Friday, November 27, 2009

West Country carnival

The West Country Carnival is an annual celebration in SW England which features a parade of illuminated floats . The first celebration was held 404 years ago, to mark the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. It started as a procession with wax torches and over time evolved into a series of fabulous nighttime parades.

There are at least two different circuits that I'm aware of, one in Wessex and another in Somerset. The Somerset one (also known as the Bridgwater circuit) is by common admission the better one, with a larger number of illuminated floats, whereas the Wessex carnival has more walking entries.

There are more than 100 floats in the Somerset carnival. They move to a different location every day until they have appeared in 8 separate local carnivals, namely in Bridgwater, North Petherton, Highbridge & Burnham, Shepton Mallet, Midsommer Norton, Wells, Glastonbury and Weston-super-Mare. The photos are from this year's Weston-super-Mare finale.

There are two types of float, tableaus (motionless pose) and features (dancing and movement). I've already shown you pictures of the best tableau (To The Trees) so for this post I have used only pictures of features, namely Parade, Check Mate and Joust. Gremlins CC's Joust and To The Trees were voted joint overall champions by the judges. According to the local press, Joust took 12 months to construct and features 20,000 lights.

If you're interested, you can see (lots) more photos of the carnival on my Flickr account. I took 600 in total, and of those 436 made the Flickr mark.

Monday, November 23, 2009

To The Trees

Last Monday the weather was much more amenable that it's been today, so I was able to attend the finale of the Somerset Illuminated Carnival that took place in Weston-Super-Mare, a pretty seaside town in SW England.

There are mainly two types of float taking place in the Carnival, tableaus (motionless pose) and features (dancing and movement). All floats are illuminated, as the Carnival takes place at night.

By far the most impressive tableau was Gemini CC's To The Trees, with a Robin Hood theme. The detail in presentation was amazing, and the poses were challenging and very well executed. I mean, how long can anyone stay with their mouths open, staring into space?

Apparently, some people can keep going for more than two hours!

Unsurprisingly, To The Trees won first place in the best tableau category and were also joint overall winners.

I generally prefer features, but couldn't fail to be impressed by this particular tableau. I stood really close to it at the end of the procession and I swear it was like looking at waxworks.

It was only when you looked into their eyes that you could tell they were definitely humans.

I bet they were really happy when they heard the STOP command and could finally relax their poses and give their poor muscles a rest!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wet and windy Britain

When I saw this car last week during a sunny day I wasn't too bothered about a holiday apartment in Spain. But after a wet and windy day like we had today, with more of the same to follow according to the weather forecast, I'm very seriously tempted.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Le Beaujolais Nouveau and other stories

Today we were invited to a charity event to celebrate Beaujolais Day and raise money for the local branch of the MS Society. The event was hosted by our friend Greg, who drove to France to pick up the wine himself.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a lightweight red wine made from Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais region of France. It is the most popular vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks then officially released for sale on the third Thursday of November, known as Beaujolais Day. It is intended for immediate drinking, and should be consumed by the following May after its release.

Our event took place at The Taste of India restaurant in Greenwich, with an Indian buffet and plenty of Beaujolais wine for tasting. Well, they said tasting, but I had two glasses and I don't even like wine that much. So I'm guessing others tasted rather more of it.

It was a great event, but as soon as I got home all I could think of was sleep. I slept for 1.5 hours and woke up feeling very disoriented. What's worse, we have a birthday party to go to tonight which promises to be another major drinking session. So I've made a cup of tea and checked that we have every remedy known to drunken men for tomorrow morning: tea bags, milk, coffee and coffee filters, toast, bacon and Alka-Seltzer. Let's hope they're enough.

I'm off now to get ready for the party. Cheers my lovies! Hope you all have a great Friday evening xx

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The food diaries: part 7 - Sunday lunch

This weekend's culinary highlight was Sunday lunch at one of my favourite haunts, Inside Restaurant in Greenwich. This time I went prepared, camera in pocket, so I was able to take photos of everything we had.

We had a three-course meal, starter, main and dessert. I started with haddock fishcakes and mustard sauce.

Hubby had the warm artichoke salad.

