Sometimes I think it is just made up by my odd little imagination.
But here is some real Shakespeare for now…
Over hill, over dale, Thorough bush, thorough brier, Over park, over pale, Thorough flood, thorough fire, I do wander everywhere, Swifter than the moon’s sphere; And I serve the fairy queen, To dew her orbs upon the green. The cowslips tall her pensioners be: In their gold coats spots you see; Those be rubies, fairy favours, In those freckles live their savours: I must go seek some dewdrops here And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear. Farewell, thou lob of spirits; I’ll be gone: Our queen and all our elves come here anon.
Sydney suddenly seems to be teeming with new ‘eateries’. I say eatery because they’re not ordinary cafes, restraints, bars, taverns, inns, diners or canteens. They’re moveable green-walled caravans purveying vegetarian food mastery in the form of chickpea based burger magic (The Vegie Patch Van).
Or they’re smallholdings in the middle of Sydney’s industrial suburbs where they keep chickens, sell fresh juices and make rather spectacular chicken, sweet corn and sweet mysteriously yummy pies (The Grounds of Alexandria). You may even find yourself queuing up ‘school canteen’ style at Kitchens by Mike for their daily dishes and house-made breads.
New bars run by gorgeous bearded and/or long haired men or 50s pinup look-alikes with head scarves and burlesque tatts are popping up everywhere, serving drinks in jars to people who are willing to perch on any kind of seating from ‘chic milk crates’ to bicycle seat/hat stand combinations, piano stools and railway sleepers. Arcadia, Dry Land, The Dock, Tapeo and the Pitt Street Diner are transforming Redfern. Grandmas (soon to open a second bar in Surry Hills, or so rumour has it), The Baxter Inn and various little hideaway bars have enlivened otherwise boring CBD backstreets with whisky (whiskey >?) and mulled wine.
The Boys at Arcadia Liquor
Good Living/the SMH/the Times seem to be tapping into the existence of these new bars/eateries and renders them well-known within weeks of them opening. This in turn seems to be sparking a bitter, unfair cycle of little bars becoming found, quickly spoken about, quickly packed, quickly swarmed by people every day of the week and in some circumstances quickly passé. Ah the curse of living in metropolitan cities. The trick seems to be to find the bars whenever and wherever you find them, make friends with the bar tenders/bouncers, become recognisable and continue to go to the bars, even when it is packed, because if you like a place, you like it and you should enjoy them regardless.
Trends in bars and eateries may come and go, but the memories of 8 layer burgers, thrice fried chips, apricot danishes and the cocktail recipes which some bartenders may share will be timeless.
I have something to admit…I’m a wee bit in love with River Cottage- in all its reincarnations: ‘River Cottage Winters on the Way’, ‘River Cottage Food Heroes’, ‘Escape to River Cottage’, ‘River Cottage Road Trip’, ‘River Cottage Gone Fishing’, ‘Return to River Cottage’, ‘River Cottage Forever’, ‘Beyond River Cottage’, ‘River Cottage Autumn’, ‘River Cottage Summer’s Here’…and I’m stopping there. Basically I can has grrrreat admirations for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall- even if I needed to look up his name to spell it.
Reasons why I Heart River Cottage:
1) Awesome recipes of every persuasion- sweet, savoury and every measure in between. All of which are available online, free of charge.
2) The ethos of ‘small holding’ and living off the land- how he plunged into it, worked hard and was not to proud to ask for help. He didn’t start off his River Cottage setup already knowing everything- he learned as he went along, he therefore remains human and not “Goddess-like” if you catch my drift.
3) That Hugh has: worn a homemade bunny fur bikini, spilled things on screen and not had it edited out, stuffed up on screen, and swore on screen, drunken cider and worn big glasses repeatedly…with no hipster overtones!
There are many more reasons, but I think you should go out (or just put on the food channel) and discover them for yourselves. Reasons could include his recipes for rabbit pie, pigeon pitta-pockets, crumbles of any kind and his Hot Shot Chilli Cocktails.
