day visiting some sites, heading up a 200 step tower for great views over the city, a delicious espresso and then a wander over one of 6 bridges that led us to the other side and where we would find the port tasting.  We also caught a short cable that gave great views towards the old town of Porto. Our first cellar was that of Churchill’s, which ended up being our favourite.  Only established in 1981 by one of the Graham sons – Grahams are a well known port producer. We at first sat out on the pop up terrace, then inside for a tasting, learnt loads and had a lovely conversation with Michaela when worked there, met the owners son who would soon be opening a Portuguese restaurant near London Bridge. We later hiked up to Graham’s – very commercial with stingy tasting portions and not great service but fabulous views. Last port stop was Ferreira for a proper tour which was great and a 3 taster tasting.  We met a lovely couple, and the lady’s Mum being – the Mum spoke no English (her daughter did the translating) and insisted chatting away in Spanish to me although I had only a tiny idea of what she was saying.  So final stop – to the top of Porto Cruz to enjoy the amazing weather on the rooftop terrace and to drink too much beer and watch the sunset.  Such a great day.  Subway for dinner 🙂
Sunday morning dawned beautifully sunny and beautifully warm.  Although my head didn’t feel so sunny…  We started a little slowly with an espresso, fresh orange juice and sandwich for breakfast before meandering our way down to the waterfront finding some cools shops and a great market on the way.  We spotted some sun umbrellas a little higher above the main drag on the waterfront and found some lovely little restaurants and one we stopped at for a nice salad and port/beer.  After a stroll along the waterfront took us to the main bridge – the top is for the metro and people, the bottom for cars and people.  We had wanted to go to Kopke (the oldest Port Wine Company) first but the tasting room was closed for lunch so we had 40 mins to kill.  So off we went to Quevado, we had a free voucher for 2 tastings that came with the price of the cable car.  The port was only average.  Then further up the hill we went to Taylor’s and enjoyed two tastings in a lovely garden.  Very welcoming to escape the heat. It was then time to go back to Kopke.  We splashed out and did the 28€/person tasting – 5 ports with chocolate.  Oh my goodness it was AWESOME!  I still like Churchill’s the best but this was a very close second.  We had a lovely table, inside in the air con, overlooking the river.  The fine white port was superb. So after a busy day, we deserved an easy walk over to the other side so caught the cable car up, I went to the apartment for a shower and Das had a quick beer at a cafe.  We then went on the hunt for a place my guide book had recommended but it was full, so we ended up at a sweet little place with a table outside, called Terreiro.  We had a lovely time and both went off our normal diet to have some seafood – nice but it makes me realise I really don’t miss eating fish.  Then back home to relax.
 Monday morning dawned beautifully sunny and beautifully warm – are you getting the picture?!  Today we were off home but as our flight wasn’t til 8.30pm we were able to leave our bags in the apartment and pick them up later.  We went to Majestic Cafe which started up in 1921 – very beautiful, silly prices but nice just for an espresso and piece of toast.  We then headed towards a palace but I was feeling rubbish from a severe bout of hayfever and couldn’t be bothered looking around so we jumped on the little tram that goes out to Foz, on the coast.  Very quaint and worth going.  We went for a walk along the coast – the Atlantic brings some chilly breezes through so after about an hour we headed back to catch the tram once again.  We wanted to go back to our vegan restaurant for lunch but it was closed so we’d found another place, also vegan so had an enjoyable meal there.  We then just sat on the waterfront, sipping iced teas, whiling away the day until it was time to get our bags, catch the metro (only 1.85€ to the airport on a modern, cool train) and then the wait for our delayed flight home.
I can highly recommend Porto as a place to visit, it’s charming!  If you want to see more pics, you can find them here
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Cuisine in a carriage

So you’d think that having to take the tube twice a day I’d do all I can to avoid it when it’s not necessary to use…

Well no, not when you get the chance to dine in a carriage.  Our friends invited us months ago and we eagerly accepted the invite.  There were no tables of four left so we’d be dining at a communal table but little did we know the that this would be what made the evening!

We were going to meet near Liverpool Street station, but with our friends jobs keeping get them at work, Das and I had a drink with Das’s boss at Blackfriars and then caught the overground to St James’ Street, E17. We first stopped at a pub called 56 St James’ where we were warmly welcomed and also met someone who used to work at an old workplace and recognised our faces! What a small world it is. Anyway once  we were all together we walked the short distance to the Pump House Museum, where our carriage awaited us. We had a glass of bubbles on entry and then sat down to enjoy a fabulous evening. Our table of 8 was made up of another couple and 2 friends – we all got on really well and thoroughly enjoyed both the company and food. They catered for Das and I perfectly with a delicious menu, better than a lot of restaurants take on vegan cuisine.  We left in high spirits and stopped at the pub again for ‘one (well two) for the road’ another very warm welcome.

Excellent evening.  Here is the link to book if it takes your fancy.

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Sticky

I was walking to the tube this morning and a very small boy was being led along by his mum and he was holding a half eaten apple. His mum said ‘your fingers will get sticky’ and he said, as kids do ‘what’s sticky’. The mum started ‘well it’s, ummm, when you, hmm, let me think, well it’s like when you eat a sweetie…’ and that’s the last I heard.  But it got me thinking, how do you describe what sticky means to a young child!

A clothing dilema – what to wear in Jordan?

Recently we went to Jordan, a fantastic country that I hope to do a blog about when I can.  Weirdly though, the thing I was most worried about was what on earth to wear.  I couldn’t find any definitive answer as everthing I read contradicted each other.  Our Rough Guide said to dress very conservatively, no shorts (even the men), fully covered.  Other people said it’s very liberal and not nearly as strict as some Middle Eastern countries.

So what to do?  Well rather luckily, the fashion at the moment seems to be cotton shirts and flowy cotton pants – perfect for hot weather and covering up.  And even better, Primark had some nice stuff in, and I know it isn’t my fave place to shop but given I wasn’t sure if I’d wear the clothing after the holiday it made sense to limit what I spent.  So I bought a pair of culottes (which I LOVE and will be well used during summer), 3 pairs of cotton trousers with elasticated waist so very comfy and a couple of cotton shirts.  I also took with me some plain t-shirts and a pair of long shorts, another pair of long cotton pants I’d bought a while back, a cardi for cooler evenings and a light feather filled jacket for the night in the desert.  I had worn jeans (well jeggings) on the plane and these were useful too (although I’m sure in the middle of summer they would be too hot).  I felt really comfortable with what I wore – and even though I could have got away with wearing shorts more often (I had mine for our day in Aqaba), it was nice to not get so many stares (I think even if I was covered in head to toe people are still intrigued by foreigners so would look no matter what).

Shoe wise I took a pair of sandals, a pair of light and comfortable walking shoes and a pair of sturdy shoes for Petra.  I was pleased to have good walking shoes as we had a day in Petra that started at 6am and ended at 9.30pm and we were on our feet for much of that.  However if you plan on sticking to trails then don’t buy anything special – you just need reasonable grip and comfort is essential.

Would I change anything?  All I would have added is a nice top for the evening – people do get dressed up when going out to eat.

I took a picture each day of what I wore in the hope I can help someone out there to decide what to take if they plan on a trip to Jordan (and if you’ve never been GO GO GO, it is an amazing place)