Archives for posts with tag: food

photo 1Anyone following my Instagram posts (@newcarolyn) over this last year, will have noticed I have been using the hashtag #simplethings quite often.

It is my way to remind myself to stop and appreciate the simple but not so ‘ordinary’ things around me, to look for the special in the everyday. The things that I have here and now. A simple meal with friends, a glass of bubbles with new friends, a good cup of coffee, a beautiful sunset…

A handful of shells found on the beach… 4985f9803fce11e3bf8122000a1fd13e_8

A little gift for no reason…

Tasty, homemade guacamole…

photo 2It is a reminder that looking out for the special in the everyday is a better way to look at life –  rather then thinking the everyday is just something to be endured until that something ‘special’ comes along. ‘If I can just get through this work day, then I’ll be OK’… ‘I just have to keep going until my next day off or my next vacation…’

I don’t always manage it very well. I still get caught up in everyday things… In work that I think is ‘too’ important… With the little things that I turn into big things… In the future, rather than the present…photo-5

It’s not that I am a particularly unappreciative or negative person! It’s just I find myself too easily not taking in the moment, thinking about too many things at once, and getting caught up in things I don’t need to worry about. This is my time to make a conscious decision to change that. Although changing habits can be difficult!

photo-6Mmmm… And then there’s my camera – sometimes it’s important to remember that it’s OK NOT to take that photo! Just to appreciate the moment too! 🙂

 

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ImageProxy.mvcBali!

I arrived back a few days ago, and even though this time I arrived at the new international terminal, it was still the same as I left the air conditioning – straight into the sights, smells, heat, and noise that can only be Bali!

Into a taxi and another way that you know you’re back in Bali – the questions! ‘Where are you from?’, ‘Where are you going?’, ‘Are you married/do you have a boyfriend?’, and if you happen to say yes to that one, then the inevitable ‘Do you have children? How many?’seminyak sunset-1

And one thing to know about Balinese culture, and more generally Indonesian culture, is that for these questions (and many others) even if you want to say ‘No!’, the polite answer is ‘Not yet – belum.’ As there’s always a chance!!

seminyak -4These questions are not prying and are not considered too personal – it’s just a way of placing you, of working out how you fit in a culture that is very family and community oriented. Although the one about children is a big one! Having several children, and particularly boys, is such an important part of Balinese culture, a way for things to continue.

Elizabeth Gilbert, and whatever you think of her, or ‘the’ book, describes the ‘questioning’ well:galungan penjor-1

“When you are walking down the road in Bali and you pass a stranger, the very first question he or she will ask you is, “Where are you going?” The second question is, “Where are you coming from?” To a Westerner, this can seem like a rather invasive inquiry from a perfect stranger, but they’re just trying to get an orientation on you, trying to insert you into the grid for the purposes of security and comfort. If you tell them that you don’t know where you’re going, or that you’re just wandering about randomly, you might instigate a bit of distress in the heart of your new Balinese friend. It’s far better to pick some kind of specific direction – anywhere – just so everybody feels better.galungan-6

The third question a Balinese will almost certainly ask you is, “Are you married?” Again, it’s a positioning and orienting inquiry. It’s necessary for them to know this, to make sure that you are completely in order in your life. They really want you to say yes. it’s such a relief to them when you say yes. If you’re single, it’s better not to say so directly. And I really recommend that you not mention your divorce at all, if you happen to have had one. It just makes the Balinese so worried. The only thing your solitude proves to them is your perilous dislocation from the grid. If you are a single woman traveling through Bali and somebody asks you, “Are you married?” the best possible answer is: “Not yet.” This is a polite way of saying, “No,” while indicating your optimistic intentions to get that taken care of just as soon as you can.

Even if you are eighty years old, or a lesbian, or a strident feminist, or a nun, or an eighty-year-old strident feminist lesbian nun who has never been married and never intends to get married, the politest possible answer is still: “Not yet.”

― Elizabeth GilbertEat, Pray, Love

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/748041-when-you-are-walking-down-the-road-in-bali-and

seminyak beach-4As many of you know, I’ve been to Bali many times. Almost too many times to count now! For many years I avoided it – thinking it was full of Australians that projected an image that I didn’t want to be associated with! And don’t worry – there is that element! But Bali is so much more!

