Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The best things in life are unexpected - because there were no expectations. (Eli Khamarov)

What an unexpected surprise on this week's walk. Appearing through the trees, this beautiful view of Hertfordshire from the Pegsdon Hills. A nature reserve, managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, they form the North-Eastern end of the Chiltern Hills. A welcome and peaceful retreat, just a short walk from the bustle of Luton.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Honeyed Dreams....

Ever tasted a dish sooooo good that it just sticks in your mind for a very long time?  No matter how carefully you stick to the recipes, how expensive the ingredients, no matter how much you trawl through Google or search the finest restaurants, you won’t recapture that taste!? Well, for me, it’s gotta be honeyed sobrassada parcels with apple!

Sobrassada is a traditional Mallorcan sausage made of cured, spiced pork. Now, imagine it roasted and softened, served in delicious crisp light puff pastry parcel and coated in sweet local honey with baked apples…  

But it’ not really just the taste, it’s the place, the light, the heat, the smells, the sounds, the memories, the company. I’m remembering ‘Sa Placa’ Restaurant, in the tiny village of S’Alqueria Blanca, on the South-East Coast of Mallorca.
This part of the Island is one of the least well-known, but its hidden villages, unsurpassable coastline, infinite traditions and exquisite tastes are, to me, amongst the best in the world.
S’Alqueria Blanca (which derives from Arabic, meaning white farm or estate) is just another small village, blink and you’ll possibly miss it! Hugging the main road, between the resort of Cala D’Or and Santanyi, Sa Placa is a beautifully presented, friendly, unpretentious restaurant which serves unforgettable traditional ingredients with a modern twist, in comfortable surroundings.
Picture juicy figs, fresh tender calmari, thick fruity balsamic, strong spicy sobrasada, subtle raspberry coolis, fresh meaty albondigas (meat balls) and tangy sharp goats cheese. All mixed, melded and arranged to perfection. It’s an art!
Image courtesy of : cheese in raspberry coulis, with fresh figs and salad.
Tapas is the theme. For those of you who have never tried tapas, here’s a little guide.  The word "tapas" itself, derives from the Spanish verb, tapar, which means "to cover". The first tapas were small tops, or lids full of olives or nuts, placed over the top of a glass. The legend goes that King Alfonso X Castile recovered from an illness by drinking wine with snacks between meals. He declared, thereafter, that eveyone should enjoy this style of eating, for their health. Other legends say that the King was, in fact, partial to a good drink and to save their blushes, the courtiers would slip him snacks onto his glass to endeavour to keep him sober.  There are countless stories in circulation, whatever the origin, tapas has become a gastronomic tradition, typical of Spain. It is a way for families and friends to enjoy conversation and share taste and culinary experiences. People generally order three or four dishes each, and they are brought out in succession, as the chef prepares them.  It’s common to order a selection of the day’s specials.
It’s not just about a meal, it’s about conversation and experience. To me it’s part of the fond memories of my time  living in Mallorca. I hope to one day encounter another ‘Sa Placa’ on my travels.
I’m still searching….

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The wild deer, wand'ring here & there, Keeps the human soul from care. (William Blake, from Songs of Innocence)

I've started walking with the British Rambling Association, there are a lot of groups locally to join and on a Sunday it's nice to tag along with a group of like-minded people and head out and about in the local Hertfordshire countryside. This week we were walking through woodland and deer started running out from the trees by our side, leaping over the hedge in front of us and disappearing across the fields. The herd consisted of about 60 deer, about 4 stags and 2 white deer. It was a magical sight.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

"There is hope as long as your fishing line is in the water." Det er håp i hengende snøre. (Norweigan Proverb)

The Lofoten is an archipelago  in the county of Nordland, Norway. There is something very magical and timeless about the Lofoten Islands. The islands have been the home of the great cod fisheries for over 1000 years. Nowhere have I been more aware of past traditions and ways of life being continued into the present. Svolvaer is my favourite place of all. The fishing boats still come and go from the harbour, although coloured and shining, no longer the small open wooden boats of the early 1900s. Even though the house interiors are beautifully designed, modern and minimalist, the way of life and traditions are very much ongoing and encompassed, the old and the new, side by side. The cod still drying on the wooden racks in the harbour. The way of life is simple. The flavours, tastes, smells. The sea air still carries the stories and songs of the past. The people are honest and friendly. The sea and the weather are still master here. If you get a chance to listen to Kari Bremnes, she's from Svolvaer and she captures the true spirit of the place, in beautiful song (especially 'coastal trip' and 'Song to a Town'. I found these old photos of  Lofoten fishermen and wanted to capture them in sketch. To me, they are the Lofoten.


But the delights of solitude don't only consist of dreaming. Next in enjoyment, I think, comes planning. (Anna Neagle)

Friday, 10 February 2012

"To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world." (Freya Stark 1893-1993)

I just did this quick 10 minute sketch of Svolvaer harbour.
Imagine my surprise this morning when I opened my curtains to this view. I arrived last night in a blizzard so had no idea how the outside world looked. I stayed the night in an artists institute set up by Anna Boberg, who was a Swedish artist, born in the nineteenth century. In 1901 she first stayed here when visiting the Lofoten Islands for the first time and returned for the next 33 years. With an artist's eye and a travellers heart, she fell in love with the amazing light, Lofoten's glaciers, ocean and midnight sun.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbour he is making for, no wind is the right wind. (Seneca)

 Tomorrow night I'm off to Vesteralen and the Lofoten Islands, Norway.
I'm packed and ready and fully prepared for the unexpected.
As you can see, I googled and compiled a few facts about trolls, just in case I stumbled upon one. Well, you never know...

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber 

A man sooner or later discovers that he is the master gardener of his soul, the director of his life.

Friday, 3 February 2012

“The years teach much which the days never know” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I've had a fantastic birthday doing all the things I wanted, courtesy of my friends and family.
 In true blogging stle I have my written my '35 before 36' list of goals to complete before my next birthday.
If next year is as successful as this one I have no need to worry.
In the words of Aristotle:

'We live in deeds, not years: In thoughts not breaths; In feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.'