Thursday, January 31, 2019

Day 31: we slide

Remember that day we went rock-climbing and met friends at the pub after? These same friends had many great ideas for Tryanuary, one of which was trampolining, one of the biggest wins of this month of new things. The other idea I did today: the AcelorMittal Orbit slide. It seemed fitting when I booked it: the whole metaphor of ending a month of blogging on a rush, sliding into home, etc., etc. [insert fitting clichés here].

Plus as a local, I got a whole pound off the ticket price! Bonus.

I must confess in advance that I thought I knew what part of this hot-mess-of-an-Olympic-viewing-platform was the slide. It's obviously the wide silver bit, right?

That looks fun!

But as I'm approaching, far closer than I've ever been before, I clock something: some sort of HVAC tube slinking down the back? What IS that? 

I get closer. My heart sinks as I realise: THAT'S THE MOTHER FLIPPING SLIDE: 

Yes, that thing held up by cables, that looks like the back of my computer station.


It's not improved by the lift up, peppered full of delightful facts like 'The ArcelorMittal Orbit is taller than the Statue of Liberty!' and 'The slide is the longest and tallest tunnel slide in the world'. That's when I tried to stop the elevator. This isn't happening.

When we get to the top, I see this pic they've got on display. My early, flopping fear crystallises:


You don't understand what all this communicates to me in the course of the three seconds it took me to digest it. Unfathomable speed. Speed that would burn bare arms if they touched the side. And most importantly: UNCONTROLLABLE speed. 

Y'all, I purposefully wore my boots with the rubber soles this morning thinking I could use my heels to slow my descent. 


I'm in a state of panic as the helmet gets strapped on and the arm pads get pulled on over my wool coat. OVER MY WOOL COAT. You know, because NO PART OF YOU CAN TOUCH THE SLIDE ON THE WAY DOWN, NOT EVEN YOUR COAT.

Then they lay you down on a giant, body-length pad with the pouch at the bottom (to conveniently collect your organs?) and give you a rope to hold onto that's attached to the foot pouch, and show you how to position your head (lifted, so as to see your death coming more clearly). This (not my pic, they wouldn't allow mobile phones on the slide, another red flag) is what it looks like:

'Don't let go the handle!' they say. 'Just relax your shoulders!' they say. 'Why are you crying?' they say. 

As they pried my fingers off the top of the slide, they reassured me: the drop you see ahead of you, that looks so vertical you can't see the bottom of it, that's the steepest one and then it's just straight relaxation all the way to the bottom. 15mph of sheer relaxation. THEY ARE LYING TO YOU. There were MANY drops that left my stomach behind and not a few instances in which I was whipped so far around the sides that I thought I'd do a full circuit around the top. The tunnel itself alternated between having a clear plastic top -  in theory to see the view, but in reality to see the blur - or being entrenched in total darkness. I preferred the dark every time. The void is the safe place. The windows always seemed to coincide with a mad drop-spin combo. When you see the light growing ahead, BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID. 

I should've seen it all coming when I saw this quote by the slide's designer in the ticket lobby:
Madness, Carsten. Just madness.

Oh, but the views from the top! Not at all too high! 
 I'm lying to you as much as an Orbit Operator lies to its sliders. 

Review: I survived. I didn't wet myself. And there was a moment, about halfway through, where I stopped swearing, and did indeed relax my shoulders. And then I sailed.

However, this is the future distance between me and the Orbit.

Mije, the jerk who suggested this, at least had the integrity to do it with me. The nail in the coffin of our friendship occurred when, while waiting for him at the bottom, I heard him inside, WHOOPING. 

It's been a wild ride, trying something new for 31 straight days. Lessons learned: new things can be AWESOME. Also terrible. And next year, we're doing this in February instead. 

Thanks to all who read along, and if I do any other firsts this year (the list of things to try has only grown), I'll definitely share it here. 

Big hugs and lots of love,

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Day 30: we box

I just got my butt kicked for an hour and a half. Quite literally, kicked.

Here is one of the many things I learned today: boxing is a TON of leg-work. I honestly had no idea. I thought it was just a bunch of bouncing around and jabbing. Turns out I was very, very wrong. I spent half of our session unsuccessfully blocking kicks from this guy:

Mike, our trainer, was so fast that when I'd throw out my (shin-padded) leg to block one kick, he'd instantly bounce to the other leg and WHACK! WHACK WHACK WHACK! It's like I was moving in slow motion. It was also a comedy when he was teaching me the various kicks. The high kicks were the worst. I don't know if you know this about me, but the highest my leg goes is roughly knee-height. It's just wonderful how flexible I am. Every time he'd encourage me to kick his side or his stomach, I'd futilely swing my leg up as high as I could and smack him in the thigh. At one point he grabbed my foot and lifted it to the right height and while I was windmilling, he told me, 'You have to open your hips.' OPEN MY HIPS. I gathered as much dignity and balance as I could while having my leg hoisted in the air and angled to the side like he indicated to get my shin facing the right way. 'You have to open your hips!' he repeated. I protested: 'I am!' 'No, like THIS' and before I could blink, he twisted my entire leg and I nearly face-planted on the mat. 'Like THAT,' he said with satisfaction.

