Tag Archives: completed

What’s On TV – RuPaul’s Drag Race

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 195/501
Title: RuPaul’s Drag Race
Episodes Aired: 117
Year(s): 2009 onwards
Country: USA

There is no better way of showing the difference in work colleagues between myself and my husband. Where I fast-tracked The Great British Bake Off to talk to some of mine, he asked to fast-track RuPaul’s Drag Race in order to share it with some of his. Yes, both are competitions and involve a great deal of innuendo – but that’s where the similarities stop.

For the uninitiated, RuPaul’s Drag Race is a competitive reality show between professional drag queens in order to be crowned “America’s Next Drag Superstar”. The challenges that the contestants face include photoshoots, acting, singing, lip-syncing and the infamous ‘Snatch Game’.

As someone who is afraid of drag queens (yes, I have been known to flee when one enters my personal space) I was really apprehensive about watching this. Over in the UK I have only really come across the more aggressive types of drag queens which has resulted in me viewing them all as scary gay clowns.

So let’s start the healing.

For the purposes of ticking this off we decided to watch two complete seasons: the first and fifth (the latter being recommended by the hub’s work colleagues). And we watched both of these incredibly quickly – especially the fifth season because I fell in love with this show.

I don’t really watch much reality television (especially with Bake Off switching channels), but what really got me with Drag Race is the cheer level of talent on display here. They have to make clothes, be witty, sing, act and do all of this whilst being pretty (or fierce depending on the persona). The level of respect that I now have for these drag artists is so high now – especially for the more accomplished ones that I saw.

This is where I probably should mention the performer who really helped me work through this fear of mine: Jinkx Monsoon. If I had watched the first season before the fifth I would have probably would have used a picture of Nina Flowers, but there you go.

In the two weeks since finishing off Season 5 I still catch myself looking for Jinkx Monsoon highlights on YouTube. They found new ways to make me smile and to soften towards the whole concept of drag artistry. It’s not something I would really want to go and see live (mainly because of the amount of alcohol consumption involved) but I think the number of times I have watched this clip on YouTube shows just how far I have come.

List item: Overcome a fear
Status: Completed

It may be a bit too soon to call this, but I think the healing has truly begun.

So yes. I will now be watching the rest of this show and it will be an utter delight to do so.


Mending 101

There are a number of goals on this old bucket list of mine that could be put under the umbrella of ‘become an adult’ – whatever that means anymore. Previous posts have covered the likes of holding a dinner party, getting married and building a bookcase.

Today is something a bit more practical… and annoying. Mending rip items of clothing.

In the last week, two pairs of work trousers have ripped. The first when I had to clamber under a table to unplug a laptop, the other when I crossed my legs rather awkwardly. This has lead to an extreme knock in self-confidence, as you would expect from both happening in such quick succession.

I am going to chalk this up to regular wear and tear; mainly because I have lost 25lbs in the last 4 months and both pairs of trousers were wearable before I started losing weight. If it was anything else, like my suddenly gaining all the weight back in 2 weeks, I don’t want to know.

So, I got out my sewing kit, found a how-to video on YouTube and started mending my rips.

I accept that this is not a perfect job. Why would it be for a first attempt? However, the location of this rip falls underneath a fold of fabric, which means that you can’t see my stitching when this pair of trousers are worn.

For the moment this stitching has held after a machine wash and a day of wear – so I think I can consider this as crossed off.

List Item: Mend your own clothes
Progress: Completed

The Great EU Quest: Spain – Figueres

For our final day in Spain we ventured out of the city of Barcelona towards the town of Figueres some 70+ miles away. We booked tickets on the highspeed train so the journey only took 55 minutes each way (regular trains take 2.5 hours, so this was a no brainer).

Breakfast was a feast after we confused the server at the train station’s sandwich kiosk… being the English person I am I felt that I would rather pay the extra 4€ than make a fuss at there being an extra sandwich. The sandwich I asked for (which was Spanish omelette) was perfect for breakfast and has inspired me to make my own when I am back in the UK.

