A Nice Journey. Not.

As mum (I’m so tempted to call her Maxi-Me but she’d go daft) and I are off to Amsterdam on Monday OH and I aren’t dining out this weekend. However, I’ve recently realised that I wrote a blog post about the awful start to our holiday in Nice earlier this year, which I didn’t post so I thought I’d share it now. Just in case you need your weekly dose of Dear Lorraine…

So anyway as I said….It was a disastrous start to our holiday. Part of the initial problem was due to the fact that we had downed 3 bottles of wine at my mum’s before going to bed too late for our 4.30 am alarm call. When OH got up he was still half asleep and unhappy at the prospect of driving. I was just unhappy because I always get stressed before holidays. I am never happy until I am sitting down in the apartment/hotel room/rented house. And just so you know, this time it was a rented apartment booked through AirBnB, the website that gives you the option of renting a room, shared house or whole house. 2015-06-15 17.07.03We had booked a whole house in Nice on the French Riviera and that was where we were heading – leaving an unusually bright and sunny Scotland behind.

I was trying to remain chilled and OH was bumbling about in the house packing last minute bits and pieces so, being totally ready and prepared, I made myself a coffee and poured it into a travel mug for the car journey.

I then picked up my suitcase and took it out to the car. This was the first bit of bad luck as the handle on my suitcase gave way. Arghhhhh. It ripped right from the fabric and was completely unrepairable, even if I had the time. I’m trying to look on the bright side and think at least it didn’t come round on an airport carousel burst or I’d have had to complain, try to claim compensation and been really annoyed at someone else instead of being able to totally blame myself.

I went back into the house to grumble loudly to OH who was less than sympathetic. He lugged his own bag out and got into the car leaving me to lock up. Second mini disaster. I got my travel mug and keys, set the alarm and left the house only to find something was stopping me getting my key in. As I bent to see his keys blocking the lock I managed to pour coffee down my light blue trousers and shoe. I was not amused. Of course I now couldn’t go back into the house because I had set the alarm so I marched back to the car to blame OH for the whole sorry mess. I thrust my travel mug into the car, muttered angrily and returned to the house to try and lock the door again.

Eventually back in the car we drove away from our house.  I attempted to drink my coffee but of course it was dripping all down the mug and over me. Tissues were flung at me and we travelled to the airport in silence. Well, we did until we got stuck in traffic approximately a mile before the airport. That mile took as 20 minutes and started us bickering again. It also made us late parking in the long stay car park. There is nothing worse that standing at a (shuttle) bus stop waiting for someone else to pick you up. We both tried to judge if we would be able to walk to the airport faster than the bus would take. Thankfully, before we decided, the bus turned up and ferried us the relatively short distance to the airport. We rushed inside and into security where it was like a cattle market. Prime bits of meat being penned, prodded and pushed along in perfectly formed queues. Stripped of all our personal belongings and made to walk through metal detectors we eventually managed to scurry to the departure gate and straight on to our flight as it was last call to Nice. We had just made it!

By the time I sat on the plane I was shattered. The red wine, lack of breakfast and general rushing about had taken its toll so I decided to get some shut eye. Sleeping on public transport is not my forte but I was going to give it a good go. 5 minutes into my nap and OH woke me up to ask if I wanted coffee. Eh, no! Of course that was me. I’d had 5 minutes so there was no getting back to sleep so it was the in-flight travel magazine from cover to cover to pass the time as, obviously, my kindle was stored safely in the overhead locker and I was in the middle seat  .

Thankfully, we managed to get out of the airport pretty smoothly in Nice – a slight difficulty in finding the bus ticket office but a quick stop at the information desk solved that and before long we were on the bus hurtling towards our well-earned break. I knew it was only a couple of stops so I didn’t mind that the bus was packed and I couldn’t get a seat. I wanted to be in prime position for getting off of the bus.

