About Me

Living in the Caribbean is probably like living anywhere else, with the same ups and downs. But it does have its own vibe and flavour and gives me a unique perspective on most things. I'm often sarcastic, mostly funny, always looking for a new adventure. I have not boxed myself into any one category of life. I love a lot of things and dislike a lot more. I write about them all.

Solo Traveller Adventures: From Florence to Paris, with Love

I could tell you so much more about Florence - about the great people I spent time with, about that night we - a Trini, some Italians, a Polish grad student and a Kazakh went to a belly dancing show after our wonderful aperitifs, about the smells and sounds of San Lorenzo Market, where I spent a few hours just people watching, buying coffee (of course!) and truffle oil and wine tasting, about how I accidentally ended up in Trattoria ZaZa while looking for another place (of course I got lost!) and had the most amazing lunch ever.

Ossobuco from Trattoria Za Za

But then if I went through all that, I would not be able to share a few photos from my relaxing return to Paris. I planned nothing at all for Paris - no tours, no visits to monuments. I just had a hotel reservation and that was it. I wanted to just be - to be unorganised, unscripted, unscheduled. Wanting to not be a part of the mad rush that Paris typically is, I chose to stay on the hill - Montmartre - my favourite part of the city. And during my short visit, I headed to my breakfast spot every morning with my Kindle, had a bowl of coffee, brioche and jam, visited the Sacre Coeur, people watched, drank wine, ate pastries, ate French food, spent time with a long lost friend, drank more wine, spoke in broken French.

I had this the first morning I had breakfast at Coqueclicot in Montmartre and could not finish it all
Breakfast after that was much lighter. lol. A bowl of coffee was too much even for me!

Le Sacre Coeur - oui!

I love walking through Montmartre - fave part of Paris

Montmartre views

Th view of Paris between the trees on the hill

Wonderful little place if looking for a bite in Montmartre!

Dinner at Autour du Midi, Montmartre

This is what you call a mall!!! 

I also took a trip out of Paris for a day in Provins - a well preserved medieval city about 2 hours away from Paris by train. What a lovely day out of the city. Provins was not only quiet and stress-free, but also very quaint with its medieval fortresses, bistros and homes.

I just liked this.

Le Tour Cesar in Provins

Loved this church in Provins

The town is really well preserved. It was a real throwback kinda visit.

Lovely crepes were had here!

The view while walking along the top of the defensive ramparts

For those who love doors

Of course no visit to Paris would have been complete without one special visit. You just must!

No description necessary

Solo Traveller Adventure: Journey to Cinque Terre

If you ever get tired of life, bypass the therapist and decamp immediately to Cinque Terre. - Lonely Planet

On my first visit to Florence, I wanted to do the trip to Cinque Terre but somehow it never happened. This time it was going to happen and it did. Like the good traveller, I had pre-booked everything beforehand, and had planned for this trip. It was a hike, and not just a cutesy walk about town. So I had upped my incline sessions during my workouts (lol) - ready to go. However, one can plan and plan but you don't cater for:

1. Blisters - all this tourist walking in Venice and in Florence had taken a toll, and I got blisters, as I always seem to while on vacation. Not cool. I soaked my feet the night before, hoping for the best.
2. Pre-hike drinks - While I was not drunk or hungover, I was tired after a night out in Florence. And while I put my sunglasses on, pulled the blinds and slept on the bus, I was in no shape for walking 4.5km!
3. The HEAT!!!! - It was 40 degrees Celsius. Nuff said. It was horrible.

So when we got to Cinque Terre, I already figured this hike was not going to happen. When given the option to take the train and wait for the group - I did. lol. All my morning workouts down the drain.

But it did not make Cinque Terre any less beautiful. For those who don't know, Cinque Terre which translates to the Five Lands is situated along the coast of the Italian Riviera, in the Liguria region of Italy. Five ramshackle yet beautifully quaint villages - Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore - built along the cliffs, along steep terraces overlooking the ocean. Actually our guide told us there are more than 5 villages but Cinque Terre  just had a nicer ring to it. lol.

Just a note on our guide, Fabian, who was funny, knowledgeable and so friendly.

The views from the terraces are breathtaking. We arrived in Manarola and the views were immediately taking our breaths away.

View from the terraces of Manarola - this was a downhill hike, but careful of the terrain

Beautiful Manarola

The village itself - Manarola

The villages each have their own unique spirit and again, food and wine played an important part of the day.

I don't remember much about the first village but we lunched in Corniglia, in a cute family run place with great views of the ocean. This however came at great cost, as it was quite a hike up almost 400 steps to get there, in the punishing heat. And this was the easy part.

