Friday, December 13, 2013

Island Hopping in the Aegean Sea

“Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean sea.” ― Nikos Kazantzkis, Zorba the Greek 

Kalymnos, Kos and Pserimos- three Greek Island off the coast of Turkey. Whilst staying in Kos, a notorious party destination, we decided to take a boat trip round the neighboring islands to soak in a bit of culture. I am so glad we did, this was the highlight of my trip!

We stopped off in several bays for a swim. The first thing that hits you, after the heat, is just how crystal clear the vivid turquoise water is! 

Our first stop was Kalymnos, famous for its sponge diving. The sponge industry brought much wealth and fame to the island. This all came to an end in the 80s when disease hit the island putting a stop to sponge diving. 

We visited on of it's many sponge museums that celebrates the island's nautical history and tradition. The history, methods of diving and variety of sponges are on display for tourists.

 Next we sailed to the tiny island of Pserimos. With a population of just 130, and only 35 that live on the island year round, this remote island is perfect for an afternoon of sunbathing! Quiet, quaint and undisturbed, Pserimos has a tiny high street made up of a couple pocket size shops and a few restaurants. 

I loved how this sleepy island has its own gmail address!

The High Street!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Basque Country- lush and ancient land

"Everyone who has visited the Basque country longs to return; it is a blessed land." - Victor Hugo

The Basque Country is close to my heart, I have moved a lot throughout my life but for the last 8 years my family home has been there and I go back for the holidays. Nestled partly in South Western France and North Western Spain, this lush and green land has dual nationality and speaks three languages (like myself!). 

It is both mountainous and coastal. You can spend your days hiking or surfing, but wherever you go, the views are incredible.

St Jean de Luz- small French seaside town.

Hiking the Col d'Ibardin- one side of the mountain is France. The other is Spain! With wild ponies and stunning views, this hike is challenging but so worth the effort.

San Sebastian is a prosperous and beautiful coastal town on the Spanish side of the Basque Country. Fantastic for shopping and the culinary capital of the country, this is the perfect city for a day out!

The Basque language is said to be the oldest in the world with no tangible link to any other in the world. They have a rich heritage and a strong national identity. The Basques are hugely proud and rightly so- it is an ancient part of the world steeped in tradition and history.

La Fete de Bayonne (in Bayonne, naturally) celebrates Basque culture and is a five day street party in August with local music, drink, food and street party. Everyone dresses in white and red (colors of the city of Pamplona, also part of the Basque country) and enjoys the fireworks, fun fairs and party atmosphere. Even during the day it is pretty hectic, so at night it can get a little lairy! 

The Basque country belongs in part to France and in part to Spain, however, it is in reality very separate culturally and historically. There is so much beyond the few places I have mentioned that I hope to get round to writing about one day. Quaint rural villages and local traditions, it is a beautiful and truly unique part of the world. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Roosevelt Island: Manhattan's smaller sister, confusing little place

Roosevelt Island is a tiny strip of land on the East bank of Manhattan that you can access by Air Tram. Which, if like me you are scared of heights, is great fun...

You could not exactly say this island has a strong identity. It is made up of a sea of concrete blocks of flats, some slightly flashier than others. 

The allure of Roosevelt Island lies in its difference to nearby Manhattan. And when I say nearby I mean quite literally a stones throw from Manhattan. Roosevelt Island feels almost suburban. Safe. Quiet. And yet amid these peaceful 1970s builds, you come across some historical gems. 

But lets start from the very beginning. To reach Roosevelt Island you can take the Air Tram. The great thing about this is that you can use your Metro Card. Super cheap, super accessible. The reason being for this is that a lot of people live on Roosevelt Island and commute into Manhattan on a daily basis.

You arrive at what is essentially a subway, but just not underground. And your board your Air Tram, which, as you have probably guessed, takes you to the island by air. Lovely. Have I mentioned I am scared of heights?

Ok so it really was not all that bad. 

Once off the tram, Roosevelt Island is a little confusing. With block after block of residential apartments, it is not clear which direction you should walk. Right, take a right.

After walking through block after block of almost communist looking apartments we came across a historical building looking awkwardly out of place. The Chapel of the Good Shepard of 1889 is in stark contrast to its surroundings (and the Verizon stand did not help). 

We also came across the The Blackwell House: constructed in 1796 - New York's 6th oldest farmhouse. Here they negotiated and agreed on the selling of the island to New York City in 1823. 

Despite all my complaining, I chose to go on the Air Tram as I had heard that the views are amazing. 

This is so true. 

It was fantastic to see New York from above. I cannot recommend the Air Tram enough. It is far less touristy, so much cheaper and so much more fun than any sight seeing activity I have done in the city so far! 

This was a truly different and memorable day out.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Green Table at Chelsea Market: Food Fit for the Dalai Lama

Yesterday it was cold in New York. Very cold, and with this year's first snow I was looking for somewhere warm, to eat something fresh. 

We took refuge in Chelsea Market and came across The Green Table. An organic eatery that has produced food for the Dalai Lama himself. Devoted to organic food and local family farms, this quaint bar/cafe was such a find: the ultimate healthy and environmentally responsible restaurant. 

We shared a Red Quinoa Falafel Platter – tahini, warm chick peas, seasonal pickles, fresh herbs, naan bread. Super filling, full of flavour and ridiculously fresh!

Here, I also discovered Spindrift. A soda with a difference - using real, whole, fresh ingredients. I tried the blackberry soda and it was delicious.

The Grilled Cheese Sandwich(raw milk cheddar cheese & seasonal chutney, Orwasher’s Miche, market greens) was great for a cold day.   

For a seriously tasty and environmentally responsible meal, come to the Green Table.