We last left our story on the way out of Romania, in a sweaty bus at 1:30am having just lost our passports. It was a tricky situation and one which required every inch of my self control to avoid a melt-down of Kraken-eske proportions. Luckily I am a man with such personal attributes; ‘Umm, excuse me my good man.’ I said slowly and clearly to the bus driver whom I knew spoke no English. ‘Could you please stop driving? There seems to have been an error of some kind, I believe that the Border Guard back there still has our passports.’ That may not be exactly verbatim but it was something along those lines, I can’t quite remember because I was trying to rip the door of the coach open with my bare hands at the time.
Travelling through Europe over the past year and a half has given me many things. Croatia and Slovenia showed me sunsets like I had never seen before, Brussels left me with a passion for waffles and Malta? Well, Malta provided me with perspective. So what has Romania got? For a start, Romania has got a bad reputation and I have to say that this part of the trip was not on the top of my ‘looking forward to it’ list. But now I’ve actually visited the place, I’ve got to know the country and people a bit better, I know I was off piste. It’s a country of high emotion and adventure, here are a few stories to share so you know why.
I know a lot of people love Malta and on the face of it, there’s a lot to like. A Capital city that’s just won the European City of Culture 2018, great weather, relatively cheap drinks and only a couple of hours flight from the UK. The Mediterranean region is a sure fire hit with the Brits, with temperatures never dipping below the mid 20’s from Spring through to Autumn and the Island of Malta is well placed to take full advantage of our attempts to blend in our Truckers Tans. But it had to come some time; we’ve been to too many amazing places across Europe like Stuttgart, Ljubljana or Helsinki that I knew it couldn’t last – but Malta don’t take it personally, it’s not you, it’s me.
Being the incessantly hungry, weak willed, food-obsessed strumpet that I am, I’m constantly on the look out for the chance to visit and eat in new and exciting places. One such opportunity came recently when I saw the chance to have lunch at Hutong and I grabbed it so tightly it almost came off in my hands. I do love a drink at a bar in the sky and sitting on the 33rd floor of the Shard, Hutong has always been the sort of place that I visited for expensive cocktails on friends’ notable birthdays to enjoy the view of London as it stretches out in front of you. But not that day – that day Mrs P and I were there to find out exactly what happens when you eat lunch at an altitude that could give a mountain goat a nose bleed.
Not content with visiting both Finland and Sweden on our Scandinavian trip, the Family P. also managed to swing into Copenhagen for a couple of days as well. How many things can you name that Denmark is famous for without using Google? We got Carlsburg, Bacon, Hans Christian Anderson, Danish Pastries, hygge, Noma, lego and of course, the band Aqua. With such an international appeal for a country that is about half the size of Scotland, there is so much going on that when the Family P. called in on our Scandinavian leg of our EU Tour, we could only try to fit as much in as possible.
There have been a few times in my life that I am enthused no, compelled to write a blog post. In my previous blogging life it led to a month of eating on benefits and more recently Jamie’s Italian has rightly felt my wrath. Twice. Craft and Cleaver wasn’t quite a Carluccio’s because let me say from the off that there were several things things that I liked about the place, the problem is that they were totally, horribly and completely over-shadowed by the things that I didn’t.
Answer: Not enough.
Sandwiched on our EU Tour between Denmark on the left and Finland on the right, many of my friends and acquaintances have visited and left singing it’s praises. You’ve probably already got a view about Stockholm even if you have never visited, I know I did, but our staging post between the train from Copenhagen and the now infamous ferry ride over to Helsinki, Finland still held some surprises for us on this second stop of our Amazing Scandinavian AdventureTM.
As a parent, I try to give The Child a few rules to govern her life; “prioritise what’s important, not what’s easy”, “effort is more important than achievement”, “Daddy’s toilet time is private time” you know, all the standard stuff. However, as grown-ups, Mrs P and I face an overwhelming tsunami of adverts and pressures telling us to work harder, buy more clothes, phones or TV’s. Lose weight, smile more and be nicer to people. Ugh. Perhaps if I had listened to my own instructions to The Child, I would have managed to write this review earlier because now I’m really late and I’m feeling bad about that. However, The Swan’s Easter Menu is still officially in place on their website so I reckon that if I squeak it in now while no-one realises and I might be OK. Right?
The British have a strange relationship with the sun don’t we? On the one hand, as soon as the sun comes out, some of us strip half naked, rub ourselves with baby oil and to do our best to get a nasty skin condition by the time we’re 65, and the rest of us paint ourselves with so much zinc based sunscreen that we end up walking around feeling sticky for three months of the year. It’s hardly a perfect solution is it? Flavourly.com is an online drinks delivery service and they wondered if I could suggest a more appropriate way to welcome the summer to this beautiful Island of ours, I said ‘send me a box of beer and we can talk about it.’ So they did and in doing so became bf’s for life.
I’ve managed to see a fair bit of Europe by now including Austria, Slovenia and even Scotland but nowhere is like Finland. Here are just a few things I learned during my recent trip to Helsinki: 1) There are more saunas in the country than there are people. 2) Despite what the BBC would have you believe this is not the happiest place in the world, everyone is in fact, bloody miserable. 3) The Finish love a cruise, and I mean LOVE them. 4) If you think Sweden was expensive (and I can assure you it is) then hold on to your hats because Finland is summet else. And finally 5) if you go all the way to Finland and don’t swim in a sea pool then we can no longer be friends. Continue reading “Finland; naked saunas and icy sea swimming, is this your #dreamholiday?”
Sitting right in the middle of Midsummer Boulevard in between the Hub and the Centre, Middletons has been a staple venue for us since it opened a few years ago. Known for it’s good portions, decent value and solid quality, it’s as good a good shout for a steak dinner as you’ll get in the centre of town. With a new season comes a new menu and they invited the Family P down to take a closer look.
When I was 18 I didn’t drink wine, I instead relied on the power of discount vodka and cheap lager to provide the hang-over rite of passage that we must all endure. By my early 20’s I still didn’t know anything so I would try to impress girls by dropping phrases such as ‘plummy’ or ‘good in the nose’ into any wine related chat and needless to say I often walked home alone. After I hit 30 I started to understand that the good stuff was a revelation, streets apart from the paint stripper I had suffered through in previous decades. I’ve done all the supermarket three for a tenner specials, the try before you buy taster evenings and had a few subscriptions to the big online wine clubs and still usually end up with a bottle of £10 disappointment, so how does Clara offer anything different?