Sunday, 24 October 2010

Wargrave to Wallingford and The Sweet Olive restaurant

Our boating 'season' ended as it began - with clear blue skies and glorious sunshine. (Although somewhat colder. When we got up this morning there was ICE on the deck!) As it was our last weekend on the river, we decided to make the most of it: Sonning on Thursday night, up to Wallingford on Friday (a first for us), down to Goring on Saturday and then back to Wargrave on Sunday. The highlight of the weekend was a 14 miles walk around Goring on Saturday and the chance discovery of a gastro/gourmet pub tucked away in the village of Aston Tirrold: The Sweet Olive Restaurant at The Chequers Inn. It was superb. Great atmosphere, delicious food and a very impressive wine list. We'll definitely be back. That's the great thing about having a boat: you get to enjoy the river AND the countryside. It's what does it for us. Ok, so it's quite cold in October (we don't have heating on board). But on the plus side there's very little traffic on the river, you sail in and out of the locks in no time and when the sun breaks through it's divine.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Eating Along the River Thames: Richmond's Riverside Restaurant Reviews

I sometimes wonder whether I should change the name of this blog to 'Eating along the River Thames', because we do a lot of it. But there's a good reason for this. I see our weekends on the boat as a chance to get away from it all and relax. For me that means not having to cook, clean and wash up (in a tiny sink). So I take porridge & fruit for breakfast - and I make the porridge in advance by mixing it with apple juice and yogurt. Not only is it delicious, but it also eliminates the need to cook. And I take some cold cuts for lunch - although if we're going on long walk we often stop off at a country pub for a bite to eat instead. And in the evening we head to the nearest cafe or restaurant for dinner. Needless to say, as we've been spending quite a lot of time on the river since we got our boat last September, we've been to quite a few: La Bodega, the Sweet Olive, The Angel on the Bridge, Cafe Buendia and the Royal China in Henley; The Bull in Sonning; Ye Olde Dog & Badger in Medmenham; the Flower Pot in Aston; The Olde Bell in Hurley; The Ferry in Cookham; The Miller of Mansfield and the Pierrepont Cafe in Goring; the Ferryboat Inn in Whitchurch on Thames; Villa D'este in Marlow; the Stag & Huntsman in Hambleden ...and the list goes on. So you see, that's why I wonder whether I should rename this blog ' Eating Along the River Thames' and become a riverside restaurant reviewer. They say everyone has a book in them ... I have three: Richmond's Riverside Restaurant Reviews, How to Avoid Becoming a Boating Blob (I'll have to come up with some kind of exercise routine if I'm going to be eating out every weekend!) and Could you be a TV expert (a work book). I'll keep you posted.

A Family Affair

My sister, her husband and their 9 year old son came on board for the day on Sunday - and it was fantastic. They met us in Henley and we headed down the river to Hurley where we moored up, lit a BBQ and had bacon and sausage rolls for lunch. (We bought one of those £2.99 trays of coal and I have to say it was fantastic: small, easy to use and - most important of all when you have a small boat with no storage space - disposable!) Delicious food in an idyllic setting: boats coming and going through the lock, people milling around, glorious sunshine and lots of ducklings & goslings to feed. After a quick ice-cream from the local shop we went for a short walk through the village and along the river and then headed back to Henley for tea & biscuits and another walk: this time up to Marsh Lock and along the riverbank above it. Sunshine, good food, fresh air and brisk walks. A most perfect day.

Monday, 3 May 2010

A Man, a woman, a boat ... and a camcorder

I bought a Canon camcorder for work (findaTVexpert.com) and decided I'd test it out on the river. For some reason I can't seem to upload it onto my blog so here's the YouTube link. It's my first attempt at filming and editing so it's very basic and the music's really cheesy (didn't have many options!). But it's a start. And the dog in the picture? She was on one of the barges we passed on the river. Adorable isn't she?

