Posted in Food and Drink on August 24th, 2008 by Bec

Just to add a bit of exotica for the weekend, for dinner tonight we made quite a lot of Sushi!  I am lucky sometimes and manage to talk Mike into making sushi (and believe me sometimes it’s a struggle to get him to agree).  We used to make it quite a lot but lately we seemed to have not been bothered.  We made it a while ago and it was pretty much a disaster, in fact, I would go as far to say it was our worst sushi ever!

But tonight’s was definitely an improvement on the last. Nowhere near our best, but we just need to remember how to get the rice right.  Next time maybe!


The last long weekend…

Posted in Food and Drink, Rants And Rambles on August 24th, 2008 by Coffee

Yup, that’s right. It’s the last long weekend of the year here.  No respite from work until Christmas after this.

So how did we spend it?  We’ve really made the most of it so far!

First highlight: Another puzzle!


But somehow we managed to lose 2 pieces, or they were never there to begin with.  Not sure which is the most likely.  But it did mean we filled in a few more minutes searching the house for them.  Not to be found, unfortunately.

And then, for added excitement, we made some chutney! Some courgette chutney, to be precise.  Getting in practice to use up all the extra vegetables that we’ll no doubt have when we finally get a vege garden and go mad planting stuff.  Can’t tell you how it tastes yet.  It needs to brew for a few weeks in the fridge first.  I’ll try to remember to give you an update when we try it.  It’s nice to have something to look forward to, isn’t it?!


There’s still tomorrow left though.  Who knows what exciting things that will hold!

Summer Holidays…

Posted in Travel on August 17th, 2008 by Coffee

[Note: Images in this report should be clicky for bigger versions….]

With not much sun in London this year, I am glad we headed away to catch some sun in Slovenia and Croatia.  And it was a backpacking holiday – no hotels for accommodation snob Bec, how would she fare?!

The holiday didn’t start in the best way though.  Sitting on a plane at some remote part of the taxiway for 45 minutes while they waited to get clearance to leave, but eventually we were on our way.

Arriving in Ljubljana was a bit of a laugh though. Pulling up at the airbridge we had to walk down it, then up and  down some stairs, then onto a bus to take us to the entrance to the airport proper.  Nothing new there really.  Pretty standard for some airports here. BUT. The bus drove 10 meters to drop us off.  If they’d opened the door on the other side of the plane and dropped the stairs we would have been able to walk straight in the door anyway!  Just weird.


We had a couple of nights in Ljubljana. We spent most of our time walking around the lovely city, taking in the local sites and tasting the local delicacies.  And having the first holiday beer.  It always tastes the best! We even motivated ourselves to clamber up the steep hill to the castle.  Glad we did that early-ish in the morning, as it was pretty warm the whole time we were there.  Even in the morning we were sweating and having to take breaks hauling ourselves up there. Was a really nice city to wander around.  Pretty quiet and relaxed, with nice river-front walks.  Still a bit run down, but a lot of work seems to be going on to spruce some more of it up.


On the Friday morning we headed away on a train to Zagreb, Croatia, to meet up with Vond and Chazz and to start our tour of Croatia.  Ironically we had left London for sun, and all it did on this Friday was pour down all the way to catch the train, and all the time we were on the train to Zagreb. And when we got there. And while we were sorting out somewhere to stay, at the very, very helpful information centre. And whilst we sat in a cafe waiting till we were to met up with the others, and when they arrived. But luckily we had our first taste of burek (a great little spinach and cheese pastry). And the rain finally stopped just when Vond and Chazz arrived.

Dropped our bags off at the pension we’d organised earlier, and went and had a wander around town. We were lucky to be able to take in some of an international folk dancing competition that we stumbled across in a town square. Very entertaining and great to watch even though we had no real idea what was going on.  I’m sure that the cakes that were carried around on the older women’s heads have some great significance, but I have no idea what! I just couldn’t imagine getting kids in NZ, let alone London interested in participating in this sort of thing.  We finished our time off by walking around the old town (we were soon to find out that all places in Croatia have lovely old towns).


Now the travel adventure really starts…..

We got up early to head to the bus station to catch an early bus to Pula, only to arrive and find that that bus was all full, and the next one was a little while away.  So we had a genius (truely) idea to catch the train instead.  After a really comfortable train ride taking in the scenery we arrived at the end of the train journey to then catch a bus to another town through a huge road tunnel (over 5kms long) to catch another train to our final destination.  Only to finally work out whilst we were waiting for the 2.30pm bus that that bus did not run on Saturdays (our Croatian was not the best).  But there was one a little later on and eventually we made it to Pula around tea time.

