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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Life: Lambeth Country Show

We were at a bit of a loss on Sunday morning as to how to spend the day.

I googled things to do in London which usually (and bizarrely) we don't find overly helpful, so I was really happy to see that Lambeth Country Show was on.

We decided to cycle over as it was an easy 3 miles.

We had such a wonderful day. There were so many great things about it. Firstly, living in London, you don't get any opportunity to see farm animals, so it was great to see all the kids loving petting and feeding the various farm animals including this sweet duckling. Secondly, everyone was so happy and friendly - I basically adore any occasion which brings notoriously unfriendly Londoners together in one mass of happiness. Thirdly, it was FREE and therefore accessible to everyone. And finally, it was huge - there was much going on - live music, scarecrow judging competitions, food stalls, farm animals, local produce...

A particular highlight of mine was watching the sheep shearing demonstration. I had to practise 'turning' a sheep during my first year at university so it made the demonstrator's work even more impressive as I know how very strong sheep can be!

The show really is a slice of country in London. There were even cake and vegetable competitions- I can't help aways feeling really amused when you see 6 identical potatoes sat out ready for judging - how on earth can you tell the difference between the entries? There was also a vegetable carving competition including a hugely inappropriate one of Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson.

As expected, there were a huge number of places to choose from for lunch. Including:

In the end, I plumped for an amazing chicken tikka and vegetable chickpea curry with rice and bread which I had with a sustainable mango juice.

It was super busy and it was great to see such a large number of people making the most of the beautiful weather on this great family day out.

Have you ever been to the Lambeth Country Show? What's your favourite show/fete?

Monday, 22 July 2013

Life: Toscano

I fell in love with Italy last year when I was working in Venice, so I couldn't wait to return this year with my best school friend Anna.

We used Airbnb to book our accommodation - a flat in Benabbio, a tiny village nestling in the Tuscan hills. The road up to Bennabio is not for the faint hearted as it's full of narrow hairpin bends.

Our flat was absolutely amazing - beautifully clean and fresh and very reasonably priced at just £55 per night.

There were beautiful gardens too - full of vines, hydrangeas and olive trees.

But its real draw lay in the view which was absolutely stunning. We spent every evening watching the sun go down over the mountains. It actually ended up being a really reasonable holiday moneywise as we wanted to eat at home every night so that we could look at the view! Plus Italian food is so fresh and delicious - all we needed was some figs and antipasti to make a large delicious salad washed down with the best prosecco I've ever tasted.

We went walking in the mountains on one of the days. We were dressed completely wrongly - I was wearing a playsuit and converse and it poured with rain and we saw tonnes of leeches. But all the same it was amazing - more incredible views and some of the best echoes I've ever heard.

We also visited Lucca (an ancient walled city) and walked the whole way round on top of the city walls. I was happy to spot my favourite Italian Gelateria Grom and loved my pistachio and melon ice cream.

A visit to Northern Tuscany couldn't be without a visit to the leaning tower of Pisa. It was so touristy around there so we didn't stay for long.

Have you ever been to Italy? What's your favourite city? 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Life: escaping to and from Stratford-Upon-Avon and simple pleasures

Last weekend, I went home to South Warwickshire. My cousin's daughter was playing the young Anastasia in Finding Anastasia and we were keen to watch her.

I was determined this time, that in addition to visiting relatives, that I would show Martin around some of the delights of the area. Well, that didn't go to plan. We planned to go to Stratford-Upon-Avon on Saturday calling in to see my cousin and auntie en route. She warned us that the traffic would be terrible and she was so, so right.

Driving into Stratford proved to be a nightmare - so much traffic. We should have taken this as a bad sign i.e. go home, but we persevered and ended up doing park and ride (using the train).

I have never seen Stratford so busy in my life, ever. We had to pigeon step our way on the bridge across the river.

I really do love Stratford, but I'm so boring and I really hate big crowds like that. We stayed long enough to take a few snaps of the river and Shakespeare's birthplace before heading straight for my grandma's house in Kenilworth.

I grew up with my Grandma in her house and, when I was younger, I don't think I would ever have guessed how much I would one day appreciate spending an afternoon lying on a rug in her garden.

We spent the whole afternoon lazing in the garden enjoying the quiet, reading Game of Thrones (I'm still only 51% of the way through it on my Kindle and I feel like I've been reading it my entire life!) and loving being away from hugely hectic London.

Victoria plums

The following day, we took Grandma to one of my favourite restaurants in Kenilworth - The Cross.

It didn't disappoint. Grandma and I began with a delicious braised lamb starter which I unfortunately ate every singe mouthful of before I remembered that I ought to have taken a photo of it. Martin had a hen's egg and chickpea salad which I did manage to take a snap of.

This was followed by a mango jelly palate cleanser.

I took this picture and really liked the reflection!

For her main, Grandma ordered hake with crab bisque. Judging by how quickly it disappeared, she obviously loved it. Martin and I ordered pork (which was little dry) accompanied by some delicious salt baked beetroot. I also had my first foray into black pudding which I thought was tasty and surprisingly sweet. I am trying so hard to be less fussy!

roast pork, shallots, black pudding and salt baked beetroot
hake and crab bisque
For pudding, Grandma ate an incredible strawberry parfait with thai basil meringue. The day was scorching and this was a beautifully light summery pudding. Martin ordered chocolate mousse. I couldn't resist the cheeseboard despite the boiling weather. The Cross always has such nice cheeses and this was no exception, although I thought it was odd that the waitress couldn't name any of them when I wanted to know what they were. The cheese was accompanied by some oaty crumbly plain biscuit type things and tomato chutney which must have been the best accompaniment to cheese I've ever had.

After lunch, we went to watch the Wimbledon final with some of my great friends - the Ashley family. Jeremy had been quite unwell the week before, so it was good to see that he was feeling much better. I think the Murray win must have certainly helped too!

How're you enjoying the hot weather? Have you been holding lots of BBQs?