“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” (Ibn Battuta)

Erica Jong hit the nail on the head for me: “What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago.”

Italy is very dear to me, I spend some of my childhood years in Venice and feel very privileged to have experienced the Italian culture and people at such close proximity. As a child, Italy was the best playground you can wish for and even now as a blooming adult, my love for this country is very deep and committal. This post is a bit of a trip down memory lane, about a trip I did to Florence with my family a few years ago – the gate to beautiful Tuscany.

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Taking a stroll along the Arno on a clear day is one of my favourite things to do in Florence. Catching some afternoon rays, there are also numerous little market stools scattered around for souvenirs a la Tuscany.

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Take a hike up to the Basilica San Miniato al Monte for some breathtaking views of Florence. It’s not a very over-run tourist attraction so it’s very likely that you’ll be lucky and have the entire view to yourself.

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For an authentic Florentine dinner, I’d recommend the Bierreria just past the Piazza della Repubblica. Wonderful dishes in a rustic setting.

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Enjoy a late macchiato on the Piazza della Repubblica, people-watching the day away

“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.” (John Gunther)

Breakfast – most important meal of the day, bad for your health if you miss it, it makes you live longer, helps you lose weight…. The recent health trends have literally destroyed breakfast with all their scientific whit, it has become a huge topic in the past years just HOW IMPORTANT breakfast is for us. As a German native, breakfast has ALWAYS been important to me. And it still is, nothing makes a weekend morning better than that one and only leisurely breakfast (or brunch as they like to call it here in the UK) – and again, my German roots have given me that desire of a hearty breakfast: eggs, “Aufschnitt” (basically charcuterie: hams, salamis, meat cuts….), cheese, sour crème, jams, fruit compote….. You name it, I eat it or make it breakfast respectable. But health is important too, so avocado has become a centre piece in a lot of my breakfast dishes.

So, how do you have your eggs in the morning? Here is what my weekend breakfast table looks like – it ranges from German, to healthy, to poached to Mexican huevos.

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Typical brunch of mine: poached eggs with home-made bernaise sauce, scrambled eggs, roasted pancetta (much better than bacon!), avocado salad and of course – the Wusrt platter with brie and some good old German rolls

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The healthy one: poached eggs on brown toast with avocado. Simple but AMAZING – I like my eggs runny so only cook them for 5:40 mins. Add a bit of celery salt for a kick

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The simple one: whole grain toast, scrambled eggs, a bit of basil and a cup of black coffee. Breakfast for champions in my opinion. Dead simple but so good – for your health as well.

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Huevos Rancheros: the good old Mexican breakfast! You can make this many different ways, I tend to make mine heavy on the mushroom and black beans side: Fry some mushrooms, garlic and onions till brown, add some chopped up fresh tomatoes, cook till soft and like a sauce. Add the black beans plus liquid from the tin, cook a bit further til you have a nice and thick sauce. Season with salt, pepper and herbs (bit of chilly for spice if you like!). Make 3 little moults in the pan where you crack the eggs in – cook the eggs on the hob till they are your your liking with the lid on. Or put them in the oven under the grill for a couple of minutes with some grated cheese. EGG HEAVEN!

 

 

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” (George Bernard Shaw)

When abroad, I am a big advocate of having at least 1 pan and 1 hotplate to be able to cook with the local ingredients some local recipes. However, that never stops us from venturing out to find culinary heaven on a plate in a restaurant. Here are my top 5 from Grenada:

  1. Petite Anse Restaurant

Part of the hotel, this restaurant is hard to find AND hard to reach. Located at the northern tip of the island, you have to keep an eye out so you don’t miss the sharp left you have to take, over a wobbly bridge onto a dusty path. This path is 2km long, bouncy as hell, and you can only keep every limb crossed that no oncoming traffic will suprise you. As there is no space for 2 cars. Just about for 1. Just about…..

