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My trips

Thai Cooking Class in Chiang Mai

zabbelee-0090 I feel truly blessed to be here in Malacca city, 148 kilometres south east of Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur. This is one of the cutest cities I have visited during my Asian trip, definitely a more walk-able and pedestrian friendly place where it is possible  to survive the morning heat thanks to a colonial architecture offering verandahs, front porches and internal courtyards.

Everyday, after lunch, I try to spend a few hours indoor in order to avoid sunburn and fatigue. Today in Malacca I take advantage of the “curfew” I force myself to tell you about my cookery class experience in Chiang Mai, the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand. This happened a week or so before my food poisoning, when I could still comfortably enjoy spicy food.

zabbelee-0091 Having a cooking class with Ann at Zabb-e-Lee turned out to be a great experience, one of the most enjoyable activities I engaged in during my trip. Ann, our teacher, was very thorough in her explanations of ingredients and how to use them. A very professional and personable girl who also made us laugh and smile a lot during the class. What more do you expect from a cooking class? Ah, right: delicious food. We got this too!

zabbelee-0097 The day started at 8:30 am when Ann picked me and my boyfriend up from our hotel in her small truck. It was a fun ride together with other participants, mostly Europeans, during which we spoke about travelling experiences and impressions. After a quick stop at class venue to select the dishes, Ann took us to a local market to introduce us to the typical ingredients of the Thai cuisine. She shared a great deal of information about ingredients I have never seen before.

zabbelee-0111 For example, I had never seen a banana flower (below) this dark purple-red blossom that grows from the end of a bunch of bananas.

zabbelee-0120 Nor I knew about the “existence” of yellow tofu, that is turmeric-marinated tofu.

zabbelee-0124 zabbelee-0128 Each person was able to select an appetizer, soup, stir fry, curry paste and curry dish. There were many options to choose from and each of us was able to individualize the amount of heat/spice for their item (Ann nicknamed my boyfriend as “the hot man” because of his choice of adding 7 chilies to his curry. p.s. 5 chilies is the Thai standard.). Ann was also able to accommodate food allergies and special requests like my vegetarian diet (Thai recipes are not supposed to be vegetarian but she found a great way to replace meat using a soy protein product).

zabbelee-0154 The facilities and utensils were clean and the backyard nicely decorated. We had fun and enjoyed delicious Thai food prepared by ourselves. My boyfriend was a little nervous at first (seriously, look at the concentrated and preoccupied look of the guy wearing the green apron below). Probably I felt a bit “tensed” too since I soon realized that I could easily burn my food due to high fire and type of cooking pan. At the end we both managed to cook yummy dishes such as Pad Thai and Tom Yum without asking for help, meaning that the pacing and accuracy of the instructions were just perfect.

zabbelee-0156 Below: Thai tamarind sauce for Pad Thai.

zabbelee-0159 Below: My perfect Pad Thai!

zabbelee-0171 zabbelee-0185 Tom Kha Pak: a soup packed with Thai herbs and spices such as galangal and lemongrass, blended with coconut milk and loaded up with mushrooms and veggies.

zabbelee-0189 The delicious Tom Yum made by my “hot man”! Ann said it was too hot even for a Thai person.

zabbelee-0191 Thai aubergines and pea aubergines submerged in water. These cuties ended up in our curry dishes.

zabbelee-0207 Massamun curry, a rich Thai dish with peanuts and potatoes.

zabbelee-0243 The dish I am particularly proud of: Thai fresh spring rolls. Dealing with rice paper is not an easy task. Ann thought me a successful technique to roll the sheets like a pro.

zabbelee-0241 The group at the end of class. Proud and happily stuffed with food!

zabbelee1-0224 Have you ever attended a cooking class? If so, how was it like?

Where do you stand in terms of spicy and hot foods?

Japan Matsuri, London 2014

japan-0117 Even though I was feeling kind of sleepy and weak this morning I forced myself to jump out of bed and get ready for Japan Matsuri, the much-loved Japanese festival that this year took place in Trafalgar Square, right in the center of the British Capital. This dynamic annual event brings people together to enjoy Japanese food, music, dance and  family activities, with food stalls attracting a huge crowd and causing long queues. While I could not enjoy the delicious food (I’m not a “queue person”), I took pleasure in taking pictures and listening to some traditional Japanese music. Here is my very first Japan Matsuri. How did you spend your Saturday morning?

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A cute lady, isn’t she?

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The moves of a Samurai (with a bamboo sword).

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Takoyaki, ball-shaped Japanese snack made of a wheat flour-based batter and filled with octopus.

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My favorite: Okonomiyaki. A cabbage-based pancake also known as “Osaka soul-food”.

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The crowd in Trafalgar Square.

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Shaved Ice in Matcha sauce served with red bean paste.

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China town, a short walk from Trafalgar square.

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Vegetarian Chinese dumplings. My lunch in China Town for just 5 pounds.

