Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- The Woodsman and The Rain
Wilton's Music Hall
Another Long Day
Back at Work
Lyon to Paris to London
Sunday in Lyon
Saturday in Lyon
Friday in Paris
The Noel Coward Collection
Quiet Night In
A Stroll through Mayfair
- The Woodsman and The Rain
- [Saturday 14th April 2012]
Went to see a film called The Woodsman and the Rain at the Prince Charles Cinema this afternoon. It was playing as part of a Japanese and Korean film festival, and Chie had picked this one because the rest of them mostly sounded pretty dark and miserable.
It was a rather lovely film actually, about a man who has lost his joie de vivre, and regains it by accidentally being roped into the filming of a zombie movie in the countryside around where he works as a woodsman. As plots go it was nothing if not original.
After the film we went for dim som at our usual Chinatown haunt, Joy King Lau. The food was mostly good as always, but the ho fun noodles we ordered were far too greasy, so despite leaving a lot of them we felt somewhat unhealthy afterwards.
In the evening to try and compensate for the greasy noodles we had a meal composed almost entirely of crudités. Whilst actually quite tasty, despite having prepared a large amount, the absence of any carbohydrates left me feeling hungry for the remainder of the evening.
- [Friday 13th April 2012]
Caught up with my old friend Simon this evening, who started at my company a few months back, but given that we work in different buildings I don't actually end up seeing very often. Made a couple of cocktails at the office before heading to Noura for dinner.
- Boring Lunch
- [Thursday 12th April 2012]
Not really sure why I took a picture of my lunch today. I particularly fancied a simple bowl of pasta for lunch, and was slightly dismayed to discover the place across the road from my office which does takeaway pasta seems to have closed down. This seems like a real gap in the market to me, and made me miss the simple neighbourhood "spaghetti houses" of Japan. So anyway, I ended up with this pasta salad from Marks and Spencer. Needless to say it was uninspiring.
In the evening I made a strange concoction for dinner - somewhere between a lasagne, a mousaka, melanzana parmigiana and baked gnocchi. Gnocchi with bolognese sauce topped with spinach and aubergines, and then baked. The aubergines came out pretty well, but I suspect the gnocchi probably would have been better without having been boiled first.
- Wilton's Music Hall
- [Wednesday 11th April 2012]
Continuing in yesterday's theme of curios of old London, this evening I went for a drink with Al, who a whle ago had suggested we should visit Wilton's Music Hall. As far as I can tell it is more or less London's only music hall still surviving in pretty much its original form. The whole place is spectacularly threadbare and ramshackle and a much needed antidote to the sorts of bland clean interiors of most public spaces these days. We couldn't get in to see the actual auditorium as there wasn't a performance on this evening, but the bar is open most days regardless, and there's a rather special atmosphere which pervades the whole building.
After a drink or two there our thoughts turned to food, so given that we weren't that far from Commercial Road, we headed to the Lahore Kebab House. It wasn't quite as good as I'd remembered it had been on my last visit.
- Strand Lane
- [Tuesday 10th April 2012]
Yesterday I'd started to use Pinwheel, a site which lets you leave notes on a map for other people to find. I'd added notes about some of my favourite old curios of London, and wanted to add a couple about Strand Lane - with its Old Roman Bath and Watch House, but then realised I didn't really have any photos of it. So I decided to pop out at lunchtime and take a few.
Strand Lane is a narrow little alleyway near the Strand proper. It is only open Mondays to Fridays and in the daytime, so I'd only been down it a few times before. I'd first seen a picture of it in a book called Lost London, and was intrigued that the author said the scene was largely unchanged today. The lane is home to not just one but two interesting historical curious. The Old Roman Bath has been around for centuries (although whether or not it is actually Roman is open to debate) and apparently Dickens bathed here. It is now managed by the National Trust, and whilst you can't go in without a prior appointment you can get a glimpse through a large diocletian window.
Next door to that is the old Watch House, dating to the early 19th Century, which apparently was built to look over the church yard of nearby St. Clement Danes, in a bid to prevent body snatchers. There are also some oldparish boundary markers here, and overall Strand Lane has a pleasing feeling of having been forgotten about.
In the evening Michelle and Steve came to stay with us, as they'd been to a concert in London.
- Easter Monday
- [Monday 9th April 2012]
Fourth day of the long Easter weekend and I had a definite feeling we'd squandered it a bit - we hadn't really planned anything in particular, and didn't end up doing very much of note at all. Oh well, I suppose we were away the previous weekend and so to have made big plans would probably just have been tiring.
