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Mykonos….island of relaxation?

The boat, the boat, the boat. I remember why I HATE boats. The first stint from Santorini to Naxos was horrendous. I felt so sick. I cried. I wanted OFF. Once we reached Naxos and it became a nearly full boat we had to move to our allocated seats. I tried sleeping on Chris’ lap and luckily that help ease the motion for our next leg to Mykonos. I wanted to kiss the asphalt when we docked. Mwa mwa mwa. Land. Mwa mwa mwa.

We were starving so grabbed lunch at the little café next to the port and as we were about to set off, the owner, a nice little Greek lady asked where we were staying. She said she knew the family and would call them as they normally will pick up their guests. Hallelujah reigned as we did not want to get ripped off again from the monopoly that is island taxis.

I knew the hotel was on the hills overlooking the water, but I had not imagined something so beautiful.

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We dropped out bags, turned on the air con so that our room would be nice and cool upon our return form a leisurely stroll into town. The roads are not wide so the pedestrians are sharing with the lunatic drivers and scooter riders. Although I did not get hit, there was one lucky call. Crazy hooligans.

Once we got into town I did not remember the streets from my trip 9 years earlier, so we began exploring. What we found was breathtaking.

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A lot of the small shops sold tourist items, beach wear and little nick knacks, none of which we were interested in. I did however find some designer stores none of which I could fathom dropping the amounts displayed on the items shown. Ridiculous. Probably because it is an island and there is nowhere else to shop.

Back to the hotel to get ready for a nice dinner for two. I think I do a good Alfalfa impersonation (first attempt at curling my newly short hair).

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The dinner was fine dining which we had not had for a while, and what better way to enjoy such a meal then with a short walk, past a beautiful view of Mykonos by night, to our room. A very impressive table setting instantly make you feel excited for a meal. Look at this unique wood place mat with delicate cutlery and abstract plate. I love every inch of it and want to steel it all, including the light. It may be ugly but it is such a great idea for menu’s and actually give people a chance to read in dimly lit restaurants.

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Entrée was saganaki mussels. After a few failed attempts of having saganaki in Santorini I think we have hit the jackpot here. Cheesy + tomatoey + slurpy make for a lot fun, I don’t mind getting in with my hands too. Not the normal saganaki but captures the essence of the dish and makes it even better with the local seafood.

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Mains were just as impressive. I had risotto with speck and Chris had the surf and turf. The risotto was nice, very earthy and much richer than all the seafood ones I have had to date on the trip, so it was unfortunate I actually could not finish the plate, not even close. Chris very much so enjoyed his steak, but when you have a well cooked steak who wouldn’t?

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Yep no room for dessert, plus the game was starting. Brazil vs Germany. We were excited to watch it in the bar area with at least 20 others. There were a group of girls sitting next to us wearing Brazil bandanas. Germany score One. Two. Three. I cannot believe it, everyone is so stunned, the girls even take all Brazil merchandise off. Four. Five. Half time. Ok I am not staying to watch more, so I left Chris to go to bed, there is no point watching it. I did actually get the tv working in the room, Chris shortly came back after another goal went in, and he watched the rest from the room. We were shocked.

DAY 2

Today we did not really feel like doing anything, our only objective in Mykonos was to go to Paradise Beach, which we decided to do the following day. Plus did I mention that it was State of Origin night, well afternoon? Even if we did want to go somewhere Chris refused to go out before 3pm once the game would be finished. He spent all morning trying to find a website to stream off and finally streamed from the NRL website. I was not going to sit in a room to watch or even listen so off to the pool I went.

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I got a cocktail and enjoyed the sun on my chair. I did go into the pool a handful of times to cool off but not for long as I could tell the chlorine was very strong and not something I like to breath in. So the game started at 1pm our time, Chris did not join me until 3:30pm. Little did I know that those 2 hours would be like years in Sun years. We enjoyed a nice lunch together overlooking the pool. I had a deconstructed gyro while Chris had a terrible pizza that tasted like it was frozen and came out of a box.

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After lunch I was not interested in more pool so left Chris, showered and went into the town for some window shopping. I was quite pleased when I caught a glimpse of how brown I was getting :D happy Trish.

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Going for a walk by myself also gave me time to photograph and take my time with them.

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The town was fairly busy as it was getting to the end of the week, not that there is much space in the small cobblestone roads anyways.

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I also made it my mission to find the infamous Jimmy’s Gyros. I remember eating delicious gyros here at 3am after hitting up the clubs last time I was here. The situation was a bit different to this trip so we may not get a chance for gyros, but at least I can say “I was here 2014”.

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I went back to find Chris in the room but suddenly was not feeling well. I led Chris back into town to a little restaurant I found (the picture with the tables next to the water). We walked in and there was plenty of space but as soon as we were told that their eftpos machine was down we also walked right back out only having credit cards with us to pay. So we found another small restaurant along the same strip which overlooked the water and the large Mykonos windmills. Our food was not great, but I also had lost my appetite and was extremely tired…….I think we have a case of heat stroke, and all because of a silly NRL game. We left and I slept as soon as we reached our room. Not a nice feeling that was!

