Thursday, 21 June 2012

Olympic fever hits York

In  case you've been living under a shell or similar, the Olympic torch has been doing its tour of the country over the past few weeks, and arrived in York on Tuesday. Although we didn't specifically set out to see it, my housemate and I had spent the day in town doing touristy things, so decided to extend our tourism to full blown patriotism (and, if we're being honest, needed to catch our breath back after climbing the Minster tower).

Although we had seen railings being set up around St. Helen's Square, we headed for Clifford's Tower and watched from there, as we figured it would be easiest to escape from the crowds and head home from here. The crowd was smaller than expected here, but the atmosphere was still great, and the weather certainly helped.

The firemen had put their resources to good use to ensure they got the best view! I wonder if they had to draw straws to decide who got to go to the top?

We could tell roughly where the procession was and when it was coming by the position of the helicopters overhead - we think one was Police and the other was BBC. One had been hovering for most of the afternoon over Museum Gardens.

Of course, the arrival of the actual torch was preceded by a large procession of Police and sponsored vehicles, to get the crowds warmed up. There was a gap of a few minutes between the start of the procession and the torch, in which time a few wayward cyclists on their way home from work managed to find themselves on the route. Some played up to it, giving a wave worthy of the Queen, whereas others looked as if they didn't know where they were or what was going on.

Predictably, a lot of the major sponsorship partners of the Olympics had floats in the procession.

Finally the torch itself came along. Unfortunately, we do not know who the torch bearer was when we saw it.

This was the best shot I got of the torch, due to the crowds. Very shiny!

Following the torch was a bus with all of the torch bearers who were carrying the torch in York, plus all of the "spare" torches. It was great to see the York Sport President Sam Asfahani, preparing to take his moment of pride as the torch headed back towards the race course, but unfortunately we didn't see Jacqui Meddings from Cosmopolitan magazine.

The crowds disperse around Clifford's Tower.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A fortnight of firsts

It's been a hectic few weeks, having finished all my exams and essays, and conseqeuently my degree (despite still barely feeling old enough to even be doing a degree, let alone finishing one). While it's a sad time with many things coming to an end (for example, I am handing over the Lifestyle Editor reins to the wonderful and talented Farrah Kelly), I'm still finding plenty of time to live my life (all the more for having been chained to the confines of the library for the past few months) and try plenty of new things. It's been a fortnight of firsts, as there are many things I have done for the first time.

I had my first ride on the Pepsi Max ride at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Although it wasn't my first time in Blackpool, having visited with my family when I was about four, it was the first time I was big enough to go on most of the rides, and they didn't disappoint.

When my friend Steve* invited me to stay with him in Blackpool, I was a bit dubious, not normally being very good at the whole spontaneity thing, but spurred on by my new found freedom I agreed, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made, resulting in this article. It was all going well until I experienced....
I also got to meet the Tetley man!!

The first time I nearly sank in quicksand. Leaving the Pleasure Beach on a wonderfully sunny afternoon, we decided to take a stroll on Blackpool's lovely sandy beach, and were having a great time paddling through all the shallow puddles, until we began to sink in one. Luckily we got out pretty quickly, but it was all a bit hairy for a second.

The week after I returned from Blackpool, the rest of my coursemates had their final deadline, so we made an inaugural trip to Betty's Tea Rooms. You may or may not have heard of Betty's - it's a semi-famous tearooms based in York, with prices best reserved for a special occasion. Personally I had never heard of it until I moved to York, but the hype around it and the queues I'd seen outside suggested it was worth a visit. As I explained in my article for The Yorker, it was massively overhyped. My second trip to Betty's followed in quick succession to the first, meaning that I am leaving York feeling like an absolute pro at this afternoon tea business.

Some of the linguistics crew enjoying Betty's finest offerings!

My friend Helen and I then went on to our first attempt at making rainbow cake, inspired by this recipe. Sadly, ours was not as bright and colourful as this one, but it tasted yummy (although was very heavy!)

Not as colourful as we'd hoped, but the decorations made up for it!

In a slightly less cake-based occasion, I attended my first hen night (not my hen night, you understand, the hen night of Caroline, now wife of Steve of Fixated On.) I was relieved to find it was a relatively tame experience (I won't say too much, in case the groom is reading this!!), but it resulted in me experiencing the wrong side of the bar for the first time (fear not, it was a cocktail making party - we were each taught how to make a cocktail of our choice. Cosmopolitan for me, naturally.)

A week later I went on to have my first experience of a stag night (yup, you read that right- and no, I'm not a stripper). Being a fairly unconventional groom (he wore trainers to his wedding!), Steve invited guys and girls to his stag do, a tame meal in a local pub, enjoyed by all.

This culminated in the first wedding I have been invited to as my own person (ie. rather than being invited along with my parents), and it all felt very grown up. Following weeks of high-street based trauma finding a suitable dress, it was a very enjoyable occasion. Unusually, instead of having a top table with close family, the bride and groom sat on a small table alone in the middle of the room, with all the other tables forming a circle round them- a great idea.

The wedding! Me with some of the closest friends
 I've made during my time in York!!

For now though, I'm just making the most of this free time, having a well-earned break before graduation and the real world kick in!

