London for Sugar Addicts

In this guest article, former pastry chef Andrea Duty takes us on a mouthwatering tour of the best deserts and sweet stuff in London – heaven for sugar addicts!

The torrid reputation of English food is infamous. Time and time again, foodie travelers pass on the UK’s bland traditions in favor of Vietnamese spice or French indulgence. And while it’s true that the culinary scene in London had an exceedingly long awkward phase, it’s since grown into a modern, dynamic contender as one of the best food cities in the world. I could talk for pages about the various curry houses, chippers, chaat shops and pubs throughout the city, but as a former pastry chef, I feel it my duty to bring you all things sugar, from the traditional to the internationally influenced. Thus, my list of absolute favorite desserts in London. Nothing bland about it.

Kouign amann from Parisian chef Philippe Conticini Photo: Andrea Duty

Kouign amann from Parisian chef Philippe Conticini

Kouign Amann

Renowned Parisian chef Philippe Conticini brings the signature bell jars display cases and geometric packaging of La Pâtisserie des Rêves to Marylebone, filling them with manicured renditions of French classics and updated British favorites. His kouign amann – a baton of caramelized croissant dough – negates the need for a trip to Paris on the Eurostar while his carrot cake has forever ruined me to my homemade version.

Merveilleux

Hot on Conticini’s heels is Frédéric Vaucamps, the master of meringues whose Aux Merveilleux de Fred just debuted South Kensington. His dainty “cakes” of crisped egg white, whipped cream and assorted toppings look like the dense cake balls du jour but wow with a cloud-like consistency. Flavors such as speculoos, praline and coffee compete as top sellers…and for space in my stomach.

Aux Merveilleux de Fred in South Kensington Photo: Andrea Duty

Aux Merveilleux de Fred in South Kensington

Sticky Toffee Pudding

All those who visit me in London are treated to a Sunday roast at The Spaniards Inn, a 16th century pub reportedly frequented by the likes of Dickens and Keats. My guests may think the aim here is to show them a bit of British history or give them a little culture, but my real motive is a slice of sticky toffee pudding. The version at The Spaniards is wickedly rich and is pushed over the edge with a dollop of clotted cream. Nab a seat by the fireplace and it’s pure heaven.

Sticky toffee pudding at the Spaniard's Inn in London Photo: Andrea Duty

Sticky toffee pudding at the Spaniard’s Inn in London

Bakewell Tart

Take a buttery tart shell, schmear it with jam, top with dense almond cake and you’ve got a classic Bakewell Tart. There are as many variations of this dessert as there are bakers in England, but my favorite slice so far is at Le Comptoir Gourmand. It may be commercially made, but it’s so rich and homey that I swear someone’s grandma must be running that kitchen.

Bakewell tart at Le Comptoir Gourmand Photo: Andrea Duty

Bakewell tart at Le Comptoir Gourmand

Pistachio/Ricotta & Sour Cherry Gelato

I recently spent two weeks in Italy where I consumed as much gelato as is humanly possible, but BUT (and I feel sacrilege even saying this) none of it was as good as the scoops at Gelupo. Here the flavors are spot on: fresh, not too rich, and not too sweet. They are just…perfect. Plus, there’s a dessert case full of frozen cupcakes, chocolate-dipped cones and a rotation of seasonal treats. Even when we are in the depths of winter, you can bet on finding me here.

Gelupo Gelateria in London Photo: Andrea Duty

Gelupo Gelateria in London

Andrea Duty is a former pastry chef from Austin, Texas living in London, England. She eats her way through other countries in attempt to discover cultural insight from cake and historical relevance through cookies…or something like that. You can follow her travels at This New View.

 

More London dining experiences:

Fine dining favourites at the top London Hotels
Five of the best kept secret eateries in London
An artistic lunch at the V & A – in London

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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A drive along the west coast of Sardinia – Flamingos, black rice and dancing candle men

November 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Europe, featured, Italy, Leisure, Museums, Sardinia, Sightseeing

In this article, our guest author, Astrid Ruffhead takes us on a drive along the west coast of Sardinia from the bustling capital Cagliari to the coastal resort of Alghero taking in the candle festival of Sassari.

