Monthly Archives: September 2012

Park your super yacht here


Where: Cavtat, Croatia

A view of Cavtat from across the bay.

Plate of food: Burek, savoury pastries filled with ground meat or spinach and cheese. These are simply delicious. The filling of choice is rolled up in layers of golden flaky pastry, then that roll of pastry is coiled into a flat oval shape. We bought these daily from the bakery in the village and would take them, still warm, back to our rental apartment (if we didn’t devour them on the way…).

I also feel compelled to mention dried figs (what? You’ve never felt that way?). Dried figs were everywhere in Cavtat: drying in flat baskets on the sun-drenched hillsides, piled in bunches at the local market, and inevitably in my bag for every excursion we went on. These were plump, soft, sweet, and bursting with deep flavour. Don’t underestimate a dried fig until you’ve eaten one in Cavtat.

The Best: The Croatian coastline. Cavtat is a jumble of stone buildings nestled around two calm bays; a spit of land separates them as it stretches out into the Adriatic. The coastline is rocky and dramatic. The water is tantalizingly blue.

How badly do you want to dip a toe in that water?

In the heart of the town is a small bay with deep, dark water that welcomes gleaming super yachts, but also reserves a space for local boys to play impromptu water polo as evening falls. This is where you can sit at one of the cafes with a bottle of wine and the catch of the day on your plate. The sunset across the bay is spectacular. At night, shadowy fish circle beneath the glowing lights of the yachts.

Cavat is the gold medal winner for sunsets.

Further along the coastal road there are secluded swimming spots that can be your own private piece of paradise. We’d walk along until we found a good spot that hadn’t been nabbed by sneaky German pensioners who reserved prime spots by laying their towels out at DAWN. (Just a note that I have nothing against Germans or pensioners. I only wish I had been as organized as them.)

We’d scramble down the rocks and then float in the crystal clear water. We’d sit and examine the pebbles and sea glass, lazily count the bright fishing boats bobbing along the shore, gingerly touch sea urchin spines, and squint out across the shimmering water toward Dubrovnik. I would be astounded if there is a better way to spend an afternoon.

A collection of treasures

Story that needs to be told: Simply: Cavtat. I tell nearly everyone I meet about Cavtat and how they need to book a trip there…now, right now! And with this post I have alerted all the people I somehow missed, and Cavtat Tourism will surely give me a prize now. (You can pay me in Burek, thanks.)

It is a place blessed with a bounty of goodness: good weather, great food, stunning scenery, inviting seas, friendly people….

I have such very fond memories of my 2 trips to Cavtat:

  • The waiter deftly removing the fillets from the whole grilled fish at our table side with just two spoons. Look at that – so easy! I have since attempted this on my own and it resulted in me having to change my clothes. Look at that – NOT so easy!
  • Fresh scampi, fresh fish, fresh calamari, fresh, fresh, fresh!
  • Wandering along the port and watching the staff on the luxury yachts prepare to sail. They look so capable and efficient in their matching khaki shorts and polo shirts, polishing the brass, tying ropes, carrying crates of champagne on board, and tending to the 2 jetskis kept under the hull (what?!).
  • Getting a full-body hot stone massage at the spa as I gazed out at the blue Adriatic.
  • Matt’s Dad going snorkeling with the apartment keys in his pocket and losing them as he swam. AND THEN FINDING THEM AGAIN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAY. Incredible, right?
  • Late night lemon sorbet.
  • Happening upon a religious procession with local villagers in traditional dress, parading with flowers and musical instruments.
  • Discovering our toddler could climb out of her travel cot much to my horror (you mean, she’s not contained now??!) and to the hilarity of my in-laws.
  • Buying beautiful red coral jewelry.
  • Strangely stumbling across a Country and Western music hoedown in the main square. Complete with cowboy hats, guitars, and two-stepping! This one remains a mystery. But I kind of like it that way.
  • The contentment of ending a splendid day with sand between our toes, salt water still dripping from our hair, and just the slightest tingle of pink across our noses.

“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.” 
― Judith Thurman

Friday Photos


Creeping colours in France

Living in Brazil, I miss experiencing proper seasons, especially Autumn.

Do the flip in Oslo

This time of year makes me think of golden leaves, apple cider, and freshly sharpened pencils (must be the back-to-school connection).

Majestic trees in the Cotswolds

I just wanted to share some of my favourite Fall photos with you.

Pick a pumpkin in Rome

Hope you have a cozy, crisp, cinnamon apple crumble, fire crackling, pumpkin spice latte kind of Autumn.


Perfect Dublin


Oh, I think we need another Perfect Saturday. Don’t you? Sometimes there is just too much WEEKDAY in my weekdays. (I know you come here for my eloquence.)

