After seemingly trailing it for 50 weeks I finally turned 50 on the 27th March. I’ve not got a great history of coping well with these big milestone birthdays but honestly this one wasn’t too disturbing – I guess I am finally in an okay place and comfortable with my life.
I had a nice night out with my parents and my brother and his family on the 24th at the Gloucester Old Spot. The whole evening had a nice vibe and the food was lovely. Me, my brother and dad can be a little…volatile…at times when we are all together but this was really great. It was quite funny as in a different era the pub was the Kellaway Arms and was the venue of many drunken adventures for my brother whose cricket club used to play next door.
Then on the 25th I had booked a private dining room at the Kensington Arms for 16 of my closest friends and treated them all to a three course meal and all the wine they could stomach. This turned out to be a lot (this wasn’t a shock!). I got some amazing gifts, got incredibly drunk and honestly probably had one of my favourite nights out ever. One of my best mates even managed to entertain everyone by being so on brand as to go to the wrong pub as he didn’t need any advice about how to get there. It took me 48 hours to recover but it was totally worth it.
On and off for a few weeks I’d been working on this random fifty things post – I can’t remember who I stole the idea from but I definitely did. Honestly after a strong start I’d really struggled with it and wasn’t sure about it at all…but being me I decided to publish it and a people seemed to like it so what do I know.
Before I flew off to Canada I managed to fit in a visit to the Beyond the Streets exhibition at the Saatchi in London. Honestly it isn’t as good as the version they did in New York a few years ago (which of course I went to as well) but it is great fun, has some amazing art, a little diversion into Punk stuff and a cool Adidas collection as well – I’m going again in a couple of weeks before it closes.
My birthday treat to myself was a trip to Toronto and Montreal.
The good –>
The street art. Both cities were amazing for this – a mix of graf and street art, clustered around interesting neighbourhoods, with a mix of scale and styles. I walked miles and miles snapping pics.
The food. I don’t do fancy and lean heavily towards bread based street food and neither city disappointed – Toronto’s Queen Street West provided a first class burger at the Dog and Bear, a wonderful Reuben at the Drake, a superb slice at King Slice and one of the great chicken sandwiches (and choc cake!) at PG Clucks. Montreal’s Schwartz’s Deli provided a smoked brisket sandwich to compare with anything I’ve had in New York, a Five Guys-esque burger from Uniburger with a similarly magnificent milk shake, soooo many bagels (a different breakfast bagel every morning) from Hinnawi Bros and a French Dip from some chain called 3 Brewers I think which was surprisingly great (as was their beer).
The beer. In Toronto I found myself drinking various Ace Hill beers which were uniformly great. I don’t know if they are a big brewery or what but I really enjoyed all the options (and had one more than I should on each occasion.) In Montreal everywhere seemed to have their own brewery attached to the bars I visited and I liked it all – a lot!
The hotels. It is safe to say it wasn’t tourist season. I never shared an elevator with another person in seven days! The Drake was cool, with great art, well designed rooms, nice extras and just a nice – if slightly young – vibe. On night one the bar was having a Harry Potter quiz and it was PACKED! Boxotel in Montreal was very different. The room – the smallest they offer – was basically a studio apartment including a full kitchen and a bath tub. It didn’t have a bar – or many staff – but it really was gorgeous, comfortable and on the edge of the Latin Quarter close to bars, restaurants, takeaways, super markets, a cinema and all the street art I could want.
The Museum for Fine Arts. Huge, well curated and just really welcoming.
Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. Just a really beautiful church even for the non religious.
It was also lovely to catch up with Honey and have an international digital government therapy session.
The bad –>
The weather. Bloody hell. Gail force winds. Driving rain. Snow. Sleet. Hail. Days where it peaked at minus six. Also beautiful sunny days where it was t-shirt on the patio with a beer days. I was only there seven days! It isn’t like I was expecting it to be Miami but the constant changes made my head spin.
Some of the museums/galleries. I didn’t know what was going on at the Hockey Hall of Fame – I’m sure it is interesting to fans but it wasn’t very inclusive if you weren’t deep in already. Also it wasn’t cheap and then they wanted another 10 bucks for a pic of the Stanley Cup. The fact the Museum for Contemporary Art (Montreal) was at a temporary – stealth – location wasn’t well communicated and then the installations they did have – only two – were pretty uninteresting. I also went to a street art inspired gallery where I got the hard sell from the guy there that made me real uncomfortable – and I’d have probably bought something.
The ugly –>
Air Canada. Honestly neither flight was a great experience. Some of it was my fellow passengers being unreasonable but a lot of it was inattentive, uncommunicative and poorly organised staff. The two hour delay on the flight home was weather related which is nobodies fault but the fact nobody kept anybody up to date was rubbish. The entertainment system was decent though.
So the decade has got off to a decent start.