Work Travels

This year has involved a few short term projects and a little bit of travel. Most recently, my current client is split across three locations and the work that we have to do involves visiting and talking to people at each location. Fortunately European summer has finally set in and we’ve had some pleasant weather in each place.

Our first town meant that we stayed on Hayling Island – the closest, well known town is Portsmouth and is located on the south coast. The island is rather small, and requires taxis everywhere. Fortunately we were lucky to watch a few lovely sunsets.

This week, we ended up down on the south coast for a day before flying out to Milan (Italy) to visit another office. The sun has been shining and we’ve had some heavy rain. Fortunately we’ve had the good weather mostly afterwork.

Admittedly we haven’t had much of a chance to see the city, but being Italy we have eaten very well including a few tastes of authentic Gelati, the classic Milanese risotto and some good Italian pizza.

We even have directions home in case we get lost!

Perfect day for Cricket at Lords

My friend, Alex, had the great idea of booking a Sunday Twenty20 cricket match at Lord’s. Although I knew that I would arrive back from Brazil on the Saturday, I thought the £20 for a ticket would be worth keeping the option open of going.

We watched a match between the Sussex Sharks and the Middlesex Panthers and sat underneath a glorious London summer sun to enjoy the match as well. Lord’s is a fantastic ground – they had good food for those that wanted to eat (pies, fish and chips, and a burger stand where all the food looked pretty good). They also had a couple of tea and coffee stands as well as ice cream, that proved extremely popular given the heat.

The drinks stands were well manned and not only did they give you paper trays to carry the drinks, they also had the option of a plastic lid to ensure your drink of choice (beer, pimms, etc) did not spill on the way up to the stands. Very civilised! In the end, the Middlesex Panthers beat out the sharks, and given the required run rate, I doubted they would be able to catch up as the Panthers played extremely well in the first half. Here are some pictures that capture the day.

São Paulo, the city of smut, concrete buildings and traffic

I only spent a couple of nights in São Paulo as I was told there wouldn’t be too much to see. I was told that São Paulo is the business centre of brazil. The same person told me that about 90% of Brazil’s money flows through the city in some way.

Noticeably, on the way to the hotel from the airport, you pass many sex shops, and “love hotels” dotted around the city. My Lonely Planet travel guide told me how the city, a while back, attracted the LA porn industry because of its liberal attitude and the cheap foreign exchange rate. The book went on to say how the American porn industry was ravaged for a short time when one of its actors contracted HIV after having unprotected sex for camera, apparently a much less common practice in Brazil.

In addition to this infamous industry, the city is known as the concrete jungle and you can sort of tell when we were descending from the plane. We passed huge columns of tower blocks, almost until landing when it finally cleared and we hit the airport space. Even though I have been flying to much, the only other cities that I can think of with so many buildings near the airport were Narita in Japan.

I originally came to São Paulo as it was a reasonable distance to fly from Rio and we had recently set up an office there. My company organised for me to give a talk there. Attendance was pretty reasonable considering that the protests going on around Brazil meant that many people were unable to avoid the traffic.

Which is another thing about the city. Traffic, traffic, traffic. Although there is a metro system, it is not very extensive and during peak hours, you have to be prepared to be crushed against other people. London’s tube system prepares you well, although people here are a lot pushier. I had one morning to try it out, taking the metro to a station nearby the Mercado Municipal (city market) apparently well known for fresh produce and other food stuffs. I like seeing what’s on offer – the unusual ingredients, etc even if I’m not going to be cooking.

The market is located in the downtown part. Even with the guidebook and a number of websites, I still found my guard automatically up when wandering the streets because there was so many shady people. Some were simply homeless, and some of them a bit crazy. Others were really out to sell some fake brand goods, or to take you to a place where you can buy them.

The streets leading to the market are also chock-full of many other market stalls selling everything from jewellery, clothes, telephone accessories, you think of it you name it.