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Okonomiyaki chefs from Osaka.

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The Lighthouse of my Dreams

stmargaretsatcliffe-0194 Here I am again, revealing myself in a pic. I’m gaining confidence as proved by the casually inclined head and the vacant smile or, more probably, I’m just getting used to it.

Last weekend I went camping on the coast (almost on the coast) nearby Dover, UK. It took me a 4 mile walk to get to the beach from the campsite where I inexpertly set my tent. Even though I had to cross congested roads with no sidewalks, it was worth the effort. That day I got by with sandwiches from breakfast to dinner, as a consequence I appear in the photo with a significant belly bulge, the so called “sandwich belly”.

stmargaretsatcliffe-0203 St. Margaret’s at Cliffe is a three-part village situated between Deal and Dover in Kent, England. White cliffs aside, the main attraction is the South Foreland Lighthouse, a Victorian lighthouse used to warn ships approaching the bay, currently owned by the National Trust. Surrounded by a bucolic atmosphere and overlooking a sea horizon ultimately leading to the French coast, the lighthouse is real treasure. I stopped there for a cuppa and piece of apple pie.

stmargaretsatcliffe-0209 While I hate the traditional British floral wallpaper, I truly enjoyed the retro atmosphere, the roaring 20’s gramophone music and the refreshing sea breeze blowing old lace curtains. What’s not to love about this full of character tea room? Wallpaper apart, I mean.

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How a Day Trip to Capri Looks Like

napoli-0155 Last week I was in Capri, Italy. There is nothing more exciting and relaxing to me than walking along the narrow streets of a small Italian town. If the town is on an island, that’s the icing on the cake.

Going up to the top of the highest and only mountain via a chairlift, flying over roofs and small private vegetable gardens, breathing in the breeze from a breathtaking viewpoint, stopping for a strong espresso in a bar, then getting back to the smart-set Capri town on a box-sized bus that moves down winding cliff-side roads… all this made my day in Capri a fantastic experience.

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Home in London, New York in My Mind

20130804-DSC_0229 Can I have a chat with you today? What are you doing? Right now I’m in a quite neighborhood in zone 1-zone 2, 10 minute walking from one of the most iconic place of the British capital, the Tower of London. It feels good here, with a warming cup of green tea and a blanket over me.

“Threw glory over me like a blanket”.

Warmth and coziness are just what my mind needs to roam around other destinations. Last summer I spent one day in New York and I know why I’ve never told you about it.

It was a strange day in the big Apple, when I tried to be bit adventurer and a bit  blithe. It ended up being an overwhelming experience. On Saturday night I found myself in Times Square dazed and confused. I could not think clearly, my head was spinning, I wanted to speak with someone but at the same time I could not say a word. Today I feel like being there again and enjoying better the city that once used to be one of my biggest dreams. I think I am ready to tell you something about my only day in NY through these pics.

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Have you ever been to the Big Apple? How was your stay?

Weekend in Bournemouth

bournemouth-0287 More than two weeks in Italy to celebrate Christmas with my family probably made me even lazier than usual. Back in London, I almost cannot keep up with the city life.

I landed at Gatwick last week and now it seems months ago. On Saturday morning I was on a train to Bournemouth for a short-break weekend by the sea. I stayed at the Royal Bath Hotel. Great location, very classic decor and mediocre British food (well, you can’t get everything, right?). 

Long time, no seA. I got a breath of fresh air, drunk Pimm’s while sitting on the sand and admired light reflected by quiet waves. It seemed to me that the whole city was living with joy and radiant attitude in a rare day of sun and warmth. People in their cute beach huts, kids playing with sand and dogs so darn happy to run along the shore: it was all perfect, it was almost unreal. Can you see the magic from these pictures? 

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This coming weekend is going to be less exploratory, very domestic. Sea is already a faded memory but the idea to spend at least 8 hours in bed is music to my ears. What’s your plan for the weekend?

Tuscany in Pics

The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo. Mark Twain

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Italy might not be as elegant as the country Twain visited in 1867, however it still retains a lot of its Renaissance fascination and authenticity. Tuscany, in particular, with its green hills dotted with pine trees and vineyards, small villages whose medieval architecture holds intact, is a charming region where history and lifestyle has been preserved best.

tuscany-0432 I promised I would have shared a few pics of my short Italian trip on the blog. Here they are. Shooting hundreds of pictures was a fun and pleasant activity, choosing a few ones to be shared was much less straightforward (it took me ages!). You know, Tuscany is all good and extremely diverse. History, architecture, food…

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Outside every town an amusing and calm (calming) landscape was awaiting us. We drove along the SS22 or via Cassia and discovered a land where agriculture and family farms still make sense, where the green has countless shades and the hills look as smooth and soft as velvet.

tuscany-0803 tuscany-0085 tuscany-0120 tuscany-0110 tuscany-0203 tuscany-0354 Here is a list of the places I visited and I loved the most:

    • Firenze
    • Siena
    • Monteriggioni
    • Certaldo
    • Pisa
    • Lucca
    • San Gimignano
    • Montepulciano
    • Volterra
    • Vinci (birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci)

Hope you enjoyed my pictures and I wish you all a great weekend!

