AT PLAY

For the home enhancers, the foodies, the wanderers

In honour…

Been thinking about what this day means for us all as we commemorate the fallen today, my mind drifting back to the time my travel buddy and I visited the war fields in France in 2013. I wrote about that day in honour of our ANZACs in 2015. The memory still tears at my heart. Here’s my story:

I hadn’t wanted to come. It was bone chillingly cold, drizzle fell from burgeoning grey skies and a biting wind whipped mercilessly at my inadequate jeans and jacket. Feet, wet and cold, were screaming chilblains, a dread I’d endured during long NZ winters, and I’d used my last tissue on a streaming red nose.

Bloody marvellous! A fine way to start a holiday in France I muttered as I wandered across the lush manicured lawns striated with row upon row of headstones.

Many of the headstones bore names, still more were marked ‘Unknown Soldier’. The 1918 battlefields at Villers-Bretonneux. An imposing Memorial commemorating nearly 11,000 Australians who died in France but have no known grave, formidable against bleak skies. I ran frozen fingers across the names etched into chilled marble. Andrew, Horatio, James, Clive, so many innocents.

Eric Hill from Boston, MA, USA - Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva Uploaded by PDTillmanFrom there to Pozières, then the Thiepval ‘Memorial to the Missing’ honouring over 72,000 British and South African men, followed by Beaumont-Hamel and the Newfoundland Memorial Park where zig zag trenches can still be seen almost a century on. In the distance, the yellow rapeseed covered tracts of land soldiers had been fighting relentlessly to retain. A weak sun caressed my icy cheeks as I took stock of the surrounds. So peaceful. Once so bloodied.

Meandering through the trenches behind our guide as she described the unimaginable conditions the soldiers experienced there –  the stench of the dead atop, dysentery, lack of food, fresh water or shelter, month upon month exposed to extreme weather conditions, from searing sun to death rattle snow – I struggled to remain composed. Choking on a crust of humble pie will do that. Wet feet and a sniffle indeed.

Each site respectfully tended regardless of nationality interred, the Germans distinguished by grey crosses within a quiet field of their own. They too were just young men sent into the same bloody battles. All of them heartbreakingly young; seeing, experiencing and succumbing to horrors we can’t begin to imagine. But you probably know that anyway, a part of our ANZAC history…a raw, gut wrenching sacrifice of human life. Today, 100 years on, we honour that sacrifice.

(Image – Eric Hill from Boston, MA, USA – Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva)

 

Super Slutty Spaghetti alla Puttanesca


Good news folks! My urge to play in the kitchen has returned, and, given the blog needs a top up of tasty coupled with a spot of scintillation, here's the perfect combo - Spaghetti alla Puttanesca. It's my 'when' dish. When there's a chill in the air, when time is poor, when a robust red deserves a tasty counterpart, when loved ones suddenly lob and need feeding. Been a number of 'when's lately. Wins too. A friend recently exclaiming 'this recipe's going straight to the blog'! Right said I, for who can resist a quick and tasty, easy on the waistline dish that can be knocked up in 10 minutes from mere pantry staples when one's too lazy to trawl the supermarket?

'Slut's Spaghetti', 'Working Girl's Pasta', 'Prostitute's Pasta' - so what's in a name?

Puttanesca has a sauce base of capers, olives and tomatoes and is usually served with spaghetti in a dish known as 'whore-style pasta'. Nigella calls her version 'Slut's Spaghetti', Jamie's recipe titled 'Working Girl's Pasta'. 'The name 'Prostitute's Pasta' originating from folk-law claiming the savvy Puttanas (prostitute in Italian) made the quick and easy pasta sauce to minimise down time between clients. Others say the robust aromas of the dish were designed to entice clients into the house of ill repute. A less audacious version indicating the sauce was created by a chef who had a volume of guests arrive at his restaurant late one night just as he was about to close and, not having enough of any one ingredient to make a meal for them all, pulled everything from the kitchen together to make this legendary Italian pasta sauce.

My favourite theory? Tongue in cheek, LV Anderson (Prostitutes have nothing to do with it) says Italians use puttana (and related words) almost the way we use shit, as an all-purpose profanity, so pasta alla puttanesca might just have originated with someone saying, “I just threw a bunch of shit from the cupboard into a pan.”

