Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

London: October 2013 (Part 2)

I met one of my cousins for lunch on Wednesday – we were meeting at Raoul’s and the weather was still amazing so I walked through the park to Lancaster Gate and then took a bus to Clifton Road. I decided to have the pasta with asparagus and truffles instead of my usual eggs. I went home after lunch and did some work.

That evening a friend took me to Restaurant Story in London Bridge. It was a small place but every table was full. There were two set menus: one for six courses and the other for ten courses.

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We decided to go for the six courses but wanted to try the scallops on the ten-course menu, and our waiter said that they were quite flexible that way and added the scallops to our order.

The waiter then placed a candle on our table. It reminded me of the nursery rhyme ‘Wee Willy Winkie’. He also brought over some starters which weren’t included on the menu, such as these flowers with herbs:

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Our waiter told us they were best eaten whole, so that’s what we did. They tasted like… flowers. With a little bit of flavour but mostly they tasted like flowers.

He then brought us grilled corn with butter and ‘rabbit sandwiches’ (yes, real rabbit):

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We were then given a basket of fresh bread. He told us that while we were eating our starters the wax from the candle was dripping into the plate below and we could dip our bread into it and eat it. The candle wasn’t made from real wax, it was made with beef dripping!

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It’s not something I would normally eat, but I tried it.

The portions that followed were small. The scallop dish was really small:

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The main course (wild duck) was a ‘regular’ portion. They brought the uncooked pot to us before they started preparing it so we could see what it looked like.

Before our almond and dill dessert, our waiter brought over some Brie with truffles – it wasn’t on the menu but I had to have it.

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We then had our almond and dill dessert:

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It doesn’t look like much but it was fantastic!

So by the end of our six courses (which turned into eight courses) we were very full.

The weather turned on Thursday – there was a definite nip in the air. That morning I went to meet a friend of mine who was getting her hair done at Aveda on Westbourne Grove. Everyone in London is so busy that I told her I would just sit with her while she had her hair coloured and cut. We were there for about three hours and by then it was lunchtime so we went for sushi. We went to Suzu on Hammersmith Road, close to her place. I’d been there with her before and the food is always excellent. By the time we finished lunch it was time to pick the kids up from school. I went with her, met the kids and then went home to do some work. It was 4pm by this time!

That evening I met up with a friend for a drink. We met at Selfridges and then went to one of the pubs in St Christopher’s Place. I had two glasses of red wine and was home in time for dinner. My first night in! My cousin and I had spaghetti and watched ‘Friends’.

It rained all day on Friday so I decided I’d stay in and catch up on some work. The thought of venturing out didn’t appeal to me at all! I pottered around, did some work, watched some TV. It was just what I needed.

That night I went to stay at a friend’s place. I went over, had a drink, and then we went to Pizza Pomodoro for dinner! I hadn’t been there since 2010 (or maybe even 2009) and the place has not changed at all. We had the garlic bread and garlic mushrooms, and then I ordered an American Hot pizza (or whatever they call the equivalent). The pizzas were smaller than I remember but still tasted great! And the live music was as good as ever… After dinner we decided we’d have dessert and a drink at the Lanesborough. We ordered the cheese platter and the cheesecake! It was a chilled out fun evening and wasn’t too late.

The next morning we woke up and decided we’d go for breakfast. We walked down South Audley Street and into Mount Street Gardens. I didn’t even know this place existed! There was also a beautiful sculpture which reminded me a bit of The Godfather.

'Fire' by Nic Fiddian-Green

‘Fire’ by Nic Fiddian-Green

We also passed a beautiful church.

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

We walked to Bourdon House in Duke Street, home of Dunhill. Again, I didn’t know this place existed – it’s a Dunhill store and retreat for men: barber, spa, private cinema, bar/lounge, cafe, humidor. Another hidden gem (well, not anymore)! We ordered some coffee and the Eggs Benedict. As my friend doesn’t eat meat, he asked them whether they could do the Eggs Benedict with Cheddar cheese rather than ham – it was the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had.

After our late breakfast I went to Raoul’s to meet one of the girls for lunch. Of course I couldn’t eat (initially) so sat with her while she had her eggs. For dessert we decided to share the French toast and then moved on to Baker and Spice for another coffee.

We had a big night planned on Saturday – me, my cousins and some friends were going to Brasserie Chavot in Conduit Street for dinner and then to Annabel’s for some dancing. I loved the atmosphere at Brasserie Chavot but the service was really slow. For starters I ordered the crab mayonnaise with avocado, and for my main course I had the beef ribeye.

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Both courses were excellent. I was too full for dessert.

As I mentioned, the service was so slow that by the time we finished our meal it was 11pm. Our plans for dancing at Annabel’s were thrown out the window as the two married couples decided it was ‘too late’ and that they needed to get home. That left three of us – we ended up at the Polo Bar next to the restaurant and we had a bottle of wine. The bar shut at 1am but it took us ages to find a cab (it was raining again)!

On Sunday I had lunch with a schoolfriend at ASK Italian next to Gloucester Road Station – a steaming bowl of creamy pasta and glass of red wine was in order. We caught up over a couple of hours and I walked back home (after buying an umbrella). I was home the rest of the day.

That evening my cousin and I went to Stick & Bowl in Kensington High Street for dinner. I thought we’d walk there as it’s not even ten minutes away but my cousin wanted to drive. We got there, spent fifteen minutes looking for parking, dropped the car back home and then walked back! It’s a cheap, quick Chinese restaurant and I’ve been going there for almost thirty years. My mum used to take me when I was younger, and I used to take my brother. I hadn’t been there in ages. Hot and sour soup, black bean chicken and rice – perfect for a cold Sunday evening. And we were home in time to watch ‘Downton Abbey’!

I love my life.

To read more about London, click here.

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London: October 2013 (Part 1)

I left Dubai on Friday, 4th October and was going to be away for almost four weeks. As I was packing I just didn’t feel like travelling – four weeks is a long time to be away from home! I was also dreading the weather. As we touched down at Heathrow, the captain announced that it was 21C outside and it was expected to stay that way for a few days. I was going to boil! I’d packed jumpers and had my coat with me.

Every time I go to London I end up coming home absolutely exhausted. I hoped this time would be different because surely four weeks is enough time to catch up with everyone? Apparently not…

I was spending the first ten days at my cousin’s place in Kensington and then moving to St John’s Wood after that. I got home at about 6pm and needed to sort out a few things including my new SIM card. My cousin had informed me she had a work thing on that evening and wouldn’t be home so I made plans of my own. I met up with a friend at his place in Park Lane and had a drink with him and another friend. They asked me what I fancied eating – I don’t know why but travelling always makes me ravenous! I told them at that point I’d settle for a pack of ham from Marks and Spencer. We walked to Pizza Express in Bruton Place, off Berkeley Square. It was just what I was in the mood for – a drink and an American Hot pizza with jalapenos. Every time I go back to London I’m shocked at how cheap alcohol is and how expensive cigarettes are!

