Posts tagged food

Fire me up!

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Even the sunrise looked like a bush fire

24 hours of fire! Our first fire incident was trying out some local, home brewed firewater; cracking stuff. The barmen at the campsite said he couldn’t divulge the alcoholic percentage or where it was made.  Perhaps it is an old family ‘recipe’. (Ingredients: starch. Method: ferment until causes drinker to clutch throat and fall to the ground screaming)  It certainly reminded us of Zivania from Cyprus or even Stroh Rum and the after-effects were similar!

The second fire incident happened as I was making prawn crackers for our homemade Sunday night Chinese. I managed to set a pan of oil alight, and in an enclosed space leaping flames are a rather frightening sight. Luckily I managed to keep my wits about me and got it out the door before setting us and the van aflame! Phew, maybe we won’t be making homemade takeaway for awhile.

Making mini craters

The beach at Odeceixe is stunning. There is a long sweep of powdery, white sand framed by dark cliffs and intersected with a meandering river. The sand is incredibly fine, and a hard crust forms on its surface. Every step on the smooth sand causes a ripple of holes to form around your foot, as if someone had just fired at it with a shotgun. I thought for a second I was in some sci-fi movie, seeing a bleed through from an alternate reality, before I realised it was just my foot!

 

Cycling Struggles

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Next stop was Salema, beachside wild camping along with 10 other motorhomers. This spot is in a wetland, and the sound of frogs and waves serenaded us to sleep. We spent a gloriously hot couple of days fishing, sunbathing and generally lazing about. We managed one cycle ride up the rather steep hills into the town, David’s very cheap bike is currently running on one front gear and he had a hissy fit when he saw the climb out of town. Our bbq is getting heavy use now, it is magical to sit next to the ocean, glass of wine in hand of course, and cook some fresh fish or frango piri-piri.

We reluctantly moved onto Sagres, the most westerly town in the Algarve where the weather turned more windy. Consequently, it proved to be another challenging ride to Cabo St Vincent, especially after a couple of G&Ts. David was carrying Odie in his doggie backpack much to the delight of the busloads of Americans who grabbed the opportunity to take a photo, some by asking if they could and others by snapping away when they thought David wasn’t looking. The lighthouse is the most powerful in Europe and its light can be seen for over 90 miles. It’s a very good thing as the sea is very choppy and rough out there.

Sagres town has a couple of places to park in the van, we stayed at both and had a great time walking and fishing near the town. We enjoyed an incredible Sunday lunch of grilled fish and a massive steak washed down with the local beer. All cooked by an old salty looking chef who brings out the uncooked wares for you to examine before singeing them on the grill. Beats a Sunday roast hands down!

Lunch in Lagos

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Apparently Portuguese dogs walk backwards, do their business, then leap into the air !

Lagos warranted a hot, uphill walk during our short stay in Luz. We arrived on the outskirts of town feeling weary and in need of sustenance. Luckily there was a Portuguese equivalent of a builders cafe so we stopped for a very hearty 3 course lunch. David got an amazing meal comprising of a bowl of soup, a pork chop, a sausage, a gamon strip, two ribs, salad, chips, rice, desert, a glass of wine and a coffee, all for just €8 ! It was certainly the right lunch if you are laying bricks but not if you are sightseeing, and after an energizing espresso we managed a rather ungraceful waddle into town. Lagos’ museum’s main attraction is an ornately carved church. Odie interrupted our religious reverie by ensuring his barking echoed in the cavernous room and he was moved to a nearby tree in disgrace. The town is touristy but beautiful. We skipped a boat trip to the coves as we did that on a trip with my Dad a couple of years ago.

Amalfi Coast

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One of my long standing ambitions has been to explore the Amalfi coast.  This goal inspired us to persevere in our struggle with the Italian traffic, and we made our way to Sorrento.  A little preparation made the journey to the area much more bearable. We were able to find a campsite open in the ‘off’ season and avoid all those challengingly low bridges.  Our campsite was tagged onto the end of Sorrento with amazing views of the coastline.