The origins of its name might be debatable but one thing's for certain - it really does make an easy, quick, cheap and delicious pasta sauce! And seriously, who can resist a dish with such a shady title? Here's my version. Enjoy!

Need:

  • 400 g dried spaghetti (or linguini)
  • olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced (avoid using a garlic crusher for finely crushed garlic will burn before absorbing the aromatics)
  • 3 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
  • 1 small Chorizo sausage, roughly chopped (optional)
  • tablespoon tomato puree
  • a small handful of salted capers, rinsed and drained; or brine version, drained
  • 1-2 fresh red chillies, sliced (seeds in if you like it hot, hot, hot, out if you like it mild)
  • a small handful of black and/or green Sicilian olives, de-stoned
  • 2 handfuls very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
  • a small bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked
  • Parmesan cheese, to serve

 Do:

  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, then add the spaghetti and cook according to packet instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, place a large frying pan over a medium–high heat. Add a good lug of olive oil, followed by the garlic, anchovy, chorizo, capers, chilli and tomato puree. Tear in the olives and stir for 2 minutes, or until the garlic starts to turn golden and the anchovies start melting.
  3. Add the cherry tomatoes, a good splash of pasta water and cover with a lid. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the cherry tomatoes start to cook down slightly.
  4. Drain the pasta, reserving a cupful of the cooking water.
  5. Add the basil to the sauce along with the pasta and a splash of the reserved cooking water, to loosen.
  6. Taste and season if needed.
  7. Transfer to a serving platter and top with a good shaving of fresh Parmesan and Basil leaves.
  8. Reap accolades while smiling to self 'prostitutes be damned'
Recipe based on Jamie Oliver's Gennaro's Spaghetti Alla Puttnesca

Home – feathering our nests

I've been focusing way to much on work related stuff of late my lovelies- what not to say in interviews, how to build your social media brand and so on - sharing my work related bliss (career coaching) for helping you find your work related bliss (rewarding career). But hey! You know this here blog aims to inspire on so much more than just the gig that keeps the wolf from the door.

Let's talk about what's behind that door. The home that nurtures and sustains, comforts and protects. Where we shed the shoes, pitch the work kit, don the sexy jammies (nothing less), pour a wine, light a candle (ok ok, after the kidlets are in bed) and kick back. On the sofa. Behind the coffee table. The one usually supporting our feet, said wine and that pile of life's detritus. Well that coffee table is about to be spruced.

As many of you know, I'm big on 'styling' stuff. Book shelves, desks, bedside tables, coffee tables, heck any sort of surface, often sharing the passion on the blog. Always on the look out for coffee table books, scented candles, sweet little nicknacks to spruce my home, feather my nest; coupled with the occasional crack of dawn raid on the Flower Markets when I'm feeling flush - all fuelling my frustrated interior stylist mojo.

So excited do I get, I once spent 5 hours with a girlfriend helping her perfect her coffee table vignette. Frivolous waste of time? Perhaps for some. For us, a few strategically placed, aesthetically pleasing goodies simply adding an extra layer of luxe to her home - as per the dictate of Ingrid Abramovitch (New York interiors writer) 'space is finite, so everything has to be beautiful or functional'.

Kate Spade (All in Good Taste) says no one 'decorates' their home, they embark on an expedition. 'The choices you make are a journey that tells the story of you and should always be the best expression of you'. And that's what makes creating vignettes for the coffee table, easier than it sounds. I've a few suggestions to help you create or refresh yours:

Mementos: Favourite items from past travels, antique finds, shells, a particularly pretty gift box that can double for storing the TV remotes.

Books: Select those with an element of uniformity and complementary coloured spines. Leave one open at a favourite shot. I've see the Tom Ford tome on many a coffee table (see image below), often open to a provocative page, a wonderful way of expressing your individualism.

Fruit: A big bowl of long lasting fruit in a single colour. Green apples for instance; making for a fabulous apple crumble a month or so down the track and cheaper than flowers. Speaking of...

