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.

Monday, September 24, 2012

From the Archives - Part 2

Ah, PhotoShop - it's a wonderful thing ...

The second part of my adventure at the Indian Embassy in Bangkok, will I ever get my visa?

Just back from the Indian Embassy, and of course, that
means another story!  Today was the day I was told to
pick up my visa.  The Embassy said that I had to go at
12 noon, but I was at the ANZWG Friendship Lunch at
the Novotel today and didn't want to leave early, so
chanced my arm and went back at 3pm when they re-open
for the afternoon session.  Turns out it was lucky I
didn't go at 12 noon as they don't actually hand out
the visas until 3pm - they must have been "mistaken". 

Anyway, I'm in a HUGE line but armed with the courage
that four champagne and oranges at a girly lunch will give a
person.  The line is barely inching forward and my
feet are going numb when the Indian Ambassador's
personal driver walks through the room and sees me
(the Indian Ambassador to Thailand lives in the
penthouse suite of our apartment block).  He calls me
out from the line and takes my paperwork, telling me
to wait whilst he disappears behind some closed doors.

A few minutes later he re-appears and says "I bring to
your house 5pm, okay?", which is when he delivers the
Ambassador home.  I thank him profusely and try not to
do a happy little jig while the remaining people in
the line look like they want to kill me.  I float back
out to the car, giving the "thumbs up" to the happy
security girl who's gotten used to me after so many
visits, and am now at home waiting for my personal
visa delivery man to drop my passport off to the
house.  The gods must be smiling today.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

From the Archives - Part 1

After reading Cliff's astonishing (but actually not terribly surprising, knowing how Embassies work) story about renewing his US passport yesterday, it brought to mind an Embassy story of my own.  Here's a bit of a funny story back from September 2006, when we were living in Bangkok, about me wasting hours at the Indian Embassy trying to get a visa for a trip to India.

Please excuse the formatting, it was years ago, back when was sending out my newsletter via email - well before I started the blog ...

Picture the scene - I'm at the Indian Embassy in BKK, it's
heaving with humanity, very grotty, quite pungent and
huge lines of people not moving very quickly.  I trot
up to the table where you get the numbers (I was
prepared - I'd already gone to the web, printed off
the form, filled it in and had photos done) and:-

Staffer "fill in this form"
Kristy "as well as these forms I've already done?"
Staffer "yes"
Kristy "okay"
Staffer "you need copies of all of your forms too"
Kristy "can I get them copied here"
Staffer "no"
Kristy "where can I get them copied"
Staffer "    " (he just ignored me and turned away)

So I trundle back out to the car and, as I had to go
to Qantas to pay for some tickets, I thought I'd do
that next and beg some photocopies off of them.  So
that's what I did.

Khun Sun is driving me to Qantas and puts on a new CD.
Now, some time back he asked me what music hubby liked
and I said "Robbie Williams".  Well, he puts in this
new CD and says "music Boss likes" and it's bloody
Andy Williams!!!!!  He's obviously gone and bought a
CD that he thinks hubby will love, and I haven't got
the heart to tell him that my Granny loves Andy
Williams, so I spend the next 30 minutes being driven
around Bangkok to the tune of "Moon River" and the
like.  Each time a new song started I got attacks of
giggling snorts and had to cover them with coughing
fits so as not to hurt Khun Sun's feelings.

So, we arrive at Qantas after being serenaded by
msyelf and Andy Williams (who would have thought I
knew all the words?) to pay for a ticket for hubby and
one for me.  Mine is okay and I do that, but hubby's
has some glitch that involves me having to sit around
for an hour and then go somewhere else.  Before I left
I blagged some photocopies of my Indian visa

We find our way to United Airlines and pay for the
other sector of hubby's flight and then head back in
the rain to the Indian Embassy.  Which is closed.  The
guy on the gate says to come back at 3pm.  I sigh and
turn away.  Get back to the car and have a small fit
that involves steam coming out of my ears and Khun Sun
getting the giggles.  

At this stage it's 2.30pm and I haven't eaten (and we
all know how dangerous that can make me).  We go to
Villa and buy some groceries and then I go home for a
bite of lunch.