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My Insolent Italy


Here is a countryside piece of southern Italy, a hilly sweep that stretches out in the area between Benevento and Avellino. A village named Terranova is my mum’s native place, a tiny town where we find a few houses surrounding a square overlooked by a church. This church below.

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My mum was born in one of these houses and here is where my family heads to, a few times a year, just to escape the city. It goes without saying that the pace of life is incredibly slow here.

Slowness is a value, somewhere.

During my last visit I realized I hadn’t explored the area yet. I spent a couple of hours reading Charles Bukowski in the bedroom of my ancestors then decided to take a stroll under the scorching sun. I embarked on 1 hour long walk with David Bowie singing in my head “This is not America”.

I must still feel the influence of my last trip to Canada.

“This could be the biggest sky / This could be a miracle / This could be.”

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This is Italy or just a glimpse of it. Images of a country I found out to be more beautiful than I remembered. More fascinating than I was willing to remember. A country defeated by years of indifference and carelessness that still shows off her insolent and gaudy beauty.

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Before leaving the green province of Benevento, I headed to a Pizzeria in the small town of Arpaise. Most of the restaurants and pizzerias live on local glory. You will not find them online. To some extent,  things must happen only locally, almost secretly, to retain their authenticity. I slowly tasted my pizza and concluded that seclusion from the global buzz is just what is needed to preserve genuineness.

This is not America, David Bowie was still singing in my mind when I left the town.

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Canada, Mon Amour


I’m on my way.

On my way to the world I want to explore, to the people that I’ll be happy to meet and smile to.

Most of the time emotions and experiences earned during a trip come up when we stop and think about them from a distance. It’s been one week I left Canada and only now I am fully aware of how lucky I have been to spend my time there.

Today let me first take you to Toronto (that I learned Canadians pronounce “Trawno” or “Teronno”, uhm no, maybe “Toe-ron-noe”… well, whatever), on a ride that looks in the mirror of shiny skyscrapers and along streets I walked with excitement and euphoria.

toronto-0133 toronto-0176 toronto-0199 toronto-0219 toronto-0208 toronto-0214 toronto-0188 Within an hour drive from Toronto, there’s a town called Hamilton. It’s where I stayed for more than a month. Over the years the city achieved bad notoriety because of its industrial district, today it is much more than its tired and less wealthy iron industries. It overlooks the immense lake Ontario; it is very pleasant to explore thanks to its 200 falls, a long green escarpment and a lovely bay-front.

I cannot write about Hamilton without mentioning Tim Hortons, the Canada’s largest fast food service, where I had my daily coffee and muffins, sometimes.  Do you know Tim Hortons Fruit Explosion Muffin? 360 kcals of happiness. Starting the day with a Timmy’s Lady cheering you with her best smile (and a couple of those compliments… you know, the ones that make you feel like a queen) while serving that muffin, is priceless.

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Let me finally take you to the Bruce Peninsula, where I swam in the cold and pristine waters of the Georgian Bay and climbed the rocks that rest on the sea (I almost sound like a cool girl :)). Always daydreaming and laughing airily in the company of wonderful fellow adventurers.

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Blue is Greece


It happens to me  to lack control on words. Sometimes. It’s when I am just full of barren words, like a field lacking vegetation, and I don’t believe enough on the power of the written language.

Photography helps me, encourage me to describe what I see when it is clear to me that words will not come easy. Photography has a language whose grammar is freer and where I can set my own rules.

Here are some shots I took during my trip in Greece, an airy, bright, wild and blue country. As blue as the sky that hosts no clouds, not as sadness.

corfu-0559 greektiropita-0446 greektiropita-0449 Below is Egremni beach, in Lefkada. It feels like heaven on earth. One of the most beautiful beaches I ever seen but perhaps the most difficult to reach (350 stairs). It’s definitely worth it, though.

egremni-0650 All the picture below were taken in Mitikas. There is no much online to read about this little town in the province of Preveza. Here a little ouzeri runned by a outgoing fisherman is an hidden gem on the beach with a view on the Ionian oriental sea. The ouzeri, a rustic tavern where you get served ouzo and small finger foods, is no more than a place where you can find your little blue chair, have a seat, grab some food and admire the beautiful emerald sea.  Peaceful.

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Greece looks out the Mediterranean sea with a mountainous coastline which makes driving a car challenging. Main roads on a map are not more that little curvy local streets, often passing through little towns where Greek pensioners sit on slatted-wood chairs literally on the street. You can almost catch in one breath the millennia that passed over this land without altering its native beauty.

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