It wasn't much better when I sparred with Nigel, the friend who brought me. He's a member of the boxing gym, fights in actual matches, and is clearly a madman. He was so good that he could block all my kicks without even breaking eye contact. He also had to keep reminding me to keep my gloves up; if I were in a real match, I would've been punched in the face every six seconds. 

I limped all the way home. 

Much to Mike's glee.

I'm almost sad that tomorrow we end this month of torture. 


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Day 29: we tartare

So today WAS going to be Curtain-Hemming Day (the great idea of Lisa), until I realised that I'd have to extract the ladder from the garden shed to get them down and I happen to be terrified of ladders. Luckily for me, I did some design research that told me pooling-curtain lengths are ALL the rage, so I've decided to embrace the look and remove 'hemming curtains' from my to-do list entirely. So the end result was the same: I got to take it off the list! Lisa, you're brilliant.

In its place, something else I've been wanting to do: make steak tartare.

I love raw food in any of its forms - carpaccio, ceviche, tartare, sashimi - there's not a version I don't enjoy (well, maybe not Torisashi, though *technically* I haven't tried it yet, and maybe it's amazing?? If you've had it, lmk). But while I feel comfortable messing about with raw fish, for some reason it didn't occur to me I could also mess about with raw beef. That is, until our neighbour in France invited us over for lunch last time we were there, and made it for us. It was so good and as he pointed out, so simple; I made a mental note to try it myself.

Today is that day.

First things first: I needed the right butcher. If one is going to eat raw, uncooked beef, it's got to be fresh. So I took a left at the bottom of our street instead of a right and headed for the fanciest part of our neighbourhood: Victoria Park Village.

They don't let you forget it's a village, either.

So much twee, so little money under the mattress. It's why I usually go right.

And then we get to my butcher of choice: Ginger Pig, with its ethical animal husbandry and best sausage roll in London. This is where to go to get a cut of meat good enough to eat raw: 

Church spire, unstripped bikes, fancy doggo - check, check, check. I jangle the coins in my pocket so everyone knows I belong. 

They dry-age most of their beef so I had to tell them I was tartaring it and they picked out the perfect cut for me: 
One of each. 

Then I took home my beautiful fillet tail and gazed at it lovingly for a no doubt hazardous length of time: 

Who wouldn't want to cram this raw straight into their mouth? 

But no, that's not how it's done. It must be cHopPeD first, because we are not a dOg. I used Nigella's recipe - mostly so that I had an excuse to look at her like I did at this meat - and it. was. great. I'd probably use slightly less gherkin next time (I suspect our pickles are larger than the ones she was suggesting), but that's the only thing I'd change. It was exactly what I wanted: 

That yolk on top - *kisses tips of fingers* - could watch it cascade over my beef all day. 


Happy Tartare Tuesday!


Monday, January 28, 2019

Day 28: we reflect

The gunmen entered his flat. They were going door to door, pulling the Tutsi out, and shooting them in the street. The killers saw his football pictures; he was a famous footballer, despite his youth. He was spared. He flees to a teammate's, who, with the help of the Red Cross, gets him out.

This survivor, 25 years later, of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, told his tale tonight at the British Library. Eric Murangwa says of being a refugee, a survivor: 'You cannot be unknown.'

We heard tonight not only from the Rwandan goalkeeper, but also from the Polish filmmaker of Birds Are Singing in Kingali - Joanna Kos-Krauze - and David Belton, who produced the film Shooting Dogs and authored When the Hills Ask for Your Blood.

It was a powerful night, reflecting on the numbers - one million killed in one hundred days - on the heels of Holocaust Memorial Day.

I also enjoyed the Cats Through Literature exhibit, but that's a talk for another day.

Big love to you and yours,

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Day 27: we cichéti

Oh heavens, we are full. Our last day in Venice and I am pretty sure we are made of pasta and wine now. Our last day we spent local, enjoying a slow walk along the canal and the beauty of the cichéti culture. It started with a stop at a local bookstore + bistrot, where we enjoyed a slice of focaccia pizza and their family-made prosecco, before moving on to our favourite bacaros Mezzopieno and Vino Vero. 

Cichéti culture is great; like the pintxos of San Sebastian: you can eat lovely niblets on the cheap while getting your fill of vini. 

Back to London tomorrow - wish us luck on our morning water-taxi back to the airport!


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Day 26: we gondola

I mean, we HAVE to. It's VENICE. Who cares if it's The Most Touristy Thing a Person Can Do and it costs an arm and a leg and your gondolier will be on WhatsApp the entire time? YOU'RE IN A BOAT THAT LOOKS LIKE AN ELFIN SHOE.