Flowers: I'd love to have a budget that extends to fresh flowers weekly, however today's silk flowers are exceptionally realistic, making for perfect substitutes. Particularly for Peonies and Roses that cost a fortune and last just three days. I purchase fresh only when expecting dinner or house guests.

Candles: From the luxe such as Diptique, Jonathan Adler, Jo Malone; mid range including Glass House, Peppermint Grove, Voluspa; to economical from Kikki K, Target - there's a myriad of brands from which to choose and just one can be sufficient. (Throw the gift hint out - candles please!) And light it for goodness sake! One of life's glorious luxuries. Stick to a single signature scent and if lighting more than one at a time, do so in short bursts as some of the more luxurious can be quite heady. Be mindful of people's allergies as well.

Glass Ware: Used candle receptacles, vases, pretty cut glass scotch glasses, an eclectic mix or one or two uniform styles, staggered, the choices are endless.

Bowls: Ceramic, glass, brass, filled with mints, M&M's, sea shells, balls...or nothing at all.

Trays: One that can frame your vignette, effectively restricting you from getting too carried away. Serving double purpose and easy removal when cleaning that coffee table.

Looking for more inspiration? Pinterest of course, Instagram too. Major department and homeware store displays, interior design mags, blogs, websites, a veritable smorgasbord waiting for you.

As well, that fabulous little book by Kate Spade.

Have fun!!

Image 1 - smallshopsstudio.com; Image 2 - www.purewow.com; Image 3 - homevialaura.com; Image 4 -clubprivilege.tumblr.com from Fabulousthings blog; Image 5 -naimabarcelona.tumblr.com

Wanna be dessert queen?

Want to be front and centre hero at your Christmas soirées this year? Here’s a perfect poser dessert that will reward your ego with grateful accolades, a champagne toast or two (or three) and requests for the formula.

My friend Jen presents this fabulous dessert at her Christmas luncheon to the delighted applause and plate licking pleasure of her guests. I picked up the baton and posted the recipe several years ago, had fun playing with the formula recently and, for the requesters, here’s an update. Plus a variety of options. Perfect for entertaining 8 to 10 of your nearest and dearest any time of year and ever so easy to knock up between those pesky household chores the day before serving.

Click here for Recipe

Need:
2 x 220g bottles chocolate Ice Magic

2 litres Cookies & Cream ice cream

1 litre Vanilla ice cream

2 packets Oreo Cookies

Oil spray

500g Strawberries for decoration

Do:
1) Spray a 22cm springform pan with oil spray then line the sides and base with a double layer of baking paper, extending 6cm above the rim of the pan

2) Squeeze one bottle of Ice Magic over the base of the pan and spread to cover surface. Tap on bench to settle then pop in freezer until set

3) Scoop 1/2 the Cookies & Cream ice cream into a bowel and stand at room temperature or until slightly softened

4) Spoon the softened Cookies & Cream ice cream over the Ice Magic layer and press into an even layer with the back of a spoon

5) Freeze for one hour or until firm

6) Gently pulse one packet of the Oreos until coarsly crumbled

7) Sprinkle Oreo crumbs evenly across the layer and return to freezer

8) Soften Vanilla ice cream in the same manner and spoon over Oreo crumb layer

9) Freeze for one hour or until firm

10) repeat steps 6 and 7

11) Spoon remaining  1/2 of the Cookies & Cream ice cream over the Oreo crumb layer

12) Cover and freeze over night, until ready to serve

13) Remove the side of the pan and carefully transfer cake to a chilled platter or cake stand

14) Top with strawberries and drizzle with the remaining Ice Magic

15) Serve immediately to the grateful hoards

Enjoy!

PS: Have fun experimenting with different flavours! A few to get you started:

  • Substitute Cookies and Cream for Caramel or Chocolate ice cream
  • Substitute Oreo Cookies for Maltesers or crushed choc mint biscuits
  • Substitute Strawberries for tempered chocolate shards and Maltesers or mint cookies

Choices, choices!

 

20140111-084054Thank you Australian Woman’s Weekly for the concept.

