Walking and Eating in The Bermuda Triangle

You’ve probably heard of the Bermuda Triangle. It’s a region in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Florida and north-west of Puerto Rico where numerous ships and planes have reportedly disappeared without trace or explanation. Various stories, movies and documentaries have been based on this mysterious phenomenon including, at a stretch, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. Scientists, of course, say the claims are nonsense, but the tales are enduring.

I’m on a cruise ship, heading for the Caribbean, and we are ‘in the zone’ (Bermuda Triangle) as I write. I feel it’s appropriate to post while I can, just in case.

The walking track on the Regal Princess

There’s a walking track on the top deck where I have great views of the surrounding ocean. There are no other boats, no planes, no land, no birds to be seen, only the ocean as far as the eye can see.

When the wind is howling I walk inside on a gym machine.

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I can still see the ocean from this vantage point and I think I understand how the stories started. If a ship or plane sank onto the ocean here it would likely disappear without a trace. The ocean here is 5 km deep and there’d likely be nothing else around to observe a nautical calamity.

Horizon Bistro. A serve yourself, buffet style ‘restaurant’

There are eight restaurants on board the Regal Princess, as well as numerous cafes, an ice creamery and port to starboard snacks.

The Horizon Bistro is not my favourite but it does offer a splendid are of food options throughout the day.

There are soups, salads, sausages, breakfast cereals, yoghurts, tacos, burgers, roast meat and grilled fish and a plethora of other savoury delights.

Mozzarella and Proscuito Salads

Sweets include, but are not restricted to, biscuits, cakes, scones, merengues, puddings and jellies.

A tiny example of Horizon Bistro sweets.

Some passengers seem inclined to want to pile one or two of everything on their plate at the same time which is one of the reasons I don’t favour the Horizon Bistro.

Other restaurants on board offer breakfast, lunch, dinner and even high tea with excellent service and lots of personal attention.

Prawn Salad at the International Cafe

I try to restrict myself to protein and salads but inevitably succumb to other temptations.

A seafood skewer at Allegro Restaurant

Alfredo’s Pizza Restaurant has excellent pizza and pasta and a glass or two of wine is mandatory.

Alfredo’s Pizza

Desserts are hard to resist, in fact I’ve come to realise that resistance is futile. Life is short and I may never emerge from the Bermuda Triangle. So I’m eating desserts.

Chocolate Ganache with real gold baubles!
New York Cheesecake with macerated strawberries

Happy hour comes around, with amazing regularity, once every 24 hours. It’s nice to enjoy a sparkling wine on the balcony as the sun sets.

Bubbles on the balcony

Or a cocktail at one of the bars on board.

Vodka Martini. Shaken not stirred.

Or both.

Peach Bellini at Sunday breakfast

I’m prepared to admit to a Peach Bellini at breakfast last Sunday. Why not? I’m on a cruise ship, it’s Sunday and I’m unlikely to walk my way through the Bermuda Triangle again whatever the outcome this time.

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A Bit Too Far to Walk But Definitely Worth a Drive to Eat at Leonards Mill

Leonards Mill restaurant is located at Second Valley in a sturdy stone building that began it’s life as a flour mill in 1858.

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Second Valley is a picturesque coastal town on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. It’s around one and a half hours from Adelaide which is a bit far to walk, especially on a hot day. The drive however, is stunningly scenic with views of rolling hills, happy sheep and contented cows, rugged cliffs and dramatic coastline.

The very small town (population around 160) is pretty and it would be a good idea to take a walk around here after a 1.5 hour drive from the city.

The garden surrounding the mill is beautiful and dining outside on the deck would be pleasant on a sunny day. Inside there is a bar area as well as function areas on three levels, rising around the still working but not operating mill.

Eat Local

Owners, Hayley and Ian, are pursuing their food dream of creating delicious, seasonal food from the Fleurieu Peninsula while keeping waste to a bare minimum. For them this means buying whole animals from local, free range farms and using not only the meat but also the offal and remaining body parts to make stocks and sauces, ham, bacon, pickles and ferments. Best we don’t mention this to the happy sheep and contented cows nearby.

All protein foods are sourced from within a 17km radius while an on site vegetable garden provides fresh produce and herbs along with fruit from fig, lemon, lime, bay leaf, plum and mulberry trees.

Menus are supplemented by produce from local Fleurieu producers and the drinks menu comprises wine and beer from local, family owned wineries and breweries from the Southern Fleurieu, McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills Regions.

Sourdough

Mostly everything is made on the premises including house made bread AND house made butter.

On a recent visit with Mum (we were celebrating Mothers Day a tad late) we chose two large plates, one small and a side of ‘Fried Potato Cake with Burnt Leek’. The potato had been julienned into paper-thin strips, pressed overnight then fried, resulting in light, crispy, layered ‘cakes’.

Mum is a mushroom aficionado and so am I. I guess I inherited the mushroom gene. As a consequence we both said ‘yes’ immediately when a dish featuring locally foraged mushrooms with quail eggs was mentioned. The presentation of the dish was colourful and appealing without zig-zaggy sauce or smears of jus. A refreshing change to current presentation styles. Needless to say the tastes were exquisite

Foraged Mushrooms

The fortuitous offer to the restaurant of a whole deer from a local farmer provided us with the opportunity to enjoy Venison along with our foraged mushroom dish. Strips of venison were served medium-rare with sweet potato crisps and a leek soubise. I hadn’t encountered a soubise before but I’d clearly been missing out on a rare delight.