We decided to spend our first day in this area exploring it on foot.  The Italians don’t seem to be overly keen on footpaths, or even pavements, and you have to take your chances on the narrow roads leaping sideways to avoid scooters undertaking three-wheeled Piaggios.  We diverted off the main road onto a walkway, straddled on either side by lime and lemon plantations.  We scrumped some limes for our larder, though our pickings were meagre compared to a retired Italian couple we encountered, dragging bulging plastic packets filled with olives, lemons, limes and pomegranates in their wake.

The coastal road to Amalfi is closed to motorhomes during the day due to the huge volume of traffic and the jaw droopingly narrow squeezes between cliffs and houses.  The coast is easily visited by bus and boat, both run by the municipality and very reasonably priced.  Feeling more adventurous we opted to rent a scooter from Sorrento for the day. Finding a good scooter-spot for Odie proved to be an interesting challenge but soon, like an unwilling sandwich filling, he was wedged firmly between us, sniffing and staring at the passing scenery.

We bumped and weaved our way along the peninsula, through isolated villages to Santa Agata which has stunning views all round.  The road hugs the cliffs and continues on to the beautiful towns of Positano, Praiano and Amalfi.  The towns are mid-way down the cliffs, between the sea and the towering limestone monoliths that stretch into the clouds.

We stopped for a delicious seafood lunch in a restaurant, with tables looking out across one of the bays. It turned out to be a rather expensive treat of seafood pasta and freshly prepared veggies from the proprietor’s garden for only €10 extra (or yous sleeps widda fishes).  After lunch, the clouds descended and rain quickly fell upon our cheap plastic helmets. We weaved our way homewards through mist and fog, our TomTom bleating out alternatively a direction to turn, or a warning about a low battery. With the TomTom off to save the battery we powered on, thinking we had our bearings right, but discovered after a long descent to a small fishing village that we had made a monstrous diversion to a dead end.  I’d usually have been annoyed but strangely the last hour of scooting back through the Italian rain was as much fun as you could possibly hope for. My spirit of adventure was feeling much alive.

Death by Olive

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A seahorse fountain in the square

We are always interested in trying new foods and Ascoli Piceno had something unique on offer – olives stuffed with veal and then deep fried. A cardiologist’s worst nightmare but a delight for tourists’ tummies! This town in the Le Marche region of Italy has plenty of interesting sights, beautiful squares and pretty architecture. Its tourist appeal is readily evident with the numerous American and English voices that can be heard echoing off the Roman monuments.

A quick descent out of the mountainous region of Monti Sibillini National Park lead us to the Adriatic sea. Beautiful blue skies and abundant sunshine, combined with a powder blue sea should result in hordes of sun worshippers … or this is what we thought. The only sight that met us on the beach in Porto d’Ascoli were endless rows of sun loungers and parasols. It looked like a holiday ghost town. If only the English knew about this September paradise. I’m sure many would love a cheap holiday in the Italian ‘off’ season.  We eventually located a wild camping spot right next to the sea, and were rewarded with a pretty sunrise the following morning.

The rising sun looked like a nuclear bomb

Fantasy Chocolates and Ceramics

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Perugia, a hill top town in Umbria, Italy was our destination for the day. Much to my dismay I was unable to organise a tour of the local chocolate factory. Such factories should be open 24 hours per day by law! I had to console myself with a delicious organic lunch of freshly made pasta and wild boar sauce. We made an effort to work off our indulgent lunch by marching up and down the many Perugian staircases, some of which ultimately lead to nowhere. The town has many pretty sights and plenty of photographic opportunities.

After our feet could take no more traipsing around we made a quick detour to Deruta, also in Umbria. This little town is famous for its handmade ceramics. The main street is riddled with shops selling their wares. Many allow you to observe the artists as they create  their beautiful ceramics, but photography is strictly forbidden so the only shots Dave came away with was of tiles laid into the pavement.

Feasting Festivals

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And step, and step, and scowl at partner ...

Our festival luck is improving! Hungry for lunch we were on the look out for somewhere to stop for a bite and noticed a sign advertising a ‘Sommerfest’. The local village square was closed to traffic as benches had been laid out for hearty lunches accompanied by the sound of Bavarian folk music. The band members were fully kitted out in Leiderhosen and many villagers had also donned traditional dress. The best bit was when the children from the village did a traditional bavarian folk dance with much leaping and twirling and pouting and picking of noses.

