Tag Archives: Food

The Gathering Darkness

Sunrise/sunset: 06:13/ 19:08. Daylength: 12hr54min

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that it was not yet entirely dark, but from Thursday this week there has been full darkness for a short time each night. It’s hard to believe we’re already well into September. The sun is low in the sky for much of the day and the autumn equinox will soon be here.

I took that photo when I was out with Triar, and he very kindly posed for me on an upturned boat, that lies beside the narrow path we walked down.

I’m not sure what the boat is doing here, halfway up a rather steep hill, but I suspect it might be a remnant left over from a children’s play park. They quite often use old boats in playgrounds, when they are no longer any use for fishing.

Though it’s coming up for two years since I’ve been in the UK, I do like to follow what’s happening on social media. So I was interested to see, in the past couple of weeks, that the first mince pies have started to appear in shops over there. Mince pies are one of the Christmas foods I miss most. Of course I could make my own, but it’s nearly impossible to recreate the wonderful cool pastry and spiced mincemeat that you get in the shop bought version.

That said, I was pleased to see the return of mørketids boller to the shop I was in yesterday. Mørketid is Norwegian for polar night, which will not arrive until 30th November, so like the mince pies, they are a little early. But I love the seasonality of the foods in the shops here, and this one is specific to the north of Norway. They aren’t as good as mince pies. It’s really a doughnut with dark chocolate and vanilla filling (I have seen pictures with chocolate fillings, but have never located one). Very pleasant with a cup of coffee.

The shorter days at work also ended this week. For a few months in the summer, we work seven hour days, whereas in winter, we work seven and three quarter hours. The difference doesn’t sound much, but I was pleasantly surprised when it began, how much faster the working day passed. It’s a great perk to have shorter working days when the summer is so brief.

There are also some odd quirks in the working hours over Christmas and New Year and there was some discussion about this over morning coffee this week, when there was only me and two Norwegian colleagues present. For example, on New Year’s Eve, our official working day is only two hours. So if you have built up some time off in lieu (TOIL) then that is a good day to use it. If you take the day as holiday, it counts as a whole day off, regardless of how long or short the day is. So if you do that, you took off two hours when you could have taken almost eight if you’d chosen a different day.

I had been thinking about trying to take my one remaining holiday week between Christmas and New Year, but as most of the days then are only five hours, it is worth looking into taking them as TOIL instead. The only downside being that agreed holiday can’t be removed at the last minute, whereas agreed TOIL can.

There are a lot of differences from the UK in the Norwegian way of working, and it can be difficult to find all of them out. I should imagine it’s the same for anyone who lives in a culture they weren’t brought up in, but there are times when I have the feeling I am living in some kind of twilight zone, where all kinds of things are obscure. Nobody tells you about them as they assume everyone knows and of course, as you don’t know they exist, you don’t ask about them.

One thing that I do know about, that is definitely worse in Norway than the UK for permanent employees (and is illegal in EU countries) is that in your first year in any new job, you are not entitled to holiday pay. Last year I worked for Mattilsynet from August and so I was not entitled to any paid holiday at all from them. Technically, I received holiday pay from my last job when I left, but that was eaten up in the expenses of moving up here. This year, I only have ten days paid holiday. I can take unpaid holiday, but three weeks without pay would be quite a hit and I don’t really want to do it unless it’s unavoidable.

I’m not really sure why this rule persists. I believe it has been challenged in Denmark, which is in the EU, while Norway is technically not. But Norway does adhere to most of the other EU rules, as expected under the EEA agreement, so I am unsure why they have not implemented this one. For my part, it’s a bad rule. Given that the only “holiday” I had last year was taken up with driving up here, it feels like a long time since I’ve had a proper rest. It’s not as easy to bounce back at fifty two as it was when I was younger either. Roll on next year, when I will be back up to five weeks plus bank holidays again. I guess anyone from the US reading this might think I’m a wuss, but there it is!

Fungi are odd things. A rather cute looking mushroom appeared one day under the hedge beside my driveaway. I took a few photos over several days. It looked tasty, and at the same time rather demure, with its closed head, all neat and dry. This was taken on the tenth of September and I think it had been there a few days. I assumed this was its final form. I rather liked it.

