After a brief 2 year hiatus I thought it was about time I hopped back into this whole blogging malarkey. Partly because I missed it and partly because I think places like Puglia need to be shared. I say this now although I’m sure in a few years, when everyone has discovered the delights of Puglia and every man and his dog is going on holiday there, I’ll massively regret this statement.
I’d heard of its charms a few times, whispers here and there, and after a little digging of my own and a lifelong love of Italy I decided it should definitely be next on my list.
After very little persuading, the boy agreed that this would be the perfect spot for a week’s holiday. Plenty of places to explore along with some gorgeous beaches and delicious food, that pretty much ticks all the holiday boxes if you ask me.
Our first stop was Lecce and after a disgustingly early flight we arrived in Bari and set off to find our hotel. Being nosy and generally excitable we didn’t make it there without having a quick detour around an olive grove on the way.
But before too long we made it to Torre del Parco. It was recommended by a friend who’d stayed there on her trip to Puglia and after the quickest of perusals we decided it was very much up our street.
We arrived a little early for our room to be ready so after a quick explore of the hotel and a very dignified change in the loos we set off to explore the town. Stopping to grab some peaches for our ambling, which turned out to be the best peach I’ve ever had, warmed by the Italian sun we both grinned as the juice ran down our faces.
Beautiful old streets revealed all kinds of gems and leaving you to wonder what secrets they held.
We stumbled across a Prima Gallery and immediately wanted everything in there. Photographs by Roberto Tondi have been stored in a the basement room giving them a curiously beautiful mottled effect that can’t be replicated owing to the temperature and humidity conditions. After deciding it might be tricky to get one home on my easyjet flight i sadly left them behind although i’m looking into ordering a print.
After a quick and fairly unmemorable late lunch we ambled back to the hotel to check into our room and have a quick nap
Before taking ourselves onto the roof terrace with a bottle of wine to watch the sunset. we curled up contentedly, wittering about nothing in particular until we realised that people seemed to be arriving for some sort of wedding party and we should probably scram.
After a quick shower, we wandered out into the evening to Le Zie, a restaurant known for its relaxed atmosphere and great food.
It’s very small and cosy and feels slightly like you’re in your Nonna’s house (if only we all had a Nonna, right?) but the food is so worth a trip. Ridiculously the beans that came on the antipasti were my favourite part of the whole meal although H was rather partial to his horse stew…. I liked it but it was definitely too gamey for me, I was happy with just a taste.
After a slight disaster with the bill (their credit card machine wasn’t working and H got his card blocked at the cashpoint whilst I was held hostage for half an hour) we wandered our way home, only getting minorly lost on the way.
In the morning there was just enough time for a quick coffee, the local speciality of Ghiaccio con latte mandorla which is essentially a frothy almond milk iced latte (bloody delicious) before jumping in the car.
Next stop Ostuni!
When I told my best friend I’d just made this, her response (as I creepily knew it would be) was “aren’t you going to smell like a roast chicken?” Well, no, you’re not. Whilst they may be popular, and common, additions to a roasting tray, they also smell pretty darn good on you. I don’t know about you but at this time of year my skin start to feel a little lacklustre. Between the freezing winds and the central heating, all of the moisture seems to disappear and everything tends to feel a little blah. That’s where this little beauty comes in. The sugar sloughs off all the dead skin whilst the coconut and rapeseed oils are deeply nourishing. Everything else? Well that’s all there to smell good, it’s bright and zingy and the perfect little kick-starter to a cold, dark morning. There’s also the major added bonus that you know exactly what has gone into it so you can be safe in the knowledge that there are no nasties lurking inside. You may even have some of the stuff already tucked away in your cupboards, you’ve probably even bought some coconut oil in a fit of healthy eating so here’s another way to put it to good use.
