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I would guess, that 80% of Australians visited Ireland. At least, anybody, who has Irish roots.
I can assure you that everybody discovers their own Ireland. I can assure you, it stays in your heart forever.

Day 1

Moscow – Dublin. Thursday
I went to Ireland from Moscow to heal my wounded heart (very long story)). To be as far from Moscow in Europe as possible… Just for me, the aviation authorities created a route, which took 7.5 hours flying time from Moscow to Dublin. Connecting via Amsterdam (KLM + Lingus), I arrived to Dublin at 10pm.

Dylan Hotel

My beautiful Dylan Hotel was just in the middle of the city, and I could not think of anything better than to toast my arrival with a small champagne bottle from the bar. My healing started on a high note – Vivaldi was playing Primavera in my head. Life started anew. Bugger the broken heart. On this note I fell asleep and slept like a newborn baby, even better, I would say.

Dylan Hotel Bedroom
Day 1. Dublin. Friday

I woke up at 10am in the morning, missed my breakfast and went to take a bath.
I was feeling thin, luxurious and beautiful.
I will spare all the intimate details, but, in short, while I tried to reach the rule the bath buttons with my left arm, I performed a split on the marble floor. I could never perform a split, not even when my parents unsuccessfully pushed me for the world championship in artistic gymnastics)…
I was bruised, scratched all over and sore. To cut the story short, I decided this little accident should not to take over my life and my trip. The hotel gave me all the gauze and disinfectants they had in their storage room.
I hobbled a bit, then took it in my stride and commenced my shopping. Grafton Street, in a capsule, is a little High street and is peppered with the shops like H&M, Mark and Spencer, Mango and the others, with the welcome exception of Brown Thomas, the best department store in Ireland.

Grafton Street Dublin

Second floor in Brown Thomas is dedicated to the Irish designers, where I chose overalls by Mary Grant (still wear them) and the bag by Pauric Sweeney (a famous prodigal son of Ireland) and a very famous bag designer in the world).

I went upstairs to the rooftop café to have the best bangers and mash, and suddenly, everything around me became quite blurred in one moment. At that moment I was taken to the emergency and was diagnosed with quite severe trauma in my poor left shoulder. At least I collapsed after my shopping was finished. And once back in a saddle, equipped with not so fashionable, and lets be honest, ugly, blue, hospital grade sling, I was still determined to live up to my planned schedule.

The opening of a new restaurant at Brown Thomas, Grafton Street. 10.05.1961
That night I went to the Abbey Theatre to watch a play (Bookworms) about an unfortunate Book Club meeting which ended up like Polanski Movie “Carnage”, but in a funnier, Irish way.

Abbey Theatre 1904

I was driven back to the hotel, by the most melancholic taxi driver, who managed to scare me with many stories about the damaged left shoulders of the other people.
Dinner/tapas in my Dylan hotel – Dylan Bar, the handsomest Irish man was playing on the piano under a dangerous degree of intoxication. The songs were by Sinatra, the twang was recognizably Irish, I was in heaven mix of the painkillers, Italian wine and the crowd much more alive and lets say, less snobbish than in Sydney…Met a lovely couple from Northern Ireland, discussed potato famine, and forever admirable Princess Diana.

Dylan Hotel Room

Bruised and confused back to bed – no reading before sleep…

Day 3. Dublin. Saturday.

In the morning, wearing blue Akira dress, remotely matching my sling, I started my excursion around Dublin and Derby.

Blue Akira DressShoulder Sling

I was driven in the limousine by the 10 years older driver/guide, who unashamedly flirted with me. Painkillers, champagne, and feeling beautiful in the eyes of an older Irish flirt, dulled my senses and dimmed my memory. The only vividly remembered part of the rich Irish history was an explanation behind cheerfully painted doors in Dublin. Are you ready for this? The reason behind cheerfully painted doors was for the drunken Irish husbands to determine which house was theirs in the dark of the night. No more and no less

Dublin-Doors
He drove me to Curragh Racecourse, in the county of Kildare.The name “Curragh” comes from the Irish (Gaeilge) word Cuirreach, meaning “racecourse”. The first recorded race on the plain took place in 1727, but it was used for races before then. The first Derby was held in 1866, and in 1868 the Curragh was officially declared a horse racing and training facility by act of parliament.  We also went to see the rich and famous houses, including those of U2(s)…

Ladies Kildare racesthe hourse who won

That night I went to see Arcadia by Tom Stoppard at the Gate Theater. Arcadia is a dazzling comedy of mystery and love, with all the qualities of a gripping literary detective story. Must say that Dublin theatre performances are superb and a lot of Londoners travel to Dublin to see them.

