Monday 30 January 2023

Summer holidays - meals and outings

Summer is a time of resting, swimming and catching up with friends.  As I am unlikely to find time to blog about individual cafes, here are a few I have been to recently and a bit of what I got up to in my holidays.  Above is Torquay beach on New Year's Day.  It was really busy on a hot day.

I met Alison for lunch at Tinker, 235 High Street, Northcote.  It was pretty full, as you would expect in one of the few places open between Christmas and New Year in the suburb.  And because it had a touch of hipster.  I could not resist the Golden Gaytime Hotcakes for lunch.  Gaytime is one of those iconic Aussie ice creams that fascinates and delights me.  These hotcakes were not as fancy as some Gaytime creations I have tried but they still felt deliciously indulgent with salted caramel ice cream, strawberries, honeycomb and chocolate sauce.

Indeed when I met Eliza in North Carlton her first choice was slim pickings so instead we went to Shimbashi at 344 Rathdowne Street, a Gluten Free Japanese restaurant.  We both chose the bento.  I had a Teriyaki Tofu Bento.  It was just what I needed with mutigrain rice, fried tofu in teriyaki sauce and vegies, as well as lovely miso soup. 

I visited Jane and family at their Point Lonsdale holiday house where we had simple but very satisfying salad sandwiches for lunch.  It was a nice relaxing visit sitting around being entertained by their cat, walking around the rockpools and swimming in the ocean.

Unlike my usual beach, Torquay, there are very few waves at Point Lonsdale and there was not even dry sand where we swam (though you could walk along a bit to a beach where people were sitting under umbrellas).  We put our towels and shoes on the seawall and walked out to where it suddenly got quite deep.  Lovely!

I met Faye for dinner at the Edinburgh Castle Hotel, Brunswick where I have enjoyed quite a few meals.  Unfortunately the eggplant parma was not cooked through so I had to leave too much of it.  Instead of a photo from that meal, I am sharing a photo of an eggplant parma from The Clyde Hotel in Carlton where I have had many an excellent melting eggplant parma.  We shared some arancini at the Edinburgh Castle which were really nice and crispy.

Then the kids started playing the piano close to us so we went for a walk down Sydney Road.  I noticed a few of the shops had cute paintings on their windows.  It took me a while to notice that they were part of a Sydney road festive window art.

It was actually very peaceful walking along Sydney road chatting and looking for a place to have a cuppa after our meal.

Then we saw a little hole in the wall ice cream shop with the delicious name "A Little Room for Ice Cream", 420 Sydney Road, Brunswick.  We both chose the vegan cherry ripe ice cream.  It was amazing with what seemed like chunks of cherry ripe but apparently were not the actual chocolate bar because it was vegan.  The outside on the tables were very pleasant on the balmy evening while we ate our ice creams.

I had a very happy accident when I booked to go to Rooftop Cinema and ended up in Hawthorn instead of in the city where I had expected to be.  Heather and I had dinner at Fonda (651 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn) beforehand.  I loved the Burrito Bowl: broccoli, cabbage, pickled carrot and onion, roasted sweet potato, brown rice and  quinoa, salsa, lime and garlic dressing, guacamole, crispy paprika chickpeas & tortilla strips.  Heather also enjoyed her burrito.  We sat outside under the rail bridge and got a shock the first time a train thundered past.

Then we walked up to the roof of the Lido cinema and luckily were paying for choc tops because I found that my wallet was missing and went back to Fonda where I found it on a seat on the footpath!  The rooftop cinema had considerably less seats than when I have been at the rooftop cinema at Curtin House in the city.  I assume we had individual headphones to placate the locals.  It was a lovely night to sit up high and look down at the lights of Glenferrie Road.  The Fabelmans was a really enjoyable and beautiful movie that had a touch of magic which is just right for watching cinema on a rooftop.

The Fitzroy Gardens is a great place in inner city Melbourne for energetic kids to run around.  I met Y and her two kids at the gardens and we wandered about, stopped for a picnic, watched the kids play on the play equipment and visited Cook's Cottage.  I think the last time I paid to go in Cook's Cottage, Sylvia was so little she could swing on the rope keeping people out of the recreated rooms.  And cute enough to get away with it.  It was great to catch up with Y and amusing to see the kids playing with an old fashioned skittle set.

I have been going to what we used to call Captain Cook's Cottage since I was little and it still amazes me at how tiny and charming it is.  I am still fascinated that it was brought from Yorkshire with the bricks labelled so they could put them back together.  The history of Captain Cook is far more complex now than it was when we were kids.  Gradually we are being shown by our Indigenous the deep pain of the story of Cook "discovering" Australia and the myth of terra nullus.  I am not sure if it is a redeeming feature of the house that it was never actually lived in by Captain Cook.  Though there is still a Cook statue in the garden, the house seems presented as an example of another era, rather than the home of a national hero!

And back to Torquay where I recently had lunch with my parents at Pond Cafe (39 the Esplanade).  My mum ordered the cauliflower tacos and I tasted some cauli and it was delicious.  I had a salad of halloumi, israeli couscous, pea and green goddess dressing.  I loved our outdoor seats with lots of trees and a view of the front beach.  My parents had a walk while I had a swim at the surf beach.  And then headed home because I had work the next day.