I made it to the market reasonably early. I figured I’d skip the hotel buffet breakfast and try to get a coffee and something to eat at the market from the small handful of cafes or stores selling hot food as well as produce to go. There was a whole second floor area with much larger restaurants that I’m guessing caters for a lunch time audience rather than the morning purveyors.

One of the big things to apparently order were the massive mortadella sandwiches. Massively filled with layers and layers of meat (with some variation of cheese or other alternative layers) all within a large bread roll. I’m not a big fan, so I ordered a cheese pastel that turned out to be a rather unhealthily fried pastry, although it was generous, salty and super tasty. Once was probably enough.

One of the other places that I read in the guide book that seemed worth visiting was the area known as “little Japantown” although it’s turning into more Korean and Chinese as other east Asian immigrants move in. The city is well known for its immigration with the largest number of Japanese and Italian immigrants. The result is an explosion of pizza joints and sushi places, in particular the hand-make temaki rolls that you see places devoted to (appropriately called temakerias)

Although I stopped off at Liberdade, “little Japan town” there isn’t really that much to do there as a visitor. It’s interesting to see the different stores, selling almost exclusively Asian wares and the street lamps stylised in a very oriental fashion.

Although there were plenty of churches and museums to check out, the lack of public transportation and not knowing how far some of the sights were made it a bit more difficult for me to want to visit a number of them. Although a very busy city, it feels like you’d want a bit more of a local guide to show you different parts of town.

BBQs in Britain

When the sun shines, London transforms into an entirely different city. Shirts come off, BBQs emerge and most green spots in London are covered by a swarm of people. Moods are happier and it’s a great time to be around. We have had a good round of weather, and had a couple of friends organise an awesome BBQ in their backyard. The most recent of these was at Toni’s place south of the river.

We were really fortunately for a sunny day, and even though it became much colder when the shadows draped themselves around the neighbouring houses, we definitely took advantage as much as possible, moving chairs around the garden until there was no more space.

Toni was the graceful host, and we were even present to watch the flaming of the coal (as well as just as tiny bit of smoke!) Strangely his neighbours next door didn’t seem to complain about the BBQ even though the wind picked up a bit of smoke and carried it over the fence on a number of times.


Whilst we waited, we feasted on a gorgeous scotch egg made even more special with chorizo from the local farmer’s markets. Still perfectly yellow yolk inside as well as “carbing” it up with some home made bread. Yummo.

We drank some beer and wine, catching up on what’s being going on. Pretty much a perfect lazy Saturday.

We had a good feast with a number of cuts on the grill. Toni had a fantastic set of BBQ tools including a grill rack that you simply loaded up, closed and needed to flip once instead of taking care of individual bits. We had some roast lamb, pork ribs and some chicken skewers I had marinated Filipino style with soy, tomato and garlic. Of course there was some salad, and some roasted corn on the cob to go along.

Here’s Toni relaxing in the sun.


We finished off the extended meal with a chocolate cake and ice cream, a pretty much perfect way to finish off the BBQ.


Now if only summer would last.

One of my favourite local pubs

I’m spoilt for choices to eat and drink out in my area. I really don’t take advantage of it enough but that is probably a good thing since I eat out pretty much all the time when I’m travelling for work. One of my favourite places that is a great eating and drinking venue on a Sunday Fox and Anchor which serves beer in nice tankards, has an awesome jazz band on Sundays (shh – don’t tell anyone) and just awesome food.

I came here in the last few weeks, one to catch up with Gaz and Mike on the Easter weekend (yes, I know a long time ago)

And more recently when Mike was in town from Brooklyn.

Sidetip: It’s worth trying the scotch egg if you ever go here. One of the best ever!

Happy Chinese New Year

Ok, this post is a little late but nevertheless, Happy New Year (Chinese style), to the year of the snake! I hadn’t really planned any trips to Chinatown or anything as we had just returned from our ski trip and I wanted time to catch up on some house-related stuff but I did end up agreeing to meet my sister at one of our regular cheap, but consistently cheerful and good restaurants New Fortune Cookie (I had no idea it rated so high on TripAdvisor – it’s true!)

