Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
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- Recent Entries:
- Lunch with Erika
Playground with Erika
Erika meets Ralph
Back to Work
Monaco to London
Sunday in Monaco
Saturday in Nice and Monaco
London to Nice
Ashford and Peckham
- Lunch with Erika
- [Friday 19th September 2014]
Erika came to my office for lunch. We went to the Japanese-ish cafe in my office which recently re-opened.
In the evening I stayed around for TGIF, and it was nice enough to sit out on the balcony. Ended the evening with pizza at Oliveto, and probably one too many mirtos.
- Playground with Erika
- [Thursday 18th September 2014]
Erika was off nursery today, as she has a bit of a cold at the moment, and had a bit of a rough night last night. So Chie stayed home to look after her in the morning, and in the afternoon we swapped over and I looked after her.
After a daytime nap, I thought she had perked up enough to go out for a bit, so I took her to the very nice playground near the Houses of Parliament, which seemed a fittingly political venue today as the Scottish referendum was on. She had plenty of goes on the swings and the slide, and a good play with the water feature, the musical platform thing, and the roundabout. It was rather lovely. I think I may have been the only person accompanying a child there who wasn't a nanny.
Erika fell asleep on the way back to the flat, and I had a very pleasant peaceful half hour to myself reading Counrty Life with a Negroni, before making a start on dinner.
Chie stayed late at the office to make up for missing the morning so I fed Erika her dinner - we all had Japanese curry and encouragingly Erika ate a decent amount.
- St. James's
- [Wednesday 17th September 2014]
Dropped Erika off early at nursery this morning, and I decided to walk to St. James's to get my hair cut. En route I bumped into a marching band and a regiment of soldiers.
It was a delight as ever to visit Phillip at Briggs, we chatted about Kentish Town - where we're still hoping to buy a flat. Phillip had apparently lived there for a short while in the 1940s, as there is a Cypriot community there. It felt oddly reassuring to have the place endorsed by him.
- [Tuesday 16th September]
- [Monday 15th September]
- Erika meets Ralph
- [Sunday 14th September 2014]
Kyle and Hannah brought their son Ralph round for a picnic, and to meet Erika for the first time. I spent most of the morning preparing sushi, but it wasn't actually particularly successful owing to the rice not being cooked quite right - it's surprisingly difficult to scale up the quantities when cooking rice. Anyway, it all looked quite nice at least.
We felt a spot of rain after a while so headed inside for tea and cake. I felt like I spent the remainder of the day washing up.
- [Saturday 13th September 2014]
Played with Erika's balloons and birthday presents in the morning, then headed out for lunch. I thought Erika might enjoy going to a kaiten sushi place (the ones with the conveyor belts), and did a bit of research accordingly, but ended up going for Yo! Sushi as we thought it would be more child friendly than the others. A bit disappointingly, Erika fell asleep on the way there so missed it all. Went for coffee after that at an Italian place called Said, which was half cafe, half coffee shop. Then on to Whole Foods where we got something for Erika to have for a late lunch.
In the evening the girls went off to an Okonomiyaki party at a friend of Chie's house in North London, and I was left to my own devices. As it was London Fashion Week I decided to have another go at my seemingly annual pursuit of trying to find a bar where the fashion industry types were hanging around so I could enjoy the glamorous hub bub. Again, it wasn't particularly successful, I tried One Aldwych first, then later on Scarfes Bar. Neither were obviously particularly full of fashion week types.
- [Friday 12th September 2014]
Neither of us could be bothered to cook, and fancied something vaguely Chinese for dinner, so we ventured out to the "Dim T" in Pimlico, which isn't particularly wonderful, but is close by, and had outdoor seating, so we could eat without worrying we might be disturbing other diners. It was still just about warm enough to sit outside.
- New Jacket
- [Thursday 11th September 2014]
Picked up a new jacket today, which I'd bought a couple of weeks again from the quirky little tailors in Pimlico called Volpe. I'd bought it on whim whilst waiting for some Chinese takeaway next door. It's perhaps a tad on the small side, and I'm still unconvinced by patch pockets and elbow patches, but I really liked the cloth, and it was in the sale and seemed like a pittance.