Friday 27 January 2023

A-Z of my international travel (places and stories)

When I started writing this post, I wanted to share some of my travel experiences.  At the time I was looking forward to my next overseas trip in 2020.  Since then I have had a full refund on my bookings and am not sure when I will travel overseas again.  So it has been with some nostalgia that I have prepared this retrospective of my travels organised by A to Z.

I have tried to cover most of the places I have travelled.  Never as many as I would like.  Some I have not even spent a whole day and my memories are quite hazy like Venice where I stopped for 4 hours before returning to my train.  Other places have been my home such as Edinburgh where I lived for about 3 years and got very excited to see it on Avengers Infinity Wars recently which had a fight scene outside my old workplace.  Most of my travels were around Europe in the late 1990s before I started blogging, though not all.  I love a nature walk or a gorgeous beach but I particularly love museums and historic buildings, as you will see.

A is for Amsterdam, The Netherlands
In 1998 I spent a month or so backpacking around Europe by bus.  It was not the most fancy way to travel but it got me places.  First stop was Brugges and then onto Amsterdam.  It was on my brief stay in a hostel in Amsterdam I met June-Anne.  One of my main memories with her was eating chewy crunchy caramel stroopwafel.  I wasn't there long but years later in 2006 I returned with E for a week and more good eating.  It was so exciting to go to Anne Frank's house.  I loved reading her diary as a teenager.  I also remember the beauty of the Dutch Masters at the Rijksmuseum.  I am sure we went to other museums but cannot remember their names.  The house-lined canals were a wonderful sight.  The Rijsttafel (rice table) meal was a splendid array of dishes. One of our favourite moments was when I ordered fruit toast with cheese on top and was told by the waiter that it was "very Dutch".

B is for Borders, Scotland
My in-laws lived in Peebles in the early 2000s so we would visit there regularly when we lived in Edinburgh.  The trip there was undulating and so green.  We enjoyed some of the local activities in Peebles: the Beltane parade and decorations, Highland games, and the carnival.  On quieter days we would go for walks in the woods or browse at the Couchee Righ gift shop or eat dinner at the Kingsmuir Hotel.  Some days we would take a bus further into the Borders to visit Melrose Abbey or Floors Castle in Kelso.  Some of the towns had names that amused me: Auchendinny, Penicuik and Hawick (pronounced Hoik).  You can read about visits to Peebles on my Blog.

C is for Copenhagen, Denmark
I flew from London for a short trip to Copenhagen in 1997 on a snowy winter's weekend.  I stayed in a hostel where I met another traveller who told me he had put on viking clothes and sat in a viking boat in a museum.  I believed him at the time but now I wonder if I should have.  I enjoyed walking around the Centre marvelling at the wonderful wonderful city under a layer of snow.  I visited Frederiksborg Castle and was surprised the portrait painters were not more flattering to the Danish royalty. I saw the film of Oscar Wilde starring Stephen Fry, I attended the ballet, and I enjoyed the dark nubbly breads so much I took a loaf home to my flat in London.

D is for Dunedin, New Zealand
A friend of mine from Edinburgh lived in Melbourne when I returned from Scotland and she encouraged me to visit her when she moved to Christchurch, New Zealand in 2005.  We took a bus to Dunedin, named after Edinburgh.  We toured the Cadbury factory, though did not see much, walked to the top of a very steep hill and stayed in a hostel I barely remember.  It was fun to see Julie who always made me laugh.  Then we returned to Christchurch where we went to a teppanayaki restaurant and were surprised by the swastikas in the cathedral (before the earthquake).  I later visited Auckland (on my blog) for a conference and would love to return and see more of New Zealand.

E is for Edinburgh, Scotland
On my first visit to Scotland in 1996 I went on a terrifying ghost tour that gave me nightmares and made me swear never to visit again.  I did go back.  In fact I got married there and ended up working in the City Chambers on the High Street above the site of the ghost tours.  I've been on ghost tours since then that were not at all scary but I have never forgotten that first one.  I lived in Edinburgh for a few years and became very fond of it.  I also was a volunteer at St Giles Cathedral and loved pointing out the bagpiping angel in the Thistle Chapel.  

I have been back for a few visits since I returned to Australia but so much has changed that it will be odd when I finally get to visit again.  So many familiar places have shut down: Helios Fountain, The Registry office on Victoria Street where we married, the Elephant House, British Home Stores, Jenners, Debenhams, The Filmhouse, even the council offices where I worked have moved to a new location.  Of course some icons are unchanging: Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Arthur's Seat, Greyfriars Bobby and the Botanic Gardens.  You can read about my trips to Edinburgh on my blog.

F is for Fethiye, Turkey
In 1998 when my brother and older sister were living in Istanbul, I set off from London with my younger sister to meet up with them. In Instanbul we went to the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, as well as a major league soccer match (unforgettable for the police with riot shields accompanying the players onto the ground), and to some local cafes. I spent about a week travelling through Turkey, down to the ruins of Ephesus and the cliffs of Gallipoli where in history I had studied Australia's baptism of fire in World War I but saw it with new eyes as I also had the tour guide tell us about his Turkish ancestors in the War.  

