Full Monty in Fabulous #Blackpool pic.twitter.com/3UJsFNB6xV

Blackpool Beach, Morecambe Bay, Snowy mountains, sunrise, lake district, Golden Mile
Distant snow covered hills try to imitate the pure beauty of winter Blackpool

Through rain, sleet, ice and snow we battled through to Blackpool in the dark. The journey was the best part of 300 miles, half of it on the pitch black truck fest strip of the M6 motorway. Ooh what fun it is to slalom along in the spray and blurred windshield mess of mystery tarmac. Most of the time I had no idea where I was. Forget the sat naff. I needed radar. 

In the swirl of icy night we arrived on the closed down Golden Mile. Loveless and mocked, Albericht once again had stolen the Rheingold from the maidens

promenade, illuminations, Blackpool, tramway, hotel, hotel view, Strand Hotel,
Silent plastic sirens cling to lamp posts

. The clamour of glamour had been gagged and bundled into a dark cupboard. The glitz hid pinch-faced with collar up in shuttered doorways. The fun of the fair sulked moaning that life was effing unfair. It wasn’t Bleak House – it was bleak homeless. Yet it was wonderful. Blackpool lay like a beautiful forgotten film star, her allure un-painted, her face bared  back to nature ready for her next come-back. Blackpool – you are the electric daydream of the insomniac poet. You are the Kiss Me Quick Carnival of the Northern Post Industrial Venice. 

Along the Promenade glowed the blue signed entrance of the Strand

Stand Hotel Blackpool, promenade Blackpool,
Top hotel – a real spread and breakfast.

hotel. The wind whipped the car door from my grasp and the air from my lungs.The gale shrieked through the tram wires and the giant plastic lamp post mermaids: Oh silent sirens of the raging deep. We fought the Atlantic blast to the front revolving door and spun into the foyer like circus clowns fired from a cannon. All was calm. A lovely smiley lass issued drinks. We were safe at last. 

We slept well in room 101. The sea roared outside. I dreamed of the

Blackpool hotel room, atlantic rollers, Executive double, Strand Hotel
The wild universe as seen from a warm comfy bed

roaring wheels of hurtling trucks and the flip flop smear of windshield wipers. We awoke warm to gaze upon the merciless Atlantic ocean. Pity all those mariners and creatures of the wild. My thoughts were of this Island England and all that it could offer. Yes – a full Monty fry up breakfast. Oooh you have to come up north to stuff yourself on black pudding to fortify your soul. As Britain remembers the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s funeral, this was the land of tradition he fought to save. We had the lot – the egg, the fried bread, the mushrooms, the beans, the hash browns, the sausage, the bacon, the black pud and washed it down with hot dark tea. Strand Hotel – you scoop the spare tyre award with honours and distinction. As we munched the ocean threw its fury at our Island race. We fought back on the beaches with our insoluble cholesterol and never surrendered. 

Fried Breakfast, English Breakfast, Full Monty, eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, hash brown, mushrooms, tomato, beans, hot tea, toast and marmalade
A Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire breakfast

Blackpool surely offers the greatest choice of hotels in the Northern hemisphere. It is a competitive market and the value is extraordinary. You could stay for a week at the price of a London night. A big big thank you to all the staff at the excellent Strand hotel, Blackpool

Emma Thinx: Darkness is but the stage where light reveals our part.

Emma’s Spare Tyre Tummy Award For La Fenice Eastleigh

 Cibo Delizioso

A few miles to the north of Southampton lies the small town of Eastleigh. For me it has always been a unique gem of Britain. It is rightly famous for being the home town of the Spitfire fighter plane. It was once a hub of steam locomotive manufacture in the huge railway engine sheds. Rows of red brick terraced houses, a park with a bandstand and a legacy of factories make Eastleigh the kind of picture a modern Lowry would paint.

Trial by lens hood. Editor demanded a close up. 
As yet it remains undiscovered by the London commuting class. Yet, it is only an hour away from Waterloo station. Recently it has become famous for the demise of its Member Of Parliament and government minister, Chris Huhne. He was sent to prison for getting his wife to accept driving license points for his speeding offence to avoid a ban. Dear me! such vile wickedness in this world. Can you believe it? Anyway, since then it has become a marginal “swing state” political battleground with the UK Independence Party  Farage balloon tethered over the borough to repel foreign aircraft. For  my American readers I guess I could say UKIP is a kind of Republican Tea Party but with beer and cigarettes. 

So – once we hit Spring and elections in Eastleigh there will be

Real shops. Real town.

media with hordes of great and good politicos strutting the streets and holding babies/puppies/kittens/pints of beer. I’ve already planned my campaign of standing behind famous people and waving my books as the cameras roll. When all the words have been said, contradicted, twisted and re-said it will be time to eat. My advice – make for La Fenice in the High Street. I ate there on 22nd November with family. It was late but they fitted us in and served the most wonderful Italian food with an authentic ambiance. It is a family run business with a genuine friendliness. The pasta is all

Wot – no cars? A typical Lowry

freshly made and there is a superb menu choice. With a starter and wine for five persons it cost £105 for the best Italian food any of us had tasted. Eastleigh is gonna be BIG on the map. I urge David Cameron and his government to book their tables today at La Fenice to avoid disappointment. 

Emma Thinx: Why are they called speeding points when they loiter for years?

Emma’s Spare Tyre Tummy Award for Saint-Jean d’Angely

You can take away a pizza but you can’t take away the quality and value of Les Jacobins.