So I was bemused to come home on Wednesday to find it had seemingly doubled in height. The cup was now opened and its edge had a grim wet look to it! I guess it had to open as its spores must be inside, but any feelings I had that it might taste good disappeared instantly!

I will leave you with a couple of pictures from my drive home yesterday. There’s a falling down barn that I have been passing every time I drive to the abattoir. I decided I wanted to photograph it in the autumn of last year, but it was difficult to find anywhere to park, and then winter came and the parking possibilities reduced even further. It’s impossible to pull off the road when there’s a wall of scraped snow on either side. I drove past yesterday morning, when I didn’t have time, and thought that by the time I drove home again, the sun would have moved. But I had forgotten that the sun is now permanently in the south and doesn’t move so much from east to west as from south-east to south-west. So here it is in the autumn sun, in all its dilapidated glory. And I’ll throw in one of trees and snow topped mountains for good measure. Hope you enjoy them!

Strange Days

Sunrise/sunset: 02:31/ 23:11. Daylength: 20hr40min

It was on this day last year, that John and I set off to drive To The North. In a week’s time, I will have been here a year.

It’s been a strange time, all in all. Not that it hasn’t been wonderful in many ways; it has. But coronavirus has had an effect on all our lives that would have been difficult to imagine only a few years ago. In the past year, I have lost an uncle: a wonderful man, larger than life, of whom I have many wonderful and cheering memories, and also an aunt – not technically mine, but an aunt by marriage who was one of the kindest people I have ever met. I could never have imagined that I would be unable to attend their funerals. Nor that I would have been unable to visit my mum and dad for a year and a half, with no definite sign of an end to restrictions amid continuing reports from around the world that the virus is continuing to spread and mutate, despite (or perhaps even because of) the vaccine.

So here I am. Logically coming was the right decision. John has settled nearby and has a permanent job and friends with whom he goes climbing and walking. Andrew has settled into school and has taken up the piano. Anna has been with us since she came home for Christmas and wasn’t able to return to university in the UK. We have a lot of freedom to go out locally. The Norwegian government have done a sterling job in limiting the spread of the virus and we are so remote that often it’s hard to remember during everyday life that we are in the middle of a pandemic.

But it’s odd to think that I have been here a year, in an area I had never visited before I drove up here in a few chaotic days one year ago. I haven’t been home to Yorkshire or Scotland. I am hoping to see my parents at Christmas, but everything seems so unstable that it is impossible to make firm plans.

Still, life goes on. While on a grand scale, everything is filled with uncertainty, on a small scale, I am thriving. This week at work has been special. When I started work a year ago, I was given a list of tasks to complete. One of them was to engage with colleagues who worked in other sectors within Mattilsynet. We cover everything from drinking water to cosmetics as well as food safety on all levels between farm and plate. It had been discussed occasionally, but due to the strict coronavirus rules, where nobody was meant to go anywhere that wasn’t essential, it was always put on hold. But last Friday, alone in the office with Randi and Øivind, I decided it was time to seize the opportunity and I asked whether they had anything planned for this week.

The result was that I went out with Randi on Wednesday for some Smilefjes tilsyn and Friday with Øivind to inspect some waterworks.

Smilefjes is Mattilsynets system for inspection of restaurants and food outlets. When you enter an eatery, there’s generally a certificate on the door showing a happy Smiley. If the inspection didn’t go so well, the Smiley might be less cheerful, but the kitchen we inspected was well organised and clean. I was shown around the restaurant and communal areas of the guesthouse as well, while Randi wrote her report. It was a lovely place: an old building in an area where few old buildings exist. There was a huge fireplace in the restaurant and comfortable couches in front of a large television, which the owner proudly told me was the only one in the building. There were photographs too, black and white pictures of years gone by. I felt nostalgic for the times when staying in hotels was a casual weekend activity and I wanted so much to stay overnight. I took a photograph out of the window as Randi was finishing up her report. The book in the foreground is to record the weight of the fish you catch in the river outside.

