Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Didn't we have a lovely time the night i went to Cardiff!

Well its update time. Back in 2006 when i started this blog after advice from a Zakynthos website quite a few others off that site also started their own blogs and i think i am the only one left who updates their blog at least once a fortnight i may be the only who updates it at all haha.

Well two fridays ago i went to Cardiff for a night out with my nephew Leighton. Its a good job we have the same dry sarcastic sense of humour and music tastes as its makes for a fun night. So after a drink at home off we went in to Cardiff town centre. First stop was a bar called "Pen & Wig" used by Lawyers, Accountants and Students, i noticed most of the students were drinking rose wine, have students become refined? Do students now have some class? NO, "rose wine £5.99 a bottle" good to see students saving some study book money LOL. In here i spotted 2 guys who were in my high school class for 5 years, God i've aged well haha.
We moved on to watch an up & coming band called "The OK", well i think that was their name. This was in a welsh club called "Clwb Ifor Bach" and no the songs weren't in welsh its just what the clubs called but they do get alot of wooly backs in there. I bought a round and we took our places stood on a step close to the band in a small room that had about 100 people in it. The band started up and during the second song a drunken women decided to use me to help with her balance and spilt my glass of Smirnoff & sprite over me, to stay i was stunned and about to rip her head off with a verbal onslaught of expletives was an understatement but i bit my lip, stayed calm and just stared in a way that would make Dirty Harry shake in his boots. She apologised over and over and offering drinks, i just stayed quiet staring then i smiled and said "its ok don't worry", What? i must be going soft in my old age, at least get a free drink, IDIOT! The band were ok but nothing i haven't heard before from a young indie band, they played all their own songs but on leaving not one song stuck in my head so thats not a good sign, my nephews band were much better in their day but being an actor starring in Torchwood his acting career came first, also drugs, drink, women and concert riots in the end broke up the band, What? oh yes, sorry, thats Guns N Roses, my mistake LOL.
We moved on to a bar called "The Old Library" it was Rock and Indie night in here which is what music we like. It was pretty quiet to start off with but that was ok as somebodies uncle was in there to entertain us. He was sort of like the drunk 50+ uncle that turns up at wedding and after a couple of Stella's ends up taking up the whole dancefloor due to his elaborate dance moves and of course his drunken legs not keeping him in one place. At one point i thought he was breakdancing but he had actually fallen on his ass after headbanging to Led Zepplin. Had quite a few in there and had a dance while taking the mickey out of the others on the dance floor and pretending to be Morrisey from The Smiths when "This Charming Man" came on, always the best part of the night.
Time was moving on and we decided to move on to watch some more live music but the band had finished and there was a cue, i do not do cues especially in the UK in January, way to bloody cold to be stood outside haha. We headed towards a bar near the taxi rank called "Lloyds", boy was that a big mistake. The people in there made the party clothes worn by the gypsies on "My big fat gypsy wedding" look very classy and stylish. I would say most of them in there should have been tucked up in bed with a bedtime story they were that young. Guys walking like they'd pooped in their jeans just to keep them from falling down. Nice sight seeing a guys ass hanging out with his under crackers showing, don't want to see a snotty kids skid marks thank you very much, thats why they're called "underpants" DOH! The girls weren't much better just the skirts were heading up towards their neck, any higher they'd be wearing a Snood. It was pretty bad and the music, god don't get me started on that. Apart from our last choice of drinking hole it was a great night all finished off with a king size donner kebab meat and chips with BBQ sauce, "it doesn't get much better than that" as Alan Partridge would say.

Valentines day, Well its a bit of a money making scam in my book so i prefer to do something different. Most people go out to a restaurant at least once a month so going out for a meal to me means nothing as you can do that anytime and it ain't that special. So, i like to do something that will remind you of that day. I pre booked seats for the premier of "Paul" the film about an Alien and 2 british guys in America. The papers had slated it but all i can say is not everyone likes the same thing and Helen and I laughed so hard we were crying, it was great, along with a x-large box of salted popcorn it was better than sitting in a restaurant.