What's not to like?? 

Our gondolier was this charming chap, Marco, who regaled us with An Abridged History of Venice, whistled some jaunty tunes, and texted on his mobile phone during the duration of our canal cruise:

The boat ahead of us can't possibly be having as good of a time.

Then we headed home at the most beautiful time of day - twilight, aka 'The Gloaming.' Pink and orange and coral suffuses the air and it's just so . . . MAGICAL. 

We're staying in Cannaregio - which we chose because it's where the locals live and it's quiet/relatively tourist-free - but an unexpected side effect has been that the bacaros around here are hip AF, full of natural wine and genuinely good cichéti. Each night has consisted of a mini-crawl followed by pasta pasta pasta, and it's been lovely

Speaking of, we're about to head out! Big love and see you tomorrow,

Friday, January 25, 2019

Day 25: we island-hop

Twenty minutes before dinner youguys so let's DO this. Today we got a water-taxi pass and hopped all OVER the lagoon.

Check out our captain:

JK DOGS CAN'T DRIVE BOATS. Also, not the boat we actually took. A girl can dream, though.

Our first stop was Murano, the famous glass-blowing island. Every shop that lined the pavement was filled with glass figurines twinkling in the sunlight, full of exquisite - and kitsch - treasures.

Actual photo of the glass-blowing process, which looks . . . consensual. 

Then we headed to Burano, the lace-weaving island, famous for its . . . lace.

Also its colourful homes. And risotto. THE RISOTTO. GO HERE FOR THIS IF NOTHING ELSE.

We were thankful again today for the quietness of January. The first ten minutes after getting off the boat we were in a small crush of tourists, but once we all stopped taking the same photo off the same bridge, everyone disappeared into the nooks and crannies of the island (or the risotto restaurants). 

Me, running my album of ten-thousand-nearly-identical pics by Claire trying to decide which to post: 'What about this one?' 'UM YES, HIS SHIRT MATCHES THE BUILDING.' She's got an eye I appreciate.

The whole island honestly looks like a Disney film set. 

Even the tourists look like hired extras.


Our last stop before returning home was Cemetery Island, which was exactly as it sounds: a cemetery on an island.

We saw this is in Sicily, too, and I really like the style. There's something so bright about it.

We had to leave before the sun went down. Mostly because that's when it closed, but also because that's when the dead start to rise and wander. 

Why else would they close before dark? 

We're home now and recharging phones and bodies, because tonight . . . we trattoria!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Day 24: we waterbus


It was definitely the first airport we've ever been to where you take a waterbus from the airport to the city centre; we were THRILLED by the concept. 

Then we get to the terminal and we're greeted with this guy at the end of the dock:
Yeah, okay, that looks pretty bus-y, pretty capable of transporting a herd of humans.
But then . . . 

Where are you going??

 Slightly worrying, as at this point we were five minutes from the time-tabled departure. But no problem, this is Italy, time is loose here! Then this guy pulls up straight away. Relief!

A little smaller, but okay. Still sweet!

The line moves, we start to board. Except, instead of the boat above, we're immediately shuffled to the boat NEXT to the boat above, which was so small it wasn't even visible from the queue:


Tiny. Once we all piled on, it sat so low in the water you couldn't see the horizon out the windows. Very relaxing water movement, delightful choppiness. How alive we feel! Notably our stomachs!

Once we landed, though, we fell in love. 

First of all, the city is full of old men who somehow look like proud penguins but are also immaculately dressed. Accompanying them are elderly woman wrapped in fur coats. One older gent spotted Sharona from across a bridge (Claire here; Sharona needed to put on her jim-jams so I took over blogging duties) and hustled right over, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He wasn't so easy to understand, but we surmised that his job was helping English and Americans in Venice with....things? Of some nature? That part wasn't clear, though he couldn't have been happier to discover that Rona hailed from California and Oklahoma.  

Did we mention this city is extremely pretty? It was cold but cloudless, and there were a few hours there where we were even hot enough to unbutton our winter coats.

We also stopped every ten paces (by which I mean I slowed down and forced Sharona to stop, though she was remarkably patient about all the interruptions) to take photos of canals and gondolas and gondoliers and old-timey architecture and teal water (remind Sharona to tell you what "teal" translates to in Dutch). 

Extra bonus of traveling in January: we got to waltz right in St. Mark's Basilica and stroll around the Doge's Palace without entering a thunderdome-style battle with all the other tourists. It was almost....quiet?

(After this picture we drank Martinis that were strong enough to fell a horse.)

And I'm back! (Grampa, Claire's totally lying about the martinis, don't listen to her.) Oh, and the word for teal in Dutch translates directly to - I learned this from Natalya - 'appleblueseagreen', which basically describes all of Venice.

Excited to see what day two has in store; looking forward to sharing more soon!

Esss and Ceebs