Archive for the ‘Leisure’ Category

There are actually 5 Chianti towns perched on the hillside of Tuscany, in Italy. We have explored 4 of the 5 Chianti towns. The one we did not go to was Lecchi in Chianti. It was less than 3 km from the holiday home we stayed in San Sano. It’s the smallest of the 5 Chianti towns, quite similar to San Sano, hence we gave it a miss.

To give you an idea where Chianti is on the map, here’s a scratchy but ‘magnetic’ image of the map of Tuscany 😉

Gaiole in Chianti

Gaiole in Chianti is one of the five main Chianti towns in Tuscany. We stayed in San Sano in the summer of Aug 2018. Gaiole was about 9 km away. By the way, San Sano lies in the commune of Gaiole.

All Chianti towns are best remembered by the iconic rooster standing resplendently before entering the centre.

That’s the very reason why we see the distinctive insignia on all Chianti Classico bottles, the silhouette of a black rooster on a white background, surrounded by a burgundy ring. Chianti Classico is considered the most traditional wine made within the original production zone of the 5 Chianti towns. Chianti wine produced outside the geographical area is simply called, “Chianti”.

With only one tiny and crammed grocery shop in San Sano, we did most of our groceries at our favourite Coop supermarket in Gaiole.

And here were what I have prepared in the most challenging kitchen with no chopping board, blunt knives, broken pair of kitchen scissors, insufficient pots, pans and serving plates with ingredients bought at the Coop supermarket in Gaiole in Chianti.

But, hey! I got by, hopefully? 😉

Market Day in Gaiole

If you have read my posts of our summer hols in the Provence, I mentioned my love of the outdoor markets. It’s all part of the fun, the sun and the local ambience, the colours and smells and strolling and exploring the unending quaint streets.

Market day in Gaiole is the second Monday of every month. I was excited at the thought of going to one up on the Tuscan hills. But alas! Poor Gaiole only boasts of one stretch of road with only a few stalls.

However, it wasn’t the market that enchanted us that day, it was a shop, called L’Eroica. Gaiole in Chianti is perhaps the best known town as the starting point and birthplace of the cycling route of L’Eroica.

No wonder we saw serious bikers taking the route every time we drove past Gaiole in Chianti. The L’Eroica shop tells all with curious passers-by popping in 😀

We had wanted to spend the entire day at Gaiole but it was not meant to be. We headed for the unplanned trip to Siena, instead. Ha ha …

Next up: Radda in Chianti

See you there!

Ciao!

It was a lovely morning on the second Monday in August, 2018. It was Market day in Gaiole in Chianti, one of the 5 Chianti towns in Tuscany.

Our holiday villa at San Sano lies in the commune of Gaiole which was about 9 km away.

I LOVE outdoor markets. The colours, the smell, the fresh local produce, the haggling and just about everything, including the scorching sun!

We planned our trip after I was done with a full batch of dirty laundry. I hung them out in the sun to dry.

We left the house at 10am so we would have sufficient time to stroll around the market square until middday when we could have our lunch there.

But alas, there was not a stall in sight. Where was the market? The town was as quiet and almost deserted that morning.

We left Gaiole and were thinking where to go next, and then we saw the signpost direction Siena!

Yup, that’s where we headed to. Siena! An impromptu trip.

Siena is about 30 km from San Sano. It’s a historic city listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. It’s a hill city, very, very hilly and one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Italy.

Crowded Siena

We were so used to the quiet surroundings of the Chianti region the past days, that Siena was chock-a-block with people, more specifically, tourists, innumerable cars and busloads of more tourists!!

And by the way, there was simply no place to park our car in the centre or anywhere near the centre, hence, we made do with a parking area away from the hustle and bustle of the centre.

So what does that mean? Well, of course LOTS of walking and ascending stairs, roads and pavements!!

When we finally reached the centre, we saw a huge crowd making their way to a particular location. We followed suit, out of curiosity.

Guess what? We ended up at the spectacular shell-shaped medieval square, Piazza del Campo.

But look at the sea of people! I bet 99% of the crowd were tourists, just like us, pinning our own little imaginary flags and claiming, “yes, I’ve been there!” 😀

It was at Piazza del Campo that the Palio Horse race takes place twice a year, on 2nd July and 16th August. We missed the live show but it was aired on the local TV channel.

Il Palio as we know it today first took place in 1633. Many of the traditions established in its earliest years still remain today. The Palio di Siena is held on 16th August, coinciding with Assumption Day or Ferragosto as it is known in Italy.