Located on the southern coast of Sardinia, Cagliari has throughout history been a leading trading seaport in heart of the Mediterranean. The oldest part of this bustling capital is the Castello, perched like a crown on top of the hill in the town centre. Park the car outside the city walls and enter the city via the Porta Christina. Immediately to your left you find the former Arsenal, now housing the city’s most important museums; those of Archaeology, Oriental Art and the Municipal Art Gallery.

Entrance to Museum area in Cagliari

Entrance to Museum area in Cagliari

The grid-like layout of the city makes it easy to find your way around. Walk along the Via Martini and you will soon be standing outside the Town Hall. Inside is the helpful tourist office and on the first floor are the Sala Della Rappresentanza and Sala del Consiglio Comunale. On their walls hang numerous paintings of important events in Sardinian history. To me, it gave a visual aid to Sardinia and its relationship with mainland Italy, but what struck me most, being a paranoid and security-anxious Londoner, was the openness of the place, no security checks or guards anywhere.

Interior of Town Hall in Cagliari, Sardinia

Interior of Town Hall in Cagliari, Sardinia

The same street leads you down to the impressive Romanesque façade of the Cathedral on Piazza Palazzo, built by the Pisans in the 12th century. Dedicated to Santa Maria, this place of worship is extensively decorated in different types of marble in the Baroque style. I was there on a Sunday and the cathedral was packed full, so many locals and visitors chose to sit on the steps outside to listen to the ceremony and music in the glorious sunshine.

Cathedral facade in Cagliari

Cathedral facade in Cagliari

Antiques is one of my passions in life and I had months in advance planned to be in Cagliari on the second Sunday of the month so that I could fully indulge myself at the antique market on Piazza Carlo Alberto, an event which every website had assured me takes place every second Sunday of the month – the day I was there. Nobody though, had added the words ‘except for August’…Oh well, time for lunch instead. I found this lovely trattoria serving wonderful seafood in one of the many narrow alleyways within the Castello.

Prawn on black rice and honey sauce

Prawn on black rice and honey sauce

The coast road to Oristano

From Cagliari we took the motorway towards Oristano. From there on, the coastal road is one I will always remember, simply breathtakingly beautiful. Sandy beaches or rocky outlets are embraced by the clearest waters I have seen for a long time, colours ranging from dark ink and celestial blues to a soft shimmering turquoise. As cliffs get higher and the roads getting narrower, to my great surprise, long legged pink flamingos can be seen around the salt plains that are now vast nature reserves.

The coastal view at Oristano, Sardinia

The coastal view at Oristano, Sardinia

Continuing north, we made a stop at the pretty little town of Bosa on the river Temo. Here is a good market on a Wednesday morning selling fruit, cheese bread, a very good place for sampling delicious local produce. Get here early as market and everything else for that matter, closes at lunchtime. Boat trips are available on the river in the evenings and along the river you see the old tannery buildings from the turn of the last century.

Crispy bread puffs and fresh produce at the market

Crispy bread puffs and fresh produce at the market in Bosa

Arriving at Alghero

Closer to Alghero, the landscape changes again, becoming more fertile with many wine producing fields, including Sardinia’s favourite grape, the Vernaccia. Alghero has been a popular resort since the 1960s thanks to its long sandy beach but in the countryside south of Alghero you find may manifestations of the Nuraghi people, who lived on this island in the 10th-12th century BC.

In the countryside south of Alghero you find may manifestations of the Nuraghi people, who lived on this island in the 10th-12th century BC.

Evidence near Alghero of the Nuraghi people

Via Garibladi runs along the seafront and marina and its many bars and restaurants are filled with trendy people watchers. As always, I head for the oldest parts of town where I notice that this place has a very Spanish influence. Street names can be both in Italian and Catalan, going back to a time when the city was captured by the Aragonese. The San Francesco cloister from the 14th century is a reminder of this era and during summer months it becomes an atmospheric open air concert venue. In Via Calberto, you find many craftsmen selling local coral jewellery, much admired for its deep red colour.

Coral jewellery on sale in Alghero, Sardinia

Coral jewellery on sale in Alghero, Sardinia

As picturesque as Alghero is, particularly in the evening, it is the scenery outside the town that attracts me most. Do not miss the Capo Caccia peninsula. It appears like a huge sculpture before you, as you travel north of the city. In the air you might be lucky to see one of the few surviving Sardinian Griffon vultures or the more common peregrine falcons, who have masses of white cliffs to choose from as nesting grounds. But keep your eyes on the ground, particularly if you decide to take the 654 steps down the Escala Cabriol, (the goat’s steps) to Neptune’s Cave filled with remarkable stalactites and stalagmites. The only let-down is that you have to take all the steps back up again… It is easy to get out to Capo Caccia on a hop on – hop off sightseeing bus. The trip takes 2 hours and is the best value ever had for 18 Euros.

