Campania, Italy

As I mentioned in my previous post our trip was split between Rome and Sorrento in the South of Italy. The train network across Italy is actually really good and we actually had a lovely journey from Rome to Naples travelling first class on a very peaceful train. However, as I mentioned before the train journey from Naples to Piano di Sorrento (where we stayed) was busy and so hot I could practically feel the beads of sweat forming. I must stress though, none of the rest of our journeys on the Circumvesuviana were as crowded or as intensely warm (although their lateness caused an issue a couple of times). (Also make sure you pay for any Circumvesuviana tickets in Naples with as close to the exact change as possible. The guy in the ticket office is notorious for ripping Tourists off by giving the the incorrect change. I must stress this was not an issue in any of the other stations and the service is very inexpensive in general.

Onto the major positive – we got to visit Pompeii. Both of us had been desperate to visit the site since childhood. We were both absolutely overwhelmed by the size of it as we had underestimated this and were expecting a village rather than a city. Although it is boiling (take a lot of sun cream if visiting in the Summer) and I would urge you to remember a drink there are places to refill your bottles so you needn’t spend a fortune on staying hydrated. Anyway, it was a fascinating place and definitely a place I highly recommend visiting. Although in some ways it was sobering imagining a whole city wiped out within hours.

We also visited the main town of Sorrento and some local beaches which were so beautiful and typically Italian. Although the beach near our hotel was one where you have to pay for its use, this actually made it more secure and we felt comfortable leaving our belongings on our sun loungers while we swam in the sea.

However, one of the holiday favourites was a boat trip around Capri which stopped off at Positano. Both of which are two of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Swimming off the boat with a view of Capri was a wonderful experience. We had a few hours happily looking in all the little shops and exploring Positano. I would love to go back and spend more time in both of these places. I think that’s the thing with travel, it always gives you a thirst for more.

Fortunately, or unfortunately Piano di Sorrento absolutely ruined both of us for pizza. We discovered a pizzeria next to the station called Pizzeria All’Angolo. Popular with locals and tourists alike, we enjoyed some fantastic pizza and local wine. The waiters and the staff were all so friendly and welcoming to us and every time we have had pizza since our return we lament that it is not at this particular pizzeria. (It was also as inexpensive as it was delicious, who says you always have to pay through the nose for unforgettable dining experiences?) Although the restaurant overlooked a station car park we actually had quite a companionable time spotting local cats and giving them names. It’s the simple things in life that provide the most amusement.

All in all Italy is an unforgettable experience and I think a pretty perfect travel destination for D’s first trip abroad. However, 8 days was not nearly enough time to full explore Rome or Campania, let alone Italy as a whole.

Still, not to beat around the bush, the humidity did cause havoc with my hair and there were several days where I looked frighteningly like Hair Bear of the hair Bear Bunch. Still, it was worth it for such a wonderful holiday.

 

Things to do in York: The Great Yorkshire Fringe

D is absolutely excellent at finding things for us to go to at the weekend. This weekend we went to see Showstopper the Improved Musical. The concept is simple but highly effective – audience members decide the theme for a musical and then chose musical styles for the Actors to perform. No two performances are the same and its testament to the skills of the performers that they can adapt and perform hilarious musicals off the cuff from themes as diverse as the York Park and Ride (our show aptly named Ticket to Ride), to current affairs and politics (Why? – about Boris Johnson facing European Parliament). Definitely take opportunity if you can to watch this.

Onto the Great Yorkshire Fringe  which has been running since 15 July and will continue until 1 August. If you’re in York this week you should definitely check this out. There are free performances throughout the day and there is a lively atmosphere that is entertaining for adults and children of all ages. Perfect for the first week of the school holidays.

Going to this reminded me of why I enjoy comedy, theatre and live music. I think we get so caught up in rushing around, trying to maintain a job, an active social life and any hobbies etc. Not even considering my friends who have started to have families or people who have to consider older children. Enjoying live performances with your favourite people helps you live in the moment. No two performances of anything will be quite the same. Sometimes living in the here and now is what’s important.

Things to do in London: Free Baklava at the Real Greek

My Big Fat Greek Wedding triggers a kind of nostalgia to my teenage years. Of evenings spent with my female friends watching films on a Saturday night. Simpler times before Saturdays meant dates, going to the pub or a bar at night and before the idea of settling down with a nice man was even a thought. With that in mind, I am more than a bit please that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 will be available to buy on DVD and Blu Ray from 1 August.

