A Holiday and Happenings

by Stephanie Gilmartin


As soon as I finished my degree James and I escaped for  a week in New York and so commenced two months of eating entirely too much and soaking up all the lovely culture I'd been missing whilst in the final throes of my project. Our lovely friend Puja showed us around Rochester, taking us on a wine tour of the Finger Lakes and even took us as far as Niagara Falls. What a spectacular waterfall, the water was astonishingly blue, and seeing it drove home just how crazy all the people who have gone over the falls in a barrel really were.

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We also got to go to the Strong Museum of Play, and spent a full three hours being adult children - haven't had so much fun in a museum in ages. Here we are on the Sesame Street stoop:

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It was pretty interesting to learn how Sesame Street was geared towards kids from deprived inner-city areas to give them positive role models and teach them the basics like shapes, colours and the alphabet.

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I made James pose as a news anchor in the children's tv studio and it came out a little bit r/accidentalwesanderson.

We went back to Manhattan for the rest of our trip, but spent one of our days on a day trip to Sleepy Hollow (yes, it's a real place - super-exciting for my inner literature geek). James booked us a cemetery tour for that evening but first we got to go on tour of Philipsburg Manor (an old house that belonged to one of the state's wealthiest slave-owners and operated as a farm and a mill) and Kykuit, a Rockefeller mansion. The Rockefellers are just inconceivably rich - like, anything you could imagine, they have a version that was made by the pre-eminent artists of the time. The surprising thing was that it was mostly done with unerring good taste. All the lamps in the house were made by Tiffany, they had a church in the grounds with stained-glass windows by Matisse. There must have been about 10 tapestries by Picasso hanging in the private basement art gallery. There was a fountain whose base was made from marble imported from Italy to give a wavy effect on the bottom that cost something like $80,000. Just for the base of one fountain (which was far from the only fountain). They imported stalagmites, for goodness sake. 

The whole thing made me a bit sad. It was all very impressive, but getting a perspex case made for your 2000-year old Ming Dynasty china so that your dogs and kids don't knock it over just sounds a bit mental to me. And what was left for their kids to strive for? A couple of them suffered from what sounded a lot like depression, which was hardly surprising - what could they achieve that their father hadn't already? If you can be anything you want, how do you chose what to be? It was a pretty fascinating place to visit for sure, but it didn't make me want their life.

(this is just a cabbage from the slave's garden at Philipsburg which I thought was a beautiful colour - I can see why Farrow and Ball have a shade called Brassica).

(this is just a cabbage from the slave's garden at Philipsburg which I thought was a beautiful colour - I can see why Farrow and Ball have a shade called Brassica).

This is Kykuit from the side garden - the area down the steps was formerly a swimming pool. You can just see the aforementioned wavy marble in the foreground.

This is Kykuit from the side garden - the area down the steps was formerly a swimming pool. You can just see the aforementioned wavy marble in the foreground.

James has an internet friend called Bill Lessard who is a PR expert and who lives near Sleepy Hollow, so we met him and his wife Judy for dinner there and had the best time meeting their lovely dachshund Strudel and hearing their amazing Bronx accents. It was pretty nice for James to finally meet someone he had been speaking to online for three years, and they were both so interesting that we were loath to leave for our cemetery tour afterwards.

However, leave we did, and we were rewarded with a tour guide who clearly loved her job and gave us all kerosene lanterns to make things a bit spookier while she told us the stories of those buried there and even unlocked the receiving vault for us to have a look inside (it was like a stony morgue room where they would keep bodies in big drawers over the winter when the ground was too hard to dig up).  

See? It worked.

See? It worked.

The cemetery was next to the Old Dutch Church (of Legend of Sleepy Hollow/Headless Horseman fame) and contained not only the grave of Washington Irving but also those of Andrew Carnegie and his wife. It was interesting to hear about a Scottish boy who emigrated to America with his parents when he was only 13 then made it big. Huge, in fact. It was rather nice to hear that his philosophy on wealth was to avoid ostenation, and that "he who dies rich, dies in disgrace". Carnegie was on a Bill Gates-esque mission to donate most of his fortune in his later life, hence all the institutional and public buildings now named after him.

The cemetery was also the setting for the Ramones' Pet Sematary video (featuring a cameo by Blondie).  I just watched it to see if I could recognise the place, and found the lyrics a bit peculiar since I am sure someone from my year at school did request to be buried in a pet cemetery.

I've been super into all things morbid and dark recently (I know I'm not the only creep out there, so listen up, everyone else who likes creepy things - I'm about to tell you where to get some). I've been listening to Morbid History Podcast, broadcast by two girls who work in a London museum and are fascinated by the macabre. It was there that I learned the origin of the phrase "sweet Fanny Adams" (it's really quite an interesting tale). I recently started listening to the Macabre London podcast too, and have been learning about Dr Crippen and the Moorgate tube disaster. James and I are big fans of having new things to google and learn about so we can impress each other with allll the facts, and I'm finding podcasts are a brilliant source for this. They're also great for when you're cooking, ironing, driving, painting or otherwise have occupied hands but a free mind. My inner literature geek, who is a big fan of Victorian literature, has really been enjoying all the haunted Victorian London stories and I'm now desperate for another trip down during the cold dark weather so I can fully appreciate the atmosphere (if you live there, take yourself on a London Walks tour one evening, they are so good and I really miss them!). 

Anyway, back to NYC if you please.

We decided to go on a bike tour of Brooklyn because it's so sprawling and we figured we could cover a fair bit of it that way. That proved to be a good plan because a) we had a great local guide who had grown up there, b) it was super hot so being on a bike was grand, c) pizza and d) the other people on the tour were really nice. 

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My favourite part was exploring Williamsburg and learning about Hasidic culture (even though I had seen a lot of Orthodox Jews in London, I didn't know that the dress code for women was based on 18th-century Austrian clothing, or that they were obliged to shave their head and wear a wig once they married). I also found it fascinating seeing all the nannies wheeling around rich peoples' babies in moneyed Brooklyn Heights, and getting to visit a rooftop urban farm in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We ate some tomatillos straight from the vine and they were di-vine (ha).

It looks so improbable that it just might exist. The farm actually supplies quite a lot of NYC's decent restaurants. You can get married here too - imagine how nice that would be.

It looks so improbable that it just might exist. The farm actually supplies quite a lot of NYC's decent restaurants. You can get married here too - imagine how nice that would be.

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It surely wouldn't have been a trip to New York without a trip to Katz's deli, but we were wiser this time and just got one plate between us (as you can see, it was more than enough and easily defeated us before we'd even eaten half of it). 

