Back to reality – Month 3

We still don’t have jobs sorted. It takes a little longer than previously thought to get jobs at our age.

So we drink coffee…..

Another double espresso

And eat food……

Homemade scallion (…american recipe) pancake, fried, for breakfast.

Watch Radiohead’s set from Glastonbury for the zillionth time……

Thom doing his thang………

Have some gin at St Paul’s bar

Very posh gin and tonic…..for that read expensive.

And manage to survive another month in Birmingham.

Back to reality – Month 2

This is the boring month we knuckle down to find work ….. but still find time to have a blog post full of food and drink!

We get to explore Birmingham and our new surroundings.

Birmingham canal walk

We were still on the lookout for coffee….

And great food…..

Braised ox cheeks a la Glynn Purnell

But we were also enjoying cooking our own meals, trying to recreate food we had whilst away.

Chairman Mao pork with chinese pickled cucumber

Dumplings were first on the list. We cheated by using premade dumpling wrappers but the results were pretty impressive!

Dumplings…..need I say more?

We had a Swedish open sandwich party to say thank you our Finchfield hosts.

Swedish open butties…..on black bread from the Lithuanian deli near our flat!
Massive home made burger
Grilled cod on saffron risotto

20.3.2017 Alphington to Mornington Pennisula

One of the reasons for coming to Australia, apart from seeing my wonderful relatives, was watching The Wine Show on C4 which visited Mornington Pennisula and marvelled at all the wines and local foods on offer. We decided we needed to go and see what the fuss was all about if we were ever in the area. This was cemented by meeting a couple from Mornington on the train into Birmingham the day after we saw the TV show, they said it was a great place to visit so we were on it.

Our transfer from Alphington to Dromana, on the Mornington Pennisula, was to take about 3 hours and involve 2 trains and 2 buses, this was achieved by using our Myki card at a cost of $6.10. This is an absolute bargain. 

The blue skies and hot temperatures were over, replaced by cold, wet and very windy weather. In other words a typical Monday morning which at home would send you into a spiral of depression, until about Thursday. Our host Kathy had an errand to run to the local train station so offered us a lift to the station so we avoided a thorough soaking.

Farewells were said and we belatedly remembered to hand the house keys back as well!  We could smell coffee at the small suburban station so had a Monday morning pick me up, and lesson in coffee, from a guy who had left Scotland long enough ago to loose his accent and learn a lot about coffee. Strangely for a barrista he had no beard and no flat cap. I asked for 2 double expressos and we waited. He explained the Aussie love for coffees, which we had noticed, and the clamouring in London for your barista to be from Sydney or Melbourne as this was a sign of top notch coffee being made. He also said I should be ordering espressos otherwise the barista would know I was a heathen in the coffee world. For a small suburban train station to be serving such good coffee from an independent stand wouldn’t happen in UK, there are very few chain coffee shops here. It was a stunning coffee which woke us up, and Guy chatted away for the next hour.

We arrived in Dromana about 1.30pm and got into the Air BnB accommodation we had booked, it was a home all to ourselves. It was exciting to have our own place, complete with washing machine, to wash everything we own, and a kitchen to do some Guy and Al cooking sessions.

As exciting as this was, we were slightly perturbed to find no WiFi password given and could find no router. It seems I had overlooked the lack of WiFi when booking here, which is unfortunate as we wanted to book a vineyard tour for the next day. We had also planned on doing loads of blogging and research for the next, unknown, part of our trip. Oops. 

We have now changed our minds and are thinking we could do some of NZ, even without driving licences, as being here hasn’t been overly expensive or difficult when using public transport. We also can’t bear the thought of not using a flight we have bought to a country we loved 18 years ago, we loved it enough to apply for residency then. Still, let’s see what we decide in the next few days as plans seem to change with moods, i.e. frequently.

A 10 mins walk into Dromana town and we were on the sea front and we found Aussie pies. Guy had a plain pie, I had bolognase thinking it would be the bolognase sauce only, I didn’t think someone would think of putting bolognase sauce AND pasta into a pie. Why would you?? Ugh.

So, we needed to book a tour of vineyards old stylee, by walking to tourist information and picking up leaflets, explaining for the upteenth time how we are on holiday without a driving licence and the need to see as many vineyards and expand our wine knowledge to bore all our mates at home.

2 hours later we had made friends​ with the ladies at Tourist Info, they had rung many places to see if we could get a vineyard tour, with the proviso of being at a good price. Even they thought $400 per day for a tour of 3 or 4 vineyards was too much!!!!!! 

Eventually we were in contact with Chris, who runs ‘Your Shuttle‘ who agreed to squeeze us into her already booked tour group, she could fit in our 3 vineyards of choice, 10 Minutes by Tractor, Eldridge, Monalto and throw in a couple more! Happy days. She told us not to wear heels as we would need to walk inbetween a couple of vineyards, Guy said it was no problem, I hadn’t worn them in years, certainly hadn’t packed any in my rucksack. 

We hugged our new friends, bought a fridge magnet as a show of gratitude and walked back to town along the beach enjoying the sunshine and had a quick paddle. 

A posh, Waitrose like, supermarket shop trip later and we had all the ingredients for a superb tea. Aussie beef was flash fried and served with slow cooked onions, peppers and cheese and rocket, all in a Lebanese wrap. It tasted sooooo much better than it looked which admittedly was like someone had vomited on our plates.

We watched Aussie food network TV, with adverts 😫 and listened to the wind and rain pick up outside.

Wines tasted:

Mornington Estate Pinot  Noir  2014

Yarra Valley Payne’s Rise shiraz 2014

17.2.2016 Chang Mai to Bangkok

Safe to say we are both a little tired, or ‘fluffy’ as Rodney would say. We pack rucksacks as best we can. Mine is starting to look overstuffed.

