Travelismi: a Weekend in Faro

Winter is now officially over but it has been cold, long and dreary and south-bound Ryanair flights are at their cheapest in February, so there is no valid reason not to book a sun-scape to Faro, Portugal.

Faro is actually a lovely city with a reasonable number of tourist attractions, but we were there with the sole purpose of catching some sunshine and therefore we ticked none of them, except the beaches and the restaurants. We chose, instead, to spend our time as if we were locals, sitting at the beach, strolling around, drinking cheap but delicious wine outside.

Still I collected some suggestions that you might find useful, regardless of the level of touristic-ness you want you achieve.

Visit: Ilha Deserta, one of the uninhabited islands in the Ria Formosa national park, with miles and miles of beach and only one (pricey) restaurant; The Old city, inside the city walls.

Drink: glasses of delicious wine for 2 euros. We particularly liked the Se7e Pedras, in Travessa dos Arcos, which you can translate into Arch Alley and it’s a lovely little street in itself.

Eat: seafood. I suggest the garlic fried shrimps, anywhere, but especially at O Palhacinho in the food market. A note: fried here means pan fried, not battered and deep fried; garlic indicates that slices of garlic are floating the oily pan. Scoop the oily garlic with some fluffy Portuguese bread.

Go: to the beach, only a 20 minute bus ride away. Soak up the sunshine and eat some more fried shrimps.

Take pictures of: pretty balconies, tiled walls and stork nests on the city walls and on lampposts!

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Had I been able to, I would have brought back the sunshine, the sea waves and their soothing sound, the wine and garlic fried shrimps, and maybe a pretty tile or two.

On the other hand, I was glad to leave behind the smoking in bars and restaurants. It’s great at first, when you are smoking, drinking wine and listening to a Farense singer, all at once (I realised I can actually multitask!); it’s a whole different story when you come back home smelling like an ashtray.

Analogico

Analogico è tutto quello che non è digitale e che quindi piace a me.  Orologi analogici, schermi analogici, appunti analogici, fatti di carta che si ingiallisce e scarabocchi che non si possono cancellare. Analogico suona antilogico. Analogica e antilogica è la mia mente che ogni tanto non capisce il digitale, che ha bisogno di mille quaderni e taccuini diversi che poi non vengono mai riempiti perché i pensieri analogici spesso sono troppo confusi e scarabocchiati per meritare di venire scritti per davvero.

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Analogico nostalgico, dicono che l’analogico verra dimenticato ma è solo perché non hanno visto quanti quaderni e penne compro io!

Italian Corners: La Locanda del Melo Fine Foods

La Locanda del Melo, translatable as “The Appletree Inn”, is a cute Italian deli and restaurant just off of Bermondsey Street and an absolute must if you are on the hunt for a tasty Italian treat.

Before I even knew about it, La Locanda struck me with its vintage, slightly faded sign of an elegant female silhouette in a 19th century attire and its name: old-fashioned, poetic and musical and unapologetically Italian.

The Locanda has a deli area at the front, where you can buy Italian cheese and cured meats, and a vast selection of Italian products, like dry pasta and tinned goods, all carefully displayed on shelves on the wall. Every time I enter I have to check myself from oohing and aahing at the packets of pasta al nero di seppia, bags of baci di dama, jars of bottarga and other delicacies that are typically Italian but much less common and usually not available in normal stores.

You can buy your favourite Italian treat, get a sandwich to take away or eat a proper meal at the back, where the ristorante is. I have not been to the restaurant yet but I am already pressing at work to have our next team lunch there!

La Locanda is not only  pleasing for the eyes but also for your taste buds: I visited this place for lunch twice for a sandwich to go and both times I was beyond happy with my choice. The first time I had a focaccia with prosciutto crudo and mozzarella, a couple much more solid than Brad and Angelina; on my second visit I detoured from my all-time favourite prosciutto and ventured in a speck and Valmontana cheese combo on ciabatta bread.

There are a lot of traps in a sandwich with so called Italian products and my hyper-aware sceptical judgement was ready to detect them all. To my own surprise, both these two options were flawless: the ham was cut thinly enough, because you want slices of prosciutto, not steaks; the focaccia was fresh and fluffy, nothing like the stodgy imposters you find in some bakeries; the cheese was actual cheese, not plastic, and if you ever bought a Tesco mozzarella you know what I mean; the whole ensemble was delicious, flavoursome and comforting and made my lunch hour a little more home-y.

To be a little bit more informative, La Locanda del Melo has a website with an online shop,  and you can find it at 218 Long Lane, London, SE1 4QB.

