Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 6 at Wimbledon 2013

The last time I stepped foot at Wimbledon was in 2009 after my permanent move to the U.K with Keenan's Dad. Each year since then I always tell Keenan that we should go to Wimbledon even if it meant that we queue for tickets. Queue for tickets, Keenan asked? No, I don't like tennis that much.

This year I was determine to return to Wimbledon but with Centre Court tickets. So on Friday morning, I was on full 'sniper' mode on Ticketmaster to buy the much coveted reserved seats at Centre Court. Each day of the tournament except the Semi-Finals and Final, 500 tickets on Centre Court are released at 9am the day before. I got lucky and we were on our way to Wimbledon for a day of tennis at Centre Court. 
Week 1 at Wimbledon has been filled with shocking defeats -- Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Maria Sharapova, plus a number of players retiring or pulling out of the game: Tsonga, Azarenka, etc. All very strange. 

 The Order of Play for Day 6 on Centre Court:
3rd Round - Bernard Tomic (AUS) beat the 9th seed Richard Gasquet (FRA) at 7-6(7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(5). This was a long match clocking in at 2:45 of play time (or just 3 hours by our watch).

3rd Round - Sabine Lisicki (GER) [23] beat Samantha Stosur (AUS) [14] 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. We skipped most of this match in favour to stretch our legs and have a lunch on the beautifully landscaped grounds of Wimbledon. I also wanted to catch a glimpse of the Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) vs Grega Zemilia over at Court 12. I was slightly disappointed he didn't play on the Show Court after all he is 8th seed. He won his match in straight sets. Back on Centre Court, we watched the last set of Lisicki and Stosur.

Then the highlight of my day watch Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] -- the world number 1 play Jeremy Chardy of France where he beat Chardy in straight set - 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. It wasn't a good match-up as Djokovic was stellar -- he plays tennis at another level, very impressive! He make tennis look so easy -- calm as a cucumber and barely breaking a sweat!

Just as I thought we finished our day at Wimbledon, it was announced that the Serena Williams (USA) [1] vs Kimiko Date-Krumm, the 41 year old from Japan would play on Centre Court rather than Court No. 1 as Ferrer vs Dolgopolov went on for 5 sets. What a treat! Serena is having an amazing year after coming back from a life-threatening illness beating Date-Krumm at 6-2, 6-0 in 61 minutes.

8.5 hours of tennis, sunshine, strawberry and cream, champagne, Centre Court ticket makes for a very memorable day out at Wimbledon. Look forward to the Finals next weekend. My prediction - Murray vs Djokovic and Djokovic will take it in 5 in one long epic match - 4-6, 6-5, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (with a long tie break).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall

If I haven’t mentioned it already here, I’ll say it again – I love the Royal Albert Hall. Any production here, whether it’s an Emeli Sande concert or the BBC Proms, is always a treat. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine invited me to see English National Ballet's Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall. I hadn’t seen a Tchaikovsky production since our 2009 trip to Russia and  I couldn’t refuse the offer to see this beloved ballet although I am no ballet expert.  

The seats were amazing, so close that I could see the ballet dancers defined muscles and sculpted calves. It was beautiful production by the English National Ballet telling the story of Odette, a princess who turned into a swan by the Von Rothbart, an evil owl-like sorcerer. Later he attends a royal ball for Prince Siegfried with his daughter Odile whom he transformed to look like Odette (except she wears black of course). Prince Siegfried mistakes Odile for Odette, and the rest is history. Unlike other productions, this one had a happy ending. 

A beautiful evening at one of the my beloved concert venues in London. Thanks for the invite L!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Pintxos Hopping in San Sebastian

Seriously what’s not to love about this gorgeous, seaside town of San Sebastian in the Spanish Basque Country? It’s easy-going, fun-loving, and there’s no shortage of beautiful beaches, dramatic coastline, and the food, glorious food here in San Sebastian. In fact, it has the highest concentration of Michelin-rated restaurants. We weren't so lucky to get reservations but we did what locals do best -- sampling pintxos!

We kicked off our sunny beach/foodie weekend getaway in Bilbao, home of the iconic Guggenheim Museum designed by California-based architect Frank Gehry, turning this once declining industrial port town into a major cultural centre in Europe. We spent hours marvelling at this modern piece of architecture before heading into the Old Town for our first taste of ‘pintxos’ (Basque-style tapa) and the first of many (far too many) Txakoli , a lightly fizz crisp white wine poured from a distance. Our time in Bilbao was short as we were eager to head to San Sebastian later that evening. 

Unfortunately what we envisaged to be a beach trip turned into a major gluttony fest thank to the unpredictable weather but we were able to do a few short walks around this picturesque town and visited both stretches of beach (the surfer beach of Zurriola and people-watching beach of Concha). 

Keenan and I went pintxos-hopping, visiting over 20 pintxos bar over the span of three days in the Old Town (Parte Veija). I know it sounds like a lot but it’s quite easy to do when you sample two pintxos per bar (at €1 to €4 each) with a refreshing glass of beer or Rioja (€2-4 per glass). It’s amazing how fast time flies when you’re having fun. Bear in mind that these pintxos places are mostly standing room only unless you make reservations in advance.  


I had a list of recommended bars, but I would say any place that’s crowded with local people is fair game, and order off the chalk-board rather than the pintxos on display. My favourite three pintxos bars:

A Fuego Nero, Calle 31 de Agosto – The first pintxos bar we tried in San Sebastian recommended by my college roommate and it was a home run. The Wagyu beef burger was divine. Love at first bite. We liked it so much we returned again on our last evening in town. A Fuego Nero focusses on inventive, modern pintxos – all very good and prices are slightly more expensive. It’s crowded with a nice buzzy atmosphere. 

Atari Gastroteka, Calle Mayor, 18 – How gorgeous is this place with Bench-clad staff and lovely jazz playing in the background? I could linger here all evening. Again, another inventive, modern place. We had the seared beef with a splash of teriyaki and Carrillera de ternera al vino tinto (braised beef in red wine) was the best we tried. All their pintxos on display looked soooo yummy. 

Bar Zeruko - Calle Pescaderia, 10 – A light and airy restaurant filled with delectable bite-sized pieces of heaven. Very daring and bold take on traditional pintxos. Hamburguesa de chipiron – interesting dish of minced squid, crouton and a meringue of squid ink with a dash of wasabi. We also tried a number of different bacalao (salted fish).

Other places we checked out that I can recall from memory:

Borda Berri - Calle de Fermin Calbeton, 12 – Their signature dish is the risotto
Txepetxa - Calle Pescaderia, 5 – for anchovy-lovers only -- specialises in all things with anchovies
La Cepa - Calle 31 de Agosto, 7 – best known for jamon, jamon, and more jamon. In my opinion, Spanish hams are the best. Sorry for all you prosciutto-lovers.
La Cuchara de San Telmo - Trasera, 28  - this is hard to find as it is off Calle de Agosto on a dead end street. Highly recommended and super-crowded (seriously, elbow to elbow). Keenan enjoyed the Carrillera de ternera al vino tinto – it’s his Basque favourite dish – braised beef cheek in red wine sauce. We also ordered their signature dish Foie con jalea de manzana – seared foie gras which was delicious but slightly too rich for me. 

Bar Goiz Argi - Calle Fermin Calbeton, 4 – signature dish is the brocheta de gambas - prawn bruschetta smothered in their house sauce. Simply grilled but so tasty.
Tamboril - Calle Pescaderia 2 – old-school pintxos bar with cheap pintxos.

Happy eating!