So, why did we go to Figueres in the first place? Well…

 List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 69/100Sight: Teatre-Museu Dalí
Location: Figueres, Spain
Position: #361


It’s the home of the Dalí Theatre and Museum. The final Lonely Planet check of this trip and something of genuine interest. I remember back when there was the Dalí Experience in London and have since enjoyed seeing anything of his that I come across. Even his sketches and lesser known pieces are inherently interesting because of the surreal nature of things.

So it’s little wonder that this museum was incredibly interesting. The only issue was the abundance of tour groups. Mostly school groups. It just meant that, at times, it was hard to navigate around the narrow corridors of the museum or get a good view of all the artworks.

Still, that didn’t overly detract from the unique experience that having so much Dalí in one place affords. I mean where else can you have an entire room with furniture set up to show the face of Mae West if you see it from the right angle?

How about corridors filled with paintings of rocks that look like naked women, gilded money skeletons and busts crowned with bread? It’s a truly unique experience that I would recommend – just make sure to seek out Galatea of the Spheres. It’s a great painting that few people were paying attention to… which is a shame.

So, what do you do after all that? Well, we decided to go on a bit of trek to the Sant Ferran Castle. The museum of antique typewriters wasn’t quite tempting enough.

For a reasonable price (and some collateral) you can get access to the castle with its free audio guide. The audio guide is a brick where you need to press play and pause (because it is one continuous track) and actually speaks to you out loud rather than through earphones. Honestly, it all felt rather comical as images of groups of tourists with different guides all playing at the same time immediately sprang to mind. What an awful cacophony that must be.

I say must be because we were the only tourists there at the time. Other than people who actually worked at the castle we were on our own. This castle is massive and is, at least according to the guide, the biggest fortress of its kind in Europe.

Vast and empty. So it felt like we were playing a sandbox version of Uncharted with the audio guide acting as director’s commentary. We clambered up the parapets, observed the plains from high vantage points – which reminds me:

List item: Visit a Spanish plain to see if it rains there
Status: Completed


I think what we had was a pretty unique experience that others who come to the fortress in the summer time wouldn’t have. I mean, this is a site that was only in the triple figures for Facebook check-ins. I would find it hard to recommend this enough should you fine yourself in the Figueres area. The free audio guide alone (the interesting information, not the comical size) would be enough. The ability to explore in isolation is a bonus.

We still had a few hours left until our return train to Barcelona, so we figured it was time for lunch. It’s the first time I have ever had someone make fideua for me… And I have to say that I prefer the one I make more. Not just because of the fiddly shelling of prawns, but because I put chorizo in mine. It may not be as authentic as the one we had… but sometimes authenticity needs to give way if something tastes better.

Our final moments in Figueres were spent in the jewels section of the Dalí museum. Originally we were going to give this a miss because it didn’t sound as interesting, but boy were we wrong. I never realised just how much he did in the way of jewellery design.

So many of the pieces were exceptional. Some of them were able to move, including a beating heart of rubies within a golden casing. My favourites are the two pictured above: an elephant with a giant crystal on its back and a lapis eye that can be used to tell time. Truly this man was an amazing talent. I always felt this, but now I definitely know it.

An hour or so later and we were back in Barcelona. We took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe area of the city, just because it can be nice too see what remnants are left over from World Fairs. I mean, sure, this is no Eiffel Tower but this promenade has its own calming charms.

From here we, finally, managed to gain admittance to the Santa Maria del Mar. We tried a few days earlier, but it was during the 2-3 hour where you needed to pay and we didn’t see the point. So glad that we were able to get in for free as it was mighty impressive on the inside.

It was never going to beat the Sagrada Familia, but looking at the columns and ceiling work it feels like Gaudí might have got at least some inspiration from here. Even if it was the number and thinness of the columns used to support the structure. On the who it felt very pure and uncluttered… something I know Gaudí would have appreciated.

So here I am now. We polished off a dinner of paella and chocolate covered churros and now it it time to pack for the flight tomorrow afternoon. Thanks to EU customs I have 6 food list items that will be coming home with me and will likely become their own blog post incredibly soon.