*I like to imagine that someone is actually reading this blog sometimes*
I’ve been busy…Things have been going on….
I’ve finished my BA and have almost finished one semester at COFA UNSW where I’m doing a BA Design. I know- it’s quite a change from languages, and wasn’t it about time I actually figured out what I was going to do with my life?
All that doesn’t matter because I’m still going to find myself at uni 3 long days a week, learning new things all the time. I’ve made paper helmets, and technical drawings, horror movie posters and clay trees. Though I’m going to say that there’s been far too much origami lately and I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up with no fingers if I have to keep using scalpel knives into the future.
In other news-
There was also a zombie eastern egg hunt (I was a country bumpkin flesh-eater), veggie patch replant (bring on the root vegies and beans!), a now-cancelled trip to America in the works and a lot of weird dreams about having wing-tattoos-which-become-real-wings again (go figure).
As I said- lots going on. But from now on I’ll try (really, I WILL) to keep this up a bit more respectably and regular like.
Many branches of the Sydney foodie tree have been quivering with excitement as people discover the new bars, bistros, restaurants etc that are popping up in some certainly unexpected places. I’ve managed to cover a couple in the past few weeks and I’m more than willing to share!
Kitchen by Mike in Rosebery is pumping out lovely canteen fair from a busy open kitchen & sharing a huge, creative space with an uber-cool design co-op. Look out for freshly made bread, the various roasted meats and the pumpkin, feta etcetera tartine.
The Dock is entertaining post-work Redfern workers with its cosy nooks, barrels, piano and close-to-the-station-so-I-can-roll-home location. Lovely spot to sidle up to a bar, drink a cider and ‘warm down’ after a hard day’sphotocopying playing the stock market.
Grandma’s continues to draw a nifty, nanna/geek chic crowd with its cocktails, knitting opportunities and occasionally dreadlocked bartenders.
Din Tai Fung fills up every meal time with people who’ve come to try their fantastic handmade dumplings (amongst many other tasty dishes…which I didn’t get to….because I was eating dumplings)
Josh’s Kitchen in Bowral also deserves its local reputation, with friendly and dare I say frisky waiters who WILL perform impromptu serenade with and without requests. Their kofta spiced meat balls, steak, eggplant parcels and char grilled calamari are delicious. Did I mention the fig tart, burnt lemon tart and citrus samosas?
Ginger, aka zingiber officinale really isn’t the most popular of roots rhizomes; lots of people simply ‘aren’t too keen’ on it, which leads me to think that perhaps they had a traumatic experience with it as a child. Did some ginger beer come out of their noses, singeing just a little sinus? Maybe some crystallised chunks were too overpowering in a batch of otherwise delightful chocolate brownies. Maybe somebody hid some extra hot pickled ginger in a dish and watched you squirm. Ahem. Moving on.
Let’s think of all the good things ginger does-
It helps create the delightful concoction which we call Ginger Beer- a marvellous brown fizz, which, when mixed with rum to make a “Dark n Stormy” will topple the *most seasoned sailor.
It features in many tasty dishes within Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and South Asian cuisine.
It puts the ginger in “ginger nuts”, those most beloved of biscuits. Not to mention Speculaas, Ginger Bread and Ginger Snaps.
As a spice, it’ll give oomph to just about anything bland in the kitchen! Even those dodgy curries your roommates make.
It is often a feature in medicine; used as an old wives remedy for colds & flu or powdered up and mixed into other weird and wonderful herbal potions.
Ginger, contrary to some old superstitions does NOT give you ginger hair, although I wish it did. I secretly (or not so secretly, since I dye my hair) covet the glorious ginger locks of some people; and would eat a mountain of ginger nuts if that were true. Though, truth be told- I’d probably eat the ginger nuts anyway.