For enough scrub to fill at 1/3 litre jar you’ll need:
- 250g granulated sugar
- the zest of 2 lemons
- 4 sprigs of rosemary
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 120g coconut oil
Then pulse everything together until you have a beautiful flecked sugar mixture, blending these three together will bash all of the oils out of the lemon and rosemary to maximise the fragrance. If you don’t have a blender then just chop the rosemary and lemon zest together until really fine and stir through the sugar.In a separate bowl, smoosh together the rapeseed and coconut oils. You want the coconut oil in a solid state so that it achieves a whipped consistency. Now all that’s left to do is tip in your sugar, give everything a stir up and pop it in your jar of choice. If you’re not much of a body scrub kind of person then this is a great thing to keep next to the kitchen sink. It’ll get rid of any nasty cooking smells on your hands as well as keeping them silky smooth.
If however, you do like a scrub then just grab a handful and get to work before you get in the shower, be careful, the oils will make things a bit slippy! This is also a great thing to use before you shave your legs ladies (and maybe some gents). So what are you waiting for? Get scrubbing and let me know how they turn out!
Sometimes all you want is a little slice of the Alps in London, right? Or perhaps the idea has never crossed your mind. Either way, you should go have a little peek inside Le Chalet. Tucked away high up above the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street is a little oasis on the roof of Selfridges. Now, I am a little biased, my love of Sefridges goes back a long way and my ex even used to refer to it as my “mothership”, however, I promise you it’s worth a visit.We dropped in just before Christmas for a little dose of festive spirit (and some mulled wine) but I’m sure it’s just as great now, we have a real lack of roof terraces in London so I’m always on the hunt for a good one .
From the reindeer skins to the twinkling lights, it has everything you need to make you feel all cosy and warm – inside and out. It can probably even banish the January blues.
We wasted no time in ordering some drinks, mulled wine for me and, for some inexplicable reason given that it was freezing, white wine for the others. They very helpfully provide big cosy blankets to keep the chill away whilst you’re outside, meaning that you can easily wile away the afternoon up there in the sunshine – something I would highly recommend. I reckon it would make a pretty good date spot as well, after all, what’s better than having an excuse to snuggle up?
We happily sat there for hours, chatting and lazing in the sunshine before finally dragging ourselves home as the sun began to disappear from view. Although we couldn’t resist a couple of last snaps in the sparkling hallway, something I may have to try and re-create for Christmas this year.
I think I’m going to have to return for lunch before Le Chalet packs up shop, the food looked cracking and any menu that has ‘buttermilk chicken schnitzel with blue cheese fondue’ is alright by me. If you think it might float your boat too then you can book a table here: http://www.selfridges.com/content/le-chalet.
All in all a great afternoon spent with some of my favourite people.
I first started juicing last year after a very indulgent week when I felt like I needed a bit of a cleanse but then the unexpected happened, I got a bit hooked. I went for the highly recommended Jason Vale 3 Day Detox and its something I still do every now and again if I’m feeling a bit sluggish. I was expecting to be hungry and tired and, if I’m honest, a little grumpy but I found the opposite was true, I slept amazingly, was full of energy and generally felt great. Obviously, it’s not something you’d want to do all the time, for one, it’s not the most sociable thing to do as you can’t meet anyone for coffee, dinner or drinks but also you’d get bored and go mad after a while (I have been known to dream of cheese whilst doing one). Well this is my solution, juice for breakfast. By doing this it ensures that about 30% of my daily diet is raw, vegan and jam-packed full of goodness, which totally helps to alleviate any feelings of guilt I may have over the odd extra cocktail here and there. As an added bonus, it’s delicious and will keep you going right through until lunch. You can put in pretty much any veg you have knocking around in your fridge but after some tinkering, this is one of my favourite combinations. I hope you like it too! Beetroot and avocado may not sound like the most appealing additions to your juice but they are so good for you and actually taste great. Avocado is the only fruit you could live on solely as it’s so crammed full of goodness and beetroot detoxifies the liver, kidneys and blood as well as increasing blood flow – what’s not to love?
