Canadian Cousins visit Sardinia

One has to be careful with inviting us to events, we may end up saying yes and book a trip to come to your wedding, even if it is in Sardinia. Not only that but we will end up pretending we are your cousins and take family portrait photos. If they want to make a sequel to Wedding Crashers we are available to be cast in the cousin roles.

The trip to Sardinia started with a classic sequence of dragging suitcases through London public transport, a low cost RyanAir flight, a check-in where I had to shift a kilogram from one bag to another to avoid extra pay, a fire alarm to push us out of the bar where we were spending the 3 hour flight delay, a panic session when Husband Chris realized that he did not get his international driving permit, and an attempt to contact the car rental company to check if they are still open when we arrive after 10 pm. There was no applause when the flight landed, but all was streamlined and within an hour we were at our farmhouse dragging suitcases again but this time to our room.

Alghero
We chose a farmhouse, Agriturismo Berlinga to stay for the first three days of the trip. It was near Alghero and by the time we arrived on the first night we were asking for anything to eat, a sandwich or something and  in turn they fed us a three course meal. It was a very decent location, well priced for the home cooked meal you get, the type of farm where they have their own lambs and they use their own produce. It wasn’t as romantic as the Masseria Serragambetta in Puglia but still we enjoyed our stay. Our room was in front of this lovely hill and as we were dragging our bags to the room on the first night, Husband appreciated the personal touch, a 4x ashtray in front of our room. Australian traditions travel far don’t they.

We made a visit to the Grotte di Nettuno and yes we took the stairs, although on the verge of dehydration, we enjoyed it all from the spectacular forms to the mesmerizing colour of the sea around. After the hot climb up the stairs, we went for a dip and later on spent the afternoon in town. It seems to be a great location for tourists with lots of places to enjoy a meal by the sea and plenty of street life. Around the city center I managed to take stock of probably a million red coral pieces of jewelry. Unfortunately the multitude had a negative effect and couldn’t appreciate any of it after a while.

Sardinia - Algero.

Bosa
Poor Husband Chris got sick as soon as we landed but sniffles and all he was amazing and drove us on the first day through a spectacular coastal trip from Alghero to Bosa. Gorgeous, breathtaking and any other travel brochure compliments you can think of can apply to this scenery. Environmentalists say that the Mediterranean has some of its cleanest patches of water here. On the way there are spots where you can stop and off the side of the road you will find little secluded beaches and even the bigger beach at Bosa Marina is well worth a dip. We were here a bit off season when the water was a bit chilly and Italians from all over the country can get some peace of mind while they enjoy their porcetto without the pesky tourists with their nosy cameras, yes, Husband Chris I am talking about you.

The town has lovely coloured houses and and a castle towering over, making sure everyone is well protected and don’t be shy to try the figs from the trees around, they are delicious.

Sardinia - Coastal Road.

Sardinia - Coastal Road.

Sardinia - Coastal Road.

Sardinia - Bosa.

Sorso
This is a very cute little town and it is here at the Pallazzo Baronale were our dear friends joined forces to become a super couple of awesomeness. The celebration was sweet with lots of love cheering them on, followed by a choir and a crowd awaiting them outside wearing masks of the happy couple. We were whisked away in a mini bus for a 20 min drive of excitement and horn blowing to let the world know we are celebrating. The wedding reception and party was idyllic to say the least, at Kent’Annos a restaurant and winery in a gorgeous scenery, where we could snap photos of the couple as silhouettes against the sunset over the vineyard. Please make sure you read these lines with violins in the background and if you have some delicious food dripping over the keyboard, then you may be recreating some of the atmosphere of the event. We wore our cousin roles impeccably and we almost convinced the groom’s family to invite us over for family Christmas lunch. A perfect wedding ending with Husband Chris in tears of laughter before we made a run to the bus and even on the last steps before departing, we did a group dance on Jump, Jump with our dear aunt while waving good bye to the happy couple. Let these memories keep us warm over the winter, during our hibernation months.

Castelsardo
Some lovely views walking around the top of this town. We also had a mini tour of a chapel where you can find beautiful works of Maestro di Castelsardo, whose identity is still unclear. From the end 15th century to the beginning of 16th, the pieces are typical Renaissance all with influences of linear perspective. I can whip terms like that in a sentence after months of listening to our great teachers at Art History from Khan Academy.

Stintino
La Pelosa beach had the most outstanding water I have ever seen. Of course this statement caused Husband Chris to puff his feathers as a proud Australian. To lil ol’ Romanian girl, although exposed to the beauty of the Black Sea, this still was the most clear water I have ever bathed in.

Sardinia - La Pelosa.

Sardinia - La Pelosa.

Sassari
We did not have a chance to spend a lot of time here except a walk around the centre, which of course had some fun pieces of architecture to enjoy.

Sardinia - Sassari.

Food Craving
The highlight is without a doubt the amazing wedding menu at at Kent’Annos in Sennori. The porcetto arrosto was probably the best I have ever had.

Sardinia - Wedding.

