All posts tagged: Travel

A Postcard from Stellenbosch, South Africa

Greetings from Toronto. My fast paced life is a little too full on at the minute, and while I am tired, I love it so I am not going to complain. However, after two long haul economy flights (from Capetown via Jo’burg to London, and London to Toronto), I was thrilled to wake up in a bed this morning. An actual bed! On the ground! Before I get stuck in here, for I have a busy week ahead, I wanted to share a little bit about Stellenbosch with you. I tried last night but fell asleep next to my laptop. I need to set some work / life boundaries. So, Stellenbosch. All I knew was that they produced a lot of good wine, and that the surroundings were pretty stellar. Yes, that was all true, but there was so much more. Terrific restaurants, stunning views, the light, and the lovely warm generous people. Within a few days I was already starting to plan my second visit to the area, there is so much more to explore. 

A Postcard from the Overberg, South Africa

Greetings from Stellenbosch, in South Africa. Although I am not going to share photos from there with you today. Today, I am starting with the Overberg, where I spent my first couple of days. There is only one hour time difference between here and the UK and so no jet lag (that beast), so we got started straight away. The Overberg is to the east of Capetown in the Southern tip of South Africa. Roughly an 11 hour direct flight from London. I left in Spring and landed in Autumn to turning falling leaves and gorgeous sunsets. Wildlife and eco tourism is a focus, and wine is made here and lovely olive oils too. The Overberg, with it’s gentle pace and laid back approach to life, was a perfect place to start, relax and soak all that beauty in. We started with a chilled day at The Marine, capped off with a lovely tasting menu matched with local wines at The Pavilion. We went on a boat to see seals and other wildlife and went on a …

A Postcard from Brunei – Starting in Bandar Seri Begawan (Traditional Foods, Night Market, Monkeys, the Water Village and a Croc!)

Greetings from a very sleepy corner of the universe. I thought that travelling back west from Melbourne would be easy peasy, but it turns out that, well, it is a bit tricky. Perhaps only if you get up at 4am to climb 850 steps into the Brunei jungle, when what you normally do is busy but not all that active. For whatever reason, my legs hate me and sleep is evasive. Terrified by my clear lack of fitness, I now think of the gym. But then swiftly of making marshmallows. Ahem. Or is that Amen? We stopped off at Brunei on the way back from Melbourne. Brunei is one of the worlds smallest and also wealthiest countries, tucked away on the north coast of Borneo. Brunei is surrounded by Malaysia and has a similar food culture, with its own unique twists. Food and wine lovers, take note: Brunei is a dry country. You are allowed to bring in two bottles of wine (and must declare them, excess will be confiscated and I should know, it …

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A Postcard from Lima, Peru

I am coming to the end of a brief trip to Peru. Deeply sleepy, quite full, and getting ready to go back to London, I am reflecting on a most inspiring 4 days. I have had 4 tasting menus in 4 of Latin America’s best restaurants in Lima, eaten at a superb home restaurant, eaten at an Amazonian restaurant, had lots of wonderful ceviche and acquainted myself with the magic of the Peruvian potato (so varied and incredibly delicious). I attended Latin America’s 50 best restaurants, met some really inspiring chefs and food writers, attended the Chowzter Latin America’s Tastiest Fast Feasts and ate my way around Mistura. I ate guinea pig (twice) and alpaca – both traditional Peruvian meats. I am ready to come home and I feel so inspired to cook. The food is so vibrant and characterful, full of colour and flavour. I will definitely be back for longer and to explore more of Peru – particularly the Andes. I have so much to write about. But lets start with a postcard, …

A Postcard from Newfoundland & Labrador

I say Newfoundland & Labrador, on this trip I just went to Newfoundland, but lets say the whole thing, if only so I can say that that this is where the labrador dog comes from (they were originally the St. John’s water dog) and also, there is a Newfoundland dog too. And it has webbed feet. Webbed feet! Not just that but a water resistant coat. I saw fantastic over the top puffins, with their crazy orange lipstick. A MOOSE!, some eagles but no whales or icebergs so I will be back. Not just for the wildlife, I loved it there. It is like a quirky mirror of Ireland on the other side of the Atlantic, but everything is much bigger (N&L is almost the size of Japan but with a population approximately 248 times smaller), and the people there are some of the calmest and most laid back that I have ever met. This is the place to go and detox from the big city. This isn’t a wildlife blog though, so what of …

New Zealand: A Day in Wanaka Cooking with Annabel Langbein

One of the problems with doing what you love and writing about it – and believe me there are a few – is that sometimes you are so consumed doing things, it is difficult to find the time to write about it. Take my trip to New Zealand this time last year. Only 8 days, too brief, but packed with brilliant and inspiring things. So many, that while I was there, I was so busy *doing* that there was very little time to write. I did manage two postcards, here and here, before moving on to Hong Kong (and doing so much doing there too, that I have yet to write about that also, which is ridiculous, as I booked a stopover in Hong Kong so that I could relax and slow down for a bit). I was watching Saturday Kitchen this morning through jet lag goggles, when I spied lovely Annabel Langbein cooking, and was immediately transported to cooking with her in her kitchen in Wanaka, New Zealand, last year. Annabel Langbein is a …

A Postcard from Tokyo

And now on to the final leg of my Japan trip, Tokyo. It makes me sad to type that. I still manage to get lost near constantly. That is part of the Japan experience though. One restaurant that I really liked and that I want to recommend is down one of many tiny winding side alleys off a street. I asked for the street name and got the reply “there isn’t any!”. So, that is one of the challenges. Kappabashi is a must visit for passionate cooks, shops full of kitchenware line the streets and excellent knife shops. There are even a few shops that sell the plastic food you see in all restaurants here detailing the menu. I have been moving around and staying in different parts to get a feel for the city. Starting with Shinjuku: buzzy, blurry, bright and intense, this was where Lost in Translation was set. It is enormous and there is so much there including Omoide Yokocho, a network of small narrow alleys groaning with yakitori bars, it is …