Purple Power Juice:
- 3 medium apples
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 medium raw beetroot
- 1/2 a small lemon
- a knob of ginger
- a handful of kale or spinach
- a small handful of blackberries (i just keep some in the freezer)
- 1/2 to whole avocado
- a handful of ice
Start with one apple in the tube of your juicer followed by the lemon, ginger, carrot and beetroot, finishing off with the remaining apples. Next up you want to grab yourself a blender of some description, add the ice, kale, blackberries and avocado before pouring in your juice. At this point I also like to add the following for an extra nutrition boost, obviously they’re all optional but they’re a great way of super-charging your morning juice.
- turmeric – a quarter to a third of a teaspoon of turmeric – antibacterial and anti-fungal
- a teaspoon of nut butter, I like almond or cashew, preferably organic with nothing added – adds protein
- acidophilus complex, the contents of one capsule (not the capsule itself) – helps regulate bacteria in your stomach
- 1 teaspoon of supergreens powder, a combination of spirulina, chlorella, barley grass and wheatgrass – incredibly nutrient dense and cleansing
- 1 teaspoon of raw chia seeds – richest plant source of omega 3
Let me know how you get on!
You know how sometimes you just have a perfect day?
Last Wednesday was like that. The morning was spent attacking the Jimmy Choo sale before a delicious lunch and an amble around Tate Britain all with my lovely mummy. Totally dreamy.
Lunch was at the newly renovated Rex Whistler restaurant at Tate Britain, it was tropically hot so we opted for the terrace and I fell in love with these deck chairs. Surely the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by and have a spot of afternoon tea? I’ll definitely have to pop back and do that soon.
Tomato salad with bloody mary dressing and celery salt to start. The flavours were great, light and refreshing and just what we needed on a hot summers day but I can’t help feeling that it might have worked better with slices or bigger chunks of tomato as it felt a little like a salsa.
To wash things down, I went for a glass of Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2009, a fantastic English sparkling from Kent whilst mum went for a yummy and totally bargain-ous glass of Solà Fred from Spain.
Next up came perfectly cooked Sea bass with samphire and a crab and tarragon sauce which was utterly scrumptious. Crab and samphire are two of my favourite things so it was a no-brainer for me.
Having eaten our fill we headed inside to get our art on. Tate Britain is one of my favourite places in the whole of London, it always seems like an oasis of calm amidst the hecticness of the city. Couple that with the fact that there was an exhibition by Phyllida Barlow that mum really wanted to see and we were on to a winner. We made our way up the stairs and got suck in.
The exhibition is called “dock” and was designed specifically for Tate, the inspiration largely being the gallery’s proximity to the River Thames. It’s huge, taking over the whole of the Duveen Galleries, the scale is truly staggering.
For those more interested in the fashion than the art
My dress is from Charlotte Russe and is even on sale now: http://www.charlotterusse.com/product/Clothes/Dresses/Skaters/entity/pc/2114/c/2133/sc/2729/256217.uts
My wedges are from Jimmy Choo (similar): http://www.jimmychoo.com/en/women/shoes/wedges/parrot/off-white-and-mirto-patent-and-woven-raffia-wedges-142parrotpwf.html?start=16&cgid=women-shoes-wedges&dwvar_142parrotpwf_color=Off%20White%2FMirto
As is my bag (similar): http://www.jimmychoo.com/en/women/bags/cross-body-bags/rebel/sun-patent-leather-with-suede-cross-body-bag-144rebelpwu.html?dwvar_144rebelpwu_color=Jazzberry&start=3&cgid=women-handbags-crossbody
I’d originally wanted to try out Donald Link’s other restaurant, Cochon on Saturday night but sadly it gets packed to the rafters and I had left it a little late to get a table. As a result, before we left New Orleans on Monday we found ourselves running through the heaviest rain I’ve ever encountered to go to it’s sister restaurant, Cochon Butcher for lunch. It only took about 10 seconds to run from the car but that was long enough for us to get thoroughly drenched. Of course, 5 minutes after we arrived the rain stopped – typical. I was soaked to the bone and freezing in the air conditioning so I’m now the proud owner of a Cochon hoodie as I was a shivering wreck in my summer dress.
