travel | rovinj

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Our destination on Friday after stopping in Buje, was the beautiful Istrian coastal town of Rovinj. I can’t believe it has taken us so long to go because it is absolutely gorgeous. Helped of course by the spring sunshine and some good company.

The city is lovely to wander around along it’s cobbled streets (which are warn smooth and actually rather slippy – I wouldn’t want to be dealing with them in the rain). There are plenty of art galleries and shops with things marketed at the tourists, ranging from standard tatt to things with a bit more quality. There are also a few vintage shops which I browsed around in longingly. I was tempted to pick up a beach basket but avoided the urge and just got some postcards instead.

For lunch we headed away from the touristy restaurants along the harbour and into the alleys on the hill. We found the perfect spot in a little courtyard where the sun was shining, Restoran Santa Croce. Highly recommended if you find yourself in this part of the woods. There weren’t any other diners, but we arrived for a late lunch. Despite holding the staff up, they were very friendly and helpful and changed dishes to make them vegetarian friendly.

I look forward to heading back in the summer maybe and lounging in the sea, enjoying a drink on one of the bars that are situated on a rocky seaside area. Dreamy!

on a hill in croatia

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Somewhere in Croatia there is a little hill town village which is the perfect place to stop on your road trip for a quick coffee.

Here there are women who talk to the people they know who pass under their windows, there are picturesque church yards which have tomb-stones that honour donne forti (strong women) and locked church doors that you can peak through the keyhole and see a beautiful pieta.

If you find yourself in Istria you might want to stop in Buje. It is a nice diversion.

an unplanned kind of surrealist photo

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I took this photo yesterday while in Rovinj, Croatia. It seemed to me to be almost surrealist, like a Dali painting. The cloud makes it but the repetition of the stairs, the separation from the background, the lines, the colours.

What do you think?

Also I think I may be getting my photo mojo back. It just requires getting out and taking some pictures in a beautiful place with the sun shining, sometimes.

budapest | thoughts and things

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I think it is best for me to travel to places of which I have no expectations. Although I enjoyed Budapest, I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. Everyone I know who has been raves about it and I think that built up some unfairly high expectations.

That said I did enjoy the city. I feel the car is given a bit too much priority (for example while walking along the Danube you are sandwiched between the river and busy traffic). However, I did enjoy the contrasts of the city and found it has a vibrancy, creativity and energy that I have found and enjoyed in other prominent cities that I have travelled to in former communist area (admittedly not a very large list but I feel three is enough to make a comparison).

Budapest has gorgeous old buildings, mixed with some hideous retro establishments as well as some interesting modern architecture. You can find local cuisine as well as a variety of international foods (which I was pretty stoked about as my part of Italy does not particularly embrace foreign food). I didn’t really try any local dishes (sadly been vegetarian local cuisines can often be on the meaty side) but we didn’t lack for a variety of food options although we did end up having hummus and falafel every day (there are also a great selection of soup stores and more for the vegetarian visitor). We also made an out of the way trip to a smoothie bar which was really good, although I found a visit to a well regarded ‘modern’ cake shop disappointing.

Also coffee is definitely on the rise here. And there are coffee shops on every corner, from the well established coffee houses (which reminded me of those in Trieste) full of glamour and old world charm to the more hipster hang outs with speciality coffees and cool interiors.

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I really enjoyed the interior of Kiosk which seems to be in an old theatre on the river. And really any place which has The Gentlewoman on the table as reading material is my kind of place.

Unfortunately, Tim and I aren’t … something … enough and we didn’t visit any of the famous ruin bars. Oops.

However, for breakfast for three days in a row we had the most amazing pastry from a French (style?) bakery. A pistachio pain au chocolat. Out of this world!

Also as mentioned the design is quite up my line and I did do a little bit of shopping (literally a necklace but I could have bought a whole bunch more). One of my favourite was Mono where I bought my necklace.

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We didn’t do too many museums and such this trip although we did visit Memento Park, a private open air museum out of town which houses a collection of communist statues. They were really interesting but I think the experience of catching a tram to a giant but not very busy transport terminal and then waiting in what I can only describe as a sort of abandoned and uglier Croydon (sorry Croydon lovers) for a bus that then took us through a rather bleak landscape to the museum was a rather more impactful one.

We also visited the largest synagogue in Europe and went on a mini-tour. I hadn’t realised quite how badly Budapest was impacted by the holocaust (approximately 10% of those killed in the holocaust were Hungarian) and it was a sobering reminder. The synagogue had been at the centre of Jewish life for the city for over a hundred years and was luckily preserved during the war.

And we went on a riverboat cruise which was kind of cheesy as we got a hideous glass of ‘champagne’ but still enjoyable.

So there is a random rambling of thoughts from Budapest. Have you been? What did you think?

rome | tips on eating healthy

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Italy, the land of gelato and carbs. However, because I now live in the country, I don’t necessarily feel the need to indulge in the carb fest that I might have previously ensued on when visiting Rome.  So when I was there a few weeks back I was on the hunt for some slightly more balanced meals. Not that I am saying you shouldn’t eat pasta galore when you visit the eternal city! No, by all means indulge! But if you get to day three of the carbo-loading and want some lighter suggestions here you go!