So follow my very informed opinion and get your lovely persona to La Locanda del Melo to treat yourself with thinly sliced prosciutto sandwiched in fresh, fluffy focaccia, milky and delicate mozzarella, some veggie bits and a drizzle of olive oil. You might find me there, staring longingly at the deli counter.

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La Locanda del Melo
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Pretty ladies luring you to prosciutto!
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My kind of heaven
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Oooooh!
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Follow the Italian sign!

 

 

 

Caffeinismi pt II: italiana VS Pumpkin Spice Latte

Vivo in una colonia di Starbucks dal lontano 2012, eppure ho aspettato fino all’ottobre 2016 per provare un Pumpkin Spice Latte. Per i neofiti, si parla della bevanda che invade il mondo anglosassone da inizio settembre fino a dopo Halloween e che ha l’aria di sapere di tutto tranne che caffè! Come ho già spiegato, a me il caffè piace quando sa di caffè; da qui la resistenza nell’assaggiare il Pumpkin Spice Latte, per gli amici PSL.

Siccome il caffè di Starbucks è pessimo, a parere italiano e non, ho fatto un po’ di ricerche per trovare un PSL indipendente e mi sono imbattuta in Blighty Coffee, una caffetteria a Finsbury Park che prometteva una versione di PSL arricchita dal Baileys. Come potrete immaginare non c’è stato bisogno di cercare oltre. Ho varcato la soglia di Blighty Coffee scettica e, contro ogni previsione, è stato amore a primo sorso! Questo miscuglio caldo di latte, caffè, Baileys e spezie varie è effettivamente la bevanda perfetta da sorseggiare durante una pigra passeggiata domenicale tra gli alberi tinti dai colori autunnali. Per completare la lista dei cliché, mi sono premurata di ritrarre la mia tazza di carta in mezzo un letto di foglie cadute. Un appunto: ho sentito tanti sapori, ma non il caffè (né la zucca, grazie al cielo!), quindi, sostanzialmente, il PSL è un’alternativa autunnale alla cioccolata calda.

Sorpresa e soddisfatta, ho approcciato il PSL di Starbucks con molta più positività. Beata ingenuità!

Ciò che all’inizio pareva una versione più annacquata e analcolica del PSL di Blighty Coffee, si è presto trasformato in una bizzarra combinazione di un iniziale sapore zuccheroso, seguito da un retrogusto amaro. Ho bevuto l’intera tazza per principio e ho pagato con un mal di stomaco che mi ha traumatizzato per la vita.

Questa favola moderna ha due morali: la prima, se avete voglia di caffè, rimanete fedeli al caffè che sa di caffè. Se avete voglia di  un dessert liquido e autunnale, assolutamente provate il Pumpkin Spice Latte, ma per l’amor di tutti i chicchi di caffè, non andate da Starbucks!

Pumpkin Spice Latte
La cannella non è mai troppa su un Pumpkin Spice Latte
Pumpkin spice latte on fallen leaves in autumn, London
Trova i cliché!

 

Caffeinism pt II: An Italian Tries Pumpkin Spice Latte

I’ve been living in a Starbucks-ised country for four years now and yet I waited until last weekend to try a Pumpkin Spice Latte. As I have explained before, we Italians are reactionaries when it comes to coffee, which is a very valid excuse for taking so long! From what I know, the PSL mania originally comes from Starbucks, but because their coffee is frankly quite bad (I have non-Italians backing this up, too!) I also wanted to explore some other, independent and possibly better tasting, options.

That’s how I ended up at Blighty Coffee, in Finsbury Park, which got me hooked with the promise of a Baileys Pumpkin Spice Latte. Need I say more? I entered this cute coffee shop quite sceptical because I like my coffee to taste like coffee, but then, surprisingly, it was love at first sip! This special concoction was delicious, the perfect drink to enjoy on a crisp autumnal stroll, so perfect in fact, that I had to play the part of the basic white girl at my best and take pictures of my paper cup on a bed of fallen leaves. It has to be said, though, that it tasted of many delicious flavours, but coffee wasn’t one of them, so really, this is an autumnal alternative to hot chocolate!

Surprised and satisfied, I approached the Starbucks PSL with much more openness and oh, how naïve I was!

What in the beginning tasted like a watery version of the mighty Blighty beverage, soon turned into an odd combo of extremely sugary first taste, followed by a slightly bitter aftertaste. I drank the whole thing and I paid with a tummy ache that put me off my lunch and PSL in general.

You can extract two morals out of this modern fable: if you fancy an actual coffee, you might wanna stick to coffee-tasting coffee. If you crave a dessert in a cup, do try PSL but, for the love of the coffee bean, do it at Blighty coffee, not Starbucks!

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A very cinnamon-y PSL
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It doesn’t get any more basic!