Archive for the ‘of changing places’ Category

Not so French

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Café Rouge in Oxford presents itself as a French restaurant with a “Prix Fixe” menu. In the mains section we find:

  • Saucisses de Porc with herb mash and thyme jus
  • Beignets de Cabillaud (Deep fried cod goujons served with French fries and remoulade sauce)

That is, bangers and mash, and fish and chips. One cannot get more British pub food than that.


The First Emperor

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

The British Museum is hosting the exhibition ‘The First Emperor’ until April 6. Also known as ‘that terracotta army thing’, it was worth getting up really early to be in London at 8am, and queuing up until 9.15am with Anna to get two of the 500 tickets they sell everyday.

In the 3rd century b.C. king Ying Zheng of Qin conquered the other warring states, unified them into what later would become China, and thus became the first Chinese emperor. He standardized Chinese script, units of measurement, currency, the legal system, etc.

Not so happy with the idea of being mortal, the now emperor Qin Shihuang sent expeditions to look for ways to grant him eternal life, and in case that failed, he built a replica of his empire in his tomb. Among other things, he had a life-size army made in terracotta, wood and bronze, officials, acrobats, musicians, animals…

The terracotta army was discovered by chance by a farmer in 1974, and archaeologists have been digging up wonders ever since.



Vips sales and Albur

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Vips is a chain of shop-restaurants in Spain. A long time ago they used to have OK food and great vanilla milkshakes, but in my experience all that was replaced by appalling service, mediocre plates and expensive menus that display prices without tax.

Where they still deliver is with good sales in new but dated art books and catalogues. For example, the beautiful catalogue of the “Manet en el Prado” exhibition of 2003 (I visited it with Regina on Dec 29) was for sale today at 16€ in the Vips of C/ Fuencarral.

Tarahumara: Manet en el Prado

For dinner I went with some high school friends to Albur, a great small restaurant in C/ Manuela Malasaña. They had one waiter for the whole place, so service was a bit on the slow side, but that’s my only complaint.

Albur restaurant logo

I’ve been to Albur a couple of times, and they consistently use good quality ingredients for traditional Spanish dishes with a whiff of chicness. Everything tastes nice, and the venue is lovely. Portions are generous (we couldn’t finish the last black pudding pot), and excellent value for money, considering Christmas dinner prices in Madrid. A two course meal ordering from the menu, plus appetisers, a couple of rounds of beer and dessert added up to 30€ per head.

A personal favourite is grilled secreto de cerdo (pork secret), a special cut of pork loin that butchers used to keep for themselves, and hence its name.


The Last Supper in Magdalen College

Friday, October 26th, 2007

The Last Supper is a mural painting by Leonardo da Vinci (15th century) that can be found in Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. The painting technique used by Leonardo made the mural perishable, and that together with vandalism and restoration efforts in the 18th and 19th centuries have made it all but gone. A high resolution reproduction of The Last Supper is available online.

The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci

Photo: Wikipedia

But those living in Oxford can get a taste of how the original was from the contemporary copy on canvas by Giampietrino, that hangs in the ante-chapel of Magdalen College, on long-term loan from the Royal Academy.

The Last Supper, copy by Giampietrino

Photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Thankfully, a lengthy restoration process has returned the piece to a state close to its former glory, and it now hangs at Magdalen for anyone to see. The antechapel provides the perfect setting, not merely because it is itself contemporary to the piece, but because the placing of the painting corrects the perspective, allowing us to fully appreciate its genius. Whilst the copy is doubtless inferior to the original, it remains the closest we can get to viewing da Vinci’s vision of that immortal moment where Christ says to his disciples: “One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.”

Emma Whipday, Hidden Art in Oxford, Cherwell, 26 Oct 2007.


Dulce de leche in Mastropiero

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

Speaking of Les Luthiers, one of the recurrent characters in their shows is Johann Sebastian Mastropiero, an imaginary composer of limited talent.

Well, there is this tiny Argentinian pizzeria in Madrid called Mastropiero, in C/ San Vicente Ferrer, 34 (Malasaña quarter, metro Bilbao or Tribunal). I used to go there when I was at high school and as an undergraduate, and I still try to drop by when I go to Madrid. Pizzas and pasties are really good, and people with a sweet tooth love the cake with dulce de leche.

It’s also a good place if you want to feel a bit on the anti-system side.


Chronicles of tête-à-tête – Plato's Symposium redux

Friday, December 29th, 2006

O nabo de Lugo is a bar in C/ Espartinas (Madrid) where one goes to eat Galician tapas and drink albariño, a type of fresh white wine.

So basically the setting has similarities to Plato’s Symposium, and some folks produced deep philosophical thoughts about love too.

Guy 1: Nothing like having a girlfriend to see fitties everywhere.