On Thursday, quietly melded between the restaurant and water inspections, I carried out my first solo animal welfare inspection. I say solo as I had no other inspectors with me and the responsibility for the case lay with me, but I had support from a fabulous member of Dyervernsnemnda (a little about Dyrevernsnemnda here) called Berit. Berit drove down from Tromsø and she was wonderfully helpful and reassuring. Thanks must also go to Birgit, who made sure I followed the correct procedures beforehand.

Afterwards, I went out for some fish and chips with Ann to celebrate in the cafe that serves the ski slope at Fellandsby.

Yesterday, Øivind took me out to inspect some waterworks. If that word conjures up an image of a huge building with pipes and filtration, then like me, you will have to think again. We drove out onto Senja and headed south to a remote village, where we met the group of men who organise the water supply for the few houses in that area. We sat outside in the sun, as Øivind asked a series of questions about cubic metres of water per year and how many people are supplied. It was an interesting discussion, partly because of the logistics. In summer, there might be fifty people there, whereas there are only four permanent residents. But for me, it was a stark reminder of social changes and history. The four permanent residents are all over 80. The rest are a mix of tourists and very likely people whose parents used to live there, who have moved away, but return at weekends and for the summer. I found myself wondering about those still living there: all of them are in their eighties and nineties. It’s a very long way to the hospital if anything goes wrong.They likely still have families on Senja who look after them. But when they are gone, will the village only exist as a holiday place? There was an old schoolhouse, which is now used for social events. But once upon a time, there must have been families and people who worked the land and/or lived from the sea. Did the four people still living there attend the school, all those years ago? It was a reminder of how much things can change within a lifetime.

After the conversation, we walked up to see the water source. No filtration in sight and the small pipe that carries the water to the village was underground. The water comes from a river. I found myself surprised that it doesn’t freeze in winter, but the water must continue to run underneath all the snow and ice.

This was where we walked to. It was perhaps a kilometer up a grassy track from the village.

Such a peaceful place. I could have passed a happy few hours, listening to the water rushing over the rocks.

And here is the “waterworks” we inspected!

So the village is supplied from the water that runs down from the mountain. It’s not filtered or cleaned and technically, it is a water supply and not a drinking water supply. Øivind made some recommendations. The water source cover should be locked with a padlock, just in case. And the quality should be checked at least once a year. Likely times for the check would be after heavy rain, or when the snow is melting, preferably at a time of year when more people are arriving.

But those who run the system assured us that nobody had ever been unwell from the water in the fifty years since the pipes were installed. It was another reminder of the differences in the lives people in Norway lead. The idea that everyone in Norway should be treated exactly the same (one of Mattilsynet’s aims) is challenging, to say the least. There has to be flexibility when dealing with a country where the ways of life are so very diverse.

And to finish up, here’s are some pictures from Tuesday, when we met one of Anna’s old teachers, who was up for a holiday in the north. We took Triar for a walk in Ånderdalen afterwards. It really has been a very good week.

The Roasters Return

I said last weekend that it wouldn’t be long until John and I returned to Senja Roasters. We decided to explore the three course menu and so we booked a table for this evening. There’s always anticipation before going to a new restaurant. It’s not always possible to predict how the food will taste from reading a menu and though there were good signs (local and international ingredients, paper menu, limited choice) those things don’t always translate into food heaven. This time there was no disappointment. John and I decided to share the meat and fish options, though next time, if there’s a vegan risotto, I will definitely go that way. But for now, I want to share this evening’s fabulous meal with you.

Senja Roasters Café.

The starters sounded interesting: Cod tongues and coffee-crusted tataki reindeer. The cod was wonderful, light and crispy. For me, this was extra special. Fish in batter isn’t common here. It was like a tiny taste of home.

Cod tongues with tangy-mayonnaise and wakame salad.

The tataki reindeer was exquisite. Almost black on the outside, rare in the centre. It was meltingly tender and packed with flavour.

Coffee-crusted tataki reindeer with beetroot ketchup.

We must have looked hungry because in the fairly brief interval between the starters and the main courses, we were brought some more of those delicious crusty bread rolls we had last Sunday.

