28.2.14

RECIPE: Apple Spice Quinoa Cake

I have been nestled in the countryside of Chabanais, in the south west of France, with my dear friend Kate, for the past week & in an attempt to entertain ourselves, we have been baking sweet treats on the daily.  Having been a little zealous with my measuring, whilst making 'meat' balls the other night, we ended up with about half a tonne of cooked quinoa left over.  Rather than let anything go to waste, I scoured the internet for recipe ideas & came across this...

Apple Spice Quinoa Cake

 


This simple recipe from the Little Artisan Kitchen, has nine ingredients, which can be modified for both vegan & gluten free diets.  Taking only three steps to make, it's great for people for whom time, or indeed patience, is short.

I replaced the butter with vegetable margarine, used up a cup of the leftover quinoa & after an hour in the oven, was salivating over the smell emitting from the cake tin.  Between the three of us, Kate, her husband Colin & myself, the entire cake was devoured by the time we all went to bed.  A most successful foray into quinoa related baking, even if I do say so myself.  Now, what to do with the rest of this quinoa...

26.2.14

Nice, where the sun don't always shine.


There was a part of me, that assumed, that once I reached France, I'd just know what to do.  I've always thought of France as my spiritual home.  I don't know why exactly, it's just, whenever I'm there, no matter what part of the country I'm in, I always get that feeling, that I'm where I'm meant to be.

Now don't get me wrong, I've had my ups & downs with France.  For starters, after two years of French class, my ability to speak the language is still embarrassingly poor.  Then, of course, there is, I feel, this slight elitism about the French.  In Italy, if you try to speak Italian, even if you are piss poor at it, they love you for trying, they embrace you.  Yet, in France, if you try & speak French, predominantly speaking, they still seem to dislike you.

Of course, I don't want to tar an entire nation with the same brush.  I have met lots of French people who have been wonderful & whom I am still in contact with.  It can just be very frustrating & somewhat isolating, when you're in a country that you love, trying to incorporate yourself & you feel as though you're being rejected.

So there I was in Nice, waiting for the feeling, that feeling of direction to wash over me & it just wasn't there.  I started to feel more lost than ever.  Was I doing the right thing or had I just rushed leaving Italy.  I suddenly wasn't sure & my indecisiveness took hold & spun me into a black hole of self-doubt.  The kind that sends me off into self-destruct mode.

Making friends with a Chilean guy in my room, we caught the number 100 bus from Place Garibaldi & spent the day in Monaco.  For €1.50 & forty minutes, it seemed madness not to.  It was so warm & sunny, it felt like spring.  The pair of us walked around in nothing but our T-shirts.  It was bliss.  For a brief moment, I actually allowed myself to stop thinking about what to do next & actually just enjoy the moment.

The pair of us walked up to the Jardin Exotique & sat & ate lunch, overlooking the city, with the sea glistening, outstretched in front of us.  I felt happy.  If not just for a moment.  Chilean asked me what I was going to do next, where would I go after Nice.  I couldn't answer.  I hadn't thought further than getting there.

I wasn't worried about money.  I wasn't worried about having somewhere to stay.  I was worried about doing the right thing.  Like honestly, what had made me come traveling in the first place.  It's so easy to sit at home & think the grass is greener in the Mediterranean.  That life would simply make sense somewhere else.  Somewhere warm.  But what happens when you get there & realise, it's not about the place, the issue is you.


That evening, panicked by my own indecisiveness, I sent frantic messages to my friends, posted statuses of distress on my social networks & then, gave in to the hostel's Happy Hour & got drunk on €1 beers.  I could actually sense myself falling into a spiral of incomprehensible madness.  I actually couldn't think straight.  I'd forgotten why I was there.  Lost all that inner peace I'd found in the monastery.  I was a mess.

Hungover the next day, I packed up my things, checked out & wept into my complimentary breakfast in the hostel's bar.  An American guy I'd spoken to the night before, in my drunken depression fueled fog, came to join me.  He was about as clueless as I was.  There's something about New Yorkers though, they radiate this sense of overbearing wisdom.  Consistently psychoanalysing you & reducing you to tears.  Yes, I cried.

Strangely, despite myself, I found that, through my hatred of him, I somehow ended quite liking him.  It was a clear cut case of a love-hate relationship.  Leaving our things in the hostel, we took a stroll through the streets, along the beach & ending up at the castle, overlooking the sea.  There was a busker playing L'Autre Valse d'Amélie on the accordion, which practically gave me chills.  When he then started playing La Vie En Rose, I closed my eyes & I could almost believe I was in Paris.  It was a perfect moment in time.

Returning to our hostel, it was time to make a decision.  I could travel along the coast & work my way up to Paris, or I could head to my friend Kate's in Chabanais.  One was logical & the other was intuitive.  I chose the latter; head to Kate's.  Unfortunately, having been spoilt in Italy, with cheap & easy public transport, I was completely naive when it came to getting around France.  Looking into the train to Limoges, I was shocked when I saw it was going to cost over €150!

This revelation threw me into a panic.  Cue another meltdown.  Thankfully, Jean, one of the guys working at the hostel, who I'd made friends with, came to the rescue & pestered me into looking at BlaBlaCar, a car share website, a few people had mentioned to me.  I hadn't really liked the thought of it & so hadn't bothered to take a look, but ended up being so glad I did.

Essentially, people making long car journeys across country, sign up to the site & advertise seats in their car for a set fee.  All you have to do, is pick someone going your way & contact them to reserve a place.  I managed to find someone who was leaving Nice & driving directly to Limoges, for €50.  Saving me over €100 on train fare.  Only issue was he wasn't going until the following day.

Villa Saint Exupery was now fully booked, because of the impending carnival, so myself & New York, who'd decided to head up to Lyon on the train the next day, found another hostel round the corner & checked in for a night.  Perhaps some time with friends was what I needed, to shift me back into reality.

24.2.14

REVIEW: Chia Seeds

I can't deny my relationship with food over the years, has been a strained one.  I gain weight terribly easily & loathe the feeling when I'm carting about those extra few pounds, with my jeans cutting off the blood supply to my lower half & oh how I hate the site of my face when it fills out.  Nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable in your own skin.  

Thankfully, I have always been able to lose weight very easily, I simply pack my diet with protein; poached egg on toast for breakfast, sushi for lunch & either mackerel or chicken thighs with salad for dinner.  Boom, those pesky pounds drop off within weeks.

Unfortunately, since returning to veganism, consuming high amounts of fat burning protein hasn't been so easy.  Although tofu may have, gram for gram, the same amount of protein as red meat, I sadly, am inconveniently intolerant, which means, my body absorbs none of the protein & instead, just bloats out.