Went out to the shops for a bit in the afternoon, although most of Jermyn Street was closed so I didn't really buy anything. Went to Rice Wine before returning home, and bought a few Japanese essentials. In the evening had a simple Japanese meal of rice, miso soup, some hiyayakko (raw tofu) and a few other bits and pieces.
- Easter Sunday
- [Sunday 8th April 2012]
I felt like visiting the newly reopened Kensington Palace this afternoon, so we headed in that direction, thinking we could also have a late lunch or afternoon tea at the Orangery. When we got there though we were a bit put off by the long queues and so decided to go elsewhere for lunch, which meant we also went off the idea of going to Kensington Palace. Another time.
Instead we had lunch at an Italian restaurant called Portobello, which a friend-of-a-friend of Chie's had recommended to us at "picnic" we went to last year. It wasn't bad - I was particularly pleased to see a spaghetti dish with bianchetto truffles on the menu. I think it has been a good year for bianchetto truffles, there have been a lot of them about in London (I've never really noticed them before this year) and they seem comparatively very reasonably priced.
We strolled back through the park after that and decided to pop into the Victoria and Albert Museum for a bit on the way home. We both rather like the ironwork gallery, I'm not really sure why - maybe at least partly because it's on the upper floor and it's a bit quieter.
For dinner I made a risotto with morels and porcini, using some dried morels I'd bought in France. It came out particularly well, I wish I'd taken a photo or something.
- Easter Saturday
- [Saturday 7th April 2012]
Something of a mixed bag.
We'd bought some dried fava beans in France, and the long weekend seemed like a good opportunity to try making my own ful medames. So I had soaked the beans overnight, and set about cooking them this morning. Ate some of this for lunch. The flavour was mostly there, but they weren't quite as soft as when we've had this in restaurants (or indeed from a tin). You're supposed to cook the beans in water for an hour before starting to make the actual strew, and I suspect this wasn't quite vigorous enough.
The rest of the day was mostly uneventful, watched some of this year's quite dramatic boat race, and afterwards had a craving to go to a riverside pub somewhere, so headed to the Mayflower in Rotherhithe. The first time I'd ventured out East to explore the pubs in this area I found myself little stuck in the middle, as I hadn't realised there's no easy way to cross the river around Rotherhithe. So it was quite pleasant this time round to see that Rotherhithe station has reopened as part of the Overground line, making it effortless to pop over the river to Wapping where the Prospect of Whitby et al are to be found. Didn't really feel like going to more than one pub today though, so just crossed the river because it was possible, and then took a circuitous route back home from there.
- Finsbury Park
- [Friday 6th April 2012]
Today was Good Friday, and I couldn't help but feel a pang of guilt at having had two long weekends in a row.
Chie's friend Naoko-san invited us to a picnic in Finsbury park this afternoon. Following last weekend's error of judgement, where I'd actually got a bit sunburnt, I decided this time to take my hat. This proved to be a prudent move despite the fact that after the first half an hour or so it wasn't particularly sunny, as towards the end of our time there it was actually pretty cold. Although I couldn't help but feel a bit self conscious about it, it certainly looked a bit out of place in this part of London, being so far away from St. James's.
We were joined throughout the afternoon by a succession of parents with young children (Naoko-san and her other half Frank have a very sweet two year old called Tae-chan). They all proceded to do the now boringly familiar thing that new parents do, of telling you what an incredibly hard time they've had of it, and how you couldn't possibly imagine how extremely difficult the whole thing is. I couldn't help but be reminded of Charlie Brooker's article on recently becoming a father:
During the pregnancy, whenever a parent spotted me so much as eating a biscuit, they'd chortle and say: "Ho ho: enjoy eating biscuits while you can! Your biscuit-eating days are over, my friend! There'll be no time for biscuits once the baby arrives!"
We left the park a little after 5, and were very glad to be back on a warm tube.
At home in the evening I made a kind of macaroni cheese, with some broccoli and cauliflower mixed in as a bit of a tip of the hat towards healthy eating.
- Ye Olde
- [Thursday 5th April 2012]
Decided to leave the office "early" today - i.e. just before 6, and went with a few chaps for a bit of an exploration of the pubs around Fleet Street, starting off at the Black Friar. This sort of thing is much more convenient now that Blackfriars tube has finally reopened. We also fit in a stint at the Whisky Society, and a burrito at Chilango's.
