Thursday, October 3, 2013

Relaxing back into life with Books

After a rather long Friday at work I was ready to take a long weekend to continue recovering everything that had happened to me that week. Several visits to the hospital, not much eating...all rather surprisingly draining. I did have plans to hang out with Books though, and not wanting to set aside my social life because I was an invalid, I made plans to see her Sunday.

So on Saturday after feeling well enough to be industrious and go to Waitrose (and not feel like dying) to do some errands and get myself to a massage place in Shepherd's Bush (where I happily accepted the healing hands of a masseuse and basically passed out), I was surprised to hear from her early and get an invitation out for a movie that night. Since I was already out of the house anyway, I happily accepted and spent the next several hours putting (this is the sound that space cars putt-putt...not the word like "putting things in their place"...just felt the need to clarify that) around the Westfield, thinking about what I could do to improve my situation. Nothing was bought.

After several frustrating tube line closures due to construction I eventually met Books near her house and we went together to a bar called The Horseshoe near the theater to meet her friend.

I was still a little weary about my stomach, the pain not having wholly faded, even after the massage, but I didn't want to be held back by it either, so I gladly accepted sharing a carafe of red wine. The doctors had vaguely told me that it was due to stress rather than a real reason and I had a suspicion that if I just relaxed and enjoyed life again my pain would likely go away. Why not? I'd been enjoying life pain-free up until that point and my diet was pretty healthy. What the hell? Didn't make sense. I was tired of feeling held back anyhow. Live a little. Or a lot.

So we ordered the red wine. And an artichoke. And a banoffee pie. To share.

The artichoke. Haven't had one of these in possibly two years. I used to have them several times a year when I lived with my parents. They're gorgeous and delicious. I miss them, to be honest.

This one was nice; very sparingly cooked. They only served it with clarified butter. I miss the American standard of a side of mayo. Call me fat but it's just better. Butter (especially clarified, unsalted), just doesn't do the trick.

The heart, of course, was the best part.

The banoffee pie. Little and cute with a side of banana ice cream. It was glorious. Banoffee pies are one of my absolute favorites and I insisted we order one once I saw it was on the menu.

The first one I ever had was at my godfamily's house - my godfather had just heard of them and wanted to try it out. It was still one of the best things I've ever had. They're kind of homey pies (homely too sometimes), but they're like taste crack explosions in your mouth. Ripe bananas, gooey toffee, whipped cream, crunchy butter cookie crusts...all the things you want to eat at once. Usually chocolate shavings too, though I feel whatever about that part.

This pie was fantastic. Love that it was a little single serving also. We shared.

Overall a delightful pub with a great wine list (we ordered a carafe of malbec from 2012) with fantastic food. Had the in-season lobster dinner entree not been sold out we would have ordered that instead of the artichoke. But alas.

We met Books' friend there and after finishing our food, headed to the theater to see Elysium, the new Matt Damon sci-fi flick.

I'll say here and now that Books has quickly become my theater friend. She loves movies and is a big nerd. Despite not wanting to see all of the movies I want to see, she comes pretty close. Certainly the closest any of my friends abroad have. She also loves comfort and food and these things make me extremely happy.

What makes this really come together is the fact that she loves combining things she loves into extremely excellent experiences. Take our adventure to the Electric Cinema - plush couches, wine, good movies. If we had wanted, good food was also available at the theater, though this wasn't necessary since we just went next door to the fantastically adjoining restaurant and had it there. Problem solved.

Once again Books did not let me down. She took me to the Everyman theater in Hampstead, which, like the Electric Cinema, had plush couches and armchairs for its patrons, and a fantastic bar:

I am really starting to love the cinema experience here in London. Really.

Though less stylistic than the Electric Cinema, it's also cheaper and has a bigger selection of one really can't complain.

We ordered another bottle of malbec and sat back to enjoy our movie. And enjoy we did.

The movie wasn't the greatest in the world (rather predictable and silly really), but whatever, we had a good time and left the theater feeling entertained.

Since we knew too many of the major tube lines would still be annoyingly under construction, Books suggested I stay at her apartment for the night then find my way home the next morning. I happily accepted and we made our way to her place.

It was gorgeous. Just a short bus ride away from the cinema we spent the rest of the night talking and chatting up her roommate, a Turkish man I'll call Cottage.

The next morning all of us got up pretty slowly. The deluge of wine had taken its hold on all of us and we were a slow moving herd. No worries; none of us had any sort of plans for that Sunday and that suited us just fine. The only thing that was quickening our slackened pace? The extreme need for food.

We were all starving.

I'd only had some toast and an open faced sandwich (read: mayo and some lettuce) plus some peanuts before having the wonderful bar meal we'd shared at The Horseshoe. Likewise Books had only had a (though fantastic, rather singular) salad before our dinner. Needless to say, we'd not eaten enough the day before.

And Cottage...well, he's a man. Men are always hungry.

So we all showered hastily and made it out the door to Chamomile, a short ten minute walk away and into breakfast heaven. They cook everything from local, free-range and organic when possible. Everything is wonderful and cute and friendly. To be honest, I was just hungry. I ordered the full English:

It was meat-tastic. In reality I wanted a bloody rare steak instead of what you see, but that unfortunately wasn't on the menu. I'd gotten into a fantastic conversation with Cottage that morning about great steak places around London and it just fueled my fire for rare cow meat. This will need to be remedied in the near future I fear.

But this would have to do in the meantime, and it was quite tasty.

I do love these mushrooms they have, though I have no idea what they are. I've seen them quite a few times now and they're still no more familiar to me. Readers if you know what they are, please comment.

The only thing missing from this breakfast was oddly the baked beans. I think they were included in the vegetarian version of the English breakfast, which I was not willing to settle for in order to get them. Meat please. No exceptions that morning.

I also ordered, instead of my stock-normal chai latte, a mango chai latte. I figured I would try something new since it was available:

Beautiful and...weird.

Like eating one of those milky candies you can't identify. You don't hate it but you don't exactly love it either. A little too flowery fragrant for me...but not terrible. I'd probably not order it again though, unless I happened to be craving it. It's like someone had dropped one of those mini Asian yogurt drinks into my chai rather carelessly. Perhaps I just love the traditional version too much.

We all chatted for awhile before parting ways. Cottage had a football match to watch (Manchester United versus Liverpool...rather heated match it was going to be) and Books wanted to show me Primrose Hill, which I'd heard of tons of times but had never seen.

It was gorgeous. Really nice weather that day - low 20s but sunny, and perfect for walking and catching up as only girls can do.

She made sure I didn't look down the hill to see the view until we were at the top. It was stunning.

Unfortunately my phone was completely dead by this time but here are some photos I snagged from the internet. They are really realistic to what the view looks like.

Apparently Books and her friends usually picnic on this part during the summer and spend their days drinking wine and chatting. It's a beautiful park. I can see why so many people talk about it. You can see the entire London skyline from here (which I'd have to say is not very spectacular on its own but does have some iconic buildings, like the London Eye and now the recently finished Walkie Talkie (which apparently is failing so badly that it's capturing the sun and melting plastics and tile in the cars and shops across the street from it)).

We sat and admired the view for awhile before turning back and walking me back to the tube station to go home. My adventure with Books for the weekend had come to an end, but we promised to get together again soon.

What a wonderful way to be brought back to life. I went home after and continued on with more mundane things, satisfied in the knowledge that my pain was slowly subsiding and I had friends in London. Real friends.

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