Eating good Southern Soul Food is possibly one of the greatest things in the world. Here are a few handy things to know before you gorge yourself silly.
Southern Soul Food will reduce you to tears. As you bite into each dish you cannot believe how good everything tastes.
Stretchy trousers are necessary. Tight jeans become a hazard as unbuttoning them on a full belly could mean the button flies off like a rocket in any possible direction.
No matter how hard you try you will leave feeling completely stuffed. You will need to stop but the overwhelming urge to continue eating will be too powerful.
Southern Soul Food is best when shared with good company. Company that is as happy to be a glutton as you are.
The fresh, hot cornbread are like clouds in your mouth but don’t eat too many as you will fill up too quickly.
When the fried chicken arrives; pause, embrace the moment, listen to choirs of heavenly angels sing and remember that you are about to taste the most wonderful thing known to man.
Soul food is good for your soul not your waistline. Constant eating of this irresistible cuisine will ensure lard forms in place you never wanted it to.
Allow yourself to taste every single side dish. There will be many and at first it may be overwhelming but unless you try each dish you will not have had a true Southern meal. Here are some of the sides you could expect on your freshly pressed table cloth; mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, beans, gravy, cabbage, butter beans, black-eyed peas, squash, candied yams, pickled beets, Okra and tomatoes, potato salad, coleslaw, fried green tomatoes, snap peas, apple salad, macaroni salad and English Peas and noodles to name just a few.
Eating Southern food is best down in the South of United States. Find a place that provides that homely feel.
Leave space for dessert. You may think that you cannot have another mouthful but that piece of pie or banana pudding beg to differ.
Happy Canada Day! As this beautiful, toonie throwing, toque wearing, beaver tail eating country celebrates its National Day on the 1st of July; here is a list of just a few of the great things Canada has to offer.
Friendly Canadians: always smiling and always friendly. Canadians are some of the most friendly people around.
Maple Syrup: pour it on anything and everything. Or just drink it out of any Maple Leaf shaped glass vessel, the choice is yours.
Poutine: fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. Need I say more?
Beaver Tails: these deep fried dough strips can be covered in cinnamon, sugar, Nutella, bananas or any other delicious treats.
Montreal Bagels: boiled not fried these bagels are far more superior than the neighbouring New York bagel.
The Canadian Tuxedo: not many people can pull off double denim but Canadians sure know how to do it right. We could learn from them and know that to double denim isn’t a fashion crime.
Roots: this clothing store is the bee’s knees. It has plaid, denim, and all things warm including toques (which for anybody who doesn’t know is a beanie).
The Canadian Wilderness: travelling across this country provides any visitor with the most spectacular scenery.
Bears and Moose: who wouldn’t want to see these magnificent Canadian creatures in their natural habitat?
Canadian Mounties: simply because they have the coolest hats.
The Definitive Seasons: there is no mistaking what season you are experiencing in Canada. Each has its own unique palette of colours to wow any visitor.
Winnie the Pooh: who doesn’t remember this ever-caring and always wise bear who loves eating honey?
A Good Looking Prime Minister: politics can be, well politics, but there is no denying that Mr Justin Trudeau is a babe.
Justin Bieber: Sorry! Whether you love him or love to make fun of him; he is Canadian and has a fair few catchy tunes.
Great Canadian Cities: Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal to name a few. Each city has something unique to offer.
Ice Hockey: this action packed game is like religion in Canada. This is understandable when they are the current World Champions.
Lacrosse: this great game is Canada’s National sport. It uses a small rubber ball and each player runs around with a long-handled stick. Don’t be fooled this game is certainly a contact sport.
Loonies and Toonies: who else has such cool names for their coins? Loonies are $1 coins that bear the image of a loon, a common Canadian bird. Toonies are the $2 coins which are a combination of the word ‘two’ and ‘loonie’. Genius.
Bonjour, Hi: this great country has two national languages. When in the French Canadian parts you will be greeted with ‘Bonjour, Hi’. The French has to come first by law. How very French.
The Canadian Accent: adored by people all over the word the Canadian accent is one of the coolest there is. Just make sure you don’t mistake it for that of an American accent.