Although it is rather wonderful, ginger can be a tad dangerous: An acute overdose of ginger is usually in excess of about 2 grams of ginger per kilogram of body mass, dependent on level of ginger tolerance, and can result in a state of central nervous system over-stimulation called ginger intoxication or colloquially the “ginger gitters”.
Ginger responsibly people.
*Dad told me. And I always believe what my Dad tells me regarding rum and sailing. And sailors.
For some obscure reason unbeknownst (is that a word?) to me- My tumblr wouldn’t post for ages! Every time I tried to put up something new, text would disapparate and pictures would mysteriously reconfigure themselves into entirely incomprehensible muddles.
I’m hoping all will be in order again now….lets have a try shall we?!
There’s a dull hum in my kitchen, coming from the whirring ice cream machine currently churning a batch of coconut & lime sorbet. There’s a cat sitting on a pile of cookbooks next to me, who won’t stop staring. There’s an episode of the IT Crowd on the TV. And there’s a piping hot mug of tea brewing…and thus starts 2012 for me.
I still haven’t decided on my resolutions. I still haven’t decided what to do with myself once I graduate in June. I still don’t know what I want to do next- to study, to have a gap-year, to get a ‘proper job’ or to simply work and travel. I still don’t mind that that’s the situation I’m in at the moment.
Returning to Paris, M, C & I met up with beloved Swegian (Swedish & Norwegian) friends J & K. Sharing an apartment at the Bastille end of the Marais, we romped around Paris after enjoying slow mornings drinking coffee and watching the drizzle falling on the street outside.
We wandered the New Decorative Art’s Wing (again!) and were buffeted by icy winds as we walked through the Tuileries to see the Gertrude Stein exhibition at the Palais Royal. The Rodin Museum & Rodin’s fleshy odes to the human form were mesmerising on a rainy, clouded afternoon. Robert & Louise was the scene for yet another sumptuous dinner of snails & perfectly cooked meats. Some serious damage was done in various stores- some holding sales- some not.
It was a trip to Paris for a “returning visitor”- slow, un-hurried; allowing time for rambles and getting lost in side streets. My perfect type of travelling. I don’t think I’ll visit Paris again for some time- I feel that there are many more places out there that I want to explore- rougher streets, more diverse cultures, closer and farther flung cities. I think that feeling comes with travel; you want to keep broadening your horizons, to keep meeting stranger people, to leave and come home again and see how you’ve changed. Because nothing shows how much you’ve changed, than to come home and see how much other things are the same.
Although most of my time in Lyon was spent in buildings, in front of them, outside of them, looking at them, studying them, running through them & roaming around them & exploring them I had a rather good time. And as is reputed about Lyon, the gastronomy was amazing, delectable, delicious and definitely decadent.
Outside Lyon-Perrache, within 5 minutes of alighting from our Parisian train, we wandered through a regional gourmet produce market- sampling hot spiced apple juice, pain d’epices, juniper berry sausages, stinky cheeses and various knick knackeries. Best Welcome Ever.
We wandered the old quarter, we explored Le Corbusier‘s Church and Recreational Center at Firminy-Vert, we also saw his famous housing project on top of the hill-full of ‘streets’ and bold colours. We also ate. A lot.
3 meat stews, molten self saucing chocolate puddings, cheeses, duck hash cottage pies, rich wines and infamous Bouchons yielded everything I’d hoped for. I only wish that I had had more time to explore the many hallowed eateries which call Lyon home.
My Lyon story will hopefully continue at another time- when I’ve had the chance to get to know it better.
Lots of people get really excited about Paris. After all, it IS the most visited city in the world. I was excited too- however anxious and unctuous I felt about my impending duties as an ICOMOS volunteer. After Edinburgh I was ready to “get into French mode” and make the most of my time there. I had the weekend to do as I pleased, and I pleased myself as I do did. I wandered around the Louvre’s new Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Grand Palais, plus all its little sidestreets. I watched a spontaneous orchestra play varying classics from the Habanera to *forgets name of famous classical music pieces*. I was photographed by mystery, mute paparazzi- twice. Go figure about that one.
