Wednesday, 3 October 2012
Day 1 of the London Trip . . . The Turkey Awards.
Many thanks for all of your kind comments yesterday! We did have a really lovely weekend away, but it is always nice to get home again at the end of any journey, and for things to get back to normal. Traveling can be very tiring!
I'm always amazed at how very quick the journey down to London is by train. We were there in just a little over 2 hours . . . a drive that would take us at least 5 or 6 in the car. (Todd likes to stop a few times to stretch his legs.) Because we had booked well in advance it wasn't very expensive either. It was only £18 each single, when normally it is a LOT more than that, so we were pretty happy campers! What's more when you book in advance on the train you can reserve your seats and have a definite place to sit. I always like to sit facing the direction the train is moving in because I get motion sick and couldn't handle going backwards!
London is a city I have always held a certain fascination for . . . ever since I was a girl and watched the film Mary Poppins, with it's little glimpses into London life, I have wanted to visit it, never ever dreaming that one day I would actually be able to. I was one of those little girls that devoured our family encyclopedia from cover to cover and dreamed of visiting all the places I saw on it's pages.
And when I was a teenager, England had not lost it's allure for me either. I longed to swing on Carnaby Street and see Big Ben, and walk where the Beatles had trod, and all that stuff. Dreams can come true I have found, and I have discovered in recent years that I am living a truly remarkable life.
It was immediately clear to us as we arrived in London, that we had already made a big mistake. We had taken our carry on bags as luggage. Being overnight, carry bags, we thought they were just the right size for what we had to carry, and they were . . . but all around us people were pulling bags with wheels on the bottom . . . and ours had no wheels. We were having to lug them and so that becomes very old . . . and VERY heavy in a really short time. I said to Todd, there's no way we are going to be able to travel to our hotel on the underground carrying these and so we made a quick decision to grab a cab.
London is filled with cabs. They are all over the place and as long as the Taxi light is light on the front of the roof, Bob's Your Uncle! As well, in places like Euston Station, there are tons of them just waiting for people coming in on trains to grab for a quick and easy journey to their hotel destinations. It didn't take us very long to get into one and be on our way. But, boy oh boy . . . you have to watch these cabbies. If they think you don't know where you are going, they'll take you all around the houses. We sat in that cab watching the pounds pile up minute by minute and before we were through, we had paid more to get from Euston in the cab than we had paid to come down to London from Chester on the train!!
(I am always amazed at the photos you can find on Pinterest! That's our hotel!)
We were staying at the Park International on Cromwell Road and I have to say we got it at a very fair price for a London center hotel, which included a breakfast buffet each day, and it was excellent. The rooms were clean and everyone was very helpful. They had a safe in each room where you could leave your valuables, and YOU set the code to open it up. One day while we were there, Todd even put in the wrong code we had been using and couldn't remember what it was. There was no way we were able to open it, and they very cheerfully helped us to get it open. Anyways, we booked into the hotel and as we had about 4 hours before we needed to be ready to go to the Savoy, we set out to explore the neighborhood on foot. We discovered that we were within walking distance of several things we had planned to visit whilst in London with several museums only being a few blocks down the road and Kensington Palace also within walking distance!
(Todd all dressed up and ready to go)
I thought Todd looked ever so handsome in his suit. There is a funny story behind that suit. Now, we are not the sort of people that would just happen to have a dinner suit like this just hanging in the closet. When we worked down South, bags of clothes for discard often came down to the laundry room for the housekeeper to dispose of and one time this dinner suit was in the bag and the housekeeper said to me, "I bet that would fit Todd." So, I took it home and it did fit Todd, although at the time he said to me he didn't think he would ever have occasion to wear it. I just told him to hang on to it because . . . you just never know!
(Finally a decent picture of me!)
I was so excited getting ready. I had been waiting for this night for months and months it seemed and I even wore lipstick for the occasion, something which I never wear, because . . . for some reason as I have aged my lips seem to have disappeared!
The MOST exciting part of that first day was our evening at the Savoy. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I, a small town girl from rural Nova Scotia, would one day be able to wine and dine in one of the finest hotels in the world.
