Wednesday, 26 April 2017

In three

Whenever I travel I tend to lock in to whatever my situation happens to be and then stick with it; by that I mean I arrived in Dusseldorf without any reading matter – and getting hold of anything decent, other than the Financial Times, is difficult. I'd end up with a James Patterson or Wilbur Smith novel or a book by Kate Garraway. I met her once (she won't remember) on an East Coast train that was stuck for hours and hours due to the overhead power lines going down and she was really nice, but her book, The Joy of Big Knickers, is probably not for me. The title alone would mean I couldn't read it in public.

A shot taken on my walk towards the Alt Stadt earlier today...
So I can't really enjoy the 'Starbucks in a foreign country' experience as it always goes hand-in-hand with having something decent to read and I have nothing. Likewise, as I've mentioned in previous posts, breakfast isn't the same without an English language newspaper or a decent book. So I cut my cloth accordingly, I steer clear of coffee shops, where I would be reduced to staring out of the window or, worse still, poring over my iphone like I did earlier over dinner and in the hotel bar. There's nothing worse than dining alone.

Statue in a pleasant park en route to the Alt Stadt
Work finished around 1700hrs so I decided to stroll to the Alt Stadt (or old town) and chill. Or rather that's what I thought I'd do, but in the end I didn't bother because I lacked reading matter; I took a look at the river instead, peeked through a few shop windows and then steadily retraced my footsteps back to where I'm staying at the top of Karlstrasse. It was a great walk. I found a small but peaceful park and then the Alt Stadt, which is fine, but some of the roads leading off from the area down by the river are a bit run-down. There are bars and restaurants that have closed down and I was reminded of London's Soho or Amsterdam, minus, of course, anything sleazy.

Well, I hadn't really mentioned cycling so I thought a photo might do...
It was approaching 1900hrs and I considered dining earlier than scheduled, but then I found the hotel bar and decided that a couple of small (and I mean small) dark ales would go down a treat. I sat at the bar giggling to myself about Viz magazine's Profanisaurus and then, as the time approached 2000hrs I moseyed on down to Da Bruno, my favourite all-time Italian restaurant, for dinner. I'd booked the table on Monday and soon I found myself sitting there perusing the menu. Da Bruno, especially after a hard day 'at the office', is the perfect place to be and I was looking forward to an hour or so of simply chilling and eating good food.

Very close to the Alt Stadt I found this rather impressive piece of work...
Mushroom consomme, seabass with spinach, sautéed potatoes and brocolli, a glass of red wine and a chocolate mousse, not forgetting a cappuccino – and all for just 37 Euros. This really is the best restaurant in town and I defy anybody to find a similarly priced trattoria that offers the same quality of food and the same vibe. I can't think of one and by that I mean anywhere in the world, not just in Dusseldorf.
"Down by the river..."
Towards the end of my meal I was approached by the waitress. Would I mind if somebody else shared my table? No, of course I wouldn't mind, so she directed a German guy towards the vacant seat opposite. I was settling my bill but we managed to pass the time of day and both agreed that Da Bruno was the best restaurant in town, and I suggested probably in the world too. He, like me, has eaten at Da Bruno before and tends to come back for more, just like I do. We parted company and I walked back along Karlstrasse towards the Mercure. Earlier I had considered a return to the hotel bar for one more tiny dark ale, but as I passed it, I noticed it was a little rowdier than earlier on (a football match possibly) so I took the stairs and headed for my room and here I am now, writing what is likely to be my last post from Dusseldorf before I fly home tomorrow.

The Alt Stadt...
My post yesterday was probably a little too critical of the Mercure City Center. Breakfast this morning was, for some reason, better than on Tuesday and has led to me reconsider my remarks; it was alright. The main problem was that I didn't have anything to read. I didn't have anything today either, but let's just say it was better, even if it was exactly the same.