The film follows from the original, with Nia Vardalos and John Corbett reprising their original roles. (Raise your hand if you had more than a bit of a crush on John Corbett after My Big Fat Greek Wedding and of course Sex and the City). Their daughter, Paris, is now 17 and is determined to set out on her own despite being raised by the loving (if a little eccentric) Greek family. An unexpected turn of events provides much of the comedy in the form of another wedding. (See trailer below).

To celebrate the return of the film The Real Greek is offering free Baklava to any cutomer ordering a meal between 1 and 7 August using a special code word found by liking the Facebook page for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. As an addition, the baklava has been renamed “Portokalos Secret Recipe Baklava” and will be half price for customers throughout August. Furthermore fans who buy My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 on DVD or Blu-Ray will also receive a voucher to the value of £20 to redeem against a meal until October, at any of The Real Greek restaurants. (Which sounds pretty perfect. I’m already craving Spanakopita and Ouzo even listening to the theme tune).

So to any new fans, or anyone looking to reminisce over old times, this is the perfect time to enjoy some wonderful Greek food and enjoy a wonderful film with an entertaining cast.

Rome

A month ago this week we flew to Rome and enjoyed the delights of Rome and Sorrento (but not really the delights of the Circumvesuviana from Naples to Sorrento without air conditioning on one of the sweatiest days of my life!). Anyway, I thought it would be nice to add a few more recent travel themed posts and as Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world it would be a good place to start.

We flew via Ciampino Airport and travelled round mostly on the Metro and on foot. I would really recommend buying a Roma pass; which as well as giving you a 3 day travel card for the Metro, also gets you into 2 attractions (we opted for the Coliseum and Castel Sant Angelo). I would really 100% recommend buying your tickets for the Vatican Museum before you travel, the queues were insane and we were grateful not to have to worry about queuing in the heat. On the subject of the Vatican, I would also plan what you want to wear in advance, make sure its an appropriate length and covers your knees and elbows otherwise you will be made to cover up, either in a shawl or paper trousers. I don’t know about you but paper doesn’t feature heavily in my travel wardrobe.

Apart from the above attractions we also paid a trip to the Pantheon, explored Trastavere and mistakenly attended Mass in the oldest Christian Churches in Rome (the congregation were so lovely to us and the church was beautiful). I certainly felt like we could have spent a fortnight there and not seen all of the wonderful museums, churches and historical sites.

I would also advise caution when it comes to things like touts, people coming up to you to try and sell you things outside tourist attractions etc. It can be difficult to walk past them politely but tickets are nearly always cheaper from attractions or online vendors and a lot of street sellers will try to rip you off (I feel pretty bad writing this as I am aware its to make ends meet, every beautiful place has some downsides).

However, I would recommend walking round the city and getting a feel of the place. Rome is so beautiful and has so many different areas. We stayed just down the road from the Coliseum in a hotel called Hotel Centro Cavour – the hotel itself was a good base and the staff were so friendly. Upon arrival the man on the reception gave us a map, added the best places to visit on your first visit and explained the best routes to each place.

Although Italy has a reputation for being more on the pricey side, we actually found it pretty reasonably priced for food and drinks. I don’t know what it is about European cities but one of the loveliest things about being on a city break is always sitting outside a bar in the early evening with a drink before the sun goes down.

On the topic of food, embrace gelato. It is one of my absolute favourite desserts and the flavour range is fantastic. I particularly loved raspberry, passion fruit and coconut flavours as the temperatures soared.

One last thing, I  saw another blogger recommend getting up as something ridiculous like 5am to avoid crowded places in more touristy areas. Its very rare something makes me get up this early when I am not in work, but I don’t think this is the sanest, or safest advice. However, if you DO want to visit some of the more popular places at quieter times; crowds tend to disperse around 7.30 to 8pm which provides ample photographic opportunity and a chance to see things at a more leisurely pace.

Thai style beef salad

If there is ever such a thing as leftover steak in your house (a rare predicament in mine, but we bought 5 minute steaks yesterday) this recipe is perfect for you. It is a lighter way to enjoy steak and its great for warmer days or if you’re watching what you eat a bit more. While this is not strictly a Thai recipe, there are a lot of elements of Thai cooking in this. A perfect Summer meal. (Plus I am feeling not a small amount of pride that D has started eating

For a salad to serves 2 you will need:

2 minute steaks

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

The juice of one lime

8-10 cherry tomatoes

1 large handful coriander

2 spring onions

1 large handful spinach

100g rice noodles

1 teaspoon cornflour

1 teaspoon soy sauce

 

Prepare the marinade; mix the sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, chilli and oil. Slice the spring onion and shred the coriander and add to the liquid.

