Thursday, August 28, 2008

The food diaries: part 3 - Belgium

Staying with the Belgium theme, here's some of the lovely food I enjoyed on my recent trip. It's not hard to find good food in Belgium, but every time I'm with my friend Sigrid, I know the food will be exceptional. And it was.

Scampi (what we'd call prawns in the UK) served two different ways - both equally delish although the garlic ones were a bit too garlicky even for those with tough stomachs.

Our prawns came with potato side dishes. I opted for yummy Belgian fries and Sigrid chose mash. Belgians are proud of their fries and rightly so - they taste just as fab as they look.

A selection of chocolatey spreads and fresh breads for breakfast. I fell in love with Speculoos paste (made from speculoos biscuits) so I bought a jar to bring back home with me.

A typical Dutch breakfast delicacy - buttered bread with a toping of Hagelslag "extremely chocolatey" sprinkles. A must for true chocolate lovers.

Last but not least, pita grecque - very similar to Greek pita souvlaki, although it's made with beef rather than pork. Thinly sliced meat, tomatoes, onions, fries, tzatziki, all wrapped in warm pita bread. I have one of these every time I'm in Brussels, as it's closer to the real thing than anything I find in England.

Gosh, I am making myself hungry and it's only mid morning. Mmmmm.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sex And The City - the movie

Get Carried Away

After seeing Mamma Mia I also watched the other big girly movie of the summer. Now I've never been a big fan of SATC when it was shown on TV, I only watched it if it was on when I happened to be sitting on the sofa with the remote in my hand. I used to spend a lot of time on the living room sofa before I got into blogging, so I've seen quite a few episodes and always found it quite amusing but not brilliant enough that I'd go out of my way to not miss another episode. However, I do like the idea of a TV show making it to the big screen, and I'd heard some very positive comments from those who'd watched it when it first came out, so I figured it was a good way to pass a couple of hours.

In the end it was 148 minutes very heavily focussed on Carrie and Big's relationship, shoes, bags, brand names (Vivienne Westwood, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton and even British sandwich retailer Pret-A-Manger) and lots of extravagant outfits for Sarah J-P. The film is most definitely aimed at the girls: our 60-seat theatre was fully booked and only 10 or so of the audience were male - all escorted by girlfriends, as you might expect.

On the plus side, there were enough laughing out loud moments to keep you entertained to the end - this wasn't one of those films where you get bored senseless after the first 15 minutes and fall asleep by half time. Even when the storyline got a bit too predictable and cliched, it was still pleasant viewing.

On the minus side, the editing was a bit agressive, as if the director had way too much material for one movie and was desperately trying to squeeze it all in. And I found the ending more than a tad lame (but I won't tell you why, as I don't want to spoil it for those of you who've not seen it yet). Let's just say it left me feeling I'd been watching total froth for the last 2.5 hours. Which I guess I had.

Still, there is hope. According to (totally unreliable) sources, the director's cut is scheduled to come out on DVD and this will include extended scenes and deleted storylines, which could just make it a real treat for a girly night in. The ending may not change but at least there will be more than Carrie Bradshaw's love woes to keep us entertained!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wordless Wednesday 26

Treble Cone 'Mountain Muffin' and coffee, Wanaka, NZ. Photo by Andy Bartlett.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A weekend in Brussels

When: Saturday 16 August 2008 @ 1:30 PM

Where: Brussels Stock Exchange, Brussels, Belgium

What: Georgians protesting against Russian military action in the region of South Ossetia.

When: Sunday 17 August 2008 @ 4:10 PM

Where: Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

What: Panoramic view of the Brussels Flower Carpet, made from some 700,000 begonias. This is a bi-annual event that takes place in the centre of what is possibly the most magnificent square in Europe. Simply stunning!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Watching the Olympics al fresco

When: Thursday 14 August 2008 @ 7:30 PM

Where: Trafalgar Square, London

What: Londoners and tourists (those that were brave enough to sit around in the sub-summer temperatures) watching the coverage from the Beijing Olympics live on a giant screen.

The stands, lights, cordons etc. are in place for the Trafalgar Square Festival taking place at the end of each week during the Olympics, although I didn't see any performances while I was there.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wordless Wednesday 25

My friend Emmanuelle sent this to me by email. Thanks, Manu!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mamma Mia

Typical - you wait 20 years for a father and then three show up at once.

Seeing as the weather has taken a turn for the worse, I thought I'd stay out of the rain and catch a film at my local cinema. Surprisingly enough, considering I've not been to the movies in ages, there weren't that many films that I liked the sound of, so I opted for a touch of summer and booked a ticket to see Mamma Mia.