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We stayed in a very plush hotel, because we hadn't been away for a year and we've both been working like dogs in the meantime. Both of us feel pretty guilty spending that much on ourselves, because for the last year and a half we've spent any spare money on our flat or our business and we felt like the care-free days of spending money on holidays were kind of behind us. Both of us are bad for rarely slowing down and never stopping, and honestly the holiday felt like it was more than required to recharge us. It's easy to get caught up in paying things off and getting things done but sometimes you have to remember that life is for living, and you shouldn't neglect to invest in yourself too. So if your self tells you it needs a holiday, let it have one.

I love all the details at Grand Central Station - it's built on such an epic scale and has kept so many of its quaint, old-fashioned details. We went to the oyster bar there because it was featured in the OA, which we loved - roll on season two! 

I love all the details at Grand Central Station - it's built on such an epic scale and has kept so many of its quaint, old-fashioned details. We went to the oyster bar there because it was featured in the OA, which we loved - roll on season two! 

I took this outside a news agents at Port Authority bus station, even though I was kind of getting harrassed by beggars, because I couldn't not. Mid-town is a bit scummy no? But it must be endured if you're going to take advantage of the cheap Norwegian Air flights from Stewart Airport. Mind if you do go, they will make you stick to your luggage allowance, as I found out the hard way when I had to carry around my new Nordicware baking tins in my hand luggage. 

I took this outside a news agents at Port Authority bus station, even though I was kind of getting harrassed by beggars, because I couldn't not. Mid-town is a bit scummy no? But it must be endured if you're going to take advantage of the cheap Norwegian Air flights from Stewart Airport. Mind if you do go, they will make you stick to your luggage allowance, as I found out the hard way when I had to carry around my new Nordicware baking tins in my hand luggage. 

It was lucky I did bring back the tins, since a cake I baked with one of them helped me get a part-time job as a baker in a cute little west end cafe. So I'm currently working there, still hosting our Airbnb and teaching myself new DIY skills while I do up our new flat. I'll be publishing a wee post about our bedroom transformation just as soon as I can get that headboard made, and I'm hoping to take on more freelance work in interior design/decoration and professional organising too, so if you have a project for me get in touch! 

In the meantime, I'll be mainly Christmas shopping, planning our Christmas trip to Barcelona, cosying up with any new books and films you can recommend (as well as finishing my long-neglected Stieg Larsson one - also, this list is a good resource for what to watch next on Netflix) and cracking on with some more DIY! This has gotten a bit long, so I'll leave it here until my next snappier (I promise!) post. Tschuss! 


2017 - A Year of Plans

by Stephanie Gilmartin


I'm not going to write about how rubbish 2016 was for the world in general, because for us it was pretty good (aside from the tragic deaths of David Bowie and AA Gill, among others - AA Gill's passing was a particular shock and Sunday mornings will be the poorer for it).

In part, I think it was a good year because we got back to using a year planner - not a calendar, oh no, a year planner is so much more than that. We didn't have one in 2015 because planning our wedding got in the way, with the result that when the wedding was over we didn't really get a lot done for the rest of the year. This year we started as we meant to continue, and made a list of things we wanted to achieve, places we wanted to go and fun things to do on those days off where you really feel that you've done everything in the immediate vicinity and want something a bit more inspirational.  We stuck it up in the kitchen  by our dining table so that we would see it all the time and be motivated to stick to it. It gained some admiration and some quizzical looks from our friends ("Are you really going to get up at 6am every day in June?" - the answer to that one was a resounding no.) We try not to be self-limiting so some things we put on there seemed pretty mental last January, especially since I had just quit my job (for example, get a dog, buy a second flat, go to Kenya). However, I am pleased to report that we managed all three - albeit that the dog only stayed with us for three months while we had some temporary flatmates, we still had a dog for a while!

We got a lot of help with the flat but it was a good lesson that, if you do have a plan or a goal and you share it with people, then you are far more likely to get the help you need to make it happen. I also had "pass driving test" and "get into Art School" on my list, and what do you know, those happened too! 

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I love planning so I'm happy to spend a fair bit of time on making a year planner because it always seems to pay off - I've been making them since 2012 for myself, and since 2014 for both of us. I'm trying to make them a bit more sophisticated as time goes on, which is why this year's has not been made yet - as a challenge to myself, I'm going to make it on Illustrator and have it professionally printed. We have been using an app called Trello to make notes of things as we hear about them/think of them, and have lists with titles like Learning, Restaurants to Try, Podcasts, TV series, Cooking, Holidays, Books, Events, Things to Do and Goals for the Year. Generally we plot things throughout the year to space them out and give us time to get them done, but also so that we have things to look forward to. When my holidays were limited it was always comforting to see when the next one was coming up, usually marked in a different colour. For boring, skint months like January, you can plan to Marie Kondo your house, finish off all those craft projects that you've been meaning to get done (any fabric that doesn't have a project attached to it is off out of my house now) and break some bad habits if you need to. For me, that is getting back to eating properly and exercising and also getting rid of the Facebook app. It's very easy to lose half an hour every morning mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and then complain that you don't have time to go for a run, or write that novel you've always been meaning to write - I reckoned I was losing about two hours a day to it, so I have decided to consume content more mindfully. I will sign up to mailing lists for the websites I actually read, and check my email once a day. I'm still conflicted about Instagram - I do like it for inspiration, but I get bored of people's constant parroting of hashtags made up by twelve-year-old girls and envy-mongering. Comparison is the thief of joy and I do feel better since stopping looking at Facebook - I also feel like I've gotten a lot more done. The content I have consumed (Homeland, a podcast about some murders) has been way more interesting and engaging. 

Last year we started having Huel for lunch - it's a vegan powdered meal substitute that contains a lot of protein, as well as everything else you need (meaning you could eat it for every meal and be perfectly healthy). If you're time-poor and find lunch a nuisance, it's a good saviour from all the crappy cheap fast food and expensive salads on the high street. Once you get used to its slightly odd, chalky vanilla taste that is.  In reality though, it's fine blended with a banana and water, saves us tons of time and costs about £1.50 for lunch, so it's going to be a keep-doing for this year. 

I've managed to read two books already this year (something I always complain I don't have time for, because I mostly commute by cycling) and have already been inspired by The Little Book of Hygge to make my house more hygglig and Danish - first to go will be the living room curtains, to be replaced by blinds, then I imagine we will be painting the spare bedroom and the kitchen and re-doing the bathroom - the House list on Trello never gets shorter, sorry James. 

We've started keeping a present list on Trello too, so that when great birthday present ideas pop up for people we have somewhere to note them down and can buy things for our friends and family that they really love.

