Travel theme: Play

Hello!

IMGP6425Some wild dolphins, playing with our boat, in Kaikoura, New Zealand! So much fun!

I’m off for a big week away, going Eastern Europe for a change, so I’ll see you soon!

Cheers!

M.
This post is part of the travel theme

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Recipe of the week

Hello!

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I have spent every minute of free time this week in the kitchen, but it was well worth it. If I could one day make it my day job, I don’t think I could get any happier!

But for now, baking is just a hobby which makes me and my family happy (and fat). I want to share today a very easy recipe, another one from my Exquis Petits Gâteaux postcard cookbook. They are called ‘diamants au cacao’, it means cocoa diamonds, they basically are dried cocoa flavored biscuits.

The best part? It will take you about 8 minutes to wipe it up, and you won’t even need any kitchen appliances! I just used my little fingers and voila! However, they do require that you leave them to rest before you bake them, but that’s the only down side. We had some family over for dinner and Mom had asked me to prepare something to go with ice cream so that was the perfect biscuit!

Recipe:

  • 125G sugar
  • 125G butter
  • 250G plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (it tends to have some lumps, so try and strain it before)
  • 1 pinch of vanilla powder
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon

Preheat your oven at 180°C.

Mix together the sugar, the flour, the salt, the cocoa powder, the vanilla and cinnamon and finally the egg. Then, add the butter, softened and mix it all in with your fingers till you get a big ball. Roll the dough in the shape of a sausage (sorry, not sure how to translate that, but you see what I mean right?) and put it in the fridge for one hour.

Cut it into slices, and roll each slice into powdered sugar and cook for about 15 minutes.

It’s very hard to tell when they are ready given the dark color they already have, but beware not to overbake them as they will get very hard.

Enjoy!

M.

 

You are never too old to set another goal, or to dream a new dream

Hello!

IMGP2505Very exited to start talking about NZ today! It was our dream, E. and I, for what? 6 years? I actually think we started to form that plan even before I had departed the USA, both of us being Lords of the Rings nerds… The plans turned serious when I found out the Rugby World Cup 2011 would be happening in NZ, and I promised myself then that I would assist the games from the land of all things rugby. I missed by a continent, I landed in Melbourne instead of Auckland, and it’s only in May 2012 that we fullfilled our dream. I first travelled NZ for a month with E., and as we left I promised her (and myself) that I would come back and finish what we had started. 5 months later, I landed in Christchurch and started a 5 months adventure in NZ.

I flew overnight from Melbourne to Auckland, and it’s only at 5 AM that very day that I realized E. would not land today as I thought all this time, but two days later… My first of many miscalculations of time difference!

Auckland, is an amazing city and I am not a city person at all! My favorite part of the city is the harbour, all the walking paths, the restaurants and pubs, the benches and pieces of arts. The huge sailing boats and the seagulls, it has it all.

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View of the CBD from the bay

From Mount Eden

From Mount Eden

Mount Eden

Mount Eden

Bus to the Kelly Tarlton's underwater world

Bus to the Kelly Tarlton’s underwater world

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Auckland's harbour

Auckland’s harbour

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When you have explored all the city, you must wonder in the bay. So much to see… I went 4 times in Auckland, each times for a few days. I hiked Rangitoto Island twice. Meaning ‘bloody sky’ in Maori, it is if I remember well the youngest volcano of the Bay. The first time I went, it was cloudy and rainy, I climbed all the way to the top, sweating and stuff, and we got so high we ended up in a cloud, with absolutly no view of the crater… It is a very special place, I liked the black earth, the views on the bay and the tiny houses.

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When my Mom came over, we went to Waiheke Island, a bigger island on the bay, famous for being a wine region of NZ. Even if you’re not into wine, just for the hike and the gorgeous landscape, you must go. We had the chance to have a nice blue sky and sun all day, it was the very start of our road trip and set the tone! We had a tasting at Cable Bay -complete random choice – a beautiful estate with the most magnificent view on the Bay of Auckland!

