Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Thursday, March 31, 2011

All through my wild days, My mad existence...

We got up late and enjoyed our last few hours at La Cantera Jungle Lodge Iguazu with a sumptuous breakfast. We then checked out and took a taxi to the local Cataratas airport to board our McConnell Douglas MD-88 back down south to Buesnos Aires Jorge Newbery. This time I remembered to take some Valium. The flight was fairly bump-free as it turned out.

Back at the Alex Hotel we asked for a room at the front of the hotel this time. Away from the disco that took place on the ground floor the previous Friday. The room wasn't quite so nice, the Wi-Fi signal not quite so strong and there was no jacuzzi - just  walk-in shower. But we were quite happy.


In the evening to went back to the gorgeous steak house Gran Arrilla del Plata for lomo (tenderloin) and that Norton Clasico red that went down such a treat last Saturday.

After that we were just about ready for bed.


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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Running around trying everything new...

This being our only full day in Iguazu we naturally wanted to go to the Iguazu National Park - a World Heritage Site if every there was one. It's a series of waterfalls rivalling Niagara Falls in volume but exceeding it in both scale and beauty.

We hired a limo for the day (180 pesos) and were dropped off just outside the park. 100 pesos each to get in. It reminded us a bit of Jurassic Park with it's jungle themed visitor centre, carefully laid walkways and yet potentially hazardous wildlife and sheer drops off hidden cliffs. WE needn't have worried though. It was all very tourist-friendly. A little train took us to the main waterfall - Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat). We reached it by walking over a kilometre of metal raised walkways and it was well worth the journey. An amazingly thunderous torrent of water rushes over a horseshoe shaped cliff. Lots of spray, lots of water and lots of photo opportunities.

After that we took up couple of treks - one was the upper circuit of the park where we found a huge series of waterfalls and one was the lower circuit where we saw many of the same falls but up close and got a lot wetter. They were simple amazing to be honest. Beautiful classic waterfalls surrounded by lush green vegetation and wildlife all around. Butterflies of all colours would land on us and spread their wings as if wanting to be admired.

Stopping off at one of the many resting places for a bite to eat we were badgered by 'coaties' (ring-tailed possums) trying to steal our food. Quite frankly we let them have much of it. That bread was pretty stale!

We spent six hours wandering round and marvelling at the park and probably could have spent six more. Instead popped into the Sheridan Hotel for a large gin and tonic and a more panoramic view of the falls. Bizarrely there was a breast implant convention in full swing too. Go figure.

We were collected by our driver at 4pm and headed back to the jungle lodge for a swim, another sumptuous dinner and an early night. We decided against visiting the Brazilian side of the falls the following day so we could have a more leisurely morning before the flight back down the country to Buenos Aires once again.




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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Looking out of the window, Staying out of the sun...

Buenos Aires has a domestic airport just north of the city along the coast. It's called Jorge Newbery.

Late morning we checked out of the Axel Hotel, dropped our suitcases at reception and with just two rucksacks took a taxi to catch our flight. We were flying pretty much due north a thousand miles to Iguaza - site of the thunderous waterfalls on the border with Brazil.

We boarded our airplane - a Boeing 737-700 looking forward to a smooth flight. Hey what could go wrong? We were flying "tango" class.

Well, it was a fucking nightmare flight. We pitched, we rolled, we yawed, we bumped, we dropped, we shook. Even Stu looked worried at one point as we flew through a storm. The pilot got a round of applause after we'd eventually bounced down the landing strip. I was sobbing and had red marks on my hands where I'd been gripping the arm rests. Note to self: take Valium for EVERY flight from now on!

Still, we had arrived in the jungle.

Once through the terminal we grabbed a limo and headed speeding off down increasingly narrow roads to our little hideaway - La Cantera Jungle Lodge.

And what a beautiful place it was. The central building was a one-story structure made of wood with a pretty veranda, dining area, pool and charming tents and out-houses for lounging about in.

Our room was down a series of boardwalks deeper in the jungle. Equally pretty it was high up, had a balcony overlooking the jungle and was equipped with all mod-cons. Practically perfect in every way.