Venison

Our small plate choice was Cuttlefish with cured jowl (a left-over cheek from a free-range pig), turnip and parsley. This dish won my ‘favourite’ vote.

Cuttlefish

Hayley then presented a Chocolate Torte infused with Rosemary (from her mother’s garden) served with Goats Curd Cream.

Chocolate Torte with Rosemary and Goat Curd Cream

Our coffees were served with a Whiskey and White Chocolate Canele which apparently took the chef an hour to cook – not that I can imagine him complaining – everyone at Leonards Mill clearly love what they have created;  magical food heaven on the Fleurieu.

Coffee and Canele

Stay tuned. I’m off to walk and eat my way around Bali and Sumatra next.

Death By Diner

My first trip to the USA saw me walking around San Francisco with my lovely friend, Reena.

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Riding the cable car in SAN Francisco

We walked and walked, rode a cable car of course, caught the ferry to Sausalito and tried delicious Clam Chowder At Fisherman’s Wharf.

Clam Chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf.

We also enjoyed delicious bagels from the Farmers Market near the Ferry Building. Arguably not as amazing as New York Bagels but still pretty good.

Bagel with smoked salmon and lox

Reena spotted a ‘Diner’ on one of our walks and was keen to do the whole American thing and ‘eat in’.

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I felt slightly queezy as I read the menu on the window outside and tried my best to distract my dear friend from the idea.

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Hey Reena, look at that deadly car over there!

I admit the decor was fascinating; ‘straight outa the fifties’. Even Elvis made an appearance.

Elvis was in the building.

An entire car was parked right next to the bar.

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And there were at least two proper petrol bowsers in situ.

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There was no problem with the decor which was definitely channeling ‘Happy Days’. There was a pinball machine and a huge collection of vintage radios.

The problem, for me, was the menu. I guess I’m a food snob but I must eat ‘real’ food and I was struggling to find anything that sounded ‘real’ on the menu.

There were pancakes and waffles, pastas, burgers, shakes and something called ‘Hot Diggity Dogs’. Everything came with fries. And there were plastic bottles of sauce on every table. To put on the fries I guess.

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Rather than suffer through an entire meal of pretend food I suggested a compromise: bar snacks and a glass of wine. After some negotiation we decided on onion rings in beer batter. They arrived on a jaunty airplane structure with mayo and ranch dressing on the side. I can’t ever recall seeing onion rings that fat with batter before. Oh well, cheers Reena.

Cheers Reena.

My food philosophy is simple: try everything, particularly if eaten in its region of origin, as long as it’s food. Food is defined as something that grows or is made from something that grows. Now I’m aware that beer is made from hops, sugar, yeast and water. Hops and sugar grow. So does yeast; it’s a fungus. Water is a natural resource so that’s on my approved list. Flour, eggs, tick, tick. Theoretically onions in beer batter should be edible but somewhere in the taste I smelled a rat, a plastic one. I believe ‘food’ in plastic bottles is actually just masquerading as food. And it’s evil. Call me paranoid but I reckon the coating clinging to the onion rings was batter from a plastic bottle.

A close up of beer-battered onion rings on an airplane structure with mayo and ranch on the side.

Needless to say the next morning saw us both feeling somewhat ill. We blamed it on too much wine. Or was it mixing our drinks? Personally I’m sure it was the plastic bottle batter masquerading as real food.

A Walk Through A Butterfly Park In Bali

Bali Butterfly Park, or Taman Kupu-Kupu, is located in the village of Wanasari, around 6.5km north of Tabanan and 30km northwest of Denpasar. The park focuses on the preservation and breeding of many types of butterflies and other insects and is the largest of its kind in Asia.

It costs around Rp80.000 per person and is well worth the visit for a tranquil walk and a fascinating nature study.

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Although I have a vague recollection of learning about ‘The Lifecycle of a Butterfly’ in primary school, I have no actual recollection of any facts. At Taman Kupu-Kupu I learned EVERYTHING and it’s a fascinating nature story. Among other scintillating facts; butterflies mate when they are three hours old and only live for three weeks.

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The ‘nursery’

I met up with a most informative guide in the ‘nursery’ half way through my walk and listened as he explained the breeding program and insect preservation techniques employed at the park as well as describing characteristics and habits of individual insects. I was truly fascinated.

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This moth has ‘snake-head’ features on the tips of its wings to frighten potential predators.

As well as butterflies and moths there were fascinating creatures including a huge Rhinoceros Beetle and Stick Insect.

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Leaf insects, stick insect and a huge rhinoceros beetle.

The most fascinating for me was a leaf insect and I was transfixed. It looked exactly like a leaf with leaf-like veins and twiggy bits. Nature is astounding isn’t it?

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A leaf insect complete with leaf-like veins and twiggy appendages.

 

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A huge Rhinoceros Beetle.

I highly recommend this special place. Take your kids (grandkids), when you are in Bali together, they will learn magical lessons. Even if they don’t, you’ll all enjoy a delightful walk through a rainforest-like environment.

When it’s time for lunch there’s no shortage of fresh, cheap, traditional food in Bali. Bakso is a national favourite in all regions of Indonesia. It’s a beef broth with noodles, meatballs and spices.

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Mobile Bakso cart.

Bakso can be found almost anywhere in Bali, in warungs and also mobile Bakso carts. It’s cheap, delicious and definitely worth a try.