DAY 3 paradise

Our final day in Mykonos and we had to experience Paradise.

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We found an umbrella fairly close to the water (less hot sand to walk on until you reach water) and set up shop. I was peckish so ordered a baguette, 4 euros thank you very much for not being over priced!

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A couple of hours and drinks later, we had swam in the bluest, clearest waters, laid on the nicest beach lounges and walked on the softest sand (possible in Greece). This was paradise, and not a cloud in the sky!

How are we going to finish such a nice day off? Eat what we like best, fresh pasta. I stumbled on this restaurant on my explorations and looked it up after paradise. It had may alterations on seafood pasta so it was worth a try in both our eyes.

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I was not game enough to have the pasta with clams and instead opted for a linguine with crab in a white wine sauce.

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Chris had to try it, the clams that was, but it just would never be as good as Da Adolfo. Still, it was the best food we had outside the fine dining in our restaurant so that was a good night for us.

DAY 4

Our last morning we slept in and got ready for our boat to Athens. Hopefully it would not be as choppy as the boat to Mykonos. Well it shouldn’t as we have a huge almost cruise liner that is quite slow, 5 hours in fact, so I don’t anticipate that to sway much at all.

The final view from our hotel is just as spectacular as when we arrived. To have experienced Mykonos both crazily and this time relaxed has been good. I have seen different sides to the island, both good and bad. I think the food generally isn’t as good and perhaps more touristy. I think the view is just as, if not more beautiful than Santorini, and on that point the sunsets are great too, there is just no volcano, who cares! The beaches are and will forever be far superior in Mykonos to Santorini. Maybe this is because I am an Aussie and love sand but the rocks just don’t do it for me and if anything hinder my experience of the beach.

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We have enjoyed it though, well we have to, the honeymoon is coming to a fast end!

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Sunsets and Santorini

Flying to Santorini was quite the trek. Rome to Athens, stopover, then Athens to Santorini. I did find it amusing during our stopover to listen to Americans trying to say ‘efharisto’, but instead saying ‘f-haaristooo’. I cringed and wanted to correct them but I was outnumbered, there were too many of them, not worth the effort.

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Our overpriced taxi drive did not even take us to the door, but I suppose it serves us right for getting a hotel in the little cobblestone alleys of central Fira rather than in a smaller town like Imerovigli. Nothing mattered once we got to our room and patio.

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The view makes everything better.

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It was already 6pm and we were hungry, but Argentina were about to play Belgium in the quarter finals, a game we did want to watch, Argentina had to win! So we found a nice restaurant which had tv’s and sat down, after a detour to look at the view again.

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Dinner was great, lots of tzatziki, greek salad, lamb and octopus. You can’t get much more Greek than that. I was exhausted after the game. Argentina won of course then we headed back to the hotel. Chris returned to the bar to watch game 2 that night while I tried to sleep. I don’t remember so much noise last time I was in Santorini, but then again I did not stay in Fira. We were in the thick of it, but so were the clubs, and what comes with clubs is their blaring music which we could hear all night and morning long. Needless to say we did not sleep that much all night.

DAY 2

Breakfast was served on our rooftop overlooking the glistening blue sea. I was ecstatic to see a plunger of coffee as it had been a good 2 months since I had had some, our Wedding day, I made a huge pot for all the people at my house getting ready. Good thing was that it was made well, and not burnt (as I found out later on a flight serving terrible plunger coffee). We paired fresh coffee with yogurt and honey, watermelon (sooo greek), boiled eggs, bread, orange juice and apple french toast. Healthier than the big buffet breakfasts we had enjoyed up until this point which was a nice change.

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We spent the morning looking up our good friend trip advisor to decide on a restaurant for the evening, but in the end just took a recommendation from the hostess at the hotel. So we walked down, along the cliff face to book it in and tried to do the ‘selfie’ with the nice white buildings. FAIL. All we got is my hat and hair in the way.

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Our light breakkie was also convenient as it left room for a Gyro lunch. We tested both the pork and chicken gyro. YUM. Fresh meat, salad and crispy chips smothered in tzatziki and wrapped in fluffy soft pita bread. The perfect snack before an afternoon at the beach.

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Black beach in Kamari, famous for its black gravel that spans the whole coast.

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We set ourselves up under a nice umbrella and it only set us back 6 euros. Compare this to the 15-25 euros they were charged in Italy and this is a steal. After we settled in we wanted a refreshing beverage, so I got us us frappes. Now Chris had become accustomed to this traditional Greek drink, even bordering on the point of liking it.

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OF course to make them last longer we topped them up with cold water once we got to the halfway point. It would be blasphemy to finish a frappe in under an hour!

The water was surprisingly freezing and the wifi was not working at the beach so after a few hours we had had enough and went back to the hotel to rest before dinner.

I was able to capture the beginning of the sunset as there are ledges all around our hotel, perfect for setting up a camera on timer. I do love this photo.

