Friday, 29 December 2017

Aloha Asturias
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Back in September we took a long weekend to Asturias, the northern most county in Spain and based ourselves in Gijon using Airbnb. This was by far the cheapest option as the hotels were at least double.

Packed into the four days, we also visited Oviedo, Cangas de Onis and Ribadesella. Transport links are excellent and very good value for money so there is really no need to hire a car.

Gijon is a small seaside town full of little boutique shops and breathtaking views out from the beachfront. The pace of life is very slow and you will definitely feel relaxed.


Gijon square

Another angle of Gijon square

The Gijon beach with great views

What you will notice is the siesta time where the whole town will shut down for a couple of hours in the afternoon and re-open in the evening apart from a couple of bars and/or restaurants. So you will need to plan shopping around this. 

The next day we went to Oviedo which is just like any other major city. It has the usual array of shops and layout. Altogether, it was nothing spectacular apart from the architecture and the Cathedral.

Oviedo architecture

Streets of Oviedo

Oviedo Cathedral
Day three we went to Ribadesella which is a small town on the Asturas shoreline and it's a very pretty town indeed. It's very nice to take a leisurely walk through and take in the sights. We also visited a cave however, we were not allowed to take photographs so we can't show you them on here. Shame really. 

There's plenty of places to eat but don't go for this one!
This restaurant, Casa Gaspar, offers sub standard greasy food and to top it off, we had a very stroppy waitor who clearly wanted us to leave as we were approaching siesta time.

Coloured stairs found in Ribadesella

The sleepy town of Ribadesella

For the last day, we went to the Asturias National Park. Be advised, set off in good time as it takes three hours to get there from Gijon but it's worth it just for the views alone. We took a gentle walk clicking pictures along the way. 

Views from our walk

A lake in the valleys offered a welcome break

For a cheap, relaxing break I would recommend going to Asturias. The Spanish are very welcoming and will speak English to you if you get stuck although it is always nice to try speaking Spanish and making an effort. In terms of finance, you don't need to take a lot as everything is fairly cheap and the food is great (apart from that one in Ribadesella). What Asturias does pride itself on is their Cider which is unsweetened and slightly flat. We did try it and it is very strong but the flavour is quite bitter.

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Sunday, 10 December 2017

Mmmm grease!
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After watching Ferdinand in the cinema, we hunted around Westfields in London and stumbled on Penang which serves Malaysian and Thai food. Considering this is our favourite food types, we went in.

We were asked to sit near the window to make the restaurant appear busy and immediately found a wonky chair. So that was swapped and we sat down and perused the menu.

For starters, we went for seafood dumplings and when they arrived, they looked very appealing however, they were a bit too greasy.

Seafood dumplings
For the mains, we ordered the Claypot Chicken and the Seafood Laksa. The chicken in the Claypot Chicken was a bit rubbery but it was OK on the whole. Nothing special.

Claypot chicken
The Seafood Laksa was on a whole new level. I have sampled many many Thai and Malaysian dishes and this one wins on all fronts as it was the worst Seafood Laksa I ever had the pleasure of sampling. For one, it came with a mightily generous two prawns and some random unrecognisable 'seafood' items that you had no idea what they were. To top it off, it came with a sickeningly layer of grease which looks very unappealing and tasted as such too. It was so bad that it was sent back and removed from the bill.

Seafood Laksa

The grease on top of the Seafood Laksa
It's not often we leave a restaurant hungry but on this occasion we shall eat at home.

Score: 0/10

Penang!
White City
Unit 1032
Southern Terrace
Westfield White City
London
W12 7GA

Penang! Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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Sunday, 5 November 2017

Travel back in time at The Colosseum
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We devoted a whole day to go round The Colosseum, which is also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, and the nearby Palatine Hill which has been around for nearly 2000 years. The Colosseum took 8 years to build, started in 72AD under emperor Vespasian and finished off under Titus. Amendments were made under Domitian but we can safely say it was opened for the public in 80AD.

Outside the Colosseum
Close up of the Colosseum walls
To skip the enormous queues, we decided to join a guide who offered fascinating insights in what happened in The Colosseum at the time which we would not have gained if we went round on our own. The guide group also used the fast track queue system so the day was not entirely wasted.

Once inside The Colosseum, you'll be amazed by its size which at the time, could hold 50,000 people. That's 50,000 people watching barbaric gladiatorial activities which would not be accepted now in our society. How times change huh?

Part of the flooring had to be reconstructed to accommodate tourism but you can see that it has a lower ground where they kept the slaves, gladiators and animals for forthcoming entertainment.