Lunch though, was well worth it. Pesto has its origins in the Liguria region, so of course no lunch would be complete without it. Pasta with the best pesto I had ever eaten was preceded by a seafood starter comprising of such lovelies as octopus and anchovies.

The first plate in Corniglia consisted of stuff like octopus, crab balls, calamari and anchovies
I really enjoyed this and ate it all.

So simple and yet pesto is always so amazing

There would be no wine with lunch, in preparation for the 4.5km hike up the steep cliffside in the 40 degree heat. It was at this point, I said - not today, and took an easy stroll to the bus stop and to the train station. I was not the only one either. It was terrible how hot it was. So while the others continued on the hike, we took the train to the village of Vernazza. It was in Vernazza that I found a table under an umbrella and took in the sights of people sunning on the rocks on the beach, licking sticky rivers of gelato from their arms or just having beer or wine in the shade.

The worn elegance of the town of Vernazza

Beautiful coastline views in Vernazza

View from behind my wine glass in Vernazza

I met up with my tour group peeps, who were all sweaty and busted, and one was so surprised that others had taken the train because he was too embarrassed to admit he wanted to pass on the hike as well. Funny. After a few more gelatos and soaking our heads in water, we took the train to Monterosso.

In Monterosso, I did some wine tasting. Where Chianti is known for its red wines, the Cinque Terre DOC produces lovely white wines - which are my preferred wine, so of course - bring it.

Cinque Terre DOC white wines - all for me!
One of the beautiful spots in Monterosso

By now, the sleep debt was weighing on me, but so much more to do and see. Next we hopped on a ferry which would be a 40 minute ride along the coast - where you could get a different view of the five villages. The ferry would drop us off at what was my favourite of all 5  - Riomaggiore.

We took a ferry from Monterosso to Riomaggiore  and got to go past all the villages we had been to before

Ferry views - one of many on the 40 minute journey


Oh how lovely - Riomaggiore

Oh how I loved this village. The energy was different. The people seemed more passionate, friendlier, the village itself, more contemporary. I found while the town itself still had a worn appeal about it, there were touches of the 21st century which made for a lovely contrast. Maybe it was because it was the 'youngest' of the five villages, built up around the 1300s. Yeah - that's the kind of cougar bait we are talking about.

And my fave part was the seafood mix - which is as 'fast food' as you get here. Various types of seafood, battered and fried, and for 5 euros, you get a huge cone of niceness - calamari, anchovies, shrimp, anything you want - you customise your cone.

You could have deep fried veggies or fries as well with your seafood mix.
Wide assortment of yumminess

My seafood mix order consisted of vegetables, shrimp and calamari. This was beyond beyond good!

Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must visit. I would recommend the hike as well, which is offered by Walkabout Florence, but August is probably not the best time to try this. But it is a must - really. It is the only one of the tours that ensures you visit all five villages.

After a great day in Cinque Terre, I took it easy for the rest of my time in Florence before heading to the City of Lights. So we go to Paris, up next.

Solo Traveller Adventures: Cooking in Florence

Having visited Florence before, I had done all the major sightseeing and really wanted to take it easy a bit. Of course, this did not happen, as I kept myself busy doing all sorts of new things, including a wonderful one day cooking course.

For those who are regular readers of my blog, you know food is an integral part of my life – dining out, cooking and trying new recipes, including making healthy eating exciting and fun. So when I saw this activity listed among the various tours one could do from Florence, I booked it.

The tour hosted by the great team at Walkabout Florence (my second time using this great tour company) and would start in Florence itself, and as predicted, I got lost trying to find the meeting spot. Let me just say that this time, Google Maps led me astray. Getting lost meant being late, which meant keeping the group waiting, which made me angry, cause I hate making people wait, but woosah – let’s continue.

Our wonderful guide, Valeria first took us to the various markets, where we picked up the various main ingredients for preparing our menu for the day. Quite an interesting little walk, as we learnt which types of tomatoes were best for sauces or for bruschetta, for example, sampled cheese and also had a very important stop before heading to the bus that would take us to the farmhouse – a coffee stop. I am sure it was a bit of a lesson for some of the Americans on the tour to learn that frappuccinos are a Starbucks invention and Italians’ idea of a cold coffee beverage is the shakerato – espresso and ice cubes shaken in a cocktail shaker with a bit of syrup, and served. For the hot day, everyone had one of these except me – gimme a cappuccino, buddy. Give it!!!