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In terms of food, I’ll just mention:

  • Have a cider on one of the pub on the harbour, walk through the bridge, that’s the best place
  • Fish and chips at the seafood market on the harbour
  • Muffins at Pandoro’s on Queens St
  • Mai Thai on Victoria St, the red curry is a must try!
  • Ice cream at Giapo on Queen St
  • Murder Burger, the evil cat experience!

In terms of accomodation, all the hostels will be very low standard compared to what you can find in the rest of NZ. I haven’t found any hostels that I actually felt good in… Here is what I’ve tried, from the worst to the best:

  • Border’s Beyond: someone had recommended it to us (??) which is why we booked it even though it was far out of the center. It is managed by a lovely French man, but we hated it! Felt so horrible we spent most of our time outside wondering in the city or in our room… You have to pay for the showers (???) and they only last 8 minutes. It was dirty, rules everywhere (I remember something like ‘if you don’t wipe your dishes you will be fined 15 dollars), people staying there were creepy, no just horrible!
  • Queen St Backpackers: wow. Just wow. Don’t know what to say about that one. First, you can’t get any cheaper, and you can’t get a better location than that. However… it is dirty beyond words. The bathrooms are individual, and I have no idea what words to say to describe them to you, because I’ve never seen anything like it before and I would have trouble finding something to compare it to. Not that it was dirty, it was just… weird. And a bit dirty… I slept terribly, but I found some nice people in there. Only stayed for half a night and it was too much already!
  • Surf and Snow on Victoria St: very well located, very cheap, I booked a room in one of the big dorms. So I usually don’t mind the noise, but that was too much! The matresses were so thin I felt for my back the next morning! The kitchen is in the basement (you basically spend your time climbing stairs in that place) no windows, it looks just weird (but it is clean!). I met a very strange man in the TV room, we talked and he told me about his adventures in France, how he went there and spent his holiday in … Nevers. Nevers damned, it’s the biggest shithole you can imagine, why would anyone ever go there on holiday? This guy was a kiwi, and I will never understand how kiwis can appreciate travelling having such a beautiful country. I mean, it must sound really lame to them!
  • Base on Queen St: probably around a million beds in there, it was my first hostel ever!! The kitchen was so dirty, but I have to admit it wasn’t too bad. Too crowded that’s all.
  • Friend’z backpackers on Victoria St: if you are willing to climb the hill, you will be rewarded! So it is very noisy, the bathrooms are a bit dingy (but clean) and the matresses are very basics but it has a very good atmosphere. I actually liked to stay there!

That’s all I can tell you about Auckland.I wonder if anyone found a good hostel in the CDB? I’m so happy to be talking about New Zealand again, you have no idea how much I loved that country. For me, it is a little slice of heaven, where you just cannot worry, cannot get robbed or cannot get bored. I met the craziest travellers and made the biggest mistake of my life when I agreed with my parents to let go of it, and come home. You just can’t let go of New Zealand. Never.

Cheers!

M.

Nightscenes

Hello!

I always felt fascinated by lighthouses.I love the architectures, I love their loneliness, I love that they save lives.

I realized what they really meant only when I started going sailing. That every lighthouse had a meaning, according to its shape, to its color, and to how they are drawn on the map. You need to be in the middle of the ocean in the heart of the night to realize how dark it really is. The stars above you, you are only surrounded by a complete darkness from which you wouldn’t even see your own feet. The lighthouse will become your best friend.

I remember I read a book a few years ago, amazing book where the center of the story is the lighthouse. And a man, who was its guardian for his entire life. Because before, people used to stay in them, to turn it on everynight. Do you imagine being stuck there, for days on, just you and the sea? What struck me the most in this book, was that the seagulls would come to crash on the windows of the lighthouse, attracted by the light, and this man turned to madness watching seagulls kill themselves one by one, in order to save our human lives…

This particular lighthouse is no longer of use anymore. The marina got bigger, they added new lighthouses, and they only light that one ‘for the show’. The fisherman at the bottom guards it, everyday, looking out to the mermaid in the horizon.

Cheers!

M.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

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This picture was taken by E., in Queenstown, NZ.

Back then, people would tell us, ‘the Storm is coming walk away’ and we’d walk right in.