We walked through the ruined pools of Pammakule (not at all like the guidebook photos), and made our way to Fethiye city in the south with the magnificent beaches.  Fethiye is a city and a district.  I started out with my sister's friend, met people from her part of New Zealand, found ourselves on the beach beside their friend from another tour, and one of them lived in the next suburb to me back in London.  We travelled to the Ölüdeniz in the district where we swam in magnificent beaches (the photo above is the group I travelled with for a while). I climbed a cliff to a rural pension, stayed in a treehouse in Olympos, met locals in Antalya, and in a cave in Cappadocia.  It was amazing just how the landscape changed as I travelled about. And the people were lovely.  Plates of tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese and bread were wonderful sustenance.

G is for Germany
As I backpacked around Europe in 1998, people kept telling me I must do "the tour" in Berlin.  Once I arrived in Berlin it made sense.  It was one of the most exciting cities I visited.  Ten years after the Berlin Wall had fallen, many places in the city were being rebuilt or showed so much modern history of world wars and the cold war.  The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (nicknamed the lipstick and  the powder puff) was a modern building that incorporated a church ruined by bombs in World War II.  The current Reichstag was still a building site.  Museums were being planned.  And the impact of the Berlin Wall on the city was very present in the artwork on the wall remains in the East Side Art Gallery (photo above) and the Checkpoint Charlie museum.  I also loved the dense breads and the fun of meeting up with a German backpacker I had met in Cornwall.

H is for Hadrian's Wall
We visited friends we met in Melbourne who had returned to the UK from Australia.  They were living in Durham where I was rather impressed by the Cathedral.  As C and Y had a car, we drove out to Hadrian's Wall, which was built by the Romans to section off Scotland from England.  I am not sure of the name of the Fort we visited but it was very atmospheric as when we peered over the ancient stone wall; all we could see was fog.  We wandered around the ruins for a bit but it was too cold to be outside long.

I is for Ireland
I grew up with a lot of Irish Catholic culture and went to a school run by the Brigidine nuns who would tell us about Daniel Delaney and hedge schools.  So I was pretty excited to finally visit Dublin but was disappointed it wasn't more impressive.  More enjoyable was travelling through the beautiful rural landscapes west to Galway and to the Cliffs of Mohr.  Did I mention we have a family castle there?  It is a ruin and our links to the current owners is slim but that hasn't stopped any of my family climbing the fence past the no trespassers sign.  My older sister and brother moved to Dublin so I visited  frequently and grew to love the city with its fascinating history and sense of fun.

I went to literature festivals with my sister, visited museums, strolled St Stephen's Green, and was awed by the Book of Kells and the Long Room at Dublin University.  We ate at Bewleys and shopped in Grafton Street.  I had an ill-fated trip to the south where I did a tour around Killarney and at Cork spent most of my time in the hospital on a drip with cellulitis and missed my planned visit to the Rock of Cashel.  We stayed with my parents and 6 siblings  in an elegant Dublin Georgian House.  E and I did a viking tour where we were encouraged to do the viking roar.  I enjoyed a Bloomsday of literary readings and following in the steps of Leopold Bloom. And there are reminders of the early 20th Century wars in Ireland such as the bullet holes in the post office. 

J is for Jerusalem, Israel
I worked on a kibbutz for a couple of months in 1998.  I took a couple of trips to Jerusalem with other volunteers and a trip there after I finished up.  During my time in Israel I also visited Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Dead Sea and Jaffa.  But Jerusalem was most impressive.  The Old City was amazing - a labyrinth of ancient stones with street signs in English, Hebrew and Arabic reminding me of the three religions laying claim to it.  It was quite a sight to watch the Jews at the Wailing Wall and then look up high to the golden sight of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.  As a (lapsed) Catholic I was fascinated by following the Via Dolorosa where Jesus had trod before he died on the cross, and my grandfather had walked during World War II.  I walked through the Holocaust Museum full of sorrow.  And I loved the falafels in pita bread with salad, pickles and cold chips.

K is for Krakow, Poland
I travelled to Krakow by bus from Amsterdam sitting next to an old Polish guy who was giggling at Crocodile Dundee on the bus tv with one male voice dubbing the film into Polish!  I met other backpackers at the hostel, or maybe on the bus.  I travelled with them to Auschwictz-Birkenau. concentration camp (photo above).  The gates with Arbeit macht Frei ("work leads to freedom"), the piles of spectacles, hair etc and the watch houses made the horror of the Holocaust so immediate everyone walked around looking so so sad. I was so focused on Auschwictz I made no plans for the salt mine carvings - which I regret in hindsight.  More enjoyable was sitting in the Krakow town square eating pierogi.  

From there I went to Warsaw which was memorable for being refused on the bus with my bus pass, and being invited to stay at a local home in one of those Soviet-era grey tower blocks and eating beef stew because the family was too kind to try to explain to the non-English speaking mother that I was vegetarian.  On my second day trying to get on the bus I was again refused but aother generous local told me I could stay in his bedroom because he was going on the bus.  I gave up and took a train out of there!