Watched the brit awards, wish i hadn't. Liked Take Thats performance, liked Adele but can someone please tell me what Cheryl Cole is doing being nominated for Best British Femlae Artist when she hasn't sung live once. Also Justin Bieber, Best International Breakthrough Act, whats so breakthrough about a weak voiced teenager singing over a backing track, i,ve seen loads like him in the karaoke bars on Zakynthos and seen some alot better. Man that kids so sugar sweet its sickening. at christmas i saw his autobiography (very short read), then plugged endlessly on every tv channel you switch to and now a film, are you being serious? a film about a kid with an average voice and a haircut that looks like its still being cut by his mum with a bowl on his head LOL. I think the brits have lost their way and are a joke now. I remember a few years ago in the Best British Female Artist section P.J. Harvey, Kate Bush and Annie Lennox were nominated and none of them had released a single in years. Oh well it can only get worse, bring back Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood i say haha.

Starting now to get lights, furnishings and paint together for bar and looking for flights to go over in March to start the work so its getting exciting, also the chain of events over here in the UK has begun, can't say to much yet as its just the first step but its looking good but most of the events will be taking place while in Zakynthos but by the time i get back in Oct it will all be sorted.

I'm sure there was more to write about but Judge Judy on the tv is putting me off and i've lost my train of thought but if i remember what i was going to write i'll update it later. Have to say though its not all Judge Judy's fault my memory is getting real bad, i have to write on a piece paper the night before what i have to do the next day but its ok as medical reports have shown that speaking welsh helps with Alzheimers, i didn't make that up its been proved. I don't know which is worse, not remembering things or dribbling over myself having to speak welsh LOL.

Galw'r heddlu! Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

Well its now time to start looking toward season 2011 and my 11th year on Zakynthos.

Lots of ideas for the bar but its getting everything either to the island from the UK or hopefully finding it on the island, either way its not going to be cheap but we shall see. The bar is having a complete make over but it will be in stages over the first 2 months, the outside decor should be finished by the 1st May but stage 2 will have to wait till beginning of June but should be fine. The inside of the bar is staying the same with all the rock memorabilia but got a few more things to add to it.
A new look menu but the drinks will be the same so all your favourite unique Oceanic cocktails are still there with a few new ones and still only using branded spirits in all drinks.

The concept of the bar is also staying the same, Chill Out, No TV's, No entertainment, No loud music just a place for everyone to relax and socialize without having to shout above the music.

I watched the Zakynthos episode of Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents the other night and i have to sat it wasn't the worst of publicity for the island as they kept on saying "Laganas" and not like other programmes and newspaper reports "Zante" but again does the island think these sort of programmes are good advertising? The BBC must have to get permission to film on the island. Tourism has dropped and dropped since Zakynthos hit the headlines all over europe about the sex games on organised trips (18-30's) and in the bars also the bars that got closed down for such events in Laganas. The reason the island was hit hard was because it stated "Zante" not "Laganas" Zante was the main headline and then Laganas was mentioned further in to the report where as it should have stated Laganas first then mention its a resort on the island of Zante. I watched Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents and didn't find it hard to watch, there was the odd moment with Brits with their bits out but in all it did focus on the 2 young people concerned and not on what happens in Laganas. The 2 young people were well behaved i thought so gave the resort a better face than it usually gets. If you had seen the next episode in Magaluf the 2 people on Zakynthos were angels compared to the group in the next programme. But as i've always said its not Laganas that makes the problems there, its the people who visit it and cause trouble.

At the moment here in the UK there are lots of ideas we are thinking over but its all down to a chain of events on how and when we are going to make these ideas happen but i am very excited about them and can't wait to start the ball rolling.

I've been watching Top Chef from america so i've had my chef's hat on again and decided to get back in the kitchen, also boredom led me to it lol. So out we went to Tescos at 11.45pm Friday night. Wow late night shopping is so good, no zimmer frames, no prams and no screaming kids, Bliss! Bought a load of stuff but wasn't really sure what i was going to make but decided to make a Spanish Beef Cake that i had at the Tapas Bar in Lanzarote and a favourite of mine Stuffed Marrow which i stuff with apple and pork. I must say i love cooking but isn't it messy, especially when your using meat, eggs and breadcrumbs, it just gets everywhere and sticks to you or is it that i like to work in chaos haha.

My Stuffed Marrow and Spanish Beef Cake.