I wish that we didn’t have to leave here so soon, but that’s the issue with not spending a full week somewhere. Somehow I doubt it will take another 27 years before I am back in Spain. Already the precursors of itineraries are springing up in my head – so maybe I’ll be visiting Grenada, Madrid or Seville at some point in the near future. I hope so.


Good Eatin’ – Wattleseed Bread

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Once again I am trying to lose weight. I say once again because I usually end up a third of the way there, get frustrated and then start all over 9 months later. It’s one of those vicious cycles that I really want to break this time around.

I mention this because it nicely ties into today’s food.

Food item: Wattleseed

I got this tub of wattleseed from my favourite spice shop at Borough and have been wracking my brain trying to find a decent use for it. The label says that it can be used in ice cream or baked goods, so I decided to take the lid on its word and make a loaf of bread.

On it’s own the wattleseed has a taste in the region of cocoa-coffee-nut, but you would never just have it like this. Therefore I used a recipe I found online for a quick wattleseed soda bread to give this ingredient a real test.

Progress: 623/751

List item: Bake a loaf of bread
Status: Completed

I’ve made bread a few times before, but usually quick breads instead a fully yeasted affair. This was, however my first attempt at making a soda bread. It was also the first time I tried to take a bread recipe and reduce the fat content by using 0% yogurt.

The dough was wet and hard to knead which probably didn’t help with the rise. Still, the taste of the bread made up for it being a little bit close-textured. The wattleseed really added a taste in the region of hazelnut-coffee as well as some crunch.

As you can see from the recipe – this was dead easy to make and I probably will make more of this while I still have some wattleseed knocking about the cupboards.


Adventures With Flat-Pack Furniture


To quote Sufjan Stevens, “it’s Christmas in July”. Man I love Christmas, and I miss the Christmas season whenever I see a set of twinkly lights and it is not December.

As a couple we really made out like bandits this Christmas, but the big ticket item was a brand new TV from my mum that we got as a joint present. I also got a Nintendo 64 from the hub and have found solace in a bit of Pokémon Snap.

Still, with this new TV and the ever expanding collection of Lego Dimensions figurines and Amiibos it was time for a new TV stand and an actual bookshelf in the living room.


It was only a few hours after deciding on new furniture before we had two flat-packs from Argos delivered to our flat. Same day delivery between Christmas and New Year? Man I love Argos.

Now I am a master of the flat-pack. Most of the bedroom furniture that I had growing up were flat-packs from Ikea or Argos. Sometimes I end up building it upside down and then having to rebuild it, but the screws are just that easier to put back in once you’ve widened the holes.

This was one of the first times I made some flat-pack with the hub apart from some white Ikea bookshelves of little consequence. Because hammers and screwdrivers come out (and because we’re competitivr with each other) these builds weren’t always the most chilled.

List Item: Put up a bookshelf
Progress: Completed

Still though, it was fun and we ended up with a nice new bit of storage. Also my Porygon Lego sculpture now has a place to perch. Probably a lot more that we could do with the place, but there’s no rush.


London at New Year’s 2016

List Item: Attend a New Year’s Celebration
Progress: Completed

Many people know this about me, but I am not the biggest fan of New Year’s Eve. So many people put way too much importance to something that just leaves me cold… so I tend to prefer spending New Year’s at home watching a movie.

I never did things for New Year’s before meeting the hub since it’s actually a big deal for his family. After a few times of being over in the Netherlands we are finally doing New Year’s in London to try it out in the big city.

Right so I was not too happy about doing this. I actually contemplated feigning illness instead of going up to London and dealing with all the ‘merriment’ and waiting in the cold. Still, I couldn’t be that selfish now could I.


We actually booked tickets to see the fireworks from the balcony of Somerset House. Sure, it’s a bit more expensive than the tickets to see it in the street, but it was sure done up pretty. Apparently we were meant to get a quarter bottle of champagne with every ticket… but that never materialised.

Still, we were there having gorged ourselves on Korean food at Asadal near Holborn Tube Station and waited for the fireworks to begin. We had to be subjected to a lot of music that sounded the same (at 27 I am already feeling that old apparently) and bore witness to a trio of guys sneaking onto the balcony by jumping from the roof of a neighbouring building. There was good will all around and I did a bit of chair dancing when the DJ started playing ‘When Doves Cry’.