I saw our stop, picked up my bag, pressed the bell and watched the bus stop tearing past. I saw the next 3 stops go past too as I frantically pressed the button. Nope. The bus wasn’t for stopping – it was like something out of Speed. 3 kilometres down the road and eventually another passenger went up to the bus driver and demanded that she stopped. Half a dozen people alighted alongside us.

It was easily 25 degrees in the midday sun as we lugged our suitcases back up towards our apartment. There were very little words between us as we sweated our way along the coast.

The house numbers started at 67 and we had to walk up to 303. Needless to say my feet started to blister and my face was the colour and shape of a tomato. I was a pretty sight. When we got to number 303 there was a push button entry system and no obvious signs for what button I had to push. I started pushing them all. No-one answered. OH was pissed off, I was pissed off and, I swear, it was the sunniest day of the year. My t-shirt was sticking to me, as was my hair. You could have planted rice on my back it was that wet. I pressed every button again. I sent a text to the apartment owner. I tried to piggyback on to someone’s Wi-Fi to see if I could get in contact with someone that could help. All to no avail.  OH insisted we went somewhere to sit down for a drink. We ended up in a crumby pizzeria sharing a pizza. It was then that I received a message asking if I was at the door number 233 on a completely different street as I had been given. Eh? It turned out there was 2 entrances and her buzzer was on the back door not the front. Arghhh.

2015-06-15 20.28.10

The problem pipe

We finished up our pizza and, not even stopping for the toilet, made our way to the back door and (thankfully) were invited inside. When we got to the apartment door we could see there were men drilling. Plumes of dust filled the air. Pierre, our landlord, apologised profusely for the mess and explained they’d had a broken pipe the day before. The whole apartment (and the one below) had been flooded. Therefore, they had the workmen in doing an emergency repair job and as there was no water, could we come back later?

I felt like Mary and Joseph when there was no room at the inn. Desperately we asked, “Can we just come in for a short while please?”

“Oui, oui. Would you like a bierre?”

Would I?  Without hesitation. “Oh yes please!”

Well long story short. He only had one bierre but he had a large bottle of ‘cidre’, which had my name all over it. I drank the majority of it before I realised there we no water and therefore no toilet!

I must have taken on the shape and form of a camel at that point as it was approximately another hour before I got to relieve myself. It cost me the price of a diet coke in a French café but it was worth every penny.

When we returned to the apartment Pierre was still there as the work men were just finishing up. He proffered us a bottle of Champagne as way of an apology. I swear it didn’t hit the sides.

So that was the start of our holiday. Thankfully, the champagne was the start of it getting better.2015-06-15 20.49.27

Hamlet – National Theatre Live

On Thursday evening I managed to finish work in Fife at 5pm and make it in time to be sat in the theatre for 7 all ready to watch Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet. Nope, I hadn’t mastered the art of time travel or had I sold my soul to the devil to gain a couple of much sought after tickets to see the Shakespeare drama in London’s Barbican theatre.  What I had was 2 tickets to see National Theatre Live broadcast Hamlet in the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy.

1400 screens in 25 different countries meant the play was being shown to over 225,000 people around the world. No mean feat.

I love the theatre and have done so since I played Rosalia in West Side Story when I was 16 years old. (also in the same production Dougray Scott played Bernardo and Tony was played by Michael Nardone – sorry, just had to let those names drop and tell you my biggest claim to fame ;p)). I would rather go to the theatre than the cinema any day of the week. I enjoy thinking about all the different aspects of the show – the stage production, the set design, how the actors get on back stage, the make up artist, the writer – just everything about it. Therefore, when my mum made the suggestion of going to see Hamlet in Kirkcaldy, I was never going to refuse.

Mum and I sat in a full house amidst students, OAPS and everyone else in between, In other words a very mixed bunch. Prior to the play starting, a clip showed Benedict Cumberbatch visit a school and watch pupils perform their interpretation of Hamlet. The teenagers were great and I found the short film quite moving – it was a great introduction to the tragedy.

