2012: the best bits
It’s been a funny old year. After working in the same place for two decades, I’ve now left two jobs within a few months of each other, experiencing both the sadness of closing down a much-loved library and the exhaustion of commuting to Edinburgh every day for a temporary contract at the Scottish Agricultural College. While I was there, SAC changed its name and I rather liked its new slogan, shown above. As 2013 dawns I’m not sure what the future will bring so I will hold to the idea of “pastures new”.
When I wrote last year’s review this blog had only been going since the summer: in 2012, all my holidays and days out have been lovingly preserved on it, so I’m not going to go over them all again here. I’ll cut straight to my best trip of 2012: Berlin. It was our second visit, and I think you always feel more relaxed when you already know a city and can mix familiar experiences with new ones. The hotel we picked, Circus, was excellent and in an area with lots of interesting cafés and restaurants, but the highlight, and the real reason we went, was seeing Leonard Cohen. The city was amazing, he was amazing – I won’t bore you any further because it’s all in my Berlin posts.
I don’t blog about restaurants in my home city as I go along, but I include a roundup in my annual review. Last year I had eaten in 35 different ones; this year that has gone up to 40. As before, my favourite cuisines turned out to be Italian (8 restaurants, 15 total visits), Indian (8/13) and Oriental (mainly Chinese but including Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese – also 8/13). The reason, apart from delicious food obviously, is that these three always offer me good vegetarian choices. Many other restaurants just have one or two dishes available and / or the chefs think that vegetarian = bland. The most fashionable dish at the moment seems to be risotto – some are very good, but if I never eat another one I won’t be sorry.
Can I choose a favourite restaurant? Not easy, but I’ll try. Of the Italians, the one I visited most (4 times) was last year’s favourite, Amarone which this year won two Glasgow Restaurant Awards. However, I discovered, thanks to a friend’s birthday celebration, Celino’s on Alexandra Parade. It’s a tiny restaurant and deli with great food, a great atmosphere and very friendly staff. I’m going to make it my Italian of 2012.
For Indian, I’m torn as usual, because there are so many good ones to choose from. I’ve had a blog post on the Great Glasgow Curry simmering in my head for a while, but it has never made it onto the page – yet. One I have already written about is KoolBa, which I reviewed a couple of years ago for Taste of Glasgow. It’s still one of my favourites, and I’ve been there 3 times this year, but, like my Italian, my Indian of 2013 is also a new discovery for me. Charcoals on Renfield Street was first recommended by a visitor to Glasgow, and I couldn’t believe I had missed it for so long. (The website is down at the moment so I’ve linked to its 5pm.co page.) It’s quite small and unprepossessing looking from the outside, but the food is very good and nothing is too much trouble for the staff. Charcoals was Best in Glasgow at this year’s Scottish Curry Awards, so I’m not alone in my opinion.
Finally, Chinese food. Strangely, I haven’t been to last year’s favourite, Dragon-I, at all. The most visited (4 times, including Hogmanay) was our local, Amber on Byres Road, which is a serviceable Cantonese restaurant – and doesn’t seem to have a website. This sort of place is being overtaken by a wave of more sophisticated restaurants, of which Dragon-I was a forerunner and my new favourite is the latest addition. Annoyingly, the website for Lychee Oriental is also inaccessible at the moment so I’ve again used a 5pm.co entry. I am writing this on my tablet, and all attempts at searching for the restaurant reach a trial site for mobiles with no way through to the proper site – why not guys? Still I won’t hold it against them. The food, the presentation and the staff are all lovely. Lychee Oriental won Best Newcomer at the Glasgow Restaurant Awards and was voted the Greatest Little Place in Glasgow on Facebook. It’s also my best Chinese and best overall Glasgow restaurant of 2012. Ta da!
This is one area that my commute really affected in the latter part of the year. I was getting home too late to go to anything mid-week and I didn’t have the energy to plan for the weekend. We still managed 16 music events from classical to – oh well, I could go on with a list, but you know I’m not going to get past Leonard Cohen don’t you? He would be my gig of the year, any year. I’m surprised, though, at how little theatre we saw – which probably explains the lack of visits to Dragon-I too, because it’s right opposite the Theatre Royal. There was one outstanding dramatic event – Alan Cumming’s (almost) one-man version of Macbeth, set in a psychiatric unit with all the characters channelled through one patient. It was an awesome feat of memory, the best portrayal of vulnerability I have ever seen on stage and such a nuanced performance that it was never in doubt which character was being represented. If it wasn’t for Leonard, Alan Cumming would definitely be my cultural icon of the year, but he’s a close-run second.
As I said at the beginning, my job has ended and I’m looking for pastures new. Perhaps I will have more time for travelling and blogging? I would like to use this blog for its original purpose, to write up holidays of the past as a record for myself, and maybe I should consider expanding its scope to cover restaurant reviews and similar? I enjoy writing and now have four blogs (the other three are all library or book-related in some way). Although there were good reasons at the time for starting them all individually, this is now too many. I’ve also diversified into Pinterest and Storify so I really need to simplify my online presence. I’ve made a start by gathering them all together at flavors.me but more needs to be done. So my resolutions for the year are:
Keep active and find useful things to do, whether paid or voluntary.
Keep writing in the hope of improving, and organising the presentation of that writing better.
Keep travelling and enjoying myself!
Happy New Year.