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The Kindness of Others

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When travelling, you really have to pay it forward.

I have learned throughout my travels that if you open yourself up to new meeting people, your experiences can change drastically. This is very much the case as to when I first landed in Cork, Ireland. Once I arrived in Cork, I was waiting for the bus to Clonakilty with my partner, when a couple asked us which route the bus was taking. Obviously, we had no idea, but we knew our stop. This seemed helpful to them and from that they knew they were on the right track. From there we talked and found out they have a son and grandchildren that live in Canada. Once we arrived at our destination they helped to wake us, ensuring we didn’t miss our stop after a long day of travelling. A few days passed and by mere coincidence we bumped in to the man once more. This is when he invited us to stay at his and his wife’s home in Union Hall for an evening of sightseeing, drinks and a delicious home cooked meal.

The couple, who is now retired, picked us up from Clonakilty and drove us back to the beautiful small fishing village of Union Hall (not to be confused with a city, as I was corrected!) We took a nice walk down to the Pier and around the sea bank.

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We went looking for shamrocks, as it was Paddy’s day the following morning. We arrived at their lovely home and had some amazing smoked salmon. It was flaky and not at all slimy like the stuff I am used to back home! It was a gorgeous meal, that I may or may not have had 5 or 6 helpings of.

We then exchanged more words over some tea and biscuits before heading down to the water closer to their home. We brought their dog along for the walk. We watched the boats change direction with the tide and enjoyed skipping rocks with our host. The dog couldn’t complain either, as  she was in her element, running wild and splashing into the sea!

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We then headed to Boatman’s Inn  down in the village, where we had a pint…or two or three. My partner enjoyed playing a few matches of pool with our host and it was a great time for me to chat up our hostess.

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We lost track of time, and had to hurry back for a 10:30 dinner. Our hostess made such a succulent chicken which she had browned in butter before popping it into the oven. We paired it with mashed potatoes, some homemade bread, carrots, turnip and cranberry sauce (which iss good on chicken too!)

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The next day they drove us back to Clonakilty, but not before taking us to the Drombeg Stone circle, perhaps Irelands most famous stone circle.

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My partner and I had a wonderful time with this kind couple, who opened their hearts and home to us. I am a traveller, and without experiences like these, travelling the world would not mean so much to me. This is why when I meet other travellers I try and pay it forward any way I can. Whether I’m in my hometown or across the pond. I am constantly amazed by the generosity and warmth I have received while tip-toeing around the world, this holds especially true in Ireland. I can only try to be as giving and thoughtful throughout my journey in life as others have been to me.

Safe travels,

Red

Rolling through Tuscany

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May 30th, 2012

Phew….we made it! Today was my first time driving in Italy, and oh, what a journey. I, the captain and my partner Matt, the co-captain, braved our way from Rome (eek!) to Saturnia and then on to Chianciano Terme.

We departed about an hour late due to some confusion at the car rental agency and headed for Saturnia; which may host the most beautiful, natural hot springs in the world! When researching for my Europe trip in 2010, I came across blogs and pictures regarding Saturnia’s lovely hot springs; or ‘terme’ in Italian. Since then it has been a must on my so called ‘bucket list’.

I planned this drive through Tuscany for weeks. I had several road maps and Google maps/directions to boot. Needless to say, Google failed me, as the directions  rendered themselves useless after the third step. But in the end, getting lost in Tuscany isn’t so bad.

 

After driving 20 minutes out of the way, then re-tracing our tracks, we then had to go down the road we returned from once more to ‘hopefully’ head in the ‘general’ direction of Siena. By this point I thought we’d never make it.

Miraculously, after about three hours (total trip was supposed to be two and a half hours) we saw a SIGN! A sign for Saturnia! It took us about 45 minutes to reach it, but it was totally worth it! (so many exclamation points because it was THAT exciting!)

When we finally made it, we parked our car, stripped down and got into our bathing suits. We walked for about one minute down a rocky road and could see the luscious springs.

If I could describe the sight in one word it would be ‘heaven’, if I were religious that is. But hey, this could be my heaven. This is what pictures are perfect for, because I couldn’t possibly give the springs justice with my description.

On the inside, there are some sharp rocks to be mindful of, and there is no easy way of getting from one ‘dip’ to the next. So I would not recommend going very far in the springs if you aren’t agile. Also, there is an odor due to the sulphur, but it isn’t very pungent and you do get used to it rather quickly. Needless to say, the first thing I did when arriving at our hotel in Chianciano Terme was have a shower!

Getting to Chianciano was another story…but I will leave it at we ‘eventually’ made it. We checked in to our hotel at 10pm. Thanks to Google maps, and not having a GPS we were only 4 hours behind schedule.

After my shower, we headed out for a fabulous dinner at a local pizzeria. I had a seafood pasta, that was one of the best I’ve ever had; while the co-captain had a prosciutto cotto e funghi pizza. We drank the best bottle of wine we have had since arriving in all of Europe at a mere 8 euro, along with limoncello, tiramisu and café. It was a wonderful experience.

You know the tiramisu is good when sharing you literally draw a line down the middle to divide it.