However, it is worth it!! The hotel it tugged away on a cliff right at the edge of the island, overlooking a little beach. You sit on the sunny terrace, looking over the Caribbean Sea and a faint glimpse of the Sugar Loaf on the left. The food is local, simple and absolutely delicious! From Seafood to Chicken or Seafood Roti, there is something for everyone and with the breath taking view, it’s my favourite place to dine in Grenada.

 

  1. La Sagesse Restaurant

Again, a hotel restaurant (highly unusual for me to like) set on the beach of La Sagesse underneath palm trees. Again, we went for lunch – the menu changes daily and is made up of the local catch of the day and seasonal vegetables from their very own garden. I went for the swordfish steak with vegetable rice, but there are also stews, fritters and super fresh salads.

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  1. The Edge

Guess what – another little restaurant attached to a hotel and again right at the water’s edge. Obviously, those are the best places, the ambiguous looking ones! The Edge is a bar as well as a restaurant, with a very local menu. We went for a dinner treat and it’s amazing listening to the waves breaking on the walls, jazz music in the background and it’s not over-run. This place is actually owned by a former Miss World, crowned in the 70s, born and breed on the island. Again, the menu is local and what I loved about it – there was goat! When travelling the island, you see goats everywhere – it’s one of the main life stock of the people. So I was thrilled to finally find local goats cheese and local goats stew on the menu! Both absolutely delicious and authentic – hard to catch a goat in the UK….

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  1. Patrick’s Local Home Cooking

This place has been around for over 20 years, tugged away just by the Marina on the way to St. George. Don’t be put off by the outside, it doesn’t look like much – more like a fenced in parking lot with plastic chairs and fairy lights BUT the food can’t get any more local than this and the owner is an absolutely beautiful lady! Patrick’s is fairly frequented by tourists, but this is down to all the good reviews on TipAdvisor, it ranks fairly high. The twist to this place is: it’s a fixed menu of tapas, so you get the chance to try a lot of local dished but in very small quantity. You get around 15 courses from salads, vegetables to fish and meat stew. There is a different “drink of the night” every day, and it is pretty feisty, they don’t mess around with the rum!

  1. Umbrella Bar

This IS a tourist trap, I cannot deny it. It’s right by Grand Anse beach, it plays loud music, it is very American, there are mostly tourists or students BUT it has an amazing grilled fish sandwich!! I had to go back 4 times during the holiday to have it over and over again…. To my great dismay, in Barbados everything was deep fried, you couldn’t get a fish tail without grease and crumbs on it. Here, in Grenada, everything is fresh, grilled and meaty. So even this very innocent grilled fish sandwich was absolutely awesome – an entire fish steak between two very fresh baguette buns (courtesy of the French heritage of the island), there was a hint of sauce and lots of fresh tomatoes, herbs and onions. A dream in a bun.

 

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” (Anonymous)

With winter also comes the time of the year for a long-haul trip to the sunshine. After the rather clean Caribbean experience of Barbados last year, I was keen to experience the real West Indies this time, without the tourist towers and the clean cut restaurants to please the American or Canadian resort travelers. Don’t get me wrong- Barbados was a great memory the way we travel led the island, staying in a guest house – but I wanted to see more.

So, the chose final destination: Grenada. A small island dubbed the “Spice Isle” amongst its Caribbean brothers and sisters, it sits at the end of the chain of Caribbean islands, close to the coast of Venezuela. It’s a breath-taking little place, consisting 70% of jungle and natural reserves, with small, colourful wooden huts nestled in the hills and mountains. Tourisms hasn’t really hit off on the island as of yet, it gets mainly populated by the huge cruise ships, which dock for a couple a days as week and swamp the beaches for a couple of hours here and there. Apart from that, the island is more on the quieter side when it comes to tourism with only a couple of resorts near Grand Anse. It does have a university, which gives it this unique mix of locals, tourists and students.

I’m not one for top tips, but here a couple of things we did to have a pretty authentic and active Caribbean holiday on an island less traveled:

Mix it up!