I don’t know if it was because I was just because I was looking but I feel like the city is definitely expanding on its choice of lighter and healthier eating places. I didn’t get to try them all but there is always next time.

Markets and Grocers

First and foremost visit the markets. Fresh and cheap produce and an insight into how Italians actually eat. Pick up a few bits to snack on through the day rather than getting ‘hangry’ and eating a whole pizza. Warning though: don’t touch the produce. Ask or point to what you want.

Ciao Ceccho

This is a slow food restaurant; a concept I hadn’t heard applied to a restaurant but I thought was intriguing. All of the dishes are Italian. focussed on regional dishes with quality dishes. I had ravioli with a wild greens stuffing and a gorgonzola sauce. Now that might sound less than healthy but I think the difference here was the serving size was actually just right. A smallish dish but satisfying. Tim had a traditional chickpea dish which had a broth and was very tasty and incredibly filling.

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A healthy ‘fast food’ type place with a few seats and a range of smoothies, salads, soups, quiches, sandwiches etc.  We just had a light bite and it was pretty tasty if a little bit pricier than a take away pizza slice. Great to stock up before the train although the vegetarian sandwich options were a bit limited.

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Of course eating all the healthy food means I did get to have a calorific but delicious traditional Roman Jewish treat for breakfast one morning! Head to the Jewish quarter, find the place with the queue (I don’t even know the name but it is on Vicolo della Serpe, oppose the Kosher Bistro Caffe which did some lovely falafel and salads) and ask for the ricotta and cherry pastry. We headed there early in the morning and avoided the queue.

practising | packing light

packing light

Before heading off for our week holiday, Tim and I purchased some new ‘cabin size’ friendly bags. We have a few Ryanair flights this year but also thought it would also be easier for our trip to Japan to pack as light as possible as we aren’t keen to travel across the country with 23kgs of bulk.

Having bought the bag I got a bit nervous (it is so small!) but thought I would share a few tips of what I have already learnt from my first packing. Luckily for Japan it will be summer but we are away for two weeks. Obviously, last week we were still in winter so it was bulkier and I packed my laptop (which I don’t plan to take to Japan) so I think I might be alright.

Clothes

  • I mostly packed along the principles of the Konmari folding method that I have used in my cupboard after reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. All my clothes were folded in this method and I was able to layout items so I could see everything that I was taking in one look. Tim said it looked like a bento box. This made it really easy to pack and, more importantly, while we were away I was able to put items neatly back in my bag so the airbnb didn’t look like something had exploded.
  • Puffer jacket. I finally succumbed to an Italian sartorial classic and bought a puffer jacket. I bought one that fits under my other jacket so I could layer up well. Mostly I had great fears that I would be cold in Budapest (although it wasn’t). But it is so light, like it won’t even show anything if I put it on a scale. And you can ball it up really small when not wearing it and it doesn’t come out looking like it has been crushed. Not only is it great for layering in winter but I figure it will also be good for travelling and while in Japan if there is a cooler evening in the summer.
  • If you can manage and feel comfortable wearing them go for bras without underwire (you get some cute tshirt bras). They can fold up much smaller and are actually super comfortable for long flights, and actually just generally more comfortable (why have I subjected myself to underwire for all these years?).

Toiletries and such

  • I have been streamlining my skincare routine so all I brought with me was a mini tub of coconut oil, a muslin face cloth and a small bottle of tonic.
  • In the makeup department I like multi-use items and none of them require brushes. Next time around I might even take fewer items.
  • Pack a small bottle of washing liquid. This is useful if you are spending more then 2 nights somewhere so you can wash socks and underwear and don’t have to try and squeeze in 14 pairs of everything.

Gadgets

  • Chargers and masses of plugs are always an issue. First decide do you really really need something? Like I won’t be taking my laptop to Japan. Then I’ve discovered that one charger can do it all and you normally just need two cords (one for my mobile and one for my tablet/kindle/re-chargable battery). For my camera I know that the battery life is rather long so I just fully charge two batteries and don’t need to bring the charger, It obviously depends how long your trip is on whether this is an option.
  • Kindles. You can have all the books and none of the weight.

Next, I would really like to buy a lighter weight ‘personal’ camera for when I am not doing ‘work’ related things and am only using photos for my own enjoyment and for sharing on the blog (in which case they don’t have to be that high a quality. Any tips on good mirrorless cameras? I’ve been eyeing out the Fujifilm X100T but it is rather steep on the budget and I don’t like that you can’t change the lens. I am looking for a camera that I can still use a viewfinder, is fully manual, has a good quality lens option which means I don’t need to buy a kit lens, is light and compact. I wish I could try them all out.

On a side note: be aware that even if you are flying with Ryanair there is no guarantee that your bag will be allowed with you as cabin luggage as there is a guarantee that only the first 90 bags are allowed. So on our way back from Budapest our bags were checked into the hold from the runway. A combination of early morning and not being prepared meant that one of our bags didn’t have a lock and something was actually taken from our bags in transit. I now kind of liken flying Ryanair to a bad relationship which you keep going back to!

Anyway, I would love to know if you have any magical packing tips for future trips?