L is for London, England
I lived in London for 9 months.  It is an amazing city but too big and impersonal to stay long.  Peak hour on the tube was hell.  The offpeak tube is great but it makes more sense of London to walk around the West End.  It is like a giant Monopoly Board.  The Geoffrye Museum at Christmas was one of my favourite museum visits but who could not love the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey (when it was free), the Tate Modern, the British Museum and so on. The London Eye gives a glorious view of familiar landmarks such as Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the Thames river.  

It is hard not to feel immersed in culture.  I worked on the BBC website (and met Rolf Harris as well as watching tv shows being taped), I saw well known names such as Liam Neeson, Niamh Cusack and Diana Rigg perform in plays, did a course about theatre and a Bloomsbury Group tour, and visited Portobello Rd and Camden markets.  The problem with London was there was so much I wanted to see and I only saw a small part of it, especially once I had a job.

M is for Madrid, Spain
I booked two weeks in Madrid at the end of my two year working holiday visa in the UK because I had to leave the country.  Spain sounded good but I really knew very little about it.  Nothing about the language, the cuisine, the highlights.  And then my favourite band, Pulp was playing in Edinburgh a week after I left and my credit cards were not in a great way.  It took me a while to warm to Spain.  Madrid bore the brunt of my resentment.  I wish I could do it all over again better.  It was not a lost cause.  I was amazed at the sight of Picasso's Guernica at  Museo Reina Sofía.  I had a day trip to Toledo, I spent quite a bit of time in Barcelona falling in love with Gaudi, and I also was very fond of Sergovia with it's adquaduct and castle.  I never had tapas (the shame) but I was obsessed with churros e chocolat. 

N is for New York, USA
On my first overseas trip I flew to London via New York.  Thanks to a delay in LA I arrived in the Big Apple at 4am, lost my hotel booking and was booked elsewhere by the airline.  Which was fine except I was only there one night before travelling to visit a friend in Washington and had lost my booking for when I was back for a few nights.  New York rolls with the punches so it was fine.  I love the city and returned with E a few years later in 1999.  I never got the appeal of Times Square but loved the the Chrysler Building, Washington Square, the Staten Island Ferry, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Penn Station, bookstores and music shops.  The photo above is the grunginess of the East Village.  

I could have spent longer walking about the shops and houses but there was never enough time.  I loved the friendliness of a woman on an underground train recommending us a place called Dojo in St Marks for dinner and it was fun to go to a bookstore reading by Cher and Sonny Bono's kid before Charity transitioned to Chaz.  I think it might have been Barnes and Noble.

O is for Oban, Scotland
When my sister and brother visited me in Edinburgh we booked a bus tour to Oban.  I don't remember much of Oban on the west coast of Scotland and I think we might have gone via Loch Lomond.  I do remember the tour guide on the bus being very disparaging about Greenock.  My brother started to make up stories about E's family coming from this town to stir her and it made us laugh when we visited E's parents and his father said the family had indeed lived there. 

I loved travelling around Scotland while I lived in Edinburgh .  I took the train on the Glenfinnan Viaduct, drove through snow from Elgin through the east coast, saw REM play at Stirling Castle, went to a wedding in Perth, fangirled at T in the Park, holidayed in Skye, stayed in Fort William when the winds cut off the roads and trains back to work, took a bus around Loch Ness, walked the public rights of way through farms from Stonehaven to Dunnotar Castle, visited the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral, and went to a folk music festival on the Isle of Arran.

P is for Paris, France
When I was 15, we did a project in French class doing a tourist pamphlet on Paris.  It filled me with great  yearning to visit.  Though it took some years to get there I loved the city so much I missed the bus/boat back to London because I wanted to have one more look at the Eiffel Tower.  (I caught the Eurail instead which arrived back before the bus/boat would have).  I have been there many times and loved it every time.  The museums, the cafes, the bakeries!  The Pompidou Centre, the Louvre, Sacre Coeur Cathedral, Champs Elysee, Arc de Triomphe, the Left Bank, the Catacombes, Musee D'Orsay, the Pere Lachaise cemetery.  I even took a train trip to the gilded palace of Versaillies. 

I have two places I particularly love in Paris.  The view from the Notre Dame surrounded by gargoyles (above).  It was only recently I read the gargoyles's faces are based on real people!  Unfortunately the recent fire at Notre Dame has put them off limits.  I also love the nearby left bank Shakespeare and Company bookstore.  My honours thesis included a study of Sylvia Beach who started the original bookstore, published James Joyce's Ulyssses and inspired the name of my daughter.  When I first visited in 1996 I discussed the history of the place with the staff who asked if I wanted to stay there.  I thought it was a joke but years later read about all the people who did have accommodation above the bookstore.  When I took Sylvia to Paris she really loved the hop on hop off bus and the double story carousel.

Q is for Qatar (Airport)
One of my favourite airport meals was this meal of dips, salad and bread at the stopover in Doha, Qatar.  (And it was hard to find any place starting with Q so I chose a place I had only been at the airport.)  While I hate the waiting around, I find airports fascinating.  They often have some interesting shops and a little taste of a culture.  On my first overseas trip I stayed overnight at the Osaka airport in Japan.  On the flight there I had terrible airsickness and had to ask for air sickness pills.  It surprised me how few people  in the shops spoke English and I had to have a Japanese translator help me.  On a stopover in Singapore I had a tour of the town. 