A second celebration with the lovely couple was at L’Agnata di De Andrè. After spending most of our time near the coast, this was a beautiful in-land drive, between mountains to the once summer home of the Italian singer Fabrizio De André. A beautiful meal in a truly amazing setting. I have never heard of the singer before but after listening a bit and reading about him, he was a legend with a very rich life.

Memories Hunting
I was ready to spend money on lots of handmade carpets and rugs and handicrafts. As it turns out that was not as easy as one thinks. We tried to find ISOLA locations, the organisation that protects artisans and their work but the ones we found in our little guide were not really there. So instead we found a lovely carpet in Bosa. In Castelsardo we entered the house of little old lady who was selling straw plates she made and we snatched one while she was establishing our income based on our professions.

I shall end this post thanking the lovely couple for giving us the opportunity to discover little parts of Sardinia, to experience a beautiful celebration of love and help define our role in the family. Congratulations!!

Sardinia - Wedding.

Posted in The Wanderer | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Norfolk Mistery

Oh vacation plans. It seems like a fun easy enough thing to do but having now to consider vacation days as a finite entity is motivating to make the most of it. Our original plan for this year was to head back to our Australian home for the holidays and see family, especially since our twins there are growing up so fast that I am afraid they will forget my name. Partly due to our extended home search we put that plan on pause for now. Instead, we seem to have a wedding attending kind of year. For the first time in my life we are able to say yes to a few of them. We had a lovely Polish wedding in Toronto, we were invited to an Italian/English wedding in Sardinia and an upcoming family wedding in Florida. We already missed two beautiful events, one in Kenya and one in Australia, so when we received the invitation of our Mancunian friends for their Italian nuptials we put our planning hats on. We managed to set up a trip to see family, friends and reserve a bit of time for ourselves.

First part of the trip was to our adoptive country, England.

A lot of thought was put into if we are ready to go back to Manchester, and although every other day I have The Smiths in my ear, I thought it was too soon; which is a bit disappointing since we could not see some very dear friends of ours this time. The scenario that describes the best how I feel about it is a break up while you still have feelings for each other. It is better not to see each other for a while until we are ready to move on to the next phase of our relationship. I know Manchester will be part of our lives in one way or another but for now we needed the distance; there is still chemistry there.

We landed in the morning and enjoyed a very odd day London. We had such a full on week preceding the trip and with no sleep from the flight I felt a bit like a zombie. We spent the day visiting work friends and being escorted around by Mr. E, a regular wander companion, one of our favourite partners in travel adventures. My first blog post with travels had a feature of him. We also had a bit of a half a day to spend on our way from Italy and it was worth mentioning that Mr. E took us to see Warhorse an impressive play with some amazing puppetry. I also have to brag a bit about Mr. E, as he is not just a loud laughing/sneezing pretty face. Oh no, no he is also a smart one and he works with, be ready for it, Hydrogen Fuel Cells. Yes people, he is on the cusp of very interesting research work which of course, makes me look very good. I can work it in conversations and spin it, maybe even bring up Mr. H and G biking around the world and dinner conversations will be impressed everywhere. Here is a video to see what he does.

London.

We may have not made it to Australia, but we are lucky enough to have family a bit closer, so most of our time in UK was spent with my sister-in-law and her husband (S & P), on a trip in Norfolk, to remind us why we love UK. It was a lovely three days spent in green wonderland, with exquisite food, some nice walks and some happy family time. It is an easy yes to any suggestion coming from S & P, we blindly trust their choice of places to see and food to eat.

Our homebase in Norfolk was Cley next the Sea.
We stayed in a cute, welcoming cottage Sky Blue Cottage, where a Victoria Sponge Cake awaited us. Enough said. Within walking distance was the beach, with a classic windmill, the Cley Towermill to be admired on the way. One of my birthday gifts included a book called ‘The Norfolk Mystery’ by Ian Sansom, a cute little murder mystery to accompany me, and make me chuckle everytime I recognize the name of a place.

Norfolk.
Norfolk.

Blickling Hall
The Blickling Hall, a gorgeous location, at some point owned by the Boleyn family. What spectacular grounds, and garden. We were lying on the grass embracing the beauty of it all and imagining how much work and how many gardeners are needed to maintain it.

Norfolk.

Sheringham Park
I can imagine this place being an absolutely breathtaking to walk through during blooming spring season. A bit late in the game, our walk was lovely nonetheless with a bit of rain and lots of cute dogs along the way.

Norfolk.

Wells-next-the-Sea
We visited the seaside here and it was one of those unique times when the tide was all way out and we were walking on the long, looong beach. A bit of an odd experience to see it like this and think you are walking on land rightfully belonging to the sea.

Norfolk.

Food Cravings
There is never shortage of good places to eat in London. We tried to make it to the good ol’ Koya but we found it closed, so instead we ended up at Princi. It is a challenge to find something you don’t like there, even if you just look at the colors of their food and you are happy. We started there and on our departure day we had a lovely breakfast at Caravan.