 

Off the beaten Parisian path…

Friends heading to Europe for Xmas recently asked, ‘Jane, how long should we spend in Paris and what’s to do?’ ‘Why at least two weeks, ideally six months, a year, forever; so much to see in this fine city!’ Pondering my frankly unhelpful Francophillian response, I actually gave the query serious thought:

Three days?

Big red bus city highlights recon to get the bearings. The Eiffel Tower’s pretty sparkles viewed from the Trocadero. The Arc de Triumph. The Champs Élysées for fabulous Xmas fairy lights, Laudree Macarons, Louis Vuitton Flagship store, Ferrari, Mont Blanc, Sephora. Oh! And the beautifully buffed semi naked eye candy guarding Abercrombie & Finch on the other side of those magnificent gold tipped black gates.

The Grand and the Petite Palais for palace awesomeness. Palace Opera’s ornate mirrored glitz and bodaciously luxe tassles. The Louvre – Mona’s wing. Notre Dame point zero and those pretty stained glass windows. Sacre Coeur up there on the hill. Galleries la Fayette for that stunning dome ceiling. Fueled with plenty of fortification while seated on those cute little red wicker chairs on the Bistro footpaths of course.

Five days?

Add a day trip to Chateau de Versailles for an even bigger palace fix. Napoleon’s Tomb, Place de Voges, the Musee de Orsay, L’Orangerie and Pompidou for extra hits of visual culture. A wander in the Jardins des Tuileries and Jardins des Luxembourg to park your green chair wherever takes your fancy amidst the lush gardens, ponds, statues and Sunday boules players. The Latin Quarter. Bon Marche for the pure pleasure of feeling your credit card’s sphincter muscle contract. Fueled by still more French fare and people watching over a wine or five.

 Already ticked these boxes? Time to dig a little deeper into the less touristy fare. My top 10 suggestions:

1) Rue de l’Abreuvoir –  it would be remiss to neglect this picturesque road as you wander around Montmartre, followed by Avenue Junot, very chic and along here you will find ‘Pass-muraille’ – the man who could walk through walls.

2) The Je t’aime wall – while still in the region, wander Place des Abbesses, find the small public garden (Square Johan Rictus) and admire ‘Le mur des Je t’aime’  where you’ll find ‘I love you’ written in 311 languages…tres romantic in the city of…well um…romance? For more detail: Jacques and Jane discover the Je T’aime wall

3) Le Moulin de la Gallete – while still in the Montmartre region you’ll find this elegant sister to the Moulin Rouge. One of only two other windmills left in Paris, this one houses a rather elegant restaurant.

4) Space invaders – always, always look up as you traverse the more densely populated Arrondissement for high on the walls you will find pixel art mosaic space invaders. Over 1,182 in Paris alone, brainchild of an anonymous French artist known only as Invader. A tiny buzz each time you find one and a lot less embarrassing than chasing Pokemon. A previous post: Who loves Space Invaders?

5) Porte Saint-Denis and Porte Saint-Martin. Aside from the well known arches on the ‘Triumphal Way’  (Arc de Triomphe Carrousel, Arc de Triomphe, La Defense), these lesser known arches are slap dab in the middle of densely populated streets and worth checking out just for their sheer audaciousness.


6) The Louis Vuitton Foundation – oh yes, architect Frank Gehry stretching our minds yet again with one of his most magnificent pieces to date. Right up there with the late great Zaha Hadid.

7) Rue des Rosiers for the Falafels – in Le Marais, my fave Arrondissement where the effortlessly minimalist chic Parisian hangs, particularly cool on a Sunday when the closed streets fill with said chic as they wander the many wine bars and boutiques.

8) Rue Montorgueil on a Friday eve – closed to cars, the street filled with French food open market specialties, from rare fromage to giant meringues, rare chocolate to escargot. Speaking of; check out L’Escargot Bistro for the delicious molluscs for which the restaurant is named.

9) The Passages – some quaint, many architecturally magnificent, a few in states of disrepair and all really quite special. Check out Passages du Grand Cerf, Galerie Vivienne, Passage Jouffroy and Passages des Panoramas for starters. See more here:   Coffee, cats and more Passages and Loving Parisian Passages


And for a very special kind of bliss:

10) A concert in Sainte-Chapelle – within the Palais de la Cite, on the Ill de la Cite and in the heart of Paris. Lazy afternoon light filtering through the most magnificent stained glass windows suffuses an atmosphere that, combined with the pure acoustics of the Chapel itself, may just bring a tear to your eyes. Pure joy.