Then the hard work began. From 8:30 am until 7 (or 1am the following day as it was once or twice), I worked in the bowels of the UNESCO building, translating documents and being a general admin assistant. The most excitement I had was finding the flag room when I got lost looking for the loo. Sooooo many flags! Gosh.
Anywhoozles, I worked hard and tried to do the best I could. I ran errands. I printed. I photocopied. I swapped between 3 languages roughly, but much to the relief of some people. I ate chocolate croissants delivered by friendly strangers and drank a lot of black coffee. I caught glimpses of Mum as she rushed around too.
One night when I managed to leave at a humane hour I went with M to a Chinese banquet and had my first tastes of 52% alcohol- a special spirit from somewhere in Xian Province, China. That particular bottle came from a large vat of the potent liquid, discovered in recent archaeological excavations. It tasted like nothing else I had ever drunk before. The host was impressed at my ability to handle the stuff- but saved me from myself and confiscated my glass after 2 or 3 shots. Other nights passed in a breeze of documents, translating and dinners out at M’s old favourite restaurants.
A daytrip to Chantilly heralded the end of the conference and I marvelled at my first ever French Chateau. Rather grand, methought.
And then the General Assembly was over and I was liberated from my chores as a volunteer and ready to front a 20th Century Architecture Heritage Tour of Lyon.
Although the title may conjure up images of a moustached trapeze troupe in smashing tights, I’m thinking within a much more Scottish frame of mind just now. This shouldn’t be too surprising, as I’ve just been there- Scotland- romping around Edinburgh and Fife, buying knitted beanies in Pittenweem, eating fish & chips in Anstruther and sipping hot blackberry gluhvein on Princes St. I also went to a fishing museum, drove around St Andrews looking for the Cathedral and tried to push over a hay bale, all whilst inadvertently missing every possible opportunity fate threw me of seeing wild pheasant.
Mum and I arrived in Edinburgh after the usual awful Australia-anywhere commute, with usual awful jetlag kicking in. The Royal Overseas League (our UK mainstay) revealed a cozy room and a great location on Princes Street. We wandered along (after layering up) the main street a little and went to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Elizabeth Blackadder exhibition. Blackadder reminded me a little of my beloved Beatrix Beatrix Potter- her colours, her flowers, her animals etc all so beautifully done. Talent lust ensured!
Then the jetlag got to us and we were too exhausted to do anything else. Bed by 6. How embarrassing.
Mum only took a little while to get a handle on driving a manual car again. And my neck only took a little while to recover after our daytrip to Fife- home to some of my great grandparents. We drove through sleepy, picturesque villages and it-could-only-be-the –UK countryside. Stopping off at various places always revealed something new; odd shops, cosy cafes, strangely themed museums involving herring, little harbours and great people watching.
The thing I’ll remember most about Edinburgh Castle is the wind stubbornly trying to blow me off it. That howling gale desperately wanted to throw me of every parapet and precipice whilst icy tendrils tugged and my jacket and crawled up my sleeves. Picture that if you will. Then there was Greyfriars Bobby and the sad story of a loyal doggle and his master.
The Hula Cafe and the various stores which surround it yielded a veritable Frankie-esque hoard of crafty knick-knackery and creativity abounding. Must not return to Red Door Gallery until myself and my bank account are prepared.
Broughton Street and the New Town Deli yielded delicious lunches and delectable coffee, whilst Concrete Wardrobe revealed just how sexy and covetable something made out of yellow Harris Tweed can be. Threadbare vintage revealed an overwhelming array of jumpers I couldn’t even hope to fit in my suitcase and Joey D’s store manager announced that they were closed for renovations and I’d have to come back later as he shut the door in my face.
I only scratched the surface of Edinburgh, yet I feel like I could live there. Something about it appealed to me. I think I’ll be back there sometime soon.
I would like to apologise for my neglect this past month. You see, I’ve been out there ‘living’ as those young, darn hipsters call it. I’ve been venturing out of my usual little world and tiptoeing about in those of others.
