Another busy September, however this year I managed a week away and came across some lovely things:
Bel and the Dragon. This is one of my favourite boutique hotel and restaurant chains. On a recent visit to the Windsor branch I was pleasantly surprised by their veggie/vegan range of food. In the past it has always been a bit lacking but now the choice is really good. Not the cheapest place to eat or stay, however for a treat it is definitely work seeking out.
Windsor Castle – we went here to do the tour. I admit I baulked at the entry price, however once in it was well worth it. A great look at the history of the monarchy. My only slight quibble is that there is not much on our current Royal family.
I love curry and whilst visiting the NEC we found this great Indian restaurant not far away. Jilabi had the most amazing range of food. The waiter asked us our likes and challenged us to try new things. The food was fresh and tasty, and just kept coming. On top of this it is very reasonably priced. Well worth a visit. Only thing to bear in mind is that when we went they didn’t have an alcohol licence. Not to worry though – there is a Tesco in walking distance!
Sainsbury’s Avocado Sandwich – In our week off we inevitably ended up buying a quick lunch from a petrol station. The one we went to had a Sainsburys supermarket at it, and I found the most wonderful avocado sandwich. It was such a relief in the endless sea of cheese and egg mayonnaise offerings!
Beefeater have got a new menu out and I was really impressed by the vegetarian chilli. I am a bit of a purest with my chili and prefer it with kidney beans, however this offering with lentils and beans stood up well.
For the first time in many years I managed a short break in August. Normally I have been the one who is happy to work whilst others have holiday with their families. Its less crowded and cheaper out of season! But this year was different and it was good!
On our trip to Dorchester we went to Vivo Lounge. One of a chain of ‘Lounges’ they have a very good vegetarian and vegan menu and fabulous cocktails. Definitely worth finding your nearest one for a good night out.
The King and Thai – an excellent family run Thai restaurant which caters really well for vegetarians and vegans.
The Hendover Cafe – another family run business offering breakfasts, lunches and tapas evenings. Great friendly service and good quality food.
We finished off August with a visit to The Woking Food Festival. This was well run and had a multitude of stalls selling lovely vegetarian and vegan food. From sauces to pies there was so much choice! Although being surrounded by so much food made me loose my appetite, I can recommend the dosa, sauces and pickles from Ollo Foods.
Woking also has a lovely food walk in between the two parts of the Peacock shopping centre (Market Walk). A great range of food stalls and a lovely fruit and veg stall selling everything from broccoli to kohlrabi and mooli. A real treat and a good reason to go back to Woking!
My job involves meeting people and therefore travelling. Where I live and work is well connected to London, but not so much to the South Coast or the surrounding towns and villages.
I go to a lot networking events, plus I like to meet clients in person. This means I spend a lot of time in the car travelling between appointments and events. Although I have a hybrid car and try to drive efficiently, I am still concerned about the impact of my travel on the environment.
I’d like to take public transport more, but the journey times and the cost start to make it look more prohibitive. A thirty minute drive to Brighton equates to just under two hours by either bus or train. The bus is the cheapest option but the WiFi is not stable so precludes much working on the way. The train costs twice as much as driving and is generally unreliable.
Of course I am looking at this cost in terms of time and money and not the impact on the environment.
But I need to have a mindset change. A lot of my client conversations can be quite personal and detailed. I like to meet face to face as I can see their full reaction to questions and suggestions. In my previous corporate life I used to use video conferencing a lot. The picture quality was ok, but time lag could make conversations difficult. I have tried Skype over the years but always found that the system drops out after about 15 minutes.
Recently I was introduced to Zoom. I joined a group call and was amazed by the quality and stability of the system. So I have started to book Zoom calls with existing and potential clients. This has so far been met with enthusiasm.
Looking at my diary this is freeing up much more time in the office and means I can walk to work more.
There will still be days where using the car will be the only practical option, however I am committed to making these days the exception rather than the norm.
June was a busy month at work, but I also managed a cheeky weekend away. It was good to get some warm, dry weather at last, and so I managed some time out in the garden. I can definitely feel my energy returning with the warmer weather. In June I loved the following:
Earth Kind – In my effort to cut down my plastic use I am always on the look out for hints and tips. Earth Kind provide a consultancy service to help you reduce your plastic use. Definitely worth getting in touch if you would like a helping hand in moving towards a zero waste lifestyle.
We managed a few days away in Cornwall and were taken to The Coddy Shack in Looe. This is a fish and chip shop which also has a fully licensed restaurant. It sells more than just fish and chips and has a really good vegetarian menu. The cakes are good too!
