Travels to Lake Garda, Italy

We spent the Easter weekend exploring the Italian Lakes and chose to go to both Lake Garda and Lake Como. We landed in Milan Malpensa, picked up our rented our very Italian car (a tiny little Fiat 500) and made our way over to Desenzano, a little town on the south west shore of Lake Garda, where we had booked our hotel for two nights.

There were a lot of motorways and very un-scenic views involved in this almost 2 hour drive to Lake Garda, but when we finally saw the beautiful Lake glistening in the sunshine in front of us we were very excited to have arrived. We parked, checked in, changed into more appropriate clothes for the gloriously sunny, 24 degree Celsius day, and headed out to walk around to see what Desenzano had to offer.

We walked up to the lake and onto the pebbled beach and I was amazed to see how crystal clear the water was as the soft waves pushed it in and out. It felt very much like going to the seaside in the South of France. We sat on the pier with our legs dangling out over the water watching the swans and ducks go by and taking in the peacefulness of it all – before heading off to find a somewhere to eat lunch in the sunshine.

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Desenzano del Garda
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Desenzano del Garda in the sunshine

We wondered through the streets passing the colourful little buildings with their colourful shutters and on the windows until we found Bar Pizzeria Gelateria Cristallo facing the gorgeous Porto Vecchio and the Lake.

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Ponte Vecchio
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Bar Pizzeria Gelateria Cristallo

After a long lunch we set off to see the Castello di Desenzano. It sits grand amongst the colourful low rise buildings that surround it.

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Castello di Desenzano
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Castello di Desenzano
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The beautiful little streets of Desenzano
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Pre-dinner drinks at Piazza Cappelletti

Overall Desenzano is a peaceful, gorgeous and colourful little town. I would definitely recommend staying here if you go to Lake Garda.

The next morning after breakfast we set off to a Vineyard for a tour and some wine tasting (which will be blogged about soon) before spending the rest of the day in Sirmione. Sirmione is a little town with a lot of history. It is a thin, long road that goes into the Lake and at the end of this road, you walk across a moat, through a castle entrance to then enter the old Sirmione town.

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Castello Scaligero
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Sitting on a pier to take in the gorgeous views

The old town is buzzing and full of people, like ourselves, being tourists and exploring.

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The busy Sirmione Old Town
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Found a spot in the Square in the sunshine for some drinks and nibbles before exploring the castle

We ended up finding a suntrap in the Square by the Ferry Port where we decided to stop for a drink – but every time you order an alcoholic beverage somewhere in Lake Garda, you will get nibbles to go with them – usually some crisps and olives but if you go between 5pm and 7pm you will get bread, bread sticks (they LOVE a bread stick), cheese and ham. It was lovely just sitting in the sun and watching the world go by around us.

There were gelaterias on every corner, thermal baths and spas, colourful shops and restaurants everywhere you look and some ginormously large lemons – all the things that Sirmione is famous for.

Unfortunately we didn’t try any lemons and we didn’t have a chance to go into the thermal baths, but we did have a fabulous time walking around the old town and going into the castle to see all the views.

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Views from the castle looking out to the Lake
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More lake views from the castle
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Views from the top of the castle looking down into the old town
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Views from the top of the castle looking out to the lake
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More lake views from the castle

If you do have the chance, definitely go for a day to explore this gorgeous area of Lake Garda.

Where to go? What to do?

  • Have a day to stroll around Desenzano town
  • Go to Castello di Desenzano
  • Find a vineyard to do a winery tour and wine tasting
  • Try some Lake Garda Lemons
  • Enter Castello Scaligero in Sirmione
  • Go to a thermal bath (historically used by the Romans here) in Sirmione
  • Take a boat ride around Sirmione
  • Have an Aperol Spritz (or other beverage) during aperitivo time
  • Go for a walk, run or bike ride along the Lake
  • Have lots of pasta
  • Relax

 

Where to stay?

We stayed in Hotel Bonotto in Desenzano which was perfect for what we needed it to be. It is a well-priced 3 star hotel with wifi, free parking, a safe in the room, breakfast included and it is a 2 minute walk from the lake. What more did we need?

The staff were great at helping us out to find our way around, giving us tips on where to go, and helping us out with what we needed for our stay.

Breakfast is served in the restaurant on the top floor which has floor to ceiling windows and a large terrace overlooking Lake Garda as well as the castle and rest of the town. Breakfast is continental with a choice of fruits, cereals, breads, cheeses, hams and boiled eggs as well as the teas, coffees and fruit juices. There was one morning when I was at breakfast and there was a bottle of prosecco as one of the drink options in the buffet, but it was a little too early for me, plus we were off to Onepio Vineyard afterwards.

Below are photos of our room and gorgeous views from the roof terrace at breakfast.

http://www.hotelbonottodesenzano.it/en/

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g194965-d2090589-Reviews-Hotel_Bonotto-Desenzano_Del_Garda_Province_of_Brescia_Lombardy.html

 

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Exploring Temple Street, Hong Kong – Spicy Crab Restaurant

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Temple Street is a night market in Hong Kong where you can buy jade stones, Chinese tea sets, trinkets, bags etc. As you walk along the street you will find an interesting array of vendors, fortune tellers and opera singers. Yep – they stand on stalls singing away (no joke!).

Spicy Crab Restaurant is on the corner of one of the streets and here you can get fresh seafood every night. Just pick a number of seafood dishes and share in the middle of the table. It is very much on the street so it isn’t the nicest of venues but its a good experience being in the middle of the hustle and bustle having street food.