Sorry!: Canadians are always so over-apologetic and we love it.
These are just a few things that make Canada amazing. Happy Canada Day Eh!
*This list was compiled with the help of one of the many great Canadians I know.*
Wondering around Montreal has been delightful but I began to wonder if I had left continental Europe at all. I knew that I had because the people of Montreal are much friendlier than the entire continent of Europe combined.
Everyone greeted you with ‘Bonjour, hi’ to gauge where you were from or if you were a fortunate Canadian who could speak both of the national languages. A local told us that the people in Montreal are actually some of the most unfriendly people in all of this maple syrup loving nation but coming from a place where even allowing an elderly person to sit or holding open a door is too much to ask for; this was a refreshing change.
Our morning was spent making our way over to Mont Royal, a beautiful park on the top of a hill which allows any visitor with a panoramic view of the city. We opted for the bus to take us to the top and since we had a day pass on public transport we figured we may as well use it. We were dropped off and took a casual stroll through the park towards the view point but we were not alone.
Some Canadian wildlife had decided to join us for some of the journey, a small squirrel was obviously using his looks to manipulate the two very obvious tourists that had wandered into his turf. Eventually the squirrel found something a little bit more interesting than us and we reached the view point.
The view was truly spectacular. The palate of reds, oranges and yellows from the changing leaves surrounded the tall and powerful grey and dark browns buildings creating a stark contrast. A slight and rather chilly breeze swept across us bringing with it leaves that whimsically danced in the wind as they made their great escape from the roots that had nurtured them. With a last little glance at the view we decided it was time to become a little more acquainted with the city; but first we needed something to eat.
We were told by several locals and visitors that a bagel was an absolute must and that there was one small establishment that made the very best bagels. St Viateur Bagels sits close to the Mont Royal metro station and part of their fame comes from the fact that they make their delicious bagels in the store and boil them before placing them in a large pizza type oven for baking.
Making our way down the store lined street we eventually found St Viateur’s with large bagels on the front signage. Once we were inside we chose a small table in the front window; the sunshine had made it a lovely and warm place to nest.
We decided on sharing a traditional bagel and allowed our waitress to make the rest of the decisions on our behalf and within minutes our Montreal specialty had arrived. The bagel was covered in sesame seeds that were as toasted as we were in the midday fall sunshine, the cream cheese was liberally plastered on one side and on the other half sat layers of fresh pink salmon, red onion that had been crafty laid on top with capers that had hid themselves in the luscious folds.
For my first bite I had to make sure that I had all of the ingredients on my fork to have a true experience and I was certainly not disappointed. The bagel was so fresh and lighter than the dense bagels I have had previously. Suffice to say that my meal did not last long and I was left feeling perfectly content by the end. We sat chatting while observing the staff in the kitchen making endless streams of bagels to delight other visitors to St Viateur’s. Eventually it was time to make our way into Old Montreal.
Arriving in the downtown area we wandered towards the port. I was surprised by the small number of people around, they too had drifted like the coloured leaves on the trees. The port provided an interesting side of the city with many buildings and factory warehouses having been completely abandoned. The number of these buildings around the area was astonishing and the only company that they now have are of the graffiti faces that decorate their walls.
With the cold wind picking up it was easy to understand why there was no hustle and bustle in the main squares of the city. Instead people sat indoors and ventured out to quickly nip inside somewhere else. As we weren’t accustomed as yet to the chilling wind we decided to explore some of the underground shopping malls.
These malls have over 32km of walkways and are home to hundreds of stores that sit in a world entirely on it’s own. After a couple of hours meandering our way through these large and yet stuffy shopping pavilions we decided that it was time for something very important; dinner.
Each person we had spoken to had recommended a little place called Schwartz Deli and so without delay we made our way over to the Jewish Quarter. Arriving at Schwartz the first thing that we noticed was the very long queue out the front; initially we were put off by the hoards of people who too had followed the smell of smoked meat but if we weren’t going to wait we certainly weren’t going to get any.