We split our time between 2 very unique places at two different spots of the island to be able to experience both: the jungle and the natural reserves, versus the beach plus civilisation. Kimo’s Place in Windsor Forest is perfect: set in the mountains of the parish of St. David, surrounded by Kimo’s famous vegetable garden, you are living right in the midst of the locals. Don’t expect good roads – we literally bouncy castled it down the hill. Up in the mountains, the temperature is a bit cooler than by the coast, and a strong wind blows. You will most definitely be on the menu for the mosquitos every night from 4pm onwards – but this is all made up by the great authentic apartment and the amazing views.


The closest beach is La Sagesse, a 15 minute drive on another pot-holed road. It’s worth it though, the beach is a quiet oasis under palm trees with shade for the lunch hours. Postcard perfect really.

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By the beach is also a hotel restaurant, which serves a different lunch menu every day with excellent local fish and home-grown vegetables. It’s not over-run and also frequented by locals, which says a lot!

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2nd pit-stop was the Caribbean Cottage Club – note, this is NOT a tourist resort but 4 wooden cottages nestled at the bottom of a hill in St. George parish, just 15 minutes walk shy of Grand Anse beach. The cottages are run by Karina, a temperamental Italian with her family, and the properties are set in a beautiful tropical garden with countless rare tropical birds. You want a mango for breakfast? Just go and pick it! What makes this oasis perfect is its simplicity of wooden huts and the great views. You can cook your own Caribbean meals and enjoy it with a view of the sea on your private little wooden terrace. No tourists, just travelers and mosquitos to keep you company. Note, they have quite a large selection of pets, so if you don’t like a cat keeping your chair warm over night on the terrace, this is not the place for you.

Get some wheels to experience the potholes!

Kimo was kind enough to rent us a small car for the few days we stayed with him, and we took the opportunity to explore the North and East coast of the island. If you are a bit of a screamish drive, Grenada is probably not the best place for you to get behind the wheel: pot hole after pot hole, stomach churning zigzag roads only, which the locals take like the devil – and then there are the dogs. Grenada seems to have a huge population of dogs (stray and owned), who don’t really care that you’d like to get on with you day by using the road, which they tend to use as their prime sunbathing spot. So to be a Grenadian driver you need: good nerves, good driving skills, a firm stomach, patience and a bit of good humour. Use your arms more than your indicators, people tend to wave you around a corner than use indicators or blinkers.

Places to visit up north are Bathaway Beach and Levera Beach, with a great view of the Sugar Loaf, a private island right at the tip of Grenada. You meet kind people all over the island, who are keen to have a chat with you, find out more about you and tell you proudly about the island and their parish. There is so much passion in the Grenadians about their little piece of paradise, it’s absolutely heart warming!

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Become a two-legged explorer

As keen hikers and outdoor adventurers, we really wanted to get to the heart of the island and explore its natural beauty. Again, not a fan of big groups stampeding through the forest, we eventually found a local guide, Vaughn, who took us on two 5 hour hikes: a Cross Country hike, starting off at the Great Etang lake (a volcanic crater lake), climbing the volcanic crater up to Mount Qua Qua (nearly 2,300 ft), then down through the deepest jungle to the Concorde Waterfalls for a swim. The 2nd hike was climbing mount St. Catherine, Grenada’s highest mountain of 2,700ft. An incredible experience, you end up climbing on all fours up the thick jungle, using every muscle in your body to end up with your head in the clouds – literally! These hikes are probably one of the top 10 things I’ve done so far whilst traveling – and again, it is not for the faint hearted. You wade through mud for the first couple of hours – don’t even try to not get dirty, there is no escape, and you might as well use your bum to slide here and there. You cross streams for the next hour, knee high in water in your trainers. And you have Vaughn – an absolute treasure of a guide. Born and bread in Grenada, it’s like hiking with a friend, not a guide you never met before. HE has extensive knowledge of the island (not just the touristy stuff you hear at every corner) and a screamingly good sense of humour! After spending 10 hours with him and his cutless in the jungle, we felt like we made a friend for life.

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Vaughn in his element

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The view from Mt. Qua Qua

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Grand Etang lage, a volcanic creater