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Back to the cliff face and we were able to find someone happy to take a photo for us. The result, much better than my efforts.

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Lucky we booked as we were given the best table in the house. Well sort of. It did have the best view, right on the edge, but at 7:30pm when we arrived the sun was still beaming strong and there was no shade cover. I suspect other tables opted to be further back so they weren’t as hot as we were for that first hour. Almost too much sun for even me, but we held out and the results were well worth it.

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We also had a good view right along the coast and got to see packs of donkeys walking up and down the stairs. I do feel sorry for them having to carry so much so I was glad to photograph these donkeys not carrying anything at all.

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Right everyone get your cameras and phones out as it is starting. The famous Santorini Sunset.

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People at every restaurant along the cost were watching and celebrating.

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Boats were out in packs too.

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Once the sun did finally go down everyone clapped and cheered.

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A nice romantic dinner, food wasn’t great but it was about the experience. It certainly made us want to sit side by side and cuddle up while we watched the changing colours of the sky.

DAY 3

I don’t think I could get sick of this view. Today many more cruise liners were out and it got me thinking. What a nice way to do the islands as it is calm, you don’t need to worry about choppy high speed boats or turbulent small planes. You don’t need to wheel your luggage up the cobblestone streets and you will always have a beautiful view…..maybe one day, but not today, we still have much more land to cover.

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Today’s outing was to more famous beaches in Santorini, Red and White beach in Akrotiri. Incredibly they are just around the corner from each other yet they are so starkly different that you cannot believe they are from the same small bit of coast line.

We caught a boat out to see the three beach options for the afternoon then could dock at whichever one we wanted. First was Red beach. I had visited before but it is always so busy and there are not many umbrellas available, let alone empty beach space. So we gave this one a miss and went onto the next beach.

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White beach. Such a view and like nothing we had seen before. So secluded there is no road nearby let alone any amenities. The next beach was Black beach but we had already been to a Black beach so opted for White.

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Plenty of umbrellas available, and because it is so secluded it is surely a monopoly, 15 euros for the both of us. Well we coughed it up as we did not want to attempt lying on the hard white pebbles. We experienced them enough getting off the boat. Since the water is shallow closer to shore the boat docked about 15m out from shore. We had to get off the boat in our cozzies and thongs and walk to shore in waist high water, with out bags on our heads and trying not to trip on the pebbles. I did save my bag, but I did trip too, it is so hard to walk on those pebbles.

Once we were relaxing on the beach, and in the warm water, it was bliss – a quiet, calm beach with crystal clear water. Yes please!

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All good things must come to an end, and our last day in Santorini had so far been paradise. Back at the hotel we got the good news from the hostess that she got us a booking at her favourite traditional restaurant there, Naoussa. We again got the best table in the house which we felt had an even better view than what we had seen before.

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We were hungry so ordered big. Entrée consisted of Greek salad, tzatziki and cheese croquets (which were basically just fried melted cheese). All so delicious and as I am writing this I am salivating over this meal. We washed this down with a small jug of house white wine.

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Mains were just as impressive. Moussaka, which I was so glad that they served in a terracotta pot. The waiter told me this was the best moussaka in Santorini and he was not lying. It was delectable. The béchamel was smooth as silk, creamy and the hint of nutmeg gives it that proper greek flavour. The meat, potato and eggplant all rich in flavour and as a whole dish YUM. Chris had slow roasted lamb with lemon potatoes which tasted good but was a tad dry, so disappointing for something that looked so impressive. The potatoes on the other hand were ‘just a-like-a home’ although would never be better than my Grandmothers, ever. But beyond my Grandmothers they were the next best.

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Our view. The best ending to a fantastic time in Santorini. We have seen a lot of sunsets on our trip. This would be number one, Biarritz number two, everything else does not matter.

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Santorini is just as beautiful when the night sky is out and the lights are on.

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Our time has been full of much needed relaxation and tanning. If we are coming back to Australia after 9 weeks we most certainly need a tan, what else would people come to Europe in Summer for?

 

 


Rome – ‘gluten’ville

Rome has been such a different experience for me. I have gone from hating the city to loving it’s vibe, it’s chaos and wanting to come back and explore. In our 3 days all we saw was a check list of monuments and the restaurant outside our hotel, as it had the best pizza and pasta.

If I was doing a list of awards for this holiday, the award for the city I wish I could have spent more time in would be Rome.

We arrive on a Friday afternoon and luckily our hotel was very central located just up from the Spanish steps. We were starving so we had to decide whether to go and find a good restaurant or should we just chance the restaurant outside our hotel, which we got 10% off at. It was busy so that was a good sign, plus we were so hungry that anything probably would have tasted good.
The menu was simple so we settled on fettuccine ragu and pizza with sausage, mushrooms and mozzarella. I had hoped that my small amounts of daily of gluten consumption in France had warned my stomach of what was to come in Italy, I was not going to go without here. We were so excited for this meal and had been looking forward to pizza and pasta everyday for basically the whole of France.