With the scorching sun of 31C above our heads, we took shelter in a shaded alfresco terrace of a restaurant nearby. Our lunch at Gaiole that was not meant to be, was compensated with colourful platters at a touristic resto in Siena. The foods were passable, made in a hurry and lacking passion.

We were famished, so whatever were presented to us were devoured in no time at all.

When in Italy, having the gelato is a must especially on blistering hot days, so that was our desert.

Yum!

It’s lovely to walk in Siena strolling past souvenir shops and the likes.

When we finally ended up at Duomo di Siena (Siena Cathedral), it started to drizzle, and that’s when my mind became disconcerted. I immediately checked the weather forecast of San Sano. Lo and behold, there’s a thunderstorm back at our holiday home. “Oh no!!! There goes my washed laundry!!

All’s well that did not end so well …

We left Siena but almost lost our way out of the city. It seemed like we have been walking for hours on end …

Back in San Sano, we were caught by another hindrance. There was a short circuit after the thunderstorm that caused a power outage in the mountain area of Chianti.

And then there’s my washed laundry that was completely drenched! Ouch!

Going back to Gaiole

Oh by the way, I forgot to mention that we drove past Gaiole and guess what? The market started from 2pm to 10pm. Luckily, we did not stay on in Gaiole for the market all morning because there was absolutely nothing we have missed. The tiny outdoor market covered just a stretch of one road.

With all the foul-ups, bleeps and blunders, we had a hefty day ascending 51 stairs, walking 17.5k steps of almost 12 km …. and then there was the laundry, the entire laundry!

Phew … What a day!

Fingers crossed for our next trip up … to the city of love and marriage, sensuality and fertility.

See you there 😉

Ciao!

San Sano is a quaint little village of stone structures that lies on the Tuscan hill in the province of Siena. The villa where we stayed lies 400m above sea level. The bigger town or commune 15km away, Radda in Chianti, was higher at 650m asl.

San Sano is a hamlet, really. There’s really not much to see, but surprisingly, a LOT to tell!!

You’ll ‘see’ why as you read on …

Mysterious San Sano

The village of San Sano has no supermarket, no post office, no park, no church (at least I had not seen one). Forget about going out for late night movies because there’s just no cinema, neither bars nor cafés in sight! In other words, there’s no night life, or was there …??

There’s just the main road with a handful of rustic stone houses, small square, one or two alleys with medieval landscape, one hotel, one restaurant with an adjoining super crammed sundry shop manned by an elderly man and a statue of a “drunken frog” that appeared to guard the village, ie, positioned in a seemingly perfect spot … for fung shui reason?

So why in heaven’s name did we end up in that sleepy village in the Chianti region?

Beats me, but one thing’s for sure the picturesque backdrops and landscapes were picture perfect and what more could we ask for with the neat and rolling vineyards just behind our holiday villa!

It’s quietly stunning. It was heaven on earth!

Night Out in San Sano

Are you kidding me?

Nope!

Against all odds, we went to San Sano. We wanted to have our dinner. It was a lovely evening and the stroll to the centre did us good. The only nuisance to combat were from the bites of the bloodsucking, slender and long-legged flies aka mosquitoes! Humph!

We ambled our way leisurely on the main road. There was not a car in sight.

We did not walk very far until we reached a junction with crossroads. There, in the centre of the junction was the ‘drunken frog’!!

Why was the frog drunk? Ah ha … storytime at the end of this post. Be patient, ‘kay? 😉

Trattoria “Grotta della Rana

I mentioned earlier that San Sano has only one restaurant and Trattoria Grotta della Rana was THAT restaurant!

By the way, “Grotta della Rana” means literally, “The Cave Of the Frog”.

What a coincidence, eh? We just met our friend the “drunken frog” and now the restaurant with a froggy name? San Sano could be Tuscany’s very own Sesame Street! Ha ha …

It was 6:20pm when we arrived at the resto. It’s a lovely restaurant with a decent size alfresco terrace. We were seated at a table for four. There were no other customers then, except for the bloodsucking mosquitoes!! Arghhh!!!

A friendly looking guy came to our table with a big smile on his face. He welcomed us with open arms. He spoke very limited English, but we seemed to comprehend one another pretty well. He brought us the resto’s menu card, and lo and behold! The menu card was entirely handwritten in Italian!

I guess that’s the beauty of being authentic, original and traditional without the touristy fluff.

What I noticed about Italian restaurants in general, is that, menus are usually composed of the following courses: antipasti (appetiser), primi piatti (first course, usually consisting of a pasta dish), secondi piatti (second or main course of meat or fish served alone) and contorni (vegetables and potatoes side dishes)

Surprisingly, with the owner’s limited English and our limited Italian, we ordered the most amazing plates, one after another …

The dishes were ridiculously scrumptious from antipasti to deserts!