Arcadia Gate Theatre
That night I had dinner at Chez Max, a very traditional French restaurant, where I had the most beautiful foie gras cooked on the bed of an apple puree and served with pommes frites…(No Peta readers please()

Needless to say that 10 minutes into the meal, I was invited over to share a bottle of champagne with a family celebrating their father’s birthday. They could not stand a sight of a single woman having dinner on her own on Saturday night. Of course, the conversation veered into the history/religion/politics. Potato Famine and the history of suffering and the abuse copped from England all mixed up with a certain admiration for the Queen and Princess Diana.

Over the course of this lively conversation we all decided that I needed to hire a car and go on Monday to Galway. Just like this. Never drove in Ireland, but what the heck?

chez-max

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Day 4. Dublin. Sunday

Forget the guides, and the slings, I threw away my sling with the wild abandon of the feminists of the 60-s, throwing away their bras. I also took a double decker bus around Dublin. Discovered, the audio guide had all the languages. The driver offered me one in Russian before I even opened my mouth.
It was a day spoiler (just for a bit). Got off at the Grounds of the Trinity College. It was so beautiful that even I, who suffer from the adult version of ADD), stayed there for a few hours.

exam-hall-interior-Trinity
A little bit of history:

Trinity College was founded after the Reformation, in 1592, on the site of the confiscated Priory of All Hallows. For centuries, Trinity College was owned by the Protestant Church. Free education was offered to Catholics, provided they accepted the Protestant faith. True to the Russian saying, “The only free thing in life is the cheese in the mousetrap”.
As a legacy of this condition, until 1966 Catholics, who wished to study at Trinity had to obtain a dispensation from their bishop or face excommunication. Despite it’s 16th-century foundation, most of the buildings standing today, were constructed in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Trinity’s grounds cover 47 acres.

Book_of_Kells

Trinity College is most famous, though, for it’s splendid library. The Long Room houses Ireland’s largest collection of books and manuscripts; it’s principal treasure is the Book of Kells, generally considered to be the most striking manuscript ever produced in the Anglo-Saxon world and one of the great masterpieces of early Christian art.
The Books of Kells is a beautifully illuminated version of the Christian Gospels dating from the 9th century. It was once thought to be lost — the Vikings looted the book in 1007 for its jewelled cover but ultimately left the manuscript behind.
In the 12th century, Guardius Cambensis declared that the book was made by an angel’s hand in answer to a prayer of St. Bridget. Scholars think, instead that the Book of Kells originated on the island of Iona off Scotland’s coast, where followers of St. Colomba lived until the island came under siege in the early to mid-9th century. They fled to Kells, County Meath, taking the book with them.

The Old Library
The most famous page shows monogram, (symbol of Christ). The most famous students of Trinity include the likes of Francis Bacon, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, Thomas Moore, Oscar Wilde, Jawaharlal Nehru to name the few…

Oscar Wilde

 

Jawaharlal Nehru
Graduates from the Trinity College

 

After Trinity College, off to the Whiskey Factory excursion (Old Jameson Distillery). Love my whiskey, travelled to Scotland and loved Scottish Whiskey, but the Irish one seduced me with its soft and velvety and very elegant taste. Wait until I write about Scotland, maybe I will change my tune)
The Old Jameson Distillery is located on the original site of Jameson Distillery in Bow Street in Dublin. This distillery, founded in 1780, was Ireland’s most famous distillery for nearly 200 years, until its closure in 1971, when distilling of Jameson Irish Whiskey was transferred to the Midleton Distillery. For many years the Bow Street Distillery lay abandoned, but today, once again, it is a hub of activity, welcoming visitors from all over the world.