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Well let me tell you, we had been there one hour and I knew this pizza and pasta would be hard to beat, this is the evidence.

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We debated whether to get another plate of either as we thought we were hungry still, but opted out and set off in the direction of the Trevi Fountain. On the way there we did go past the Spanish steps and decided to sit and relax there on the way back to the hotel. Also on the way to the Trevi Fountain were 2 major shopping streets, the first Prada, Bulgari, Dior, Cartier, Fendi etc etc. Chris was pulling me along and probably wishes he had a leash he could keep me close with so I would not run to each window and admire. Ok I was a good girl and did not go in, we continues on. Then next street Zara 1, Zara 2, Mango (my favourite shops) plus many many more. Again Chris pulled me along reminding me of the prize, ice cream at the fountain. Ok Ok. We got there. Excitement, gone. Disappointment, boiling. Scaffolding, everywhere. Water, vanished.

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Chris was so upset, he was saving his two 1c coins for us to throw, he did not want a photo.

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There were many coins thrown over the barriers and onto the concrete that once was a pond. No wishes would be happening here! Later we looked up how long the works were taking place as we were returning to Rome a week later for a day, but nope they were to be ongoing until 2015. A multi million euro restoration of the Trevi Fountain sponsored by Fendi. Well thanks a lot Fendi, ruin our night. Next disappointment was returning back to the once excellent gelataria only for it to look sloppy and no Italians ready to serve. Right back out we walked, authenticity lost. We then walked, shoulders dropped, back to the Spanish Steps on the look out for some good gelato. We would have walked into at least 5 places and none looked good, “what is it in these major cities, it was hard to find a good patisserie in Paris and now we cannot find gelato in rome?” we said to one another. It is as if cities have become so touristy that the chance that you will stumble upon a good little find is dwindling. LOOK those people are holding what looks like proper gelato, head in that direction. BAH BAH, success. Actually just across from the Spanish Steps too…..well at least the Spaniards are still guiding us well.

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Double scoops were a must which we enjoyed on the steps looking out at the stupid tourists dumb enough to take roses from the man who wait for it, wait for it, there it is, will ask for money. Surely people are aware of these ploys, these men don’t just want to give you a rose, nor do the men in Paris just want to give you a bracelet, all they want is money. We sat for at least 40 minutes watching this occur over and over, still humoured every single time.

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Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon with my husband, great food, smooth cheap wine and a two scoop of my favourite flavours.

The next morning we tried to leave reasonably early for St Peter’s Basilica as it was a Saturday, and the lines are always long. On the walk up to the Basilica we were asked in at least 5 different languages if we needed a guide as we can ‘skip the queues’. No thank you. Well the line was long but it was moving reasonably fast.

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Yes is did stretch the whole way round but was only an hour and quite a bit was under shade. So it was not until we saw scaffolding in the square then ask a staff member why there was all this construction here that we were told tomorrow, Sunday, was St Peter’s Day and not only will the museum and basilica be closing early today but tomorrow would be closed. We are extremely lucky we came TODAY.

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So we came, we saw, and we left. It is another extravagant church. Nice but once you have been to Sagrada Familia, no churches are anywhere near impressive, and that one is not even finished.

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As we were walking out of the basilica we saw a sign for pre purchasing tickets to the Vatican Museum. It was a bit more expensive, but by now it was midday and getting hot outside. Yes thank you very much we are more than happy to pay tourist prices to skip the lines, please take our euros. I think if you go in with this attitude you will have a happier experience and not think back to all the lines you stood in, but how well spent your money was.

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….and lines there were. We relaxed for a little in a café across from the entrance to enjoy our overpriced coffee, gelato and water in full air conditioning before we were ready to start. I did warn Chris before we entered that it is like a maze which if you power walk through the whole thing, and not even look at the art, will take you at least an hour to reach the Sistene Chapel. We did look, but quickly, or as quick as we could with the large groups blocking passage ways.

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Just over an hour and we made it. This time more people were talking and not so stealthily taking photos but every few minutes the police would say “SILENCIO”. Without glasses I did find it very difficult to look up and examine all the little scenes so I got over it very quickly as my eyes were burning, but if you have the time there is so much to take in, so many stories told.

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It is interesting that even the exit has some ‘creativeness’ to it. As you walk down the very steep ramp that has no grip you slowly meet short steps and slowly slowly reach stability and the feeling that you will not fall over somewhere towards the bottom, the only place with yellow strips along the edge alerting people that ‘this is a step’. Odd and definitely would not be allowed in Australia. If this was in Australia there would be a second ugly handrail which is the correct height above the original one, large yellow strips on the edge of every step as the light grey is not different enough to the dark grey of the step and where the ramp is too steep there would probably be perpex steps built over the top to ensure that noone would sue the building for ‘falling over’. I am so glad we are not in Australia right now.

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We were met with the same situation as I was when I left the Vatican Museum 5 years earlier, severe hunger. A whole morning of waiting and looking around the smallest country in the world is draining, so we walked through the little alleys hoping to find anything and then tada we hit the Piazza Nuova.

