Tag Archive: Vinopolis


Dr Dom was out in York attending a wedding on Friday so I had the flat all to myself this weekend. What this meant was uncensored, audible screaming matches at the Xbox as I was trying to finish off The Force Unleashed on Sith Lord difficulty and having…difficulties in doing so. Maris Brood and her Bull Rancor monster. Just…no. Hateful game. Though once they were eviscerated, the rest of the game went fairly simply. Chief reason I was playing it was for practice as the downloadable levels were on sale the other week and I purchased the last level I haven’t yet bought (Jedi Temple). Can’t see myself trying Sith Master difficulty somehow though Apprentice is now appallingly easy.

So I played that and I also finished off Resident Evil 4 scooping up 10/12 achievements. Of course I now have all the other bonus features to plough through starting I think with Assignment Ada. The HD version looks kinda nice. Nothing new to the game though I have some serious issues over the quality of the brightness as it was very hard to make out the subtleties of the gameplay environment without squinting and turning the in-game brightness to max. We were spoiled with the Wii version – the point n aim with the Wiimote made things so easy. Getting the bottlecaps never caused so much cursing, particularly on Game D.

I’m back on Resident Evil 5 now I’ve broken in 4 and replaying from the beginning rather than resuming from wherever it was I left off before. My memories were of a jungle mission but thinking back, I suspect I’m confusing the Darkside Chronicles with 5. After that, I have RE6 to plough through and a few other games in the pouch. And I would like Age of Mythology through Steam but just missed out on the sale by the time I made my mind up so will wait for the next price drop before reliving the saga of Arkantos. Just please say that the achievements aren’t (practically) all multiplayer again like AoE 2…

Sunday was the day of our Vinopolis lunch – Griffin prize. Eeyore couldn’t make it so we managed to rope in Jack as a last minute fifth person. They all had Sunday Roasts (mostly beef, one pork) whilst I had what they called a tart (but was more like a cheesy veggie burger) which despite its dubious profile, wasn’t that bad as it happens. The wine I picked complimented it nicely but I’ve not had a bad Austrian wine yet. And then we had seven tokens to spend as we saw fit. The wine tasting area was completely different to how it was the last time we were there with more of an emphasis on the corporate hospitality package and fewer experts explaining the vintages and types.

I found that Spanish wine I liked the last time I was there (but of course it wasn’t available in the shop to purchase afterwards) though both Alex and I picked up a bottle of the chocolate wine we approved of. I also tried a couple of other wines in the area – nothing particularly memorable. It’s a shame that a lot of the human element has been removed by the powers that be because you could engage more with the sommaliers. And perhaps extract an extra taste or two out of them. Ceajay seemed particularly narked that the Rum Bar had been removed. It would have been nice to see the Bombay Sapphire cocktail list again (though without disinterested miserable sod tending bar). HintHunt next in three weeks…

Coming up this week: a full five day week at work which is the last one for three weeks – possibly more if I can stretch it out a little. Am looking forward to Thorpe Park and I’ll be religiously scrutinising the weather forecasts from tomorrow for the coming week. Will have the flat to myself again for most of the week which probably won’t be taken advantage of in the fullest sense of the word but it’s always good to have time apart. Absence and all that jazz. Other than that, very little else to tell. I did decide to try and read the Swarm War trilogy again but it’s such hard going, particularly with all the stupid Killik names. This is what puts me off of fantasy fiction – the ridiculous names which are immediately forgettable and you don’t get a reckoning on which daft character is doing what. At least Timothy Zahn gave his characters names which were often meaningful or pun-tastic.


The Vinopolis Experience

Beer Bad? Wine Bad.

Nah, not really but it was touch and go for a minute in the hallowed cellars of Vinopolis yesterday. Don’t ask me how it happened but I suspect it was classic Joeanian panic when I woke up around 6am yesterday morning just to ensure I’d get out of bed for 9am. There was some difficulty in trying to pass out again (good thing I hadn’t gone out the previous night) and when the familiar xylophone tones of my iPhone began to chime, I cursed darkly before awarding a 20 minute lie in. It used to be a hallmark of my weekends that one could catch up on missed sleep and relaxation but lately that hasn’t been forthcoming.

Anyway, a bath and a coffee later I was heading down towards Bankside dodging early bird tourists and weaving in and out of the hastened road works getting ready for August. Met up with the gang in Pizza Express but switched allegiances to the Anchor (same menu as the Greencoat Boy) which had some shockingly bad service including staff who stood around doing nothing whilst thirsty and increasingly agitated punters were twitching to get served. And the food…well I had the Ploughman’s platter (ostensibly a sharing plate but there’s no way that’d feed two) whilst for the money everyone else paid you’d have thought you’d be entitled to jumbo portions. Not happy.

