Tag: eating

Highlights

Highlights

I wanted to finish this blog series on a high, and so, anticipating the questions people might ask, I’ve been contemplating the highlights. Seeing friends is always going to top these lists – spending time with people we so rarely get to see – so I’ve eliminated them from the equation. But to my English, Scottish and expat Aussie friends, know that you were our highlight!

Top eats

1. Pasta at Rossopomodoro on our first night in Venice. Unbelievably creamy, ridiculously tasty whipped buffalo ricotta concoction on fresh made pasta. At the time I said it was the best meal I’d ever eaten. I stand by that.

2. Cioppino at Sotto Mare, North Beach California, sitting up at the counter, with wine, feeling so alive only four days into our holiday.

Places to which I’ll definitely return (in no particular order)

1. Reykjavik

2. Berlin

3. Washington

4.Everywhere else.

Top moments

1. Discovering the former Australian Embassy building in Washington DC, where my grandmother first worked.

2. Recently arrived in Rome, dusk, sitting at a cafe in Piazza della Rotonda, looking out at the Pantheon, glass of white wine, nowhere to be in any hurry.

3. Standing in the Neumarkt in Dresden surrounded by the Christmas markets.

4. Driving through the deep snow north west of Reykjavik, unable to see anything at all – a complete white out.

5. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Most amazing sights

1. Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland.

2. Autumn leaves, Scotland.

3. Chicago buildings.

Funniest shrieking with laughter moments (sorry, for these you had to be there so are to remind me, but I’m happy to tell the stories if asked).

1. Don buying a jacket in Macy’s New York.

2. Ruth hanging her last Christmas decoration on the thermostat.

I could add to all of these lists, because of course the whole trip has been the most amazing, eye-opening, brilliant and fun experience for both of us. And I have loved sharing all of this with you via the blog. Thanks so much for reading, and for all of your lovely comments.

Now, to start planning the next adventure…..

Stuff happens

Stuff happens

Singapore

Last I left you dear readers we were enjoying the exploits of Bangkok before heading on to our last destination, Singapore. But something happened on the way to Singapore.

I got sick.

I must say, we had a pretty good run – perfect weather everywhere we went, fabulous hotels, scarcely a runny nose between us. We lost a couple of things – including an expensive thing and a sentimental thing – but things can be replaced. Small panic when we thought we were on the wrong train in Germany, but we just needed to change platforms. That’s it, really.

So long story short I pretty much missed Singapore, other than the inside of the hotel room, Singapore Raffles Hospital and the Changi Airport medical clinic.

Sometimes stuff happens, and you just have no control over it.

My beautiful husband sorted doctors, fed me fluids and held my hand, keeping me sane and safe.

He also bought me an awesome yet somewhat hideous toothpick holder/bottle opener souvenir and a mini Merlion, both of which I shall treasure. Then when I was starting to feel better, he walked me ever so slowly down to the Merlion and back again, just so that I could be outside in a different city on our last day away. He truly is my rock.

And as I was worrying over how I could possibly be comfortable flying that last eight hours home, Qantas sent a message upgrading us to business class. Sometimes stuff happens!

So now we are home, safe, and almost well.

Stay tuned, there is a little more to come reflecting on this epic 99 days.

Merry Christmas!

Five nights in Bangkok

Five nights in Bangkok

No but seriously, have I mentioned we love the heat?

Urgh.

We’ve been to Bangkok several times before. We love this city – the whole noisy, hectic atmosphere of food, markets, people, shops. But Bangkok is hot. Like, really hot. Muggy, sweaty hot. We can no longer wear the same clothes five days in a row hot. It’s quite a dramatic change.

To counteract the heat, Don has purchased cloth trousers and more sarongs, and I have purchased batik* Thai** pants and an elephant singlet.

I shall wear all of these back in Australia.***

However counteracting our new, cooler outfits we are eating chilli for breakfast, lunch and dinner at street vendors across the city. Big, fat red chillies that take you completely by surprise**** if you’re not looking. Chilli to turn your face red and make sweat cover your brow.

To counteract the chillies, we’re drinking gallons of water. Bottles and bottles of water, as well as bottles and bottles of Pepsi***** and Coca-cola.

Counteracting all of this water and cola consumption, we are walking everywhere (in our new outfits), for miles and miles, seeing temples and markets and statues and shops and people. It’s pretty hard going.