Last year I decided to improve my baking skills and did a course at City of Glasgow College where I learned to make the best scones ever (recipe carefully guarded and only given to close friends and the occasional Airbnb guest - but seriously, if you like baking, it was a great fun course to do and only cost £110 for 9 weeks of 3-hour classes - great value).

This year I bought a dear friend this book for her birthday and thought it was so beautiful that I decided to get one too. We're going to aim to have Patisserie Club on Sundays so that even though I'm here and she's in Kenya, we can make the same things and compare notes.  

The same dear friend has helped a lot with my list of podcast/TV recommendations - Death, Sex and Money (the podcast) is apparently great and I have to watch Fleabag too. My own personal recent recommendation is The OA - an utterly amazing, mystical, creepy, emotional drama from Netflix about a girl who has disappeared seven years ago. When she disappeared, she was blind, and on her return she can see - I can't say more without ruining the story but it's the best thing I've seen on TV in years.

James' mum sent us this article full of restaurant recommendations for Glasgow, and I normally like to think I'm quite up on the Glasgow food scene but there were plenty I hadn't heard of, including Alchemilla (went on New Year's Eve, the sea bass ceviche is amazing, as was everything else we ate - but the boys did complain about the tiny chairs) and we are going to try A'Challtainn when we go and see Trainspotting 2 with the sibling gang at the end of January. 

What about the harder stuff though? James got an Amazon Echo for Christmas so we're thinking of using it to learn Italian, and I am taking an elective in starting a creative business this coming term, so I am hoping to write a business proposal and maybe even secure some funding this year, alongside starting my first novel. James has started pulling together his research to write a book on Shetland's political history and might use it as part of a PhD. The possibilities are pretty endless - I just need to hurry up and get my planner made so we can plot things out. 

We decided, after experiencing Storm Barbara this year in Shetland,  that we would quite like to go to Hawaii next Christmas (I mostly blame the Andrews sisters and their song Mele Kalikimaka for this decision). It might not be practical, or achievable, but you've gotta have dreams right? If we decide to go travelling after I finish my Masters degree, then you know, it might not be impossible... 

I'd like to hear about everyone else's plans for the year - please fill me in on what you're planning to get done this year in the comments! Happy new year everyone! 


A week full of surprise and delight

by Stephanie Gilmartin


This past week has been full of fun and treats, which is really just as well because I've had a horrible cold and was getting over a brutal Black Friday nightshift in Gap which has left me with a heap of work to catch up on. 

This week has been very much a be-kind-to-yourself week, so naturally I don't feel bad about our exorbitant adult's advent calendar that we get to start eating TOMORROW! But we bought it nearly two weeks ago, so it doesn't really count as part of this week...

What does count though? Well, 4D cinema! Basically the best thing ever! I didn't think it was a real thing, or that we even had it in Glasgow, but it's brilliant - you go to the pictures, stick on your 3D glasses and prepare to be underwhelmed and then... your chair moves, there's wind, and rain, and scents, and wee puffs of air - it's basically like being on a fairground ride, but for two hours. We went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and it was so much fun that now we really want to go again! I don't think I've ever smiled so much in the cinema! Well worth the £15 admission price. Hurrah for being in a class with younger people who persuade you that 4D is not just something made to extort old people like us who don't go to the cinema very often. 

Last week I got to walk home under skies as pretty as this before Thanksgiving dinner with our neighbours Jeff and Nicole. They made the most delicious feast ever and had some amazing pecan-y things I'd never tried before, like pecans tossed in butter, sugar, cinnamon and clove and a dip with cranberries, herbs and pecans and cream cheese that I could have eaten for the entire meal. Seriously so good. It's lovely to have neighbours that you actually want to hang out with - makes a big difference from when we lived in the nicer part of Pollokshields and all our neighbours were terrific douchebags. 

When I woke up on Saturday after sleeping til 2pm James had bought me breakfast from Bakery47 and was out doing my job for me, cleaning the flat! :-) The croissaint was a Copenhagen croissaint (cinnamon, chocolate and marzipan) - it doesn't sound like it would work, but it was ah-mazing.  The millionaire's shortbread was pretty great too.

The best thing about breakfast was having the new Gilmore Girls revival to watch with it (after watching the first three on Friday evening). I feel quite ambivalent about it, as a whole - I didn't think Rory's character was unrealistic, I just found her utterly unlikeable - it seems like sponging off her family/boyfriends for so long has made her lazy and complacent. Some sequences were frankly annoying (like the dreadful musical) but all in all it was nice to have some new episodes to watch. I've also been getting right into The Crown this week - totally worth sticking with, though the first episode doesn't seem altogether promising.Looking for more Netflix recommendations so please send them my way!  

Sunday was my big sister's 30th so I got her these cakes from a company called Wee Cakes.  The lady who makes them, Jane, tailors them to the individual so they're all topped with Lindsay's favourite things. I can't vouch for how they tasted because Lindsay quickly snaffled them away...

Then there was the rosebud tea my lovely classmate Xiao gave me to help with my sore throat - I can honestly say, it felt a lot better afterwards. She's a wee treasure! It's also the prettiest tea I've ever seen. My other classmate Dominika also gave me some special 18-herb Polish tea (and some hazelnut vodka that tastes like Ferrero Rocher when you mix it with milk!) a few weeks ago - I'm pretty spoilt with my little team :-) We've had a strong snack-sharing ethic since our first week together which has led to some interesting lunchtimes (salty plum sweets? non merci) but also some excellent dinners together (dinosaur rice, pierogi and eight different Thai dishes whose names I can't remember but they were amazing).

We have also pretty much finalised our group project today so we went out for a celebratory Chinese hot pot at Xiangbala in Union Street, which is one of those restaurants that Chinese people know about but we westerners would never find on our own. It's a pretty unique experience and I was very glad to have Xiao there to teach us what to do! (Thanks Seunghee, I stole your picture! ;-) Basically you order a flavour of broth (we had Tom Yum Kung, Curry, Tomato and Hot and Spicy) and then a load of raw meat and vegetables and noodles which you cook in the broth then fish it out with a ladle and eat it. It's a really fun, sociable way to dine and means you get to have a big variety - there's also a little sauce bar with all the usual delicious Asian sauces (satay, hoisin etc) and free drinks refills on soft drinks. It's certainly worth a visit if you want to try something different! Certainly better than the time Nat made us try durian (it literally smells like bin juice. And tastes like bin juice).