This time, I’m just here for a few days staying in the bustling ‘Australian enclave’ of Seminyak. For a bit of shopping, some great food, and the opportunity to hang out in a place I know well, where I feel very comfortable, where I can get around on the back of a motorbike, where I have enough Indonesian still to be taken seriously and not considered a naive tourist! But I’ve done Bali in many other ways too – Lavina and the north coast for a totally different perspective; Ubud and the hills for markets, and temples, and cooler temperatures; …

1st galungan-5Staying in Seminyak, you could easily be in any touristy Asian city. But scratch the surface and the real Bali is still there…

The old lady preparing the offerings that are used daily for the little temples dotted in front of businesses and residences; the old galungan-7man working the rice padi one block behind the bustling street; the car full of boys and men all dressed in traditional sarongs heading to a ceremony; the penjor that line the streets – not just for the sake of the tourists but to commemorate the recent Galungan festival; the kakilimas selling street food in front of the 5 star restaurant; and of course, the questions that get asked as soon as you start chatting to a local!

Thanks again Bali for being what I needed when I needed it!

tourist-2I’ve never lived here.

I’ve never spent more than a few days at a time here.

I’ve done the touristy thing.

I’ve done the off the beaten track thing.

I’ve had days where I’ve done nothing more than explore different neighbourhoods and find great places to eat – and these are my favourite days!ImageProxy.mvc

I’ve been at least once or twice a year for the last 12 years.

I don’t know the next time I will be here.

market-1It’s not a perfect city. It’s not all about the stereotypes and expectations often associated with Paris. There is great fashion, amazing food, beautiful art and culture, good shopping and aloof locals! There’s also the grittiness that comes with any big city, the beggars, the high costs of accommodation, the 1000s of others that are also visiting the city, and the sometimes-aloof locals!

I’ve recently spent three days here with a good friend of mine and realised how much I enjoy spending time in Paris! We’re photography buddies and without too much planning, we’re happy to spend our days in the same way – walking everywhere, exploring neighbourhoods rather than queuing for the ‘must see’ sights, and enjoying good coffee, great food, and the occasional glass of wine!paris lunch-1

This time we bought treasures at Marches du Puce, Pt Clignancourt; explored the sprawling Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise; wandered the Quartier Latin; rediscovered the back streets of Montmatre – keeping away from the crowds and the touts around Sacre Coeur; and took far too many food photos!cemetary-1

I don’t normally write reviews about restaurants – but here are a few favourite places from this trip!

Le Petit Vatel (5 Rue Lobineau, Paris 75006) – behind the Marche Saint-Germain – with enough room for 16 people at a real squeeze! This tiny restaurant with only a blackboard menu has become a favourite – the staff are helpful if you struggle with French and the small menu provides a range of options for diners. I’ve always taken their suggestions for wine and never been disappointed. The terrine maison is a favourite – try and leave room for dessert.

market-2Le Coutume Café (47 Rue de Babylone, Paris 75007) – fairly new on the scene – this café is different than the vast majority of Parisian cafes – it takes coffee very seriously! Importing a range of beans which are then roasted and served as well as sold by the kilogram. Simple meals and snacks are also available.

market-3Cinq Mars (51 Rue de Verneuil, Paris, 75007) – a great little restaurant not far from the Musee D’Orsay but tucked away in a side street – definitely off the tourist track! With dim lighting, original architectural features, and an extensive wine list, this is a great place for dinner. Just be warned – when you order some dishes, such as the terrine, and the chocolate mousse – the whole bowl is brought to you – and you serve yourself! The first time I came here I wasn’t going to order the chocolate mousse – it seems such a cliché – but it is so good! Made with dark chocolate, and creamier, heavier than many mousses, it was difficult not to keep going back to the large bowl for more! NB not many vegetarian options on the menu.

chocolate mousse-1Le Grand Cremiere (8 Rue Gregoire de Tours, Paris 75006)– a new discovery this trip.  An old ‘cremerie’ store that has been converted into a restaurant. We popped in for their prix fixe lunch special – a choice of 3 delicious savoury tarts, salad and a glass of wine (of course!).  With the charming owner serving us we stayed on for a second glass of wine and dessert! Many original features have been restored and industrial touches added to this retro but very French restaurant! Next time I will come back for dinner.

e3408cf03d1e11e3ba9922000a1f9c9a_8Café de la Nouvelle Mairie (19 Rue des Fosses Saint-Jacques, Paris 75005) – a café tucked behind the Pantheon, only open Monday to Friday. During the mornings it does a great coffee and basics for breakfast. It fills up at a lunch with nearby students and workers – a limited menu but all hearty and delicious. In the evenings it evolves into a popular wine bar.

