Pasticceria Liquoreria Marescotti di Cavo, Genova

I had my first hot thick winter chocolate at this beautiful ancient Genovese cafe late on Saturday afternoon.  I met Dear Miss Fletcher, who has already written of this beautiful place, there and we talked over steaming hot drinks.  

I hope to have some of their stories to tell you in the weeks ahead.  I took this photograph as we were leaving.  The place is stunning.  I promise.

Crossing Antwerp's Pontoon Bridge, 2014

Crossing the pontoon bridge in Antwerp was so much more fun than I had imagined. I met a remarkable older gentleman and his wife as we queued.  Together we laughed and chatted our way across that pontoon bridge.

On the other side we hunted down Choice New Zealand pies, discovered the Cava stand, and spent a good hour speaking to strangers at Hilde's pie stand, about New Zealand and pies of course. One man, who so very much wanted to live in NZ, proposed marriage to me. He offered my Belgian bloke his wife in exchange. There was much laughter.  Benny was there with his fries in the Retro - Food bus too.

It was a truly delightful way to spend an afternoon.

Below is a view from the Left Bank back to Antwerp city ... with the story too.

A highlight of this commemorative programme is the contemporary reconstruction of the 1914 pontoon bridge, symbolising the connection between the past, present and future. The temporary pontoon bridge across the River Scheldt near Steen Fortress will be built by Belgian and Dutch engineer battalions on October 3rd, 2014.

The construction of a contemporary “Peace Bridge” is a technical feat. Above all the bridge will be a unique experience for the many tens of thousands of visitors who will be able to cross the River Scheldt on foot, following in the footsteps of the Belgian army as well as of the more than 10,000 refugees who fled a burning city in search of a safe haven. The reconstruction is a reminder of a significant historical moment in the city’s history as well as an invitation to build bridges in the present and work together to create a connected, inclusive city.

Robert Capa Exhibition, Genova

I didn't have time to visit this Robert Capa exhibition while in Genova but only because I realised that it will be there for a while.  I shall return and make space for it.  He was a fascinating man.

Monday found me in my favourite secondhand bookshop here in the city.  I discovered a huge treasure, justified buying it, then had to talk myself into carrying the huge weight of it home.

It's John Phillips book, Free Spirit in a Troubled World

At just 21 years old, Algerian-born photojournalist Phillips was hired by Life magazine and assigned to cover Edward VIII, just as the story of Wallis Simpson and the king's abdication was about to break. Here, Phillips records his next 23 years as a correspondent, witnessing many of the 20th century's most dramatic events. Before World War II, he filmed the Wehrmacht marching into Austria, the Warsaw Ghetto, and turbulence in central Europe. From the Middle East, there are momentous photographs of King Farouk, King Ibn Saud, and the destruction of Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter. Reproduced from his negatives rather than Life's prints, the over 200 black-and-white images chronicle old worlds collapsing and new regimes seizing power. More so than most photojournalists' memors, Phillips's extensive text combines intelligence with delightful intimacy.

Of course I'm going to want to read his book.  And even better, for me, it was less than 20euro.

But anyway, at some point each morning spent in Genova, we would find our way to Douce Pâtisserie, in Piazza Matteotti, and this was the view from my table ...

Rain and Reflections, Genova

It's raining today in Genova but even the rain creates rather exquisite photographic opportunities.

When there's rain here the puddles that form on the tiled sidewalks create beautiful reflections.  It seems like another world down at my feet.

I have been wandering, delighted to find that Caffè degli Specchi has reopened in my absence. I stopped in for an espresso.  Wandering on, I caught up with Francesca and bought pasta while there. 

It's wet and it's little cold here in the city but still beautiful. 

On the Aperitivo Trail, Genova

As always, there were so many stories in Genova, so many I intended to write up but I arrived back in my Belgian life and there were more stories unfolding.  The end result is that a handful of stories are told and the others ... well, they just stay with me, as memories to be sifted through or written up later.

