When you’re asked by the Academy of Chocolate to attend and speak at the Finnebrougue Fine Food Fair in Killyleagh Castle, Northern Ireland, courtesy of Food NI 2016 – the obvious answer to this request is ‘yes’.
The trip was all planned out by Food NI, and after an exhilaratingly turbulent 55 minute flight from Gatwick, I touched down in Belfast City Airport, greeted at the airport by Sharon Machala of Food NI – my chauffeur for the next 28 hours (this was very much a flying visit).
Well, Taverna el Remer had certainly left its mark on me, in the form of one hell of a hangover! I mean, as I mentioned previously, the blues band was amazing and the drinks (extra strong and expertly crafted) went down all too quickly, to the point where I recall little of the night before – but my phone has managed to help me out; apparently on the way back we came across a variety of little glass sculptures which I’m sure you’ll agree are beautiful!
August Bank Holiday weekend saw the boy whisk me off to Venice for a belated birthday surprise! Arriving close to midnight, we stayed in the San Sebastiano Garden Hotel; a little out of the centre, but easy walking distance to the action.
Like most trips, I like to research the destination as much as I can, and create a little map with timings and things to do at each location. Very geeky, I know, but it means that if time and/or funds are not on your side, you can still let the place get under your skin, just about.
York! A medieval walled city in Northern England with a vibrant history dating as far back as Roman times and beyond. Defined by it’s medieval cathedral or ‘Minster’ – built in the 13th Century, and extensive Roman wall (since rebuilt in various places), it is also famous for playing its part in the chocolate and candy revolution of the British Isles.
Whilst my trip to Nicaragua was predominantly based around cacao research, I did take some time to explore my surroundings, absorbing the beauty and culture this amazing country had to offer at every opportunity. Morning tortillas made by the roadside, hummingbirds in the city parks, and some really stunning churches!
After a high intensity audio visual experience of the night before, we decided to take Saturday at a slower pace. After breakfast we took a leisurely stroll up towards the Eye of Sauron, sorry, I mean Hallgrimskirkja or ‘Hallgrims Church. But it really does look like something out of Lord of the Rings, and with all these Elf Rocks and blizzards it does get a little confusing.
After a chocolate-fueled adventurous morning it was now time to explore what Reykjavik had to offer. But first a quick pit stop in Bajarni Fel sports bar to warm up wit ha glass of Viking beer while I waited for the rest of the crew.
After a whirlwind 36 hours in Denmark, including visiting a micro cacao plantation in a greenhouse in the Danish countryside and doing yoga in Christiania with one of its longest-standing residents, it was now time to hit Malmo – Sweden’s third largest city, and one that is fast making a name for itself in the sustainable living category!
Yet another early start, up at 5.30am heading back to Christiania, nothing beats practicing yoga in a cozy wooden loft, jam-packed with enough Aloe Vera plants to keep Holland and Barratt supplied for a year, above a fragrant apothecary, overlooking one of Europe’s most successful independent, self-governing Freetowns – strictly NOT part of the EU.
*Edited 2018 to reflect on the devastating news that Stace Bancroft – yogi, resident of Christiania and inspiration to the world – past away February 16th 2018. You were and still are an inspiration. Stace, this story is for you. RIP. Gone, but never forgotten.*
After a 4am start in London, to catch an 8am flight from Luton airport, the last thing you want is to be stuck in an epic rainstorm without a brolly. Luckily, Copenhagen is full of delightful little districts and boutique food halls where you can shelter from the onslaught, and where I discovered Groed – just off Torvehallerne, Israels Plads – a small cafe specialising in porridge so good Goldie Locks would have been proud.