Bar du Marche (75 Rue de Seine, Paris 75006)– a favourite with locals, expats and tourists that’s been there forever! On a busy market street, paris treasures-3not far from the Odeon metro stop. With lots of outdoor seating ready to watch the world go by! Or sit inside and be served by the charming waiters in their red or blue overalls! Always good for a hot or cold drink, they also do great salads – I love the Salad Nicoise!

It turns out you can do quite a lot with less than 24 hours in Bangkok!

For example:

  • survive a harrowing taxi – or tuk-tuk – ride!

 

  • be refreshed with a Thai iced coffee

  • take the obligatory walk along Khao San Road

  • narrowly avoid being seriously injured crossing a major intersection

 

  • enjoy a freshly squeezed orange juice – and meet some lovely kids at the same time!

 

  • eat delicious Pad Thai from a street vendor

 

  • stand in awe at the Golden Buddha

  • have an afternoon nap

 

  • wander through food and street markets

 

  • stock up on second hand books

 

  • feel revitalised, and slightly dazed, after a Thai massage

  • try to sleep in a noisy room where the overhead fan sounds like it’s going to take off into the night!

Other options which, unfortunately, I did not avail myself of this time:

  • the street-side fish spa
  • express laundry for less than £1 a kilo
  • a new shiny tailored suit with a bonus shirt, available just for you in less than 24 hours!
  • a ‘bucket’ for Changi beer for less than £3

So much to do, so little time!!

I couldn’t go to France and not write about food!

One of the things I always look forward to when travelling in France is the produce markets. And Provence is well known for having many and varied throughout its region.

My first port of call was Aix-en-Provence, north-west of Marseille. Every day there is a small produce market in the square in front of the town hall, and twice a week in a nearby plaza there is a bigger flea and produce market. Well, I was in heaven! Each day I would spend the morning wondering around the market stalls, ooh-ing and aah-ing over the possibilities, stopping for a cafe crème and croissant at a market cafe, and then considering my options for lunch that day. The smells, and the colours, and the temptations!

One day as I was wandering through watching the women shopping with their panniers (soft sided baskets), and listening to the flurry of colloquial French, I discovered the stall selling fresh Madeleines! These little gems, like a biscuit but with more of a cake texture, instantly became part of my lunch for that day – and what a shame – six was the minimum order! So along with apples from the nearby Alps, a fresh demi-baguette, and a smooth, tiny button of the softest and freshest goats’ cheese, I was set!

Along with several fruit and vegetable stalls, there was a specialist boulangerie selling regional breads and pastries, the mobile fromagerie with a range of cheeses, and then stalls selling a range of olives; spices; local sausages and salami; truffles (a prime area for this delicacy); honeys, jams and other preserves; juices and local wines; seafood; and flowers (including swags of golden wattle which surprised me but made me feel at ‘home’!!) Neighbouring stalls had all the non-food items – fabrics and crafts; soaps and creams – lavender being the key ingredient here in Provence; books and second hand goods.

For many people a visit to the market is an integral part of their day or week. I like that!

Because of the New Year holidays, I missed the outdoor market in Avignon, but every day (except Sunday) there is an indoor market. I discovered this on the morning of New Year’s Day, wondering the streets at about 10 am, trying to find somewhere to sit for a coffee and something to eat. But the streets were eerily quiet! A couple of boulangerie were open (the French need their fresh baguettes!), and I bought a pain au chocolat to continue my stroll. And then I discovered Les Halles. And a bustling little place it was! Several cafes full to capacity with regulars wishing each other ‘Bonne Annee!’, revellers in their glamorous outfits stopping for a coffee on the way home, the boulangerie doing a roaring trade, and families enjoying oysters and champagne as a fitting start to the day and the year! I found a seat and enjoyed being caught up in the warmth and bustle. Later I bought some cheese for lunch – the most delicious comte to go with my baguette!

The traders were cheery people, patient my limited French and happy to oblige my requests for small orders. In Apt the trader gave me an apple with a big smile – it was easier than going through the hassle of weighing it and sorting through the small change! In most markets I was able to buy a warming cup of vin chaud (mulled wine) – a nice way to finish a day of sightseeing!

