12 September 2016

Do Something New Each Day - July 2016

Day 183 - 1 July 2016 - Saw the Bread Basket Boy, a Police Call Box and the Watt's Memorial in London

Another Friday and another walk around London to discover some of its secret treasures. All three of them are, again, near St Paul's Cathedral.

The Bread Basket Boy: People sitting outside Cafe Nero and commuters dashing in and out of St Paul's tube station may be oblivious to the naked boy perched on the bread basket that watches over them. This statue originally stood in Paternoster Row. When the building on which he sat was demolished in 1892, the boy was moved to Farrows Bank on Cheapside as its mascot. The bank folded in 1930 and in 1964 the boy was moved to this alley, which was once the centre of London's baking business. Panyer Alley was named after the boys who sold their wares from baskets, or panniers, after a law was passed in the 14th century forbidding the sale of bread in bakers' houses; it could only be sold in the king's markets. Bakers bypassed the law by selling loaves in baskets in the streets.

Police Call Box: A few of these mysterious blue boxes have survived on the streets of London. Before the advent of the walkie-talkie and the mobile phone British bobbies on the beat relied on these boxes to report crimes, request back-up or even to lock up a suspect until a patrol car arrived. The boxes also served as emergency hotlines for the public. The first wooden boxes appeared in Britain in 1888. By 1953 there were 685 police boxes in London. But technology rendered them obsolete and in 1969 the Home Secretary ordered their removal. Only a few survived the streets of London.

Watt's Memorial: This strange series of memorials lines one side of Postman's Park. Set up by G E Watts in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria's jubilee, the plaques memorialise acts of fatal heroism by Londoners. In an era characterised by public euphemism, the descriptions of the fates of those commemorated are surprisingly forthright.

Day 184 - 2 July 2016 - Attended a Hot Water Comedy Club night

Since a good friend was visiting Liverpool that weekend, it was a great opportunity to go for the first time to one of the most popular stand-up comedy nights in Liverpool.

I've heard about the Hot Water Comedy Club from friends that have been there many times and loved it. Unfortunately, on the night, it was a bit hit and miss. Some good acts, some so-and-so and one particular act had us puzzled as to whether the comedian was in role, or there was something wrong with him.

I'll definitely try it again as it seems promising, in the hope that we just went on the wrong night. The photos are from Google.

Day 185 - 3 July 2016 - Had dinner at 'Mowgli', in Liverpool

If there is a restaurant in Liverpool that has caused a massive stir since its opening, then it's definitely Mowgli. Located in Bold Street, serving Indian Street Food and not accepting bookings, it soon became such a success that it's owner will soon be opening a second one in Liverpool, this time in much bigger premises.

It's a place I wanted to visit for some time now and finally I did! But, it did not get my 5 stars I'm afraid! I'm still to put my review up on Tripadvisor as I'm a bit behind with them. But the reason it didn't get all 5 stars is because I don't think some of the dishes were as 'authentic street food' as advertised.

Don't get me wrong, all dishes were lovely and tasty - and certainly there's a selection which you don't find in your usual Indian restaurant. But I also doubt that a couple of the dishes we tried would be found in the streets of India. Nevertheless, it's still a great place to eat!

Day 186 - 4 July 2016 - Had fish & chips at 'Yianni's Traditional Fish & Chips', in Liverpool

One thing that, as a foodie, I'm sad to see is the decline of a good fish & chips in Liverpool. The North was always famous for having the best chippies - so the fact that so far the best fish & chips I've had in ages was in London, really tells a story.

But I think I've found a tiny place in the centre of Liverpool that sells good, crispy, non-oily, fish & chips. And no, I'm not just saying this because the owner seems to be Greek or Cypriot. After all, the place is tiny, very basic, with aluminium tables and chairs. But I found the fish to be the best I've had in Liverpool for some time.

The photos are from Google.

Day 187 - 5 July 2016 - Watched the movie 'Call Girl'

A very interesting Swedish drama film which is a fictionalised version of events based on the so-called Bordellharvan political scandal of 1970s Sweden, which linked several prominent politicians to a prostitution ring that included underage girls.

For more info click here.

Day 188 - 6 July 2016 - Read the book 'Reveries Of The Solitary Walker' by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

This is Rousseau's last work, written during the last two years of his life following his return to Paris after a period of forced exile brought about by his radical views on religion and politics.

