A Swedish Midsummer.
After a weekend in Stockholm, Stina and I jumped in the car to drive out to the countryside. We were headed for Örebro, Stina’s university town, and the countryside surrounding it. We were to spend the week by Lake Hjälmaren, Sweden’s fourth largest lake, with her friends at their countryhouses and – yep – potato farms.
Our first stop: Sigtuna. Sweden’s oldest town, it was founded in 980. We stopped in for chokladtårta and coffee (oh boy, do they love coffee over there. Upwards of 5 cups a day seems fairly normal) at the self-proclaimed oldest house in town, from the 1600’s – Tant Brun.
A weekend in Stockholm.
After one and a half years, I finally get to see my lovely friend Stina again. Last I saw her was when I left on this adventure, leaving her in a limousine with the rest of my friends at Melbourne Airport. We meet up in Sweden, with a plan to drive out into the countryside for Midsummer, as is the traditional Swedish way. But first, we all spent the weekend in Stockholm. Holed up in an apartment in Södermalm, a trendy island neighbourhood in central, we whiled away the time exploring design stores, coffee roasters and bakeries.
Sustainable living in the Black Forest.
The last stop on our road trip around the Black Forest was Freiburg, a medieval university town on the edge of the forest, and one of the greenest cities in the world.
Home of the famous Freiburg Minster, a beautiful cathedral built in the 1200’s, and the only Gothic cathedral completed in the Middle Ages to survive the bombing in the 1940’s. A number of houses around the cathedral were wiped out in the raids in 1944, but the clever church staff had removed all of the windows for safekeeping at the time. The building suffered vibrations, but survived due to the deep anchors for the spires. Afterwards, they popped the windows back in, back to the perfect condition it has now maintained for over 815 years. Each side is surrounded by a market that runs 364 days per year.
Deep in the Schwarzwald.
From Baden-Baden, we drove down south, deeper into the Black Forest (Schwarzwald).
Apfelkuchen on the lawn of a German mansion.
Oh, Baden-Baden. Known as a retreat for the wealthy, holiday destination of the Queen and Obama. For us, the gateway to the Black Forest, our first stop after crossing the border from France.
For a couple of Aussies, Baden-Baden was insanely obscure. We’d never heard of it, read about it, or seen any flights that went there. No one we know has ever visited. So in we drove to the visitors centre, thinking we’d need a guide around town. It was a lovely round wooden building, positioned over a stream. The air was SO fresh, the stream so calming. It was so green.
The guide told us to go and park in a very specific place, and then walk. Whichever way we wanted. So we did.
Pain d’epices, spätzle & flammenkuchen in Strasbourg.
Thank you discount airlines. When picking our next place to visit, we went to the sale section of a popular European airline, and selected the cheapest flight we could find. To wherever. It was a toss up between Romania and Eastern France. France won (though maybe Romania next?).
£10 later, and there we were in Strasbourg, in the Alsace region of East France, bordering Germany. We were only there for 5 days, but somehow it wormed its way up to the top, ranking as one of my best holidays, ever. We rented a little Airbnb apartment at the top of an old building, with some of those slanted roof windows where we could hang our heads out over the city. Only downfall: old house, top floor, no elevators. But running down the stairs every morning was fun.
A Country Manor in South Devon.
I won a trip.
One weekend in Belgium.
My life, since the beginning of this year, has taken a turn completely unexpected. An excellent, marvellous, wonderful turn. After the finish of my book, I couldn’t even think about writing. I needed a hiatus. So I started to email a few people about opportunities – food styling, media work – just to fill the time when I wasn’t at the Deli.
And all of a sudden, I got whisked away on a tremendous, exciting adventure. Out of the blue, and very suddenly, I was put on a plane to Brooklyn, to go back to one of my favourite food businesses in the world – Mast Brothers Chocolate Makers. They were expanding to London, and wanted me to manage it. Me?? I’m still not sure this isn’t all a dream.
So off I went, to learn how to sort, roast, grind, temper and make chocolate in Brooklyn. And since my return, it’s been non-stop getting the location off the ground. We are up, up and away! But more on that later. The weekend before I left for Brooklyn, a mere few days after I was offered the job, we had a trip, one that had been booked for months. To Belgium. On a chocolate adventure. Serendipity.