Onto the mains, again we shared the meat and fish dishes. The waitress was very attentive and happily brought us separate eating plates and bowls for all three courses. We started with a tasty halibut dish on an unusual sweetcorn and red onion salsa. The flavours were lifted by a light-touch citrus sauce:

Halibut with maize salsa and orange chimichurri.

Next up, slow roasted lamb shank with a rich red wine sauce. Traditional flavours, but extremely well done.

Lamb shank with fried butternut squash in red wine sauce with a hint of chocolate.

We spent a few minutes chatting in between the main course and the dessert. The view outside the window kept drawing my gaze as the light changed over the fjord. Here we were in a modern restaurant, not in the centre of a city, but out in the wilds of Norway. Imagine popping over in your boat and tying up outside… maybe one day!

And finally, onto the dessert. Two very different choices here: a rhubarb crumble, sweet and piquant, and a tiramisu, bittersweet coffee taste with a sweet, creamy finish.

Rhubarb crumble.
Tiramisu

We rounded off the meal, me with a cafe latte and John with the hot chocolate at the top of the page. It was a perfect end to a fantastic meal. I think our enthusiasm must have been noted because the chef came out at the end to talk to us. As John pointed out afterwards, you know when you’ve had a great meal when you run out of ways to tell the waitress how much you loved it all.

And a final touch, when we were in Roasters last Sunday, they told us they were expecting a visit from Mattilsynet and hoping to earn the smiley face that means the inspectors found the hygiene was good. It seems they must have passed as I saw this on the way out.

Here is this evening’s menu, for Norwegian speakers. For any non-Norwegian vegans reading, the starter was cauliflower soup with fried almonds, raisins and mint oil, and the main course, butternut squash risotto with porcini mushrooms.

Edit to add a photo of the risotto from a week later. Also delicious!

Senja Roasters Website.

Colour

Sunrise/sunset: 09:30/ 14:33. Daylength: 5hr 02min

There is so much colour in the world. The changing sky continues to amaze me. I suppose one advantage of living so far north is just how long the sun lurks just below the horizon. And now it has finally risen, there are wonderful shadows and reflected light everywhere. The photo at the top is of the view from our garden, and though I see it every day, it never grows old. This was the first day I’d really seen the brand new sunshine on the snow-covered mountains. How wonderfully pink they are under the arching blue sky.

I was struck by the pink and powder-blue backdrop as I drove home from Bardufoss on Tuesday as well. So wonderful to drive home in the light. Of course, I stopped to take a photograph.

I had hoped to be travelling up to Storslett next week to the northernmost office in our region. I was waiting until the last minute, as the upper echelons of Mattilsynet had a meeting on Friday, but in the absence of any government lifting of the regulations, I will wait a few weeks longer. John tells me that two abattoirs further south in Norway are currently closed, one because a member of staff tested positive and the other because it’s in the area where the biggest outbreak of the English variant has taken hold. They are right to be cautious, but like others everywhere, I am champing at the bit to have a bit more freedom of movement.

Still, there are things to look forward to. I have booked a weekend away in a log cabin on a husky farm near the end of February. It’s only an hour and a half away, so hopefully there should be no travel disruption! And we have designated this weekend as 1980s party-food weekend. Last night there were sausage rolls, ham and crisp sandwiches and chocolate tiffin. Today I will be making pastry cases filled with creamy chicken, scones with jam and cream and it will be followed by ice-cream and jelly.

I don’t have a lot to write this week, so I will leave you with this video that Konstantin sent me. It features overhead footage of reindeer herding. I mentioned a while back that they hadn’t been able to bring the reindeer in before Christmas because of the lack of snow, and this gives an idea of why that would be a problem. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It’s truly a beautiful spectacle.

Thank you Konstantin. I hear you are coming back in May, which makes me happy. It’s good in the depths of winter to have things to look forward to.

Plah! A Journey through the Jungle

Last weekend, I was in Oslo. Originally, the plan was to meet my friend and co-author of the Hope Meadows series, Victoria Holmes. Sadly, Vicky became unwell soon before the trip and was unable to come. Charlie very kindly joined me instead for the weekend. Vicky did ask me, however, to record the things I saw and the food we would have eaten. So here is one of my favourite meals of the weekend.