Oh by the way, I could never finish a glass of red wine, but not the one served at Trattoria Grotta della Rana! It was one of the best local Chianti wines.

The waiter who brought us the bottle of water and breads was an elderly man, who’s also the old chap manning the tiny grocery shop adjoining the Trattoria.

We found out that the Trattoria’s a one big family affair of 3 generations. The elderly man’s the father (grandfather), while the guy who greeted us was his son, the current proprietor of the restaurant. The owner’s son also waited and served at the table. The owner’s wife and the ladies in the kitchen were the unsung chefs who made sure the palates and tummies of the customers were fully satisfied.

If you’re looking for a Michelin star presentation or trendy fine dining plates, I’m afraid this is not the place for you. In all honesty, the kitchen serves simple and rustic but wholesome and genuine ingredients of ancient Chiantigiana or Tuscan traditions. That’s what we were looking for, a surprised hidden gem in a secluded and off-the-beaten-path location.

It was 9pm. Before we called it the night, we ordered deserts and coffee.

We left our table at 9.30 pm. 3 hours earlier, we arrived when there were no one else there, but we left a packed restaurant that evening! That summed up EVERYTHING about the Cave Of the Frog Tavern!

Now, are you ready to hear the story of the ‘boozy frog’? According to the website of La Grotta della Rana, it’s based on a true story.

It went like this …

The Story of the Drunken Frog

Once upon a time an elementary teacher from San Sano, Ferdinando Anichini, enrolled himself to a game show program called “Il Tappabuchi” on the Italian television. It was April 1967. The host of the show, Corrado, offered prizes to contestants who could sing, dance, recite a poem or to imitate the sound of an animal. Anichini chose to imitate the sound of the croaking of a frog, because in Gaiole (San Sano lies in the commune of Gaiole in Chianti), the inhabitants were called “ranocchia” (frog people) in ancient times due to the large number of frogs on the banks of the Masellane. According to Corrado, the frog imitation from Anichini was rather shoddy, however, the contestant went on to justify himself with a cheeky statement, “Our frogs sing like that, because they drink Chianti wine!” Having said that, the elementary teacher won the show with one condition that he devolved his winning prize of 200k Italian Lira (equivalent to Euro 103.29 today) in favour of the tiny village of San Sano. The most interesting thing was the contestant mentioned “Chianti” four times on national television – in an era where such outspoken promotion were unimaginable. With his prize money, the winner of the TV show commissioned Siena-born sculpture, Plinio Tammaro to build a frog statue (fountain), gulping down wine and spewing water.

That was the day, the drunken frog of San Sano was born… 😀

Sorry, if you’re thinking the frog was once-upon-a-time a Prince. There’s no Prince on a white stallion, but, San Sano has, without a doubt, radiated a princely charm to those who appreciate Tuscany’s simplicity at its best.

Arrivederci!

Tschüss Tirol! Ciao Tuscany!

We left Gästehaus Maria in Nassereith after having a humble breakfast of buns with cold cuts and cheeses. We needed that because of our impending journey to Tuscany which was a long and winding 615km away.

Nassereith is 845m above sea level. It’s a mountainous region in Tirol.

We bade farewell to the colossal mountains and the cool air of Tirol while heading for North East Italy.

While on the highway to Italy, I suddenly felt like a Chipmunk or a Badger or a Mole burrowing through tunnels.

By the way, that’s exactly what happened; the highway crosses the heart of the mountains, passing through countless tunnels, viaducts and bridges.

After 9 gruelling hours on the road, we finally reached our holiday home, situated in a medieval hamlet, nestled in the Tuscan hills. While in Tirol, our B&B overlooked the mountains from our balcony; it was at San Sano that we had the extensive views of billowing vineyards acres after acres.

I had a quick inspection of the facades and knew that I could appreciate my stay there. I could see myself curling up on a chair tapping away on my iPhone and sharing with you my moblogs.

It was hot and humid up in the mountains of Tuscany, so unlike Tirol. One thing’s for sure, I don’t need my pashmina 🙂

What’s up next was a mystery as much as San Sano is mysterious …

Ciao!

1st November this year fell on a Tuesday. I could have made a bridge for a longer “weekend”, but could not due to my workload at work 😦

I was glad to break off work for that one day that week for a yearly family reunion, hosted by one of my SIL’s. While driving to my SIL’s, we stopped at a friend’s house. I received a text message from F that she was giving away some of her ‘harvests’ in her garden. 

