Tag: shopping

To market, to market

To market, to market

Peru

We do love a good market. Fruit and veg, craft, exotic food, artisan, we’re not fussy, we’ll visit any or all. The noise and vibrancy of locals and tourists shopping, eating, touting and wandering is often the heart of a city, and is usually our first port of call when we reach a new destination.

The markets in Peru have been amazing. The stalls are so colourful, the sellers so friendly. There’s been music and food and multitudes of alleyways to explore.

Markets used to be my downfall. Over the years I’ve been easily swayed by items such as fabrics, earrings, bags, shoes, tablecloths, wall hangings, paintings, carvings, bowls, blouses, socks, belly dancing outfits, necklaces, rings (finger and toe), tea, stuffed animals, beads, scarves, pants, carpets, hats, hair ties and key rings, just to name a few.

But not anymore, no sir. I have developed a resourceful and effective ‘analyse and discuss’ technique when colourful, glittery objects catch my eye, and I am going to share six real-life examples I have put into practice in Peru so that you too can consider the same strategy whenever you are tempted.

You’re welcome.

1. Alpaca wool blankets (also alpaca wool shawl, socks, poncho, scarf) – OMG this is so soft, Don feel this, how good would this blanket be on the couch at night while we’re watching tv? Might be a bit hot, yes, true, we do live in Queensland, there’s no need for an alpaca wool anything, but for that one week of winter it would be so good. Yes? Sì?

2. Knotted cotton wrist band with a simple but colourful Inca pattern – oh, look, only one sol, I should buy one and have as a laid back decoration knotted around my wrist, where it’ll get wet and dirty and ragged and eventually lose all of its colour, but still, what better way to represent being carefree and on holidays than a knotted cotton wrist band?

3. Oven mitts with ‘Welcome to Machu Picchu’ embroidered on them – OMG these would be great in our kitchen, not only useful but also a reminder of our time in Peru. I can just see myself removing tamales from the oven, plus the orange matches our wall. Ok, so they’re a bit thin, and yeah, perhaps a little tacky. But they’d be so useful. And nothing says Peru like oven mitts!

4. Peruvian women’s hat – oh wow, I look great in this hat, don’t I look great in this hat? I’d definitely wear this hat, might be a bit hot in summer, but would be perfect for winter. I know I already have three winter hats and several beanies, but come on, this one is from Peru! Made from alpaca! And I look great in this hat!

5. Peruvian earrings just like the ones I owned when I was twenty – oh look, Peruvian earrings just like the ones I owned when I was twenty. Why on earth did I ever get rid of them? I should definitely buy some more, although if I really wanted a new pair I could have bought some at any folk festival over the past twenty odd years. Still, I used to love those earrings.

6. Red ankle boots (with Peruvian fabric inserts) – ooh, boots. I love boots! Red boots! I don’t have any red ankle boots with Peruvian fabric inserts. And they’re cheap for boots. And they’re leather, except for the Peruvian fabric inserts. I could wear these at least twice a year, maybe three times. So cost per wear isn’t so good, but look at them! They’re awesome!

See? Just give me a moment and I can completely talk myself out of all manner of purchases.

Employ this simple technique and you too can enjoy a 35% success rate just like me.

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.

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.

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.

Party in the backyard

Party in the backyard

We’re back in England at Tim and Ruth’s place, it’s 11am and there’s a party going on in the backyard.

Right now there are about 20 starlings, a couple of pigeons and two squirrels – in the bird bath, balanced on the feeders, fighting each other on the grass. One squirrel is hanging from the fat block by one leg, back legs stretched apart as far as they’ll go, guzzling fat as though he’s been deprived of food since last autumn.

We invited them all to the party yesterday by wandering around the yard adding seed to the various feeders, filling a container with peanuts, adding the fat block to its holder and then scattering further bits and pieces across the yard.

I’ve been watching them come and go all morning through the kitchen window. I’ve been cooking while watching the party – breakfast omelets, roasted swede soup, shortbread. We’re in no rush to go anywhere today; Don will eventually pop in to London to look at comic books and musical instruments, and I’m going to the Guy Fawkes bonfire night this evening, but otherwise we’re on a down day.

And it’s fabulous.

We’re on day 51 now, and on almost every day we’ve been away there have been things to see and do. We’ve walked for miles, eaten out for most meals, sat on planes, trains and buses, consulted maps, read guide books, taken photos, talked to locals, climbed towers, browsed galleries. It’s a great adventure and we’re loving every single second, but when you’re travelling for this long you really need some time to just sit on a couch and watch tv, read, do nothing.