I'll leave you with this, from a new subreddit called "Scottish People Twitter" - no wonder it's so hard to explain our sense of humour to the rest of the world. If you need me, I'll be snickering away at this for at least a week.


Happiest Day

by Stephanie Gilmartin


I haven't seen much of my lovely husband this week, between work and my art school - and I have neglected to post any pictures of our wedding since it was written about by Love My Dress last year. I did, however, spend ages uploading all my favourite pictures into this one post. Then I procrastinated for ages about posting it because I didn't know what to write. So I'm just going to let the pictures (and the title) speak for themselves, and reminisce about that wonderful day last summer.


Honeymoon Part Six: Istanbul

by Stephanie Gilmartin in


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. 

It was the last stop of our honeymoon, and we were quite looking forward to getting home after three weeks of constant travel. The last time we'd been in Istanbul it was March. This year it was a hot July and just before Ramadan, so the square around Hagia Sofia was teeming with pilgrims and the atmosphere was very much more festive. We were pretty skint after eating out for every meal every day, and looking forward to a little familiarity.

We returned to our favourite restaurant on the first night, Babylonia Garden Terrace , and we the amazing balloon bread again. There was more of a sense of hurry this time, maybe because it was the height of tourist season, and I got food poisoning from the slightly lukewarm chicken.

The next day, we were having breakfast in our hotel (the only one we stayed in for the whole trip). It was the only one we'd stayed in, since all our other accommodation was in swish AirBNBs, and James noticed that his cereal was moving. We googled later and it seems to have been some sort of moth larvae - horrific. The hotel's reaction? Meh. They took the cereal away and that was that. The same evening, just after I washed my hair, we went out. They do say bad luck comes in threes, and thankfully that was the end of it.

The hotel was just a one-night stop-gap before we got to go to our much nicer AirBNB down the hill, near the rather more glamorous Pera Palace hotel. We'd love to have stayed there but it just wasn't feasible on our budget after such a long time away. We contented ourselves with looking in the window at the beautiful pink patisserie inside instead.

I later read Midnight at the Pera Palace, a fascinating window on Istanbul at the turn of the century. It was so interesting to imagine the places we'd walked around at the time that the Sultanate was dissolving and a new, more secular Turkish state was emerging. The author, Charles King, did an amazing job conjuring up scenes in which aristocratic Russian immigrants were becoming street hawkers and spies cluttered the lobby of the Pera Palace. It's a fascinating book and well worth reading alongside Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, particularly if you like escaping into opulent, long-vanished worlds that time will never bring back.

The melee in town prompted us to get out and explore the slightly further reaches of the city. We went to the old Ottoman Bank museum underneath Salt Galata, marvelling at all the handwritten bills and deposit slips, and the Museum of Modern Art, which led us to discover a little bit more of Karakoy. 

Karakoy is incredibly hip behind the scenes - little pavement cafes, great street art, the best antiques shop I've ever been in. Being a predominantly Muslim area, there didn't seem to be anywhere to drink unless you went up near Istikal Caddesi, which was a bit of a shame. We just had to content ourselves with coffee and cake.

We stumbled across these famous rainbow steps which was a pleasant surprise.

Being a big fan of Rosemary's Baby, I was also a big fan of Untitled by Murat Pulat, especially when I got to see the texture of it up close. The MOMA was one of the best modern art galleries I've been to.

And now, a few pictures of possibly the best shop I've ever been in. I wanted to buy everything in it to decorate my house. Owned by a stylist/set designer called Asli, Karakoy Junk is an Alladin's cave of robots, cacti, neon and radness. Asli is a talented artist who makes a lot of the costumes and props on display herself, and designs the neon signs. I knew we were kindred spirits when I saw her Aladdin Sane lightbox. I had spent my apportioned shopping money on a bison skull in The Works: Objects of Desire, another junk shop just up the hill. Just going to have to go back...

If you're ever looking for this most diverting little area, search for Kilic Ali Pasa Mescidi. The whole area is well worth exploring, and if you head for the mosque, you'll find several shisha places where you can drink tea and play draughts to your heart's content.

We also headed up to Emirgan, a recommendation by our AirBNB host for nice photograhy. We found it be a sort of run-down tribute to Notting Hill - perched above the city, but somehow remote, like a hill town, with people who wanted to keep themselves to themselves. I've since seen other pictures of Emirgan online and it looks beautiful - perhaps, both lacking Google Maps and our phones, we missed the turn-off.

We got to go back to Hafiz Mustafa, our favourite Turkish dessert shop (several times, in fact).

We also discovered the tombs of the sultans near to the Hagia Sofia, and a really saddening incident of art theft. The tiles on the left are purportedly fakes, made to emulate the real ones which are apparently on display at the Louvre in Paris. It's a bold claim to stake on a museum plaque, and the most passive-aggressive thing I've ever read on a museum description. It makes me dread to think what all the former colonies and countries we invaded might write about the British Museum (cough cough, Elgin Marbles. And having seen the state of the Acropolis, it's clear that we should give them back - London has enough to recommend it without stealing other countries' culture).

On our last night, down to our last £8 or thereabouts, I took us on a street food safari up Istikal Caddesi. This consisted of Ali Bey's icli kofte, a delicious snack similar to italian arancini but filled with minced meat and bulgur wheat and served with chilli and lemon. 

Then we tried wet burgers, and had to have two each because they were so delicious. Sound weird? Put a hamburger in a bun, dip it fully in a tomato sauce, keep it in a steamy hot-box til you serve it. It was a soggily delicious, garlicky yielding treat. 

Aye, that's how white my legs still were after three weeks in southern Europe.

Aye, that's how white my legs still were after three weeks in southern Europe.

And so concluded our honeymoon, and it was back to the grim realities of work a day later. I'm glad we did something for ourselves because your wedding is actually a lot about other people, and it was great to be away for such a long time. There are things I would change in hindsight about the organisation of the trip (like, I really would not have bothered buying interrail tickets, because they were a complete waste of money) and I think I'll blog more about that later. It has totally inspired me to try to fit in at least two destinations when we do get away, because really, it's only one more flight. Where to next? We've done Copenhagen this year, which I will blog about soon, and Kenya seems like it will be on the cards too, so watch this space! 


On Quitting My Grad Job

by Stephanie Gilmartin


Before I start, I should preface this by saying that it was my experience - it is in no way universal, and I know a lot of people who did the same graduate scheme, and indeed who still work there,  who didn't burn out or quit. I don't think that precludes the telling of it, however.

I cried a lot when I worked there. There was a point, during the section manager stage of the graduate scheme, that I cried every single day in the fresh foods chiller in Upminster for four months straight. I left  in January this year after almost five years, and I wouldn't say I look back with particularly fond memories.