But it wasn’t only from the markets that I enjoyed good, fresh and simple food. Whilst French food is sometimes known as rich and saucy and fancy, most of my meals were tasty,and freshly prepared, utilising seasonal produce.

There is a cafe in Paris that I love – just for the Croque Madame at lunch. Basically a toasted cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top, but it is served as though it is the most costly item on the menu! Cutlery is laid out, condiments are brought to the table, the bottle of wine is shown before a glass is poured, and then the croque is served with a flourish! A very satisfying and simple lunch.  Another day I had a delicious Nicoise salad – another French staple that has become a bit stereotyped as we wonder whether French people really eat it, or if it’s just the domain of the tourist! At Bar du Marche, in a prime position along a market street, it was freshly made with some unexpected ingredients giving it a twist and was more than enough for lunch! A couple of nights moules et frites was all I needed for dinner. The mussels cooked in a tasty white wine sauce, and the salty fries balancing the flavours and textures.

Many restaurants in France do not try to fit two sittings into an evening – come and stay for as long as you need to! Even eating by myself, I could sit at the end of a meal finishing my glass of wine, or lingering over an espresso, and there was no danger of being asked to leave! One night I found a tiny restaurant in Aix full of locals – maybe, at capacity, 25 people could fit into the room filled with black and white family photos, and tables with checked cloths. There wasn’t a big choice on the menu – which is also quite usual in France – do a few dishes with seasonal and local produce, and do them well! The owner sat and discussed options with each table, bringing water, wine and bread. Once most tables were settled, he went back to sit and chat, leaving his wife and one other staff member to serve!

As I write this in London, it is nearing lunchtime, and I am daydreaming about the possibilities … there’s nothing in the fridge, so maybe a trip to Mr Christian’s delicatessen on Portobello Road for some cheese and bread … not quite the same as the ‘real thing’ but enough to reminisce and maybe begin planning the next trip…

I’m spending 2 weeks in Provence over Christmas and New Year, and I’ve suddenly decided I need to learn French! I don’t know why it’s become such a desire now! I’ve been to Paris many times and managed for the most part quite succesfully with 3 word phrases and pointing! It would have been more helpful if I had thought about this a few years ago – before I lived so close to Paris, or went travelling to places like Morocco, Mauritius or even Vietnam!

I have other aims for this trip too – such as sleeping, reading, taking advantage of the local markets, eating good food, and drinking too much coffee and wine! All of these seem to be coming along well. But the French? Well, I’m still trying but I’m not sure that it’s coming together yet!

I don’t even have ‘school girl’ French to fall back on! I studied German in highschool for 5 years. I managed Indonesian pretty well living there for 2 years (and still occasionally dream in Indonesian). And living in New York for 5 years, I picked up a smattering of Spanish. But for some reason, despite many trips to Paris over the years, my French has not progressed much past mangling phrases such as ‘merci beaucoup’, ‘bonjour’ and ‘s’il vous plait’.

But this trip I am determined to pull out the phrase book, attempt complete sentences and actually listen! And travelling beyond Paris is certainly forcing me to be more confident in my attempts.

I can read more than I can listen or pronounce. I manage quite successfully in a restaurant, and enjoy buying items for lunch at the produce market. I can order the appropriate coffee at the appropriate time of day, and I can request my evening aperitif. Notice the food theme here?

I can also successfully get myself from A to B, buy a stamp, explain that what I’ve bought is or is not a gift, and recently I’ve even added the phrase ‘Il neige’ (It’s snowing) to my reportoire – essential for last weekend in Paris!

But I still struggle with the pronunciation of new vocabulary. I feel lost when someone addresses me out of context. I can’t often discern individual words – but I also have to learn to listen for the context and jump in hopefully! Sometimes because I start an exchange with a well executed and planned sentence, people think I understand more than I do and respond in a flurry! I grasp onto the one or two things I do manage to understand and hope to respond appropriately!!

I’ve not yet come across any ‘rude’ French, despite the stereotype! Most people appreciate my attempts even if they then continue the conversation in almost flawless English! The manager of the hotel in Paris thought he was being very helpful when he explained, ‘French is easy when you know it!’ Hmm… helpful indeed!!

