This year I literally saw in the New Year with a bang, as I celebrated New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands visiting a friend in Den Haag. She had warned me about a few odd Dutch traditions for New Year, but I was unprepared for the level of crazy my New Year celebrations in the Netherlands would bring!
Here are just a few (insane) ways the Dutch like to celebrate New Year and my exhausting experience celebrating New Year’s Eve in The Hague:Read more
After booking a last-minute flight to the Netherlands to spend New Year with a friend living in The Hague, I found myself being roped into the Nieuwjaarsduik Scheveningen. So, while you were nursing your New Year’s Eve hangover, I was taking a plunge into the North Sea as part of Den Haag’s New Year’s Day swim!
This is the story of how I was peer-pressured into running down Scheveningen Beach in nothing but my swimming cossie and an orange hat on the 1st January, wondering how I’d wound up in Holland, throwing myself into the icy waves on Nieuwjaarsdag (New Year’s Day). Read more
As a former immigrant who has lived and worked in the EU, I have made my personal opinions about Brexit very clear. However, this post isn’t going to be a political tirade. As much as I want to Bremoan about today’s triggering of Article 50, I’m looking for a silver lining.
We all know there’s a lot of crap happening in the world at the moment. And it’s making everyone very, very angry (myself included). I’m not going to give in to complacency, neither am I going to rile against democracy, nor am I going to pretend that it’s all OK.
Instead, I’m going to go looking for the Europe I want to be a part of.
You give me a countdown of two years until my home country will leave the EU? That sounds like a challenge to me. A challenge to see every country in the EU while I can still travel there visa-free and as a proud EU citizen.
A last chance to meet the people and places that we’re leaving behind, and bid them farewell before… well, before everything changes (and we still don’t exactly know how it will change, do we?).
So, I say to you, Article 50, challenge accepted! Now, let’s get started planning the itinerary.
So, I’ve put on a lot of weight since I’ve moved back to the UK and with very good reason. British food is not an internationally beloved cuisine. In most large cities around the world, you may be able to find a decent pizzeria, Chinese takeaway or Irish pub.
But, you will never ever find a good chippy or a proper British pub outside the British Isles.
Since being back, I have really appreciated things like Cadbury’s chocolate, fresh bread and never being more than a five-minute drive away from a pie. Who ate all the pies? Uh, me. Definitely me. With pleasure.
Here are just a few of my favourite British dishes, shared here to educate the rest of the world about the delicious-ness that is Great British food:
While the rest of the world is obsessed with streaky bacon, give me two slices of grilled back bacon between two slices of white bread and a good dollop of ketchup any day. Read more
London has a reputation for being expensive and often with good reason. A standard cup of coffee will cost you a cheeky £3-4, one stop on the tube can go for as much as a fiver and a trip to St. Paul’s Cathedral will set you back eighteen of your English pounds! However, one redeeming factor is that there are hundreds of free museums in London.
Here are just a few of the free museums in London and why you should visit them:
Candy-coloured houses set precariously atop the rough, jagged coastline of the Italian Riviera and a Mediterranean backdrop of lapping turquoise. *Sigh*. I can now confirm from personal experience that the Cinque Terre, or ‘five lands’, are literally postcard picture perfect. So, here’s a little Cinque Terre guide (in fives, naturally) on what to look out for in Italy’s picturesque cluster of seaside towns:
(disclaimer: apologies for looking so grumpy in these pictures)
5 things to see in Monterosso
First on my list was Monterosso, the furthest west of the Cinque Terre. Most visitors either start or finish here, but I would thoroughly recommend finishing in Riomaggiore because the sunset is so fantastic. (Scroll down to see what I mean).Read more
First of all, let me start with a disclaimer: the Liebster Award is definitely not a big fancy trophy. It’s not some kind of Blog Oscar (Blogscar?) or the ‘Digital Nomad’ equivalent of a Grammy. Kanye West isn’t about to come out of the woodwork with a round of, ‘Imma let you finish…’, Meryl Streep isn’t going to get in trouble for a politically-motivated acceptance speech and Adele isn’t going to say ‘fuck’ every five minutes.
