Wednesday, 29 September 2010

U.K With a Paris Sample

Thursday (23rd) morning after a rather uneventful overnight train ride from Trento to Paris (the only exception when a couple of older Phillipino women tried to do a runner without paying in the dining car!) we arrived in Paris a little later than expected partly due to a rail strike in Paris. With only a short amount of time we decided to visit the Eiffel Tower and then wander along the river to the Louvre. We then headed back for our Eurostar to London, quite excited to be heading to an English speaking country after about a year. For our first few nights we stayed with Ruben, Emma's partner, who lives quite close to St Paul's in the centre of London. As we were both pretty well aquainted with London, we weren't really planning much sight seeing but rather catching up with friends and relaxing. After a pretty long day of travel and wandering in Paris we spent the first night in with some of the English national food which we had missed whilst being away - curry!

This one is pretty obvious
Some Americans said that this was in some Da Vinci movie, so we took a photo out the front

Friday ( 24th) Joss went to meet a work friend from her London days Becky, and Paul went to meet a work mate Sharon who moved from Sydney to London. We reconvened and headed out with Ruben for dinner at St John's bread and wine restaurant, with the theme being nose to tail eating. It was fantastic! .

Saturday ( 25th) Ruben took us for a drive in his Jag out to Oxford where we wandered around the town and felt very academic, although not as much as the Oxford students who were actually graduating that day. That night we went out to a bit of dinner at an old favourite of Joss' in Covent Garden called Thai Pot, which was just as good as Joss' memory of it was.

Having a Guinness in Covent Garden
In St John's

Sunday (26th) we met up with a few of Joss' mates from her time in London (and who still live there): Gemma, Peta, and her husband Quin for a late roast, catch up and a few ales. Afterwards we headed out to Mick and Liv's place in Wokingham, West of London, where they moved to about 6 months ago from Springwood.

Monday (27th) Joss headed to Kensington for a bit of a catch-up over lunch with her old workmates from the Mail on Sunday newspaper. Back in Wokingham Paul and Liv went to the local pub to keep the seats warm for when Mick finished work. Tuesday (28th) Mick took the day off work and we all went to another local pub with the dogs and spent the afternoon in the sun.

Wednesday (29th) we said goodbye to London and Europe for our first flight of the trip to New York!

Mick and Liv at the local

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Italy Roundup

This is a bit of a fill the gaps blog of the things we did whilst we were staying in Trento between our trips away to Rome, Tuscany and Cinque Terre/Lake Como.

Mostly we were happy to just hang around and relax from our travels and eat, drink and soak up the very favourable Italian lifestyle. One of our favourite restaurants and which is also Emma's favourite, was Tre Garofani and we went on our first night in Trento and also our last!

We also took a day trip to Bologna which was where Emma used to live and Joss had spent a fair bit of time. We had a great feast for lunch and wandered around the markets and shops getting supplies for some cooking at home. Actually Paul did a fair bit of cooking whilst we had a base and kitchen! (PM: cooking with fresh local ingredients was fantastic, I even made pasta 3 times, although only one could be considered a success)

Luckily for us, the timing of our weekend stays coincided with both a medieval festival and a food festival (well the first weekend anyway - the food festival ran for 4!) The medieval festival included people dressed up in historic garb, archery, flag twirling, and lots of drums. As the majority of it took place in the main square, we enjoyed it from the comfort of the balcony.

The food festival was a bunch of semi permanent tents set up in a piazza about 5 min walk from the apartment. In the main tent a different local restaurant would cook lunch and dinner. It was a good way to try different foods and restaurants from around the region!

Trento, by the river and from the top of the cable car

Bologna, looking through a window in the wall
Shopping for supplies
Making fresh pasta... well just made
Looking out into the square with the festivities
The food festival tent
Trento castle
Joss and Emma taking a drive
Final dinner at Tre Garofani

Overall we both loved Italy, which was no real surprise to either of us (particularly Joss as it was her 4th trip!) There is no doubt we will return again!

Our Top Italian ...
Coffee Espresso @ Sant' Macchiato @ Sant'
Eustachio Eustachio
Gelato Ricotta & Pistacio @ Caffe & Ricotta @
Ciuri Ciuri in Rome Ciuri Ciuri in Rome
Pizza For both: Local wood fired in Trento
(we didn't have a lot of pizza)
Pasta Spagetti carbonara @ Seafood & Tomato @
Maccheroni Rome Cinque Terre
Meal Tre Garafoni in Undecided -
Trento - last night. too many to choose
Wine For both: SommarovinaNebiollo @ the wine bar
in Lake Como

Friday, 17 September 2010


Monday (13th) we decided to take the early and direct train from Trento to Rome, and were lucky enough to be greeted with fantastic 28 degree and sunny weather! After checking into our hostel, we still had better part of a fantastic Autumn day at our disposal, so decided to take a look at one of the quintessential sites of Rome; the Colosseum. Needless to say it is a very impressive site, and of course very crowded - however we resisted the temptation to take a tour being offered out the front which would guarantee skipping the supposedly 40min lines which in reality only took 20ish. After a good look at where Russell Maximus fought it out those many years ago, we wandered around the main centre of Rome and saw the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Needing a bit of a rest we took a walk up the hill to the park surrounding Villa Borghese and we sat around on the grass reading & taking in the view of Rome. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!

