London: Day 1: Covent Garden

We arrived yesterday and met Lea and Pete at Mark’s office before heading to Camden and our accommodation. Our tiny apartment has two bedrooms and a kitchen and bathroom.

I used a wide angle on this. It is TINY. Our feet hang off, or would if some complete idiot hadn’t chosen a bed frame with a wooden fence at the end.
The kitchen, which is the only place we can all sit together. One of the chairs is so wobbly you have to prop it against the oven but luckily that means you can still reach the table because the room is SO SMALL.

After being slightly shocked by the tiny apartment we went for a walk around the block to get some supplies (wine and cheese) and check out the neighbourhood. There is an unbelievable quantity of garbage around the streets… it’s worse than Naples, which is notoriously filthy. However the location, between Euston and Kings Cross, is excellent and Camden is certainly very lively. Street sweepers do come along frequently but if anywhere in Melbourne was this bad there would be outrage.

Also it’s above a kebab shop. That’s our door.

On our first night we went out for a late dinner at a place I found called The Blues Kitchen.

It’s just around the corner from where we are staying and I had no idea what it would be like except that there was live music every night.

Luke and I shared a full rack of ribs and they were perfect, although very spicy!
It was very dark but very ornate.

Yesterday was Amanda’s Big Day Out! We walked the 40 minutes straight south to Covent Garden so everyone else could enquire about theatre tickets and then I took everyone to Bone Daddies for lunch. They do top quality ramen. I’m not sure everyone loved it as much as I did but that’s the price of putting me in charge!

You can press raw garlic into your ramen! They also have sesame grinders, which I’ve never seen anywhere else.

I have one prime mission for the day though: Gudrun Sjoden. I have spent many hours over the last few years browsing this Swedish designer’s online store but never bought anything. She sells brightly coloured, hippy-ish, organic and ethically produced clothing. It is much more expensive than the clothes I normally buy.

About a week ago it occurred to me to see if she had a London store. She did!

I had a quick look in before lunch but then decided I needed much more time, so after lunch Pete and Lea went off to do their own thing and Luke said he was happy to come with me.

The ladies inside were so nice and the store had a basement level as well! Every piece of clothing except perhaps one or two was available in every size (amazing) and they had the entire range that’s online.

I was so excited I only took one photo in the store.

The store has a little table and chairs with glasses and a water jug for those poor souls accompanying the shoppers so Luke had a place to sit while I tried things on. Eventually I decided to buy everything I liked and worry about getting it into my backpack later. Mostly I chose things I couldn’t make myself or that weren’t like things I could get at home. Mainly cardigans and jumpers with knitted patterns, such as these:

Top left, bottom right.

After spending a moderately exorbitant amount on clothes I spent ten pounds on two pieces of cheese.

This place smelled amazing.
The guy behind the counter let us try four different types and the ones we ended up with were a very melty Camembert and a really ancient cheddar.

We ended up finishing the day eating cheese around the tiny table and planning the next week’s entertainment. Luke heroically took charge of the buying of tickets and so now we have a lot to look forward to.

To finish, here’s the most curious shop we walked into yesterday!

No, really!

And yes, they’ve sold quite a few!

First Pizza in Naples!

I have never really heard anything good about Naples that wasn’t pizza-related. Perhaps a rumour about good museums, but when people talk about the city it is always as something of a cesspool of humanity and actual garbage.

To be honest, this photo could just have easily been taken in Rome or (language aside) London.

Perhaps it was to see if it was really as bad as people say that I decided I wanted to come here. I mean, could it really be more filthy than some Asian capitals like Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh? And of course with Luke’s pizza obsession we were going to come here eventually.

We arrived by train and I was surprised at how new and shiny the main station was and linea 1 was entirely air conditioned too.

Also can I just show you this outfit that I took a sneaky photo of as this lady was getting off the train? Totally irrelevant but what an amazing item of clothing. Where would you even buy something like that? Not that I need to know since I’d never do it justice but… wow. Also I’d have it soaked in massive and undignified sweat patches within about five seconds of getting off the train but that’s a different matter.

When we reached our Airbnb flat the owner told us that the station is so nice because it is only a year old and it wasn’t representative of the rest of the network. Too bad!