We settled in and then had a swim in the pool. Our fellow guests were nice. We got talking to this mid-twenties, tanned, muscly, friendly, straight Norwegian sailor. Just off ship. He seemed to like me. Bless. Little did he know... He even showed me his Granny, Slip and Reef. Knot!

Later on we had dinner on the veranda - a rather delicious steak accompanied with a marvellous local red wine and followed by a chocolate fondant. Yummy.

We topped the evening off watching a tango show.

An eventful day to say the least.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

I had to let it happen, I had to change...

We decided to make a day of it and took the Seacat from the Buquebus Ferry port across the River Plate to Uruguay and visit the old part of a beautiful town of Colonia del Sacramento

It was only a short ferry ride from Buenos Aires and all the nice restaurants were within 2-5 minutes walk.

We walked along Avenida General Flores to the Barrio Historico. Tootled about the picturesque squares and water-front. Climbed up the beautiful Colonia lighthouse and then settled down for some delicious supper at the excellent El Buen Suspiro.

We sat in a lovely courtyard eating plates of beautiful home-made cheeses, chorizo, salami, home-made cheese & onion and aubergine tartlets and home-make pickles. Including the two bottles of wine we had (which were both local and superb) all it was a steal at just £20-£25 a head. One of the best meals we're ever had.

We strolled back down to the ferry port and took the hour long trip back with smiles on our faces and full tummies. Cattle-class was fully booked so we ended up going first-class. A perfect ending to a perfect day.
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Although she's dressd up to the nines, At sixes and sevens with you...

Sunday was our walking day. We wlaked for about five our taking in all the sights and pounded the pavement from south to north and back again.

We started off in Plaza de Mayo - sight of the famous Catedral Metropolitana, Museo Historico Nacional del Cabildo de la Revolucion de Mayo and of course the magnificent Casa Rosada (Pink House. This central balcony of this latter building was famously used by Eva Peron to wave at the people - and of course also by Madonna in Alan Parker's Evita film.

We when worked our way north taking in the Floralis Generica - a giant metal flower that opens during daylight - and the stopped off for refreshments at Museo Nacional de Belles Artes.

We then set off again heading for the Buenos Aires Design complex, the beautiful Basilica Nuestra Senora del Pilar and then the Cementerio de la Recoleta where we found row upon row of fantastic granite, marble and bronze mausoleums. Naturally we paid a visit to Eva Peron's finally resting place too. (over to the right down a narrow passage).

We then stopped off for some late lunch at the Buller Brewing Company - a micro-brewery. Great food. Slow service.

Finally we headed along Avenida Alvear past wonderfully decadent buildings ending up at the French embassy.

Back at the hotel a 'pool party' had started. I say 'pool party' - what I really mean is a thumping, turned-up-to-eleven club night. We stood little chance of resting with all that going on so we showered and headed back out for some beers at rather shabby eatery called 'My House'. As had been promised by the receptionist the music got quieter at 10pm so we managed to get some sleep by midnight.

The reason for our early night? We were planning a trip to another country the next day. Uruguay.
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

All you will see, Is a girl you once knew...

Once we had recovered from the 22 hour journey and the bad night's sleep due to the disco in the hotel we were set to start actually enjoying out holiday proper.

The buffet breakfast was really tasty and set us up nicely for a bit of exploring of Buenos Aires. We decided to take the tourist bus first just to get a feel for the place. We took www.buenosairesbus.com and over the next three hours took in Monserrat (where our hotel was), San Telmo and the old dock, La Boca area (pretty run down area but included the famous football stadium), Reserva Ecologica (the reclaimed land along the front), Puerto Madero (spruced up warehouses, restaurants and dock as many waterfronts round the world have been), Plaza San Martin (where the British Tower has been renamed post-Falklands), past the giant aluminium lily to Palermo Rosedal where the zoo is and on to Palza Italia (Evita museum). Then we headed back south past Recolta to Plaza Lavalle checking out the famous cemetery and colonial buildings on the way. We were basically checking out places we wanted to return to to the following day to explore in more detail on foot.

In the evening to went out for a gorgeous steak dinner at the highly recommended Gran Arrilla del Plata - a steak house of a picturesque corner of Chile y Peru. The rib-eye, sirloin and hour red went down a treat.