Then the fireworks started…


I know these wouldn’t have been as big as those in Sydney. I still stood there with goosebumps and my eyes wide at the bright and smokey spectacle. There was a bit where, in the music mix, the mayor of London saying ‘London is open’ and I teared up. I may not be proud to be a Brit or an Englishman at the moment, but hot damn am I proud to be a Londoner.

Despite my protestation and my feelings of the contrary, I had a great time. It’s one of those things that people should try to experience even if they are big ol’ cynics about New Year’s Eve. Wouldn’t quite say that I am a convert to this odd ritual, bu I feel as if I understand the sentiment that little bit more.


I🖤NY – Day 5: High Line and Michelin Stars

One thing that everyone should do when they come to New York is explore some of the neighbourhoods on foot. It’s really great to visit all the museums (and honestly I wish I could have fitted in the Cloisters museum… maybe next time), but sometimes you want to spend a day completely outdoors.

It was a light breakfast of an everything bagel with cream cheese and peach Snapple before we made for the High Line. Now, this attraction was not open when I was last in New York. I missed it by a few months, but would have likely not heard of it anyway. Still, I was keen to visit this since this has become increasingly popular.

This is something I cannot see happening in London. What you have on the High Line is a disused raised railway line that has been re-purposed into a nearly 2 mile long garden/walkway over the streets of Manhattan. At times it felt almost peaceful (not always since the High Line was spurred on a lot of property redevelopment), but this is a place where wildflowers can grow and you can actually hear birds singing above 26th Street.

It also functions as a space for art. Some of them are a bit odd (think a concrete ball shaped like a watermelon hidden in the grass) and others were weird in a fun way (like this realistic sculpture of a sleepwalker in his underwear.

When we descended back onto solid ground we walked through our first neighbourhood of the day: Greenwich Village aka the home of TV’s Friends. When you go through the village it becomes incredibly obvious that this is very much a lived in city. I made sure we walked down Bleecker because, you know, it’s one of those well known streets.

img_3761List Item: Eat in a Michelin starred restaurant
Progress: Completed

A bit of a diverted walking route later and we arrived at our destination for lunch. The idea of eating at Michelin starred restaurant was a very early thing to be included on my bucket list. It has taken a few years for me to get around to crossing this off because these restaurants are on the pricier side. Enter 15 East.

I am not going to say this was a cheap meal. Heavens no. We ended up having 9 pieces of sushi each (so 18 in total) and the bill came to almost exactly $100 for two people. For the experience and the sheer “hell yea I can be fancy” it was worth it. Also for the forced and restrained politeness from the server. She was very much looking down on us… and I don’t think it helped when I asked for a replacement ice water because the one she poured had a fly in it.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
img_3762Food item: Seki Aji

We started out with a sushi omakase (1 piece not pictured as it was eaten) and this chefs choice plate was absolutely gorgeous. Both the sweet prawn (whose tail cut my lip) and the citrus scallop were especially delicious. It was only after finishing these, and checking out the a la carte menu, that I realised that there was a list fish on this plate. Just a shame that I didn’t know until it was too late and was not able to note down anything.

Progress: 567/751img_3763Food item: Kanpachi and Arctic Char

Since the omakase didn’t fill us we ordered some more off of the a la carte menu. This meant we were able to cross two more fish off the list. The first we tried (the white one) was the kanpachi – a type of amberjack. It had a very subtle flavour and reminded me a bit of the kingfish that I had back in Hiroshima. The texture and freshness of the fish felt like the most important thing here.

The second one here was the Arctic char. It is a fatty salmon (fattiness makes sense seeing how it swims in arctic waters) that looked beautifully striped when sat on the plate. The fatty nature of the salmon gave this fish a richer taste than I am used to with salmon.

The remaining daylight hours were spent wandering through Little Italy and Chinatown before being chased into the subway and lack to the hotel by a bout of rain that the Weather Channel didn’t predict. Honestly, There isn’t too much to write about this aside from my glee when hearing Italian Americans talking just like they do on TV.

The evening was, once again, spent at the UCB Theatre in Chelsea. This time it was a double bill of shows (about 20-30 minutes each I think) put on by members of the Upright Citizens Brigade. The first wasn’t all that, but the second half (a weird adult mash-up of Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues) had me in stitches.

I… actually cannot believe that this is my final evening in New York. After spending six months looking forward to being back here and it is over already. I guess I just need to plan my next New York trip.


And So I Started A Podcast

List item: Start a podcast
Status: Completed

So for a long time my hub and I have been wanting to try out making a podcast. By a long time I mean YEARS. The virtue of writing these posts about 5 months in advance (see how my lead is being eroded) is that by the time this is published not only will there be a number of episodes, but also we will have gotten better used to it.

That is until we cancelled it at the end of December. We ended up making 19 episodes and had minimal listeners. I mean if you struggle with getting your friends to give your podcast a go then clearly you are doing something wrong.

As you will get from the graphic – the idea was that we would podcast our way through the 1001 TV Shows list. We started off with Breaking Bad and now that I listen to it months later and knowing how much easier this became… it’s not a good episode.

But I have to say that later episodes have been really fun and we actually work well being more loosey goosey and less rigid like we started. Something that I think we started doing better a few episodes in, which culminated in my not being able to stop laughing whilst making an episode centred on The Prisoner.

We are still available on iTunes if you search for Just Watch It. Or you can go to the website www.justwatchit.uk if you want to give it a go.


Good Eatin’: A £30 Chicken!?

Before I start this write-up there is a small adjustment that is going to be made for my blog lists.

A while ago I added a second 1001 food list which brought up the grand total of  foods to 1866. Despite this I have still mainly been focused on the original list and, to be honest, the list I added was nowhere near as much fun as I had hoped.

I’ve been toying with doing this ever since that time I had carp in Lithuania – but now I have eaten this expensive piece of poultry I will be reverting back to the original 1001 food list only!

Which means….

List Item: Try half of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 556/501 – COMPLETEIMG_3434Food item: Volaille De Bresse

This lovely piece of chicken was bought in Borough Market on the same day that I purchased the vatrushka and peaches. I have known for a long time that the good people at The Ginger Pig sold Bressé chickens, but I have never had the luck to find one of these beauties at their stall on a Saturday.

Lo and behold that at 9:30am on July 23rd 2016 (told you I was posting in advance) that they had not one, but three of these birds sat in wait for food-lovers with a bit too much money to burn (I mean hell, payday was on Monday so why not right?). I bring up money as this pictured chicken set me back nearly £30 (at around £17.50 a kilo). Still,  I just HAD to have it… after the head and feet had been removed by the butcher.


The next question was – how do I cook the damned thing. The internet provided me with a sizeable amount of conflicting advice, but I ended up settling on this recipe from Chez Pim. I did not want to fuck up this expensive beauty and, unlike suggestions in other recipes, I had not intention on steaming in the oven.

Before preparing this with my mum I decided to smell the chicken. Usually a chicken from the local supermarket doesn’t smell nice at all… and yet this did. Actually it smelt more like corn than chicken (which makes sense seeing how they are fed on a corn rich diet) and you could see rich and beautiful veins of yellow fat just by casually looking at it.

Anyway, we followed this recipe to the letter and we ended up with this:


The smell of this chicken as it cooked was astonishing (the bulb of garlic stuffed into the crevice and the soy sauce glaze will have helped with that). This was not your archetypal roasting chicken, something that was apparent the moment you try and carve this.

When I say that there was a reservoir of liquid fat between the main body and the drumsticks I do not think I would be understating it. I have never seen anything quite like it when carving into a bird. Needless to say as long as you don’t overcook it you are going to have one moist piece of chicken.

To quote my mum on this (thanks again for helping me with the chicken): it’s chicken like it used to be. Having tried both this and the Jidori chicken my eyes have been opened to what chicken can actually be like. This beautiful piece of roasted chicken.

It’s not just about taste, as the texture is different. It’s firmer which actually makes it feel more like a game bird than something raised on a farm. Whilst I did not like the grouse that decided to bleed all over my kitchen they had a similar toughness (not the right word, but the right word is eluding me right now).

The musculature on this chicken was just interesting to look at. Just the fact that a clear dividing line between white meat and dark meat was visible was completely new to me. This chicken just felt exceptionally raised and looked after and it’s given me pause for future chicken purchases.

Now that I am WAY over the halfway mark… I guess that means I should decide on the next landmark.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 556/751

Yes, this feels right.


The Great EU Quest: Lithuania – Vilnius Old Town

Since this is just how things work out when booking time off, today was the first of two full days that we spent in Vilnius itself. It has to be noted that if you mainly wish to explore the old town (which is rather large for an old town) and the immediate surroundings there is no need for public transport. I was very close to buying a Vilnius Card to try and remove the hassle from public transport… but there really is no need to do so.

Despite the classical surroundings of churches and beautifully stuccoed buildings it is hard to escape the feeling that Vilnius is a very young city. When you are in the fringes you will see a lot of murals, some of which take up the whole wall of a building. Of course when I saw this picture of Putin and Trump sharing a disgustingly wet kiss I knew that I would have to post this online.

It is also difficult to deny that there is still an underlying cultural scuffle between the Vilnusians who have completely rejected anything Russian (minus religion) and those who are able to accept it, albeit in smaller doses.

Then again, this is a city that recently celebrated 1000 years since being founded and has been invaded and occupied on numerous occasions. Russians, Poles, Napoleon, Germans and Swedes have all taken turns in making this city their own. It is therefore completely understandable that this country has a tremendous sense of national pride for their, still newly found, independence.

Also, the volume of EU flags that you see being displayed the town centre is almost akin to what I saw in Luxembourg. Their inclusion in the European Union and NATO within early 2004 (after just over adecade of independence) must have been the ultimate act of of recognition for this small Baltic nation, something that looks like is still deeply felt.


We started our day of exploration at Vilnius Cathedral – one of those places that has borne the brunt of Soviet ire. Stalin had this Catholic cathedral turned into a garage for army vehicles. The three statues on top were torn down and destroyed (replaced by replicas in 1996). It is mainly thanks to the number of paintings inside and the unique neoclassical building style that this building was turned into an art gallery before being fully reinstated as a cathedral.

When we first arrived there was a mass on (it was Sunday after all) so we had to make a return visit later in the day. It really did feel like an art gallery inside of a church with wealth of paintings on the walls. The real highlight was the baroque chapel of St Casimir. At the time it cost 0.5 millions gold pieces to produce! There are elaborate frescoes and marble work all over the chapel… to this Saint who devoted his (25 years of) life to charity work.

In the cathedral square itself (which is huge) there is a slab known as a miracle stone. Here you turn 360 degrees and make a wish… but it won’t come true if you tell people the exact location (so hard cheese readers, I want my wish). The stone marks the end of a chain of people 2 million long that stretched from Vilnius to Tallinn via Riga in the late 1980s as an act of Baltic solidarity. Yet another poignant reminder of the recent past.


After the cathedral we moseyed on up to the Gendimo Tower. It stands on a hill looking overlooking all of the old town and is a great place to snag some pictures. It is also one of those places that you can see from most locations in the Old Town, the Lithuanian flag proudly flying in the cold June breeze. The walk up isn’t too steep, but very cobbly. This is why we opted to pay the 1€ for the funicular railway down. Also, that was fun.

It was lunchtime and instead of opting for something too heavy we sought out some coffee and cake. Unfortunately a lot of people had the same idea, so a lot of places were full. We managed to get a table in Soprano and, yes, I had ice cream for lunch. It was basically a deconstructed banana split and it was gorgeous.

A brief rainstorm later and we did some more church hopping. The first was the gothic St Anne’s church. The outside is a feels compact and yet imposing with its deep red brickwork. The arrangement of the bricks really make this church stand out – to the point that when I first saw this from the tower I really wanted to find out what this structure was.

The inside of St Anne’s was equally beautiful, just in a very different way. Ornate carvings depicting the stations of the cross and the incredibly detailed altar called to mind the Neumunster church in Luxembourg.

The final Catholic Church we visited on the day was St Casimir’s, a church dedicated to Lithuania’s patron saint (conveniently located opposite our hotel). It’s massive on the outside with a large crown donning one of the spires. Inside it is a masterpiece of marble. I know I have been to visit enough churches that I should no longer be stunned, but the variety of marbles and the quantity of it that must have been used to construct the columns… well it boggles the mind.

On our old town walk I was able to get my first glimpse at the inside of some Russian Orthodox churches. In all three of them I was presented with the same question: where do worshippers go during a service? As far as I could see there were no seats, meaning that it’s either a standing or a sit on the floor affair.

Also, the sheer number of pictures (or should I say icons) felt incredibly oppressive; something that is the complete opposite of the lovely outsides. The weirdest thing I saw on this day came in the Russian Orthodox St Nicholas church. For whatever reason they had placed colour changing LED crosses above three of the more prominent icons. It was like visiting that one person on the street who goes a bit too far with their Christmas decorations,

With opera tickets for 7 o’clock we needed to get in an early dinner. I had already clocked the TripAdvisor recommended restaurant Forto Dvaras during our earlier walk so that’s where we headed. Now, seeing how Lithuanians tend not to be clock watchers when it comes to food, but eat when they are hungry (oh wise people of Lithuania) we were presented with a restaurant that had massive fluctuations between 5 and 6:30. It weren’t from packed to nearly empty to people having to be turned away.

Once at the Forto Dvaras it was actually hard to pick what to have, so I went for another variation of the Zeppelin dumplings. This time they were fried and presented with a sour cream and crackling sauce. I was in heaven. I had a try of the Gypsy Steak meal too, which was a pork steak baked in the oven with pickles and sauces. Have I found my culinary homeland? Only a family tree will prove otherwise!

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food booksIMG_3361Food item: Baumkuchen

I came to Lithuania with one piece of food to find: and here it is in all its glory. The waitress was kind enough to let us know that one portion was big enough for two… and by gum she was right. It was a lot harder than I expected, having the consistency of a harder and less buttery shortbread. Having watched videos of how this was made (because in the week leading up to this trip to Lithuania I became mildly obsessed with the concept of tree cake) I was definitely not disappointed. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to make this.

Oh and the whole meal came to less than 20€. What is this pricing here!

Progress: 900/933

It was opera time. So we made a flying visit to the famous statues of the three muses outside the national drama theatre before heading straight to the opera house.

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress: 4/501Title: Manon
Composer: Jules Massenet
Nationality: French

Manon is actually my second opera, but when I went to see La Traviata it was with school and in English. Therefore, I think it is fair to say that, 10 years later, this was my first real trip to the opera.

For 18€ apiece we had seats in the fourth row of the stalls, slightly left from centre. As in, nearly perfect seats with a complete view. The staggering of the rows helps with this, but we also only had older women in front of us so there was nothing we couldn’t see.

Whilst this opera was in the original French there were subtitles above the stage in both Lithuanian and English. Not Russian, not Polish, but English. Thank you again Vilnius for being so accommodating.

As for the opera itself, well it was 4 hours that just flew by. We were prepared to duck out at an intermission and just head back to the hotel. Nope. Utterly transfixed.

Everything in this production felt world class and like something that would have £100 of shown in the UK. The slightly modern stage production, which at one stage had Manon being lowered whilst clasping a bunch of balloons, worked brilliantly. Some of the more modern costume choices for the background women felt a little jarring at first, but in the world of opera you can get away with a lot before it feels out of place.

Despite being a famous opera of its genre all of the music was new to me. It was a fantastic score though and brought to life by two stunning leads as Manon and Chevalier. The woman playing Manon was particularly fantastic having to go from manic pixie dream girl to desperation in a heartbeat.

Where I liked Swan Lake I loved Manon. I honestly wonder if this trip to the  Vilnius Opera House has started something.

List item: See an opera
Status: Completed