Friday, 30 November 2012

And is getting to try some out.

What's more they're really rather good. We (Mr Starke & me) are having a couple of days in Paris. Thankfully it's not quite as cold as the last time we were here, February 2012, when the temperature was never above freezing. Luckily the apartment we stayed in had good heating but the dry cold took its toll on my hair. Remember those science lessons with the Van der Graaf generator? We had windows overlooking the Canal St Martin and the lock keeper had to defrost the locks to let the boats through.

This time we're a little farther west staying at the Residence Nell in the 9th. It's very handy for shops, bars and restaurants and walkable to most main sites. Actually I'm an unreliable witness to walkability as I'll walk vast distances when sightseeing, particularly if I'm not familiar with the public transport system. In my defence I'll say that I know how to use the metro and buses here.


Last night we ate at Autour d'un Verre which was very close,crowded or animé as they say here and best of all cheap. Food was good too. We arrived after 10pm and the place was still buzzing when we left. I wasn't brave enough to try the marrow bone starter but it seemed popular. We're catering for ourselves here so we walked back via the local Grocer's to pick up fruit and yoghurt for breakfast. This morning was a bit too rushed to pop out to the Baker's opposite for croissants but tomorrow should be more relaxed.



Mr Starke headed off to work and I was left with the difficult task of amusing myself, so..a little hobbit like second breakfast, a wander around Moustache, a great pet supplies shop, for a little something for dogstarke, a visit to BHV for all those essentials we'd managed to leave behind and then off to the Musee d'Orsay to see the Impressionisme et La Mode exhibition. It was brilliant looking at the relationship between the art and the fashions of the time. I was struck by the curator's introduction on the audio guide reminding up us that an exhibition should above all be enjoyed, so enjoy it I did. Like all exhibitions of clothes it also left me feeling ENORMOUS, the clothes were tiny, even corseted I couldn't ever have achieved a waist like these. The shoes were tiny too, unlike any we see today.

Afterwards I contributed to my enormity by stopping for lunch at the museum restaurant, it's very pretty but was soooo much more expensive than last night's dinner and not as good.


After lunch I took a stroll back across the river, and through the Tuileries. I find them very bleak.

Not like gardens at all. Now I'm back "home" drinking tea and writing this but soon I have to change for dinner, only the second outfit of the day not the four worn by the ladies featured in the exhibition. Tomorrow a friend has suggested a trip to the Louve. Yikes!




Monday, 26 November 2012

But has never seen Star Wars

Actually that's a lie, although never on the big screen. "I've never seen Star Wars is the name of a show on R4 where guests try out something popular they've never done; eat Pot Noodle, get waxed, wear jeans, watch the X Factor, you get the idea. I'll never be on the show, which is good, these never done things are precious.

There are lots of very popular programmes and films I've never seen. They're secret. Once someone knows they see it as a project. They want to stop you missing out. This is how I succumbed to Pretty Woman. I can't let sisterstarke know the list or she wouldn't rest, tho' she wasn't to blame for PW. She would ply me with wine and the next thing I'd know would be my least favourite movie star (even before his fall from grace) rampaging across the screen. And then where would I be? I'd have lost a bit of me-ness.

I'm also a bit superstitious. On our first date Mr Starke and I almost visited a historic site. Almost. We've avoided it ever since.

We're off to Paris soon. I've been there quite a few times. Never to the Louvre. Each visit I used to think "I'll go to the Louvre this time". Once I was all set to go, was at the gate for opening time, queued for twenty minutes but there was a strike. Another time complete with a museum carte, so I'd already paid, I got through the passage but was overwhelmed by the choice of galleries and ran away. I don' t avoid National collections as a rule. I've visited them in other cities, become their Friend. I've been to the other "biggies" in Paris, a couple more than once. I've searched out the strange, the "insolite" and been a solitary visitor in some. The Louvre though continues to elude me and is becoming a touchstone.

Instead of a 100, 1000 etc. things to see, do, eat before you die list, I've got an ever increasing list of don'ts.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Everyone likes a list......

Well maybe not everyone but I love lists and complain when places.things I love are overlooked. So here a bit prematurely is my hit list for 2012

Best meal. Not best restaurant or best menu but best all around meal experience....Lunch by Brian Maule at Chardon d'Or. We had a lovely lunch here in June; food was great, service friendly but not oppressive and the room comfortable. It's obviously a popular place because it was busy on a Wednesday lunchtime (ok this may have had something to do with a certain regal visit) and we vowed to return for dinner. ( still on the to do list)



Best picnic. Soft shell crab, oysters and rose frizzante at the Abergavenny Food Festival. Late summer, great company and lovely food. What more could you wish for?