Guess what? I hand-picked the chillies in her garden. They were so, very, very fresh! She wanted only the red ones, so I helped myself to the green chillies. I didn’t mind the ‘raw version’ at all, because I knew if I left the chillies wrapped in absorbent paper in the lower drawer of the fridge, the chillies would ripen. 

And I was right!

10 days later, some of the birds’ eye chillies had turned to a lovely bright orange-crimson colour. And I knew exactly where some of the chillies would end up into 😉

Thai Chef vs Me

There was one Wednesday that I took a day off and brought my 2 sons out for lunch (Note, both boys had half-day school / Univ on a Wednesday). We went to a Thai resto near our place. 

For starter, I ordered Tom Yum Goong (TYG) for us. It was a good TYG, but I missed that Oomph in their soup. It was a wee bit too lame. 

Saturday came, and TYG was in the pipeline for our lunch menu.

So here it was, my version vs the Thai Chef’s. 


And not only that, I made my TYG in my thermomix! 


To be honest, I could eat my TYG all day without anything else that day, because it had been a while since I last made the soup! I looked back at a post I wrote; it was in March this year when I had friends over. You can read it all … Here 🙂

Because I love bold-tasting soups, I thought of a way to totally infuse the aromatics in the soup first before proceeding further. Be warned! It’s a highly seasoned soup that hits the palate and warms the heart without burning, if you know what I meant 😉

(Note: This is my own recipe using my preferred method – tried and tested – after a few trials and errors).  

Please be aware that some measurements are not given as only you will know how much or how little you want to put in the dish. Remember, “Ut quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum” or what is food for one man may be bitter poison to others. 

Ingredients A

  • 2 cm piece galangal
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 lemongrass
  • 2 coriander roots

Ingredient B

  • 5 g cooking oil / coconut oil

Ingredient C

  • 1,500 g water

Ingredients D

  • Lemongrass, bruised and halved
  • Shallots, halved 
  • Galangal, sliced
  • Bird’s eye chillies, lightly bruised
  • Kaffir lime leaves, lightly bruised with the fingers

Ingredients E

  • Fish sauce, to taste
  • Homemade chilli paste, eyeball for colour, taste and flavour
  • Salt, to taste 

Ingredients F

  • Prawns, shelled 
  • Mushrooms, sliced 

Ingredient G

  • Lime juice, to taste
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved or whole

Ingredient H

  • Fresh coriander 

Steps –

  • Place A in the TM bowl. Grind 5 sec/ sp 10  * 2

  • Add B. Sauté for 3 mins/100C/ sp 2 
  • Place D in SB and add C. Cook for 15 mins/ 120C/ sp1


  • Remove the SB and tip the aromatics in a bowl. Set aside for garnish later.

  • Transfer F in the SB. Cook for 4 mins/120C/ sp 1 or until the prawns are cooked. 

  • Remove the SB and set aside the cooked prawns, mushrooms, etc
  • Add E. Cook further for 5 mins/ 120C/ sp 2


  • Add G. Stir for 1 min/ R/ spoon
  • Assemble a serving bowl with prawns, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, some slices of galangal, bird’s eye chillies, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Garnish with H.
  • Done!


Happy 1st Anniversary!

I made the TYG to go with my Nasi Ulam and baked spiced chicken. Our Saturday lunch was the bomb, by the way, with full-blown explosion of flavours. Yup, my kind of food 🙂


There’s no better way to celebrate my first year anniversary of owning the thermomix than sharing with you some of the dishes I have conjured the past 12 months using my most used kitchen gadget today!

And as they say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words‘ …


IMPORTANT NOTICE : Please be aware that I’m neither a Consultant/ Advisor nor an employee of Thermomix.  I am NOT paid anything from any parties. I just happened to own a thermomix and love doing what I’m doing and will continue doing so. 

Happy Mid-Week ya’ll!

Cheers!

When my 2nd year University son came up to me in Feb this year, here’s what happened.

He walked towards me holding a scruffy looking piece of paper.

Me: What’s that in your hand?

Son: Er….nothing

Me: Then why are you coming to me when there’s nothing?

Son: Ah…. actually there’s something I want to tell you…

Me: Yes, go on…. I’m listening

Son: Me and my besties are going for a holiday this summer… to the Balkans, at least 5 or 6 countries..?

Me: What?!! That’s still 7 months down the road and your final exam’s in June. Shouldn’t we be discussing that first?

Son: Well, we’re in a planning stage ….

Me: That’s a good plan, son, and who’s going to pay for your holidays?

Son: Erm…..that’s what I’m here for ….

Me: OH-KAY! Then I know what’s best for you. If you don’t get through your exams, there will be no hols for you. If you get through your papers, papa or mama will not pay your hols, but you have to earn it yourself. Get a summer job! Okay?

