Barcelona

I loved Barcelona. Even though we were only there for a short time I think I got a feel for the place and I would love to live there one day if I ever get the opportunity. The culture, architecture, beach, sun, food, people, everything was good!

Anyway, the photos:

From left to right: Danielle, who with Wendy (behind the camera) is coming to stay with me this weekend! They are from Canada but are currently based in Edinburgh; Claire from Oz, me, Gabrielle from Oz (they both stayed with me last weekend!), and Rachael, who stayed with me a few weeks ago. Hehe, sometimes our flat feels like a youth hostel but I like it. We are sitting on the famous bench in the Parc Guell which was designed by Gaudi.

What a Spanish market stall looks like! (I didn’t photograph the one with the suckling pig…)

Early morning at the beach.

The amazing Sagrada Familia.

Autumn food challenge

Wandering around markets can be inspirational. On Friday I looked at all of the yummy food in the Borough Market and yesterday I people-watched in Camden. The one gave me inspiration for autumn food and the other for autumn fashion. More on the fashion later. Right now: food!

I’m going to make it my mission this month to cook more. I’ve had to greatly simplify my style of cooking since moving here, as I have a small kitchen without many gadgets or storage space for ingredients. So my challenge is to cook at home as much as possible, with seasonal ingredients as much as possible, and within the limits of my little kitchen. And I’m going to try and use ingredients that I may be unfamiliar with or not use very often, and recipes that are outside my usual repertoire. Easy, right?

Since today is not a market day I’m going to stock up at the supermarket and whole food shop, but I’m going to buy my vegetables at markets as much as possible. There is a farmers market opening soon at the new St Pancras International which will be ideal as it’s only a two minute walk down the road.

So, off I go!

ETA: back from the supermarket with two Envirosax (buy some, now!) full of yummy looking things from the whole food shop and Waitrose, including:

  • Cavolo nero
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Leeks
  • Celery
  • Mushrooms
  • Big bag of baby spinach
  • Tofu cutlets
  • Chicken-style pieces
  • Filo pastry
  • Vecon (concentrated vegetable stock – looks and smells pretty bad in the jar, but when it’s made up it’s much better than powdered vegetable stock and nearly as good as liquid)
  • Creme fraiche (from France – I tried to get all British fresh produce and this was my only trip-up, apparently you can’t get British crème fraiche) oh! I lie:
  • Anchor butter (New Zealand grass-fed goodness)
  • Olive oil
  • Arborio rice

My mind is now racing over all the things I can make with this haul.  Any ideas, let me know!  I think tonight however will be the tofu cutlets with a small sampling of all of the vegetables I bought (I’ve never tried cavolo nero or jerusalem artichoke before so I want to get a feel for them) – then tomorrow I can really go to town!

En route, et Carcassonne

I got bored and took some photos from the bus on the way to Carcassonne. These required a pretty fast shutter speed and were pretty hit-and-miss as from a moving bus it can be hard to change the settings on my camera fast enough to keep up with the scenery! But luckily I had plenty of time…

I was very much looking forward to Carcassonne, for the geeky reason that I am a huge fan of the board game! Unfortunately a particularly nasty wind was blowing when we got there. Most of the others headed straight for the nearest cafe, while I braved the wind for a while to take some photos:

Then it was back on the road and goodbye France.

Avignon

On the way to Avignon we stopped at Aix-en-Provence for lunch. We were only there for an hour or so, so I didn’t get a chance to poke around or take any pictures, but it was a very beautiful city. The quality of the light was such that I understood immediately why the city and surrounding area attracted so many artists like Cezanne and Picasso.

Avignon was also very beautiful.

Le pont d’Avignon. It cost 4€ to go on it so I danced under it instead!
avignon

Sunset over the walls:

Monte Carlo

On the way:

There:
monte carlo

The casino:

I didn’t gamble, but I did wander around admiring the architecture (Charles Garnier) and watching other people gamble, and ok, pretending I was in a James Bond movie just a little bit. It’s a very quiet casino, all you really hear are the voices of the croupiers calling out in English, French or Italian. Even the slot machines are almost silent.

Cannes

I liked Cannes a lot better than Nice. Unfortunately we only had about an hour there before we had to hop on the train back to Nice to get ready for dinner.

Proof that I swam in Cannes!

There were lots of cute kids on the beach at Cannes. It reminded me of our old family holidays at Kaiteriteri. It was actually a good time to go, as the air was still warm but the beach was very quiet. I hear Kaiteriteri is completely different now and the beach gets packed in high season, just like all of the beaches in Europe.

Nice

The weather improved dramatically once we got to Nice. It was good to walk around, see the beach and the old town. The narrow streets of the old town were bustling with shops and restaurants and almost had a bazaar-like feel to them. As you can see, we also walked up the hill for a beautiful view over the town and the sea.

Up the top of the hill some people were having a lot of fun with homemade go-karts. This one was possibly called “everything AND the kitchen sink”:

The beach was ok, although it was rocky, not sandy. We didn’t think the people sunbathing looked very comfortable!

The downside of Nice was the hotel. The welcome they gave us consisted of a list of rules for Contiki groups, and they’d taken all the complimentary tea and biscuits from our rooms! The day manager was the stereotypical snooty Frenchman. I really think they shouldn’t treat Contiki groups like that because in the off season we would have been bringing so much business to their hotel. There was another busload of Contiki people staying there too.

The rooms they gave us also had very primitive locks on the doors (massive gap between the door and the jamb, and if you wanted to deadbolt them you had to lock them from the outside – we’re used to hotel rooms that lock themselves), which was what led to the major disaster in Nice – while both Contiki groups were at dinner, our rooms were broken into and all cash was taken. I never leave cash in hotel rooms and luckily Rachael, who almost did, had decided not to, so we don’t even know if our room was broken into (for some of the rooms, the cash was gone with no sign of the lock being broken etc. Kind of suspicious). It all happened on snooty guy’s shift although by the time it was discovered the hapless night manager had to deal with it. I went along in case translation was needed but although the gendarmes spoke no English the night manager’s English was good, so I didn’t let on that I spoke French and eavesdropped instead. Apparently the hotel had been broken into a couple of months previously. The gendarmes were not impressed.

Anyway, we’ll never know what really happened, but I hope Contiki finds another hotel or that this one at least puts proper locks on the doors!