A tour away from Rome -Day 3

November 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Day 3 in Italy was also the most enjoyable. We were fetched from our hotel at 7am for a 13 hour tour of Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. It was beautiful. The coastal area was breathtaking. I was in awe for so much of the drive and I even managed to stay awake for a lot of the journey, despite my urge to sleep in a moving car.

We passed by Naples and got a wonderful view of Mount Vesuvius.Our first stop was the ancient city of Pompeii, where we were guided through the ruins of the city. Our tour guide was fabulous. He was full of humour and very proud of his Roman heritage. He always maintained that the Romans were both practical and looked after their communities. They were most definately practical. Walking through what was left of Pompeii, we were able to see how they had two-way lanes, pedastrian crossings, cats-eyes on their roads and alleys, shopping centres, bakeries, swimming pools and saunas. They also had fresh running water. It amazed me to see that despite our level of progress as a human race, the Romans 2000 years ago were not very far from where we are today. In fact, there are certain communities in my home country South Africa who still don’t have access to clean, flowing water and decent sanitation. The funniest part of our tour in Pompeii was when we went into a then brothel. There were paintings depicting the services they offered – hilarious! Here are some of the pictures I took in Pompeii.

Mount Vesuvius - the volcano is still active today

The white stones served as reflectors for carriages travelling at night

 

An oven - looks just like the pizza ovens we still find today

On offer at a brothel *ahem*

A tap with running water

We then went on to drive along the Amalfi coast until we eventually stopped in Positano for lunch and some time at the beach. Positano was so serene and the air so fresh. There are quaint little stores along the coast and narrow pathways. Lunch was delicious; authentic,simple Italian pasta served with garlic, chilli and olive oil. It was the first time I walked on a pebble beach. I managed to collect some colourful gemstones. The water was brrr, freezing, but I couldn’t resist wetting my feet (and jeans). Here are some pictures from the drive to Positano – which involved a long windy roads and picture-perfect views, and the time spent in Positano.

Wow!

I cannot describe how incredible this was

Positano

From Positano we proceeded towards the town of Amalfi. This was our last stop along the coast – and luckily so, because it started to storm just a few minutes after we reached Amalfi.

I love the contrast of the green and blue in this picture

Amalfi in the evening

It stormed all the way home, but our tour guide did not seem perturbed by the weather. He kept driving around the bends at high speed. His passengers on the other hand, were praying softly, as there was hard rock on the one side of the road and a dip leading to the ocean on the other side. Thankfully, we made it! 🙂 I definately recommend a tour to see the ruins of Pompeii and the Amalfi coast for anyone travelling to Italy. You will not be disappointed.

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Rome – Day 2

November 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

This must be hard to follow. I have been switching my posts from city to city. Just so you know, I spent the previous weekend in Rome (whilst still living in Gothenburg), and I have now moved to Taipei. I’m just catching up on old, but interesting things to share.

On our second day in Rome, we visited amongst other sites, the very touristy Piazza di Spagna and Trevi Fountain and their surrounding areas. I was not so impressed by the Spanish Steps. They’re wide and there are lots of them, but other than that, I just didn’t get the hype. There were so many tourists there (even more than elsewhere in Rome, and believe me, there were tourists all over). Maybe because I am not such a crazy shopper, I didn’t enjoy the area much. It is jam-packed with designer stores. I did however have the most delicious pizza in the area. It was actually what A ordered, but since my lunch was not as appetising, I opted to have a chunk of his instead. Hmmm.. Delicious tuna pizza.

3 Spanish Steps

The Trevi fountain was pretty. I more enjoyed the area around it. There were many narrow alleys and I had some delicious gelato. Notice how the food is always the highlight for me. There was also this amazing English book store in the area. (It’s a pity I don’t have my Rome travel guide with me in Taipei, or I could have provided more names.) I read the Bastard of Istanbul a couple of months back, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I found another novel by Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love at the store and I am currently enjoying it just as much.

Trevi Fountain

During our walk from the Trevi Fountain to the Vatican City, we caught sight of the Tiber River. It was beautiful. I was more interested in observing how close to the banks people jogged. One wrong step and they would be washed away, brave Italians!

Tiber River

We only looked at the Vatican City from the outside for a few reasons. 1 was that the queue to enter was just too long. A and I have issues with long lines. In Paris last winter, we didn’t go up the Eiffel Tower for the same reason.

Nee Hao Taipei

November 15, 2010 § 6 Comments

We arrived in Taipei on Friday evening after a long day of travelling. The flights were not too bad, I watched movies and slept for a lot of the way. The plane food was decent. I think I should start requesting vegetarian meals instead of Muslim meals, because I usually leave the meat behind anyway.

It was raining quite a lot on Friday evening in Taipei. I was especially hungry (after sleeping through lunch on the flight), so we headed out in the direction that looked busy. We ended up grabbing some pasta and heading back to the hotel. I went to bed after a long hot bath. My first impression of the city was that it was busy and full of lights. I was suprised to notice that cars didn’t always stop at pedestrian crossings. Coming from Sweden, it will take some getting used to.