I was winding up my stay in Genova back in July when Simon flew in on that second last evening.  He had 12 hours in the city, as he was dropping his son off with his mother-in-law.  We had a choice for dinner that night - a simple dinner someplace or an aperitivo-style exploration of the city. 

Nothing new for Simon, as he knows the city well.  Paola, his lovely Genovese wife and friend of mine, owns the apartment I stay in when I'm there.  He spent a few years living there and they return when they can, from their Belgian life.

And so it was that we began with aperitivo at Cafè il Barbarossa.  They offer a lovely outdoor setting, an extensive cocktail menu, and they're only a few steps from the apartment.  He chose a cocktail and I remained boringly loyal to my beloved red wine.

We wandered over to Mentelocale Cafè.  Simon selected another cocktail while I continued with red wine.  You should know that each drink comes with a range of snacks.  It's a lovely 'other' way to have dinner.  We moved on after a while to a place that was rather more upmarket.  Their buffet selection of snacks was rather divine.

The first photograph, in the series below, was taken with Simon's phone.  No other cameras were on this particular expedition.  The cocktail you see was called the Missionary's Downfall.  Simon wisely stayed with rum-based cocktails and admitted he could see how the taste of that particular drink might have led missionaries to let themselves down some.

The second photograph was taken after my second glass of wine and is more about the humour of the moment than the amount of wine consumed.  Actually, that evening was so very warm and humid that I very sensibly matched every glass of wine with water ... more or less.  Maybe not enough but an effort was made.

We wandered down into the caruggi, looking for a particular bar somewhere off Via Canneto il Lungo but I think it was closed and so we wandered on, ending up in the piazza that tends to be the pulse of city life in the evenings ... Pizza delle Erbe.

It was there that Simon decided it was time he stepped away from the cocktails and he embarked on a more sedate exploration of red wines available.  Having complained, long and loud, over photographs he had taken of me and posted on Facebook, I saw a photo-op as Simon relaxed at this outdoor bar and there he is, at the end of this photo selection, with a facial expression I'd not seen before.  It had to be recorded for posterity ... or perhaps as payback for the horrors he had posted earlier in the evening. 

Veronica had had to chide him for a small degree of 'mean' over those postings.  Thank you, Veronica, your loyalty was appreciated.

I cannot tell you how nice it is to sit outside on warm summer's night, in a small piazza in Italy, drinking red wine and chatting while the Italians surround you with all of their conversations.  I think it's one of the things I love best but rarely do, as I'm mostly alone while there.

We ended the evening at my favourite pizzeria ... in the world. Seriously.  The most excellent pizzas can be found there and the owners are lovely.  We split a pizza, there was a little more red wine, a conversation with the pizzeria owners and voila, we were done.

Thank you for a most excellent evening spent wandering Genovese streets, Mr Litton, and to Paola who guided us when Simon was lost in the maze that is the caruggi. 

Cheese Burger Pizza ... extraordinary!

We were introduced to the concept of a cheeseburger pizza in Fox Glacier township, on the wild West Coast of New Zealand's South Island.

Oh my goodness.  I cannot tell you how delicious it was!

The people at Cafe Neve were fairly modest about it all but it was stunning.

Fast-forward and here we are, back in Belgium.  Gert decides to whip up a pizza base, wanting to recreate a cheeseburger pizza.

All his own work ... a cheeseburger pizza Belgian Bloke style.


Escobar Cafe, Antwerp

I love this cafe.  Recently discovered here in Antwerp, it's like a small oasis of good food and coffee, friendly people, and excellent music. 

There's an interview coming but for now ... today's lunch and a small glimpse inside Escobar.

Go early if you want a table at lunchtime.  I went back after the lunch rush for the interior shots, having enjoyed meeting the loveliest New Zealander and her 5-week old son just after midday.  It was a most excellent day really ... with sunshine!

L’Art'e Cafe and Gallery, Taupo - New Zealand

Every detail had been so lovingly added at L'Art'e Cafe and Gallery ... even the stairs.