To counteract being hot and worn out from walking****** we’re buying fruit at every corner. Vendors sell it from ice laden carts, chopping it fresh in front of you – watermelon, pineapple, mango, other fruit.*******

Yep, Bangkok is pretty fabulous, but pretty darn hot.

I guess the other thing we could use is our air-conditioned hotel room and the swimming pool, but then that would be quite lazy of us.********

________________________________________________________

*not really batik, just “batik-look”

**not worn by any Thai people, worn only by tourists

***probably not, going on past experience

****yep

*****not really Pepsi, a kind of sugary cola substitute

******ok so perhaps we’ve jumped in a tuk-tuk several times

*******small, round brown things, sliced green things, pale yellow segmented things

********alright yes we are totally being lazy every afternoon from around 3:30pm

University challenge

University challenge

Cambridge

Don, Tim and I went on a day trip to Cambridge yesterday. Tim’s niece studies at Cambridge so we met her there and she showed us around. Such a beautiful town, with glorious old buildings, a superb gallery and lush manicured lawns.

Tim’s niece told us about uni life, her studies and ambitions.

Tim and Don and I told her about what we did when we were at uni. Because young people love it when you do that.

“I sent some friends to stage a coup of the the Conservative Association.”

“I spent more time finding somebody who had already read Great Expectations than it would have taken to read it myself.”

“I was founding member of the University Alcohol Appreciation Society.”

“I jumped in the fountain and won a bloodthirsty garden gnome in the annual statue competition.”

“I got elected student union secretary in order to stop the candidate we didn’t like being elected.”

“I instigated an occupation of the university teaching block when I was accommodation officer.”

“I was involved in the protest when the condom vending machines were removed at our uni.”

“I wore my pyjamas to uni once when I was late for lectures.”

“I washed the inside windows of the uni hall with a fire hose.”

Suffice to say yesterday was educational for everybody involved.

The Christmas markets

The Christmas markets

Dresden

We had a moment last night. Standing on the cobblestones of the Neumarkt in Dresden, the majestic Frauenkirche looking down on us and Christmas markets surrounding us. The bells of the church were pealing, our fingers and toes were icy and it was absolutely magical. We stood until the bells were silent, soaking in the atmosphere so as to never forget it.

We are beside ourselves with the pure joy that is the Christmas markets in Germany. They have been a beautiful surprise and a highlight of our time away.

Each market we’ve visited has been in a fairytale setting – huge domed churches, squares that are hundreds of years old and filled with history, cobblestones and gaslights. It’s been freezing cold, but that’s ok, there’s glühwein at every third stall. Enormous copper pots steam invitingly from the front counters. You can add rum, or amaretto, or even alcoholic cherries. There’s eggnog, there are hot toddies, there’s cider, and from 10am onwards everybody has their hands wrapped around a ceramic mug filled with their choice of hot drink.

There are rows and rows of stalls to wander down, all surrounded by decorated pine branches. Exquisite wooden Santas and Christmas figures holding steins, fishing rods or rolling pins. Delicate white ceramic stars and hearts, miniature German buildings to house candles. Ironwork happening as you watch, lacework, felting, glass. One stall filled with brushes of every kind, another with tiny mechanical boats. Wooden candle holders, trees and cutout decorations. Christmas figures made of prunes!

There is so much food – barbecued bratwurst, currywurst, goulash, potatoes. It’s being dished out as fast as the alcohol. Cured meats, the biggest slabs of grilled cheesy bread we’ve ever seen, chestnuts on open fires. Something sweet? Enormous mounds of nougat piled on top of one another, hot sugary nuts being stirred around bowls, gingerbread hearts hanging from the eaves. Dough balls frying in hot oil before being covered in icing sugar or filled with marmalade. Stollen, apple fritters, pancakes, chocolate covered fruits. The food smells mingle with the glühwein – sugary dough, warm alcohol, barbecue smoke.

Everybody is smiling, laughing, talking, having a good time. It’s like a gentle happy murmur across the square. There’s Christmas carols – in Berlin there were choirs all night, in Dresden a small group of trumpeters in the giant German Christmas pyramid. Our room was so close in Dresden that when we got home, frozen but full of food and glühwein, we could keep our window cracked open and listen until late.

We’re in Nuremberg now, our last stop in Germany. I’m sure I’ll add to the many photos I’ve taken and beautiful decorations already bought, but the best souvenir I’ll have is the memory of that moment last night.

A winter onesie

A winter onesie

Dresden

I know I’m on the most fabulous holiday, but can I just indulge in a short whinge?