Best view. Now this one is hard. After all this was the year we saw whales off the Great Barrier Reef.......

And Paris crackling under sub zero temperatures....
But this was the one I enjoyed most, warmed by love and a malt.
Best brunch. Cafe de l'Industrie, rue St. Sabin, Paris. I don't have a photo of the food but it was scrumptious, with a touch of heat to warm us up. And this scooter parked outside.
Best museum. Textile tower house, Hawick. I love this place, it has a great mix of temporary shows - from textile students to Sir Walter Scott and a good permanent display of Hawick's woolly heritage. There's also a great. wee shop and very friendly staff.
Best jubilee tea party. The one chez Starke of course, and it was sunny!
By now you'll have twigged that just like the end of year clip shows I have no real theme and just wanted to post pretty pictures.

So with absolutely no compunction here is the final category...........

Best cute animal. Could it be, the Wombat? (above).


The Koala?

The Koala with her Joey?


The duck?


Perhaps the lizard?

Nooooooo. Don't be silly. The cutest animal and best puppy is......





Sunday, 4 November 2012


So, scared by stories of dogs slipping their collars and running off, and Dogstarke being a very small dog and having no road sense yet, I bought her a harness. A nice, comfy, padded harness. In pink. A horrible sickly, baby pink. Master Starke refused to take her out wearing it, and he'd wanted to buy her a, Swarovski crystal studded collar.

A lovely sunny autumn afternoon, a lively puppy. On goes the harness and out we go. Flop. Bottom firmly planted on ground. Much persuasion. Dogstarke gets picked up and carried to the street. Every step has to be cajoled. At the park she rolls in the dirt and slinks along. Not herself at all. She's not even tempted by crunchy dry leaves. Feeling beaten I remove the harness and attach the lead to her collar. Her black nylon lead and purple leather collar. Dogstarke struts along, tail aloft and ears cocked, plays in the leaves and gets brave and talks to other dogs.

Purple, black, leather; Autumn trends no?

Photo doesn't truly represent vile colour.


A tale of two dinners

Sorry for Dogstarke fans no cute puppy pics here.

Last weekend was a rare one for us, two consecutive nights out for dinner on home turf. I think the last time we did this was back at the turn of the century, before the invention of the "staycation", when a cancelled mini break was replaced by a three night restaurant fest which left us bloated and craving dry bread and water.

Crisp linen and fancy flatwear.....

Saturday night with a smart frock and heels replacing muddy boots and jeans, I was whisked, well he paid my bus fare, by Mr Starke to the Pompadour by Galvin at the newly rebranded Waldorf Caledonian for a belated celebratory dinner. I'd never been to the old Pompadour but it used to be described as "Edinburgh's prettiest restaurant" and the new one is a strong contender for that title. The food is good too, rabbit ravioli followed by baked monkfish were excellent and I loved the crab and scallop lasagne amuse bouche, I'd fancied all these on the "menu gourmand" but didn't feel up to seven courses, even of tiny tasting menu portions. Wine, coffee and sweeties were all scrumptious too.

We had a really nice time but this restaurant needs a little bit of extra polish to make it a destination. The service was friendly and enthusiastic but a little haphazard. We were pleased to be out, had plenty to talk about and were entertained by the comings and goings of the Halloween party over the road at St. John's church hall. But that was just as well because there was quite a wait between courses. I've never been in the Waldorf Astoria but imagine it's just a little bit slicker.

Don' t get the idea that it's not worth a visit though, and if you do go, don't miss out on your aperitif in the cute and slightly retro Pompadour bar and as a digestif take a stroll around the display of old menus and hotel memorabilia.

A night less formal

And so, to Sunday and a warning to anyone thinking that being a restaurant critic would be a wheeze. We were invited to take part in a review of Edinburgh's best takeaways. Never since my first time at a free bar has the advice "pace yourself" been more needed and less heeded. By the end of the evening not even "a wafer thin mint" could tempt me, never mind another helping of sabz chilli daal.

Top tip, tempura doesn't travel well.

But will put up with clean carpets..........

Two weeks in; we're getting in to a routine and trying to resist rewarding bad behaviour. Hard in the face of tilted head and expressive ears. Mr Starke can't get used to the "celebrity" treatment we get when we go out. Dogstarke attracts attention everywhere she goes. How will she cope when she's no longer new pup on the block ?