- Erika's Birthday
- [Wednesday 10th September 2014]
Having been to Monaco the weekend immediately before, we hadn't really planned much for the day of Erika's birthday itself. So she went off to nursery as usual, and we went off to work as usual in the daytime. In the evening I managed to get back a bit before Chie and Erika, and blew up some birthday balloons for her. Then we had a flurry of opening birthday presents, followed by pasta for dinner, and an Anpanman birthday cake, which Chie had spent most of yesterday evening baking.
I'm not sure Erika is old enough to understand what it all means - I don't think she really has a concept of what day of the week it is yet, let alone what day of the year, but nonetheless she seemed to be having a lovely time opening her presents and playing with her new toys. Chie got her a little buggy to push around, as she'd seen other kids with these and had enjoyed playing with theirs. I got her a zoo Lego Duplo set, and a marble run, the latter possibly providing more entertainment for me than it did for Erika.
- Back to Work
- [Tuesday 9th September 2014]
Back to work today after our long weekend away. I'm not sure if it's a sign of getting old, but it feels like by the end of the last few trips away we've had I've been really keen to get back home to the comfort and familiarity of London. In fact during our ill-fated trip to Italy earlier this summer both Chie and I wanted to just pack up and go home about half way though (it did of course improve at the end of the trip when we got to Florence and saw Lorenzo). This trip to the Cote d'Azur had been unusual because I really didn't get that sense for once, and actually at the end of the trip I wished we could have stayed for at least another night or two. I guess we've just been to Monaco enough times now that it feels familiar and comfortable.
Whilst my loyalty to London is far too strong to even contemplate saying I begrudged being back here today, at work at least the rather mundane and lacklustre surroundings (by which I really mean the people) were a grating contrast to the seemingly effortless glamour of everyone in Monaco.
Had Japanese food for dinner, which seems to be a recurring theme when returning from travel, particularly as Erika had eaten pasta pretty much every day for the past four days, and we thought it important that she have a bit of variety.
- Monaco to London
- [Monday 8th September 2014]
I woke up very early this morning - not long after 6 - and headed out onto the balcony to catch the sunrise. I think I was a bit too early though, and after about 20 minutes of pleasant dawn light, but not the actual sunrise, I gave up and went back to bed.
Another excellent breakfast out on the terrace at the hotel, and then sadly it was time to check out. This is actually the first time we've stayed two nights in Monaco - on previous trips it's always just been a single night at the end of the trip.
Our day pass on the bus was still valid this morning, and we decided the bus would be the most reliable way to get back to the station in a timely fashion, particularly as we'd now figured out the best entrance to use for getting in. So that all went very smoothly. Surprisingly Erika fell asleep en route, and was still asleep when we changed onto the TGV at Nice, which was good as I was concerned she might not be able to get off to sleep once we got on the train. So for the first part of the journey I sat downstairs with Erika in a section of the train which to begin with at least seemed to be devoid of passengers. The timing worked out rather well, in that Erika woke up around the station (I forget which) that some passengers actually got on to that bit of the train.
I think the return TGV to Paris went fairly well, all in all, we managed to keep Erika entertained one way or another, and there were no particular tantrums or anything of note.
We arrived in Paris Gare de Lyon at about 5:15, and headed straight for the RER to Gare du Nord. Again, Erika fell asleep en route, which meant when we arrived at Gare du Nord, Chie and I could have a peaceful (albeit fairly quick) dinner before getting on the Eurostar. Thanks to Google Maps on my phone I discovered a cluster of vegetarian Indian restaurants just round the corner from the station - I recall reading at some point in the past that there was an equivalent of London's Drummond Street in the area, but somehow had never noticed just how close they were before - I don't know how we could have missed them in the past. So oddly enough we had Indian food in Paris. It actually wasn't bad.
So that just left the final leg of the journey, the Eurostar back to London. It was pretty uneventful and, again, I thought went pretty well. It got us back to St. Pancras for 8:41. A bit late for Erika, but it didn't take that long to get home from there, as it's just a whizz straight down the Victoria line, and it certainly won't be the first time she's ended up going to bed after 9.
So all in all I thought the journey went really well, and wasn't too arduous. As mentioned before, I think Erika is pretty happy to be on a long train journey, as she has our undivided attention throughout.