I have no problems getting out of bed in the morning. I’m excited waking up in a new city. I’m excited about exploring the sites, trying new foods, wandering through markets. And it’s not like I’m getting up at 5am like I do at home, it’s closer to 9.

I’m just so over getting dressed.

For a Queensland girl who’s used to wearing next to nothing, I feel like I spend half my morning wrapping and binding my whole body in thick blankets so that only my eyes are visible. It takes forever. I no longer care about fashion, it’s just a case of ensuring enough goes on to stay warm. Ergo my colour scheme today is red, aqua stripes, pink, black, grey, navy blue, brown and a hint of purple.

Trying to make it a bit easier, I’ve been putting my daily proposed ensemble on the bed to create a pile the size of Don, and then systematically working my way through it until I’m completely covered, exhausted, and unable to move or breathe.

What I need is a European winter onesie – socks, hat, scarf, the lot. Step in, zip up and you’re done.

Whinge over. Thank-you. Pass me a glühwein.

One of everything, thanks

One of everything, thanks

Barcelona

I am in dire straits when we get home. Other than the fact that this will mark the return to reality and I’ll have to go back to 9 to 5 and all that carry on, the thing that’s most worrying is what on earth I’m going to cook for dinner.

It was all going ok until Barcelona. Until Barcelona we’d tried many different delicious new dishes. The tuscan sausage and bean dish in Florence, cioppino in San Francisco, the lamb soup in Iceland, eggplant parmiagana and seafood chowder. All of these dishes have made me think about looking up recipes, experimenting with flavours and adding to my repertoire of possible dishes.

And then tapas happened.

We love tapas. We’ve had tapas before. We’ve been out for tapas at home. But we haven’t had tapas at least once a day every day for five days in a row.

Tapas is like opening up the menu and saying I’ll have one of everything, thanks. And if we’re not full after that we’ll have another one of everything. Yesterday at lunch when we asked for the menu our man told us he was the menu, and then proceeded to list and point.

“Baby calamari and white beans, tuna with oil and onions, grilled prawns, croquettes, peppers, asparagus, octopus with potato and jamon…”

We said ‘Sí’ to every single dish. Well come on, did you read that list?

I need to somehow transfer this to home. I guess all I have to do is cook seven dishes each night, after I get home from work, after stopping at the supermarket, after battling public transport, after changing out of work clothes, after pouring a glass of wine.

Or we could just get takeaway, times seven.

Hola!

Hola!

Barcelona

If there is one language that I’d love to learn, it’s Spanish.

I’m virtually fluent in it already. I mentioned this to Don.

“I think you mean fluid,” was his response. Ignore him, he’s just jealous of my uncanny ability to pick up words and phrases in a short space of time.

I already had a solid grounding in the language thanks to Sesame Street. I also have Feliz Navidad, despacito and macarena, as well as tapas and sangría.

I learnt queso (cheese) and jamón (ham) the first time we were in Spain in 2004, back in the days when I was a vegetarian. Worried that I would be served ham in the ham restaurant, I made Don walk the streets with me until we found cheese labelled cheese. Only then could we go to the ham restaurant for a ham sandwich and a cheese sandwich – queso, no jamón!

Now three days into our Barcelona visit, I’ve added potato, street, house, fountain and grilled. I’ve just forgotten fountain and grilled, but I’m sure if I see them written down I’ll be right.

My favourite word is hola (hello). I’ve hola-ed everybody – every staff member at our hotel, all shop assistants, the people working at the museums, Don, our room, the shower, dinner, wine, the elevator, sangria, the bed.

Obviously I look like I speak Spanish. I’ve been stopped in the street several times and asked in Spanish for directions somewhere. Ok once, I was stopped once, but it just proves I look like a local.

Yesterday we sat for lunch at a little tapas bar.

“Hola!” I said to the woman serving.

“Hola!” she replied, before bursting into a string of rapid Spanish. The thing is, the whole time she was speaking I felt like I knew what she was saying. I didn’t. But I nodded and smiled, said hola and sí and queso a few times, pointed to random items on the menu and sounded them out in near-perfect Spanish. Wine and beer and food soon appeared, so all good, sí?

Perhaps when I get home I’ll enrol in Spanish lessons. Anybody is welcome to join me, however you’ll need to get the basics under your belt first.

Far be it for me to upstage you.

Layer upon layer upon layer

Layer upon layer upon layer

Iceland

I have completely acclimatised to the freezing cold weather, and have the cold weather habits of people who live here down pat.

Bahahahahahaha! I have no freaking idea what I’m doing.