What is the Liebster Award?
The Liebster Award is an ‘award’ passed from travel blogger to travel blogger by nomination. The aim of the award is to connect writers together and raise the profile of lesser-known travel bloggers (like lil ole me). Read more
My favourite number is 13. Not because I was born on the 13th, or that the number 13 has significance in my life, but because I figure that a number that is unlucky for some has to be lucky for someone.
Much in the same way, the year that was essentially a real-life season of Game of Thrones for the world actually turned out to be a pretty awesome year for me personally. And not because I’m a “Leave” supporter or a Donald Trump fan. My year just kind of happened that way.
So sorry (not sorry) to gloat and rub it in your face, 2016, but you did not break me. 2016 had to be lucky for someone, right? Read more
Remember when I said I was going to spend the summer improving my Italian so that I’d leave bella Italia near-fluent by September? Yeah, that didn’t happen. But I have been working on it, completing my daily tasks on Duolingo, eavesdropping on my students when they think I don’t understand what they’re saying, observing conversations around the dinner table with host families, and collecting new and strange words like the language nerd that I am.
So, although I haven’t actually achieved the level of Italian that I wanted to these past three months, I have made some progress, the least of which is compiling a list of ten of my favourite Italian words that I’ve most enjoyed adding to my limited Italian vocabulary: Read more
I set myself three challenges this summer in Italy: to improve my Italian (errr… I’ll myself a generous 5/10 for that one), to see Florence (tick!) and to discover the Holy Grail of Italian cuisine – the ultimate gelato.
However, creating a gelato guide turned out to be a lot more complicated than I first thought. On one of my first nights in Italy I started my quest by asking a seasoned gelato-enthusiast for recommendations on the best flavours and flavour combinations, but instead was met this response:
‘Well, first you have to choose your gelateria.’
Choose a gelateria? Is there such a thing as a bad gelateria? How can you tell the good from the bad?
‘Make sure it’s homemade.’
How do I do that?
‘Cono or coppetta?’
‘Frutta or Crema?’
‘What about seasonal flavours?’
It turns out that there is a lot that separates the gelati amateurs from the gelati connoisseurs (or conoscitore – see! my Italian is improving, promise). Here are just a few tips from a keen gelati apprentice (a young gelato-hopper, if you will), which set me down the right path:
1. Look for the word ‘artigianale’
This word means homemade. These days a lot of Italian gelati is made in factories and shipped out across the country, so this word ensures that what ends up in your cono (cone) or coppetta (cup) is not mass-produced, but made fresh in-store, so you can really taste and see the difference. The flavours are intense, often made fresh in the early morning and sold out by the evening.
2. Look at the colours.
In particular, there are three flavours (gusti) that you can look at to make sure that your gelateria is legit:
Pistachio – is it a deliciously apple-crisp vibrant green? Bolt. True pistachio should be a gross bogey-colour somewhere between snot and gravel. If your pistachio is the colour of freshly cut grass then your gelateria is using colourants and chemicals to achieve that hideous verde.
Banana – is it a warm buttery yellow that reminds you of summers on the beach, pina coladas and getting caught in the rain? Leave. Similar to pistachio, a proper banana gelato should be a muddy browny-grey that reminds you of old discoloured chewing gum, and is damn delicious because of it.
Vanilla – look close. No, closer. Even closer. Can you see the teeny tiny specks of black in the vanilla? Good, then that means actual vanilla has gone into that mix, and not just extract. You’re welcome.
If your server is using a scoop then run a mile. Spatulas all the way.
4. Are there locals there?
If the gelateria’s clientele are tourists and foreigners then this place is not the best in town, so instead you should…
5. Ask around.
In the UK, if you stop someone on the street and ask for the best chippy in the area, you will be met with a plethora of responses. The answer depends on whereabouts you live, where your family go, where your friends go, how much salt and vinegar they douse the chips in, the consistency of their mushy peas, what they use to wrap the chips, whether they do scraps, how the juicy the doner meat is… (I feel another blog post coming on…) the list is simply endless. It’s all about personal tastes, history and brand loyalty. You get a different answer every time.
