Sunday, January 25, 2009

Settling In

Mom and Dad flew home on Monday. The rest of the week just ticked along as per normal with work and the home routine. My days are a little bit longer with the new job as I work 9 to 5:30 rather than 5:00 so that's taking a little bit to get used to but in reality an extra 30 minutes isn't a huge deal as with my previous job it was rare that I got out the door before 6.

But then it's Friday, 5:30 and it hits me. I don't really know anyone in town. There isn't the culture in this office of heading out to the pub after work as many of my colleagues don't live in the city and have trains to catch or families to get home to. So I stop at the Odd Bins on the way home and treat myself to a nice bottle of Italian Red Wine.

The weekend before me is spent with the continuous task of trying to make the flat feel like mine. I get curtains hung in the lounge (it was soooo drafty) and the bedroom. A towel rail in the bathroom and a small shelving unit in the kitchen to provide storage for my sauces and spices.

I've pretty much got the furniture where I want it. But now the daunting task before me is hanging my photographs. Its not just the figuring out what goes where, but the physical hanging of them. Its hard to do when you don't have a second person to say a little higher or to the right. But I managed to get the hallway or 'the gallery' done at least.

More flat photos to follow as I attempt to complete each room. There's just so much stuff to sort though and figure out where it's new home will be.

So one room at a time ...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Slowing down

It has been a wacky, chaotic, busy couple of weeks.

- December 17th my parents arrived in Glasgow from Vancouver

- Dec 19 packed up my flat then hopped the train to Edinburgh to sign the lease and collect the keys to my new flat

- Dec 20 loaded up a large van and moved the majority of my stuff to Edinburgh

- Dec 21 head back to Glasgow to crash at a friends flat as I'm still working until the 31st (Mom and Dad stay at the Edinburgh flat)

- Dec 23 my parents joining me in Glasgow for the Christmas break

- Dec 27 Mom and Dad head back to Edinburgh

- Dec 30 drinks with a few friends from the office

- Dec 31 my last day at work, pack up what I can carry and hop the train to Edinburgh where once I arrive I shut the door to my bedroom and I have a good cry. It was an emotional day.

- Dec 31/Jan 1st, view the fireworks on Calton Hill and the Castle from the warmth of my lounge window. Pretty good views :)

- Jan 2 try to unpack/organise as much as I can in the flat

- Jan 3 pack my suitcase as we (Mom & Dad and I) go on a one week holiday to Lagos Portugal

- Jan 3, 4 & 5, suffer from a horrible cold that I caught during the last hour of the flight

- Jan 5 - 10th enjoy all Lagos has to offer

-Jan 10th, proceed to miss our return flight to Edinburgh thanks to our prebooked private shuttle to Faro Airport failing to arrive in a timely fashion. We were able to book flights departing the next day (for full fare of course) and find accommodation close by the airport.

- Jan 11th spend 10 hours in transit (Faro to Prestwick, miss the train by minutes, so sit at the Yale Pub in the airport for an hour enjoying a Pint and onion rings, catch the next train to Glasgow Central, discover the Glasgow Central trains to Edinburgh are not running that evening due to track maintenance, walk to Queen Street station, catch the 7PM service to Edinburgh, catch a taxi from Waverly Station to my flat).

- Jan 12th start my new job

- Jan 13th, discover bedroom radiator is leaking and boiler is dodgy

- Jan 14th boiler not working, no heat :(

- Jan 15th boiler & radiator get fixed

- Jan 16th hook up with the Edinburgh Flickr group and meet my fellow camera geeks, then discover how to get to Ikea by bus

- Jan 17th accompany my parents back to Glasgow to enjoy one last dinner at the Lansdowne Pub before sending them on their way to the Holiday Inn at the airport

- Jan 18th Mom and Dad fly home, it snows in Edinburgh and in the evening I enjoy the last of the risotto from the fridge and a glass of Rioja

No wonder I'm tired!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Food...

Did I mention the food?

Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the food. It's very tasty. Our first night since we got in so late we just ate at the restaurant next door as it was open. The menus don't give you a whole lot of information. It reads something along the lines of:

Special Meat (for 2)
Squid Kebab with Prawns
Grilled Cod

You get the idea.

No explanation of what exactly they DO to the steak or pork or what exactly is the Special Meat (for 2). We are sitting close to the kitchen area and I can see in. Looks like Mama is doing all the cooking and there is only one other person in there, probably more for clean up than anything else.

Mom and Dad decide to be brave and order the Special Meat (for 2) and I tried to order the Halibut but apparently they're out (it is late) but they have salmon so I get that. It seems everything always comes on a large platter. So the first order comes through and its 2 massive steaks and a whole sausage link. Orange slices are scattered and I can see a pile of crushed garlic floating in the flavoured oil mixing with the juice from the meat. But that's all it is a platter full of meat, oh and 2 boiled potatoes.

Oh dear...

But wait, no, more is coming. It's my massive salmon steak and with it comes another platter with boiled potatoes, carrots and some kind of green vegetable. I can't remember what its called but it's kind of like a cross between asparagus and broccoli. Ah and also we get a platter of rice and a platter with a very simple salad (lettuce, a few sliced tomatoes, shredded onion and a few cucumber slices).

So picture this very tiny table for 2 with 3 people seated at it. We already had a bread basket and a plate with very yummy olives and 3 empty dinner plates. Then a platter of meat, a platter of fish, a platter of rice, a platter of salad and a platter of vegetables. Not much elbow room.

