Thursday, 7 December 2017

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

Hello again my dear readers and fellow bloggers.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
In my last post I was telling you about our last day in Marrakesh which marked the end of our stay in Morocco.  Since then, we crossed the Mediterranean and landed in Naples where we hired a car to take us to Sorrento, which then became our home base for the next five days while we were exploring the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and the gorgeous island of Capri.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
It was dark when we checked into our hotel but when we woke up the next morning and came down for breakfast we had to stop to take in the magnificent view overlooking the Med, blue and sparkling under the hot southern sun with Mount Vesuvius beckoning to us from the distance.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
As per our traditional pattern, the first thing we always do when we arrive in a new destination, is to get on a Red Hop On Hop Off bus to get the feel of the place and map future potential points of interest.  If you never been or never heard of the Red Bus before, it is a double-decker sightseeing tour bus with an open roof and traditionally it is equipped with an audio system in multiple languages that allow the passengers to listen to the taped city guides while enjoying the highlights and landmarks along the way.  You can get off the bus whenever you want, wander around, get a feel of the place you liked and when you feel that you have had enough, get back on the next bus to continue your tour.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
It was such a lovely warm and sunny day and choosing the upper deck of the bus seemed like a splendid idea.  The bus route took us around Sorrento central and then followed winding clifftop roads passing the olive groves and fragrant orange and lemon groves.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
Sitting on the upper deck was a little tricky as we had to watch for the branches hanging over the road, but on the other hand, we were able to get a magnificent and uninterrupted view of the whole city and the Gulf of Naples lying below.  The whole tour ran for about two hours and gave us plenty of inside information and ideas of what to do and see in Sorrento and its surrounds.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
Most of the evenings we did what the locals do, took a leisurely stroll up and down the main pedestrian strip of Sorrento, Corso Italia, stopping here and there for a scoop of gelato, a cup of coffee or a shot of limoncello, a locally made liquor hugely popular in this part of Italy.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
It was during one of this walks then we came across the brightly illuminated charming Villa Fiorentino that was hosting an exhibition of Mark Chagall's paintings and photographs of the gorgeous Sophia Loren in a retrospective.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
The following morning at exactly 10 in the morning we were informed by the hotel's front desk that our driver was waiting for us downstairs. Before we left Sydney, we had contacted Amalfi Coast Private Tours, one of the numerous touring companies operating in Southern Italy, to organise a private tour with an English speaking driver/tour guide to take us for a drive along the Amalfi Coast.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
Again, the weather was kind to us, the day was warm and sunny and the fresh clear air was perfect for sightseeing the spectacular vistas that were sprawled in front of us at every turn.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
The road along Amalfi Coast runs along the southern side of the Sorrento Peninsula and is one of the most dramatic and glamorous spots in Italy.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
The Amalfi Drive is famous for its hairpin bends, zigzags and narrows at some parts to a point where the drivers have to fold their side mirrors to pass by.  It was built high on the cliffs at a very steep angle that makes this drive not only the one of the world's most beautiful drives but also one of the most exciting.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
Our driver, Ellio, was not only an extremely knowledgeable and polite tour guide with a perfect command of English but also an excellent driver and every time he would take yet another hairpin bend with the ease and confidence of a pro, my heart would skip a beat and I would feel grateful that we both had agreed not to drive ourselves.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
While he was skillfully navigating the intricacies of the road, we were enjoying the view on both sides of the road as we were passing the villages which clung to the high and steep cliffs on one side and on the opposite, the ever changing shoreline glistening under the sea cliffs.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
When we felt hungry we asked Ellio if he could recommend a nice place to eat. He suggested lunch at a small restaurant Da Ciccio Restaurant, an ancient trattoria run by the same family since 1931 and famous all over the world for its traditional dishes that have been one the menu since ever since. He also recommended us to order the restaurant's signature dish called Cavatelli (home made pasta) with seafood on lemon flavoured mash potatoes.  Looks humble but tastes sublime.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
Although it was already the end of September, every town that we stopped at along the way was packed with tourists.  The towns are relatively small and their historic parts are just in one or two narrow and winding roads that lead to the main square where you can  find an old church with a dome covered in beautiful Byzantine  mosaic.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST
In fact, the art of mosaic is widespread along the Amalfi Coast and we saw some amazing examples of their skill and imagination.  Some of the factories are so good that they claim that the colours of the mosaic they use in making the outdoor tables willl last for 100 years.
SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

AMALFI COAST IS ONE OF THE MOST 
FASCINATING IN THE WORLD
FOR ITS LANDSCAPE

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

SORRENTO AND AMALFI COAST

PESCE ALL'ASQUA PAZZA
This is one of the most popular fish recipes you would find on the menus of the myriads of restaurants that are dotted all along the Amalfi coast of Italy.  Among Italians it is known as Pesce all'acqua pazza or Fish in "crazy" water, referring both to the aromatic herbed broth it is cooked in and the generic recipe for poached fish.