Gelaterias are not like that. You ask anyone in town and they will know exactly which gelateria is ranked the best in the area and why.
‘Oh, I’m not sure, I don’t really eat gelato…’ said no Italian ever.
I have looked out of car windows in disbelief as host families have driven past three or four perfectly good gelaterias just to take me to the ‘best’ one, several miles out of town.
Can I taste the difference? Maybe. My gelati palette isn’t quite Masterchef-level yet, but I figure an entire town can’t be wrong if they all agree on one place. And their recommendations haven’t let me down yet…
So now you’ve picked your gelateria, it’s f.i.n.a.l.l.y. time to pick your flavours. Here is the most important Italian phrase you will ever need:
‘Posso assaggiare?’ = Can I taste?
The answer is always yes. Always yes. As many flavours as you like. This is a serious business.
Frutta or Crema?
Flavours are divided up into these two categories:
Frutta is best for hot summer weather, as it’s sweet and refreshing. Think of combinations such as mango and coconut, pineapple and coconut (can you tell I like coconut?), apple and pear, or orange and lemon.
Crema is good for slightly cooler weather, evenings and if you’re just feeling like being a big fat bitch that day. Must-haves include tiramisu and coffee, milk chocolate and hazelnut, or pistachio and… in fact, just double or triple pistachio is fine.
Or go crazy and mix up frutta and crema like the freak that you are! I’m talking about apple and cinnamon, hazelnut and banana, or chocolate and cherries… ok, must stop drooling over my keyboard…
Why, oh why, if you are in a gelateria you would want to choose something that isn’t gelato, I don’t know. But, gelato’s little sister and lesser-known counterpart can be equally as tasty and cooling.
What is granita? Granita is essentially a slush puppy. A fruity frappe. Whisked up ice and syrupy goodness. A gloopy sorbet with more icy bits. Sucked through a straw and eaten with a spoon, it is particularly popular in it’s home region of Sicily.
Always go for lemon, it’s transcendent. Never go for mint, unless you enjoy drinking icy mouthwash.
So you have your trusty Google Translate or Word Reference app up and running to figure out the gelato flavour names in Italian where colour or pictures may have failed you, but sometimes there are some curved balls that don’t quite translate. Here are some that you are likely to come across:
Zuppa Inglese – The literal translation is ‘English Soup’. However, don’t be put off because there are no peas or carrots in sight. This is the Italian name for a dessert beloved by all British grandmas: trifle.
Malaga – Yes, Malaga like the boozy Spanish holiday resort frequented by 18-year-old Brits. Hence the flavour: rum and raisin.
Baci – The word means ‘kisses’ but is actually the name of a kind of chocolate sold in Italy. It includes milk chocolate and hazelnuts.
Puffi – Ok, stay with me on this one. Puffi is the Italian name for Smurfs. Yes, as in the cute blue cartoon characters with little white hats. This ice cream flavour is usually bright blue (obvs) and flavoured with vanilla, aniseed or bubblegum, sometimes with little white marshmallows on top. It is not a suitable flavour choice for anyone over seven years old.
So, what’s my verdict?
There’s a whole world of gelati out there! So many rules; some strictly to be obeyed, others made to be broken. I did my best to try different and unusual flavours every time I came across a new gelateria with excellent results nearly every time. (For more unusual Italian foods, read Palermo Street Food with Streaty by The Travelling Stomach).
My favourite flavours this summer have included pomegranate, watermelon, amaretto (as in the alcohol, not the biscuits), guava, mango, violet, lime and mint, and coconut (did I mention I love coconut?).
I hope this brief introductory gelato guide will help you and your taste buds make informed gelati choices as much as it has helped me on my epic culinary journey around Italia’s gelaterias/my waist-widening fat-fest of a summer (it’s a hard job, but someone has to do it).