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It normally has a plethora of different artists from musicians, jewellers and painters but today seemed rather quiet. We enjoyed people watching from one of the cafes around the edge of the piazza, ours even squirted cold water mist over you to cool you down. This definiely heightened our experience of bruscuetta, salad and Chris’ bolognaise.

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Another big attraction is the large fountain with obelix in the centre.

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Our last stop for the day was the Pantheon. Walking there I noticed a key difference between Rome and other european cities, well cities we have thus far visited. The combination of sunlight and the colours of the buildings add warmth to the city rather than glimpses of light and cold colours of grey or white concrete. Also the fact that every road is treated like a plaza with masses of people walking along and only moving if a car is on its way, oddly, adds a relaxed nature, people are not running around frantically to move almost as if pedestrians rule.

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Well frantic does pick up closer towards the Pantheon. More guides offering there services but for us we thought the information signs around were enough. It is without a doubt my favourite building in Rome. Every time I come here it takes my breath away, maybe this is because every time I visit there is a children’s choir chanting which makes this space just mesmerizing. The light, the shadows on the ceiling, the detail of the interiors and the scale are all so beautiful. No need for our dodgy ‘selfies’ here, it can speak for itself.

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A great way to end our Saturday, well almost. On the way back to the hotel I lost Chris to the Brazil v Chile game so I decided to relax with some shopping but made sure I was back by 8, which I did, Chris was not. I got ready for dinner and went to find him, in the bar, not dressed, watching the game. Thanks very much guys why did it have to go to extra time, then penalties, I wanted to eat. Everyone was glued to the screen (this was back when people liked Brazil). They won yay, can we eat now?

We had decided to try the rooftop restaurant in our hotel, little did we know that a lot of Rome had that same idea. It was packed and we did not have a reservation. We were yet to stay in a hotel where people actively seek out the restaurant so it was a shock to us. We had our cocktails and waited. Finally we were seated and ordered as quickly as possible. Entrée was delicious, beef carpaccio with quail eggs, pecans on a rocket salad.

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Happy Trish and Chris, but not for long. Mains were a complete disaster. The pasta was so horrible, thick, undercooked and gluggy that they were hardely edible. The things we do when we are hungry, hoping every bite will get better. In hindsight we should have sent them back but hunger does funny things to people. (definitely not photo worthy).

We finishes our wine as quick as we could to get out of that terrible place wishing we had pizza and pasta again. So we decided to at least get some enjoyment out of a few more wines and some live music at the piani bar. It started to get quite busy and before we knew it some americans were up and dancing. It was a funny sight as the girl knew how to salsa but the guy truly did not. After a few wines Chris gets quite proud and wanted to show them how it was done so grabbed me and spin, spin, spin, spin. I am not a good dancer but I would say that I gave a better effort than that guy. Chris was satisfied and sat down for the rest of the night. Before we knew it it was 2am and we had an early train down to the Amalfi. We must have lost time after another bottle or was it the haze of smoke as that everyone was puffing that did it????

Amalfi story will come shortly.

We headed back to Rome for one more night after our fantastic trip to Amalfi as it did take a good 4 hours to travel between them and we needed to rest before another half day of travel to the Greek Islands. So we got back to Rome around 4 in the afternoon dropped our bags and set of for the last item on our checklist, the Colloseum. We looked online and there was a tour which included the space under the colloseum at 4:30. Metro was not going to work so we jumped in a cab and power walked making it just in time. We asked the staff but were informed that the tour we wanted is booked out months in advance and we would not be able to get in this summer. Well ok, that did not go according to plan. This is when anoying people asking if you want to join their tour are welcome. So we joined a group, got straight in and heard this eccentric man go off on tangents and talk about the colloseum, that was until we were told we only had 20 minutes free time in the colloseum before our next tour of the Roman Forum was about to start. Tour suddenly did not seem like a good idea. Who actually liked being rushed? We had paid so we decided to just see what we could then get on with it.

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Thankfully the second tour was with a different guide, this guide was an overenthusiastic British ex teacher who was in love with Roman history. Although we were hot and bothered it was a great tour and really informative.

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We learnt that the Arch of Constantine here outside the Colosseum was the first arch, built in the 4th century, and apparently the one that the French Arc De Triomph was based around. We also got a great view of the Colosseum without all of its scaffolding. Then saw what would have been the original and grandest basilica (the large building with domed ceilings behind us), which is much much larger than St Peter’s is and what St Peter’s is based on. The Basilica of Maxentius. The only difference between what this would have been and what St Peter’s is is the dome on the top, which the architect added and Michelangelo advised to raise to make it very tall.

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So the architect really did not do much except copy a design and add a dome, not dictate the final product.

The Roman Forum used to be under a lot of silt and has taken many years of excavation to discover the remains. What is truly incredible is how old some of these buildings are. The most spectacular I think is the Temple of Divus Romulus church which still has the original bronze doors, lock and key and dates back to the 4th Century.