R is for Rome, Italy
I regret that I didn't have a great time in Rome.  It was my moment of not enjoying being a solo traveller in a noisy hostel and being followed by creepy men.  I also felt unsure of myself with being vegetarian and was so distraught at the riches in the Vatican I accidentally queued to climb to the roof of St Peter's basillica.  I have vague memories of scaffolding over the Vatican and going down some dusty road in fruitless search of some catacombs.  It was not all bad because I also remember the wonders of the beautiful piazzas, amazing gelati, the fun of the Trevi Fountain, the awe of the huge Colosseum.  I was in love with Venice and Florence for their beautiful historic architecture but I really need another visit to Rome to appreciate it more.

S is for San Fransisco, USA
I visited San Fransisco with E en route to moving from the UK to Australia.  It was a stressful time but I was glad we could stop and relax in this fascinating city.  Once I got over the huge freeways, I loved the crazy hilly streets, the Painted Ladies houses (pictured), the stories of Alcatraz, indulging at the Cheesecake factory, the Golden Gate Bridge, Haight Ashbury and lots of places on a bus tour including the Mission District and Pacific Coast Highway.  Special memories were of taking a limosine with lots of other people instead of public transport and hanging out in the City Lights Bookstores in the footsteps of the Beat Generation.

T is for Thailand
In 2006, my youngest brother and his wife got married in Phuket, Thailand accompanied by some of their family.  It was a great experience as I haven't travelled in Asia.  The pool at the resort was great for swimming laps in the morning and hanging out by the bar in the evening.  Balmy nights eating amazing Thai food and cocktails in busy streets wearing tropical flowers.  We soon adjusted to taking Tuk Tuks everywhere.  We visited the temple at Wat Chalong, rode an elephant (but I don't think I would do that now) and took a boat to Phi Phi islands with beautiful beaches.  I am forever grateful that my oldest brother convinced me to go snorkelling off the boat.  It was an amazing experience to swim around the clear ocean and watch the fishies.  And of course there was the fun of the wedding on the beach followed by a banquet.

U is for United Kingdom
I was so excited to finally visit the UK for a holiday and loved it so much I returned a year later for a 2 year working holiday.  I lived in London, Radway and Edinburgh and returned to Edinburgh to get married and live there on a UK residential visa for a few years. During this time I travelled around with friends, family, with a husband (E) and in tour groups.  

There were many memorable moments.  Lands End on the day of Princess Diana's funeral.  Performances at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon, the London recreation of the Globe Theatre, the Minack Theatre carved in Cornish cliffs, and an Edinburgh Festival play in the closes off the High Street.  Towns with evocative names like Coventry, Elgin, Nottingham, Penzance, Torquay, Banbury, Sheffield.  Travelling in the footsteps of writers: Jane Austen in Winchester and Bath, Wordsorth's Dove cottage in the Lake District, the Brontes home in Haworth, Hilda Doolittle (HD)'s blue plaque in Mecklenburgh Square Bloomsbury, and the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford where Tolkein and CS Lewis hung out. Quirky museums: the Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick, the Dog Collar Museum in Leeds Castle, the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh. Castles, cathedrals, country houses, ye olde pubs, eating Wensleydale cheese with my parents on the Wensley Dale, driving around Glasgow and Stirling with a crazy Czech guy, and having a train whizz by us only to reverse to pick us up in a village outside London.

I am trying to keep this brief so I will stop now and direct you to previous posts about the United Kingdom.

V is for Vienna, Austria
After being unable to get a bus out of Warsaw with my bus pass, I paid for a train ticket to Rome.  I slept over night on the train, had 10 hours in Vienna, another night on the train and then 4 hours in Venice before reaching Rome.  I had a lovely time walking around beautiful historic Vienna.  No doubt I was glad to stretch my legs.  I visited the Opera House, St Stephen's Cathedral and the colorful Hundertwasserhaus. It is quite a vague memory but I do remember sitting in a cafe eating one of the gorgeous Austrian cakes before getting back on the train.

W is for Wales
I first visited Wales with my parents when we were driving around the UK.  It was really beautiful countryside.  Green, lots of sheep and some slag heaps.  Visiting Bodelwyddan (near St Asaph's) was important because my great great grandfather was born before migrating to Australia in search of gold.  He was Catholic so St Margaret's Church was an important part of his life.  See above photo which I think I took but could be a postcard!  

Later I visited a work colleague in Pembrokeshire.  We stayed with her family and hired a manual car that I was the only one old enough to drive despite having much less experience than my fellow travellers.  They were not impressed!  We stopped at tiny St Govan's Chapel built into the cliff face for a hermit, visited St David's cathedral and walked along the beach.  And we saw my fave band Pulp play in Cardiff.  I'd love more time to explore Wales as it looks wonderful and I am quite proud of my Welsh Heritage.