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Bakso

A Walk From Chilled-Out Canggu to Crowded Kuta shows the very different tourist cultures in Bali.

I had an unfortunate encounter with a piece of coral just recently, resulting in a big swollen foot and four days without a walk. Once the muddle of Western medicine, traditional Indonesian Jamu, rest and ice packs worked their magic I decided to celebrate by walking from my favourite Canggu region in Bali, along the beach as far as I could go, towards the airport near Kuta.

My planned walk would be a distance of around 25kms and would take a whole day if I walked at a leisurely pace and stopped intermittently for sustenance and swims. Easy to arrange along this south-western coast of Bali.

If you’ve visited Bali in the last decade or so, you’ll probably be aware of the very different sights and scenes between these two areas and the villages of Seminyak and Legian in between.

Canggu is (at least for now) surrounded by rice fields and the beach is known for its surf breaks whereas Kuta is well known for its nightlife. Various high-end restaurants, bars and boutiques can be found at Seminyak, and Legian……. well Legian seems to gaining a reputation for its Sports Bars, and, in my opinion, is best avoided at all costs. However I do have a favourite Warung in Legian which would make a visit worthwhile.

I started my marathon walking day with breakfast at Echo Beach, a favourite with Canggu surfers and lovers of seafood.

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The walk from Canggu to Kuta involves traversing a number of shallow rivers so after breakfast I removed my thongs and started walking.

Hindu is the most prevalent religion in Bali and there’s an abundance of evidence everywhere you look.

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I always enjoy seeing the offerings and altars along the beach and there’s often a full ceremony with a gamelan orchestra to see.

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After an hour or so I stopped for a ‘Dragon Juice’ (fruit cocktail) at La Laguna, one of Bali’s hippest beach bars. It’s located at Berawa Beach and well worth a visit, even if just for the decor.

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La Laguna is an art form in ‘gypsy chic’, with beaded lamps, candles, velvet chairs, vintage lace curtains, life size gypsy caravans and Tarot Card readers.

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I’d spent many an entertaining hour at La Laguna on previous occasions so pressed on with my marathon walk.

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As I approached Seminyak the beach became far more crowded with people, long chairs, bean bags and makeshift stalls selling cold drinks, cold coconuts and surf lessons.

Further on, Legian Beach was even more crowded and, I’m quite sure a whole lot less relaxing due to the hawkers selling necklaces, bracelets, watches, sarongs, sunglasses and nasty cheap tat. I was tempted to turn back to far more culturally appropriate  Canggu beaches but I was on a mission to get to Kuta so I hardened up and kept walking.

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As lunchtime approached thoughts of my favourite Warung in Legian with its authentic, fresh and tasty food sprang to mind. I headed inland to find it.

I regularly stayed in Legian 10-15 years ago on Bali visits but haven’t  done so for quite a while. Somehow I don’t think its my scene anymore. I saw Sportsbars with large, loud TV’s showing Aussie footy shows and lots of people eating steak and chips with tomato sauce. I couldn’t help wondering why they had left Australia. Silly me, it’s because the weather is warmer and the beer is cheaper in Bali.

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Thankfully Warung Yogya was still where I last saw it, with the same Ibu cooking the same delicious Indonesian food. I ordered a Nasi Campur (rice with water spinach, tofu, corn fritters, fried chicken and a delicious, spicy soup) and an icy lemon juice and sat and rested my weary walking legs.

Rejuvenated, I headed back to the beach and walked to Kuta Beach, the original destination for travellers to Bali as far back as the early 1920’s but particularly in the 1980’s when masses of surfers and pleasure seekers arrived to enjoy this stunning paradise.

Kuta nowadays is a far cry from what early travellers would have seen, but the beach is still beautiful and mercifully less crowded than Legian. I get the impression the tourist wave is heading up the coast.

There’s a paved path known as the ‘beach walk’ that curves from the main section of Kuta Beach, past the major shopping mall and numerous large hotels, almost all the way to the runway at Ngurah Rai Airport. Looks like there’s a new runway being built there actually with lots of dredging and construction going on nearby.

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At the very end of the paved path is a small enclave full of  fishing paraphernalia; nets, baskets, boats and colourful fishing boats.

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I walked as far south as possible and sat watching for a while as a few planes came in over the sea.

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Yet another plane lands on the holiday island of Bali.

Then I started the long walk back to my favourite Canggu and enjoyed a sunset cocktail while watching locals and visitors enjoying their evening on the beach.

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It was a satisfying 25km walk that highlighted some of the very different tourist cultures in Bali. This week I’m spending time across the peninsula in Sanur which has a different feel again. And next week I plan to visit Lembongan Island, officially part of Bali but I’m quite sure it will have quite a different feel again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty Reasons Why I Love The South of France

1. The colours. One of the very first things that I noticed on my first trip to the south of France, and consequently came to love, were the colours. I saw an aquamarine sea, an azure sky, stark white coastal cliffs and pastel coloured houses with orange terra-cotta roofs.

coloursDuring summer the colours are dazzling and are said to be the reason Picasso, Van Gogh, Cezanne, and numerous other paint-masters spent so much time here.

pink lake

2. Walking along the coast. The large city of Marseille lies between the Côte d’Azur to the east and the less busy Côte Bleue to the south west. I love walking between small towns dotted along these coasts and the views are never less than spectacular.