After dinner we went to the bar at Claridge’s for dessert and a couple more drinks. We ordered three desserts but I found them disappointing. Surprisingly the best one was the ice cream! After another vodka we walked back to Park Lane and I got a cab home. I was exhausted.

The following morning I went to see my cousin in Maida Vale and her twin girls who had just turned a year old in September. I spent about an hour with them and then went to meet one of the girls for brunch at Raoul’s (the other was away for the weekend). We shared the crab and avocado salad to start with and then I had scrambled eggs and sausages. Wow – I’d missed that! I didn’t go totally overboard and have French toast for dessert because I had four Saturdays to enjoy with them…

That night a friend was having her 40th birthday at the Haymarket Hotel. She had a sit-down dinner for 60 people – we started with drinks in the Library and then moved into the Shooting Gallery for dinner. The food and service were excellent – and it was nice to see so many people in one go! After dinner there was a live band and some dancing, and then a few of us went to Morton’s in Berkeley Square for a few more drinks. It was a heavy night and I got home after 3am.

Sunday was a crazy busy day! A friend was running the Royal Parks Half Marathon and I’d told his wife I’d meet her for breakfast while he was running. For some reason my phone wasn’t working so I didn’t get any of her messages and was running very late! We met at the Sheraton Park Tower in Knightsbridge where they have a breakfast buffet. When I got back to the table she looked at my plate and then looked at me: ‘You have got to be kidding.’ Nope, no joke: sausages, salami, mortadella, Parma ham and a ham and cheese omelette. I guess I really missed pork! The breakfast is fantastic – I’d recommend it. Our waiter also told us that the table we were sitting at was his favourite. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Because George Clooney and Leonardo di Caprio sat there! Wow – I started wondering how I could walk out with one of their chairs…

Once I’d finished eating we walked back to Hyde Park hoping to catch her husband at the finish line. The weather was amazing and I wished I’d taken my camera with me. We saw him running in at 2 hours and 14 minutes – amazing! And he didn’t even look like he’d broken a sweat. When we caught up with him, and he’d caught his breath, we asked him what he wanted to do. ‘I want a pint,’ was his reply. So we crossed the road and went to The Paxton’s Head on Knightsbridge. I was feeling a bit rough from the night before and asked for a half pint – of course, nobody listened to me and I was handed a whole one. The pub was full of other people who had completed the half marathon. We had our drinks and left (I really couldn’t finish mine). We went back to their house and relaxed for a while.

At about 3pm I thought I’d leave them to nap and walk around for a while. I walked up to Selfridges and just as I was thinking about going home my cousin called suggesting we meet at Yauatcha for a late lunch. So I started walking back towards Oxford Circus. By the time we sat down to eat it was about 4pm. I didn’t think I could eat anything after my breakfast, but clearly I was wrong! The food at Yauatcha is excellent – but I thought the service was terrible. Aside from all the usual dim sum, we had a bottle of wine to go with our meal. Yes, drinking again! We’d finished by 6pm, my cousin was heading out elsewhere and I decided to walk for a while – it’s one of the things I miss about London when I’m in Dubai. The sun was setting at the other end of Oxford Street and I managed to take this photo. I took a bus to Kensington and got home at 7pm.

At this point my feet felt like they were on fire. I wasn’t used to walking, and certainly not in heels or my regular day shoes. A friend told me he’d pick me up for dinner at about 8pm and I was so relieved because I thought he’d bring his car and we’d go out for dinner. At 8pm he called me asking me to meet him at the end of the street – he’d walked and wasn’t driving! I met him and we hadn’t really decided where to go – we were just walking around trying to find somewhere. We eventually decided to walk to The Churchill Arms in Kensington Church Street. Even though it was a long walk, and I felt like I was walking on hot coals, it was a nice evening and we talked all the way there and back. I was most surprised that we didn’t even have to wait for a table. I know you’re wondering how I could have possibly eaten any more that day but we only ordered one portion of spring rolls as starters, one green curry with prawns and one pad thai – to share between us. And all the walking I did helped! I was home by 10pm and had an early night. I was exhausted!

On Monday I had a couple of check-ups I wanted to get out of the way (mammogram, etc.) and everything was fine. As I was around the corner from a friend’s place I popped in for a casual lunch – we had soup and quiche. I then walked to John Lewis to meet a friend who was browsing there – I just wanted to say a quick hello. We walked around for about 15 minutes and then I went back to Kensington. I tried to do some work but just couldn’t stay awake so I had a nap!

That evening, my cousin and I went to XO in Belsize Park for dinner with a couple of friends. I hadn’t been there in years and really enjoyed it. It wasn’t too late a night and we were back home by 10.30.

On Tuesday morning I met a friend for coffee in Starbucks in Kensington High Street. I decided I couldn’t bear to wear my slip-on shoes any longer and wore my trainers instead. I also decided I’d go to Kensington Gardens after coffee and walk around and take some photos with my camera. I got to Starbucks and my friend asks, ‘Why do you look like a complete tourist?’ ‘Because I feel like one!’ I told her that in the 20 years I lived in London, I’d never really walked around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. I wanted to make the most of the weather too. Ever since I’d been in London I hadn’t needed my coat and in the evenings I’d only used a shawl – amazing for October! After coffee, I walked back towards the park and went in.

Walking around Hyde Park was almost like summertime, but without the hayfever.
Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

The Round Pond

The Round Pond

North Silver Thimble Shelter

North Silver Thimble Shelter

Autumn

Autumn

Speke Monument

Speke Monument

Two Bears Fountain

Two Bears Fountain

The Pump House in the Italian Gardens

The Pump House in the Italian Gardens

The Pump House

The Pump House

The Italian Gardens

The Italian Gardens

The Tazza Fountain

The Tazza Fountain

Peter Pan

Peter Pan

Peter Pan Statue

Peter Pan Statue

Henry Moore's 'The Arch'

Henry Moore’s ‘The Arch’

Diana Memorial Fountain

Diana Memorial Fountain

America - The Albert Memorial

America – The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial

I went home after my walk in the park and had some lunch. Once again I sat down to do some work but ended up having a nap!

That evening I had dinner with the girls at Michael Nadra in Primrose Hill. I’d heard mixed things about the restaurant but I thought the food was fantastic.

Whitebait tempura

Whitebait tempura

Scottish salmon ceviche with chilli, red onions, sweet potato puree and garden radishes

Scottish salmon ceviche with chilli, red onions, sweet potato puree and garden radishes

Scotch fillet steak with shitake puree, glazed onion, triple cooked chips, baby spinach and madeira jus

Scotch fillet steak with shitake puree, glazed onion, triple cooked chips, baby spinach and madeira jus

I had the cheese platter for dessert. Amazing. Again, it wasn’t a very late night and I was home by 11pm.