We were sat at the counter of the small diner; newspaper articles and photos of semi – famous people covered the old smoked meat absorbed walls. Every single table was full and each person had the same dish placed in front of them. We sat next to an older Canadian couple and as is custom, it seems, in Canada they greeted us and gave us some advice on what to order. We ordered with our waiter who also seemed to be the manager of the joint. Minutes later we had enough food in front of us to feed a small army or at least two self confessed food lovers.
The sandwich had layers of thinly sliced deep pink beef with the edges brown and grainy from the spices that gave it the unique Schwartz flavour. Protecting the middle of the sandwich was of course the bread but this bread was fresh; the centre was soft and when you pressed strategically grabbed it, so as not to have the contents fall out, the bread felt like a soft cushion with the crust a light tanned colour. Mustard smothered each gap on one side of the sandwich and a dill pickle that looked like it was sat amongst Arnold Schwartzengger’s steroid cabinet, had a plate entirely on it’s own. We sipped the very local Cott’s Soda which was insanely sweet but complimented the savoury meal which was slowly being devoured.
We savoured each bite and just as the people around us did we finished up and allowed those eager and waiting in the cold to come in and enjoy their experience. Plunged into the cold; which our waiter was insistent was worse than normal, we made our way back to our hostel for a quiet drink and a toast to completing our first city on our two month adventure. In two days we had completed the top three food experiences recommended to us by all those we spoke to about the beautiful city of Montreal.
Arriving back at the hostel we were greeted with a friendly smile and a ‘Bonjour, Hi.’
Whenever I spoke to Canadians about the fact that I was going to be visiting their country they all spoke of a dish that could not be missed; a dish called poutine.
Arriving in Montreal off of our Air Canada flight we were greeted with a combination of ‘Bonjour’ here and ‘Hello’ there before turning the corner to go through customs where we were met with a not so Canadian welcome.
Being the weekend after Thanksgiving it was packed and unlike any airport I have ever seen before. The Canadians around us could not believe their luck and their previous weekend of thanks and giving went out the window as they lined up very irritated, like us, in the queue for over an hour.
We lost a large chunk of our time in the queue as we watched the daylight slip away from us as the sky turned from a pasty grey to a dark charcoal.
Eventually with a slight diversion (my fault) we made it to our hostel in the downtown area. The M Hostel is located in the University district and for our short stay in Montreal had everything we needed.
After a quick drop of our bags we had one goal for the evening; find poutine.
What is this that I speak of? Well; poutine is a truly Canadian dish which originated in Quebec. Poutine is a dish that would suffice in any circumstance however I do believe that if you were drunk it would provide the consumer with a food experience to match no other. Essentially it is chips doused in gravy with a heavy handed sprinkle of cheese curd. Sounds simple enough but it is a combination that is sure to blow your mind.
We were told about a little place called La Banquise. They are known as the best place for it and as lovers of food, new things and a rule to always follow a good recommendation, who were we to say no?
When we arrived we were very quickly seated and experienced our first bit of Canadian service. Water was on the table and a quick explanation was given in regards to what we should try.
Our receptionist told us to not go for the classic poutine however I could not go past it. While the menu had many other delicious and mouthwatering options which included ingredients like guacamole, pulled pork, beef mince and Swiss cheese, I opted for the classic poutine as a first time cherry popper.
Less than five minutes had passed and an enormous (apparently regular) plate of poutine had arrived on the red decorated table. Oh my god! It isn’t really much to look at and doesn’t get points for presentation but I couldn’t wait to tuck in. I took my first bite and let me just say “Oh Canada, thank you for poutine!”
It was amazing, my first mouthful had everything on it, ensuring I got the whole experience and it was great. How can a meal with hardly any (or very little) nutritional value taste so damn good?
Tactfully; with extreme skill and precision we managed to make our way through the dish. Each bite providing a gateway to the pool of gravy at the bottom of the once white plate.
I got a third of the way through and already began feeling defeated. I know what you are thinking, I can hear the cheers now “Keep going! You can do it!” I continued for a little while taking breaks where I could. You must understand it was tough, really tough. As a lactose intolerant person this is not the ideal dish but I had prepared with myself.
I got halfway and I had to stop, not because I wanted to but because my body could not keep up. This delicious poutine had beat me; taken me into its gravy filled void to spit me out and look like it does on a plate.
Poutine had won! Just this once.
One cannot truly experience a new land without seeing how the locals live. A land far from tourist areas where the pace is slower, the grass is greener and the country really shows you what it is has to offer.
Our fifth day was spent venturing away from the buzz of the beach area and into the archipelago wilderness towards the serene Ubud. The journey from Seminyak took us a good two hours. We had arranged the day before and booked with Bali Eco Cycling.
Our transfer arrived and our driver didn’t speak much English although we wouldn’t have been able to hear him over the loud snore of the engine getting gradually louder as the gears changed. We picked up four more people on the way and ventured from the tourist areas past the little villages and lush green landscapes to Ubud.
We stopped and picked up Weda, our guide for the day. He explained how he used to be a rice farmer and that he was now doing tours to improve his English; which was perfectly comprehensible. With a wide smile and a welcoming face he explained a short history of Bali and certain cultural aspects of Balinese life.
Listening intently we drove the tight road into a national park in the Kintamani area which is home to the active Batur Volcano and the calm Batur Lake. Our snoring van came to a halt at The Lookout Cafe where we were to have some breakfast. The view made me forget all about the void in my stomach and I was taken back by the sheer natural beauty of the area. The Batur Volcano last erupted in the sixties but the fertile land is a blessing and the lake below provides water to the rice paddies in the larger surrounding area.
Eventually after a light breakfast and when I could tear my eyes away from the majestic landscape, it was back into our noisy van to visit a coffee plantation. We were shown a variety of different plants by Weda and told about a type of coffee very unique to Indonsia and the little animal who helps produce it.
Kopi Luwak is the rarest type of coffee around and is produced after a small luwak or civet cat digests the beans allows them to pass through their system and then locals look for the droppings, clean them and roast them. Unfortunately these days the poor little luwaks are just kept in cages and exploited for the sake of a very expensive coffee. Coffee you cannot bring into Australia.
With our tea and coffee experience behind us it was time to start seeing the countryside without the constant grumble of the van. We were trading our four wheels for two and placing a helmet on our heads as we began a 25km ride.
It wasn’t long before we picked up a fair amount of speed as we were continuously travelling downhill and just as I was beginning to get used to the gears on the bike it was time to pull over onto a dirt track to our first stop.
Weda told us that we were going to visit a compound where several families lived and that some of the money from the tour was used to help the family. Walking in we were shown the kitchen. The small fire in the corner had coloured the walls black and the preparation bench was low to the ground. Traditionally in Balinese homes the women cook but Weda explained that it is not exclusively the women who cook and that for Balinese people meal time is something which is enjoyed alone and not in the company of others as Westerners are so used to doing.
Walking out of the kitchen someone caught my eye. There was a small old man who had been following me through the compound. With skin like a well-used leather bag and more wrinkles than a shirt in need of an iron this man muttered to himself. He sat himself on the side of the compound; always muttering to himself and seemingly pointing at nothing at all. Meanwhile around him was a hive of activity where the women were doing all the work weaving banana leaves into decorative shapes and bowls in preparation for the New Year festivities in a few days time.
I couldn’t tear my gaze from this old man. His empty eyes had caught mine full of wonder and I took a photograph of his face, he had a face full of stories and I had to capture it. Once I had I asked Weda about this intriguing man. He told me that he was the crazy man and that when his wife died so did his spirit.
We wandered through the compound and saw the ATM; which is the livestock. The livestock in the compound allow the families to make a small yet steady income. The old man was the only male I saw in the compound all of the other women has busied themselves and there was no barrier on age.
The oldest woman in the compound was 92 and she sat weaving while she gazed off into the distance. It made me wonder what they thought of us, tourists watching them. Encroaching on their daily routine with cameras and a sense of curiosity. This old woman; the grandmother of the compound had captivating eyes the colour of the ocean just after sunrise and age spots covered her face. When we said hello she smiled and gave us a nod all the while her hands never once stopping the intricate banana leaf weave.