- Sunday in Monaco
- [Sunday 7th September 2014]
Started the day with breakfast at our hotel, the Monte Carlo Bay, which is always really good - sitting out on the terrace overlooking the Mediterranean. It was already really sunny at 9 in the morning - we had to get the staff to move the parasol a couple of times to stay in the shade - a nice problem to have! It was hard to imagine that this was supposedly the end of the summer. Disappointingly though it was difficult to get Erika to eat much of anything. She's really not much of a breakfast person.
After breakfast, and a bit of general faffing about, we headed out for the day. It occurred to me when planning this trip, that although it was our fourth time to come to Monaco, we hadn't really done some of the main tourist attractions - in particular the Oceanographic Museum and the Prince's Palace. On a previous visit we'd got as far as the gift shop of the Oceanographic Museum, and had then been overcome with a very much out-of-place attack of stinginess, and had decided we didn't want to pay to go into the museum proper. Now that we have Erika with us though it's important to try and plan things to do which will be fun for her too, and she really likes aquariums.
So we headed to the Oceanographic Museum first, mindful that if we left it until the afternoon, Erika might be having her afternoon nap. We got a day pass for the buses today, and I have to admit, as incongruous as it sounds. to get around Monaco by bus it's actually the best option - taxis seem very few and far between, and unlike London you can't just hail them at the side of the street. Calling a taxi seems to always mean at least a 15 minute wait, and the buses are typically more frequent than that.
The bus dropped us off at the bottom of the hill up to "the rock", and I was surprised and delighted to see the market was on - not what I expected on a Sunday. It was great to see this other side of Monaco, it's easy to imagine people living here just eating out at restaurants all the time, but apparently they do actually cook at home from time to time. Or at least have their staff cook at home for them. Just like the market in Nice yesterday there were some very tempting fruit and vegetables, but I wasn't all that optimistic that anything would survive the journey home. I thought I'd chance it and get some fleurs de courgettes, but they had indeed gone off by the time we got to Paris the next day.
From there we headed up the slope to the top of the rock - not sure it's really designed with buggies in mind and this was rather hard work! We headed to the Oceanographic Museum once at the top, and once inside went straight to the basement where the aquarium is. It may not be the largest aquarium we've been to (the one in Genoa was huge) but Erika seemed to enjoy it nonetheless. Upstairs, the more museumy parts, were perhaps less interesting for Erika, but I was quite impressed by what a grand space it was. We finished with the roof terrace, which was really hot, and the glare from the sun made it difficult to keep my eyes open. Erika didn't seem too bothered and was determined to have a bit of a play in the nautically themed playground.
We noticed there was a restaurant there, and decided we should probably have lunch there in terms of timing, as Erika was starting to get hungry, and would probably want a nap soon after, and I wasn't sure where else we'd go in the immediate vicinity (the rock seems to have Monaco's only small cluster of naff looking tourist restaurants). The food was surprisingly good - and suited us really well - we each had a pasta dish, I had tagliatelli with porcini, Erika had spaghetti carbonara (I thought it might be less messy than a tomato sauce) and Chie had something seafoody.
In the museum gift shop on the way out I bought Erika a cuddly turtle, which she immediately became very attached to (this weekend was partly a birthday treat for her, after all). Sure enough, soon after leaving the museum Erika dozed off, holding the turtle. We had a nice walk along the edge of the rock, through some very pleasant gardens, to the Prince's Palace.
It turned out the Palais Princier wasn't suitable for buggies, and we didn't want to wake Erika up. So Chie and I took it in turns to go round, while the other waited outside in a shady spot with Erika. I really enjoyed the interior of the palace, it was just about the right size of me to keep my interest, and the apartments were lavishly and variously decorated.
We headed back to the hotel after that, keen to fit in another swim in the hotel pool before it started to cool off. This was really nice again, just like yesterday, and it was lovely to see Erika enjoying herself splashing about in the water.