Although I enjoy Rousseau's other work very much and share much of his views, this book is one I didn't enjoy at all. This was mainly due to the fact that, angry and rejected by society, he spends a great part of his book complaining and feeling rejected. So, the book feels like a major moan rather than any significant new work. Click here for more info.

Day 189 - 7 July 2016 - Had breakfast at 'The Bagelry', in Liverpool

I stumbled into this small place by accident. One would not expect to see it in the middle of Chinatown. It's an independent bakery, making hand crafted boiled and baked bagels and also using them to serve a variety of breakfast and brunch dishes. I tried 'The Bagelry Breakfast Bagel', which consisted of beef tomato, portabello mushroom, a free range poached egg, organic cheddar cheese and sauerkraut, all served inside a rye bagel. I also tried their bottled ice coffee. The breakfast was very tasty - the coffee was OK, but when it comes to ice coffee nothing beats a Greek Frappe!!! For more info about the place click here.

Day 190 - 8 July 2016 - Saw the Christchurch Greyfriars Garden and the oldest Roman Catholic church in England, in London

My London walks continued on this Friday too, this time visiting these two sites:

Christchurch Greyfriars Garden: A stone's throw from St Paul's cathedral, this peculiar little rose garden is contained within the bombed-out walls of a derelict church. This was the site of a Franciscan monastery in the Middle Ages, whose monks were so devout that folk believed that anyone buried in their grey robes would go straight to heaven. Perhaps this is why four queens chose to be buried in the church, before it burned down in the Great Fire. Christopher Wren soon set to work on a new church, which was completed in 1704. But German bombs destroyed Wren's handiwork in 1940, leaving only the west tower standing. This small rose garden matches the floor plan of Wren's church. On either side of the central  isle are hedges and flowerbeds where pews once stood.

The Relic Of St Etheldreda: Tucked in Ely Place is St Etheldreda, the oldest Roman Catholic church in England. Built in 1250, this is the last vestige of the palace of the bishops of Ely, whose 58 acres of orchards, vineyards and lawns stretched down to the Thames. Administered by the See of Ely, 100 miles away in Cambridgeshire, the estate was beyond the jurisdiction of the City of London - and thus much favoured by criminals on the run. Inside the small, Gothic and rather gloomy church is a creepy relic of its patron, St Etheldreda. A fragment of her pale white hand, donated to the church in the 19th century, is kept in a bejewelled chest to the right of the altar. You can see the chest in the photo below (it's below the statue at the far right of the altar).

Day 191 - 9 July 2016 - Visited 'Western Approaches - Liverpool War Museum', in Liverpool

During World War II Liverpool was Britain's main convoy port. During the war, over 1000 convoys arrived in Liverpool and many warships and merchant ships were repaired and built there.

In 1941 Combined Operations moved to Derby House in Liverpool, because German aircraft and U-boats were attacking ships travelling in from the continent. This department became known as Western Approaches Command as it monitored Western Approaches, the rectangular area of the Atlantic lying immediately to the west of the British isles. Liverpool subsequently became an important strategic position in war World II.

I visited this building, which holds the wartime bunker (restored to exactly how it used to be). It was great to take a step back into history and see how this historic location used to be during the war. Click here for more info.

Day 192 - 10 July 2016 - Tried 'Hop House 13' beer

It was the final of the European Championship, so it was time to concentrate on football and try another beer. This one is marketed as a lager, but obviously the name gives away that the taste is rather hoppy. So why did I try it, you might ask? Well, it was the only beer on the menu I hadn't tried. And yes, you've guessed it. I didn't really like it!

Day 193 - 11 July 2016 - Had coffee at 'Muster Custom Coffee' in Liverpool

I came across this new cafe by accident. The decor is quite quirky, having machinery parts spread around. But unfortunately it does not offer anything new to the already great number of cafes around Liverpool. Most new cafes have something new to offer: some create their own blends of coffee or use specialist beans. Others offer a variety of meals to go with the coffee.

But Muster does not do this. From what I saw, it offers the usual selection of coffees (espresso, americano, latte, etc) and the usual middle-of-the-road selection of cakes to go with it. And the mocha I had was nothing really special.

Day 194 - 12 July 2016 - Visited the Victoria Gallery & Museum, in Liverpool

That was certainly a very enjoyable visit. The building and the museum is part of the University of Liverpool. It contains a very interesting collection of curiosities, from the world of science, art, nature and everything in between. For example, it houses the world's most important display of false teeth (!!) under the same roof as an exhibition of fine art. The building itself has been a central part of the University for over a century. It was completed in 1892. For more information, click here.