Old-Jameson-Distillery1The Old Jameson Distillery has recreated, on a smaller scale, the old distillery, and although no distilling actually takes place here, it is an excellent way to understand the how and why of whiskey. Every step of the distilling process has been recreated, from malting and storing barley, to mashing and fermentation, to distilling and maturation. The tour ends with a complimentary glass of Jameson for everyone and for a lucky selected few, a comparative whiskey tasting which compares and explains the differences between Jameson Irish whiskey, Scotch and Bourbon whiskies. After which, I thought, Bourbon – never!!!

jameson-tour
There is a very good restaurant on site, the 3rd Still, The menu is both diverse and contemporary, the atmosphere relaxed and friendly and it offers a bird’s eye view into the bustling lobby below. In fact, if you peer over the balcony of the 3rd Still, you can see into the original foundations of The Jameson Old Distillery which were purpose-built to bear the formidable weight of the enormous whiskey vats.
Back to the Hotel, That’s where I ended my day feeling happy, but with suspiciously throbbing shoulder
To be continued with the Day 4 and 5…Trust me, it is worth waiting for..

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Does it make sense when somebody wishes you Happy New Year and Merry Xmas?

Of course it does!

Does it make sense when somebody wishes you ONLY Happy New Year and nothing else?

In Russia, or in the ex-USSR, it does. Since 1917, Bolsheviks had a hard time re-writing the culture and traditions.They could not eliminate Christmas altogether, therefore they created New Year (two in one) – New Year with Christmas traditions, without baby Jesus and nativity scene.A little bit of history)

Traditionally, New Year’s Day in Russia fell on September 1, which ended Russia’s tax year. In 1700, in an attempt to westernize the country, Russian ruler Peter I moved the holiday to January 1 according to the Julian calendar. Therefore Christmas fell on the 7th of January (if you translate Julian into Gregorian calendar and New Year fell on the 14th of January by the same logic. Russia was 13 days behind the world, but the proper sequence of events was preserved.

The New Bolshevik Russia started using the Gregorian calendar in 1918, leaving the Church, which kept its Julian calendar by 13 days behind.

Between 1919 and 1937, the Bolsheviks banned public celebrations of New Year’s Day, calling it a bourgeois holiday. It became a non-labor day again in 1947. The Christmas traditions became adopted as New Year traditions. Santa Claus with its Russian equivalent of Grandfather Frost and his granddaughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden girl) slowly became adopted into New Secular Year traditions.

The Christmas Eve became New Year Eve. The presents were left under New Year Tree (read Christmas Tree) or exchanged at 12am on New Year Eve. Christmas itself, on the 7th of January became a non-event. Communism won, but so did secularity. The New Year was embraced and celebrated by everybody religion withstanding. For better or for worse, Jews, Muslims, Russian Orthodox, Catholics celebrated New Year with a real gusto. Even Ramzan Kadyrov (a President of Chechen Republic, the one who approves Isis) remembers with nostalgia the Grandfather Frost, who turned out to be his uncle coming from the next village to bring the children presents.

Which religion are we talking about anyway? The “Opium for the Nation” (Definition of Religion by Lenin) was abolished in 1917. If Communism as an idea gets buried forever, deservingly so, I want to have only one thing left  – New Year celebration as a unifying celebration.

I would love to celebrate Hanukkah, but having had no Jewish religious upbringing, I am also a stranger to my own celebrations. My religion was interrupted through three generations. I don’t know Hebrew and believe me, English translations of Hebrew prayers, don’t make sense. If I were back in Russia, I would be like a fish in the water – New Year and no mistakes, lots of room to wiggle, no traditions to understand. There was also a tradition in USSR enjoyed by every kid from the age of 5 till the age of 13. There were New Year performances in the theatres, Houses of Culture, local clubs. At the end of the performance the kids were given little presents containing chocolates, mandarins!!! (in the middle of winter), waffles and many other yummy treats.

But I am in Australia and that’s how it is. We give presents for Christmas for our Christian friends and for New Year for our Russian friends. At the same time I appreciate the fact that we are so free to celebrate anything we want, that every religion has its niche here.

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One strange thing about Australian New Year is the hot weather. For the first year in Australia I resented the hot weather, I missed winter, frost, snow, the atmospheric feeling of a “proper” season. Having lived in Moscow from 2005 till 2012, I realised there was no proper season. Who would miss the Moscow fireworks only seen from the Red Square or from the tall buildings around, which are not many. Who would miss the snow treated with special salt to make sure the snow looked like an undercooked porridge? Who would miss obligatory ceremony of taking off their shoes and putting on the “tapochki”/slippers when entering Moscow apartments for celebrations.

