22 July 2016

Do Something New Each Day - June 2016

Day 153 - 1 June 2016 - Watched the movie 'Dallas Buyers Club'

I finally got to watch this very good movie. Don't want to say too much and spoil it for you. I'll just say that Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto received well deserved Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively. For more info click here.

Day 154 - 2 June 2016 - Had a meal at 'Moose & Moonshine' in Liverpool

This is a new restaurant, brother to Moose Coffee (a favourite of mine) - so I had to have a meal there too. Well worth it! You can read my review here.

Day 155 - 3 June 2016 - Listened to the album 'Odessey And Oracle' by The Zombies

While waiting for my flight to Barcelona I had the chance to listen to this 60s album, which is in the list of 100 best albums of all time (Rolling Stone magazine).

It had some good songs and some that weren't really to my taste, so I don't think that I'd be listening to it frequently. Click here for more info.

Day 156 - 4 June 2016 - Had dinner at 'Caballa Canalla' in Barcelona

My Barcelona trip was a last-minute addition. You see, I've already been there and have seen what I need to see. But when a very good friend of yours flies out to Europe from the US for a week and you can just about meet her for a weekend, anywhere is good!

Unfortunately, on the first day we decided to have dinner at this particular restaurant. I wish we hadn't but you learn from your mistakes! Read my review here.

Day 157 - 5 June 2016 - Visited Andorra

Since we were only about 3 hours drive from Andorra, I grabbed the opportunity to tick another country off my bucket list!! Andorra is the 6th smallest nation in Europe, with an area of just 468 square kilometres.

We stayed in the capital, Andorra la Vella, a beautiful town located in a valley surrounded by the Pyrenees. Unlike Liechtenstein, I really liked Andorra. The scenery is amazing and you can certainly spend a few days hiking or simply exploring it by car. The people are very friendly and the country is so cheap!!! If you want to stock up for Xmas, you should certainly consider it as all items are duty free! We're talking about 1.5 ltr bottles of Jack Daniels and whiskeys at only 9 euros!!!!

The drive from Spain towards Andorra is also very picturesque. For more info on Andorra, click here.

Day 158 - 6 June 2016 - Had a meal at 'L'Ostia', in Barcelona

Upon our return from Andorra, and after exploring a bit of Barcelona, we stopped in one of my favourite little squares (Plaza de la Barceloneta) for lunch. We tried this restaurant as it seemed to be full of locals. Lovely restaurant and very nice food. You can read my review here.

Day 159 - 7 June 2016 - Had coffee at 'Rococo Coffee House', in Liverpool

After my return from Barcelona, on the 7th June I visited a little gem of a place. Most of my friends have already been there so finally I also did. A very nice and cozy cafe in the centre of Liverpool. You can read my review here (the photos are from Google).

Day 160 - 8 June 2016 - Visited Birkenhead Priory

Most people, even from around Liverpool, most probably haven't heard of Birkenhead Priory. It's a pity, because it is the oldest standing building on Merseyside! It's a small building, surrounded by industrial landscape and the river Mersey. But it's worth reading about its history and importance in the old ages (click here).

Day 161 - 9 June 2016 - Listened to the album "Drums Of Passion" by Babatunde Olatunji

This album is listed in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 40 most groundbreaking albums of all time. And I have to say that I wish I could experience the tracks of the album live, in a concert. It would be awesome!!

The album would certainly keep you moving - that's for sure! For a bit more info, here's what Rolling Stone says:

"The 1960 album that launched "world music" in America (and inspired an infinite number of parking lot and college lawn drum circles) was created by Babatunde Olatunji, a Nigerian who moved to the United States in 1957 to attend college, and a cast of African-American singers and percussionists. "Jin-Go-Lo-Ba," the album's most memorable track, has been covered by Santana ("Jingo"), Serge Gainsbourg ("Marabout") and Fatboy Slim, among others. Jazz greats Herbie Mann, Max Roach, Randy Weston and Horace Silver all began to explore African music under its influence. And while Olatunji slipped below the radar during Afropop's 1980s heyday, he opened the Grateful Dead's 1985 New Year's Eve show, introducing the Americas' most visible African-music presence to a new young audience."

Day 162 - 10 June 2016 - Listened to the album "The In Sound From Way Out" by Perrey And Kingsley

Wow!! If you're down with the blues, then this album will bring your smile back! If you know nothing about it, you'd think it's either the soundtrack to a new Super Mario game, or to a French 60s comedy. It's not! In fact, it is widely considered the first commercial album to be composed of electronic music! And considering that it was released in 1966, it makes it quite groundbreaking! Click here for more info.

