Olympic withdrawals

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet.  I’m suffering quite badly with Olympics withdrawals.  Does anyone else feel flat after a magnificent 16 days?

Every athlete that made it to the Olympics should feel like a winner – not many people can call themselves Olympians.  For all those that took home medals, may you wear them proudly and know that you are a champion in your sport.

How awesome is this photo? Taken from the Nova937 Facebook page – thanks Nova!

To London, thank you for staging a memorable and truly inspiring event.  I loved watching it from the BT Live Site at Hyde Park just as much as I did on TV back in Australia.  London 2012, you did Britain proud.

A good pub lunch Sunday Roast: Scarsdale Tavern, Kensington London

I love a good pub lunch.  I also really love a good Sunday roast. The weather in London was overcast and drizzling, just for a change, and the thought of sitting in a cute pub tucking into a hearty lunch was like a ray of sunshine breaking through a grey day.

I lived in London for six years during the last century, and had organised to catch up with some friends at the Scarsdale Tavern.  It’s a short walk from High Street Kensington tube and once you turn off High Street Ken into Edwardes Square, it’s like you have been transported to a tiny little English village. The huge oak trees line the street, almost forming a complete leafy canopy.  The terrace houses seem to all be homes to gardening gurus. Cute flower boxes with colourful plumes hang from windows and fences and across the road is a large gated private garden for the residents to use.  It’s really lovely.

The Scarsdale itself is traditional English pub, posh-suburb-style.  There’s a little umbrellaed beer garden out the front, and a large bar about two steps in from the front door.  Heavy drapes frame the windows and the walls were tastefully decorated with old fashioned paintings and English memorabilia without being cluttered. The only modernisation visible is the installation of TVs in the corners.  Thank God for that! I mean, the Olympics are on!

As a group of eight, we had the bossy yet accommodating manager put a couple of smaller tables together to seat all of us.

The black board menu featuring delicious sounding dishes such as slow roast shoulder of lamb with rosemary and redcurrant (15.95 pounds) couldn’t kill my hankering for a traditional English roast.

The roast of the day was roast beef (12.25 pounds) – hurrah – that means we were also going to have a Yorkshire pudding, the traditional baked batter that is served with roast beef; it’s purpose is to mop up gravy.  Yum yum yum!

All eight of us ordered the same thing, roast beef. It was a roast beef sort of day really.  And everyone’s plates were empty when cleared away by the waitress.  Our tummies where all so full, so we drank some more beer. I can’t explain that one! 

As far as roasts go, it wasn’t the world’s best gourmet experience. But it was a good hearty roast beef.  The gravy could have been thicker, however it was tasty.  The vegetable accompaniments could have been more traditional rather than the nicely cooked carrots, zucchini (courgette), and cauliflower.  Personally, I would have preferred roast potatoes, roast carrots, roast pumpkin, and green peas.  Still, it was very enjoyable and hit the spot.

Later in the afternoon, after a couple of hours of digestion, we ordered for dessert.  It was a disappointment.  Microwaved mass produced sticky date pudding with packet custard.  The taste was ok, but not really worth mentioning. The chocolate pudding and ice cream was in the same league.

The honey dew beer served by none other than a friendly Australian chap (we are everywhere!) was deliciously moorish and a half-pint after half-pint made for a most enjoyable way to while away the afternoon, catching up with friends while keeping on eye on the Olympics on TV.  I was behaving, hence the half measures ;).

Thanks Donna for booking The Scarsdale and for the recommendation!

FACT FILE:

23a Edwardes Square
Kensington, London W8 6HE
Tel: +44 (0)20 7937 1811

Scarsdale Tavern on Urbanspoon

London cycling: East End to West End

How cool are the “Boris” bikes? I didn’t know what a Boris bike was until it was explained to me that the public bicycles available around London are an initiative of Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Cycling Zorba

We had a great lunch at Hawksmoor Spitalfields after a disappointing morning when we couldn’t get into Olympic Park despite trudging all the way there, we decided to go for a cycle through London. We rented the Boris Bikes properly known as the Barclays Cycle Hire.

To access a bike, it costs 1 pound and access lasts 24 hours. If you dock a bike at a docking station within the hour, the cost of bike hire is free. If you ride for an hour, the cost is 1 pound; 90 minutes is 4 pounds; 2 hours is 6 pounds and so on.

It was a beautiful sunny London day and the perfect day for a ride. We rode from Spitalfields down to the Thames, across the loveliest bridge in the world, Tower Bridge (so COOL!), along South Bank, over London Bridge (which is really boring an just like any road bridge you see everywhere), along Embankment and finally stopping at St Paul’s Cathedral. It was so much fun! Mind you, Claire, Zorba and I had two pints each at lunch and were feeling pretty good to start with!

Tower Bridge

We stopped a couple of times, at South Bank, and to give our tour leader, my lovely friend Claire, time to consult the map.

After we ducked into St Paul’s for free (yay!) – it was just lucky timing as a service was due to start and the cashier’s taking the usual 12.50 pound entry fee had packed up for the day – we grabbed some water and re-hired our bikes.

We pedalled across London, cycling along embankment to Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. So so so cool!

The best thing was that because the Olympics are on and the cycling event was on earlier in the day, many of the roads were closed and we were able to ride our Boris bikes along part of the Olympic cycle route.

Westminster Abbey

After taking in Westminster Abbey, we continued pedalling and headed towards Buckingham Palace. We rode down the beautiful tree lined Pall Mall that was closed to traffic – just magic!

We encountered a few policemen along the way that were manning road blocks or just on general patrol and I have to say that every one of them was super friendly, happy to chat to us, giving us tips on where we can take the bikes and so forth. I was very impressed with the smiling friendly bobbies, even if some of them looked a bit scary carrying machine guns!

The Queen Victoria Memorial gold statue out the front of Buckingham Palace had obviously been polished by some mignon as it was looking very shiny.

Shiny Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace

Zorba was underwhelmed with Buckingham Palace – he expected it to be grander, bigger, somehow.

From Buckingham Palace, we rode through Green Park, Hyde Park corner, Marble Arch, and through Hyde Park to Kensington Palace. When we reached Queensway, we docked our bikes, regretfully.

We all had such fun riding though London, taking in the sights at a leisurely pace, WITHOUT HELMETS. I loved that. If I didn’t have to wear a helmet I’d ride my bike in Perth much more I’m sure.

London is an easy city to walk around – it’s not all that big or rather spread out really. But cycling adds another dimension. It was one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had in London. Pleasant weather, great friends, historical magical sites, access to the world’s famous monuments, closed roads and minimal traffic – really, we couldn’t ask for more.

Moreover, the bikes are quite good quality. They are fairly heavy – not ideal for lugging up or down stairs (which we did once!), but they have gears, are smooth to ride, have a handy little carry area on the front for handbags including a stretchy strap to hold bags in place, little flashing brake lights at the back, and they are so cheap!

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We walked up Queensway then along Westbourne Grove until we reach Kath’s place. We could have ridden the bikes almost all the way to Kath’s place as there’s a bike docking station about 60 metres from her house!

Kath and Fiorenzo prepared a fab dinner of antipasti – buffalo mozzarella, mortadella, and home made focaccia which was sensational. We had really delicious authentic home made bolognese for dinner. Thanks guys!

Hiring a Boris bike is a very highly recommended way to see London. Go on, get on yer bike!

FACT FILE

Barclays Cycle Hire

Olympic Opening Ceremony London 2012, Hyde Park

Excitedly, we had purchased tickets at 60 GBP per head to go to the Official BT Live Site at Hyde Park for the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games.   Zorba and I were being joined by one of my bestie’s Claire who was in London from Manchester to see us.

Not only did we have the big screens beaming in the live action of the Opening Ceremony from Olympic Stadium, but we had Scottish performer Paolo Nuttini, Duran Duran, Stereophonics and Snow Patrol bands to entertain us.

After a bit of an ordeal to get into the park through the thorough security officers, the vibe of Hyde Park was electric!  One of the highlights was seeing the Red Arrows fighter jets flying over leaving a trail of Brittish red, white and blue in their wake.  The roar of the jets got the crowd to its feet and amped up the level of excitement.

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The Opening Ceremony was impressive and told a story about Great Britain, including things like the industrial revolution and the good work done though the National Health Service.  Both quite unsexy topics, yet important in British history.

We had a fabulous time. Hardly had to queue for beers, the toilets were manned and constantly cleaned and stocked with toilet paper, and the crowd was really well behaved. The music was great – the bands chose awesome songs for their sets and kept the crowd rocking til 12.30am.

Well worth the 60 pound entry charge. Well done London!