  

Tomorrow we set off to Montepulciano for the day, the to Sienna where we stay the night.

Until tomorrow!

LR

Rome

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Sigh…in the most wonderful way ever! I am here in Rome, Italy. I have been here for three weeks now and I had no idea that a person could relax so much. Seriously, Rome has turned me into the Goddess of relaxation. I literally just woke up from an afternoon nap…and I slept-in this morning… like all my other mornings!

That being said, today wasn’t the most eventful day, as I have only walked outside to get some fresh groceries. But I have been touring this incredible city other days.

On the food note, while in I was introduced to better quality foods than I was used to having back in Toronto. Nice’s food is still super amazing don’t get me wrong, but I am enjoying my food experiences in Rome much more. I guess Italian food is more my style…which might not be good for my waistline. One of my favourite things to do here is to go grocery shopping for fresh ingredients then come home and cook. Let’s not forget about the tasting part…that’s pretty fun too!

Here is one of our feasts complete with Caprese salad, Parpardelle pasta with a porcini mushroom and truffle oil sauce along with our focaccia.


When cooking Italian it is impossible not to buy fresh ingredients. This is why there is nothing BUT fresh ingredients everywhere you look. I have found a small produce shop nearby that has great quality fruits and vegetables at the cost of basically nothing. I once filled my bag with carrots, a lemon, a lime, arugula, basil and lots of tomatoes at a cost of only 1.80 euro. This is why I go back everyday, to buy the freshest ingredients.

    

It is also possible to buy focaccia and pizza dough rolled up ready to bake at home. It comes out so fluffy and delicious. I love topping the focaccia with fresh mozzarella, plum tomatoes and fresh basil, for the most amazing lunch!

Here I topped the focaccia with mozzarella, proscuitto and arugula.

Here pasta is .99 euro and feeds both of us twice…did I mention it is fresh pasta? I have never had pasta like this. The pasta is actually quite hard to overcook and I can always achieve the “al dente” state. Also, I have never, ever, seen so many pasta choices; some types I’ve never even heard of until now.

Here is some succulent Osso Bucco alongside Paccheri Pasta. This meal was and still is our best in Rome!

The food and drink prices have decreased from Nice. We are buying .85 euro wine and really “soaking” it up.

We got all this stuff (Aperol liquor, 4 beers, 1L red wine, juice, mixed seafood salad, soft cheese, Pesto, jared clams, pizza dough, 2 artichokes, mushrooms, sparkling water and mushrooms) for 17 Euro! What amazing value!

Also, right now is artichoke season in Italy, so for the first time my boyfriend and I cooked and ate fresh artichokes. Once cooked, we scraped the harder leaves between our front teeth to get the small portion of edible artichoke that is on each leaf. One by one, we were getting closer to the ‘heart’ of the artichoke. This is obviously the best and most ‘meaty’ part of the ‘choke. This was a fun experience and we have even bought more artichokes for this evening.

 

 

I can’t wait to get back in the kitchen!

Ciao

My Sunday in Barcelona

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Last week I visited Barcelona for 5 nights. I tried every food dish I wanted to try, such as:

Tapas- Some of the best were: patatas bravas (which are fried potatoes with a spicy sauce) and fried cod balls (which are a mixture of salt cod mixed with a doughnut batter).

This is a display of tapas which is in almost every restaurant or bar. However, the dishes vary from place to place.

Cod fritters from La Boqueria Market. Yum!

Pan con Tomate- This is toasted white bread that you drizzle with oil, then rub with raw garlic and tomato. This was such a simple dish with so much flavour! I will definitely continue to do this back home.

Such a delicious yet simple appetizer or snack. Just be careful because the raw garlic packs a lot of punch!

 

Ceviche – Because before I went I crazily thought there would be lots of Mexican food (but we did manage to find a great Mexican restaurant, I also had some great Nachos)

Sangria – which was tasty a refreshing!

Surprisingly, I ate less than I normally do, simply because of later eating times and the tapas seemed to fill me up.

We took in lots of sights and scenery; I’m pretty sure we walked the majority of the city. We visited the beaches, Guell Park, Arc of Triumph, La Boqueria and more.

Park Guell

Arc of Triumph

                                

However, my favorite day was Sunday, our last full day. My boyfriend and I started out at a small, local restaurant where we had pan con tomate as well as fried anchovies.

Then we visited the breathtaking Sagarada Familia Cathedral. The interior is just as impressive as the entire exterior and this is a must see if you find yourself in Barcelona.

We then wandered for miles and found our way to La Rambla district where we went to London Bar, a bar that has been open since 1910 and used to be frequented by the likes of Dali, Picasso and Hemingway. The décor has been kept the same, which gives a relaxed glamour to the place. It also serves as a venue, where we heard singers take part in an open mic night.

Then on our adventure home we stumbled upon a market at night near the Arc of Triumph. There were amazing craft and clothing vendors along with food and drink vendors. This is when I realized we only had 10 euro left.

