Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Cavorting at carnival, admiring art, & fabulous food.

Wow I can't believe how long it has been since I last posted. Most of the time has been spent in Europe (UK and Italy), and has been a time of mainly highs.

In UK, I finally went to Nottinghill carnival after years of it being on the "to-do" list. What a mad day, whistles, sound stages, friendly/helpful police, food stalls, thousands of people, processions... everything and far more that I had expected and a great day.

On another day in London, it was fantastic to watch J's reactions as he came face-to-face with old masters in the National Gallery, which previously he'd only seen bad reproductions of. His face was a mix of shock, wonder and amazement, especially at the Monets and Van Goghs. It was not only old masters that he liked, as we saw an exhibition in the new wing and there was a modern Spanish painting of a bull in a field that we both kept returning to look at.

We saw more art in Italy, when we went to the Vatican city, Rome. My 1st visit had been back in 2000. Although I remembered the Sistine Chapel and the Raphaels and it being a long walk, I hadn't remembered there being so many other works of art, including modern pieces. I was very surprised to see a Dali amongst the collection and some great sculptures. The afternoon before, J & I had revisited the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain & Spanish Steps etc. all on foot, though we caught metro back to hotel. Of course, we had many breaks for cakes, ice-cream, drinks and dinner.

I think we spent the whole time in Europe eating great food with fantastic wines, whether in expensive restaurants, roadside stalls, or riverside pubs. In UK alone, I had 3 lots of mussels, each time in a different sauce - the cider version at The Oyster Bar in West Mersea was one of my favourites. It was a restaurant I went to twice, once after walking the dog along the beach, when we sat outside overlooking the estuary to eat fish chowder then amazing dressed crab. Then, the second time almost a month later, we sat inside for mum's birthday lunch - mussels followed by Lemon Sole yum. Whilst in Italy, I experienced the spectrum of Italian cooking ranging from a typical Calabrian dinner, which came in many courses including TWO pasta dishes, to 3euro wood-oven pizzas. My mouth is watering just thinking about it all and I'm sure I'd get giggly if I wrote about Prosecco hic.

Finally, whilst in Italy J & I explored some lovely areas. We spent a lovely day walking along and picnicking by a river in the region of the Pollino National Park, which surrounds the village where I'm (hopefully) buying a flat. It really is quite beautiful and very tranquil. Although, as the flat sale still hasn't gone through, due to problems with the sellers, who knows if we will return. We also drove up the coast to Maratea, which is gorgeous, with it's picture-postcard port and its mountainous old town, and down to Diamante, which is a town covered in murals, fascinating.

Needless to say I did not want to return to Oman last Friday. However as it's Ramadan, which for us ex-pats that means a time of lots of house-parties and socialising, I'm quickly liking it again. More news soon.