But read what L'Art'e have to say ... Judi Brennan has been a successful clay artist for many years. She has won several pottery awards including a merit in the prestigious Fletcher Challenge Exhibitia and has her work all around the world.

The pathway leading to the studio created huge interest from people wanting to make something similar in there own garden – Judi had embedded feature pieces that she had made out of clay eg cats, dogs, fish etc into the paving to form a fun pathway. This interest led to years of producing, with a staff of 5, the Clay Art Studio mosaic feature pieces that everyone has come to know and love.

There is more, so much more, over here on the L'Art'e website.

L’Art'e Cafe and Gallery, Taupo - New Zealand

There is so much to write about L'Art'e Cafe and Gallery ... so much.

The mind-blowingly beautiful location, the friendly service, the truly sublime food, the superb coffee, the exquisite artwork ... and nowhere do I exaggerate.

It's that remarkable! 

This was brunch on that first day back in New Zealand.

Did I Tell You About the Venison Pie ...?

THE Venison Pie ... it was stunning. 

We were talking pies back in Manapouri and Clare recommended that we stop as we pass through the tiny little settlement called Garston ... located on the highway between Manapouri and Queenstown.  We found the Garston Hotel and ordered our Venison pies.

They tasted as good as it looks ... probably better than it looks.

Stunning food.  Thank you Clare.

Something else that makes me happy ...

Whenever I leave Genova, I go through a withdrawal as I leave the source of some truly superb coffee, found at Caffè degli Specchi.

I know there's a shift to make ... from the sublime back to the-best-I-can-find-here.

This was my answer to the spotty quality of coffee found outside of Genova.  A small machine, the most I could afford and yes, it makes me happy.

The small cup is just the perfect size.  An exquisite gift from the mother of my first husband, given to me when she came over and spent a couple of weeks with us last summer.  Thank you, Valda :-)

Leiden, Holland

One of our guests left his super special headphones at our place over the weekend.  Monday found Gert with a day off, us still with another day of car rental, and there we were, searching for a destination.

Since I was small, the journey has pretty much been the destination ... a journey was surely called for and so, we drove 140kms to Leiden, in Holland, and returned Jacob's headphones to himself.

It was a lovely day out and Jacob was a gracious host.  We wandered the  tiny little Dutch streets with him, finding small treasure like the house below ... it was perhaps 4 metres wide. 

Jacob took us out for a most delightful lunch at De Stathouder, thank you to Shannon for the recommendation. 

Pizzeria Da Pino, Genova

Pizzeria Da Pino creates the best pizza I have tasted anyplace in the world.

This is not a paid advertisement, as I always pay for their pizza ... and gladly.

I’m a bit of a Napoli pizza girl but mostly because I didn’t really discover anchovies until I arrived here in Genova back in 2008.  And now I can’t get enough of them.

And basil, ohmygoodness!  How didn’t I know about Basil??

So tonight, the night of Last Hours in Genova Rituals, is all about good pizza, a favourite wine, about cleaning and packing, about wishing I wasn’t leaving again but, at the same time, needing to go home.

It’s like that ...

A Delicious Day here in Antwerp

Note to reader: The words ‘delicious’, ‘delightful’ and ‘lovely’ are used often in this post.  Just so you know …

Yesterday was one of those delicious days I don’t want to forget but today finds me train-traveling to Leopoldsburg, with no time to sit down and savour my yesterday howevere I have packed my tiny blue travel laptop and so, here I am, writing from the train.

But perhaps it didn’t begin yesterday.  It began months earlier, when a woman called Karla wrote me a note enquiring about family photo-shoots.  It didn’t work out then but later it did. 

And the shoot was so much fun.  There was the pleasure of meeting the loveliest family, photographing the baby with the bluest eyes, hanging out with a friendly black labrador … stuff like that.

We stayed in touch, worked out a date for the photographs to be picked up and voila, we arrive at my yesterday.