Part of the lower ground revealed
After the tour of The Colosseum, we then proceeded to Palatine Hill which is one of the seven hills Rome was built on. Our guide explained that the reason for the seven hills was that the lower ground was too swampy to build on however, in time, the Romans drained and expanded. The Palatine Hill is the only one preserved and is now a major tourist spot. As you can see, not a lot is fully preserved due to earthquakes and general erosion however, what remains is magnificent.

View from Palatine Hill
An old copper door which has turned green through time
Some of the columns have remained
The tour took around 3-4 hours and it did not feel rushed. The guide was good and told you all you needed to know although she did get annoyed at one American who was filming her. Quite right too. You don't need to pre-book as once you get there you are inundated with tour offers as well as sellers offering selfie sticks and useless toys.

This definitely should be on your 'to-do' list when in Rome.
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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

All roads lead to Rome
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We went for a long weekend trip to Rome and found it to be the most historical and cultural city we have seen on our travels to Europe. Sure, there are many cities which boast historical elements but none more so than Rome, the Romans and the catholic church.

Not a modern building in sight
The posts will be broken down to three to make it easier for you to read which will cover Rome, The Colosseum and The Vatican City.

First off, it's Rome itself which is full of ancient buildings and narrow streets. The buildings are bright, colourful and welcoming. There are no skyscrapers or any modern buildings which would ruin the look and feel of the city.

Narrow streets of Rome
Wonderful old buildings
There are many sights to see and all can be done by foot. You really don't have to travel far to see an attraction or a renaissance church and all are free unless you choose to make a donation or throw a coin in the Trevi fountain.

One of the many fountains
However, Rome is busy. Very busy and full of tourists, especially American tourists for some reason. Expect queues and crowds for pretty much everything except the churches. Why? There are so many churches that it's impossible to visit them all and dilutes the tourists. Still, there's one good thing is that nearly all the locals speak English.

Rome palace and obelisk
A little note on the food. It is what you would expect. Places selling pizza, pasta and the like. It is absolutely no different to what we have here in the UK when comparing it to Zizzi's, Pizza Express and similar. I guess it's geared towards the tourists therefore we didn't get the chance to taste real Italian cuisine which is a shame. A tip is not to go for the restaurants near the attractions as that is where the prices will go up. 

Rome is a very pretty city and is well worth a visit. The hotels are expensive but there are some great Airbnb's out there. I'd recommend getting one near the centre so you can walk to each destination easily.
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Saturday, 26 August 2017

Ooh la la at La Porte des Indes
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Tucked away in a side street in Marble Arch, if that's such a thing, is the welcoming exterior of La Porte des Indes which is best described as an Indian restaurant with French influence. The interior is decorated with Indian art, artifacts and huge plants spanning from the lower ground to the ceiling. Reminded us of the greenhouses in Kew Gardens.

La Porte des Indes exterior
We booked the Jazz Sunday Brunch which is £35 per person and is a buffet spread out on two floors. Which is great as you can go up as many times as you like. You can find the starters and desserts on the lower ground floor and the mains (vegetarian and non) on the ground floor. Price also includes 1/2 pint of beer, glass of red or white or a soft drink.

Now, due to it being a buffet, we went a bit wild on the starters. We tried everything they had to offer and did not leave enough room for the main course buffet. Still, can't complain as each of the starters was amazing apart from the Watermelon and Pepper soup. You would think there's a twist on it but no, it's simply cold Watermelon juice with pepper granules floating on the top. Err right... but we'll let that one slide.

Different types of starters available

The Watermelon and pepper soup
We went for the meat mains and there are four choices, or all four, and on offering was Lamb Bhuna, Murgh Tikka Makhni and white fish curry I can't remember the name of.

The main course buffet

Selection of main courses with rice

Unlimited naan bread brought to your table
Whilst we were enjoying our meal, we were showered in light entertainment in the form of a jazz band and the fire alarm a few times. To mix things up, the jazz band played a few well known TV theme tunes.

Light entertainment
After a well earned break, we eventually waddled to the desserts and what an offering there was! Fresh fruits, belgian chocolate mousse, Panna Cotta and those really really really sicky sweet Indian sweets plus more I can't remember off hand.

Selection of desserts


What did puzzle me was the lack of French influence. We thought we would find it in the food, and especially the desserts as the French are masters of that, however there wasn't any. Belgian mousse is err Belgian and Panna Cotta is Italian. Thinking back to the mains and starters, there's none there either. Still, that's a small gripe considering the wonderful food we were treated to.

If you love Indian food, and lots of it, then this is the place to come. Make sure you're really hungry to get your moneys worth!

Score: 9/10

La Porte des Indes
32 Bryanston Street
London
W1H 7EG
020 7224 0055

La Porte des Indes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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