Our Airbnb has also recently been done up and has some rather interesting lighting features – three colour-controllable LED strips in one wall and strip lighting around the ceiling. It’s more tasteful than it sounds and it’s actually a spacious apartment too, with lots of food available for breakfast and snacks. Pastries, biscuits, milk and juices. Very nice! We bought a litre bottle of Bombay Sapphire in the Croatian duty free ($35 AUD – bargain!) that we are taking with us from place to place for our evening post prandial drinks.

Also the apartment is on the ground floor, which is always nice! Especially in Naples where there are miles of stairs everywhere anyhow.

The atrium of our apartment block.

Now I have a travel tip for you!

We have gotten into the habit, if there isn’t an ice cube tray in our freezer, of pouring water into the bottom of some glasses before we go out exploring then freezing the whole. This means a nice cold glass into which you can pour wine or whatever when you get home after a day’s hard sightseeing.

So refreshing!

Luke had done some research and made a map of pizzerias that are generally considered top-notch. One was quite a walk from the others so we decided to hit that one first. Plus it had tables so we could dine in. Quite a few Neopolitan pizzerias are just grab-and-go storefronts.

It opened at 7pm so we had time to walk around a bit. Naples street art seems to be a cut above anything we saw in Rome. Which wouldn’t be hard since all we saw in Rome was tagging. Urgh.

We tried to find a bar for a drink but they all seemed to be stand-up affairs. I found a blog that said drinking isn’t big in Naples. What? Italians not big on drinking? This didn’t really fit all my stereotypes of Italian culture. More research will be required.

We got back to Starita as they opened and had already decided what we wanted. We were having their traditional Margherita and their specialty, a deep fried pizza. For this one the crust is deep fried until it is puffy then quickly baked with topping on.

I preferred the traditional, Luke preferred the fried crust but both were excellent.

While I would not go anywhere near so far as to say we are experts, we know a reasonable amount about pizza. Luke helped kick-start a pizza documentary that we have watched several times and if you read our entry on pizza in New York you’ll know how much we love it. I also like making my own from scratch at home so I was keen to get ideas on how to improve it.

Naples is the birthplace of pizza, but from Naples pizza spread via migrants to New York and Boston before being popularised in the rest of Italy. It began as a way for bakers to slightly cool the base of their ovens so that loaves of bread would not burn. To stop the pizza inflating like a balloon (as pita bread does), tomato sauce would be spread on it. This became a cheap early morning food for workers in Naples and then its popularity meant pizza was served all day. Putting cheese on pizza didn’t happen immediately – the Margherita was invented to honour a queen and the basil added to pay homage to Italy’s flag.

In Australia we think of ‘marinara’ as a seafood pizza but here it means a pizza with only tomato sauce and herbs, no cheese. Pizza here is very different to pizza in most other places. It is cooked unbelievably quickly – in as little as a minute – and the sauce is pure pulped tomatoes. The base is charred but the whole thing is a bit soupy in the middle and there isn’t as much cheese as we like to pile on at home. The joy of Neapolitan pizza is in the freshness of the ingredients. For the true traditional pizza the tomatoes must have been grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. The tomatoes taste so tangy and salty-sweet that, combined with the olive oil and cheese there is a buttery-richness that is magical.

All styles of pizza are good and pizza is a dish that is reinvented over and over around the world. Experiencing it in Naples doesn’t mean you have had the world’s best, it means you have added a dimension to your appreciation of it. At least that’s my feelings on the subject!

I would love to know what other people have thought of pizza they have eaten in Naples – or anywhere around the world! Where have you most or least enjoyed it?


I have so much to write about that I barely know where to start.

So many pretty flowers in London.

First of all, turns out my laptop is completely dead. I am quite sad about this, and as I remember things that are on it that are important I will no doubt become more sad. Photos aren’t too much of an issue because most of the photos I’ve taken are either on my camera, Luke’s computer (which I’m currently using) or a memory stick that I transferred a bunch of albums to a few weeks ago. Not everything will be there but the very best are on flickr too so hopefully not too much is lost. When I think that I have less than 10 photos remaining from my whole previous two year trip to the UK I have to admit that really things aren’t that bad.

Andrew has very kindly ordered me a new hard drive and he and Luke will install it when it arrives tomorrow and I swear I will be more diligent in backing everything up. For at least a month or two.

So, to catch up on the things I’ve missed recording so far.