Followers of my spare tyre restaurant experiences will realise the width of my taste and indeed the widening effect of my selfless research into the ecstasy of eating. I am prepared to sacrifice my own perfect form to bring you the fullest insights possible. When not savouring foie gras and monkfish I cavort among the fried breakfasts and the fish and chips.

Today I turn my attention to pizza. The French love it. The English love it. It seems that everyone in the world has some kind of pizza format. The Italian pizza seems to have found its familiar form when tomatoes arrived in Europe in the 16th Century thanks to the Spanish colonisation of the Americas.This means that the Roman Empire rose and fell without ketchup. It also means that “Bloody Mary” queen of England 1553 – 1558 could never have added juice to her vodka. (She also would not have had any vodka because no potatoes had arrived from the Americas). Writing/researching a blog makes up for my complete lack of historical education.

If I go out for a pizza I’m looking for a big hit. I want flavour and savour. Like everyone I have used the pizza chain main street places. I’ve always found them clean and adequate but never special. Recently I went to the French town of Saint-Jean d’Angely to dine with friends. This was not my first time at Les Jacobins. At my last visit the place was at least fifty percent full of English diners. The menu has a large choice of beautifully cooked pizzas, the normal range of Italian dishes, salads and a very generous steak and fries option. There is a decent choice of wine by bottle, pichet, carafe or glass. There are desserts and everything you could ask for to make a wonderful convivial evening. 

I had the 30cm Clermentoise pizza and Oscar downed the Charentaise. The cost of each unit was about £8 – $13. The entire meal with wine, desserts and coffee was about £50 -$79 for three persons! However, we did not eat there just for the price. The service is great and friendly. The ambiance is welcoming with a real independently run family feel. It sure ain’t any kinda chain joint. There is an outdoor terrace for warm summer evenings. If you are holidaying in the Charente-Maritime region and fancy a take-out meal this is the place to come. The staff speak English if needed.

Les Jacobins is situated in the heart of the Saint-Jean d’Angely, close to the ninth century Royal Abbey. The town centre has a medieval authenticity and is worth a visit in itself. So – Les Jacobins receive an Emma’s five star Spare Tyre Tummy Award for value and excellence. Great job guys. 

Emma Thinx: You are born a pizza base. Get the toppings you want.

Emma’s Spare Tyre Tummy Award Goes Gourmet in France

Canard – The first bite is with the eyes. Then you taste with your heart and enjoy with your soul. 

The French have many words to express culinary excellence. They have cordon bleu chefs and haute cuisine. My favourite term is La Gourmandise which kinda expresses a perfection of pleasure. It takes into account the ambiance and the sheer joy of tasting a wonderful meal. 

Monk fish – too good to eat, so you savour slowly

A few days ago I had lunch in the village of Taillebourg which lies alongside the beautiful Charente river. This was not the first time I had visited “L’Auberge des Glycines”. You can check out my previous post here.

Between us we tasted duck, sea bass, filets de rouget, monk fish, souffle with grand marnier and on and on. We had a pichet of the house Bordeaux red which was as full and smooth as anything I’ve tasted anywhere.

An experience of beauty

Clearly the guys who run this place take pride in their work. It seems to me that they have a passion to provide an experience of beauty. They sure do succeed. 

Inside there’s chocolate and caramel…..

My warmest thanks to “L’Auberge des Glycines”. They top the list of Emma’s Spare Tyre Tummy Awards.

P.S. They have the cutest boxer dog!

Je suis français, but you can call me Winston.

Elsewhere in life, we are now in Movember. I’m gearing up the machine to draw attention to myself – this time for a good cause as a ‘Mo Sista’. The local press have just been on the phone. Oooh – let’s hope we sell truck loads of the Movember anthology ‘Let’s Hear it For the Boys’.

Emma thinx: Take the male out of Female and you find the iron lady

Emma Spare Tyre Tummy Award Gets Real In London

As English as a red bus, as warm as a smile in the eyes. 

In my new role as glitzy guru-go-gal I travelled to London. What a place it is these days. I zoomed in on an express train. I took a fast launch up the Thames from Waterloo to Greenwich by the O2 Arena.  I soared across the Thames on the Emirates Air Line cable car and boarded the Docklands Light Railway to Stratford. And then things got even better…..

Quantum Cloud by Anthony Gormley. Spot the man in the cloud.

I arrived at the Railway Tavern, 131 Angel Lane, Stratford, London E15 1DB. In this hotel world of chrome and glass logo splattered corporate spam, I had arrived at an oasis. This is a real London pub with old fashioned service and hospitality. The proprietors Tom and Jan Dooner just could not do enough to make me comfortable. I had dinner of first class fish and chips. I slept well and started the day on a full English breakfast that was FULL and ENGLISH. Oooh, I’m thinking back to those thick slices of juicy bacon, sausage, tomatoes, fried egg, baked beans and all the toast you could dream of. Naturally, there were generous pots of hot strong English tea and all the options of cereals, fruit and Muesli. Next time I go to London, this is where I’m going and I’d advise anyone to do the same. Go on! Let go and award yourself a treat – you deserve it. I won’t tip off the cholesterol cops. You ain’t gonna get the chance ev’ry day are ya?

In short me old muckers – this place is gem. The staff are diamond geezers. It takes its place in the Cosmo-international hall of fame that is the Emma’s Spare Tyre Tummy Award. If you want genuine London, value for money, warm hospitality, a great bed  and a right old hard core cockney nosh up – this is where to go.

Michelin stars are trailing behind the spare tyre tummy awards. Book soon before the snobs catch up and get real.

Emma Thinx: You can put lipstick on a pig but you can’t fake a bacon breakfast.