walking along the coast

3. Walking Trails. As well as ‘nature walks’ through forests and along cliffs there are many self-guided walking trails designed to show off the fascinating history and art of this culture-rich region. One favourite of mine is the  Van Gogh Painters Walk in Arles. You can pick up a map from the Information Centre and follow the trail to find ten sights imortalised by Van Gogh in his paintings.

cafe at night

4. French Trains. A comprehensive network of trains runs along this entire coastline so if I walk too far in one direction I can catch a train home in time for L’heure du pastis (more about that later). I especially love it that dogs, bicycles, suitcases and even inflatable mattresses are welcome on the trains.

matelas gonfable

5. Les Callanques. The dramatic coastline of southern France is punctuated by beaches, sometimes rocky, sometimes sandy and usually supported by amenities such as toilets, showers, bars and restaurants. There is a strong beach culture here as the French love to head for the coast and spend long summer days swimming and sunning themselves until the sun goes down. There’s always a lot of equipment involved; umbrellas, inflatable mattresses, masks and snorkels, paddling pools for the babies, balls, board games, picnics and wine.

Less structured but more magical than the beaches are the Callanques, steep valleys that run between the limestone cliffs towards the Mediterranean sea. Some are quite easy to access by car or train but many present the enticing challenge of being only accessible on foot. Usually after a considerable walk through scrub and occasionally after downward cliff clamber. It’s worth the effort to settle in for a swim and a picnic in these idyllic natural locations.

Ensues La Redonne

6. The weather in the south of France, at least during the summer months, suits me perfectly with temperatures usually around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, little rain and eleven hours of sunshine every day. These conditions are just right for water sports and it’s easy to rent a kayak, SUP, surfboard, windsurfer or small boat anywhere along the coast.

kayak

I love the novelty of hiring a paddle boat with built in water slide!

pedalo

7. Small ports. They’re everywhere and there’s always something going on; fish markets in the early morning, craft markets in the evenings, live music, fireworks and puppet shows. Boats galore, of course, sea birds, fishermen, children having sailing lessons, acrobats and pop-up events, you name it. They are great place to while away time.

small port

8. The delightful and slightly strange customs. There are many including the sport known as La Joute nautique. Strong men wear protective breastplates and perch on a beam that protrudes from a boat. They then use jousting sticks to knock other men off their beams into the water.

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It’s a custom eagerly learned by many children in the south of France and enjoyed by keen spectators.

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9. Moules Frites. The beaches and ports are ideal locations for bars and restaurants, all of which do a roaring trade during summer. The popular, summer meal of choice is Moules Frites and I love it to bits.  Fresh mussels, usually a kilo, are served in a heavy cooking pot with a choice of sauces. My favourite sauce is Roquefort. A side of frites is mandatory and there’s often a crusty baguette to mop up excess sauce.

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10. Bouillabaisse is a fish soup with humble beginnings. It was originally cooked by fishermen who used low quality fish and ‘spare parts’ that they couldn’t send to the market.  It was cooked in a cauldron on the beach with shellfish and spices. Traditional bouillabaisse contains several kinds of fish along with saffron, orange zest and fennel. It has become a more sophisticated (and quite expensive)  dish in recent times and is served with pride and ceremony at restaurants along the coast.

11. The markets. When I need a change from eating fresh, delicious and reasonably priced meals from outdoor restaurants in France I head to a market. Even the smallest seaside town holds a market at least once a week where seasonal produce is fresh and cheap. Seasonal is the keyword. I once embarrassed myself by asking for une citrouille ( a pumpkin) in July. Whoops!

fish for bouilbaise stockhuileveg

12. The cheese. I once heard a heated conversation, in French, between two of my dinner companions that continued for 20 minutes. My friend eventually turned to me and explained ‘we are discussing which is the best cheese’. The French are passionate about cheese and I understand why. The choices include Cow, Sheep or Goats cheese, soft, hard, ash, mature fresh, mild or robust and, of course, cheese from different regions. All are delicious and enjoyed every day, usually with a baguette, sometimes two.

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13. The wine. It is cheap, plentiful and divine. My favourite is Provençal Rose and it is usually served with ice at bars and restaurants.

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14. The French patisserie. OMG do not be on a diet in France, you’ll be torturing yourself. Chocolate gateaux, custard tarts laden with glazed fruit, light almond flavoured pastries with almond paste and flaked nuts, Tarte Tropézienne, meringues, the list seems endless and I’m on a dedicated quest to taste them all. They are usually carefully packed into an elegant cardboard box, tied with a ribbon, for the journey home.

patisserie

15. L’heure du pastis. Pastis is an anise-flavoured spirit best enjoyed at the end of a hot summer’s day due to it’s refreshing nature. I love the routine of drinking Pastis to punctuate the end of a hot day and the beginning of the cooler evening.

pastis beach bar

16. The language. Who doesn’t love the sound of the French language? It’s melodic, rhythmic and very sexy. I love that I have wonderful, patient friends in France who listen and help me as I bumble through French sentences.

French friends

17. The sound of the cigale (cicada). Their chant is omnipresent on a warm day in the south of France and is always a welcome reminder to me that I am in my favourite place. A bit of my heart lives here you know.

cigale

18.  Street art is prolific in France. The French are proud of their artists and happy to show off their creations. I love arriving in a new French town and discovering street art.

street art

19. The Camargue is a unique region, quite different from most of France. It’s a salty marshland with copious lagoons that are home to an abundance of bird life including the greater flamingo.