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Slice the steak into strips. Put the frying pan onto a high heat and add a little oil. Add the steak and the flour and fry for about 1 minute. Put the steak strips in the marinade and allow to cool.

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Half your tomatoes. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the pack. Then rinse the noodles with cold water. Toss the noodles, tomatoes and spinach in the salad.

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If you like you can toast the sesame seeds, but we were too hungry and I sort of forgot to do it. (I had that Monday feeling…)

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10 things

So you may have noticed I have been a bit quieter than usual. There were several factors leading to this (I changed jobs, D and I went to Italy and we were both in shows in the space of about 5 weeks). More on all of the above later. Anyway, I have a lot of posts planned for the next couple of weeks and for some rather wonderful reason I have a lot of reviews lined up which excites me quite a lot (including afternoon teas and a low sugar chocolate spread). In the meantime I decided to just sit down and write. Writing is what I love and when the proportion of food posts to more general posts dropped, it was the writing I kept enjoying.

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So onto my list which is based around some of my random pondering.

  1. If you’re going to a party and you don’t know anyone much beyond the host its always a good idea to take snacks. If you like baking or its a birthday you might want to make cupcakes or a birthday cake but generally you can’t go wrong with fancy crisps. There will always be someone who will be excited to see some Kettle Chips. (I am reliably that person).
  2. Life is so much better when you get past the point in your life when you envy people’s life events and feel genuinely happy for them. There is literally nothing nicer than sitting around with your old friends and having that lovely squishy feeling of contentment knowing people have achieved goals they set themselves, found their life partners or are expecting children. Jealousy weights you down and gets in the way of friendship, supporting your buddies just increases your happiness.
  3. In the same vein let the important people in your life know you care. Its always nice to feel appreciated.
  4. You never know what you can achieve until you put your mind to it. It takes guts, it takes practise but sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone is the best thing.
  5. Sometimes its good to take recommendations from friends and family on things. Tried and tested can be better than taking a risk (especially if its for something like a plumber or a roofer).
  6. If you’re regularly earning try to put a bit into savings each month, even if you’re not saving for anything in particular. When an opportunity does come along that you want to take it’ll mean you can just go for it without worrying so much about your finances.
  7. You know you’ve got a good one when you they tell you they’re proud of you when you achieve something you’ve been working towards.
  8. I’m just going to put this out there….I’m not sure I 100% understand all these people on my Instagram feed on holiday who are posing on inflatable things like doughnuts and flamingos. Where did they all come from?? How are they managing to pose so well on them? y brother and I had a blow up crocodile when we were 8 and 10 and we couldn’t stay on it for more than 3 minutes without falling  off and we were a lot smaller back then.
  9. Don’t feel bad for occasionally taking time out for yourself. Just to stop and relax and enjoy your own company. Down time is important.
  10. Even if you don’t manage a long holiday or to visit any exotic locations, try new things this summer.

Be happy my friends.

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My love of kitsch

You might have noticed there are more posts at the moment but a lower percentage are food posts. I feel like I actually post the same number of food posts over all but I was missing writing more often, but last time I was writing every day or 2 about food I ended up at least 2 stones heavier, so be prepared for more home ware, music and general chat.

Anyway, I can almost exactly pinpoint when I started adoring novelty and kitsch. When I was about 15 or 16 I noticed that Topshop were selling plastic jewellery and being the cheapskate that I am I decided to just buy the plastic jewellery I was given as a smaller girl. Anyway, I don’t seem to have really grown out of wearing rabbit earrings or having glittery nails in the subsequent 12 years. Perhaps I’ll be the crazy grandma wearing a handknitted fox scarf with a badger hat and smurf earrings. I certainly hope so.

Anyway, apart from a few buys from Tatty Devine and Skinnydip a lot of these were actually random finds by D from festivals, etsy and he spotted the Instax camera at Currys before Christmas. It’s one of those things I wanted for such a long time but didn’t let myself buy it. So he got a lot of brownie points on Christmas day.

I tend to pick up a lot of these on days out so all of these have happy memories for me and make me smile when I wear them. Although my jelly sandals sadly melted in last years heat, they were only £5 from a random ebay shop so I just trot around my garden in them.

Anyway, a lot of these items are what I would consider as a bit of fun. Something that makes me smile on difficult days. Which I think goes beyond liking fun jewellery, I truly feel more myself when I wear something I like and I think most people feel more confident wearing something they’re happy in. So while I would never rock up to an important meeting at work in a rabbit hat or off putting earrings I like the fact that one of the things my friends associate with me is lively accessories.

Now, I’m in the market for a badger hat. If anybody knows any stockists let me know.

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