The highlight was the delicious sea food we had in Norfolk. A home dinner with seafood from Cookie’s Crab shop, a third generation owned place in Salthouse. A second delicious seafood lunch from Wiveton Hall Café with a beautiful crab salad and for dessert scone with an amazing raspberry jam. Cley had some lovely locally sourced shops with both Picnic Fayre and Cley Smokehouse.

Norfolk.

Memories Hunting
Of course I bought something to bring home. Although the temptation was high with a great ceramic store in Cley, I only bought books on this trip. The Bickling Estate has a lovely bookshop, selling old books to help support the estate, here I bought ‘Diary of a Nobody’ by George and Weedon Grossmith from the Folio Society. Meanwhile in Cley there is another lovely shop Crabpot Books, where I purchased a fun pair of books by Milan Kundera and Oscar Wilde. From previous posts you may have noticed our obsession with buying unreasonably difficult items to transport such as bowls or plates. I paced myself this time and started the trip with books, heavy at least they are not breakables.

We ended our trip with dreams of future plans for family travels and until next time we are back in our adoptive country we shall buy overpriced Jaffa Cakes from the British Goods store in Toronto.

Posted in The Wanderer | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mont-Tremblant, where the cool kids hike

We are off to explore this big country of ours, even if it is for a few days to celebrate Canada Day. I booked us for a mini trip only 580 kms away from Toronto near Mont-Tremblant, Quebec in a little village called Brebéuf. A mini 5-day vacation spent sleeping, hiking and fighting mosquitoes.

The first hike was 6.5 kms that made me doubt my fitness levels, if any. The weeks before the trip I walked from work home on 7-8 km-tracks twice a week. That did not help at all on our mountain hike. There are multiple options from the ski resort to reach the Mont-Tremblant summit and from the looks of it I did not think it was such a challenge considering the elevation of 875 meters, nothing for such professionals like us. The hikes we did in 2012 still count as recent experience, don’t they? Who cares that we started the climb at 2 PM, that we only had one bottle of water, or that there was a big blown up poster of a mosquito with a warning to use a protective spray. Those types of warnings are for novices. The track we chose, Le Grand Brulé was a strenuous hike up and within an hour and a half I was already tired and convinced we did more than half of it. Man oh man, the moment we reached the map to tell us we only did a third of it, I was both scared and embarrassed. We powered through although at times I was sure we were lost, Chris gave up drinking any of the little water we had left and his legs were prime target for the bugs around. As we approached the top we decided the easiest thing to do, considering the late time of the day was to take the zipline down. When we finally reached the summit and no one was there, I really wondered how we could be so irresponsible.

We took a step back and thought of Mr. H & G, who are two adventurer friends mentioned in other blog posts here. By the way please go and follow their blog as they document a trip they are doing by bike from London to China. Their general approach is very inspiring and we channelled them as we tried to be very relaxed and go with the flow when we rolled at the top of the mountain with no water, no zipline, no people, and a man closing down the telegondola for the day. It was almost 7 pm and as the sun was getting ready to set a knight in shining armour rode up in his truck and was generous enough to accept to take us down. I was sitting there, grateful for not having to panic in the dark over the hike down, realizing I do not understand anything and I should get back to learning French.

Mont-Tremblant

The second day we drove into the Mont-Tremblant National Park, the impressive home of 6 rivers and 400 lakes. We only did a small walk around the Lac des Femmes, a beautiful forest and lake site, a few banks of butterflies on the way, a pheasant too fast to photograph and a scared duck. All in all a lovely walk, a bit rushed again due to some flies/mosquitoes. We also saw a beautiful deer munching away as well as some woodpeckers working their way through some bark.

Mont-Tremblant.

Mont-Tremblant.

This was just a little trip, and we should return during the fall time to properly dedicate some more time to enjoy the sights. Maybe I can be in better shape by next time.

Food Cravings
We enjoyed a lovely stop over meal in Ottawa at The Whalesbone.
While in Brebéuf we bought groceries for most meals and enjoyed some of the local produce and also a rewarding pasta dinner at Mille Pâtes.

Ottawa stop.

Farmer's Breakfast in Quebec.

Posted in The Wanderer | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I see grass again, Toronto

We did it! We committed to embrace Toronto with the same curiosity as we did Manchester and after a few months here I feel we are on our way. When we were bathing in the sun, in Brisbane we were discussing how to properly enjoy winter and how we would need suitable clothes. So we made an investment, and now we use words like base layers, medium layers, ski pants, wool socks and I visit websites like Icebreaker and MEC. Actually with Icebreaker we have a slight affinity as it kept us warm after we bought a pair of leggings in New Zealand.

This post is a good fit in the Wanders section due to a couple of winter trips. One for me to learn how to ski and the second we had a go at ice climbing. Both experiences had varying levels of success.

Winter.

Winter.

For skiing we went to Blue Mountain, a couple of hours away from Toronto, a bit of a similar look and feel to the peaks of British Columbia. I should not be a smart mouth considering there were slopes in the resort I didn’t not even touch. Although plagued a by a two day headache, I managed to go from the kiddies slope to the graduate level, still within the learning slopes. I enjoyed the thrill of it and the combination of excitement and fear. I had a slight fall at the end to baptize the experience and my left knee still reminds me once in a while that I began the year with a skiing adventure.