We’re lucky because we’re staying with friends and can do just that. I honestly think I could sit in Tim and Ruth’s conservatory and watch the birds and squirrels all day. They’re different birds to those in Australia and we certainly don’t have squirrels, so I’m going to count it as sightseeing.

Although I don’t often spend the whole day sightseeing in my pyjamas.

The stuff of Italy

The stuff of Italy

Surely it’s impossible not to love Italy.

I remember the first time we came – our plan was to spend a few days, then head to Brindisi and catch the ferry to Greece. But Italy sucked us in; we bought one of those limited kilometres train tickets, carefully counted our lira and camped all over the place.

And now Italy has sucked us into its big, bold warmth again. Every city we’ve been in so far I’ve turned to the others and just grinned with the sheer happiness of being here, with my friends, in the sunshine, exploring, eating, relaxing, learning. I’ve had these moments in other places too, but Italy is special.

Because Italy is jam packed with stuff. Crammed into every corner, stuff. From the west to the east, down to the toe and through the islands, great stuff upon even better stuff. Old stuff, new stuff, delicious stuff. Painted stuff, historic stuff, ruined stuff. Pretty and designer stuff. Famous stuff to see, secret stuff to discover.

And in all of that stuff, I can’t think of a single thing that’s wrong. Sure, there are lots of tourists, and some things can be expensive, but whatever. It’s all a part of it. You want history? Italy’s got it. You want food? Every restaurant, cafe, gelateria is a winner. Art? More than covered. Shopping? Don’t get me started. Wine? Don’t make me laugh.

We’ve eaten pasta, pizza, pastries, gelato, cheeses, meats. We’ve seen paintings, frescoes and statues, visited churches, palaces, towers, ruins and monasteries. It’s never-ending – people-watching piazzas, rich, perfect coffee, beautiful wine, scenic landscapes. Quirky little shops, designer stores to look but not buy, markets to haggle in. Big cities, little towns, each with its own identity, its own showstoppers.

And now we are in Livorno, coastal town, with other close friends and even more to explore – canals, markets, food, day trips.

So much stuff.

For the third time in my life I threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain. A guarantee I’ll be doing the turn and grin again.

Up, down, shake it all around

Up, down, shake it all around

Italy

Indulge me for a moment while I focus on the selfie stick.

The selfie stick is one of those items that are at the same time dreadfully touristy and incredibly useful. The benefits are obvious – not all friendly tourists will take a nice pic of you – and yet we still hesitate to buy one, not wanting to join the throngs wandering about, sticks in the air, heads bobbing about.

Our friend Ruth has a selfie stick; she brought it with her on our trip to Italy.

Our friend Ruth is an intelligent, funny and capable woman, however mastering the selfie stick seems to be a skill that has totally bypassed her. And nothing – nothing – on this trip to Italy has made us laugh so hard, so loud, so tears streaming down our face shrieking, as Ruth taking our photo using the selfie stick.

We don’t get it out much because it takes a short discussion on appropriateness and importance of the proposed site followed by around 45 minutes of assembly. In fact until today we’d only used it three times: for a photo at the Roman forum with Ruth’s head chopped off, a photo at the Spanish Steps without the Spanish Steps in it and a photo of our black shapeless head silhouettes in front of some blurry backlit columns somewhere in Rome.

The thing is, I really don’t know how it always goes so wrong what with all of the instructions the rest of us provide for Ruth to follow. Particularly Tim. Because wives love it when their husbands shout a string of conflicting instructions at them. Take this morning when we went for our fourth attempt with the selfie stick on a cute little canal bridge in Venice. After the assembly process, Ruth lifted the stick, and it was on.

“Tilt it back!”

“Straighten it up!”

“Lift it higher!”

“Move your head!”

“You move your head!”

“Lower!”

“Higher!”

“Sideways!”

“The other sideways!”

“Wait, I need my sunglasses!”

“Don’s not in!”

“I said straighten it up!”

“Tim’s too tall!”

“I can’t hold this pose much longer!”

“Tilt it 80 degrees left!”

“Sure, let me get my protractor out!”

“Wait, I’ll take my hat off.”

“I can’t find the button!”

“It’s on the bottom!”

“It’s on the side!”

“Now!”

“Now!”

“Now!”

Click.

And so we have added to our collection a photo on a Venice bridge, three smiling faces and Don sliced perfectly down the middle.