The venue: Plah Thai Restaurant, Oslo

Our waiter for the night was the delightful Sebastian. He was very friendly and spoke excellent English.

I chose the vegetarian option.

The starter came in three parts.

Kaho grab – rice chip

Light rice crisp with flavoursome herb topping

Miang kam – “betel leaf” with pomelo

The stuffed leaf was served on a delicious bed of toasted coconut. I had to stop myself from eating the lot, knowing there was so much more to come

Karipap – Southern Thai samosa with sweet potato and curry

I think this was my favourite part of the whole meal! Crunchy pastry with a delicious filling

Then there were four further savoury courses

Kao tod – Rice ball with cucumber and sour mango

Sebastian recommended the rice ball should be crushed, then eaten with the crunchy salad

Gaeng klo wan – Green curry soup with bitter eggplant, fresh bamboo and basil

This was hearty and delicious, with a slightly hot and sour taste

Taohoo – Crispy soft tofu with pepper chilli and coriander

The tofu was perfectly cooked with a wonderful crisp coating. Perfectly contrasted with the colourful salad

Gaeng deng pak op – Baked roots, kale and curry

This was marvellous: sweet chargrilled root vegetables, some soft, some firm, with a delightful curry sauce. Extremely satisfying

Then there were three parts to dessert.

Kanun lae saowaros – Jack fruit and passion fruit

Like miniature tasty smoothies

Som chon – Kaffirlime and pandanus granite

Flavoured ice. Sweet and refreshing

We were offered coffee. My cappucino was as beautifully presented as the rest of the meal

Kanom dok djok – “Rosettebakkels”

This was the most amazing presentation of the evening. The rosette biscuits came under a glass container which had been filled with steam to carry the aroma of the dish to us. It was lifted at the table. There were edible flowers and small chunks of chilli jelly in the glass cover.

The biscuits inside were equally beautiful

And now, all I need to know is, when can we go back! A fantastic evening.

Palazzi e Piazze – a Weekend in Genoa

Charlie and I have been fortunate to travel to Italy a number of times. On this occasion, we visited Genoa in the Liguria region.

We stayed on the converted fourth floor of an Italian Palazzo. We approached by taxi, which was a hair-raising experience through the tiny streets.

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We entered our room, to be greeted by this view from the window.

The ancient city of Genoa still hosts a thriving port and the narrow streets of the old town are filled with life.  Gilded churches abound. Prostitutes sit in doorways in the half-light. Threading our way through the maze of cobbled streets, we emerged from dim ravines into sunlit piazze.

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As always in Italy, it didn’t take us long to find a coffee shop. Drawn in by the fragrance, we entered and our eyes were caught by this original coffee machine from the 1950s.

We began to ascend, through wider streets, rising steeply up towards the mountains that embrace the city. Up and up, unable to see past the lofty buildings that scaled the hillside.

Then we emerged to wonderful views of the city and the sea beyond.

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The city is stunning.

A night’s sleep and then we set off to explore some more.

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We sat and had coffee outside the Cathedral di San Lorenzo.

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We were unable to resist…

 

At street level, the city is intense, occasionally to the point of seeming almost oppressive. Not so bad in the April sunshine, I found myself wondering how it would feel in the depths of January.

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But as ever, in Italy, food was not far from our thoughts.

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I think this pizza was the best I have ever tasted.

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Similarly, this lasagne was sublime. Because I’ve eaten lasagne so often in Scotland, I had never tried it in Italy. I now know this to have been an error of judgement!

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Tarte tatin… another stand out food moment.

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Down in the market… you smelled this stall well before you saw it!

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Another coffee beside the harbour. Just out of view, a row of millionaire’s yachts.

On the last day, we took the funicular railway up into the hills and walked back down.

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There were a lot of steps!

And then we were back down into those narrow streets again.

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Deep fried milk for dessert? Who knew?

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Better than bread and butter pudding.

But as always, every trip comes to an end.