I love my life.

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London: February 2013 (Part 3)

After a fairly early night on Friday I felt quite refreshed on Saturday. I met up with the girls for our usual brunch at Raoul’s and coffee at Baker & Spice. It was the weekend before Valentine’s Day and I felt like having a cupcake.

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Sadly it didn’t taste as good as it looked.

After dessert we went to see one of the girls’ new babies. What a little dumpling! I stayed about an hour and then had to leave.

At 5pm I went back to Baker & Spice to meet up with another friend for coffee. I was actually so full from lunch and dessert that I couldn’t eat or drink anything! At 6.30 I headed back to Kensington.

That evening a friend was taking me to Sushi Samba near Liverpool Street for dinner. He’d been raving about it ever since he came to Abu Dhabi in November and I was looking forward to it.

‘What’s the best way to get there?’ I asked him.

‘It’s right next to Liverpool Street station,’ he told me. Clearly he had me confused with someone else.

‘I’ll ask you again – bear in mind that I’ll be wearing heels, my hair will be done, and it will probably be raining.’

‘Cab,’ he replied.

I booked a minicab from Kensington – it took about 30 minutes to get there. There’s a huge neon sign on the side of the building so you can’t really miss it. Our dinner reservation wasn’t until 11pm but I was meeting him and his friend at the bar at 9pm for a few drinks. I got into the lift and went up to the 39th floor where the bar is. It’s a glass lift and as you go up, all of a sudden you have a magnificent view of St Paul’s and the rest of the City. (I was hoping for the same view later on during dinner so I could take a photo but it was almost as if a cloud had descended around the building and we couldn’t see anything!)

The food was delicious. We ordered padron peppers, yellowtail taquitos and rock shrimp tempura to start with. When I bit into the rock shrimp I realised it had truffles oil in it too – it was fantastic! For our main course we ordered a black cod with miso, the pork belly with butterscotch miso and some sushi. We were so full halfway through that we ended up cancelling the black cod. It was a lovely evening – and we were there until they closed.

I woke up on Sunday feeling tired (again). I didn’t have much planned for the day so did some work until about 2pm and then went to meet some friends of my parents at their flat. I spent an hour with them and then went to see one of my aunts who lived in the same building. That night I had the place to myself – my cousin and her mum were out for dinner – so I ordered a pizza, watched ‘Friends’ and did some work. It was just what I needed!

I spent all of Monday with a good friend of mine. I went over to her flat near Olympia, had a cup of tea, and then we went to Westfield for lunch. We had some dim sum and walked around for a bit. I needed some things from Boots and M&S, and then we went to pick up her son from school. He was so excited to see me! We went back home for a while and hung out some more.

Later that afternoon I met my old yoga teacher for tea at her house in Earl’s Court. I spent an hour or so with her and then dropped my shopping home and went to meet my cousin at Arirang for dinner. We ate too much. As usual. We were home early and I started packing.

I woke up on Tuesday with 100 things to do. I needed to sort out my VATs, go to the bank, run some errands for my mum, meet friends for lunch, finish packing, and so on. I thought my flight was at 10pm but when I checked in online I realised it was actually at 9pm. Thank goodness I checked in online!

I did my mum’s errands, met a friend at Selfridges and we went to Busaba Eathai in Bird Street for lunch. We were supposed to be joined by another friend who was running late. My first friend had to go back to work so I ended up having two separate lunches at the same restaurant! I finished my VATs, spent an hour in Waterstone’s and then went home to sort out my things. My suitcase was bloody heavy – it definitely weighed over 23 kg.

I left for the airport just before 6pm and thankfully the VAT queue didn’t take as long as it did the last time. I checked in (without any trouble) and went through security. I wandered around for a while, decided I couldn’t be bothered to buy anything because that would mean lugging it around with me, and bought a sandwich and chai latte from Starbucks. I made a few calls and got on the plane. I realised after speaking to a friend of mine that a common friend of ours was on the flight too. Shortly after I boarded I got a BBM from him.

Him: What flight are you on?

Me: Virgin.

Him: OK. But what flight are you on?

(That was just so typical of him.)

Me: Haha – yes, that’s very funny.

Him: Where are you sitting?

Me: 56D. And before you ask – no, that is not my bra size.

A few minutes later he wandered all the way back to where I was sitting, claiming that was his exercise for the day. We chatted for a little while and then he walked all the way back to where his seat was.

The flight wasn’t full at all – and I had an empty seat next to me. Hurrah! I tried to sleep but only managed an hour or so.

I landed in Dubai and it didn’t take long at immigration. Nowhere near as long as it took coming back from Singapore! The carousel hadn’t even started by the time I got there so I went to Dubai Duty Free and picked up two bottles of white wine and two bottles of Grey Goose. No, I’m not an alcoholic but there are very few places in Dubai where you can buy alcohol. In hindsight I should have bought another bottle of wine.

I got home at about 9am and went to sleep. It was good to be home and back in my own bed!

I love my life.

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London: February 2013 (Part 2)

After the first four exhausting days in London, it really didn’t get any better.

On Tuesday I was invited to Hakkasan Mayfair for a boozy boys’ lunch to celebrate one of their big birthdays. Yes, I know I’m not a boy but they’ve always considered me one of the boys. At least they used to until I lost a lot of weight! The four of us met at the restaurant at 1pm and had a drink at the bar first: two of us had a cocktail (I had the Thea Martini) and the other two started on the first bottle of red wine. After our first drink we moved to a table by the window and ordered our food. We ordered a huge selection of dim sum. And by the time the food came we had started on the second bottle of wine. To cut a long story short – we ordered main courses (prawns, beef, fish) and even dessert (two chocolate desserts and a rhubarb something or other):

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But when the boys say ‘boozy lunch’, this is what they mean. We had:

  • A cocktail
  • Four bottles of red wine
  • Dudu shots
  • Dessert wine
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I knew it was going to be heavy. I’d been telling myself since Friday that I wasn’t going to get too drunk at lunch as I had things to do afterwards (shopping at John Lewis and dinner at Arirang). My cousins had their doubts. I was determined to be ‘fine’.

After lunch we thought it would be a good idea to go to Mews of Mayfair for another couple of drinks. It was almost 5pm by this point. We got a comfortable table with some sofas and settled in. We had:

  • A bottle of champagne
  • Two espresso martinis
  • A glass of red wine (totally unnecessary)

A little after 6pm we decided it was time to head home (or run errands in my case). The boys staggered home and I walked to John Lewis. I picked up what I needed (bras) and walked to Arirang where I met my cousins.

Dinner was good, but as you can imagine most of it was a blur! We had the usual kim chees, chicken, beef bulgogi, sizzling pork belly in sake sauce and the barbecued bacon too.