Now to find somewhere to stay at this time of night on a Sunday.  One of the local accommodation places wanted to charge the earth for an apartment for the 4 of us, so we told her we would have a think and come back.  Luckily after we walked down the road 5m we were approached by our first little old (well, old-ish)  lady asking if we wanted to come and stay with her.  [This is pretty usual in Croatia, which we knew before we left.  It just seems to be the way things work there for holiday accommodation.] Well we took our chances, piled into her little car with all our baggage and off we drove.  The place was a little out of town, though still easily walkable to the centre, but it was clean and she was absolutely lovely.  She even walked us to a very local restaurant where we had some great food – one of those places you just would not be able to find on your own!


The next day was a pearler, the sun was out and we took in the sites of the old town and the amphitheatre – which has to be one of the site highlights of the holiday.  Basically its a mini Colosseum, but by mini I think it is still the third largest in the world.  The free (with your ticket) audio guide thingees were quite fun too.  I think we spend most of the time trying to duck between bits of shade.  It was really hot wandering around, especially when you aren’t used to 35 degree heat!

Managed to get enough supplies to cook at home, including some really hideous wine from a petrol station.  We weren’t expecting much of it, and we weren’t disappointed.

It was a great little town to start the main trip in though.


Next day saw us get up early to catch a ferry to Zadar (great thing was our host got up just as early and had laid out tea, coffee and biscuits for our early morning breakfast before she dropped us off at the boat! Result!) Once we reached Zadar we then had to get a bus to a place called Sibenik – closest town to the Krka national park that we decided to visit.  None of us knew quite what to expect from Sibenik as the guide book we were relying on didn’t really sing its praises.  As it works out the book doesn’t really do it justice.  It was a great old town, with steep winding cobble streets, and the food in the restaurant, Bramosole, we found was fantastic – another found with a bit of local knowledge, from a guy in a shoeshop. We ate here twice! It was here that we discovered what we called ‘Donkey Wine’ (it was a litre bottle of red wine with a picture of a donkey on the front. And a beer bottle top instead of a cork.)  This was the start of many more bottles of Donkey to be drunk on this holiday – it was really, really, cheap and tasted a bit like a pinot noir.


Krka National Park was a short bus ride from Sibenik, then a bit of a boat ride up the river to the main part of the park, and we spent the day walking around the park (luckily it wasn’t a really hot day).   The park had great waterfalls and walking paths, and some old working mills that were pretty cool to have a look at. But we were glad we got there early, as when we came back out of the track to the main entrance it seemed like half of Croatia had come to see the falls.


The next day saw us get on another bus to Split, as we were planning to head out to one of the islands.  We basically just spent the night in Split wandering around the old town before catching the ferry to Hvar the following morning.


Straight off the ferry and a tirade of people waiting to rent their rooms to you.  We chose one of the newer ones from this guy. The pics looked nice so we toddled off after him. The apartment itself was pretty nice and new, with a great view of the sea front.  What amazed me about Hvar and pretty much every Croatian port is the posers on their huge yachts (yes, I too would love one) who had docked for the night, it was kinda like watching “my boats flashier than yours” – but their were some lovely boats and you could tell there was a lot of money flying around.  Anyway, 3 nights in Hvar saw us lounge around for a bit, do a day trip to Starigrad, take a walk around the peninsula and try and relax.

The day trip to Starigrad was OK.  It was a really quiet relaxed town after Hvar, but I think at this stage we were all just a bit sick of travelling, walking, and staring at stuff, so we all seemed a bit flat. And we were all feeling the heat a bit too. It was really pretty though.

We managed to find another great restaurant an Hvar too, just off the main waterfront – Marinero.  Great food, and quite cheap, with great staff.  Highly recommend it. We ended up eating there twice (and cooking ourselves for the rest of the time).

Probably the most disappointing part of the whole holiday was the place we stayed at. Although it was new and nice the guy who owned it was a real arse, hanging on to our passports for too long – we had to get quite shitty to get them back, and trying to tell us we had to pay extra tourist tax on the second day after we had already settled the bill (which we didn’t end up paying), and then when we left checking to see that toilet flushed, the door was OK and counting the kitchen equipment (of which there was pretty much none) and towels before we left!  I guess he has been jibbed before but I have to ask myself with an attitude like that, then go figure!  It could have been a great place to stay, but left us with a slightly bad taste in our mouths. We won’t be recommending staying there to anyone (I even subtly shook my head at some people who the owner was trying hard to convince to stay as we were off on a walk – I don’t think they stayed in the end).