In the evening I thought it would be nice to do something lively as it was our last night, so we went for dinner to the Brasserie de Monaco. I'd read that they brewed their own beer, which seemed a bit at odds with my image of a brasserie, but discovered later that the original derivation of the word is actually from brewery. On arrival I have to admit to feeling a bit out of place, there was a sort of party atmosphere, a live DJ and bongo drummer, and most of the customers sitting out on the terrace, overlooking the yachts, were in their 20s I'd guess. I did check as we were greeted at the entrance that it would be OK to come in with a small child and they said absolutely fine. We sat inside as it was a bit quieter, and reassuringly there was another family with a young child there. Erika, however, did not want to miss out on the party, and throughout dinner kept heading back outside to dance. The partial tiger costume wearing bongo player waved at her a few times which I thought was very sweet - Erika was after all the only person dancing. The menu turned out to be mostly bar food, lots of things designed to go well with beer. Fortunately this gave me the opportunity to try Barbajuans, a speciality of Monaco - little deep fried pastries with spinach and cheese. Not sure if they're normally accompanied by beer, but they went very well I thought. Chie had a club sandwich - I didn't realise they existed outside of hotel room service - and when we enquired if they had anything for kids, they recommended a steak and chips for Erika. So we thought we'd give that a go. She didn't really eat much of it, perhaps because she was far more keen on going outside to dance.
After leaving the Brasserie de Monaco we had a bit of a walk around the harbour, and had a look at some of the yachts.
It had been something of a tradition until now that I always pay a visit to the casino when we come to Monaco, and it had been the plan that I might go there on the way back from dinner tonight. In the end though I thought I'd rather just go back to the hotel with the girls. Instead, before getting the bus back, we went to the supermarket, which no doubt a cause of much hilarious confusion in Monaco, is part of the French chain called "Casino".
- Saturday in Nice and Monaco
- [Saturday 6th September 2014]
Our hotel in Nice was pretty basic, and our rate didn't include breakfast, so in the morning we decided to head out for a stroll around the town to try and find somewhere nice to have the obligatory croissant or something.
We ended up wandering all the way to the seafront, then into the old town, and were naturally drawn to the market there which had all sorts of tantalising fruit and vegetables on display. In addition to a couple of peaches, we bought some surprisingly good croissants, which we ended up eating oddly in a sort of aleyway, as it was shady - even at this time of the morning, in September, the sun was quite strong.
We continued our wander through the old town which led us to Fenocchio, the gelateria in the nice little square (Place Rossetti?) which all feels rather Italian. Despite the slightly odd time of day - just before noon - we decided to have some gelato. We picked a fairly neutral flavour for Erika (fior di latte) and more exotic flavours for us (violet for me and some kind of sorbet for Chie), and of course Erika then decided she wanted to eat ours instead.
In the sort of backwards fashion that somehow seems permissible when on holiday, we then proceeded to think about lunch, and I was very pleased to find I had some personalised recommendations in Google Maps, which, based on places we'd been to on previous trips to Nice, suggested we give Rene Socca a try. I think it's a bit of an institution to Nice, but having always just bumbled around like an ignorant tourist in the past I hadn't actually heard of it. Apparently though this is the place to go for socca - and other Nicoise specialities like beignets de fleurs de courgettes. I had developed a bit of a taste for socca having had it where it apparently originated, in Genoa, earlier this year. In Italy they call it farinata instead. The downside of Rene Socca's apparent institution status is the queue - we found a table no problem, but then figured out for the food you have to go and queue at a counter, and I think the wait could well have been the best part of half an hour. Confusingly though we were able to order some of the food whilst only part way though the queue, so Erika and Chie were able to get stuck into the various fried things whilst I stayed in the queue to the bitter end for the famous socca. It was actually pretty good, I have to admit.
After lunch we meandered vaguely back in the direction of the station, and Erika dozed off in her buggy. On the way we stopped off in a cafe for a "cafe noisette" which I discovered is apparently the French answer to a macchiato.
We picked up our luggage from the hotel, and got on a train to Monaco some time after 3. Erika continued to doze until we arrived in Monaco.
As seems to be the tradition, we had a bit of a frustrating time on arrival getting from the station to our hotel. We used the funny little intercom to call for a taxi, but gave up waiting after 15 minutes, and decided to try walking at least some of the way. I think the mistake we then made was to go out the wrong exit of the station, which is more designed for heading to the west of Monaco, whereas our hotel was right over at the eastern border. We then got a bus some of the way, but perhaps not the bus we should have got on. In the end it took about an hour to get to our hotel which seemed like a bit of a waste really, as we were keen to go and jump in the swimming pool as soon as we could.
Still, we soon cheered up when we did finally arrive, our room had a nice balcony with a sea view as they always seem to at the Monte Carlo Bay, and moments after dropping off our bags we were heading down to the swimming pool.