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But I still miss Russian New Year – the hot beautiful food, the numerous TV shows lasting for 24 hours, the presents given by Grandfather Frost (The Most Non-Drunk Male at Midnight – pretty hard task) and the children promising this Grandfather Frost that they would behave so well next year, that they deserved all of the presents given to them by Most Non-Drunk Male at Midnight. Russians or rather ex-Soviets do the same here and we enjoy it very very much. Having Russian TV handy is a good and cheerful help.

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Since our parents died and there is no 1st of January lunch and dinner visits (soon I will start stealing my granddaughter for the 1st of January), 1st of January for the last 4 years feels for me like a 24 hours long flight on the plane. No care in the world, you feel you are in a certain time capsule where everything is taken care of.

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I start my 1st of January with a splash in the swimming poo

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ALGHERO

We flew to Alghero from NYC in August 2003 and left behind the biggest and fattest Jewish wedding celebrations, which warranted the biggest and strictest 100 years of dieting.

We also left behind the biggest blackout in NYC, one of the biggest in history.

We flew red eye to Heathrow, then to Rome. From Rome, the small flying device looking more like a dragon-fly, than a serious flying device carried us to Alghero, in Sardinia. I remember coming in and out of the deepest sleep during the flight. I remember the schoolchildren screaming English words in my ear (I guess to impress us), I remember one of them tapping me on the shoulder and saying very softly : “Guarda, this is very, very, very fantastico!!!” And “fantastico” it was. The bluest skies and the bluest water and the most picturesque coast were approaching us with the speed of light(dragonfly). I have never seen anything more beautiful.

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We picked up our hired Polo. Out of habit my husband started to drive on the left side of the road. The driver on the opposite side of the road was from UK (the chance of one in million), he was also driving on the left side of the road. We were pretty lucky. After giving each other the wild stare of the instant survivors, we switched the sides and went to the meeting point to pick up the keys from the landlord who, in accordance to our Sardinia “matchmaker”, spoke perfect English. No English, of course, but after my “perfect” Italian we finally understood the directions of how to go to our villa. Villa it was not, it was a very rudimentary house with one bedroom and a tepid shower. We had 5-6-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep. The only thing we knew, when we woke up, that we were in the deep of the night with no hope to eat anywhere. We drove our Polo to the city centre and were pleasantly surprised that at 1am all restaurants were open and bustling with life…

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When we woke up the next day and saw the garden with all possible fruit and vegetables and whatever God created in 6 days (read the Bible), after our landlord/ (ressa) brought us clean towels and pots and pans, I decided the Garden of Eden was here, forget the tepid shower.

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We spent our first full day in Alghero.

Three rules in Sardinia concerning food:

1) The breakfast (murzu in local dialect) – Expect almond cakes, pastries stuffed with panna, local honey, artisanal yogurts, pecorino made from Sardinian sheep’s milk, prosciutto e salsiccia, and of course proper, grown-up coffee to wash everything down

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2) The lunch (pràngiu) finishes early and you feel that at 1pm you don’t want to eat anyway after such big breakfast. Don’t be fooled by the current state of your stomach…

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3) The restaurants open for dinner (xena) at 8pm. By this time you are ready to eat a whole pig, a whole fish or both of them stomach permitting.

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There is a reason we stopped in Alghero and not in Porto Cervo  even though Porto Cervo is more famous by its luxury, aristocrats, and Berlusconi/Putin duet happening annually.

Therefore a little bit of history:

Alghero pronunciation: [alˈɡɛro]; Catalan L’Alguer, pronounced: [ɫəɫˈɣe], locally: [lalˈɣe]Sardinian: S’Alighèra; Sassarese: La Liéra), is a town of about 44,000 inhabitants in Italy. It lies in the province of Sassari in North Western Sardinia.

The name Alghero comes from the medieval Latin Aleguerium, meaning stagnation of algae. The Catalan Language is co-official in the city, unique in Italy.

The area of today’s Alghero has been settled since pre-historic times. The so-called Oziere culture was present here in the 4th millennium BC; while the Nuragic civilization was present in the area around 1500 BC.