A volcanoe erupts, fuck it, nothing can stop me.

Falling from a horse you get right back on it, carrying your overloaded backpack on your broken shoulder for the rest of the trip.

You get bitten by a poisonous spider in the middle of f** nowhere, don’t matter, keep walking.

The laundry product explodes in your backpack, don’t matter, just carry on.

You have no money, you’re freezing and hungry, you haven’t slept in your own bed for over 6 months, haven’t used a proper bathroom for longer than that, you wear the same clothes over and over, clothes that disapear one by one.

You have no clue what happens in the rest of the world, all that matters is what’s in front of you and who’s with you.

That is travelling, that is freedom.

I miss those days.

 

Recipe of the week

Hello Sunday!

Another week finished… Why does it feel like I spend my time saying that? Time flies when you do nothing I guess…

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Today’s recipe is a French delicacy that I have been meaning to make for a long time, but I was always afraid it would be too difficult… I name: Madeleines.

So Wikipedia says Madeleines comes from two regions of Northeast France, but for me, they are just the tipical afternoon snack that my Mom would give us, while we would spend the afternoon at the beach. Their specialty is first, that they are delicious, and second, the little bump. Which is what scared me the most… Because in what world would anyone eat a madeleine if there is no bump?? So, I read a lot of recipes on the internet, some said you had to freeze the dough before cooking it to have the bump, some others said you had to change the oven temperature during the cooking.

And finally, when I saw the recipe in my new ‘Exquis petits gâteaux’ postcard/recipe booklet, I had to give it a try. No freezing or anything of the sort, you pop them in the oven for 10 mins and BAM, a little bump!

These ones are honey flavoured, you can flavor them with anything you’d like, chocolate chips, orange blossoms, anything you fancy really!

Here is the recipe that I followed:

  • 2 eggs
  • 140g butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of honey (this will really flavor your madeleines, so be sure to take some good quality honey)
  • 100g all purpose flour
  • a pinch of salt

Preheat your oven at 200°C. Whisk the egg whites in stiff peaks and keep the yoks on the side.

In another bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and the honey. Then add the flour, egg yoks and salt. Mix it carefully to the eggs, making sure not to deflate your whites. The batter is very heavy compared to the whites, which is quite surprising at first, therefore I added it a little bit at a time to the whites to make sure to keep all the air in.

Pour the batter in the pans and cook them for 10 mins. The madeleines must be golden and swollen. Wait for them to cool down before you remove them from the pans.

Enjoy!

M.

Time for goodbye…

Hello!

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This is not without sadness that I announce this new post as being the last one I will make on Australia. Indeed, Broome will be our last stop as I will have then shared everything I know about that cherished country with you… Funny how what seemed a lifetime of adventure, amazement and fun can be summed up in just a few posts… But the backpacking dream does not end here, if I shed what seemed then to be all the tears a tiny body like mine could bear that gloomy September 11th 2012, I have yet to talk about amazing New Zealand.

But for today, Broome. The main city of Western Australia behind Perth, it holds a village feel. It took us a good 18 hours bus ride from Coral Bay to reach the dreamt Cable Beach, crossing what seemed like an endless desert of red dirt and bushes, with the occasional brakes of the bus trying to avoid the kangaroos. Let me break it here, we did not kill any kangaroos and yes, I was proud…

That part of Western Australia belongs to the aborigenals, and definitly you will feel like a stranger. Lots of horrifying stories are running around about this part of the bush, and the aborigenals, and to be honest, as I first mentionned Broome to my Australian host family, they told me never to go without taking a tour, or a hotel, something very secured… To hell with it, we traveled all three of us on the bus and booked a hostel, and nothing bad happened to us. My postcard freshly bought got stolen, but you can’t ask for too much can you…?