Retail is, I believe, one of the hardest industries to work in, combining long unsociable hours with some truly horrible customers, demeaning, backbreaking work and poor pay (for most people except the managers). The funny thing is, I never wanted to work in retail in the first place. I was the first person in my family to go to uni, and I really wanted to study fashion at Central St Martins. However, since my parents didn't think I'd get a job if I went to art school, I did English Lit at Glasgow Uni instead, graduating with a first and no better understanding of why tuition fees cost so much for people outside of Scotland (spoiler alert if you haven't been to uni yet - you get about twelve hours of contact time a week, nine hours of which will be lectures).

After uni, you graduate into the wider world where people tell you how easily you're going to get a job with your great degree and the fact that you worked in retail all through uni. Oh, no - not the case. I worked in a high street fashion retailer for the first year after I graduated, for a boss who tried to blame her assistant manager for the fact that everyone was leaving, when really it was because she spoke down to us all and had no sense of humour. I had a number of side projects, including my blog and some copywriting, but nothing that was realistically going to become a career, because no-one was hiring.

Getting the job

As you can imagine, I was delighted when I got the job. The retailer I worked for are considered the holy grail for anyone working in retail since everyone who works there gets a share of the profit-generated bonus, not just management. They had a great pension scheme (for those who were interested in such things) and they were expanding. Job prospects looked good - I figured that if I worked hard I could eventually segue into a head office role and do something more creative, like merchandising or design. 

They hired 24 of us out of about 4000 that applied. In the (third) interview, I was told that creativity and being good at organising things were two very different traits, and that they would be very surprised if someone could possess both. That should really have been my cue to say, you know what, this is not for me because I don't fit into any of their tiny boxes. When I got the call, I was excited because it meant an instant pay rise of about £10,000, but then I spent the next hour crying because even though I had applied for Scotland and the North of England, they told me I was going to have to move. To the south of England. The closest place of the seven options they gave me was Birmingham, the furthest was Biggin Hill. I opted for Billericay because it was the closest place to London, the only place I knew anyone in England. A date was set, I broke up with my boyfriend and I duly moved my whole life to London in two suitcases. 

The early days

My love affair with London wasn't instant, as it is for most.  I spent an hour and a half commuting each way to Billericay from South Woodford, frequently being delayed due to suicides at Harold Wood (near to a former asylum, it attracted a lot of its old patients, according to locals). I survived mostly on coffee, chocolate and cheese toasties, and told myself it would get better. On my first day at the branch, everyone was crying. A young boy who worked in the branch had committed suicide and everyone was, justifiably, extremely upset. I met with the branch manager and he asked me what he was supposed to do with me.  I wasn't sure. I showed him the booklet I'd been given, and the timelines for getting past each stage. I spent a few months there, and then a few at Upminster, and was as miserable as I've ever been.

I was so far away from all my friends, I was having to get up at 4am to open the shop even though I had a horrific commute, I had no idea what I was doing and no Department Manager to seek guidance from for several months. I worked with colleagues who hated me because they resented that I was doing the same job as them with a lot less experience, manipulative people who would go out of their way to trip me up when it came to scheduling and members of staff whose behaviour was beyond reason - one screamed at me on the shopfloor because I didn't authorise her to drive her friend home in the delivery van when she had a sore back. I was so relieved when I finally got the job in Stratford - I had moved to Greenwich, so had finally got my commute down to under an hour, and got another really decent pay rise. I had a lovely branch manager (BM) who taught me a lot and gave me real autonomy, and I got to hire a lot of my own team. Then my BM left and was replaced by someone who I still don't think I could face working with now. 

The new BM was a maverick. I mean that in the sense that he thought everything in the shop was wrong, and it was my job to fix it. All of it. I got bollockings daily for the most insignificant things. Like someone's top button not being done up on their uniform. Once I was told that if I didn't get baguettes on sale I would be put on a written warning (literally not even possible in policy terms, but he loved an empty threat). Another time, he violently threw a phone across a tiny office we were both in, because the person he was calling wouldn't pick up. I got such a fright that I spilled the glass of water I was holding. I was scared to go to work every single day because I never knew what mood he would be in. I started having panic attacks, even on my days off, once because an escalator in a tube station reminded me of the one at Stratford station and I felt like I was back there. Everyone said" why don't you just give him feedback?", and I had tried, previously - all of my managers wanted to hear directly from him, when he started, about his vision for the branch instead of hearing snippets through me. When I told him, he shouted at me, but later produced a presentation and delivered it anyway.

He made me change the appraisal grade of one of my best managers after I had already agreed it, which almost destroyed our relationship. He had his favourites, of course - people who for him could do no wrong, and who would progress no matter what. I certainly wasn't one of them. A lot of us weren't, though - he regularly referred to people as retards, or idiots. I took a week off sick, after arriving at work one morning and not being able to read my emails because I was shaking and crying so much. I was later faced with the indignity of calling him to tell him why I was off. I spoke to HR. They encouraged me to stay off.  While I was home, my senior management colleague called to ask when I would be back. In her last phone call, she told me that the BM was being moved to another branch. I was pleased, but still apprehensive - who knew what would be next? Luckily the new BM was a really lovely man. I'm writing all this now and I've just turned to my husband and said, it was honestly so, so bad - I don't know why I stayed for so long. I met some lovely people, but I wish I had taken notice of how the role was starting to affect my mental health and how it really wasn't leading anywhere that I wanted to go. It's amazing how blind money can make you - I was earning almost £40k and after a bad break-up, was still managing to pay the rent and bills on a one-bedroom flat by myself. I felt pretty stuck. I suppose I could always have moved home, but I didn't want to quit. I interviewed for a job as a furniture buyer with a start-up which would mean frequent travel to China and India, but they couldn't match my salary and in London, I just couldn't afford that.

Who wants to be a manager anyway? Social problems and managing staff who just. don't.care.

In the midst of all this, there was of course work to be done. I remember what it is like to work in the lower echelons of retail, and it's illogical to expect someone to care that much when you are paying them just above minimum wage. On the flipside, your job as a manager is to make sure all of your staff are happy, engaged and productive, because they too get a share of the bonus. Even if they are alcoholics, drug addicts, taking time off because they have kids their girlfriend is unaware of and have to hide, prostitutes, thieves... you get the picture. It wasn't a cakewalk. In fact, I think I still would have struggled even if I'd done a full-time degree in social work. It's one thing managing the ones who work hard and want to do a good job, but even then, you can completely alienate someone with just one misstep. I really don't think that I was a very good manager, and I was constantly made to feel like I must be at fault somehow, that it must be because of my personality. I guess it just brought out the worst in me. I didn't want to manage people any more than they wanted to be managed. I'd completely had enough. I decided to move home, and stick it out for as long as I could. Maybe it would be better up north, where people understood my accent and my sense of humour. Maybe.

