It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

House Swap?

Okay, we've never done a house swap with anyone we don't know.  We've stayed in friends houses when they've been there, and house-sat when they haven't, and we've had loads of people stay with us - but we've never swapped with a stranger.  I like the idea of exploring a new place and having a house as a base, not just a hotel room.  I loved that "House Swap" show that used to be on telly years ago.  Have any of you done a house swap with a stranger?

Here's an article I was reading today on apartment therapy with some advice:-

If you've never done one, the idea of a house swap can be a bit intimidating. People are sometimes trepidatious about the idea of strangers staying in their home or about visiting another person's home sight unseen. When done right, though, home swaps are a great way to immerse yourself in a local community, build a network of international friends, and experience new places without worrying about the cost of hotels.
If you're new to home exchanges, this summer might be the perfect time to give it a shot. Here are some tips to help get you started.
1. Go through an official home swap website. While I'm sure that there are a number of people on the up-and-up on Craigslist, it might be worth the additional sense of security to go through a company specifically designed for exchanges. Many of these sites have special guarantees, and one can assume that people using the site are more serious about fulfilling swaps. You may have to pay a membership fee, but often these are cheaper than a one-night stay in a hotel, and that strikes me as a small price to pay for peace of mind. Some popular sites areDigsvilleHome ExchangeHomeLink International, and Intervac. There are also a number of place-specific and profession-specific swap sites out there, if you have something more particular in mind. Check out Only in America for swaps in North America, Aussie House Swap for stays in Australia and New Zealand, orSabbatical Homes for academic exchanges.
2. Plan in advance. Setting up a house swap is a more intricate, time-intensive process than setting up a vacation rental. You are establishing a relationship with someone else, and you will need to communicate with some regularity in order to develop a rapport and establish trust.
3. Read reviews. A lot of home swappers are regulars, so they may have other people who have reviewed their spaces. Look at reviews carefully to help get a sense of whether it's an accurately described place. Also, feel free to ask for references from potential guests, and be prepared to provide them should they ask for the same from you. It may also be a good ideal to set up an informal written agreement outlining the terms of the exchange. In a swap, it's necessary to have a certain level of trust, but setting up some parameters can help each party feel more comfortable with the exchange.
4. Consider the type of people you're swapping with. Are they professionals? Do they have kids? Are they young? Is their lifestyle similar in some respects to yours? Thinking about these types of questions might help you choose people that you're comfortable with. It can also ensure that your visit will be more suitable for your lifestyle. (For instance, if you're a thirty-something single, you may not want to swap with someone who lives in a community for retirees.)
5. Be precise. In your listing and in your correspondence, be clear about what you are offering. Can visitors use your car? Can they bring their dog? Will they need to take care of your plants? The clearer that you are about the expectations that you have for each other, the better the home swap will be for both parties.
6. Be honest. While you want to play up the strong suits of your home, don't exaggerate or fib. You wouldn't want to show up at someone's home and have surprises waiting for you, so assume that your guests don't either. Take accurate photos and be sure to clue your visitors in to any idiosyncrasies that your place might have (it's on a noisy street, or it shares a patio with neighbors, etc.). On the flip side, to make sure that you're getting an honest depiction of the place you'll be staying, ask plenty of questions, and make sure that the lines of communication with your swapper are open.
7. Be open. Not everyone lives in New York or Paris, but it doesn't mean that they don't have a great place to swap. You might be that suburbanite wondering why someone from Tokyo would want your place (so much room!), or you might be that urban dweller who receives an email from a family in rural Wyoming wanting a swap. Obviously, you need to choose exchanges that suit your tastes, but keep your mind open about the possibilities of visiting new locales.
8. Prepare. Tell the neighbors in advance that you will have guests. If they see strangers coming and going, and you're not around, they might assume the worst. Also, if it's a concern for you, talk to your insurance agent and make sure that everything is properly covered under an exchange. Does your car insurance cover the guest driver? Can you pay your exchange company for a plan that will cover expenses in case the exchange falls through at the last minute? Along these lines, put any financial information or valuables in a place safe from prying eyes. If you don't have a safe, you can set up an "owner's closet" with a padlock.
9. Don't be too uptight. While it's natural to be a bit skittish about strangers coming to stay, and while it's smart to take precautions, ultimately, home swaps require a certain level of trust. It's okay to check in on your guests or to make some minor demands about plant-watering, etc., but don't pester them. This is their vacation, and just as you wouldn't want to be hounded on your vacation, neither do they. Similarly, remember that home exchanges are about hospitality, not about hotel-level amenities. You should be realistic with your expectations. Just as your home probably has some quirks, theirs might too, so don't get too hung up on things like sticky locks or a lumpy pillow.
10. Clean. Make sure that your home is clean and inviting for your guests before they arrive, and when you leave their home, make sure that you have treated their place with respect and have left it in good condition. Be sure to clean out the fridge, vacuum or sweep, take out the trash, and change the linens.
11. Think of your guests. Make sure that you have left clean towels, plenty of toilet paper, and adequate closet or drawer space so that your guests feel welcome. You might also consider leaving a small housewarming gift, like a bottle of wine or a local food product. Additionally, be sure to provide your guests with plenty of written information. They'll need to know emergency contact numbers, how to operate things around your house (like any complicated audio-visual equipment), and how to get around. If you think that you might home swap on a regular basis, invest the time to type up a short booklet about your home, the neighborhood, and the city for your guests. You'll only have to do it once, but tips about good local restaurants, shops, and sights will be exceedingly helpful to your guests.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Soundtrack #5

