Saturday, December 06, 2008

Yas Persian Restaurant in London

On a cold December night, after a long day’s work and desperately in need of some comfort, I came across the Persian restaurant Yas. It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.

By guest writer Susanne Koch

Yas is conveniently located across the road from the Olympia Conference Centre, where many of the large conferences and exhibitions in London take place. I was there for dinner, but it is open for lunch too. In fact, it’s open until 5 o’clock in the morning.

This intimate restaurant has 10 or 12 tables. Dark red walls are decorated with reproductions of ancient Persian art. All of the tables have a view of the rotisserie cook, preparing all kinds of delicious skewered meats—all tables except mine, a table for one in the corner by a large traditional clay oven in which all the bread was baked. I soaked up the warmth from the oven and enjoyed the chance to observe the making of traditional Middle-Eastern bread.

The menu held lots of interesting choices. For a starter I settled for dolmas—wine leaves stuffed with lemony rice, sultanas and pine nuts. This turned out to be an excellent choice: I got four were moist and tasty win leaf parcels.

For my main course I chose a casserole of lamb in a savory tomato sauce with aubergines, split peas and whole dried limes (called loomi). This was perfect for a cold day—satisfying, rich and with a surprisingly fresh zing from the dried limes.

I had a glass of red wine and a bottle of water and the whole meal (tip and VAT included) came to 20 GBP—definitely a reasonable price. The next time I’m in the area I’ll definitely go back to Yas and I’ll bring friends. Perhaps we’ll try the tea that all of the Persian guests ordered to round off the meal, served in little tea glasses with fresh mint leaves.

Yas Restaurant
7 Hammersmith Road
London, W14 8XJ

Susanne Koch is an Internet professional who works as an e-learning and web communication adviser at the University of Oslo. She blogs about search engines and search engine optimization at Susanne loves to travel and blogs about her journeys at Susi's Souvenirs. You may also want to have a look at Susanne Koch's homepage.

Photo by TheBusyBrain

Friday, December 05, 2008

Sterling resurrected

Earlier this fall I declared the death of Scandinavian airline Sterling. If you soon should spot an aeroplane with the characteristic Sterling logo, you may be assured that you are not looking at a phantom flight. This as Sterling has been brought back to life - by one of its competitors.

As the airline went bankrupt parts of it, including the brand, was bought up by the Danish airline Cimber Air. Cimber plans to launch flights under the Sterling logo with 6-8 Boeing 737's.

New Sterling will start their first domestic flights January 12th 2009 between Ålborg and Copenhagen. Cimber air plan to extend Sterling flights to other nordic destinations progressively.

Cimber Air is based at Sønderborg, and operates domestic flights and flights from Denmark to the Nordic countries, Poland, Switzerland, Germany and the UK.

(Source Aftenposten)

Read more on Cimber Air here

Thursday, December 04, 2008

France - in the forefront in Europe

France has always been in the forefront in developing public transportation. I remember my first encounters with the slick TGV - train grad vitesse in Paris more than two decades ago. Trains that operate over long distances in close to 300 km pr. hour. When I arrived in Strasbourg, a rather small city in France, I was very pleased to see that the city had invested in new, ultra modern trams to travel along five different lines.

I remember the impression the slick aerodynamically shaped trains made on a college student from an underdeveloped country visiting France for the first time. Since then, more countries have discovered the benefits of good high-speed train services.

Strasbourg has had tram lines for over 125 years. The first were actually drawn by horses. The trams in present Strasbourg are elegant mini TGV trains, or they at least look like them. They travel along five lines covering 55 km of rails.

They are very comfortable to travel with, and easily accessible for disabled. One line goes up to the Orangerie, the Headquarters of the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human rights and the European Parliament.

From Paris to Strasbourg in 2 hours

I did not know that SNCF had extended the network of TGV (Train Grand Vitesse) to Strasbourg. An alternative to the bus ride from Frankfurt is to fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, jump on to a train from the airport and after a smooth 2 hour ride arrive in Strasbourg. This is certainly something I will consider when visiting Strasbourg in 2009.

See schedules Paris Est / Paris Charles de Gaulle here

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sankt Petri Kirke- Copenhagen

Sankt Petri kirke is the oldest building still standing in Copenhagen. The main nave and tower was built around 1450. The church has undergone many changes along its long history.

It is located on the corner of Nørregade and Sankt Pederstræde. It is a beautiful historic monument. The church was one out of four catholic parish churches in the Danish capital, and was given as a gift to the German community by Fredrik II in 1585 and has since then belonged to them.

Much of the political, financial and military elite in Denmark, as well as the members of the court had German origins. The church rapidly became a center for this influential group.

During the 17th century Sankt Petri kirke did not escape the attention of King Christian IV. He added a nothern and a southern nave 1631-1634 creating the cross shaped structure standing today. As the community grew rapidly, another northern wing was added by Christian V around 1725.

In 1848 Denmark and German declared war as the two regions Slesvig and Holstein demanded independence. This was a turning point for the German community in Copenhagen. The Medieval building fell partly into disrepair.

The Danish state took over the building in 1994 and was completely restored. It now belongs to Slots og Ejendomsstyrelsen, under the Danish Ministry of Finance.

The church has a beautiful clean white interior with wooden details, Gothic vaulted ceiling. On one of the walls you find this beautiful painting.

