Paella, paella, paella…

‘Let’s have paella because there is almost no queue!’ Our decision was prompt because we were very hungry and also cold. The urge to fill our stomach with something warm was too strong to resist.

Hubbie and I were standing by a pop-up gazebo, selling freshly cooked paella at Cubitt Square. The pop-up canteen was one of the many street food shops, especially there for Lumiere London 2018.

Mmmm…, I’m starving…

There were two choices, seafood and chorizo. And we opted for the chorizo one…

The paella looked great and I was only very grateful because the rice was piping hot. However, my joy was short lived.

Why they make it salty?!

The dish was very very very very salty. ‘I tasted the paella as salty as this when I went to Málaga ages ago.’, I told Hubbie as I ferried the rice to my mouth gingerly.

Yes, the seriously brined paella did bring back a bitter sweet memory of my holiday at Málaga. The trip was my very first solo holiday and also turned out to be the last one. I was supposed to go with my friend but she got cold feet at the last minute and as a result, I ended up being in a foreign city all on my own.

After spending tedious four hours in a departure lounge at Gatwick Airport because the plane was delayed, I found myself walking through a deserted arrival lobby of Málaga Airport in the early morning. I can’t recall exactly how but I managed to communicate the address of my hotel to a taxi driver and he took me to an unassuming hotel on one of the quiet streets in the city centre.

My room was small and modestly decorated. It had no TV or a great view from the window. Then, the reality dawned on me, ‘Oh shit, will I have to spend my entire Christmas holiday alone in here?’

I must say I didn’t enjoy my four days in the Spanish port city at all. The first two days was especially boring because they were Christmas Day and Boxing Day. No place, except some eateries, was open and I spent my time, walking around a deserted port and a crumbling fort which overlooked the beach.

The hotel I stayed did not have a bar nor a restaurant, therefore, I had to find somewhere to eat. Would I look odd if I dined alone?, I pondered. Then, I saw a brightly lit sign of a tapas bar in the distance and decided to eat my first dinner of Málaga there.

The walls of the eatery was clad with dark brown wood and there were legs of pork dangling from the ceiling. I picked up a laminated menu from the counter and pointed at the picture of paella and then a word, “Diet Coke”. A man behind the counter gave me a slight nod and disappeared into the kitchen.

The man came back from the kitchen surprisingly quickly and placed a plate in front of me. The steaming heap of the sunflower yellow rice looked very tempting because I didn’t have a chance to eat properly that day, therefore, I picked up a cutlery eagerly and spooned the content into my mouth. But oh no, no, NO! The paella was very salty. It was so salty that I could only managed to eat less than half on the plate, despite I was starving. How can anyone find the dish that salty be palatable?!, I was utterly dismayed.

After the fiasco at the tapas bar, I resorted to eating every dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. Their food was bog-standard but at least, their fried rice was no way as salty as the paella.

‘So the paella you had in Málaga was as salty as this?’, Hubbie shook his head in disbelief.

‘Oh, I can eat no more!’

I handed my half eaten paella to Hubbie who volunteered to finish it off. While watching him scoffing the rice and the chorizo in the dark at Gasholder Park, I wandered along a colonnade around the circular lawn. ‘Next time, we shall take paella with a pinch of salt.’ Hubbie declared as he joined me and Bella. I couldn’t agree more…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

‘Aren’t you a bit peckish?’ Hubbie asked me as he squinted into the viewfinder of his Leica which was pointed towards Old Royal Naval College across the Thames. ‘Yeah, I am hungry but is there any place we can eat around here?’ I looked around and found a small kiosk which appeared to sell some hot tea and candy bars in the far corner of Island Gardens. ‘Shall we have tea and a bar of chocolate?’ Hubbie wrinkled his nose and replied curtly, ‘Nah.’ ‘What shall we do then?’ I threw back a question while sticking my icy hands into the pockets of my lumberjack jacket ever so deeper. ‘Let’s cross the tunnel and eat something hot in Greenwich!’ Oh, cool!

Greenwich Foot Tunnel, a subterranean walkway under the River Thames, connects the south bank of the Isle of Dogs and the north bank of Greenwich.