About a week and a half ago on a Friday Luke and I drove to London to meet up with Rowan and Kerry, friends from Melbourne. We had our first decent drive in Van Falen and it went pretty smoothly. As we’d be picking up Mum from Heathrow on the Monday morning and parking in London is crazy, we left the van at the airport and then caught the train into the city. We met up with Rowan and Kerry without incident and our first stop was Camden Markets.

Camden High Street.

If you’ve never been to Camden and you like alternative clothes, art and counter-culture then definitely go. The shops sell everything, from cheap t-shirts to vintage dresses (I bought a dress that looked like it would belong in an Austin Powers movie), there’s hippy clothes, both classic and classy, amazing leather bags, goth and lolita, moroccan glassware, nepalese furnishings and my old favourite, cyber-rave wear.

And the mecca of cyber clothing is Cyber Dog.

When I’d been there 10 years ago it was a big store with a dj and dancefloor in the foyer. These days it’s even bigger. The shop assistants still dress like Bladerunner extras and there’s dancers on podiums in the foyer too. There’s also a queue to get in. It was kinda nuts but fun to check out. Lots of uv stuff and novelty items. I’m not sure who’s wearing all this gear these days but there’s lots of people looking at it in the store. We weren’t supposed to take photos but I got some sneaky footage which will eventually make it into a video.

We wandered around some more shops then headed to the British National Gallery because Kerry was keen to show Rowan and I was happy to go. The BNG is one of my favourite galleries ever. Brilliant collection, gorgeous building, free… what’s not to like? We walked around fairly quickly, stopping at favourites, then met Matt outside.

Matt had come down from Nottingham to meet us and we’d planned to have a night out partying. I suppose the lesson we learned was that, if you’re planning a night out in a city and none of you actually lives there, a bit of planning is in order. None of us had really checked out what was going on and so we had dinner, dropped stuff off to the hotel room and then headed out into Soho. By the time we got out the pubs were closed and the clubs were full. Despite this just walking around was fun and it was great to catch up. The hotel room was big enough for us all to sit comfortably so we ended up having a bit of a party there.

Rowan and Kerry caught a night bus back to her parents’ and Luke, Matt and I got a decent amount of sleep.

The next morning we walked back over to Leicester Square. Matt knew a great Malaysian restaurant, nothing fancy but great food. I wished we’d gone there the previous night instead of opting for mediocre Italian. Then it was M&M’s World, which is just around the corner.

We hadn’t really planned to go but it was right there. Plus I like chocolate a little bit. The staff at M&M’s World were super-dooper-almost-frighteningly friendly. I took lots of photos and, miraculously, didn’t buy myself any chocolate. I did buy some for other people though. Which I haven’t sent yet. So it might be for me.

As a reward for not buying any chocolate I bought myself several Fry’s Chocolate Orange Bars in a newsagent straight after. These are the best chocolate bars in the world and, while you can get them in Australia they are never perfect – always broken and sticky or with that white fat bloom on them that you get when chocolate heats then cools. I got to eat these ones sitting in the sun by the Thames surrounded by tulips. Probably the best place ever.

After that we walked along the Thames and checked out what was going on, which was quite a bit because it was the weekend. Lots of buskers and people being statues (god knows why anyone would do this out of choice), pretty carnival rides and interesting things to look at.

London merry-go-round.

Matt and Luke take a break.

Soon enough it was time to say goodbye to Matt and then head back to the Heathrow Hilton where, instead of having an early night in preparation for meeting my mum at 5:30am the next morning, we stayed up til late watching a terrible movie on the tv. It had Vince Vaughn and Jason Bateman in it and it was about 3 couples who go to an island to repair their marriages. When I read that sentence back I’m not sure why we watched any of it, let alone the whole thing til the end. I can only claim, in my defence, that after 15 years of not owning a television I find them hypnotic. Trust me, it’s a thing.

The next morning, since Mum’s flight got in at 5:30 we thought we’d get to their airport at 6 since customs takes a while and baggage takes a while. Well, turns out they don’t take a while. Waiting for someone who has already gone through takes ages, however. Eventually we worked out that she was already back at the hotel and met up, me feeling quite flustered that I’d messed up the first hour of Mum’s trip. Mum didn’t mind at all – she’s pretty much unflappable – and then we hit the road and headed for Wales. The rest of the journey is recorded in a previous post. Suffice to say, we saw lots of amazing countryside and made it to Ireland largely without incident. Unless you count a flat battery as an incident. Which I do.

Windy days and long hair do not for good photography make.