After a bite to eat we head back, in the rain, to the
Indian Embassy which is again heaving with people and
now there's only one service window open.  I know I've
got everything this time so I join the long line which
is snaking through the waiting area.  I wait for ages
and finally get up to the window, only to be told that
Visa applications are closed for the day and I have to
come back tomorrow.  I have a small controlled tanty
which makes no difference whatsoever.  I'm informed
that Visa applications close at 12 noon each day and
whoever told me to come back at 3pm was "mistaken". 
The joy.

Khun Sun watches me drag my feet down the soi back to
the car and starts giggling sympathetically again when
I have a bit of a moan.  He thinks it's quite funny
until I inform him that instead of having a day off
tomorrow, he now has to come back and drive me back to
the bloody Embassy again.  His mood modified a little
after that.

So tomorrow will see me making my 4th visit to the
Embassy in 24 hours and I'm just wondering what will
go wrong then ......

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pasta with Mushroom, Garlic, Wine & Cream Sauce Recipe

Yay, it's another tried and tested recipe from Pinterest!

This is one of those recipes where you pretty much already have most of it (or all of it) in your fridge and pantry, so it's perfect for when you're running low on inspiration and can't be bothered to go to the supermarket - and it's really yummy.  As usual, my comments in italics - let's get cooking!

Pasta With Mushroom, Garlic, Wine & Cream Sauce (serves 2 generously)

  • 300g dried pasta - pappardelle, fettucine, tagliatelle (I only had spaghetti, so I used that)
  • 250g sliced mushrooms (you could use any kind of mushrooms, I used the ordinary ones that were kicking their heels in the fridge - and I'm not sure if it was 250g worth)
  • 25g butter (didn't measure it, just used a wodge of butter)
  • 1tbsp olive oil (didn't measure it, just used a big glug)
  • 1 garlic clove (we like garlic, so I used 4 - we REALLY like garlic)
  • White wine (I used several glugs, but if you don't want to use wine you could always use chicken or veggie stock - I think this recipe could use a little more salt anyway)
  • 200ml double cream (didn't have double cream, just used normal cream)
  • 2tbsp grated Parmesan (didn't measure it, just grated a lump of parmesan that I had in the fridge - please don't use that horrible powdered stuff you can buy off the shelf)
  • Sea salt and black pepper (normal salt is absolutely fine if you don't have sea salt)

  1. Bring a fair sized pot of water to the boil with a glug of olive oil and cook the pasta until al dente. (In the recipe they say to cook your pasta first, but I think cooking the sauce takes longer than cooking the pasta, and cooked pasta always goes a bit gluggy on me - so I recommend cooking the sauce first and then, when it's nearly done, chuck your pasta in the boiling water and cook it.  The sauce will sit happily on a warm stove until you're done.)
  2. Chop your mushrooms and garlic
  3. Melt the butter with the oil in a large pan and then add your garlic
  4. Add your mushrooms and season with salt and pepper
  5. Cook for 8-10 minutes until coloured
  6. Add the wine and simmer until nearly evaporated
  7. Add the cream and parmesan 
  8. Simmer gently until thickened
  9. Drain your cooked pasta and add the pasta to the sauce
  10. Give it a good stir and serve with more grated parmesan on the top
  11. Serve with a loaf of garlic bread and remainders of the bottle of wine - YUM!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Jewish Apple Cake Recipe

Just out of the oven ...

You can blame Pinterest.  I've started pinning recipes like a woman possessed, and this Jewish Apple Cake was one that took my eye immediately.  We're right in the middle of apple season here in my little part of Germany and the trees are groaning with fruit in the orchards - and I love apple cake, so it's a win win.