A few weeks after, we joined our friends at their cottage in Halliburton, same place where we met the hungriest chipmunk as portrayed in a previous post. The house is by the lake, appropriately named Maple Lake and Saturday we enjoyed it frozen, covered with more than a meter of snow, of course taking lots of photos and even disturbing the peace of some local ice fishers. I do not remember ever seeing so much snow.

On the second day, we had a very modest go at ice climbing with a guide, of course. The sentence: ‘I tried ice climbing while I had a slight knee injury from skiing’ is something I didn’t think I would say or write anytime soon.  While skiing was excitement + fear, this was hard work + adrenalin. For training we had a small climb where I was the last one to go and I can’t say it was a good appetizer. For the second climb, a more serious setup, I did a lot better. I guess the adrenalin kicked in and by the end I felt grateful that Husband Chris is pushing me to do weights once in a while at the gym and also very  happy that I did not need to go to the bathroom after spending 6 hours in the cold. The day itself was absolutely splendid, sunny and no wind.

Winter.

Winter.

One other thing we have done to embrace this winter, was to walk in our park both during snow and ice storms. One evening while still dark Husband Chris made his first snow angel, a worthy event in the life of an Australian. Oddly enough during summer time I never had the courage to walk through the park in the dark, winter time the reflection from the snow lit it up, creating a beautiful setup for either a romantic movie or a thriller, depending on your imagination.

Winter.

Winter activities and hibernation aside, some recent highlights include an excellent exhibition at the AGO, The Great Upheaval with works from 1910 – 1918 brought in from Guggenheim, a play in support of local writers at Passe Muraille Theatre, booked a few more Romanian plays coming up in spring and managed to see one movie since the beginning of the year.

Food Cravings
We have revisited Yakitori Bar and still love their Ramen and we have replaced our local Japanese restaurant with a new one, Kiyomizu, near Yonge and Sheppard, with a promising first experience.

Memento Hunting
Local shopping has been quiet, except the stuff I bought from One of a Kind Show, which was indeed sufficient. A worthy mention is Eliot’s Bookshop and a great record shop Around Again, on the same street as the Yakitori Bar, how convenient :).

And to wrap this post: ‘I see grass again Toronto!’. I am ready for spring.

Posted in The Wanderer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thank you 2013

I had a similar post at the beginning of the previous year and it felt like a good idea to recap some of the highlight moments of 2013. We started the year in one part of the world and ended it in another. In between these, here are some of the moments.

Travel highlights:

  • Rainbow Lorekeets coming everyday to collect the nectar from a tree in Husband Chris’ mom and dad’s garden.
  • Lady Elliot Island. I have added to my happy place, the moment when I kept cleaning the back of the green turtle and as she would see me drift away with the current, she would let herseft drift too.
  • Louvre and British Museum, following the stories of Art History from Khan Academy, we went in search of some of the pieces described there.
  • Napoli. Loved every part of this trip and it made my introduction to Italy memorable.
  • Easter in Galipoli and Conversano at a Masseria in Southern Italy.
  • Picking wild garlic in the woods in Romania and walking around Bucharest in spring.
  • Witnessing the passion of the people working at Noma, Copenhagen.
  • First mini trips around North America with Husband Chris, family and friends: Montreal, New Jersey and Brooklyn.

Personal highlights:

  • Started the year with one pair of twins, ended it with a second one. Both my brother and Husband Chris’ brother have a pair of boy and girl twins. All four are spectacular and we are very lucky to have them in our lives.
  • Spent time with all parents during the year. In our case, with them over three continents, it is a highlight.
  • Had our first guests in Toronto, both family and friends.
  • Started my Etsy shop with prints dear to me.
  • Bought an old piece of furniture and restored it into a beautiful record cabinet, more about that in its own post later on.
  • Read 30 books.
  • Sorted through a lot of our packed boxes.

On a personal level, it has been the year when all the big changes we were going through, have started wrapping up. The move to Toronto, Canada finally completed in May. It has been exciting, fun, surprising, scary, hard at times and probably many other things. It is not my first move, not even my second. It gets easier with each one, as I learned to embrace the change in a proactive and curious manner, creating a great adventure out of it. With that being said, we have moments when we miss people, things and places. I think it is important to acknowledge the richness of those emotions as well. They only show we have felt love where we went and it is normal to cherish it even if it is far.

