Europe Trip 2015: Gag Awards!

At last, here it is, the first of what will no doubt be many blog posts inspired by our recent trip to Europe 😉 .

We visited Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain

Chilly weather at Stonehenge – just right for snuggling up to my honey hubster!

For the uninitiated, the hubster and I have just marked our 25th wedding anniversary and to celebrate, we booked a two week cruise of the Mediterranean, plus a few days in Venice, Pisa, London and Singapore. It was our first trip to Europe.

Let’s start with the food shall we?!

Europe Trip 2015: Food

Best Cappuccino: Not surprisingly, the award goes to Italy in general; and Venice in particular. Although they did kinda smirk at my request for a decaf. Humph. Just because I wanted to sleep that night!

Cappuccino in Venice

Cappuccino in Venice, watching the world go by

Best Pizza: Venice, Italy, with the cruise ship a close second. Aussie takeaway is ruined for me forever …

Margarita pizza in Venice, Italy

Pretty excited about my Margarita pizza, though I couldn’t eat it all!

Best Gelato: Venice – so many flavours, so little time.

Worst Pasta: Pisa, Italy. We must have picked a dud restaurant because we both thought that our mains weren’t any better than frozen meals.

Disappointing pasta at a restaurant in Pisa, Italy

The look on my face says it all, LOL …

Best Cheese Board: Marseilles, France. At a busy harbour front cafe, we found not only the most wonderful cheese board, but also the loveliest waiter. Garçon!

La Samaritaine Cafe in Marseilles, France

I can personally recommend this cafe in Marseille :-)

Worst Cup of Tea: On the cruise ship. I love a strong, sweet, milky cup of tea; dirty dishwater just doesn’t do it for me. I’d never seen the brand before that the cruise ship used, but it didn’t take me long to work out that THREE teabags were required to make a cuppa that was passable.

Best Devonshire Tea: Kensington Palace. Sadly, Kate and Wills were at their country estate, cocooning with their new daughter, but we did enjoy a lovely devonshire tea (or what the English call a “cream tea”) at their London abode.

Cream tea at Kensington Palace

Cream tea at Kensington Palace

Favourite New Food: I’m a cereal girl from way back, as my best friend revealed when she posted here recently, so this might come as a bit of a surprise. Cereal was almost impossible to find in Singapore, like searching for a needle noodle in a haystack, so I braved a traditional Singaporean breakfast – kaya toast – brown bread, toasted and with the crusts cut off, and spread with a delicious coconut jam. And I was converted! Just need to find a stockist here in  Brisbane now.

The recommended way to eat it is by dipping into a dish of soft boiled eggs mixed with soy sauce – THAT part I wasn’t so fond of …

Kaya Toast, traditional Singaporean breakfast

Not looking too sure about this kaya toast … but it was really yummy!

Accommodation

Best Accommodation: Being cheapskates budget-minded, we didn’t book the most luxurious of accommodation along the way – but let’s face it, we were out and about most of the time so all we really needed was somewhere to crash at night. All of the places we stayed had very comfy beds although they might have been not exactly 5 star; and most were full of character. I loved our quaint little hotel in Venice even if our room was fairly spartan (no TV, mini bar, or coffee or tea making facilities).

Hotel dalla Amora in Venice

The terracotta building behind me was our hotel in Venice

So my vote for best accommodation goes to the balcony cabin we upgraded to on the second week of our Mediterranean cruise :-) .

Balcony cabin on MSC Lirica

Breakfast on our balcony, overlooking the Mediterranean. This is the life!

Worst Shower: At the same time, the worst shower award also goes to … the cruise ship! Imagine the smallest square shower cubicle you’ve ever been in, then cut it in half diagonally. The result is a shower space  so tiny, that with every move the cold shower curtain clings to your bare bottom, and it is a struggle to even get your hands up to your head to wash your hair!

Best Shower: Our hotel in Singapore had a lovely gleaming new bathroom, with a roomy double shower with the option of a rainwater style or hand held shower.

bathroom at Summer View Hotel Singapore

How hard is it to capture a bathroom in just one photo?!

Sight Seeing

Favourite Sights/Attractions: Too many to mention! But highlights definitely included Venice, Santorini, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Stonehenge, Madame Tussaud’s, the Tower of London, and London itself.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

One of my favourites – the Leaning Tower of Pisa – even more incredible in real life

Most Repetitive Sights: Churches and cathedrals. Maybe I’m a philistine, but seen one, seen ’em all … and steps. Hundreds of thousands of steps, everywhere we went. I don’t care if I never see another step again. Thank goodness we live in a lowset house!

Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseilles, France

Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseilles – a church on top of a hill with lots of steps – imagine how thrilled I was!

Biggest Queue: One of the joys of being a tourist (not) is the queues. Tie for biggest queue award goes to Heathrow customs (standing in line for an hour), and the line to see the inside of the basilica (another church!) in Piazza San Marco, Venice. Needless to say we did NOT join it (given our love of churches) …

Queues in Piazza San Marco, Venice

Ain’t no way I was joining that queue …

Best Public Transport: Anywhere but Brisbane … special mentions to London and Singapore where we availed ourselves of the bus and tube services.