It was a humbling experience to see the way that the majority of Balinese people in the rural areas live and how important trade and hard work is to them. Walking out of the compound I turned around one final time to see if I could spot the old man but he was gone.
Peddling down the hill we began seeing wide open spaces with eternal green rice fields, people were working in the fields and children ran to the road to wave frantically and shout ‘hello’ as us, the strangers, passing by in awe.
We stopped in the rice paddies and got to have a little walk through, balancing carefully, so as not to fall in the mud below, we walked on the paths between the paddies. Rice is the staple food for the majority of the global population and to see the work behind something we take so for granted was fascinating.
Weda handed us ponchos and said it was going to rain; without question we popped them on and continued our ride through the countryside. True to his word the heavens opened and a refreshing tropical rain fell. Within minutes we were all soaked but there was something magical about riding in the rain. All the tension and electricity held in the humidity before just dissipated and the cool drops were welcoming with both of us opening our arms and embracing the droplets rolling off of our faces. The path cleared of frantic children, the rice paddies were deserted and had an overwhelming feeling of solitude and happiness.
Our day cycling around the countryside was nearly complete but we needed to have a final lunch stop before the journey home. We drove up to a beautiful restaurant which overlooked yet another rice paddy field and the smell of peanut and chilli filled the air along with the damp ground below from the rain. We sat and indulged on a variety of different dishes all with an Indonesian or South East Asian influence. There was Nasi Goring, similar to fried rice, duck, chicken satay with a tofu dish and of course fresh steamed rice.
Paying only US$40 for our whole day with Bali Eco Cycling; we were amazed at everything that had been included and I really would highly recommend them if you plan on going to Bali.
We eventually said our goodbyes to Weda our wonderful guide and began on the winding road away from the dense forest and green fields back towards the brown sandy beaches of Seminyak on the outer edge of the island. I began reflecting on the morning and everything that we had done. It had been spectacular, not just this day but all the previous days in Bali too. It is beautiful to see how the people are so gentle, friendly and welcoming.
Our last days in Bali were spent embracing the culture, rituals and traditions of the island. We sat and watched the sun set over the ocean, we laughed and we experienced a place of true beauty which captivated me and left me wanting to stay.
No travel experience is complete without submerging into the culture and the real hub of any city. You need to be able to work your way through the arteries to the beating heart where everywhere you turn there is something new and different.
Our second day in Bali was spent wandering the arteries to the stores in Seminyak. We couldn’t only keep to the walkway simply because the unstable ground below would have meant a sprained ankle. So we edged onto the road being cautious to not disturb the scooter drivers behind us who were already swerving to avoid vehicles and trucks.
The main streets in Seminyak buzz and are filled with the occasional toot of a horn. In Bali they seem to toot their horn to allow drivers in front to know that they are going to pass them and not a minute goes by without hearing a horn toot. Tourists end up dodging family filled scooters or receive the occasional swipe as they pass by. With tourists dodging left and right it does become somewhat of a quick step, this is also coupled with the fact that scattered along the store fronts are the daily offerings or what the locals call Canang Sari.
These offerings are given three times a day to the gods and inside a small woven basket; made from banana leaves with a light green colour to them, you will find an assortment of little goods which the locals offer to the gods. In many there were small flowers, little bits of food, money or cigarettes and most of the time there is incense burning out of the side of the offering. It is a beautiful tradition and one you are sure to see while in Bali as the locals place them in small shrines outside homes and businesses and they sprinkle water over them to give thanks.
The only problem with these daily offerings is that they often sit just outside the store fronts and so this makes it a challenge, while dodging the scooters and staring in bewilderment at the seemingly crazy driving, to not step on one of these offerings.
It is virtually impossible and when you do eventually step on one, because it is bound to happen, you have an overwhelming feeling of guilt. Guilt because you have essentially squashed a beautiful ritual and that karma is definitely not in your favour. The locals just smile and laugh however some give you a blank stare as if to say “You stupid bloody tourist”.
Walking past the stores you hear the shop owners bargaining with the tourists for an already inexpensive item and every second store is offering a massage or a manicure which cost less than a Happy Meal.
We wandered into a small store and had ourselves a manicure and pedicure with the ladies inside chatting away and telling us all about life in Bali. The time ran away with us which seems to happen often here on the island and we returned to our hotel to get ready for something a little bit fancy, a dinner at Ku De Ta.
We took our first taxi ride while in Bali and it was a terrifying yet hysterical experience which saw a one way alley become a temporary two-way street; where if cars did end up in a stand-off one would eventually give in and reverse just as far as necessary to allow for the other vehicle to pass but not before the buzz of a handful of scooters dodged their way through with fine technique. I found myself covering my eyes and hoping for the best as my heart raced a little quicker.
Ku De Ta is a well-known destination for sunset drinks and fine-dining and it certainly was an amazing experience where there was no holding back on the courses, all of our chips were on the table and we were ready to feast. The food was simply spectacular and the cocktails were something to be desired. I tried the Rumpelstiltskin Cocktail which a rum, ginger beer, Kaffir lime lychee and lemon grass which made it refreshing. To start I enjoyed steamed prawn and snapper dumplings with wilted cabbage, tofu and coriander. My main meal was a lamb shoulder with an eggplant puree, red braised vegetables and chimichurri accompanied by a glass of 2012 Pinot Noir. I thought my stomach was going to burst but I managed to fit in a small home-made magnum ice cream. It was coated in milk chocolate with cashew nuts and peanuts with a slight banana, caramel and vanilla flavour to the ice cream.
It was fair to say that at AUS$100 it was a pretty good deal. We rolled out of Ku De Ta, a little more bloated than when we had walked in and next was the one way hell road back to the hotel. This time I kept my eyes open because it was a thrill making my way back through the arteries to the heart of Seminyak.
A boating lesson for 10 minutes and then the 6 of us were let loose on a boat around Corfu Island.
The Greeks most certainly know how to live and life on Corfu Island is no different. Umbrellas and deck chairs with crisp and burnt tourists scatter the beaches. The more daring tourist can be seen zipping through the water on a jetski and then there are those that wander through the old town of Corfu, ensuring not to arrive ready to shop during siesta, when all the shops close in the afternoon so everyone can have a nap (tough life).
One way to see Corfu is to hire a boat, which is exactly what we did. The boat could hold six people and it wasn’t difficult finding ladies to join us. The initial cost to hire the boat for six hours was 150 Euro, which when you split it five ways works out to 25 Euro each, not bad for a day out.
We had booked the boat for the following day and we were told that we needed to arrive a little bit earlier for a ‘boating lesson’. The morning arrived and we did as we were told. Alexander our lovely tanned Greek greeted us and we jumped into the boat.
Our ‘boating lesson’ consisted of “Ok so you know, don’t get it stuck in the sand, this is how you raise and lower the engine and this is how you go forwards and backwards. Make sure you anchor if you jump off the boat. Ok you good? Good, you go now.” I looked at my friend and thought “well how hard could it really be?” no boat licence needed, we all jumped on with our snacks and bikinis in tow and we were off.
We were told about a shallow bay where the water came up to knee height and headed there first. I had to give Alexander my mobile number in case of an emergency and as soon had we arrived at the shallow bay I had several missed calls from Alexander, but we were far too busy swimming to be concerned with such details.
The wind began coming in and it made our stop at a local beach a little more difficult than I had expected, nonetheless we did what ladies do on a beach; tanned. Seeing the missed calls from Alexander I called him back. He said “Hello, you be careful the storm is coming and you don’t get my boat stuck in the sand, also they are waiting for you at the ‘taverna’ for lunch. Goodbye.”
With that we collected our tanning goodies and made our way back to the boat, we eventually found the ‘taverna’ we were told about and made our way to the dock. As we were arriving a Greek God of a waiter stepped out and helped us tie the boat to the dock.
Sitting right on the water we all took a moment to realise that we were cruising around the Greek Islands. We ordered typical Greek dishes, a mixture of freshly caught squid, calamari and fish, accompanied by a refreshing Greek salad. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon in Corfu.
After the journey back we were once again greeted by Alexander and we made the final payments. When you hire a boat you need to pay for the fuel you use as well as the use of the boat. After six hours cruising around the island we used 50 Euros of petrol which we once again split between the six of us.
The whole day cost us all roughly 50 Euro each, including our meals, it was a wonderful and relatively inexpensive way of seeing this relaxed and breathtaking island, a boating lesson is even included for those of you who, like me, have never captained a boat before.
Explore the narrow alleyways of Venice to experience an authentic Italy.
When I think of Italy, my mind wanders to the beautiful landscapes, the romantic Italian language and of course; the food.
On a, very hot, summer’s day in Venice, after wondering through St Mark’s Square and being utterly astonished by the exquisite floating city, it was time to find something to eat.
My travel buddy, Ashleigh, has a great eye for finding the perfect place to eat, so Madeline and I left it up to her. She wandered ahead and turned into a narrow alleyway. With laundry gently suspended above us, we made our way towards a soft mumble of people sitting at small tables at Ostaria Ai Storti. Ashleigh turned to me and promptly said “We are eating here, I want to eat here.” She could not have chosen a more perfect spot.
Greeted by a rather charming Italian waiter, we took a seat outside. Sitting next to us was an old Italian man drinking a chilled glass of wine. As I looked at this old man, he seemed to embody what I can only describe as ‘The Italian Life’. While we carefully examined the delectable dishes on offer, the old man was joined by five local older men whose exuberant characters filled the once quiet alleyway with expressive Italian.
Our food arrived and the three of us sat and spoke about all sorts of topics, before I began eating my shrimp and zucchini spaghetti I sat back, took a deep breath and examined my surroundings. I was sitting in Venice, in a small cafe with two wonderful friends and true Italians around me. For the first time in a long time, I was perfectly content and happy with my life, smiling like a fool I tucked into my meal, which can only be described as phenomenal.
Eating local food was something we had all been eager to do. We ignored crowded tourist spots with English speakers and wherever we went we searched for small places to eat. They all gave us an authentic taste for the country we were visiting and this was no exception.
The chef came to greet us “belle ragazze” (pretty girls) and blushed when we complimented his food. We sat and watched as the old men helped each other up and wandered down the maze of alleyways, and so too did we.
There aren’t very many places that can beat Paris in the summertime, and with an abundance of parks and beautiful walking paths all over this romantic city it is difficult to surpass for any travel lover.
Whenever I go to Paris my mind is full of Parisian accordion tunes and I even sing La Vie en Rose, one French song I do know by heart, I find it always gets me into the Parisian frame of mind.
Every time I see the beautiful and elegant Eiffel Tower my heart skips a beat and I pinch myself in the realisation that I am in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
My most recent trip to Paris in June of 2012 gave me a fresh view of this diverse city and it is one I will never forget. The best way to see Paris, I feel, is on foot. That’s right, break out your most comfy walking shoes cause this city was made for walking and you will do yourself a terrible injustice if you don’t get lost in the small alleyways and grand avenues.
Wander the city and keep your map tucked in your bag, go without a definite destination. On a free day in Paris, a bunch of us ladies wandered from Notre Dame to Montmartre. On the way we found a Parisian food market in the Latin Quarter. Feeling slightly peckish, as it was approaching lunch time, we decided it would be a good idea to buy ourselves a fresh baguette and fill it with only the finest French produce; fromage (cheese), saucisson (French salami), and stuffed green olives filled our bags. No French meal is complete unless you have a lovely bottle of wine to help wash it down, so we grabbed a chilled Chardonnay from the local grocery store to accompany our spontaneous picnic.
With my knowledge of the French language I made light work of ordering our delicious ingredients and next we were off to find a grassy and shady spot to enjoy our meal. We stumbled upon the Luxembourg Gardens and found a very deserted lovely looking grassy area that I assumed was perfect to have our picnic. Eventually others began sitting, I even made small chat with the locals asking if anyone had a bottle opener for our Chardonnay, alas none of them did.