Enjoy my friends, enjoy. And come back safe.xx

P.S. If you’d like to take in the most magnificent view that actually includes the Eiffel Tower, head to the Montparnasse Tower Panoramic Observation Deck, spectacular!

‘O Sole Mio’…or not?

Venice. How can one visit this mystical city without stepping into one of those sleek black Gondolas at least once? Quietly gliding beneath one or two of the 409 bridges that span the 150 plus channels, linking the 117 small islands that constitute Venice while enjoying the soothing baritone of your Gondolier’s narration. Admiring the softly decaying brick facades with petticoats of lush green moss while trailing fingers in the clear aqua marine waters as your Gondolier croons a sweet ballad. Sigh! While standing atop one of the bridges watching the many Gondolas gliding deftly beneath, I became a tad curious. Why are they all black? What does that pointy thing on the stern symbolize, and why are the Gondoliers male?

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A spot of sleuthing later and here’s the low down:

Although always black (six coats) – the result of a 17th century law a doge enacted to eliminate competition between nobles for the fanciest machine – each Gondola has unique upholstery, trim and detailing but with just three flourishes – a curly tail, a pair of seahorses and a multi pronged prow. The six horizontal lines and curved top of the prow represent Venice’s six districts and the doge’s funny cap. Each one weighs 700g, has 280 components and uses eight types of wood. Interestingly they are slightly lopsided and bow out on the left, this asymmetry causing the Gondola to resist the tendency to turn toward the left at the forward stroke and compensates for the weight of the gondolier who stands in the stern and rows only on the right side.

image

Just as the Gondola is an iconic symbol of Venice, so too the Gondoliere, or the traditional oarsman, each one sporting a jaunty black and white striped shirt and straw boater. Whereas once a male dominated industry, in 2010, Venice finally appointed its first ever female gondolier Giorgia Boscolo. Go girl! Jostling amongst the chunky Vaporettos (water bus), sleek timber speed boats, produce movers, the odd cruise ship and 400 fellow Gondoliere is not for the faint of heart but the Gondoliers nail it. After all they’ve had extensive periods of training and apprenticeship, six months including 400 hours of instruction in using the distinctive single oar that is used to propel the gondola, to be exact, plus an exam which tests knowledge of Venetian history and landmarks, foreign language skills and the practicalities of manoeuvring the Gondola through narrow canals. Interestingly, when a Gondolier dies, the licence passes to his widow.

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Now that you’ve popped a Gondola ride on your Venetian agenda, here’s a few things to consider before you blindly take that Gondolier’s hand and settle into his sleek machine. Some might offer narration or conversation and if this is important to you, it pays to conduct a little interview with your potential Gondolier to see how you relate and whether you can understand him, at the same time reviewing the map to discuss the route for some are crowded and chaotic; the duration of the trip and the price. The latter is usually fixed however there’s room to haggle when it’s quiet or in off season.

Oh! And despite depictions in the movies, not all gondoliers sing. If you are hankering for a serenade, ask first. If you’ve had the good fortune to hire a musician and are yearning for a spot of ‘O Sole Mio’ (which comes from Naples), well that’s like asking a Jazz singer to sing Waltzing Matilda. Instead try requesting  ‘Un canto Veneziano? (sing a Venetian song?) – ‘Venezia La Luna e Tu?’ (a Venetian song), and you may just be rewarded. Enjoy!