And now onto our new home with some Toronto highlights:

  • We have discovered some nice walking paths and parks around our place.
  • Kayaking on the Humber River. It was a great surprise to see such beauty right here within our reach.
  • Discovering the fun parts of Toronto: CN Tower visit, a couple of theatre plays,  some great food. The impressive multiculturalism of the city translates very well to a multitude of food choices, both for buying and dining. I have documented some on this Pinterest board.
  • We have welcomed Stuart in our lives, a Norfolk Pine tree who I hope will accompany us for many years to come.
  • We enjoyed three seasons here and they were all intense and beautiful. The summer hot and humid at times, a beautifully coloured fall in Toronto and briefly in Montreal and proper winter. We witnessed an ice storm. More importantly, we saw frozen trees for the first times in our lives.
  • A trip to the cottage where we saw a snapping turtle, loons and bears, and the most adorable chipmuk.
  • Husband Chris added a few more, of his specifically: the embracing of local sports and a job search which ended close to Christmas on a high note and embarked him on a new adventure.

Before we let 2014 take center stage here is a video and a few photos to salute the year passed.

Canada.

Canada.

Canada.

Canada.

Canada.

Posted in Mon Atelier, The Wanderer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Copenhagen, Red Lady Swinging

This is again a feature by Husband Chris. Here it goes.

I’m not sure if we would’ve made it to Copenhagen this time around if it wasn’t for the idea of going to experience the much coveted, once rated world’s best restaurant, Noma. But as it turned out, we decided that we had to go. Wife A. managed to book for a Thursday lunch, it was agreed that our additional guests would take time off work to make it. Then, we managed to book for the Saturday lunch for 6 people that included my Mum and Dad. What a goldmine.

So we arrived, after a fair bit of delay getting train tickets at the most confusing train station I’ve ever experienced, and made it to where we were staying. Self-contained apartments near The Little Mermaid statue. It was awesome to see my parents again after a few months of traveling around Europe and a stay in Romania. We spent the first night just relaxing, the months and months of traveling had been absolutely tremendous but also very tiring. Carrying our luggage to various airports, train stations and cars had taken its toll slightly.

The next day we awoke at a reasonable time and spent the day walking around exploring Copenhagen. It was really beautiful and the weather was gorgeous, very sunny and more fresh than cold. We had breakfast at a café with really good sandwiches and coffee. So nice to have a strong café-made espresso after a good night’s sleep. We then walked around the Rosenberg Palace Garden, where everyone seemed to be enjoying the beautiful weather lying on the grass. I honestly felt as though I could’ve laid down for a few hours myself. We continued on exploring the many interesting yet expensive shops around the city. Dad wanting to buy stuff with Mum attempting to discourage him as much as possible. We stopped at a few furniture shops, I could’ve have easily bought a whole living room, so original. That night my sister and her husband arrived to complete the gang.

Copenhagen.

Copenhagen.

The day of the booking we left, walking 2 hours before lunch was to start. I knew that Dad, and Wife A., would want to take photos along the way. We arrived just in time for our booking. We were greeted by about 20 of the waiting staff as we walked into the door all saying hello at the same time. The menu was set for that particular time of the year. I can barely remember all the dishes we had, but since then I have been given the new Noma book so that has refreshed my memory quite well. The restaurant is astonishing to say the least. The food is original and intriguing. The wine again, original and delicious. The juice menu is arguably better than the wine menu. I did have a wine that tasted very much like the one Wife A’s aunt makes from scratch back in Romania. I was also interested to see that they served wild garlic in a number of their dishes, something we had foraged for back in Romania a couple of weeks earlier. All in all the experience is hard to describe in just one blog post, but I must admit I did feel a little overwhelmed with the number of dishes and the need to try absolutely everything and as many new things as possible. I had been reading about their coffee service for weeks before we went to the restaurant but I found it hard to appreciate after so many dishes. I guess we will just have to go back. We went for a tour of the kitchen after the meal, a real, real treat. It looks like a really great place to work and I actually got to have a quick chat with the head chef Rene while he was rushing to attend to something. A down to earth and nice guy.

Copenhagen.

Copenhagen.

The rest of our time in Copenhagen seems like a dream now. Spending time with my wife, parents, sister and her husband, really something special and to cherish. We paid a visit to the design museum, which was very cool. Some really funky patterns and a good collection of both past and recent art/design work from that part of the world. A really unique place and somewhere I would very much like us to revisit at least once more.

Memories Hunting
The stores were pricey but we managed to find a print that had to come home with us. With found it in a shop called Cinnober a lovely print by Rasmus Bregnhøi. We saw it, left it there since we thought we should resist, next day we ended up buying it. When it still speaks to you after you left the shop maybe the duck experience, the topic of the print, needs to come back with you.

So with a red woman swinging and a duck experience we can wrap up the European Travels and get ready for some North American adventures.

Copenhagen.

Posted in The Wanderer | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cologne, London and Manchester – The triplets of Ancaville

Before the trip to Canada, the excuse for all this traveling, we did a round of our regulars.

Cologne
I have very fond memories of this trip. First of all our friends there are such good hosts that they always wait for us with a smile at the airport and a table full of food. We ended up doing a Mr. Bean Marathon for the weekend, have a couple of nice dinners and watch some more Mr Bean. Cologne is a nice city to walk around, so we did just that with a pit-stop at an amazing postcard shop Postkarten on Breite Str. and another to have a curry wurst to satisfy Husband Chris’ craving.

Cologne.

Cologne.