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There was a lot of food. No wonder I put on weight in London!

We were home by 10pm and I was in bed soon after.

I had lunch with one of the girls and another friend on Wednesday. We went to Raoul’s (yes, again!). I’d never had the crab and avocado salad there – but it is amazing! I’d have happily eaten just that for my starters, main and dessert. But I didn’t – I had the ham and cheese omelette instead.

That night was my other friend’s 40th birthday. He was having a dinner in the wine cellars of the Stafford Hotel in St James’s. The wine cellars double as bomb shelters during World War II and a part of the wine cellar still displays World War II memorabilia:

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Before dinner there was a wine tasting contest (I got four out of six correct) and then we sat down to eat. We had crab and avocado salad to start, the main courses were either grilled fish or Beef Wellington, and there were loads of chocolate desserts. I had a slice of the birthday cake (a Chelsea T-shirt) but left the rest. The wine was flowing, there were speeches, there was singing and dancing (a singer/guitarist and saxophonist were playing), and we eventually left at 1.30am. It was a wonderful evening…

On Thursday I went over to my cousin’s place for lunch to hang out with her and her twin girls. We ordered pizzas from Le Cochonnet and played with the 5-month-old girls (so adorable).

That evening I’d arranged to meet my old work friends at a pub near the office (not that any of them work there any more). I’d also told a few people in the IT department to join us – we used to spend (too) many hours at The Wimpole after work together! It was great to see them all – and I was so relieved to hear that those who wanted new jobs had found them (and better jobs, in some cases). We were at the pub till they closed and stopped for a shawarma on the way home.

On Friday I had to go to Old Street. I had a meeting with the publisher who had bought the journals from RSM Press. When I decided to go to London I told them I’d be in town and thought it would be a good idea to meet them as I now do some freelance work for them. I’d had a couple of conference calls with them before and am in touch with one or two of them almost every day so it was nice to actually meet in person. I had a meeting at their office for about 45 minutes and then three of us walked to a pub close by called The Princess of Shoreditch. Everything on the menu looked really good – and I eventually chose the steak and Stilton pie (and so did the other two). If I’d had room for dessert I’d have had the rhubarb and apple crumble!

After lunch I realised I had nothing to do until dinner. I took the tube to Bond Street and went shopping. I browsed in Debenhams and tried on seven dresses. I ended up buying six of them! I also bought a pair of nude peep-toe heels from Russell & Bromley which I’d had my eye on since Christmas. A very productive afternoon!

I met my cousin at Sotheby’s (where she works) at 5pm and we took the bus home together.

That evening I met a couple of friends at Princess Garden for dinner. It wasn’t a heavy night or a late one – it was just nice to sit and talk and have a glass of wine. The food at Princess Garden is really good – I can’t think why I never went there more often when I lived in London.

I was home and in bed by 11.30pm.

I love my life.

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London: February 2013 (Part 1)

I had a friend and a cousin in London turning 40 in the same week at the beginning of February and decided I’d celebrate with them. I had bought a return ticket when I was in London last year so I didn’t need to buy another ticket – and I managed to use my air miles for a flight back to Dubai.

The last time I was in London it was a really hectic trip and I was determined not to do that again. I wanted to relax and hang out with my friends. Sadly, even the best laid plans go astray.

I was dreading the cold. One winter away and I’d turned into a wimp. I hardly packed any clothes as my Dubai wardrobe would have been completely useless there! I wore the one pair of closed slip-ons I own, my jeans, a t-shirt, a hoodie, a scarf, and luckily I had brought my coat with me when I moved. My plan was to get a minicab from the airport, go to the storage place to get my winter clothes, and then go to my cousin’s place where I was staying. The journey really made no sense as I’d have to go from Heathrow to St John’s Wood and then back to Gloucester Road – and when we drove past Gloucester Road first I decided to just go home and drop my stuff off. I’d collect my winter stuff the following morning.

So from the time I landed, I’d been getting messages from friends telling me to join them at our usual pub in Oxford Circus. ‘Come straight from storage,’ they said. ‘Erm – and what about my luggage?’ ‘Bring it!’ I was actually very tempted – and had I gone to St John’s Wood like I planned I probably would have done that!

Anyway, I dropped my stuff off at my cousin’s place, freshened up and headed to Oxford Circus. I caught up with a few of the guys – it was so good to see them! We had a few drinks and all headed home. That night my cousin and I went to see her sister whose twins were almost 5 months old. I couldn’t wait to meet them but they were both asleep by the time we got there. I did get to hold one of them though. We ordered some pizza and had some cold cuts and wine. It wasn’t a late night as everyone was quite tired.

On Saturday morning I went to St John’s Wood to get my boots and jumpers. I opened the bag with my things in it and pulled out my boots and five jumpers: grey, grey, grey, grey and grey. I can’t believe how much grey I used to wear! My wardrobe has completely changed now – a combination of being a smaller size and living in sunnier climes!

I met the girls for brunch at Raoul’s after that. I had really missed them – especially over the last few weeks. I was also so excited to have scrambled eggs and sausages! And of course we shared a French toast for dessert. After that we walked over to Baker & Spice for a coffee. We hung out for a while and then I managed to get a ride back to Kensington with my cousin. I caught this sunset on camera:

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That night was my cousin’s 40th birthday party. She’d booked the private room at The Wolesley for 14 of us – it was beautifully done. The waiter was very generous with the champagne and I eventually had to ask him to stop refilling my glass as I’d had three glasses by 8.30pm! This was our menu:

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After dinner we went to Annabel’s for some more drinks and dancing – we were there till they closed! I had checked in my coat at the cloakroom, tucking my black shawl with the diamantes into the sleeve of my coat – but when I went to collect it at the end of the night my shawl was missing! I was so annoyed – it was my favourite shawl and my warmest… The woman in the cloakroom said she’d call me if it showed up but I knew it was gone for good.

I met up with a schoolfriend for lunch on Sunday. She was staying at her parents’ place in Wimbledon for the weekend and I was thrilled when she said she’d meet me at Gloucester Road as she had to come into central London. We walked to Ask and sat down for some pizza and a glass of wine. I couldn’t believe I was actually having another drink after the night I’d had. We spent a couple of hours together, catching up on our lives and then she had to go. I had no plans for that evening so I went over to some friends in Portland Place (where I stayed last time) and hung out with them for the rest of the day. We got a take away from Pearl Liang (I really fancied a hot and sour soup!) and by the time we were done with dinner we all looked like we were going to pass out.

Monday was a long day. I met a friend for brunch at Raoul’s. Instead of my usual scrambled eggs and sausages I decided to have the mushroom tagliatelle with truffle oil. It was delicious!