The tunnel’s construction commenced in 1899, right at the end of the Victorian Era, and completed in 1902. The purpose of the tunnel was to provide a more reliable and less costly method of commute for workers who lived in the south side of the river and worked in the docks and shipyards in or near the Isle of Dogs.

Today, the tunnel is classified as a public highway and it is in use 24 hours a day.

Let’s go down the tunnel…

During the 90s, I used to walk down the passage at least once a week. The reason was because there was a riding school at Mudchute Farm & Park and I rode with them every Saturday. The farm was rather a pain to travel to, especially during weekend. However, the fee was significantly cheaper than the one at Hyde Park and which afforded me to have two sessions for the price of one in Central London. I used to have one session in the morning and another one in the afternoon.

The stable at Mudchute Farm was not as snooty as Hyde Park’s and I enjoyed hanging around the yard, chatting with the fellow student riders and petting the horses and ponies. The only shortcoming of the farm was a lack of facility for food and drink. There was no cafe or kiosk in and around the farm – literally, the farm stood in the middle of the council flats and wasteland then, therefore, I had to travel to Greenwich if I wanted to eat lunch.

Until 1996, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) was not extended as far as Greenwich, and I had to ride DLR to Island Gardens so I could walk across to the south bank via Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

The lift looked different then…

I can’t elaborate exactly what was different with the lift then but the doors wasn’t like these. It may have been a pair of steel doors.

We came out of the tunnel on the south side and the first thing greeted us was the famous Cutty Sark

In the 90s, the ship was moored on the quay like HMS Belfast near London Bridge. I remember the tall masts of the clipper decorated with rows of ensigns. The newly restored Cutty Sark after the fire in 2007, however, was hoisted up on the custom made structure designed by Nicholas Grimshaw, away from the water. This treatment aroused controversy because it made her no longer sailable as a ship. However, the state of the timber of the tea clipper and the modification done in the 50’s made her structurally too weak for the actual seafaring.

It is sad to realise that we will never be able to see her in full sail like this…

Still, all is not lost. The new exhibition space which is created underneath the ship allows the visitors to admire her famous keel which contributed to her legendary speed while she was in service.

The wind by the Thames was extra chilly…

Does Cutty Sark want to be as free as a bird like these seagulls?

We wandered around the crowded weekend Greenwich Market and looked for some hot food. Every stall we passed had a long queue, and in the end, we settled for hot dogs…

It tasted okay but the benches were in the shade and it was a bit too cold for our comfort.

After finishing our hasty lunch, we headed for the tunnel entrance…

It was a fun day out. But next time, I shan’t forget to bring a pair of gloves…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Bella & Mulberry Harbour @ Arromanches

On the beach at Arromanches-les-Bains, Normandy, there were gigantic remnants of WWII.

A huge chunk belonged to the once harbour could be reached on foot during the tide was out…

During last September, Hubbie, Bella and I visited Normandy with our friends.

Our two days’ itinerary included a visit to the Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer and Arromanches which was famous for the Mulberry Harbour B, aka “Port Winston”.

For anyone who is not familiar with Operation Mulberry, I advise you to watch this documentary…


It explains about this phenomenal military project from the conception to the execution.

We parked the car in a car park, facing Gold Beach, one of the five areas of Normandy coast which was assigned to the British Army to take on D-Day…

– a map by Daily Mail
Today, Arromanches was a quiet seaside town with a museum, souvenirs shops and cozy family-run hotels and B&Bs.

Reminders of the history, serenely resting on the beach…

Can you make out where these parts belong to?

An aerial view over the Mulberry Harbour in action…

– an image by the Imperial War Museum.
The photograph shows the enormity of the project.

My girl Bella enjoyed an unhindered run on the beach…

‘Yipee!’

And inspected the harbour…

She had never been to the seaside in her life, therefore, those limpets must have smelt very weird for her. She was absolutely obsessed with them.

And played with a newly found four-legged friend…

 

She was running around like a maniac!

If there were such a thing like a Yorkie brigade, she would most definitely volunteer.

I am a commando!!

As we walked towards one of the towering concrete blocks on the beach, she followed us and we came to a pool of the leftover sea water around the foot of the structure. She seemed to be very intrigued by the water and stared at it for a while. Then next moment, she dived into it! It was not particularly a warm day and the water must have been pretty cold. In the water, she looked rather sheepish and I had to drag her out by her harness.