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Due to its strategic position in the Mediterranian Sea, Alghero was built around a fortified port, founded around 1102 by the Genoese Doria family.

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The Doria ruled it for centuries, apart from a brief period under the rule of Pisa (1283–84). In 1353 it was captured by the forces of the The Crown of Aragon under Bernardo di Carbera in 1372, following several revolts, the indigenous Sardinian and Genoese population was expelled, and Alghero later grew in numbers because of the arrival of Catalan colonists. In the early 16th century Alghero received the status of King’s City (ciutat de l’Alguer) and developed economically.

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The Aragonese rule was followed by invasion of the Spanish Habsburgs. Their dominion, ending in 1702, brought some stylish elegance to the city. In 1720 Alghero and Sardinia were handed over to the Piedmont based House of Savoy. Around 1750 a wide channel was excavated to improve the defensive position of the peninsula. In 1821 famine led to a revolt of the population, which was cruelly suppressed. At the end of the same century Alghero was de-militarised.

Since then, Alghero has become a popular tourist resort. It is interesting that Sardinia was the last country and Alghero was the last town in the world to submit to feudal law, several years before it was abolished all over the world.

In Alghero, a dialect of Catalan is spoken, introduced when Catalan settlers repopulated the town after the Crown of Aragon conquered the city from the Genoese in 1353 and subsequently expelled the indigenous population,

We travelled a lot around Alghero – swam in the cleanest beaches in Mediterranean sea – my best recommendation is Santa Caterina di Pittinuri beach near the little town of (you guess) of Santa Caterina di Pittinuri.

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Forgive me Australia, we have the best beaches, but they are too cold for my frozen European body. Santa Caterina beach is the warmest, the cleanest the “I want to stay here forever” beach. We had the best gelato in the town, for which we had to climb up 300 stairs (hate climbing) to reach the fortress gates. Mind you, most of the towns in Sardinia are built like fortresses due to many attacks from numerous neighbours.

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We also drove to Tharros – a hometown to Phoenician settlement.

From the 8th century BC, Phoenicians founded several cities and strongholds on south west of Sardinia; Tharros, Bithia, Sulcis, Nora and Karalis Cagliary. The Phoenicians came originally from what is now Lebanon and founded a vast trading network in the Mediterranean. They settled along the South Western coasts. Sardinia had a special position because it was central in the Western Mediterranean between Carnage, Spain, the river Rhone and the Etruscan Civilization. The mining area around Iglesias was important for the metals lead and zinc. The cities were founded on strategic points, often peninsulas or islands near estuaries, easy to defend and natural harbours. The cities were administered by Plenipotentiaries, called Sufetes.

After trying to absorb all this information, we asked our guide where we could have some dinner (6pm)?, he looked at us as we were indeed early Phoenicians. He said, that everything in Tharros opened after 8pm after siesta.

We decided to drive to Oristano , did not see much because of the ever growing hunger and decided to go back to Alghero. When we stopped at one of the petrol stations (AutoGrill) we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of coffee and the food. By the way, any petrol station in any point of Italy has excellent coffee.

Also, as a matter of interest, Sardenia does not have autostradas (toll roads), only motostradas (toll free roads), where the speed of driving is very undefined. Driving on the right side of the road was our prerogative anyway.

Next day was dedicated to Porto Cervo. We were dying to know what was there, which was not anywhere else in Sardinia, what makes Putin kiss Berlusconi with the ardency of a young lover and stay there for weeks…

We drove there for 4 hours and discovered that it was – Nah, nyet, really nothing.

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Porto Cervo seemed like a small portion of KitchenAid mix of Beverly Hills and Monaco, even cafes were scarce and shops, well, in Double Bay they are definitely better. There are no sidewalks there, hello Palm Beach!) The villas, real villas were behind high walls and to really appreciate the city we simply had no chance.

A little bit of history):

Porto Cervo (Italian pronunciation: [ˌpɔrto ˈtʃɛrvo]) (Deer’s Port in English) is an Italian seaside resort in northern Sardinia.