You will be pleased to know, I’m not going to re-tell the story of Hamlet but I will say that I was blown away by the production. Cumberbatch was mesmerising – he gave the performance his all – I didn’t see blood but there was definitely sweat and tears. Sian Brooke’s Ophelia was outstanding – she was jittery, anxious, wretched and ultimately, heartbreaking. Her stage exit lead onto Gertrude’s wonderful description of her death. It’s one of my favourite pieces by Shakespeare – I’ve always thought Ophelia’s unfortunate demise sounded beautiful and Anastasia Hille gave it justice as Gertrude.  

When you go to the theatre, unless you’ve got fantastic eyesight and front row seats, you rarely see just how much emotion goes into a role. With National Theatre Live you are able to see exactly how good an actor is. Veins were pumping, noses were running and tears were flowing. Close ups of everyone’s face whilst they give their lines added so much to the words. For me Hamlet was brought to life. If I didn’t catch all the words it didn’t matter as the cast told me their story regardless. Mum did complain a little about the camera work, in that she had to look where the camera went rather than being able to focus wherever she wanted on the stage. Mum likes to make sure she isn’t missing anything and would prefer to have seen the whole stage more often. I guess it is a loss but for me the close ups made up for it.

Like most Shakespeare plays it was lengthy and I was glad to stretch my legs afterwards. However, for those 3 hours I was transported out of myself and into another world. A world where Prince’s avenge their father, and daughters grieve for theirs. A world that was available in Fife for the princely sum of £12 (pardon the pub)! Yes, I know. £12 and it was only a tenner for my mum. National Theatre Live has made productions that normally would be nigh near impossible to see accessible and I can’t recommend it enough. Mum and I are now converts and we’ve already bought tickets for Of Mice and Men, which will be shown from New York in January.

If this has interested you at all, you should check out future showings near you by National Theatre Live – you won’t regret it.

Le Bistro Beaumartin, Glasgow

Just for something different to do OH and I decided to head to Glasgow for a visit.

As the choice of restaurants can be pretty overwhelming we narrowed our choices by deciding to go French. I did a search through 5pm.co.uk to see what it had to offer and it threw up Le Bistro Beaumartin in Hope Street. Their offer was a 3 course meal for 2 with a bottle of wine for £45, which sounded right up our street.

When we arrived we wondered if the restaurant was actually open as it looked a bit dark. We ventured in and was met by a very friendly waiter. He offered us a seat in the window, which we gladly accepted. It would also have helped the restaurant look busier than it was – there was only one other table that was occupied. Not a great sign.

We were given the set menu and asked if we wanted red or white wine with our meal.2015-10-10 13.35.18 Red, obviously. The menu offered 4 starters but all I could see was French Onion soup. However, OH noticed there were other options and went for the Champignons au Roquefort  – Ragout of mushrooms in a roquefort cream.

When my soup arrived I have to admit I was disappointed. 2015-10-10 13.41.29The last time I had French onion soup was in Nice and I had to prize apart the roasted cheese on the top to get to the soup. In this case the cheese was in a little tin dish next to the soup along with some croutons. I emptied the dishes into the soup and waited for the cheese to melt. 2015-10-10 13.41.21The soup itself was okay but nothing special. OH’s starter looked like whole cup mushrooms covered in a dark cream sauce. He said he would have preferred the mushrooms to have been wild or at least mixed. He enjoyed it though and liked the roquefort sauce, which wasn’t too over powering.

For my main meal I had Escalope saumon en papillote – fillet of salmon baked in grease-proof 2015-10-10 14.01.12paper, steamed rice, ratatouille, herb oil. It arrived still in the grease-proof paper and foil and looked fantastic. The rice was cooked to perfection, the salmon was lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

OH surprised me by deciding not to have a steak! Instead he went for Supreme de Poulet au 2015-10-10 14.00.49citron – braised chicken supreme in lemon, sun-dried tomato and coriander with steamed couscous. I thought his chicken looked a little pale and he did say it was a bit tasteless. It was still on the bone and he felt it had been plumped up with water as if it was supermarket bought rather than from a reputable butcher. The taste of lemon was slight and not detergenty tasting, which I often think can happen with lemon chicken. He liked the couscous but felt he could have handled more than one sun-dried tomato.

