Archive for the ‘ Trips ’ Category

Rome Eats: Bucatino

When visiting a country well known for its cuisine, I try my best not to miss the chance to sample great food! I asked some Italians I know and this was recommended to me. Rome’s Bucatino.

I arrived just before it became quite busy for dinner. I normally eat between 6-7pm. It was maybe around 7:30pm when the place started filling up – I wasn’t really minding the time. I was too engrossed in my meal. <3

After I was led to my seat and handed the menu, I knew I wanted to try lots of dishes. I did after all made the effort to go there. I was thinking of getting a starters, a main (or two), and a dessert (or two)? My friendly waiter laughingly brushed off my attempt to order a pizza AND a pasta – too much, you can’t possibly finish it he said, persuading me to be reasonable against my (not-so-better) judgement. 

Deflated but not defeated, I ordered a bruschetta. It’s a simple but very tasty and fresh dish – I do tend to order them in Italian restaurants.

I settled for pasta. I was thinking, I’ll finish it THEN order my pizza. hehe Reading the descriptions of each dish, I opted for beef bucatino. It actually didn’t quite hit me til after I ordered it that the name of the place I went to was the same. Great choice (in hindsight))! The same waiter who laughingly denied me 2 mains then proceeded to tie a bib on me – I felt like a baby! After a while though, I noticed that other patrons who ordered red sauce based pasta had them too. Whew! Though I did take notice that it wasn’t done for them. 

Tiramisu has got to be my favourite Italian dessert so I always order it every chance I get. Mmmm, so good!

Whenever I’m full, I tend to have a cup of tea. But as the adage “when in Rome, do as the Romans do…,” I had espresso instead. Don’t get me wrong, I do like coffee and it’s espresso that I would order though being the sweet tooth, I’ll add sugar in it. :D

It was a beautiful meal! In the end, I’m happy I didn’t get another main – too much of something/ anything is just not good for you. On to the next recommendation then! <3

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Meteora in Pics

I arrived in the town of Kalambaka after 3pm. Because of that, the owner of the hostel I stayed at advised me to leave the mountains be for the next day.
 
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I heard a rustling sound. When I looked for its source, I saw this cutie! It was adorable how it stopped midstride – hoping to blend in to the background I guess. hehe

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These honeycomb looking caves used to house hermit monks

There are buses that go up every 2 hours (09:00, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00). I took her advise and got on the 11:00 bus as that’d give me enough time for much needed sleep!
Before getting on the bus, I bought 2 gyros (€3.40 for both!) to eat when I get hungry for my long day ahead. Also in my bag are the 2 fruit given to me by an elderly man the afternoon before. And just for good measure, I decided to buy a bread from the bakery literally in front of the bus stop.
Bus fare is €1.80. I got off at Grand Meteora – it’s the first and largest monastery in the area. From there, I started my walk up in the mountains – following the road.  Next up was the viewpoint for Varlaam. I didn’t go inside as I’ll have to go down and up the mountain – yes, I was getting lazy! Hehe
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Varlaam in the background as seen from the Grand Monastery

All the monastery are open today, Monday. Entrance fee was €6. Everyone is to dress modestly. There are skirts for women to put on top of their jeans or bare legs. There are also shawls available to cover up the shoulders.
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Inside the Monastery of Great Meteoron

When I was told that I have to follow the path up in the mountains, somehow what I hand in mind is a trail. But actually, it really is the (concrete) road that I have had to walk on. The weather was just right – sunny but cloudy, not overbearingly hot with breeze every now and then. Also, the view is more than enough to distract me from the actual act of walking. According to my host, it was just a total of 4kms really. But with my frequent stops, the seemingly long distance I’ve covered, it seemed longer (but very doable!)
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The tiny town of Kastriki

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My view while I was eating my sandwich (gyro) for lunch

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I was happily walking down this road when I was struck by how pretty the autumnal colours are!

 
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My last monastery for the day, the Monastery of St. Stephen.

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Since I kept bumping into them during the day, I eventually joined their little group. Heading down the mountains enroute back to Kalampaka .