I know I've been a bit slack with the whole Summer Soundtrack thing, but we've been doing a lot of travelling and I don't take my laptop with me.  People tell me I can successfully blog on the iPad or iPhone, but I'm still not convinced, so I'm sticking with the MacBookPro for the moment.

Anyway, one CD that's been in both of our cars this summer is David Guetta's "Nothing But The Beat".  I know I said that we're seriously not into house or dance music, but this stuff is absolutely addictive.  We had it on in the house at first and you can't actually NOT dance to it - it just makes you wiggle your butt.  Even the dog was dancing around with us.

The reason I bought the CD was that I'd heard the song "Titanium" (the last cut on the CD) and it features an Adelaide singer called Sia.  It's very catchy and I was hoping the rest of the CD would be too - it definitely is.

As Molly Meldrum (obscure Australian reference) would say - "Do yourself a favour" and get hold of it.  Then get dancing!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

London Eye Champagne Flight

We decided that a ride on the London Eye was in order, and that a Champagne Flight would be even more fun.  For £35.04/head (nothing like being EXACT!) you get into a pod with a waiter and a cooler full of Pommery champagne, there's some orange juice for Bucks Fizz if you'd rather.  Your ticket gets you a ride on the Eye and a flute of champagne.  The waiter is around to take your photo or answer any questions you might have, ours was a cheery chappy and very helpful.  You can buy a second glass ticket if you'd like, but I think one glass was enough for the ride.

Normal ride tickets start around £19.98 (again, get those last pennies!), and everything is cheaper if you book online and in advance.  Another bonus of booking online is that you can choose a time slot and you're not waiting in the huge lines with the people who've just turned up on the day.

There's also a fixed camera on the outside of the Eye that snaps a picture of you as you're just about done, so make sure you get into the photo zone (it's marked on the floor) as you're on the descent and do your best smiley face.  You can buy the photos at the bottom straight away.

EDF Energy London Eye
Riverside Building
County Hall
Westminster Bridge Road
London  SE1 7PB

Monday, July 23, 2012

Restaurant Review : Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley

A 25th Wedding Anniversary dinner calls for something just a little bit special, so Jim managed to snag us a table at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley for Diane & Alan's celebration.

Our table was for 9pm which left time for a few drinks in The Blue Bar at The Berkeley.  They  have a fab cocktail list and we managed to sample a few.  The Blue Bar is aptly named, and I found it very luxe but also quite cold feeling without terribly much of an atmosphere - didn't stop us having fun however!  And their cocktail nibblies, which they kept replenishing, were absolutely scrumptious.  We had to force ourselves to stop eating them so that we'd have enough room for dinner.

The restaurant is approached through their normal hotel restaurant, which was a bit odd.  You walk through tables of diners to a closed set of doors, and are then ushered through.  The toilets were a bit of a hike as well, but it's fab to catch snippets of conversations in posh hotel loos - "Hermoine will just die if Tottie doesn't come to the country house for kitchen sups!  She will be simply inconsolable!".  Really.  I desperately wanted to stay longer and keep my ears flapping but it would have looked a bit pervy.