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Tick tick and tick. We were done. Now to get back to the hotel to enjoy some more pizza and pasta. This time we were not willing to share so we got an entrée pizza, potato, rosemary and mozzarella. To be honest I was so excited but I have had sooo much better in Sydney with thin slices of potato, rock salt, even rosemary spread across. Oh well I ate most of it anyways. Our mains were delicious. I had spaghetti with pepato pecorino and zucchini flowers. It was definitely a flavour punch with the cheesiest sauce I have ever had, but I enjoyed it as I do LOVE cheese. Chris got his favourite fettuccine with ragu. It was a good end to a lovely adventure in Rome.

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Cherry Frangipane Tart

Dinner with my partners extended family. I had only met his Tia and Tio once and I was still trying to make a good impression so I thought what could I take over as a thank you? Their Grandmother lives with the family and is from Uruguay so I was certain dinner was going to be fabulous and I am sure she would have all bases covered, therefore I felt there might be room to impress with dessert, plus I hadn’t baked something worth wild in a couple of weeks.
I did not want to take something too rich or chocolatey, it needed to be simple and delicious without being over the top. I thought fruit was a good place to start and I remember a couple of years ago baking a nectarine frangipane tart which was fantastic. Unfortunately it is the middle of winter now and all the good fruits are out of season. What could I be left with – apples, pears or cherries. The first two are boring and not packed with flavour. Apple is better in a crumble, pear is better with a chocolate frangipane, which is a good mix, but not something I wanted to recreate for this occasion, so by deduction Cherries it was to be.

I was surprised the cherries out, although $15/kilo, were so large, juicy and bursting with flavour, I thought to myself even from the get go this was going to be good. The frangipane itself was surprisingly easy to make, even though once someone commented that good frangipane had to be made a day ahead and left to rest for 24 hours before using it, I think people who believe this have no life and personally I think it would not make any difference as the tart I made turned out fabulous.

I had to make a few little tarts for my Mother who always wants to try my creations, but I had so much mixture that the mini tarts were basically overflowing with filling. One thing I was worried about once it was in the oven was the fruit burning but I was lucky that my oven did not decide to do its own thing and it baked evenly, did not burn and looked amazing. The only thing I forgot to do before I took it along to dinner was use some jam to make the cherries that little bit shiny and prettier, but I was confident they would like it none the less.

The result? THEY LOVED IT. I was soooo happy I have proved my baking abilities and impressed the relatives to be. Now I am sure they will have faith that I can take care of and cook for their beloved nephew. So that was one half of the satisfaction, but the other was my Mother’s reaction. Normally she always finds faults in my cooking, too dry, not enough stuffing, whatever, but her mini tarts were perfect. She could not stop complimenting them. PURE DELIGHT!

So the moral of the story is, this is the perfect tart to impress, serve with some ice cream, doucle cream or dab with some cognac when it comes out of the oven even for an adults only version, and you will be raved about for weeks to come.

Cherry Frangipane Tart
Pastry

25 cherries

115g butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla paste

1 1/4 cups almond meal

1. Prepare pastry and bake then leave to cool.

2. While cooling pit all the cherries and cut in halves (you don’t want to bite into seed).

2. Preheat oven at 180 degrees C.

3. Cream butter and sugar until light in colour. Add vanilla paste then eggs in one at a time and mix until well combined.

4. Take mixture off the paddles and stir in the almond meal with a wooden spoon.

5. Pour frangipane over cooled tart shell then arrange the cherries in a nice pattern, but make sure that they are pressed in so they don’t fall off once baked.

6. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Allow to cool.

7. Serve with vanilla ice cream, double cream or dab some cognac over the top (while still hot). Enjoy


Slow Cooked Rabbit

So it has been a fair while since I have posted. Lots has happened in the past couple of months including adjusting to my new job, breaking my wrist and trying to do anything with my cast on, and also getting through Greek Easter, graduation and Flaounes making which all happened on the same weekend.

It seemed as though when I cooked it was only quick dinners as time got past me, or the limited time to prepare anything for a party left me feeling ashamed of the non creative plate I was bestowing on the host. Finally though, a dinner party where I not only had time to cook, but also time to prepare something unique and delicious.

I had a week to devise something impressive but also something challenging to myself. Recently I have been going down to my local butcher, Pino’s Dolce Vita, and choosing something new to cook every week. They are specialists in sausages and cured meats but they also have a huge range of meat, poultry and game to whip up. I had a look at what was in the window and there were things like beef cheeks, veal cutlets and other more common meats, but I really did want something less seen, so I asked if they had rabbit……OF COURSE they do, but it is brought in fresh to order, and let me tell you, when I got my rabbit the flesh was so pink that you could tell how incredibly fresh it actually was. I was so excited at the challenge.

Rabbit is an animal I have wanted to cook again since my first attempt, which was a very “good effort” was overcooked and dry as I did  not know how to work with this delicate meat. When cooking the meat it requires your full attention because like poultry or other white meats, it is so easy to overcook and be dry and tasteless.