Having recently read the CAMRA book on Historic London pub interiors I now look at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in a new light. I have to admit previously it wasn't really one of my favourites - it always seemed touristy and overcrowded, and a lot of bits of it have been added on at later dates and aren't particularly ye olde. However, from reading the book, the somewhat disappointing revelation is that there are almost no surviving pre-Victorian pub interiors in London. Pretty much everything that looks like it might be older than Victorian is likely a deliberate attempt in the the Victorian era (or often even more recently) to recreate that olde worlde feel. The two possible exceptions to this are also two of the most well known and touristy pubs in the city - The George Inn and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Whilst in both cases it's hard to say for sure when the interior dates to, it seems plausible at least some parts of them may even be original.
So I was determined we should elbow our way into the tiny original bar of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, wherein you have the best chance of being surrounded by at least some bits of late 17th Century woodwork.
- Another Long Day
- [Wednesday 4th April 2012]
Another long day at the office, was in before 9 and didn't leave until 8:30. Chie had already eaten by the time I got back, and I didn't really have much enthusiasm to cook so made a sort of half arsed pizza, using a garlic pizza bread I'd bought yesterday, with some tomatoes, jarlsberg slices, and soy chorizo. Watched some more from the Noel Coward collection after that.
- Back at Work
- [Tuesday 3rd April 2012]
Back at work after the long weekend, and it ended up rather a long day. Left the office at seven, but then continued to work from home until almost midnight. Made spaghetti with "meat" balls for dinner.
- Lyon to Paris to London
- [Monday 2nd April 2012]
After checking out of our hotel Chie and I headed out to find a cafe for a coffee and a croissant. Slightly bizarrely I asked "vous avez des croissants?" to which the owner replied "nous avons des pain au chocolat" - I said that would be fine, and he then proceded to walk next door to the bakery and buy some pain au chocolat. The next customer that came in asked for croissants too, and got croissants.
We had one final wander around the city before heading back to our hotel, where we met up with Junchan, who was going to join us for lunch at a restaurant nearby - a place called Daniel et Denise. This was another unmitigated disaster. Junchan had actually phoned ahead when making the reservation and mentioned I was vegetarian. They had suggested, apparently with enthusiasm, they could make a vegetarian omelette. Once seated, when we came to talk to the waiter, he pointed to the omelette on the menu, which was some kind of seafood omelette. I asked if there was any alternative to which he replied "assiette de legumes". Following last night's abysmal rendition of this I was keen to avoid it. So I asked if they could make something like a mushroom omelette perhaps. He shrugged his shoulders in a somewhat non-committal way, and when it finally arrived it was an entirely plain omelette. A small one at that, and not even a particularly good small, plain omelette. Nothing on the side, no frites, no salad, just a small, plain omelette. Like last night I ate about a tenth of it and left the rest in disgust. After a somewhat impolite rant about how backwards French cuisine was I decided I should just leave the girls to it, and go elsewhere for lunch.
I'd noted one of Lyon's three vegetarian cafes wasn't too far away - a place called Soline. Whilst the food there wasn't particularly great - I had some kind of strange stir fry of fennel with tofu - with very little sauce or flavour - it was at least filling I suppose, and reassuringly meat free. One day somebody ought to introduce spices to the French.
By now I was keen to leave the gastronomic wasteland that is Lyon as quickly as possible, and fortunately our train was at 3. Again I was briefly cheered up somewhat by the overall pleasantness of the TGV. Whilst France may be pretty much the worst country in the world for food from my point of view, they do at least have very good trains.
We were back in Paris around 5, and decided to repeat a previously successful expedition to the Rue de Rosiers, the Jewish quarter of Paris, wherein there's a famous falafel place called L'As fu Fallafel. The falafel are served with salad, rather chaotically assembled, in a pita bread. It's hard to put my finger on it exactly but I suspect it's the sauce that is the real star of the show, rather than the falafel itself. We ate these standing in the cobbled street, along with lots of other people doing the same, and enjoyed the fact it was still pleasantly warm in Paris.
From here we got on the metro, and headed towards Gare du Nord. As we still had a bit of time to spare we popped into my favourite cafe - Au Train de Vie - where the owner never seems to understand my French. I thought I had been doing so well up to this point. Anyway, after a quick drink here, and a few minutes spent enjoying the trainspotters paradise of an interior, we wandered over to Gare du Nord to get our Eurostar back to London.