Overall, it was quite enjoyable, although there were a number of things that bugged me, for example:

* The stupid name for the island ("Kalokairi", which is Greek for "summer" - oh purleeze);
* Everyone seems to commute to the mainland in fishing boats, carrying their belongings & shopping in baskets;
* The taxis look like they came straight out of the 60's although the locals drink beer that first came out in the 90's;
* The villagers are picking olives in the middle of summer;
* The insides of all the houses are painted a turquoisey blue;
* Knowing Me, Knowing You has been cut out of the film in favour of dialogue (boooo);
* Meryl Streep is way too old to have ever dated Colin Firth;
* Pearce Brosnan's voice is awful.

Other than that, it's a decent feel-good film with quite a few laughing-out-loud moments and a happy ending, and I left the cinema with a big smile on my face. Not sure you can ask for more from 2 hours in a dark room (or maybe you can - ahem). The island scenery is stunning (just like Skopelos and Skiathos in real life), the singing is quite good, the dancing is better, and I'm now in love with both Pierce Brosnan (who cares that he can't sing, he's still hot-hot-hot) and Stellan Skarsgård. Awwwww.

Has anyone else seen it? What did you think?

P.S. You can read Indie's review of the West End show here.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Olympics by numbers

2,008 drummers pounded out the countdown to the Games

80 world leaders and 91,000 excited spectators in the majestic Bird's Nest stadium

$43 billion price tag

10,708 athletes from a record 204 nations chasing 302 gold medals in 28 sports

154 micrograms per cubic metre of polution (WHO safe level is 50)

5,000 years of history in opening ceremony and a 16-tonne crystal ball

100,000 police deployed to prevent attacks and protests

7,000,000 tickets sold

1 billion dollars spent on Olympic advertising on US network NBC

4 years prison sentence for housing activist Ye Guozhu who wanted to protest about Olympic evictions in Beijing

596 athletes in US team

5,000 yuan (480 €) for opening ceremony ticket

5ft 7in (1.70m) required height for performers

7ft 6in (2.28m) height of China's NBA basketball superstar

1,500 reported dead as Russian troops raid Tskhinvali

All shamelessly copied from today's edition of The Independent newspaper.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Number speak

I saw this number meme in Claire's blog and thought it looked like fun. It is, after all, Friday!

How old are you?
30+ (or, depending on your outlook, 40-)

How many musical instruments can you play?
None - I'm totally unmusical.

How many countries have you lived in?
Just 2. Greece and England.

How many schools have you attended?
Six - 1 primary, 2 secondary, 1 college & 2 universities.

How many boyfriends/girlfriends have you had?
Three boyfriends, no girlfriends.

How many years since you last played on a swing?
God knows. More than 5 for sure.

How many bones have you broken?
None, and I hope it stays that way!

How many siblings do you have?
One younger brother.

How many homes have you had?
10 + 1 that I have no memories of as I was a baby at the time.

How many people have you kissed?
I don't kiss and tell ;-)

How many languages can you speak?
English, Greek, French and Italian to a decent level, and a handful of others well enough to order drinks at the bar.

How many times have you been in love?
Properly, just once. But I've been in lust a good few times.

If you'd like to continue the chain, consider yourselves tagged!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wordless Wednesday 24

London South Bank. Photo by Caroline Lévesque.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The food diaries: part 2 - England

Last weekend we decided to pretend it was summer, so we visited a country pub with riverside seating. As it happened, the weather was pretty dire (considering it's allegedly the middle of summer) and we weren't brave enough to sit outdoors, but we enjoyed a traditional pub meal inside the restaurant. Here's what we had:

Grilled 8oz British Sirloin Steak, served with roast tomato, fried mushroon, garden peas (in their own colander, no less!) and French fries.

Steak & Tanglefoot pie with mashed potato, parsnip and carrots. Tanglefoot is a type of beer.

Goat's cheese salad: marinated goat's cheese, homemade cheese croutons, roast tomato, roast red pepper, courgette, aubergine and red onion, tossed in an olive and balsamic dressing. Mmmm.

Glazed beed lazagne, topped with melting cheese and served with chunky chips.

We were pretty stuffed when we finished eating all that, but we couldn't not have dessert, so we decided to share:

"Proper toffee" pudding with hot toffee sauce and vanilla ice-cream.

Chocolate pudding (steaming!) with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream.

As you can imagine, we had a very enjoyable lunch - and the view from our table wasn't bad either.

The River Arun flows right outside the pub and we could see Arundel Castle in the distance.

If only it had been a brighter day, this would have been the perfect outing, but the weather in this country often gets in the way of the best laid plans. Still, we enjoyed some yummy food, and it only started raining heavily after we left the pub, so, all things considered, I shouldn't really complain...