A Walk in the Woods

As happens every single day of the week, the little human alarm clock that resides in the flat below mine sounded his morning cry at 6.08 am on Sunday morning.

Normally, lots of groaning and tossing and turning (on my part) would have ensued however in my haste to close the curtains the night before I had left a slight crack that a ray of sunshine was now peeking through.

Instead of falling into the same trap of wasting time trying and failing to get back to sleep I surprised myself and threw my new gym kit on (maybe that was the motivation?) and ventured outside.

I’ve always felt there’s something that feels weirdly naughty about being up and about when everyone else is snoozing. The other, not so naughty feeling, is one of sheer smugness knowing that you’ve already started your day: you snooze you lose.

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I knocked on Sleeping Beauty’s door but she was away for the weekend…

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Hours of touring churches in Italy taught me one very valuable lesson: never forget to look up.

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I most definitely contemplated ignoring my to-do list and just staring at the view all day, but alas, common sense prevailed.

If you’re ever in Surrey then a visit to the Devil’s Punchbowl in Hindhead is a must. I’m lucky enough to have it on my doorstep but it’s so vast that I doubt I’ll ever be able to cover it all!

Travel Talk | Florence

Although it’s been nearly 3 years since I was on my year abroad I kept a diary whilst I was away and I documented everything I did/ate/saw/visited etc. Anyway, I just so happened to stumble upon it the other day whilst clearing out (or at least pretending to) my bedroom.

I haven’t done a travel post in a while and I thought it would be a nice change to share my trip to the Italian gem that is Florence.

Living in Verona was the perfect base as it’s conveniently placed in between lots of amazing other must see places!

Florence definitely lived up to all the hype, every street you ventured down was brimming with culture and history.
It took us just over 2 hours to get there on the train from Verona and we decided to stay overnight to make the most of it!
We went in March which was perfect as it was just the right temperature. In all honesty it was crowded but not as suffocatingly crowded as we were told it can be during the summer months.
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Until you see The Duomo in person you just can’t appreciate how grandiose it is.
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Despite having to queue to get in we only waited about 10 minutes.

Travel Talk: Florence

You must look up when you get inside, you won’t be disappointed.

I have to admit that once inside the Duomo I was slightly underwhelmed. If you go to Florence during the peak season and don’t manage to make it inside then don’t worry because the exterior definitely overshadows the interior.

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Il Ponte Vecchio

You must stroll over the bridge and look at all the quaint, little jewellery shops that line the walkway.

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La Santa Croce 

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Frescos in the Piazza Santa Croce 

We didn’t plan to do specific things, we just wandered around and did things as we stumbled across them. There’s no better way to properly discover a city than on foot.

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One of my highlights was walking up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, a vantage point overlooking the city.

Beware, it’s a walk but definitely definitely worth every huff and puff. It was so surreal to be able to look down on the hustling bustling city from high up in the calm and then turn round and see the Italian countryside behind you.

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The view  over the city from Piazzale Michelangelo. 

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There was a little park at the top complete with pond, a calm haven.

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We decided to keep walking and stumbled across another beautiful church called San Miniato al Monte. 

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The only ‘museum’ we ventured into was the Palazzo Medici Riccardi which was presided in by the Medici family who presided over Florence for much of the 15th century.

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The outdoor courtyard was bursting with fruit trees.

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Before heading back to Verona we decided to catch a bite to eat at a restaurant called Pescheria San Pietro near the train station.

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The squid was fresh and juicy.

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To sum up:

VISIT:

  • Il Palazzo Medici Riccardi

SEE:

  • Il Duomo
  • La basilica di Santa Croce
  • Piazzale Michelangelo
  • Il Ponte Vecchio

I’d say these are the main highlights if you’re only in Florence for 2 days like we were.

EAT:

Vivoli Gelateria

Florence didn’t turn out to just be a treat for my eyes, my tastebuds were also treated to what was the most delicious, creamy, rich gelato I have and will ever taste. It tasted fresh, organic and clean, unlike some of the tourist traps where there is nothing natural about some of the garish, eye-popping colours of ice cream they have on offer!

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Some of these images I’ve borrowed from my lovely friend Catia whose proper camera outshone my then iPhone 5.

 

 

Last Minute | Christmas Pinterest Baking

In a previous blog post I had commented that I was hoping to do some more festive baking before Christmas. Unfortunately working full time and on strange shift patterns has meant that time has run out for me… but I thought I’d share some of the recipes that I had my eye on over on Pinterest.

These are my top festive recipes!