Capo Caccia

Capo Caccia

Sassari and the Giant Candles

Sassari is the second most important city in Sardinia. Municipal buildings in the Neo Classical style surround the large Piazza Italia. In its centre is a huge statue of Victor Emanuel ll (Vittorio Emanuele Maria Alberto Eugenio Ferdinando Tommaso) not only the first king of a united Italy, but also gives his name to the long main shopping street, Corso Vittorio Emanuel, which winds its way through the old town. My main reason for visiting Sassari though, was the annual festival of the Candelieri. This is an incredible day to be there, as from around lunchtime you can hear music and singing in the street, getting louder by the hour, as the Candelieri start practicing for the evening.

The Candelieri festival at Sassari

The Candelieri festival at Sassari

The event has its roots in the 13th century when the city was under Pisan domination and there was a tradition of offering a candle to the Madonna on the eve of the Assumption. In the 17th century and after numerous plagues had hit the town it took the form of religious thanks from the town guilds.

To this day nine guilds including blacksmiths, farmworkers, carpenters, tailors, greengrocers etc. parade through the city, each carrying a huge wooden column with coloured ribbons on top, representing a candle stick. It takes 8-10 men to carry this 100 kilo candle, at the same time walking, singing and dancing in a procession through the city. Everybody joins in with this fantastic celebration which ends in the evening when wooden candles are ceremoniously placed at the church of Santa Maria.

Astrid head shot copyMy thanks for this guest post to Astrid Ruffhead who after growing up in Sweden, arrived in London in the late 1970s, first working for the Swedish Tourist Board and later for VisitDenmark. She has also owned her own PR company, The Travel Gallery PR and a second passion is hotels. She lives in North London and is today working as a freelance travel and antiques blogger/dealer. Contact Astrid at: elegantforever2010@gmail.com or elegantforever2010.blogspot.com

More things to see in Sardinia

Bandits and Murals at Orgosolo in Sardinia
Swimming in river pools – near Gola Gorruppu in Sardinia
Sea caves and a boat trip – in Sardinia

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Verona – a weekend in the city of lovers

In this article our guest writer, Francesco Visconti, takes us to Verona for the weekend to find the true Italian heart of the city beyond the story of Rome and Juliet.

Everybody in the world knows Verona as the set for Shakespeare’s romance Romeo & Juliet and lovers go there as pilgrims just to see the famous Juliet’s balcony. But for an Italian who loves to travel and tries to discover the real soul of place, like me, it’s easy to perceive that this city is much more and that its romantic atmosphere came before Juliet’s balcony. A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in Verona, with my girlfriend, of course. I had already been here when I was 12 with my family, but only this time I could understand the specialty of Verona, if compared to many other Italian destinations, that foreigners visiting the town for just one day may not see.

Corso Porta Nuova in Verona, Italy

Corso Porta Nuova in Verona, Italy

We arrived at the train station on Friday afternoon just after lunch. The beginning of the autumn is the perfect time to visit Verona, with less tourists but still good weather and gorgeous colours all around. At this time of the day, when nobody’s in the streets, you can really enjoy the peaceful atmosphere on Corso Porta Nuova, the big boulevard that goes from the monumental door of the 16th century Porta Nuova to the centre. At the end of the boulevard we passed under the two arches that give access to Piazza Brà and it was like a jump in history. We left at our back the modern town to get in the old Roman town of Verona, whose symbol is the Arena, the second most known amphitheatre of the Roman age after the Coliseum. The Arena is less tall but larger than its brother in Rome, perfectly preserved and with an incredible acoustic that makes it perfect for concerts and music festivals!

The Arena in Verona, Italy

The Arena in Verona, Italy

Until 10 years ago the Arena was home of the most popular music festival in Italy, the Festivalbar and the first time I visited Verona it was just during the days of the event. So I couldn’t visit it and now I was just too excited to see it from the inside, to walk on the sand and climb the steps until the top to have a look at the rooftops of the surrounding square. In the Coliseum you can hardly touch anything, while in the Arena you are free to go all around the amphitheatre and, instead of thousands tourists struggling for taking a good picture, here we were almost alone and could make fly our imagination to the era of gladiators.

