Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Barcelona – Day 1

I spent the weekend in Barcelona celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday.

Five of us flew out on Friday morning on Easyjet from Gatwick. I was expecting it to be chaotic (it is Easyjet after all) but everything went smoothly – check-in took 5 minutes, security took 5 minutes and that was it. We even managed to all sit together on the flight as it wasn’t that full. The flight landed on time and we took the train to Passeig de Gracia – which also happened to be the nearest Metro stop to our hotel. And we didn’t even plan that! (Tip: Buy a T10 ticket at the RENFE station at the airport – this will give you 10 journeys on public transport and you can also use it on the RENFE train from/to the airport.)

2011

The train journey took about half an hour and we were in the centre of Barcelona. We found the hotel (thank you, Google Maps!) – we stayed at the HCC St Moritz on Carrer de Disputacio. I have to say the location was perfect for us. It was just off the main street Passeig de Gracia (where the designer shops are) and 10 minutes away from the Gothic Quarter.

2011
The reception area was nicer than I imaged for a 4-star hotel and (most of) the staff were very helpful.
2011
Three of us took one room and two took another. The rooms were spacious and modern – plasma TV, mini bar – we weren’t tripping over each other. The bathroom was spacious too – and the shower was lovely, especially after a long day!
2011
After unpacking and freshening up, we walked towards the Gothic Quarter.

I’d read that Barcelona Cathedral (or La Seu) has a lift that takes you up to the roof of the cathedral and that the views from up there are incredible. It was the first place I wanted to go. It was a shame that the front of the cathedral was being renovated and covered in scaffolding.

2011

And it was closed. For another hour. So we walked around for a while, enjoying the shade in the narrow streets of the old city.

2011

Souvenir shop after souvenir shop – T-shirts with rude slogans, dolls with the scariest expressions I’ve ever seen, and these little figures of men with their trousers down:

2011

I don’t know who would buy them, but I’d never seen anything like them before!

There were as many little cafes serving Spanish delights as there were souvenir shops:

2011

We decided to find a tapas place where we could sit outdoors and enjoy some food and wine – we still had some time to kill before the cathedral re-opened. We eventually found a quiet place in a square where we could relax. We thought we’d order a few light things but before we knew it there was a feast in front of us – and most of it was croquetas and ham! We finished it all and headed back to the cathedral.

2011

By this time it was about 45 minutes before the cathedral closed for the day and the lift had (apparently) closed. The person I spoke to didn’t seem too sure about what time it opened, or even where it was in the cathedral! A lot of the inside of the cathedral was also covered in scaffolding, which was annoying.

2011
So we walked back to our hotel and decided to relax before heading out later that night.

We had a few recommendations for some tapas places close by and started walking. We passed Gaudi’s Casa Batlló (which I didn’t get to see properly – nor did I get to see La Pedrera) which was lit up at night:

2011

There seemed to be huge amounts of roadworks going on in Barcelona, reminding me of London!

We decided to start at La Vinoteca Torres on Passeig de Gracia.

2011

We sat outdoors, ordered more ham and a bottle of rosé wine. I can’t get over how cheap the local wine is. The bottle of rosé we ordered was only 10 Euros and it was lovely! When we were done with the food and wine, we were feeling too lazy to move on so we ordered another bottle of wine. At 11pm the waiter told us that we had to move into the restaurant as they had to close the outside – so we decided we’d head to one of the places the hotel had recommended.

We managed to find Cerveceria Catalana on Carrer de Mallorca but were told we’d have a 40-minute wait for a table. It was already 11.15 and nobody felt like looking around for somewhere else so we put our names on the list for a table and ordered another bottle of rosé at the bar! I’m so glad we stayed because the food was amazing. Yes, there was more ham. And ‘chipirones’. And croquetas. And other things too. There was even more food than we’d had earlier that evening. Our whole meal, including the wine, added up to 75 Euros – 15 Euros per head – which I thought was such good value for money! We were the last to leave the restaurant and strolled back to our hotel…

I had to speak Spanish a few times throughout the day – and it was weird after so long. I used to be almost fluent, but hadn’t been to Spain in almost 8 years. In fact, the last time I went it was to Barcelona in September 2003 but I was just there for a day and night for work and I didn’t see much of the city. I still feel like that and will definitely have to go back again!