Things have been learned and un-learned. Bits n Bobs have been lost, found and left behind at home. Food has been eaten and strange things drunk.
And I now have a French police record.
P.S The lovely image above is courtesy of Rebecca Dautremer- illustratrice superbe.
When I was little, I would come home from school and rush to the TV room, where I would snuggle down and watch “The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends”; it was the early 1990s, I had no homework and it became a ritual. Then as I got older, nothing changed. Her stories, characters, drawing style and life still entrance me. You remember that movie Miss Potter? I liked it- I admit it.
This brings me to my vegetable patch, overgrown zucchinis, vicious guard-cats and a rabbit called Harvey.
In my little vegetable realm there are carrots, leeks, onions, peas, beans, capsicum, eggplant, artichoke, beetroot, rhubarb, zucchinis, lettuce, silver beet, thyme and sage plants. There is also a possum-proofing net anchored with various stones, bits of wood, sprinkler parts and a rubber swan. Tending to that little haven of greenery; pulling weeds, tying trailing fronds to bamboo frames, discouraging curious felines and watering it all gives me such a twinkle of delight. Did I mention how yummy it is? All I have to say is “om nom nom nom”. Although the thyme is a little squashed since the guard cat has taken to rolling about on it. Do cats like thyme?
And Harvey? Well, Harvey is a large, stray rabbit that hops casually through our garden, but only when he feels like it. Spotting his big grey ears amongst the agapanthus always cheers me up; as long as they’re not amongst my lettuce.
But why didn’t we call him Peter? Benjamin? Flopsy? Mopsy? Cottontail? Because of Harvey: the 1950 movie starring James Stewart. Mother figure finds it depressing, padre finds it confusing and I’m not sure if my fraternal fiend has even seen it. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always liked the oddness of it- then again, it is about a man with an imaginary 6ft white rabbit for a friend. Harvey is a pooka. Google it- you know you’re curious.
“Elwood P. Dowd: Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” - she always called me Elwood - “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”
Those of you who have seen Bridget Jones’ Diary will know what I mean when I say I have now been the bunny. I.e. I have turned up to a themed party- in full costume, only to discover everybody else looking sufficiently young, gorgeous and slinky in Little Black Dresses (LBDs.)
I’m sure lots of you have had that moment, haven’t you? When you walk into crowded the bar/party room in a floor length 1950s Kimono with hair, makeup & accessories to match as everyone turns to stare at you in slow motion- you’ve had that, right? Good.
A few things came to mind whilst I hid behind a pillar and the tallest of my friends:
1) Bail! Run! Run while you can! The others can make the speech without you, these 100 people won’t notice an absence of one. Birthday girl won’t mind- she’ll be inebriated soon and everything will seem tiptop.
2) Own It- Babble at everyone in Japanese using all your remaining year seven vocab- ie numbers 1-10 and “where is the station?”.
3) Dress it down- Remove chopsticks from hair, remove white makeup, remove any extra layers to reveal intended-to-NOT-be-seen dress underneath. Possibly strip to black slip- will blend in better.
4) Combine all of the above and pretend:
a. It was a dare
b. That you promised the birthday girl you’d REALLY dress up
Hola! I am a Sydney girl in Valladolid for the rest of the week and desparate for a decent coffee. But I can't find El Campo! Where is it? Anita
I’m not sure how you take your coffee- I found it pretty hard to find Sydney-grade (Sydneysiders are VERY particular aren’t they?), so I settled for drinking espresso 24/7.
In the centre of the city I’d recommend-
El Doce- Just near Plaza España, on Calle de la Manteria methinks (it is a pedestrian only street, the cafe will be two small doors with a metal grill on your left)- a busy & popular local place. You may have to fight mothers who lunch for a table!
La Semilla Negra- In Plaza de Espana- a little bar, friendly bartenders. Nice espresso. Just near the rotating world globe fountain in the centre of the plaza.