It’s all schedule, obligations, and “should do” moments when really what you want is freedom, possibilities, and “want to do” moments. I know that we can have those in our life at any given time, but I will leave that philosophizing to others who are better at it. I will do what I do best: dream of another time and place, and invite you along for the trip.

Come, leave your Wednesday and have a Perfect Saturday in Dublin, Ireland.

  • It’s a beautiful morning in Dublin: the fog is lifting, the sun is bright, and the city starts to bustle. Let’s get breakfast at Cafe Java. The cafe windows are steamy from the heat of frothing milk and newspaper-reading patrons. We’ll eat Irish smoked salmon and traditional soda bread with butter. I will refrain from asking for a second serving of soda bread in all its warm, dense goodness…oh, who am I kidding? Of course, we’ll have seconds. We’ll drink Mallowchinos which despite making you feel like a 6 year old when you order it, is actually a tasty cappuccino with a melting marshmallow floating on top.
  • Next is a walk on the strand. When the tide is out, the water retreats for miles until you are left with a great expanse of rippled grey sand. You can run for 30 minutes out to sea and never get to the water. We’ll marvel at the intrepid Irish children splashing about in frigid, shallow puddles.

Someone pulled the plug on the ocean…

  • Now let’s take the train to the city centre and we’ll walk around Merrion Square. The streets here are lined with gorgeous Georgian mansions. Their broad stone steps lead up to brightly painted front doors. You can’t help but think of all the people over centuries that have passed through those doors.

Knock, knock?

  • Let’s pop into the Natural History Museum on the west side of the square where we can roll back heavy vinyl covers to view delicate butterflies in glass cabinets, but the real thrill is going to the second floor. The vast vaulted ceiling soars above you as does a huge whale skeleton. The floorboards creak and ornate balustrades wrap around the mezzanine levels. There is something scholarly and beautiful about the museum; you feel like you should be wearing tweed and smoking a pipe while talking about the Belgian Congo.
  • Boxty for lunch! Huh? Boxty are Irish potato pancakes which can be folded over a variety of fillings. Steak in a whiskey and black pepper sauce is a great one, but so is the traditional corned beef and cabbage (better than you think). Gallagher’s Boxty House will sort us out; they always do. They once miraculously found me a free table in a packed restaurant with a queue of people tumbling out of the door. It may have helped that I was 9 months pregnant. Maybe.
  • On we go to do some shopping at Avoca, a treasure trove of wonders: candles, china, glassware, soaps, scarves, and their famous wool blankets. You will want to live in the shop, but I suspect this is frowned upon, so it will have to suffice to buy a few things to replicate the Avoca feeling of warmth, good cheer, and creativity in your own home.

“Weaving a Hug” – are you kidding me with your loveliness, Avoca??

  • We’ll walk down Grafton Street to the tunes of buskers with guitars, fiddles, and bodhran. At the end of the street we cross over into St Stephen’s Green, the sprawling inner-city green space with gardens, duck ponds, ancient trees, and people soaking up the rare Irish sunshine.

Walking under these trees is about as dreamy as you imagine.

  • As the afternoon winds down, let’s go to the famous Guinness Storehouse. This is where it all began: Arthur Guinness, dark stout, the harp, and the toucan. From brewing to cooperage (that’s making barrels…did you know that?) to vintage advertisements, this is a fascinating museum to explore. Once we reach the top floor we are rewarded with a 360 degree view of Dublin from the Gravity Bar…and a perfect pint to go with it. Don’t get lost in the velvety swirls of black and cream in your pint glass, though. We have a sunset to muse over and an evening to plan.

This is the city of Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, Bram Stoker….and Bono.

  • Pearl Brasserie is the place for dinner. Beneath the swanky Merrion Hotel, this French (I know, it’s not Irish, but c’mon we had boxty for lunch) restaurant serves up delicious slates of food (that’s not a typo – my meal actually arrived on a piece of black slate). The chef here has an affinity for black truffles and foie gras which means that I have an affinity for EVERYTHING on the menu. This is one place that proves Dublin is a culinary city.
  • Our day ends somewhere down a cobbled lane where we follow the sounds of fiddles to a cozy pub. Raise your glass of whiskey (you’re only in Dublin for a day – go on!) and say “Sláinte” (cheers) to another Perfect Saturday!

Fabled Table Mountain


Where: Cape Town, South Africa (I didn’t think you needed a map for this one, but you can go to the link and get a special view of the city. Go on.)

Another lovely Cape Town day coming to a close.

Plate of food: Cape Town cuisine has been influenced by Dutch, African, Indian, French, Malaysian, and British cooking. You often find more than one of those cultures on your plate at any given meal. How can one city hold so many flavours? I am willing to investigate thoroughly to uncover the answer to this delectable mystery. I do it for you.

When I think about my meals in Cape Town, 3 spring to mind: a sizzling pan of enormous prawns, a tender venison stew, and an outstandingly simple steak.