2013

After lunch I ran some errands for my mum and then walked from Park Lane to M&S and Selfridges. I was just browsing – wandering around aimlessly. I decided to walk up Baker Street and then to St John’s Wood. I walked down St John’s Wood High Street and realised I still had an hour to kill before meeting my cousins at Richoux so I went to Starbucks, ordered a chai latte and read my book until 4pm. Is that sad??

I met three of my cousins (including the birthday girl) for tea at Richoux. My mum had asked me to have a scone for her so how could I refuse? We met for just an hour as everyone was rushing off to do other things. People are busy in London!

I met up with a friend who I hadn’t seen since before I moved to Dubai. He had moved to Hong Kong a couple of months before I left London but was now back in town. We met at Baker Street and walked to The Marylebone on Marylebone High Street. I had a couple of glasses of red wine (which were quite unnecessary). It was great to see him and catch up – we’ve known each other since we were about 6 or 7 years old!

After I met him I headed to Tsunami where I was meeting the girls for an early dinner. I’d forgotten how good the food is there – the nasu goma, the ohitashi, the crab shiu mai. Just divine. I think the starters there are much better than the main course dishes they have (although their black cod is excellent too). I was so full by the end of dinner I could barely move.

I was home by 10pm and rolled into bed, absolutely exhausted.

I love my life.

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London: Part 4

Friday again! It was my last weekend in London and I intended to make the most of it.

I met up with a friend at Raoul’s – I hadn’t seen him at all during my trip so it was nice to finally see him before I left. I had the ham and cheese omelette which was so good.

That evening one of the boys took me out for drinks and dinner (and more drinks). We started off at the Soho Hotel with some cocktails. We then walked to Escortikov Novikov for dinner and drinks. I didn’t think there was as much flesh on show as the week before. Of course it could just be that we weren’t sitting in a table located as centrally as the week before. We had lots of sushi, new style salmon sashimi, some kind of mushroom dumpling, yellowtail sashimi, and rock shrimp. I think that was it… We ordered our dessert at the bar downstairs – three flavours of crème brûlée. At about midnight we thought it would be a good idea to leave Novikov and go across the road to Nobu Berkeley. Actually, it was my idea. I take full responsibility. I also thought it would be a good idea to switch from vodka to sake. As far as I remember, we had two bamboo sakes – and I don’t know what time I got home. It was one of my favourite nights in London.

The next morning, however, was not one of my favourite mornings in London. I woke up, got ready and got on the tube to meet the girls for brunch at Raoul’s. I thought about ordering the ham and cheese omelette again but then decided it would be pathetic to have the same thing. So I ordered the bacon, cheese and tomato omelette. It was probably the most disappointing thing I’ve ever eaten at Raoul’s. As it was my last brunch we ordered the French toast to share. It more than made up for the awful omelette. We went over to Baker & Spice for a little while and said our goodbyes.

The sun had come out by this time so I decided to walk home through the park again. It was warm – and the park was crowded.

2012
2012

As soon as I got home my friend said she was going to Marylebone High Street – so I joined her. We went to a few of the shops and then went to Patisserie Valerie for coffee. Before we started going to Raoul’s (whatever year that was) the girls and I used to go to Patisserie Valerie for brunch on Saturdays. I’m so glad we no longer go there because it’s quite terrible. I ordered a caffé frappé which was just disgusting. I really wasn’t having much luck that day. What I really wanted was a mocha light from Starbucks. We went home after that and decided where to go for dinner. My friends had an event to attend and I had some friends to meet at a pub so we decided we’d reconvene at 9pm.

I got ready and met my friends from New York at the Punch Bowl, a pub in Mayfair. I’d never been there but the menu looked interesting. If I was still in London I’d have eaten there by now. We spent about an hour together and I left to join my friends at Bar Boulud in Knightsbridge. Four of us shared the charcuterie board, the boudin blanc sausage, and the escargots. We each had our own main course – I ordered the steak. With truffled mashed potato. Well, it was my last weekend! For dessert I went for the cheese platter while the others wanted something chocolatey.

After dinner I’d arranged to meet my friend from the night before at the Arts Club. He was with some of his uni friends and they had a table in the club downstairs. My friends and I went up to the bar on the first floor to have a drink while we waited for them, but it was so crowded we decided to have a drink in the restaurant bar on the ground floor. When my friend showed up we went down to the club.

There was a live band downstairs – I thought they were OK until they played their last song. They played ‘Purple Rain’ which has one of the best guitar solos ever – and they completely butchered it. If you can’t play it like it should be played, just don’t. When they finished, this geeky looking DJ came on. He looked about 15 years old – but once he started he was so into what he was doing, so passionate, by the end of the evening I wanted to adopt him. I would go back just for him. I didn’t think it would be a late night but of course we stayed until the end! I got home at about 3.30.

We had an impromptu lunch at Yauatcha on Sunday. And we were there just after midday. I know you’re wondering when I slept while I was in London and the answer to that is, I didn’t. We had: prawn and chive dumplings, char siu pau, scallop shiu mai, siew long buns, sticky rice in lotus leaf, mushroom cheung fun, venison puff and turnip cake. Fantastic. Dim sum and diet Coke – perfect food after a late night.

After lunch, I looked at my shopping list and realised I hadn’t bought half the things I was supposed to have (jeans, bras, swimsuit) so I went shopping. I couldn’t find any jeans I liked, I didn’t see a swimsuit I liked, I got measured for new bras but couldn’t find many in my new size. Oh well. That’s what online shopping is for!

I went over to see a friend and his daughter and had coffee at their place that afternoon. When I left I decided to walk home through the park again – I knew it would be the last time for a while and I felt sad.

I got home, started packing and stayed in that evening. We were all exhausted.

I stayed in bed as long as I possibly could on Monday. I knew that once my day started it would fly by and before I knew it I’d be on the flight home. I went to see my tarot reader in the morning – not for a reading, but because I’d promised her daughter she could have my old Yamaha keyboard and it had been on my mind for the last two weeks. I’ve known her for 12 years and we had a coffee together while we talked. After that I went to the Fromagerie for lunch with a friend. I had the slow roast pork belly with mash. My last meal in London had to be pork!

I popped into my office after lunch to say bye to my work friends, headed home to finish packing, and then I was off to the airport.

Leaving London the second time was harder than I thought it would be. It rained all day on Monday – and just as well because if it had been sunny I would have probably stayed! I felt a bit teary in the cab on the way to the airport, driving out of London. I checked in my bags and met up with a friend who was flying to Lagos that evening. He was going to the Virgin Clubhouse so he took me in as his guest. We had a drink (diet Coke) and some food (cheese and charcuterie) and then I had to go.

I got on the plane, put my trolley bag in the overhead locker and sat down. I made a few calls but got mostly voicemail. And when I switched off my phone, I cried. I cried for many reasons and I don’t think being tired helped at all. I am grateful to the lady sitting next to me for leaving me alone and not asking me if I was OK. I was fine once we’d taken off and the drinks trolley was coming round (I had tomato juice, in case you were wondering).