Coco Cafe- my favourite because Natalia is lovely & plays the best music. Good espresso coffee and yummy house made bizcocho. She’s in Plaza Federico Wattenberg directly opposite the entrance the Museo Escultura, near Colegio San Gregorio (which you should definately check out- amazing buidling & museum). Also a fun place at night.
Hope that helps! If you want any more foody/visit tips, feel free to flick me a question.
I have had an extraordinary adventure, to say the least. I will remember (at least, I hope I will) parts of this trip, parts of these travels as long as I live. I owe so many people so much- you know who you are. And I don’t owe some people anything- you also know who you are.
How you like them apples? Sour!
If you’re reading this, maybe you’ve only chanced on the blog or maybe you have read it all along (Hello Nanna!). I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog, as much as I enjoyed writing, researching and, well, living it.
Don’t worry though, just because I’m home doesn’t mean there won’t be adventures. It would seem I have a knack for finding the eccentric in everything and everyone and as we all know- eccentrics really do have more fun.
Of all the posts I’ve written here on Crumpet. This was the one I have dreaded the most. Yet it is also the one I am happiest to have written.
I arrived in Sydney at an ungodly hour of the morning. Mum was there, waiting at the gate all teary and full of hugs. And so was my Nanna, sitting at a nearby cafe. We all had a good blubber and story swapped about how mischievous brother was for staying behind in London. Dad was sailing, but would arrive home and get a hug all his own.
When I got home, I thought I had had a growth spurt while I was away- everything felt so much smaller to me…My room, my bed, the kitchen, the cat- all a little bit less sizeable than I remembered. But then, a few days later I realised that I hadn’t grown- I had just stopped feeling small. Travelling can do that to you after a while- if you’re anything as timid as me, you might be extremely paranoid that feel like you don’t quite fit in with your surroundings, so you try to blend into the background and not stand out as much. You speak differently. Your nervous laugh might come out differently- less horse, more goat. You dress differently. You look people in the eye- or you don’t. You offer your opinion- or you stay silent. You stand straight, or you make yourself smaller. I had inadvertently resized myself while I was away, and that was what I realised when I got home. That was what I stopped doing.
As for change- do I think I have? At first I said no, that I was the same as when I left- only a little older, wiser and equipped with better Spanish. In hindsight, I’ll say that yes, I have changed. Intrinsically I’m still the same- same face, same sense of humour, same penchant for patisserie. I can’t quite put my finger on what is different, yet I know something is. Perhaps it’ll come to me.
p.s final photograph courtesy of Ruth Orkin, no copyright infringement intended.
There is something about men in kilts, isn’t there? Especially when you’ve had 6 hours sleep and they’re brandishing dead pheasants at you in a market place.
Let me explain a little, shall I?
After waking up early in Positano to go hiking up a hill to hop a bus to Sorrento, then another bus on to Naples airport, stopping over in Milan airport, then shuffling onto a delayed plane to London Heathrow, then onto the metro, into a cab and into a delightful Bethnal Green flat…we had arrived. You follow? Good. Then I’ll begin.
After a night of battling Thom for blanket on the sofa bed, we trundled off to the thriving and delightfully hipsterly (for that is now an adjective, ok?) melting pot that is the Broadway Market on a Saturday morning in London.
Climpson & Sons furnished me with the first (and best) of my 4 coffees for the day whilst Thom chatted away with a dear friend come-lost-band-mate who he hadn’t seen in months. Then they started to drink ales, draughts, brews, beers and who-knows-what-else at The Dove and I left them to it.
So I wandered the market and perused a few of the shops nearby, occasionally returning to the boys who were steadily adding empty pint glasses to their table.
And that was all we did. I wandered, hoping that we’d go exploring a little ‘once they were done’. They simply drank, content in the unseasonal sunshine. I’m not sure at what point it was that brother decided he would stay in London and I would go home alone. But decide he did and later that afternoon I found myself alone, on a train bound for Heathrow Airport with 38 hours of travel ahead of me. But I didn’t mind much; at last I was going home.
p.s final photograph courtesy of Ruth Orkin, no copyright infringement intended.