1. Winter Crumble Tart

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This had me at crumble…

2. Easy Christmas Tree Brownie

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As the name suggests, these look ridiculously easy to make and if you have a chocolate brownie recipe that you swear by (like I do) then you can just take inspiration from the decoration idea!

3. Easy Snowman Cupcakes

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This recipe doesn’t actually include the recipe for the cupcakes themselves so cheat and buy some from the supermarket and then have a little cupcake decoration party with little ones!

4. Gingerbread Cake

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This cake is a showstopper and would make a great alternative if you’re not a lover of Christmas pudding.

5. Hearty Wholewheat Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Cheese

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For those who favour savoury food over sweet. This would also be a great way of using up any leftover potatoes, sprouts and cheese from your Christmas day feast.

6. Mince Pie Brownies 

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Brownies with a Christmas twist. Two of my favourite things combined into one!

Travel Talk: Kefalonia

 

It’s Sunday night and before the start of another manic week I’ve decided to comfort, or rather depress myself, by reminiscing about a recent family holiday that I’m currently still wishing I was on…. I’ve never really had holiday blues like this before, I think it’s because it had been such a long time that my family and I had been away together just the 4 of us (my brother’s girlfriend came too but she’s like family). Although we argued (mainly about trying to direct my Dad driving – what else do families argue about on holiday?), it was so nice to spend time together as we’re like passing ships in the night at home.

Stay:

Villa Ersi

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I first found the villa we stayed in, Villa Ersi, after blissfully scrolling through AirBnB one day back in June. It was beautifully decorated, well equipped and the view out to sea just topped it all off. It was, without a doubt the best villa I’ve ever been lucky enough to stay in. Julie, the lady who owns it was extremely helpful and more than happy to answer any questions we had!

Eat:

As the week went on we began to discover that the restaurants were a bit samey in their core menu…. greek salad, fish or meat with potatoes, pasta etc. This has its advantages as you know that whichever restaurant you stumble into you know what’s more than likely on offer. There were 2 restaurants in particular that we really enjoyed and went back to multiple times: one was in the capital Argostoli, the other was 5 minutes from where we were staying in Lakithra.

Premier, Vallianou Square, Argostoli

Being situated in the main square in Argostoli, its location sets it up to be a popular tourist trap, which it was, but for all the right reasons.

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Greek salad style bruschetta

 

The food was fresh and flavourful. One night I opted for the ‘village pasta’ which was vegetables and feta cheese in a tomato sauce. The feta was stirred through and semi-melted which was yummy. You just can’t get feta like it back at home.

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The ‘traditional honey dough balls’ were AMAZING. They were sweet dough balls, lathered in honey and served with vanilla ice cream. Simple but so delicious. They were so delicious in fact that in our haste to finish them off I completely forget to document them in all their sweet, sticky glory.

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I also tried the ‘baklava’, something that I had always wanted to try but had never got round to doing. It was a huge portion and very filling with all the nuts and dried fruit and whilst I’m glad I tried it I don’t think I would have it again.

En Kefallinia, Lakithra

I couldn’t write this post and not mention En Kefallinia which is run by a lovely lady called Georgia and her husband. Located on a quiet road, away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby resorts, the care and dedication that goes into this operation is clear as soon as you arrive. As you dine outside you are surrounded by the very fruits and vegetables that will soon be enjoyed by the next set of diners. From the fresh fish to the warm bread to the homemade cheesecake, the offerings were light, organic but most importantly, delicious.

 

See:

My Mum and Dad, not wanting to miss a day of sunbathing, suggested we visited Melissani Cave and Myrtos Beach (two destinations I had read were not to be missed) on a cloudier day. Not being a very big island has its advantages as travelling around doesn’t take too much time. It took us about 50 minutes from where we were staying in Svoronata to reach the cave and then we went cross-country to reach the beach.

A natural phenomena, Melissani Cave, was first discovered in 1951 but dates back to the 3rd/ 4th century BC. The underground cave would have never been discovered had an earthquake not resulted in its roof i.e. ground level not caving in. I’m not going to lie, it would have been far more spectacular had the sun been shining down into the cave and onto the water but it was amazing to see nonetheless.

I’m not a beach person in the slightest, so I am definitely not a pebbly beach person. Prior to heading to Myrtos Beach I wish someone had told us that it was just that, as my footwear choice of flip-flops were less than practical. Now I’m just moaning because in reality it was worth it as the water was the clearest I’ve ever seen in my life. Contrasted with the white of the pebble beach it was very postcard-esque. There wasn’t a lot at the beach apart from a very basic looking beach bar which we didn’t bother investigating further.