Jumper firmly on, we got town to the important business of ordering, pulled pork all round with sides of mac and cheese and roasted brussel sprouts to share.
I know loads of people hate brussel sprouts but I think that’s because a lot of the time they only come out at christmas and have usually been boiled to death. When they’re roasted until crispy with olive oil and chilli they are simply delicious.
We ended up sitting right next to what can only be described as the pulled pork station, thank goodness we’d eaten by the time these appeared or one may just have gone missing.
The atmosphere is great and there’s a huge cross section of people in there eating, from hipsters, to business men popping in for lunch. I’m told they do a pretty mean cocktail too and apparently this bar gets pretty busy in the evening. As well as being a restaurant and bar, they are actually a proper butcher and deli. Wouldn’t you be here all the time if you lived near? I know I would be.
I also couldn’t resist one of the adorable little ‘butcher’ bowls and a cookbook because, well, because I couldn’t ok?We left full and happy, the perfect end to a great trip to New Orleans, I’m already trying to find an excuse to return.
After a rather lazy morning and breakfast in bed we spent the afternoon wandering around the beautiful French Quarter, dipping in and out of shops and taking endless photos Being a lover of all things chilli, I couldn’t resist popping in here. There are lovely antique shops dotted around and I totally fell in love with these, they’re ship decanters, designed to hold the bottles in place on the high seas. Not that I spend much time at sea but I think I’m going to have to get my paws on a set all the same. I was also quite a fan of this table and chairs but decided it would be fairly tricky to fit inside my suitcase. Ah well, maybe one day when I have that French château to furnish…. My shoes are from here: http://www.russellandbromley.co.uk/dress-flats/charming/invt/122567
Clutch was a birthday pressie from here: http://www.whistles.com/women/accessories/bags/medium-shiny-croc-clutch.html?dwvar_medium-shiny-croc-clutch_color=White#start=1
Dress from next but I can’t seem to find it online anymore so here’s an alternative: http://www.asos.com/pgeproduct.aspx?iid=3825168
I love the mix of people here, everyone is totally free to be themselves, check out this dapper gent.
One of the things I adored as we ambled around were the seemingly endless balconies overflowing with flowers, it’s my absolute dream to have one like this one day. Imagine spending your mornings curled up in the sun with a cup of tea, surrounded by tumbling flowers. Absolute heaven. I have a bit of a thing for architecture, I can spend days wandering around cities dreaming what it would be like to live in each place and of the people that already do. I love history and always get drawn to old buildings, intrigued by the stories they could tell.
On our walk back to the hotel we came across these guys playing in a square. They were such great musicians and the atmosphere was amazing, so entirely New Orleans and the perfect end to the afternoon.
After about 770 miles and countless hours in the car, we finally arrived in New Orléans.
Now, I could tell you that we pulled in and marvelled at the charm and energy of the city, but , well, it would be a bit of a lie. We arrived late afternoon and were greeted by swarms of tourists and garish signs and my immediate reaction was that I should have fought harder to end our road trip in Nashville rather than New Orléans (our other possible destination). We hadn’t booked anywhere to stay as we didn’t want to be tied in to a schedule, having the option of stopping and dawdling for a while if we liked the look of somewhere on the way. This led to us driving around for about half an hour slightly concerned that a lot of the hotels I’d short listed were full, owing to a huge wedding happening that weekend. Fortunately, our luck changed upon arriving at the Omni Royal on St Louis st in the French Quarter. It was actually the hotel that I had at the top of my list but mum wanted to try a couple of others first (I tried to resist an ‘I told you so’ but I’m not sure I quite managed it). We managed to wrangle the last suite they had and after a quick flop on the bed to peruse the options for dinner we headed to the rooftop bar for a cocktail and a peek at the skyline.
By this point I was quickly becoming won over, something that was greatly helped by dinner.
Having been a little indecisive we eventually decided to have dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, The Rib Room which came highly recommended by Zagat. We kicked off with cocktails and a little amuse bouche of amazing red bean hummus with homemade crispbread and andouille sausage crumble. Followed by local quail with sweetcorn and okra salad, shrimp and grits, gumbo and steak tartare as well as some fantastic local fish. Apologies for the photo quality, the camera was playing up and my phone wasn’t loving the dim lighting.