Son: Ok, mama *big smiles*

And by the way, he got through all his papers and did his summer student job at the company I work with, but working at the most unaccomodating graveyard shift. You can read it all here: A Mother’s Insane Sacrifice 

But hey, wait a minute! Isn’t this post about 7 girls? And why am I chewing over my son’s story? 

Well, to be honest, there’re some similarities and dissimilarities on both sides of the narratives. 

Ready?

Se7en!

My son left for Skopje (their first stop) with 6 buddies, all boys, in September before the new semester began! The weather was a bummer, with some waterlogged days and some, sunny days. The boys were away for 2 weeks.

I left for Porto with 6 friends, all girls, recently in Oct. The weather was a bummer, with one day when we were completely soaked! We were away for only 3 days!

My son and his mates planned their holiday destination early this year and came to a unanimous consensus to visit the Balkan states plus Budapest since February. They met regularly at one of the boys’ houses to discuss the details of the trip, places of interests, budget, mode of payment etc. 

My girlfriends and I talked and planned about an all-girl getaway via whatsApp, with several destinations mentioned, but no mutual consensus to any one location. It was just a plan, so it seemed …

Our girlie conversation started in March. One of the girls, AO, was pregnant with her second child. Her baby was due in May. For her – inititally – it was a no go as she said she would be in a breastfeeding mode, depending on the date of our trip.

So with the 6 remaining heads, the topic was cooled down for a while and was again brought up in April. That time, AO was in Kuching with the intention of having her baby delivered there. While AO was updating about news and foods in Kuching, the 6 of us decided to go on with the trip plan without AO, hence, on 26th April, C sent out a doodle poll to gather a unanimous and compromised date of our inaugural all-girl weekend getaway. 

Lo and behold! We had a date!!! Amazing… considering it came from 6 double X-chromosomes Homo sapiens. LOL!

The weekend of 22nd October it was! Brilliant, and wait until you hear this…. because we wanted to stay 2 nights, those who’re working had to take a day off on either a Friday or a Monday. We all decided to take Friday off to fly to our chosen destination and came back on Sunday. Yup, it’s a short trip but for goodness’ sake, we are all married girls with and/ or without kids (yet).

Doing Our Own Things

Since the doodle poll in April to secure a date (which was brilliant), we went on to do our own things. Nothing was discussed anymore about our trip, except at fleeting moments when one of the girls, AM, brought up the subject but only to be swept under the rug or fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, AO had given birth to gorgeous baby Z. Due to work, business trips, kids’ activities, football season, exams and the summer holidays, our intended all-girl getaway appeared to be just an ambitious and far-fetched idea/ plan.

Meanwhile, my son and his 6 buddies had settled some prepaid expenses of their pending trip and he was showing me the places and locations they would cover and visit. Mum could only admire…

Midas Touch

August arrived. My family and I went for our ‘ritual’ South of France trip. While enjoying the sun, great food, sceneries and fresh air, I was showing my girlfriends some photos of our Provençal summer getaway, despite the sporadic internet connections at our holiday home in one of the remotest parts of South of France.

 

That was probably the photo that Midas touched. Suddenly a trail of chatty girls started to re-open the conversation that was held back frozen some 4 months before ….

Thursday, 11th August … Full Steam Ahead!

After the girls saw the photos I shared in our group chat, the conversation went full steam ahead …

And here’s how 7 girls made the decision in one evening ! It was a vivacious and animated conversation…. but darn the internet connnection!!

AO: Yup … we really should plan a trip next time

X: We have our trip in October!!

AO: Where you girls going again?

D (with very limited internet connection): Our trip in Oct? Not even planned anything yet! (suddenly, no internet connection/ out of conversation)

AO: Oct will be pretty cold already, unless we head South… Spain/ Portugal

X: That’s the plan, somewhere South. Corsica?

AO: I wanna go, but baby Z has to tag along

X: Where’s AM, our organiser?!!

AM: My questions: Are you still keen on our all-ladies’ trip? If yes (in Oct), (1) where? (2) flying or taking the train? (3) who are still keen to go?

AO: Yes (1) anywhere (2) anything (3) me

C: If weekend, we fly

X: Corsica? Flying… if Corsica. Me

C: We talked about Porto. Corsica is also OK. Flying is best if long weekend. Me, depending on date.

X: C, we had the doodle poll, remember? We had a date… the weekend of 22/10

AO: Are we doing Fri-Sun or Sat – Mon?

AM: First, how many of us going or rather who are confirmed going?

AO: Me, you, X. C maybe. G? O? D?