On Saturday morning, I was most startled when we went down for breakfast. Taiwanese eat rice, soup, stews and stir-fry for breakfast. I was disappointed because there was no yogurt or muesli to be found. I must start to adapt to the Taiwanese breakfast menu. We settled on toast, cereal and tea. Later in the day we were picked up by a colleague of my husband for a mini-tour of the city. We first had lunch together at a traditional Taiwanese vegetarian restaurant. The lunch buffet was extensive and we didn’t know what the half of it was. I somewhat enjoyed the sticky brown rice. The rest of the flavours were different. I wouldn’t say that they were bad, but again, they will take some getting used to.

 We then headed to his work office, and then to the Mosque, where we conversed briefly with the secretary of the Masjid. He was very friendly, welcomed us to the city and provided us with a much-needed list of Halal restaurants. He also mentioned that Eid ul Adha would be celebrated on Tuesday 16th November. With all of the packing and moving, I hadn’t thought much of the Hajj season or the Eid festivities. I usually yearn to go back to Mecca and perform pilgrimage during this period.

The next stop was the Taipei 101; the second tallest building in the world, after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It was so tall – duhh! We took a high speed elevator to the top of the building. It took only 37 seconds to climb 89 floors – insane! At the top, we listened to some general facts about the geography of Taipei whilst looking out the windows of the high building. Taking the elevator down was not so pleasant. Because of the high speed at which the elevator moves, my ears got blocked within the first few seconds- highly uncomfortable. I kept stretching my jaw and swallowing until they opened up again. After the Taipei 101, we took the metro home. It was Sunday afternoon, but still jam-packed! I wonder what it will be like during rush hour.

This morning, the jet lag seems to have finally passed.  A starts work today, so I will be exploring alone. I plan to start taking pictures of my adventures again. Post-flight, it was the last thing on my mind. Wish me luck with the new city 🙂

Rome – Day 1

November 11, 2010 § 2 Comments

We arrived in Rome late on Thursday night, so we made sure we hit the sack almost immediately after entering our hotel room and made an early start the next day. On Friday morning and parts of the afternoon, we visited the Roman forum, Palatine Hill, Colloseum and other historical buildings and museums in the area. I will only cover my favorites here.

 The Colloseum, an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome, was most fascinating for me. In simple terms, the arena was used as a massive slaughterhouse; hosting gladiatorial contests, executions and the like. I was most suprised to learn that the arena hosted such large numbers of spectators. Imagine 50 000 spectators watching and cheering on as a man battles a cheetah until one of them are killed – so very frightening!

The colloseum

The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the medieval era and was used instead for housing workshops and other purposes.

Colloseum internal

 

During our walk from the Roman Forum to Piazza Navona, I got the scent of roasted chestnuts. I love roasted chestnuts. I love their sweet smell, taste and texture. I could not resist. I bought some the next day as well.

Roasted chesnuts

Piazza Navona was beautiful. There were musicians all around the square. The air was fresh and cool. The Fountain of the four Rivers was beautiful. It was possibly my favourite Piazza in Rome.

Fountain of the four Rivers

I had my best gelato on the same evening in the same area. I indulged in gelato 5 times in my 3 days in Italy. I couldn’t resist. Besides, Italians use healthier (and less) fats and minimal sugar in their gelato. So it is not so bad 🙂 This is the only picture I managed to snap of the-best-gelato-ever. 1 scoop of caramel meringue and 1 scoop of ginger-cinnamon. Hmmm.. Delicious!

My favourite gelato

We also visited the Pantheon on day 1. The sparkly interior; its colours and the tranquility were truly special.

Pantheon

 I hope to write about day 2 in Rome shortly. Have a good day 🙂

Packing and Cleaning

November 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

I spent the last weekend Rome. It was beautiful and I have so much to share. I also have to pack up my flat and then clean it afterwards. I plan to share my Rome Diaries soon. Watch this space 🙂 For now, wish me happy packing!

My attempt at Moussaka

November 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

I had the most delicious Moussaka at a Turkish friend’s home in Ramadan this year. I have had the recipe for over 2 months now, but didn’t get down to making it until last week Thursday. This recipe serves around 7-8 people.

Vegetables:

  • 2 large aubergines
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 12 small potatoes, boiled until cooked, but still firm

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cans of chopped tomato
  • Salt, pepper, chilli powder, 2 blocks of vegetable stock

White sauce:

  • 3 tblspns butter
  • 2 tblspns all purpose flour
  • 500 ml milk
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  • Cut the aubergines and zucchini into 1 cm slices and fry in a little oil until they are soft. (I added water to the pan when frying the aubergines because they tend to suck up a lot of oil.) Peel and cut the cooked potatoes into 1 cm thick slices. Season.
  • Chop the onion and garlic and braise in a little oil for 4 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and spices. Allow it to cook on medium heat until soft and thick. Add water if it is too thick.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour. Add the milk slowly, stirring continuously.Allow the sauce to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Layer the vegetables and the tomato sauce in a casserole dish. Pour the white sauce over. Lastly sprinkle cheese on top of the white sauce.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes on 200 degrees celcius.
  • Serve with rice and salad.

Here are some pictures I managed to snap while cooking:

Frying the aubergine slices

fried zucchini

braising onions and garlic

making the white sauce

tomato sauce

laying to set

voilà- the finished product

 

Bon appetit!

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