How did she react after the plunge? She became totally jubilant and euphoric! While I hollered ‘Noooo, Beeeeelllaaaa!!’, she rolled on her back, rubbing her wet coat into the sand. On our way back, we came across another puddle and she stopped in front of it. And before I could stop her, she dived into it again. There was a group of French tourists and they were laughing their heads off, ‘Oh la la!’

Bella the Brave is definitely in favour of amphibious landing, I sighed and picked her up in my arms. By then, she was completely soaked and dripping with the smelly stale sea water and she resembled a rat, not a Yorkie…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Salut, Calais!

Our mum & daughter road trip had finally come to an end. It was a whirlwind ten days holiday which was filled with lots of laughter, meaningful conversations and a few unexpected events. I was very sad because the holiday with my precious mum was over but also I was relieved because I managed to finish the 3756km drive without any incident and to deliver mum home safely.

After leaving Cité Europe, we followed Google’s instructions for Eurotunnel Terminal.

Wind mills were hard at work at Calais…

My word of advice for anyone who is considering using Google Map in order to find the right terminal for cars and coaches is, DON’T USE GOOGLE MAP unless you want to end up at a terminal for freights!

Until we found ourselves at the check-in gates for lorries, I had 100% confidence in Google Map. However, the glitch let us down at the very end. Shame on you, Google!

After a few frantic three-points turns and whizzing around countless roundabouts, we managed to find the right terminal without using satnav and parked the car at their car park.

‘Phew, that was a bit hairy!’, we agreed as we alighted from the car…

We looked around a shop and used a bathroom before joining a queue for the immigration.

The queue through UK Border Force point was long and slow …

Same as the cross-channel ferry journeys, an interview by the immigration officer took place while we were in our car. Even though, the interview was friendly and courteous, it was much more thorough , therefore, it took a lot longer than I expected. Since the UK terror threat level was still critical, it was understandable that the border force wanted to scrutinise every single person entering the UK properly.

Finally, we were boarding…

Salut, Calais…

A journey to Folkestone was smooth and eventless.

When we arrived to the UK, the sun was already set…

So this was the way our road trip ended. I never thought that writing a chronicle of the holiday would take this long! Anyway, that’s a wrap! Thank you for your patience and I hope our adventure was entertaining and inspiring somehow. We are already plotting another mum & daughter road trip 2018 which will take us all the way to the south of France and back. I can hardly wait…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Cité Europe

Since there was not much thing to see or could do in the old city centre, mum and I decided to spend the rest of our time in France at Cité Europe before boarding a train back to the U.K.

Cité Europe was a shopping centre situated next to the Channel Tunnel terminal. The complex contained over 140 shops, a hypermarket, a 12-screen cinema complex and around 20 restaurants. The shopping centre opened on March 21, 1995, about 10 months after the completion of the tunnel.

I still remember the hype the shopping centre had created in the U.K. The Brits en masses flocked to Calais in their cars, and they laden their car boots with cheap booze and cigarettes at the shopping centre before heading home.

After more than two decades, the place looked a little dated and tired…

By the way, the lamp posts of the shopping centre car park remind you something?…

Don’t you agree that the curve of the lamp post looks like the Martian’s craft’s red-eye heat-ray gun in The War of the World’s (1953)?

The car park was huge – spaces for more than 4000 cars, therefore, we must make a note near which entrance our car was parked…

The shopping centre was designed by a French architect, Paul Andreu…

The architect is famous for being in charge of planning and constructing Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
So when was the last time I used the airport?
Since Eurostar connected London with French capital in May 1994, I have been using the train only. That means I haven’t been to the place for nearly 25 years!

Large skylights introduced abundant natural light into the interior of the shopping centre…

We found the shop floors very quiet. It must have been because the famous annual summer sale – Les soldes d’été was still a few days away and probably the shoppers didn’t see the point of paying full prices.

Children’s play area near Carrefour…

We did some grocery shopping at the hypermarket, buying cheese and sweets to take home. I must say, the Carrefour branch at Cité Europe was humongous! The floor area was enormous and the selections were stupendous.

Mum was happy (and tired) after shopping at Carrefour…

Ok, shall we go back to our car?

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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