London
All our trips to London have fond memories revolving around family and friends and the word indulgence comes to mind to describe these encounters. This trip was no exception with the addition of a couple of new experiences. My sister-in-law treated us to a visit up the Shard, an impressive view on an overcast evening but quite spectacular as the sun broke the clouds into the sunset.

We also walked for the first time through Notting Hill. Us and a sea of people, mostly tourists snapping photos, looking at millions of souvenirs and slowly making our way to the lovely shop Books for Cooks. Mr. E, our friend/ travel companion featured in many posts here got me one of their cookbooks and three deserts I made from it were well appreciated.

London is always good for food. So we went back at Honey & Co. I love the food but this time I did not like the conveyor belt feeling. We were assigned a time for the table and also rushed quite a bit through the entire meal. We had a family and friends dinner at The Guilford Arms. These gatherings have such a double edge sword feeling to them. It is a reminder that we are very lucky to have such good amazing loving people in our lives. But it stings as you are saying goodbye and we are going to miss them for a period of time. Anyway, same old story really.

London.

Manchester
We didn’t have a plan to go to Manchester since we felt it would be too confusing to go back and not have a home there so soon after leaving. But I get excited and I promised we would stop by to see friends so we ended up having one day in Manchester, a day when the sun was shining. We walked around familiar places and I still felt this place is my own. I left and I am not part of it anymore but it is part of me. It was good the trip was so short , we didn’t have time to analyze things too much. But it was strange to walk around and see a few changes already. We were gone for 8 months only and the BBC building on Oxford Road gone, a building on Oldham Road burned down, and the huge Co-op building behind our flat was almost completed. I went to the Manchester Craft and Design Center, the place where we also had our wedding rings made and bought some lovely tiles from Lee Page Hanson Ceramics with local birds. Here I also randomly bumped into our yoga teacher, the teacher who gave me enough confidence to try and do a headstand. I very much miss her classes.

We went to Home Sweet Home for milkshakes, to Cornerhouse for coffee, to Marble Arch for dinner and Odder Bar for drinks with friends. This day felt more like a celebration of our time here, rather than the day we drove off with a car packed of boxes a few months earlier.

Manchester.

Manchester.

I keep saying that I write these posts months after their occurrence and although they are not recent, this delay brings a clarity to my memories and feelings. We are embracing our life in Toronto and with a ski learning trip booked for January, we are really discovering the beauty of Canada. This being said, there is room in my heart and mind to walk around Manchester whenever I miss it, imagine what new street art they are doing around Fred Aldous, walk around London trying to get to one place or another, and spending an hour in a postcard shop in Cologne. So I keep the memories fresh and carry them with me as a prized treasure reminding me that our time here is valuable and we must enjoy it and learn from it as much as we can.

Posted in The Wanderer | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring in Bucharest

We revisited Bucharest to see family and friends on the way back from Puglia, before we left for Canada. It seemed like the time we had put aside for this part of the trip, four weeks, was too short. Then again it is always too short and it always goes by very quickly. As part of my trips back home, I am learning to put myself there as a priority, if not first then in the top three. Usually I end up doing many things and spending a lot of time running around and not enough time with new stuff I want to do. I am getting better at choosing a few activities beforehand and trying to get them done as well taking advantage of being close to family and friends. I am happy we had the chance to do some things I haven’t done in a long time or never at all. We were there during springtime so it was lovely to walk around the Herastrau Park with its beautiful Japanese Garden. A lot of teenage love seemed to be proclaimed between the blooming cheery trees.

Bucharest.

Bucharest.

We enjoyed a couple of trips to the Romanian Peasant Museum, one for a proper visit inside and another to buy a couple of things from their incredible shop. It is an artisan shop, as many places and markets you can see around Romania but it also has real clothing and house pieces which were brought in to sell. The reasons behind that may be a bit sad, people having to let go of their traditional items and clothing either from lack of money or interest. But I guess by purchasing them and wearing them we would give them a new life and nurture the appreciation for the incredible craftsmanship. We also ended up buying plates and bowls again. I think a slight obsession is settling in. But when you see such beauties it is hard not to imagine them on a table with people around sharing stories and food. The ones we bought this time were made by the ceramist Les Gábor.

We also paid a visit to the Palace of the Parliament, also known as one of the largest buildings in the world, the place meant to house Nicolae Ceasescu’s ego. Ironically he never had a chance to live in it. When the revolution came in 1989 it was still in progress. Most of it was completed but the finishes and other interior work was not done. For a few years after that they had to decide if they were going to continue the work or demolish it. It is big, there is indeed a lot of incredible work done inside mostly with local materials and by local artists. Although the maintenance of it is a tremendous task, preserving some of work done and trying to find new life for it to justify some of the sacrifices made to build it, could make it worthwhile.

Bucharest.

Bucharest.

We enjoyed a long series of theatre plays, from children’s plays at ‘Ion Creanga’ Theatre to a few comedies at Metropolis and a drama at Nottara. Husband Chris, my Australian husband learning Romanian made it to most of them and did not fall asleep once with an understanding rate of probably 30%.