After the taste sensation and success of my main course i looked at what was left in the fridge and went on to make a Sweet Potato, Parsnip and Apple soup with a Sausage meat, onion and basil dumpling. Once again a triumph. I don't see why these cooks get their own shows on TV, if an idiot like myself can pull any old ingredients together and make a meal it cant be that hard. I see my arch enemy Heston Blumenthal is opening a new restaurant in London and has a new show starting on channel 4, some of his new wonders at Mandarin Oriental are cucumber ketchup (so green sludge that tastes of nothing), slow cooked ribs (hang on thats not unusal), cured mackrel (has he lost his edge). I watched a documentary about Heston and he was serving some shell fish which looked perfectly normal but he served a side plate of a conch shell with an ipod slipped inside it with headphones for you to listen to the sea as you ate. What? So the food was just the same as any other restaurant but because you can get sea sick while your eating it you have to pay over the odds and he gets a michelin star lol Come on anyone can come up with a dish and get a michelin star if thats the case. "Here we have a blamanche made to look like a chicken carcuss and parsnips made to look like the bones from a filleted fish on a bed of green marzipan made to look like rotten cabbage served on a bustbin lid, its called Tramps Dinner" There you go how easy was that, now wheres my michelin star haha.

My michelin star winning Sweet Potato, Parsnip and Apple soup with Sausage meat dumpling.

So after my last 2 posts being almost as long as war and peace its just a short update today but we are now looking towards Zakynthos and trying to get the plans in action so hope your all looking forward to your holidays now and getting excited. We'll all be in the sun soon, woohoo!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Lanzarote, Did i like it? Read on.

Well in 12 years i've only had 1 holiday and that was to Tunisia (disaster) so Helen thought it was about time i had another one (not a disaster, she meant a holiday) so she searched and searched for somewhere your more or less going to get some sun. We thought about Egypt, good job we didn't, RIOTS! We had briefly thought about Tunisia, good job we didn't, RIOTS! We then decided on Cyprus but we couldn't get the rooms in the hotels we liked, so we agreed on the Canary Islands but i wasn't that sure as not a fan of anything Spanish apart from its food. I have worked in the past in Benidorm and on Ibiza, Majorca, Tenerife and Gran Canaria and didn't like any of those places so we opted for Lanzarote. I'm open minded so off i went with an open mind and to give it a go.

We arrived on the island at midday on Wed 26th to a blue sky and sun, ah bliss, just the start to a holiday you want. The transfer mini bus was a brand new Saab, Great. As we started to make our way to the resort i was then reminded of why i didn't like Spain. It is such a characterless place, huge estates of white buildings with not one curve just all right angles. These types of buildings stretched on for miles and miles along the coastline. the roads are excellent but again the roadsides were all manmade with palm trees planted all along and dark gravel surrounding them. With Greek islands its a much more natural feel to its whole look.

We arrive in Costa Teguise one of the smaller resorts and at our hotel. We were right on the edge of the resort which we liked and it was only a 10 minute walk to the centre.

Reception Hall in Hotel

The hotels natural beach and sea pool

We put our bags in room, didn't even unpack and off we went for a walk about. The resort wasn't that big but something was bothering me, where have i seen this resort before, then it came to me, Butlins! At the heart of the resort was a centre with all the restaurants, bars, supermarkets and tat shops. All roads led to this centre and along those roads were a few smaller centres and the odd bar. It was like someone from the Spanish gouverment had taken a holiday in the UK many years ago, stayed at a Butlins and said "Eureka" thats how we'll set up the Canary Islands, it was the same on Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Huge blocks of white apartments with roads leading off them to the entertainment centre. We had a look around and headed back but stopped at the last bar out of the resort nearest our hotel. More about this bar later. We went back to our room and chilled out after a long day of traveling and watched the sun set ready to start our holiday tomorrow.

Woke up threw back the curtains and there it was, grey horrible clouds, BUGGER! Nevermind, it will pass. Night time came, the clouds didnt pass.

The weather throughout our holiday wasn't great, 2 1/2 days of sun out of 7 days but its what you make of your holiday so we went on long walks, ate, drank and just enjoyed the break from the UK, at least you could still wear shorts and T-shirts even when it was cloudy.