AM: Also need to confirm if 21/10 to 23/10 or 22/10 to 24/10 or 20/10 to 24/10

X: Let’s wait for G, O and D to respond

AO (deflecting her thoughts): If we go to Pisa from there, train to La Spezia and then Cinque Terre! It’s soooooo gorgeous!

C: I have been there but don’t mind going again. Very beautiful. Italy’s always a good destination. Pisa/ Verona/ Bologna

AM: Are we going for food, sight-seeing, walking or shopping or all three?

AO: I don’t really shop. For me it’s food and views (preferably ocean/ sea)

C: If it’s a long drive to Cinque Terre, then we will need an extra day …

AO: Plus anywhere next to the ocean, is bound to offer fresh seafood

X: It is a short trip, so I would recommend to keep it simple

AO: You’re right…. just saw Pisa’s airfare was soooo cheap, I lost my mind

AM: We go for all – sightseeing, walking, some fun/ excitement, food and some shopping

AO: Ryanair is pissing me off. Their website is ridiculous; no matter which destination I clicked on, it always directs me to Berlin!!! Easyjet is having a sale now…. lemme search..

AM: If I’m not mistaken, D has mentioned no France trip for her

G (just joining in the conversation): I’m going to Napoli on the cruise after our all-girls trip, so no Napoli, please 

AO: Grrrr…. OK no Easyjet

G: Milan, I don’t mind

AO: OK, I don’t either. Any destination for me is good. I haven’t been many new places, always the same few drivable cities

AM: Before we look at air tickets, we still have to decide 1-2 destinations and the 3 dates I mentioned that we are all OK with. Only then can we talk about air tickets

C: I stick with Porto. I don’t think we should spend too much time again on destination. We know we do not want to go too far and make it too complicated. Italy or Portugal. No one mentioned Spain but that is also good. Alternatively, Edinburgh? Or Ireland? Please be quick as some of us need to apply for leave. And make sure kids are taken care of

G: I agree with C on this matter. Ireland is pretty boring. I have been there a few times and no Edinburgh please ‘cos I plan to go there to see my sis in Glasgow.

AM: Does D have wifi or internet access at her holiday villa?

D (back in the conversation): Argghhhh!! Issues with internet connection. So slow. It was fine when we arrived but not anymore.

X: So ladies (1) Porto (2) Bologna (3) Naples

AM and AO: Porto looks OK to me

D: OK with location (I assumed, Porto?), but no France please. Have we booked the hotel yet and what’s our budget?

AO: Take an apartment from AirBNB? Much more fun? Can cook too…

AM: Hah … we are on holidays. Also wanna try the local foods.

D: We all need a holiday! No cooking please. I wanna see places. Move around.. a bit of shopping (souvenirs) and Port wine!!!

AO: Agree! Agree! No cooking …

D: Need to check location to/from airport. Is the place too remote? Walking distance to city centre? Places of interest?

X: Single room or twin sharing? Best to stay around city centre

AM: Twin or triple sharing? Do we need to rent a car?

X: I don’t think we need a car

AM (summarizing): Destination = Porto. Meals = No cooking. Transport = no rental of car. Accom = Hotel

D: Please book accomodation first before booking air tix

C (suddently sidetracking): My initial idea was to go and book into a spa in Germany!! We drive there in 2 cars, then save on flying cost and just spoil ourselves and baby Z in a spa

AO: I would love to be pampered!

C: No need to buy air tickets. Then go out eating in the Mosel area and have a great time

X: I’m easy …

C: Not sure about Germany as well …. Heard some good ones in Austria but that is too far

AO: Aiyah, me anything anywhere anytime OK

C : Are we back to Lisbon??

AO: No, I’m exploring German Spa hotels now …. cos I do love German food

C: I can drive and take 3 more persons. Driving there is approx 3 hours

AM: Please no Germany or Austria, please, please !!!!

C: Why not???

AO: Ok ok AM …. let’s find a spa hotel in Porto?

X: Ladies, are we going to Porto to stay in a spa?

AM: I do not necessarily need a spa hotel in Porto. Depending on the rest, I go with the flow

X: We go there for sightseeing so let’s get a decent hotel

AO: I definitely wanna go out sightseeing, eat local food, then go back spa a bit before sleep

D: Are you sure all of us want spa hotel? To be honest, I don’t like to be cooped up in the hotel. I want to walk and see places …

AM: We really need to come to a certain decision …

X: I’m with D

AM: I’m with D and X

AO: I think it’s safe to say we’ve settled on a destination

X: Let’s park the spa trip another time, ok?

D: Brilliant! (and suddenly no connection …)

AM: How many of us for Hotel? Apartment?

X: AM, D, are you into hotel or Air BNB?