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The Camargue is also famous for it’s horses, a breed thought to be the oldest in the world and indigenous to this area. Majestic black bulls are also bred here and used in Camargue-style, bloodless bullfights. The bulls are tended by ‘Guardians’, very smartly dressed cowboys. I love the character of the Camargue and there’s definitely a bit of magic going on here.

Camargue horses

20. Marseille is France’s second largest city after Paris It has a long maritime history, a cosmopolitan population, splendid architecture and a reputation for crime. It’s a gritty city and I love it. Le Panier is the original old town, first settled by Greek in 600BC. It’s a maze of tiny streets with tall, thin buildings and a series of small town squares that host al-fresco bars and restaurants. Le Panier is close to the old port of Marseille where you can catch a ferry to nearby islands and explore further afield.

Marseille

I’ve restricted myself to only twenty things I love about the south of France but there’s about a hundred more. I can’t get enough of it really.

 

 

Follow the Vincent Van Gogh Walking Trail in Arles

Vincent Van Gogh spent barely more than a year in the French town of Arles but it proved to be his most productive time artistically. He completed about 200 paintings during this time as well as around 100 drawings and watercolours. Like other well known painters, Van Gogh was entranced by the colours of the landscape and the lifestyle in the south of France.

Trains go hourly from Marseille to Arles and the journey takes around 50 minutes. I had heard that the Tourist Information Centre in Arles sells a brochure outlining a ‘Van Gogh Walking Trail’ for one Euro so I took myself off there recently to walk in Vincent’s footsteps.

The city of Arles dates back to around 800BC and was, for a time, part of the Roman Empire. The Roman influence, unsurprisingly, resulted in spectacular architecture, much of which is still evident.

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The Van Gogh trail is mostly centred around the Place du Forum but a few sites are located in quieter areas of town. There are paving stones to follow if you struggle with maps. I’m sure you don’t, that’s just me who struggles with maps.

follw the markers

Number 8 on the Van Gogh walking trail is Le Garden Public and it’s the closest thing to the Info Centre so I headed there first. It’s a lovely, leafy haven on a hot, Provençal day with shaded benches to rest your legs and a drinking fountain to top up your water bottle.

There’s a sculpture dedicated to Vincent and a few other bits of art dotted about. I found it a nice way to ‘get into the zone’ ready for the walking trail.

‘The Café Terrace at Night’ was painted in 1888 and is one of Van Gogh’s most well know paintings. It’s number 1 on the walking trail and it’s located in the Place du Forum, not far from the public park. The subject of the painting is still there and still functioning as a café. And it’s still yellow.

An information board marks the spot with a reproduction of a letter from Vincent to his sister, Wilhelmine,  written in September 1888.

cafe at night

A number of letters from Vincent to his sister and also to his younger brother, Theo, feature on the information boards, outlining some of the artist’s personal thoughts and theories on art.

‘Le Jardin de la Maison de Sante’ was my next step, number 9 on the trail. The arcades featured in the painting are still in place and the garden bears some similarity to it’s original version. There’s also a pond, but I suspect it is a modern addition to the garden. It’s very clean and the algae looks like it has grown recently!

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‘Les Arènes’ is number 5 on the trail and not far from the Place du Forum. Painted in October 1888, it depicts a colourful and excited crowd gathered near the colosseum-style Arena where ‘bull games’ were staged in ancient Arles.

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Number 10, ‘Le Pont de Langlois aux Lavandières’, proved too elusive and I gave up after walking along the Canal d’Arles for 40 minutes in the hot sun. Saw a few interesting canal boats moored along the edge of the canal though. With letterboxes on the bank nearby.

My next stop was number 2; ‘L’escalier du Pont de Trinquetaille’. The original bridge, according to the painting, had a cage-like structure over it. The stone arch to the right of the bridge is still there and easily recognisable.

l'escallier

I found ‘Nuit étoilée sur le Rhône’ just along the river, number 3 on the trail. Sadly there were no stars, since I was there mid-afternoon, but I got the general idea. The information board showed an excerpt of a letter to brother Theo where Van Gogh described capturing the sparkling colors of the night sky as well as the artificial lighting that was new to this period.

Although there are ten ‘sites’ listed on this trail, I managed only seven. The sun was hot and it was time for a refreshing drink. There are lots of good, small bars in the Place du Forum and also a few that overlook Les Arènes. My drink of choice that day was a Pastis, the anise-flavoured spirit made in Provence, with lots of ice and water. Essential on a hot afternoon in the south of France.

pastis

My last stop, number 4, was conveniently located on the way back to the train station. ‘La Maison Jaune’ was painted in September 1888 and depicted the house where Vincent lived, for a time, with fellow artist Paul Gauguin. I’ve read that Vincent wanted to establish a community of artists, for a bit of arty-networking, I guess, and that he invited Paul to share a house. The arrangement did not last long, however, and did not end well.

la maison jeunne

Although the yellow house is no longer, the building behind it is still in existence and the stone arch over the adjacent road is certainly still standing. Probably built by Romans. They were good at arches.

I really enjoyed the trail and felt inspired to learn more about the life and art of Vincent Van Gogh.

There’s a beautiful movie, made with oil-painted animations, entitled Loving Vincent. It’s due for release soon and tells the story of Vincent’s life, art, relationships and his mysterious death in July 1890 at just 37 years old.