Pesce all'acqua pazza
Traditionally, this method calls for small fish such as bream or snapper, however after some experimentation, I came to the conclusion that the fish fillets work just as well.  Not only you don't need to deal with the bones especially if your household includes children but also the portions seem to be more of an even size, they present well and are easy to cook. Above all that, the fish tastes delicious which is exactly what we are after.
pesce all'acqua pazza

To feed 6 people you need:
200ml dry white wine
200ml water
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
2 small whole bream or snapper, 500 each, cleaned and scaled
or 6 fillets of any white fish about 250 gr each
1 punnet (250g) of cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp basil leaves, torn
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp capers
2 tbsp flat parsley leaves, torn
1 lemon, quartered

Method:
Cut the tomatoes in half.  In a large frying pan, combine the wine, water, salt and olive oil and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes, then gently slip the fish into the broth, add the cherry tomatoes, basil, lemon zest and capers. 
Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 3 minutes, if using fillets.  If you are cooking a whole fish, cook it for about 5 minutes on each side.  Carefully turn the fish over and simmer for another 3-4 minutes, depending on the size.  It is cooked when the flesh parts from the bone at the touch of a knife.
Remove the fish onto warm plates, bring the broth to the boil and spoon over the fish.  Scatter with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

The broth is so good that you definitely don't want to waste it, so the best way to serve this dish is with young boiled potatoes or a bowl of plain pasta laced generously with extra virgin olive oil.

If you like this simple but delicious recipe, you can find it and many more in MY COSMOPOLITAN KITCHEN recipes book.

Enjoy!!!

Enjoy!!!

Friday, 1 December 2017

THINGS TO SEE IN MARRAKESH- YSL MUSEUM AND BAHIA PALACE

Hello again my dear readers and fellow bloggers.

Although we had fantastic time in Marrakesh, every day delivering new discoveries about this magical land, I was really looking forward to our final day there, as I had saved the best for last.  If  you are are reading my blog for the first time or missed previous posts related to this topic, you can catch up here.
YSL MUSEUM IN MARRAKESH
Just before we left Sydney, I saw an article in the traveller's section of a newspaper about the opening of  the YSL museum in Marrakesh  literally just a couple of weeks prior to our visit. You may or not know that Yves Saint Laurent first traveled to Morocco back in the 60's and fell in love with this country so much that, together with his partner Pierre Berge, they bought a house in Marrakesh and quite soon it became their favourite holiday destination. Yves Saint Laurent would travel to Marrakesh in June and December for a couple of weeks in order to design his haute couture collections.  Morocco's life had a major influence on his work, particularly the colours.
YSL MUSEUM IN MARRAKESH

YSL MUSEUM IN MARRAKESH
The museum is Pierre Berge's brainchild and his tribute to Yves Saint Laurent's talent and contribution to fashion and is entirely devoted to his work.  Its vibrant primary blue colour has attracted visitors and guests from all corners of the world together with the adjacent enchanting gardens, Jardin Majorelle that took its original owner, a painter Jacques Majorelle forty years to create and are among the most visited sites in Morocco.
YSL MUSEUM IN MARRAKESH
Although we arrived at the museum quite early in the morning, we were astonished by the number of people who came here for the same purpose and patiently joined the long queue.  Actually, it didn't take too long and after about 10 minutes of waiting, we stepped inside the Jardin Majorelle, Majorelle Garden.
YSL MUSEUM IN MARRAKESH

YSL MUSEUM IN MARRAKESH

YSL MUSEUM IN MARRAKESH
It is a marvelous collection of cacti, exotic trees and plants that are cleverly landscaped to enhance each others beauty and are peppered here and there with fountains, lily ponds and pools.  We followed the path and came inside a bright blue-coloured building that now houses the Berber museum, a bookshop, Majorelle boutique and the YSL studio.
YSL MUSEUM IN MARRAKESH

YSL MUSEUM IN MARRAKESH
At the back of the gardens we came across Yves Saint Laurent's memorial which is composed of a Roman column with the plaque bearing his name and two white benches where visitors can sit and ponder over the mystery of life and death.
YSL MUSEUM IN MARRAKESH

YSL MUSEUM IN MARRAKESH
The next destination for the day was a visit to Palais Bahia whose name means "Palace of the Favourite", build in the late 19th century by two powerful grand viziers and intended to be the greatest palace of its time. 
Bahai Temple, Marrakesh,  Morocco

Bahai Temple, Marrakesh,  Morocco

Bahai Temple, Marrakesh,  Morocco

Bahai Temple, Marrakesh,  Morocco
Some of the best Moroccan artisan came to work on the palace and you can the see the level of their skills in the mosaic tiles that covered the floors and walls, the intricacy in the woodwork on the frames and ceilings and in the stonework of pillars and fountains.   The colours are vibrant even though they are over 100 years old, the gardens are immaculate and the whole compound is beautifully preserved and looked after.
Bahai Temple, Marrakesh,  Morocco

Bahai Temple, Marrakesh,  Morocco
We arrived at the gates a little later than anticipated and were told that we had only a half hour before they gates were to be closed.  That didn't stop us  from walking through the many rooms that served as luxurious apartments to its original owners, admiring the beauty and originality of them.  Luckily for us, the tourist peak hours were over and we had the whole palace almost to ourselves.
Bahai Temple, Marrakesh,  Morocco

Bahai Temple, Marrakesh,  Morocco

Bahai Temple, Marrakesh,  Morocco
We really enjoyed our last day in Marrakesh and were extremely pleased that our visit to this magic country had ended on such a high note.

The time has come to say good-by to Morocco and get on the road again for our next destination, Italy.

Before I say good-buy to this fascinating and exotic place, I would like to share you with two super easy recipes from MY COSMOPOLITAN KITCHEN that represent the essence of Middle Eastern cousine:  Z'atar (an aromatic blend of spices that can be used on salads, sandwiches and dips) and Hummus (a delicious dip or spread made from cooked chickpeas).
how to cook hummus
Enjoy!!!