Anyway, enough of toilet chat, back to the restaurant.  Dinner was absolutely glorious, as you would expect, with a choice of a "Chefs Menu" or a la carte.  The stand out courses for me being the scallops with asparagus and the foie gras - YUM - the only problem was that they weren't big enough and I wanted more.  Because I'm greedy.  The diet?  Um, well, it definitely starts on Monday!

The service is top notch with always someone hovering politely at a distance, but close enough to summon with a glance.

I can't finish without mentioning the flipping cheese trolley.  I know that there are people who like a cheese course to finish their meal, my hubby does from time to time, and the restaurant had a large and interesting looking cheese trolley.  But they kept it uncovered basically the entire time and the whole restaurant smelt of ripe cheese.  When you entered the restaurant you were greeted by a wall of cheese smell and, honestly, it was over the top.  If you like cheese, you'll love it!

Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley
Wilton Place
London  SW1X 7RL
Phone:- +44 (0) 20 7235 1200

They have a dress code - no jeans, trainers or sportswear, and a jacket is required for gentlemen.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Annual Flight Count Update

A quick weekend away in London to celebrate our dear friends, Diane & Alan, 25th wedding anniversary saw the flight count get a bump up.

Keep tuned in for some London blogs ...

Oh, and whilst I was searching for an "18" picture for the flight count, I came across this particular image.  Handy to know that children under 18 aren't allowed to use AK47s ...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Restaurant Review : Ikarus, Salzburg, Austria

Wow, what can I say?  This is a SERIOUSLY good restaurant!  One of the best, if not the best, we've ever been to.  Not only is the food amazing, the set up of the tables means you get to see what everyone else is getting, and you know that you're going to get that, it provides a sense of theatre.

There were only 8 tables (yes, you NEED to book), set around the edge of the restaurant space, with the fabulous staff moving through the middle of the space.  There is at least one member of staff per table, probably two, and they are fantastic.  Everyone speaks English and they know their stuff, they are incredibly professional yet personable.

The tables were topped with black leather - very tactile!

Ikarus is located in Hangar 7 on the edge of Salzburg Airport, in part of the Red Bull Museum, which is itself worth a visit (free entry).  There is also a great bar on the ground floor, outside the Museum, which is up next to the edge of the airport fencing - amazing for watching the planes and having a drink or two.

Ikarus is an unusual restaurant, in that it runs with guest chefs.  Each month they have another international chef running their kitchen.  The month of June was Daniel Patterson from Coi in San Francisco.  Daniel combines high quality seasonal products from his region with the most advanced preparation and cooking techniques.  Daniel's amazing cooking has been recognised by Michelin and awarded two stars.

I could go on and on about this restaurant, it's exceptional.  Not only do they have a champagne trolley to start you away and a cheese trolley (there are actually three cheese trolleys!) to finish you off, they also have a bread and butter trolley.  Really.  A trolley to offer you different breads and FIVE different house made butters - amazing.  We couldn't decide, so they sliced generous serves of all of them onto a slate for us to try - the seaweed one was astonishing.

The menu is a degustation of 9 courses, each priced individually so if you want to drop a course out, they will drop it for you.  I dropped the Asparagus, Oyster & Wheat Grass course, but hubby kept it in and said it was fabulous.  Once you've chosen your courses from the 9 on offer (I had 8, hubby had 9) your attentive waiting staff removes your menu and then comes back with a souvenir menu created for you to take away, listing exactly what you've chosen - wow.

You can choose a wine flight or a non-alcoholic flight to go accompany your meal.  I chose the non-alcoholic flight so I could try something different, and I think I won that round!  My drinks ranged from Grapefruit & Ginger Punch, to Combucha Quince & Mint Iced Tea - scrumptious.

Each of the courses was impeccably presented and tasted amazing.  I can't really pick one course out above the other, but the Beetroot & Goats Cheese Tart with Dill & Rye was quite fabulous.  The first dessert of Frozen Lime Marshmallows & Grilled Meringue, which was likened to toasted marshmallows, really did taste like it'd been cooked over a wooden fire - wow.

Oh, and I know it sounds really odd, but make sure you go to the toilet whilst you're there.  I've never seen such a HUGE arrangement of flowers in my life as I saw in the ladies loo.  Hubby said there was a similarly large arrangement in the mens.  There is also a chat screen between the mens and ladies loos (not in the actual toilet cubicles, yuck) which is a bit of fun.