The prawns were enjoyed harbourside with live music and a cold beer. Is there another way to enjoy seafood? The music was essential; nothing better than shouting out the words to “Sweet Caroline” in between mouthfuls of succulent prawn.

The venison potjie (“poy-kee”, a reference to the three-legged cast iron pot these stews are cooked in) was rich and delicious, perhaps slightly less so because Matt was battling with a horrifically under-cooked ostrich steak, which then became a terribly OVER-cooked ostrich steak after the waitress took it back to the kitchen. It was all so unfortunate and made worse by the waitress clearly not subscribing to the belief that the customer is always (or even just sometimes) right. Ouch.

Wait, we were supposed to be talking about great food, right? Right! The steak I had was perfect in every way: cooked beautifully (I’m a medium kind of girl), dolloped with a blue cheese sauce, and accompanied by a South African Pinotage. (There may well have been some side dishes with my meal, but let’s be honest, the wine and the meat took precedence.)

If you are in the neighbourhood (you never know…), I had my prawns at Quay 4, my steak at Belthazar, and would also recommend Mint for lovely food and for stunning interiors of the attached Taj Hotel (take a peek at the formal dining rooms as you go to the restrooms – wowzer).

The best: Table Mountain. Everything you read about Cape Town talks about this mountain slap-bang in the centre of the city. You read about its folklore, its views, its omnipresence, its…flatness. Turns out, everything you read is wrong.

Table Mountain is more impressive, more looming, more stunning, more breathtaking than anyone can tell you. It is a pure delight to catch a glimpse of it from wherever you are in the city, like repeatedly catching the eye of a guy/girl who makes your heart skip a beat. It is invigorating and addictive.

We arrived at night and only first saw Table Mountain the following morning. Wow. Its profile is so unusual and distinct. A constant solid presence.

What’s not to love?

Then we decided to see how everything else looks from up on Table Mountain. Wow again. We went up in the new cable cars which are huge and snazzy, rotating 360 degrees as you ascend. That way everyone gets the sought after view, not just the man wearing socks with sandals who elbowed his way to the “prime” viewing spot. You sure weren’t expecting it to ROTATE, were you, Mr. Sandal Man.

Going uppppp!

Once at the top we gazed down on the city and the coast as the wind buffeted us and the clouds scooted up the mountainside. There is a path that winds along the top, over slabs of rock and through scruffy bush, but really you just need to pick your spot and sit down. Then watch as the clouds approach in the distance only to steal away your view and then return it with an added burst of sunshine.

I loved seeing this trough in the clouds stretching down the coast of the Western Cape.

I loved this view. The deep blue sea becoming turquoise as it meets the beach. The rural roads looking like thin brown snakes stretching across the land.

You could not pay me enough to be one of these guys setting up abseil ropes on the edge of the mountain. But thank you for offering.

It seemed equally important to gaze at Table Mountain from the city as it was to peer down on the city from the top of the mountain. Two beautiful perspectives, one Cape Town.

Story that needs to be told: I have already regaled you with our horrific delay in getting to South Africa, thanks to a pesky yellow fever vaccination. Let me hit the highlights:

  1. We arrived for our connection in Sao Paulo with plenty of time, plenty of good spirits, and plenty of “we’re on holiday!” sparkle.
  2. Time, good spirits, and sparkle all vanished as soon as the man asked us for our yellow fever vaccination documents. Oof.
  3. Shortcut through the confusion, disbelief, panic, anger, etc and we find ourselves in a taxi hurtling through the streets of Sao Paulo to a medical clinic.
  4. The clinic had bars on the windows, chairs bolted to the floor, and was built following the Cinder-Blocks-Floor-to-Ceiling design manifesto.
  5. Quick pop-quiz in conjugating Portuguese verbs while distracted and stressed! Go!
  6. Four jabs of vaccine.
  7. Return to airport, only to miss connection. Oof.
  8. Spend 8 hours contemplating life in Sao Paulo airport. Not recommended. Nothing looks promising under those fluorescent lights.
  9. Arrive in Johannesburg.
  10. Bags do NOT.
  11. Arrive in Cape Town.
  12. Bags do NOT.
  13. Establish volatile relationship with lost baggage help desk.
  14. Bags join us after 3 days.
  15. Ugh.

So it was a bumpy journey to Cape Town, but there is no better city to arrive in after being stretched to your maximum capacity of traveling woe. We were welcomed at our lovely hotel despite looking as bleary-eyed and bedraggled as you would imagine. We had wonderful food, wine, shopping (to stock up on everything that was packed in our bags…a continent away), and delights on our doorstep. Our troubles evaporated and we were left with a great joy at being in Cape Town, no matter how we got there.

Sometimes the journey is less than enjoyable, but it is still worth going. And when it comes to Cape Town, it’s ALWAYS worth going.

Oh, look honey! This tells us that our bags are more than 6,000 km away!