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The Drunken Duck Inn – The Lake District – Ambleside, Cumbria, UK

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Towards the end of last summer 2015 (yep a tad bit late I know) – Jack, Flex and I went up to the Lake District to visit the South Lakes for a day to explore as I had never been before.

Our first stop was Lake Winderemere where we sat by the lake and went for a walk. Next was Ambleside where we went to The Drunken Duck in for lunch (recommended by Jack’s mum).

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It is an inn that dates back to (apparently) the Victorian era and now also has a bar and restaurant with a lush yet cozy interior and an outdoor seating area that looks over the Lake District Fells.

As you walk into the bar there is a fire place that is burning away wood to keep the place warm and as you turn into the restaurant you pass a buffet of all the freshly made quiches, stews and salads that the chefs are making in front of you.

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We sat outside as it was a lovely sunny day.

I had the Lancashire cheese, red pepper and leek quiche with a mixture of all the salads and Jack went for the pork, chili and chickpea stew with a side of polenta. The food was delicious and full of flavour.

They have their own brewery to brew their own beers which have won awards!

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We then finished off the trip at Lake Coniston where we went for a long walk and finished off with a coffee by the lake.

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It was such a gorgeous day out!

Flex thoroughly enjoyed himself too – playing fetch on the large fields, swimming in the lakes and finding lots of choice of stones to put at our feet for us to throw for him. What a lad!

I definitely recommend The South Lakes and The Drunken Duck in. Perfect for a day out or to stay for a weekend.

http://drunkenduckinn.co.uk/

Double Six Beach Bakso Street Stall – Bali

Once upon a time in a far far away land, there lived a man and his wife who worked, everyday without fail, at their own magical noodle soup street stall which cures all hangovers of all the village people. All the people from the village would travel from far and wide to come and try his magical noodle soup after their village parades and fetes…

Is what would be a great start to a wonderful fairy tale. Instead I will tell you about the real noodle soup stall that I am absolutely in love with.

On a beach called Double-Six Beach in Bali, Indonesia there is a street stall which call themselves Bakso Gerobak Biru, which makes such a great Indonesian meatball noodle soup. Eating this, while sitting on the beach and looking out at the waves, in the sunshine, seriously is the best hangover cure. The meatballs are the bouncy oriental type and the noodles are a mixture of egg noodles and rice noodles which comes in a broth soup. He has the best homemade chili sauce that I love to pour all over it for a bit of spice. Costs just 50p (Rp10,000).

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While sitting on on Double-Six Beach you will definitely have a coconut seller come up to you. My advice – GET ONE! It costs a mere 50p (Rp10,000)A fresh young coconut that someone has cut open right in front of you is definitely better than any of those packaged drinks from the supermarket. This refreshing thing, partnered along with that gorgeous bowl of noodle soup, is the answer to all your hang over questions… best cure ever!

You just need to get a flight out there.

Street Food – Istanbul, Turkey

My gorgeous girlfriends and I got our back packs on flew to Istanbul in May this year for some exploring. We managed to see loads of historical sights, visit the two big bazaars and do some shopping. This post is about all the street foods I tried while I was there.2015-05-03_14.45.31

Midye Dolma (Stuffed Mussels) – Found at the Ferry Port on the Asian Side20150504_194533

20150504_194553Emma, Astrid, Esme and I got a ferry across from the European side, where we were staying, to the Asian side, where my friend Hannah lives, as she was having a garden party at her house that evening. As we got off the ferry onto the Asian side, we saw a couple of these Midye Dolma street vendors. Obviously we had to try them. They opened up the mussel for us, scooped it all into one shell, squeezed some lemon onto it, and then it was served.

They make a rice mixture and then stuff it into the mussels to cook – it tastes very much like a seafood risotto or a seafood paella. DELICIOUS!

It costs 1 Turkish Lira for 2 mussels (£1 = 4 Lira at the time) and they are such a good tasty little street snack.images (1)

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Corn on the Cob and Chesnuts – Found around Sultan Ahmet20150503_181931

To be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with the grilled corn that I got. It was cold and the kernels was so hard and tasted like they were probably cooked in the morning and just laid out all day. They sprinkled it with salt which didn’t melt and infuse into the corn and instead lay over it dry. I doubt I will be rushing to have one of these again, but if you are to try these I would suggest asking for a freshly cooked one. Not my favourite. 2 Liras for 1 corn.

Islak Burgers (Wet Burgers in English) – Found in Taksimdownload (1)The Islak Burgers are found lining the streets of Taksim. You will see them in the windows of most of the shops. Emma, Astrid and I had one of these on our way home after Hannah’s garden party. It was surprisingly good.

It was a bun similar to a McDonalds cheeseburger bun, with a very thin meat patty inside, but what makes it a “wet burger” is that, not only is there tomato sauce on the inside of the bun like a normal burger, but it is absolutely covered in a tomato sauce. The sauce doesn’t taste as strong with flavour as a tomato ketchup. It had a lighter taste to it. This sauce somehow gave the burger bun a chewy texture, like the texture of a bagel.

A delightful midnight street snack AND it was only 2 Lira!images (2)

Simit (Turkish Pretzels) – Found all over the streets in Istanbulimages (3)These are great if you are hungry and on the go. It costs 1 Lira for one. Plain chewy-bagel-type-pretzels that are sold on every street corner.

Overall a fab place to visit and many interesting flavours. I still need to go back and try to famous fish sandwich which is also a street food.

Istanbul, I’m coming back.