So, that was my fantastic, but hectic, holiday.

High points? Being with my friends. Not having to have the ‘Dubai’ conversation over and over again (How long have you been here? Where did you move from? What do you do? Where do you live?). Walking in the park – simple pleasures.

Low points? Rain. Lack of sleep (entirely my fault). Oslo. Not spending enough time with the people I wante
d to.

Regrets? One or two, but mostly that I didn’t take my DSLR camera with me. Next time…

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Week 18 update: 10 kilos by Christmas

So this week… I carried on eating and drinking my way through London in between packing suitcases, finishing off my errands, and waking up at 4.30 every morning. Yup – another write-off.

After my heavy night out with the boys, Monday did not go exactly as planned. Instead of being up and about early and going to the gym, it was ‘tortura’ (sorry, I just had to). I woke up with a headache and could barely move. Thank God I’d taken the morning off. I had a dentist appointment at 11.30 and got there just in time. After an hour of teeth cleaning (during which time I imagined throttling my dentist), I was told I couldn’t eat or drink anything for 30 minutes. All I wanted at that time was a can of Coke.

Instead I headed over to John Lewis. I’d realised over the last couple of weeks that my bras just weren’t fitting me and I decided to get myself measured properly before I moved to Dubai. I added my name to the list to get measured (there’s a list – who knew?) and waited about 10 minutes for the woman to come and get me. She led me to a cubicle, told me to undress to the waist but to leave my bra on. When she came back two minutes later she said ‘My goodness, you’ve lost some weight!’ I was wearing my black jeans which are held up by a belt, and which are now too big for me around the waist by several inches. Actually, they’re too big for me all over, but especially around the waist. She measured me and, sure enough, the bras I’ve been wearing are now too big for me around my rib cage. She brought in a couple of styles in the right size and the difference in how they look and feel (the bras, that is) is astonishing. She told me that if I continued to lose weight I should get measured again in about six months because I could be even smaller around the back. I don’t think I’ve been that small since I was about 13, but we’ll see in a few months. I spent 20 minutes in the queue and then spent close to £200 on bras. I then thought that if my bras don’t fit me any more, none of the clothes I bought over the summer for Dubai are going to fit me either. But I suppose it’s easier to alter clothes…

I had my last session with Gus on Tuesday morning. I eventually had to do some lunges and he said my lunges were so much better than they used to be. I laughed and asked him if he remembered our first session? My back knee was nowhere near the floor in those first few sessions. I remember the pain in the early days after each session with him – and I never want to experience that again! He said he’d send me a programme to follow until I find a new trainer. I managed to catch my last London sunrise on Tuesday morning:

2011

Tuesday was supposed to be a full day at the office, but I got there late, had a long lunch (with wine) with my team and boss at All Bar One on Regent Street, and then left before 5pm to meet one of the boys for a couple of martinis. Why, yes, I do have my priorities right. We went to our usual bar in St James’ – I love that place. It used to be a quiet bar but earlier this year it was listed in the Evening Standard Magazine as one of London’s top 100 ‘sexy’ places and is now always crowded. Even at 5pm on a weekday! Two martinis later we parted ways and I had dinner (and a glass of wine) with my mum and cousin at Raoul’s. I’m pretty sure the staff there think I have no life. Or that I own the place.

On Wednesday I went to LA Fitness for the last time. I never thought I’d be sad to not work out! I did my cardio session, gave Gus his Christmas/thank you present and said goodbye… I went to work in the afternoon to do some last minute things and say goodbye to whoever was left. Even then it didn’t hit me that I was leaving for good. Isn’t it weird? One of my editors took me out for a long overdue drink at The Wimpole which was actually quite nice – and my boss joined us for a quick drink as well. I had dinner with friends (with cava and wine – my poor liver) at Fino in Charlotte Street. I hadn’t been there in years. The ham croquetas are better there than they are in Spain and the rest of the food is really good! For dessert, we had the doughnuts (yay – deep-fried carbs!)… We had hoped they would be churros, but the waitress said they really were just doughnuts.

On Thursday I had my hair straightened, ran some errands with my mum and then thought we’d stop at Royal China on Baker Street for a late lunch. We got there at 2.45 and were told they were closed. Disappointed and hungry, we walked over to Bright Courtyard which is across the road. I’d never been there before and had heard mixed reviews. We had hot and sour soup, spring rolls, tofu and Singapore noodles, and Chinese tea to drink. Our bill was £52 – which I thought was expensive for what we’d just eaten!

I went over to say goodbye to friends that evening and had dinner (with wine) at my last stop. In recent weeks I think there’s only been one day a week (if that) where I haven’t had anything to drink. And I’ve been feeling like a blimp.

On Friday my cousin took me to Royal China Club on Baker Street for a quick lunch between my errands. I need to say that, at this point, I still had two more suitcases to pack and just kept putting it off. I went home after lunch, packed a few things, headed back into town for a farewell pint (or two) at The Champion (it had to be done), headed back home, packed a few more things and then headed back into town for some friends’ Christmas drinks. It was a lovely champagne-fuelled evening and it was nice to see so many people before I left. I did get a bit cranky a couple of times, but that was bound to happen. I got home at 3am and packed a few things!

I said goodbye to the girls at Raoul’s on Saturday. Thank God they managed to hold it together – had one of them started crying that would have set me off too. I headed home after lunch and packed. And packed. And packed. I had to go to Edgware Road twice to get more bags! I’m glad I did go the second time because I caught this sunset on my way home:

2011

I eventually left for the airport with seven bags. 

I got to Dubai on Sunday morning and passed out until 3pm. When I woke up, my parents, sister and brother-in-law were all having shawarma sandwiches. I thought to myself that if I had a shawarma sandwich now, I’d give in all the time – and I didn’t want all my hard work of the last three months to end that way. I opted for the shish taouk (no bread), houmous and tabbouleh. 

I was aiming to lose 10 kilos by Christmas but that didn’t happen. Especially with the way things were the last three weeks! I haven’t weighed myself in over a month but judging from the fit of m
y clothes (my old jeans fit!) and the compliments I’ve received, I feel like I’ve lost about 15 lbs (6.8 kg). More importantly: I had a goal, I was dedicated, and I’m going to continue trying to reach that goal! I wonder whether I can lose 10 kilos by Easter? Can anyone recommend a good trainer in Dubai? Preferably with a sense of humour? He/she will need it.

2011

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Week 17 update: 10 kilos by Christmas

I think I’m going to have to write off this week as well. At least when it comes to alcohol. 

My sister was in London – so that involved lots of eating out (or taking away).