Walk Around Lake Lucerne (the easy way)

I’m hopeless with maps and have dreadful memories of getting terribly carsick while trying to use them to navigate from the passenger seat of hire cars. They still make me motion sick when I even think of them. Except for this pretty little gem that I stumbled upon on my most recent trip to Lucerne.

Waldstatterweg and Swiss Path

One good aspect of this treasure map is that there is no driving involved. It’s all about walking around a beautiful lake.

My motto is: walk more, eat more. I knew I’d eat a lot of Swiss cheese and chocolate in Lucerne so I already had a plan to walk right around Lake Lucerne before I found the map at the local Information Centre.

The map covers two hiking paths; 98 and 99, and breaks this epic journey into nine sections, each taking around five hours to complete. I cheated, of course, and did it in smaller chunks, and leaving a few gaps for future Lucerne visits.

Here’s how I did it:

Day 1: The Swiss Path, or route 99 from Rutli to Fluelen will take around 5 hours and 30 minutes according to the lovely map. I caught a train from Lucerne to Fluelen which took about an hour. Then I walked  from Fluelen to beautiful Bauen which took around 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Fluenen from the train station

There’s plenty of signage including the yellow Wanderweg signs that specify the route number, in this case 99.

to Bauen

This route passes the Reuss Delta where I saw artificial bathing islands and little picnic spots. I passed through a long tunnel, through the base of a mountain, with peep-holes along the way.

A picnic is essential and I enjoyed it during a tropical rain storm under a small timber shelter next to the lake.

Bauen is a beautiful, small village with the prettiest cemetery you’ll ever see.

Beautiful Bauen

Conveniently it also has a ferry stop with regular boats returning to Lucerne.

Boat back to Lucerne

Day 2: The Waldstaetterweg or route 98 says that Alpnachstad to Bürgenstock will take 5 hours and15 minutes. Then Bürgenstock to Beckenried will take around 4 hours and 45 minutes. These both involve mountains and cliff paths with spectacular views but also lots of hard work. So I combined the two stages and took the easy way which involved my friend Debbie driving me to Bürgenstock then walking along some pretty mountain paths.

It also involved taking an elevator unlike any other.

elevator burgenstock

The Hammetschwand lift is located at an altitude of 1,132 metres, and is the highest outdoor elevator in Europe. It was built 111 years ago and makes the 152-metre vertical run in less than a minute.

elevator top

The view from the top is spectacular. Oh, and there’s a small restaurant at the top where I bought a Swiss sausage and a beer.

from burgenstock

Day 3: Lucerne to Alpnachstad is stage 4 of route 98 and has an estimated hiking time of 6 hours, 30 minutes. I started walking from Debbie’s house in Lucerne and walked for around 4 hours before catching a train back from Hergiswil.

Only ten minutes from the centre of Lucerne I came across small farms and contented cows.

cows to winkel

Interspersed with the farms were interesting Swiss-style houses and the occasional ancient frieze.

The Seehotel at Kastanienbaum marked the start of a leisure stretch of the lake.

se hotel kastenienbaum

Small grassy ‘beaches’ punctuated this stretch and food vans provided the opportunity for sustenance along the way.

beach kastanienbaum

The end of this walk for me was in Hergiswil where there is a glass factory with glass blowing demonstrations, a glass museum and a glass maze. I was given cloth slippers and white gloves and told to feel my way through the maze. I love all things glass which made this destination a favourite.

hergiswil maze

Day 4 and 5: Lucerne to Küssnacht should take around 4 hours and 30 minutes but I did it from either end over two days; first walking to Meggen then taking a boat from Lucerne to Küssnacht, walking in one direction, then the other and catching the boat back to Lucerne.

The first stretch is along the lake where there’s always lots to see. I love watching the swans with their bottoms in the air.

swans verkhaus

Then there’s a bit of a hike up green hills before dropping back down to Meggen ferry stop.

meggen shipf

Küssnacht is a pretty town with lots of farms and William Tell’s castle. I was accompanied on the boat trip home by curious water birds encouraged by tourists throwing crumbs in the air.

birdboat

Day 6: This was my favourite. I combined Stage 1 and 2 of route 98. Brunnen to Vitznau should take around 4 hours and 45 minutes and Vitznau to Küssnacht  will take an estimated 5 hours, 45 minutes. I had already spent lots of time around Küssnacht so I took a boat straight to Gersau and started walking to Vitznau.

Gersau ferry

There are three ways to walk from Gersau to Vitznau; along the lake which is pretty but involves bitumen roads, a steep mountain path with spectacular views and a moderate, not-quite-so-steep mountain path also with wonderful views. Guess which one I took?

The moderate path was delightful and featured goats with bells around their necks and a few Heidi houses.

I stopped half way, which happened to be the highest point on the path, for a picnic with a view.

picnic gersau

The town of Vitznau lies at the foot of Rigi mountain. It has two, stunning lake front hotels, one of which, Vitznaur-hoff, holds special significance for me.

IMG_0041_3

It has a lakeside terrace that resembles something I’ve seen in George Cluny movies and, fortuitously, I arrived there at apero – Swiss for ‘happy hour’.

vitznau hoff

You can find my favourite map at the Information Centre in Lucerne, or check the corresponding websites, each with current information on accomodation and places to eat as well as photos and useful tips on each area along the Swiss hiking paths.

The Waldstaetterweg or route 98.

http://www.waldstaetterweg.ch

The Swiss Path or route 99.

http://www.weg-der-schweiz.ch/de/  which has an option to read in English as well as German.

