Bunch of fat tarts

I’m just back from an eight-day hike in Portugal, and as much as I’d love to report that the hiking has rendered me a svelte imitation of my former self… well, it hasn’t. Reason? I blame the Portuguese egg tarts. Pastéis de nata – that’s what they’re called in the local lingo. It means “pure custardy evil in a warm pastry cup”.

Pastel de nata1

If you’re an Australian who, like me, grew up on a steady diet of custard tarts (usually ordered together with a sausage roll and a chocolate milk – the holy trinity of the Aussie bakery), you’ll understand why I couldn’t resist them in Portugal. It has to be said, though, the Portuguese version of the tart makes ours seem kind of… flabby. Nothing can beat the crisp, wafer-thin layers of a pastel de nata, or those glistening black spots of caramelisation. If the psychologists had used these things in the Stanford marshmallow experiment, the kids would’ve opted for immediate gratification every time. Continue reading

Travel: more memorable moments of 2012

Part two of my best bits and bobs from last year’s peregrinations. (Click photos to zoom.)

6. Bali, Indonesia
6. Bali, IndonesiaWhereabouts: Bali’s Bukit Peninsula
Mood: Windswept
Day five of a fantastic holiday in Bali with my family found us poolside at a villa complex called “The Edge”, a place I had grudgingly accepted the task of reviewing for work. This stint in Bali was our first outside the well-trodden haunts of Seminyak and Ubud. I loved the Bukit Peninsula for a change, especially with its 180-degree view of relentless, pounding surf, and even more especially for its total lack of retail outlets. Continue reading

Travel: memorable moments of 2012

Plenty of travel opportunities last year, thankfully, including regional stuff out of Singapore (three trips to Malaysia, three to Thailand, one to Indonesia), and a handful of journeys further afield. Here are some of the bits I enjoyed the most. (Click photos to zoom.)

1. Loubressac, France
1. Loubressac, FranceWhereabouts: On a rural road between hamlets
Mood: Invigorated
Travel highlight of the year was a toss-up between a brilliant first-time trip to India, encompassing Delhi, Rajasthan and Agra, and an eight-day hike in the Dordogne Valley of France’s southwest. This photo was taken on day five of the latter, near the village of Loubressac. After a torridly wet start to the week (70km of squelching boots), the early morning fog signalled glorious weather ahead. Continue reading

Bunch of no-good ear biters

A bit of trivia. The main photo at the top of this website shows the Cunziria, an abandoned historical quarter in the rustic Sicilian town of Vizzini. [update: I’ve changed the photo since this post, but you can still see a picture of it in my Galleries section, here – middle of the third row] The name Vizzini will be familiar to film buffs as one of the villains in The Princess Bride (1987). I know it better as the place where Gill and I mistakenly got off at the wrong train station, miles from the town itself, at an unmanned platform, surrounded by empty countryside and rolling tumbleweeds, with not a human being in sight; no phone either, and no idea when the next train might rumble past. All my fault, by the way, and didn’t the missus let me know it.  Continue reading