I knew the island was cheap for booze in the supermarkets so you obviously think it will be cheap for drinks in the bar, WRONG! I don't drink much anyway but when i have a drink i like a few. I usually drink Smirnoff with sprite, the odd bitter or rose wine. The prices for Spirit and mixer or Cocktails were crazy, 4euro for a cheap vodka and mixer (not even Smirnoff), 5-6euro for a cocktail. Whenever we drank somewhere they always had a drinks menu so we'd have a look through and these prices seemed to be the norm for almost all the bars. Local beer between 1-2.50 euro for a large, 1.50-2 euro for wine per glass. But we got hooked on jugs of Sangria but i didn't like the original Sangria as its made with soda water so i would always go for it without.
Most of the bars in the resort were brit owned but also brit branded either with union jacks everywhere, signs saying "English family run" or "English owned" or british pub names like "The Bulldog" , "Red Lion" , "The Swan" or "The Ship Inn". Every bar that was aimed at the british, was owned by a brit and clearly marked as a british bar. We didn't see one british bar that had a Spanish owner. The Spanish run bars were aimed at every nationality and there was only 2 german bars, well you can guess who they were aimed at lol. We drank in the Spanish Tapas bars and tried the odd bar when out and about in the day when we got thirsty. There was a spanish chill out bar in the resort which we heard had live music, brilliant we thought lets go there, relax and maybe watch a singer playing accoustic songs, WRONG! We got there and the first thing i spotted was a huge TV, then i noticed a lit up dancefloor, then i spotted the sign saying "live music with DJ jose, Rap, R n B, house, garage", not very chilled out i'd say. If you class a DJ as "live music" thats like saying Cheryl Coles a great live singer when all she does is mime. Very disappointed.
So now about the bar by our hotel, it was called Sunset Sports Bar, now i wanted to watch Liverpoool and my rugby team The Ospreys and this bar was showing it. It was british owned and to be honest not a nice bar but it had the games on that i wanted to watch. Now i always remember the Spanish bar staff having an attitude and being ignorant but these days it seems that the roles are reversed in Spain and its now the brits who are like this. You would think they would be glad of custome but its far from it, they make you feel like its a pain to serve you and that we should be grateful for them being there. Was really shocked by the bad attitude, tutting and loud sighing whenever i asked them for a drink. They advertised the Ospreys rugby game, when it was time for the match to kick off it wasn't on a tv so i asked which tv it was on, the owner made such a big fuss about putting it on, the bar wasnt even half full for the one football match that was on at the same time, he had 3 x 32" TV's, 2 x 26" TV's and 2 x 15" TV's all showing the football, so when he made a fuss about putting the rugby on he turned on an old portable and put the rugby on that when not all the other tv's were being watched. If you don't want to show something then don't advertise it LOL.
What i liked was there was no crazy drinks promtotions going on, no lauging gas being sold in bars, no free shots and happy hour was just that a happy hour that lasted 1 hour. The people would drink where they liked the most not because of where was the cheapest or what they could get for free.
There must have been a mass sale of whicker chairs at some point as every and i mean every bar had exactly the same seats and tables, the seats weren't even comfortable and looked cheap and horrible, the guy who owns that whicker company must be a millionaire just off Lanzarote haha.
The local beer used to be years ago San Miguel but now its Dorada, Cruzcampo and Tropical. These lagers seem very popular and very cheap depending on where you drank you could find a large beer for 1 euro but i hate lager so not much use to me. Tropical beer seems to be the new kid on the block and would you belive it its made from Dogs, the bottle has a dogs head on it, amazing. Perhaps Zakynthos could make a beer out of their strays lol (ok that was a joke before we all go crazy shouting from the rooftops, i have a dog, i feed the strays)

Beer brewed from Dogs (JOKE!)
Ahhhh! refreshing Sangria!

Well we were spoilt for choice to be honest, we always looked for places where the locals were eating and these places were always full so thats a good sign of good food. The first restaurant we ate at was on our second night and it was called "Patio Canaria" this was a very up market Spanish Tapas restaurant but it was well set up inside and had a warm feel to it. We had a starter of Garlic bread but on top there was very finely chopped thin layer of tomatoes and rock salt and they gave us 2 pots of local dips that were called "Mojo Verde" and "Mojo Picon" these were so tastey. I went for an Ox sirloin steak (med/rare) and Helen had mixed fish. My steak came out and it was like i had the whole ass end of the Ox it was that big and thick, tasted sooooo good. Helens mixed fish was gut busting huge, 1 full red snapper, 1 full hake, half of cod, 1 tiger prawn, 6 mussles in shells, 4 cockles in shells and Canary potatoes all washed down with a rose wine. Excellent.
Helens aquarium dish.
Then for a few nights we ate at a small street tapas bar called "Repikada". This was true tapas. You walk in, sit down, order your drinks then go inside and choose which tapas dishes you want from the 20 that were on show then wait for them to arrive. For me this was heaven, traditional food, traditional tapas bar and some of the best flavours i've ever had. We tried Paella, Tuna with onion sauce, Tuna with peppers, Spicey chicken, Chicken with dough pasta, chicken with olives and aubergine sauce, beef cake, breaded chicken covered with slasa and melted mozerella and plain ribs. We would have eaten here every night but we like to try different places.