The Ascension of Christ

The ascension of Christ was painted by Hendrick Krock (1671-1738). Krock was born in Flensburg, now in Germany, and rose to became court painter under king Fredrik IV and king Christian VI. This painting was given to the church by Carl Adolph von Plessen (1678-1758), one of Denmarks richest nobles.

Krock was an extremely productive artist and paintings from his hand are or were hanging in many important buildings around the Danish capital. Some have been lost in fires, among them the famouse depiction of Judgement day that was lost in the fire at Christiansborg Palace in 1794.

Many influential members of the community are buried in the mausoleum connected to the church. I will return to this interesting monument later.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bergen from A-Z 2007-2008

Vis større kart

Bergen, the capital of Western Norway, and the only true Medieval city in the country. I have been lucky to visit it twice these last two years. On this map you'll find hotels, restaurants, and sights I have visited in this beautiful city.

See the introduction to my visit in Bergen in May 2007 here

See the introduction to my last visit in Bergen November 20th to November 23rd here:

Monday, December 01, 2008

The duck is in the oven, and.......

November 29th 2008: The soup is made, the duck is in the oven, the last shopping has been done - and the menu ready. What is the hurry? None, but my experience is when I feel that I have much time, there is too little of it.

Let me present the menu of today!!

Thai fish soup with prawns and small fish balls
Smokey Mesquite and sweet chili marinated roast duck with bacon, apple, and sage stuffing
Pickled red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and roasted Amandine potatoes
Red wine sauce
Fourme D'Ambert
Vieux Panè
Rye bread & cheese jam
Red currant & lemon cheese cake

White wine served with soup, red wine to main course and cheese, cognac and coffee to the cake.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rail rage

I love to travel by train. This old world way of traveling, safely in contact with mother earth. It is a gentler more natural way of getting from point A to point B. The back side of traveling on the earth's crust is that you may have to face very material hurdles on your way. If the train personnel does not handle this well, they may have to face irritation – even rage from the travelers. I experienced one case of rail rage a week ago on my way to Hamar.

NSB, the Norwegian Railways, are getting an increasingly bad reputation. Overfilled trains, technical problems, delays, and notoriously bad customer service have forced many, including myself, to change to express buses when travelling short or medium range distances.

That is a pity, as Norway has a large train network, covering some of the most breathtaking sceneries in Europe. If well run and maintained it would provide a good and reliable service to domestic and foreign travelers.

For once I changed to train while traveling up to Løten last weekend. I booked a so called comfort class, where you get free coffee, newspapers, and a plug for your PC to do some honest work on your way. There were nothing to complain of for the first hour and fifteen minutes, until we had stopped at Stange, just 15 minutes before Hamar. At that point everything went wrong.

Why are we waiting?

The train stood there for 5-10-15 minutes without any good information, before the staff announced that there may be something wrong with the railway line, and this was followed by another long period of silence. At this point I considered to call my friends, as they could easily get me at Stange, and when doing so they were more than willing to fetch me there. I left the train, but as I left the conductor cried to me that we were leaving, and I jumped on again. I stood in the exit area, close to the conductors compartment.

Safely on board again I did something very foolish. I remarked that I did find the customer service and communication rather deficient. This as I have always learned that one, to such a remark would recognize the fact that the customer is always right, and the customary response to such a remark would be “we are sorry”.

No such luck. In a very rude manor they declined any responsibility for their actions. They found it completely acceptable that no information was good information. Without any recognition that I might be right, I continued to discuss with them for another five minutes, until the following remark ended with this (my) remark:
“ Sorry, I now feel rather, that it is my fault that the train is delayed”

They left me, even more grumpy/aggressive, went into their tiny compartment and discussed very loudly among themselves (and easy for me to hear) how hopeless travelers (I) were nowadays.

We drove for 100 metres and the train stopped again. This time the explanation was that we had to wait for a passing train. Normal procedure, due to the fact that most of the railway lines in Norway are single rails and trains have to cross at stations or designated double tracks. One train passed, but we went on waiting for another 5-10 minutes for another explanation. It came ! There would be another train passing soon, and we were asked to keep all doors closed.

Time passed, and no train passed. No information for another 5-10-minutes. Now it felt like forever. Then another explanation came. There were no second train coming, but the (first) passing train had detected a strange noise on the rail and personnel were on their way to check the rail. No information whether we were to move, when, or even how we were coming to Hamar was given.

That was the last straw. I went into a compartment, sat down, everyone were shrugging their shoulders telling how stupid people found the situation. Some called and explained that we were standing in the middle of nowhere, without any knowledge when we were going to continue. The conductors went in, and found that I was not the only person impatiently waiting for good or any news. At last they said that they were sorry, but it was not their fault (ofcourse) as the technical information they had was deficient.

At last we started to move very slowly and we arrived at Hamar over 1 hour delayed, one experience richer. This rail rage story is regrettably one out of many. I recently read an article written by the Norwegian comedian Christine Koht, that had missed her own show travelling on the same distance. She did not mention when, but she might have been on the same train.

She would have been a much worse opponent to the train staff than I. I really hope she gave them a hard time.

Other train stories on Enjoy Food & Travel

- More comfort and proper restaurant on new Scandinavian train service (August 3rd 2008)
- The story of lost glamour (August 13th 2007)