Monday, 27 October 2014

Highgate Woods, London, and O Moinho

Back to Highgate Woods on Sunday, with most of north London also promenading through them. It was a gloomy light that seeped through the trees from a dove-grey sky. In England, there are a thousand different shades of grey days. We had to get out though: as the first day that the clocks go back for winter, it was high in our minds that we'll need to grab all the daylight we can for the next few months.

Today, however, is beautiful. Duck-egg blue sky, not a cloud and the leaves turning gently to brown. Of course, today is also Monday, so public transportation, crowded streets and... I wanted to write: the next 8.5 hours of my life traded for some cash, but that sounds so negative.

Instead, I will tell you about O Moinho, a wonderful Portuguese restaurant we found on Saturday night. Son has recently returned from Vancouver, so we wanted a good catch-up and, also, we had talked about but never actually went to the area of south London known as Little Portugal, because of its tens of thousands of Portuguese immigrants, which first started coming in the 60s and 70s.

At any rate, having failed to make a reservation at the restaurant that was raved about on the internet – and discovering there would be an hour's wait once we got there – we set off for Wandsworth Road, me ringing restaurants en route. Happily, O Moinho had room for four and voila, we were sorted.

Of course, being the only restaurant in Little Portugal was a free table made me a little worried, but there was no need. The food was absolutely delicious, with all the familiar flavours of Portugal, from baccalau to giant shrimp in garlic and oil. The prices were about average for London these days: budget £25 per head if you share starters and stick to one drink a piece. But the portion sizes are immense (see photos), and the staff so smiley and pleasant that it was all an extremely good evening.

What was not so good was hearing about the grilling son and his friend had from Canadian border control: three hours of questioning, which included having their texts read, their phone pictures looked at, and generally made to feel they were being persecuted. Apparently, this is now not an uncommon experience for people entering the country, even for a 12-day visit to family and friends, as they were trying to do. They were finally allowed in, but after a 10-hour flight and a three-hour questioning, they were absolutely worn out and consequently both came down with a lurgy within days of arriving...  Do I blame the border folks? Think I do...

And so to my own travels... I'm off to the UAE on Saturday to do a couple of stories, review stays and write a blog for We Are the City – am also hoping to do my first inspection for Maiden Voyage. It's my first time further east than the Turkish coast, my first time to the Middle East, my first time going to a foreign country I've never been to before On. My. Own. Feel both incredibly excited – I'm staying at some amazing-looking places and will be interacting with and learning about birds of prey, plus I'm looking forward to discovering new countries and meeting new people and finding out about them – and slightly... Well, nervous is too strong, but let's just say it feels as though I am pushing against the boundary of my comfort zone – but this is undoubtedly a good thing!

Will be blogging here too, so watch this space...!

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