It is a fraction of the area of Arzachena. Porto Cervo village is the main centre of the Costa Smeralda. It was built by Prince Karim Agha Khan, together with the other investors. Porto Cervo has a resident population of 421 inhabitants. In a study released by the European luxury real estate brokerage Engel & Völkers, Romazzino Bay in Porto Cervo is the most expensive location in Europe. House prices reach up to 300,000 euros per square meter. In 2011 Costa Smeralda had the second, the 4th and the 6th most expensive hotels in the world, the Pitrizza, the Romazzino and the Cala di Volpe Hotel. In 2012 the Hotel Cala di Volpe, which is featured in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy who loved me is listed at number 7 on World’s 15 most expensive hotel suites complied by CNN Go in 2012. The presidential suite of the hotel billed at US$32,736 per night. And we are saying Intercontinental in Double Bay is expensive)!

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After such uneventful day (we did not even meet Berlusconi) we returned home to pack – next day we were flying to London, only to discover that we had people in the “villa”. There was a family of our landlords, cooking for us a farewell dinner.

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They were very disappointed that we could not eat their local delicacy roasting suckling pig, so they made the most delicious pasta con vongole instead. There were lots of cheeses and fresh figs, local wines and of course, limoncello, (a must to bring from Sardinia along with the local coral jewellery).

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Mama, Papa and two kids spoke to us in a mix of Sardinian dialect, Italian and English. The food and the wine dissolved any language differences…Cicadas were singing in the background. The trip was ending with the saddest feeling that we needed another 3 days to fully enjoy Sardinia. Is it not the best trip, then? The one, which makes you want more and more? Very, very, very, Fantastico!

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Across from the Jewish Ghetto, across the river Tiber, pass Isola Tiberina lies an area which only Romans know and only Romans visit. It is called Trastevere.

It holds for me the most of Rome’s magical secrets, and every time I visit Trastevere, something magical happens.

A bit of history:

In Rome’s Regal period (753-509 BC), the area across the Tiber belonged to the hostile Etruscans: the Romans named it Ripa Etrusca (Etruscan bank). Rome conquered it to gain control of and access to the river from both banks, but was not interested in building on that side of the river. In fact, the only connection between Trastevere and the rest of the city was a small wooden bridge called the Pons Sublicius (Latin: “bridge built on wooden piles”).

In fact, Trastevere is one of the oldest regions of the city. The area is so specific and so isolated, that it has its own dialect/accent, and its inhabitants are called Trasteverini.

Of course, the bridge connecting two banks of the river is now made of stone and is called Il Ponte Garibalde. Garibalde withstood and attacked the French hiding in Trastevere.

When we lived and worked in Rome, and tried to survive in order to get to the wonderful shores of Australia (legally – we were refugees from USSR then), I saw this area first from the main street (Viale De Trastevere) and spotted a house with no glass windows and, obviously no inhabitants, with the huge marionette dolls and skeletons sitting peacefully on window ledges. Their legs were swaying slowly from the wind. It was a bit macabre sight, but I did not have a chance to see Trastevere then.

12 years passed and we went to Rome with my daughter. On one glorious Sunday we ended up having a lunch in Trastevere.

By then we have been living in Australia already for 11 years, and since we left Rome I did not have a chance to say goodbye to the nicest American Joint caseworker, who looked after us for two years while we were in refugee camps. I had a niggling feeling that we would meet her that day. I had a niggling feeling we would meet her in Trastevere. And we did, after lunch, just like this on the street.  The skeletons were still there…

I went to Rome 4 years later and rented “la cantina”, (a cellar), which promised a lot on the internet, and turned out to be a very dank, smelly and dark place with a room upstairs representing a bed and nothing else. The water was temperamental and no washing machine existed as a device of civilisation. I was so depressed that only ventured out to have a cornetto and cappuccino and dinner in the nearest trattoria. Until I discovered a Laundromat on the corner of my street, and met there a wonderful Australian lady, who worked for Caritas Vatican and was about to fly to Thailand to help the locals with medical supplies and food amidst the terrible floods. I also met there an owner of car repairs shop, who looked like our Aussie bikie, albeit with the Roman nose. He made the best cornetti and the best cappuccino. He also had two huge Dobermans who would kiss and lick everybody in vicinity in a very Italian dog way. Something must be happening with the dog breeds, after they get Italian citizenship. I started going on my own for lunches and dinners and not every time, but quite often, the owner of my favourite trattoria would drive me on the back of his Vespa home.