Brewers Fayre – On our few days away we ended up staying at a Premier Inn with very little food choices nearby. However I was pleasantly surprised by the Veggie/Vegan offering from Brewers Fayre. The price and portion size were good, and there were even starters I could eat (one for Beefeater to take note of!)
Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll – another reflection on time spent out and about! I finally succumbed at a motorway service station and tried the vegan sausage roll. I have to say I was not expecting to like it, but now if I am hungry, and in a hurry, it will probably be my go to ‘on the run’ snack. The first time ever I have liked something in Greggs!
I have just had the most glorious few days away in Spain.
A great trip with the right combination of relaxation, exploring and cultural delights.
When we arrived my partner and I were both exhausted. We had worked or volunteered almost every day in the previous couple of months, so a break was needed. We gave ourselves permission to recuperate. This meant having a decent amount of resting time. This started on the first day fo our city break. We had breakfast and then went back to our room and back to bed for a few hours. We slept solidly, so must have needed it.
Our days were filled with visiting the local tourist sites and then sitting in a local park for the last part of each afternoon – refreshment and kindle in hand.
The evening food foray was probably the most stressful part of the day. Despite thoroughly search Trip Advisor, restaurants mentioned as being “vegetarian friendly” were not always so, and also the opening hours mentioned did not always tie up with reality.
The biggest thing that became apparent was that Spanish customer service is quite different to that in the UK. Staff attentiveness to customer needs was quite rare. One restaurant we went into we were greeted and seated, and then watched as the same member of staff washed the floor before handing us a menu or asking if we would like a drink. The arrival of another member of staff did not improve things. She merely washed the same floor as had been done when we arrived.
This lack of attentiveness was apparent is almost every establishment we went to. As for the young lady in the local supermarket we visited most days, she did not crack a smile once. She could give you a look of “how dare you interrupt me” as you stood patiently at the till. Her colleague on the bread counter was the complete opposite.
Finding vegetarian food was a bit of a challenge. Although there is a vast array of veggie friendly Spanish food it appeared to be difficult to track it down. Tapas menus would be lengthy but veggie options often almost impossible to find. We did find food and it was lovely. I guess I always think it is a shame that in a large city it is difficult to experience the vegetarian food that fills the cookbooks.
This is something I have experienced on many trips. I wonder if people visiting London find the same thing?
Another cultural difference was the size of the beer glasses. Used to ordering pints, we had to quickly get used to the smaller serving sizes. Not wanting to resort to going to the usual Irish Pub we persevered with the local bars. Not once de we find a pint glass, or anything near it. The locals seem very happy having small servings and having repeated trips to the bar. You could buy larger servings by going to the supermarket and buying cans or bottles there.
We were also intrigued by the fact that you could sit at the park and buy a beer at any time of the day. Perhaps these smaller servings of drinks breed a better respect for alcohol. The smaller servings did not just relate to alcohol. After a particularly warm walk I sat down looking forward to a refreshing orange juice. Imagine my surprise as my juice arrived in a small tumbler. Coffee also arrived in much smaller amounts than I am used to.
On the plus side the proliferation of coffee shops and the more relaxed lifestyle, meant that vey few people had take-away coffee and you rarely saw used cups in bins. In fact I saw very little plastic waste as we walked around the city. Where I live the increased number of coffee shops has led to an increase in waste.
I love to travel and experience different cultures. It does leave me wondering what visitors to England think of us. Is there anything they see that they would like to ee in their own countries? Or anything that they find more difficult when visiting?
Do you ever walk into a hotel bathroom and think, ‘ooh this is nice – roomy, nicely decorated, shower and a separate bath!’?
And then you start to use it and wonder what the designers were thinking?
A vast expanse of wall to use but the toilet roll holder is put somewhere where you can’t easily reach it (usually behind you). Toilets wedged in close to the shower for no apparent reason.
Towel holders are on the other side of the room to the bath/shower, even though there is ample wall space to have them closer. I love staying at Mal Maison – they have lovely rooms and their bathrooms always look and feel luxurious. They do fall down on easy to reach towel holders.
Sinks are frequently designed to look good, but not to use. At Champneys I had a lovely looking sink, however it was so wide that it took forever to fill as it was so wide. Often you get those deep, but small square or oval sinks, with taps which come out so far into the bowl that you can’t wash your face without headbutting the taps or hitting them with your hands.
Then you get the taps that were not designed for the sink. Taps that don’t reach far enough into the sink so that you can’t wash your hands under running water.
When you re-do your own bathroom you probably spend ages looking at how best to maximise the space. You have a good think about what you are going to need where, and how you will be using the space.
Is it me, or does this not seem to happen in hotel design?