We were slightly late in arriving at Vinopolis because of the…”pub experience” but that was fine as we got in on a quieter tour. The first part was learning how to taste wine; looking, smelling and tasting. Once we’d mastered these dark arts, it was on to the champagne bar for three, the premium wines for three, the standard wine room for six, the whiskey room for five (people kept handing us tickets), the beer room for three and a Bombay Sapphire Cocktail. It’s fair to say that we were struggling in the wine room – even though we were drinking 25ml “shots” of wine, mixing them heavily (plus the liquor had with lunch) were beginning to take their toll. I needed an olive pick-me-up from the tapas bar just to have something salty .

I did write down everything I’d necked but as I can’t lay my hands on my Vinopolis book, I can’t tell you what I tried – perhaps next blog entry. So after struggling through the wine, it was on to the whiskey bar where Ceajay obtained Rum tickets and went to the Rum Room and we pulled all sorts of faces with the 12 year old and 18 year old whiskey. By this point we had abandoned the sniff, swish method of trying the liquor and relied solely on taste. The beer room was a bit of a disappointment as there were only two ales available and neither were particularly interesting – nice smell, vile pallet. Alex seemed to like them though by this point he was more glazed than I was.

Following the beer, we moved on to the Bombay Sapphire. What I had hoped would be the most exciting part of the tour turned out to be the least satisfactory; there were only three cocktails on offer and the one I chose was flat and lacking in taste. The bar was kitted out really nice and it was novel to have a “look and smell the ingredients” carousel stand but the server was clearly having a bad day and there weren’t enough tables and chairs to sit on (perhaps it was their way of moving you on).

All in all, the Vinopolis experience, was worth doing, particularly for wine novices like ourselves. We tried different vintages, we learned how to appreciate them and it was a nice way to…well…bond. A trip to Wagamama was next though Alex nor I ate a dinner and I settled for just a pudding and a coffee – at 6pm, it was just too early for me. Thus we parted ways and headed back to our respective homes. And in a rare surprise, I had the house completely to myself for a couple of hours which was spent watching the latter half of Star Trek First Contact and playing the Godfather. Oh, and admiring my new blue gingham tablecloth – small things and all that.

The Sitak and the Majestic

Two Miranda class starships blown up during Operation Return.

Day four of three hundred and sixty-six and again there’s very little worth committing to paper/the interweb. Although a brief review of the quiz is in order methinks. It was a non-seasonal week and all forty questions were based on what had happened during the year. Alas there were more than a few trick questions thrown in which we stumbled over, only scoring 21/40. But we won the first bonus prize and would have won the second but were limited to just one this week. And we cocked up majorly in the rollover question which was won by another team.

Hmm, what else has happened? Work has resumed and I think I’ve just finished the History Month magazine for another year. 54 pages and I’m going to be shredded for the lack of T & L stuff. I’ve tried to be polite and say that I’m not going to keep coming up with this stuff. If people want it, they can contribute the crap themselves. Lazy s.o.b.s Again, I’m thinking about not bothering next year though I dare say I’ll feel differently once its behind me.

There’s very little happening this month which is good, it gives me a chance to replenish funds and prepare for Paris in March. Though we also have to sort out dates/times for the Vinopolis trip. Two major events to look forward to this year.

Cool, Dukat is about to lose his marbles. DS9 is on, gotta run.

Season Five

Season 5 at the Griffin Quiz. Fifteen weeks of attendances, hard drinking, sulks, strops, gloating and lots and lots of cake later, Yoshi’s Island failed to successfully defend our title and instead succumbed to second place. Whilst Team Nerd won first place for the third time, they claimed the prize of flying lessons. For we in second place, we won a drinks tasting experience at Vinopolis which was rather nice. Third place was McColl’s Musty Minge (or as I oh-so wittily renamed them yesterday, McColl’s Rancid Cnut [sic] ), and they won some sort of boat thing – but I can’t recall whether it was a paddle your canoe thing or a river cruise type activity.

The gang seemed to enjoy their tat, the staff liked their cakes and Quality Street whilst Andy and John loved their chocolate pizzas. Yes – after much agonising and dithering, I was walking back from my lunchtime constitutional having headed towards Victoria and passed the handmade chocolate shop Cornucopia on Upper Tachbrook Street (plug alert). In the window I saw these chocolate pizzas which looked rather marvellous – a solid chocolate base, grated chocolate to resemble cheese and various different toppings like jelly beans, honeycomb pieces etc. I thought “yes”, it was one of those gift buying moments when everything just falls into place and I snapped up two of them without a further moment’s hesitation. I shall be keeping these things in mind for future purchases now that Hotel Chocolat is as ubiquitous as Subway these days.