 

La Dolce Vita does exist.

As for more formal review, Trastevere does not have your usual brand shops and luxury restaurants, but it has many artisan places with unique choices and many little restaurants, which are simply unforgettable.

My favourite shop there is Roma Store Profumi on via Della Lungaretta 63.

It seems that all other perfume stores in Roma have the “usual” name brands — Bvlgari, Prada, L’Occitane, etc. But this shop has better selection with: Laboratio Olfattivo, Eau D’Italie (of Le Sireneuse fame), I fell in love with two different Eau D’Italie scents…

For shoe shopping it’s the best to go to Joseph De Bach

You won’t find a more unusual shoe shop anywhere. DeBach, a native of Tripoli who now lives and works in Rome, makes fantastic clogs, sandals and wedgies for men and women. Leather is stamped with comic strip art, with metallic patterns. Heels are made of iron in unlikely shapes- curves, curlicues. It is as much a gallery of shoe art as a store. Check it out when window shopping, if nothing else. The address is Vicolo del Cinque, 19. Open evenings only from 7:30 pm

Fabrizi is in via Lungaretta 98 – there, you will find Italian leather goods in snakeskin, crocodile and calf. The shop has exquisite purses and accessories, as well as a collection of interesting jewellery. Its run by the same family since 1954.

The best dinner in Trastevere I had, was in Enoteca Ferrara in Piazza Trilussa 41,

This is a wine bar with tables on three levels and a lovely back garden for warm weather dining. The two wine lists (one huge book for whites, one for reds) provide for a full evening reading. Some visitors come to Ferrara to buy a bottle or a little gastronomic treat from the in-house deli, some for a pre- or post-dinner glass of wine, others opt for the full-on restaurant experience. The cuisine is undeniably creative, with a tad bit of Slow Food approach. The crowds happily drinking beer on Friday night make this little piazza disappear– they are not from Ferrara, they are from the pub next door. It is still a huge difference between the ruddy crowds behaviour In Roma and in Sydney. I wont tell which one I appreciate more. Whatever you decide to do in Trastevere„ be assured ,that it’s a little Rome inside Rome and it’s a place like nowhere else. Its so much to write about, but…En plus, I forgot to check my skeletons…

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When I first went to Paris on my own for two weeks only, I went to contemplate life, to make decisions, marriage including. It was in August, 2003 – the year when Paris was liberated 60 years ago from the Nazis. Well, Paris was a free spirit and even loved the Americans. My Russian accented English was welcome everywhere.

In general, the easiest way to “survive” Paris is to go for the “prescribed walks” during the daytime, the hardest way to survive is to go for dinner on your own. Not because it is Paris, it is because going for dinner on your own in an unknown city it’s a hardest thing to do for a woman… That was my thoughts and anxieties thrown together.

That’s how thought a woman, who never had a dinner on her own in her own life since her brain started to develop…

It put my life strictly into perspective and made me think that marriage was the best invention in life…

 

Nevertheless, it was August, and the asphalt was melting. My little apartment under the roof did not have any air-conditioning. And it was melting too. Drinking wine and eating cheese under this hottest roof for the 4th day in the row would have killed my Paris spirit forever. My prescribed walk (I lived in Bastille) told me to go to Brasserie Bofinger. En plus I decided to try steak tartare. I took a book with me (I needed it as much as a fur coat on this balmy evening).  I took a plunge and …

Forget the steak tartare, I entered the most beautiful restaurant institution in Paris. Of course there were no tables available, but flirting in English with a Russian accent gets you anywhere in France…I got the best table under the most beautiful ceiling, Art Nouveau could ever invented (please forgive my naivete, I was mesmerised). The waiter did not leave my side and …of course…I decided on oysters Fin De Claire number 4, and on (Please God, if I have to burn in hell, could you make the temperature there a bit lower) Foie Gras steak on apple puree and brioche. I also ordered Bourgogne and I drank (wow) two glasses of it.