The Colosseum
Piazza del Popolo
Trevi Fountain

Tuesday (14th) with our Colosseum tickets still valid and enabling entry to the other historic sites, it seemed rude not to go to the Roman ruins of Palatine Hill & the Roman Forum a bit of a look also. Although we are not well versed in the specifics of Roman history, we found the ruins to be a great way to spend the morning. We found them more impressive perhaps than the Colosseum itself - maybe it was because there were less people and more of an opportunity to imagine wandering around in the same spot 2000 years earlier?

After our busy morning we wandered around some more before our first visit to what is regarded by many as the best coffee in Rome (if not the world if you ask an Italian!), cafe Sant' Eustachio. We just had a quick espresso at the bar, but must have seen 30 coffees go out in the 5 minutes we were there! The place is busy all the time, and for good reason!

The ruins
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

Cafe Sant' Eustachio

Piazza Navona
The cliched Vespa shot

Wednesday (15th) the Vatican! Of course a visit to Rome isn't complete without taking a trip to see the city state that is the Vatican, which of course also means taking a gander at what the Vatican Museum has to offer, including the Sistine chapel. Needless to say it was all very impressive. That Michalangelo was pretty handy with a brush, it is hard to imagine painting it all when even looking up at the ceiling for 10 - 15 minutes started to strain our necks! After the museum we headed to St Peter's, which proudly displays the spoils of the richest organisation in the world. Very impressive! We also decided that a climb to the cupola (dome) was in order, and got a fantastic view across Rome.
After a few rather low key dinners, we headed out to Maccheroni on Emma's recommendation. It was fantastic and, unsurprisingly, we got carried away and ordered far too much food.

The map room, we thought the best room of the Vatican museum

The view from the top of St Peter's
Inside St Peter's
Paul with proper Roman style spaghetti carbonara - the only ingredients are eggs, bacon and cheese.

Thursday (16th). After a few days of sightseeing we decided to take have an easy day of shopping, wandering, and hanging about followed by some aperitifs and a nice pasta dinner at Tritore, another recommendation.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Agriturismo - Tuscany

Tuesday ( 7th) to Friday (10th) we spent at an agriturismo in Tuscany, a very generous present from Joss' sister for her birthday, graduation, Christmas and possibly every future event until the end of at least this century. 'Agriturismo' stands for agricultural tourism and is basically a visit to a farm/vineyard. The kinds of places you can stay vary, but many include food, which is cooked using local produce. We were especially looking forward to tasting the local wine!

After a slightly nervous drive from Florence in our hired Fiat Punto (PM: the first time I had driven on the right hand side of the road), we got to relax for 3 nights and days doing a whole lot of relaxing, eating and drinking wine. Some of the things that were included in the package was wine spa bath (with music by Beethoven to set the mood), a tour of the vineyards and winery where they made fantastic chianti, and a cooking course with the resident chef. Needless to say, we had a fantastic time. The highlight was easily the cooking course, which was unfortunately on the Friday, which meant that Paul could not indulge in the ample wine on offer during the cooking and at lunch because he had to drive back to Florence. We cooked panzanela (a bread salad) , fresh pasta with a sausage meat and tomato sauce, roasted pork with a pepper and cream sauce and tiramisu for dessert. Fantastic!

Casa del Vento

The sangiovese vines
The view from our room
The restaurant, an old wine cellar

Very friendly owner's dog
Our hand made pasta

The students

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Cinque Terre - Milan - Lake Como

Tuesday (31st) we took the train (well 4 actually) to Vernazza in Cinque Terre, which is a group of 5 towns (the translation is literally 5 towns) on the North west coast of Italy and is a popular destination for Italians and foreigners alike. There is a walking track between the towns, and as they are built on hills overlooking the sea, some of it can be a little tough going. For the first day we were happy to wander around Vernazza before a few pre-dinner drinks in the main square and some dinner. Wednesday (1st) we walked between the 5 towns, first from Vernazza to Montorosso (the most northern town), then we caught the train to Riomaggiore (the southern most town) and from there we walked back to Vernazza via Monterola and Corniglia, which all up took around 5 - 6 hours. We definitely deserved a few beers at the end once we made it back to Vernazza!

The view from our accommodation, day and night
Vernazza from the south side
Aperitifs and dinner
The walk between the 5 towns (PM: the middle one was at the end of the longest and hardest walk, hence the exhausted look)

Thursday (2nd) we reluctantly left Vernazza for a brief one night transit in Milan before heading to Lake Como. We were a bit short for time so took a walk to the main piazza and saw the Duomo, grabbed some dinner, and on our walk home were pretty sure we saw the victim of a stabbing. He was lying on the side of the road in a pool of blood and looking a bit worse for wear. There was a bit of a crowd and an ambulance had just arrived, we decided at this point that the comfort and safety of our hotel was quite inviting!

Friday (3rd) brought us to lake Como, a bit of a playground for the rich and famous - George Clooney probably being the most publicised. We got to our hotel in Cadenabbia around lunch time, and after a small hotel stuff up settled in to relax by the lake, which is pretty much what occupied our time for the next couple of days! We also took a ferry ride across to Belagio to have a look around.

Our favourite little bar, Victoria's owned by an English lass
Looking out across the lake to Belagio, day and night
At a fantastic wine bar in Belagio, where we spent the better part of an evening