Meteora Eats: Archontariki

My hostess recommended a taverna to me when I asked her where to eat. She said the place served fresh off the market, traditional food at a good price. Archontariki was just a minute’s walk from where I’m staying at. Just off the town square.
I was told I can seat anywhere I fancied so I chose a table near the window and got settled in. Since I seem to have only time for dinner on this trip, my evening meals tend to make up for the rushed ones of the day.
Browsing through the menu, I decided to have a starter, a main, and of course, dessert!
Due to the fact that I’m in Greece, I was craving for feta cheese.

Grilled feta cheese

For mains, I had lamb. Something that seems to be of a specialty. I asked for it to be paired with rice coz a meal just isn’t the same for me without it! Other options were potatoes, pasta, or vegetables.

Roasted lamb cooked with lemon and herbs

Dessert was another opportunity to try something local so I had kataifi. I was advised by them to let its temperature get warm first as it was from their fridge so that it’d melt in your mouth when you eat it. It tastes quite like baklava – very sweet. I was only able to eat half of it.

Kataifi

Being very satisfied with mu dinner at this taverna that night, I came back again for my dinner the next day. My total expense for the previous meal was 15euros! I wanted to try other dishes. :)

 I still wanted my feta cheese so even if I was really tempted to have another plate of grilled feta cheese, I opted for something healthier and had Greek salad instead. Yummy!

Greek salad

For mains, I opted for a meat I love (chicken) and ordered for a souvlaki. It is a Greek dish where pieces of meat are skewered then grilled. Of course I paired it again with rice – wouldn’t have it any other way! hehe

Chicken souvlaki

I didn’t order any dessert as I was looking forward to eating my freshly picked pomegranate once I’m back in the hostel. I did order for a Greek coffee though. I was (pleasantly) surprised to learn when they told me that it’s on the house!

I highly recommend this place!

How To Get To Meteora From Thessaloniki

I’ve always wanted to see the amazing mountains of Meteora. Those rock formations that formed millions of years ago and which served as refuge of monks since the 12th century. Meteora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. SO even if it meant travelling to this gorgeous place on my own, I was more than up for it! :D
I arrived in Thessaloniki airport from Rome. It’s amazing travelling within the EU! Their free movement meant that there was not even any kind of check once we landed in Greece. Our flight was led to a gate that leads outside after you get your luggage!
Once outside, just follow the sign for the bus station which is literally just outside the doors, opposite side of the road. There is a kiosk that sells bus tickets. I bought a €2 ticket that would bring me to the main bus station (Macedonia Inter City Bus Station).  After around 55mins, we’re at the terminal.
Inside the terminal, there are several counters where you can buy tickets from. To get to Meteora, you buy a ticket for Trikala (at counter 1), for €20.40. I had around 30mins to kill so I took that as a chance to freshen up and get some food in my tummy. I had 2 pizza (one to take away), a hot cup of tea, and a litre of water for  less than €8! The bus was scheduled to leave at 12:00nn. 2.5hrs later, we arrived in Trikala. The bus ride was relaxing. No traffic enroute. And I had no one seated beside me!👍
Upon arriving in Trikala, I went to the ticketing counter and bought a ticket for Kalambaka (€2.60). This will be my base for exploring the mountains of Meteora. I opted to stay here so that I’d have more option for food and other shops. Also, more convenient as both the train and bus station will just be short walks away!
Coming back to Thessaloniki, I got on the 08:19 train (€15.20). The train station is only around 2mins walk from the town centre. It’s not an actual direct train as we’ve had to change at a certain station – there was an announcement though so you shouldn’t miss it (and almost everyone changed there)! And the next train is just the platform beside it. You just get off the train and get on the one opposite it! 👍

London Eats: Firedog

I enjoy eating out for the simple reason that I love food!

Last Mother’s Day, the girl friends and I had trouble looking for a place to brunch in as places were either fully booked or they’d say that our party’s too big for them to have a reservation for.

Fortunately, we found Firedog! It’s a chain of Turkish restaurant that serves Mediterranean food with a branch near Oxford Circus. I googled it up after and I can read nothing else but praise for them – that’s a great start. They had no problem accommodating us – when we got in there, their place filled up pretty fast after some minutes! And food served were tasty and best still was the very attentive and warm service we got from the crew. :D

Check out these delish looking dishes we got – and yes, they did taste deliciously!