If I left a little of my heart in Capri, then I left another portion in Positano.
Arriving there was a lot like arriving in Capri- except for some reason brother & I were cross with each other and sullenly listening to our iPods (a little miscommunication and short temperedness whilst running for a ferry in the pouring rain will do that). But by the time we docked the sun was out and we were puffing up the steep roads & stairs to find our landlord for the week. Well, Thom went off to find her and I sat like an abandoned Madeleine and waited for him at the bus stop. When we got to it, our little granny flat had all we could need and a spectacular view of the ocean, of Positano and of our neighbour’s washing line.
To say the next 6 days were bliss would be just about right. We basked in the sun for 3 of those days at Spiagga Fornillo , beach chairs, limbs and umbrella akimbo running to and fro from the water and Bar Ferdinand. We read The Age of Innocence aloud, ate mounds of pasta a la Thom and discovered the delights of new pastries at the Mulino Verde.
(scouts honour that these are not my feet)
There was a day trip around to Amalfi, an argument in a wine shop, a rocket bus up to Ravello and some astonishment at the beauty of Villa Cimbrone. We also had a final, decadent dinner on our last night at Da Vincenzo. Lovely brother had been there every night on his previous visit to Positano, but it was a real treat for us to be out of the granny flat that night eating seafood and drinking delicious local wines at one of their many footpath tables.
I was sad to leave Positano, but increasingly excited by the prospect of being home in a mere 3 days, after more than 8.5 months of living overseas. But we had to spend a night in London first, which would prove to be an extended stopover for one of us.
Arriving in Capri gave me a similar expression to Sam Neil when his character first arrives on the island in Jurassic Park I. I was entranced by everything I saw. Thom, who had been there before warned me on the sunburn inflicting ferry ride over that it was heaven and I’d never want to leave. He was right.
Capri is a glorious little island of heaven, full of local Caprese Italians, filthily rich tourists, European millionaires, their heirs and their airs, hidden rocky paths, steep hills, tricky cobblestones, whirlwind bus rides and us. Although we took an unnecessary trip to Ana Capri- slightly confused by the location of our future abode, we eventually found Hotel Tosca just out of central Capri. The owners and staff- all from the same family of course- were lovely, helpful and completely unfazed by the eccentrics around them.
We crawled all over Capri during our 3 days there- traipsing up and down the many lemon smattered cobblestone streets and winding jasmine scented paths which led to hidden grottoes, the Arco Naturale, famous mysterious houses where Brigitte Bardot filmed in the 1960s, to hidden villas with private vineyards, to abundant vegetable patches, to Cliffside lookous and to the bloodthirstily infamous Villa Jovis.
It was also in Capri that I had perhaps the best meal of all my nearly-nine months away from home and definitely in my life top-five. It was under a Lemon tree in the garden of a house-come-restaurant called Edvino, a famous but jealously guarded Caprese secret. Appropriately cheeky & impatient waitresses served us ziti alla Genovese (pasta with white wine, onion & melting off the bone beef), fettucini al mare (home made fettucini with fresh seafood and broccoli), bisteck (minute steak slisced finely on a bed of rocket & caramelised balsamic vinagre) with approving clucking noises and hand gestures before suggesting we try the Carlotta alla mela (an italian variation on the classic french sponge, mousse & fresh fruit berry Charlotte), torta alla fruta de bosca (featherlight pastry, wicked creme patisserie and burstingly ripe redcurrants)which were both in their turn momentous in their deliciousness.
I think perhaps I left a little of my heart back in Capri; something about the smell of the jasmine, the robust lemon trees, the luminously blue sea water and the cheeky !parp! !parp! of the local buses rocketing around the cliff edge is still never far from my mind.