One place we always go when she’s here is Arirang – a Korean restaurant in Poland Street. We’ve been going there for years and it’s one of our favourite places. When I asked her if she wanted to go on Tuesday or Wednesday, she replied ‘Why can’t we go twice?’ So we did. And we always order the same food, too. My favourite things are the vegetarian pah jeon (a spring onion pancake):

2011

And the sizzling pork belly in spicy sake sauce (a fairly recent discovery):

2011

It is just SO good.

As I said, we went twice in a row, but I drew the line at going again for lunch on Saturday!

On Thursday I had my office Christmas party at the Grange Hotel in Holborn – there was lots of red wine involved. I got home close to 1am, and had the day off on Friday. Considering I felt a bit ‘dehydrated’, I managed to get a lot done: I went to the gym, went to Raoul’s for lunch, had my hair done, and packed a suitcase.

On Friday night I’d organised drinks at The Warrington, my local pub, for some friends. I’d specified that I didn’t want any gifts, speeches or tears, but none of my requests were taken any notice of. Again, lots of red wine was involved, and then there was champagne and even some shots. I ended up at Beirut Express with the girls and one of their husbands. I can barely remember what I ate (shish taouk, I think?) but I definitely remembering having some arayes! 

Saturday was another productive day, in spite of a heavy night. I had lunch at Raoul’s (yes, again), started packing another suitcase, updated my CV, and went over to one of the girls’ places for dinner. I didn’t say very much at dinner – I was so tired from the night before – but it was just nice to be with them. One of the girls gave me a present – a framed photo of us taken in Paris a few weeks ago. 

I had my last yoga class on Sunday morning and then my sister and I decided to head to Phoenix Palace for lunch. I hadn’t been there since my parents left in November – and the food was so good. After lunch, I met one of the girls at Raoul’s for a coffee and then went home. My mum arrived from Dubai, my sister left for Lagos, and I went out for dinner with the boys.

I met the boys (two of them) at Nobu on Park Lane – because we were meeting at 7.30, I thought I’d be home by 11, go to the gym in the morning, then the dentist, then to the office. But the evening turned out to be, quite simply, carnage. The food was excellent as usual: tuna sashimi salad, artichoke salad with prawns, black cod, and the chocolate bento box for dessert. I’m going to pretend we didn’t order the ‘Fuji Apple Crumble’. And the alcohol. OMG. There was one bamboo sake flask after the other – I couldn’t remember how many we polished off but I’ve been told we had TEN). We drank until the restaurant closed and we were the last people sitting there. The boys were so lovely – they took me out for dinner and halfway through the evening the waiter brought over a Tiffany’s bag and the boys gave me my leaving present. It was so unexpected – I was speechless. It’s a gorgeous compact mirror for my handbag. At some point in the evening we decided it would be a good idea to spend a New Year’s holiday in Las Vegas. The three of us. In one room. We’re re-thinking that now though. 

After dinner, we ended up at Trader Vic’s, having another drink. It really was the last thing any of us needed. There were tears. Far too many tears. And not all mine. Getting home is a hazy memory – but it was a brilliant evening and I will miss those two very much… 

So that was my weekly alcohol update. Apart from drinking too much, I’ve been sleeping too little. I’ve been waking up between 4 and 4.30 all week, remembering things that I need to do. A part of me can’t wait to get on the plane because then my list will have been done!

The working out part was fine this week – I did one session with Gus and three on my own. I seem to have twisted or done something to my left knee though, but it’s getting better with time. As for weight loss, I think that’s a little ambitious, don’t you? I’d consider myself lucky if my weight was the same as the last time I weighed myself! 

2011

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Week 16 update: 10 kilos by Christmas

What can I tell you about this week? As it’s my third last week in London, there was much socialising, much drinking and much eating. By Thursday I realised I was going to have to write off this week in terms of alcohol consumption. I was out for dinner every night apart from Monday, and drank at least one glass of red wine every night apart from Monday and Tuesday. I also had my work leaving drinks on Thursday (more about that later) and a friend’s wedding on Saturday so I knew the week was pretty much doomed from the beginning…

On Tuesday night I met up with one of the girls – the new Everyman Cinema is finally open in Maida Vale and I wanted to go before I left. It’s a three-minute walk from my flat and I wish they’d opened a year ago! We had dinner at Raoul’s and then went to see Hugo at the cinema. I’d only ever had dinner at Raoul’s once before and that was a while ago. I ordered the Shish Raoul’s (without the bread) and it was actually very good. The new cinema is lovely – there was a nice bar area/foyer and the plush red sofas were really comfortable. The only downside was that the sofas were so comfortable it was hard to motivate ourselves to get up and back out in the cold again!

On Wednesday I had dinner with a couple of friends at The Harwood Arms, the only pub in London to be awarded a Michelin star. We shared a couple of starters from the Bar Menu – the venison Scotch egg and the cod croquettes – and then two of us ordered the Berkshire roe deer, and the third ordered the aged English beef. We each had a glass of wine. After dinner, the two of them shared the lemon curd doughnuts for dessert.

2011

The food was excellent – I’d definitely go back if I was in London for a longer time.

I had my work leaving drinks on Thursday – it was a brilliant evening. There was prosecco, red wine (lots of it), champagne, and red velvet cupcakes (made by Laura – and delicious). I decided to choose red wine over white as I drink it slower – and I thought that would be a good idea for the evening as I wanted to pace myself! A few of us ended up at Maroush afterwards – we ordered food and more wine… and I got home at around 2.30. Thank goodness I’d taken the day off on Friday!

On Friday night I met up with a couple of friends and we went to Demartino in Great Portland Street for dinner. I’d been there before, a few weeks ago, but I wanted to go back. I had the Jerusalem artichoke to start followed by the grilled swordfish with olive oil, lemon and pine nuts. And then I had three bites (or was it four?) of the hot chocolate fudge cake. And some red wine. 

Saturday was a long day. I was invited to a wedding at Hampton Court Palace and had to be there by 2.30 for the civil wedding. I was up early, had a banana, got ready, and went over to a friend’s place – a few of us were going together and he was driving – and then realised I’d forgotten my camera (doh!). We got to the Garden Room just before 3pm only to find that they were running late and nothing had started. After the civil wedding there was a tea/coffee break while the bride and groom got ready for the Indian ceremony – which went on until 5.15.

2011

After that we walked from the Garden Room to the main building where the reception was being held. The venue was fantastic – champagne and canapes were served in the Gallery. Dinner (platters of Indian food) was held in the Great Hall, followed by dancing in another room downstairs…

2011

Again there was lots of red wine – but it was partly to stay warm!