2015-10-10 14.26.02For dessert I chose 2 different sorbets. Pink champagne and raspberry. I could also have chosen lemon but I was glad I hadn’t as the raspberry and pink champagne went well together and was a good finish to my meal. OH had Flamusse aux pommes – warm apple flan, 2015-10-10 14.25.55finished with rum, raisin and creme anglais. He loved it and says it was the best part of his meal.

OH and I have been at a number of French restaurants in Scotland and we’ve often felt like we’ve been whisked away to France for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, neither of us had that feeling when we left Le Bistro Beaumartin. The food was ok but nothing spectacular. The competition for diners is fierce in Glasgow and if they want to stay in the race they’re going to have to up their game.

3 courses for 2 and a bottle of wine £45.

Breast is best (another digression)

My daughter, Mini-me, gave birth to Teeny Mini-him just over 3 weeks ago. She is just 21 years old and was determined to breast feed. I had fed her myself and if she had decided not to breast feed I would have thought it odd and tried to talk her out of using formula. However, she was just as determined to feed Teeny Mini-him as I was to feed her so I was over the moon.

She had a traumatic birth, 15 hours of hard labour but the smiles at the end were all worth it. After the marathon, Teeny Mini-him was immediately put to the breast and completely naturally, started to suckle. Every member of staff who popped into the room encouraged her and they all had a top tip. Mini-me listened to them all just as determined as ever.

When she came home, only 24 hours later, she found it difficult. Teeny Mini-him had a tiny mouth and it was difficult for Mini-me to get all of her areola into his little mouth so her nipples suffered; cracked, sore and sometimes bleeding. Lanolin, the best nipple cream on the market, was £10 and not available as a minor ailment treatment and the cheaper creams did nothing to alleviate the pain. I bought the £10 cream. Twice. I bought nipple shields. I bought a breast pump. I bought breast pads. I was as determined as she was she would keep breast feeding and therefore, happy to fund the purchases.  Mini-me doesn’t get a lot of money and without my purse she wouldn’t have been able to afford the items.  To be honest,  I found it surprising the items that should support breast feeding mothers were so expensive. I’m quite sure Mini-me would have bought formula at £7 before she would have bought nipple cream at £10. Regardless, and thankfully, she kept breast feeding.

Then the pain just got too much for her and she found expressing milk and giving it to Teeny Mini-him in a bottle worked better. It helped her, and her concerned partner, see how much he was getting, it stopped the partner stressing and gave Mini-me’s nipples a break. I wasn’t quite as happy but obviously, glad she was still feeding herself.

Late one evening, a couple of nights later she called me. “Mum, if I come and get you can you, will you come with me to Asda so I can buy formula milk? He’s not settling, I’m not producing enough milk and he’s starving.” She was in tears.

“No.” I replied. “Bring Teeny Mini-him down here and I will help you.”

Thankfully she came down.

That night I sat with her. I got her to use the nipple shields. It was sore to begin with but he fed. The more he fed, the more milk she produced. Eventually sated, I took Teeny Mini-him from her and settled him as she fell asleep on the couch. I covered her up and made a little cot on the floor next to her.

He woke during the night and without my help she fed him herself and he slept again.

Since that night, she has stopped expressing and every feed is via the breast. She still uses the nipple shields but she has managed to cut out the middle man of the breast pump. Soon Teeny Mini-him will be big enough to suck her entire areola into his mouth and the nipple shields will be ditched.

She is a great mother, doing a great job and I’m thankful we have such a good relationship she turned to me for help that night. I know without that connection she would have bought formula and Teeny Mini-him, who would still be healthy and looked after, would miss out on the amazing bond that breast feeding gives. Without that bond would she have called?

No-one will ever convince me that breast isn’t best.

Although I’ve moaned about the price of items to support breast feeding, what I realise now is that support from family members is far more important and valuable to a new mum.