April – a month of holidays, warmer weather and a special party
Seville – My partner and I managed to escape the cooler weather and spent 6 nights in Seville. It is a lovely city, easily discoverable on foot (and lot of trams to get around on) plus great train links to other cities. We also managed a day trip to Cadiz by train. Eating out as a vegetarian was interesting but not overly difficult. The restaurants in the centre generally had a better vegetarian choice. The restaurants used by the locals were more limited, but did have better atmosphere. Our hotel also had an excellent environmental policy……
Dance In The Hurricane – I am a big fan of Toyah and have been since 1980. Her latest album, In The Court Of the Crimson Queen, is a great re-working of a previous album with some great new tracks added. Dance In The Hurricane is probably my favourite new track. It is deeply personal and poignant and brings back memories to me of my own family.
We celebrated my Aunt Meg’s 90th birthday, and I was put in charge of organising the cake for the party. To be honest I was a bit daunted by this. I love cake and am great at eating it, but cooking or ordering one was a whole new world for me. I also had to please both my sister and my aunt. No pressure then. Making it myself was an immediate no go. Time constraints and my inability to cook any cake that doesn’t come our brick-like were my biggest issues. But trying to find a cake maker who could do produce one was much more of a struggle than i expected. Apparently they get fully booked up months in advance. Luckily for me I found Putty Cakes, who produced the most amazing cake, beautifully decorated and conveniently located on the way to the party venue.
It never ceases to amaze me how the attitude of staff in the same company can vary so much and make so much of a difference to your experience with that company.
Today I ventured out to meet a friend and decided that I would take the bus rather than drive or take the train. I travel a lot for work and tend to drive so was keen to be able to switch off for a bit. I could have taken the train however it means changing and hopping the connecting trains are working. And with Southern and that is all a bit up in the air. The bus gave the option of starting my journey within easy reach of my home, takes rough the same time as the train, but required no changes. On top of that the return fare was over £4 cheaper.
It is my first time doing such a journey on a bus and the driver on the way out did not instill me with the sunny disposition a first time journey requires. In fact he was quite gruff and appeared bored, even slightly annoyed, that someone wanted to get on his bus. When I arrived at my destination I wanted to check where the return bus stop was. He looked slightly miffed at my question and, whilst answering, did not look at me at all.
Ho hum. At least I knew how to get home.
The driver on the way back was completely different. Friendly smile when I got on, and happily checked my ticket and welcomed me aboard. He greeted everyone who got on board and patiently and politely answered all questions- giving extra details so you would know exactly where you were going to get off. This is a man who knows that just having a seat on a bus does not make the journey for a lot of people.
Overall the bus journey was a lot more sedate than taking the train. The passengers tended to be less noisy and would be having happy conversations with each other. They tended to be on the more mature side. As there are no tables on a bus there was less spreading of belongings and generally people kept themselves and their litter, to themselves.
I will be taking the bus more often in the future.
When people find out that I am vegetarian 95% of the time they remark” really? You don’t look like one”. Apart from asking “what does a vegetarian look like?” I never really know how to react to this.
Society today is obsessed with the ‘perfect body’. We know that magazines are full of photoshopped images and that most people now have a distorted idea of what a healthy body should look like – at any age. Even though I am aware of all of this it does make me slightly uneasy with my own figure.
I mostly eat healthily – veg, salad, pulses, nuts, fruit – however I have a very real love affair with sugar. I don’t do artificial sweeteners and haven’t found a stevia product I like the after taste of.
This sugar issue means that I am slightly more ‘cuddly’ in the middle than society would like. I am still a healthy weight though.
Various changes in myth life over the last few years have meant that I am not getting to the gym as much (or ever) as I used to. I pretty much work 6 days a week. This means that on my free days catching up on housework and relaxing tend to get top priority. Getting out to exercise has dropped off the priority list.
I am very aware that this is within my control (to a great extent). I have chosen to re-prioritise exercise in my life. It is something I am reviewing.
My busy life means that I tend to have less time to prepare food than I used to. The ‘on the go’ food options for veggies predominantly focus on cheese and bread options, or over chilled sandwiches of egg or tomato that leave them tasteless. Or chips. Love chips!
Although the range of veggie food is slowly changing, for me interesting, tasty, easy to eat veggie food on the go still mostly doesn’t exist.
With a bit of extra effort I can remedy this situation, and I am making changes. However wouldn’t it be nice to have a larger, more widely available choice of healthy , vegetarian fast food? All those shelves of chicken salad – could we not have the option of buying a salad and then a ‘protein’ to go with it? A flexible meal deal to appeal to everyone? Or am I the only one who is bored with the current offerings?
For now I am putting extra effort into making my own lunches and tking healthy snacks with me. It still doesn’t stop the lure of a good doughnut, but it is a start.