When they’re in rompers and ringlets, most girls wanted a puppy, a horse, the latest anatomically correct Barbie or some other equally cute and classic thing. I always wanted a Vespa…Just thought I’d put that out there.
The last time I was in Rome at age 14 with my parents and older brother all I wanted to do was eat gelato on the Spanish Steps and systematically reinact each of Audrey Hepburn’s adventures in Roman Holiday. Not much has changed between then and now. Well, perhaps I’m a little taller. So much of Rome was as I remembered it, as I’d imagined it would be and as seen I’d seen it since; there was comfort and mild disconcertion in that.
Piazza Navona was still full of tourists licking gelati, posing by Bernini sculptures and searching for the elusive Mozarella bars which their mother’s have told them about. Or perhaps that was just us. We wandered down familiar streets, crossing plazas and pausing in the ghetto to visit our favourite nameless kosher pasticceria (see below).
The Campo di Fiori market was still full of artichokes and the Capeteline museums were still full of ancient marbles. The Mouth of Truth still has a permanent queue whilst the Forum and Colosseum still seem to heave with the sheer masses of people who wander spellbound amongst the columns. We ate pizza and paid exorbitant amounts for everything. We wandered quieter streets and were harassed by street vendors. We also had a marvellous time.
And as for Audrey’s legacy? Well, let’s just say that I got my sorbet on the steps.
When we arrived in Porto and checked into our ET themed room, the new river-straddling city seemed a much quieter place than you might expect considering it puts the Port in Portugal (both in a literal and beyond bad puny way). Granted, there were tourists, there were impressive buildings, there were rickety and racy trams, and there was coastline, riverside wharves and beautiful vistas, but it lacked the liveliness some people hope for on holiday as a ‘young thing’.
That said, there were many lovely moments over our 4 nights there. We drank vino verde in a quiet beachside suburb, tasted port & expounded upon its virtues, we watched people jump from the city bridge into the rushing river and fought back French tourists to try oxtail stew which was thoroughly worth the precarious cobblestone perch and stray tom-cat botherance. Though watching the soccer, surrounged by boisterous local families in the Dos Frangos dining room whilst gorging on mysteriously good bbq chicken, hot chips and cheap beer for 15eur had something majestic about it too.
I enjoyed Porto and our long walk’s exploring various areas; it let us slow down a little and enjoy our last days in Portugal. I’d recommend it as a slower paced, wind-down place, or a base for day tripping to Viana de Castelo & her various sister towns. I would also advise two things. Firstly, I would suggest that you not to lose your prized moleskin doodle book; for that would be a shame and your inevitable post-mortem retrospective exhibition at MoMa would be seriously lacking without it. Secondly, I would suggest eating something anything before sharing a Port wine tasting with any travel companion, lest you find yourself singing the Jungle Book soundtrack all the way back to your Belgian roommates.
Truly though, Porto is an interesting city that is out of the limelight and surely but quietly catching up to Lisbon’s verve levels. There are beautiful gardens, crumbling facades, real estate steals and quiet squares to be found if you look for them. There is also an active street art, craft and creative young thing scene bubbling under the surface; and sometimes on it.There are also great markets, cute duckies on the river and, well, there is Dos Frangos chicken.
1) Steps. Built on and around steep hills, Coimbra’s winding inclines will test even the fitter of those who explore them. Brother astounded all who saw (meaning me, a lemon tree & some stray cats) by carrying all our bags on his back up the whole lot to our pension. Noble creature!
2) Chanfana- a goat’s meat stew, heavy with red wine and other dedlicious things which have rightfully made it the city’s delicacy. Think Guy Rossi’s Tuscan Beef with a tad more gristle.
3) The Santa Clara Convent. Buried for several centuries by rising flood waters and mud, the complex has been excavated, restored and recently reopened with a new visitor’s centre. A good, although completely monolingual exhibition space is full of artefacts and stories exploring life in the convent for the Order of the Poor Clares.
4) Coimbra University’s library has a bat colony living in it. ‘Nuff said.