AO: I’m still pinning on AirBNB because much cheaper and allows more camaraderie. With the savings, can splurge on food, shopping …

AM: Hotel and in the city, if possible. I’m not much of a spa person – does not work for me

X: OK

AO: Ok lets do hotel

C: Best hotel in the city …

AO: Yay! Let’s book

X: Lets wait for G and D. For D, it’s definitely no cooking, I know …

AO: Cooking is for future trips that are weeks long

C: I’m a light sleeper, so can’t share room

AO: Ooooh… are we all taking single rooms? I’m OK with sharing or single

AM: I guess it depends. If anyone wants to share rooms, can share, otherwise, she can also decide on a single room

AO (feeling excited): I’m just excited we agreed on a destination. LOL … And I’ve not been to Portugal, so extra chuffed

C: Yay!

D (back in the conversation): Just reading your messages. Catching up. So hotel, OK for me ..

X: We need to book the flights to enjoy the rate

AO: Yes, agree,must get flights asap

D: Once we have agreed on location and place, only then can we proceed to book the flight. But must be unanimous

X: How do we manage the flight booking? Book individually?

D: Not heard from G or O ..

G: Sorry ladies, my phone battery died last night when I was out so only saw messages now. Yeah, I’m fine with Porto. Twin sharing is fine with me. Think I can share with AM since she asked me. As for flights, best we book ourselves, no? Just send the appropriate itinerary to all and we book ourselves

X: I have the flight itinerary. SN Brussels

G: Email or in this whatsApp? So many messages, I will need to read through …

C: Email the definitive is best

G: So Fri to Sun, I’m OK with that

AO: Its only G who needs to get home before Monday is it? Would anyone mind if I stayed one extra night on my own (anyone is welcome to join me, of course). If I’m alone for extension, I can visit my friends in Faro

G: Anyone can stay as long as she wants. I can still come back on Sunday

AO: I understand that majority needs to work Monday. The non-workers are welcome to spend an extra day there with me, optional.

G: I prefer to come back earlier cos Thursday early morning we are leaving on an 11-day cruise. A lot of travelling…

AM: I do not mind coming back on Monday, too

AO: Great AM, we stay an extra day, k?

X: O, are you joining?

O (just got a new job and busy with her work, just joined in the conversation): Read through all the messages… Yes, joining! Sorry, can’t chat long. Need to work.  I go with the flow …

X: Are you going to take with you hand baggage or check in?

AO: One small luggage

X: Please note tickets are non-changeable and non-refundable

D: Hand baggage. Check and go. I’m doing that. Faster.

C: Me, too. Pack light …

D: Wear something warm on and carry light. October will be quite cool

C: Agree with D

AO (the first to book): Wow, me plus baby only Eur xxx total. Cheap cheap cheap! Booked and paid…

AM: Air tix and hotel booked! Yay … our tour begins…

D: Did we all book flying the same hour?

X, C, G, AO: Yup!

AM: Thanks to X who had us speeding up with our booking

AO (sidetracking again …): I’m going to get dining tips! I want that portuguese egg tart …pasteis de nata!!! Seafood!

G: Re the rooms, we have 2 twin sharings and one triple. Since I will be sharing with AM, my guess is that D, X and C will take the triple, right? The extra nights, those who will stay behind can bunk in together. Then rooms issue settled

AM: I have 3 sizes hand carry luggages at home, all Samsonites. Which is the standard size??

D: Check Brussels Airlines website. Allowable carry-on baggage Check&Go is 1 piece, max dimensions 55x40x23 cm with max total weight of 12kg. Note Size and weight apply hand in hand. If size is OK but weighs a ton, you cannot hand carry

X: AM, check the dimensions of your baggage. We are taking the Airbus, so it should not be an issue if you sticked to the dimensions as per D‘s guidelines. I do face issues at times when on biz trips, where they put your luggage away because of the size of the plane but it’s rare..

AM: Thanks X, so far I got checked before because my carry on looked bulky but it fitted to their measurement basket.

D: Again, suggest you carry light and wear warm clothings on with good walking pair of shoes. That should solve the carry & go baggage dilemma. Read its cold in Porto even in the Summer esp at night !!

All Settled and Ready to Go?

Phew!!! The double X-chromosomes managed to agree in record time … in one evening’s conversation!! One summer photo snowballed the effect with X speeding things up. Thanks, X! Note, there was no face-to-face communication, but only text conversation via WhatsApp. Thanks to cyberspace and 7 thinking heads ‘brainstormed’ by a Marketing & Sales Manager, a Communications Manager, a Lawyer, a Business Finance Controller, a former Nurse, a Food & Beverage Expert and a former Flight Stewardess cum Restaurant Manager. We were such diversed personalities, and strong-headed, too, that we even managed to come to a decision, was utterly amazing!