Listening to a couple at dinner the other night (what else do you do when you’re dining alone?!), their conversation flowed effortlessly between French and English. I was so envious! When the waiter came to take my order I started in French – he heard the accent and switched to English. I asked him to speak in French the whole evening and somehow we managed and I enjoyed my meal! He even commented at the end saying my French was good – he could understand me! I guess that’s a compliment!

Another evening when I was making a reservation in French at a restaurant, the owner switched to English and said, ‘Ah, I thought you were…’ I jumped in and, very hopefully, said, ‘French?’ All those nearby laughed! ‘No, German!’

So somehow I speak French with a German accent?! But as a friend said, maybe that’s better than speaking French with an Austraaaalian accent!!

Salut!

 

I’ve just spent four days in the sun, on the Amalfi Coast, in a little town called Positano.’Positano?’ I can hear some of you asking, ‘Why Positano? Where glamorous Italians ‘summer’? Carolyn, that’s not the usual sort of place you travel to…’

Positano is about half an hour from Sorrento, on the winding Amalfi Coast. Just getting there can be an adventure as one wonders how the bus is going to avoid the steep edges of the narrow cliff top road with many a hairpin bend – particularly if another bus is coming the other way! It is a day trip for many a tourist; on the itinerary of every bus tour south of Naples; and attracts the ‘in’ crowd during the summer season. But scratch the surface and you can still find the little fishing community that used to be all there was to this town that clings to the steep hills surrounding two pebbly coves.

Tourists come for the sun; to pose in the beachside bars and restaurants; to repose on the deck chairs; to drink limoncello; to photograph the beautiful tiled roof of the church; to shop at the clothing boutiques and overcrowded, often tacky, souvenir shops; and to photograph sunset over the tower at the end of the beach. But the ‘season’ only lasts 6 months, and if you time your visit carefully, you can discover all much more about Positano, and enjoy it at a cheaper and less crowded time.

Positano really is a beautiful town, its pastel coloured houses with their terraces and greenery seeming to tumble down the hill faces. Its south facing position means it gets sun most of the day. There are only two roads through the town – a two-way road around the top and a one-way narrow and winding road through the middle. To get anywhere involves walking narrow lanes, up and down sometimes quite steep inclines, or finding the little stairways that are the shortcuts sprinkled throughout the town. These are used by the locals, but often missed by visitors.

I first went to Positano 5 ½ years ago, at Easter – the beginning of the season, when everything was re-opening and setting up for the summer. This time I visited at the end of October – the end of the season – but the weather was still good – well, better than London anyway! The deckchairs were being packed away, stores had sales before their 6 month winter closure, and it was the last weekend for ferry trips to nearby Amalfi and Capri.

I stayed near the second, smaller cove. Not as convenient to get to but away from the designer fashions and overpriced restaurants of the main beach.  I’d hate to think what the summer price would be for the room I had with a beach view, its own terrace – pretty much guaranteed to get sun all day – and the pleasure of falling asleep and waking to the sound of waves on the pebbled beach.

I loved exploring the streets and lanes and stairways above and beyond the main beach. And the area is popular for more serious walkers too, as they walk the coast from town to town exploring the culinary delights along the way. And there is plenty for the food connoisseur to enjoy! After finding a little allimentari – a tiny general store where the locals shop at – every day I would delight in a simple but tasty panino for lunch.  The bakery provided fresh sfogliatelle, and I discovered a recently opened wine bar that did great coffee in the mornings, and served prosecco and local wines in the evenings. Nico was so happy to have me as a regular, my coffee on the last morning was free.  After asking around, I discovered a little trattoria at the top of the hill, well away from the ‘madding crowds’ and beachside restaurants – at less than half the price! Run by a mama and her two sons, with 2 cooks busy at work in the kitchen, I enjoyed homemade pasta, fresh mussels, local wine and tasty tomato salads.  It was definitely worth the 750 odd steps needed to get there!! And when I returned for a second evening, I was heartily welcomed back.

Yes, those steps and all that walking. The theory was that it was good for me – and I did feel better for it after a few days, and it certainly became easier – but those first few steps getting out of bed in the morning were agony as the backs of my legs required time to stretch before they could contemplate those hills and steps again!

I came to walk, read, sleep, watch the sea, enjoy good coffee and drink local wine. And all of that I did most successfully! I also met some colourful local characters, such as Gennaro, a72 year old local fisherman who has seen many a change over the years.  Positano can be expensive, a bit over the top and a place to avoid – but it is possible to appreciate it too – albeit differently from the majority of summer visitors.