For our mains we chose chicken leg and beef fillet respectively.

Both beautifully presented and very tasty!

We washed them down with Diet Coke and a local lager, the appropriately named Meantime Pilsner. The Greenwich Brewery, where this beer is brewed, is located 0° 2' 12" east of the Greenwich Meridian.

For dessert, we had white chocolate brownie and New York-style cheesecake.

Both were very good, but the brownie was something else! I think I showed great restraint in only having one.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How many calories?

During a recent trip to Belgium, we had lunch at Quick, the Belgian/French equivalent of McDonalds. I don't often eat in fast food restaurants, so I'm not sure if this is common practice in other countries, but all the food and drinks we ordered came with "nutritional information" labels, showing calories, protein, fat, sugar and salt content.

Quite sobering reading, considering a Supreme Cheese burger has a whopping 678 calories and 3.1 grams of salt.

Add some fries and you've got an extra 335 calories!

Luckily I had a King Fish sandwich ("only" 422 calories), no fries and just a diet coke to drink. A normal Coke would have added another 147 calories.

Interestingly enough, all information was given in % of the guideline daily amount for men, women (and in some cases) older and younger children, so you could see exactly how much damage you were doing by biting into your sandwich. A woman eating a Supreme Cheese burger and a portion of fries, will have consumed more than half the recommended 2000 calories per day needed to maintain a healthy weight. That's before she's even touched her fizzy drink.

Thank God for the latest research by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, which claims that the recommended daily intake of calories could be increased by up to 16% (or an extra 400 calories - bag of fries or average size cheeseburger - a day). This good news, however, only applies to people who "exercise more". Heh. Knew there had to be a catch.

Back to the usual low-cal diet for us mere mortals then.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A garden toilet?

Last Saturday a group of us visited the Portobello Market in Notting Hill (where I took last WW's photo). None of us were familiar with the area, so while looking for a pub to have a drink and a rest, we chose the Churchill Arms purely based on its floral exterior.

The pub was full of pictures, framed newspaper cuttings and other memorabilia relating to ex-British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. There was also an impressive collection of bed pans hanging from the ceiling. Apparently, the Churchill Arms is where Churchill would come to do his war time radio addresses. Not sure what the connection with the bed pans is though.

We had the biggest WOW! moment when we visited the ladies' toilets. To get to the toilets, you follow the signs round the side of the bar, through the Thai restaurant section and then down a short alley that's made to look like a garden path.

When you push the door open, this is what you see:

There are flowers (real) and butterflies (fake) everywhere, even inside the cubicles!

English pubs are often quirky, and no two pubs are ever the same, but this one really is quite unique. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it! The gents' toilets at the opposite side of the bar were reportedly quite plain, so I'm wondering if the Thai ladies who work at the restaurant are responsible for the garden in the female toilets.

Whoever it is, they've done an excellent job. Never has a trip to the loo been discussed so much as this one was amongst our group - and now it's even got its own blog post.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Busy bee

I'm a travelling bee these days - since the end of September I've been away every weekend (and several weekdays too) and/or we've had guests at home, which isn't that different really - it's just travelling minus the planes, trains and automobiles. All this activity has left precious little time for blogging, but now that the latest group of guests have departed and the next one haven't made up their minds yet (they can't decide between pre-Christmas shopping in London or Christmas skiing in Austria) life should return to normal soon and some new posts should materialise. Unless the next bout of travelling comes first, that is.

I've taken thousands of photos over the last month. It's amazing to think that not so long ago, I could go away for a fortnight and shoot just a couple of rolls of film. Nowadays, I consider 60 photos a day to be a sign of great restraint. Argh.

In any case, you can see some (a few!) of my photos on my other blog where I've been posting some of the more interesting or artistic ones. Hope you like them.

Friday, November 06, 2009

What on earth are they?

I've been a busy bee just lately, which is why I've not blogged much. In fact, I've just come back from Paris, where I took this photo at a local market. I've never seen either of these two vegetables before, the orange onion-shaped one or the weird cabbagey one. Anyone have a clue what they are?

I'll post more about Paris (and Italy) later in the week, once I've unpacked my cases and got my act together.