Then on our last night we both decided we wanted a steak so i remembered seeing "La Vaca Loca" grill house that was always full and usually had locals in there. We got very lucky and caught the the last table available. We ordered a mussle, crab and prawn starter which was very very tastey and served in a large mussle shell wish i'd ordered more than just the one plate now, then the main course we both had Argentinian Sirloin steak which again was huge but they brought out a Argentinian steak sauce called "Cimichurri" for us to use if we wished, so we decided to give it a go, the bowl they served it in was empty by the time we finished with it, we smothered everything in it it was that good.
Didn't have a bad meal at all through out the whole holiday, the menus in restaurants were minimal which was great for making a choice and had something for everyone even though only having about 20 main courses, prices were very reasonable considering what we had and everything was cooked from fresh as you ordered it due to the amount of dishes you could chose from and the chef in most of the places is always on show as he's cooking, not a microwave in sight.

Patio Canaria Restaurant
Repikada Tapas Bar
La Vaca Loca Grill
We did some sight seeing we saw the largest Volcano on the island but when you've seen one you've seen them all, large mountain, hole in the top, a bit warm around it, volcanic ash and stone surround it, job done LOL. A visit to the island wouldn't be the same without visiting Puerto del Carmen the main resort. We took the local bus to the resort and my, what loveley buses they use, it was like the main new National Express coaches and these were just local buses, very plush. Before we decided to go there i had a look at it on the map which then had a resort map also which i instantly noticed the resort had 2 Mcdonalds and a Burger King, oh dear we all know what the resort is going to be like now don't we boys and girls lol. When we got there and drove through it our fears were right. It reminded me of Barry Island, Porthcawl, Blackpool and Weston-super-mare. Brit bars, amusement arcades, tat shops, fast food take aways and drunken loud brits, this was in the afternoon. No sooner i was there i was quite happy to leave so we had a coffee, walked along the promenade to the other end of the resort had another coffee and went back to Costa Teguise. All that was missing from Puerto del Carmen was stalls where you could win teddies and donkey rides on the beach haha.

Another volcano on another canary island
Puerto del Margate lol

So now time for a brief sum up about Lanzarote, the island i didn't like, the weather was rubbish, drinks were way overpriced apart from lager, wine and Sangria, brits were moody and ignorant and we got ripped off for milk in a shop 3 euro when we found it elsewhere for 83 cents. Food was fantastic, spanish people were friendly, loved the restaurants and we made the holiday good ourselves. Would i go back to Spain or its islands? Only if someone else paid for the holiday and my spending money LOL Its ok for the warmer weather and food buts thats all. Its to "Britified" for my liking, a new word i've come up with which means its got more in common with Britain than it has with its own country. Don't see the appeal of a place like that. I hated it when the Old Road in Kalamaki got a pavement.

And just a thought for Zakynthos, i spoke to a few spanish onwers while we were out and about and they all said the same thing, businesses are failing and closing in the resort and its all down to one thing. No its not the pound to euro, no its not the tourists not going there and no its not down to prices. Its all down to those horrble, plastic, clipped coloured wrist bands you see people wearing, All Inclusive. There were many business properties laying empty, shops, bars, restaurants all closed up and up for rent, if this is what it has done to a resort the size of Costa Teguise what will it do to Kalamaki? The 4 largest hotel complexes in Costa Teguise would take up most of Kalamaki resort but there are many more hotels and apartments in the resort but still Costa Teguise is struggling. So imagine if the 4 biggest hotels in Kalamaki went AI that would leave the resort in a terrible way. When will the local Zakynthian council take note of other countries and their resorts and see what the AI is doing to the smaller local businesses. Maybe they should take a look some day as its a sad state these places have got themselves in to and it would be hard to get back to the old ways. Even the Aquarium in Costa Teguise was closed down, that might have been because of all the fish on Helens plate lol.

Oh and even though the weather was pants, i got in the pool. In this pic i look quite calm don't i, well lets just say the water was that cold that my gentleman vegtables vanished in a milli-second of hitting the water HAHA!
Olla and Gracias to you all!