Luckily there was no disco at the hotel that night so we hot the pillow early and got a good night's sleep.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

That I still need your love, After all that I've done...

The first flight actually wasn't too bad. A bit of turbulence over the north of Brazil got me panicking somewhat but the Valium actually did it's work in the main and I slept much of the first leg of the flight. The last hop down from San Paolo to Buenos Aires was pretty event-free too. Being British Airways everything ran pretty smoothly.

Buenos Aires main international airport Ezeiza is about 35km (and 140 Pesos) away from downtown BA. There is a bureau to change at the baggage collection carousel which it's definitely worth using as were couldn't find an ATM on the airport concourse. The exchange takes most currencies so we changed a £200 (the more you change the better rate you get). It was about 5.5 pesos to the pound. Everyone seems to want a tip (not as bad as Egypt or Jordan though) so it's worth trying to get as many 10 peso notes in your wallet as you can muster.

Our first view of Argentina (out of the speeding limo window) was that it was fairly green country (apparently it rains at night). As we got closer to the city itself we noticed a distinct shabby European feel to the buildings. Bit like Cuba really.

Pulling up at our hotel - Axel Buenos Aires - it seemed quite nice albeit in a slight rough part of town. "It's coming up", said the receptionist. OK.

The rooms were nice - concrete, glass, jacuzzi bath - and after our long journey we were looking forward to a good night's sleep.

Only we didn't get one. At 11pm the the ground floor of the hotel turned into a night club. The whole room was shaking and jumping to the thumping bass. Our complaints went unheeded. At 2am it suddenly stopped. Apparently 2am is the time when people head out to the clubs. The next day we discovered that every Friday night the Axel holds a pre-club warm-up drinks party. Thanks for letting us know!
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

It won't be easy, You'll think it strange...

I left work on Thursday feeling slight apprehensive of the long journey ahead. We were heading for Argentina - Buenos Aires to be precise - for ten or eleven days. Although I'd been to South America once before - Brazil in 1998 - I'd not really spent any time in any of the big cities and wasn't really sure what to expect in terms of the people, the weather or culture.

One thing I did expect - and dread - though was the flying. I'm not as good flyer. And we'd be stopping to refuel in San Paolo for a few hours en route. So that coupled with two internal flights later in the trip meant that there'd be ten take-offs and landings to endure.

When we got to Heathrow terminal 5 we had a bite to eat and settled in for the wait. Sadly the wait was even longer than we'd feared as there was a two and half hour delay. Little did we know that the total journey time was ultimately going to take us 22 hours.
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Don't Cry For Me Argentina...

We are off to Argentina for 11 days. A bit of a later winter holiday.

The Most Incredible Thing...

Last night Darren, Stu and I went to see Pet Shop Boys new ballet The Most Incredible Thing based on the Hans Christian Andersen story at the Sadler's' Wells in London's glitzy Islington.

The simple fairy tale is about a king who offers his daughter and half his kingdom to the person who can show him "the most incredible thing". The competition to win the kingdom was staged like a Soviet version of The X Factor.

It had a stirring score, unmistakably Pet Shop Boys, and the Javier de Frutos choreography was fresh and very modern.

It had a sumptuous staging, spectacle special effects and costumes which really added to the air of a make-believe tale brought to life. Think Bauhaus meets Sweet Charity meets Go West.

We loved it. The ballet's three acts just flew by. If you get a chance - go.



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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Swan Lake...

Last night Stu and I went to the ballet - to see Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House in London's glitzy Covent Garden.

We had cheap and cheerful seats - well, I say seats - they were in the Amphitheatre Lower Slips Right i.e. standing in the gods. And we only got to see about two thirds of the stage. Which in fact was not that bad considering we only paid £6 for them. Luckily it was a symetrical production and so we didn't miss much of the action in the end.

It was a great show and despite the standing we loved each and every one of the four acts. Mind you, what's not to love about the Swan Lake? The music was as familiar as it was sublime and at the ROH the casting were - as one might expect - top notch.