Day 163 - 11 June 2016 - Had dinner at 'Miyagi', in Liverpool

It's owners describe its food as 'Japanese soul food meets ghetto Asian". So, I'm not sure if the famous Mr Miyagi is its owner, or Karate Kid is now a chef, but the food was simply delicious!! And yes, this is another great restaurant located in Bold Street. You can read my review here.

Day 164 - 12 June 2016 - Tried Liverpool Gin

Unfortunately, the weather in June has been poor. And since I have been mainly catching up with friends, following my May travels, opportunities to do something new have been limited. However, I was looking forward to try Liverpool Gin, a "premium, complex, organic product made using only pure certified organic botanicals, to produce a highly distinctive, aromatic drink".

And, to be honest, I really liked it. Whether on its own, with ice or with tonic, it's slightly on the dry side but very easy on the palate. Well done Liverpool!! For more info click here.

Day 165 - 13 June 2016 - Listened to the album "Time Out" by The Dave Brubeck Quartet

I guess whenever you hear the name Dave Brubeck Quartet your mind goes straight to 'Take Five'. And since I've never had the chance to listen to this album before, which is also in the list of the 40 ground breaking albums of all time, it was time to do so.

Apparently, it was the first jazz album to use more complicated elements, such as measures of 5/4 and 9/8, which were all but danceable in the US when the album was released in 1959. Brubeck was in Turkey at the time and he heard some of the lopsided rhythms he used in the album.

I have to admit the album seems a bit too experimental for an easy listening - I guess it would mostly attract an experienced musician. But it's nice, nevertheless. Click here for more info.

Day 166 - 14 June 2016 - Saw Elton John live at Liverpool's Echo Arena

Two 'firsts' on this day! My first ever Elton John concert and my first visit to Liverpool's Echo Arena. I can't say that I'm a massive Elton John fan, but he certainly is great live!! Definitely a great evening.

Day 167 - 15 June 2016 - Watched the movie 'The Book Thief'

Although not as good as the original book by Markus Zusac, this is still a very good film with some very good performances. Click here for more info.

Day 168 - 16 June 2016 - Watched the movie 'The Great Dictator'

The film was Charlie Chaplin's first ever sound film and most commercially successful film ever. Although it was nominated for 5 Oscars, it did not win any. However, it is ranked no 54 on IMDB's list of Greatest Films of All Time. It's a great satirical work from Chaplin, who keeps part of his slapstick comedy but also ventures into some serious political condemnation of fascism. I guess it's quite as relevant back then as it is nowadays. Click here for more info.

Day 169 - 17 June 2016 - Tried 'Sicilian Pistachio Sorbet' and 'Tonde Gentille Hazelnut Gelato' from La Gelateria, in London

Now this was something I really enjoyed very very much! Although the photo doesn't show how delicious both flavours were, the taste is simply AMAZING! To the left is the pistachio sorbet and on the right is the gelato.

Both flavours are on the list of the 50 foods you have to try in the UK, from the Great Taste Awards 2015 website. And they tasted so good that it felt as if you were eating fresh pistachios and hazelnuts with your ice cream. For more info on this lovely place, click here.

Day 170 - 18 June 2016 - Visited Bidston Hill

So, on Saturday 18 June I took a walk around Bidston Hill, an area of about 100 acres of heathland and woodland containing historic buildings and ancient rock carvings. The hill is in the Wirral peninsula, just a few minutes by train from Liverpool.

Some of the most interesting buildings, as seen in the photos above, were:

The Bidston Windmill: the windmill replaced a wooden mill that was destroyed by fire in 1791 and was used to grind wheat until about 1875.

The Bidston Observatory: built in 1866, one of its functions was to determine the exact time. In 1929 its work was merged with the University of Liverpool Tidal Institute, which was then taken over in 1969 by the Natural Environment Research Council.

The Bidston Lighthouse: built in 1873, it was operational until 9 October 1913. It is now privately owned and occasionally open to the public.