Oh by the way, did you manage to count the number of cities and locations in our conversation?

In case you lost count, at least 13 destinations were hinted at! Corsica, Lisbon, Pisa, Porto, Verona, Bologna, Naples, Edinburgh, Mosel, Nice, spa in Germany, Ireland, Austria… It was a LOOOOONNG list. But Porto was the winner!

Meanwhile, my son and his 6 buddies returned home from their trip from the Balkan Peninsula plus Budapest on 20th September before the new University Semester started. Their 2 weeks hols saw their friendship grew even more. The group was made up of the following students: 2 Civil Engineering and 1 Business Engineering students, 1 Sports Science student, 1 Business Management student, 1 student of Architect and 1 IT student.


Now, how will 7 girls and a baby fare after the weekend trip of 2N and 3D in Porto?

We shall see…

Stay tuned *wink*

Porto, here we come!

 
While waiting for the next part, please hop over to this post: When 7 girls decided to meet …

Cheers!

 

Yes I know, the Summer Holidays are over. Hubby and I came back to earth ~ abruptly ~ to work; as for the boys, it’s the start of their new school term, one of them at least (the younger one).

Geez… Time flies!

Anyway, I’d like to relive that holiday mode in this post. After all, it’s a continuation of the last few days of our recent Summer hols.

<< Flashback…

17th August. Three more nights in the Provence and back to reality. Yikes

Nope! I tried to shake my head off the reality because I was very much in my holiday mode.

However, with almost back to back activities we had had the past days, we tried to have a more relaxing time at our holiday home. Since we arrived at Lagarde-Paréol, almost 2 weeks earlier, we had not got the chance to explore the surrounding. So near and yet so far …

By the way, 17th August was declared a slow and lazy day. While hubby was e-reading a book on his iPad and my older son was watching a film on dvd on his laptop, I turned to my younger son and said, “Let’s go for a walk and explore our neighbourhood, you and I”

I was lucky my younger son was game with the decision as he had intended to make a video of our summer hols. Any new photos would be great material for an amateur video.

Lagarde-Paréol

Lagarde-Paréol is a tiny village with a population of ca 300. The nearest biggest city, Orange, is 12 km away where most of the inhabitants commute to work there. 

If you’re looking for a shopping holiday near where you live, then forget Lagarde-Paréol. There are not many shops nearby and there are very few organised events. In other words, it’s a rather laid back location. But we loved it there. The peacefulness, tranquility and serenity… and lots of fresh air, away from the maddening crowd!

The place is rich in flora. I loved the smell of nature and the colours.

It was so still and quiet that my son just lay down on the deserted narrow street (can you spot him?). I wasn’t panicked at all because cars passing by were really sporadic.

There are a few winegrowers in the area and they bring a bit of life to this little village. 

The wine grapes are deep purple in colour, very heavy and dense to the touch. Although I was tempted to pop a grape in my mouth, I shrugged the thought off. 

In hindsight, I should have tried at least one grape. Now I haven’t the notion of how wine grapes taste like versus table grapes 😛


My son and I walked for more than 2 hours and we suddenly felt peckish. By the time we got back, it was 5.30 pm. I realised we did not have any proper meal that day. We only had brunch at 12’ish.

There was nothing much left in the fridge or the pantry, so we decided to have dinner in the nearest bigger town.

Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes

We left the house at 6.30 pm and drove 5 km to Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes. It’s the nearest ‘biggest’ town from Lagarde-Paréol. The village has a spectacular view of Le Mont Ventoux as backdrop. 

It’s amazingly quiet in the early evening on a weekday. Looking for a restaurant was like looking for a needle in a haystack. We found two restaurants, but they were closed and there were 2 pubs opened, however, they did not serve decent meals.  So we walked on, hoping to find that ‘needle’…

And then … Eureka

It was NOT a restaurant, but a little pizza stand, adjoining a private residence. Interesting!  

We immediately walked in the patio or terrace area and found enough chairs and tables for us to dine on.

And dined we did! It was one of the best pizzas I have tasted. Why? Because it was home- and hand-made, from the dough to the toppings.  

And you know what? There was no cutlery! So we became complete philistines and ate our pizzas with our fingers. So what?!

They were seriously supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

Suddenly, Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes came to life. We heard ceaseless mobile phone calls and orders kept rolling in. People came by and picked their orders. 

And here’s the one-man show chef who made it possible. 

A simple smile creates its own message without words, but action with superb execution. 


Happy mid-Week!

Cheers!