I was in heaven, I also justified to myself that the ducks are fed in the same way, as all Jewish children are, by force (from my own experience)…Since that “fatal” evening I was eating out on my own in Paris every day. My fear was unleashed…

A little bit of history…

 

In 1996, when the French restaurateur Jean-Paul Bucher announced he was buying the great Parisian brasserie Bofinger, in a narrow lane just off the Place de

la Bastille, the regular customers reacted furiously. In a city where its great brasseries are regarded not merely as restaurants but as grand historic symbols as rich in heritage as any museum or opera house. They are temples to the French way of food, which must surely never be allowed to come under the control marketing men. Despite this, over a 30-year period, Bucher has purchased nearly a dozen in the French capital for his Flo restaurant group, including famous names like La Coupole and Terminus Nord (been there, they are wonderful too).

 

Bofinger was opened in 1864 by FrÀdÀric Bofinger, a refugee from war-torn Alsace on France’s north-eastern border with Germany. The first Bofinger was tiny: little more than a bar that served draught beers – it was the first establishment in Paris to do so – and charcuterie. It soon became fashionable and has remained that way, as it has expanded and grown, through four different owners, including one of the Rothschild family.

Today it occupies almost the entirety of the rue de la Bastille, its brilliant red awnings decorated with an over sized gold ‘B’. The whole of the interior is now a protected national monument. But the crowning glory is the intricate glass dome above the central dining room. Upstairs there is more rustic room, named after the Alsatian artist whose Teutonic landscapes decorate its walls.. Bofinger seats 300. Each day a staff of around 100 – 30 of them in the kitchen – serve 800 diners. One of the most important things about Brasserie Bofinger, it is always busy. My sometimes, beautiful eyes and my English Russian accent secures me the table almost every time. If my luck ever stops, I will go for a plastic surgery)…

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I have been in many places in the world – to be exact in almost all of Europe, Asia, North America. I don’t like sweet things, I never eat dessert, but one place completely transforms me into ravenous dessert eating creature. This place is not in Paris, not in Italy, Spain, Vienna – it is not in the best dessert places in the world.

This place is in Hobart, and for those, who don’t know, it’s a capital of the smallest state in Australia, Tasmania.

My love affair with Hobart started 20 years ago when I started working at the Antarctic Conference (CCAMLR). Before going there I knew it was a very provincial place. It did not seem so to me. During 2 weeks of the conference the town was alive with the scientists from all over the world. We had endless evenings of talks with the help of Tasmanian Pinot, we had very enlightened conversations about everything in the world. We touched the topics of sex, religion and politics without any reservations. We went to all classy restaurants – lots of them in Hobart, but we never had a cool place for breakfast.

Then, suddenly, in Battery Point one of the English scientists discovered the BAKERY. It was a pretty local affair with two little rooms and few tables outside. We would sip our coffee (excellent, on par with Sydney) and eat the sandwiches, quiches, croissants, as the world would end today. Everything was crunchy in the right place, soft in the right place, savoury in the right product and sugary where it was needed. The herds of Labradors and Golden Retrievers passed our tables, but I did not give them anything. It was nothing left to give.

I haven’t been to Hobart since 2006 and we travelled there with our friends in January 2014. After nothing to do in Launceston and its surroundings, Hobart suddenly looked and felt like a capital of the world. The town has changed a great deal. In fact, the presence of MONA changed it beyond recognition, but about this, later. We went to traditional Salamanca Markets and we popped in the BAKERY.

Jackman and McRoss Bakery did not change. It became bigger and lighter – it expanded into 4 rooms. There was a queue for the table. There were couples, obviously 20 years into their own marriages, reading their own newspapers or sms-ing the outside world, there were families with lots of kids, gay couples…The BAKERY looked much more urbanistic, than before. Hobart looked much more urbanistic than before. The Labradors were still there, they did not have much space anymore.

We had an amazing breakfast. In fact, we have had three amazing breakfasts in this bakery in a row. The strawberry tarts, sandwiches on the best sourdough bread, eclairs, quiches…Well, it is not a place for the scale conscious people. I dream to return to Hobart again, for its best seafood, for Mona, for local antiques shops, but mostly, for the BAKERY. It will happen soon.

 

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To rephrase Geoff Whitlam Dismissal speech – “Long Live Cara&Co but we wish all the best to Westfield”

During 2.5 years we got again in the best 5 concept stores in the world and well, our restaurant, something we did not have in Moscow got a very prestigious Gault Millau award – 3 hats
Its nothing more to say, but to show you the beauty of Cara&Co Sydney. See you in New York
 
 
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