As it was a Saturday night, my brother Thierry very rightly decided we had to venture down to Frenchman Street for drinks (him) and dancing (me). Frenchman Street is apparently how Bourbon Street used to be before it became such a tourist trap, everyone is there to have a good time, have some drinks and, most importantly, listen to great live music. This is where my fate was sealed and I totally fell in love with the city. We made countless new friends an chatted and danced the night away. I even found myself a pretty spectacular dance partner in the form of this 67 year old chap from Sydney – he didn’t stop dancing once in 4 hours! Pretty impressive stuff.
Thoroughly twirled out, we headed home to bed, ready for more exploring on Sunday.
Now, I don’t know about you but to me, there are few things better than really good bbq, preferably with served without ceremony and with a giant roll of kitchen paper to mop up the inevitable mess. Well my friends, if that sounds good to you and you ever happen to find yourself in southern Alabama, you need to get yourselves to The Brick Pit just outside Mobile.
They have a fairly concise menu but don’t worry, you won’t mind. You pick your meat and then decide if you want it as a plate with sides or as a sandwich and whether you want spicy or regular bbq sauce.
I went for the classic pulled pork plate with potato salad and homemade baked beans (and the spicy sauce obviously). It was soooo delicious. They smoke the pork for 30 hours so the meat is incredibly tender and jam packed with flavour. The beans even have chunks of it bobbing around in them. Genius.
There’s also a very handy little bottle of hot sauce on every table which I loved (mum suggested I should start carrying a bottle in my handbag as I always want things spicier, I can’t quite decide if everyone will think I’m a total nutter if I do though. Thoughts?).
After just one lunch there I would have to say that it’s some of the best bbq I have ever tasted and if I ever find myself in the vicinity again I’ll be running back there lickety split. Thierry decided he couldn’t take the wait for next time and may have gotten himself a cheeky takeaway for the road, something which I was a little jealous of later when we were getting lost somewhere around Biloxi, Mississippi.
May I recommend something? If you’re doing a road trip, you should really check if you’re going to cross any time zones. We may have neglected that little detail when planning our trip and as a result, ended up driving for an hour longer than planned. The very clever sat nav knew about the time change and so whilst we thought we’d be driving for 4 hours, it ended up being 5 as the clocks rolled themselves back just before we crossed the border into Alabama. After we all had a little chuckle about how generally useless we were, we pulled up outside our hotel for the night, The Battle House. It stands on the site of an old military headquarters set up by Andrew Jackson during the war of 1812, hence the name.
The lovely staff found us a table and it wasn’t long before we were relaxing with a cocktail and perusing the menu.
Whilst we were deciding, the waitress brought over some bread with a whipped jalapeño butter. As a lover of anything chilli, I was pretty happy about this. Just look at it hiding away under there, ready to reveal its deliciousness.
The chef is originally from New Orléans and his wife is from Mexico and the food is a reflection of that.
Starters ranged from brisket tacos to gumbo to a take on that American classic, the wedge salad
I may have taken my eye off the ball with the photos of our mains and Thierry was already diving in before I remembered so apologies they don’t look their best.
More brisket, some shrimpies and some black bean cakes
I (the orderer of the black bean cakes) wasn’t so convinced by the mains but was told I’d just ordered badly as mum and Thierry both thoroughly enjoyed theirs. Sadly we were all too full for pudding so took ourselves back to the hotel for an early night, partly because we’d had a long day and partly because mum and I wanted to get up early and sneak to the spa before Thierry woke up.
And sneak off we did, a manicure for mum and a blow dry for me (because I’m a real sucker for a good blow dry and I figured I’d be in good hands in the south where they seriously know how to do big hair).
With one last quick look at the hotel’s beautiful ceiling, we packed up the car and headed for our final destination, New Orléans, although we may have had a little pit stop along the way. But more on that tomorrow….