It’s a fact – only Americans really know how to do Christmas!
We had to visit Milwaukee and were recommended to stay at this strangely old fashioned hotel called the Pfister. I don’t think Milwaukee is really known for its old architectural charms but this place had all the feel of a slightly world-weary central city hotel from Paris or Vienna during the last century. There was nothing old fashioned about the rooms or service I should add, but the most impressive part was the main lobby which had a rococco style to it complete with the wildest ceiling that you will find in any hotel. It looked as though it was inspired by the paintings from the Sistine Chapel, even down to the Salve at each end.
Of course being Christmas the place was wonderfully decorated and sported an enormous tree that would have put London’s own Claridges Hotel tree to shame. Naturally there is also a great lobby bar just asking to be relaxed in.
There is something magical about a trip to the big cities of the north or east in the US around Christmas time. They manage to make everything so atmospheric and you can just feel the holiday thrill through the decorations and the lights.
The person, who no matter how much space you give them, still nudges you from behind in the queue for security, passport control or boarding. It all starts with a gentle pressure against your bag or the back of your legs. Sometimes it is accompanied with a whiff of something pungent from last night’s garlic-laced meal, wafted via an effusive or impatient exhalation of breath. Once you’ve noticed it there is no turning back. No way out of the downward spiral of aggravation and latent aggression that you start to experience. You think of all the outrageous things you want to say and do, but somehow you keep it under control. After all, isn’t that what differentiates us normal people from the psychopath?
The nudging pressure is gentle but insistent. But soon it gets more forceful. You move forward a little, but like the ever-decreasing stopping distance of cars in a decelerating traffic queue, the pressure intensifies. Before you know it you have a major incident on your hands. Pushing back has had no effect and if you don’t do something soon they will be level with you and then in front. There’s a theory that if you let someone in front of you in a queue, or in a line of traffic, if it happens enough times you will end up back where you started. Maybe that’s why we just stand there, fuming, rather than taking the logical action which is to move aside politely saying ‘Why don’t you go in front of me, your journey is obviously very important and you are in a hurry … BEFORE I RIP YOUR SODDING HEAD OFF!’
It’s official – I have found the best vodka. It is made from potatoes and believe it or not comes from rural west of England – Herefordshire. Discovered this in Waitrose on Saturday and we drank the bottle at a dinner party on Saturday night. Sunday I had the hangover to prove it – I think it must have been the champagne.
I normally stick to Russian or Polish vodka. It always tastes right. For me vodka needs to go down smoothly with a clean aftertaste that lets you know you’ve had a drink, but doesn’t overpower. Some of the muck you get, branded ‘premium’, just shouldn’t be on sale. So this was a bit of a risky purchase. There’s a lot of competition in this market and some silly prices on display. This is priced sensibly between those ludicrously expensive Polish and French brands and the good old standards from Russia. Although I do wonder how much you pay for the flash box it comes in. The website says it was voted best vodka at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2010. Now that’s a show I think I would like to attend.
There is a great website you can look at (www.chasedistillery.co.uk) and I think I’m tempted to buy a bottle of marmalade vodka next!