Read about our second and third days in Barcelona…

Leave a comment »

Your week ahead (18-24 July)

I used my new Universal Waite Tarot deck for this week's readings. Have a good week!

Aries

Emperor

The Emperor – setting direction and tone, bringing security and comfort, creating order out of chaos, exerting control, following a regimen

Taurus

Cups_page

Page of Cups – let your feelings show, act on your hunches, solidify a friendship, make thoughtful gestures, forgive yourself

Gemini

Cups_2

2 of Cups – make a connection or cement a friendship, heal severed relationships, recognise a bond that is developing and let yourself be drawn in

Cancer

Cups_7

7 of Cups – indulging in wishful thinking, having many options, eating/drinking/partying to excess

Leo

Pentacles_7

7 of Pentacles – assess and evaluate your status – reflect on progress to date, reap a reward, consider a direction change – think about your alternatives and question your choices so far

Virgo

Wands_8

8 of Wands – take quick action, strike while the iron is hot, find successful resolutions, expect important news

Libra

Fool

The Fool – start something new, be spontaneous and live in the moment, have faith and let go of worry/fear, accept your choices – trust your heart's desire

Scorpio

Pentacles_knight

Knight of Pentacles – being unwavering and stubborn, cautious and unadventurous, thorough or obsessive, realistic/pessimistic, hard-working and keeping your head down

Sagittarius

Strength

Strength – show strength, be patient and compassionate, achieve self-control; demonstrate the strength of love

Capricorn

The_world

The World – experience wholeness and work in unison, realise your goals, use a gift or talent, count your blessings

Aquarius

Pentacles_8

8 of Pentacles – show diligence, increase your knowledge – take a course or learn a new skill, pay painstaking attention to detail and be extra careful

Pisces

Swords_5

5 of Swords – the most positive outcome: acting in your own self-interest – looking out for number one; the most negative outcome: losing your moral compass or sacrificing your integrity, choosing to battle

Card of the week
Leave a comment »

Silent Sunday 6

2011

Silent Sunday

 

1 Comment »

What happened to the war on terror?

'Mumbai was attacked by terrorists today. Three bombs went off within 15 minutes of each other. So far 21 people have died and 113 have been injured – and this number will probably rise over the next few days. And now back to our main stories…'

If only the Mumbai attacks had received that much coverage on the news this evening!

These continuous attacks are shocking, outrageous, deplorable. Fortunately, my family and friends have been unharmed every time. I can't say the same for other people I know. 

What I found shocking was that there was NO MENTION of these attacks on the BBC News this evening. I was watching the BBC News channel from 8.25 to 9.05 this evening – not once did they mention any terrorist attacks in Mumbai. They covered:

  • News Corp withdrawing their bid for BSkyB
  • The hacking inquiry and more about Rupert Murdoch
  • An industrial explosion in Lincolnshire
  • Mila Kunis is going on a date with a Marine (Seriously? Are you f***ing kidding me??)

THOSE were the 9pm headlines. Isn't that prime viewing time? There was no mention in the ticker running along the bottom of the screen either.

I switched over to CNN at one point while the BBC were talking about the Women's World Cup Final (who knew?) – nothing on there either, but the attacks did at least get a mention on the ticker.

Apparently *just* being bombed by terrorists isn't enough to make the headlines these days – you have to be under seige in a 5-star hotel with 'foreign nationals' and a D-list celebrity to even get a mention on 'other news'. 

FFS, media companies – sort yourselves out.

2011

1 Comment »

Results: Brazilian keratin treatment

Hurrah! I could finally wash my hair this evening after my Brazilian keratin treatment on Saturday afternoon.

To recap, this is what my hair looked like when it dried naturally before I had the treatment:
2011
I washed it this evening with an Elucence shampoo and conditioner. As far as I know, you can’t get this in the UK – a friend of mine brought this for me from the US a while ago. You need so little of each product that the shampoo and conditioner lasted an entire year – and that was with me washing my hair three times a week.
2011
My hair felt thinner while washing it but I think that’s because it’s much shorter than usual at the moment and I’m not used to it yet.
After washing it, I let it dry naturally – I combed it with a wide-tooth comb after towel drying it and didn’t touch it again. It was almost dry when I took this picture:
2011
What a difference!
1 Comment »

Your week ahead (11-17 July)

I used the Legacy of the Divine Tarot again to do this week’s readings. Have a good week!