Of course, me being me, I didn't follow the recipe to the letter.  Where's the fun in that?  I'll make my comments in italics as we work through the recipe.  Here we go:-

Jewish Apple Cake


  • 3 cups flour (all purpose/plain)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups white sugar (I used one cup of white and one cup of brown - mainly because I like the toffee taste that brown sugar gives in fruity cakes, and also because I had a sad little bag of brown sugar sitting in the pantry that had about a cup left in it)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 apples peeled, cored and sliced (I don't have a corer, so I used my mandolin and just sliced them thinly around the edges of the core.  Don't know why I don't have a corer, it's a mystery ...)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 5 teaspoons white sugar (I only used two teaspoons of white sugar, and two teaspoons each of this vanilla sugary stuff I bought in a supermarket in Paris years ago because I liked the tin it came in.  I'm mad for interesting looking tins of ingredients in foreign supermarkets - then I have to figure out what's actually inside.  In this case, I think (hope?) it's vanilla sugar.)

See?  How could I not buy that cute tin?  Really hope it's vanilla sugar .
Not the pink stuff - I'm pretty sure the pink stuff is NOT vanilla sugar,
but the problem is that I don't know what it actually is.  Any ideas?


  • Preheat oven to 350F or 175C
  • Grease and flour one 10 inch tube pan (not sure that that is, I have a bundt pan, so I used that)
  • Combine the ground cinnamon and 5 teaspoons of the sugar together and set aside

My mix of odd sugars and cinnamon looked like this.

  • In large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and 2 cups of sugar
  • Stir in the vegetable oil, beaten eggs, orange juice and vanilla

This is how vanilla extract comes in Germany.
Each little glass tube contains one teaspoon.

  • Mix well
  • Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan
  • Top with half of the sliced apples

What it looks like after the first layer.

  • Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon/sugar mix
  • Pour the remaining batter over the top
  • Layer the remaining apples over the top
  • Sprinkle with the last of the cinnamon/sugar mix
  • Bake at 350/175 for 70-90 minutes (our oven is old and dodgy and it looked done after 60 minutes, so I turned it down to 150 and gave it an extra 5 minutes to be sure - keep an eye on it after an hour)

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!  Yum.

Monday, September 3, 2012

La Vigne du Roy, Champagne Tour, Reims, France

We were a bit slow off the mark and only decided we would go to Reims about a week before we actually went.  We really wanted to do a champagne tasting tour and headed to to see what was available. We were recommended to La Vigne du Roy from the people at Raw who were booked out.  Luckily La Vigne du Roy had just had a cancellation and we managed to slot in with no troubles.

Chris arrived at our hotel in his shiny black van at 9.30am for our private tour, and the three of us piled in.  Chris runs the tour company with his fiancĂ© and it's pretty personal, making you feel very welcome.

La Vigne du Roy focusses more on the smaller champagne houses, where people put real passion into their product, and we headed off into the surrounding countryside and parked up at the edge of a vineyard to get our first information on grape varieties and the earth they're grown in.  Chris is an expert on champagne and has a background in the forces, giving him a passion for military history also.  There's was never a lull in conversation!

We visited Nicolas Maillart for our first tasting.  Maillart is a small family champagne house, now into it's 9th generation.  We toured the whole champagne process and learnt so much, before we headed to the tasting room.  Around 8 different champagnes were on offer for tasting and we enjoyed them all!  After loading our purchases into the back of the van, we headed off for a glorious lunch at Le Jardin Brasserie - yum!

Do you know why glasses are "chinked" during a toast?
Chris did, and now we know too!

Lunch lingered pleasantly on, with more champagne, and it was about 3pm when we eventually ambled back to the van and headed on to Rene Geoffroy for our next tasting.  Geoffroy is another family champagne house, and has traditional champagne caves under his current production facility.  We toured the five levels of caves and making area before having more tastings (and purchasings!).

Chris decided that instead of visiting another champagne house, we'd do something a bit different, and he managed to totally surprise us as we drove up into the forest, then walked through the trees, along three suspension bridges between the tree-tops, and into the Perching Bar - the world's only tree top champagne bar!  It was amazing to be in this gorgeous tree house, sipping a flute of bubbles, looking down over Reims after such a great day.

As we headed back into town around 7.30pm, we were seriously thrilled with our tour.  Chris is a passionate guide and a friendly guy.  We were given so much information, tips of places to eat, and things to see.  He has lots of stories and is in the process of writing a novel, the first part of a historical (with a twist!) trilogy based in and around Reims - we'll be buying it when it's released!

La Vigne du Roy
Phone:- +33(0)6 31 86 59 23