So, the horrendous amount of weight I put on in Italy, through excessive pasta/gelato/formaggio/pane eating, was not shifting quite as quickly as I'd hoped, when I came back to England at Christmas for a break.  I started to feel a slight wave of despair at my rotund middle & hugging thighs.  I had cut out all processed products, cut my sugar consumption down to almost nothing, was eating plenty of raw food, gallons of water & yet, not much was changing.

Attempting not to land myself another eating disorder, I persevered, then one day, mère told me to try Chia Seeds.  Sceptical at first, I didn't bother.  Then, just before I flew back to Italy, mère bought me a pack.  Within a week of consuming them daily, the weight just started to drop off & my energy levels increased tenfold.


Packed full of protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins & minerals, these tiny little seeds from South America, are nothing short of being a superfood!  They have six times the amount of calcium than milk, provide more omega-3 fatty acids than any fish out there, thrice the iron content of spinach, nine times the phosphorous content of whole milk, double the potassium of bananas, fifteen times the magnesium of broccoli, two times the dietary fiber of bran flakes & nine times more selenium than flax seeds!  Phew.

That's not all!  When added to water, its complex structure of dietary fiber, absorbs the water & turns into a gel.  When this gel gets into your digestive system, it essentially scours & cleans your intestinal tract, improving your body's nutritional absorption & then coats the walls of your intestine, acting as a barrier for any carbohydrates you consume, therefore, slowing down & stabilizing the absorption of sugar into your blood stream.  This results in the energy from this sugar lasting longer & being used more efficiently by your body, making it great for people with diabetes.  The added benefit of this gel, is that its ability to hold water, makes you feel fuller for longer.  Which is great for cutting down on excessive snacking, of which I am eternally guilty of.

I make sure to have two tablespoons a day, which I sprinkle over salads, or mix into my soup.  They don't have much taste, just a crunch, so you can pretty much mix them into anything, yoghurts, porridge, even bake with them.  Mexicans pour them into their water bottles & drink it down for an energy boost.  I tried this method, but have to say, it tasted like frogspawn & so, I wouldn't recommend it.

Available to buy from most health food stores or online through amazon, they are sold by various brands & at differing prices.  Mère bought me a 250g bag of organic Chia Seeds from Infinity Foods & as I only have two tablespoons a day, I still have half a bag left after nearly a month.  It's best to shop around & get the right size & price.

I am happy to say, that since taking Chia Seeds, my Italian weight & I have parted ways & I can actually breath in my black skinny jeans once again.  For an unnoticeable addition to my meals each day, I am now packed to the rafters with all my nutritional needs, which means that I no longer suffer from cravings & go off on snackathons.  It has most certainly been a change for the better.  Maybe I'll start listening to mère more often.

23.2.14

L.O.V.E.


Oh love, bastard ruddy love.  Oh how I miss thee.  That intense pain you put me through.  Those tears you make me cry.  When I'm out of breath, certain my life is about to expire from the inconceivable grief you leave me in.  I miss that.

They always say, you find love when you're least expecting it & so, I try to switch my light off & carry on, alone.  Attempting to find peace in my solitude & then, just as I think I'm doing okay, something happens, which serves to remind me, I miss love.

I miss it like I miss the heat on my skin, in the depths of winter.  I miss its ecstasy & its disillusionment.  How it comes up so abruptly, yet withers away so slowly, you think it might never leave & then, when it finally does, you feel numb.

How can something so beautiful be so cruel.  So unkind & so elusive.  I need love.  I love love.  I love giving love & sure as hell I love receiving it.  If only I could have some now.  Just a little hit, to see me through.  Come find me love, I'm waiting.

22.2.14

Sometimes you can't make it on your own.


Once upon a time, when writing my bucket list, I added 'go traveling alone' to the list.  I had always envisioned packing a bag, dropping everything & just catching a flight somewhere.  Quite without a plan & entirely on my own.  When I was nineteen, I bought a business class flight (clearly had more money than sense) to Rome, booked up a swanky four star hotel (again...) & fully intended to spend my twentieth birthday there, alone.  However, as the departure date drew closer, my nerves set in & I ended up asking a friend to come with me, who, thankfully, said yes.  This became a little bit of a repetitive pattern through the following years.

So, when I finally made it to Amsterdam last July, all by myself, with only my wits to guide me, I was quite impressed.  After nearly a week, I left Amsterdam & took a flight to Naples, then a boat to Sicily & three months later ended up in Rome.  I almost felt silly that I'd ever been so scared to go anywhere on my own.  However, my new found confidence took quite a battering during my journey from Milan to Nice.

Having had a crappy afternoon, attempting to leave Milano Centrale, I had finally settled into my seat on the train to Albenga, iPhone plugged into the nearby power point, happily abusing my data allowance.  With only a few hours until I was due to arrive in France, I figured I might as well use as much of it as possible, as my Italian sim was due to be defunct.

Arriving at Albenga at around six o'clock, I strolled out of the station to the awaiting buses outside.  None of them were indicating Ventimiglia, my destination of choice.  Spotting a very attractive hipster kid in a beanie & skinny jeans, I moved closer & asked him if he was going in my direction.  He was.  Brilliant.  I could cosy up to him on the bus & possibly arrive in Nice with a new boyfriend in tow.  I can't deny, I am a hopeless...optimist.

Finding the bus we wanted, we queued up & Hipster boarded first.  I showed my ticket to the woman guarding entry & she just started waffling on at me in Italian.  I may have spent four months in the bloody country, but there is a limit to my vocabulary.  "Parli inglese?"  Venom crossing her face, she told me my ticket wasn't valid for the bus & I'd have to go catch a regional one.  My face washed with horror.  That bloody swine in Milan had sold me the wrong ticket.  Bastard!

Hovering round once again clueless, without my hipster boyfriend, I approached another official looking person, who looked at my ticket & told me to get on the bus I'd been shunned from.  "But she won't let me on!"  I said, to which he responded with a quizzical look & told me to wait.  So I waited.  Then the bus drove off.  Then I panicked.  Grabbing the guy again, I kept asking him where the bus to Ventimiglia was.  He pointed to another bus & sent me off.

I handed my ticket over to the bus official outside of bus number two.  Nope, apparently his bus wasn't going to Ventimiglia, apparently there now weren't any ruddy buses to Ventimiglia.  By this time, I was holding back tears.  He told me I'd have to get on the bus, get off at Imperia & get the train from there & that I'd have to go back into the station & pay a little extra for the privilege.  I started wailing about how I bought the ticket in Milan & they'd told me to get the bus & yada yada.  Bus Official couldn't handle my hysterics & ended up telling me to just get on.

The very sweet driver thankfully spoke English & told me he'd let me know where to get off & how to get the train once I'd arrived.  Sadly though, by this point, it was all too much & by the time I took my seat, I burst into tears & cried the whole way there.  Maybe traveling on my own wasn't as great as I thought it was.


Arriving in Imperia, the driver didn't stop at the train station like he said he would.  All these elderly Italian woman started shouting at him, demanding he pay their taxi fare to the station.  That's one thing I've learnt in my time in Italy, don't get in the way of an Italian's temper.  The driver, attempting to be reasonable, locked up his bus, grabbed some of their luggage & walked us all down to the train station.  "This is Italy, it's all crazy!"  he said & I was inclined to agree.

It was 7:50pm by the time we arrived at the station.  Thankfully there was a train to Ventimiglia at 8:10pm, so I figured I didn't have to wait too long.  The only issue being that I was supposed to arrive in Nice at 8:30pm & so, it suddenly dawned on me, what if I'd missed the last train there.  Whipping out my phone, I went online & saw that the very last train to Nice Ville from Ventimiglia was at 9:20pm.  I knew the train to Ventimiglia was supposed to take forty minutes, so I figured I'd make it in time.

Standing on the platform, half my makeup down my face, feeling very agitated, I could feel myself about to explode when at ten past eight the train had not arrived.  Another five minutes went past & I ended up asking a fellow commuter, if it was due to come at all.  He assured me it was coming.  Italy, a land where the term 'on time' doesn't exist.  Another five minutes went by & I almost wept as I saw it approaching.

A few more tears, several hundred time checks & a conversation with some creepy Italian man sat across from me & finally we arrived in Ventimiglia.  Another passenger left the train as I did & I saw him check the board & then run to change platforms.  Worried it was the train for Nice, I did the same, only for the board at platform two to be blank & next to it, on platform three, only Cannes was showing.  "Nice!?" I asked the guy, who at this point was stood smoking a cigarette by the waiting train.  "Sì!"  By now distrusting anyone's advice, I asked him again.  "Nice Ville!?"  "Sì!"  I looked at the board, back at him, back at the board.  "Are you sure?"  "Honestly, I'm getting off there."  Deciding to trust him, I hopped on & crossed my fingers.

Train Guy & I conversed a little on the journey.  He was Italian, but had been living & working in Nice for two years as a chef.  He apologised for his pigeon English & I assured him his English was far better than my Italian, or French for that matter.  I showed him the map of where I was staying & he assured me it wasn't far from the station.  When we arrived in Nice, he told me he would take me to my hostel, as, whilst Nice was not a dangerous area, myself being a 'small blonde girl' alone might pose a threat.

Off we set, the pair of us, down Avenue Thiers, turning right, down Avenue Jean-Médicin & walking all the way down to the end, before turning left to go down Rue de l'Hôtel des Postes, where, much to my delight, I saw my hostel, Villa Saint Exupery.  I was so overwhelmed with relief to have finally arrived, I hugged Train Guy & thanked him excessively!

So, whilst I do feel rather confident in my abilities to get around, country to country, on my lonesome, sometimes, just sometimes, it's rather nice to have someone to help.

20.2.14

Milano, where even the pigeons make me sad.

 
Before I had even flown back to England, from Rome, at Christmas, I had put together a general itinerary for when I returned to Italy in the new year.  I would fly to Pisa for the day, then onto Florence, for two weeks of WWOOFing on a horse farm, catch the train to Bologna, then Venice, Verona & Milan, all for a day each.  Finally traveling across to Genoa, for a week of WWOOFing, before catching the train to Nice & seeing where the wind took me.  On paper this all sounded great, very organised & within budget.  Sadly, in reality, very little of this has gone to plan, but, as mère says, you can't plan life.  Seemingly, never a truer word has been spoken.

So, as planned, at the beginning of February, I flew to Pisa & spent the day there alone, sightseeing.  Then, the next day, I caught the train to Florence, only the farm I had intended to stay on, ended up turning me down & with it being too late to find a suitable replacement, I ended up just booking a hostel for the night instead.  This then turned into two nights, after arranging to meet Kate & then obviously meeting Italian Beard & combining it all with one too many drinks & staying out all night.

Having one of my mini meltdowns about what to do next, I decided to scrap going to Bologna & headed straight to Venice, which once again, ended with me staying for far longer than anticipated after various events & meeting of people.  After finally leaving Venice for Verona, I made the last minute decision, at the train station, not to stay for the night & instead head to Milan after a few hours.

Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow & things end up turning out better than your original plan.  The only issue with all this free flow, is it can end up being a little financially challenging, which I discovered when I got to Milan, late Monday evening.

After checking into the New Generation Hostel, two metro stops from Milano Centrale, soggy from the rain & starting to feel rather under the weather, all I wanted was to sit in bed & watch TV.  Setting up camp on my top bunk, surrounded by snacks & blankets, I allowed myself an hour of Homeland.  Blubbering my way through that, I thought it was probably a wise decision to check my overseas account...Witnessing that my month's budget had been devoured by too many unplanned nights in hostels, dozens of museum entry fees & several train rides, all in a week, I felt a little sick.

Already feeling ill, the thought of my impending poverty pushed me rather over the edge.  I'm afraid that, generally speaking, I am terribly disorganised in my own life.  Put me in an office & I'm fine.  Ask me to advise you on your life plan & I'll happily give you direction.  Place me in front of a mirror & I'll fall apart & seek answers in all the wrong places.  I think the issue is, faced with more than one option, I crumble.  Self doubt washes over me & I find myself unable to trust my own decision making skills.  Currently, I am standing in the middle of a roundabout, surrounded by sixty different exits, all perfectly acceptable options & I have no idea which route to choose.  Grilling everybody for their opinions, only to never really find the answer I'm looking for.


After some frantic emails to mère, I decided to wipe Genoa from the itinerary & hop on the train to Nice the following afternoon.  Maybe France would ease my soul.  So, sleeping on it all, I arose the next day, packed up my things & headed for the station.  Deciding not to shell out another €5 at the Left Luggage department, I kept my things with me & went & bought a ticket for Nice.  Italian train stations, predominantly the larger ones, require you to take a number, quite like you're waiting in line at a deli for a few slices of prosciutto.  Despite having eighteen desks, only eight were actually manned, which resulted in me waiting over twenty minutes for my number to be called.

I paid €38.50 for my train to Nice, which, although was very cheap, unfortunately was not direct.  Due to a break in the line, I was informed I would have to catch the train to Albenga, then get a bus outside the station to Ventimiglia & catch another train from there to Nice Ville.  Inwardly rolling my eyes, I took the ticket & headed out of the station, looking to spend a few hours sightseeing in Milan.

Milano Centrale to me is like a vortex.  Every time I tried to leave, I seemed to end up back inside, clueless.  I asked half a dozen people where the Tourist Office was, so that I could get my hands on a map & every one of them sent me off in different directions, which never ended at the elusive destination I was aiming for.  I'd made a note in my notebook about the buses, but had failed to say where outside of the station I caught them, or even where I was supposed to get them to!

I figured I could just hop on the metro, but equally wasn't sure what stop to get off at.  Losing my patience, I began to abuse the internet on my phone for answers, only for my phone to start threatening me with a dead battery.  Feeling overwhelmed by my ridiculous situation, I sat on a bench, on platform twenty two & just began to weep with frustration.  There I was, twenty six years of age & I couldn't work out how to get out of a bloody train station!  I mean honestly, it's so ridiculous.

Sobbing away, I took out a bread roll & started nibbling away on it, feeding the falling crumbs to the pigeons, which had gathered around me.  Finally getting a grip, I got up, brushed myself off, took a trip to the train information office, asked, once again, where the Tourist Office was & an hour after I had first arrived, I finally found the place, gleaming at me in front of platform fifteen!

Grabbing a map, I sped downstairs, spent €1.50 on a single ticket & jumped on the metro to the Duomo.  Coming up for air, I felt so stupid at how long it had taken me to get there.  I took in the cathedral, the whole of the square, the people & just felt relieved.  Stupid, but relieved.  With time running out before my three o'clock train, I took a stroll down the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, round the various side streets, had a quick look in the & Other Stories store & took a brief break outside the cathedral, before rushing back to the station & onto my train, which, thankfully, came with a power point for my phone.

There's going with the flow & there's just simple disorganisation.  Seemingly I need to learn the difference.

19.2.14

RECIPE: Gooey Vegan Brownies

I am currently in Chabanais, in France, staying with one of my favourites, Kate.  The weather outside is grey & damp, but inside we're snuggled up with the fire roaring, the dogs dozing on the rugs & a film or two to entertain us.

Making the most of being in one place for more than a moment & having access to a kitchen, we decided to do a spot of baking.  Looking through numerous recipe ideas, we settled on trying our hand at these...

Gooey Vegan Brownies

 


Simple to make, with not too many ingredients & they came out super delicious!  The chocolate chunks in them were all gooey when they first came out of the oven & then returned to firm chunks once they'd cooled.  We have all of one left...

Ingredients

2 cups of plain flour
1/2 cup sunflower oil
2/3 cup of cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
3/4 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of granulated sugar
2/3 cup of water
3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of chocolate chunks

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180º.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder & salt & mix together until fully combined.
In another bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, water & vanilla extract, until all the ingredients come together & form a gloopy consistency.
Mix the dry ingredients into the wet, mix thoroughly, then add in all the yummy chocolate chunks.
Pour into a tin of your choice & bake in the middle of the oven for about thirty five minutes.

Et voila, delicious, gooey, chocolate brownies, which will add warming layers of fat to your thighs & a smile on your face.  Parfait!

18.2.14

Verona, Verona, wherefore art thou Verona


Arising very early last Monday morning, I threw on my clothes in the dark of my hostel room, attempting not to wake all other sleeping inhabitants & hopped onto the vaporetto to the train station.  Having learned my lesson from my bus ride to Venice, I had been sure to make a visit to the station the day before, with Jessica, to inquire about the cheaper regionale trains to Verona.

Running roughly every forty minutes, the regionale train costs €7.60, which is far cheaper than its alternative option, which costs €23 & majoritively speaking, if you're savvy with picking your departure time, the journey duration is the same.

My ride to Verona was smooth sailing & just over an hour, however, once there, having been unable to locate affordable accommodation in town, I made the last minute decision to only stay for the afternoon & head to Milan for the night.

Throwing caution to the wind, I made a visit to the Left Luggage room & parted ways with €5 & Sir Fleming's little hand luggage suitcase, which he has thankfully lent me for the trip.  Annoyingly, as you pay per bag, I was still left with a very oversized & ridiculously heavy plastic bag of, quite frankly, crap, that somehow, I have managed to accumulate, in the short time I've been back in Italy.

So off I went, bag of crap in hand, to the ticket office & bought myself a one-way ticket to Milan for the afternoon.  Costing €11.65, the trains for Milan leave Verona regularly & the ticket does not fix you into a set time.  Left Baggage on the other hand, gives you five hours & so, with it at that time being ten in the morning, I figured I should attempt to make it back to the station for three.


The weather in Verona was dire.  Cold, wet & miserable.  I remember watching Letters to Juliet & how beautiful Verona looked.  Me being me, after watching any film that's set outside of England, I become immediately enamoured & start adding destinations to my travel wishlist.  In reality, few places tend to live up to their onscreen beauty.

Having been unable to locate a tourist office in the station & therefore procure a map of the city, I wandered around outside, rather cluelessly, for some exaggerated period of time, attempting to work out which bus I needed to get on, in order to actually reach anything of interest.  Eventually reaching a 'sod it' state of mind, I hopped on a bus destined for Piazza Bra, minus a ticket.

It had taken me long enough to pick a bus to get on, I wasn't about to faff about trying to find somewhere to buy a bloody ticket.  Thankfully, no one in Italy ever asks to see your ticket (don't hold me to that, sod's law you'll now be asked) & even more thankful, it turned out Piazza Bra was the right place to be.

Jumping off right outside a tourist office, I went & grabbed a map of the city & began to locate & circle points of interest.  Unfortunately, my attempts to pack in a morning of sightseeing, before speeding off to Milan, was scuppered by Verona's Monday opening hours.  Both the Arena & Casa di Giulietta, along with essentially all points of interest, were closed until after one.  Brilliant.  Sodding brilliant.

With the rain beating down my enthusiasm & the wind breaking my umbrella, I wandered around, past the Arena di Verona, a smaller version of the colosseum in Rome, up Via Giuseppe Mazzini, passing all the shops & ended up in Piazza delle Erbe, looking at their pitiful market stalls.  Wandering off to the Duomo & being bemused to find an entry fee sign, I ended up in a store doorway, hiding from the rain.

On the verge of tears, my phone dying of battery & my useless umbrella leaving me soggy, I felt tired of traveling.  What was I doing here.  What possessed me to give up the comfort of my beautiful home, my pink Smeg fridge, my French grey walls & my comfy wrought iron bed, to be here, standing in the rain catching a cold.


Just as I was about to throw down my bags & give up entirely, I looked to my right & there, just within sight was a rather nice looking cafe.  Walking closer to get a better look, I was amazed to see the word vegana chalked onto their sandwich board outside.  Could it be, I'd stumbled upon a vegan friendly eatery.

Creeping in, I fell in love with the interior.  Recycled vintage furniture, exposed brick, wooden floors.  All my favourites.  I ordered the cake of the day, an apple tart & it was delicious.  Relaxing into a seat, I plugged in my phone, whipped out my map & gave myself a pep talk.  Deciding that my love affair with Verona was null & void, I decided to cut all losses, wait for one thirty, go check out the Casa di Giulietta & then bugger off back to the station.

The courtyard at Casa di Giulietta is small & not at all like it is in the film, but I really liked it & it's free entry.  There is the statue of Juliet, which, it is said, if you rub her right breast, you will find new love.  So, obviously I gave her a good old grope.  There's a huge gate, laden with multicoloured padlocks, scribbled with people's initials & plenty of gum.  Literally walls covered in chewing gum.

I sacked off paying €6 for entry into the house & having fully grown weary of Verona & the rain, I headed back to the station, via another free bus ride, picked up my bag & caught a train to Milan.

17.2.14

Oh Venice, how you suck me in.


Sunday morning, I woke early to check out of my hostel & whilst packing up, I met my new roommate, Jessica, an American student, studying in Marseille.  We chatted about life in France, my date with Italian Beard & my plans to leave Venice.  I was kind of sad that I should meet her, just as I was leaving, but, unfortunately, this is the life when you're traveling.  Everyone is just passing by.

Having wasted my one full day in Venice, marching at great speed towards empty destinations, I wanted to make sure I at least saw the Guggenheim before I departed.  Unfortunately, me being me, despite wanting to evacuate the island pronto & catch the train to Verona early, I felt guilty about abandoning IB & so ended up messaging him, to see if he still wanted to go.

Leaving my bags at the hostel, I hopped on the vaporetto for Accademia, only for it to turn out to be going in the wrong direction.  Thus, instead of two stops, I had to endure about seven & was sat on the bloody thing for an hour.  You'd think I'd have got the hang of this by now.  Clearly not.

Locating IB, we headed off for the Guggenheim, paid the €12 entry fee each & dumped our bags at the bag check.  I'm no expert when it comes to art, but I do have a fondness & a keen appreciation.  IB being an art student however, made him my tour guide through the entire building.  I started to appreciate art less after that.

Gawping at the works by my favourite artist Pollock, eying up some prints by Warhol & getting lost in the surrealism of Dalí & eventually ending up at my most favourite of places, the gift store!  Made sure to buy a postcard or two, one to send, one to keep as a souvenir.  There's something about the glorious, overpriced tat of a gift store, that makes me overwhelmed with glee.

Leaving the Guggenheim behind, we strolled off to another museum, which for €15 entry, I decided I'd had enough of art for the day & so, left IB to it & went off to snap photos.  Meeting up with him an hour or so later, we finally made it into the St Maria of Salute Basilica for a look around.  Nothing to write home about, but at least it was free entry.

Finally the time came to depart Venice & thinking IB was going to come with me to my hostel to collect my things, before heading to the station, I was surprised when he essentially dumped me at the vaporetto stop, in order to walk to there, alone.  An awkward goodbye & he was off.  Ciao, thanks for...well, not much really.

Solemnly heading off to my hostel, I sat in the lobby, attempting to charge my dead phone & decide what on earth I was doing.  After a message or two to Miss Charlotte, I finally gave up on the idea of going anywhere for the day & checked back into my hostel.  I don't know what it is about me & decision making, but I get myself in such a twist, I really do.  You should see me try to decide between lunch options!

Ending up back in the same room, even in the same bed, I was happy to see Jessica again & the two of us went off on the vaporetto, once again, to San Marco.  We spent the evening getting to know each other, chatting & swapping stories.  Mine seem to mostly revolve around men, which is somewhat worrying.  'There's always a guy!'  There is though, there really always is.  Just a shame I can't seem to find the right one!

15.2.14

Venice, where love is but a mystery.

I've been absent, I apologise, you see, the past week has been rather hectic...


Last Saturday morning in Venice, I awoke with a feeling of nervous excitement.  What if Italian Beard & I didn't get on.  What if it was the alcohol that had made him so alluring.  Getting ready, I headed down to the vaporetto stop & took the number two to the train station.  Praying to God this meeting was going to go well.  Just as I was head down, typing away on my phone, IB appeared beside me.  He was still good looking in the daylight.  A relief.  Dressed in skinny jeans, Converse sneakers & a beanie.

We walked over to San Marco square, the weather being less than impressive.  Thankfully not too cold, but very overcast.  I was hoping to palm my camera off on him all day, make use of his photography skills, but when he took out an SLR with a very impressive lens, I began to feel shy about my measly number.  Having wanted to spend the day taking excessive amounts of photos, I found myself almost too embarrassed to take any at all.  Was he going to judge me on my snaps.  They were never going to compare to his.  He was fiddling with settings, doing test shots, I normally just point & shoot.

After a little while, we took a break on a bench & attempted a conversation.  I soon realised our outlook on life was somewhat separated & my disappointment began to set in.  It was nearly noon & IB wanted to go somewhere for lunch.  I usually snack, backpacking round Europe for six months doesn't often afford you the luxury of eating out.  Whipping my phone out, I found some vegan friendly places to eat, through the HappyCow website.  Picking one, I located it on Google Maps & with IB saying he knew where  it was, we went off in search of it.

Walking along to the Castello district, past the Biennale, the streets becoming more & more desolate, my feet beginning to tire, there seemed no sight of an eatery.  Over an hour went by, looking, looking & still, nothing.  Checking Google Maps again, it seemed we were no where near the place.  We both became so famished & tired, we gave up & IB picked a bar to sit at, back in San Marco.  I looked at the menu, €6 for a panini!  Cripes.  Spent that for a week's groceries in Pisa.  Still, I was sure he'd be a gentleman & pay.

Ordering a vegetable panini, minus the mozzarella & a small bottle of water, when it came, it severely lacked any flavour.  Conversation between IB & I had equally dried up to an implantable level.  When the bill arrived, €14.50, IB said he had €10 & put it down.  I equally only had a €10 note, so threw it into the pot.  Okay, I thought, €4.50, it's not too bad.  But when the change came, which was already short a euro, IB gave me €2!  €8, I spent €8 on a panini & a sip of water.  I was beside myself with annoyance.  Should I say something.  What could I say, thanks for spending €80 on the train to see me, but hey, could you give me my change please?


Being an art student, Italian Beard wanted to go see the Guggenheim & the St Maria of Salute Basilica.  Off we set, in their direction, blindly following his lead once again, presuming, that as an Italian, who'd been to Venice before, he'd know his way around.  However, this turned out to be rather a misconception, as we turned left & then right, over a bridge, round a corner, came to a dead end, back round, over another bridge, round another corner & so on for several hours.

My feet began to hurt, I was tired & getting hungry, still smarting from my €8 panini.  It got dark, it got cold.  Finally, we made it to the Guggenheim.  It had closed minutes before.  Drat.  A few minutes walk away was the church.  Also closed.  Double drat.  By this time I wanted to punch him in the face.  As a first date, things were not going well.

IB then wanted to go & check in at the police station, where he was bedding down for the night.  His father is a policeman & so, as family, he gets to use the accommodation available at any police station all over Italy.  Still worked out more expensive than the hostel I was staying in, but hey, I guess it's the novelty factor.  The station is set just outside of the main island, in Venice Mestre.  A ten minute bus ride away.  Once there, he checked in & then not long after, we hopped on a bus back.  All a bit pointless really & I was starting to feel as though the whole day had been.


By the time we got back to San Marco, it was late.  We'd picked Frary's vegan friendly restaurant, in San Polo for dinner & it closed at ten thirty.  Speed walking in the dark, I indicated to turn right, he said to go straight.  Off we trekked ahead, coming to a dead end & ended up doing a u-turn back to where I had bloody said to go.  Looking at the time, it was now ten twenty & I was about ready to eat my arm, after first ripping it off & beating him with it.  Finally we made it to the restaurant & thankfully, despite the time, they let us in to eat.

Frary's is a middle eastern restaurant, run by a group of Italian woman, that serves non-veg food, but has both vegetarian & vegan options.  I had a mammoth bowl of couscous, laden with roasted vegetables & accompanied by a vegetable soup, which I poured over, like a sauce.  It was quite delicious & I would recommend a visit.  Sadly, despite the good food & Billie Holiday playing out my favourite songs, the atmosphere between IB & I was awkward to say the least.  Every time I tried to strike up a conversation, he just seemed so uninterested.  I just gave up in the end.  At one point we sat in silence, both on our phones.

It is safe to say, that my hopes for an Italian photographer husband had dissolved.  Grateful that he paid the bill, we left, hopped on a vaporetto & departed ways at different stops.  It may be the most romantic thing someone's done for me, coming to Venice to see me, but sadly, it was clear, that being good on paper, just isn't enough.  If there's no spark, no common ground, then really, there's nothing.

11.2.14

I lost myself to Venice.


Waking up in Florence, after two hours sleep, I forced myself up & back into last night's clothes, in order to catch my bus to Venice.  I can't lie, I was harbouring an odour; a concoction of cigarettes, alcohol & my unwashed skin.  Things were not improved by last night's makeup still plastered precariously on my face.

Arriving excessively early for the bus, I sat & chatted to a young German girl, who was on her way to Milan.  We caught the bus to Bologna together & then parted ways.  I never even asked her name.  That's the strange thing about traveling, you meet so many people.  Some go on to be acquaintances you keep an eye on through social media, others lifelong friends & some, you never even know their name.  Such is this life.

Arriving in Venice after a five hour snooze, I wheeled my bag into the tourist office & bought myself a Rolling Venice Card.  This card is essential & if like me, you are twenty nine & under, it comes with a reduction.  For seventy two hours unlimited travel on all public transport, it costs €20 & an extra €4 for a booklet, which equally offers you reductions on everything from shopping to galleries & museums.  Without this, it is €7 each time you want to take the vaporetto!


Off I went to the nearest vaporetto stop, validating my card on the machine outside, before hopping on the number two & arriving on the island of Giudecca, by way of the Zitelle stop.  Checking in at the Generator Hostel, I was pleasantly surprised by how awesome it is!  For only €15 a night, this place is incredible & makes me wonder why all hostels aren't this way!  There's a free photo booth, a mish mash of vintage furniture & giant button-back leather sofas all downstairs, surrounding a cocktail & coffee bar.  The elevators are touch screen, there's exposed brick at every turn & the bedrooms, although lacking some essential lighting in places, are clean, modern & come with an en suite.  Having hostels in Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Hamburg & Dublin, I would say, if you're off on your travels, choose the Generator!

It was already late in the afternoon by the time I arrived & so, after dropping my things off in my room, I decided to go for a stroll around Giudecca, to investigate the island.  The weather was at times rather drizzly, but for most of it, there was some sun & so, I managed to take a few snaps.  Everything in Venice wants to be photographed.  From the laundry drying on lines between buildings, to the gondolas floating impatiently at the dockside.  Everything screams at you, demanding attention.  Although, I am convinced that I need a new camera, as I swear, all of my photos seem to come out blurry!  It's probably just my lack of photography skills in fairness, but I'll blame the camera in any case. 

Having my fill of the tiny island, I decided to take myself across on the vaporetto to San Marco, still using line two.  It was getting dark by this time & cold.  I took the advice of my friend Katie & decided to just get lost.  Strolling down alleyways, taking a left, than a right, over a bridge, round a corner.  So many shops, gleaming with trinkets & surprisingly very few people around.


Time ticked on & heading down yet another tiny road, I overhead someone ask for directions.  The Italian gentleman they were asking, responded, informing them that said vaporetto stop was closed.  Suddenly I panicked.  I didn't think to check what time the buses stopped!  Wide eyed, I started to head back for my stop, only I realised, I really was lost.  It got darker, it began to rain, the cold set in, I became fraught, imagining myself stuck on the wrong side of Venice all night.  Finally finding a stop, I leapt onto the bus as soon as it arrived & felt relief wash over me.

Unfortunately, it soon returned, as I came to realise this was not the right vaporetto.  Heading further & further away from where I wanted to be, I couldn't decided as to whether it would be better to hop off when I could, or stay on in the hope it would come back round.  Feeling sick that I'd miss the last bus, I finally asked one of the staff on board, who told me to stay on, as the boat would go full circle & I could get off where I started & then get on the right one.

Over an hour later, I finally made it back to Giudecca & back to the Generator.  Still feeling the sway of the boat, as I sat on my top bunk.  Maybe getting lost in Venice wasn't such a great idea after all.   Pulling my phone from my bag, I saw I had a message, from Beard, he was coming to see me in Venice the next day.  Could it be, things were on the upturn?

10.2.14

REVIEW: Little Soap Company - English Peppermint with Poppy Seeds

Finding a soap that smells good, doesn't disintegrate into mush upon first use & doesn't dry out your skin to the degree it resembles a desert, can be hard to find.  Especially if you add organic, natural & vegan friendly to the requirements list.  However, it appears I have found something...


This delightful English peppermint with poppyseeds soap made by the Little Soap Company is perfect.  The smell is delicious, it's 100% organic, vegan friendly & doesn't leave my skin demanding a moisturiser.  Each bar is handmade & free from chemicals, which is what we like, considering how much our skin absorbs what we're putting onto it!


Currently available at Waitrose & some branches of Tesco, I would highly recommend giving this one a try.  They have a vast range of delightful variations.  Although it's a little bit pricey, it's worth shelling out the extra, knowing you have something that's going to be kind for both your skin & the environment.

I made sure to stock up before my travels & am currently taking a bar around with me, in a tiny tupperware box.  Proof that you can do organic skincare on the move!

9.2.14

Oh Florence, the city of hope, continued.


Arising early yesterday, I threw on some clothes & headed to the kitchen for the free breakfast.  Sadly, it seemed I wasn't early enough & just about managed to scrape enough fruit together, to fill a bowl.  Afterwards, attempting to get organised, I showered, packed up my things & checked out of the hostel.  I still hadn't actually worked out where I was going after Florence or what the hell I was doing in general, but let's face it, I'm not known for my organisational skills.

Deciding to stay another night in the city, I found a cheaper hostel online, not far from the train station for the night.  Plus Florence, cheap, clean & fully equipped with an indoor pool, gym & rooftop terrace.  Still no sodding cooking facilities though!  In fact, this one doesn't even come with a microwave, you simply have to plump for the in-house restaurant.  Moving my luggage to the new accommodation, I made it my mission to spend the morning laying concrete plans for the next few days.

Despite some initial gut feelings that were putting me off going, I eventually committed myself to heading to Venice next.  My guide books had told me the fast train was going to cost about €45, which, I was nearly sick at the thought of spending, but seemed to tell me it was cheaper on the slower regional train.  However, when I looked online, I could only find the hefty priced version & so, being on the budget that I am, I decided to take the bus, a snip at €24.  However, with the website not being entirely clear where the bus depot was, I spent an hour stressing out, trying to find it.  Eventually, locating it on Via Santa Caterina da Siena, I booked it for 8:55am the next morning.

The bus from Florence to Venice is run by a combination of three bus companies, Baltour, Eurolines & Sena.  There are three departure times a day, 8:55am, 9:30am & 4:15pm, each taking five hours.  The first two require a change in Bologna & the latter is direct.  The first bus leaves from Via Santa Caterina da Siena, whilst the other two go from outside the city center.  Hence why I chose the first.

Feeling smug with myself, I booked up two nights in the Generator Hostel in Venice, through booking.com & went off to enjoy the markets I didn't have time for the previous day.  Firstly I walked to Piazza della Repubblica for the flower market, there every Thursday, 10am - 7pm.  This was a little disappointing.  In my mind I was thinking Chelsea Flower Show, in reality, it was a bad day at Homebase.  Deflated, I popped down the road to Piazza di Mercato Nuovo, for The Piggy & Straw Markets.  Stalls upon stalls, laden with brightly coloured fruit & vegetables, all willing me to photograph them.


Spurred on, I headed back to Piazza dei Ciompi to try to catch the Mercato delle Pulci flea market.  Thankfully, this time it was open, although, not all the hut-like stalls were, which was so disappointing, as I could see through their windows & it seemed as though all the best ones were closed.  Regardless, I still really enjoyed poking around at all the vintage ware & managed to buy a 1966 postcard, originally written & posted to Rome.  Not exactly necessary, but I liked it.

My last market for the day was in Piazza Ghiberti, but this was a bum note, as it was just another leather market & I'd seen it all before in San Lorenzo.  Having exhausted Florence's markets, I headed over to Via Ricasoli, to have a look around Galleria dell'Accademia & gawp at the wonder that is Michelangelo's statue of David.  Gosh, it was magnificent, it truly was.  How any man can carve such wonder out of stone, is beyond me!  Although, I have to say, that penis was very detailed.


Evening looming, I retired to my hostel & ended up making friends with my Mexican roommate.  Sadly he spoke little English & my Spanish is non-existent!  We somehow managed to hobble a conversation together, enough for him to tell me he'd been to the train station & managed to locate the cheap ticket for the train to Venice!  Bastard!  Of course, it was all too late by then, I'd booked the sodding bus.

Leaving him my number whilst he was in the shower, I headed back out to Piazza Duomo & met up with Katie, a very talented illustrator & fellow Brit, currently living in Florence, who I'd been in contact with through Instagram.  Ah social media, how you bring people together.  Katie, myself & her Finnish friend Salla, took a stroll across the river to Piazza San Spirito, for a vino bianco, my first in two months, at a little bar called Volume.  Sat outside, chatting away, the Mexican rang & later came to join us.  Unfortunately, Katie & Salla aren't Spanish speakers either, so poor Mexico got the cold shoulder most of the night, which I felt quite bad about.

There I am, sat sipping my vino & as I look across, I see Beard's doppelgänger sat at a table in the corner, giving me the eye.  Actually had to double check that it wasn't Beard!  Same face, same facial growth, but no tattoos.  Obviously I was interested & after a couple of hours of subtle glances & wry smiles, I eventually went & introduced myself.  What followed was me discovering my future photographer husband & rolling into my hostel at 5am.  Oh Venice, perhaps you come too soon.

8.2.14

Oh Florence, the city of hope.


Originally I had intended to spend two weeks in Florence, WWOOFing on a farm nearby, that housed forty horses.  I've wanted to work with horses in Italy for some time now & the place I'd found sounded ideal & were the only ones who needed help in winter.  Alas, they did not want me once they found out I was a vegan.  (I know, right!)  So, in the end, I decided to stay for just a few days & oh, what a few days I had!

Having not entirely realised how small Florence town center is, I paid a little extra & stayed in the Academy Hostel, as it is situated right round the corner from Florence's main attraction, the Basilica di Santa Maria Fiore.  The hostel itself was nice & the staff friendly, but what is up with all these hostels & their lack of kitchen facilities!?  I have quinoa to cook damn it!  Don't they know how hard it is to be vegan when traveling!  Pffft.

On my first day in town, having arrived quite late in the afternoon, I dropped my things off in my room & headed out, first stop being the Duomo.  I almost cannot describe its magnificence.  The patterned marble facade is beautiful.  I'll say one thing for these Italians, they're resplendent when it comes to architecture.  Entry to the building is free, so obviously I didn't turn it down.  I was so disappointed at first though.  The interior was so bland, so lacklustre, after the initial allure of the outer shell.  Then, as I moved towards the alter, I looked up & there, beaming down from the dome was The Last Judgement.  A ridiculously large fresco, covering the entire surface of the dome's ceiling, leaving me breathless.


The weather was far better than I thought it would be, even to the point, I shed my jacket & strolled around in just a sweater & jeans.  Meandering around the city streets, I came across Shake Café, a gelateria on Via Degli Avelli, specialising in natural juices, along with healthy wraps & salads, including tofu filled, vegan friendly options.  When I saw they did milkshakes with the option of soya milk, I forgot about my soy intolerance & marched straight in, ordering a Vanilla Sky (Vanilla, banana & honey).  It was so delicious that it was gone by the time I crossed the piazza to enter the Basilica Santa Maria Novella.  Which, by the by, is not free, as the internet informed me & so refusing to pay to enter a church, I didn't bother with.

Keen on visiting every market happening in the city, I headed to Piazza San Lorenzo, to take a look at the leather market.  Walking down the streets, encased by stalls, it felt more like a cattle market, only with me as the goods.  Every seller trying to hussle me, catcalling & trying to convince me to buy their overpriced, hideously coloured leather jackets.  Be gone swines!  I don't want your tat!  Although, I will admit, I did end up parting with money for a small leather drawstring bag, from a mature female seller at the end of the line.  I'm convincing myself it'll be great for summer & perfect for festivals, that's my justification, anyway.


With the night closing in, I made a final attempt to reach the Mercato delle Pulci flea market, in Piazza dei Ciompi.  However, just as I was hovering under a street lamp, attempting to find my direction, map in hand, a voice called out to me, asking if I needed help.  Sounding American & handsome, I turned to look & happily saw that the voice did in fact match the face.  Only, he wasn't American, but Italian, fluent in English, with a quaint, well traveled accent.  Sadly he was heading in one direction & I another, but he gave me his card.  Unfortunately, by the time I reached the market, it was too late & was closed.  Disappointed, I grabbed some bread from a nearby bakery & trekked off home to my hostel.

The Academy Hostel offers free pizza & wine to its guests in the evening.  Obviously a margarita isn't exactly vegan friendly, so I got comfy in the kitchen with my olives & legumes, but bless the receptionist, she came up to me, mid meal, brandishing some bruschetta she'd made, just for me.  I do love a good bit of customer services.

To be continued...

7.2.14

RECIPE: Coconut & Pistachio Tart

Anyone that knows me, knows I am a complete chocolate addict & when I say addict, I really mean ADDICT!  In twelve years, I have been a maximum of six days without the good stuff in my system.  So when I came across this recipe, it was like hitting the jackpot!

Coconut & Pistachio Tart



Über delicious, chocolatey, vegan friendly goodness, which comes with the added benefit of being gluten free!  This moreish recipe, which is simple to make & includes only healthy, unprocessed ingredients, all of which I can count on two hands, is from the makers of Apartment 34, a great blog that I really like.

What's your favourite dessert?

5.2.14

Ciao da Pisa!



After a two month break in England, I have finally made it back to Italy.  A brutal early morning wake up call, a few sobs at the airport, hugging mère goodbye & a short flight & I am in Pisa.  Land of the wonky tower. 

Getting the Lam Rossa bus from the airport to the Piazza dei Miracoli, a snip at €1.20, I walked around the corner to my hostel, Hostel Pisa Tower.  Handy location & for €16 for the night, I can't really complain, although, with no real kitchen facilities, being a vegan in Pisa is not a convenient option.

Having only a day in the city, I decided to follow an itinerary by Around Tuscany.  Although, rather in reverse.  Starting back in the Piazza dei Miracoli, I obviously went straight for the Torre Pendente & oh, what a sight.  I'm a cliche, I know it, but, I only really came to Pisa for the leaning tower & I have to admit, even if I had done nothing else all day, that sight alone was worth it.

After gazing admiringly at it for quite some time, under my umbrella, I moved on to the duomo, which is free to enter, but you do have to acquire a ticket from the Museo delle Sinopie next door.  Don't ask me why, but you do.  [rolls eyes]  I'm in no way religious & don't get any kind of 'vibe' in a church, but darn it, some of them are spectacular, especially the gilded ceilings & this one did not disappoint!  Well worth a visit, especially as it's free.


Deciding to dedicate some time to the joys of the square, I popped back into the Museo delle Sinopie & bought a due ingresso ticket, which allows you to pick any two attractions in the square to visit, for €7, otherwise, they are €5 each.  They do other combinations, tre ingresso for €9 & quattro for €10.  However, the Museo delle Sinopie & the Battistero looked kinda boring, so I just opted to see the Camposanto & the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo.

The Camposanto Monumentale is a cemetery, which was somewhat destroyed before World War two & then ravaged again during restoration work, due to the outbreak of war.  Now with the roof restored & many of the original frescos salvaged, it is a great place to visit.  Equally so is the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo, which is quite large & takes more time to fully take in, than I envisaged.


Housing original works of art from over eighteen hundred years ago, which, I would like to add, are not in any way encased & therefore took all my will power not to grope!  Unlike stiff museums & galleries in England, Italy has a very relaxed policy & whilst you may see a CCTV camera about, there isn't anyone standing by to tell you off for poking a finger at a thousand year old statue.  Much to my glee!

Leaving the square entirely, I pottered off down Via Santa Maria & took a right turn down Via del Mille to Piazza dei Cavalieri.  A huge open expanse, surrounded by the Scuola Normale Superiore (an amazing building), Torre della Muda & the Santa Stefano dei Cavalieri church.  Not much to do there, but worth it for any architectural lovers.

Taking a right turn down Via Ulisse Dini until Via Borgo Stretto, I strolled along, popping in & out of a few shops.  Finally reaching the end of the road, with night upon me, I crossed over the Ponte di Mezzo, stopping midway to take a snap of the river.  Unfortunately, due to lack of camera skills, I was not successful in gaining a nice shot, but the scene itself was rather special.

After a quick walk down the road to see the Chiesa di S.Maria Spina, I carried on down the Corso Italia, which is a long shopping strip.  Made the obligatory visit to Zara naturally, although, walked out empty handed & full of longing.  [sigh]  Taking my retail sorrow to the end of the road, I ended up at Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, where, just to my right, I got to see Keith Haring's colourful mural.


Satiated with my day's excursions, I dashed into a local supermarket to grab something for dinner.  Whilst paying for my olives & lentils I got the shakes & nearly had a cardiovascular breakdown, when I found my hostel keys were gone from my jacket pocket.  All I can say is, I have never been so happy to find something in my jean's pocket in all my life.  [phew]

Off to Florence tomorrow!  Ciao!

3.2.14

REVIEW: Dr Organic Manuka Honey Shampoo & Conditioner

After bleaching & dying my hair, over & over again, for countless years, I finally put down the corrosive products & left my hair to breath.  One long year later, in a further bid to save my locks, I cut ten inches off the length, just before leaving on my travels last summer.

Although my hair is now in much better condition, I wanted to continue the good work, by investing in a natural & enriching shampoo & conditioner.  Perusing the options available, I decided to try out Dr Organic Manuka Honey Shampoo & Conditioner.



Claiming to be 'restoring', 'regenerating' & 'nourishing', they seemed perfect for me at the moment & the rich smell of honey was divine!  For once, I was actually looking forward to washing my hair!  But, oh how I was disappointed by the results.

Once fully rinsed out, my hair felt dry, like straw & not silky smooth, like I was hoping.  After naturally drying, even argan oil couldn't tame the frizz & so, up it went into a bun, where it stayed until requiring a wash again.

Downhearted, I emailed Dr Organic, to pass on my experience of their products & explain my disappointment & a few days later, I received a less than welcome response.  Their customer services department, essentially tried to tell me that, it was not their products that were the issue, but in fact my hair.  I had supposedly picked the wrong range for my hair type & that it would take time for my hair to adapt to chemical free products.

Less than impressed, I thought I would give them the benefit of the doubt & so kept using the products, in the hope that things would improve, but alas, the results remained the same.  To further prove my point, mère, who has strictly used organic, chemical free products for over twenty years, decided to try them out & she too found the results to be the same; dried out, straw like hair.

I'm afraid, on this occasion, Dr Organic have not only failed at providing products that work, but they have also failed at good customer service as well.