The Eurostar always feels a bit of a letdown after the TGV, it was getting dark by this time so there wasn't really any scenery to enjoy, and the journey was a little longer than usual as well. So it did seem to drag a bit, and I'd finished my book on the Venice Simplon Orient Express so it was a bit boring. Still, it got us there in the end.
- Sunday in Lyon
- [Sunday 1st April 2012]
Having stayed up quite late Friday morning, whilst needing to get up at a relatively sensible hour Saturday morning, we felt we needed to sleep in a bit today. So we didn't make any plans for the morning, and instead arranged to meet Junchan and Arnaud at a leisurely midday at Charpennes. Arnaud showed us around the Japanese cultural centre which Junchan is jointly running with another business partner. I have to admit I was rather impressed - they have a little shop, a lounge area, two classrooms, a room for cookery classes, and a little office.
From there we headed to Lyon's famous Parc Tete d'Or which was quite large (apparently nearly 300 acres - so almost the size of Hyde Park, if you don't include Kensington Gardens). There we sat in the sun - it was a surprisingly warm day - and had a picnic prepared by Junchan. Again a similar mixture of Japanese and French food, so it felt a bit like a hanami. Today being April 1st made it "Poisson d'Avril" in France, where they've restricted the broad palette of potential japery practiced in other countries on this date to just one tried and tested practical joke - sticking a paper fish onto people's backs. Of course. In a further pleasing example of cultural fusion Junchan had come prepared with little origami fish for this purpose. I remember hearing about Poisson d'Avril when I was in school, so it was nice to actually be here on the day itself and see it in action.
We got up from our dejeuner sur l'herbe around 3ish, and went for a stroll around the rest of the park, also taking in an indoor antiques market on the edge of the park, and a quick coffee at the cafe in the Contemporary Art Museum.
We eventually headed back into the centre around 6ish, and took an early evening stroll around the city, including a bit of exploration of the traboules, and taking in a couple of aperitifs - one on a ship, the other in a Belgian bar - before heading for what felt like quite at Brasserie Georges.
It's a vast cavernous dining hall with a pleasing Art Deco interior, and they also brew their own beer. So far so good. Of course this wasn't going to last. I had been insulated on this trip up until this point from the usual ordeal that is trying to eat out as a vegetarian in France. I was briefly encouraged when I discovered they had a "vegetarian specialities" section on their menu, only to then return to the more familiar state of fearing the worst when I realised this was mostly filled with vegetable side dishes and just one thing which was actually intended as a main course, which was, of course, the infamous "assiette de légumes". I think they had used the word "cocotte" instead of assiette to try and camouflage it. As is always the case this was a dish of badly cooked uninteresting vegetables (they're usually boiled, here they were apparently steamed, but either way they were overcooked) with no sauce. Although there was a sort of unpleasant fishy aroma about the dish. I ate about a tenth of it and left the rest, fearing I might die of boredom if I proceeded. This made me quite annoyed, but I suppose I should probably be grateful that this was the fifth meal of this trip to France, and up until now I'd successfully managed to avoid eating anything French.
- Saturday in Lyon
- [Saturday 31st March 2012]
Somewhat begrudgingly we checked out of the Hotel Raphael in the morning, and then perhaps ill advisedly took a taxi from there to the Gare de Lyon. The taxi we'd taken yesterday had been fine, but I think this second fellow was out to take us for a ride, if you'll pardon the pun. I told him what time our train was (we had over half an hour), and he then said that the traffic in the centre was very heavy, so it would be better to take the Peripherique. I didn't really give it much thought at the time, but this effectively meant almost entirely circumnavigating round the outside of the city. I'm quite dubious as to whether this was quicker than going straight through the centre, and it was certainly a lot less scenic. It also seemed to cost almost double what the taxi yesterday had been yesterday, despite being a similar length journey. Oh well, a lesson learned.
This put me in a bit of a bad mood, although that soon subsided after climbing aboard the very comfortable TGV. As always I'd booked us seats in first class (which on the TGV is very good value, nowhere near the price difference between first and standard in the UK), and had chosen a pair of solo facing seats on the upper deck. It was very quiet, very smooth, and overall an extremely civilised way to travel. Not to mention the fact it got us there in two hours, not bad considering it's about 400 km (250 miles).