Accidental Austrian Strudel

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Rain, rain, rain! We had hoped to make the most of Lake Constanz but the only constant has been a steady downpour. Luckily, while drifting through Friedrichshafen, we spotted signs for the Zepplin Museum and decided to check it out on a whim. As it was early, we were fortunate enough to find a parking space easily but they were few and far between when we returned to the van. Get there early if you don’t want parking headaches. The museum itself was fascinating. I can’t believe how huge the Zepplins were, especially considering how few passengers they could carry. What we did find rather odd was that the top floor was home to an art exhibition. The rather tenuous reason (or should that be excuse?) for its existence was a little sign with the words “Science is art and art is science”.

We found a Stellplatz adjoining a campsite near Lindau. At last a chance to do some washing! A brief break in the steady downpour allowed us to go for a cycle to explore the area. We stopped at a cafe for a warming cup of tea and a very delicious apple strudel. On the cycle home we noticed a sign showing the way to Deutscheland and realised that we had accidentally strayed across the border into Austria for our strudel!

Lindau bay lit up at night

When evening fell we cycled, away from Austria this time, into Lindau town. The bay is lit up at night and is very pretty, apart from a rather odd neon sign at the top of a statue which changes every few minutes from a smiley face to a sad face. The restaurants on the water front are very expensive but a short walk to the end of the row will take you to a funky little cafe which serves cake and beer, a combination I have come to love 😀 We suspect that although it has a lovely riviera feel at night it would be very different in the day, heaving with tourists.

Schweet Schiltach

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Another day, another picturesque village in the Black Forest, this time Schiltach. An abundance of historical museums dot the town. The timber museum is free (for dogs too) and gives an interesting insight into how the area accumulated its wealth by bringing trees down the river from the surrounding hills. They have ample information in English available and a very friendly English-speaking guide on site ,who was ever so keen to tell me all about his 10 years of living in London in the 60’s. The apothecary museum costs €2 per person (but no dogs allowed). It has several rooms full of torturous looking devices and evil medicines. It is astonishing to think that DDT was once used as a human delousing hairspray! The museum is on the site of a pharmacy built in the 1800s and is neatly preserved in its original state. The sweet little old lady that takes your entrance fee directed me from one contraption filled room to another with much gusto, even when I was clearly yawning with disinterest after five rooms of objects had been closely scrutinized.

There are many culinary delights to try in the Black Forest. We picked up some lardons made from Black Forest pigs in the local metzgerei (butcher) and used them in a couple of dishes. Mmm, tasty! They also make delicious beersticks (smoked sausages) which David is always trying to buy in large quantities.  I have to watch him closely! We have found that meat is very cheap in Germany, especially pork products. They also have a huge range of interesting breads. At long last, after so many white baguettes, our digestive systems are enjoying the health benefits of unrefined foods. Sadly we weren’t so enamoured with Black Forest Gateau which proved to be very sugary and sadly lacking in cherries and chocolate. You can never have too many cherries and chocolate!

Extra Green Paella

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I did some research online about where to eat the best paella.  Valencia lays claim to this typically Spanish dish and after deciding that we weren’t going to be staying in the city itself I settled on El Palmar, a little village just outside.  This is where they grow the rice for Paella and surrounding the small village are paddy fields, a stark contrast to the dry, brown scrub we had seen for the last couple of days.  The sound of frogs and sight of white herons was soothing in the muggy, oppressive heat.

Just as we arrived in this restaurant-riddled town we heard the sound of a band and had to investigate.  A group of lads were playing samba tunes and setting off firecrackers to celebrate someone’s birthday and, probably, the Spain football match taking place later in the day.  Like drunk boys everywhere they were up to mischief and some of them managed to set the grass alight.  Luckily they had drunk enoughbeer to create a river of urine to put out the blaze.

We found a restaurant in the middle of the town facing a rice paddy and sat down to enjoy some local white wine.  Once again I had forgotten our Spanish book and so wasn’t entirely sure what was included in Paella Valencia, but was sure it would be delicious.  When it arrived David’s face fell. The yummy chicken, butter and green beans were accompanied by some very colourful snails!  He was adventurous enough to try one but they were very green, fairly slimy and rather chewy.  I think we must have been put off by their parasitic eating of prickly pears which we saw earlier on our trip.  Ah well all the way to Valencia for some authentic (but in the end uneaten) snails.

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