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Gorgeous Goring on Thames

Last weekend we made it up to Pangbourne and this weekend we put in the extra hour and went to Goring on Thames. We left Wargrave just before 3pm and moored up at 7.20pm. Four and a half hours is a long treck but I'd rather be in a boat on the river than in a car on the M4. Especially on a Bank Holiday Friday! Goring is really beautiful and we're looking forward to going on long walks in the surrounding countryside next time around. The only problem - apparently - is that it can be quite difficult to get a mooring because a) there aren't that many and b) it's a very popular spot. But it's worth if if you do. We had dinner at The Miller of Mansfield which is a restaurant, bar and hotel. The bar is very 'country pub' and the restaurant is very 'sleek boutique'. Great food and a very friendly service. My only complaint is that there wasn't enough lighting where we were sitting. I had to hold the menu over the tealight to be able to read it and couldn't really see all the yummy things that were in my salad, which meant I missed out on the visual pleasure of eating. And in the morning (as our toilet wasn't working - long story) we had a delicious breakfast at Pierreponts Cafe on the High Street. Then it was back to Wargrave to try and fix the toilet (which we did - hurrah!) and get to the bottom of why the engine cut out on us three times. After a bit of investigating we discovered there was a leak in the fuel system and air was getting into the engine. As it wasn't something we could fix ourselves, we decided to stay put at the Marina on Saturday night and head back to London on Sunday. A short bank holiday, but a lovely one regardless.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Theatre, Country Walks and Good Food

It's amazing how much you can pack into a weekend when you have a boat. We set off from Wargrave at 4.30pm and moored up in Sonning where, after a glass of wine on board, we walked to The Mill at Sonning for dinner and an Agatha Christie play: Love From a Stranger. (It's £42 p/person including a two course dinner and your theatre ticket, which I think is very good value for money.) On Saturday morning we headed to Pangbourne for the first time. The stretch of the Thames between Sonning and Pangbourne is quite dull but, on the plus side, there's a Tesco by the river in Reading which allows you to moor up, shop and go. Fantastic! We arrived in Pangbourne around lunchtime and headed to the high street for lunch: a deliciously fresh & crunchy salad at The Ditty. We then decided to walk the 8 miles to and from Goring along the Thames Path. It's a really lovely walk - but be prepared for some steep climbs! After a much needed half a pint of cider at the historical Swan in Pangbourne we went back to the boat and got ready for dinner at The Ferryboat The Ferryboat in Whitchurch (just over the toll bridge). Great food and great service. The perfect end to a perfect day.

The facts: it's 12 miles from Wargrave to Pangbourne. You go through 4 locks - Shiplake, Sonning, Caversham and Mapledurham - and it takes between 3.5/4 hours.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A perfect start to the boating season

We went out on Happy Chance for the first time this year and it was idyllic: warm sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. And when you run your own business (findatvexpert.com) it's the perfect weekend away: no phone, no TV, no computer, no internet & no email. All I have to think about is what papers I want to read, which post I need to moor up to and whether or not I should put on sunfactor (which I did last weekend as it was so warm.) We were hoping to have a stereo installed but there's still some wiring to be done. The new cockpit lights are in though and they're fantastic: warm white LEDs. I like them because they give off a warm glow (instead of that cold, white LED light) and Mr J's happy because they don't use much electricity and, as a result, don't run down the battery. Re the trip itself, we went to Henley, moored up, had a friend join us on the boat for cocktails at sunset and then headed to La Bodega for dinner. For some reason we woke up at 6.30am and spent the next hour and a half (!) trying to access a radio via Mr J's BlackBerry. We failed. As I'd forgotten to pack the milk - and as the water pump wasn't working (don't ask) - we had breakfast in town and then pootled down the river towards Hambleden Lock, where we moored up and went for a two hour walk. Still not a cloud in the sky. After a quick bite to eat at the Stag and Huntsman - and a lazy hour on the boat spent reading the papers and chilling out in the sunshine - we headed home. Other than a short delay at Marsh Lock (technical problems with the gates) it was the most perfect start to the boating season.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Boat Show

Mr J and I went to the London Boat Show yesterday and spent six and a half hours looking at ropes, boats, cleaning products, lifejackets, etc. Happy Chance is still out of the water but it won't be long before she's back in it and we can start enjoying weekends on the River again.