Cobbled streets. Bed and breakfasts on the canal with cute little Belgian breakfasts. Underground beer bars and whipped cream meringue cakes. And the chocolate. Here is our weekend in Bruges and Brussels, in pictures.
Welsh Cakes and Castles.
We went on a road trip around the South of Wales – Cardiff, the Brecon Beacons, Swansea, the Valleys.
Scandinavia’s Christmas City & Rudolph for Lunch.
We decided a few months ago that we would try and take a weekend trip once a month while we are here in London, to take advantage of the proximity of so many amazing countries. However, this thoroughly unaffordable goal could only be accomplished if we had very few other requirements for the trips. So, it was decided that we would keep an eye on Eurostar and flight sales, and book the best deals that came across our inboxes. Wherever they were to.
When we were booking our Christmas trip I added one other requirement. It had to be Christmas-y. So when £19 fares to Gothenburg, Sweden came up for a weekend mid-December, we booked straight away to visit what many call Scandinavia’s Christmas City. And boy, was it Christmas-y. Everywhere we turned… Christmas. We stayed with a lovely couple in the Masthugget district, in their gorgeous flat.
Squid ink baguettes, Jim Morrison’s grave + a dinner picnic under the Eiffel Tower.
We woke up this morning and head straight out to sit in a cute Parisian cafe for breakfast. Coffee, chocolate croissants and baguettes with French butter fueled us for the walk down to Montmartre cemetery, where we were on the hunt for a number of famous boulangeries and patisseries.
Crème brûlée, Amelie’s cafe + the streets of Montmartre.
One of the best things about London is how close it is to everywhere else. We decided to head over to Paris for a weekend break – as my first trip to France, there was so much to pack into one weekend.
I booked us a little flat in Montmartre, with a cute little Parisian elevator and huge windows that opened onto the street.
The best festival in the world, set on the coastal cliffs of North Wales.
For the last music festival of summer 2014, I was lucky enough to get a press pass to the obscure Festival No. 6 in North Wales. Magical, beautiful and awe-inspiring, it is set in Portmeirion, an Italianate coastal village set on a cliff over an estuary.
The Great Cornish Pasty Adventure Part 3.
The Great Cornish Pasty Adventure Part 2.
The Great Cornish Pasty Adventure Part 1.
Ah. The Great Cornish Pasty Adventure.
‘What?’ I hear you ask. ‘Is this an actual thing?’
You betcha it is! In Arizona they have an awesome, mildly hipster Cornish pasty restaurant. Mildly hilarious given that pasties are kind of considered equal to hot dogs – cheap, filling, and generally a takeaway food eaten from a paper bag. But they are good. And they can be amazing.
So, I decided way back in March when I got to the UK I would hire a car and drive to Cornwall.
Snippets of a London Summer.
I’ve been busy. I’ve finished my book! But in my small amount of spare time I’ve had, I’ve been soaking up the fabulous London summer. We have gone to the pub (a lot.)
I’ve never been to a camping music festival before. They are a huge thing here in the UK (think Glastonbury, Reading/Leeds), and while they certainly can be found at home, they seem less prominent. I know many other people at home who have never been to one, while here, when I mentioned to my friends that this was my first, they all expressed incredulity: “What?! You haven’t been to a camping festival before?”
So at the beginning of summer, I started researching. I’m not hugely interested in the Glasto experience with its 1 1/2 hour walk through tent city to return to your tent. I’m not interested in the ones packed with dubstep and bad food vendors. So I chose Wilderness.
The Wilderness festival is held in the woodlands near the Cotswolds in Oxfordshire. It is set in a stunning location, and is designed so that the woodlands are a huge feature. And the best thing about Wilderness? Food is on an equal footing with the music. A number of top London chefs come out and set up tents or long table banquets under the trees. St John, Russell Norman of Polpo, Moro, Hix – the menu for the festival reads like a London gastronome’s bucket list.
An American Independence Day in London.
As I am not in the USA for the 4th of July, I thought it would be fittingly hilarious to celebrate the 4th here in London – and celebrate the day that America gained independence from the chains of Great Britain – from within Great Britain.