We are sad to leave the hostel, it has been a little oasis here, so clean, fresh and the sitting area so welcoming. It is nice to stay somewhere that feels nice, even though it is well within budget at £11 per night. 

Packed and out of the room, we go to Blue Diamond for coffee, full English breakfast, tuna and avocado salad and cinnamon toast. Yes, we did order too much and were totally over stuffed (just like our rucksacks) but it is such good food. Plus we are on an overnight train, so who knows when we will eat again 😋.

We are needing coffee, so go to a cute little cafe that serves us an expresso and macchiato and we watch telecom cables being put up in the street.

We go to buy some bargain citronella to blast the mossies away, however last night’s chili tea is making itself known in my tum, so I dash into a friendly hotel to use the facilities!!!!

Our train is at 3.30 so we get a tuktuk at 2.30. We had been told not to pay more than 150 Baht, so were shocked when the guy asked for 100 Baht. We instantly said yes and clambered into the tuktuk, lugging our unwieldy baggage with us. A quick, traffic jammed ride away and we were at the station, looking at our train, dumbfounded at the sign which said no drinking on the train. Guy has sweats wondering how he was going to do an overnight train with no booze…..I was quietly happy to have a night off.

We climb aboard and settle into our seats for a slow, sedate rocking ride to Bangkok. 

The time is spent catching up on blogs / diaries, playing with new phone and staring out the window.

Dinner is courtesy of the dining car. Amazingly this first one we have used, and it is tasty, roast duck red curry, chicken with cashew nuts, soup and rice.

Sleep is hard to come by, the air con is set to freeze mode and bright lights kept on all night. 

Taiwan – why we fell in love

  • People are really, really friendly

Many times we have been looking at The Book and people have asked us if we are lost and helped us, or just chatted to us when we crossed the road and given us great advice. Our Taipei host, Fiona, made us so welcome, checked our itinerary each night and advised us what to do, how to get around, even gave us a lift to the port when we were leaving.

  • Coffee is cheap and tasty

Chains and non chains of coffee vendor are everywhere and they are all really affordable and blooming great! We have now gotten to be coffee snobs, with a penchant for mandheling coffee. Drip coffee and single origin is very popular and isn’t just a new thing, coffee shops have been around since the 1950’s. 

  • Tea is expensive but worth it

We saw tea being grown, then tasted it, learning how to make a proper brew it wasn’t as intricate as a Japanese tea ceremony, but we could taste the difference in the teas and styles. We are now tea snobs as well.

  • Taiwan is compact and bijoux with excellent infrastructure.

It is simple to travel around due to its size but also because of helpful signage and announcements in English, and stations having good maps of the local area. There is also the Ezy card,  which acts as an Oyster card,  being able to be used on all transport in Taipei, but you can also use it all over the country, brilliant and saves you money.

    • Excellent food

    Taiwan is reputed to have the best Japanese restaurants outside of Japan which is some compliment as the Japanese are so particular about their food. The seafood we had at Aquatic Addiction was some of the freshest we have seen outside of Japan, and that experience was one of the highlights of our trip so far. We have also eaten middle eastern food and Indian curries, and seen Mexican and Greek restaurants. Sadly no Georgian restaurants have opened yet. Also, night markets – see below

    • Night markets

    The reason we first got interested in Taiwan was for the night markets, and they are amazing. All so different, some just for walking and snacking, some with cafes, restaurants, all with an amazing variety of foods.

    • Environmental Diversity 

    Whatever you want to see you can get it within a short train or bus ride. We have experienced clear beaches, sulphurous thermal spas, volcanos, stunning mountains, blue lakes, with opportunities for hiking, cycling, or scootering! Just travelling around you see a lush, green landscape full of wildlife which is unique to this small and perfectly formed beautiful isle . 

    • Taiwan beer, mango beer and Best whisky 2015.

    These are just a few of the great alcoholic drinks we have had here, it is not a drinking culture, we rarely saw anyone drinking, but did manage to try enough beers and whisky to convince ourselves we liked it.

    • South and North Asia mix.

    There is the Asian living life on the street, but with an efficient infrastructure which makes this country a fabulous mix of cultures. It is cheaper to eat out than cook, so you see kids having food on their own which would seem strange at home, but is perfectly normal here. There are are street stalls everywhere, each having their own speciality, which we often don’t know due to the language barrier, but we have still enjoyed delicious food all over the country. 

    • Cultural diversity

    In a marked difference to other countries we have recently visited there is a refreshing vitality about the people, their fashion and sense of self. They all have individual style and are happy to be different to the next person having dyed hair, tattoos, and diverse fashion sense! There is also a refreshing sense of equality here, women are just as likely to be in positions of power in business and not just meant for the home (our views are from advertising and reading). It is also clear there is more sexual equality here, gay pride and gay rights are the most progressive in Asia and we saw gay couples being openly affectionate.

    • Train station food court

    At home a train station food shop is to be avoided at all costs, here it is somewhere to go on a Saturday night for dinner. The one at Taipei main station is the best we saw, it had sections for beef noodle soup, Taiwanese and curry. There were also many  Japanese restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops, with queues outside the popular places.  

    • Love of animals

    You see many strollers here and don’t know if they contain babies or pets. The Taiwanese love their pets, especially dogs who are often carried down the street as if they were little china ornaments.

    • Respect for elderly

    You are likely to see youngsters accompanying their grandparents on a stroll,  especially at the weekend. It’s the Asian respect for the older generation which we are finding more and more appealing.

    In the interests of balance (you know, like the BBC) the only criticism of Taiwan is there are not enough rubbish bins. That is it. Everything else is just peachy.

    So I think we can safely say that this is one of the best countries we have visited, and we are planning on visiting again.