Aries

Wands_6

6 of Wands – being acknowledged, coming out on top, feeling pride – two sides to this: either feeling a healthy self-esteem or being arrogant – you choose!

Taurus

Wands_8

8 of Wands – take quick action – strike while the iron is hot, find successful resolutions, expect important news

Gemini 

Cups_3

3 of Cups – bursting with energy and celebrating, enjoy the company of friends, develop team spirit and valuing community

Cancer

World

The World – experience wholeness and work in unison, realise your goals, use a gift or talent, count your blessings

Leo

Swords_knight

Knight of Swords – find a balance between being direct/blunt, authoritative/overbearing, incisive/cutting, knowledgeable/opinionated, logical/unfeeling

Virgo

Wands_7

7 of Wands – go after what you want, hold out against pressure, show conviction – demonstrate strong character, stand up for what you believe 

Libra

Cups_5

5 of Cups – suffering a loss or being defeated, grieving or longing to be reunited with someone, disappointment in making the wrong choice, regret

Sagittarius

Coins_king

King of Coins – embrace these qualities: be enterprising, be adept, be reliable – meet all your commitments and promises, be supportive – give generously of your time, and be steady – avoid mood swings

Scorpio

Swords_page

Page of Swords – use your mind to analyse problems, be truthful – face facts, act ethically, keep your chin up and don’t give up

Capricorn

Cups_7

7 of Cups – indulging in wishful thinking, having many options, eating/drinking/partying to excess

Aquarius

Cups_queen

Queen of Cups – offer unconditional acceptance, react with sensitivity and compassion, be guided by your heart, follow your intuition, appreciate the deeper meaning of life

Pisces

Swords_5

5 of Swords – the most positive outcome: acting in your own self-interest – looking out for number one; the most negative outcome: losing your moral compass or sacrificing your integrity, choosing to battle 

Card of the week
Leave a comment »

Silent Sunday 5

Image001

 

Silent Sunday

 

Leave a comment »

Brazilian keratin treatment: Don’t you know straight hair ain’t got no curl?

If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that I have very curly hair and that I also had it cut quite short last weekend. It looks great when it’s blowdried straight, but when I wash it and leave it to dry naturally, it looks like this:

2011

The first time I heard about the Brazilian keratin treatment was when I went to Jamaica in the summer of 2009. I was told how amazing it was and how straight my hair would be and my mum urged me to do it. I didn’t want to do it there – I’d never heard of it and wanted to research it properly. When I got back to London, I read about it on various websites – some reviews were good, some were bad, the chemicals used are carcinogenic, there’s formaldehyde in the formula… It went on and on. But I wanted to see what it was all about and made an appointment at Joshua Altback in St John’s Wood High Street. The whole treatment took almost 3 hours and afterwards, instead of the crazy curls, I had much looser waves – I quite liked it. I did it again twice at the same place – the last time was a year ago.

I’d been wanting to do it again, but I didn’t feel like spending £200 on the treatment! I subscribe to these online deal websites – Groupon and kgbdeals – and when an offer came up in May for a Brazilian straightening treatment for £49, I bought it. It was at a place called Brazil Hair and Beauty on Charing Cross Road – when I rang them, a very English-sounding man made my booking and when I told him my name, he said ‘Oh, Nectar’. It only occurred to me to ask him how he knew what my name meant after I’d hung up. I figured I’d just ask him when I saw him at my appointment.

So I headed to Charing Cross Road today. I got to the right number on the street and was surprised to find a place that looked like an arcade/mini mall, selling electronics and other random stuff. I walked in anyway and asked the man behind the counter if he knew where the salon was – it was on the first floor so I took the escalator. The salon was right there and I almost wanted to laugh. I’m being generous when I call it a salon. I think the whole place is slightly larger than my kitchen. It reminded me of a salon called Blue Heaven in Colaba in Bombay – where my mum used to take me in the late 70s.