Food Cravings
After Italy maybe we should have ignored all food cravings and get on a diet. We were even so motivated that we joined the gym. We went three times and then didn’t have time anymore, trading it for walks around the city or visits. Enough about exercise, how could we not enjoy food especially since my aunt was so happy to take us picking wild garlic in the woods. I don’t know how pleased was husband Chris during the threatre plays but during picking plants in the woods he was very giddy. Also she has a beautiful farm with lots of vegetables and fruits and more importantly goats, baby goats. Maybe I shouldn’t mention this under a section called food cravings but I guess it is related to the farm and the little beauty is alive and well, surrounded by fellow goats.

Romania.

We even ventured to new restaurants this time. A few that I would not mind re-visiting are: Lacrimi si Sfinti, Violeta’s Bistro, great location and decent food at Zexe, always animated at Caru cu Bere or raw at Rawdia.

I am not sure when we are going back home but in the meantime when we look at the sky (Priveste Cerul) we will sometimes think of it.

Bucharest.

Posted in The Wanderer | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Gallipoli, Castellana and the rest – Mr. Bean goes to Puglia (Part 2)

Gallipoli
As we were driving into Gallipoli again, Mr. H made it clear that he needs to follow a so called tradition by now, where they, Chris became part of this, have to have a dip in the water. They managed to do it although I was happily wearing a jacket, and the water was freezing cold. And to celebrate another Mr. Bean episode, they flashed both construction workers nearby and each other while changing back into their clothes.

After a few days in Otranto and in Salve, Gallipoli seemed like a huge city. The little Gallipoli Island is clearly a tourist spot, but probably the one thing that completely stands out in my memory about the place, is the religious traditions they hold around Easter. We spent Good Friday here and the preparations for it were impressive. As evening approached, we could see Christian brotherhoods rigorously organizing processions inspired by the activities of the Jesuits missionaries, meant to depict the struggle of Jesus Christ against the human sins. It was memorable to stay by the edge of the water, and watch one group after another, each one dressed differently and beating the drums, creating the sound of a giant beating heart.

Gallipoli.

Christian Brotherhoods.

One incredibly odd tradition during the Holy Week is the hanging of a witch from a rope between buildings. It is extremely eerie to walk around in the evening and catch the sight of one on a side street.

There were no mementos purchased here but we visited one beautiful pharmacy, ‘Provenzano’ built in 1814. A memorable place where they still have a working pharmacy now, with a lot of the old medicine bottles or jugs, beautifully decorated and painted.

Gallipoli Pharmacy.

Food Cravings
We enjoyed a nice dinner at home for once, with lots of goodies bought around everywhere. It is here, where we discovered lupini beans for the first time. We also had a very nice lunch at ‘Il Giardino Segreto‘.

Near Castellana, Bari
We ended the trip with the last two days near Castellana, Bari at the Masseria Serragambetta. This place checks of so many points for the ideal vacation spot. It is family owned and they make you feel like you should come back soon, really really soon. There is a clear feeling that their hospitality is a second nature to them and it is not just a job. They enjoy making you feel like you chose well stopping here. Their produce and food, are locally sourced or made on site as much as possible. The host, Domenico will have you dance one evening and send you off sightseeing the next morning. We had a glorious walk around the Masseria, looking at the various olive, almonds and mandarin trees and we spent our last day, Easter Day at their place. The preparations were fit for a great celebration and the dining room was fully occupied, with tourists and with local people. I lost count of the number of courses but I clearly remember we would take breaks in between them to walk around and try to make more room for the rest of the feast. The Sunday evening we were due to fly to Bucharest and Mr. H and Mrs. G drove us to the airport in Bari, but not without first having Domenico take us to a nearby small town to have a farewell gelato. It was a comical ending to the trip as we were illegally parking, and storming through a busy Easter-Sunday crowd, to get this last taste of gelato.

Masseria Serragambetta.

Masseria Serragambetta.

Other Trip Highlights

Olive Oil Tasting at Terra Nostra
On the way to Galipoli, we had the fortune of a guided tour of the Terra Nostra olive oil factory. We ended there as a result of your regular sequence of events: go have a coffee in a small place, start a random conversation with a stranger, stranger sees we are tourists and one thing leads to another, we are following her car to an olive oil heaven. The Terra Nostra tour guide was so patient to explain every step alongside a delicious tasting of the oils. We, of course, left with a few bottles.

Macelleria Da Antonio
Oh bless the randomness of it all. We were driving towards Bari, our last destination, when Mr. H got all excited that we need to stop the car and take a photo. Mrs. G stopped in front of the Macelleria Da Antonio, a seemingly simple act. This resulted in a tasting in the store of various local cheeses and sausages, meeting the Antonio’s family, including his beautiful wife, a very lovely and friendly daughter and a very popular son freshly riding a wave of popularity post his Big Brother Italy stint, an invitation to lunch to at their home and a visit to their farm to pat their donkeys.

Antonio's.