As for the principals - Sarah Lamb as old swanny herself Odette/Odile was excellent, Federico Bonelli as Prince Siegfried seemed to fly around the stage but Christopher Saunders as the over the top evil spirit/von Rothbart stole the show.

It was Stu's first visit to the ROH. We'll be going back for sure.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Ecstasy...

Stu and I went to see a revival of Mike Leigh's 1979 play Ecstasy at the Hampstead Theatre. The play, using beautifully observed social realism, covers the life of four blue-collar friends living in a ratty area in London near Kilburn High Street and the drunken frustration in their lives, namely that of the lead character Jean. Jean is a suicidal garage attendant who sleeps with unsuitable men, like Roy, drinks heavily and has abortions. Her friend from Birmingham, Dawn, who has had three children, brings back her husband Mick, an Irish labourer, and his quiet friend, Len, to Jean's bleak Kilburn bedsitter, - 'their second act ensemble trumpets the dark night of the soul, in what is at once one of the best and gloomiest party scenes in contemporary drama.'

Ostensibly a portrait of despairing solitude but, set in the first few months of the first Thatcher government, it also rings a warning bell of the hellish impact of urban poverty.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Single Person...

I now live alone. So I had a productive day yesterday - saving a bit of money as it turns out.

First I called the council about my Council Tax.

What I currently pay £1554.29 pa
After Single person discount (25%) £1165.72 pa

Saving £388.57 pa

Then I called the water board about my water assessed household rate

What I currently pay £303 pa
With Single Occupier Tarrif £187 pa

Saving £143 pa

Total saving £531.57 pa

Not bad for 10 minutes on the telephone.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Still Sick and Still Tired...

I'm still sick and still tired of being both sick and tired. Still got Man 'flu. Still in bed. Pah!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Man Utd 2 - 0 Arsenal...

On Saturday Paul and I went up to Manchester for the night to watch Arsenal take on Manchester United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup. We played pretty terribly and deserved to lose to be honest.

It was nice to see Manchester though and Paul and I did a bit of scouting around. Sadly I was coming down with a cold though so we didn't have quite as much fun as I'd hoped. The Molly House was nice though and we did a bit of people watching (for 'people' read 'tranny').

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Tha Sapphies...

On Friday Stu, Darren and I went to see the Aussie show The Sapphires at the Barbican Theatre. It was a musical play about a singing group of four Koori women who tour Vietnam during the war. It was pretty lame - but entertaining nonetheless. Lots of feathers and bad acting. As Stu described it: Sheila's Wheels The Musical.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Inamo...

Last night Stu, Darren, Dean, Kevin, Duncan, Timmy, Trevor, Christopher, Chris and I we went out to help Mark celebrate his 44th birthday. We went for a meal at inamo in Lower Regent's Street in London's glitzy West End.

The ordering system is amazing; "inamo is a pioneering Oriental fusion restaurant and bar where the control of the dining experience is placed firmly in your hands" There's an interactive table that you use to order your drinks, food, change the table background, play games, preview your meal, call the waiter, order a taxi, ask for the bill - everything! It's brilliant. Good's food too!

video




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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Mary Wilson at Indigo2...

Last night Stu, Darren and I went to see the wonderful Mary Wilson perform at the Indigo2 supported by The Chi-Lites.

The Chi-Lites were fine - gambling through such hits as Have You Seen Her?, Oh Girl, Give It Away, I Found Sunshine, A Letter To Myself etc.

After a brief interval out came the lady herself. Mary Wilson was one third of the founding centre of The Supremes, and stayed through each (six in total) line-up changes between the late 1950s and 1977. The girl showed staying power then and did so again last night. Mary's solo career then kicked off officially in 1979, and she has continued to release albums and tour globally to rave reviews and sold out crowds since. Working together with her band for 19 years and counting, they did a protean mix of standards in a delicious live instrumental environ.

La Wilson's setlist for the evening criss-crossed and embraced jazz, pop, and soul with uncanny ease, a good portion of them coming from The Great American Songbook and of course her extensive back catalogue. With a moody blue, but affirming hue overall, she glowed with a sincere delivery.