Karla came over, toting her beautiful blue-eyed baby, accompanied by this lovely Irish woman who brought her very own chuckling bundle of delightful baby boy.  Really chuckley … I can’t emphasise how delicious his giggle is.  I’ll photograph him one day, it’s written all over his face when he laughs.

We sat down at my kitchen table, with tea and coffee, and talked, in that intense and delicious way that strangers sometimes do and voila, my marvellous yesterday had begun.

We looked through the photographs first, we learnt something of each others lives, I was introduced to my very first colour therapist and did I mention … we TALKED.

The babies played while we toyed with new ideas for each others lives and businesses.  There was that delightful click of like-minded souls meeting, it’s something that always amuses me.  While right-wing populist politicians work at making us fear ‘the other’, there we were, as is more often the case, finding connections across 3 different cultures and histories.

Karla and Marcia didn’t really know Antwerp at all and so we wandered into the city for a lunch.  I couldn’t resist and despite rain, I introduced them to my most favourite square here … Hendrik Conscienceplein … created by the Italian Jesuits, it soothes my soul sometimes.

We stopped in at the soup cafe, Comme Soupe, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It’s tiny but the soup is a truly satisfying work of art.  I should have taken a photograph but I will return there, I promise. 

Tiny cafe + two pushchairs meant that we didn’t like to stay longer than need be but afterwards, we crossed the small space to the Cupcake Cafe called Lojola Coffee and Cake, at Hendrik Conscienceplein 14. Oh my, if in Antwerp, you must pop in.

We chose divine little cupcakes to compliment our coffee and we were happy.  Delighting perhaps, in the dollhouse-like playfulness of that little cafe.  Mmm, photographs to follow.

And it was almost 4pm … so suddenly. 

We said our goodbyes in the city, and off I wandered on my next big adventure.  The buying of the Nespresso coffee machine.  Just the espresso part … inspired by a desire to avoid future pain when searching the city for good espresso. Genova and her beautiful coffees ruined me.

I felt childlike but I don’t think they knew in the shop.  Remember that feeling of having that birthday money clenched in your hot little hand as you marched off to buy that thing that you really truly wanted, forever?  It was like that.

I chatted with the woman in the busy Nespresso store, staffed by many.  She had been in Australia.

You know, the more years I am away from New Zealand, and realising both my brothers are married to Australians and living there, the more I feel that we downunder people are fairly similar and there is no insult in mistaking me for an Aussie.

Beaming, and still feeling like a small excited kid, with my coffee machine bagged up and in my hand, I boarded a tram home and had this nice looking guy beckoning to me, wanting me to sit with him.  Gert and I had managed, quite by chance, to find the same tram to ride home.

Well yes, he did have to suffer quite some Chitter-Chatter by Di on the way home.

I didn’t dare caffeinate myself after dinner.  Chitter chatter on a tram after work is one thing, he can do it … just.  Chitter-chatter at 3am, of the over-caffeinated kind, is something else.  I had my first little espresso this morning and it was good.

Lately, life has been all about intensely good friends and meeting lovely people.  Thanks guys.

Anyway, you see it, yesterday was a very good day…


Bar Boomerang, Genova

One of my favourite places, here in the city of Genova, is Bar Boomerang. 

Initially it was the name that I noticed.  Then the fantastic, never-tasted-better cappuccino drew me back again and again.  On this, my second visit to the city, I discovered that their aperitivo is the nicest aperitivo I’ve had so far.

The staff are friendly, clients are important to them and their passion for the work comes through in all that they do.  If you are in Genova, I recommend you find your way to this cafe and decide for yourself.

In a small interview with Simona, the patient barista (patient in working with my New Zealand English), I asked a few questions about the cafe. 

She explained that the name had orginated from a visit that Marta, the owner, had made to Australia.  Marta and her husband enjoyed the trip so much that they named their Genovese cafe Bar Boomerang.  I need to explain that what we would call a cafe in New Zealand is a bar here in Italy, although alcohol is served so perhaps it becomes something of a hybrid.