Our friend Junchan, who we had come to Lyon to visit, was working in the afternoon, so we were left to our own devices. After dropping off our bags at our hotel (which was something of a stark contrast to yesterday's opulent lodgings) we went for a wander around the town, and had lunch at one of the cities' three vegetarian restaurants - a place called Zone Verte. The food wasn't really exactly to my taste, and the ordering system seemed unnecessarily fussy and complicated. Still, I suppose it was better than not eating.
After this we continued our wander around Lyon, in particular the little sliver of the town, almost an island I suppose, between the Saône and the Rhone. Chie had read in her guidebook about the Passage de l'Argue. I suppose this is sort of Lyon's answer to Jermyn Street - predominately aimed at the middle to older aged gentleman - and has an odd mix of shops which seems to focus mainly on hats and knives. Chie bought a new Swiss Army knife in one of the latter category of shops. It seemed somehow appropriate as I had learned the French word for knife - couteau - from the box of the Swiss Army knife I had as a boy. I can't say "couteau" without thinking of "couteau Suisse".
Next we crossed over the Saône into the Old Town, and there came upon some kind of festival procession, and perhaps more importantly a rather nice ice cream shop. This was probably the culinary highlight of our trip to Lyon for me which, with the exception of Junchan's home cooked Japanese food (for which I do not think Lyon can really take the credit) was otherwise a dead loss from my point of view. They had a "glace aux violettes". I love anything violet flavoured (an affliction I've picked up from Mum), and had never seen violet flavoured ice cream before. It was quite delicious.
From there we started to head up the hill to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière which dominates the skyline in Lyon. Together with the TV/radio/mobile mast on the same hill, it looks a bit like Sacre Coeur and the Eiffel Tower. There was a good view out over Lyon from the top.
On the way back down we took the funicular rail - these are always inexplicably fun - which integrates well with the metro system as well. Somehow it seemed to require about five changes to get back to our hotel, which is puzzling as there are only four metro lines in Lyon (and I'm fairly sure we didn't use one of them).
In the evening we headed over to a station called Charpennes, where we met up with Junchan and Arnaud, and spend the evening chez the two of them. They have a little balcony so we could start off with an aperitif and nibbles out there, before moving inside to continue eating and drinking. There seemed to be an unending supply of food, an interestingly eclectic mix of Japanese and French food. Junchan's gyoza were particularly good.
- Friday in Paris
- [Friday 30th March 2012]
Chie and i had both taken today and Monday off work, in order to have a long weekend away in France. Chie's cousin Satochan had got married in Japan last weekend, and had come to Europe for her honeymoon. As we hadn't been able to make it to the wedding, we thought it might be nice to meet up with her while she was in Paris, so we could raise a toast to the happy couple, and also give them a wedding present. We thought it would also be good to combine this with a trip to Lyon to see our friend Junchan who is now living there. Junchan is also getting married later on this year, and given the unfortunate timing of a certain significant upcoming event it sounded like we probably wouldn't be able to attend that wedding either. So again we thought this would be a good opportunity to hand over a wedding present.
So we embarked this morning on our wedding present delivery expedition, taking a morning Eurostar to Paris, which got us there around 2. Chie had left the planning of the hotel in Paris to me, and I'd rather splashed out, and booked us in for a return visit to the Hotel Raphael, which we'd stayed at a few years ago. Again we had a rather lavish suite, full of Louis XV / XVI furniture - far more chairs than we could ever conceivably need. I counted seating space for at least 10 people.
As we weren't meeting Satochan and her husband until the evening, and we've been to Paris plenty of times before, I would have been quite happy to just wile away the afternoon lounging about in our suite, but naturally the busy Japanese tourist mentality kicked in, and we felt compelled to make at least a bit of an outing. Chie proposed the Musee d'Orsay, which I hadn't been to before, and it gave me a good opportunity to admire a few Manets, in particular the famously controversial Le_déjeuner sur l'herbe. Having thus satisfied ourselves that we'd dutifully carried out the requisite cultural activity, we returned to the hotel for a bit more lounging.
We headed out for the evening around 7 - stopping off in the lobby of the hotel to get the concierge to take a picture of us (I'm rather pleased with the result - it's nice don't you think?) and got on the Metro in the direction of the Gare de Lyon. Satochan and her husband were staying in a hotel there, which gave us a good excuse to revisit Le Train Bleu and enjoy the rather spectacular interior once again - but this time, with the benefit of experience, just for a drink, as the food had been pretty awful last time. I hope our guests were suitably impressed.