It is cold in Iceland. Freezing cold. Several layers of clothing cold. It’s a science getting dressed for this, and every morning I drive Don mad with a string of questions. What’s the temperature? What does minus 1 mean? Is it much different to 3? How long will I be inside? How long will I be outside? What do I have to carry? Is it snowing? Is it raining? Will I be too hot? If I take layers off how much will I have to carry? How many days in a row can I wear these socks? Long or short sleeve thermals?

In the end the answers to any of these questions have been irrelevant because I’ve been in the same clothes for five days in a row. And everything about them is a drama.

I have three layers of pants. Thermals, followed by thick tights followed by even thicker leggings. They may keep my legs warm, but it’s a complete nightmare getting them on. And getting them off? Every time I need the bathroom I have to roll them down my legs, creating a giant black Lycra wad around my knees. The crotch of each pant hangs at varying levels between my legs so for even a hint of comfort I’m forced to try to separate each layer and hoik them up one by one. All this while holding all of my other clothes out of the way. At the end of the day I peel the whole lot off in one go, only to find I have three elastic band welts at various heights around my stomach. Charming.

I’ve worn four shirts with the same big red puffy jacket over the whole lot every day. It’s so puffy the one time I tried carrying a shoulder bag I got so tangled up in scarf, sleeves, strap, hair and hood that Don had to rescue me before I cut off my airway. Now instead I have cash, cards, tissues, camera, phone, spare battery, hair tie and gloves all stashed in the three pockets of the jacket. Every time I pull the gloves out, all of the other items go flying. Every time I need something and I’m not wearing the jacket I spend 20 minutes searching through metres of red puff just to locate a pocket. Almost always the wrong pocket.

I can’t put my hair up because if I do I can’t jam my beanie far enough down my head. I left my hair loose for two days and ended up with three enormous dreadlocks. I tried low hanging pigtails like a five year old, but have now settled on a sort of a side plait.

But all of this is nothing compared to the time and effort spent whenever I go from inside to outside or from outside to inside. We’ve been getting around in a big Nissan Patrol for the past few days, which has been great, but space is at a premium.

Getting out of the car? Pull on hat, wind scarf around neck, look for gloves that aren’t stashed in pockets like they should have been and put them on. Undo seatbelt. Untangle scarf from seatbelt. Wind scarf back around neck. Manoeuvre one sleeve of puffy jacket on before exiting the car and getting too cold. Exit car. Pull on other sleeve and try to connect puffy jacket zip while gloves are still on. Fail. Take off gloves, connect zip. Look for gloves again, find them in the snow, pick up and put back on again.

Go see waterfall/geyser/glacier/snow/mountain.

Come back to car. Unzip and remove one puffy jacket sleeve before entering car. Sit, pull on seatbelt. Remove the rest of puffy jacket, get tangled in seatbelt. Undo seatbelt, remove puffy jacket, stuff puffy jacket in a ball on the floor. Remove beanie, gloves and scarf one by one and stuff on the floor. Do up seatbelt. Realise we’ve already arrived at the next waterfall/geyser/glacier/snow/mountain.

As you can tell, it’s a slick routine I have going here.

Most people would think I’m a local if not for the accent.

Welcome to Scotland

Welcome to Scotland

It was four degrees when we arrived in Aberdeen. Four.

That’s ok, we were expecting the cold so we were dressed appropriately when Kristin picked us up from the airport. And even better, Gary had built a roaring fire to welcome us after the long drive to their country home.

A burning, crackling, coal driven, flames hurtling up the chimney roaring fire.

I took my coat off at the front door and we snuggled into the living room with several drams of whisky, welcome to Scotland champagne, a determination not to peak too soon and the roaring fire.

After a while I had to take my shoes off. Gary put more coal onto the fire. We drank some more whisky and champagne, a bottle of red was opened.

It got warmer. I took my socks off. Gary put even more coal onto the fire. We switched to white wine, the whisky kept coming.

It got even warmer. Burning up a wee bit, I took my scarf off. Then I took my jumper off.

Gary put more coal onto the fire and brought out more whisky. I took my shirt off. Then I shoved the sleeves of my long t-shirt up my arms.

It was one degree outside, yet sitting in that tiny living room was like being in a bikram yoga class with endless alcohol.

In danger of stripping down to my underwear, Kristin eventually moved us into the dining room where it was icy cold and much more comfortable.

It wasn’t that we couldn’t feel the cold. Because there’s no way we peaked too soon.