I'm happy to report Erika seemed to really enjoy the swimming pool on this trip, having been a bit unsure this time last year - and she really didn't want to get out. There's a great area for kids with an extremely shallow ankle high area, that also has fountains etc, which Erika loved splashing about in. Plus there were a few other young kids there, which helped to build Erika's confidence in the water. To begin with she wanted us to hold onto her whenever she was in the water, but gradually she became comfortable to just float by herself. It was really lovely to watch.
After our good long swim our stomachs inevitably started to rumble (what is it about swimming that makes you hungry?) and we decided to head out for dinner. I'd decided we should go to a pizza place I'd found which has a wood fired oven (apparently something of a rarity in Monaco) and tables on the beach. It turned out to be the perfect choice - there were lots of other kids milling about and Erika really enjoyed having bursts of running about on the beach, and going up and down the slide, in between mouthfuls. Since we were in Monaco I ordered a bottle of Champagne to go with our dinner, and after we were finished eating we took our glasses and finished it off sitting on the beach in the moonlight. It was really quite magical.
- London to Nice
- [Friday 5th September 2014]
So we were off to the Cote d'Azur for a long weekend starting today.
Just like our trip to Italy back in June, there had been some deliberation about how exactly we were going to get there. Given that this would be a shorter journey, and we'd successfully done it by train last year, I managed to stick to my guns this time and win the argument to go by rail. It also helped that we'd left it rather late to book the transport, by which time the flights were very expensive, and comparatively the trains seemed fairly reasonably priced.
Off, then, we headed to St. Pancras this morning, and got on a Eurostar to Paris. From Gare du Nord we got the RER to Gare de Lyon, and Erika fell asleep somewhere along the way, meaning me and Chie could have a peaceful lunch at a brasserie near the station between trains. The food wasn't particularly noteworthy but the first meal of a trip is always jolly regardless, with the excitement of being in another country and so on.
After lunch we got on the TGV which would take us from Paris down to Nice. Very kindly the conductor offered to move us so we could have a table seat for the three of us. As we were in First Class this meant we had loads of space to spread out, and reassuringly there were other kids of a similar age to Erika so we didn't feel bad about Erika being a bit noisy now and again. On these "idTGV" services all of the carriages are divided into two zones - "zap" and "zen", with the latter being a quiet area, and the former being quite pointedly the opposite, and the default option if you're travelling with kids. The division between the two is roughly 50/50 I think, and everybody has to make an explicit choice when booking, which I think is great because it means nobody in zap has any reason to complain if kids are, well, kids.
I'd bought a couple of toddler magazines for Erika to keep her entertained en route, one of which contained a little packet of play dough, with which we made little animals to pass the time. Plus we punctuated the journey with a couple of visits to the bar carriage, which is always quite jolly. I think overall Erika quite liked being on the train.
We arrived in Nice at 8:45, a bit late for Erika, but then I kept pointing out in UK time it was only 7:45, and she doesn't normally go to bed until about 8:30. Mindful of that we'd booked a hotel right next to the station, since we were only really making a brief overnight stop off in Nice anyway.
Erika had already had dinner on the train, but Chie and I were keen to try and eat out somewhere nearby. So we thought we'd try going for a bit of a walk after checking in to see if Erika might doze off in her buggy, and sure enough she quickly did. This gave us the opportunity for another nice peaceful meal, this time at a Moroccan restaurant I'd found on the web. It seemed to be an entirely one man operation - our host was both waiter and chef - but nonetheless our tagines were actually quite tasty.
- [Thursday 4th September 2014]
Day before our trip to Nice and Monaco. Despite only being off work for two days I felt quite pressured, and ended up working late from home in the evening to try and get some things finished off.
- [Wednesday 3rd September 2014]
Went to the new Little Waitrose in Pimlico. That's about it really.
- [Tuesday 2nd September 2014]
Worked late at the office today. Not much else to report.
- [Monday 1st September 2014]
Made vaguely Lebanese food for dinner, including some cous cous, fatoush, and fried halloumi.
- Ashford and Peckham
- [Sunday 31st August 2014]
Went to Ashford (the one in Surrey) in the afternoon to visit some of Chie's friends. In the evening I went for one last visit to Frank's in Peckham.