Sailing the Adriatic – a blogger’s pit stop diary

Dear Blog Diary…about this Athens – Venice cruise. How are we to share the excitement of seven days aboard a snazzy ship with Greek Island and Croatian pit stops when on board wifi is so damn satellite exy? FB snapshots backed up with a spot of diary musings for later free wifi gratuitous blog over-sharing natch! A good thing lovely readers for I suspect excessive complementary cocktails may just compromise a girl’s writing skills (sorry – not sorry). For the curious, here are the outcomes:

Tuesday: Throw the ropes off, good bye Athens, 4.30pm, 235 fellow passengers, heading for the Corinth Canal. Rather spech boat the Le Lyrical, brushing up on French, the ship’s first language. View the ship being gently guided through the canal by the ‘tiny tugboat that could’ on top deck. Accompanied by a Violinist. And French champagne. And a great deal of oh la la! Hit the cabin doona 11pm a little bit tipsy on excitement and exhaustion…and champers…and that nightcap in the piano bar.

Just a little curious about the Corinth Canal? Well the canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. Cutting through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth, it separates the Peloponnesian peninsula from the Greek mainland, thus effectively making the former an island.

The canal is 6.4 kilometers in length, only 21.3 meters wide at its base, earth cliffs flanking either side reach up to 63 meters in height. A dream that dates back over 2000 years, finally accomplished 1893.  Ironically, aside from a few modest sized cruise ships like the Le Lyrial, the Corinth Canal is unserviceable to most modern ships. Damn fine place for bungy jumping though! There you go.

Wednesday: Anchor off Zakinthos, Greece. Leisurely breakfast on pool deck, board the shore excursion boat, wander around with vague intent on buying a hat, nope, shops closed, it’s siesta time. Substitute with a G&T or three, free wifi in a hip little cafe and a snap shot or two.

The interesting stuff: Inhabited from the Neolithic age. Homer, the famous Greek poet mentioned Zakynthos in his masterpieces the Iliad and the Odyssey. Lots of conquering along the way.

Tolmides, the Athenian military commander concluded an alliance with the Island between 446 and 459 BC during the First Peloponnesian War to source tar from the island’s lakes to protect the planking on their shipping fleet. Better than pitch which is made from pine trees.

And did you know that during Nazi occupation of Greece, the Mayor and Bishop at the time refused Nazi orders to turn in the town’s Jewish community for deportation to the death camps, instead hiding all 275 of them in rural villages. All survived.

Also prime nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles. Also known for the beautiful Navagio beach and limestone caves. We’ll be checking out similar tomorrow.

Finish day with cocktail of the day (Apple-Tizer), Captain’s own welcome cocktail (free for all – choices, choices!), Gala dinner in posh restaurant, check out the pianist (stardust memories), crash.

Thursday: Paxos ‘n Antipaxos smallest group of Ionian Islands, brilliant azure blue waters, pretty villages, wall to wall yachts, sunburnt snouts. 

First up fresh juice, bespoke omelette, coffee then grab ship provided Palms (fins) face-masks and snorkels, towels and water, slap on sunscreen and swim-suits and jump aboard a smaller boat to explore Paxos and Antipaxos. Limestone caves, startlingly clear aqua waters, beach pebbles that tickle underfoot, bombs straight off the back of the boat and a bunch of sun crazed water lovers making for a fun, pleasantly exhaustive day.

According to Greek mythology, Poseidon created the island by striking Corfu with his trident, so that he and wife Amphitrite could have some peace and quiet. Peaceful. Quiet. Poseidon nailed it.

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Dodge dancing classes, dine a la carte, hit top deck where the place is going off like a frog in a sock (pardon pun, boat is full of French folk after all), fall sleep in Albania, wake up in Montenegro. The water a millpond.

Friday: Squeezed into Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor (or ‘the Bokor’ as known by the locals) to the strings of Tchaikovsky; greeted by the monastery’s delicate bells in response to three brash honks from the ship’s horn, as is customary. Held my breath, what if the bell ringer neglects his duty and blows this age old tradition? He didn’t, phew! Next stop Dubrovnik. 

Croatia! First up – Dubrovnik.

Sooo…really did climb all over Dubrovnik – my new favourite European city for quaintness, and cats, and Game of Thrones déjà vu moments, and that drawbridge, and, and…

Another UNESCO and no surprises for this distinctive medieval city is surrounded by 2klm of massive stone ramparts built between the 11th and 17th centuries. Well-preserved buildings ranging from the baroque St. Blaise Church to Renaissance Sponza Palace and Gothic Rector’s Palace, now a history museum, the Stradun (or Placa) paved with limestone and lined with shops and restaurants. And tourists. Must. Walk. Wall. Backdrop for G.o.T ‘King’s Landing’ and many, many movies.