After a really long day travelling (early morning ferry from Hvar and then about a 5 hour bus ride – which included 2 border checks as we had to pass though the small piece of coast that Bosnia and Hertzenagova were awarded after the war), we arrived in our final destination Dubrovnik at about 6pm on a Sunday, only to find that all the accommodation places had shut at 2pm. Ooopps, this was going to be hard work as everyone was tired and at this stage felling a little lost and homeless!  But eventually we found someone on the street offering rooms, so we followed them home to check it out.  It was probably one of the more dire places we had stayed in but we said we would take it for one night.  This meant Bec and I pretty much slept in the kitchen, and the bathroom was, well shall we say just a toilet with a shower over it.  It was pricey for what it was, but the lady was very nice. There was just no way Bec and Vond would be able to put up with that bathroom for another 3 nights (but Chazz might’ve been able to).


So Bec and I set off for a walk early in the morning. It was worth the slightly early morning start to go to one of the tourist information and accommodation places to find somewhere else to stay.  And what a find, they found us a great place to stay about 5 mins walk from the old town, had a swimming spot outside our courtyard door, a little garden in the courtyard to take some time out and read a book or two, and the apartment itself was great too.  3 nights there seemed a prefect end to the holiday.


Dubrovnik was great. I think we all enjoyed it.  It is a really pretty place to stay and quite relaxing for being such a touristy place.  The town has a lot of history, not just its old cobbled streets but also the fact that you can see the remnants of the war they have just come out of.  The food was on the whole a big disappointment though. Pretty standard and over priced because we ate in touristville (if you had gone out of the centre of town I bet there were some great eating places).  But it did mean we cooked for ourselves again.  We were getting pretty good at pasta dishes by this stage, and we had our bottles of Donkey to wash it down with. We did a bit of swimming, lounged around in our courtyard, and of course walked around the top of the walls – a 2km trip and 200m high in places.  It was hot even doing this at 6pm at night when the heat of the day had pretty much gone. Very hot!

On one of the days there we also took an hour boat trip down to another little town – Cavtat.  Pretty little town to have look at. And far less people around than Dubrovnik. Nice for a bit of a change for a couple of hours, then a (shorter) boat ride back.

Then finally we had to get back on planes to head back to our respective homes. Bugger! But at least we had the short trip back!

In summary, Croatia is a great place to visit. The people were lovely and mainly went out of their way to help you, the food was nice when you weren’t eating in touristville, and, the little burek snacks were fantastic, the ‘donkey wine’ was a great find, the beers were cheap (about 45p if you bought them in the supermarket)  and the sites we took in were great. The games of 500 at night time were entertaining and travelling with other people was great too, (generally we travel by ourselves so it was nice to have some company for a change) – thanks Vond and Chazz.

If you’re planning to go, a couple more hints: Check the times and days of ferries to the islands before you go.  They don’t go every day, and sometimes only twice a week on some routes. While you can sometimes pay by credit card for food and accommodation,  mostly it’s still cash only. Oh, and don’t expect sandy beaches. It’s pretty much all rocks or pebbles.  Most of the public spots reminded me of seal colonies with people finding whatever little bit of flat rock to lie on.

Mmmmmmmm! Burgers!

Posted in Food and Drink on August 17th, 2008 by Coffee

More short filler news while we get around to finishing our holiday blog entry.  Yes, we are working on it! We’re up to documenting about day 3 so far… Only another 10 or so to go!

But in the meantime…

We’ve been making lots of burgers for weekend lunches and/or dinners lately, and loving them.  Gives me a chance to fill myself up on some meat for a change, while Bec has turkey mince patties instead.  We’re getting pretty good at making them just how we want them now.

This weekend we had a bit of a disaster though.  We were too lazy to change our grocery order to include some of the big baps that we like as buns (as you can make really big patties and burgers with them!).  Oh no! A weekend without burgers?!  Nah. Breadmaker to the rescue!  I thought Megan might be slightly impressed with the results, so here they are.


No pictures of the burgers though.  Once they’re done, they just disappear!

New Zealand News

Posted in Rants And Rambles on August 7th, 2008 by Coffee

Just while you’re still waiting for us to get around to writing about our holiday…

We often joke that New Zealand national news is all about cats up trees. Well, here’s something even better!

Light-pawed Tigger wreaks havoc with the laundry – 02 Aug 2008 – Christchurch and Canterbury News, Sport and Weather from NZ Herald

And Bec thought her cat was a bit odd collecting pegs!