Day 195 - 13 July 2016 - Had lunch at 'Panna', in Liverpool

That was another week of 'keeping it local', so decided to have lunch in this lovely little place in the commercial area of Liverpool. The decor is a bit IKEA-like, so I think maybe the owners come from Scandinavia. I tried one of their sandwiches and it was delicious (pastrami and red pepper). Definitely worth a stop for a snack or a meal. Click here for more info about the place.

Day 196 - 14 July 2016 - Had a coffee at 'Gourmet Coffee', in Liverpool

Another disappointing coffee experience in Liverpool, this time from a cafe which has quite a large number of good reviews. Especially when you consider its great location.

They have a selection of chocolate drinks which can be turned into a mocha drink, so I tried the Nutella mocha. But the taste was underwhelming. It was loads of water and milk, but not enough coffee or Nutella for me. For more info about Gourmet Coffee click here.

Day 197 - 15 July 2016 - Watched the movie 'Mommy'

One thing that strikes you in this film is the great performances by its 3 main actors. The film itself is also good. It has won many international awards (not an Oscar). Definitely worth a watch. Click here for more info.

Day 198 - 16 July 2016 - Read the book 'Where Angels Fear To Tread' by E M Forster

The book, published in 1905, takes its title from a line in Alexander Pope's 'An Essay on Critisism': "For fools rush in where angels fear to tread".

The book itself is OK, but nothing special for my liking. However, even while reading it I could see that with the right director it would make a very good movie, given that it's based mainly in Italy and gives a very good portrayal of the British upper class society of the time compared to a family oriented Italian rural life. So now I know that a movie was actually made in 1991, I'm definitely going to watch that too! For more info on the book click here.

Day 199 - 17 July 2016 - Had ice cream at Parkgate

Parkgate is a small village on the Wirral Peninsula. Only a vast area of marshland separates it from the river Dee and Wales. Its ice cream is famous in the region and, finally being a sunny day, it was a good opportunity to tick it off my list! The ice cream was served in large portions, it's not expensive and it's also very tasty. But not as tasty as the one I had at La Gelateria in London (see earlier posts). For more info on Parkgate click here.

Day 200 - 18 July 2016 - Cooked 'Smoked Haddock Chowder'

To celebrate the 200th day of doing something new, I decided to cook something for a change!! Being summer it was time for a tasty chowder. Click here for the recipe.

Day 201 - 19 July 2016 - Visited the Grand Central Hall shopping centre, in Liverpool

I'm a bit embarrassed to say I've never been inside this building until now, since I've passed outside it thousands of times. If you're looking for some rear vynil, comics, fortune tellers, healing stones, all the way to 80s computer games, this is the place! Housed in the Grand Central Hall, which used to be a Methodist church, this shopping centre demands a visit even if it's to admire its interior.

Day 202 - 20 July 2016 - Cooked 'Ajiaco Bogotano'

Another soup on this day, this time from Colombia. I found it in my soup book, which had slightly changed some of the ingredients from the original. It looks messy (to be honest, I did a Google search on the soup and the photos looked similar) but it tastes OK. Make sure the capers are washed thoroughly with water, because if they are stored in brine their saltiness will affect the taste. Click here for the recipe.

Day 203 - 21 July 2016 - Had breakfast at '81 Renshaw', in Liverpool

What a lovely little place this is! Friendly staff, a very inviting interior and very good food. Click here for my review on Tripadvisor.

Day 204 - 22 July 2016 - Watched the movie 'The Man Who Wasn't There'

The Coen brothers won a Best Director award in the 2001 Cannes Film Festival for this neo-noir movie. I think the direction and the performances were very good, but it lacked a good storyline. Click here for more info.

Day 205 - 23 July 2016 - Visited the Ashton Memorial, in Lancaster

Saturday the 23rd July started very nice, with a trip to the Ashton Memorial. Built between 1907 and 1909 by Lord Ashton, in memory of his second wife Jessy, the memorial sits at the top of Williamson Park in Lancaster and provides great views of the surrounding area, including Morecambe Bay. Unfortunately, shortly after my visit and while walking towards Morecambe I started having pains in my kidneys (reaction to some antihistamines I took) and my journey had to be cut short :(

Day 206 - 24 July 2016 - Read the book 'George Silverman's Explanation' by Charles Dickens

24th July! My birthday! Unfortunately, I never planned to spend it at home, mostly in bed, and in pain. But we can't really plan for these things. And I was determined not to leave the day go by without having done something new. So I finished this book.