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Italian style, right to the end… in the airport lounge.

20th Wedding Anniversary – Barcelona

Again, this is a very belated entry. I wish I had posted sooner. These posts are the nearest thing I have to a diary and already, less than a year later, there are many details I cannot remember. Some of the more memorable things, I didn’t photograph. The rustic food we ate at Bar Casi was not aesthetically pleasing in a way that made me want to take pictures, but the friendliness of the owner, despite a significant language barrier made a lasting impression, as did the flavoursome bean stew.

The Sagrada Familia was, quite simply, the most stunning building I have ever been inside, mainly due to the warmth of the light that poured in through the stained glass, but also in the organic impression of the internal design. I have some pictures of that, but they don’t do it justice.

I’ll start though with the lovely gifts that greeted us on entering the hotel when we arrived.

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Twenty years – thank you Charlie

Although I describe the Sagrada Familia above as one of the most stunning buildings I’ve been inside, I have to confess that externally, I found the shapes of the towers disconcerting. I suppose it is difficult to adjust to unfamiliar shapes in architecture, though it did grow on me.

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Standing near the Nativity Façade entrance to the Sagrada Familia

 

At the time of posting, the Sagrada Familia is still only 70% complete. It was designed by Antoni Gaudi and has been built using donations. Because of its popularity, work is accelerating and it is hoped the building will be complete by 2026. I would love to revisit.

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This picture comes closest to showing the astonishing nature of the light that filters in.

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Looking upwards. The pillars are based on the design of trees. See also the photograph at the top of the page. I have no words to describe the intensity of feeling my visit inspired. Despite the number of visitors, it felt peaceful.

We went up the Passion Tower. Going up in the lift was easy, going down more disconcerting. Despite being relatively fit, my knees were shaking by the time we reached the ground. As well as views over the city, there were glimpses of parts of the construction that you would never see from ground level.

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Looking out over the city.

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A long way down

Later, we went out for dinner at Accés Restaurant. The staff could not have been more friendly.

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The food was fabulous

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We were presented with this at the end of the meal

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I think the barman thought we were hilarious. We may have been very slightly the worse for wear at this point.

The following day, we went on a bus tour. We saw some other buildings designed by Gaudi.

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To me, this one looked a bit like a gingerbread house

On Sunday, we went to visit Botero’s bronze cat.

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Fernando Botero’s bronze cat

We sat down and ordered some food.

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Meatballs in squid ink

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Catalan patatas bravas

I was pleased as I watched, to see that Botero’s cat was one of the most interactive pieces of street art I’ve come across. Everybody seemed to want to touch him. Many went further and climbed onto his back, or boosted their children up onto his tail.

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I’m not sure he’s anatomically accurate, but he’s certainly a tom

There were trees lining the street and many parakeets flitting around.

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Monk parakeet

We then wended our way back to the hotel. There were many beautiful buildings. Sadly, this is where my memory fails me as I don’t recall the names of the places we found.

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Sunday’s meal was less of a success. Charlie and I have a history of awful anniversary meals, which is astonishing, considering how much we normally enjoy eating out. I won’t mention a name, but we visited one of the most highly recommended restaurants in Barcelona, supposedly a real food experience. It was an experience, but sadly, for us, the food just didn’t live up to the hype. Still, it wasn’t quite as bad as the salt-flavoured soup and white sliced bread we once had in Bodrum. And unlike that night, we didn’t have to go for a second meal on the way home as we were still so hungry.

My last view of Barcelona is of something that intrigued me in the taxi on the way in from the airport, and caught a passing photograph on the way back.

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Montjuïc cemetery

I understand that in amongst all the graves and mausoleums set into the hillside, there are many fine examples of funerary art.

There are so many reasons to revisit Barcelona and spend longer exploring. A weekend was no time at all to do it justice. One day, we will return.

 

Venice in Spring

We visited Venice in Spring 2013, I have recently been looking back at the photos and wanted to share some of them here.

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Rooftops…

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…and a maze

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…from the bell tower of St Georges church.

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I was fascinated by the back-lane feel of these miniature canals.