We browsed the crafts, knowing we could not possibly afford anything, before heading for the food and beer. Our first purchase was 1 light organic beer and another dark beer at 2 euro a pop. We then jetted across the street to buy a 1.5 litre beer at the convenience store for 1.50 euro….much cheaper. When we returned to the market, large beer in tow we got a lamb shwarma for 3 euro. At closing I bargained with a vendor using my last 1.50 euro to buy a chicken taco with the greenest, freshest guacamole money can buy. It may have been my best euro fifty spent.

  

We ate and drank on some grass while listening to the live bongo circle that had formed.

After this, we headed home.

I truly fell in love with Barcelona this day.

A Birdie Hobby

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A while back a friend of mine made a bird’s nest necklace and I fell in love with the look of it. It has taken me some time to find the supplies I needed whilst here in Europe. Luckily, while visiting Barcelona I was able to get my hands on all the supplies I needed at a low cost.

I then followed these instructions.

Et voilà! I made this cute little pendant and placed it on a chain. It was fun and pretty simple to make. I can’t wait to make more!

Ireland and back

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It has taken me quite some time to write about my trip to Ireland. In short, Ireland is a beautiful country filled with lovely people, great character and of course delicious beer.

My boyfriend and I met up with our friends Andrei and Vika for some St. Patrick’s festivities in Dublin. During our stay we enjoyed quite a few pints of the ‘good stuff’.  The foam on a pint of Guinness could literally be spread on toast. It was the creamiest, frothiest foam I have ever seen on a beer; it was truly delicious!

We also toured the city stopping off at both the Jameson Distillery and the Guinness factory. At the distillery Matt and I were chosen to take part of a whiskey tasting which was an added bonus.

  

We then headed over to Trinity College, where we saw The Book of Kells and also the historic library that had that great old book smell. I cannot possibly describe how beautiful it was, so I will just paste a picture from Google, as photography was forbidden.

The night before St. Pats we had gotten locked in a pub along with a few others once they had closed. This is a normal thing in Ireland, as long as there are customers, you can be served. Just if you leave, you can’t get back in. This was my Dublin highlight as we got to listen to a great Irish band that talked and drank with us until we went home.

So of course the day of the real festival we were a bit slow. However, the streets were so crowded with people and the pubs packed to the doors, that we celebrated at a pub further away from all the hustle and bustle. So astonishingly, St. Patty’s day was quite tame for us; we were in bed by 11.

The next day we left Dublin and headed to Kilkenny. Kilkenny is a small medieval town that was so quaint. I really enjoyed my stay there.

When we arrived we went to a hurling match. This is such an exciting sport; it combined so many sports, such as rugby, lacrosse and baseball. It is truly a fun spectacle to watch.

We toured the rest of Kilkenny and saw its famous castle along with The Black Abbey church.

My favourite place to wander was the small downtown. It had friendly people and great pubs, some with amazing live music!

On our last night we made our own pub crawl to 6 different pubs that we hadn’t yet gotten a chance to visit. Here are some of those places.

     

Kilkenny no longer hosts the Kilkenny brewery; instead Smithwicks is their local brewer.

All in all, Ireland is beautiful. I only wish we had more time and could have toured more of the country. I can’t wait to visit again.

Happy Days!

Cooking In

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As I have stated in the past, the food in France is great. Not only the food you eat at restaurants but also the quality of food is higher than what I am used to.

Here are a few dishes I have cooked up whilst living in France.

Sushi- The sushi in Europe itself is super expensive, so I knew if I wanted some I’d have to make it. However, I did not know where to buy sashimi grade fish, so I settled for shrimp, egg and avocado nigiri along with California rolls.

Stuffed Mushrooms- This is a little recipe I learned from Matt. I stuffed these mushrooms with their stems, breadcrumbs, chorizo, shallot, oil, parsley and other seasonings. Then I cooked them in a skillet on a very low heat.

Carpaccio- I didn’t do much work here, as I bought the Carpaccio pre-sliced. I did however marinate the slices in a lemon and oil mixture and then topped with rocket and some parmigiano reggiano.

Seafood pasta- I bought about 6 clams, 12 mussels and 8 shrimp for under 2 Euro and decided to make a pasta dish. After stewing some fresh tomatoes and seasoning my sauce I added white wine. Once the alcohol cooked off I added my shelled friends to steam. This took about 1 minute. The juices that are released from the seafood add so much flavour, so be sure to always cook the shellfish in with your sauce. It would be a shame to waste the juices.

I paired the sauce with fresh linguini and it was a joy to eat!

Duck breast- We finally cooked a French meal! We purchased a large duck breast that was in an Herbs de Provence marinade. Matt scored the duck breast before cooking it in the oven to a perfect medium rare. We used the excess fat drippings to cook some thinly cut potatoes. This meal was magnifique!

Spaghetti Bolognaise- This is one of my classic meals I make. I cook the beef along with lots of onion and add garlic just before my meat is finished. I add crushed tomatoes when the garlic is finished (before it starts to brown). Then I add seasoning and red wine. I add just enough to cover all the ingredients. Then I cook the sauce uncovered on a medium heat. Once my sauce has reduced and the liquid has thickened I pour over a bed of spaghetti. I garnish with parsley and fresh parmigiano cheese.