Searching for Traditional Welsh Food near the Mon & Brec Canal.

I was born in South Wales and grew up there until the age of ten. I have strong memories of walking along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal and seeing narrowboats. They were the homes of poorer people in those days and not trendy as they have now become, but they had a romantic appeal to me and I knew I’d spend time on one at some stage of my life.

Fast forward almost fifty years and my time arrived. I booked a narrowboat for ten days and puttered up and down the canal walking and eating along the way.

 

I remembered a few meals from my childhood and had distant memories of watching Mum make Welshcakes and Bread Pudding. Welsh Bread Pudding is very different from English Bread and Butter Pudding, and, like all Welsh food, it could be described as ‘comforting’ or less kindly as ‘stodgy’.

Here’s an account of my ten days canal boating and my quest to find traditional Welsh food along the way.

 

Day 1: Welshcakes were easy to find as they seem to be very popular.  Wasting no time I purchased some immediately and we enjoyed them with our morning coffee as we set off on our canal boat adventure.

We settled into a nice routine during our trip, setting off each morning, stopping at least once during the day for a walk, then finding somewhere nice to stay for the night before ‘fivesies’ time.

Captain at the helm

Sometimes I helped  ‘my driver’ navigate, sometimes I sat at the front, enjoyed the tranquility of the canal, and read.

novel on the canal

Day 2:  I was always on task, however. High on my list of traditional Welsh food was a dish called ‘Faggots and Peas’. Faggots are made from pork and pigs liver, bacon, breadcrumbs and herbs. They are usually served with mushy peas, potatoes and onion gravy.

I looked at lots of pub menus from Llangynidr to Brecon but none featured faggots.

four tallybont pubs

Day 3: On arrival in Brecon I asked at the Information Centre. It’s true, I asked for faggots at the info centre. The staff were very helpful and told me the local fish and chippy sold them. Sadly the fish and chippy was closed.

Coracle Fish and Chippy in Brecon had faggots

The local market, however, was still open

Brecon Market

Bingo! A lovely young butcher, by the name of James, had freshly made faggots in stock. But could I prepare a faggot-based meal in my tiny canal boat kitchen? Adopting a positive attitude I decided I could and purchased the faggots.

 

James also had some delicious looking Welsh cheeses in stock. I remembered Caerphilly cheese from my childhood so bought some along with a creamy blue Perl Las and a Perl Wen from Snowdonia.

Welsh Cheeses

Welsh cheeses and G&T’s featured at ‘fivesies’ time as we puttered downstream towards our mooring for the night.

G&T with Welsh Cheese

OK. Time to cook dinner. Here were the ingredients………..

faggots and peas raw ingredients

………store bought faggots, a can of mushy peas from Aldi and some potatoes. Oh, and an onion to flavour the Aldi gravy granules.

It was delicious, no I mean really delicious, and it brought back memories of Welsh meals during my childhood. Just what I’d hoped for.

My faggots

Day 4: We stopped for a walk and a pub crawl at Tallybont-on-Usk late morning on day 4. The pub crawl was actually a hunting trip for Welsh food although I have to admit a Welsh Ale or two were also enjoyed. In the name of research, of course.

The White Hart Inn had Glamorgan Sausages on the menu. These vegetarian sausages are made from leeks, Caerphilly Cheese and breadcrumbs and were served with red onion chutney, veggies and, of course, chips. Everything in Wales is served with chips.

GS at White Hart Inn

Day 5: Crickhowell is a cute small town with a main street and a castle. There are no large supermarkets here but there are two friendly butchers and fruit and veg shop. My success in the canal boat kitchen  was encouraging far and I decided to undertake a further culinary project.

I couldn’t go past the Welsh lamb chops. At the fruit and veg I found ‘kidney beans’; long, wide beans with strings along the side that need to be removed before cooking.  Welsh food preparation is very involved.

The result, again, was delicious; tender, tasty lamb chops, flavoursome beans, potatoes, broccoli and the ubiquitous onion gravy.

 

My visit to Brecon Market on Day 2 had also resulted in a few sweet treats. I met Cath, whose Welshcakes were named in ‘Which’ magazine (a bit like our ‘Choice’ magazine) as the best in Wales. I bought some, along with a piece of Cath’s Bread Pudding (made from leftover bread) and ‘Bara Bryth’.

Bara Bryth is a fruit cake (made with cold, leftover tea). They don’t like to waste anything in Wales. We ate it at coffee time and it was delightful; all plump fruit, sweetly spiced and stodgy. I mean comforting.

 

 

Day 6: Abergavenny is a large-ish  market town in South Wales. You might remember a pop song from the sixties called ‘Taking a Trip Up to Abergavenny’. I still remember most of the words.

It was here, at The Kings Arms pub, that I ate Welsh Rarebit, also known as ‘posh cheese on toast’. The dish comprised chunky door-stops of bread, smothered in toasted Caerphilly cheese. It was accompanied by a tasty chutney and some peppery leaves. Pretty good when washed down with a Welsh Ale (room temperature of course).

rarebit

Day 7: Bara Lawr, or Laverbread, is a traditional Welsh delicacy made from laver. Laver is a type of seaweed that grows around the west coast of Great Britain and east coast of Ireland. It’s bursting with nutrients, a bit like Spirulina, and you can add it to stews and soups, mix it into scrambled eggs, or just spread it on toast. I ate it on toast sprinkled with lemon juice and pepper. I was the only person on the boat who ate Laverbread.