We were treated to such soul classics as:
Where Did Our Love Go?
Baby Love
Come See About Me
Stop! In the Name of Love
Back in My Arms Again
Nothing but Heartaches
I Hear a Symphony
My World Is Empty Without You
Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart
You Can't Hurry Love
You Keep Me Hangin' On
The Happening
Reflections
Love Child
Someday We'll Be Together
Bad Weather
Nathan Jones
Floy Joy
I Am Changing
Walk the Line
amongst many others

Towards the end we were treated to covers of Sting's Fields of Gold, The Rolling Stones' Satisfaction and an encore of Donna Summer's Last Dance.

Sadly nothing from Mary's eponymous 1979 album - despite calls from the floor for Red Hot..

La Wilson was funny, personal, and lively throughout the evening. The night made it crystal clear that Mary Wilson is a truly undervalued commodity amongst her Motown peers. A voice that is finally beginning to get its due, in terms of her massive Supremes contributions, and as an artist in general. Mary Wilson is the glistening example of talent that won't be held back by anyone or thing, I was glad to see it for myself in the flesh once again.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Parsifal...

Last Friday Paul and I went London Coliseum to see English National Opera's bum-numbing five and a half hour long Wagner opus Parsifal.

In our seats for a 5pm prompt curtain up we were awestruck from the first note.

As some guy also at the performance on Twitter wrote: "Well, Parsifal at the ENO was marvellous. I'm all tear-stained. John Tomlinson surely the greatest singer we have. What a performance."

And I couldn't agree more. JT was brilliant. The whole kit and kabudle was brilliant actually.

The set was a masterpiece of invention (even the big revolving rock got a mention in the programme.) The orchestra was sublime and the singers superb.

Wagner at it's best.
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Monday, March 07, 2011

Doctor Who Experience...

Dean and I ventured down to London's Olympia 2 on Sunday afternoon to see if we could gain entry to the Tardis. Or Tardises to be more precise. We were sure Doctor Who wouldn't mind.

The Doctor Who Experience is running for a ten months and contained within it a special effects show in which the 'shoppers' (i.e. us) took part (the experience bit) and an exhibition of costumes, props, audio, special effects, interactive exhibits and artefacts from said show.

We loved it. We gasped, we oohed and we aahed. The highlight was probably the Dalek war on the bridge of the Dalek spaceship. Or maybe it was the 3D monster climax. Or the giant K1 Robot. They were all a highlights! It was a veritable Whovians delight.

Many more pictures here (and below).
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Doctor Who Experience (pictures)...

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Claudia Brücken...

Last night Darren treated me to a night out watching Claudia Brücken at the Scala in London's glitzy Kings Cross. The lovely Paul and the gorgeous Dave also joined us as did a collection of aging funsters from the 80s.

Die Brücken was on stage promoting her recent Combined CD - a collection of her work from Propaganda days through Act, Onetwo, various duets and solo work. Last night she was joined by, amongst others, Susanne Freytag, Andrew Poppy, Andy Bell, Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware.

It was great gig. And there was lots of love in the room. We were treated to pretty much all the album and the guest stars shone. Especially La Bell - resplendent in a twinkly suit.

Afterwards we repaired to Central Station where we bumped into Dilwyn and Lee and continued our night of fun.

The first time I saw Claudia Brücken was in May 1985 during an early promotional ZTT showcase called "The Value of Entertainment" at the Ambassadors Theatre in London. The shows also featured Art of Noise (Paul Morley addressing the audience after three dancers had performed to AON tracks), Anne Pigalle, Andrew Poppy and Instinct. Propaganda were joined on stage by former Simple Minds bassist Derek Forbes and ex-Japan drummer Steve Jansen.
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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Lovebox 2011...

The Lovebox 2011 line-up looks really good. SUNDAY A-Z: 2 Many DJs (Closing Main Stage set) // Azari & III // Black Devil Disco Club // Blondie // Dr Noki NHS // Feral AKA MC Kinky // Hard Ton // Horse Meat Disco featuring: Tensnake, The Shit Robot Show Live, Severino, Luke Howard, James Hillard, Jim Stanton // Jodie Harsh's Circus // Jonny Woo // Kelis // Marc Almond // MEN // Planningtorock // Robyn // Scissor Sisters // MANY MORE TBA

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011