I’m in kind of a happy, bouncy mood today which can only mean I’m heading for emotional burnout – or a panic attack when I brave my bank statements again.

One of the random thoughts crossing the back of my head is a history of the Sith leading up to the events that transpire in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Relax though, I’m not about to type all that out chiefly because it’s all there in Wookieepedia. Still, it is a great story line and I think Lucasfilm should dump the Clone Wars project and start with this particular epoch in Star Wars history because it makes for more interesting viewing.

It’s almost (but not quite) time for a review of the year but as I’ve resumed a semi-regular blog update for 2011, it’s pretty much mostly in the annals of my corner of cyberspace. It’s fair to say that the lows have predicated my views on this year and whilst there have been successes; there has often been some form of misery lurking in the background waiting to take apart the joy. I end the year…probably better off than in how I started it though the same old problems continue to dog me. Normally there’s at least something that has completely changed (of my own volition) but I’m hard pressed to put my finger on what that might be. Last year it was the weight loss, the year before it was probably gaining a proper sense of fiscal prudence. A solid network of friends perhaps? I dunno.

People who tell you to “cheer up and smile” – why is it the only thing you can think of to make you cheer up and smile is to beat the living snot out of them?


A quiet walk along the South Bank was undertaken last night after work, albeit with a commencement at Vauxhall rather than on Lambeth Bridge adding 20 minutes to the journey. The best part of the evening exercise was walking past the stretch of the river between the Oxo Tower and the National Theatre where the trees are decorated in blue lights. The Tate Gallery used to offer a similar show with the trees surrounding the edifice but were lit up from the base like those in St James’ Park but were not on last night. And there was a nice view of light “fireworks” in the tunnel by the Clink Prison Museum. I don’t think London will be supplanting Paris as the City of Light any time soon but it’s heartening to see that there are some people prepared to make an effort.

Another in the “Recession, what Recession” column was also observed last night – all the pubs and restaurants along the river were absolutely heaving with customers. Granted, I was there at precisely the right time for dinner given my slightly later finish at work but had I been compelled to find an eatery, I’d have been extremely hard pushed to locate a suitable venue. I note that Zizzi’s have taken over the venue which was a Greek Restaurant near Vinopolis which is nice to know. Wagamama’s seemed to be the busiest of the venues with people braving outdoor tables in order to eat something. And most of these chain restaurants have vouchers and coupons for cheap eats which guarantees their business.

With it being the end of the month, as always the time has come to introspect on what the past 31 days have wrought and determine whether this was a good month or a bad month. I’m erring on the side of a bad month, personally. There have been successes and achievements but they seemed to pale in comparison with the failures and the anguishes. Perhaps the best achievement on a personal level is having managed to stash away a fair chunk of cash – not for Xmas, just for me. I also think it a sensible idea to have started buying cheaper (and therefore nastier) food brands. It’s not a huge saving but a few pounds here and there mean dividends down the line. The weather has been decent, at least until this last week which has meant a deferral on switching on the heating at home.

Speaking from the negative side, there have been a fair few personal failures, disappointments from other people and friends are also reporting some pretty lousy Octobers – crime and health being the top of the list. I’m not going to elaborate more than that as it’s a Pie and Mash night and I don’t want to depress myself any more than I have to.

After something of a manic week with multiple urgent deadlines cropping up without warning, it’s nice to ease into the weekend with a lighter workload and I can tackle some items I’ve been putting off for quite some time. Like Wavelength #4 – thanks to Big Ian, I have some stuff from the DVLA to chuck in there which will take up four pages and all I need to is look at the headline news. What it also means is that I need to begin to look at History Month for February. Like the last couple of years, there is the bare bones of a magazine but that needs heavily populating before January and I’m not sure I have it in me to drive out a full magazine solo – the problem of nil contribution.

S’not much more I can add to the above, though I did choose to start a new game of Rome: Total War as the Julii as the Brutii campaign was a bit slow with Athens and Thermon in near constant plague. Have made a good start with good access to the Greek/Macedonian territories opened up and Patavium added to the Empire thanks to some Gaullist backstabbing. Alas my ability to replenish and stock up on armed forces is somewhat limited given as I only have a couple of large towns capable of giving top line troops – the rest are near-village sized. Still, now the gloves are off, I can go for the Gallic cities with impunity at least in the south and let the British go for Northern Gaul – Spain with any luck will also chomp up a couple more. Actually I’m glad the computer directed me towards Salona and the other Rebel City further north as they can both have mines constructed in the province giving a good chunk o’gold.