I want to talk first of the hostel. We had booked the cheapest we could find, and shame on me, I cannot remember the name of it… Unfortunately, because I would advise anyone NEVER TO GO. And I have done some hardcore backpacker hostels and shared rooms with rats and kitchen with cockroaches, but that particular one was way beyond anything I could take. All I remember is that it has a pool, it is located walking distance from the airport (the airport is literaly in the middle of the city) and accross the street from the YHA. I have never seen such a dirty place in my life and that they charge you for it is beyond me. We considered the possibility of not taking a shower for the three days, I mean you would catch skin diseases just by looking at it. We definitly did not eat anything that could have gone through the kitchen the entire time we stayed there. You have to know that Broome is hot, boiling hot and humid, the air full of flies. People were leaving their food out, the trash did not have anything to be covered with, so the kitchen was a slice of heaven for the flies. On the first night, one guy got drunk and vomited from the top of the stairs all the way to the hallway and by the time we left the dirt was still there… The hostel was 90% French people, and that’s never a good thing. We did not pay attention to it because there is no point, but the girls sharing our room litteraly rubished us, just because we were yet another lot of girls…

But appart from that, I am so glad we decided to stick to Broome, because what an experience! The most amazing beach you can ever imagine: Cable Beach! The main attraction is the camel ride at sunset, which we did. It costs an arm, but the memories I hold from that night are priceless. As the sun was setting down, we noticed a whale far in the distance, just jumping in and out of the water, right under that immense burning ball that is the sun… That’s when you feel so small and how everything else just seems to stop to matter… The sunsets are particularly beautiful in Broome, the sun is huge and falls right into the ocean. If you are at the right time of the month, you can witness what they call ‘the staircase to the moon’ which is basically the reflection of the full moon on the sea that makes it look like a staircase, unfortunately, we left a couple of days before full moon.

We enjoyed the beach, did some shopping, we booked a morning of kayaking in the Mangrove and had drinks at a japanese brewery (??). Here are some pictures, it was so hard to pick, so there are quite a few…

I am going away tomorrow for a long week end, so I’ll be back soon!

Cheers,

M.

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Bus ride in the aborigenals’ land

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Cable Beach

Cable Beach

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This is mussel!

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jellyfish

jellyfish

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Recipe of the week

Hello!

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How was the week end? Finally, the sun has made a come back, so as my dear C. Of course I prepared her a chocolate cake, for she won’t eat anything else, but as it was a bit of a failure I’d rather not get into it… However, earlier in the week, I prepared some treats for my parents… I need to say here that they loooooove rhum, which is why it tends to appear every so often in the recipes of the week (see here).

I came accross this Rhum and Raisins mini cakes on the latest cook book I bought. And yet another cook book I hear you tell me, but this one, is pretty special… It is not really a cook book, it is more like postcards linked together, with the recipe at the back. The pictures are simply beautiful and they are easy recipe of everything tipical French.

This cake – I made it as mini cakes – is very easy to make, and very light! No butter, no oil and just a bit of sugar. It is quite heavy on rhum, I noticed it as soon as I poured the amount on the recipe, but knowing my parents, I did not hesitate a minute. Just be aware that it is a lot, meaning you can absolutly taste the alcohol I should say you can even smell it!

  • Rhum raisins cakes:

100g Smyrne raisins (did you even know about the amount of different raisins you could find in the grocery store??)

10cl rhum

1 yogurt

10cl sour cream

125g sugar (the recipe calls for 150g, but from experience, I always downgrade it a bit, and 125g were largely enough)

3 eggs

180g plain flour

50g almond powder

1 teaspoon of baking powder

First, preheat your oven at 180°C. For your pan, butter it, and add some sugar to the bottom, it will taste lovely when you take them out! Put them in the fridge (does anyone know if it is a crucial step, does it have any consequences or could I skip this step?).

Then, put the raisins and rhum together in a pan and take to a boil. Turn it off and set aside to cool down. In a different bowl, whisk together the yogurt and cream, then add the sugar, the eggs and the rhum that you have drained from the raisins.

Finally, add the flour, almond powder and baking powder. Cover the raisins with flour then incorporate to the batter.

If you are making one big cake, cook it for 40 minutes, for the small cakes it only took me 20 minutes.

I filled the pans all the way to the top because I got too lazy to get more pans out, in ended up overflowing so try not to fill the pans too much because it rises quite a lot.

Enjoy!

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Cheers!

M.