Baked eggs – smoked tomato, charred peppers, hung herb yoghurt, chilli oil, and grilled flat bread

Firedog toasted muesli – ypghurt, and charred pineapple

Sujuk hash – roasted onions, spinach, lemon thyme, and poached egg

Ozdemir Pasha II – Grilled halloumi, slow roasted tomatoes, beetroot hummus, fried eggs, za’atar, and parsley

Great catching up with them chicas x

Would you believe that all these were on the house??? We can’t either!

Deliciously satisfying. Yum!

 

Firedog
Opening hours:
Mon-Sat 11am-12am
Sun 11am-11pm

For table reservations, book here.

London Eats: Quartier at Eight Members Club

A few months back, I met some amazing ladies who share the same love for food! This love for food led to several dining out sessions, a few cook ins, and even a wine tasting trip to France! In an amazing stroke of coincidence, a multi course dinner that I organised for us happened to fall on International Women’s Day! I thought it perfect that I’m celebrating this one with women from different countries and with various background – it felt truly international! Plus I think they’re pretty kick ass to boot! :D

I’ve booked a table for 6 in Eight Members Club’s Quartier Restaurant, with 2 being vegetarians. The place was tucked in an inconspicuous street off the bustling Liverpool Street. It’s a quick 15minute walk from the station. However, a friend had a really hard time looking for it that she had to get an uber eventhough she wasn’t that far off. I wasn’t even certain I got to the right place but I guess the big 8 sign you see once you go in is a sign that you’re in the right place! You won’t see any concierge here… you’ll have to get on the lift which only has 2 button, the other being “8.” hehe

First course was seared scallop with with cauliflower velouté. Veloute is considered one of France’s five “mother sauces.” It is made from a light stock such as chicken or fish and subsequently thickened with butter. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish and wished there was more of it! Seconds please! :D

Second course was goat cheese, roasted beetroot, and topped with caraway tuile.

Third course salmon gravadlax – a Scandinavian dish where dry cured salmon is marinated in herbs; quail egg, avruga caviar, and créme fraiche.

Fourth course roast quail, celeriac gratin, port jus. This was another dish that tasted really good!

The vegetarian option was risotto with truffle oil. I can’t remember the whole name as it wasn’t mine but my friend was saying that it felt uncooked still. I gave it a bite and I gotta agree -a few more minutes on the fire and it would have been perfect!

Fifth course seared tuna, prawn wonton, wakame, tokiko, wasabi, and soy dressing. Another friend declared this as her favourite dish in the lot so far.

Sixth course wild mushroom linguini, truffle oil. Sweets aside, this was our hands down favourite for the night!

There was an average wait of 10 minutes per course it seemed. Since we started a bit late, 20 past seven, and it was getting to be quite late… we asked for our deserts to be served one after the other (since we were waiting for 15minutes already). And suddenly, 3 plates were in front of us!

Seventh course was fondant choco choux. I thoroughly enjoyed this one! Outside is this crunchy, chewy biscuit with chocolate on the inside. Yum!

Eight course was passion fruit loli tart. This, for us, was their most creative dish. Plus the contrast of flavours felt like a refreshing burst and play of flavours in your tongue.

Ninth course, petit fours. We were served small, bite sized confectioneries. 2 kinds of chocolate and third was something akin to a Turkish delight but wayyy sweeter.

The food was good but it didn’t really make me go “wow!” The pace of the meal could have used some picking up. I would recommend going there if you get a good deal like us (via Groupon)! Overall, it was a nice night out spent with good friends.  :D

Journey to the Sahara Desert

This is my second trip to the beautiful country of Morocco. We didn’t have much time on our first visit there so the idea of going to the Sahara was moot. For this trip though, it’s our priority so we made sure we had enough time for it.

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My friend, Jess, booked a tour with Viaje en Marruecos for €220 pp. We’d be with them for 4 days and 3 nights. They’d pick us up from the airport and even bring us to the riad that we’ve booked at in Marrakech. So apart from having a jeep just for the 3 of us, the package included every breakfast and dinner during that time as well as the accommodation. Pretty great bargain me thinks!

