Like gerbils, bears and all sensible animals we have been doing our best to pile on the pounds over the last few weeks to get us through the winter…. both physically and also by stocking Hattie up for our trip south…. she can hold a few more kilos on her frame!
Once again we have been on a bit of a gastronomic journey over the last few weeks, squeezing in another visit to Dishoom and the Hand and Flowers – the venison was particularly good – however, we have also tried three new places which were all exceptional.
My mum had been talking about a local pop up restaurant project which was run occasionally near Marlow in benefit of Syrian Refugees. The chef – Imad Alarnab – was in fact a refugee himself and now that he has been lucky enough to set up a business, he is putting back into the community by running pop up events. The food was delicious, the venue was great – it is a fantastic looking coffee shop by day so I need to pop back when we are back – and the atmosphere was lively – all in all a great evening for an excellent cause…. highly recommend it if you happen to be in the area at the right time, or fall upon one of his pop up restaurants or Falafel stalls in London as his Falafel are second to none! Unfortunately as we were sharing a table with another couple – which incidentally was a lovely mix – we got distracted talking too much – no surprises then – and I only managed to take photos of the falafel and Babaganoush …..
Our second new restaurant was found as it was Keiths sisters’ birthday just over a week ago. Not that we needed an excuse but we took the opportunity to do an Anderson night out, meeting for cocktails and then on for a meal at the ‘Buen Asado’ in Reading …. lots of lovely Argentinian Steak! We hadn’t been before but would definitely go back as the food and service were both excellent… no photos as I had obviously had one too many cocktails by that point …. I really am failing this week!!
We then did a little trip that we have been trying to do for a good three years now -finally making it to visit Shri Swaminarayan Mandriva – the Hindu Temple in Neasden, the largest Hindu temple outside India. The detail in the marble both externally and internally was incredible and a visit is highly recommended if you are close by. As you aren’t able to take photos inside I have copied the link to some of the most beautiful carvings so you can see more here.
We took both mums to have a look round the temple itself and then met my brother and a friend (who is Hindu) for lunch afterwards in the restaurant where we enjoyed lots of vegan delicacies. We opted for the buffet this time to try a selection of flavours, although the a la carte menu looked pretty good …. this was round one and included dhal, okra, pea fritters, paneer and naan – we were spoilt for choice and flavours and ended up contentedly full!
With it being our last week in the UK before we travelled south for a couple of months, we spent it catching up with friends and family and stocking up the cupboards with those weirdly important things you struggle to get – or really aren’t quite the same – whilst away…..marmite, decent bread flour, yeast, coconut cream, black beans, decent oats, bacon…. oh and a couple of jars of Waitrose mincemeat so I can make some mince pies !!
Not quite having eaten enough, we went to my brothers for dinner on Thursday night and my sister in law had just taken delivery of the Dishoom cookbook….. I can confirm that we don’t need to go back to Dishoom again! Although the recipes are pretty complex and involve a lot of spices (and time) the Chicken Ruby curry and Black Lentil Dhal that Farah cooked were spot on…. restaurant standard! Very happy to have had that as our penultimate supper in the UK – a fantastic curry and we will happily help Farah test any recipes she wishes to try going forwards!….. Although I am not sure that we are going to be making any of the recipes in the motorhome unfortunately….. that’s a lot of different spice to carry!
Fat and happy – I am not running or doing anything aerobic at the moment due to a foot injury going back nearly seven weeks now – we set off from what had become a rather muddy field on Saturday morning. I love the farm but it is fair to say that I won’t miss the quantity of mud we have been bringing into the motorhome for the last couple of weeks!
The journey south has been pretty good so far considering the time of year with our first stop being at St Valery sur Somme as usual. A beautiful little town with a great Aire, lots of lovely walking and cycling – although we didn’t do any this time – close to a supermarket where I think we confused the checkout lady with our very unbalanced diet…..stocking up with a large caulifour, a couple of Camembert, goats cheese and some Pont d’eveque to go with 15 litres of red wine…. ahem!
Day two saw us travel to Vendome where we have also stayed before. It is also a beautiful town with a free Aire just outside the campsite which is closed at this time of year. This year we arrived on the first day of its Christmas market which was small but all artisanal and quite nice. The SatNav had tried to direct us through the town center right next to the market but thankfully memory kicked in on the previous route we followed…. although we have since found a better route in and out so we won’t annoy any more locals than we need to going forwards!!
Although the rain threatened this morning we woke to almost darkness (at 7:45am….) and managed to get our exercise done, showered and breakfasted before it started to rain again which was quite nice. The days journey was grey and wet for the most but without issue so we have to be happy.
We switched our stopover location from February to a little village called Cavignac where there is a Super U with a fuel station that we could fill up at and reverse out – large vehicles are a bit of an issue in France – and a nice little free Aire (without services) overlooking the vinyards – GPS n 45.100399 w 0.39111.
The weather is supposed to be getting better as of tomorrow but we just had a downpour so we will keep an open mind to see how the next few days play out …. although we are feeling hopeful that we won’t hit any snow!