While I was walking around I was surprised to see that, unlike other walking areas in the Wirral, this hill had been left a bit 'untidy' - with very few well signed paths and in general not as well looked after. That was until I came across a sign in the windmill which explains why. It says:

"The land, including the woods surrounding this windmill, containing (with the adjacent piece of land known as Thermopylae) about 90 acres was purchased from R. C. de Grey Vyner during the years 1894 to 1908 at a cost of £30,310. Of this sum the Corporation of Birkenhead contributed £14,625 and £15,685 was raised by public subscription. A portion of the land, viz:- the eastern wood, containing 22 acres, was purchased as a memorial to the late Edmund Taylor, of Oxton, in recognition of his great services in connection with the acquisition of Bidston Hill for the benefit of the public. The land belongs to and is maintained at the expense of the Corporation of Birkenhead, but according to the deeds of conveyance it must always be used as an open space and place of public recreation, and must be preserved and maintained as far as possible in its present wild and natural condition, special care being given to the preservation of the trees, gorse, heath and heather and also of this windmill. Bye-laws have been made and a keeper and assistant appointed to see that they are observed. The public, for whose enjoyment alone the land was secured, are invited to aid in preserving it from fire and damage."

Day 171 - 19 June 2016 - Watched the movie 'Yojimbo'

A 1961 film, directed by the great Akira Kurosawa, which influenced Holywood's bosses into making a remake of it: the well known "A Fistful of Dollars' starring Clint Eastwood. To be honest I didn't know about this film until I saw it in No 107 of IMDB's greatest films of all time - so I had to see what it was all about. It was interesting but not as good as other Kurosawa films. Click here for more info.

Day 172 - 20 June 2016 - Tried '75% Criollo Cocoa (Madagascar)' chocolate by Akesson's

People who know me know about my love of good chocolate - in fact, I've written a blog about it which you can read hereSo, when I compare chocolates, DO NOT think that the comparison is against sugary snacks like Cadburys, Thorntons, etc.

This time I tried one that is in the list of the 50 foods to try in the UK this year. The company that made it (Akesson's) has won numerous awards, so I couldn't really resist. This particular one is a single plantation chocolate, made from a very limited quantity of Criollo cocoa beans from the Bertil Akesson's estate in the Sambirano Valley, Madagascar.

Organic cocoa, pure organic cocoa butter, cane sugar and GMO-free soya lecithin are its only ingredients. Not as bitter as you'd expect from a 75% dark chocolate, it brings aroma of raisins to the nose. Very filling - just a tiny bit will be enough!! You can see more info about Akesson's in the link here.

Day 173 - 21 June 2016 - Watched the movie 'Vanity Fair'

I love period movies. But usually I read the book first before watching the movie. This time, I decided to watch it before reading the book. It's a very enjoyable movie, which makes me think that the 1848 novel by William Makepeace Thackeray will be great! Will definitely get my hands on a copy soon!

Despite Reese Witherspoon, which I personally don't rate than match as an actress, the performance from the cast was very good. Click here for more info.

Day 174 - 22 June 2016 - Tried Cascara coffee at Root Coffee, in Liverpool

Unlike May, when the weather was warm and sunny, June has been miserable!! So, not many opportunities to venture out in the countryside - instead, visiting local places was the norm.

On that particular day I did two 'new things'. I visited for the first time Root Coffee, a lovely, cozy coffee shop in the centre of the city. And, secondly, I finally tried 'Cascara'.

Cascara is something between coffee and tea. It is blended from the dried coffee cherries (skins), once the coffee beans have been removed. And since the process is simple (let them soak in hot water and pour) the final outcome looks more like tea, tastes something between a strong tea or a weak coffee, but it has tons of caffeine to keep you awake all day!!! And even though I'm not a tea drinker, I found it quite nice, albeit unique, in taste.

The photos of the coffee shop are from Google. The photos of the coffee are mine. You can read my review of Root Coffee here.

Day 175 - 23 June 2016 - Voted in a referendum for the first time

The Scots did it, the Greeks did it, so it was my chance to cast my vote on my first ever Referendum. Obviously, as we all know, the result was not one I had hoped for so it remains to be seen whether 52% of the voters were right or wrong.

Day 176 - 24 June 2016 - Saw the 'Golden Boy Of Pye Corner', London's First Drinking Fountain and the only public statue of Henry VIII in London

This was another one of my mini walks around London after work, to see some of the not-so-touristy, secret attractions of the capital. All three of the monuments I saw are lined up in Giltspur Street, near St Paul's Cathedral. So, let's start:

The Golden Boy Of Pye Corner: this gilded statue of a fat, little boy marks the limits of the Great Fire of London. It was erected to put an end to the conflicting theories about the cause of the fire. It was initially blamed on a French silversmith, who was executed - it was later discovered he had arrived in London two days after the fire. A famous astrologer who had predicted the fire was then blamed. The Catholics were next. Eventually, the City elders decided to blame it on the sin of gluttony and, to make their point, they erected a sign to reinforce their message.