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On the Waterfront

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Police, Venetian style.

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Who knew there were daleks as well as vampires in Venice?

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Grand canal from a gondola.

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Chaz’n’Saz

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The fish market.

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Buy one, get one free!

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And, of course…

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…the obligatory pictures of wonderful food.

Food ‘n’ Trams ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll

On Friday 20th November, Charlie and I travelled to Milan. The excuse for going (if one can be said to need an excuse for a trip to Italy) was to see Simple Minds, but I confess I was looking forward to the food as well. In this I was not disappointed.

Here is Charlie, about to consume (second) breakfast in a wonderful pasticceria.

Charlie in Sugar
Charlie in Sugar

I think actually we were very restrained as you will see from this picture of a small selection of the cakes in the window. Apologies for the poor quality of the photo due to reflection from the glass.

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As we were sitting, trams were rumbling past. The network seemed to be very extensive and there was an astonishing array of different types. With my father in mind, I thought I ought to photograph one or two, though I fear he might be disappointed in me for not being more selective in my choices.

This seemed to be the standard livery on these old trams.
This seemed to be the standard livery on these old trams.

But this one was definitely more festive.
But this one was definitely more festive.

We did pass the odd bit of culture in our extensive three day walking tour of the city. This is Castello Sforzesco:

Castello Storfesco
Castello Storfesco

And this is the Cathedral:

Duomo di Milano
Duomo di Milano

But then it was back to the food. To whet the apetite, an Aperol Spritz is invaluable. This rather fine restaurant was the Ristorante Valentino Legend:

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The food was fantastic. Obviously photographs can never do justice to the full experience, but the meal really did taste as good as it looks.

Unfortunately I can't find this in the online restaurant menu, but it was one of the most incredible dishes I have tasted. It was a light pastry tart filled with asparagus with the most wonderfully savoury cheese sauce. There were also truffles included, though whether those were in the tart or the sauce, I'm not certain.
Unfortunately I can’t find this in the online restaurant menu, but it was one of the most incredible dishes I have tasted. It was a light pastry tart filled with asparagus with the most wonderfully savoury cheese sauce. There were also truffles included, though whether those were in the tart or the sauce, I’m not certain.

Sea Bass Ravioli with Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto of Capers
Sea Bass Ravioli with Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto of Capers

Scallops au gratin with Butter Lobster on a bed of creamed sweet Peas
Scallops au gratin with Butter Lobster on a bed of creamed sweet Peas

Prawns wrapped in Toscan Bacon and au gratin with cream of white Beans. Technically this was Charlie's, but we shared everything.
Prawns wrapped in Toscan Bacon and au gratin with cream of white Beans. Technically this was Charlie’s, but we shared everything.

Trilogia di lamponi
Trilogia di lamponi

All this food was consumed on Saturday before the main event, which was of course, the concert. Despite some reluctance on Charlie’s part, we managed to get a place very close to the stage. As anyone who reads this blog religiously will know, we have been to see the band a few times before, but they never disappoint and this was no exception. Jim Kerr seemed to be particularly enjoying himself. The only sad part was that he was conversing with the audience most of the time in Italian, so I had no idea what he was saying, but the audience roared their appreciation all around us.

Jim Kerr, still frisky...
Jim Kerr, still frisky…

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Charlie Burchill was right in front of us for most of the concert.
Charlie Burchill was right in front of us for most of the concert.

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I don’t have as many good photos as I have had for the previous two concerts. Not so long ago, Jim Kerr expressed his frustration that too much of the time he found himself staring into a row of phones so I was aware of that, as well as wanting to be in the moment when we had invested the effort to get so close to the stage. Charlie tells me that during Let There Be Love, Jim Kerr pointed to us and mouthed “You Two.” So now our twenty year love affair has been officially stamped with Kerr approval. Well, I’m looking forward to the next twenty years and I hope for many more weekends as wonderful as this one. Simple Minded ratification notwithstanding, I have published the few decent photos I have on a separate page for those who are sad interested.