Red Bull Museum, below the restaurant, well worth a visit

Restaurant Ikarus
Wilhelm-Spazier-Strasse 7A
Salzburg  Austria  5020
Phone:- 43 662 2197 77

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Restaurant Review : Monschberg 32, Salzburg, Austria

Had a great lunch on the fabulous open decking area, looking over the amazing views, at Monschberg 32 (M32) on Sunday.  M32 is the restaurant for the Salzburg MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), and you reach it by lift up the mountainside, then a few stairs.  As we were going out for a big dinner, we didn't want much, so just ordered salads and coffees which were lovely, but you really go for the views.

There are lots of lovely outdoor tables, on a large stepped decking area, all under the cover of umbrellas.  Staff weren't overly friendly, but were efficient and the food was good.  There is also a large inside restaurant with a brilliant ceiling covered with hanging deer antlers.  It was brilliant lingering over lunch as we watched hang gliders launching from the mountains in the distance, whizzing and whirling around in the warm air.

The ticket for the lift is €2/person to get up to the restaurant, but you get a return ticket per person when you pay for your meal.  They also do breakfasts and I think we'd try that next time.  The breakfasts came out on tiered trays (similar to high tea trays) and looked amazing.

Monschberg 32
Salzburg  Austria  5020
Phone:- 43 662 84 1000

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sheraton Salzburg Hotel, Salzburg, Austria

For our last two nights in Salzburg we moved to the Sheraton Salzburg Hotel, on the other side of the river and were given a lovely large room on the second floor.  Again it had opening windows which I think is great, and a large king bed with the European "duvet per person", unfortunately these were winter duvets and we were there in summer.  The room was air-conditioned, but it didn't really work terribly well, and we were a bit stifling.

One huge downside for me in any hotel room is a lack of blackout curtains, and this hotel seriously didn't have any.  Our room was bright enough to read the paper in by about 5.30am, but that's pretty much the only downside.

There was a really good SPG lounge on the 7th floor, with both indoor and outdoor areas.  It looked new and everything was stylish.  The breakfast was good, mainly cold selections, but also a bain marie containing eggs, bacon and mushrooms.  The coffee was freshly made by a whizz-bang machine and it was really good, we had several!  There were also nibbles and drinks there in the afternoon.

There's car parking under the hotel for €17.50/day - good value.

Sheraton Salzburg Hotel
Auerspergstrasse 4
Salzburg  Austria  5020
Phone:- 43 662 88 9990

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Restaurant Review : Barenwirt, Salzburg, Austria

We switched hotels on Saturday to the Sheraton, on the other side of the River Salz, and used again to find somewhere for dinner.  Barenwirt is nearly 350 years old and got some great reviews - their claim to fame is they have the best fried chicken in Austria - well, I'll be the judge of that!

We walked back over the river and found Barenwirt without any problems.  They found us a table on a balcony overlooking the River Salz, which was seriously flowing, dragging huge trees downstream in its muddy, caffe latte coloured water.

I ordered the fried chicken (how could I not?) which came with a side of potato salad, and hubby ordered the schnitzel.  The fried chicken was really lovely, crisply fried and not greasy.  It came in five small portions with a fried chicken liver served in a little paper patty pan as an accompaniment (as much as I love foie gras, I'm not a fan of actual livers - weird, I know).  The potato salad was okay, but it's not the same as American or Australian potato salad - it's much heavier on the vinegar in the dressing and I only ate a little of it.

I was holding out to try a traditional Austrian dessert, Salzburger Nockerl, but I just didn't have any room - sigh.  Next time, Nockerl, next time!

Mullner Hauptstrasse 8
Salzburg  Austria  5020
Phone:- 43 0 662 422 404

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mozart's Birth House, Salzburg, Austria

We had a great look around Mozart's Birth House Museum in Salzburg.  We sort of stumbled on it by accident, but it's well worth a look.  Entry was €7/per person.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in the house at Getreidegasse 9 in Salzburg on 27th January 1756 and lived for his first 17 years in his house.  The house isn't preserved as it would have been when he lived there, but is more of a museum containing music, instruments and information.  One thing I found really interesting was that his sister Maria Anna (known as Nannerl) was equally as talented as he was, but lived her life in the background.

Maria Anna Mozart

I'll be honest, I didn't know that much about Mozart and can only recognise some of his music and operas, but this museum was great.  Wolfgang and Nannerl's father, Leopold, seemed like a bit of a bully and realised that his kids where incredibly talented (as was he).  He worked those kids pretty hard, pushing them to tour Europe and enforcing fairly strict rules.  I learnt a lot from reading the displays and using the fabulous App for iPhone that you can download in the lobby on the free wifi provided.

