June and July 2015 Newsletter

June and July Newsletter 2015

 I have neglected my writing because I have been too busy globe-trotting and planning future travel. I have missed my quiet times and I find writing about events sets them in your memory and helps you to see them in perspective. Next year I will allow myself more space.


After my last newsletter I visited Budapest to finalise my October programme. In my many planning visits I have been frustrated by my inability to use even basic Hungarian expressions. I have arranged to start our trip with a working breakfast where the language school, Fungarian, will help us to fill the gaps over coffee and bagels. There are still two places available for Budapest and full details are on my website.


I enjoyed the visit to Herculaneum on our way to Sant’Agata for our Don Alfonso experience. Herculaneum was smaller and richer than Pompei and further to the west of Vesuvius. In the 79AD eruption the city was first buried by ash, then covered by a hot, 500 C. pyroclastic flow travelling at 100 mph. The intense heat extracted moisture from the buildings and they were then covered by an air-tight seal of tufo. This preserved the buried city for over 1700 years.

 1272290652129 Ercolano

In Sant’Agata we made our own limoncello to take home but unfortunately the bottles were not closed correctly and Lucio, our driver, was left with a potent brew spilled all over his boot. Most people declined the risk, but Marcy and I decided to go for it and we arrived in Sicily with our bottles intact. In Sicily our first stop was Siracusa which I love but we stayed in Scicli to visit the Unesco cities of Noto, Ragusa and Modica. We cooked, ate incredible meals accompanied by lovely Planeta wines and some people feasted every evening on great bowls of gelati. Shopping played an important rôle and some new baggage had to be acquired for the trip home. Next year we are going to base ourselves in and around Palermo, visiting Erice, Marsala, Trapani and the Egadi islands. Details on my website.

 I have been visiting Greece every summer for the last thirty years. Despite the huffing and puffing and threats to blow the house down I am having a holiday there in August and taking a small group in September. Do not be put off. Come and join me for a magical holiday.


After Sicily I had some domestic time and my grandson, Jamie, came to stay. I ordered the BBC The Jewel in the Crown for him to enjoy. I had watched this Indian epic years ago but I became enthralled all over again and watched the whole boxed set in two days self-indulgence. It is so good.

 I had a few classes in Rome, met up with old friends like Maryanne from Australia and Margaret from the US and then packed my cases again for a trip to London. This was family time, not work, and I managed to fit in a country pub lunch and Indian dinner with Max. I met an old friend for a decadent English afternoon tea at Brown’s and Michael and Lawrence took me to a very delicious dinner at the unusual Peckham restaurant, Pedlers.

 I enjoyed a lovely day in Bath to see my grandson, Christopher, get a prize on Speech Day at Priory Park. Lord Patten gave away the prizes and he told an apocryphal story about the Pope which I am happy to repeat.

On his way back to the Vatican in his Popemobile he encountered a group of Brazilians who offered him some mate, beloved by all South Americans. The Pope drank, to the consternation of his guards who warned him it could be poisoned. The Pope replied:

“But they are pilgrims, not cardinals.”


I am repeating my Andalusia adventure in April 2016 with a Marrakech extension that can be booked together or separately.


Details on my website

Riso con gli “angeli”                                                     

Sicilian rice with angels (shellfish)

 The joined mussel shells could seem like angels’ wings to a devout soul enjoying the heavenly flavours of Sicilian food, especially after a few glasses of crisp, chilled white wine !

This dish can be cooked in advance and quickly re-heated and assembled before the meal.


350 g. rice

500 g. mussels in their shells, scrubbed

200 g small squid, cleaned and cut into rings

200 g prawns, shelled and de-veined

2 T extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 small dry chilli pepper

1 T parsley, chopped

1 T dry white wine (optional)


Put the mussels in a covered pan with a little water and bring to the boil. Discard any mussels that fail to open. Pour the cooking liquid through a fine sieve lined with cheese cloth if possible and put to one side.

Heat the oil and gently cook the garlic until it begins to go golden brown. Add the chilli and stir in the squid. Cook gently until tender. Add the prawns and cook for a few minutes. Add a little salt and splash with the white wine. Let the wine evaporate then turn off the heat. Check the salt level in the mussel liquid before bringing to the boil with enough water to cook the rice. Add a little salt if necessary. Cook the rice gently for about 20 minutes. It should still have a little “bite”. Drain the rice and stir in the parsley and shellfish.


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