This was one of Dicken's last short stories before he died, published in instalments during 1868. Although not one of his best, it still has that dark, pessimistic tone of Dicken's last works.

Day 207 - 25 July 2016 - Watched the movie 'Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man)

The movie was released in 1994. It's an Italian commedy horror film, starring Rupert Everett and the incredibly sexy Anna Falchi. Martin Scorsese called it one of the best Italian films of the 90s. It's quite an enjoyable movie with loads of laugher. Don't expect anything ground breaking though. It's very surrealistic and gives you an essence of a B movie. But it's definitely worth watching, especially when the sexy Anna Falchi appears naked!! Did I mention I fancy Anna Falchi a lot? Click here for more info.

Day 208 - 26 July 2016 - Listened to the album 'Sandiwara Cinta' by Nike Ardilla

I still wasn't feeling 100% that week, so I decided to find a good album to listen to. This time I looked for albums with the most sales in history, from countries around the world. This particular album, whose title means 'Theatrical Love' is the best selling album ever in Indonesia. It has sold a total of 5 million copies since its release in 1995. It's an OK album. A typical collection of romantic pop songs of the 90s, which you can still find in most Eurovision song contests. 

Day 209 - 27 July 2016 - Listened to the album 'Mas' by Alejandro Sanz

Alejandro Sanz is a very popular/famous singer/songwriter from Spain. His album 'Mas' ('More') is the best selling album of all time in Spain, having sold more than 2.2 million copies since its release in 1997. I have to admit that I found it way too 'bucket sick pop romantic' for my liking. It was like listening to a spanish Eros Ramazzotti but without Eros' distinct voice.

Day 210 - 28 July 2016 - Watched the movie 'Star Trek Beyond'

Felt a lot better that day so decided to finally leave the house and get some fresh air. But as a devoted trekkie, I had to go and see the new movie in the series - so in I went to the cinema!! It didn't take long to recognise that the director is Justin Lin (of the Fast & Furious series), as this one is full of non stop, fast, furious action. So, in a sense, it will keep most Star Trek fans satisfied, including me.

However, it was not as good as the series reboot (The Beginning) or the follow up (Into Darkness) as it did nothing in respect of the character and personality growth of the main characters, something the other two episodes did very well. Click here for more info.

Day 211 - 29 July 2016 - Watched the movie 'Ace in The Hole'

And just when I thought I was getting better, the pain starts again and here I am in bed again today! Must be all that action in Star Trek!!

Anyway, not much I could do but watch another movie, this time from 1951 starring Kirk Douglas. Despite Douglas' very good performance I wouldn't have given it the 8.2 IMDB gives it. Nevertheless, the portrayal of the media as a blood thirsty industry dedicated to selling more and more papers while prepared to put even human life to the side, is equally relevant today as it was then. Click here for more info.

Day 212 - 30 July 2016 - Visited the Radio City Tower, in Liverpool

This is another Liverpool landmark that I've never visited all these years!! And last Saturday, determined not to stay indoors for yet another weekend, but aware that I'd better not over exert myself, I finally took the lift all the way to the top for some great views of Liverpool!

The tower, built in 1969, is 138 metres tall and is the second highest free-standing building in Liverpool. But if you take its 10m antenna into account, then it's the highest. It now houses Liverpool's main radio station, Radio City 96.7. Click here for more info.

Day 213 - 31 July 2016 - Visited Speke Hall, in Liverpool

I visited this lovely and rare Tudor timber-framed manor house, which is right by the banks of the river Mersey, right next to Liverpool's John Lennon Airport. Its construction started as early as 1530. It's a very beautiful house and families can spend the whole day wondering around its rooms, its gardens and the restaurant/tea rooms. Click here for more info.

July Review

Another interesting month, which mainly kept me around Liverpool and London. Due to illness and work (while preparing for my August trip) I did not do much travelling. Even so, I managed to visit 9 new places around Liverpool and London, I visited 7 restaurants and cafes for the first time, I saw 6 films for the first time and read 3 books. To complete the month, I cooked 2 recipes for the first time, listened to 2 albums, tried 1 beer and attended a comedy club. August it upon me and my passport is ready!!

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