I have continually come across recipes which stated rabbit stew, rabbit terrine or even assiette of wild hare. There are many ways to cook rabbit more than simply applying to a heat source. I really wanted the meat to keep its juices and be succulent and flavoursome. I therefore decided to treat the meat as something I could slow cook, something that can soak up all the flavours from the juices it was in.

So I did just that, cut up the rabbit, threw it into a casserole dish with tomatoes, garlic, sausage, white wine and cinnamon quills. Simple. Lid on. Bake for 6 hours on 150 degrees  and ta da! Soft rabbit meat falling off the bone. DELISH!! I was so happy with my dish, I could not wait till my friend tried it. Finally something different I could take to a dinner party, something you won’t find commonly at restaurants and overall a very cheap meal.

The response was fantastic, and we even found a wine that matched perfectly, although a very unexpected pairing, an 2010 Arbois “Trousseau” from Jura mmmmmmmm

Slow Cooked Rabbit

serves 4

1 rabbit cut into 6 pieces (with bone)

1 can crushed tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 chorizo (or similar sausage)

2 cinnamon quills

2 cups dry white wine

1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C

2. Roast for 6 hours, turning every hour (if there is not enough liquid add some more wine and tomatoes)

to serve

3 large parsnip

50g butter

1 cup milk (use cream for a richer taste)

1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

2 bunches dutch carrots

knob butter

golden syrup

1. Peel parsnip then chip into cubes. Roast until cooked through and slightly browned on outside.

2. Put cooked parsnip into a blender with the milk, butter and Parmesan. I wanted a texture that was not completely smooth, but if you wanted it to be smoother, add more milk. Set aside)

3. Peel carrots then boil until cooked (note that they will not all be the same size so you will have to constantly take out the cooked ones individually as you don’t want some to over cook). Once cooked put in a bowl of cold or iced water to stop cooking them.

4. When ready to serve put carrots into a pan with butter and golden syrup and cook until they start to get crispy.

5. Portion up the rabbit, parsnip puree and carrots onto a plate and enjoy with a glass of Trousseau.

 

Pino’s Dolce Vita

45 President Avenue

Kogarah NSW 2217

(02) 9587 4818

http://pinosdolcevita.tumblr.com/

www.pinosdolcevita.com.au

Mondays to Fridays  – 8:00 am -5:30 pm
Saturdays                  –  8:00 am – 2:00 pm

They have a full breakfast and lunch menu and beautiful coffee and sweets.


Gluten Free Lemon Bars

For those of you who have stomach problems I highly recommend looking into the FODMAP’s diet. It has saved me and I can assure you it is not a fad diet, but a life changing diet. I used to have  stomach pain every day, bloating, indigestion and constant discomfort. I went to doctor after doctor and it wasn’t until I saw a particular Gastroenterologist that he int

For those of you who have stomach problems I highly recommend looking into the FODMAP’s diet. It has saved me and I can assure you it is not a fad diet, but a life changing diet. I used to have stomach pain every day, bloating, indigestion and constant discomfort. I went to doctor after doctor and it wasn’t until I saw a particular Gastroenterologist that he introduced me to this diet. Within a month I was not sore, I wasn’t constantly complaining and I was actually happy and enjoying food again.

There are a lot of foods that must be cut out but I won’t go into that, it is easy enough to find information about it, however what I will say is that I had been searching for a book on FODMAPs written by Dr Sue Shepherd who is a specialist in this area. Recently I found it while holidaying in QLD and had to buy it. The great thing about this book is that is explains clearly what FODMAPs is, how different foods affect different peoples and then it gives suggestions on how to make such a diet part of your life even if you are also gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, vegetarian or vegan. There are a range of great recipes at the back which I really wanted to try out.

So this easter I thought I would make a dessert so I could enjoy it without feeling sick and decided that the items I had on hand were sufficient to make the lemon bars. It was really easy to make and actually didn’t require as many as I expected.

It is as easy as making the base then pouring over a lemoney mixture, baking and cooling. Done. Easy peasy! It is even a great one for the kids to help with!

Gluten Free Lemon Bars 

(recipe slightly adapted from “Food Intolerance Management Plan, Dr Sue Shepherd)

3/4 cup rice flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1/2 cup caster sugar

2 tsps grated lemon zest

125g unsalted butter

topping

3 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

6 tbsps lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

3 tbsps rice flour

1.Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.

2. Mix flours, sugar and zest in a food processor to combine. Mix in butter until it starts coming together in a ball.

3. Press into a lined tin and bake for 10 minutes or until slightly browned on top.

4. In the meantime beat eggs and sugar in an electric mixer then add lemon juice, zest and flour and mix until well combined.

5. Pour over the top of the base and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

6. Let cool then dust with icing sugar to serve.


Valentine’s Dinner

In recent months I haven’t been cooking as much as I have started working full time and have not had my own space to experiment without interruptions. I knew that my whole family would not be home this Valentines Day so it was the perfect opportunity to satisfy my huge desire to cook up something special. Last year I had to work on Valentines so I haven’t cooked up a celebratory dinner like this for a while, and I know post Valentines it will have to wait until September until we move into our own apartment with our own custom designed, absolutely fabulous kitchen (now christening that kitchen will be a dinner to remember). But we are not there yet so I just have to make do with my electric cooktop in the crowded kitchen I currently have at home.