Suddenly our perfect summer picnic was rudely interrupted by some man in blue blowing on a whistle. On further inspection we realised it was in fact a police officer telling us that “You cannot sit on the grass!”. The droves of people enjoying the summer sun who had sat on the grass, prompted by us foreigners, reluctantly packed their things and moved along, and so too did we with a little giggle.
Arriving in Montmartre later that afternoon we decided to sit on the side of the hill, beneath the trees and crack open the Chardonnay. We sat with the most exquisite panoramic view of Paris and toasted our glasses to a perfect day in Paris.
A trip anywhere is what you make of it, that day in Paris is one I will never forget, not because I had to push past people to see the Mona Lisa, which is completely worthwhile, but because I had great company and enjoyed the simple things that life has to offer.
Welcome to Brisbane, or ‘BrisVegas’ as it is more commonly referred to. If you know your way around this thriving and ever growing city you soon learn to discover where to find a bargain and how to stretch your budget further than you ever thought you could. All you need to know is what is available and where to look.
What a spread
We all need to eat, and let’s face it, when you are eating out, whether it be by yourself or with friends, food can begin to get pricey. The solution: eat out on a Tuesday night. For some reason there are a whole bunch of things that are cheaper to buy on a Tuesday, one of these things is pizza. On a Tuesday most of the big pizza franchises like Dominos, Eagle Boys and Pizza Hut make and sell pizzas for at least half the regular price, and who doesn’t love a slice of hot pizza?
Another tip when it comes to buying food in the supermarkets is to go shopping a little later in the afternoon. Supermarkets often have specials and reductions later in the afternoon and these specials are usually placed on the essentials, bread and milk. The last food tip will only help you if you can stomach the hunger pains. If you can manage to survive your hunger pains and buy lunch later in the afternoon you will find that sushi rolls and sandwiches will be cheaper than what they were at lunch time.
Why not catch a movie or head off to the theatre?
Entertainment is yet another expense that can leave your pockets feeling empty. Movie tickets these days can cost you an arm and a leg. If you aren’t fussed by all of the extras go and see a movie on a Monday or Tuesday at any Event cinemas. Mondays are student days and you can see any standard movie for $8. Tuesdays will cost you $9.50 for a movie. Alternatively you could make your way to Southbank Cinemas where the most you will pay for a standard movie, as a student is $6.50.
Of course on your holiday you will want to go out, have a couple of drinks and let your hair back, provided you are over the age of 18. The Regatta has a’ Frat Club’ Wednesday where cheap drinks are the main attraction, that and the hundreds of other students there partying the night away.
The Valley is the place to go if you want to club hop. All the clubs are located on or near the main strip and if you have had too much to drink, the walk to public transport isn’t far and taxis are always available. Many clubs charge a cover charge, to avoid the cover charge, go early. Most clubs including The Family only start charging after 10:30pm, so if you get in before you could save yourself $20. The Mustang Bar also advertise cheaper drinks before 10pm. Pubs will also have cheaper drinks than clubs, so hit the pub first and save a few dollars.http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g255068-s402/Brisbane:Australia:Nightlife.html
Get on the road
Fuel used to be known to be cheaper on a Tuesday, however things have changed. Cheap fuel is now available on Wednesday afternoons until Thursday mornings. To get even cheaper fuel grab an Everyday Reward card or a Flyby card. These link to your shopping and provide fuel discounts of up to 12cents off a litre.
Clothing stores in Brisbane always seem to have a reason for a sale. Take advantage of this. The biggest sales are at the end of the financial year and Boxing Day. Prices on clothes and accessories are cut by at least half, and if you can handle the hordes of people and grab what you want from the rack without being squashed it is well worth it.
Having a student card can be a powerful thing, it entitles you to all types of discounts and rightly so. Cheap drinks, food and clothes are a necessity. When you are on holiday you don’t want to be spending a fortune and you don’t have to as long as you know where to look and how to bargain hunt. There are ways and means of still having a good holiday without breaking the bank. So, happy bargain hunting!