The weekend did not end there. Sunday remained and we awoke to find the mist had lifted and the sky was blue. So did we spend this time enjoying the wonderful sights of Milan? No, we went out to eat, this time at Spoon. We arrived at about two and were presented with a Sunday Brunch menu. Initially, we were told the a la carte menu was not available, but after a quick word with the chef, our waitress returned with the real deal.

Crispy scallops with beetroot mayonnaise
Crispy scallops with beetroot mayonnaise

Tortellone with ricotta cheese and anchovies
Tortellone with ricotta cheese and anchovies

Apologies to the chef for not showing the original presentation, but for me, this was a perfectly cooked steak
Apologies to the chef for not showing the original presentation, but for me, this was a perfectly cooked steak

Our profound enthusiasm was not lost on the waiting staff. To our surprise, instead of offering us the dessert menu, they arrived with spoons and a moment later, announced that they were giving us a selection of desserts “on the house”.

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By the time we were finished, the sun had gone down. We spent a while looking round the centre. As those of you who know me well will know, this is about as near as I ever get to high fashion.

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Perhaps feeling that we had not spent enough time exploring Milan, Charlie felt that as a fitting end to our weekend we should pay a visit to the Navigli district, a beautiful area of the city built around canals. Following the GPS co-ordinates on Trip-Advisor, we took a tram and then a bus and alighted in an area that, to our surprise, appeared more Vauxhall than Venice. We walked a few minutes, passing shops with the lovely descriptive name “Sexy Shop”. This didn’t seem as tempting as the bohemian restaurants that Trip Advisor promised. Still, Charlie checked his map again and confirmed there was a canal nearby. So we walked some more (we averaged 20,000 steps per day… we needed to do something to work off all that deliciousness) and when we finally found it in the darkness…

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…there was no water.

Retreating to a down-at-heel coffee shop, where a man was pounding a slot machine with the dedicated intensity of the addict, Charlie, following a long session peering into his phone announced that yes, the person who had added the Navigli District to Trip Advisor had put in the wrong co-ordinates. Undaunted by our trawl through the red light district, we made our way to Central station and hopped on the Metro. By the time we found our way to the real canal, Charlie was hungry again and as we had not, as yet, had a pizza, we finished our weekend in style in a tiny pizza restaurant: I Segreti di Pulcinella.

Wood pizza oven
Wood pizza oven

All good things must come to an end and it was sad to wake up on Monday morning knowing that the weekend was over. Still, the wonderful staff in the Lancaster Hotel wished us well. And maybe one day, we will return.

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A Taste of Poraj Palac

A celebration of the wonderful food created by Leszek Kaźmierczak, head chef at the Poraj Palace Hotel in Northern Poland.

Chef Leszek Kaźmierczak selects the salad from his vegetable garden in the grounds of the Poraj Palace.
Chef Leszek Kaźmierczak selects the salad from his vegetable garden in the grounds of the Poraj Palace.

 

...and makes his way to the kitchen...
…and makes his way to the kitchen…

 

 

Carpaccio
Carpaccio

Herring in Cranberry Sauce
Herring in Cranberry Sauce

Steak Tartare
Steak Tartare

Stuffed Goose Neck
Stuffed Goose Neck

 

 

 

Nut soup.
Nut Soup.

 

Traditional sour rye soup.
Traditional Sour Rye Soup.

 

 

Sole Stuffed with Spinach in a Cream Sauce
Sole Stuffed with Spinach in a Cream Sauce

Potato Cakes with Cream
Potato Cakes with Cream

Roast duck with apple
Roast Duck with Apple

Sauté Cod
Sauté Cod

Trout in Cream Sauce
Trout in Cream Sauce

Cutlets de Volaille (with Spinach Pierogi)
Cutlets de Volaille (with Spinach Pierogi)

 

Greek Salad
Greek Salad

 

Pig's Kidneys
Pig’s Kidneys

Hungarian Potato Cake.
Hungarian Potato Cake.

 

Pierogi with Spinach
Pierogi with Spinach

 

 

Nut Pancakes
Nut Pancakes

Traditional Apple Pie
Traditional Apple Pie

Vanilla Ice Cream with Hot Raspberry
Vanilla Ice Cream with Hot Raspberry