I have been dying to cook Waygu every since a friend of mine made it for me at his house, although his was from Victor Churchill’s in Wollahra and costs ~$180/kg. I could not afford this yet, but one day, so I shopped around and found another well known butcher, which has a huge meat market in Glebe. Glenmore’s is just next to Wentworth Park and has been there for years. As it is a wholesaler the meat is ridiculously cheap, I mean I was able to get waygu for ~$55/kg, and although this was the lowest level of waygu I did not mind as I could handle having to work of that amount of fat but not a piece or fat with meat through it as some of the higher levels seem to resemble.

I had also planned to get some oysters for entree but the thought of buying them from David Jones after work and transporting them on the train home seemed like a less than pleasant experience, and not only for me but all the other train goers. SO I resorted to something very simple and quick to prepare which everyone loves, fried cheese mmmmm My family had bought a large wedge of Kefalograviera, which is a hard and salty Greek cheese traditionally supposed to be made from sheep’s milk, but the stuff we get here does not taste like sheeps milk. It is traditionally used in Saganaki which is a dish that has so many variations but basically is a thick chunk of this cheese fried and sometimes topped with prawns. It works well as it does not melt easily but goes stringy like mozarella.

We both enjoyed this entree and it only wet our appetite for the dish to come. I was not sure if the flavour would be enough to enjoy, as it hung on the fact I’d cook the meat perfectly and this was something I was scared I would not achieve. 10 seconds to long could be fatal and result in overcooked meat. I have had a lot of practice recently and learnt how much meat continues to cook off the pan, so I was confident but just in case I also made some paprika chips, green beans and diane sauce (on the side, this is not blasphemy with waygu).

My complete concentration was on the meat as it cooked and because one steak was thicker than the other it was easy to achieve medium rare and medium steaks. One thing I must say right here is that recently I have started cooking steak in butter rather than oil, I just find that the flavour is a little richer, and really a little butter wont kill anyone, but you will enjoy the meal a lot more.

While the steak rested I plated up the sides, the sauce and pouring the wine. We enjoyed a Katnook Estate 06′ Founders Block Cab Sav which was aired for hours, super super smooth and paired perfectly to this delicious piece of meat.

Here is just another one to tease you because it was INCREDIBLE, and you know you have done it to perfection when your partner who is not the biggest foodie but loves a good steak continually compliments you and says it was the best dinner ever and because it was so good now feels bad he hasn’t contributed to dinner.  Of course he knows he couldn’t have helped as I would have been a complete Nazi telling him he was doing his task wrong, probably after he was distracted by something else. Cooking is not his thing, as as I tell him, it makes me so happy to cook for him…..so really the way into my man’s heart I have learnt over the years is a good steak and then a nice simple dessert, like ice cream!

A couple of months ago I introduced my partner to Maggie Beer “Burnt Fig, Honeycomb and Caramel Ice Cream”. Big Mistake! Whenever he is left with a container it disappears withing a couple of days so that I am not able to enjoy it. Well this obsession with ice cream had led me to in the past learn to make passionfruit semifreddo, ice cream millefuelle and chocolate strawberry ice cream cake. This year I wanted to try a recipe my Thea whips up for all family funcitons, and it is quite funny that now ice cream sandwiches are in fashion at many restaurants! It only required 4 ingredients and is very simple, so I thought, well I did manage to stuff it up by getting the quantities wrong so that the mixture was not dense enough to keep the biscuits on the bottom when poured over, they rose to the top and so I don’t have a sandwich but rather an ice cream slice with all the heavy chocolate bits sunk on the bottom.

Did we really mind? NO. It still tasted delicious and the best bit were all the crunchy pieces of “malt o milk” cookie, violet crumble and chocolate. We gobbled it up very easily and were now very very full.

I was so happy at how the dinner turned out as it was perfect and my partner was really in awe as he could not stop saying thank you thank you thank you. Definitely one of the best dinners I have ever cooked and the best Valentine’s meal we have had together. See no need to go out to restaurants, eat not so good food in a bad atmosphere, probably 1m away from the next table and with a long drive home. I much prefer home cooked dinners anyways which are simple and with good produce.

Happy Valentine’s Day mi amor.

 

For recipe of Steak Diane click here

Ice Cream Sandwiches

1 can condensed milk (400mls)

1 x thickened cream (600mls)

2 x crunchie bars, crushed

Malt o milk buscuits

1. Line a dish with baking paper at then line the malt o milk cookies flat so they resemble tiles (remember the direction you have placed them)

2. Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour over cookies.

3. Place remaining cookies in same tessellation pattern as on the base then freeze overnight.

4. To serve lift the baking paper out and cut off rectangular sandwiches.


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