Open five years, the bar is located on via Porta Soprana, 41-43,  not far from the ancient Genovese gate known as Porta Soprana. The gate, built in 1155, was originally intended as a defense rampart, with access for commercial traffic arriving via the interior, and acted as a barrier to would-be conquerors like Barbarossa and others.  Today it stands permanently open, welcoming foreign creatures like me inside this ancient part of the city.

As a tourist, a sometimes shy tourist without l’taliano, I was a little intimidated about just how to order my coffee. Of course, it’s quite simple. You wander into the cafe, order your coffee, select something to eat if needed and take it yourself.  In most bars, you can either pay a little extra and take a seat or stand at the bar and drink without sitting.

You pay as you leave.

At Bar Boomerang, their work is a passion and I’m sure that is what makes everything taste so good.  Simona took me through the four steps required to make good coffee.  Obviously you begin with good coffee, then you make sure your machines are clean.  The third step involves making a good press and the fourth, well that surprised me, it’s about noting the humidity and any changes in the humidity.  If it changes, the settings on the coffee machine need to change too.

The coffee is so very good.  It’s one of the things I missed for weeks after leaving last time and I expect it will be the same this time.

Most people know Italians take their coffee very seriously.  I asked Simona about the ‘rules’ and she explained that a typical Italian customer might have cappuccino or latte in the morning. Milk coffee is only for mornings and laughing she said, not before or after lunch or dinner.  This is more of a tourist thing or maybe in winter, on a really cold day.  Expresso is for all the time, after lunch or dinner particularly, as its role is to aid in digestion.  You could typically follow the expresso with a liquer of some kind like limoncello, grappa or jagermeister.

I feel more relaxed when I wander into the bars here now, still imperfect and prone to crave cappuccino at inappropriate times but less worried.

Bar Boomerang is open from 7am until 9pm,  6 days a week – closed Sunday.  They also serve lunches but that’s another post over on the blog. 

Pizzeria Da Pino, Genova

I ate more pizza than I should have in Genova but eating becomes very much something I can’t be bothered doing when I’m out wandering ... cooking is even less likely to happen and so the pizzeria across the alley became a second home, specially while Pippa was staying. 

One night, I popped into the kitchen and took a series of photographs at Pizzeria Da Pino.
I liked this one.

Pizzeria Ravecca da Pino, Via Ravecca, 23r - 16128 Genova.

Cafe Stanny, Antwerp

I had passed by Cafe Stanny on the train as I travelled to and from Brussels city, and I have slid by it via the Number 8 tram so many times but I had never quite managed to step off and visit its red and welcoming friendliness.

Today, I had no destination in mind, I was simply escaping a really bad day and so there was nothing to lose as I climbed off Tram 8 with my small travelling laptop.

Cafe Stanny’s lunch menu is diverse enough to offer something for everyone, with soups, breads with a range of fillings and things I can’t quite remember. I chose a most divine bacon and onion omlette for lunch and it came with a soft brown heavily-grained bread that was delicious.

The music indicates good taste (an important criteria when wandering, laptop in hand). The atmosphere, now that it is summer, is open door with benches both inside and out. The staff were friendly and the decor lovely - appealing and a tug on the strings of memory for this kiwi so far from home. A deep blue bar/counter with stools, and stools along the high tables at the two large windows in the front.

Back in winter, I remember being attracted to the warmth of Cafe Stanny’s red exterior and the promise of its fogged up windows, clients bicycles piled up outside calling to me in but I was rushing, always rushing through that stretch of the city between here and there, I never made time to detour a little.

Cafe Stanny’s is lovely, a new favourite of mine but come see for yourself.

It’s at Stanleystraat 1, 2018 Antwerpen, located on the Tram 8 line and close to Berchem Railway Station ... seen from the train on the left side as you pull into the station (I think).
You can’t miss the red.