Eating Osaka: Okonomiyaki, the pain of finding it and the joy of eating it

I have mentioned my lack of a sense of direction, coupled with no knowledge of the language and being thrown into what feels like a maze, finding my first meal was difficult. I thought I should start with okonomiyaki. I knew where I wanted to go, Mizuno. I was told it was one of the best and research supported this. I bounded out of the underground full of enthusiasm, spent a few minutes under my plastic clear umbrella in the rain turning my map around and then asked for help and followed it. Lost again. I saw two girls and asked them. They were Japanese tourists and effectively, I thought ran away, but they came back two minutes later with a girl from a sock shop nearby (who still had a lot of socks in her hand) who spoke a little English. More map twirling. Then she brought me to the shop and 3 of her colleagues helped us twirl the map. One wanted to send me one way, another the other. In the end …

A Postcard from Osaka

Greetings from Osaka, folks! 15 minutes from Kyoto on the Shinkansen (bullet train), it is a world away. Kyoto is all low (ish) buildings, gorgeous old houses and narrow streets. Geishas wander, lots of people wear kimonos, and there is a feeling of an old world ever present here. There is, of course, a very modern portion, but there is a cap on how high buildings can be. A quick journey on the Shinkansen brings Osaka, bigger, bustling, higher, brighter and a lot more ostentatious. Japan’s third largest city by population, it is busy but it is gentle by western standards, everyone is very polite and super helpful. Tucked in between enormous buildings are small alleys bursting with okonomiyaki joints and noodle bars. It is charming and delicious. I spent two days and nights there, a lot of it getting lost, but I do love getting lost sometimes, unless I am hungry, then that is a nightmare and I feel violent (mainly towards myself). I mistook the loop line for an actual loop and a …

Eating Argentina: Mendoza! We’re in Empanada Country Now

Where are the best empanadas in Argentina? Everyone says Mendoza but where exactly in Mendoza you will only know if you are a local. Happily I was with one. I was feeling a bit peckish so asked if we could stop off for some empanadas after a long day whizzing around wineries. (It’s a hard life!). It was 5 hours since lunch but still 3 hours from our Argentinian dinner time so my tum was protesting severely. Sure, of course! And she promptly picked up the phone and put in an order. 20 minutes later we were at a small typical house outside Mendoza in a small town called Chacro. These are the best empanadas in Mendoza, I was confidently informed, she is very famous and lots of people come here. An old lady in an apron answered the door and proceeded to joyfully tell us all about a local wedding the week before where one of 5 daughters of a local doctor married an Irish guy and 100 people from Ireland came for the …

Eating Buenos Aires: Pizza, Fugazzetta & Empanadas at El Cuartito

So you’re in Buenos Aires. Well, you’ve got to eat like a Porteño and go get yourself some pizza. You weren’t expecting that now, were you? El Cuartito has been making pizza in downtown Buenos Aires since 1934. Not just any ole pizza, they serve the pizza peculiar to Buenos Aires, the fugazzetta (or fugazza con queso). Why pizza? There was a huge influx of Italian immigrants, particularly from Genoa in the 19th and 20th centuries to Argentina. Now, 25 million Argentines are of Italian descent (that is up to 60% of the total population). So, this naturally has had an enormous influence. There are Italian restaurants and pizzerias all over Buenos Aires, and El Cuartito is one of the old standards. Why go? It’s brusque, big and noisy and fun. Bustling and joyful, I loved it. Eat at the counter or queue for a table. Either way, you will be having a proper local experience. The fugazetta is a slightly insane extremely rich deep cheese and onion pizza. If you eat a whole one …

Palate Cleanser: A Postcard from Buenos Aires

So, here in Buenos Aires it is definitely all about the food. From the parrillas to the Peruvian ceviche, the asados to the empanadas. There is so much more here though, it would be a crime to speak only of the food. Colourful shops and streets, eccentircities and lots of style. So, here’s a little palate cleanser before my next food post of things I’ve noticed and loved on the Buenos Aires streets and a few other random bits.

A Postcard from Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is suffering an unusual bout of grey weather and rain for this time of year so not many pictures of the landscape for you, but a small selection of some things that I liked as I made my way around. I think they capture the spirit. It’s still a superb place to visit. Like Ireland, they are used to the bad weather and so have a vibrant indoors culture. A bubbling local brewing culture and lots of vineyards pair beautifully with great local seafood. Live traditional music and jazz sits comfortably beside. Looking forward to getting back here in the summer sometime too. I would love to head up to Cape Breton and also over to Newfoundland. It has to be done, right?

A Wine-ding Tour of Portugal

I’ve much bemoaned the lack of travelling I’ve been doing of late. Get out your tiny violin and let me tell you that I’ve not been to anywhere but Ireland for more than 5 days in over 2 years. Now, what is that about?! I’ve been working hard but playing less, in the last few months particularly, so I figured it was time to do something about this somewhat depressing state of affairs, and headed to Lisbon for the weekend. Why Lisbon? The European Wine Bloggers Wine Conference was there this year, and having met, and tasted much wine with Gabriella & Ryan Opaz and their co-organiser Rob MacIntosh this year, I had to go. They’re great people and extremely innovative, whatever they were organising, it was sure to be good. There’s also been much talk of organising a food one over a few days next year, since last March in fact so it made sense to see how it was done before getting that moving after the Blaggers’ Banquet. The bonus was that I …