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Arriving early in Menara airport, I told my friend to make sure that I get picked up. I have no intention of getting lost nor of being hassled looking for our riad. He (our guide/ driver) was there after a minute of waiting. He then proceeded to ask me where we’re staying. “Hotel Kenzo” I answered. “Where? Do you know the address?” Silence on my part with a simultaneous shrug of shoulders. “I dunno” I eventually blurted out. “My friend sorted everything… we should be able to check it in google” I added as an excuse.😅 He was incredulous that I’d go to a place with no idea as to where I’ll be staying. He eventually got me to my destination. hehe He said that he’d pick us up at 8 in the morning the next day.  I went to our room to catch up on much needed sleep while I waited for my other travel companions who’d be flying from Barcelona and Madrid.

Day 1

The next day, after a hurried breakfast – we just can’t bring ourselves to get out of bed any earlier. We are on vacation after all! – we met up with him at the car park. A quick stop to a cash point that we passed by and we were off!

It was sunny yet cold. I found the landscape totally captivating as it’s different from what I grew up in (more coast as well as mountains covered with trees – life in the tropics) and where I currently live (cloudy London). But once we got to the High Atlas Mountains, its zigzagging road was enough to remind me that as ironic as it sounds since I travel often, I get car sick easily, also I was seated behind the driver (yes, I’ll use that as an excuse and a valid one at that, I think!). To make sure that nothing comes out – and to hopefully get through this in a more dignified way… I slept! Having said that, every time we’d pull up so we can check out the views (and take pictures of course!) I’ll be up for sure!

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We went to see Ait Ben Haddou, an old moorish citadel. Now popular in Hollywood as on site location for many movies (Gladiator, Game of Thrones, etc). According to our guide, even from hundreds of years ago, traders from Mozambique (or it may have been another exotic sounding country) would travel for weeks til they get there. Trade. And then head back home. I was imagining caravans of camel traversing truly long distances, camping at night, moving at a pace that we’d consider slow now.

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We passed by the Valley of the Roses too! But since it was winter, it was endless shrub after shrub -all leafless. I’m certain it’s beautiful in spring! Wish I can go back and see that for myself. Eventually, we arrived in another beautiful valley – looks like I’ll be using this word often to describe the landscapes we’ve passed by in this trip. There was this red mountain, devoid of greeneries that looks liked it’s been carved to look like humongous fingers. Coz of that, they call it the monkey fingers mountain. I’ll have to google that bit if it’s true!

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Less than 5minutes drive away – still amazed by what I was seeing – our jeep pulled over a roadside hotel. Looks like we’d be staying the night here – woot! I made up my mind then to wake up early so that I can go out and take pics the next day. The sun had set on the last bend and was too dark now to explore the area.

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We were led to the receiving area were various biscuits,  nuts, and mint tea greeted us. I can’t get enough of Moroccan tea – I seriously love it! I was trying my best not to finish the ones in our teapot – alas, to no avail!😂

They then carried our bags to our room with us following behind. As is the case with us now, we drew lots to see who’d get to sleep on the big bed. Never had luck with any draw that I already put my bag in one of the single beds before even choosing one. As is the usual, it wasn’t me. 😐😭

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Dinner was kinda hit and miss. The entertainment was alright though – the local guys were playing instruments and singing songs that I have no idea what it was about but  interesting nonetheless

Day 2
Attempting to be up early again, we were still the late ones for breakfast. Looks like many of those who have arrived last night alongside us had gone up and left – or at least have already eaten. Even with my conviction to wake up early the night before…. nah.  It just felt so warm and snug that I just can’t bring myself to get out of bed any earlier! Anyway, I’m not so keen on sweet breakfast which is what French breakfast kinda reminds me of (bread, jams, butter, honey, coffee) only now, with Moroccan twist (pancake, eggs, fresh orange juice, sponge cakes for dessert).