New Fortune Cookie

I decided to meet early because I don’t like eating too late on a Sunday and this turned out to be a good idea with such a crowd also wanting Chinese food on Chinese New Year. New Fortune Cookie has a great location next to the Queensway tube, so it gets a lot of traffic and it’s good food and reasonable prices with good service (I never feel like they are turning tables like other Chinese restaurants) means you end up with a lot of happy customer coming back. On this evening though, we had about a half hour wait even though we were one of the first people in queue. By the time we sat down, people were starting to stand in between tables, just because there wasn’t enough room. So chaotic, and entertaining.

We had quite the feast for the Chinese New Year, starting off with won ton soup and ensuring that we ordered a noodle dish for long life. Ordering Chinese appropriately for a special event can be quite overwhelming as symbolic nature of foods is complex. We opted for one of

Christmas meal 2012

I spent this Christmas in London with my sister before we flew out to Funchal on boxing day. Like our normal Christmas in London feasts, we cooked up a storm as we skyped in our family during our preparations. I enjoyed going down to Borough Market, perusing the wares, tasting a number of treats whilst picking up all the quality goods that would go into our meal. We also took a great walk around London – it’s strange leading up to Christmas because it is such a quiet area.

Our lunch was a Borough Market inspired one where I reassembled the famous Brindisa Chorizo sandwiches. We start with grilling the sausages in a pan. I like the extra piccante for the heat, and I like the side rather crispy. It’s also a good way to draw out a lot of the fat – it’s amazing to see just how much there is!


I bought a bottle of Piquillo peppers (not cheap with a small bottle costing £5) but they were sweet and perfect for building the importance essentials.

Piquillo Peppers

The rest of the sandwich is pretty easy to assemble. Buy some ciabatta bread (it’s good because it crisps up nicely). I can imagine a good alternative would be a turkish bread as that seems to also have the magical property of getting crisper without burning. Peppery rocket is essential to provide a distinct contrast, to cut through the fat and the heat of the chorizo. Avoid watery lettuce as that will ruin the dish. Pretty perfect.

Chorizo Sandwich

We took time out – in between watching a number of movies and walking towards Covent Garden a bit more to see the final unveiling of the Lego advent calendar, before returning to gorge ourselves (like everyone else around the world) on their Christmas feast. Our menu, this year revolved around a little bit of a simpler menu – Fig, goats cheese and honey bruschetta, roast pork belly with goose fat roasted potatoes, truffle mac and cheese (because we simply didn’t have enough carbs!) and then some honey glazed parsnips and carrots.

A decadent meal for the holiday period.

Wrapping up 2012

2012 turned out to be a pretty good year. Travel remained as a big part of it, as well as the theme of taking care of my health a bit more. In terms of travel, I managed to hit New York, Munich, Rome where it snowed (it apparently very rarely happens), Chicago, San Francisco, Malmo, Prague, Cologne, Dallas, Berlin, Shanghai, Xian, Guilin, Chengdu, Beijing, Aarhus, Turin and Funchal (Portugal) for the Christmas period.

The year of being healthy meant I kept to two days of eating fully vegetarian food, and having a fairly regular schedule at the gym meant that I could have a pretty good routine for most of the year when I wasn’t travelling. A work colleague of mine got me addicted to body pump that got me down to my lowest body fat percentage ever (6.7% according to the machine at the gym) and put back on the weight that I lost when running a lot last year but with leaner muscle. This means that I’ve been able to keep my 30″ waist which basically is better health. I ran a 10k to support my sister but held back on any more half-marathons because my knees are pretty knackered now. I have still kept my general routine of a 10k run every week if I wasn’t flying in on a Sunday getting up at 6:10am for the hour run.

Other significant things that happened include becoming a British citizen and self-publishing my first book, The Retrospective Handbook. I’m even quite glad that I’ve managed to break even.

I also had some wonderful culinary experiences including Eleven Madison Park, The French Laundry, Launceston Place, Frontera Grill, Galvin at Windows and Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet.