Posts Tagged ‘explore’

Italia

Monday, August 27th, 2012

My trip to Italy was wonderful – good food, nice people, astonishingly beautiful views. Lake Como is one of those places in the world that make you wonder how somewhere like that can exist. A little piece of natural beauty – a super model of nature. I spent one and a half days in Milan and was somewhat disappointed with the city. I had been told by various Italian friends that it wasn’t the most beautiful city in Italy – they were right. It has pockets of ‘nice’ that make up for the general concrete-box architecture, but I can’t say I wanted to stay there for much longer. Maybe if I was rich and wanted to go shopping at Chanel, Prada and D&G I would have been more entertained, but as your average adventurer there wasn’t much to see.

Navigli

The canal in the Navigli area was my favourite part of Milan.

I met up with my brother and parents in Bellagio, a small town on the edge of Lake Como. Most of the towns scattered around the lake now operate as tourist resorts and while I had gone there expecting tourists, I don’t think I had adequately prepared myself. Lots of souvenir shops, inflated prices, average food and annoying tourists. Thankfully our way of travelling made us remove ourselves as much as possible from these situations and we explored beyond the tourist track, met some locals and sampled some decent food.

Lake Como

Wowzers.

Overall I was a little disappointed with my food intake – not so much as far as quantity but the quality wasn’t what I was hoping for. This is to be expected in a tourist-filled zone where food is produced to please international taste buds en masse rather than offering a REAL experience. The best pizza I ate was in Milan at a restaurant I picked because it was full of locals.

Pizza in Milan

Pizza Caprese

The best gelato was from a gourmet, hipster café, Ronchi, in Como whose cioccolato fondente (dark chocolate) was beyond amazing.

Gelato from Ronchi

The colour says it all.

The best experience of the trip happened on our last day in Bellagio. We had spotted a small church on the other side of the lake and on top of a hill and as we had run out of tourist ferries to take, we decided to walk there.

San Martino

Our destination

I felt very holy and considered converting to Catholicism as we made our way up (and I mean UP) a twisty path that went through towns, forests, gorges and along the edge of cliffs. The view from the top was spectacular – looking down to the lake and across at the mountain ranges. I was surprised by the number of other people who were walking the trail, but it also provided a pleasant relief from the swarms of tourists in the towns.

San Martino

Heading uphill

San Martino

The reward for making it to San Martino

For more photographs of my trip in Italy (we’re talking over 400), visit my Flickr site. To really know what Lake Como looks like, go there.

Belleville is Beaucoup Brilliant

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

I am starting to love the area I am living in. What am I saying? Starting? I DO love the area I am living in. The Canal Saint Martin area is lively, young, and according to the French, “bobo”. A random man Tom and I met yesterday explained bobo as ‘people with means who are pretending to be rebels.’ I like that.

Yesterday the sun was shining and having spent the morning inside catching up on house keeping activities, we headed off towards Belleville in search of nuts. Belleville is an area north east of us that is home to Arabs, Asians, Jews, Africans, Romanians, with your odd caucasian popping up now and then. It is a mixture of smells and sights that tempt your taste buds beyond belief and everything is so cheap. We wandered past amazing restaurants selling turkish, algerian, chinese, thai, you-name-it cuisine and everything just looked so good. There were hundreds of people out and about on the streets, talking and having a good time.

We found heaps of stores selling nuts and dried fruit – something I have been missing greatly. In supermarkets nuts are ridiculously expensive and coated in salt and so finding bags of assorted brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, dried figs etc was like walking into heaven. And so I stocked up. We also found some asian supermarkets selling reasonably priced ingredients. Yet another thing I miss when I’m in France – some decent spicy food. At least I can make it myself now. Take that, you French people with your flavourless food.

Tom and I headed to the park in Belleville where lots of people were sitting where ever they could find a spot of sunshine. From the top of the park there is a look out with an amazing view across the city. You can see the Eiffel Tower sticking its head up above the rest of the buildings, but due to the cold temperatures, it was a bit foggy yesterday and we couldn’t see very clearly. Definitely somewhere to head back to in summer.

It is so great to find areas of Paris that the average tourist would never go and visit. One of the highlights of our walk was along the main street in Belleville where a large swarm of people (predominantly men) were standing around in the median strip. Along each side there were people standing with a small sheet in front of them and on their sheets were things they were trying to sell. Ranging from pirated movies to second hand shoes (some didn’t even seem to have the pair of shoes – maybe you’re supposed to mix and match), most of the products on sale seemed either illegal or something they had found on the side of the road. It was so busy! Everyone was bartering and hoping for a good price. It was a wonderful sight.