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Later in the day, we’d be at the Sahara desert so Jess and I decided to dress “appropriately”- flowy trousers as well as light coloured tops. I wore sandals too. First destination was a panoramic view of the valley we were in. It was a short drive there but the view, I found, stunning! We were pretty high up and you can see the road snaking along the edge of the mountains – and to think we were down there just a few minutes back! I noticed two things simultaneously, first was the view and second was the fact that it was soooo effing cold – and to think I only had sandals on! As soon as our driver thought we’ve spent enough time there, the other people we’ve caught up with have already gone again, I ran to the jeep… rummaged through my bag which was at the back… and put on my (warm) socks and changed to my sneakers. Thought I’d have frostbite!😱

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Next destination was this gorgeous gorge. We were instructed to get off the jeep, walk towards the end of the gorge and that he’d meet up with us there. They’ve made it so that we can appreciate the view/ experience. I felt so minuscule walking between towering mountains! And because of this, we were walking in a very windy path! I was torn between walking quickly to reach the warmth at the end of the pass and taking my time to take pics and to gawk at the view! I was pretty sure I did lots of gawking! Haha

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It was then quite a drive after that. Punctuated by lunch in a local cafeteria/ eatery. Jess was insisting that we eat at places were only locals would go to. Food served was fast, cheap, and huge in size. Toilet was like the ones I’ve encountered in China – ones on the ground and you’d have to squat (if you’re a woman). To dry hands after hand washing is with a literal paper! After a satisfying meal (I love their bread!), it was time for us to get back on to the road.

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We stopped for a while in a shop where we bought some scarf to use as head wrap. While there, the girl behind the cashier asked for our names and quickly fashioned henna tattoo design around it. As touristy as it looks, she then kept putting clothes on us – matched haphazardly at that – and voila! We’re dressed locally of sorts. Hehe a few souvenir pictures in them and then we took them off and went on our way – that last stretch of drive before the Sahara!

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Our driver/guide then proceeded to ask whether we’d like to go swim in the lake. A question I found a bit odd since we’re headed to the desert but I saw in front of me a vast expanse of lake. I said I’d have loved to but didn’t think to bring a swimsuit with me.  Then he chuckled. The lake I had in view was gone! They then pointed out at the one on the right – the one I saw was at the left. I blurted, “is that what they call a mirage? Are we seeing one now? Awesome!!!” Though what instantly came to mind were scenes in movies where people would race towards an imagined oasis to quench their dying thirst away only to find that isn’t the case. I would be filled with despair if that ever happens to me *knocks on wood* it was then explained to us that this naturally occurring phenomenon is caused when light is refracted through air at different temperatures.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5669.After we made a turn away from the paved road, the jeep pulled over. We were then told to go on top of the jeep for the last bit of travel before we get on the camels. It was so fun!!!! I mean, we were screaming kinda non stop (I was taking pics and my friends would suddenly put their weight on me scaring the wits out of me coz I’m on the edge!) but it was interlaced with laughter and excitement too!

Desert camp experience to follow here.

Heading back seemed anticlimactic now that we’ve seen what we came to see 😐 the drive back was long yet beautiful! Our guide asked if we were happy, an emphatic yes from everyone! Then he turned to me specifically and told me that he’d make me happier… he drove off road, pulled over, then asked us to follow him. He poured some water over a big rock and I saw them more clearly – fossils!!!!😱😆

Before heading out of the town and starting off the long drive back, our guide made true his promise to Jess the day before. He got us a “traditional” pizza so we can have a picnic. A couple of hours down the road, a lone tree here and there breaks the monotony of the barren desert landscape. He parked the car beneath one and got our food and some drinks out.

Upon settling it on the bonnet of the jeep, he sliced it with a dull knife and gave us a big slice each. We then sat around in a loose circle atop a few piles of rocks and ate heartily. It’s a Moroccan Berber flatbread stuffed with onions, olives, and herbs and meat. I found it gorgeous and ate 3 slices! I was really hungry!😍 while we were munching away, a few cars passed us by with their passengers waving at us. Another vehicle even pulled over right next to us. The other driver seemed to know our guide and they chatted a bit. We offered him food and he happily took one and wrapped it away ready to eat later on. His passengers however politely declined saying they’ve already eaten at one of the restaurants back from the town we came from. After some time, we got back on to our jeep and we were off! Passing by a landscape that’s starting to become familiar but never tiring to look at and kept leaving me in awe! <3

 

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