 

Day 8: One of my non food related aims on this trip was to revisit my place of birth in South Wales, and walk around the area I remembered from my childhood. My parents migrated to Australia when I was nine so I had lots of early memories and I wanted to revisit a few of them.

We parked our canal boat close to Five Locks which is the southern-most navigable area of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. It’s also right next to Pontnewyd, the small village where my life began and where my relatives still live.

I spent a wonderful couple of days walking for hours and hours, recognising things from the past, noticing changes, filling in gaps with information I’d forgotten. I visited two lovely Aunties and I found the hospital where I was born.

Food, however, was never far from my mind and I learned of a new Welsh ‘dish’. Like everywhere else, multiculturalism in Wales has introduced new culinary treats. Among them Indian-style curries which, as we know, are normally served with rice. Clearly the Welsh are not yet ready to forego a serve of chips with every meal and therefore enjoy them with a curry. The locals explained that this ‘dish’ is known as ‘half and half’; half rice, half chips.

half and halfDay 9: On our journey back upstream I wanted to try Faggots and Peas in a pub so I could compare and contrast with my home-cooked effort. The Bear in Abergavenny served them so we headed there for dinner. Just as delicious as mine but served, naturally, with chips.

 

 

Day 10: As our canal boat trip came to an end my clothes were feeling a wee bit tighter around my middle. Although I had walked every single day it obviously wasn’t enough exercise to counterbalance the calorie-laden ‘comfort’ food in Wales. As a consequence most of Day 10 was spent walking alongside the canal on the towpath while my driver steered the boat.

 

A Beachwalk in Hout Bay. With Half-Price Meals at a Bar in the Dunes.

Walk: About 2kms. Start at Mariner’s Wharf then walk along the beach

Eat: at Dunes Beach Restaurant and Bar

1 Beach Cres, Scott Estate, Hout Bay, 7806, South Africa.

Phone: +27 21 790 1876

https://www.dunesrestaurant.co.za

My research told me that seafood was cheap and abundant in Cape Town and what’s more, South African wine is known to be good. So one of the things I was looking forward to on my planned trip there was eating and drinking. No surprise there. Also walking of course.

IMG_2110

I chose to stay outside the city of Cape Town as is my usual travel formula. I like to stay in small towns on a bus or train route that has easy access to a main centre. It’s cheaper, less busy, less polluted, people are friendlier and accomodation is generally more spacious and affordable. I also get to ‘feel like a local’ for a while by getting to know the neighbours, putting out the garbage, hanging out the washing etc etc.

Hout Bay is about 40 minutes from Cape Town via an excellent and very cheap public bus service. If you stay in Cape Town you can get to Hout Bay on the number 108 or 109 bus. The journey takes around 40 minutes and skirts the most stunning coastline.

Hout Bay is also very close to the Constantia wine region which was an added attraction when I decided to book an Air BnB there.

It’s a small town, nestled between the rugged Cape Town mountains and the sea with a cute little harbour and wharf.

There’s lots to see at Mariners Wharf; all kinds of boats, small seafood restaurants and cafe’s, a fish market, lots of fat lazy seals and men who feed them by hand for the benefit of the tourists

Seal feeding

On Saturday and Sunday there’s a craft market and performing minstrels.

Craft market

On Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays there is also an indoor market known as the Bay Harbour Market where you’ll find all kinds of treasures as well as cheap, delicious food and drinks.

Bay Market

You can take a short tour from the harbour to Seal Island or do a Shipwreck Tour.

Or you can wander around the harbour first and then take a walk along the beach to a charming restaurant known as “Dunes”.

Walk along the beach

It’s a Hamptons style building, right on the beach with a dramatic backdrop of craggy mountains.

Dramatic backdrop

It has a sprawling downstairs section as well as an upstairs area and a balcony overlooking the beach.

Dunes

There’s a sandy playground for children……….

A playground for children

……….. with nearby benches for their parents.

Hamptons Style building

There are cozy corners inside for when the weather is chilly.

It's cozy inside

And guess what? All food, every single tasty morsel is half price from 6pm every single day throughout the month of June. And it’s not expensive to start with.

My husband and went there four times during our 10 day stay at Hout Bay. Here are some of our favourite dishes:

‘Chilli Poppers’ – spicy little jalapeños filled with creamy cheeses and fried in a crispy batter.

Chillie Poppers

Springbok Carpaccio.

Springbok Carpaccio

Portugese Chicken. ‘We don’t mess around’ said the waiter as he placed this dish in front of my hungry husband. It was, in fact, an entire chicken, very delicious and priced at only $7aus.

Portugese Chicken

Dunes has a wood-fired pizza oven that produces delicious pizzas of generous proportions and creative toppings. This one is bacon, feta and avo.

Bacon, feta, avo pizza

Of course we washed everything down with a bottle of South African red. Their special, local grape varietal is Pinotage and this bottle cost only $16aus. Could have drank two at that price!

local wine

I was tempted each time by a lavish Irish Coffee.

Irish Coffee

We had three courses for dinner (the Irish Coffees were my choice of dessert) and the bill, each time was around $60aus, including wine and a pre-dinner beer.

The service was friendly and the atmosphere welcoming, even for doggies.

Doggies are welcome

Download The Dunes walking instructions here.

A Gallery of Delicious Walks

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