It was truly amazing and so luxurious inside. We were just so thrilled to be there! We quickly found our way to the River Room, which is the room where the Champagne Reception was being held. We were announced to the room by a gentleman in red tails. We felt very posh. The room was filled with waiters holding trays of champagne and non alcoholic beverages and a band was playing music, creating a fabulous atmosphere. We really enjoyed mingling and getting a feel for the evening. It wasn't too long before we were called into the Dining/Ball Room for the party to truly begin!
The dinner was being held in the Lancaster Ball Room. This is a picture of it in daylight that I pinched from the Hotel page. It was an amazing room, as you can imagine and the pictures that I took of it really didn't do it justice, so I thought I would show you what it actually looked like! Of course in the evening light all those chandeliers were glittering and it all had a very fairytale like atmosphere.
Our table was in the very back of the room, in the left hand corner. I didn't think that would be much of a problem as I hadn't really expected that I would have to get up and go anywhere.
I didn't take too many pictures of the hotel from the inside, because I didn't want to look like an idiot. I did take this photo of the inside the "ladies." (Nobody was in there at the time.) They had actual REAL hand towels to dry your washed pinkies on! (and luxury soap!)
Tourist moment over . . . back to the ball.
We had a lovely group of people at our table. They were all chef instructors from the Colchester Culinary School. Several of their students were up for awards as well. There were the usual opening speeches from people and then we were entertained by two lovely young women doing the Charleston. My goodness but they had tons of energy and they were all over the room! It was fabulous.
The meal was gorgeous and consisted of three courses. The starter and the main were recipes which had been created by three of the students from the Colchester School and which had won them each awards.
I did get a photo of the first course when nobody was looking. They were delicious Turkey Thai Koftas on a bed of Thai Salad with a delicious Thai wonton on the side. Fabulous! The main course was Breast of Turkey (of course, this was the Turkey awards) rolled around a vegetable filling, and served Au Jus along with a honeyed Parsnip puree, Potato Croquette and a Scotch Quails Egg, which was absolutely delicious. I want to know how they got that Quail egg to have a runny centre like it did. It was perfect. Amazing meal. Oh, and I almost forgot about dessert, which was a Chocolate Mousse Quenelle on a fruity tart with a mango puree. Very nice.
We were entertained by Irish funny man, Ed Byrne. He was quite hilarious actually . . . a bit irreverent, as you would expect an Irish man to be, but very funny. It was a very full evening, with games, and entertainment and a charity auction for the Children's Charity SPARKS. Lots of money was raised during the auction, the lucky ticket draws and the Casino later on.
The Awards were presented by Sir Matthew Pinsent, Olympic Rowing Gold Medalist. He showed us his medals.
There was also ex professional rugby player at London Wasps, Peter Schrivener.
I can remember sitting there and saying to myself, please don't call me up, please don't call me up . . . it was soooo far up to that stage from where I was sitting in the back and the tables were so close together and I despaired of ever getting through them, but you know what??
Where there's a will, there's a way and I somehow made it up there. I was so surprised when my name was called and I managed to make my way up to the front. The band was playing music and the lights were flashing and the crowd was cheering. I don't know how I did it, but I did! I didn't trip up or anything. It was truly a once in a lifetime, amazing, incredible moment. Now I know how people feel when they win an Academy Award! (Gee, I didn't realize how short I really am til now!) Todd said he knew all along I was going to win, he just had a feeling. I didn't know I was going to win. I had only been looking at the experience as being a once in a lifetime chance to dine and dance at the Savoy.
It was truly an amazing evening and I am ever so grateful to the people at British Turkey for all the work they put into this fab night, and for the award. Todd and I had one of the best nights of our lives . . . a truly amazing experience that will be forever hard to top in this increasingly incredible amazing life I am living.
We fell into bed when we got back to the hotel that night beautifully exhausted and amazed and just grateful for the lovely day we had had. We looked at each other and said, "Pinch ME!"
We were not dreaming . . . Fairy-tales do exist and sometimes Cinderellas do get to go to the ball.
Cooking in The English Kitchen today . . . Swiss Roll. A traditional, amazingly fat free and easy teatime treat!