Moving home

The branch I worked in in Scotland was actually worse than any of the English ones I'd been in. Nobody had a clue what they were doing, and consequently there was out-of-date food on the shelves, all the paperwork was either lost or incomplete, and there were two rival factions constantly at war with one another. There were rumours that a previous branch manager had been inappropriate towards several female members of staff. It had the bitchiest atmosphere of any branch I'd worked in, and plenty of ostriches content to bury their heads in the sand of the significant problems they had caused, or try to talk their way around them. Nonetheless, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work, once spending an entire weekend refiling all the branch's paperwork to make sure we were audit-proof (we passed) and re-training the managers on pay to get our expenditure back into line. Things were going well, even though the workload was intense, because James and I had decided to take three and half weeks off for our wedding and honeymoon in the summer. That meant I had to get the branch really well prepared for anything that might arise while I was away, and plan our whole wedding and interrailing honeymoon at the same time. I also had one direct report for most of the time that I was there, when I should have had three, which meant my workload and that of the other manager in my department were double what they should have been for most of the year. I did a lot of work in the evenings, and on my weekends off, frequently only stopping to make dinner. My BM and fellow DM were close buddies from working together in a previous branch and I did feel like I worked in a bit of a boy's club - there was plenty of laddish banter, and a few inappropriate comments, particularly regarding my new direct report

Being edged out

When I came back from getting married, I noticed that of about ten emails I had sent the BM, I had two replies jumping down my throat, assuming I was trying to undermine my colleague and just generally being very short with me. We'd had a pretty good relationship up until that point, and I told him that I had found his tone and his assumptions unwarranted, and could he account for why he has made those assumptions in the first place? He didn't apologise, but said he would think about it, then didn't speak to me for about three days. It was probably at this point that he turned on me. I made the mistake of telling my colleague that being a DM really wasn't my dream job, and that I might at some point go back to uni. He told the BM, and so began his campaign to get rid of me. He took me out for breakfast to discuss a potential move to another part of the business, on less money. I said I'd consider it, if it was the right role, and that I actually wanted to get away from management. Again, weeks passed, without much contact. Then came the point where he decided to zero in on every single one of my results. Admittedly, a lot of them were poor, but that's what happens when 25% of your department is off sick and you have one manager out of three. Every time I tried to meet with my new direct report, he would invent a reason to call us away from it (including tidying the disgusting yard, which gave me a sore back for weeks afterward). I could never properly delegate anything because I wasn't given the time to train my staff. Then came Christmas. I set pay budgets, and hiring budgets, for all of the sections. They all understood what they had to do, and then all of them over-recruited. Massively. I felt sick. This would wreck the budget for the whole year, eradicating any profit the branch had made. I started asking questions. Why have you all done this? Did you not understand? Can we cancel any of their contracts? I had a Snickers and a cigarette for dinner (I don't even smoke), and went home to James and his mum who was down staying. I lay on the sofa, barely speaking and fretting about just how bad things would be in two days' time when the BM got back.

As predicted, the meeting was horrible. My colleague suggested we put up a united front and say we had done what we could. I was lambasted for suggesting that we cut the contracts of new people who hadn't started yet. It was a real rock-and-hard place situation. That weekend I was running the branch, and asked a few of the managers about their understanding. Had I really explained it all so confusingly? Why did they go so far over? The answer came - the BM had told them to spend what they needed. All weekend I was receiving terse emails about my results, and in the end, I replied explaining what I had heard, and stating that I didn't think it was particularly fair to hold me to account for managers following his instructions. I got the most horrific phone call in which I was told I had completely overstepped the mark, that I was acting like a petulant little child, and that we would be discussing it the next day. I was told not to ever email him at home on HIS day off when he was spending time with his FAMILY (this was an entirely new rule, especially since I was actually at work when I sent the email, and he was under no obligation to read it). It was the most disrespectful way that anyone has ever spoken to me. To continue running the branch, responding to rude customers, finding keys for people, managing queues, congratulating people on a job well done, was really hard for the next three hours. As soon as I got in the car, I burst into tears, and cried all the way home. I called my mum and told her I was going to resign. I couldn't stop crying every time I talked about work for about the next month. 

Sick Leave

The next day the doctor signed me off with adjustment disorder, a stress-related condition in which you react more strongly than someone might expect to a difficult life event or stressful situation. I was given a four-week fit note, then two more. I was off over Christmas, and I knew I could never go back. The isolation was the worst part - I have since heard that the staff members were all told not to contact me and to respect my privacy. It was probably easier at the time, since the BM kept insisting that I should meet him for a coffee somewhere outside the branch to discuss things. True to egomaniac form, he never apologised.  I sat it out, and resigned in December, requesting to end my notice before the expected thirteen weeks but in time to still get the bonus I had worked all year for. Thankfully they agreed. My mum thought I should speak to HR again, but honestly, I knew that I just needed to leave.  It was hard, and scary, and sometimes I felt like I had no idea what I was going to do. I wish I had known at the time that what Maxi Jazz wrote in Reverence was true:

It's a fact you'll attract all the things that you lack,
So just chill
And get off the race track
And take a pace back, face facts,
It's your decision,
You don't need eyes to see,
You need vision.

I'll write more about what happened next later this month, but for now, I'm intending to do what I had planned and finish my posts about our wedding and honeymoon. Until next time...

                                                                                                 


Honeymoon Part Four: Santorini (or, a LOT of pictures of sunsets)

by Stephanie Gilmartin in ,


We got to Santorini after a very, very early flight from Rome (I think we got up at 3.30am) and after one very fast (Rome) and one very winding (Thira) taxi journey, I felt like I was going to throw up. We got there fairly early and had the one negative AirBNB experience of the trip where our host suggested I could go and have a sleep on the (as-yet-unmade) bed - ummm, no thanks. She was generally pretty odd and made some weird decisions, like telling us it was fine for us to use the hot tub (which wasn't listed in the booking) whilst advertising the adjoining villa as a private, enclosed villa, leading to a slightly awkward encounter with our neighbours. Thankfully they were totally sound and we went out drinking with them later, and bonded over our mutual annoyance about how Kate handled everything, but really, is that up to your guests to sort out? Considering it was by far the most expensive place we stayed, it was kind of annoying. 

However. The hot tub. It was great. The whole apartment was lovely and we slept amazingly well. The best thing about Santorini was that there wasn't toooo much to do. That sounds boring, I grant you, but given the full-on ultra-tourist nature of everywhere we'd been before, it came as a welcome relief.

It was also the only place where we had our own transport - a little ATV quad-bike thing that coughed and sputtered its way up Thira's steepest hills at 14km per hour (it sometimes got up to 50kmph going downhill, wooohooooo!). We did a lot of exploring around the island, usually followed by a pre-dinner dip in the hot tub then dinner in our little village, Pyrgos. It was so perfectly relaxing and the slower pace of life made me want to read Captain Corelli's Mandolin, which thanks to the internet and my Kindle, I could. (By the way, we watched the film when we got home, and the book is a million times better than the film, so it's very much worth a read even if you've already seen the film. James only watched it with me because he has a weird undying love for Nicholas Cage. It's no English Patient, put it that way).

Pyrgos has several of the classic blue-topped churches with the triangular bell towers, and we were lucky enough to see a wedding in one of them while we were there (twas the season, apparently). The sunsets were pretty spectacular. 

I loved how our cave house was all made of moulded concrete, even the patio. It seemed like a really easy and economical way to build, whilst also reminding you of a warm version of Pingu's igloo.

On our second evening, after discovering massive sugary doughnuts the size of dinner plates and snorkelling (the time I got the worst sunburn of the whole trip and James lost his phone to the sea - check your pockets boys!!), we went to Oia (pronounced Ia) to see the famous sunset. It went a bit like this:

Oia is right at the tip of the island so it's meant to be the best place to watch from. In reality, it means the romantic sunset will be somewhat marred by massive crowds and people who actually clap when the sun sets. As if it didn't happen literally. every. single. day.

Behold, the tail end of a giant crowd, and more selfie sticks than you can shake a... well, you know...  (have I ever mentioned how much I hate selfie sticks?)

After sunset in Oia, everywhere there is a path, there is a crowd.

It is very pretty though.

We also went on a day trip to a volcano, a thermal spring (which I didn't swim in because my sunburn was still very raw), and another island where we finally had kofte. This is James and his Norwegian friend, Tomas, swimming to where they could see mud...

...so they could smear it on themselves. You can take the boys out of Scandinavia, but you can't take the viking warlord with mud paint out of the boys.

Me in full-on sun-cover-up mode due to the worst sunburn ever (I still have a swimsuit-crisscrossed back from it).

Me in full-on sun-cover-up mode due to the worst sunburn ever (I still have a swimsuit-crisscrossed back from it).

This is the old port of Thira. You see that zigzaggy path? Donkeys go up and down it every day, and it used to be the only way down to the port. Now there is also a cable car (on the left), which I'm sure the donkeys are glad of.

Easily the best thing we did, and sadly we have no photographs of it, was scuba diving. I was pretty apprehensive about breathing under water, and especially when they put the weights on me (standard practice - should have maybe read more about it all before we went.)  We went with Aegean Divers, who picked us up when our annoying ATV broke down, fed us cookies before our second dive and recommended a great Greek bakery afterwards. We took their Discover Scuba course, which was a pretty solid 9am-4pm with two dives included for 100 euros each. From prices I've seen since, I think that is extremely reasonable. 

Considering all the risks involved, I would never have expected to feel so safe or so calm 12 metres underwater but the guides were completely amazing. You really felt like they were looking after you, perhaps thanks to them not taking huge groups at a time - there were points where Makis literally held my hand or reminded me to breathe, and it was such a comfort in such an unfamiliar world. But what a world.... my favourite part was when we looked up and you couldn't see the sky anymore, just lighter water, and there was a ceiling of fish above us in a shoal. James loved it when the fish swam right into his goggles and nibbled the fingers he held out for them. It really was an amazing experience. A seasoned diver recommended we go to the Red Sea in Egypt if we want to do some more diving, because it's widely acknowledged to be the best in the world... watch this space.

Then again, we might want to go back to Santorini soon... with views like this, can you blame us?


Honeymoon Part One: LISBON: The road in front of us is long and it is wide//we've got beginner's luck, we've got it on our side

by Stephanie Gilmartin in ,


PART ONE: Things to do

Have a look at those pasty legs! This must mark the first time I've worn shorts without tights since we moved back from London in February. So begins our honeymoon grand tour of Europe in... Lisbon. Since we're not gazillionaires, and we wanted a good long holiday (oh hello honeymoon diving package in Belize, £5k for one week without considering flights...), we are interrailing from Lisbon to Istanbul and AirBNBing it all the way (apart from in Thessaloniki, because no one's flat met my high AirBNB design standards there).

This is the first place we stayed, in a nice guy called Francisco's apartment in the Alfama district.  Everything was white, which I loved.  We quickly discovered that AirBNB is awesome because when you meet the host, you can ask them loads of questions like: where is good for dinner? What should we not miss? What's a totally overrated tourist trap? and they will answer, in abundance. Frederico told us no one in Lisbon goes out until 2am at the earliest, which is inconvenient if you have work the next day. He also recommended a cracking Italian restaurant nearby and a free design museum, on which more later, and where we should go for drinks. It's a much more personalised introduction, especially in a city, and it's really interesting to imagine how other people live in different places. I experienced this a bit in France, where my flat had no fridge, for example... yeah, it's pretty interesting.

I really wish I'd had my phone on me the first day in Lisbon , because  man, we walked a LOT, and I'd love to have seen the step-count on Google Fit. First, we went to the Mercado da Ribeira for breakfast, then to Mude as recommended by Francisco - it's a design museum set in a former bank, complete with vaults and everything. Nearby is the Praca do Comercio, or main square, which contains the self-appointed World's Sexiest Toilet - it costs a euro but you get to choose your own colour of toilet paper, as the above picture suggests, so obviously we had to go. We went up the elevador de Santa Justa, visited the castle, went all the way to the oceanarium, went on the gondolas and still managed back for dinner in Cafe Lisboa. Quite a lot to pack in to one day really - here are a few pictures.

A little bit of practical advice, first - Lisbon is maybe the hilliest place in the world, so travel light and wear comfortable shoes. There are several secret elevators that you only discover after you've walked up the near-vertical hill nearby - I can't find a full directory of them unfortunately, but certainly worth asking your host about before you pull a 20kg suitcase up a hill (sorry James). Some are free, others use the public transport tickets but public transport is dead cheap, you buy a reusable card and it seems to be the same for trams, buses, trains etc so it's quite straightforward. Unlike finding out where the trams go...