X is in susseX, England
It might not surprise you that I studied literature and history at university.  Hence it was exciting to walk in the footsteps of the Bloomsbury Group, despite my first year English tutor telling me I was conned by Virginia Woolf.  After admiring their blue plaques in Bloomsbury in London, I headed to Sussex.  That's where Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived at Monk's House, not too far from Charleston Farmhouse where Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, Duncan Grant and David Garnett lived.  Charleston is particularly fascinating because painters Vanessa and Duncan painted their creations on the walls.  

I also visited Knole House in Kent that had links to Vita Sackville-West who had an intense relationship with Virginia.  And I even went to a fundraiser draft sale organised by Blue Peter's Janet Ellis that had cushions covers made by Virginia's great niece.  I should have bought one.

Y is for York, England
I visited York on my first trip to the UK as a stop between London and Edinburgh.  I have been back a few times.  It is a gorgeous old city.  I loved wandering around the magnificent gothic York Minister, the impressive ruins of St Mary's Abbey (above) and the charming Shambles, a narrow street with buildings dating back to the Fourteenth Century. I also really enjoyed the York Castle Museum with its re-creations of Victorian streetscapes.

Z is in cZech Republic
In my beginning is my end said T S Eliott.  And sometimes that is how travel seems.  The first place on this list was Amsterdam where I met June Anne.  We arranged to meet at the Prague train station in the Czech Republic a couple of weeks later and had a great time together.  We stayed in a pension that was a precursor of Air BnB.  The first thing we did was have lunch in King Wenceslas square and walk along the Charles Bridge.  A highlight was a bus trip to Kutna Hora church with amazing decorations made of human bones.  But we also enjoyed sitting at the tables outside a bar with new friends discussing the politics: democracy, compulsory voting, and the big news of the time about the affair between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

More travel posts

Saturday 21 January 2023

Confit garlic bread

Garlic bread is something I have never made using a recipe.  In my family we have always mixed a bit of raw garlic, herbs and butter, slathered it over a partly sliced baguette and then baked in foil until soft, buttery and garlicky.  But when Sylvia brought me a Tik Tok recipe to me to try, not only was I interested in trying it with roast garlic, but I also was surprised to see their way of cooking the garlic bread is quite different to mine.

This recipe is different to ones I have made because of the roasted garlic.  It has less of the bite of raw garlic but is full of flavour.  Actually Sylvia decided that she needed a bit of raw garlic paste too.  And I love the extra colour and flavour that is imparted by fresh herbs.

But Sylvia was not done with making changes.  The TikTokker @intothesauce surprisingly cut her baguette into rounds that could be cooked under the grill.  Sylvia has enjoyed eating garlic bread from Crust Pizza which is baked in a soft melty baguette but has a peekaboo top where the foil is peeled back on top, a sprinkle of parmesan on top and baked to be a bit crispy.  This results in a garlic bread that is both soft and crisp in places.

It was fun to make the garlic bread but I don't really make it often at home as I think of it as something to make for a crowd.  I am watching the Australian Tennis Open on the telly as I write this and surprised to hear them say it is the first time this tournament has had a full house since 2020.  So much change over the past few years.  It makes me hopeful that perhaps there is more entertaining in my future!

More recipes using bread on Green Gourmet Giraffe blog:

Bread and butter pudding
Choc-berry bread pudding

Vegan cheese on toast
Welsh Rarebit with leeks

Confit Garlic Bread
Adapted from Into the Sauce

1 x 30cm baguette
1-2 bulbs garlic
drizzle of olive oil
100g butter
1/4 bunch parsley, finely chopped
Parmesan or cheese, grated (optional)

Cut enough of the top of the bulbs of garlic so the cut tops of the cloves peep through.  Take a large square of foil (about 15x15cm) for each bulb and make it into a bowl.  Place each bulb into a foil bowl.  Drizzle olive oil over the top so it touches each of the exposed cloves.  Twist the corners of the foil together to seal the garlic in the foil.  Bake on a baking tray for 30-40 min at 180 C or until soft.

Squeeze roasted garlic out of the skin.  Mash garlic and mix with butter and parsley.  Add some cheese or parmesan if desired.

Slice baguette three quarters of the way down, keeping each slice attached to the baguette.  Place baguette on a piece of foil that has a border around the bread of about 10cm.

Gently prise each slice apart and spread the garlic butter thickly over each slice.  There should be enough in there that when you then push the slice against the next slice it should ooze a little butter.  Spread a little butter over the top and sides of the baguette.

Wrap the foil over the top of the baguette and seal.  Bake at 200 C for about 15 minutes until all the butter is melted.  Serve hot as a side dish.


  • If you want a crispy top, keep the top of the foil open when you bake it - perhaps sprinkle with parmesan or cheese.
  • Sylvia added a squirt of a tube of garlic paste because she needed more garlic. 
  • This can be made vegan with a vegan butter (and omit the cheese)
  • I would freeze this but haven't done it yet.