*Cheeky plug: Steve Gallacher of Trespasser Films, who you should definitely check out because they are awesome and their first feature film, Nothing Man, is due for release soon.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Toto's Italian, York

Anyone who frequents the number 4 bus route between York city centre and the university campus will have noticed Toto's Italian restaurant at some point. For me, it was back in first year, a whole two years ago. From the outside it looks quaint but quirky, and certainly characterful, and my inner foodie was instantly attracted. Finally, last night, I fulfilled the ambition of going.
 Walking in, the atmosphere hits you immediately, a feeling I imagine to be akin to walking into Mama Dolmio's kitchen. In the downstairs part of the restaurant, families dined alongside couples on dinner dates.  Going upstairs to the toilets later, a much nicer part of the restaurant awaited. Set in a fairy light bedecked conservatory, overlooking the city walls, it was the perfect setting for a romantic date (provided you could ignore the bizarre slideshow being projected onto one of the walls, showing photos of all things Italian from the Colosseum to a Vespa - y'know, in case you were unsure of the origins of the cuisine).

We were seated immediately and ordered our drinks, although eventually had to grab the waiter's attention to place our food orders.
The cannelonni and lasagne which we had for our main courses were both delicious. Although the portions looked a bit stingy when served up, they turned out to be perfectly filling.
The returned Creme Brulee

Moving onto dessert, I ordered the tiramisu, which was disappointingly flavourless. My mum ordered the creme brulee, which she ended up returning because it was too cold to eat. After the waiter agreed to warm it up for her, he then returned to say that he couldn't, due to health and safety reasons.
The disappointing Tiramisu

 Conclusion:  A great ambience and setting, and delicious main course, but the desserts were disappointing (an understatement), and the service was slow.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

In which I don't understand Americans

Wandering around one of these new generation old-fashioned-sweet-shop-cum-American-import-money makers, I came across Pop Tarts. I've never tried them, so, having resisted a Mango dress and a Gap trench coat, I decided to treat myself.

As I understand it, Americans eat these for breakfast. Not wanting to appear too keen, I settled for an 11am brunch. Opening the packet, this is not what I like my brunch to look like:

I've eaten fairy cakes with less icing. And what's that coloured stuff? It looks like someone, in attempt to legitimately be able to classify this as a breakfast item, has ground up some Froot Loops and sprinkled them on. Alas, they did not taste like Froot Loops.

Having done the whole toasting business (I am now an even firmer believer of the fact that the only thing that should ever go in a toaster is bread) I was stumped; unsure whether this was a cutlery or fingers type of food, I grabbed a fork and got stuck in.

The savoury pastry around the edge (dry and crumbly, but not in a good way) completely contrasted the sugar rush in the centre.

The strawberry "jam" tastes like the filling of a snack I used to have in primary school, Yum Tums. Yeah, remember them?!? Little bear shaped cakes with a strawberry or chocolate filling?  The difference being that Yum Tums (not to be confused with the horror that is a Yum Yum) tasted good.

Whilst I commend Americans on their application of sugar and e numbers to breakfast cereals, they should leave pastry to the Europeans.

Friday, 1 June 2012

In which I discover my feminine side...

Having been largely out of touch with the real world recently, my wardrobe was beginning to feel neglected. So, when I finally managed to escape the dreaded library, my first stop was the pub, then my second was the shops!

This playsuit was what I bought for my night out for my 21st birthday a few weeks ago. Having left things to the last minute as usual, I was forced to panic buy in New Look the day before. I grabbed an armful of vaguely appealing dresses and headed for the changing rooms, desperate to find something I even vaguely liked. When it came to trying this one on, I realised it was a playsuit. Anyone who is familiar with my issues with jumpsuits may understand why I almost put it straight back on the hanger without even trying it. But these were desperate times. Long story short, it fitted me better than any of the dresses I tried, and I had a cracking birthday night out in it.  I had a bit of trouble in finding suitable footwear - it's too short to wear full on heels, lest I wade into TOWIE territory, but a girl (especially a 5ft 1 girl) needs a good pair of shoes on her birthday, so I went with a pair of cream wedges. I love the shape, particularly the way it goes in at the waist, but is quite floaty from the hips downwards- feminine but versatile enough to be worn for smart or casual.

Following the birthday shopping trip, I didn't go near a clothing shop for a good few weeks due to exams. I've sure as heck made up for it now though! This dress is one of three dresses I've purchased in the last three days (and this is coming from a girl who lives in baggy jeans and hoodies!). It's definitely not my normal style, but in a post-exam haze of relaxation I was feeling the 'anything goes' vibe, and inspired by my recent foray into the playsuit world, I took the plunge. (The pattern is a retro ice cream pattern, which reminded me of the Jukebox print in the final Amy Winehouse for Fred Perry collection.

 This was my second new dress, and definitely my favourite! I got it from Help the Aged on Tonbridge High Street for £3.99, although it still has the original tags on. The belt that came with it (in the photo) is very plastic, so I will be looking for a new belt to go with it (the belt is definitely needed -without it I look even more top heavy). I've already got a couple of outings lined up for it- a hen do and The Yorker's end of year awards (orange is definitely a strong theme of the site!)

 The dress below was another charity shop bargain- also £3.99! The belt is one I added myself, athough  I can't help feel that the colour isn't right. I may have to find a brighter coloured belt to add a bit of colour to the outfit -any suggestions welcome.

Finally, I reverted back to my old ways and bought a pair of jeans. Anyone who has been jean shopping with me will tell you that I am a pain in the whatsits, so when I find a pair I like that fit satisfactorily (perfection went out of the window a long time ago) I have to buy them. These ones are very stretchy and soft, almost bordering into - dare I say it- jegging territory, but in my books, the zip and button define them as trousers rather than leggings, keeping me just the right side of the fashion law.