From there we headed to Al-Ajami, a Lebanese restaurant Chie and I had been to on our first trip to Paris together, over a decade ago. Having been to some really good Lebanese restaurants in London in the intervening period I wasn't quite as impressed as I had been ten years ago. Particularly disappointingly they had ran out of foul medames - my favourite! Still, I think it made for an interesting venue for dinner - you can't really get Middle Eastern food in Japan, and neither Satochan nor her husband had ever eaten Lebanese before. The wine was also really good - a Chateau Ksara Reserve du Couvent. Give me Lebanese reds over French reds any day (let us not forget they've probably been making wine for much longer in Lebanon).
We said our goodbyes after that and headed back to our respective hotels. It seemed a shame not to make use of the hotel bar at the Raphael on our return, wherein I had a couple of very competent cocktails, and managed an entire conversation in French with the barman, mostly about the apparent lack of cocktail culture in France, and the trials and tribulations of trying to survive here as a vegetarian.
Before having mentioned to him that I was a vegetarian, he asked me what my plans were for the rest of the weekend, and I told him we were headed for Lyon. Rather ominously he said "Vous allez bien manger a Lyon!". How wrong he was.
- [Thursday 29th March 2012]
Worked from home today, which made for a pleasant change. Enjoyed the peace and quiet, and the chance to have a proper home cooked lunch.
In the evening I think I probably watched one of the interviews with Noel Coward from the Noel Coward collection. It occurred to me he actually comes across as rather pretentious and a bit full of himself in person, something that wasn't really so evident in his auto-biography. It was also interesting to watch the sort of TV interview of that era which undoubtedly was the inspiration for several Monty Python sketches - including Arthur Two Sheds Jackson and Sir "Eddie Baby" Ross.
- Penelope Keith
- [Wednesday 28th March 2012]
Watched another play from the Noel Coward Collection this evening - a 1984 TV version of Hay Fever (which we'd also recently seen at the Noel Coward Theatre). There were lots of familiar faces in it, including Penelope Keith and also Paul Eddington (so it was a bit like a high brow episode of The Good Life).
I've now seen Penelope Keith as Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan's The Rivals, Lady Bracknell in Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest and now Judith Bliss in Coward's Hay Fever. That's a comedy play from three different playwrights from each of the last three centuries, in which she appears to play the same character.
- The Noel Coward Collection
- [Tuesday 27th March 2012]
I'd ordered a box set of Noel Coward DVDs on Sunday evening, which arrived today. So I watched something from the first disc this evening - a 1969 TV play version of The Vortex.
It wasn't actually very good. The acting was pretty hammy, and this is one of Coward's more serious plays so there aren't a lot of witticisms either.
Although I did glean some mild amusement from the array of synonyms for "very" supposedly used by the upper classes of yesteryear. "It really is terribly, awfully, frightfully, horribly, wickedly, monstrously good.". I might be paraphrasing there slightly.
- Quiet Night In
- [Monday 26th March 2012]
I'm writing this almost two weeks hence, and don't really remember much about today. However I do remember making a conscious effort this week to not go out, it having been a rather excessive week last week.
I suspect we probably had tagliarini with pesto for dinner.
- A Stroll through Mayfair
- [Sunday 25th March 2012]
In the afternoon, for a bit of a change from taking the tube, we got the bus to Park Lane, and got off at the Dorchester Hotel. I always find it slightly bizarre that there's a bus stop for a hotel like this. Chie wanted to go to the Alessi shop to buy a wedding present for her cousin Satochan, and this seemed like a convenient way to get there. It was particularly nice as it gave us a chance to take a stroll through a part of Mayfair we wouldn't normally see. We wandered through Mount Street Gardens, which was very pleasant, and Chie wanted to poke her nose inside the Catholic church on Farm Street. It has a rather impressive interior. An elderly Italian lady called Stefania (Stephanya?) pounced on us, and started talking about the church, some of the people that go there, and the events they have. I felt a bit trapped, as though she may never stop talking, which is a bit mean of me as she was rather lovely really. She enthused about the little gathering they have after services on Sundays where they have tea - and biscuits. Old people really love biscuits don't they?
From there we headed more into the centre, by way of the Alessi shop, where we bought a very attractive folding trivet as a wedding present for Satochan, and from there we also went to Hamley's and John Lewis where I looked unsuccessfully for birthday presents for my nephew. Ended up buying something on Amazon instead.