On the Stereo:
What the world needs now is love/Abraham, Martin and John (historic mash-up): Tom Clay

Sunday 15 January 2023

Stuffed Tofurkey and Nutroast for Christmas day

Christmas dinner is always a challenge.  Especially for those who don't follow a mainstream diet.  This year Sylvia spent her Christmas lunch with her dad and decided she would make a roast dinner.  But she wanted something instead of a nut roast.  After some discussion we decided upon a tofurkey.  I had only made one once many years ago at a masterclass so had to look up some recipes to work out how to do it.  I want to record it here in case I ever attempt a tofurkey again.  And it is a great reason to write up a blog post on Christmas day

This is our breakfast on Christmas morning.  I made overnight sourdough cranberry nut rolls and served them with Swiss cheese and bottled orange juice.  It was nice to take out some Christmas crockery and sit down to a meal together.


The tofurkey was made the day before.  It is not a recipe to make on the day of the meal as there is mixing, fridge time, digging, stuffing, baking, basting.  It was lots of steps but not too unfamiliar.  

Sylvia decided she wanted a pudding shape so we went with moulding it using a bowl.  When we made tofurky at the master class years ago, we shaped it into an oval and made some drumstick shaped legs to attach.  It amused me to shape it like a turkey.  We were shown a way to wrap the tofurky around the stuffing which you can see in the photos on that masterclass post.

What stumped me was the stuffing.  All tofurkey recipes I looked at had stuffing.  Most of the stuffing recipes were chunks of bread and vegetables.  I assume these were American recipes as this is their way of doing stuffing.  I still find it odd.  

When I ate meat many years ago the stuffing we would have was like herbs, sausage and breadcrumbs.  I loved it.  In fact I suspect that one of the main reasons I love my regular Christmas nut roast is that it reminds me a bit of stuffing.  I was making this nut roast anyway so I decided to put some of it in the tofurkey as stuffing.  And to repay the favour I stuffed some tofurkey into the nut roast too.

I gave Sylvia some help by making sure the tofurkey was baked and the potatoes lightly roasted and ready in the oven before I left.  I wrote instructions on cooking the tofurkey and potatoes together for the first 20 minutes and then keeping the potatoes in the oven til crispy.  And I wrote a reminder to cook the brussel sprouts, with the alternative of cooking peas from the freezer, which Sylvia chose.  Did you spot that the brussel sprouts on the top photo are actually Marks and Spencer chocolates with brussel sprouts wrappers (that come with a label claiming "definitely not sprout flavoured")?

I had a slice of tofurkey with some roast vegies when I got home in the evening.  It was quite nice.  The tofu didn't have heaps of flavour and took it from the glaze which had lots of intense soy flavour.  It was a bit crumbly.  I liked it but after a big Christmas dinner, it was not the best time to taste it.  Also I think I would have served it with gravy but Sylvia did not want any as part of the meal.  The tofurkey is vegan and gluten free but the nutroast stuffing is not.


Sylvia and her dad also had some golden Gingerbread and butterscotch sponge pudding with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce.  Her dad brought the pudding but the ice cream was leftover from our raspberry spiders on Christmas eve in front of Carols by Candlelight.  They much preferred the spiced sponge pudding to traditional Christmas pudding with dried fruit.


Sylvia will make a great entertainer some day.  As well as roast dinner and pudding, she put together this impressive cheeseboard.  One of the kind people I work with gave me the leftover cheddar and red Leicester cheese from the Christmas drinks.  They were so good.

Meanwhile I was down in Geelong with my parents and siblings' families for presents and lunch.  The gingerbread biscuits are ones that Sylvia had baked and decorated.  We also had a fine platter made by my sister Fran.  Fran also brought the non-alcoholic Mojito syrup so we could add soda water for a refreshing drink.  My brother's girlfriend made Pimms cocktails for those who were after a drink, including a couple of nieces who have recently turned 18.

As I do each year, I took down a favourite nut roast to my parents Christmas dinner.  I usually keep it quite simple but this year as I had the tofurkey I stuffed it.  Above are photos of showing how I prepared the tin and added the stuffing.

You can see in the above photo the the tomatoes and rosemary springs have moved around but they give it a bit of a festive look.  My mum juggles lots of dishes in the oven on Christmas Day.  This year she had 16 people for Christmas dinner (it would have been 17 if not for Covid).  So my nut roast went into her air fryer to heat.  It fitted in best in the silicon tin but I would have preferred to heat it on the serving tray and get some of the bottom browned a little, but space was tight.

I made sure that it had time to rest for a bit between the air fryer and slicing it.  I was please that it sliced thinly but also that the round of stuffing could be seen inside the slices.  The tofurkey was a little crumbly and this made the slices a little less stable than usual.

Here is the spread of dishes that my mum served for Christmas lunch: nut roast, roast potatoes, green peas, roast pumpkin, roast carrots, gf cauliflower cheese.  I had cranberry sauce on my nut roast.  Everyone else had pork, ham and gravy.  Some also had some nut roast - it has a few fans.  It is always a bit chaotic when everyone is serving themselves and we have some robust discussions about which way people should move around the food but once we settle at the table and pull the crackers it is more relaxed.

For dessert we had a selection of chocolate cake, cheesecake, pavlova, mini chocolate ripple cakes and of course plum pudding and custard.  I had a small bowl with a few bits and pieces. All really good!