London's First Drinking Fountain: set into the railings of St Sepulchre Church, it was inaugurated in April 1859. Its red granite is a memorial to Samuel Gurney, who had established on the same year the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association. Gurney, an MP, had been alarmed by the insalubrious quality of London's drinking water. The inscription urges thirsty passers by to replace the cup. Today, two original metal mugs are fastened to the railings with chains.

Henry VIII statue: Above the Henry Gate entrance to St Bartholomew's Hospital stands another prodigiously fat boy, immortalised in stone. Topped with a strange little crown, this is the only public statue of Henry VIII in London.

Day 177 - 25 June 2016 - Visited '92 Degrees Coffee', in Liverpool

Another visit to another lovely independent cafe in the centre of Liverpool. It's usually packed with students but this time I arrived early on a Saturday, for my first coffee of the day, and found a place to sit :) Very cozy place and the staff actually knows how to make a proper, tasty coffee!

Day 178 - 26 June 2016 - Watched the movie 'Mrs Miniver'

I've never heard of this movie until I added it to my list because it won 6 Oscars back in 1943 (including Best Picture). Without knowing anything about it, it is just a normal movie about the start of World War II. It did not really impress me.

However, once you read more about it you see why it played such an important role in the US. It went into production in 1940, before the US joined the war. But by the time of its release in 1942 the script and many scenes were changed over and over again to reflect the increasingly pro-British and anti-German outlook of Americans. Roosevelt ordered it rushed to the theaters for propaganda purposes. Click here for more info.

Day 179 - 27 June 2016 - Tried '100% Criollo Cocoa Madagascar' chocolate, by Akesson's

Another award winning chocolate by Akesson's and another one in the list of the 50 foods to try in the UK for 2015. This time, a bar made of 100% cocoa, from criollo cocoa beans grown in the Ambolikapiky plantantion in Madagascar.

With a 100% cocoa content you'd think it is extremely bitter in taste. It is not!!!! It has a silky texture on the inside and it tastes more like a 75% cocoa one. Not one of my personal favourites, mainly because I like a bit of sweetness in my chocolate. But it would certainly appeal to people that prefer their coffee with no sugar - and its healthy too, since it has no sugar at all!!!

Day 180 - 28 June 2016 - Tried 'Rye Crumb, Milk & Sea Salt Ecuador 60%' chocolate, by Pump Street Bakery

The weather in June continued to be miserable, so a constant supply of chocolate was important to boost morale!!

This time, I got my hands on a chocolate bar from another award winning company, Pump Street Bakery, based in Orford in Suffolk. Their chocolates are hand-made and most have won numerous awards.

This particular one was an Academy Of Chocolate Gold Winner in 2015. Made from Equadorian beans, I was looking forward to giving it a try as I love sea salt in chocolate. But I was a bit disappointed.

First of all, I loved the crunchiness the rye crumbs gave it. Loved it! But there was not enough taste to it. It was neither salty, nor milky, nor sweet. A bit bland, to be precise. Pity, because I really liked the way it breaks into your mouth and crunches with every bite. For more info on the company, click here.

Day 181 - 29 June 2016 - Tried 'Madagascar Milk 58%' chocolate, by Pump Street Bakery

If at first you don't succeed...

After the previous day's disappointment, I was determined to taste a much better chocolate from Pump Street Bakery. So I tried the one that is in the list of the 50 foods to try in the UK in 2015.

A milk chocolate, made from 58% cocoa beans from the Ambanja region in Madagascar. Definitely much better, creamy, with notes of caramel.

Day 182 - 30 June 2016 - Tried 'Grenada 70%' chocolate, by Pump Street Bakery

Before you ask, no - I don't eat the whole chocolate bars I try on a particular day!!! After all, this chocolate is so filling (as it's not full of sugar) that a coupe of pieces will keep you full all day. So, all I can say is that any of my friends that happen to come round or meet me in town on any particular day, are quite lucky!

Final day of June, still miserable, so lets end it with another piece of chocolate. This one was my favourite from the three from Pump Street Bakery. Starts slightly bitter, then changes into hints of pepper, finishing off on a milder tone.

June review

Considering the travelling I did in May, June was a bit of a disappointment. The weather was rainy, so food and meeting up with friends locally was the order for the month. However, I did manage to tick off one more country in my bucket list (Andorra).

In total, I tried 8 award winning food/drink (mainly chocolate), visited 6 restaurants/cafes, watched 6 movies, listened to 4 albums and visited 3 attractions around Liverpool and London (actually I saw more than three on those days). I also visited Andorra for the first time, saw Elton John live in concert and took part in my first ever referendum!!

No comments:

Post a Comment