Everything was very flavourful if not a little on the heavy side. The salmon was cooked to perfection, moist so it almost melted in your mouth. But it seems everything was dripping in the same garlic oil, tasty but a little much after a while. And salt, they are strong believers in salt in cooking. But that could be just me as I don't use very much in my own cooking.

That was just our first dining experience. Perhaps the next place would be different.

Next door is another place worth a try. It's lacking in ambiance but it seems to be full of locals so to me that's a good sign. The meals are presented very similar, a large oval platter. I had the pork loin with mushrooms in a porto wine sauce and Dad had the pepper steak (I swear the sauces were the same but his didn't have mushrooms), Mom went with the chicken Peri Peri. All very good but a big hunk of flesh and potatoes - this time chips rather than boiled potatoes and rice but no vegetables other than the mixed salad we ordered.

Now you need to understand something. I like a good steak as much as the next guy but I'm not a huge meat eater to begin with. Most of what I cook revolves around vegetables and if anything maybe I'll throw in a little chicken. Even so, the portions I cook for my protein are on the small side. I swear in 2 meals I've had more meat than I would normally consume in a month. My stomach was protesting at 1 AM as it attempted to digest it.

But it's not been all steak and pork. No there's been fish as well. Lagos is on the coast after all and we can see the fishing boats docked at the waters edge. Apparently one of the local specialties is large grilled sardines with boiled potato and some kind of green kale soup. There is no way Dad would set foot in a restaurant if that was going to be on the table so Mom and I decide to abandon him in the town square and we go to a little tiny place for lunch where we order both the soup and the sardines.

The soup was fine, very similar to a sorrel or borscht soup my Mom makes (but missing the barley and dill). But what we are really waiting to see is the sardines. And there they are, all five of them, with their little fish eyes and fish lips frozen in a call for help when thrown on the hot grill.

We both agree again that it's a good thing Dad's not here. Sardines do smell fishy but grilled they aren't half bad. It takes a little bit of effort to get the main backbone out and of course remove the head and tail but everything else is eaten. The skin grilled up nice and crispy and it's just lightly seasoned with sea salt and probably a little pepper.

I ate 2 and I don't ever have to order them

Day 3 - Monday

Feeling much better today :)

Had a good nights sleep, a hot shower and breakfast and feeling human. Still sneezing a bit but much less congested.

First order of business, need to find a grocery store. The dodgy part about maps is they don't always give you a scale. So something that looks far away could be just a 10 min walk, or a 3 hour hike. Its all relative. Lucky for us the grocery store ended up just being a quick 15 min walk so not too bad.

I love exploring food shops in a different country, its one of those ways to see life as a local. Of course it's always a bit of a challenge purchasing items when you don't know the language. Some times its easy. For example, how to tell semi-skim from whole milk? Look at the calorie content. However, telling a dark roast coffee from mild proves to be a bit more difficult. I think Dad and I stood looking a the different packages for about 10 minutes before just grabbing one and hoping for the best (I hate weak coffee).

The meat and seafood counters are always entertaining. I saw some massive prawns or perhaps they were crayfish, it's difficult to tell.

A large stack of dry salted cod

and in the meat counter,how about a pigs head to wet your appetite?

The wine corner was another area where there was much deliberation. I'm not familiar with the various regions in Portugal so don't know what varieties of grapes are produced in each. Sometimes the labels have English but even so its a tough call. Today's rule of thumb is nothing over 5 Euro. Dad and I ponder over the importance of a good price vs. a cool looking label. Its a scientific equation don't you know. We grab 2 bottles and hope for the best.

Last stop is the bakery. I'm just LOVING the rolls here, nice and firm, tough and chewy but not too heavy. They are fabulous with some smoked pork loin and cheese for a mid afternoon snack. Oh and a package of pane chocolate pastries for later.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Day 2 - Sunday

Woke up

Still sick

Stayed in pyjamas all day under a blanket
Much sneezing, sniffling and mucus flowing

Mom & Dad went out and about

I did not

Friday, January 09, 2009

Lagos, Portual - The Arrival (Saturday)

The craziness is finally over.

I finished up at work, got myself moved to Edinburgh and now it's a weeks holiday in Lagos, Portugal before I start the new job. Perfect... except during the last hour of the flight I started sneezing uncontrollably. I tell myself it must be an allergic reaction to something. But once we'd landed and during and after the 50 minute drive to Lagos I was still sneezing and feeling even worse.

I had popped some decongestants in my meds bag last minute so I take one before heading to bed. Why is it that if the box says one tablet every 6 hours they always stop working in hour 4? In the morning I look horrible, can't breathe, head pounding and I'm on holiday and the sun is shining - ARGH!!!

Still I suppose if I'm going to be sick I might as well be sick on vacation. I'm crossing my fingers that this will just be a quick straight forward head cold and I can nip it in the bud. As it's Sunday pretty much everything will be closed anyway. It just burns me that it's so nice outside and I'm stuck inside wrapped up in my flannel pyjamas, hooded sweat shirt and a heavy blanket trying to stay warm.

But if I'm honest with myself, I'm not surprised. This is probably my bodies reaction to all the stress I've been going through in the last month. Too many big changes over too short a period of time. No time to be sick so as usual my body waits until I have a moments rest. Sadly that moment happens to be while I'm in Portugal.

Life can be cruel.