Both hairdressers (one male and one female) were busy and asked me to take a seat while they finished what they were doing. One of the customers asked me if I could speak Portuguese. I said I couldn’t – and she said that everyone at the salon – employees and clientele – were all Brazilian. So where was the guy who’d made my appointment then? The customer apologised for the hairdresser running late as it was her fault and asked me if I’d ever tried a Brazilian soft drink called Guaraná Antarctica. I thought it was a random question – and said I hadn’t. She spoke perfect English, but the two hairdressers seemed to speak only a few words. Anyway, eventually she was finished, my appointment was about 20 minutes late and while I was having my hair washed, she came back in with a cold can of this Guaraná Antarctica and gave it to me. I thought that was so sweet of her! It tasted pretty good…

Anyway, the assistant (who spoke good English) washed my hair with a clarifying shampoo, towel-dried it and sat me in front of the mirror. The female hairdresser rough-dried my hair with a hairdryer and then mixed the solution. She put on one rubber glove and started applying the solution to my hair. I thought it was odd that she used just the one glove as she was using both her hands to apply the solution and rub it in to my hair! Nobody had asked me if I’d ever had it done before or any questions at all about my hair. The application of the solution was fine.

After that she asked me to put on a mask that covered my nose and mouth (in the past I’ve just used held a towel against my nose/mouth and closed my eyes). She started blowdrying my hair. It was awful. The formula she used was much stronger than the ones I’ve used before – my eyes were burning, my throat was burning, even my nostrils were burning. At this point, the male hairdresser started blowdrying the other side of my head, so not only was I extremely uncomfortable, but my hair was being pulled in two different directions and I was getting irritated. I’m also sure I’ve developed lines around my eyes from scrunching up my face for so long.

After this, the female hairdresser disappeared and the man used the straighteners all over my hair. When he was nearly done, he said ‘For three days, no… er… no…’. ‘Wash?’ I ventured. ‘Yes, wash,’ he said. What amused me was that he couldn’t string a sentence together in English but knew all the words to ‘I Want to be a Millionnaire’ and every other song on the radio. My whole appointment took about 90 minutes and here’s what it looks like now:

2011

Quite a difference! The assistant tried to sell me some sodium-free shampoo but I told her I already had some. She then told me I shouldn’t wash my hair for three days. I told her I knew that. ‘Oh, this isn’t your first time?’ Shouldn’t she have asked me that before?

Just to be clear, I’m not expecting my hair to look like this after I wash it. I’m expecting a looser, more natural-looking wave.

Would I go back to the salon? I’m not sure right now. I might need a lesson or two in Portuguese first!

12 July 2011 update: Check out the results!

1 Comment »

Zoo Lates: Lions, and tigers, and… what? No bears?

The RSM Social Club had organised an evening at London Zoo so several of us from the office decided to go. London Zoo is open every Friday evening in June and July for Zoo Lates, for adults only, from 6 to 10pm. 

We got there at 6 on the dot and decided to head to the ‘Into Africa’ section – this bit of the zoo is between Prince Albert Road and the Outer Circle so we had to go through a tunnel to get there. African hunting dogs were the first animals we saw – even though we were outdoors and they were several feet below us, the smell was unbearable. We moved on pretty quickly! The warthogs were next and then the okapis (which were officially discovered in 1901 – not that long ago!)

2011

Just after I took this picture, the okapi started running around the enclosure and then straight at us – I thought it was going to take a leap over the fence but at the last minute it swerved!

The zebras were in the next enclosure and then came the giraffes:

2011

There was an elevated viewing platform next to the giraffe enclosure so we could see them at their level (more or less):

2011

After the Africa section, we went to the Rainforest Life exhibit. It was indoors and very humid – there were sloths, emperor tamarins (they look like monkeys with long white moustaches), lion tamarins and some birds. Beneath this exhibit was the Nightlife exhibit – cockroaches, rats (the largest rats I’ve ever seen), bats, piranhas with sharp little teeth – it was quite gross actually. I was quite happy to be back upstairs in daylight!

We passed the meerkats, lemurs and otters on our way back to the main part of the zoo. 

2011

The area just outside the Penguin Beach was turned into a food and drink area – there were stands offering all different kinds of street food – chorizo wraps, crepes, tacos, it was all there. We all went for different things. I had a pulled pork mini burger with kim chee – it was SO good. 

Everyone was sitting around on the grass with their drinks by now so I wandered off to the Big Cats exhibit, hoping to see a tiger. I was disappointed when I got there because even though the area wasn’t crowded, there was no tiger in sight. I stood alone at the railing for a couple of minutes, sipping on my Pimms, and suddenly there it was, walking straight towards me. It came right up to the grill and we just stared at each other – it must have been for close to a minute – and then more people showed up with their cameras and the tiger started pacing. 

2011

It seemed to be the only tiger there – and I felt really sorry for it. It kept emitting a low growl and pacing around its cage. 

