Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

Food features heavily in my holiday photos, when travelling I love to try the local specialties whether they be snack food such frites with mayo in Amsterdam or little fried fish in Venice. Eating out all the time can be expensive so tracking down local markets and buying fresh produce becomes essential and it is all part of the magic of being in a foreign country.

Venice delicatessan
Souvenirs you can eat
Markets in Venice
Fresh produce at the markets in Venice

 

Try the local pecorino cheese in Pienza
Try the local pecorino cheese in Pienza
Panforte and other sweets
Panforte and other sweets

 

A weekend trip to the ‘big smoke’

There were many reasons to head down to the ‘big smoke’, as my husband jokingly calls Sydney, but the most important one was to attend the baby shower of my brother’s girlfriend. My brother and his girlfriend are expecting their first baby, this baby is also the first (human) grand child for my parents so on Friday, armed with gifts for the soon-to-be parents, I boarded the plane to Sydney.

Vivid 2012 is a light festival of sorts, you may have already seen photos on This Sydney Life, imagine my delight when my brother’s girlfriend arranged for me to meet her and another friend at Circular Quay to check out it out on Friday night. Of course the area was jam-packed with people wanting to see the installations, the weather was perfect for such an event and this was the last weekend of Vivid. Moving at the pace of a baby learning to crawl we walked from the train station around to the Rocks, stopping regularly to take photos and just admire the show. Light and music combined to create an awesome display on Custom House and the Museum of Contemporary Art whilst the Opera House had slow moving images projected onto the surface of the sails, serious photographers lined the water’s edge with their tripods with the aim of capturing the perfect night time shot. Dinner was from a stall at the night markets, the choice of food was huge and varied from corn on the cob, sweet potato chips, pad thai, paella and organic hamburgers to dutch pancakes, gelato and cannoli. The seafood paella was scrumptious, we squeezed fresh lemon over the dish and looked for a place where we could sit, relax and enjoy the meal.

The baby shower was on Saturday, a fun time was had by all and of course there was plenty of yummy food to snack on, not to mention cakes and apple crumble pie for dessert. Games are always on the agenda at a baby shower, over the years I have played a few different ones but never have I performed so poorly at a task than on Saturday when as part of ‘pass the parcel’ I was required to sing a nursery rhyme. Even with assistance I could barely get out more than a couple of lines and I’m pretty sure that I even stuffed that up, someone suggested a buy a book of nursery rhymes however I’ll probably just end up googling them instead.

While in Sydney it seemed a shame not to go shopping with one of my dearest friends Jo, when I lived in Sydney it was a popular past time of ours and we often combined shopping with a visit to David Jones Food Hall, the Rocks Markets and a gallery or two. The plan was to meet up with Jo on the Sunday, the weather was looking bleak, it was a good idea to stay indoors and thankfully many of the shops in the Pitt Street Mall and Queen Victoria Building are linked and rarely require you to venture outside. Much money was saved shopping in the sales, my objective was to find new shoes, shirts and a handbag for work and I did just that, saving $100-$150 in the process which is pretty good by anyone’s standards. Lunch was in an asian kitchen/laksa house, we assumed that the number of asian people eating there was a good sign and certainly we found both the seafood and chicken laksa to be more than satisfactory. A hot chocolate mid-afternoon sustained us until we had to head home, shopping bags aplenty and a box of cupcakes in hand we joined the throng of people underground, said our goodbyes and caught the train home. With the rain pouring down and the temperature plummeting as night fell, walking into my brother’s home and smelling the heavenly scent of roast lamb and potato bake cooking in the oven was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend.

Lucerne, Switzerland

Frescoes
Frescoes

The sun decided to shine on us in Switzerland, beautiful warm days and not a rain cloud in sight. Mt Pilatus had a few hanging around which had me thinking that I would again find myself on top of the mountain and not able to see anything but fog or cloud. Switzerland is expensive, they don’t have the euro either so you have to be happy with getting Swiss Francs back for change or use plastic, we used a combination of both for the few days we were there and managed to leave with only a couple of francs in change.

Supermarket shopping in Lucerne was our best option for cheap, healthy meals and for picking up a couple of bottles of wine and beer. For a couple of days we dined on salad, sausage, cheese and chocolate plus some yummy bagel crisps and crackers. Our biggest dining splurge was had here and not because it was fabulous ala carte food, it was because we had 3 courses and a few glasses of wine which came to a total of 120 euro, still it was an enjoyable meal and the wine was very nice.

Beautiful Lake Lucerne
Beautiful Lake Lucerne
Flowers for sale at the markets
Flowers for sale at the markets
The Dying Lion Monument
The Dying Lion Monument

From the ground Mt Pilatus looked reasonably clear of cloud when we decided to make the journey, it was about 140 euro for the tickets to the top and that covered all of our transport by bus and cable car, the scenic railway was inoperable due to heavy snow. The trip takes over an hour in each direction and you can definitely feel the temperature drop as you get higher and the attendant tells us that it is about minus 3 degrees celsius. Travel to the halfway point, about 1000m up is in a small four person cable car, there aren’t many people travelling up to the summit today perhaps that is because of the weather or it could be because it is early spring. At the halfway point there is a good view of the mountains and there is also a playground for families and barbecue area, we wait for the larger cable car to provide transport for the rest of the journey, about half a dozen people hop in with us and a big slab of concrete pipe. As we near our final destination there is cloud and more cloud, the attendant identifies us as Australians and chats to us about his recent travels in Australia, the cloud is supposed to clear he says, sadly that didn’t happen. The facilities on Mt Pilatus are undergoing reconstruction of a terrace area and new facilities, you have to dodge workers, cables and building materials to get outside, we’re amazed because you wouldn’t see that in Australia thanks to workplace health and safety regulations. We spend a couple of hours on the mountain, most of it indoors drinking coffee and eating fries as we wait for the cloud to disappear, every now and then we get a glimpse of sunlight and the mountains that connect to Pilatus providing several photo opportunities and a break from the cold. Regardless of the weather and construction work it was still a great way to spend our time in Switzerland and make use of our winter thermals which could easily be discarded now that the temperature has risen.

Lucerne-0260

Our time in Lucerne (or Luzern in Europe) is quite relaxing, a bit of shopping, sightseeing and eating and taking much pleasure in the scenic surroundings. The Saturday morning markets were a fabulous way to spend a morning, lots of cheese and cold meats to taste and the flowers, art and crafts for sale provided colourful eye candy for browsers. The market stalls lined both sides of the river that linked to Lake Lucerne, locals and tourists mingled and the tables at cafes running parallel to the site were almost always full and a good vantage point for people watching. Being in Switzerland I thought that a hot chocolate would be a delicious alternative to coffee, huge disappointment when they bought out a cup of hot milk and sachet of chocolate powder for me to DIY the hot chocolate, this I can get at home and for alot less than 4 euro!

Lucerne and Switzerland in general is famous for being an expensive place to visit, I’m curious to know how high the cost of living is because it really is a lovely part of the world and the easy access to other European countries is enviable. Our three nights in Lucerne were just enough to get a taste of the country and have a little down time, our budget couldn’t really afford to stay longer but it would have been nice.