Skip mariner swim off the back of the boat, snuggle into bathrobes, pour G&T, dine in with a movie.

Saturday: Quick coffee, jump on board shore excursion boat, quick hike to Mjlet’s crystal clear lakes, more coffee, back on board and on to Korkula.

Korcula equals brilliant medieval town planners! Curved streets one side, straight the other in a fishbone zigzag to capture best breezes and all leading to bell tower at the top. Bit of a story about Marco Polo. Impossible to get lost, here’s proof we didn’t:

We have the port to ourselves and it’s no mean feat swinging the ship into her station but of course the captain nails it! Straight on shore for a quick explore followed by a soothing G&T before wandering back to our floating home.

Did you know that during the First World War, the island (among other territorial gains) was promised to the Kingdom of Italy in the 1915 Treaty of London in return for Italy joining the war on the side of Great Britain and France? Just one of the many takeovers Korcula and her counterparts have experienced over the centuries.

Skip every kind of class back on board, throw back a ‘Le Fruit Defendu’ cocktail of the day, dine posh, sup a particularly pleasant Merlot, check out dancers, wind down with a soothing tea (yes! On the odd occasion we drank non alcoholic beverages, very odd indeed)

Sunday: Hvar! Small medieval fortification, big reputation, three UNESCO heritage listings – greedy huh? (more on blog when free wifi kicks back in). Crisp green waters against a backdrop of dusky Olive and rich purple Lavender, and just a spot of foliage persistence.

But first up and at ’em with Birchers muesli, fresh baguette smothered in lurpac, coffee; followed by liberal sunscreen and sensible shoes (no, that’s a fib, sneakers don’t work with my silk numbers) and off to explore. This place:

Consistently listed in Conde Naste’s top 10 islands, the most popular tourist destination in the Croatian Islands thanks to excellent marketing in its early days – ‘come for seven days and if it rains or snows on one of them, you’ll get your money back’. Given it’s the sunniest of them all, temps rarely below 13 degrees, a pretty sure bet! What’s more, a harbour of brilliant aqua makes you want to dive in boots and all.

A quaint Franciscan monastery, it’s walled sanctuary centering on a Renaissance cloister, with a 900 year old pine tree in the courtyard. The museum is home to a magnificent 17th-century painting of the Last Supper. A large limestone paved public square (St Stephen’s) that’s anchored by a Renaissance-era cathedral and open to the sea. Oh! And a port filled with Yachts. Big ones!

Back on board in time to watch a serious ‘I demand to speak to the manager’ scrabble for Laduree Macarons, attempt a quiz with our swelling bunch of friends (mostly Australian – you know – the noisy ones) and lose most in translation, casual dinner on deck, check out dancers and sneak off to bed.

Monday: Opatija…try saying that with a mouth full of cracker! The city feels like Cannes, like the riviera of Croatia, the place where the Russian Oligarch spend their vacations. Pretty.

A sleep-in, breakfast of kings, then off to explore ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’, renowned for its beautiful architecture, quality hotels, well tended botanical park that protects over 160 species. Particularly enamoured with Vila Angiolina built in 1844 by Iginio Scarpa, once hosting a myriad of famous guests ranging from Albert Einstein to James Joyce, now a museum.

Snapshots of the ‘Maiden with the seagull’, a statue by Zvonko Car (1956) positioned on a promontory by the Juraj Šporer art pavilion, a wander along the promenade to view the luxurious hotels, a G&T and toast to this our last excursion. 

Tonight our grand captain’s farewell dinner, a chance to swap FB and email addresses with our new friends Pascale and Brigette, Debbie and Peter, Jenny and Ann and our lovely US friend Marjorie, now in her late 70’s, a party reveller hell bent on spending her kid’s inheritance by inviting them along, effectively guaranteeing their attention. Couldn’t think of a better way to do so than take a cruise along the Dalmatian coast, could you?

Tuesday: Venice, a perfect opportunity to say farewell to the Le Lyrial via the bow as we make our way into port…

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