Alberobello
A tourist spot now, for its incredible architecture, Alberobello makes you believe in fairy tales. The architecture of the trulli houses is fully functional and they had very specific design purpose but there is something magical about the look of this small village.

I write all these posts now, months after all the travels and I realize how much wealth they brought to my life. By some standards, I was a late bloomer as a traveler. I left Romania for the first time when I was 20, and that was to move to Canada. So maybe over time my curiosity grew and now when I have the chance to visit a new place I savour it. It helps I have the perfect partner for this, who is just as keen and as happy to discover new places. This trip had everything: excellent guides starting with our beautiful friends Mr. H and Mrs. G, traditions, history, nature, food, colour, and hospitality. At the end of the trip we have gained not only 3-4 kgs each but a sense that we would happily come back to many of the places we have seen, as if a door was open and left like that for us to re-enter.

Posted in The Wanderer | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lecce, Otranto and Salve – Mr. Bean goes to Puglia (Part 1)

After the lovely feature from Husband Chris about our trip to Naples, I continue with our tour of Puglia, Southern Italy.

The premise of this trip was gluttony. Chris, and our friends G & H were at Nopi in London, enjoying burrata when they decided to ask where in Italy they could find it. They discussed options with the waiter, kept eating and drinking, everyone went home, months passed. December, we meet G & H in Brisbane and Chris was convinced that they were just as excited as he was about this potential trip. G & H had no idea what Chris was talking about, considering wine was involved in the preliminary discussions, but the fog cleared up and we started planning a mini tour. As a result, the week after Naples was spent driving around Southern Italy.

Lecce
Our first stop was in Lecce. A lovely city centre, filled with young people and a student buzz in the evenings. We were there for the weekend, at a beautiful B & B at Casa Elisabeta. This was my first time in Italy and my second experience after Napoli, so the Roman Theatre was an impressive sight and induced a quick mind game trying to imagine the number of generations it has witnessed. Other important Italian highlights were checked off during this part of the trip: buratta, espresso bar, gelato, pistachio of course, a couple of lovely dinners and a small purchase. We were lucky to travel during the week prior to the Catholic Easter so we admired a plethora of Easter Eggs and witnessed some interesting religious traditions, more on that when I get to Galipoli. Our little rented car suffered a rough start in Lecce, with two parking tickets and a side scratch in the parking lot. One of the parking tickets was a result of an illegal parking in front of a gun shop. A furious owner started screaming at G, asking her if that is how she parks in the country she comes from. She is Italian.

Lecce.

Lecce.

Food Cravings
It was here where we had our first pasticiotti, a pastry filled with vanilla pudding. It sounds relatively plain, and maybe it is to the locals but to me, I thought it was the best discovery ever. Pasticceria Natale was just perfect to walk into for my first authentic gelato experience. We continued with lunch at Povero and achieved the goal of the trip on the first day, burrata done.

Lecce.

Lecce.

Our first dinner was at Ale due Corti. Although I do not recall food specifics, I remember we had an impromptu performance from an American choir and left happy from the restaurant. The second dinner was at a trattoria which specialized in traditional food from Salento, La Zie. We were lucky to get a spot without a reservation, the place was fully booked and we only got in because a couple was late. So we had a fast track experience with all the works: from appetizers, primi, secondi and dessert, all delicious, locally sourced and made. Buzz words galore to describe the place.

For drinks to wrap up the day, ‘La gatta al lardo’ opened up our taste buds for various flavours of amari.

Memento Hunting
There was a nice antiques fair where we found some excellent postcards and also we added to our growing luggage, a couple of plates from a great place called Div.ergo. A creative hub for people with disabilities to express themselves. We left the studio with two hand painted plates, not bowls this time, from a series dedicated to the seasons, one fall, one winter.

Otranto
By the sea, it seemed happy tourists like us flocked to the place. I resisted the temptation of buying colorful platters from the souvenir shops all around and instead we enjoyed a walk on top of the fortress and through the lovely narrow streets and obsessively photographed as many house number as possible. We stayed in a great B & B Balconcino d’Oriente with a beautiful breakfast.
We continued our car stories, after the two tickets and scratch in Lecce, as we were packing our little car, we took out the trunk cover to make room for all our suitcases, and we drove off and left the piece on the side of the road. We kept driving for 10 minutes until, luckily Mr. H remember we left a souvenir in Otranto and it was still there for us to pick it up. I don’t think I ever felt more like Mr. Bean.

Otranto.

Otranto.

Salve
I had images, probably created from movies of staying at a farmhouse with olive trees all around, romantic music in the background, screaming grandmothers and food that simply makes you happy. We got it all except the music and the grandmothers at Masseria Palombara. Although it was a short stay, it was enough to go to a spectacular nearby village, Specchia, well worth a visit early evening when everyone gathers in the small center plaza to catch up and watch silly tourists like us. Here, we also met a gentelman very eager to share his love of Germany and the German language. Enough said. All around the area is beautiful to drive and walk around.

 

Salve.
Salve.
Salve.
Salve.

To be continued …

Posted in The Wanderer | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment