So we have been back from our holiday in Scotland now for 3 weeks, and been busy catching up with some challenges. We started off soon after returning with a trip to Caffè Vergarno 1882 on Charing Cross road. This is a coffee shop for real coffee lovers. Admittedly I had a hot chocolate (because I do not like coffee) which was beyond divine, but Claire had a caffè macchiato which was equally superior. Really this place is a gem.
Challenge 846, 156/1000 complete
Later on in the week, Claire and I met up to eat some takeaway curry from Rasa Express. Very cheap (£7 for two), filling and tasty. It came in a ready to eat plastic container, very convenient and now to be used as lunch boxes for the both of us. This ain’t high class cuisine but good rustic street food. If you are in the area of Charlotte Street for lunch – check this place out.
Challenge 513, 157/1000 complete
At the weekend, we headed over to the Isle of Dogs, to meet up with Brian and Mal for some dinner out (with one super crazy Italian waiter) and a film in their posh apartment cinema (Jambon, Jambon – quite lol in places). Earlier on, we took the opportunity to tick off some challenges, starting with a visit to Old China Town (near Westferry). This is the area where there used to be a vibrant and exotic Chinese community, now with only some suggestive road names and monuments of the culture (see our dragon picture), the place has moved on. Sadly it just seems like another East End low income residential area – nothing of note to be found.
Challenge 177, 158/1000 complete
We then carried onto canary wharf, and into the Docklands Museum (recently it has become free of charge). Now I was not expecting too much – but this museum had depth and breadth. Covering everything from Roman to modern day use of the Docklands, and looking into difficult issues such as the slave trade and local reaction to the commercial redevelopment I think sensitively, with plenty of information and context for you to develop your own conclusions. There is far too much to learn about for one afternoon, and so if you do plan to visit, have a think beforehand about what you really what to discover before you go. So yes, I do recommend.
Challenge 373 +485, 160/1000 complete
Once finished at the Museum, we had a wander around to Canary Wharf (staying above ground, as we always get lost below!), and to Cabot Square – to view the mighty sky scrapers. Some teenagers were playing in the fountain, and the roads were quiet – good place for a family.
Challenge 571, 161/1000 complete
With the weekend over, it was back to daily drudge (okay it ain’t all that bad), so Claire and I are very happy to have taken up a new, fun sport – trampolining. Weekly Tuesday classes are part of the membership of our YMCA gym, and we plan to make good use of it – especially as it is a sport Claire and I can share without being competitive. Now though it is, as I am sure you can imagine, great fun, it is also really hard work. So much so that I really need to work on my core, otherwise I think I am always going to struggle.
Now trampolining is not in the book as a challenge, but we have decided that with a somewhat silly 10 martial arts to try, we will substitute trampolining (and maybe some other new sports we try out) for some of these. There is certainly some places in the book where quantity replaces quality in terms of experience, and we are not going to spoil our fun for the sake of rigidity.
Challenge 174, 162/1000 complete (replaces Karate)
To start the next weekend off – WOOT for the Bank Holiday – we spent some quality time with Claire’s parents – including a visit to the new Map exhibition at the British Library titled – Magnificent Maps: Power and Propaganda. Now there is a title to get one quite excited – and you would not be disappointed. Though the museum was unsurprising busy, these maps were very impressive – in size, scale and detail. A well laid out and thoughtful exhibition.
The problem is, is that I did not really engage and now I know why. I love maps, I can spend hours looking for places to discover, walking routes in the making or to reminisce of old haunts – BUT. I only like maps when I can engage with them, when I use them and can understand them. Maybe that is a great thing – maps are not just art, but powerful tools to be utilised to the utmost. I love my new phone, with Google maps easily accessible – but of course I only look at places I can relate to.
Anyway, away from all that, the British Library really is quite fantastic – well worth a visit. And its not just written documentation they keep of course, they have huge sound archives. These can be accessed via the internet here. Really it is one of, if not the greatest national treasure.
Challenge 124 + 611, 164/1000 complete
The following day, we looked to liven up this lazy Bank Holiday with some culture and more importantly tea. First stop was Bea’s of Bloomsbury a wonderful little tea shop, not 5 minutes walk from us. I have never seen it before, even though it is on the main road – surprising what you do not notice until it is pointed out to you. Now we were a little pressed for time, so we got take out – tea for Claire and hot chocolate for me of course. To sweeten the deal we got a bag of crushed meringues for 50p – yum yum yum.
Challenge 926, 165/1000 complete
Just round the corner and down the road was our next stop – the Charles Dickens Museum. Now if you have not worked it out by now, I am quite the critic of museums – and here was no exception. With a local authority feel, old fashioned typed interpretation (some even blue-tacked onto walls), and no real sense of purpose or place it failed to satisfy.
Now I am not a great Dickens fan, and so it was great that the museum did manage at least to spark an interest in me in reading more of his work but beyond that I, and dare I say we, were left disappointed. The museum did not really focus on being an effective historical house or a museum of his life, work or times. All this lack of ethos was all topped off with a temporary exhibition on Oliver – fine in itself – but advertised so garishly by its sponsor the current Oliver Musical that it was completely off-putting.
I’ll stop now before I really get worked up by this missed opportunity. Maybe with their purchase of the house next door and an upcoming complete refit it will all be sorted out.
Challenge 92, 166/1000 complete
We now headed back over to Convent Garden, which was as busy as could be expected on a Bank Holiday Monday. Now neither Claire or myself own a single piece of apple hardware – the closest we come is using itunes. Anyway we headed over to Apple’s swish new store in Convent Garden (and when I mean swish, this store looks more polished than a techogeek’s new iphone) and try out some of their gadgetry.
It was heaving, but we managed to get hold of one of their demo ipads (there was only like 50 odd that people were playing with it). I have been itching to have a close up look at one – and yes they are very sleek and very very fast. Easy to use, stylish and with a billion apps to play with I can see why people like them. Overall though I came away a bit perplexed – where do these tablet laptop toys come in the market? Too big to be used as a phone (no of course you need an iphone for that), no keyboard so typing work or emails or goodness me blogs are going to be always slower. I suppose it is a fun laptop for people who don’t need to do serious work on a laptop/PC. Until I see otherwise, I’ll assume that it is nothing more than a fancy tablet laptop, which taking the retail price is much less than the normal Apple laptops, it must be lacking somewhere in the hardware or software department (note I didn’t see any office type software on the ipad, though as I am not familar with Macs I may have missed it).
Challenge 902, 167/1000 complete
To round the day off we headed to the Trafalgar Hotel and its Vista Bar. As the names suggest this bar is high up, in the open air on the roof of the hotel – with fantastic views, especially of Nelson’s Column. So, yes, there is a £5 cover charge to go up, the drinks are normal Soho bar prices, and it would be a waste to go up in the rain – but its all worth it for the experience. While up there we also ticked off a tour of some of Nelson historical artefacts from his razor (Wellcome collection) to the coat he died in (bullet hole included – National Maritime Museum). And of course one for the pub quizzes – what is Nelson leaning on in Trafalgar Square – no not his column, but a coil of rope!
Challenge 6 + 111, 169/1000 complete