Ramón: Any thoughts given to having children?
Guy 2: I dunno. Imagine you have a kid like him [pointing at one of my friends].

Guy 3: I don’t want to sound picky, but I can’t stand it when a gal wears ugly clothes.


WMVL ice cream

Monday, July 17th, 2006

Not everything in the lab is going to be cake club, treats when somebody comes back from a trip, naps, lab lunch, etc. Now in the Summer we also have an ice cream club, an original idea from Kate that has become popular very quickly. G&D’s at Little Clarendon St is the skiver’s temple, and Wellington Sq has a nice little park to take a break.

Ice cream club in Welington Sq


Horchata in Madrid

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

So, back in Madrid after 4 months, and boy it’s hot. Palazzo is one of the best ice cream shops in the city (there are several, the one below is in Puerta del Sol), and I always go there for an horchata (tiger nut milk), a traditional sweet beverage typical of the Comunidad of Valencia on the East Coast of the Peninsula. That’s where paella comes from too.

Palazzo in Puerta del Sol, Madrid


To the other place

Friday, May 19th, 2006

The MCR organized a day trip to Cambridge, a spin-off of Oxford University that offers higherish education. This trip served also to say farewell to our former MCR President, Mike Clements. Whenever a President’s term comes to its end, we take him to Cambridge to dispose of him. That is where we send our weak and sick too, but the President gets a escort.

MCR trip to Cambridge, Orielensis before trip

We had lunch in The Eagle, the pub where Watson and Crick announced in 1953 the discovery of the DNA structure. That’s all very well but I wonder what was the contribution of the pub to Watson and Crick’s research that makes the lasagne worth £6.50.

King’s College (below) dwarves even Christ Church, not to talk about Oriel. There are funny stories about students who climb to the roof of the Chapel to hang stuff from the spires. Worth mentioning is the student who assembled a loo on the top.

MCR trip to Cambridge, King's College

Gonville & Caius College has 3 gates named Humility, Virtue and Honour. Of course in a College environment the matters of humility, virtue and honour remain strictly academic.

The city is crossed by the River Cam, hence the name of Cambridge.

MCR trip to Cambridge, to the river

The entrace of Trinity College boasts a statue of Henry VIIIth, who is royally grasping a chair leg instead of his golden sceptre. This is yet another student prank.

MCR trip to Cambridge, Trinity College, Henry VIII

Tourists are told that the apple tree outside the college is the same that Newton enjoyed. Sharp tourists quickly notice that a 300+ year-old tree would probably look older and bigger, though. In fact, this tree was planted some 50 years ago from a seed of the real tree, that is in Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire. For the devastated, there is a statue of Newton in the chapel.

Our Cambridge guide, Eva, told us an amusing story about a student prank in Trinity, that may or may not be apocryphal. One student dressed up as a porter, while another one dressed up as a tourist. Both walked in Trinity’s Grand Court, and the “tourist” stepped on the lawn. The “porter” then approached him, produced a gun loaded with blanks and shot him “dead”. Panic ensued in the quad, and both students were sent down.

MCR trip to Cambridge, Trinity College, apple tree

Punting is a popular activity in the sunny days of Spring and Summer (there are 2 every year). And there’s a story attached to this bridge. Apparently a punt full of Japanese tourists was sweetly gliding towards the bridge. Two students had spray-painted a large block of styrofoam in dark gray as to resemble a rock. As the punt approached they “painstakingly” hosited the rock onto the railings. When the punt was near, they pushed and all the tourists freaked out and jumped into the water, fully dressed and with all of their cameras and bags.

St John’s is another massive College. It has a replica of the Bridge of Sighs of Oxford, which in turn is a replica of the Bridge of Sighs of Venice.

After that we just had time to rush to Queen’s College, have a quick look…

and run back to Clare College (Oriel’s sister college) for the 2nd leg of our exchange dinner.

We played penny, and merry as we were we run to Queen’s to crash a nonexistent party. In the end, a tequila toast to Cambridge!


Birthday by the sea

Friday, May 12th, 2006

Today’s my birthday, and the 3rd Anniversary of my stay in England.

Yesterday I sent invites for tomorrow’s party. A friend asked me “So what are you doing on your actual birthday?”. I hadn’t planned anything, so I reflected upon what I would like to do for my birthday. I realised that I just longed for a day by the sea.

We rented a car and drove southwards, to Poole. We took the ferry to reach the South tip of Poole Bay, and drove past Sandbanks, one of the most popular beaches in the UK, until we reached the quiter Knoll Beach.

Sea in different shades of blue, golden sand, green seaweed on the rocks, white cliffs called Old Harry Rocks, and organic Elderflower ice cream while the evening declines in good company.

Old Harry Rocks, Knoll Beach, Devon