Fresh veggies at the market - ready for our bellies

Picking up our awesome pork loin for roasting at San Lorenzo Market

Shakerato - espresso shaken (not stirred) and my lonesome but awesome cappuccino

Next stop – the farmhouse, in the hills not too far from Florence, but absolutely gorgeous. Here we would meet our ‘teacher’ for the day, the lovely Carmela who spoke no English but her passion for her cooking and for food was evident. Our guides, Valeria and Lavinia took us through what we would be doing for the day and our menu included

  • Bruschetta 
  • Fresh homemade egg pasta 
  • Ragu meat sauce 
  • Pizza 
  • Roast pork 
  • Patata al rosamarino (Roast potatoes with rosemary) 
  • Tiramisu 
  • Florentine gelato 

This was the best fun and the best tour I have done. While the dishes themselves were not that hard, there were little gems shared during the day which would serve me well in the future with my own cooking. While I do a fair amount of cooking myself, I was always a bit gun shy about going to a class, but this was a lot of fun, with a great bunch of people.

Check me out cutting up that bread for our bruschetta

Aren't our tomatoes sexy?

Bread toasting and wine - Round 1. lol.

Always amazed at how simple but how amazing bruschetta is. I heart bruschetta!

It seemed to be a great bonding activity for couples especially, with newlyweds, not so newlyweds, and newly engaged couples, joining us three single solo travelling girls on this culinary adventure. My favourite part was preparing the pasta, which I always thought was beyond my amateur skills, but it is so easy it is ridiculous.

My pasta - the finished product - left to dry for 30mins before boiling (and eating!)

Our ragu doing its thing - slow cooked for 2 hours!

The end result of our hard work - this was so nom nom

Oh wait – that was my second favourite part, after eating the pasta and all the other goodies we slaved over a hot kitchen table in 40 degree heat to prepare.

We also made our own pizzas and washed that down with Italian beer 

Our roasted potatoes

This pork was everything. I have already replicated this awesomeness since being back

A for Awesome - Awesome tiramisu. A is also my first initial.

Eating and drinking. We did a lot of drinking too. A lot! Lol.

The belle of the ball - Chianti Classico. And our hosts were not stingy with it either. 

I would do this again in a heartbeat and it is such a great activity for single girlfriends, or couples to do together as an aside from the sightseeing. I met some wonderful people, learnt how to make some of my favourite foods, ate a lot (soooo much food!!!) drank some amazing Chianti reds (and beer) and made a lot of great memories.  Thanks to the Walkabout Team for a great day and to great peeps like - yes, gonna give you a shout out - Danielle, Jamie, Libra, and Sarah - for the laughs and the good times.

You can check out more tours on Viator or go directly to Walkabout Florence and just choose one or two, or five! They are a great bunch! My next post will feature Walkabout again as I took a trip out of Florence for some coastal fun.

Solo Traveller Adventures: My Return to Florence, Italy

I have told friends that so far, Italy is my geographical and spiritual soulmate. Of course, if I continue to be blessed enough to travel to more new places, this may change but what will not change is how connected I always feel when I am in Italy. And moreso, in Florence.

I first visited Firenze back in 2010. I had a lot on my mind at the time. Funnily enough, I also pondered whether I wanted to take a vacation this year, but again, I went with God and jumped on the plane and I thought, one of the most relaxing and wonderful trips ever was my trip to Florence and so I added it to the itinerary and in fact, it was the primary destination as I stayed here the longest.

Someone asked me why I love Florence so much. It’s hard to put into words why you may love a place as much as you do.

If I had to liken it to a boyfriend or lover, I guess one could say I love Florence for its -

Warmth – My first visit to Florence was my first visit to Italy, and the city set me up for the fall I later had in Rome. The friendliness and warmth generally from the people I met along the way made me feel at home and ever so comfortable. Rome was the complete opposite as you know – cold, bordering on hateful (#travellingwhileblack). Before I left, I told one of my Italian friends that I hoped Florence had not changed, or that the love I felt five years before was not a one-off. But like an old friend, Florence welcomed me back with open arms.

Smells and Tastes – Robin Leach said ‘In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine’. Florence, to me, is synonymous with great food. Add amazing Chianti wines and you are never short of gastronomical pleasure. The food was the main highlight of the trip!

The best ossobuco ever 

I took a lunch break in Fiesole and decided it was the perfect time for pizza

Chianti! Chianti!

Beauty – Florence and the rest of Tuscany are like a living postcard. One sight that always captivates me, no matter how many times I see it, is the magnificent dome of the Duomo rising into the clouds, looking down on the city. You have to see it to understand how jaw dropping it really is. I think what I also love about Florence is that it is a city that does not have that stifling city feel, like Paris or Rome. Add to the fact that it is in Tuscany, and you are a heartbeat away from rolling green hills, vineyards, fresh country air and a much simpler life, and Florence is really pretty damn perfect.

The moment the Duomo starts peeping above the city is my fave sight
while walking through the streets of Florence

View from Fiesole

The romance of Florence - sunset over the River Arno

Next I will tell you about the best experience I had in Florence this time around and of course, it involved food.

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