We got a tram one day, just to experience it, but it just meant a very long walk home because we failed to discover its route or timings etc. When you're on a tram, you realise that your romantic vision of the old Glasgow trams  is all fine and well, but you wouldn't want to get one to work in the morning.

Below is the basement floor of Mude - the old bank vault. There was a Christian Lacroix exhibition on, and you're not really allowed to take pictures, but how can you resist in a coolly-lit bank vault? It had the super-reinforced Chubb doors as well, and quite an eerie atmosphere, amidst all the locked drawers. 

This is probably the most iconic of the public elevadores - the Santa Justa one. You actually get better views from the Castle, since it's higher up, but this does have a spiral staircase and a rickety viewing platform in case you like having mini coronary arrests.

The castle was fine... if you like old stony ruins. To me, one rampart looked just the same as the next.

This peacock was the most interesting thing we saw, especially when he ran up a tree to harass several pea-hens who seemed to be hiding from him.

The oceanarium was pretty vast, and truth be told, I went for James because his birthday was the previous day. I promised not to post a picture of his face when he saw this giant freshwater aquarium (most anorak expression you've ever seen)...

...so instead I'll post one of this Sun Fish, the main attraction as far as James was concerned (though I'm not all that sure why!)

The next day we wanted to go the Cascais to try surfing, but all the lessons seemed to start super-early so we went stand-up paddleboarding instead (which we have previously done in London, but never on the sea). Luckily it was quite easy to get back into, and now I want to do it on bigger waves! You can just turn up, and it only costs 15 euros to rent a board for an hour.

On the final day, we went shopping (see below!), hid from the obscene heat and climbed the arch in the main square. We almost felt like we'd seen and done everything by that point. About 9.30pm, our train left for Madrid, and let me tell you, it was like sleeping in a washing machine. For the first three hours or so, I felt like I was being bucked off a horse and the rattling was so loud that I knew there was no way James was asleep either. We both managed to get to sleep around 1am I think, but it was far from a pleasant journey. Next time, we'd probably just fly (sorry Interrail).

Pretty station though! Lisbon Santa Apolonia.

Pretty station though! Lisbon Santa Apolonia.

PART 2: What to eat

Pictured above is the Mercado da Ribeira, where we spent an inordinate amount of time. Why? Nice decor, shelter from the sun, free wifi, and loads of top-quality food all in one place. You can have a starter and a main from different restaurants and there's nothing to stop you. There are several kitchens by top chefs, as well as cured meat and cheese, sushi, amazing cakes, seafood - and it's all very democratically priced so that even skint locals can afford some fine dining. In short, it's great. 

This was the 24 hour suckling pig with sweet potato puree by Henrique Sa Pessoa's kitchen. Total cost only 9 euros (and a stolen crisp from James...)

This was the 24 hour suckling pig with sweet potato puree by Henrique Sa Pessoa's kitchen. Total cost only 9 euros (and a stolen crisp from James...)

This was a cookie cake, which we ate along with a dulce de leche (or Dolce and Gabbana, as James pronounces it) tart - before breakfast. Because honeymoon. I can't remember the cafe name but it's in the Mercado!

This was a cookie cake, which we ate along with a dulce de leche (or Dolce and Gabbana, as James pronounces it) tart - before breakfast. Because honeymoon. I can't remember the cafe name but it's in the Mercado!

We spotted this gelateria before we walked up the super-steep hill to the castle, so we got some to fortify us for the walk. They had ace flavours like vanilla and basil, or finger banana and dark chocolate (which was by turns sour, fruity and chocolatey - really delicious).

On our descent from the castle, we found this wee wine bar where they let you taste several wines based on what you say you like (white and fruity and very very cold please). We both went for a glass of the middle one, and some cheese - the one on the right had a very salty tone to it, like a seawater wine, and it went well with cheese but was a bit too interesting for us on its own. The first two were really good and it was 5 euros a glass, so fairly reasonable. Really worth checking out if you go, and worth the hike up the hill. 

Cafe Lisboa... how do I even express my love for you? Another great example of Lisbon's dining democracy, Cafe Lisboa is Lisbon's theatre's restaurant, and is across the road from chef Jose Avillez's other top restaurant, Belcanto, the only one in the world with two Michelin stars. This is no poor relation, however. I had cod with tomato rice, and James has beef croquettes with tomato rice, which was hoovered up very quickly for somone who doesn't like tomatoes. James had a custard tart for pudding which cost a princely 1.25 euros, and I had hazelnuts three ways, which is also served in Belcanto. A mousse, ice cream and salted, toasted hazelnut sprinkle, it was amazing. James and I actually saw Jose Avillez the next day, walking down the street in his chef whites. I was too shy to get a photo with him but I admire the fact that he has four restaurants in Lisbon and you can still see him around the place (ahem yes I am looking at you, Jamie Oliver/Gordon Ramsay/all you global expanders who have bitten off more than you can chew).

We also ate in Taberna da Rua das Flores, a great little neighbourhood restaurant recommended by the Chiltern Firehouse's Nuno Mendes. Even James, who hates tuna, decided that he actually really likes tuna tartar, and their chocolate cake was amazingly rich.

We tried Esperanca  on Francisco's recommendation - it had lovely staff and a really delicious melted cheese and ham starter that would have been quite sufficient as a main course. 

Kaffehaus, just down the road from my new favourite shop, A Vida Portugesa, was a life-saver in times of need for minty lemonade - it's only 3 euros a litre, and a great comfort when it's over 30 degrees outside.

And what's that? You want to know more about the shops?

PART 3: Shopping

We didn't actually spend that long shopping (much to James' delight) but there were a couple of unique-seeming places I wanted to visit and I'm very glad I did. I got the most beautiful soft, pale blue leather gloves from Luvaria Ulisses, a tiny glove shop that looks unchanged since it opened in 1925. They look at your hand and fit your gloves to you using strange wooden tweezers to open the fingers, scented powder to put on your hand and a cushion for you elbow. It was quite an unusual experience and I can't wait for winter to wear my new gloves - they cost 49 euros which I thought was pretty reasonable for such lovely soft leather and such a lovely colour.

My other favourite was, as mentioned above, A Vida Portugesa. They stock products that are handmade in, or indigenous to, Portugal, and as such have the most gorgeous art nouveau-packaged toiletries and sardines, blankets and paper in brilliant colours and beautifully illustrated children's books.

They even sell a "lapis hemostatico", a magic stick which apprarently stops you bleeding when you shave! James can test it out then I'll report back :)

And so concludes our trip to Lisbon! I'll update as necessary when I have had a chance to upload more pictures from our voyage of a lifetime!