I met up with a friend for brunch on Sunday morning. I usually have yoga on Sunday mornings (but not this week) so rarely leave the house before 1pm – I had no idea Raoul’s would be so crowded at 11.30 on a Sunday! I had an omelette but made him order the French toast – because it really is out of this world. I’m definitely going to have some before I leave…

In spite of the heavy social schedule, I still had my usual session with Gus on Tuesday. We did some boxing this week – and thankfully I didn’t have to drag him around the gym! I asked him if he planned what each weekly session would entail rather than what he felt in the mood for at the time. He looked amused and said of course he did. ‘It doesn’t just happen by accident.’ I made it to the gym three more times for my cardio sessions. I told him that I felt no different from how I looked/felt 2-3 weeks ago and he suggested upping my cardio sessions to four each week. I have no idea how I’m going to fit that in over the next three weeks and do all the things I need to – it would mean going every morning before work – and I’ll be exhausted by 8pm every evening… Let’s see how it goes.

I caught one beautiful sunrise on Monday morning:

2011

And that was my eating, drinking and working out this week! That is a LOT of eating out (and drinking), even for me. And next week isn’t looking much better… I think I need to resign myself to the fact that the next couple of weeks are going to be hectic and that if I get my workouts done I’m doing really well and just not stress about the rest of it… 

2011

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We’ll always have Paris…

‘A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.’
~~Thomas Jefferson

One of the items on my list of things I’m going to miss when I move to Dubai later this year is that I really haven’t made the most of having Europe on my doorstep. I went to Barcelona for a friend’s 40th birthday earlier this year – my first trip to Spain since 2003. After visiting Rome for the first time in 2008 I told myself I would go back every year – I haven’t been once. I hadn’t been to Paris since Christmas 2003 either, so the girls and I decided we’d have to ditch Raoul’s for a weekend and go to Paris. 

We took the 8am train on Friday morning which arrived at 11.15. We checked in to the Aparthotel Adagio Paris Haussmann, freshened up and walked over to the Galeries Lafayette. Just in time for lunch. The food hall at the department store had been recommended to us as a good place to have lunch, but when we got there nothing really appealed to us. We found another restaurant in the store but that didn’t seem particularly appetising either so we ventured out. We ended up sitting in the back of a little cafe across the road from the Galeries Lafayette – the three of us ordered the ham and cheese omelette and were pleasantly surprised when they came. The bread on the table looked really good too – but I didn’t have any! After lunch we headed back to the shops – it was very crowded and we decided we’d be better off heading to Pierre Hermé on rue Cambon for dessert and coffee.

On our way there we passed the Pierre Marcolini store on rue Scribe and went in to work up our appetites! One of the girls picked up a tray of chocolates and some Cœurs Framboise (raspberry hearts) for us to try. We carried on walking, trying to find rue Cambon. 

We eventually did get there, only to find that the Pierre Hermé boutique is just that: a boutique. You can’t sit down and have a coffee with your macaron or pastry so we decided to head to Ladurée on rue Royale. We had to queue for about 10 minutes and were eventually shown to a table upstairs. There was so much to choose from, I couldn’t decide. I told the girls to order whatever they wanted and I’d just have a bite of theirs rather than order my own pastry. They weren’t having any of it. In the end I ordered a millefeuille au chocolat and a café au lait

2011

I couldn’t finish my pastry (on the left in the photo) and the coffee was terrible. I’m not much of a coffee drinker but even I can tell the difference between good and bad coffee. The three pastries and three coffees cost us 44 Euros. And I thought London was expensive! 

After dessert we went to a couple of Chanel stores and the Hermès store – but didn’t buy anything. I left the girls in another Chanel store as I was meeting a friend I hadn’t seen in 15 years. 

Fred and I met in the summer of 1996 – we were both working at Family Kingdom, an amusement park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (more about that later) and we somehow managed to stay in touch for all this time. I’d been to Paris a few times since then but we never managed to meet. As I was walking to our arranged meeting point on the rue St Honoré I wondered what on earth we’d talk about – 15 years is a long time! But when we met, it was fine. We walked back to the rue Cambon and ended up in a little bar called Le Relais Cambon. We ordered a couple of beers for old time’s sake and sat down. Then the weirdest thing happened – the songs playing on the music channel in the bar were from 1996 and brought back so many memories. Three hours – and three beers – later I had to rush off as it was already 8pm and I was having dinner with the girls. I don’t know where the time went… 

After Fred and I parted ways, I started walking towards the hotel. Or so I thought. I usually have a good sense of direction, but I ended up walking in a huge circle and twenty minutes later ended up back at the bar we were at. Crap. I looked for a cab – which took ten minutes to find – there were none! The driver was quite chatty and I was pleasantly surprised to find I could still hold a decent conversation in French. Until he asked me to go dancing later that evening and to give him my email address. I told him I didn’t have email (clutching my BlackBerry) – he clearly didn’t believe me because he stopped talking after that. But he did get me back to the hotel in one piece.  

We had dinner at Café de la Paix – what a beautiful restaurant! The girls ordered their starters – foie gras and lobster raviole – as I was still full from the pastry. Or maybe it was the beer. One of the girls had the Sole Meunière, and two of us shared the côte de bœuf. The portions were huge – three people could have eaten the beef – and we couldn’t finish it. 

2011

After dinner we decided to head back to the hotel – it had been a long day and we were exhausted. I’d forgotten all about the Pierre Marcolini chocolates that were bought earlier – the Cœurs Framboise was amazing – like a little drop of heaven. I went to sleep a happy woman. 

The next morning we left the hotel and headed to Eric Kayser on boulevard Malesherbes for breakfast. Just a few doors down from the hotel was a florist called Shivani – with beautiful flowers on display outside…

2011

We made it to Eric Kayser – I was unfeasibly excited about having a croissant. It would be my first real bread in almost two months. I ordered a croissant, scrambled eggs and a café au lait. The croissant was delicious. I ate the croissant before I’d thought about taking a photo – but then everyone knows what croissants look like, don’ they? The scrambled eggs were good, but not as good as they are at Raoul’s. 

2011

For some reason, the eggs came with a green leaf salad – and I thought the salad was better than the eggs. And the coffee was fantastic. I had to take a photo of the pastries on display:

2011

We headed over to avenue Montaigne after breakfast, went to another Chanel store, the Dior store, and then it was time for lunch.

I’d booked a table at Chez Clément on the Champs Elysées. I was still quite full from breakfast so I ordered a seafood salad – which was very good. The girls ordered the roast chicken and the grilled seafood platter – both of which came with amazing mash…

We split up after lunch – the girls wanted to go to the Louis Vuitton store and I couldn’t face looking at another handbag. I walked down the Champs Elysées for a while, popped in to Sephora and then met up with them at Plaza Athénée, back on avenue Montaigne.

2011

We had coffee in La Galerie des Gobelins.

2011

When we sat down, the waitress brought over little stools for our handbags! It was by far the best (and most expensive) café au lait I’ve ever had. After lingering and people-watching for a while, we had to head back to the hotel, pick up our bags and catch the train back to London.

I don’t know why I haven’t done this every few months – it’s so easy on the train! Ah well, perhaps when I’m back in London next year…

 

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