I went back to the others because the penguins were supposed to be fed at 7.30 at Penguin Beach – but when we got there it was so crowded we couldn’t even get in! One of the staff told us to come back later as they were at capacity for the event. Disappointing.

We went back to the tiger, saw the lions lazing on a deck in the evening sun, watched the spider monkeys swinging around their cage, saw some llamas and donkeys and went back to the penguins. Their feeding time was over and the area had emptied out so we sat down and watched them swimming around for a while. We walked over to the Gorilla Kingdom – the queue to get in was really long – and when we were finally in we were met with two gorillas, sitting with their backs to us, sulking. Disappointing.

I remember going to the zoo every summer as a child – and there were so many more animals in those days than there are now. No, we didn’t see the aquarium or the reptiles or the insects – but there are no elephants any more. I remember reading that they had been moved to Whipsnade Zoo back in 2001 as one of the staff members was crushed and killed by one of the elephants. They were definitely there when I went in 1997. I remember queuing up for camel rides as well (OK, I don’t blame them for not having these any more). There are no pandas. There are no polar bears. There are no rhinos. It’s sad. 

If you think that having an evening for adults only would mean the zoo is less crowded, think again! It was heaving. By the time it was 8pm, the queues to get anything to eat or drink were crazy. After we’d seen the gorillas it was almost 9pm, the animal exhibits were closing and we decided to leave. We could have stayed on until 10pm – there was a silent disco and you could still eat and drink but the place was so crowded and we were so tired from walking around that we decided to head home. 

It was a fun evening and I’d recommend it for an evening out. A good thing to do would be to order the Gordon Ramsay picnic baskets in advance so you don’t have to queue up for food later on. And be prepared to stand on tiptoe to see anything or get their early to see the animals you want to. I suppose that’s one advantage of going when there are more children – you can see over their heads!! 
1 Comment »

Route 46

I had a late afternoon meeting at Dean Rees House in Charterhouse Square today. 

2011

I was late (traffic) so rushed out of the cab and into the building without looking around. On my way out an hour later, I noticed the cobbled street and the very old buildings and just knew that this place had been important historically. I was very near Smithfield, between Charterhouse Street and Clerkenwell Road, just north of the City. It turns out that a Carthusian monastery was founded here in 1371. It was also plague pit in 1348 and was the largest mass grave in London during the Black Death – tens of thousands of bodies were buried there. Pleasant. The monastery was then dissolved and became a mansion house which became a school (which eventually moved to Godalming, Surrey) and it now belongs to Queen Mary, University of London. Thank you, Google. 

I decided to walk towards Farringdon rather than heading home on the Tube (I hate the Tube). I walked down Charterhouse Street, crossed Farringdon Road and found a bus stop for the route 46 which would take me straight home! I looked at the route – the bus would take me all the way up to Hampstead before coming back down to St John's Wood and would take 52 minutes to do this journey (I was doubtful). My other option would be to take a bus back to Oxford Street and then change for a bus heading home. Both journeys would take the same amount of time (bloody long – but 'have iPod, will travel') so I hopped on the 46. It was 6.31pm (yes, I timed the journey).

The bus goes all the way down Gray's Inn Road – Eastman Dental Institute, Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital (I thought it was E-N-T?). The bus skirted around St Pancras and up Pancras Road. Everything seemed grey and miserable (even though the sun was shining) and all of a sudden, on Pancras Road, I saw one of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen – St Pancras Old Church:

2011

It looked like it belonged in Camelot. Obviously I googled it – it's thought to have existed since 314 AD and is believed to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in England. It's open to visitors daily and I think I need to go back and visit properly. The route 46 was starting to look like a good idea.

Then it was up to Camden, Kentish Town and Malden Road (everything was grey again). Even the NHS Clinic had a closed metal shutter.

I then passed something that made me laugh: Sniffles Dog Grooming Spa. I realised we must be close to Hampstead and sure enough the bus drove past the Royal Free Hospital and towards Hampstead Station. It then turned left onto Fitzjohn's Avenue and I was back in familiar territory. 

I got off at my bus stop at 19.23. I couldn't believe it. Exactly 52 minutes. And I got to see parts of London I normally wouldn't have (and some areas I wouldn't want to see again). 

If you want to see the diversity between London's neighbourhoods and have a couple of hours to kill, I think the route 46 is an interesting way to do it!

2011

1 Comment »