And now here are some of my wonderful presents.  For me there was a cake turntable and cake scrapers to make it easier to frost a cake.  A beautiful Robert Gordon white serving bowl.  Cute Christmas socks and aromatic Christmas pudding soap.  A book by the very witty Richard Ayoade.  And lovely hand soap and chocolate.

Sylvia also was given lots of lovely presents.  Body washes, a body mist, lip gloss and hand moisturiser.  Books of Rupi Kaur's poetry.  A hairy coo hot water bottle.  Instant ramen.  A coffee pot spoon.  A kitty that coughs up hairballs.  A necklace, crystals and a keyring.  A Taylor Swift Folklore cabin snowglobe.  And money!

Then there was this Grinch lantern snow globe for Sylvia.  We have watched the Grinch a lot and so this Cuddly as a Cactus snow globe seemed perfect for her.

It was a very nice Christmas day with lots of driving.  After lunch, I went to Torquay for a beach swim with my brother and his girlfriend before heading home to Melbourne to the tofurkey.

More vegetarian Christmas dinner ideas from Green Gourmet Giraffe blog:

Stuffed nut roast roulade
Festive layered nut roast with tomato and herbs
Vegetarian Hog’s Head
Nut roast with mac and cheese layer

Brussels sprouts with Cointreau (gf, v)
Whole cauliflower cheese

Port gravy
(gf, v)
Potato parsley stars
(gf, v)
Roast potato and pumpkin
(gf, v)
Spinach salad with spiced nuts and cranberries
(gf, v) 

More Christmas recipes

Adapted from Full of Plants
Serves 8-12

Tofu mixture:
1kg extra-firm tofu, mashed
3 tbsp white miso
2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp chopped parsley leaves
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

Nut roast filling:
1/4 of the nut roast mixture (see below)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
(To mash the tofu, I blitzed it in the food processor in a few batches.)
Mix all tofu mixture ingredients.  Line a small mixing bowl with clingfilm.  Press it all into a small mixing bowl.  Place saucer on it and then pile some heavy stuff on it and chill in fridge for a few hours.  
Preheat oven to 180 C.  Remove from fridge and spoon out the middle, keeping about 2 cm tofu mixture around the edge of the bowl.  Place the discarded tofu mixture into a bowl.  Add stuffing into the cavity, press it down and fill the last few cm with some of the set aside tofu mixture.
I had the nutroast to stuff so some of the stuffing went into it.  If you don't have somewhere else to stuff it, you can add any leftover tofu mixture to a stirfry or a tomato based stew or a tart filling.  It is a chameleon of a mixture that adds texture and protein to many dishes.  Leftovers can also be used in these ways.
Mix the glaze ingredients in a small bowl.  Line an oven tray with baking paper.  Turn out the stuffed tofurkey onto the baking paper and discard the clingfilm.  Grab a pastry brush and baste (brush the glaze all over it).  Bake 15 minutes, baste, bake another 15 minutes, baste and bake a final 15 minutes.  Set aside until close to eating.  If you are making this for Christmas Day or an entertaining event, it is best to make the day before.  About 45 minutes before serving, heat at 180 C for 20-30 minutes and let rest before serving.
Cheese and Walnut Nutroast
From Sarah Brown via Green Gourmet Giraffe
Serves 8 or a crowd

Nut roast:
500g cottage cheese
100g walnuts, ground
4 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 cup (250g or 8 oz) dry breadcrumbs
4 eggs, beaten
Lots of freshly ground black papper
A grind of salt 
Optional tofurkey stuffing 1:
1 cup tofurkey / tofu mixture (above recipe)
1/2 cup roasted cashews ground
1/4 tsp each of garlic, soy and maple
Optional tofurkey stuffing 2: 
250g tofu
2 tsp white miso
1.5 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp chopped herbs, such as parsley, thyme and sage
1/2 cup roasted cashews ground
1/4 tsp garlic paste
1/4 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp maple syrup
Optional decorations:
cherry tomatoes
fresh herbs, such as rosemary sprigs

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Prepare a 13 x 22cm loaf tin and line bottom with paper.  Grease the sides except if using a silicone pan.  [Optional decorations: If you want your loaf to look fancy, arrange halves of cherry tomatoes (cut side down) and sprigs of rosemary. or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand.]

Combine all nut roast ingredients in a large mixing bowl. [Optional stuffing (1 or 2): Mix all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.  Check seasoning and adjust to taste.]

Spoon into prepared loaf tin.  [If you have arranged the optional decorations on the base, just try not to move them too much as you drop spoonfuls on top.  If you have made the optional stuffing, just add about a third of the nut roast mixture. Mould the tofurkey filling into a log lengthways along the middle of the nut roast and then gently spoon the rest of the nut roast around it and cover it on top.] Smooth the top down with the back of a spoon. Bake in moderate oven for approximately 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

If you are making this for Christmas or entertaining and want to slice it nicely, it needs to sit for a while before slicing.  Ideally it should sit overnight and then warmed up in the silicone baking tin (not so good to leave in the tin overnight in a metal tin) or on a tray covered with foil.  The next day heat it up but make sure it sits before cutting.  If you try to slice it when it is really hot and soft it will not slice cleanly.

On the Stereo:
Christmas tree farm:
Taylor Swift