 

Above all I think my favourite thing to do was just to go out walking and exploring. Olives, lemons, limes, figs, pomegranates, tomatoes, oranges, green beans and aubergines were just some of the things I observed growing when I was out walking.

Kefalonia may be small and not as popular as some of the other Greek islands but I think that’s a good thing to ensure that it maintains some of its rustic charm. The people were always so welcoming and friendly and I wouldn’t have to think twice about going back!

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My Mum would KILL me if she knew I’d put this picture of her on the Internet…

Alice xoxo

Travel Talk: Verona

This post is basically a good excuse for me to be nostalgic about my year abroad. I lived in Verona for four-ish months, went to University and made it my mission to try all the gelaterias in town. Let’s just say I had more success in the latter than I did in the former….

I travelled with one of my best friends from University so that made the initial settling in process a lot easier as we had each other to comfort/laugh with/cry with. The University side of the experience was just that: an experience. From often not having a clue what the lecturers were talking about, talking and cheating being acceptable in exams and a module that detailed the entire history of the Italian language, we certainly had our work cut out for us.

The boring, study part aside, the town is just beautiful… we didn’t live in the centre of town but seeing as it was warm and sunny practically everyday, walking wasn’t a chore at all.

                                   Walking by the river


          View looking down from the hills

 

The main piazza at night
View from the top of Torre dei Lamberti
 
 
Piazza delle Erbe at dusk
 
Love how shiny the marble floor is in Piazza delle Erbe
 
Romeo and Juliet the musical in the Arena

Inevitably there were periods of homesickness which only food could cure. English food.

Despite being almost double the price Baked Beans were the ultimate comfort/treat
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Continuing with the food theme – there wasn’t one dish or restaurant or ice cream or panino that I didn’t enjoy. It was all just INCREDIBLE. So incredible that no amount of adjectives or pictures could ever do it the justice it deserves.
Meat and cheese platter at Sottoriva 23 
      
                                                

 

                                                                 Amorino ice cream
  
                                                           
My first ever taste of donkey and proper, Italian tiramisu – both to die for
Osteria da Morandin: Via 20 settembre
 
 
 
           Pizza from Da Salvatore*: Piazza San Tommaso 6
*Da Salvatore’s needs a special mention… without a doubt the best pizza I’ve ever eaten- so much so that now I rarely choose to eat pizza as nothing can even come close. Some may say dramatic as it’s only food, I say dedicated. It was always heaving, you have to get there early or be prepared to wait and wait. It’s a win win though because if you do wait you won’t be disappointed.
        Lightish apple strudel and a carrot juice, on a healthyish day from Caffe e Parole14 Stradone Arcidiacono Pacifico                                                     
MUST DO/SEE:
  • Giardino Giusti
  • Castel San Pietro – the views are worth the walk up the many, many stairs. Fret not, there is a handily placed restaurant on the way up.
  • The Arena – if possible try and catch a show/musical there.
  • Piazza delle Erbe – fruit market/ the original frescos (mural paintings) on the walls of the buildings.
  • Casa di Giulietta – always busy, slightly underwhelming but worth a look nonetheless.
  • Castelvecchio bridge – 14th century bridge – there’s sometimes a market on there too.
  • Torre dei Lamberti – amazing views over the city.
  • Verona Cathedral – look up when you go in.
  • Sanctuary of the Madonna of Lourdes on San Leonardo Hill. A real hidden gem. Quite a walk out of the city, uphill – don’t go in the beating sunshine…. it’s a real killer. Again, worth the walk.

 

Best cafe/bar: Tosca Cafè – friendly, English speaking staff, fresh juices, tucked in a square away                                                    from the hustle and bustle.
Best pizzeria: think you’ve guessed it.
Best ice cream: Gelateria la Romana – they pour melted chocolate into the cone and put the ice                                                                          cream on top.
                          Zeno Gelato e Cioccolato – in San Zeno, off the tourist trap, well known for their                                                                               chocolate flavour. Again worth the wait, and wait you                                                                             have to.
                          Pretto – get the strawberry flavour, staff very friendly.
Best pasta: Ristorante Greppia – traditional restaurant but small portions.
Best hot chocolate: La Costa in Bra – so thick you will need a cornetto (a croissant to you and me)                                                                   for dipping.
Best lunch place: Bloom Food and Caffè – in Piazza delle Erbe, sit outside, lovely antipasti platters                                                                          with lots of meats, cheese and bread.
Florence edition coming soon…..
Alice xoxo