Monday, September 19, 2016

P is for Pergamon, Turkey

When we lived in Turkey, we tried to visit as many historical sites as we could. We loved taking road trips over the long holiday weekends during the year and exploring the ancient ruins, which I still think are even better than ones in Greece. On one such Turkey trip, we visited the historical site of Pergamon, an ancient Greek city, located 26 km (16 miles) from the Aegean Sea and about 90 minutes north of Izmir.

Pergamon (also called Pergamum) was settled by the Greeks in the 8th century BC, and was ruled by one of Alexander the Great’s generals around 320 BC as part of the Kingdom of Pergamon. The city was given to the Roman Republic in 133 BC to prevent a civil war, and briefly became the capital of the Roman province of Asia before the capital was transferred to Ephesus. The latter history included many different rulers and conquerors as well as a damaging earthquake that pretty much displaced the population. In 2014, Pergamon was added to the UNESCO World heritage list for Turkey.

Pergamon also is considered an important Biblical place as it is cited in the Book of Revelation as one of the Seven Churches of Asia.

As usual, the Greeks picked an excellent natural setting for a theater, with a view that extends for miles and would have included Aegean Sea views approximately 2,000 years ago. The acropolis of Pergamum covers a steep hilltop, so you can only imagine how much Greek and Roman civil engineering work went into creating this amazing structure!
Just hanging out at the ancient Greek theater at Pergamon, Turkey.
Another interesting fact is that Pergamum was a great center of learning and once had a huge library of 200,000 scrolls that were (probably and unfortunately) given to Cleopatra by Marc Antony as a wedding gift in 41 BC. At least, you can still see the remains of the library here today.

During our visit, we simply enjoyed walking around the site of Pergamon on our own and taking photos as often as possible. It still amazes me how many historical sites like this Turkey has and that locals as well as archaeologists are still discovering these today such as a Poseidon mosaic recently found in southwestern Turkey.


I’m linking this post to the monthly travel guide link up organized by Fiona, a fellow Australian blogger, at Tiffin Bite Sized Food Adventures. Each month features a new letter of the alphabet. This month is the letter “P.” Please pop on over to Fiona’s blog to read more travel stories or feel free to link up your own!
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My Traveling Joys

Thursday, September 8, 2016

After enjoying a delicious seasonal fig tart made by one of my pastry chef friends, I decided to go for a wander in New York City.
When you’re in NYC, don’t forget to have dessert at Craft Restaurant.
Even though I only called the Big Apple home for 3 years before we moved abroad, this place does feel more like “home” to me. NYC is like a favorite blanket – sometimes it’s too hot and uncomfortable and other times, it feels just right.

My wanderings took me to Union Square, and since it happened to be a Wednesday, the splendid Union Square Greenmarket was overflowing with boxes and wooden bins of colorful produce. Again, I was in my happy place since I love visiting markets, in case you couldn’t tell from my last few blog posts.
This world-famous market began with just a few farmers in 1976 and has grown immensely over the years to include as many as 140 regional farmers, bakers and cheese makers during peak season. Early September means the market is literally bursting with the last of summer produce – apples, berries, beans, eggplants, heirloom tomatoes, peaches and squashes as well as gluten-free goodies, artisan pickles and farm-made cheeses.

I thought I’d share the rainbow of colors I discovered at the Union Square Greenmarket. Hope you’re enjoying the last of summer wherever you may be or the first of spring for my Down Under readers!

Union Square Greenmarket is located in Union Square Park. The market is generally open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
My Traveling Joys

Sunday, September 4, 2016

While enjoying our café crèmes and morning pastries in Paris, an elderly lady dressed in her Sunday best asked us in French if she could sit in the spare seat at our table.

Of course, we smiled and motioned to her to please sit down since my French is solely based on ordering food. Then, our African-German friend, who’s fluent in French, German and English, started speaking to her in French. That’s when we learned the historic market of Marché d’Aligre – a true neighborhood market established in 1777 – is under threat by the local council. Now, we may not have understood everything exactly, but from what we did understand, this grandmotherly, French lady told us she is one of the local activists who is trying to make sure this market remains for centuries to come.
How sad that the neighbors would complain that the market is too noisy or should operate on fewer days! Or that the council should try and raise the stall holder rates so fewer stall holders can afford to operate here! What’s the fun in buying sterile produce at the local Monoprix?

I love markets! And Marché d’Aligre, located in the 12th arrondissment, is no different than others we’ve visited around the world – vibrant, bustling with local flavor and bursting with seasonal produce so ripe that you could smell the summer melons throughout the market. I love wandering through the chaotic noise of vendors touting their wares, taking everything in and sampling any sweet thing or a tasty bit of heirloom tomatoes or melon that may be offered to me.
Marché d'Aligre, located in the middle of Place d’Aligre, started as a hay market before the area was even part of Paris, back when it was still the suburb of Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Later, the vendors sold cheap clothes to the poor; and in the 19th century, the neighborhood became home to North African immigrants, maghrébins, travelling by train from Marseille. I learned that many of today’s vendors are third- or fourth-generation maghrébins who have followed their parents and grandparents in the family trade – with the market permits being passed down from father to son. The market has a mix of Arabic, French and a few odd tourists like ourselves thrown into the mix.

Next to the plaza is a historic, covered market called Marché Beauvau that was built in the mid-19th century. Inside, you’ll find vendors selling charcuterie, fresh produce that will cost you a bit more than the outside stalls, beautiful pastries and some of the most amazing fromage you’ve ever seen or smelled.
If you like cheese that smells like sweaty, old running shoes or loads of black truffles, then Fromagerie Hardouin-Langlet is your place. I love stinky, oozing cheese and couldn’t resist buying a triple crème, half of Chaource and a wedge of brie layered with black truffles. Not
cheap at 21.53 euros, but totally worth it!