In the park and going back towards Karlstrasse...
While making my way to the Alt Stadt earlier, I found an Apple store and went inside to mess around with the tablets and the lap tops, but in all honesty Apple has lost its appeal – it has, if you like, become the norm. Yes, I am an Apple computer user, always have been, but I think Apple has got a little too smug and a little too mainstream these days and that is epitomised by its stores, which have a certain shrine-like arrogance I can live without. Apple is far too big for its boots in my opinion. The iphone is ubiquitous  (dare I say a 'bestseller') rather than cult (like Apple computers used to be back in the days of Mulder and Scully). Mind you, there are so many examples of 'cult stuff' becoming mainstream. There was a time, for instance, when those who listened to Pink Floyd were considered 'out there', but now they're pretty mainstream too, or when Philip K Dick was a real 'underground' author. Now, of course, there are movies of his books starring Tom Cruise and Arnie. Shit happens.

I left the Apple store empty-handed – not that I had any intention of buying anything. In the past I might have been content to play on the laptops and secretly wish I had the money to buy a new MacBook, but not today. I don't see the point in tablets or the Apple watch and I already have an iphone, albeit an iphone 4S that's four years old and out of contract. It's great being out of contract as all 02 have to do is piss me off and they can sling their hook! Get in! There's nothing worse than being beholden to a phone company. It's bad enough having a loan or a mortgage.

So I'm back in my room, I fly home tomorrow and I can lie in for longer too, although not too long as I've got to pack all my stuff and check out prior to heading for the central station and a brief train ride to the airport. That's what's great about Dusseldorf, everything is close-by, including the flughafen.

It is now 0445hrs and I've woken up, probably because I had a cappuccino for dinner last night or because of that rich chocolate mousse. I could have done without that. I'm finding that eating out is often a kind of culinary Russian roulette, last night being a case in point. Generally speaking I've been pretty 'good' on the food and drink front. My alcohol intake has been very low – last night just those very small beers and a glass of wine with my meal – but when I weaken and opt for dessert it's like crossing a mine field. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those people who has to watch what he eats, but when the dessert menu was offered (my fault for requesting it) I was presented with a kind of loaded gun, albeit a 'gun' I'm familiar with.

Some of the dessert items had form and I knew to steer clear. Tiramisu, once my all-time favourite dessert, will now always be avoided, not because it gives me a stomach ache or anything like that, but purely because it's so rich and full of things that ain't good for me. Grand Padano, a nice cheese, yes, but the last time I ordered it here the portion size was huge, even if I did, eventually, work my way through it with the assistance of an additional glass of wine; and then there's the dessert that is basically some kind of dessert wine or liqueur accompanied by biscotti; for a start the biscotti is so hard and the drink so thick and syrupy. There are other desserts I know to avoid: the Creme Caramel, the Zabaglione, the pannacotta and so on, but the chocolate mousse, I thought, that can't be too bad. I imagined an elegant wine glass with a light chocolate inside, possibly a fresh raspberry as garnish on top. But no, it was three large 'quenelles' – 'dollops' would be more appropriate – of the stuff, three dog turd shapes in a large white dish, the sort of shit you're proud of before you flush. One dollop would have been enough, but I ploughed through it in between sips of the cappuccino, wishing I'd simply ordered the coffee like I did on Monday night.

And now I'm wide awake as the time creeps towards 0500hrs. There's a bottle of Evian next to me and I'm considering opening it, like I did yesterday in the early hours, thanks, perhaps, to that rich Indian meal, who knows? It might well be that it's 'the hotel life' and unfamiliar surroundings. It takes a while for me to get acclimatised to sleeping in a hotel room and just when I think I've cracked it, it's time to fly home.

My next dilemma is whether or not to go back to bed or simply stay up; but there's little to do at 0512hrs and having not switched on the television since I arrived Monday night, I'm not going to break the habit now.

I write a lot of hotel and restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor, which can be read by clicking here.

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