The Arena in Verona, Italy

The Arena in Verona, Italy

As you can suppose, we spent a good part of the afternoon in Piazza Brà and when we came out of the Arena it was already “Spritz time”. The Spritz is a typical drink from Verona and the Veneto region in general that people drink more or less at the same time when English drink tea.

In search of a nice bar, we passed from the Roman to the medieval era, walking through the pedestrian streets inside the walls of the old town. What really hit me is that almost all the area is pedestrian, something that I haven’t seen in any other Italian city and that really made me enjoy the walk. We finally found streets full of people going for shopping, for an ice-cream or chilling at the bars with their Spritz.

Juliet's balcony in Verona Photo: Jeroen Van Luin on Flickr

Juliet’s balcony in Verona

After our random tour of Friday night, we planned our Saturday to visit the rest of the city. Our first stop was Juliet’s house and balcony. We tried to go relatively early in the morning, but no matter what’s the time, half of the tourists in town are always pointing to that hypnotic balcony or to the statue of naked Juliet below it. We contributed to the ceremony for a while and then followed the tour into the more enjoyable Piazza delle Erbe. This place has always been the heart of Verona: it is the oldest square of the town and lies upon the ruins of the Forum of the Roman town, it’s been setting for the market and today is the heart of nightlife, full of bars and restaurants.

The Lamberti Tower in Verona, Italy

The Lamberti Tower in Verona, Italy

And it’s also an incredible collection of monuments and buildings of different eras: the house of the municipality, the Lamberti tower, the painted Mazzanti houses, the fountain with the statue of the holy Mary, the “Tribuna” and the column with the Lyon of St. Mark, symbol of the power of the old Republic of Venice, which ruled upon Verona in the 15th century. All these attractions are amazingly put together, without clashing each other, like in a colourful painting and at first sight, attracted by its elegance, you don’t even realize its wealth in culture and history.

Piazza dei Signori in Verona, Italy

Piazza dei Signori in Verona, Italy

We took a while to breathe and continued the tour. We just had to make 20 meters at the back of the House of Municipality to get to another amazing square: Piazza dei Signori, with at its centre the statue of Dante Alighieri. The imposing statue made the Veronese people give the square the name of Piazza Dante. It’s another square built in medieval times and surrounded by monumental buildings. The very curious thing is that each of them is linked to the next through arches. In a corner of the square there’s maybe the most particular monument of Verona: the “Arche Scaligere”, monumental tombs in the open air topped by arches in gothic style. They were considered the most honourable burial for the illustrious lords of the Scaligeri family, who ruled the city in the 14th century.

Piazza dei Signori in Verona, Italy

Piazza dei Signori in Verona, Italy

After a quick glance at the cathedral and the basilica of St Zeno, in the late afternoon, a bit outside the centre, we visited Castelvecchio, literally the old castle. We went there at this time to enjoy then a walk at sunset through the charming Scaligeri bridge, that crosses the river from the castle and then continuing along the river Adige until the Pietra bridge, the only bridge built in Roman times remaining nowadays. If you want to do something romantic in Verona, visit this side of the town under the night-lights!

Pietra bridge in Verona, Italy

Pietra bridge in Verona, Italy

We dedicated the Sunday to shopping and to try typical food from Veneto region. A foreigner wouldn’t appreciate the difference and everything that sounds like Italian food would taste delicious. But for an Italian that eats pasta everyday it was necessary to find a “trattoria” with typical Veronese cuisine!

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Many thanks for this article to Francesco Visconti, a 26 years old Italian travel blogger and startupper, author of GaddersBlog and creator of the travel platform Gadders that helps foreign travellers discover the best places in Italy. He’s a full-time traveller, having been living abroad in different countries for 4 years, now living in Spain. He loves to know in depth a place and a country and, when home begins getting boring, starts looking for new destinations that stimulate his senses. Follow his Twitter feed and Pinterest or visit him on Google+.

Photo Credits: Photos by Francesco Visconti except Juliet’s Balcony by Jeroen Van Luin

For more Italian adventures

Cycling with Wine and apples – on the Wine Road in South Tyrol
Messina and an excursion to Taormina – Day 5 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Three nights to fall in love with the city of Verona

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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