Another place we loved inside Marché Beavau was JoJo & Co, a delightful pastry shop owned by pastry chef Johanna Roques who creates gorgeous gateaux, marvelous macarons and terrific little tarts.
Right outside the market is another recommended pastry shop called Boulangerie Julien. If you don’t mind standing in line for a 10-15 minutes, you’ll be treated to flaky croissants and other pretty pastries.
The outdoor stalls that fill Place d’Aligre are only open in the mornings from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays to Sundays. The inside covered market operates in the mornings as well as later in mid-afternoon. Best to check the websites for exact details.
Come the afternoon, the streets will be swept clean of any veggie scraps and floral stems and you’d never even know a market and had been there!

Every time I visit Paris, I learn something new about this amazing city. I don’t focus on the touristy sights, instead choosing to wander with my camera and follow up on a few foodie recommendations. No two visits are ever the same. Thanks to our French-speaking friend I learned insider knowledge about this market. A smile goes a long way even when you don’t speak much French.

If you happen to find yourself near Place Bastille on any day but a Monday, please do yourself a favor and wander on down to the magical Marché Aligre before someone decides to shut it down! Your taste buds will thank you for it!
I couldn’t resist buying 200 grams of these gorgeous mushrooms to make my Chantrelle Mushroom Risotto at home in London.
Other interesting articles I found online about Marché d’Aligre:
My Traveling Joys

Friday, August 26, 2016

Did you know you can find some of the biggest, juiciest, most colorful heirloom tomatoes right here in London?

 I was in disbelief when I first discovered these tomatoes at one of the markets in London. Surely, they were imported, right?

Nope, I’ve been buying these tomatoes directly from two of England’s larger farmers’ market stalls – Wild Country Organics and the Isle of Wight Tomatoes, the latter being a small manufacturer that handpicks its tomatoes grown on a small island located about 3 hours southwest of London. The first company is located on a farm near Cambridge, about 90 minutes north of London, that has growing organic tomatoes, peppers, lettuces and other produce since 1988. Both companies sell their products at markets all over the city.
Since moving to London, I've discovered the London Farmers’ Markets organization online and have used the website to find the local markets in my area. So far, I’ve frequented the weekend markets in Earl’s Court (my preferred market for best prices and location), South Kensington and Wimbledon. I’ve also been to Borough Market again, but I find the market is overpriced for every day produce and better for specialty items like French and English cheeses, homemade cakes and fudge and different foreign goods.

During July and August, I’ve bought beautiful berries and cherries, colorful tomatoes, fresh herbs and salad greens, apple cider, celery, carrots, potatoes, sweet peppers and zucchini. Don’t forget the free-range chicken and eggs, fresh farm milk and some of the best lamb I’ve ever cooked and eaten! At the main meat stall in Earl’s Court, I can buy two free-range chickens for £10 (about $13USD). It’s nice to be able to talk directly with the farmers and growers about their wonderful products.
Overall, I find the markets’ prices fairly comparable and often better than the grocery store prices. Plus, all of the produce is locally grown and most of it is organic or might as well be but maybe it’s just not certified. I’d much rather support a local farmer than a giant corporation!

It will be interesting to see what happens once fall and winter arrive here. I’m hoping we’re not stuck just eating carrots and potatoes at every meal!
Basically, a week's worth of groceries bought at the Earl's Court farmers' market on Sundays.
Not pictured are two free-range chickens.

My Traveling Joys

Monday, August 22, 2016

O is for Orvieto

Orvieto is a lovely town, about 90 minutes north of Rome, that deserves more than a visit of a few hours.

Unfortunately, when we visited Orvieto in 2013, my father-in-law was with us and he’s pretty much a grump when it comes to sightseeing. I could happily spend all day wandering the narrow lanes, exploring and take photographs of the historic architecture, local markets and daily life in any town. Granted we had rented a very nice double suite at nearby Altarocca Wine Resort with an outdoor pool, so the idea was to bask in the Italian summer sunshine.

One of the main highlights of visiting Orvieto is seeing the gorgeous façade of Duomo di Orvieto, a 14th-century Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Although the cornerstone was laid in 1290, construction took more than 100 years to complete.
Visitors to Orvieto are greeted by the ornate façade of the church, which was designed in the so-called Italian Gothic style which blended elements of Byzantine and northern European architecture together. Still, as so often happens in Italy, no one is entirely certain who the architect was. The prevailing local opinion is that it was a rather obscure monk named Fra' Bevignate da Perugia, but many scholars think he merely executed plans drawn up earlier by the great Florentine architect Arnolfo di Cambio. Whomever designed this historic structure did so wonderfully!

The cathedral soars seven stories into the sky and features internal columns made form horizontal stripes of black and white marble. The intricately-carved rose window up top is surrounded by life-sized sculpted figures set in the gothic niches.

For this month’s A-Z Guide, I couldn’t decide which “O” destination to go with – whether it should have been O for Olympos, Ortaköy or Orvieto. Hopefully you enjoyed getting a small taste of the Umbrian town of Orvieto.

I’m linking this post to the monthly travel guide link up organized by Fiona, a fellow Australian blogger, at Tiffin Bite Sized Food Adventures. Each month features a new letter of the alphabet. This month is the letter “O.” Please pop on over to Fiona’s blog to read more travel stories or feel free to link up your own!

TIFFIN - bite sized food adventures -
My Traveling Joys

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