London Buses at Trafalgar Square

We became old hands at catching London transport, thanks to the City Mapper app :-)

Most Posh Cars: London, hands down. Especially Mayfair and Belgravia. Aston Martin, BMW, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Rolls Royce, Porsche, Ferrari, Bentley, plus others I’d never even heard of before – but had the hubster grabbing for his camera!

Diamante covered Mercedes in London

Not sure if you can see but this Mercedes is covered in diamantes … and check out the number plate!

Weirdest Weather: London. We experienced sunshine and mild temperatures, rain and showers, chilly winds, storms and even hail – and almost all of them in the same day!

Storm clouds over Tower of London

About 10 minutes after I took this pic of the Tower of London, it started to hail!

Hardest Thing to Get Used To: Being late spring in the northern hemisphere, it didn’t get dark til about 9.30 or 10pm – we often didn’t have dinner until quite late (and don’t forget we come from Queensland, practically the only non-daylight saving state in Australia …). Mind you, it *did* allow extra time for sight seeing :-) .

Sunshine and blue seas at Santorini, Greece

We spent our actual wedding anniversary on the gorgeous Greek island of Santorini!

Have you ever been to any of these places, or do you dream of going one day? It only took me 48 years to get to Europe so there’s hope for you yet!

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

4 Great Reasons to Shop Local

NB This is a sponsored post.

One thing we tried to do on our recent travels, was to buy souvenirs and gifts made in the actual country we were visiting.

It’s not as easy as it sounds! But among our purchases we did manage to do our bit to support local economies – bits and pieces for our home by local artists; a cute beach coverup in Italy; and the sweatshirt I bought in Santorini, was indeed made in Greece.

Santorini sweatshirt made in Greece

Santorini Sweatshirt made in Greece

We brought home confectionery gifts, and the hubster made a point of sampling the local beverages LOL …

Cheers! Croatian beer for the hubster

Cheers!

Perhaps some may wonder why we would even bother to try to “buy local”. Supporting local products helps boost local industry and benefits local workers. When at home in Australia, there are many reasons to choose Aussie products where possible …

1. Creation of Jobs

We all need jobs! As the demand for Australian-made products increases, the number of jobs available to produce or facilitate the production of these products will also increase. You might not think that picking up that Australian-made plate or cup will help much, but if every Australian spends $10 more a week on buying local, this could potentially lead to the creation of thousands of extra jobs throughout the country.

2. Profits stay in Australia

A staggering amount of fresh produce, as well as products on supermarket shelves, are imported from other countries – in some cases this number can be as high as 80 to 85%. Compare this to Japan, where about 98% of the supermarkets are filled with Japanese products! Buying Australian-made products means that profits stay in the country, ensuring that these businesses can continue to grow and be a useful part of the Australian economy.

Local produce of Croatia

We tried out the local produce wherever we went

3. Quality

It’s true, Australian products can cost more; however, it is important to note that products from Australia, are known around the world for their quality. The materials used in Australian products are usually of the highest caliber, and undergo a significant amount of quality control. There are also some products that have been an integral part of the national culture for a long time, and so Australians have become quite skilled in these areas. For example, if you are interested in wool quilts, Australian specialists such as those at MiniJumbuk can help you find the best fit and quality for you.

4. Safety

Just as Aussie products have a reputation for quality, they are also rated highly in terms of safety. The safety standards implemented in Australia are among the highest in the world, so you can rest assured knowing that you will be receiving the best product possible.

So, these are some of the main benefits of shopping local and buying our own home-grown Aussie products. Luckily, many Australian products have the green and gold kangaroo sticker on them, which makes it easier to identify them (especially for people like me struggling to see without their reading glasses)!

What was the last Aussie product you bought?!

Shelf Style: Yours Truly…

I was the first cab off the rack back in February, sharing my own shelf style post of the iconic Ikea shelves in our dining room area.

However that was only half – or actually a third – of the story!

Fact is, we have three sets. So I thought it was time I showed you the other two.

1. What room are your shelves in?

One is in the family room for our TV; the other is a sideboard in the dining area – it’s all one large open plan space.

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2. How long have you had them?

We got the TV one pretty much as soon as we moved here 5 or so years ago; the sideboard one was more recent, maybe 2 or 3 years ago. I really wanted a wooden sideboard in that space, but just couldn’t find one I liked. So we got this one as a “temporary” measure which could well last us another 25 years …

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3. What do you store in the drawers/cupboards?

In the family room: AV gear, joysticks, batteries, CDs, double adapters, power boards and other electrical stuff.

In the dining room: ornaments that are not currently being displayed, cookbooks, serviettes and placemats etc.

Dining Room sideboard

4. What is your favourite decorator item on your shelves and why?

I love everything – otherwise it wouldn’t be there!

TV unit

5. How often do you change the “look” of your shelves?

I’m not 100% happy with the dining room one, so change that periodically to try and make it more to more liking – it’s getting there. Hubster sometimes changes the AV stuff in the TV unit – that’s his department!

It’s Your Turn!

250x250xshelf-style-300x300.jpg.pagespeed.ic.eIZHpJ-q6oIf you have a set of Ikea shelves (or another brand) in your home – why not join in the fun? I’d love to feature yours in an upcoming blog post! All you have to do is snap some pics and answer the same five questions as I have has above, and email them to me at janet@middleagedmama.com.au. Oh – and you don’t have to be a blogger to join in!

Do you think I should continue looking for a timber sideboard, or just enjoy my Ikea “temporary” one?!