Mozart's Gebursthaus
Getreidegasse 9
Salzburg  Austria  5020
Phone:- 43 662 84 43 13

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Get Cooking!

This is just a test to see if this new Blogger App actually works ...

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thank You!

Wow, the counter has just clicked over to 10,000 page views of my blog - thank you so incredibly much!

I'm still rather amazed that anyone is interested in my adventures, recipes and general waffle - but I'm thrilled that you are.

Thank you and have a seriously fabulous day.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bacon Jam Recipe

"Bacon Jam?  Say what?  Has all this travel finally driven her crazy?"  I can hear you asking these questions of yourself, but no, I'm serious.  I saw this recipe for Bacon Jam yesterday and I'm sooooooo tempted to make it.  What do you think?

If you look at the measurements, you'll see they are VERY precise.  This is because it's an American recipe and I pressed the "change it to metric" button.  I'm a "close enough is good enough" kind of cook, and I am pretty darn sure that it'll turn out fine if you don't have EXACTLY 327ml of cider vinegar.  Oh, and I've posted the original US measurements at the bottom of the page, they might be easier to follow.


  • 1.36 kilograms Bacon
  • 4 whole Large Yellow Onions, Peeled And Thinly Sliced
  • 8 cloves Garlic, Smashed And Peeled
  • 237 milliliters Cider Vinegar
  • 237 milliliters Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 355 milliliters Very Strong Brewed Black Coffee
  • 118 milliliters Pure Maple Syrup
  • 4.9 milliliters Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Preparation Instructions

  • Cut the bacon slices into 1-inch strips. Add the bacon to a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until the bacon is browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings into a heat-proof jar with a tight-fitting lid. (Save the bacon drippings in the refrigerator. That’s too much flavor to trash!)
  • Place the Dutch oven back over the medium-high heat and add the onions and garlic. Stir well and reduce heat to medium. Continue to cook for about 8 minutes, or until the onions are mostly translucent. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well, and drop heat again, this time to low.
  • Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and boil hard for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, stir the browned bacon into the onions and liquid.
  • Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally to make sure things aren’t sticking, adding 1/4 cup of water if it seems to be drying out. When the onions are meltingly soft and the liquid is thick and syrupy, remove the Dutch oven from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Transfer the contents of the Dutch oven to the work bowl of a food processor that has been fitted with a blade. Fit the lid in place and pulse several times or until the bacon jam is a spreadable consistency. Scrape into a jar (or jars) or a container with a tight fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.
  • Can be served cold, room temperature or warmed.

Here's the US measurement list:-


  • 3 pounds Bacon
  • 4 whole Large Yellow Onions, Peeled And Thinly Sliced
  • 8 cloves Garlic, Smashed And Peeled
  • 1 cup Cider Vinegar
  • 1 cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 1-½ cup Very Strong Brewed Black Coffee
  • ½ cups Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Monday, July 2, 2012

Restaurant Review : Cafe Tomaselli, Salzburg, Austria

After a great nights sleep at the Goldener Hirsch, we decided we'd head out to Cafe Tomaselli for breakfast.  I'd read about it on and people said they made the best coffee in town.  Cafe Tomaselli has been around for over 300 years and I think we were quite lucky to get one of the gorgeous outside tables so we could sit and watch the world go past.

One of the fab things about Salzburg is that many ladies wear their traditional dress - dirndl.  They wear them as normal day dress, not just for a special occasion, and they are all so gloriously colourful and fashionable. The residents of Salzburg all seem to be very chic and stylish - you can quite easily tell who the tourists are!

We ordered breakfasts and their recommended coffee, Viennese Melange, the traditional coffee for the region which was mocha with milk and big spoons of whipped cream - YUM!  Tomaselli only uses fresh local free range eggs and my breakfast "egg cup egg" was seriously scrumptious.  We sat in the sun and ordered second coffees and watched the promenading locals, horse drawn carriages and wandering tourists - a lovely way to start the day.

Tomaselli is also famous for its cakes and bakery, and dirndl clad waitresses wandered past from time to time with huge trays of glorious sliced cakes balanced on their shoulders - you could stop them and they would lower their tray to your table and serve you a slice.  Very tempting indeed.  Lucky I was full of creamy coffee!

Cafe Tomaselli
Alter Markt 9
Salzburg  Austria  5020
Phone:- 43 662 844 488 0